Cover Reveal

Today, I’m thrilled to reveal D.H.Gibbs’ new sweet romance cover!

I can’t wait for the release of this book!

Trinidad and Tobago native, D.H. Gibbs, writes in several genres–children’s, young adult, and now, romance. She is an illustrator and lifelong bibliophile who has found a way to blend her creative abilities with her love of the written word.

When not writing, she can be found dreaming up new, fantastical stories for her fans or indulging her love of art, reading, or planning her next great adventure.

Catch up with D.H. Gibbs on her website/blog where she’ll keep us up to date on the latest news of her upcoming release:  https://dhgibbs.com/

Book Recommendation: A Murder at Rosamund’s Gate

I love this review of Susanna Calkins’ debut novel! Definitely adding it to my lengthy reading list.

Reade and Write

I picked up A Murder at Rosamund’s Gate at the library–on a whim, which is how I pick out a lot of my library books. And I wasn’t disappointed. Susanna Calkins’ debut mystery had me guessing right up to the big reveal at the end. I had picked practically every character in the book as a suspect before the end, and I was still surprised to learn who the killer was. This is a book I highly recommend for anyone who loves a good mystery, Restoration England, and above-stairs/below-stairs intrigue.

A Murder at Rosamund’s Gate is the story of Lucy Campion, a chambermaid in the London home of Magistrate Hargrave. The tale is set in the seventeenth century and the amount of research that went into the book is astounding. The author’s vast knowledge of this time period  (she has a doctorate in British history) is obvious and imbues the…

View original post 202 more words

Meet Author Connie Cockrell

A 20-year Air Force career, time as a manager at a computer operations company, wife, mother, sister, and volunteer, provides a rich background for Connie Cockrell’s story-telling.

Cockrell grew up in upstate NY, just outside of Gloversville, NY before she joined the military at age 18. Having lived in Europe, Great Britain, and several places around the United States, she now lives in Payson, AZ with her husband: hiking, gardening, and playing Bunko. She writes about whatever comes into her head so her books could be in any genre.

She’s published sixteen books so far, has been included in five different anthologies and been published on EveryDayStories.com and FrontierTales.com.

Connie’s always on the lookout for a good story idea. Beware, you may be the next one.

Let’s get to know Connie. 

What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?

Only one and that was accidental. My husband and I were driving across country from visiting my family in New York. We came through New Mexico and stopped in Santa Rosa for the night. I set my western hero’s hometown there so I thought, this is great. I can actually see the place instead of googling it. I chose the town because it has the Santa Rosa river running through it. It turns out it’s nothing like I imagined. And it has this Big Blue Hole, which never came up in my searches. And the river is about thirty inches wide, though a lot of water does run through it. So, the descriptions in my story aren’t blown out of the water, pun intended. But if I do reference the town in future stories, I’ll have a better idea of what I’m talking about.

What is the first book that made you cry?

Gone with the Wind. I was 12 when I first read it and the description of Scarlett going hungry every night was just more than my pre-teen brain could handle.

Did you every consider writing under a pseudonym?

I did. My first book was drafted as a challenge from my daughter in 2011 for the National Novel Writing Month. During the challenge, I made contact with the Arizona Elsewhere monitor and she invited me to her on-line writing group, Forward Motion. One of the topics on the years old feed was whether or not to have a pen name. After reading all the pros and cons, I decided, no. Not unless I start writing erotica, LOL! I figure if James Patterson can write everything under one pen name, so can I.

Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?

Each of my books can stand alone but my series stories do link to each other in a sequence. (Hint! Hint! Start with book one in each series.) It seems a natural way to write, for me, so that’s the way I roll.

What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?

I’m old enough to remember the televised speech by John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address in 1961 where he asked of American citizens, “…ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.” I still get chills when I hear or read that speech. You can find the whole address at http://www.ushistory.org/documents/ask-not.htm.

What do you owe the real people upon whom you base your characters?

A debt of gratitude. Not that I’ve fashioned a character from a whole person. A character is generally based, for me at least, on bits and pieces of many others. Except myself. I put a lot of myself in my female protagonists. After all, we’re supposed to write what we know, right?

How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

Oh my! Like many authors, I’ve started works that have petered out in the middle. Two, in particular, come to mind because I’ve made the protagonists too perfect. That’s never a good thing and they both need to be re-written to correct that defect. LOL! Others are half plotted or no more than story ideas jotted down that I haven’t had time to start yet. There have to be at least six or seven of those, including a noir series set in WWII. I have a whole series planned with the first book drafted (a coming of age/YA series I call All About Bob, with mainly male protagonists) but I don’t want to start a new series right now because I have three already in progress (two SciFi and one cozy mystery). It’s a writer’s burden I fear.

What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

Good question. It depends on the series or book. For example, that story I mentioned earlier with the protagonist from Santa Rosa, I didn’t research until I began the story. It’s a western set in central Arizona. So once I decided the location, there was some work to do to discover what was going on in that area at the end of the Civil War. Then research into firearms men would carry, even how to curry a horse, because I didn’t grow up with horses. My SciFi series Gulliver’s Station, I chatted with an aerospace engineer on how big to make a space station that could provide for 10,000 full-time residents, taking into consideration crop growth on the station, air production of various kinds and even what to do with the deceased! The noir I’m planning is going to take a lot of research before I start. Fashions for men and women, what men were exempt from serving and for what reasons, social mores of the time in both rural areas and in New York City, all kinds of things. The research is the fun stuff for sure.

What was your hardest scene to write?

In my very first book, I killed off the grand-daughter of my female protagonist. It had to be done but I cried all the way through the first and subsequent drafts. When my mom read it, she yelled at me for killing off the girl. I’ve had other hard scenes to write since then, but that was my first.

How long, on average, does it take you to write a book?

Generally, a month. A couple of thousand words per day will get the job done, especially if I’ve taken some time to write out some scene cards. What do I mean? A scene card for me is a sentence describing what I want to have happened in the scene. Sometimes I use 4X6 index cards, sometimes I just write or type them out on a page. The sentence will cover who’s the protagonist, antagonist, location, conflict and what the twist is at the end that will lead me to the next scene. If I have enough of these done for the book, say 60+ I can rock on through the book in no time. If, because of what I’ve already written a scene is no longer valid, I toss it out as irrelevant. Fun times. I don’t like to micro-plan, so the scene sentence gives me a direction, keeping me pointed at the ending I want, without cutting into my creativity. There have been books where I didn’t know what the ending was. Those are a wild ride!

What about my newest book?

Mystery at the Book Festival is the third book in my Jean Hays series, my only cozy mystery set so far. Jean is a retired Air Force Master Sergeant Project Manager, divorced after she and her AF husband, also a project manager, retired. She has an adult son with his own family who live in California. It turns out that Jean is a magnet for dead bodies in her little town of Greyson, AZ. She’s in constant conflict with the Chief of Police, Nick White and is best friends with her fellow amateur sleuth, Karen Carver. Karen is a native resident of Greyson and knows just about everything about everyone in town. They are friends with Liz Toscano, hard-bitten reported for the twice weekly town paper. In Mystery at the Book Festival, Karen and Jean find a body in the local community college store room still dripping blood. As the third body in a year and a half, the mayor wants Nick to put Jean behind bars or lose his job! So it’s up to Jean to find the real killer fast for both her sake and Nick’s.

Read an excerpt: Mystery at the Book Festival

She can be found at www.conniesrandomthoughts.com

Facebook:  ConniesRandomThoughts

Twitter: @ConnieCockrell or

Amazon Author:  Connie Cockrell

 

Meet USA Today Bestselling Author Amy M. Reade

Amy M. Reade is a new-to-me author and one that I’m really excited about.  I’m in the midst of reading her latest release, The House on Candlewick Lane and thoroughly enjoying it. And, bonus…it’s on sale for 99c right now!

Buy on Amazon          Buy Barnes & Noble

It is every parent’s worst nightmare. Greer Dobbins’ daughter has been kidnapped—and spirited across the Atlantic to a hiding place in Scotland. Greer will do anything to find her, but the streets of Edinburgh hide a thousand secrets—including some she’d rather not face.

Art historian Dr. Greer Dobbins thought her ex-husband, Neill, had his gambling addiction under control. But in fact, he was spiraling deeper and deeper into debt. When a group of shady lenders threatens to harm the divorced couple’s five-year-old daughter if he doesn’t pay up, a desperate Neill abducts the girl and flees to his native Scotland. Though the trail seems cold, Greer refuses to give up and embarks on a frantic search through the medieval alleys of Edinburgh—a city as beguiling as it is dangerous. But as the nightmare thickens with cryptic messages and a mysterious attack, Greer herself will become a target, along with everyone she holds dear.


Let’s get to know Amy. 

What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?

I went to Edinburgh last year and soo wanted to visit the Writers’ Museum, but we ran out of time. I was near it, though. Does that count? And the granddaughter of Laura Ingalls Wilder visited my hometown when I was young and I went to the talk she gave at our local library. She autographed one of her grandmother’s books for me. What a treat! I still have the book and I treasure it.

Does writing energize or exhaust you?

It depends on what I’ve written. If I’m happy with it, I’m energized. If I’m unhappy with it, I am useless and catatonic until I can edit the offending scene(s).

Does a big ego help or hurt writers?

I think a big ego is unbecoming and I gravitate toward people who have a healthy amount of humility (as I hope I do). That being said, a relatively famous author I’ve met in person has a huge ego. Is that what makes her successful? I don’t know, but it doesn’t seem to hurt. Maybe that’s why I’m not as famous as she is—I’m just too darn nice.

What is your writing Kryptonite?

The greatest time suck in history: Social media.

Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?

I have, but there’s really no reason for it at this point. A: I don’t write anything that would embarrass my family or myself; and B: I have a pretty cool last name for a writer.

Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?

I am blessed to have readers who give me feedback about what they love and want to see in my books. I also know from a few early reviews of my first book that there are some things my readers don’t like. But I don’t feel like I’m giving up my originality by writing what people like.

Bottom line: I think it’s possible for a writer to be original while still delivering what readers want.

Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly?

I do think it’s possible. Just because a person doesn’t feel emotions deeply doesn’t mean they aren’t capable of understanding them or having empathy with people who do feel them. In fact, a dispassionate author might actually be better able to cut unnecessary words and scenes from a novel without feeling like they’ve lost a part of himself or herself.

What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?

I am very lucky to be friends with lots of authors. I’ve found authors, as a community, to be some of the most supportive, selfless, and genuine people I’ve ever known. They’re always willing to share their steps to success, as well as their failures, so other authors can learn from their smart moves and their mistakes. They’re also very generous with their help to new writers.

 How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?

It made me write faster! I wrote my first book longhand on legal paper, and it became apparent very quickly that I wouldn’t have time for that with future books. Now I write everything directly onto the computer.

What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?

Buying my domain name.

What do you owe the real people upon whom you base your characters?

There’s only one person upon whom a character in my books is loosely based, and I must thank that wretched monster for the miserable experience s/he created for me. Without it, I would not have been able to craft the thoroughly evil villain in the book I’m working on now.

But I’m not bitter or anything.

How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

I have two half-finished books right now, both of which are (obviously) unpublished. I also have two books in the publication pipeline, both at different points in the editing process.

What’s the best way to market your books?

The best marketing isn’t done by me—it’s done by readers, by word-of-mouth. I think most authors would say the same thing.


 

Thanks for stopping by and getting to know Amy.

You can catch up with her here:

On her blog: https://amreade.wordpress.com/

On her webpage: http://www.amymreade.com/

On  Facebook

On Twitter

On:  Goodreads

 

Meet Mystery Author, Linda Berry

Meet mystery author, Linda Berry. 

Your latest mystery, Pretty Corpse, was recently released. Tell us about the story.

The year is 1999. A serial rapist is targeting teen girls in San Francisco. While on patrol, Officer Lauren Starkley discovers one of the victims, and she’s shocked to find out the girl is a close friend of her daughter. The case instantly becomes intensely personal. Because she isn’t a detective, Lauren is restricted from investigating, but she does so nonetheless on her own time. Lauren has an uncanny ability to find obscure clues and link them together. Her relentless pursuit of the rapist draws her deeper into his world. He in turn, starts getting closer to Lauren and her daughter. Lauren needs to lure him out of hiding, fast, before her daughter becomes his next victim.

You populate your novels with an interesting mix of characters. Tell us about that.

My stories reflect the range of characters each of us knows in real life. We all have people we admire, people who threaten us or are just plain loony. I like to keep a reader alert and surprised by creating several interrelated stories that and ebb and flow through the main story. We are all multi-dimensional, and have many stories happening simultaneously in our lives, and sometimes conflict erupts on many fronts. I like to get into those emotional tsunamis and explore a person’s breaking point, and how they deal with the challenge. Complex characters that are bitterly wounded or pathologically twisted are interesting to me. I like to contrast the most vile and repugnant aspects of human nature to the most heroic and noble, and throw some quirky characters in for good measure.

How did you research this police thriller?

To write authentically, I do extensive research. That doesn’t mean I let my fingers do the walking. I have to give a big thank you to the police officers at Mission Station in San Francisco in 2001, when I wrote this first draft. My research for Pretty Corpse came in the form of dozens of ride-alongs I did with various female patrol officers. I chose the night shift when the city was rife with criminal activity, and I got to see these courageous women in action. Several of my characters were inspired by the female cops I came to know, and also by the captain of the station, who gave generously of his time to help me authenticate my writing. Many of the side stories in Pretty Corpse are based on actual events relayed to me by police officers from Mission Station.

Where do you write?

I write in a sunny office in my home overlooking a canal and peaceful wooded area. I live in Central Oregon, a resort town in the shadow of the Cascade Mountains.

You were an award-winning copywriter and art director for twenty-five years, and worked part of that time for the film industry. Did that experience shape your decision to become a novelist?

Absolutely. I had the privilege of collaborating with talented writers and some of the best editors in the business. I love books and have been an avid reader my entire life. I wrote novels as a passionate hobby. In fact, my three novels released this year by Winter Goose Publishing are the result of my efforts spanning a decade. Now that I’m retired, I write every day. It’s so much easier to produce good work when you can keep your train of thought moving forward, and are not constantly interrupted.

What do you love most about your work?

I love the creative process itself—the challenge of developing and constructing plots that continually surprise the reader and hold them in a state of suspense. Writing is both a passion and a compulsion—a truly satisfying form of escape. My reward comes when a reader tells me they couldn’t put my book down and they talk about my characters as though they’re real people. Then I know I did my job well.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Happiness comes to me in many forms. Appreciation of life itself is the foundation of happiness. I find this planet miraculous, from subatomic matter to the galaxies in space. I enjoy the beauty of ecosystems, how so many forms of life—plants, birds, mammals, reptiles, insects—the smallest creature to the largest, are dependent on each other for survival. My idea of perfect happiness is living on a healthy planet where people live together in peace and are trusted guardians of nature.

What is your greatest fear?

Being impoverished, homeless, or mentally or physically impaired and dependent on others. I did undergo some terrible threats to my health six years ago. I had a bout of debilitating pain for about 8 months, which diminished my ability to enjoy life. I’m now completely recovered, and feel I’ve been given a second chance at life. The experience sharpened my awareness of how fragile life is, how it can be taken away in an instant, and how one might be forced to languish in pain for a period of time. It heightened my appreciation for the quality of life I have now, for every precious moment I’m healthy and independent.

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?

Lack of patience. Sometimes I get caught up in the every day demands of life, and the illusion that I don’t have enough time to do everything I want to do. I have to remind myself at times to live in the moment, address what is happening right in front of me, and listen to people, even when I feel I’m short on time. Giving another human being a few minutes of conversation can make a huge difference in that person’s life. Kindness goes a long way.

Who in your profession do you most admire?

I read everything, and admire countless writers, from journalists to screen writers to poets to authors. I especially love mysteries, and I read an average of two books a week. If the writing is solid, and the story is well-constructed, I’ll read it regardless of genre.

What is your greatest extravagance?

Disconnecting from the world. Getting out in nature with my husband and our dog in our motorhome. I love being on a lazy schedule and disconnecting from social media, where the only decision I have to make is when to eat and what hikes to takey. I can write in uninterrupted peace for hours at a time, surrounded by nature, sometimes listening to the gentle patter of rain, watching water drip off leaves. I love going to national parks, off season. We went to Bryce and Zion and Arches and the Grand Canyon two years ago. Last year we went to Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons, and this year we may be going to Yosemite.

On what occasion would you lie?

I don’t tell big extravagant lies, but I do tell baby lies frequently, mostly when complimenting people. For example: “no, your ass doesn’t look big in those jeans” or “you look marvelous” when in actuality, you look hungover, and you have stains on your shirt.

What do you dislike most in your work?

When I hit a brick wall and I have to stop writing, sometimes for days, while I process my story and play out different scenarios in my head. I never force the creative process. What generally helps me break through the logjam is reading. I’ll bury my nose in a good book, and before long, ideas start percolating to the surface. I also have a muse. My nail goddess, who’s held captive doing my mani/pedi for 2 hours, and I bounce ideas off her. She has a creative mind and has been a wonderful contributor to my stories for years.

When and where were you happiest in your work?

This current period in my life is the happiest. Now that I’m retired, I have the luxury of writing every day. I wake up eager to get to work. I take my coffee up to my sunny office and dig in. I believe I’m at my most happiest when my husband and I are traveling and we’re parked in a beautiful wilderness area and the peace of the place seeps into my bones. I can write with no interruption.

If you could, what would you change about myself?

I would take twenty years of physical wear and tear off my body. Mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, I would change nothing. If I had to lose twenty years of life experience to be in a younger body, I would say no. I’m more at peace with myself at this stage of life than I have ever been.

What is your greatest achievement in work?

Having three novels completed and coming out this year, 2017. It’s a wonderful sense of accomplishment to see the culmination of years of work and endless rewrites in a physical book. Hidden Part One and Pretty Corpse are out, and Hidden Part Two comes out in September. I’m expecting my fourth mystery, Quiet Scream, to be out in December or January.

What is your most marked characteristic?

My friendliness, and my sense of humor. I have always had a keen interest in people and I’m a good observer, passionately interested in humans and the world around me. I’m an optimist at heart, and I’ve been blessed with a jolly spirit. I enjoy socializing but the greater part of my waking life is spent in solitude, writing, reading, and doing projects.

What is your most inspirational location in your city?

I like to get out on the wilderness trails with friends and dogs. We have a beautiful river, the Deschutes, that meanders through town and its character changes every foot of the way. There are many meadows, sagebrush flats, waterfalls, and breathtaking views of the Cascade Range. The look of a wild river, the various sounds of water rushing, falling, cascading over boulders, is invigorating and soothing. Hiking clears my head of thoughts and worries and puts me in a state of peacefulness.

What is your best advice for beginning writers?

Write about something you love and then your passion will come out in your words. Write often, every day, if possible. Read, read, read. I read one or two books a week, and I also watch movies and TV productions that tell good stories. I take notes. I have volumes of notes and refer to them daily.

Watch Linda’s Youtube trailers

Hidden: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B-bNoFgaD9U&t=7s

Pretty Corpse: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7QHSvirTYdw&feature=youtu.be

https://www.facebook.com/linda.berry.94617

www.lindaberry.net

@LindaBerry7272

lindaberrywriter@gmail.com

Here’s my review of Pretty Corpse

Linda Berry weaves a masterful tale of suspense in this novel heavy with police procedural details that reflect the time—1999. Set in beautiful San Francisco, the reader gets a glimpse of the grittier side of the city. Set nearly twenty years ago, we are reminded of how far we’ve come with science and technology and the challenges of crime solving years ago.

I quickly found myself pulled into protagonist Lauren Starkley’s world—a widowed cop raising a teenaged daughter, finding her way in what was still more of a man’s world back then, and dealing with crime on the late shift. She manages a multitude of roadblocks, both personally and professionally, all with grace and fortitude. Yes, she is a badass!

Murder and mayhem move the story along at a good clip as Lauren gets pulled into the dark world of a demented criminal. While working the night shift, the partners come upon a heinous crime scene that hits too close to home for Lauren. Someone is kidnapping and raping girls her daughter’s age, one victim is from her daughter’s class and that makes it personal. When the investigator in charge is slow to act, Lauren steps up and the real cat and mouse games begin.

Seamlessly, the complex characters, personal relationships, and criminal aspects of the book unfold, enmesh, and draw the reader in. The characters are multi-dimensional and realistic. And, that, coupled with an intriguing plot full of twists and turns, make this a must-read.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meet suspense author, Sherry Knowlton

 

Today, I welcome author Sherry Knowlton for a visit. This Pennsylvania native has been writing in one form or another since elementary school. Along the way, her creative and technical work has run the gamut from poetry, essays, and short stories to environmental newsletters, policy papers, regulations, and grant proposals. Her debut novel published in 2014 and her third book in the Alexa Williams series launched in April of this year.

Let’s get to know Sherry.

  • Tell us, what literary pilgrimages have you gone on?

I’ve only gone on one deliberate literary pilgrimage. In college, I did a semester-long Independent Studies project on D.H. Lawrence’s novels.  Many years ago, I attended a work conference in Santa Fe, New Mexico.  Since it was my first visit to the area, I arrived a few days early and drove to nearby Taos to visit the Lawrence Memorial at his Kiowa Ranch. The author’s ashes are interred there, so I wanted to pay him homage.

It was a pretty weird experience.  The Memorial was back a remote, dirt lane, high on a windswept hill.  The place was completely deserted.  Just me, the cold wind, and Lawrence’s ashes somewhere in the small shrine.  Although Lawrence had lived at Kiowa Ranch for several years, most of the books I’d studied – Lady Chatterley’s Lover, Sons and Lovers, Women in Love – were set in the British Isles.  So, his final resting place seemed out of step with much of his work – except for The Plumed Serpent, which is based in Mexico and incorporates Aztec themes.  But, Lawrence’s writing was ahead of his time, much of it vilified in the early 1900’s (and later) as pornography.  He only gained a reputation as an important author after his death. So, maybe it’s fitting that his ashes rest in peace and quiet above the noise and rancor that he experienced during his life.

A myriad of other authors have inspired my love of travel although I wouldn’t call the trips pilgrimages.  Mary Stewart’s novels, like The Moonspinners, sent me sailing in the Cyclades Islands of Greece.  Reading Robert Ruark and Ernest Hemingway whetted my appetite for Africa.  Robert Ludlum’s books made me want to careen through the capitals of Europe. I could go on, but you get the idea.

  • What is the first book that made you cry?

This isn’t a very fair question for someone who cries regularly when reading.  I cry if a beloved character dies.  I cry if the dog dies.  I cry at the perfect romantic moment.  And, don’t get me started on movies.  I’ve seen the old Streisand/Redford movie The Way We Were umpteen times.  Every time it gets to the part where Redford and his friend are sailing and reminiscing about their best year and the Redford character says, “1944, no, 1945” then whispers “1946” – I start sobbing.  Every time.  Heck, I even cry at those heartwarming commercials with the Budweiser Clydesdales and dogs.

With so many fiction-induced tears in my life, I can’t really remember the first book that made me cry.  I know that The Diary of Anne Frank and To Kill a Mockingbird were two early books that affected me deeply.  In my junior high or high school years, I remember my devastation at the end of For Whom the Bell Tolls.  (Spoiler alert.) Robert Jordan’s self-sacrifice made me sob aloud.

In all seriousness, these days I generally avoid novels that scream tearjerker.  There are a glut of novels, often characterized as women’s fiction or literary fiction, which seem engineered to be emotionally manipulative.  I’m not saying that all women’s or literary fiction falls into this bucket.  But, there’s a certain strain of fiction that seems written purely to tug at the heartstrings.  I’d rather read a book that tells a compelling story and develops absorbing characters, so the emotion invoked is more honest.

  • Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?

I have three books to date in my Alexa Williams suspense series, Dead of Autumn, Dead of Summer and the latest April release Dead of Spring.  Each book is written as a stand-alone, so a reader can pick it up and enjoy the story even though they might not have read the other books in the series.  However, many of the characters continue in one or more books:  my protagonist, Alexa’s, friends, family, colleagues, and her English mastiff, Scout.  Of course, these are suspense novels with an element of murder mystery, so in each book, a handful of characters don’t make it out alive.

One of the other key connections between my books is that social and environmental issues that are fundamental to the plots.  The latest, Dead of Spring, involves Alexa in the controversial areas of fracking and political corruption.  The themes of my earlier novels include reproductive rights for women and religious fundamentalism (Dead of Autumn) and sex trafficking (Dead of Summer). I believe that plots dealing with real-life current topics speak to readers and engage them in the suspense.

  • How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?

Publication of my first book changed my process in two key aspects.  First, it gave me more confidence about my writing.   Second, it gave me a greater understanding of the editing and publishing process. I knew better what to expect when the manuscript left my hands and went to my publisher, Sunbury Press.   So, that meant that I produced my next two manuscripts in a shorter timeframe, primarily because I didn’t do as many draft versions.

Now, that doesn’t mean that I still don’t edit and revise and re-edit.  Plus, I have a group of beta-readers who review and comment on a late draft – and I incorporate much of their feedback.  But, on my first novel, I got caught up in multiple revisions and probably wasted months before I submitted the manuscript to a publisher.  I’ve learned that you have to do your best to revise and refine your work, but at some point, you also have to let it go.  I’m lucky in that I have a wonderful editor who works with me on several rounds of edits prior to publication and always helps me make the final book better.

  • I can relate. It’s so hard to let go of that first one.      What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?

As a reporter and, then, editor of my high school newspaper, I began to understand the power that things like word choice, what to include or exclude in a story, etc. could have in shaping student knowledge and opinion.  Back then, journalism was very much Who/What/When/Where/Why and How, but even without any overt opinion or spin, the writer could have enormous impact.  

That lesson was really reinforced for me when a nationally-syndicated war correspondent spoke at our journalism awards banquet.  This was in the mid-point of the Vietnam War.  As this real-life reporter who wrote stories about life and death matters spoke, I realized the influence that his written words could have on the public perception of the war.  What he chose to write about or not write about could end up shaping opinions in a contentious national conversation. I’ve never forgotten that lesson about the power of words – a power that extends into many areas of our lives, well beyond politics and public policy.

  • I love research.   What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

I do a good bit of research before I begin each book, but I usually find that I need to augment the initial research as I write.  To illustrate my process, let me talk about the process for my latest book. Like my other novels, Dead of Spring is primarily a contemporary suspense story, but there’s a parallel historical plot.  The contemporary story deals with fracking and government corruption.  The historical story takes place during the Three Mile Island nuclear crisis in 1979.  I found a lot of written material on the internet, reviewed State regulations, viewed news clips, and more. I talked to experts in law enforcement and in hydraulic fracturing. One of my most useful bits of research came when I visited a landowner in northern Pennsylvania who had leased his land to an energy company for fracking.  He leased in the early days of fracking in Pennsylvania and was unaware of the problems he might encounter.  He shared his experience by showing me his photographs of the process that transformed his property. A beautiful woodland that step by step by step turned into an acre of gravel and machinery.  Pristine drinking water that now requires constant filtering just for showers and bathing. Battles with the energy company about compensation for various problems. I also visited sites where I could view the various steps of the fracking process.   

The preliminary research often takes a month or longer.  If I find I’m missing key information as I write, I’ll often just mark the spot and return to it later after I’ve done the research.  However, if it’s a critical plot point, I need to step away from the writing and research the item immediately.

  • How do you select the names of your characters?

Character names are one of the hardest parts about writing.  Who knew a novel had so many characters?  Often, you even have to name random characters who may only “walk on” for a scene.  I use some favorite names and variations on family names for some of my main characters.  The rest I pull from news articles, people I know or meet, and baby name books for the year of the character’s birth.  Sometimes, I hear a name that strikes me as perfect and I’ll jot it down to use in a future book. Here are just a few of the lessons I’ve learned.

You don’t want to repeat names or use names that sound too similar.  I made this mistake in my first book by naming Alexa’s best friend Melissa and her executive assistant Melinda.  Since these are continuing characters, I’m stuck with the confusion forever – unless I fire Melinda and she’s such a nice woman, I’d hesitate to do that.  Heck, even I find myself confusing the two names when I write.

Don’t give a bad guy the same name as one of your friends or colleagues.  In Dead of Autumn, I gave one of the bad guys the same name as a work colleague.  I was just looking for a biblical name, and used it without thinking of my colleague. But he’ll never let me hear the end of it.

Think about readings.  In Dead of Summer, I asked a Thai friend to help me name a Thai victim of sex trafficking.  Together we picked a name that has real meaning to the arc of the character. But, now, I can never choose a passage containing her name for a public reading, because I can never remember how to pronounce the multisyllabic Thai name without stumbling over it.

  • I think readers are sometimes surprised to learn how immersed authors are with their writing.   What was your hardest scene to write?

In my first novel, Dead of Autumn, the historical subplot is a fictionalized treatment of a historical incident, the Babes in the Woods murders.  Three young sisters were found dead in a Pennsylvania forest during the Depression after traveling from California with their father and an older female cousin.  The last chapter of this Babes in the Woods saga was very difficult for me to write. I was surprised at the amount of emotion I felt as I wrote that final scene with ten-year-old Dewilla Noakes and her father. By the time I got there, I had become so connected to my vision of this young girl, that writing that last scene was a gut-wrenching experience.

  • What is your favorite childhood book? 

The Nancy Drew series.  Sometimes I think I’m writing a grown up version of Nancy Drew although Alexa is stronger and steelier.  And, she doesn’t worry about matching sweater sets.  Plus, she’s not ready to settle for Ned.

 

  • What’s the most difficult part of your artistic process?

Starting the next book.  I’m don’t adhere to the advice that you must write something every day, even if it’s just a few pages.  After a book is finished, I usually need a break. Then, I pull together the thoughts I’ve had about my next book and organize them.  I do research and prepare an outline, although parts of the outline usually evolve as I begin to write.  Then, I’m ready to begin the next book.

But, sometimes the rest of my life intervenes in the writing process.  My husband and I do a lot of extended traveling.  We just came back from six weeks on safari in Africa and India.  Also, I do consulting projects from time to time that are usually time-limited with a hard deadline.  

All of these factors can contribute to delays in getting my next book underway.  I’m struggling with that now.  One good thing.  Once I begin, I usually get caught up in the writing and just plow ahead until I’ve finished the first draft.

  • Do you Google yourself?

You caught me.  Yes, I do.  And, it can be an enlightening process.  Sometimes, I’m checking to see if a promised article or blog post has been published.  Sometimes, I’ve found that I’ve been mentioned in an article or on a blog – and I wasn’t aware of it. Twice, I’ve found that someone pirated my book and was peddling it online; so, I let my publisher know.  

One of the interesting results of searching my name online are the trails to my past life that pop up from time to time.  In the 1990’s I worked for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in a job where, in my official capacity, I issued a lot of communications about the Medicaid program in the state.  A lot of those bulletins and related work from those days are hanging around out there on the internet.  Some of them, I don’t even remember signing.

But, my primary purpose in Googling these days, is to keep current for author-related marketing purposes.

I must confess, I have not read Sherry’s books yet because she’s a new author to me. But, they are definitely on my TBR list now!  

Read about her latest novel: Dead of Spring 

When a beloved state senator plunges to his death at Alexa Williams’ feet in the Capitol Rotunda, the authorities suspect suicide. Although the powerful chair of the Environmental Resources and Energy Committee was at the center of a controversial new bill to expand hydraulic fracturing, he was also rumored to be ill. Shaken, Alexa tries to move past the disturbing incident by concentrating on work. She’s leading a senate commission on sex trafficking. Plus, she’s helping an old college roommate sue a natural gas company for their role in causing her daughter’s rare cancer.

In researching the lawsuit, Alexa becomes embroiled in the high-stakes politics of fracking. As the relationship with her state trooper boyfriend drifts onto the rocks, Alexa is drawn to a charismatic state legislator who’s leading an anti-fracking crusade. Then, the police shock Alexa with the news that she could be in danger; she’s a witness to the senator’s murder, not his suicide.

When Alexa narrowly escapes a sniper’s bullet, she must discover why she’s a target―and who she can trust—before the next shot hits its mark.

With Sherry Knowlton’s trademark mix of feminism, history, romance, and fast-paced thrills, Dead of Springskyrockets from the fracking fields of the Marcellus Shale to the Three Mile Island nuclear disaster of 1979 to the rolling hills of Tuscany to the halls of Pennsylvania state government. In this suspenseful tale of corruption and runaway greed, Alexa Williams proves, once again, that she’s a formidable heroine. The twists and turns keep will keep you on the edge of your seat.

Here’s where you can get the scoop on the Alexa Williams series: 

Amazon     Sunbury     Barnes & Noble     Indie Bound

Guess what time it is?

It’s Mystery & Thriller Week over at Goodreads!  

Mystery Week Author

What an exciting time. You can count on fun-filled days of interaction with you favorite mystery authors. Well, me at least. Check out my Goodreads page and follow me for updates.   

It’s day one so let’s get started. 

Here’s an excerpt from Still Life, book 1 in my Randi Lassiter series. I have yet to hear from anyone who’s solved the mystery before the ending. (Not that I’m making it a throw down or anything!) This is near the beginning of the book, when our lead detective arrives on scene. I was aiming for realism and grit. Meh, what can I say? Hopefully, I don’t fall too short of the mark. 


Jon drove his Jeep with the window unzipped and let the crisp air slap him in the face as he made his way to the bypass. Within minutes his Wrangler bumped to a stop against the concrete curb in front of Hometown Café. He turned off the ignition and sat. Sipping black coffee he’d picked up on the way, he popped a couple of ibuprofen, followed by three breath mints, and waited for the caffeine and painkiller combo to hit his bloodstream. He surveyed the bustling scene behind him in his side-view mirror.

EMS, local cops and sheriff deputies all on hand to offer assistance to the city jurisdiction dotted the area with a rainbow of uniform colors. Detectives employed by Mt. Ouisco, all three of them, were no doubt inside the official perimeter. Overkill in the number of personnel it took to cover a homicide and a potential contamination issue if they were wandering the crime scene. Jon knew it was bad when he saw the chief of police among the throng. There was an aura of frenzy as everyone vied to be part of the nightmare— everyone, that is, but him. He noted a remarkable absence of reporters. If this were Milwaukee, they’d have arrived alongside the first responders. Soon there would be an onslaught of news people, each sparring for a morsel like vultures over carrion.

Greg Stanton stood off to one side of the crowd nervously shifting foot to foot. Young and lanky with straight russet hair and flat, pale face, the rookie officer was just finishing his probationary period. He fidgeted with his duty belt and a government-issued Beretta and looked ill. A smile edged onto Jon’s face. When he worked homicide in Milwaukee, he’d dealt with more than his fair share of bloody murders. The worst were the gang killings where innocent children ended up as turf-war collateral damage. That kind of inhumane crap that was impossible to forget. This kid had it easy and didn’t even know it. The rookie looked his way; recognition crossed his face, and he waved spastically, desperate for help.

“Shit.” Jon did not wave back. He swallowed the dregs in the cup and tossed it onto the passenger side where it bounced off of several others on the floor. He got out and took his sweet time crossing the parking lot.

Unable to wait for the mountain to come to Muhammad, Stanton rushed up to meet Jon. “Hey, Detective. How are you doing? It’s a good thing we got you here to handle this… with your experience and all.” He trailed behind Jon like a puppy tripping over his own feet. Jon shot him an aggravated look that went unnoticed. “Guess you got lucky, huh?” the rookie added.

Jon pulled up short and turned to face the young officer. “Yeah. Lucky. You might want to redo your button job there, kid.” He pointed at the rookie’s shirt, which was a mess even by three a.m. standards. The kid blanched and turned his back to the crowd to fix it. Jon fought to keep from smiling. “At my first murder, I puked my guts out in the bushes not far from the corpse. The squad never let me live it down.” He patted the kid on the shoulder. “You puke yet?”

Stanton shook his head.

“Then you’re ahead of the curve.” Stanton blushed so deeply his freckles almost disappeared. A rural town with no major crime, Mt. Ouisco didn’t need— nor could they afford— a CSI team, so it fell to regular staff to conduct investigations. The local detectives typically dealt with things like B& E, vandalism, drug violations and theft. Jon knew full well their homicide skills would be academic at best. It was pretty much a given that he would be handed the investigation.

(DB Kennison. Still Life: The Randi Lassiter Series (Kindle Locations 264-291). W.R. Publishing.)


dbkennison-thedarksidedraft1-1

StillLife

 

Everyone who leaves a comment will be put in a drawing for an ebook of Still Life or The Dark Side (your choice). Tune in every day for more tidbits, contests, games, and all things mystery! 

And there’s more…

Today, I have a fun surprise that I’d like to share with you. I’ve teamed up with more than 50 crime fiction and crime thriller authors to give away a huge collection of novels to 2 lucky winners, PLUS  a Kindle Fire to the Grand Prize winner! You can win my novel STILL LIFE, plus books from authors like J.T. ELLISON and MICHAEL LISTER.
Enter the giveaway by clicking here: bit.ly/crime-fic-may-17 Good luck, and enjoy!