My guest today is Margie Church, AKA Churchlady, author of romance/thriller novels with “SASS.” She tells me that stands for Suspense, Angst, Seductive Sizzle. Margie is a married mom of two children, and a Minnesota native. He writing career began early when she published in “McCall’s Magazine” in the sixth grade. Margie describes her professions as a mother and author whose guilty pleasures are great beer, real vanilla ice cream, and lobster. I couldn’t agree more with that list! Read More
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MA: Today’s guest is Larry Moniz, an award-winning author, journalist, and publicist. His background is so varied, that I’m going to let him tell us all about it.
LM: I’m a seasoned journalist and publicist transitioning to fiction writing.
I have 14 years experience as a senior public relations executive in the development and implementation of successful, goal-oriented communications and marketing support programs for major national corporations. I wrote the first public relations program for Coleco’s Cabbage Patch Kids and that program subsequently won the Silver Anvil Award from the Public Relations Society of America. The Silver Anvil is recognized as the most prestigious award in public relations.
My public relations skills are augmented by being an experienced journalist and winner of 12-business writing awards for articles in 2000 through 2003 competitions. I was the founding editor of a highly successful new weekly newspaper, building from inception “the best newspaper to cover West Milford since the 1960’s” according to one long-time resident.
I also have 12-years prior experience as a skilled radio and daily newspaper editor and reporter for major media outlets in New Jersey, New England and Europe. I also published and edited a weekly newspaper serving Northern Ocean and Southern Monmouth Counties. Unlike many weeklies, this newspaper, The Progress, concentrated on real news, and regularly scooped far-larger dailies and weeklies with news events in the towns we serviced.
My experience also includes nearly five years as a crime and courts reporter and being a full-time sheriff’s deputy, thereby bringing a depth of firsthand knowledge about crime and law enforcement possessed by few other writers.
MA: Tell us about that transition to fiction.
LM: I’ve been an avid book reader since I was a child and always fascinated by words. I’ve been a journalist and writer for more than 45 years. Disabled due to COPD stemming from undiagnosed asthma and hence hard to hold down a full-time job, books were the logical alternative for me to keep busy and hopefully earn a living.
MA: Did your professional career inspire your writing?
LM: Yes, my career as a journalist and publisher set the stage for my creating the Inside Story: Murder in the Pinelands investigative team to investigate major crimes.
MA: Are any of your characters based upon real-life people with whom you’ve interacted?
LM: The dead sailor found in the pinelands was based on a similar situation I covered in another state. Like one of the first cops on the scene, I didn’t believe the crime was a suicide because witnesses saw him walking without a rifle yet he died before he could reach and get his rifle, the weapon that killed him. Using that isolated incident I built up a plausible story line that would explain things that were known and much else that was secret.
As to other characters, if I were a newspaper publisher today I would be very like Manny Bettencourt, publisher of Inside Story.
Murder in the Pinelands is the first in a planned police procedural series dealing with the way different ensemble members encounter various criminal, corruption and other illicit activities and bring the perpetrators to the bar of justice.
MA: How did you develop the character of your protagonist?
LM: My investigative team is loosely based on law enforcement personnel I’m met over the years. The protagonist just sprang from my brain. He and his wife were just there one day, begging to be transcribed.
My hero’s greatest strength is his conviction that his take on the sailor’s death is correct. His weakness is that the conviction becomes a compulsion that keeps him awake at night and unable to concentrate on his daytime job as a police sergeant and SWAT team leader. The stress leads to his making a mistake and his patrol partner nearly dies in a shootout with bank robbers.
MA: Do you have just one antagonist or several?
LM: Actually, there are a couple. As the book evolves, they begin to seek a shadow figure, an assassin from Saddam Hussein’s regime sent to this country to avenge the death of Saddam’s kin by this Navy sailor.
But no one can find this shadow figure until investigation in several states leads to positive proof the man exists and he’s been hiding in the U.S. with political support from entrenched Washington politicians.
MA: Did any of your real-life experiences factor in to the plot at all?
LM: Yes. I was at the suicide previously described. I also have covered politics and cover-ups for many years. Like the reporting team, I also have prior law enforcement experience as a sworn deputy sheriff.
MA: So what will be next on your fiction plate?
LM: I’m putting finishing touches to a resurrected novel involving time travel into the past by two former military special operatives endeavoring to head off the kidnapping of Thomas Jefferson before he can complete the Declaration of Independence.
I also am working on an outline for a 1930s era detective novel in which millions of dollars and an entire railroad train vanish.
MA: Oh my! They both sound interesting. Please visit Larry’s website for more information about him and his stories: http://www.larrymoniz.org/ Read More
MA: I’m joined today by author Shelley Workinger. Shelley was born in Maine, educated in New Orleans, currently resides in New Jersey, and considers all of them home. She’s here to talk about her latest release, Settling. She has a few websites I want to recommend my readers check out where you can discover more about her and her novel series.
What did you do before jumping into the world of writing?
SW: I graduated magna cum laude from Loyola double-majoring in English and Sociology – majors I initially chose to avoid math, which I detested and thankfully placed out of. However, I ended up running a small real estate office and doing all of the accounting – a job I actually loved. What I love even more is how many people think they know everything about the world, when most of us don’t even know our own selves.
MA: With a degree in English, I imagine you had a burning passion to write someday…was this a path you set out to be on some day?
SW: I would never have chosen this path! For me, writing is all-consuming; I can’t sleep, I lose interest in eating, and I can’t quiet my mind enough to ever relax. But the idea behind the “Solid” series was one I couldn’t let go of, and that, combined with my concern that early teens become so overwhelmed with required reading that many lose the love of leisure entirely, made me sit down and expand my idea into a fun, fast read that would be approachable for reluctant readers.
*In choosing to write to the tween age group, I also committed to keeping “Solid” clean – i.e., no drugs, cursing, sex, or gratuitous violence – and I’ve been commended by sites like Reading Teen and Litland for doing so.
MA: What’s your elevator pitch?
SW: The briefest synopsis is: Teens who discover they were secretly genetically altered before birth are brought together at a classified site where they forge new friendships, find love, develop “super-abilities,” and even unearth a conspiracy.
Many readers have called it an “X-men” for girls, focusing more on the relationships than the superpowers.
MA: Probably a good thing you didn’t call it “X-Girls,” then! How did you go about creating your characters?
SW: I began with a tagline – What if you discovered you were the product of a secret government experiment? – and then looked at my premise through the eyes of a 17-year-old girl to create what I felt would be a natural reaction/path.
The second layer to developing Clio’s character was my concern for her actual character values; as a mother of small children and a product of American society, I had a few “requirements” for a female character I’d introduce to young readers:
1. She had to eat real food. (No dieting, unhealthy body issues.)
2. Her life would not revolve a boy. (There is a romantic interest, but Clio can function without him.)
3. She *gasp* had to have a great relationship with her mother. (Specifically, a mutual respect.)
MA: Those seem like healthy traits, so what are Clio’s strengths and weaknesses?
SW: I believe her biggest strength is her weakness – that she is not worldly and experienced, so her actions and reactions are real and relatable. She makes mistakes, she sometimes trusts too easily, but she learns from them.
MA: And does she have to do battle with any particular bad guys or girls?
SW: There isn’t one antagonist per se; it’s really the unknown that challenges the characters. They’re trying to find answers without even knowing where to begin; the revelation of the experiment done on them before birth not only throws their entire pasts into question, but they can no longer even be sure of their own bodies. There are also “bad guys,” but the self-discovery is the bigger hurdle in book one. (There’s a killer on campus in book two, but that has not been released yet.)
MA: I understand you were a military brat (raising three of my own!). Did that experience inform your writing?
SW: My father was a career Army officer, but not in the traditional sense – we never moved. I absolutely romanticized the life of the constantly-moving Army brat since I didn’t get to experience it, so my characters are “living the dream” in that sense.
MA: So what’s next?
SW: I have two very different ideas (from “Solid” and from each other) – a futuristic dystopian YA novel and a football-related horror for adults – but I can’t put any time into those until “Solid” is complete.
MA: I am currently waiting for the release of my third novel, Child Finder: Revelation, so I know what its’ like to write a series. I assume many of your characters migrate from book to book?
SW: Clio and her circle are the whole basis for the “Solid” series, so all of the books will revolve around them. As their “world” continues to grow, new people do come in and/or take on larger roles – book two brings in four new characters, and book three will add at least that many more. I also initially only planned this to be a trilogy, but as I work through book three, I’m starting to think I may have to write a prequel to tie up some loose ends. I’ve also just decided to re-release a slightly-extended version of “Solid” at the same time “Settling” comes out, so I’m working furiously to put that together!
MA: It sounds like you are busy – a good thing to be! Thanks for stopping by to visit with me today and for telling us all about your stories.
SW: Thank you so much for your interest in “Solid” and giving me the opportunity to speak with your blog followers; I know we all have dozens of books on our TBR lists and I am so appreciative for your consideration of mine!
MA: Today I will change up my format a bit. Instead of a series of Q & A with my guest authors, I am going to let them tell their story in their own words. All the way from England, please welcome Carol and Bob Bridgestock!.
Carol and Bob Bridgestock have spent almost half a century between them working for the West Yorkshire Police in the North of England. The force is the fourth largest in the Country.
Bob was born in West Yorkshire in 1952. He attended local schools – the last one being Morley Grammar School. He had a weekend and holiday job working at the local butchers, and when the offer of an apprenticeship came he left school and commenced work before the exams. The apprenticeship was for five years after which he became qualified and competent. Bob decided after a while that the career wasn’t the one he wanted to pursue and took up a job in a dye works, only because of the money and he had a young family. This, however, was a complete contrast to what he had done before and over the next two years he considered his future.
The next 30 years he spent as a Police officer, working as a detective at every rank and spending less than three of them thirty years in uniform. During his distinguished and exemplary career he received recognition for his outstanding detective work by way of ‘commendations’ from judges and chief constables. A total of 26 is an unusually high figure. As well as being a senior detective for over 17 years, he was also an on call negotiator for kidnap, hostage and suicide intervention incidents.
He achieved the rank of Detective Superintendent and became one of a very small number of Senior Investigating Officers in the force. As ‘the man in charge’ in his last three years alone he took charge of: 26 murder investigations, 23 major incidents including attempted murder and shootings, over 50 suspicious deaths, and numerous sexual attacks.
Carol was also born in West Yorkshire in 1961 and the majority of her schooling was also in West Yorkshire, although for four years she lived in Milford-on-sea in Hampshire. She ended her school days, however, at Sowerby Bridge Grammar School. On leaving school Carol became a hairdresser and opened her own salon before going on to College to teach the subject. Later she worked in the Police in a number of support roles and was ultimately a supervisor in the administration department. During this time she also was commended for her work with the community, inspiring children to highlight crime prevention work.
When Bob completed his service Carol also retired from the force and they both headed to the south of England where they now live on the Isle of Wight. They had often holidayed on the Island and fell in love with the way of life and the tranquillity of the Island. The Police service behind them, they got on with enjoying life without a pager or a mobile phone. Carol had always told Bob he should write a book, but he had no incentive to do so. Their new group of friends on the island with no police connections also suggested that he write due to the fact he relayed so many stories about his career; some happy, others sad, many macabre. He resisted until a cold damp morning in 2008 he saw an advert in the local paper advertising a college course ‘Write your first novel’. As sudden as it was out of character, he booked them both on it to Carol’s amazement.
Thereafter their new joint career as co-authors took off.
Crime fiction was the answer to Bob’s reluctance to write. This way he could use his real life experience in a way that would not be connected to the original events.
Deadly Focus, the first novel, introduces Yorkshire Detective Inspector Jack Dylan and the clandestine love of his life Jennifer Jones. This is a fast moving story that allows you to travel with Dylan to a series of murders, seeing through his eyes the stark reality of death and its fallout. It allows the reader to feel as he does the highs and lows of an intense murder investigation. The reader through the ‘eyes’ of Jen also gets to know how it feels to be the partner of the ‘man in charge’.
Dylan’s strengths lies with his persistence and experience, but will the pressure have a dire affect on his health? Jen is his ’norm’ a safety net for his turmoil of emotions after the distressing sights he has to endure. Deadly Focus continues to receive 5 star reviews on Amazon, WH Smith etc. In May it was resurrected as the first crime novel in the RC Bridgestock series published by Caffeine Nights Publishers. It is also live on eBooks via Smashwords and Amazon as well as many other e Book outlets.
People often ask the question, ’How do you write together? Does one of you write the odd, the others the even?’
We enjoy working together at last! Our police ‘working life’ often meant spending hours apart. Bob writes the plot and the storyline from start to finish. Carol then takes this first draft and develops the scenes, the story line and importantly the characters. Carol teases out of Bob the true feelings of what it is really like to deal with these gruesome crimes. The novel is then passed back to Bob for the re-write to be checked. Then they both sit down together and go through every word, sentence and chapter to ensure it works. Then and only then is it ready for the publishers to scrutinise the draft.
As we said before, May this year sees the resurrection of the original Deadly Focus and it is also being published this time as an eBook. We have been fortunate to be taken into Caffeine Nights Publishers stable of authors who will also publish book two in the series this summer. We have called this book ‘Consequences.’ The third book in the series is ready for scrutiny by the publishers and book four is ready for the re-write stage. Others in the series are also being penned.
As can be seen, the writing is industrious, as well as being addictive and enjoyable. Both Carol and Bob are members of a local writing group called Wight Fair Writers’s Circle that Carol chairs. This group evolved from the college course and we remain a group who also runs competitions to inspire others to write, especially children. All proceeds go to local charities. Bob and Carol also do talks about Bob’s career for schools and colleges as well as other adult groups to raise money for the local hospice which they support. Certainly exciting times and a new career which they never considered when they retired,
To learn more about Carol and Bob and their writing visit their website. www.rcbridgestock.com. A must is also www.caffeine-nights.com. On both these sites you can download the first two chapters of Deadly Focus FREE! Carol & Bob are also on Facebook – Carol Bridgestock and RC Bridgestock and we Twitter – RC Bridgstock
The support from our readers around the globe is extremely satisfying and spurs us on. Read More
Rebecca Dahlke is a good friend and fellow member of the Public Safety Writers Association (PSWA). She’s launched an online and email newsletter called, the All Mystery eNewsletter. My story appears in the current (March 2011) edition. I encourage everyone to stop by and read the newsletter — not just because I’m in it (although that’s a mighty fine reason, wink) — but because Rebecca has done such an outstanding job putting it together. There are plenty of other mystery and thriller writers featured in this edition as well as past ones.
Any by all means, please subscribe to the newsletter so you can have it delivered to your email inbox every month!
Thanks, Rebecca. Read More
A rejection that I received for a short story caused me to take a look at the beginnings of all my stories, short or book length.
Your reader needs to make a connection with your main character. Your heroine or hero needs to have at least one strong quality with which a reader can empathize. When your readers make such a connection, they experience the story through that character’s senses.
Reader empathy must happen at the top of the story. When your reader cannot find anything about your story or characters to like, interest quickly wanes. Then they may not read deep into the story; if they get so far as to finish, the lack of connection will leave them asking “So what?”
I received a rejection from a magazine editor for my fantasy story about a woman’s experience with a UFO and aliens. While I thought it was one of my best fantasy stories, he said,
“I don’t know what to make of the protagonist’s experience. On one level, I don’t need to know whether they’re real or imaginary, but I didn’t learn enough about her to feel much empathy. Although I can’t use this story, please feel free to submit another.”
This editor didn’t say that I should tell more about my protagonist at the top of the story. Placing additional information at the top is my idea for the re-write. After all, how far into the story will a person read when they cannot find rapport with the main character? This editor, most likely, read or scanned the story all the way through because that’s an editor’s job. A reader is not obligated to do the same.
Another possibility of building rapport exists with the reader learning about the main character as the story unfolds. But again, how far into the story will the reader pay attention in order to build empathy? In the case of my story, I see that I can add two sentences at the very beginning of the story that should solve the problem.
Building reader empathy can happen by revealing anything about the main character that will draw the reader to them. The characteristic may be something that elicits any type of emotion, be it love, pity, admiration, or anything else that helps the reader feel connected to that character.
When your main character is the villain, you must still build a trait into her or his makeup to keep the reader’s eyes glued to the page. In a case like this, it might be someone we love to hate and will keep reading just to see that the villain gets a comeuppance. Yet, how many people write stories from the villain’s point of view?
Usually, stories are written from other than the villain’s POV. Not too many readers want to identify with a villain.
Test this advice next time you read a story or, specifically, when you are looking for a new novel to read. Usually readers test the story by reading the beginning paragraphs or pages. How soon do you make a connection to the main character, or even a secondary character? What was the connection made? Was it strong enough to keep you reading, even purchasing the book?
Clues, such as I received in the rejection, help so very much. If I must receive one, it’s the type of rejection I welcome. I’ve already fixed my story and sent it elsewhere. You can bet I will be sending other stories to this very generous editor. And I’ve already rewritten the beginnings of two of my future novels. Read More
MA: Please help me welcome my guest-blogger today, Mike Markel. Mike has published a number of short stories and nonfiction books. His collection of stories, Miserable Bastards, is on Scribd at http://www.scribd.com/my_document_collections/2509786. Big Sick Heart is his first novel. During the day, he is a writing professor at Boise State University.
Welcome, Mark. Please tell us more about your background.
MM: I’m a writing professor at Boise State, specializing in technical writing. I’ve published seven other books, mostly textbooks and scholarly books about writing and ethics. I’ve also published a bunch of short stories, some action-based, some more literary.
MA: With that background, and those non-fiction credits to your name, why did you decide to write fiction?
MM: I wanted to try my hand at another kind of writing. I’d like to be able to make the transition from mostly non-fiction to fiction. Fiction writing is simply more fun for me as a writer. The challenge, of course, is the familiar one: figuring out how to get my novel noticed and read, so that I can keep writing more. My blog, Fears of a First-Time Novelist (http://mikemarkel.blogspot.com), chronicles my thinking about this challenge.
MA: I think all writers experience those fears as they approach the business end of writing – getting published! Tell us about your debut novel.
MM: Big Sick Heart is a police procedural set in the small town of Rawlings, Montana. Karen Seagate, the Chief’s least favorite detective, is currently imploding. Her marriage has fallen apart, and she is drinking way too much. Her new, young Mormon partner, Ryan Miner, has just arrived from another century and another planet. Their latest crappy assignment is to provide security to a couple of guys debating stem cell research at the local college. But when one of the debaters, Arlen Hagerty, is murdered that night, what had been a boring job becomes a high-profile case.
There are plenty of reasons why someone would want to kill Hagerty. His wife and his mistress each had motive, means, and opportunity, as did his debate opponent. So did the man whom Hagerty pushed from his job as he clawed his way to the top, as well as the local politician whom Hagerty had been blackmailing.
Seagate and Miner are closing in on the murderer. The question is whether they can get him before Seagate destroys herself.
MA: That’s intriguing, especially the science fiction and fantasy elements of time and space travel. Tell us more about Karen Seagate.
MM: I didn’t think of her the way most writers would: as the best detective in the department, the best at this or that. I conceived of her as a character who might appear in a non-detective fiction book, a 42-year old woman with the normal set of family and identify and personal problems, who just happens to have a considerably more dangerous and stressful job than most people have.
Her strength is that she an intelligent, sensitive person with a strong moral compass and a willingness to risk everything for what she believes is right. Her most obvious flaw is that the stresses in her life, including a failed marriage, a kid in trouble, and an alienation on the job, have led her to a serious drinking problem.
MA: I understand you plan to use Karen in future stories, but what about an antagonist? Will you have a familiar nemesis in later novels in which Karen appears?
MM: No, there will be different nemeses in each book. Her real recurring nemesis is herself.
MA: Oftentimes when I have crime/detective fiction writers on my blog, they have backgrounds in law enforcement from which they draw to inspire their stories. How about you? Have you had any personal experiences with your storyline that influenced the plot?
MM: The murder at the center of the plot relates to ethical, political, and economic issues about stem-cell research, a subject on which I have strong views that derive from some personal factors.
MA: Interesting. Let me get back to Karen for a moment since you indicated there are more stories in the works featuring her. Tell us about your plans.
MM: I’m at work on the sequel to Big Sick Heart, which is tentatively called Unacceptable Deviations. Because Big Sick Heart is a series novel, the follow-up will feature Karen and her partner, Ryan. This time, the case relates to a murder of a state legislator by a lone wolf who has broken away from the patriot movement.
MA: Very good. I’m sure your readers will be looking forward to your sequels and new adventures for Karen and Ryan. Thanks for guesting today. Is there anything else you’d like my readers to know?
MM: I want to thank you, Mike, for giving me an opportunity to talk with your readers. I’d like to invite everyone to visit my blog (http://mikemarkel.blogspot.com) and sample Big Sick Heart online, at BooksForABuck.com (http://www.booksforabuck.com/mystery/mys_10/big-sick-heart.html). (While you’re there, you can read about the special offers and the “$100 for 100 Readers” contest.) The book is also available at Smashwords (at http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/15261). For paperback, please visit Amazon (at http://www.amazon.com/Big-Sick-Heart-Detectives-Seagate/dp/1602151229/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1279568281&sr=1-1) or Barnes & Noble (at http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Big-Sick-Heart/Mike-Markel/e/9781602151222/?itm=1&USRI=big+sick+heart).
Retired DC Detective Turned Author, Joseph B. Haggerty, Arrives on the Scene of the Child Finder Trilogy
With Shame, I wanted to tell the whole story. I wanted to show his life from the beginning. His mother was a prostitute. As for his father, he really didn’t know. His mother would always say it was her pimp, but she couldn’t say for sure. As I say in the book, she would never admit Shame was a trick’s baby. I wanted to show how he learned the pimping game and how he developed his distain for society. How he became a pimp and how he learned from other pimps the best practices in maintaining your stable. A story like this cannot be written as a short story. It is far too complex, not just in understanding how a pimp works, but also in understanding how his victims fall under his spell. I also wanted to show the whole street, not just the women involved with Shame, but the other women on the street, where they came from and how they interact in the whole picture of prostitution.
I’ve written several short stories, poems and a novella about victims of prostitution. I’ve also written another novel, Pimpel, which is about two private investigators who specialize in finding runaways. If a sexual predator victimized them, the child’s family was offered an additional service that guaranteed the child would not be bothered by the predator again. Read More
Harry Bronson, my series detective, made his appearance in Who’s Susan? but he wasn’t the featured character. Susan was. He did his job and that was the end of him, as far as I was concerned. When my second book When Colette Died came out, I received tons of emails all basically the same. “Where’s Harry Bronson?” they asked. That’s when I realized that Harry Bronson needed to make a comeback. He did in my third book, Where Secrets Lie. He was also featured in my fourth mystery, What Others Know, but by then, mostly due to reader input, I knew he had to be the main character and not a side character as he was in my first four mysteries. My fifth mystery Why Casey Had to Die was Bronson’s first book where everything centers around him. I suppose I made the right decision as Casey went on to become an Agatha Finalist for Best Novel and a Pennsylvania Top 40 Pick. The next one in the series When Death Intervenes will be released on April. Read More