Morgan Hart is home. The thirty-six-year-old former Detroit detective has just moved back to Bijoux, Michigan, the lakeside town where she grew up. Returning to take up the reins as the new police captain since her father, Able, retired, Morgan hopes for a fresh start and a welcome change from the gritty police work she did in the Big D. Morgan also hopes she’ll be able to get her life back on track since her husband Ian Daniels, also a detective, was murdered on a case five years ago. Still unsolved, her husband’s death haunts her even as she settles into her new role.
Morgan has mixed feelings about being back home in Bijoux. Her relationship with her dad is complicated, and the townspeople have no qualms about telling her how she should do her job. Her childhood nemesis, Connie Graham, a reporter for the local TV news station, always seems to show up at the worst possible time, and the owner of the local bookstore, Caleb Joseph, is far too attractive and far too nosy. At least she and her deputy, JJ Jones, get along and bond over their mutual love of cupcakes.
The quaint, old town has gone through quite a transformation since Morgan was there last. Quirky new shops are opening up to attract summer tourists. And many of the old stores along Main Street are getting a facelift. Even the historic Firefly Bed and Breakfast, is changing. It’s hosting a romance writer’s conference with some of the biggest names in the biz. But someone else is determined to make a few more changes. Deadly changes that will leave the town reeling and will have Morgan investigating the first murder in Bijoux in 100 years.
Philippe Lafrance is a well known reclusive writer whose life is suddenly thrown upside down when the grandfather he never knew existed, dies. He investigates the reason and learns that his family has kept secrets from him. Deep, ugly secrets. Worse, a killer is murdering the men in his family. He discovers that his father, then his grandfather, were murdered by someone desperate to keep secrets buried.
Bereft, Roxanne St-Clair is left to manage a restaurant when the only person who ever mattered to her, her foster parent and mentor, is murdered. She puts her life on hold to find his killer and bring him to justice.
Thrown together by circumstance and a mutual goal, Philippe and Roxanne fight their attraction and team up to find the killer, bring him to justice and unearth the truth. To stay alive, they must keep one step ahead of the assassin in order to prevent him from killing his next target, Philippe.
Will they succeed in bringing to justice this killer before Philippe becomes his next victim? Will they be able to deal with the truth behind the deadly secrets?
A cold September breeze whipped at the fallen leaves near where she stood in front of the mahogany coffin. Roxanne St-Clair‘s curly long strands of hair were blown into her eyes. Unconsciously, she tucked them behind her ear as she glanced over at the lone man standing across the coffin from her. She turned her attention back to Father Joe, who was completing prayers for the final farewell of George Lafrance.
From his dark well-cut suit to his cold green eyes, this stranger, who resembled George, had to be the estranged grandson, Philippe Lafrance. The grandson no one knew existed until a few days ago.
Father Joe closed his bible and lowered his head in silent prayer. Roxanne took this moment to caress George‘s mahogany coffin in her own final private farewell. She would forever be grateful and indebted to the compassionate man.
Ten years ago, he‘d given her a chance at a better life when he took her in, becoming her last foster parent, her only family.
Father Joe straightened and cleared his throat. “Before we leave, I wish to take this opportunity, on behalf of George‘s family, to invite everyone back to Rock Heaven, and toast George one last time.” He gave a curt nod to the stranger, then to Roxanne.
People nodded, mumbled and began to scatter. Roxanne accepted the odd condolence but from the corner of her eye she watched Philippe linger by his grandfather‘s coffin. It looked as if he were saying his own farewell.
He raised his head, and their eyes connected for a fleeting moment. Was it sadness she saw in their depths? Quickly, he masked his angry jade eyes with aloofness. He acknowledged her with a curt nod, turned around and left without a backward glance.
Her best friend, Vanessa, leaned towards her. “You know Roxanne, in all the years I‘ve known George, I never heard him mention a word about a grandson. He talked about losing his son to a heart attack and his wife to breast cancer, but not a word about a grandson. It‘s kind of weird, don‘t you think?”
Against her own better judgment, Roxanne wondered as well.
The grandson had inherited George‘s build, from his broad shoulders and trim waist to chiseled face. The only difference was, George never made her heart flutter with a fleeting eye contact; his grandson did. She tore her gaze from Philippe‘s retreating back and turned her attention back to Vanessa. ―He must have had his reasons.‖
As if reading Roxanne‘s mind, Vanessa acknowledged her. “He does resemble George, don‘t you think?”
“I bet that‘s the only thing he has in common with George.” Roxanne couldn‘t help but stare at Philippe crossing between the cemetery gates. He reached a blue Toyota, unlocked the driver‘s door and slipped in.
Crime and mystery lovers will be flocking to Toronto next week for Bouchercon 2017, the biggest mystery authors convention happening October 12-14, 2017. With that in mind, I spoke with Alison Bruce, the new Executive Director of Crime Writers of Canada (CWC) to see what wonderful events they have planned for Bouchercon, about her new role as ED of the CWC and her much anticipated second book in her Men in Uniform Series.
LB: Can you tell us a little about CWC and what the association does on behalf of crime and mystery writers?
AB: CWC is a national non-profit organization for Canadian mystery and crime writers, associated professionals, and others with a serious interest in Canadian crime writing. Our mission is to promote Canadian crime writing and to raise the profile of Canadian crime writers with readers, reviewers, librarians, booksellers, and media.
Our most important means of fulfilling our mission is our website: Crime Writers of Canada (CWC) . Through the website, readers around the world can find out about our member authors, their books, and their events, as well as what CWC as a whole is doing as an organization and within the larger community.
Through our free monthly public newsletter Crime Beat, subscribers access Author Events and Cool Canadian Crime– our catalogue of our members’ published books, updated quarterly – which are also available directly through the website, and they can get updates on our Arthur Ellis Awards as well as what CWC is doing at events like Word on the Street and Bouchercon.
For authors interested in what we do, I suggest checking out Member Benefits because the list is too long to include here.
LB:How has the CWC evolved as an organization and what does that mean for you and your new role as Executive Director?
AB: One of the strengths of CWC has been its ability and willingness to adapt. My new role as Executive Director is a great example of this. My predecessors played to their strengths and so will I. One of my strengths has been my past involvement with most aspects of the organization. As well as being the Publications Manager, I was the Arthur Ellis Awards Administrator and the ED’s deputy.
Now Ted Griffith is taking on the Arthur Ellis Awards mantle and I have a very able and personable Assistant Executive Director who will be sharing the administrative load so I can continue to be hands on in the publications and website development. We are already discovering where our skills complement each other and I am looking forward to us teaming up for the benefit of CWC.
AB: This is one of my favorite CWC stories. It was just after my dad died and for the first time in years, I was able to get to Word on the Street in Toronto. At the time I had an urban fantasy and a mystery novel making the rounds of the publishers so I was on the lookout for professional organizations that I could join. I knew about the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Association and found them first, but they didn’t take unpublished authors. A couple of tables over, I discovered Crime Writers of Canada. Not only did they welcome associate members, they had a new category in their awards for unpublished first novels. I joined on the spot.
That year I was longlisted for the Unhanged Arthur Award, I got involved as a volunteer on the board and later went on to become the Publications Manager.
LB: Bouchercon 2017 is taking place October 12-14 in Toronto, can you tell us a little about the event?
AB: Bouchercon is run by the World Mystery Convention, a non-profit, all-volunteer organization. It is named in honor of Anthony Boucher, mystery fiction critic, editor, and author. It is held in a different North American city every year and this year is it being held in Toronto.
It is huge! There will be around 1600 people attending, including fans of crime fiction, along with published authors, aspiring writers, librarians, large and small publishers, editors, agents, and booksellers. There will be panels and special events, exhibitions and a dealers room, and CWC will be part of the excitement.
I’m excited. It’s my first Bouchercon and I’ll be in the thick of things.
AB: On Friday night, CWC will be hosting a crime-themed pub quiz. All day Saturday we’ll be sponsoring the Refreshment Room. We’ll also have a CWC table outside the dealer’s room where we will be able to sign up new members, and getting those who don’t want to join us but would like our free monthly newsletter CRIME BEAT. Each venue is a great opportunity to get our authors and readers together.
With the impressive list of panels, tours, and authors, what are you most looking forward to at Bouchercon 2017?
I’m going to be relaxed about the panels. There’s so much to choose from and I will be mostly there to work so I reckon I’ll play it by ear. Who knows who I’ll be meeting for coffee?
In addition to being the Executive Director of CWC, you are also an accomplished mystery author. Your book “A Bodyguard to Remember”, the first title in the Men in Uniform Series featured the unforgettable heroine Prudence Hartley. Will readers get the chance to see Pru again?
There is a book two or my publisher would kill me. Book 2 of Men in Uniform will see Pru Hartley getting thrown into the deep end of trouble because of a house guest her ex-husband foists on her. My working title is “Something the Ex Dragged In.”
What other work do you have coming out now?
I have a new book coming out soon. It’s a novel I wrote before Men in Uniform and then forgot about for a while. I’m hoping it will be out in time for Bouchercon so I can read from it at “20 on 20” (twenty minutes with an author every twenty minutes).
I know you have a lot going on with your new role and getting ready for Bouchercon but in the midst of all the chaos what is your guilty pleasure? I am assuming its loads of coffee!
I don’t feel the least bit guilty about drinking coffee. That would be like a car feeling guilty for needing gas. My guilty pleasure is having a treat with my coffee.
Now that is something I can also relate to! For anyone interested in attending Bouchercon 2017, the event details and links are below.
Alison Bruce writes history, mystery, and suspense. Her books combine clever mysteries, well-researched backgrounds and a touch of romance. Her protagonists are marked by their strength of character, sense of humor and the ability to adapt (sooner or later) to new situations. Four of her novels have been finalists for genre awards.
Copywriter, editor and graphic designer since 1992, Alison has also been a comic book store manager, small press publisher, and web designer. Currently, she is the Executive Director of Crime Writers of Canada.
He also writes occasional nonfiction, short fiction (some of which is collected in Nine Frights), and comic books, including the long-running horror/Western comic book series Desperadoes and graphic novels Fade to Black and Zombie Cop. With writing partner Marsheila Rockwell, he has published several short stories and a novel, 7 SYKOS. He has worked in virtually every aspect of the book business, as a writer, editor, marketing executive, and bookseller.
I’ve known Jeff for several years and was delighted when he agreed to answer a few of my questions.
DLS: When people see an author’s name, they often see it as a “brand”, knowing what kind of story they’ll get. You’ve written in several genres from science fiction to weird westerns to horror. How do you define the “Jeff Mariotte Brand”?
JM: I’m convinced that writing in different genres has been harmful to my career, because readers tend to like a writer who stays put, who delivers basically the same thing book after book. Once you’re well established, you can switch around–like Robert B. Parker eventually turning to the occasional western after writing a ton of mystery books in different series. But shifting around before your “brand” is established seems like a bad move, career-wise.
That said, I don’t see how I could have done it differently. I have to write what I’m moved to write at any given time. I’d get bored writing the same series character over and over. I haven’t calculated out the wisest career path, but have written the books that felt like they needed to be written as they came along. I’m true to myself, if not to market considerations. My agent might prefer it the other way around, but I am who I am.
I hope that readers know that when they pick up one of my books, they’ll get a compelling, suspenseful tale that’ll keep them turning the page; they’ll get well-written and engaging stories populated with characters they’ll believe in and care about. Regardless of genre, I try to always write books that will brighten a reader’s day and life, that entertain and maybe inform and enlighten. My books are generally optimistic, even when they venture into dark places, and one of my central themes seems to be the idea that there’s magic in the world, if only you know to look for it.
DLS: Who was your greatest writer influence/inspiration when you started? What are some books of theirs you would recommend?
JM: I was a bookseller for years before I got published, so I was reading pretty extensively in my preferred genres–horror, mysteries, thrillers, sf, fantasies, westerns. Consequently, I had (and have) a lot of inspirations. Some have changed over the years, and others have been consistent. In the early days, I was strongly inspired by Robert E. Howard (particularly his Conan stories), the aforementioned Bob Parker (his Spenser novels), Raymond Chandler (Philip Marlowe) and Ross Macdonald (Lew Archer). At the same time, I’ve often been inspired by writers as varied as Stephen King (The Stand, The Shining, On Writing), William Goldman (Marathon Man, Boys and Girls Together) and Wallace Stegner (Angle of Repose, Recapitulation, Wolf Willow). More recent influences include James Lee Burke (any of his books, but especially the Robicheaux novels). That’s a pretty male-centric list, but I could also add in works by Joan Vinge, Leigh Brackett, C.L. Moore, Laura Lippman, Barbara Kingsolver, and plenty of other talented women, as well as one of the best writers I know, Marsheila Rockwell.
DLS: You recently married your writing partner, the talented Marsheila Rockwell. How do your collaborations work? How does collaborating compare to writing solo?
JM: Funny you should mention that…
We collaborate very well, almost seamlessly. We have different strengths–she’s a poet and her command of language is beautiful, while I’m a stronger plotter, for instance–but when we work together, our strengths complement each other, and by the time we’re finished with a story, we usually can’t tell who wrote what. We try to start with a solid outline so we know where we’re going and what each other’s vision of the overall story is (and because we both come out of a tie-in writing background, we’re used to working with outlines). Then we trade off–scene by scene, chapter by chapter, whatever works at the moment and for any given project. On the first book of the Xena: Warrior Princesstrilogy we’re working on, we had a relatively tight deadline and had to be writing different chapters simultaneously, which was a little awkward. But we smoothed it all out, and it came out well in the end.
As for the difference between collaborating and solo work, it is a different beast. A solo story or novel is one person’s vision, and everything in it, good or bad, is a reflection of that one person. A collaboration is necessarily a shared vision. I’ve written a lot of comic books and graphic novels, and because I don’t draw, those are always collaborations. And I’ve collaborated with other writers, too. So it’s not new to me. It does feel more natural with Marcy, and we work together better than I have with anyone else. Ideally, the result of a collaboration is a book or a story one writer couldn’t have written, because each participant brings different skills and life experiences to the table, and that’s what Marcy and I get when we write together. The fact that I get to be married to her is icing on the cake.
DLS: What insights have you gained from owning a bookstore that can help writers be more successful and stand out from the crowd?
JM: I think the experience of working in bookstores, managing them, and being an owner of one, has made me less ready to jump on board the e-book train. I think printed books are an ideal marriage of form and function–they don’t require a power source, they don’t break down or become corrupted, they’re always there when you want to read and you can save your place with a bookmark or a piece of paper or a paper clip or whatever’s handy. At the same time, I have a more realistic view of the book business than some people, who seem to think that Amazon is the only bookseller that matters. The truth is that printed books still far outsell e-books, and other outlets still sell more books in the U.S. than Amazon does, so if a writer focuses all of his or her efforts on Amazon, he or she is leaving a lot of potential sales on the table.
DLS: Not only do you write in your own worlds, you’ve written novels and stories for Star Trek, NCIS, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and other franchises. How does “playing in someone else’s sandbox” compare to creating your own world?
JM: I love writing my original novels, and will always want to do that. Creating my own characters and involving them in situations entirely of my own devising is the ultimate creative experience. But it’s also a blast to be asked to write novels about characters I love, like Conan, Xena, Spider-Man, Superman, and great TV shows like CSI and NCIS: Los Angeles. I get to tell stories in beloved fictional universes, and get paid for it–nothing wrong with that!
The skills that are called on are the same. I have to create characters, plot stories, write in an engaging and entertaining manner. And the truth is whether I’m writing in an existing fictional universe or my own, I have to be consistent and true to the rules of that universe as it’s been developed. So the main difference is that in tie-in work, I have to try to capture voices that were devised by other writers (and sometimes actors). Fortunately, I’m pretty good at that.
DLS: If someone wanted to try their hand at writing and selling a novel in the world of a popular franchise, what would they need to do? How should they start?
JM: They could start by visiting the website of the International Association of Media Tie-in Writers, IAMTW.org. There they can find out a lot about the nuts and bolts of the tie-in business, and maybe find out about licensed fiction lines they didn’t even know existed. The organization has also released a book by its membership that contains more details about the trade.
Typically (although there are exceptions) to write a tie-in novel, you have to have had at least one other novel professionally published. Publishers have already invested a lot of money to acquire a license, so they don’t want to risk more by hiring a writer who hasn’t proven the ability to write a publishable book. And there’s often competition for tie-in gigs, so if it’s a choice between a writer with a solid track record and an unknown new writer, the established pro will have the advantage. So the best thing a writer can do is write a good book, get it published by a reputable publisher, then approach the publisher of the licensed fiction line of interest and say, “Hey, I wrote X and I’d sure like to pitch you something for your Y line.”
DLS: In addition to writing novels, you’ve written and edited comic books. How are writing comic books similar and different than writing novels or short stories? Do you collaborate with the artist ahead of time, or create any kind of storyboard in addition to writing?
JM: As I mentioned above, because I don’t draw the comics, each one is a collaboration, start to finish. I write the script before the artist draws it, so while I’m writing it I’m only speculating about what it’ll look like at the end of the process. Usually what I’m seeing in my head is not much like what comes out on the page. From the very beginning of my career, I’ve had the good fortune of working with some amazing artists, whose work on my scripts has blown me away.
Ultimately, the skill sets the writer brings to the table are similar. You need to tell a story that’s worth telling, that’s interesting and surprising and suspenseful and is hopefully enlightening in some way. The differences are in the techniques and the outcome. In comics, you have to be willing to stand back and let the art tell the story. The writer makes up the story (in most cases), and puts it down in a script that no one will ever see, but the artist is the one whose interpretation of the story ends up being what the readers see. The writer has to let the artist do that job, and keep the words to a minimum so they don’t get in the way of the art.
I don’t try to direct the artist to any great extent. I tell them what has to be in each panel to make the story work, but leave it to them how the panel is composed, how the different panels fit onto the page, etc. I’ve worked, as an editor, with writers who don’t trust their artists and do sketch layouts for them. Fortunately, in most cases, the artists I’ve worked with are far better at that than I would be.
DLS: What kind of research did you do writing the comic book biography of Barack Obama? Did you get to interview the President or did you work from other resources?
JM: That project was fascinating, and required vast amounts of research. I didn’t get to meet or speak with the President (though I’d still love to). I wrote it during the 2008 campaign and the first few months of his presidency, so at the time there weren’t even any books about him other than the two he wrote himself. Obviously he was a well-known public figure, but what had been written about him was mostly journalism coming out on a constant basis, along with a few more in-depth magazine pieces. I read his books and every article about him I could get my hands on, and watched him on TV whenever possible to get a sense of his voice. The scripts were vetted by lawyers, and I had to have every fact triple-sourced, and had to be able to show where every line of dialogue came from. The project was originally three separate comic book issues that were collected into a single hardcover book, which was actually the first book-length biography written about him.
DLS: I sense a certain passion for small towns on the southern border of the United States in your writing. What captivates you about those places in particular?
JM: Borderlands of all kinds are fascinating to me. I have written a lot about the US/Mexico border, but I’ve written about other borders, too–my Age of Conan trilogy, for example, was largely about the border between the Aquilonian Empire and the Pictish lands–which is kind of a parallel to Hadrian’s Wall, where the Roman Empire ended and the wilderness began. Other borders in my fiction include borders between our world and another (or many others). Borders are where different people with different interests and backgrounds intersect. There’s natural drama in that. Along our southwestern border, there are of course political issues, issues of crime and punishment, and the story of the human race–which is the ongoing story of migration–all of which are rich territory for fiction.
DLS: Tell us about your latest novel.
JM: The new book is 7 SYKOS, a collaboration with Marsheila Rockwell. It’s kind of a science fiction/horror/thriller hybrid. Basically, a meteor has brought a spaceborne virus into the Phoenix metropolitan area, which has the effect of turning those infected into raging lunatics hungry for brains. It’s incredibly virulent and there’s no known cure or vaccine. In order to keep it from spreading throughout the nation (or the world), the military has fenced off the Valley of the Sun, and nobody is allowed in or out. But everyone knows that’s only a temporary solution, so if something more permanent can’t be figured out soon, the Valley’s going to be nuked out of existence. Trouble is, the only way to come up with a fix is to get enough of the meteor to study, and nobody can get to it. But it turns out that the unique brain structure of psychopaths makes them immune to the virus. So they can go into the quarantine zone, to look for pieces of the meteor. And all they have to do is agree to perform an essentially altruistic act, learn how to play well together, and survive the onslaught of thousands of Infecteds who want to eat their brains. Nothing to it, right…?
DLS: Sounds amazing! Thanks for the wonderful and informative interview!
When most people talk about how their job influences their writing, you discover that the astronomer writes science fiction, the court reporter crafts legal procedurals or, at the very least, the teacher knows his or her grammar inside and out.
I could tell you a similar story about being a copy writer and editor. I can write pretty much anything on demand as long as it’s in English and it isn’t fiction. Fiction I have to do according to my own muse. Yet, there’s no doubt that my fiction is better crafted because I have had to write on pretty much anything, to a deadline that might have been yesterday when I was given the job.
Writing for clients did something even more profound for me. It made it easier for me to accept criticism, without it destroying my ego, and make to use of it. I would never have submitted my novels to publishers if I hadn’t hardened my shell on the stony shore of corporate newsletters and ghostwriting.
Likewise, I owe a lot to my job with Crime Writers of Canada. No, that’s not quite right. I owe a lot to being a member of Crime Writers of Canada . . . including my job and one of my publishers. It was all about networking and timing. Never underestimate the importance of timing.
However, that’s not what I’m going to write about. There are writers and editors and networkers aplenty for that. I want to tell you how handy it is to be a crossing guard when you’re a writer.
You can’t make a living at being a crossing guard. After all, you’re only working three hours a day and only on school days. On the other hand, it’s a great job for money you can count on. When you work freelance or speculatively, which is a good description for a novelist, it’s nice to know you have a certain amount of money coming your way regardless of sales or commissions. Unlike my work for CWC, it’s also completely predictable. Being a crossing guard is relatively stress-free if you don’t count the motorists who forget they’re driving in a school zone.
The weather can be a pain. Barring snow days, and we don’t get many of those, we’re out in rain, snow, sleet and hail, skin-searing sunshine and bone-chilling cold. It’s all grist for the mill. I can imagine I’m a soldier on guard in the pouring rain or a hiker feeling like they’ll be blown off the trail by the wind.
Then there’s the random story generation game.
At the beginning and end of each shift, there’s a dead time when almost no one comes by. During that time, I tell myself stories with the help of passing cars. The letters or numbers from the license plates act like the roll of a die in making choices or quantifying damage or risk.
A Bodyguard to Remember started with a corner story. I wanted new flooring. Seriously, that was the seed idea. I decided a dead body in the living room would get me a floor.
How did he die? A for being shot. B for being stabbed. If it was an older plate that didn’t start with A or B, I’d have to come up with other options.
Who would investigate? I came up with three choices: City Police, OPP or RCMP. Using the numbers in the plate I got RCMP. They wouldn’t investigate common murder, so I had to come up with something that would bring them onto the case. As a result, my murder mystery involved espionage.
What would the detective look like? I didn’t stick with the one I came up with at the corner but I did stick with the initials I pulled from a car. I still remember the plate was BDMZ ###. I don’t remember the numbers. They weren’t important. I remember the letters. They generated Detective Sergeant David Merrick.
I’ve never got as much out of my musing at the corner as I did for A Bodyguard to Remember. Usually I come up with a solution to a problem by using the random number system to suggest possibilities. It’s a way to brainstorm with myself. Many times the stories I come up with are absolutely useless except for making that dead five minutes seem to pass more quickly.
If the long-running Law & Order franchise ever spins off to Canada, The Vigilante would make a great template. Jacqui Morrison’s book has the right balance of police and legal procedural with a good helping of character development and social commentary thrown in.
On the police side, we have Lynette Winton, her colleagues at work and her mother at home.
A rookie detective, Lynette is determined to prove herself. At first, however, Lynette seems to be a study in what not to do. When we find out her family situation, it’s easier to understand her behaviour. She lives with her loving, but passive aggressive mother, who is so secretive about Lynette’s biological father that any child would become obsessed with discovering the truth.
Lynette might be wrong about how she finds the truth, but find it she does. She arrests the suspect dismissed by her senior colleagues, while saving the life of the next intended victim.
On the legal side, we have defense lawyer Maxine Swayman.
Maxine is Lynette’s opposite in more than the court case even to having a loving and supportive father. She is confident, charming, and has a sexy surgeon for a boyfriend. One thing both women share is determination. In this case, Maxine is determined that the accused, Wanda Chambers, gets the help she desperately needs.
It’s on the legal side of the story that Morrison really shines. It’s no surprise that the author’s community work has given her experience with social justice and court procedures. My one disappointment is that she failed to mention the robes that barristers wear in Superior Court. Also, unlike the U.S. (and civil cases in Canada) the defendant is customarily addressed as “the accused.” Those, and many more details that Morrison does touch on, highlight the differences we’d see in Law & Order CA as opposed to the US and UK varieties.
The guest star is, of course, the accused. There is no doubt that Wanda Chambers is guilty, the real question is whether the troubled woman will end up inside a prison or a hospital. And which one is justice? Through Lynette and Maxine, Morrison argues both sides of the case.
Since this is the first of a series, the personal story arcs have only just begun to unfold. The Vigilante’s case, on the other hand, is settled more than satisfactorily. ~ Alison Bruce (suspense author)
Patricia Rasey is our guest today. She’s an independently published author who has hit the amazon bestseller list numerous times. Patricia writes romantic suspense and dark paranormal romance.
Patricia is a three-time recipient of the Word Weaving Award for Literary Excellence and a three-time winner of the prestigious RIO Award Of Excellence. She is also a three-time EPPIE finalist and was a 2001 nominee for Romantic Times Magazine’s Best Electronic Book. Additionally, Twilight Obsessions and Twilight Visions, two anthologies she was a part of, was nominated for the PEARL, the Paranormal Excellence Award in Romantic Literature, in the Best Anthology category. Her short story, In The Mind of Darkness won the P&E 2002 Horror short story category.
When not behind her computer, you can find Patricia working, reading, watching movies or MMA. She also enjoys spending her free time at the river camping with her husband and two sons. Ms. Rasey is currently a third degree Black Belt in American Freestyle Karate. A daydreamer at heart, Patricia A. Rasey, resides in her native town in Northwest Ohio with her husband, Mark, and her lovable Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Todd.
You’re an indie author also known as a “self-published” author. Tell us how you got started down the indie road and why?
PAR: A very good friend of mine talked me into it. I had two books I had the rights back to and I hadn’t done anything with them. They sat there collecting dust. This author friend of mine bought me a cover and 5 day ad to promote it for Christmas one year. All I had to do was take a leap of faith. Four years later, I’m still self-publishing and making more money than I was with my previous publisher.
You’re a bestselling author on Amazon – which of your books hit the Amazon bestseller list, how high did they go, and how many copies did you sell? And best of all – how did you celebrate?
PAR: My first bestseller was Viper, the first book in my Sons of Sangue series. It stayed in the top ten Hot New Releases for two weeks. Its highest rank was #3 there. It stayed in Paranormal Romance releases top one-hundred for the first month. I believe the highest rank there was #11. Hawk (book 2) and Gypsy(book 3) made both those lists again, as well as the demons category. But I don’t recall their numbers. Neither got as high as Viper did, but the money brought on that first month was still pretty great for me. I don’t recall the number of books at all, without having to look it up, but quite a bit fewer than if I hit those numbers with all books. To celebrate, I did so quietly with my hubby and a couple of friends over wine. I’m not much of a big party type gal.
Your main genre is suspense – which includes romantic suspense, suspense thrillers and you also write dark paranormal romance. Tell us why you like to write in these areas? And how would you describe your voice?
PAR: I pretty much write paranormal romance now because it is what’s selling for me, paranormal with dark suspense undertones. I really have always been fascinated with police work. I have a brother who is a detective and a son that’s a deputy sheriff. I guess it runs in the family. When I was doing strictly romantic suspense, I used to ask myself what scares me, then write it. I was giving myself nightmares. Now that I don’t write as dark, the nightmares have stopped. I have just always been fascinated with the darker side of the human character. As for my voice, hmmm . . . that’s a tough one. I never really think about it. I just write and I know when I’m in that zone because it feels right.
PAR: I have always said I hate describing my work. The one question I fear is: tell me about your book. I want to turn it over and say read the blurb. I just suck at talking about them. You will definitely get a book that’s a bit darker in nature. There won’t be a lot of comedy elements (unless you pick up my ghost novella. Spirit Me Away was my one attempt and it was a lot of fun to write). You will also get more than a romance. I try to weave a suspense into everything I write. A lot of readers say I’m full of twists and turns and you don’t always see things coming.
What are three pros to being an indie author?
PAR: Having the independence to decide things like cover, editor. Getting the money monthly and like clockwork. Most of these vendors pay promptly. And having complete control of your career.
What are three cons to being an indie author?
PAR: The money you have to front in order to publish a book. It can be expensive. Being in charge of all your marketing and still sometimes the negative backlash for not having a publisher. And having complete control over your career. If you fail, it’s your fault.
Promotion is key to every author. But you can’t always predict how well a promotion is going to work out. Tell us about one promotion that you did – for a new release or at a conference that really surprised you.
PAR: I’ve done a lot of promotions. Facebook works the best for me. Next step will hopefully be BookBub if I can snag one of their ads. I would say so far, it was getting one of those 6 foot tall banners and having it placed in a well-seen spot. My book sales at that conference were great.
Being an indie author may not be for everyone – although there are plenty of authors who are doing it and plenty of traditionally published authors who are incorporating it into their careers as well. But what does it take to be a truly committed and successful self-published author?
PAR: Dedication and time. If you don’t do the legwork, no one will do it for you. You have to work your ass off in this business to get ahead. No one said self-publishing was easy. And it’s not. Just know if you go that route, it’s hard work and you may not always make your money back. But the bright side, they are on sale forever—so market the backlist to get them selling. That’s my next step.
Building a readership or audience is important for any author – but indie authors don’t have publishers to help them shoulder some of the promotional challenges. As an indie author – how do you connect with readers?
PAR: Engage, engage, engage. Always take time out on social medias to talk to your readers and always respond to their emails. If they reach out, reach back. It’s rewarding both ways.
Tell us about your latest release. And what do you have coming down the road?
PAR: Gypsy (book 3) was my last release. If I didn’t have a day job, they would come faster. He was my challenge as he was very much a party boy stuck with a mate he did not want. Let’s say he was one angry vampire who became an ass. Rogue (book 4) comes out Feb. 2, 2016, with two novellas planned next year following its release. Draven (book 4.25) and Preacher (book 4:75). Normally authors do a 4.5 for their novellas. It just so happened that I planned two before book 5 comes out: Xander.
Your heroes tend to be hot and hunky and decidedly Alpha. Where do you get your inspiration for your sexy leading men?
PAR: I love strong alphas, guys who need a little taming. I would say I’ve always been attracted to them, even well before my writing career. I had a lot of male friends who rode motorcycles. My mom and dad’s best friends owned the Harley Davidson shop in our town. Now, I still love the hot, sexy manly type over the traditionally handsome men.
BONUS QUESTION: When you’re really stressed out – how do you blow off steam?
PAR: I read with a glass of wine or an ice cold beer. Reading is still my favorite way to slip away from reality for a bit.
Thanks Patricia for joining us today.
Thank you for interviewing me. I appreciate you taking the time.
In our ongoing series THE BOOK THAT HOOKED YOU at the Lachesis Publishing Daily Blog we feature Q and As with established and successful authors who tell us about the books and authors they love as well as telling us about the books they are working on.
Today’s Q and A features Joe McKinney, the multi-talented and a Bram Stoker Award winning author (multiple times) of horror fiction, science fiction and crime thrillers. Joe McKinney is based in San Antonio where he is a sergeant for the San Antonio Police Department where he helps to run their 911 Dispatch Center. He has been a homicide detective and a disaster mitigation specialist.
Take us back to when you first discovered horror and science fiction. When did you become a reader? How old were you? What were some of the books that made an impact on you?
JM: My gateway drug was Stewart Cowley’s SPACEWRECK. An absolutely beautiful book. Every page featured a full size colored painting of some eerie, abandoned spaceship. There was a two or three page short story to go with each painting, and I would spend hours going through them. I must have read that book a thousand times. I think I was seven when I first found that book, and after that I went into Robert Heinlein’s juveniles. My favorite of those was SPACE CADET.
Tell us about a few of the authors who inspired you, when you first started in your own writing career?
JM: One big inspiration was Lee Thomas. We met at a convention in Dallas shortly after I published my first novel, and we’ve been friends ever since. Lee has been through just about joy and nightmare the publishing world can throw at an author, and he was a tremendous mentor. As to authors who inspired me, I’d have to point to Robert McCammon. His early works were amazing takes on classic horror tropes, like vampires and zombies and werewolves. But after that, he went into these fantastically lush novels like Boy’s Life and Swan Song that set the bar impossibly high. When I write, I push myself to try to be that good.
You write horror, science fiction, and crime novels. Tell us what draws you to those three genres?
JM: You know, I think the genre finds you and not the other way around. It’s like water finding its own level. You end up in horror because you have to be there. I’m a pretty upbeat guy most of the time, and I try to have a great deal of fun in everything I do, but when I write, it just ends up going to dark places. I wish I could give you a better answer than that, but that’s about the size of it.
You’re a police supervisor in your “day job”. How does your very challenging police work impact your writing?
JM: Well, police work has colored my entire writing career. Not only because a lot of my characters tend to be cops, but also my approach to characters. In fact, I think it’s impossible to underestimate the influence it’s had on my writing. You can’t do this job without it changing you in a fundamental way. Maybe that’s where the dark stuff comes from.
Tell us about a book that you’ve read recently (past year) that blew you away (can be from any genre).
JM: That’s easy. 14 by Peter Clines was an amazing science fiction adventure story with a crazy Lovecraftian turn at the end. A young man is looking for a cheap apartment in the heart of LA. He finds one, but after he moves in, finds one odd quark of the building after another. Any one of them wouldn’t amount to much, but when taken in their totality, they add up to a mystery with shades of a government conspiracy and cosmic horror. Trust me, one of the best times I’ve ever had between the covers of a book. I also loved The Martian by Andy Weir and Ready Player One by Earnest Cline.
What is the coolest thing a reader has ever said (or done) for you?
JM: I once wrote a magic typewriter story called “Writing for Exposure.” A fan of mine enjoyed it so much he found a 1939 Underwood typewriter, completely restored it, and sent it to me as a gift. It has a special place of honor on the shelf in my office.
You’ve won the Bram Stoker Award twice now – tell us about your books that won and how you feel about being on that illustrious list?
The first time I won was for my novel Flesh Eaters. That’s the origin story for my zombie series, The Dead World. You can probably tell from what I’ve written above that I’m a huge Robert McCammon fan. Well, he was one of the presenters for the award, and when I went up to the stage to receive it, McCammon leaned in and whispered, “Great job, Joe. I love your book.” I nearly fainted right there. To this day, that remains one of my finest writing moments ever.
Tell us about your latest release THE DEAD WON’T DIE (part of an ongoing series) Tell us about the book and the series.
JM: The Dead Won’t Die is Book 2 in my new zombie series, The Deadlands. It’s been thirty years since the zombie apocalypse, and only little pockets of humanity have survived. One of those communities is a place called Arbella. Arbella has not only survived, but thrived, and now they are getting so big they need to expand. The trouble is, nobody knows what’s out there. So, one of the up and coming members of the community, First Deputy of the Constabulary Jacob Carlton, organizes an expedition to go explore the Deadlands. In the first book Jacob and his friend Kelly Banis barely survive their encounter with the nomadic communities that wander the Deadlands. They are rescued by a super advanced society called Temple. The Dead Won’t Die takes us into a vast conspiracy that is threatening to destroy Temple from the inside out. Fun stuff, with tons of zombie action thrown in to boot.
What are you currently working on and when can we expect it to be released?
JM: I’m currently finishing up Book 3 in a series that I’m writing with Craig DiLouie and Stephen Knight. My installment is called Die Laughing. The series takes place in the present day, along the Eastern seaboard. A new disease called The Bug appears on the scene, and it turns its victims into unspeakably cruel and viscous killers. The disease victims are called Klowns because they cannot control their laughter. It’s how they process pain, both their own and their victims. A battalion of light infantry is in Boston when the series starts, tasked with protecting the populace. But they never had a chance, and now they are in full retreat. The first book was about getting out of Boston. The second book was about the rolling gunfight that got them to Philadelphia. That’s where I pick it up.
You’re a writer of horror and crime and sci-fi. What truly scares you?
JM: Well, snakes and heights. But those are just things that give me the creeps. When I think about things that truly terrify me, I think about Alzheimer’s disease. I watched my grandfather die of that, seeing his mind taken from him just scared me to death. Now that I’m older, the fear is even stronger.
Bonus: What is your “go-to” snack when you’re writing?
JM: Popcorn. Definitely popcorn.
Joe McKinney is the San Antonio-based author of several horror, crime and science fiction novels. His longer works include the four part Dead World series, made up of Dead City, Apocalypse of the Dead, Flesh Eaters and The Zombie King; the science fiction disaster tale, Quarantined, which was nominated for the Horror Writers Association’s Bram Stoker Award for superior achievement in a novel, 2009; and the crime novel, Dodging Bullets. His upcoming releases include the horror novels Lost Girl of the Lake, The Red Empire, The Charge and St. Rage. Joe has also worked as an editor, along with Michelle McCrary, on the zombie-themed anthology Dead Set, and with Mark Onspaugh on the abandoned building-themed anthology The Forsaken. His short stories and novellas have been published in more than thirty publications and anthologies.
A writing voice is similar to a singing voice, you can have natural talent but without patience and practice it won’t come out in its fullest form.
My writing is heavily character driven. I have to know all I can about a character before I can truly create him or her. I write up to eighty biographical elements about the character and I use these items for continuity. If the protagonist drives a Prius on page seven she better drive the same kind of car on page 200, if not readers will notice.
I write a point-form biography on my protagonist, love interest and my foil. I have a basic template for the biography and I become highly curious about the character. What was their childhood like? Where did they go to school? What scares them? What did they want to be when they grew up?
I love writing characters who have a dark side or a dark twist to their nature; they can bring out parts of me that I can’t bring out in real life. For example, I wrote a scene in Kaitlyn Wolfe, Crown Attorney where a young Maxine Swayman told a store clerk that she loved a coat with a removable fur collar so she could wear it to anti-fur demonstrations. Maxine’s mother admonished her in the store.
I had a real life experience where a persistent salesperson tried to sell me a similar coat. I ignored the clerk’s pleas for me to buy fur and looked for other more suitable coats. Driving home from the store, I thought how I would have loved to shock the clerk, but in reality I didn’t. The silly thought rolled around in my head and when Maxine was born, I had the opportunity to use it.
My writing voice has developed over time. I truly believe that without constant honing of my skills I couldn’t be a writer. Writing characters, for me, is fun, but sometimes I have trouble plotting.
I’ve learned to use a plot chart to make my stories work. The stakes start small for the protagonist and get higher as the novel progresses. When I use the plot chart and I see a flat line, I know the story is not working the way it should. I will then painstakingly edit the non-progressive part until the story advances, as it should.
Next time you see a red-haired woman, in a coat with a fake fur collar, driving a Prius you’re likely seeing my antagonist Maxine Swayman. (Note: Maxine Swayman appears in both Kaitlyn Wolfe and Vigilante and her character has developed over the course of both books).
Della Street (Barbara Hale) was my favourite character from the television show Perry Mason (which ran from 1957 to 1966). From a young age, I knew I wanted to do something with the law, little did I know that my love of law and justice would turn into a passion for writing courtroom dramas.
At the young age of ten, I’d voraciously watch episodes of Perry Mason, an American TV show about a fictional lawyer. I’d sit down in front of our black and white television and devour every minute of the legal show.
I loved the character Della Street and I erroneously thought she was also a lawyer. Her classy style of speaking, combined with perfect outfits, made for a healthy obsession. I think I was her number one fan.
I was so obsessed with what I learned on Perry Mason that I would talk non-stop with my dad about the show. He humoured me as only a father can. I was so enthralled with the show that when I heard that a small provincial courthouse was within walking distance of my house, I wanted to sneak in and watch a real live trial!
In Ontario, Canada, where I lived in the 1970s, they brought courts to small towns because not a lot of people had cars. That’s why there was a courthouse that doubled as an arts and craft venue on other days. I never got up the nerve to enter the court, but I know I dreamt about it. My early fascination with courts and Perry Mason eventually led me to become an an author of crime and courtroom thrillers. It’s a fascination that will always inspire me, both in my work and in my writing.