Meet author Ian Wingrove

18199380_106489323255752_2720189054157647793_n

Ian began writing a few years ago and self-published his debut novel, Dead Pool in 2015. The mystery, thriller series is set in a dystopian England in the near future and features private detective Tom Barlow.

The second in the series, Feel.it, came out in March and Ian is looking forward to the prospect of editing and publishing the next two novels in the series.

Born in London, he currently resides in Norwich and enjoys life with an extensive family.

Let’s get to know Ian. 

What’s the first book that made you cry?

 I didn’t learn to read until I was nine, but by age eleven, I was onto Lord of the Rings. It was the moment I realised I was a sucker for tragic romance; when the immortal, Elrond, tells his daughter Arwen about the terrible fate that awaits her if she marries the heroic, but mortal, Aragon. She will have glorious days of love, children and great grand children, but ultimately she will outlast them all and they will become a distant memory as she fades into the shadows. His bleak description of her long years of loneliness and despair is incredibly powerful. She knows he is right and it will be a horrible eternity, but she goes ahead regardless because the love and the joy of children are worth it – however brief it seems to her father.

My favourite film is Cyrano de Bergerac (with Depardieu), which is the greatest tragic romance I’ve come across.

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

I’ve been around writers my entire adult life because of my brother, David Wingrove, who is a science fiction author. A lot of my early reading material was influenced by him. When I hit fifty and decided to start writing, he gave me invaluable feedback on the early drafts of my first two books.

I have my own local writers group in Norwich and we are always reading out chapters of our work and giving each other feedback. I think that kind of direct communication with a group of writers is essential, but you have to work at building the trust and being prepared to engage in a positive way. What I haven’t yet established is a large network of beta readers who will look at the whole book and whether it works. I think my books could have benefited a lot from that kind of feedback.

Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?

There is a huge back story that I have planned for my main character, Tom Barlow, and the first two books are littered with clues, but no one has picked up on it yet. The third book will start to open up Tom’s story a lot more and in the fourth book, his personal history emerges, which is expansive and strange. That is what worries me. I have written a couple of thrillers which are set in the near future, but the people are relatively straightforward. Do I want to take the reader into a very different world, which has been going on silently behind the scenes in the first two books? It’s a risk.

What was your hardest scene to write?

All the sex scenes. Thankfully, there are none in Dead Poor, but Feel.it is a ‘will they, won’t they’ love story.

I could have skipped over the sex, but one of the main characters, Roxanne, is on a journey of discovery. She can’t feel pain because of a teenage trauma involving her mother’s suicide. That makes her the mega star ‘Queen of Pain’ in the futuristic game show called The Tournament. However, she wants to leave both the game and the stardom behind her, so that she can be herself again – so she can feel again. It is the central theme of her story. A big part of that emotional and physical reconnection is with her own body and for a young woman, sex is inevitably wrapped up with that kind of journey.

I won’t be writing sex scenes again if I can help it. Everyone assures me that they turned out okay and they won’t be winning any bad sex awards, but they took weeks of editing to make them raunchy and intimate, without them being pornographic. I suspect that some readers will find them too much, others will simply enjoy.

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

Nothing, because the characters are more than imitations by the time they find their place in the story. Some of the characters are based on people I haven’t seen for thirty years and I doubt that anyone would recognise themselves in the story. Except one I used to play football with, postie Paul from Donnie (Doncaster), but I told him.

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?

It is a detective series and I have drafted four of them. The first two actually cover the same 18 day period, with both books including several of the same main characters. Tom Barlow will walk out of a door in one book and walk into a room in the other book. As with the sex scenes, I won’t write anything like that again.

There are even a couple more thrillers that I have sketched out, ready to be written. What worries me is that I can’t think of anything different to write at the moment. I did a short story for an anthology my writers group are pulling together and it ended up being about the crazy 13th birthday party of the sociopathic Alexandria, one of the other main character in my books. I’ve realised that for me the characters come first and then the story happens. I would have to ‘invent’ a new central character, in order to write a different kind of book.

What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?

This is going to sound silly because this book has a Goodreads rating from over 53,500 people and nearly 3,000 actual reviews, but it deserves more. Ursula LeGuin’s “The Dispossessed” is one of the greatest books of the 20th Century. The reason it isn’t rated as highly as some mainstream literature is simply because it is labeled science fiction. People pre-judge and turn away. The Dispossessed has many layers, it’s a great love story and the pages are packed with humanity. I read it eight times before I was thirty. Even the structure of the book reflects the theme of the book, which is about the nature of time and space. It is brilliant. Please give it a go.

How long to write a book?

My problem is finding the time to write (and to promote the finished product) while earning a living, looking after the kids and sharing good times with family and friends. The first two books were mostly written between 5am and 6am, over a three year period. I would think about plot, sections of dialogue and settings, while I cycled to and from work. I would then spend five minutes writing notes on my phone when I arrived and those hastily mis-typed lines would be my starting point (along with coffee) the following morning at 5am.

If you read Feel.it, you will notice that Roxanne, the heroine of the book, also cycles a lot, as it represents freedom and her own head space. This is not a coincidence.

 Catch up with Ian on social media:

Ian Wingrove’s blog

Get the books: Amazon

FeelIt (Medium)

Dead Poor 110915 (Medium)

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 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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Forward Motion is Everything

Well, it’s done. My publisher has officially closed their doors. In the ever-changing world of book selling, Samhain and its owner, Crissy Brashear, went out with dignity—doing their best by their authors and employees under difficult circumstances.

But where does this leave me, you ask? With the announcement last year of a slowdown and eventual closure, I’ve had time to prepare. I’ve already begun to re-release STILL LIFE–book 1 in the Randi Lassiter series as an ebook on retail sites with print to follow. Final line edits were recently completed on THE DARK SIDE (book 2) and I’m prepping it now for launch. The hang up is, without a publisher, it’s all on me. And boy, this Indie publishing thing is a heck of a lot of work!

Fans will also be happy to know that I’m also working on the first book in a new suspense series featuring special agent, Becca Howell, with the department of justice (from Still Life) and outlining book 3 in the Randi Lassiter Series. See, forward motion is everything.

For your entertainment, here are the cover and blurb for THE DARK SIDE.

  Enjoy!

dbkennison-thedarksidedraft1-1

Coming Soon!

 

With the woman who tried to murder her finally behind bars, Randi Lassiter is wondering how much longer she must suffer the effects of the post-traumatic stress disorder that have plagued her for nearly a year. Just as she and her cop boyfriend, Jon Bricksen, settle into the routine of a happy couple, someone in town is murdered and the news threatens to send her down the rabbit hole again.

What Randi needs now is a P. I. case to focus on. When the only distraction available comes waltzing into her office, Randi embraces the opportunity like the lone life preserver on the Titanic. Too bad the client is her ex-husband, Stuart, who is looking for his missing new wife.

Randi’s decision to help the man she has sworn to loathe for all eternity is so out of character that Jon questions not only her judgment, but her mental health as well. When he worries that she has lost her last marble, Randi begins to keep secrets from him. The kind of secrets that could break a relationship.

When Stuart is suddenly arrested for murder, Randi stubbornly stands by her ex-man. As she attempts the impossible by proving him innocent, Jon is doing his best to find him guilty.

Pitted against one another, the couple’s love is tested. Can their relationship survive as a conspiracy of secrets place them in danger?

Click to read an excerpt

Can hanging out with cops improve your writing?

This past August, writers from around the globe descended on Green Bay Wisconsin like cops diving for an open box of donuts. In fact, they came in droves from as far away as Thailand and Germany to meet with law enforcement specialists at The Writers’ Police Academy. Their collective goal? To get the writing right. After all, when it comes to the technical stuff, the goal is to gain a level of authenticity that the reader doesn’t ever have to question. Readers expect a bit realism and accuracy when it comes to the details. They want the story to be believable. And, writers want to deliver it. For instance, the earlier cliche about cops and donuts is far from the truth. These days, law enforcement officials strive to stay in top-notch condition, not only to do their job well but to carry around an addition twenty pounds of gear (vest and duty belt).

The Writers’ Police Academy provided an experience like no other. Where 14054949_10207526999108692_295445966679904031_nelse can a wordsmith learn how to evaluate blood spatter or explore the use of explosives and IED’s. Or field strip and shoot a long gun, study a death scene, and learn the proper time to Mirandize a suspect?

As a debut author who is all about improving my writing, I’ve found the fine points of police procedure, legalese, forensics, and psychopathy are sometimes hard to get right. Research from behind the laptop only goes so far and it’s those little tidbits that make the story dynamic.

Based on what I learned at the academy I’ll admit mistakes were made in my first book. Hopefully, none that the average citizen would note. And yet, my goal will always be to get the minutiae right. Not only is it out of respect for those who do the job but I want fans to experience an adventure that reflects real life. This writer thing I’ve got a passion for is going to last awhile and I owe it to readers to improve where I can.

This event was law enforcement 101 on steroids.

The WPA’s wicked intense schedule is a one-stop shop that provides interactive, hands-on, professional instruction. And, much like Disneyworld, the offerings are so vast that it’s impossible to do everything in a single visit. I’m talking 42 classes offered over a 2-day period-Yikes! With all the group presentations, classes, guest speakers, and networking, my head was spinning by the end (good thing I took notes). The jam-packed days continued into the night with drone demos, traffic stops, and arrest protocol. I was particularly impressed with how patient and determined instructors were to ensure we left with a clear understanding of each subject. No question went unanswered.

Police procedure and crime scene investigation expert, author and consultant, Lee Lofland (of the Graveyard Shift Blog), is the driving force behind the academy. He and his team put together one heck of a training adventure. Here’s a look at just a few things I experienced that weekend.

Special Ops show and tell of equipment, gear, and vehicles:  S.W.A.T.,  bomb squad, emergency response and rescue, K-9 cops.

14054273_10207527056990139_2151073560183728042_o  14066399_10207527056950138_3987943591778574354_o 20160811_152317 20160811_152700

And, a few of the classes I participated in:

-Oneida Tribal Police and Native Gangs: This class was a gold mine of information on various gangs not only in Wisconsin but across the U.S.

-Examination of stereotypical motives for mass/serial murders and the psychological nuances behind specific cases. This was taught by renown author, instructor of forensic psychology, and lover of all things dark–Dr. Katherine Ramsland.

-Police basics – learning the walk and talk – a crash course in cop lingo. Taught by Robin Burcell,  a former cop, hostage negotiator, and an FBI-trained forensic artist turned author.

-Private Investigation: Or, how to be a dick for fun and profit. Great for my amateur sleuth protagonist.

20160813_121656-Force on Force clearing of a building: When is deadly force necessary?  This class was a real eye-opener for me. I learned how officers are trained using reality-based tactical scenarios to evaluate and determine if deadly force is necessary. Gone are the days when trainees shoot at pop-up targets during training and then hesitate when confronted with the same shoot/don’t shoot scenario with a live person. An instant is all it takes to be right or wrong. I learned how this cutting-edge training better prepares officers for dangerous situations.

(Here I am with instructor Randy Clifton. Former Special Agent for the DEA and FBI Academy Instructor.)


As if the classes weren’t enough, one exciting part of the weekend were the surprise events that were planned for us.

When we arrived on campus Friday morning we witnessed a fatal head-on collision involving a drunk driver (simulated). This incident felt very real. Officials wore microphones so that we writers could hear the exchange as emergency personnel arrived and dealt with the events in real time. Responding officers evaluated the intoxicated driver, issuing a field sobriety test and subsequent arrest. Emergency medical personnel triaged the injured and extricated (using the jaws of life) a victim for medical transport on the Flight for Life helicopter.

14039920_10207526994908587_3368170097671268097_n

20160812_080434

(Impressive acting by the guy in the orange shorts! He played dead as the entire scenario unfolded.)


We were in class early Saturday morning drinking coffee and covering terrorist statistics. For instance, Worldwide terrorist attacks in 2015 numbered 391. That number jumped dramatically to 759 in the first six months of 2016!  All of a sudden, we were under attack (simulated). Terrorists had come onto campus and staff was dealing with multiple stabbings while performing a lock-down in the lecture hall to keep us all safe. We all knew this was one of the WPA surprise simulations, but still. Not only did we get to hear staff in the room but critical responders as they made their way to us.

A lot was happening at once and it was tough to take notes with our hands on our heads. (I did manage to sneak a few photos with my cell). We were required to keep our hands on our heads until our non-involvement was established by officers. Afterward, instructors covered protocol for the response.

20160813_08293120160813_082044



Lee Goldberg shared insights into his writer’s journey and words of wisdom on how to use or not use what we learned at the WPA.

14053918_10207527041349748_3436097544304255929_o

Lee Goldberg and Tami Hoag receive recognition at the Saturday night banquet.

To top off the weekend (I know, you’re wondering how it could possibly get any better), Tami Hoag spoke about her panster writing process and how, often, she doesn’t know the ending until she’s there. She sports a tattoo that keeps her centered and has a love of mixed martial arts (and yes, she can lay you flat with one punch). She also shares a passion to the details right and attended classes that weekend. See, a writer never stops working on the craft.

resized_20160813_221421

resized_20160813_221346-1

The Writers’ Police Academy was an all around adventure I look forward to attending again and again. Thanks WPA for keeping it real!

The Writers’ Police Academy sign up is February 19th. Don’t miss out!

Writing: Not for the faint of heart

Some followers have probably been wondering where in the heck I’ve been lately. Well, life sometimes gets in the way. I’ve had some personal things come up at home this summer, I’ve been busy at my day job, and between hubby and I, we were gone/committed to events every weekend for nearly 3 months. That’s a lot of traveling. Packing and unpacking, laundry, and scheduling of dog sitters. It was fun but exhausting.

writing-a-book-is-a-horrible-exhausting-struggle-like-a-long-bout-of-some-painful-illness-one-would-never-undertake-such-a-thing-if-one-were-not-driven-on-by-some-demon-whom-one-can-neithe

I’ve also been in re-write limbo. That mysterious place where an author takes a finished novel, something that took months if not years to complete, and then must reconstruct it to make it better, stronger. And yes, much of this was done in a car. Thankfully, I’m one of those lucky people who can read in a moving vehicle and not puke.

frustrated-writer

 

Writing a novel is hard enough, but systematically dismantling your baby, scrambling it about, and then assembling the bits and pieces into a decent product is rough. And, not for the faint of heart.

 

THE DARK SIDE, book two in the Randi Lassiter Series, is now finished and waiting for a second pass of editing. I just got the first draft of the cover art and I love it. With any luck at all, I can feed the two or three fans I have a preview of the book next month.

It’s been just over a year since the release of my debut novel and boy howdy, have I learned a lot. It has been an adventure of highs and lows. Some scream worthy, others no more than a moments distraction. From learning how to write a series (didn’t see that coming) to putting together an author platform that I actually (okay, sometimes) use, to educating myself on Indie publishing, it has been a thrilling rollercoaster ride.

Don’t get me wrong, tough as it is, I’m living the dream. I have one book published and a second on the verge of release. What have I got to complain about?

Well, perhaps it’s that I can sit and write for five hours straight and it feels like it has only been five minutes. That I go to bed frustrated, swearing I’ll never write another word again and then race to my laptop the next morning with ideas that just can’t wait to get out.

Or, that I’m obsessed with fixing _________________ (pick one: plot problems, insubordinate timelines, a random comma usage disorder (okay…that’s not a real thing), rogue red-herrings, exposition diarrhea, and dialog that digs in it’s heels, insisting on appearing stilted instead of casual), and poor daily word counts.

And, don’t even get me started on writer’s block!

Writing a book is difficult.

Considering how hard it is to string just two words together some days, its miraculous that I’ve managed to group 90,000 into an order that makes some quirky sense.

Soon I will begin a new novel. This is the first in the Becca Howell series. Becca is a special agent with the DCI (Division of Criminal Investigation) with the Department of Justice (a branch of the FBI) in the Madison office. She’s a grittier character than the protagonist in the first series and I’m looking forward to fleshing her out on the page.

I’ve also updated this blog site to  include some fun/random tidbits. There’s a section called Dead Darlings where I’ll post reader worthy snippets that dropped to the cutting room floor. Also, a section on Research where I hope to share some fascinating stuff I run across when working background on my writing. Research is one of my favorite things and so much of what I learn never makes it in the story, darn it. I hope you find it interesting.

Tell me, what kind of things do you enjoy reading about on other blogs/web pages?

 

Meet the author, Austen fan, and Avenger geek: Melanie Stanford

 

Melanie

Hi Melanie, tell us a little about yourself.

Tardis

Here you go!

I’m first a mother, second a writer, sometimes dancing, always daydreaming. I read too much and play music too loud. I’d also like my very own TARDIS… but only to go back in time, not into the future.   

 

 

What do you think people would be the most surprised to learn about you?

If you know me online then this might not be a surprise, but most people who know me in real life are surprised when they find out I’m into “nerdy” stuff. 

(Do you think Melanie wears that mask when she writes? )

The family's Avenger Figurines

The Stanford Family Avenger Figurine Collection

I collect dragons, Marvel action figures, fandom t-shirts, and recently went to my first ever comic book convention (I totally dressed up, too). I don’t know why this surprises people, but there you go.

 

reading in sun

What do you enjoy most in your free time?

Reading, obviously. And being in the sunshine. Wait, reading in the sunshine.

 

 

Other than a computer, what modern convenience could you never live without?

Definitely flushable toilets. 

This                                                                                              Not this!

Flickr

Flickr

Flickr

Flickr

 

 

 

 

 

 

Every author has a process—what works for them when they write. What does your writing process look like from first scribbles to finished manuscript?

IMG_4073

Melanie’s successful author workspace.

I used to be a full-on pantser, but I’ve started plotting a bit first. Usually just notes about the characters, and I’ll try to make beats of the plot. After that, I like to write every day for at least a couple of hours, usually right after lunch. It usually only takes me a couple of months to write the book, then I revise, send to critique partners, then revise again, send to beta readers, then revise again. I definitely spend more time revising than on the first draft. 

 

What is your all time favorite book and why?

Ahh, don’t make me pick! Can I choose the entire Harry Potter series? I would like to live in Harry Potterthat world. In fact, I’m still waiting for my letter from Hogwarts. I don’t think their owls fly to Canada though.

 

 

 

Project research, love it or hate it?

Ugh, research. My problem is, as soon as I get a book idea, I want to dive in with the writing. I don’t like putting that off to research first.

So that’s a no, then.             Is there a specific author who inspires you?

There are so many authors I read and think, man I wish I could write like that. I’m always inspired by the ones who had to work really hard to get published- I love to hear those stories. Specifically, though, the author who gave me the inspiration to actually finish a manuscript was Stephenie Meyer. I wanted to be a writer long before her books ever came out but I remember reading Twilight and thinking, I can do this.

 

What has been the most exciting aspect to releasing your first novel? Melanie launch

Holding the actual book in my hands for the first time. Don’t tell anyone, but I hugged it a lot when no one was looking.

Awww. I know that feeling. Tell the truth…you still hug it every now and again.

 

 

Moving on.   What has been the most detrimental?

I assumed when I published my first book that my journey would only go forward from here. Lately, I’ve learned otherwise, but there’s nothing to do but roll with it.

 

What other projects are you working on?  IMG_1003

Melanie! I said projects, not propositions.

 

I have another classical retelling, this one of Elizabeth Gaskell’s NORTH & SOUTH, that I will shortly be finding a new home for. I’m also querying a Young Adult Mystery, and writing another adult romance/retelling. 

How did you come up with the title for your l book?

I did a synonym search on the word “persuasion.” When SWAY came up it just clicked. Even though there are quite a few other books titled SWAY, I knew I had to use it. 

How long did it take you to write SWAY?

About two-three months for the first draft. Lots more time after for revisions. 

Tell us a little about the book.

SWAY is a modern-day retelling of Jane Austen’s PERSUASION,  but if you don’t know that book, basically it’s a second-chance romance. My two main characters were engaged right out of high school but she breaks it off because of family pressure, and because she’s scared. The book starts eight years later when they’re suddenly back in each other’s lives. Awkwardness and angst ensue.    

It’s been fun getting to know more about you, Melanie. Thanks for the interview!

Here’s the official blurb for SWAY:

1781880_901471279914195_5296934142500899060_n

Ava Elliot never thought she’d become a couch surfer. But with a freshly minted—and worthless—degree from Julliard, and her dad squandering the family fortune, what choice does she have?

Living with her old high school friends, though, has its own drawbacks. Especially when her ex-fiancé Eric Wentworth drops back into her life. Eight years ago, she was too young, too scared of being poor, and too scared of her dad’s disapproval. Dumping him was a big mistake.

In the most ironic of role reversals, Eric is rolling in musical success, and Ava’s starting at the bottom to build her career. Worse, every song Eric sings is an arrow aimed straight for her regrets.

One encounter, one song too many, and Ava can’t go on like this. It’s time to tell Eric the truth, and make a choice. Finally let go of the past, or risk her heart for a second chance with her first love. If he can forgive her…and she can forgive herself. 

You can find Melanie on her website: melaniestanfordbooks.com and on Twitter @MelMStanford or on Facebook here. She also blogs over at the YA-NA Sisterhood and Austen Variations.

Interview with debut author CJ Warrant

Today I welcome fellow debut author CJ Warrant to my blog.

CJ Warrant

CJ is an Award Winning Author for dark romantic suspense and thrillers that pulls at your heart, makes you shiver, and hope for a happy ending. A lover of coffee, baking and family, but not in that order–She’s a wife, a loving mother of three and a cosmetologist by trade. Drawing her experiences from her Korean Italian heritage and growing up as an Army brat, her stories stir in dark plots with addictive flawed characters you will fall in love with.
Visit CJ at www.cjwarrant.com

 

What do you think people would be the most surprised to learn about you?

My nationality. People look at me and assume I’m a certain heritage but in fact I’m far from what they think. I’m half Italian and half Korean, which are equal influences in my life. So when you first meet me, I’m generally quiet, but once you get to know me you can’t shut me up.

What do you enjoy most in your free time?

Being with my family. Especially nowadays, since my kids are growing up so fast and moving out the house. I treasure them and the time we have.

Other than a computer, what modern convenience could you never live without?

My cell phone. Not only does it link to social media but also my family. It’s the central hub of all incoming information for both personal and professional.

Every author has a process—what works for them when they write. What does your writing process look like from first scribbles to finished manuscript?

Wow, if you had asked me that a few years ago, I’d say I was all over the place with my writing process. I’m a total pantser, through and through. However, while writing Forgetting Jane, I realized I needed some plotting to keep my story in line.

13308741_1118203708244073_5257531052267915119_o

Perhaps the start of CJ’s new novel?

So, when I get a spark of an idea—which can come from anything I see, hear, or even dream and that idea usually forms into movie playing in my head. Upon that, I start writing a chapter or two of a scene. In that scene, my main characters emerge. However, sometimes, it’s a character that comes forth before the storyline. After developing my characters, that is when I begin writing my first draft. Once done, I usually go three to four rounds of edits, with a full rewrite and my critique partners going through the manuscript twice.

What is your all time favorite book and why?

This is a tough question, because I have several. I’ve always been a sucker for a love story with grittier plots. I want a book with characters that have major flaws and then find redemption. But one story has always stood out of my mind since I was a kid. It was the first book I fell in love with. The book made me cry and care for the characters deeply. It was, The Pigman by Paul Zindel. It’s far from what I read now, but it’s a great story.

Goodreads

Goodreads: Paul Zindel

Pigman

Via Amazon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Project research, love it or hate it?

I love doing research. It helps me dig deeper into my characters, plot and/or the places where the dirty deeds had taken place. The more I know, the better my story is.

Is there a specific author who inspires you?

I could say numerous well known authors have inspired me, like for example Sherrilyn Kenyon. She is one of my favorites to read, but I feel that the ones who truly inspire me the most are the writers who aren’t published yet. They keep writing and pushing along to get their stories out there. Their perseverance and diligence are what I feel inspires me; not to quit and keep striving for what I want. Just like them.

You write in various genres, which is your favorite to write?

I tend to lean toward my darker side, so I would have to say romantic thrillers.

Which is your favorite to read?

It would have to depend on my mood at the time. But if I have to choose, then it would be Paranormal romance. It so outside the realm of reality, and that’s what draws me.

Is there a genre you haven’t written but are thinking about trying?

Erotica. Just to see if I can write it.

How long did it take you to write your first book?

My first book—which by the way will never see the light of day… it me over four years to finish it with the heavy push from my wonderful husband.

Your latest book?

It took me eight months.

Like my debut novel, yours is set in Wisconsin. Tell us a little about FORGETTING JANE

Forgetting Jane is set in a small rural town in Wisconsin in current times. Some of the scenes in the novel were derived from my experiences I had when I was kid, living on a farm(which was haunted by a female ghost—no joke) for a year, and the closest town was ten miles away.

The story is about a woman found in the outskirts of town near a lake. Jane was horrifically beaten and had lost her memory. Her memory holds the key to who tried to kill her, and links her to a ghost, who haunts her until the killer’s secrets are revealed. What secrets? That’s what Chief Elias McAvoy’s intends to find out.

Small towns have buried secrets, and those secrets are about to be unearthed. With each step closer to getting Jane’s memory back, so is the truth about the killer. During the chaos of this investigation, Elias and Jane’s attraction grows and it can’t be denied.

And I do have to give a shout out to my secondary character, Harold and his hunting dog Traitor, a black Labrador. They are the ones who helped sparked this story.

What other projects are you working on?

I have three projects right now. My first project I’m currently editing is an erotic thriller called Mirror Image, which starts in Las Vegas and ends in Denver.

In my second project, I’m finishing up book one in a romantic suspense series based out of Chicago, which my lead female character, Jazz knows how to kick some a**.

And my third project is outlining a second romantic suspense series based out of Tennessee. Characters, towns and events—good and bad. A road trip will be required for this series.

CJ's book

Excerpt:

The small town of Beaver Creek, Wisconsin has never seen a horrific act of violence before. So when two hunters find a woman beaten and partially buried, but alive, recovering alcoholic Chief Elias McAvoy has to find who’s behind the attempted murder. After Jane Doe wakes up from a coma, Elias discovers she has amnesia, which makes the case nearly impossible to solve.

Jane wants to remember the horrid crime that put her near death’s door, but the only thing she can envision is the girl in the yellow dress that repeatedly visits her. Seeing ghosts is the least of her worries, however. Between the severe headaches and nightmares, the only person keeping her sane is Elias. His desperate touch gives her the strength to learn more about herself and him, as well the girl who haunts her. She unwittingly captures Elias’s heart while the killer is bent on reclaiming her for his deadly game.

Elias and Jane search for answers and find more than lost memories. When another body is discovered, Elias uncovers a killing spree that spans forty years that connect to the girl in the yellow dress. With evidence pointing to a local, the killer quickly closes in, recapturing Jane to finish what he started. As Jane’s life hangs in the balance, Elias’s sobriety is tested as he realizes he can’t live without her. It will take strength and perseverance to save the woman he loves before the killer does.

Forgetting Jane releases June 29th, but it’s available to pre-order now!

10399406_10154012950738631_2006538156775531401_n

 

Please join CJ and several other authors on June 29th from 3 – 10pm for her FORGETTING JANE Launch Party on Facebook.  CJ will start us out and I’ll be there at 3:30! It promises to be loads of fun with lots of giveaways!

Author Interview: Barbara Meyers

2015-02-06 22.14.14 (4)

Today I’m interviewing author, Barbara Meyers. She is a multi-published and talented writer of contemporary romance and screwball fantasy under the pen name, AJ Tillock. 

Join me in welcoming Barbara. Let’s jump right in and get to know her a bit better.

Barbara, what do you think people would be the most surprised to learn about you?

They’d probably be shocked to learn about my spirituality/relationship with God. And further shocked that I believe everything positive flows from Him. And yes, that includes the creativity/ability to write romance novels!

Ahhh, yes, we romance novelists tend to tuck some sexy scenes into our writing from time to time. Now, whether the actions of our characters is sinful or not can be debated another day, eh?

What do you like to do on Sundays?

That depends if I’m working my day job or not. If I’m not I like to get up whenever I feel like it, have coffee very leisurely, then either make breakfast or make my husband go get bagels. We never have a plan. Last week I checked out the service at a new church. I might read or write or clean or take a nap. Sundays are always a surprise.

I like that, a laid back Sunday with hubby doing the hunter gatherer thing at the bakery—nice! Every author has a process—what works for them when they write. What does your writing process look like from first scribbles to finished manuscript?

It’s a mess and I don’t recommend it to anyone. It starts with an idea and I write down every possibility and save it in a Word doc. Characters, setting, plot, back story. I keep doing that all the time I’m working on the book. Adding to it, solving problems, playing what if…? asking myself questions like “Why did her mother show up?” and dating each entry. I also write whatever scene is in my head even if I don’t know where it will go in the book or even if I will use it. I end up with a bunch of separate Word docs and then I cobble it all together into a manuscript. Somewhere along the line I attempt to write a synopsis, a tag line and a blurb because it helps me clarify what the story is about.

I love to hear about what works for other authors when it comes to writing. It makes my sticky note obsession seem harmless (hold on while a tear a few slips off and find a place to stick ‘em).

What modern convenience could you never live without?

Computer! I don’t think I’d be writing books if I didn’t have one.

(nodding) Definitely. 

What is your all time favorite book?

Jane Eyre

Nuff said. Is there a specific author who inspires you?

I never think of an author as inspiring me. There are a lot of authors I admire and the reason I admire them is because they’ve had long careers and they write consistently good books. Authors like Sandra Brown and Susan Elizabeth Phillips.

How did you come up with the title for your latest book?

The book opens when the heroine is not quite awake and in the middle of a recurring dream about her ideal lover who she refers to in her mind as “Fantasy Man.” Wah-la. There’s the title.

Oh. My fantasy man just popped into my head. I see how that works. Tell us a little about the book.

Ha ha. Well, Fantasy Man turns into Reality Man when she realizes he’s in bed with her. She wasn’t expecting that and he has no idea she’s there.

Okay, I’m going to add Fantasy Man to my TBR list while you tell us what other projects you’re working on.

I’ve been dragging out some of my older unpubbed manuscripts and taking another look at them. And I have an almost completed contemporary romance about a former adult film actress who starts a new life in a small Iowa town.

It certainly sounds like you’ll be busy for awhile. Thanks for squeezing this interview into your day.

And thanks everyone for tuning in!

We’re writers and we love an audience. To prove it, everyone who leaves a comment over the next 30 days, reblogs this interview, and links it back to this blog will have their name put in a hat (rafflecopter, actually) for a chance to win something cool. What can you win? Barbara is giving away an ebook of FANTASY MAN (US only, sorry) and I will send you the first two chapters of my current work in progress just for kicks.

Now, here’s the official info on FANTASY MAN by Barbara Meyers.

1123e0c1e81fcab4227ee437a43b0d8d

One lie of omission could turn her wildest dream into a world of hurt.

Quinn Fontana never thought witnessing two murders would lead to her first taste of freedom. But when her overprotective brother puts her on a plane for L.A. to hide until it’s time to testify, she can’t stop the shiver of anticipation. If her life is going to be cut short, she plans to live it to the fullest. And that includes seducing her intended protector—her brother’s best friend and star of her private fantasies.

When security consultant Reif Callaghan awakens after a rowdy night out with his coworkers to find a warm, willing woman in his bed, he’s almost past the point of no return when he realizes it’s Quinn. And he’s come way too close to debauching his best friend’s little sister.

Her enticing offer—one night, no holding back, no regrets—is a temptation he can’t resist. Until he realizes she’s been hiding a piece of vital information that could cost not only their one chance to turn fantasy into reality, but their lives.

Warning: Contains fantasy-come-true sex, get-it-out-of-their-system sex, angry-as-hell sex, and on-the-run sex. Also, accidental ferret-napping. Asthmatics are advised to load up on antihistamines before reading.

Amazon                                                         Samhain Publishing

                                  Catch up with Barbara on her blog:  barbarameyers.com

A Debut Author’s Next Steps

This past week I was fortunate enough to be part of an author round table on International Thriller Writer’s on air forum—Author’s on the Air, talking about next steps in a debut author’s path. Author, Jenny Milchman, hosted me and four other thriller writers for an hour long sharing of personal journeys.

Listen in as five authors share their personal publishing experience and what the immediate future holds for each of them.

Blog talk radio/ Authors on the air