To Vlog or Not to Vlog?

My First Vlog Interview

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Photo by Gabriela Palai on Pexels.com

I was recently contacted by fellow equestrian author, Carly Kade, to participate in her new equestrian spotlight vlog series. A vlog? It’s like a podcast with video, in case you’re slightly behind the times, like me. Being an extreme introvert, my initial reaction was NOOOOOO! I emailed her back and asked if I could do an audio podcast without the video. I’ve done podcast interviews before and gotten through them without too much embarrassment. She graciously accepted my audio-only podcast alternative and we set a date.

Later that night, I told my husband what happened. He looked at me with a disapproving look. “Why aren’t you doing the video?”

“It makes me uncomfortable.”

“So? Visual marketing is what everyone does now. It would be great exposure for your books.”

Ugh. I hate it when he’s right. It was a good reminder that the easiest thing to do isn’t always the right thing to do. I emailed Carly back and told her that my husband gave me a kick in the butt and that, yes, I would now like to do the video. I was worried she’d be annoyed with me, but she thought it was funny. Apparently, I’m not the only one to receive kicks in the butt from my significant other.

My stress level steadily increased as the interview date drew closer. The time arrived two nights ago. I set up my screen, background, Bluetooth earbuds, and microphone. I reread the questions she had sent me a couple of weeks earlier. I gave my kids strict instructions to stay in a room on the other side of the house (with the dog) and not to come out unless it was an emergency. My kids proceeded to ask me many questions outlining hypothetical scenarios and whether or not they constituted an emergency (FYI, being hungry for marshmallows does NOT equal an emergency!)

At last, Carly and I connected via an app called Zoom. She made me feel at ease immediately. I was thankful to learn that if I messed up, I could clap my hands (her signal to edit something out) and redo my answer, which I did a few times throughout our discussion. I was nervous for the first five or ten minutes, but after a while it seemed more like we were just two friends talking about writing and publishing. The hour went by fast.

I have not seen the final product yet. I might look terrible or sound unsure about my answers, but I hope not. Overall, I’m glad I took a risk and stepped out of my comfort zone. it was a great experience and I was thankful for the opportunity to talk about writing and to promote my YA horse books, including the upcoming January 2020 release of the third book in the series. I will post a link to the vlog on this blog, my Facebook page, and Twitter account as soon as it is ready, which I’m told will be sometime in November.

A final suggestion to my fellow introverted writers who might be presented with the question, “Would you like to appear on my vlog?”

The answer is “YES!”

 

Writing with a Grateful Heart

GratitudeFor my first post of 2018, I thought I’d write about one of my New Year’s resolutions–to be grateful everyday. In all aspects of my life I’m making a conscious effort to be grateful for what I have, rather than focusing on what I wish I could change, or comparing myself to others who (seemingly) have more than me. I’ve learned from others who are wiser than me that being grateful is one of the easiest ways to be happy. Gratitude forces me to focus on the positive rather than the negative. I’m a big believer that positive energy attracts more positive things into my life, and vice versa.

I’m extending my mindful gratitude to my writing journey. Those of us who write knowDeepak-Chopra-gratitude-quote how easy it is to get down about the business, dwell on slow book sales and rejections, or wonder why certain friends refuse to read our books. None of those thoughts are productive, though. So, instead, I’ve gotten into the habit of writing down five things I’m grateful for every day. Here’s an example of one of my writing-related gratitude lists (For the purpose of this post, I’ve added explanations after each item):

  1.  Winning NaNoWriMo–I finished the month of November with a complete first draft of my newest novel, coming in at just over 50,000 words. Rather than focusing on the many revisions and additions that await me in the coming months, I’m choosing to be grateful that I completed the challenge and that I have an exciting new setting, story, and characters to work with.
  2. Signing with a literary agent–A few months ago, I finally signed with a literary agent in New York. I’m grateful that she took the time to read my manuscript and that she saw something special in it. I’m grateful every time I receive an email from her because I know she’s working hard to help me find the best publisher for my book.
  3. Having a supportive husband and family–This one is self-explanatory. They seriously never give up on me!
  4. Contributing to Anthology–I was asked to contribute a short story featuring a character from my books to an anthology compiled by my publisher. I’m grateful that I was included and that I finished the first draft of that short story earlier today.
  5. Working in a home office–After years of working in an office building wearing uncomfortable suits and high-heeled shoes, I’m so thankful every time I sit down in front of my computer wearing jeans and a sweatshirt in order to do something I love. One of the best perks? I get to work with my sweet dog by my side and take Frisbee breaks. It doesn’t get much better than that!

The things I’m grateful for don’t need to be big events or life-changing news. Some examples from last week–I wrote 500 words today, I found a writing conference I’d like to attend, or someone left a positive review of my book on Amazon. When I don’t have time to write these things down, I’ve found just thinking about them during a quiet moment is equally as effective.

Have you practiced gratitude in your writing? What were the results?

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What’s on my Summer Reading List?

It’s Memorial Day Weekend, and you know what that means… It’s time for SUMMER READING! The same excitement that comes from my childhood memories of summer reading has carried over into adulthood…maybe because I picture myself devouring books while lounging by a pool, sipping a glass of wine and completely uninterrupted by kids (yeah, right!) Before checking out my list below, please note that it comes with two BIG disclaimers:  #1–I’m constantly (everyday) finding new books to read, so this list is likely to evolve and expand, and #2–My reading lists are usually over-ambitious, meaning it is likely I may not actually read every book this summer, but it’s good to have goals!

The-Girls-Emma-Cline1. The first book on my list is one I’ve been wanting read all year — The Girls by Emma Cline. It tells the story of a 14 year-old girl who gets drawn into a Manson-like cult in 1960’s California. It promises to be a mesmerizing read involving cult psychology, teenage insecurity and murder. The book has received rave reviews and was named an Amazon Best Book of June 2016. Sounds like the perfect beach read to me!

2. I love everything by this next author, Liane Moriarty. Her writing style is Truly-Madly-Guiltyfast-paced, humorous, and suspenseful– all of my favorite things. I was so thrilled when her novel (and one of my all-time favorite books), Big Little Lies, was recently made into an HBO mini-series. I haven’t had a chance to read her latest book, Truly Madly Guilty, and I can’t wait!

These next two books fall into my favorite reading (and writing) category–Psychological Thrillers!

All the missing girls3. All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda has been calling my name for a few months now. The premise of a suspenseful tale told backwards intrigues meThis book has received tremendous reviews and was named as A New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice. I’m excited to read it.

4.  Because I enjoyed Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins, I look forward into-the-water-678x1024to reading her new novel, Into the Water. While I see it has received mixed reviews on Amazon…frankly, I don’t care. Just from reading the back cover blurb I want to know why a single mother was found dead at the bottom of the river and what she had to do with the teenage girl who was found dead in the river before her. I’m eager to read this best-selling story of psychological suspense written by a talented author.

And in the Historical Fiction category…

Two Family House5. The Two-Family House by Lynda Cohen Loigman has been sitting on my Kindle for months. I’ve heard great things about it and I’m going to make time to read it this summer. I love historical fiction because it transports me to another time and place. This family saga is set in post WWII Brooklyn and follows the lives of two brothers who share a house with their wives. It promises to be an emotional page-turner featuring vivid characters, life-altering secrets, lies, love and redemption.

Now I’m moving on to one of my favorite categories–  Equestrian Fiction!Ride Every Stride

6. Ride Every Stride by Amy Maltman appears to encompass everything I love in a great book–horses, dark secrets and plot twists! This novel is set against the backdrop of a prestigious stable and one man’s quest to earn a spot on the Canadian Olympic equestrian team, despite the personal demons that threaten to destroy his dream. Bring it!

Showdown7.  Showdown (Red Rock Ranch, Book Two) by Brittney Joy I read the first book in the Red Rock Ranch series, Lucy’s Chance, and very much enjoyed it. I found the first book to be a fun and quick YA read that transported me into the world of Western riding and contained just the right amount of suspense, romance and, of course, horses. I look forward to escaping into Book 2 on one of my beach days.

Continuing on the YA Theme, I’m eager to read…

8. The Art of Holding on and Letting GoArt of Holding on and Letting Go by fellow Michigan author, Kristin Bartley Lenz. This Fall 2016 Junior Library Guild Selection tells the coming of age story of a teenage competitive rock climber who is forced to take a year off after tragedy strikes on an Ecuadorian mountaintop. I love learning about cool sports and enjoy journeys of self-discovery, so I’m beyond excited to read this highly acclaimed book.

Fault in our Stars9. Because I’m the last person on the planet who hasn’t read this book, I’m adding YA bestseller The Fault in our Stars by John Green to my list. I’ve been hesitant to read it because it just sounds so depressing, but millions of people can’t be wrong…right? I’m not going to bother telling you what it’s about because you’ve probably already read it. And, no, I haven’t seen the movie either.

I also love reading Non-Fiction books, and have several on my summer reading list, including…

10. The Dogs Who Found Me: What I’ve Learned from the Pets who were Left Behind by Dogs who found meKen Foster. I’m a sucker for animal rescue stories, and I’ve already got my box of Kleenex ready for this one. Animals can teach us so many things about ourselves if we would just pay attention. This tale of multiple rescues is bookended by the tragedies of 9/11 and hurricane Katrina. I can’t wait to learn how this author was touched by a loveable array of abandoned dogs.

Edible11. Edible: An Adventure into the World of Eating Insects and the Last Great Hope to Save the Planet by Daniella Martin has peaked my interest. As if my mostly-vegan diet wasn’t “crazy” enough, now I’m going to learn about eating bugs? Absolutely! Hey, I didn’t say I was actually going to eat insects, I’d just like learn about the people who do. And because I believe in science and I’m all for saving the planet, I’m reminding myself to never say never…

12.  Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance is Hillbilly Elegyanother non-fiction read that sounds timely and fascinating. This book is described as a passionate and personal analysis of poor, white, working class Americans, and how one man achieved upward mobility while the rest of his family was left behind. I’m hoping this book will delve deep into another way of life–one that I know little about–and might help offer a new perspective.

Because the next novel I’m going to write is an Eco-thriller/Suspense story, I’m trying to read as many similar-type books as I can. Here are a couple that are at the top of my eco-thriller list:

Open SeasonTipping Point

13.  Open Season by C.J. Box

14. Tipping Point by Simon Rosser

 

 

Finally, (although I won’t be reading my own books this summer) I have to give a quick darkhorse[3612]shout out to my Dark Horse Series. These YA mysteries set against the backdrop of a summer camp in northern Michigan make the perfect beach read for anyone who loves fast-paced mysteries, creepy ghost stories, and/or horses.

That’s it! What’s on your summer reading list? Now please excuse me because I need to start reading…

Calling All #KICKASSGIRLSOFYA

This month, I’ve been honored to participate in a promotion sponsored by my publisher, Fire & Ice, to celebrate strong female characters in YA books–including my own Brynlei Leighton! I posted the calendar of events a week or so ago, but today I’m posting a reminder about a few exciting things…

SaleFirst, the epic 99-cent eBook Sale is happening now! This is such a great opportunity to try out some great new authors and their books in a variety of YA genres. The full list of books offered in this sale is HERE. (Note: Trail of Secrets is on the list!)

Not sure which books to buy? Eight Fire & Ice authors (including yours truly) have written short stories featuring our kickass female characters! Download our FREE Kickass Girls of Fire & Ice anthology on Amazon, B&N or Smashwords, and test the waters with a variety of characters, genres and authors.KickAssGirlsOfFIYA

Second, there’s an exciting Rafflecopter Giveaway also happening now! Just click HERE for your chance to win and eBook bundle from Fire & Ice (you choose which books you win!)

Next, please join the Kickass Girls of YA Facebook Party on Saturday, April 22nd. I’ll be hosting between 10-10:30am, but the party lasts from 10am-2pm with different authors hosting every half hour. Check it out to win entries for great prizes and swag, including autographed print books!
Finally, don’t forget our Twitter chats on Friday nights from 9-10pm EST. Use the hashtag #kickassgirlsofya to connect! Good luck and have fun!

TwitterChat

 

Author Spotlight: Carly Kade

Today, I’m thrilled to welcome fellow equestrian author, Carly Kade, to my blog! Carly is one of those people who bursts with positive energy (interact with her on social media and you’ll see what I’m talking about). Although she resides in sunny Arizona, she’s actually a Michigan native (like me!) I read her romance novel, In the Reins, last year and recommend it to anyone who enjoys gorgeous horses, western riding or handsome cowboys.

Carly_Kade_Author_Photo_Web_ITR_Sequel[2742]About the Author:  Carly Kade is an author of equestrian fiction. Creative writing makes her spurs jingle! She writes fiction about horses, horse shows, western pleasure and a handsome cowboy or two! Her books are for people just like her…crazy about reading, horses and cute cowboys! In her free time Carly enjoys competitively showing her registered Paint Horse and works on her next novel. In the Reins, Carly’s cowboy romance novel inspired by the equestrian lifestyle has been an Amazon equestrian bestseller for more than 10 weeks and is an EQUUS Film Festival literary award winner for Best Western Fiction. The novel is available now in paperback and eBook.

Connect with Carly Kade Creative on Facebook or Twitter, or on her website: www.carlykadecreative.com.

3D Book Cover All[2744]From the back cover:

McKennon Kelly. McKennon Kelly. McKennon Kelly.

Cowboy McKennon Kelly was the last thing Devon Brooke wanted to focus on after finding herself suddenly single. Looking for a fresh start to life, city girl and journalist Devon just wanted to go back to her country roots and focus on building a relationship with her newly acquired equine partner Faith.

Devon finds companionship in handsome bull riding ranch hand JD and delicate Green Briar horse farm owner Sophia, both who advise Devon to keep her distance from McKennon and “mind her p’s and q’s” around the quiet and eerily peaceful stables. Devon thinks it shouldn’t be too difficult to avoid the Adonis cowboy, but after noticing his skills and expert ways with training horses, she figures it couldn’t hurt to get to know him a little bit … right?

Devon follows the guarded cowboy to a horse show, where she is unprepared to learn she may not be the cowgirl she thought she was. After a near-tragic incident, Devon begins to realize that the more time she spends with McKennon, the less she really knows about him (or horses, for that matter), and his mystery just keeps getting bigger. Who is he really, what is it that everyone doesn’t want her to know, and why is this tight-shirted, spur-jingling, weather-eyed cowboy all she can think about now?

Interview with Carly Kade:

If you could spend the day with any character from your novel, who would it be? Why?

If I could spend the day with any character from my novel, I’d take a riding lesson from my horse training cowboy McKennon Kelly. McKennon Kelly came to me (like lightning) in the form of a poem.  I vividly remember the day I furiously scrawled him in my journal.  I didn’t want to miss a thing, a thought, or a moment of his inception.  Thank heaven that I always keep a journal with me.  That poem ended up being the intro to the book.  McKennon Kelly comes from the part of me that is in love with love.  My imagination had so much fun creating him.  As I turned my words into a man, I took the best from the ones I once knew (and those I still know), the ones I’ve read about in my favorite books, all the ones I’ve imagined, and mixed those qualities with all the things I wish men could be then sprinkled in a little of what I imagined a cowboy who can make the eight on the back of a raging bull would be like …  McKennon is the best little pieces of everything and everyone I’ve experienced in life.  My heart was a flutter as I created him.  I am proud of McKennon Kelly.  I hope he sparks a smile across readers’ lips as they turn the pages of In The Reins. He certainly makes me smile as I continue to write his story in the sequel.

What attracts you to writing in the equestrian fiction genre?

I am happiest when I am in the saddle so it’s probably no surprise I was interested in writing a story about the bond between horse and human.  Also, I knew I wanted readers to feel like they were falling for the leading man as they turned the pages of my book.  Generating that kind of feeling was my goal – what I wanted to create for readers – so In The Reins naturally became an equestrian romance.  I’ve always loved reading and have been riding horses since I was seven. I know that I sure wouldn’t be able to resist reading about a handsome cowboy who knows his way around horses so I wrote about what I knew … horses and cowgirl culture.

What time of day do you prefer to write?

I write in the morning before life has an opportunity to get in the way. I get up at 5:30. My husband and I start the day by walking our dogs then return home to meditate. Quieting my mind really prepares me for creativity!  After I pour my first cup of coffee, I settle into my home office for my scheduled morning writing session. I am not a morning person but the commitment to my morning routine keeps my creativity alive. I made the rule to “touch” my story every day.  As long as I stay engaged with what I’m writing, the world I’m creating is never far from reach.  It’s when I’ve been away from my words for extended periods of time that I find it hardest to get back to writing it so I try not to let that happen.

What are you working on now?

McKennon and Devon’s story continues. Currently, I am working on the sequel to In The Reins and planning its release in 2017.  The crazy thing is that the third book featuring the characters is bucking up a storm in my mind and already taking shape on paper!  I am writing the second and third book simultaneously. I have having so much fun with the journey that this series is taking me on! I’ve learned that there are a lot of JD McCall fans out there so I’m already developing a novella that tells the tale of my bull riding heartthrob too!

What has been the highlight of your writing career so far?

There is so much research that goes into finding the right category for your book.  I loved that Amazon had a section for equestrian books.  I was happy to be able to categorize In The Reins alongside other horse books that I had read and fell in love with.  These are the books that helped me realize I could write my own horse book.  When I learned that In The Reins had broken into the top 100 (and then the top 12) my heart grew a thousand times its size because it meant that my writing was resonating with the audience I wanted to identify with and write for.  I put together a promoted post celebrating my readers on Facebook to acknowledge their contribution to helping my book get there.  I couldn’t have done it without them. Since then, In The Reins has gone on to be an Amazon equestrian bestseller for more than 10 weeks and has won the Best Western Fiction Literary Award at the EQUUS Film Festival in New York City. I’m so grateful and my spurs couldn’t be jingling more over my book’s success!

What subjects do you enjoy writing about most? Why?

I love writing equestrian fiction. I am a horse lover and a horse owner. When I am not riding a horse, you’ll find me writing about one. I was inspired to write In The Reins because I wanted to read a love story themed around the type of horse shows I liked to compete in. There are a lot of equestrian novels out there focused on dressage or jumping or rodeo but I haven’t found many that focus on competitive horse showing at breed shows like the Quarter Horse, Paint, Pinto or the Palomino Horse Circuits.  In my writing I am particularly interested in showcasing the western pleasure discipline and creating stories that provide an honest depiction of the bond between horse and human.

Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions, Carly. It’s been great getting to know more about you and your books!

Stay tuned for my April Author Spotlight with YA thriller author, Nina Mansfield!

 

Mystery Thriller Week Author Spotlight: Christina Hoag

I’m thrilled to welcome thriller writer, Christina Hoag, to my blog. Sometimes you meet someone–either in-person or virtually–who you know for sure is WAY more interesting than you. Christina is one of those people. (Read her bio below if you don’t believe me!) I first learned of Christina through our mutual publisher, Fire and Ice, when they released her YA thriller, Girl on the Brink, last year. I’m excited to discover more about her debut novel, Skin of Tattoos, today!

christinahoagauthorheadshot2547Christina Hoag is a former journalist who’s been threatened by a death-row murderer, had her laptop searched by Colombian guerrillas and phone tapped in Venezuela, suspected of drug trafficking in Guyana, hidden under a car to evade Guatemalan soldiers, posed as a nun to get inside a Caracas jail, interviewed gang members, bank robbers, gunmen, thieves and thugs in prisons, shantytowns and slums, not to forget billionaires and presidents, some of whom fall into the previous categories. Kirkus Reviews praised Christina as a “talented writer” in her debut novel Skin of Tattoos (Martin Brown Publishing, 2016), a gangland thriller. Her YA thriller Girl on the Brink (Fire and Ice, 2016) was named to Suspense Magazine’s Best of 2016 YA list. She also writes nonfiction, co-authoring Peace in the Hood: Working with Gang Members to End the Violence (Turner Publishing, 2014), a groundbreaking book on violence intervention used in several universities. She currently makes her home in Los Angeles. Learn more at: ChristinaHoag.com.

skinoftattooscover2546Back Cover Blurb:  Los Angeles homeboy Magdaleno is paroled from prison after serving time on a gun possession frameup by a rival, Rico, who takes over as gang shotcaller in Mag’s absence. Mags promises himself and his Salvadoran immigrant family a fresh start, but he can’t find either the decent job or the respect he craves from his parents and his firefighter brother, who look at him as a disappointment. Moreover, Rico, under pressure to earn money to free the Cyco Lokos’ jailed top leader and eager to exert his authority over his rival-turned-underling, isn’t about to let Mags get out of his reach. Ultimately, Mags’s desire for revenge pushes him to make a decision that ensnares him in a world seeded with deceit and betrayal, where the only escape from rules that carry a heavy price for transgression is sacrifice of everything–and everyone–he loves.

View Skin of Tattoos on Amazon.

Author Interview:

When did you first know that you wanted to become a writer?

I won a prize for “writing interesting stories” when I was six years old so I guess writing was always there. It came out as soon as I literally learned how to put pen to paper. I discovered journalism in high school so I knew that’s what I wanted to do as a career. I’ve written fiction on and off my whole life.

What attracts you to writing in the mystery/thriller genre?

I love delving into crime–the seamy side of life and what drives people in that world, which is very different than mine! My characters do things that I never would so maybe that’s why I like writing them. I’m fascinated with the psychology behind the criminal mind and how people get to be that way, the risks they take. Other than that, crime makes great drama and conflict, the basis of any novel.

Is writing your full-time job? If not, what else do you do?

Lamentably, my fiction writing does not yield a sustainable income–yet! In order to eat, I do corporate communications/public relations writing:  speeches, press releases, blog posts, that sort of thing. I also edit dissertations and do some journalism in the form of big reports for Congressional Quarterly Researcher. I work freelance so I can juggle my schedule to fit my novel writing into my schedule.

How do you deal with rejections and/or negative reviews?

Develop a thick skin. It takes courage to write and show your work to the world for judgment, but you have to remember that not everyone is going to like your work, and that’s okay. You have to learn to let criticism roll off you. The nastiest rejection I ever got was from the editor of a literary journal who scornfully said of my experimental fiction submission, “Why would anyone even read this?” I kept submitting it and got the piece and another like it published in other journals. I also allow time for the sting to wear off and then revisit the criticism in a more objective light. If someone says something in your piece doesn’t work, it’s only one person’s opinion. But if two people make the same observation, you need to pay attention to what they’re saying. More often than not, it’s something that needs fixing.

What time of day do you prefer to write?

I’m a morning writer. I get up early, have my coffee, check the news and then sit down and write until I feel my brain turning squishy, usually early afternoon. Then I get some exercise and try to do some marketing and social media work. It’s amazing how much time that stuff consumes!

Which well-know authors have inspired your writing?

Probably my favorite all time author is Graham Greene. Many of his books are about the concept of being a foreigner, an outsider/observer, which I relate to on a personal level since I’ve lived in many countries both as a child and as an adult. That influence comes through in Skin of Tattoos, where the protagonist Mags was born in El Salvador but left with his family fleeing the civil war when he was a child so he doesn’t really feel Salvadoran, doesn’t remember anything about the place, yet that is his identity. He’s an outsider to El Salvador, yet as an immigrant an outsider to mainstream American society, as well. He finds his home in a gang with others from similar backgrounds. Having lived in Central and South America, I’m also partial to Latin American authors. One of my favorite books is The Goat’s Party by Peruvian Nobel prize winner Mario Vargas Llosa. This book is a fictionalization of the 1961 plot to assassinate Rafael Trujillo, the dictator who ruled the Dominican Republic for 31 years. I found it fascinating, like a window into an unseen world in the way it fleshed out historical events with the motivations and emotions of the real people. I also loved Queen of the South by Arturo Perez Reverte, which takes readers inside the world of large scale drug trafficking, and The Cartel by Don Winslow, about the current gang wars in Mexico.

Those all sound like intriguing books. You obviously know your subject well! Thank you, again, for taking the time to share your Author Spotlight answers with me. I look forward to reading more from you in the future!

Thanks for reading…I’m reaching the end of my MTW Author Spotlight series…just one more to go with Dawn Barclay. Stay tuned!

 

Mystery Thriller Week Author Spotlight: Linda Kane

Welcome back to my Mystery Thriller Week Author Spotlight series. Today I’m pleased to welcome another fellow horse lover to my blog–Author Linda Kane!

linda-kane-headshot

Linda L. Kane MA in Education, PPS, School Psychologist, and Learning Disability Specialist, is the author of The Black Madonna, Witch Number is Which, Icelandia, Katterina Ballerina, Cowboy Jack and Buddy Save Santa, and Chilled to the Bones, 2017 release date, Clyde: Lost and Now Found, and Bottoms Up, A Daisy Murphy Mystery. She lives with her husband and three dogs and six horses.

 

And here’s her newest release,Chilled to the Bones, a young adult historical mystery set in Setauket, New York.

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Author Interview:

Hi Linda! When did you first know that you wanted to become a writer?

I grew up in a very poor area where violence was common place. For me, writing and drawing was a means of escape. So, I guess, always.

If you could spend the day with any character from your novel, who would it be? Why?

Dealer, she’s a good kid, with a great heart who wants to help her father with his problems and save their home. I would want to know what makes her so strong, so resilient in the face of so much tragedy.

Is writing your full-time job? If not, what else do you do?

I am retired now and my full time job is writing and painting. My artwork has been at an art museum and is at a gallery in Pacific Grove, Ca.

What are your hobbies outside of writing?

My hobby and my love are my dogs and horses. I have four American Saddlebreds, one hackney pony, and one quarter horse. I compete nationally and my horse, Into the Cosmos is a national champion. I have three Australian shepherds that are smarter than I am and I have to work to keep up with them.

What are you working on now?

Actually I am working on a children’s story about a mini pony that was abandoned (true story), in an orchard. Our barn adopted Clyde. He was skinny, he had a broken jaw, a little timid, you should see him now. Love and food heal quite a bit.  I’m finishing up the editing for the first of a series of murder mystery books titled, Bottoms Up, A Daisy Murphy Mystery. I’m also working on a historical book regarding a man who people thought was the answer to their problems but found out to late that he was a monster, and the young people who stood against at the cost of their own lives. I am also working on a sequel to The Black Madonna and Chilled to The Bones.

Thank you for inviting me to your blog, it’s been a pleasure and I’ve enjoyed your amazing questions.

You’re welcome, Linda. It has been fun getting to know more about you and your books!

Thanks for reading…Please stay tuned for my next MTW Author Spotlight with thriller author Christina Hoag!

Mystery Thriller Week Author Spotlight: Sarah Key

Today is the first official day of MYSTERY THRILLER WEEK and I’m pleased to welcome thriller author Sarah Key to my blog. I’m sure you’ll find Sarah’s unique background as fascinating and impressive as I do. Please read more about her and books…

sarah-14-of-182644Sarah Key’s working life has followed many paths; English teacher, Adult Educator, HIV and AIDS activist, mentor to apprentice jockeys and writer. She holds a Masters Degree in Adult Education and her research report focused on perspective transformation for tolerance education.

Sarah is passionate about the rich cultural diversity of her country and has gathered many powerful narratives from a range of personalities including Apartheid resistors, Holocaust survivors, initiates from a rural circumcision school and survivors of sexual abuse.

Her novels are gritty, grisly psychological thrillers set in Southern Africa with its blends of old and new, mystical and modern, city and country. Aside from being entertaining and exploring deviance in its many guises, they attempt to challenge notions and shatter taboos surrounding sensitive cultural issues.

In 2011 Sarah began her journey writing fiction and is published by Rebele Publishers (Detroit). She is currently completing the final book in The Sisters of Light trilogy.  Sarah is married and lives in Johannesburg, South Africa, with her husband and two daughters. Connect with Sarah on FACEBOOK and GOODREADS.

cover-weeds2645Back Cover Blurb:  When lives collide, and time runs out, will there be a final chance for redemption?

Aden Cassalotti, damaged by childhood trauma, tragedies and disappointments, is financially and emotionally insolvent and seeks solace in a crack pipe.

Volatile Noel Schuurman, Aden’s lifelong friend and business partner, feels neglected living out of town running their marijuana and magic mushroom operation. The brooding recluse has killed before and, with escalating pressures, not even his mother and sister are safe on their isolated plot.

Aden takes a job with a ruthless criminal enterprise in an urban slum where dope and flesh are pedaled. He encounters Mandipa Ndlovu, who is being held with other sex slaves waiting to be sent to work.

Kgotso Shelile and his cousin, Senatla, search for Mandipa, Kgotso’s abducted girlfriend. In the underbelly of Johannesburg, they encounter Aden. Having grown up together, the men share an immediate bond and, when fate throws the three together in a Hillbrow strip club, the potential for peril is fraught with danger.

Key’s debut psychological thriller, Tangled Weeds, is sure to get your pulse racing.

Author Interview:

When did you first know that you wanted to become a writer?

I was about 11 and walking in the bushveld with my father. We came across an abandoned tumbled-downed house. My imagination took flight and I told him that I wanted to write a book filled with villains, robbers and smugglers. That realisation has never left me.

If you could spend the day with any character from your novel, who would it be? Why?

My antagonists are downright twisted and malevolent so if I had to spend a day with a character it would be one of the Sisters of Light and probably Joanie Parks, a young artist whose background story is fully explored in The Butterfly Wind. Joanie is complex, confrontational and feisty and harbors a shameful secret. She’s also fiercely loyal and grapples with her own insecurities and need to be loved. Joanie is fun and fearless. I would have to be twenty five years younger, though, to keep up with her antics!

If your book was made into a movie, who do you envision playing the leading roles?

I feel that my debut novel, Tangled Weeds would translate well into a mini-series.  It is a graphic thriller set between Zimbabwe, the fertile farmlands of the then Northern Province of South Africa known for its cultivation of mangoes and litchis, and Hillbrow, an urban slum.

Aden Cassalotti is a complex character who becomes addicted to crack cocaine. To support his drug dependency he takes a job with a deadly sex trafficking ring and gets much more than he bargained for…

I’m not very up to date on movies and movies stars, preferring to read books. The South African accent is one that presents actors with a huge challenge. In Invictus, a 2009 sports drama about Nelson Mandela and events surrounding the 1995 rugby world cup, Matt Damon did a fair job. With his blond good looks and ability to portray emotion he could give Aden a bash!

What attracts you to writing in the mystery/thriller genre?

We didn’t have television until I was 12 so I grew up listening to dramas on the radio.  My father studied psychology when I was a pre-teen and I was fascinated by his textbooks and poured over pictures of people with anorexia, catatonia and other disorders. I have always been fascinated by the aberrant human mind and have an overactive imagination.

Thrillers are supposed to do just that – thrill. I do not enjoy reading or writing books that are uber violent or horrific having learned that the power of suggestion can just as successfully heighten tension.

With the help of my editor, I have worked hard to incorporate techniques that ensure my readers are gripped and find the experience electrifying. A fast pace and using varied perspectives that allow events to be understood from disparate characters’ points of view (particularly perverse antagonists) keep the pages turning. Enjoyed from the safety of one’s armchair, exploring the dark hearts of humans gone bad can be an exhilarating ride that is far removed from the mundanity of regular life.

What are your hobbies outside of writing?

I enjoy cooking and socialising greatly and keep fit attending a woman’s outdoor bootcamp programme most weekday mornings. I derive great pleasure from my two cross-breed dogs and am kept busy with family responsibilities. I read widely and enjoy travelling particularly locally – South Africa is an amazing, diverse country.

How do you deal with rejections and/or negative reviews?

I haven’t focused much on marketing my books until recently. For the past years I have concentrated on raising our two daughters and getting the stories that are inside me down. I received two or three rejections from local publishers for my first novel, Tangled Weeds. Reading rejection letters is not pleasant – it’s like someone telling you that you have an ugly child!

Writing is a high point in my life’s journey and I had blind faith that my books would be published. Fortunately, I was accepted in 2011 by Rebele Publishers and have never looked back. I have three books published by them and am close to finishing the final book in my trilogy.

My books are enjoying a positive response. Reading is highly subjective so it is unrealistic to expect everyone to like your work and constructive criticism is necessary for improvement. Being a writer, like most jobs in this day and age, requires resilience, determination and a personal passion that drives you to continue.

What time of day do you prefer to write?

In a block in the morning from about 10.00am – 13h00 and then for an hour in the early evening around five or six.

What are you working on now?

I am completing the final book in my Sisters of Light trilogy. It is called The Starlight Tide and follows The Dandelion Clock and The Butterfly Wind.

Which well-known authors have inspired your writing?

I studied English at university and, for a short while, I was an English teacher so I have read  many books that have had a bearing on my writing. For a while I read a glut of Scandinavian crime; Jussi Adler-Olson, Camilla Lackberg, Lars Kepler. I found them atmospheric and try to effectively create mood in my books. Stieg Larsson’s incredible trilogy inspired me to write one.

What subjects do you enjoy writing about most? Why? 

The essential themes I explore in my writing are the conflicts between good and evil. I believe that all people have the choice to take certain life paths. Circumstances and pre-dispositions will, of course, influence their decisions. If a character decides to try drugs, commit a murder or indulge in dark crafts and fantasies, there will be consequences to. Morality, or lack thereof, is a personal decision.

Living in a multicultural society in South Africa – which has an extraordinary history – I use my novels as a lens to explore diversity and different cultural belief systems. I believe that by presenting readers with different perspectives and practices, wrapped in the guise of fiction, a greater level of understanding and tolerance can be achieved.

Thanks for reading! Leave your comments and questions for Sarah here, and stay tuned for my next MTW Author Spotlight with Linda Kane!

Mystery Thriller Week Author Spotlight: Pamela Lazos

Welcome to my fifth Author Spotlight in anticipation of Mystery Thriller Week! Today I’m excited to welcome Pamela Lazos to my blog. It seems Pam and I have a lot in common, from our passion for writing and our concern for the environment to our legal backgrounds and mutual admiration for Matt Damon! Her newest novel, Oil and Water, is sure to appeal to both the environmentally conscious and the mystery buffs among us. Here is more about Pam and her riveting environmental thriller…

pam-lazosPam Lazos is the author of the recently released novel, Oil and Water, an environmental murder mystery about oil spills and green technology; of Six Sisters, a collection of novellas about family and dysfunction; a blogger; on the Editorial Board for the wH2O Journal, the Journal of Gender and Water (U of Penn); a blogger for the Global Water Alliance (GWA) in Philadelphia, a literary magazine contributor; a former correspondent for her local newspaper; former Editor-in-Chief for the Environmental Law and Technology Journal at Temple Law School; a ghostwriter; the author of a children’s book (Into the Land of the Loud); an environmental lawyer; and, because it’s cool, a beekeeper’s apprentice. She practices laughter daily. Learn more on her blog: Green Life Blue Water.

oil-and-waterOil and Water Synopsis: When inventor Martin Tirabi builds a machine that converts trash into oil it sends shockwaves through the corporate halls of the oil cognoscenti. Weeks later, Marty and his wife, Ruth are killed in a mysterious car accident. Their son, Gil, a 10-year old physics prodigy is the only one capable of finishing the machine that could solve the world’s energy problems.  Plagued with epilepsy from birth, Gil is also psychic, and through dreams and the occasional missive from his dead father he gets the push he needs to finish the job.

          Meanwhile, Bicky Coleman, head of Akanabi Oil is doing his best to smear the planet in it. From a slow leak in the Gulf of Mexico to the most devastating oil spill the Delaware River has ever seen, Akanabi’s corporate practices are leaving oily imprints in their wake. To divert the tide of bad press, Bicky dispatches his son-in-law and Chief Engineer, David Hartos to clean up his mess.  A disillusioned Hart, reeling from the recent death of his wife and unborn child, travels to Philadelphia to fulfill his father-in-law’s wishes.

          There’s no such thing as coincidence when Hart meets Gil and agrees to help him finish Marty’s dream machine. But how will he bring such a revolutionary invention to market in a world reliant on fossil fuels and awash in corporate greed?  To do so, Hart must confront those who would quash the project, including his own father-in-law.  

          You’ll find murder, mystery, and humor as black as fine Arabian crude filling the pages of Oil and Water. The characters are fictional, but the technology is real. What will we do when the oil runs out?  

Interview with Pamela Lazos:

Hi Pam! When did you first know that you wanted to become a writer?

I don’t know if it’s something I ever aspired to, but rather, just fell into. I always liked to write, but never really considered it as a career, more of a hobby to keep me out of trouble. It’s only lately that I see writing as a possible second career. Before blogging, though, I wouldn’t have guessed that the possibility could be as great as I think it now is.

If you could spend the day with any character from your novel, who would it be? Why?

Definitely Gil, the 10-year old physics prodigy. I have a hard time even understanding physics so to have that kind of science acumen would be stupendous. I used to do quite well in science in grade school, but started down the slippery slope in high school and struggled to hold onto the concepts in college. I think it’s fantastic that we have all these STEM groups for girls now — science, technology, engineering and math. With that kind of backing, I believe I would have gone more heavily into the sciences. As it stands, I’m an environmental lawyer so I’m kind of science-lite. I have to understand the concepts for work, but have others to turn to who have mastered them. I would much prefer to be an expert, however.

If your book was made into a movie, who do you envision playing the leading roles?

I always want Matt Damon to be everything — ever since I saw “Good Will Hunting” I wanted to work with him — but I’d “settle” for him playing Hart! I see Ian Somerhalder as Bicky, although we’d need a great makeup artist to make him look years older. I don’t know who would play Gil. Problematically, all the young child actors that I admire grow up so quickly. By the time you cast them and the movie is made, a couple years go by and they don’t fit the role anymore. These are definitely problems I’d like to have. :0)

What attracts you to writing in the mystery/thriller genre?

Everyone loves a good mystery. It’s part of human nature. Writing mysteries are exciting because, if you write like I do, you just let your characters go off on a path and you follow them until you see where they’ve gone. It’s great fun and an excellent pastime. 

What time of day do you prefer to write?

I’m at my best in the early hours of the day. I also love to write on the train. I have a long commute to work — about two hours on Amtrak which is a very comfortable train — and it’s perfect for writing.

Which well-known authors have inspired your writing?

I draw inspiration from many places. Love the environmental writers like Rick Bass, Jim Harrison, and Terry Tempest Williams, but I also love the quirky writers like Tom Robbins, and the historical fiction masters like Tim Willocks and Diana Gabaldon. And, of course, there’s the inimitable writers like Stephen King and Anne Lamott.

Thanks for reading…Leave your questions and comments for Pam here, and stay tuned for my next MTW Author Spotlight installment with mystery writer, Anne Carmichael!

 

 

Mystery Thriller Week Author Spotlight: Judy Penz Sheluk

 

Today I’m pleased to welcome Canadian mystery author, Judy Penz Sheluk, to my blog. Although I haven’t read her books (yet!), I’m a fan of any novel with characters fighting to preserve a small town’s historic district from big box stores. I think Judy and I are on the same wavelength! Here’s more about Judy…

judy-penz-sheluk2158Judy Penz Sheluk’s debut mystery novel, The Hanged Man’s Noose: A Glass Dolphin Mystery (Barking Rain Press), was published in July 2015. Skeletons in the Attic (Imajin Books), the first book in her Marketville Mystery Series, was published in August 2016. Her short crime fiction appears in several anthologies and collections. Judy is a member of Sisters in Crime, Crime Writers of Canada, International Thriller Writers and the Short Mystery Fiction Society. Find out more at her website/blog, www.judypenzsheluk.com, where she interviews other authors and blogs about the writing life.

noose2161Back Cover Blurb From The Hanged Man’s Noose:

Small-town secrets and subterfuge lead to murder in this fast-moving, deftly written tale of high-stakes real estate wrangling gone amok.

Journalist Emily Garland lands a plum assignment as the editor of a niche magazine based in Lount’s Landing, a small town named after a colorful 19th century Canadian traitor. As she interviews the local business owners for the magazine, Emily quickly learns that many people are unhappy with real estate mogul Garrett Stonehaven’s plans to convert an old schoolhouse into a mega-box store. At the top of that list is Arabella Carpenter, the outspoken owner of an antiques shop, who will do just about anything to preserve the integrity of the town’s historic Main Street.

But Arabella is not alone in her opposition. Before long, a vocal dissenter at a town hall meeting about the proposed project dies. A few days later, another body is discovered, and although both deaths are ruled accidental, Emily’s journalistic suspicions are aroused.

Putting her reporting skills to the ultimate test, Emily teams up with Arabella to discover the truth behind Stonehaven’s latest scheme before the murderer strikes again.

View all of Judy’s books on Amazon.

Interview with Judy Penz Sheluk:

Thanks for joining me today, Judy! When did you first know that you wanted to become a writer?

I’ve always wanted to write. As a kid, I wrote stories in my head, on the way to school and back again. I thought all kids did that! In 2003, I left the corporate world to try life as a freelance writer. I’ve never looked back. In late 2011, after taking some courses in Creative Writing, I decided to start The Hanged Man’s Noose. It was an instant addiction.

If you could spend the day with any character from your novel, who would it be? Why?

I love Arabella Carpenter. She owns the Glass Dolphin, an antiques shop owner and the sidekick in The Hanged Man’s Noose, the first book in my Glass Dolphin Mystery series. She’s going to be the protagonist in the sequel, and she has a small role in Skeletons in the Attic, the first book in my Marketville series. Arabella is smart, feisty, loves shortbread, chardonnay, and cognac. She’s also loyal to her friends—even her ex-husband, Levon— wears her heart on her sleeve, and firmly believes that authenticity matters in people as well as the antiques she sells.

If your book was made into a movie, who do you envision playing the leading roles?

Jennifer Lawrence for the protagonist in Skeletons in the Attic, Callie Barnstable. Bradley Cooper for her next-door neighbor and possible love interest, Royce Ashford. Chris Noth in the role of Leith Hampton, lawyer.

What attracts you to writing in the mystery/thriller genre?

It’s what I read, and I’m an avid reader – about a book a week and at least 3 or 4 mystery anthologies or collections a year. I try to write what I’d like to read. People ask if it’s difficult to separate the books I read by other authors from my writing, but the reverse is true. A well-written or clever mystery inspires me to try harder. Reading is the best teacher.

How do you deal with rejections and/or negative reviews?

I won’t lie. Rejection hurts, but there isn’t a writer, alive or dead, who hasn’t experienced rejection. When I was shopping for a publisher/agent for The Hanged Man’s Noose, I wrote a heartfelt and honest blog about the experience titled The First Cut is the Deepest. It still gets a lot of hits, as does the series, My Publishing Journey. I’ve also blogged about Learning from Rejection.

Both Noose and Skeletons have primarily good ratings, with an average of 4.18 and 4.34 respectively on Goodreads. When I received my first 1-star review (after a string of 5-star reviews on Amazon) for Skeletons, I was crushed. I went to my fellow Sisters in Crime Guppy group and lamented. I was congratulated for finally making it “into the club.” Apparently readers are leery of a book that only has 5 star reviews. Then I went and looked at the reviews for Gone Girl, and sure enough, among the 5 stars there were a few 1 stars. I felt comforted by that: I should be as successful as Gillian Flynn!

Thank you for sharing your insights, Judy! I know many of us wish we could be as successful as Gillian Flynn. It’s been a pleasure learning more about you and your books.

Check back on February 5th for my next interview with environmental thriller author, Pamela Lazos!