Escape to Writing

I’ve always used writing as a way to work through things that are bothering me–hypocrisy, rude people, the current state of the world, etc. With the onset of COVID-19, I’ve found writing has offered me another gift–escapism. No matter how claustrophobic or stir crazy I’ve become inside my house, I can sit down at my laptop and disappear into a COVID-free world for a few hours. Through my characters, I can attend summer camp, go to a concert, or cheer along with a raucous crowd at a sporting event. I’m not sure how my fellow writers of contemporary fiction are dealing with the pandemic in their stories, but my books do not mention it. My stories are set in the current day, but without COVID. I like it that way. For my mental health, I need it that way.

Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com

One of my upcoming releases, She Lies Alone, is set in a large high school. I wrote the bulk of the book in 2019. As I’ve been going back and addressing revisions and copy edits, it is strange to read my descriptions of a COVID-free world where teens travel in packs and gather to eat lunch in a crowded cafeteria without a second thought. These revisions come exactly at the time I’m learning my kids will be attending their school 100% virtually in the fall. Reading my manuscript describing a pandemic-free world that is both near and distant is strange, but also refreshing. Oh, how naive I was! But how happy and carefree! It is wonderful to travel to that safe place, if only for a while. (Okay, maybe “safe” isn’t the correct word because I write mysteries and there is bound to be a murder, but you know what I mean.)

I’m finishing up a first draft of another novel involving a girls’ weekend gone murderously wrong. I’ve written the all 70,000+ words during the pandemic, but the pandemic doesn’t exist in my book. I’m not sure I could write about the pandemic while living through it. That would ruin the escape that writing brings to me.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Do you write contemporary fiction? Do you mention the pandemic in your stories? Tell me why or why not.

Until next time…

Cover Reveal – TWO WIDOWS

It’s Cover Reveal Day!

I’ve had an exciting week in writing. On Tuesday, I released my commercial fiction suspense novel, Top Producer. Today, I get to reveal the fabulous cover of Two Widows, my first suspense novel to be published with Bookouture this August!

So, without further ado…

TWO WIDOWS Cover

Two Widows releases August 27th from Bookouture, but is available for pre-order now on Amazon, iBooks, Google, and Kobo!

From the back cover –

I’d grown desperate for company since the discovery of the dead woman in town…

Gloria lives alone in an old farmhouse surrounded by empty land, miles from the nearest town in northern Michigan. Widowed and grieving her husband, mourning her broken relationship with her estranged son, lonely Gloria searches for answers in self-help books and has only faded photographs and stacks of unpaid bills for company. Her days all look the same.

Then the dead body of an unidentified young woman is found on the beach near Gloria’s house.

When freelance travel writer Beth arrives with her trailer to live on Gloria’s land, Gloria is relieved not to be alone. The police have no suspects in the murder and fearless Beth makes Gloria feel safe. Then Gloria discovers Beth is a widow too: the women become closer and begin to share their secrets.

But soon Gloria starts to wonder… what does she actually know about Beth? About what brought her to this isolated spot? About how her husband really died? Is it a coincidence that she’s arrived just as this small town has seen its first murder in decades?

Gloria thought that Beth had told her all her secrets. She was wrong.

A deeply compelling suspense novel that will have you hooked, this is a gripping thriller that will keep you up all night. Perfect for fans of Lisa Jewell, The Couple Next Door, and The Woman in the Window.

Thanks for checking it out!

Book Release Day! TOP PRODUCER

laurawolfe138_new_Just in time for Summer Reading!

It’s Release Day for Top Producer, my suspense novel set in the world of Chicago real estate. After reading this book, I promise you’ll never look at your realtor the same!

From the Back Cover:

In the cutthroat world of real estate, only one can rise to the top.

Twenty-four-year-old newbie, Mara, can’t believe her luck when Chicago’s star realtor, Jacqueline Hendersen, hires her as her assistant. But Jacqueline’s polished exterior conceals her crooked moral compass and relentless quest to win the prestigious Top Producer Award. Under Jacqueline’s tutelage, Mara earns enough money to pay for her new condo and her sister’s mounting medical bills as she entangles herself in Jacqueline’s unorthodox methods of creating business.

Mara relies on her increasing success to justify her mentor’s illegal behavior. When a competing realtor ends up dead, Mara fears she will be Jacqueline’s next victim. Backed into a corner by her involvement in Jacqueline’s scandals, Mara faces a high-stakes dilemma. Will she risk everything she has struggled to achieve, or play along in Jacqueline’s murderous game? Because there can only be one Top Producer.

 

The Inspiration for Top Producer

Before I set out to become an author of suspense and mystery novels, I had a few other careers. One of those was as a realtor in downtown Chicago, where I sold condos, houses, and buildings for five years, eventually becoming one of the “top producers” in my company. But when the market crashed in 2008 and I had one baby at home and another on the way, my family and I moved out of the city and I began pursuing my passion for writing.

One day, my husband told me his brilliant premise for a novel:  what if a real estate agent manufactured situations that force people to buy and sell real estate? Think of the reasons people move–job loss, divorce, death, robbery, etc. This was how my villain, Jacqueline Hendersen, was born. I had the real estate know-how to write the book and felt a personal connection to my main character, Mara, whose naivety is squashed by the players in the underbelly of big-city real estate.

Top Producer has been a pet project of mine for several years now. It has undergone numerous rewrites based on feedback I received from editors and critique partners. While it is quite different than the kind of dark psychological suspense novels I’m currently writing for Bookouture, I decided to release Top Producer through my own imprint, Blue Pond Press, so it can have its day in the sun. The early reviews have been extremely positive:

Top Producer Review Graphic

Top Producer is a “larger than life” suspense novel that makes for entertaining summer reading. Please note it contains adult themes and language and is intended for the 18+ crowd. Thanks for checking it out!

View Top Producer on Amazon!

 

Mystery Author Spotlight – Roland Clarke

Introducing May’s Mystery Author, Roland Clarke!

It’s not often I run into other writers of equestrian-themed mysteries. Admittedly, we are a rare breed! So I was delighted to learn of Roland Clarke’s novel, Spiral of Hooves, a mystery set in the world of eventing. Our similarities extend beyond a love of mysteries and horses, though. Like me, Roland also writes about many other subjects. I was intrigued to learn he is a former green activist, a theme which pours over into many of his works. So, I’m excited to feature Roland and his books on my blog today.

Author Bio

P1000002After diverse careers, Roland Clarke was an equestrian journalist and green activist when chronic illness hastened retirement. But he hasn’t stopped exploring rabbit holes and writing – mainly mystery novels and varied shorts. Roland and his wife – both avid gamers – now live in Idaho (USA) with their four fur-babies, although their hearts are in North Wales (UK). Learn more on his WEBSITE.

The Interview

Hi Roland! What attracts you to writing in the mystery genre?

Writing mysteries allows me to explore devious solutions to problems – and challenge my MC…and the reader. I could do that in other genres, and as a teenager, I wrote SF/Fantasy with twists – and red herrings. So, over the decades I have slipped mysteries into other genres I’ve tackled, like my Viking Age alternative history or my post-apocalyptic saga. However, the mystery is always at the core and usually, a crime must be solved or prevented. Also, writing a believable mystery-solving MC with a difference is a challenge – as is creating a motivated antagonist who believes his/her actions are justified.

What subjects do you enjoy writing about the most? 

Beyond the mysteries, I enjoy writing about issues that challenge my characters, who often are struggling with themselves – whether with health or identity. I’ve been interested in history for decades, so that leads me to research rabbit holes like Deaf culture, Special Forces in Afghanistan, PTSD, Viking shipbuilding, or the last Prince of Wales, Owain Glyndwr. Of course, horses gallop throughout my writing, not surprisingly for an ex-equestrian journalist.

Moreover, environmental issues are a common thread. I was a green activist for many years, and I try to continue spreading the message in my writing. So, genetic modification, organic agriculture, renewable energy, the arms trade, air pollution, and airships feature as key plot elements wherever they fit the story.

Green issues played a central role in Spiral of Hooves, my first published novel and a mystery set against the sports horse world I worked in. A researcher with a traumatic past and a young rider with diabetes unravel a plot to manipulate the breeding of competition horses. From PTSD and diabetes to LGBTQ and Deaf Culture, I’m interested in representing ‘diverse’ characters and human rights issues. This concern preceded my disability.

What are you working on now?

For a number of years, I’ve been working on Snowdon Shadows, a crime series set around Snowdonia in North Wales and featuring Sparkle Anwyl, a queer Welsh policewoman – or Heddlu as the police in Wales are called. Queer as in her mnemonic mind games to resolve crimes and in her lesbian relationship with a fellow officer of color. The original story, Fates Maelstrom, was written in 2012. Set in SW England, it did not feature a detective, but I re-wrote it set in Snowdonia with Sparkle Anwyl assigned as a junior officer on the case. In the novel, which is currently being edited, Sparkle must use memories of old cases to unravel why ex-mercenaries are involved in the illegal trade in horsemeat.

Fates Maelstrom will be Book 2 of the Snowdon Shadows crime series, with two more Books drafted.

Is the setting of your novel based on a real place?

My Snowdon Shadows series is set around Snowdonia in North Wales, where my wife and I lived for a few years before moving to the USA. All the places are real, with a few exceptions like the locality where my MC’s maternal family has farmed for generations – although that is based on typical Welsh farms and villages.

Our hearts are still in North Wales, and in our office, we have a photo canvas of Snowdon my wife took from our home in Harlech. Detective Sparkle Anwyl keeps my memories of Wales alive, especially when I learn more about the area or when ‘driving’ on familiar and unfamiliar roads in Google Maps. I incorporate both places we visited or would have done if we were still there.

Do you have any upcoming releases you’d like to tell us about?

My short story Feathered Fire is featured in VOYAGERS: The Third Ghost, the fifth Insecure Writers Support Group Anthology, which released on May 5, 2020. I was hesitant about entering last year, having tried three times unsuccessfully – and it was for Middle Grade historical fantasy. However, the writer who created IWSG encouraged me to enter.

From my research rabbit warren, I melded brave Soviet Airwomen in WWII and rich Slavic folklore into a tale the judges liked. A mystery as I was way off my genre. Or was I? Perhaps the young heroine Vasy needed to discover, “Why she had survived?”
You can read more about the tale and its trigger HERE.

719iAAmPL1L

Congratulations on making it into the Anthology, Roland! It sounds like your persistence has paid off. Thank you for being a guest on my blog. 

Thanks, readers, for stopping by and getting to know Roland Clarke. Please check back next month, when I’ll feature another deserving mystery writer.

I Finally Get to Drink this Bottle of Wine!

The Story of the Bottle

IMG_4946When we moved to our new house almost three years ago, my husband and I made a binge-shopping trip to our local big-box store to stock up on groceries and necessities. In my haste to fill our cart and get out of the crowded store, I accidentally tossed in a $40 bottle of wine. (Normally, I purchase bottles in the more reasonable $10-$15 price range.) I didn’t realize my mistake until we were at the checkout, but things were hectic so we went through with it. When I got home, I felt a little guilty about the extravagant mistake, so I made a deal with myself. I told myself I would save the “good” bottle to open when I got a book deal.

One of my long-time goals has been to have my novels traditionally published by a large publisher. I’ve documented some milestones along this journey, including signing with an agent, completing and revising multiple manuscripts. parting with said agent, looking for a new agent, submitting my manuscripts on my own, all while still writing and being a mom to two kids. Well, you might be able to guess where this story is going. While I was busy writing, revising, submitting, and resubmitting, that bottle of “good” wine sat in our wine fridge for almost three years…

Pass the Corkscrew, Please!

About two months ago, I submitted my manuscript for a psychological suspense novel called, The Space Between, to an editor in the UK. Three weeks later, she asked me to make a few changes and resubmit. I did. A week after that, she asked me what else I had. I sent her summaries of my other manuscripts, one of which she asked to read. A few days after that, I received an offer for a three-book deal from Bookouture (Hachette UK!) I’d been hoping for a two-book deal, so a three-book option was beyond my wildest dreams! This past Friday, we signed the contract.

I now have three novels of psychological suspense coming out with Bookouture, The Space Between (August 2020), Where She Lies (November 2020), and The Cabin on Crooked Lane (spring 2021).  The third one hasn’t been written yet (minor detail!), but I’m now feeling validated and extra motivated to get it done. (There is more information about each book on my website, including a fourth novel, Top Producer, which I’ll be releasing through my own imprint on May 26th, 2020.)

I keep pinching myself. I’m so happy to finally get my books out into the world. Over the last several months, I had lost hope of accomplishing my dreams. I was contemplating throwing in the towel on my writing career. I was depressed at all the wasted time and effort I’d invested in writing and publishing. I’m so glad I didn’t give up. And for all of you writers out there with a dream in your heart and the willingness to hone your craft, I hope you don’t give up either.

Because I can tell you one thing–a glass of wine never tasted so good!

 

 

Top Producer Cover Reveal!

It’s COVER REVEAL DAY!

My upcoming suspense novel, TOP PRODUCER, releases May 26th, 2020! (Just in time for summer reading!) It’s perfect for fans of LOCK EVERY DOOR by Riley Sager, and AN ANONYMOUS GIRL by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen.

Here’s a sneak peek at the cover…

laurawolfe138_new_

When Mara’s dream job with one of Chicago’s top realtors turns into her worst nightmare, she realizes it’s not only her livelihood at stake—it’s also her life.


I couldn’t be happier with the cover art. Many thanks to RebecaCovers for the design!

Please stay tuned, as I will be sharing even more good news about my upcoming novels in the days to come. Stay safe and healthy, everyone!

Eco Author Spotlight – Jenny Roman

March Author Spotlight

I’m excited to spotlight this month’s ecologically aware author because we have so much in common. What are the odds I’d run into another person (on Twitter, of all places) who also loves writing, horses, and sustainability? Well, I did! Her name is Jenny Roman, she lives in the UK, and she writes short stories. Here’s more about her.

The Author

Jenny Roman HeadshotJenny Roman has written short stories and articles for a variety of magazines, and is the author of three short story collections. She has had stories published online and in anthologies, and she has readers around the world. Jenny has an MA in Creative Writing from Nottingham Trent University. She has been short-listed or placed in a host of writing competitions, and has also acted as reader, short-lister and judge – so she knows what it feels like on both sides of the fence. She is a member of a Writers’ Group and strongly recommends this to anyone thinking of writing creatively. When she’s not writing, you’ll probably find her in the garden, walking the dogs, or mucking out the horses! Please visit her blog HERE.

The Interview

Hi, Jenny! Tell us about a character in your book who fights for the environment. What issue is of main concern to him/her?

My latest short story collection includes a story which was first published in a magazine in the UK. It’s about a girl called Leah who develops an interest in bees as a child. As she grows up, her mum starts to see it as an obsession, and worries about her, especially when Leah falls in love with a postgrad and they end up travelling and campaigning together about the plight of bees. Eventually, Leah goes on to build a university career based around her passion – a career which outlasts the love affair!

What eco-friendly habits or actions do you take in your own life?

We used to live in a rented house with a huge back garden, grew our own veg, kept hens, and tried to be as self-sufficient as possible. Any leftovers went to feed the hens, and any eggs we didn’t need we sold at our gate. The money from the eggs helped to pay for additional hens’ feed, or seeds for the veg garden. We’ve since moved to our own home, and our garden is too small for a veg plot, but we try to source our food from local producers and support our local shops etc. We’ve deliberately bought a small house – sufficient for the two of us – with a spare bedroom which doubles both as my writing room, and a place to put up friends when they come to stay. We aren’t minimalists, but we are attempting to live with fewer material possessions.

What sparked your love for nature and the outdoors?

As a child our garden backed onto a farmer’s fields, in which there were variously horses, cows or sheep. My parents were both keen gardeners, and I always loved playing outside. Our holidays were spent camping – usually staying in wild places such as Exmoor, the New Forest, or occasionally Scotland – beautiful landscapes for walking and spotting wildlife. I started learning to ride when I was about 10. I was desperate for a pony of my own, but my parents couldn’t afford it, so eventually I worked at the local riding school in return for rides, and then rode horses for other people. I was 28 before I was able to afford my first horse!

Is environmentalism the main theme of your writing, or do you write mainly in another genre?

Environmentalism itself isn’t a main theme of my writing. In my short stories, I generally write about domestic situations – the small details of life – so themes might include having less, or how people and relationships are of more importance than the accumulation of wealth and things. I firmly believe that lots of small changes make a big change. I personally hate waste (of money, effort, time, and the earth’s resources) so I think that comes across in my writing. Many of my stories are centered around love – though not necessarily in the romantic sense. They explore the way things can go wrong, or be misunderstood, or the way people behave badly because their nature conflicts with the situation they find themselves in. What I love about a collection of short stories is that they allow you to explore a range of different scenarios within one overarching theme.

Do you have any upcoming book releases you’d like to tell us about?

I’m currently working on a book of horse-themed short stories for grownups. I’m aiming them at those people who used to be avid readers of pony books when they were kids. Perhaps they no longer ride, perhaps ‘real life’ has got in the way of something which used to feel fundamental to them. I’m fascinated with exploring the way our response to a ‘grand passion’ changes as we grow older. I still love horses as an adult, but not in the same, all-consuming way I did as a kid. Now I have a job and a mortgage and a husband and the ‘grand passion’ has to fit in with all these other things. I kind of wish I still had that overwhelming feeling I did as a child, but your perspective changes as you get older and that’s what I hope these stories will explore.

Thanks, Jenny. Your upcoming horse stories for adults sound perfect for me and I can’t wait to check them out! In the meantime, find Jenny’s currently available books of short stories below.

The Books

Find Jenny’s books on Amazon by visiting her Amazon Author Page!

Until my next post, stay safe and healthy, everyone!

Writing in the Time of COVID-19

Change of Planspills on gray background

A week ago right now, I’d finished a full day of revisions on one of manuscripts and was attending my son’s first school volleyball game. Two days later, school had been canceled for the next three weeks, possibly longer, the aisles of my local grocery store had been cleared out in a rush of panic buying, and my kids were fighting over my computer. What a difference a week can make.

I realize I’m not the only one whose life has been set into a tailspin. This virus is affecting everyone, nobody more so than the people who are infected. Of course, my family and I are doing our part to “flatten the curve.” We’re staying inside, except to take long walks or play sports in the backyard. We’ve stopped getting together with friends. We’re working and schooling from home. Sadly, my husband and I had to our cancel our trip to celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary in New York City in May. That will have to wait.

The first two days with all four of us home felt long at times. I found it difficult to focus with a steady stream of interruptions and loud noises emanating from around the house. (I’m one of those people who can only write in complete silence.) But we’re slowly getting into a new routine. I’m claiming the morning hours as my writing time. My husband has set up his home office downstairs in the living room. My kids use their tablets to check emails from their teachers and use my computer in the afternoon.

Silver Linings

I have to admit, there have been a few silver linings to the quarantine. It’s nice to eat

landscape photo of pathway between green leaf trees

lunch with my family every day. I usually eat alone during the week, in between revising or writing chapters. My tri-weekly trips to the gym have been replaced with long, hikes in nature or around our neighborhood with my husband, kids, and dog. Thankfully, the weather has been sunny and spring-like. Another bonus–and I’ve heard other writers mention this too–the pages read of my YA mystery series on Kindle Unlimited are WAY up. I agree there’s no better way to pass the time than reading a book! Finally, is it just me, or are people being nicer to each other? I’ve noticed this at the grocery store and while out on walks and also online. People are smiling, saying hi, asking how I’m doing, and simply checking in. The sense of community has never felt stronger.

I hope everyone who reads this is staying safe and healthy. By all accounts, the worst may still be ahead of us, but we are all in this together. We will get through it, and I’ll be back to my silent days of writing in no time. In the meantime, I’m going to enjoy the gift of time with my family.

How are these difficult times affecting your writing or reading?

Spring and New Beginnings

yellow tulip flower field during daytime

Spring is one of my favorite times of the year. Today is a perfect example. After months of cloudy skies, slushy snow, and freezing rain in Michigan, the sun is shining, the remnants of old snow are melting, and daffodils are sprouting up. Two Canadian geese have arrived on our pond, as they do every spring (much to the dismay of our dog.) I’m eager for the ducks to arrive and hoping this is the year they have ducklings.

That’s one of the best things about spring; it’s filled with hope. The awakening of animals and plants outside bring forth a rebirth and new beginnings for the rest of us. Doesn’t anything feel possible on a sunny spring day?

I’m feeling spring’s positive energy in my writing life, too. There’s an idea for a new novel percolating in my head (that’s how novels are born.) Hint: It’s about a girls’ weekend gone murderously wrong. I’ve planted the seeds of the story by writing a rough outline. Next week, I’ll come up with character sketches (that’s the water), and maybe April will be the month I try to write 50,000 words in thirty days (the writing version of photosynthesis.)

It’s wonderful to be able to focus on a new project. This past winter, I went through a

book book pages college education
Photo by Victor on Pexels.com

dark period in my writing life. I’d completed major rewrites to two of my suspense manuscripts, Top Producer and All the Tiny Spaces, but my agent dragged her feet on resubmitting the new versions. When I sent her my newest psychological suspense manuscript, Where She Lies, the same thing happened. I didn’t understand her lack of urgency and support. What was I supposed to do with all of these novels I’d spent literally years of my life writing, rewriting, editing, and polishing? The feelings of despair intensified when people would ask me, “Do you have anything new I can read?” I would answer, “Yes, I have three novels, but…” and explain the whole story. It was depressing to know my manuscripts were being held hostage with no viable plan going forward.

With the rebirth of spring, I harnessed the courage to break away from my agent and pursue new representation. It feels like I can breathe again, like I escaped a stagnant relationship. I am now shopping Where She Lies to a dozen or so literary agents who specialize in my genre (my previous agent did not.) Two of them have already requested the full manuscript. Oh, the possibilities of spring! I am submitting my two rewritten manuscripts to smaller publishers and awaiting responses. For some inexplicable reason (maybe because the sun is shining and flowers are sprouting), I am hopeful my stories will soon find their ways into the hands of readers.

What new beginnings are you pursuing this spring? I’d love to hear your stories of hope and renewal!