July 29, 2016

MJ LaBeff Creates Suspense in her new book MIND GAMES

She’s written a number of books, including her newest release, MIND GAMESLet’s learn more about M.J. the writer, and her books.

re-worked 3_16 (2)JC: What made the “girl next door” start writing suspense stories?

MJ:  I’d always been a big fan of mysteries and then discovered suspense, and I was hooked. The suspense novels were gritty reads. I was riveted when the author took me into the victim’s and antagonist’s minds, and I loved the thrill of the chase and pulse pounding action and obstacles the protagonist(s) faced.

JC: Yes, that kind of excitement makes for wonderful page-turner reading. But, going from reader to writer isn’t easy. Where do your story ideas come from?

MJ:  Mostly from dreams. I’m a deep sleeper, even if I only get 5 to 6 hours, I sleep hard. I dream in color and it’s like watching a movie. Some nights I wake up in a panic with my heart pounding, and on the rare occasion, I’ve also been jolted awake by tears. There are times when the dream feels so real it takes me a few seconds to realize it was only just a dream! Like most authors I’ve got pens and notepads scattered about my house. I reach for pen and paper, not bothering with the lights, and write down everything left over from the dream.

JC: Wow! Your dreams sound wonderful. I don’t think I’ve ever dreamt like that. I usually wake up wondering what was going on and wishing I could replay it. I noticed that animals play a role in your stories.  I love it when authors talk about the animals in their characters’s lives—not doing unanimal-like things, such as talking, but acting like animals. Tell us about the dogs in your books.

MJ:  I’m also a fan of books with dogs in them just behaving like dogs. I have three big dogs and each one has a unique personality and intelligence. That might have also been my natural inclination to write a dog in some of my novels.

King showed up in Haunting Lyric a novel that hasn’t been released yet. He’s an Eskimo dog bred for the harshest of weather conditions but living in the desert in the fictitious town of Chillicothe, Arizona. He’s very protective of his owner Lyric, a woman on the run from a cult with dangerous practices. He puts his own life on the line to keep her safe from the Serpentariuns. Lyric is a real loner, no family, no friends, and no place to call home. She’s tough but confides in King, making it easier to showcase her vulnerability. I felt like she needed a dog to help soften her a bit.

Jupiter is a Doberman, featured in all four books of the Last Cold Case series. Last Summer’s Evil the first book releases later this year with Muse It Up Publishing. Homicide detective, Rachel Hood and FBI agent, Nick Draven solve crimes and catch criminals with Jupiter on the scene. Jupiter has a special connection to Hood and will do whatever it takes to keep her out of harm’s way.

JC: Those dogs sound like great “characters.” My mystery series has two cats and they, too, play important roles. I believe animals are a skillful way to show character. It sounds as if you’ve done that well with King and Lyric as well as with Jupiter.

Now, back to you. I noted on your website that you work in financial services. I’m assuming full-time. When do you carve out time to write? And what kind of writing goals do you set for yourself?

MJ: I feel like I’m not any different than so many other authors. I work full-time during the day, and I write full-time during the night. When I first started writing in 2007, I was very rigid about my nightly writing schedule. It was butt in chair promptly at 7 p.m. with the commitment to write a minimum of 500 words. I’m a word counter, but that’s 2 pages double spaced. I don’t trust myself to write in the mornings, despite being a morning person, because if the muse hits I hate to stop writing and then I’ll be late for work!

My original writing goal had been to write 1 book per year. I can finish a full length novel 100k words or so in 9 months. My new goal is to write 2 books per year. Not sure if I’ll pull it off this year. I’m a big believer is setting deadlines for myself, and I’m pretty tough on me.

Recently, a few authors I met on Twitter invited me to join this 1k/1hr writing challenge, and I love it!

We’ve all heard this, but it’s worth repeating.

The more often you do it, the stronger the writing muscle becomes, and it’s amazing how much you can really write.

JC: Congratulations on those goals! I, too, am a word counter and pretty disciplined. I think writers need to be disciplined to finish their projects. I’m not sure I could maintain the 1K/1hr writing challenge. Good for you!

Speaking of challenges. What have been some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced as a writer?

MJ: Balancing work life with family life. My husband and I don’t have any kids, but it’s still hard working full-time, writing, trying to get published, accepting one literary agent rejection after another. My novel Haunting Lyric.  garnered over 40 agent rejections as did my novel MIND GAMES.

I remember seeing this tattoo of a pair of boxing gloves hanging from a hook and the sign above it read: NEXT. That’s what I would think of every single time I got a rejection. And, no I do not have the tattoo!

I feel so fortunate to have signed the Last Cold Case series with Muse It Up Publishing! I just finished my first round of edits on Last Summer’s Evil and am so grateful to my editor and can’t wait to see this story really come to life.

JC: How have you overcome those challenges?

MJ: I’m not sure I have! I’m a work in progress. Having just signed with a publisher, I’m learning an entirely new schedule with editing plus writing and promoting my current novel MIND GAMES. Of course, I’m also shouting out about signing with Muse It Up Publishing and Last Summer’s Evil coming fall/winter 2016! This has been a really exciting time for me. You have to understand, I wrote my first novel in 2007 and since then have written nearly 8 books. I’m writing the 4th book in the series now and am just past the halfway mark.

JC: It sounds as if you have met those challenges. The best medicine for dealing with rejections is to keep writing. Apparently you did.


Click to Order on Amazon

Let’s talk a moment about your new book, MIND GAMESTell our readers what to expect when they pick up your book.

MJ: MIND GAMES is about a woman, Sparrow Von Langley, whose repressed memories come back to life as haunting visions, and she discovers the unethical practices of her father, Dr. Theodore Von Langley.

The good doctor is a well-respected, nationally recognized behavioral therapist. I like to think of him as Dr. Phil gone wrong. Sorry, Dr. Phil, love your show, but you got me thinking about the “What ifs…” My sister also worked in the area of psychology and was helpful when I was developing the character of Dr. Von Langley. However, I must say, she chastised me a lot, insisting I couldn’t do this or that, and I just kept begging her to come to the dark side! I’m pretty sure she’ll never write a book.

Sparrow Von Langley has had a privileged life. She grew up in the fictitious town of Crystal Cove, CA an elite suburb of L.A. An only child, her parents doted on her but showed little affection. Cora Von Langley was a socialite who has fallen prey to severe depression. This is the catalyst that brings Sparrow and her closer and draws Sparrow closer to the truth about her father.

Tormented by these frightening visions brought on by a series of mysterious deaths, Sparrow is determined to search for the truth behind the tragedies and reconnects with Dr. Sloan.

Derrick Sloan has been searching for his missing sister, Kathlyn “Kat” Sloan since her disappearance 10 years ago. He believes she fled their home town in Colorado for California where they had spent a few of their teenage years during the time their dad, an engineer, helped to build the community of Crystal Cove. Derrick runs a concierge practice and a mobile health clinic RV. He recognizes the need for a mobile clinic in the L.A. area and also decides that is the best place to search for Kat.

Sparrow pulls together the pieces of her traumatic past with the help of a hypnotherapist, and her repressed memories reveal the twisted truth behind the mysterious deaths and Kat’s disappearance. Shocked to learn about her father’s possible involvement, her hunt collides with Derrick’s search for Kat, and she is forced to decide if she can trust him enough to follow the evidence trail or risk losing the man she loves.

Will the only daughter of the respected doctor prove his guilt or innocence in his quest to change lives?

JC: Wow! That sounds like an intriguing story. You mentioned talking to your sister to research your book. In what other ways do you conduct research to make sure your characters ring true?

MJ: I really enjoy talking to law enforcement professionals if the opportunity presents itself and asking them questions about processing crime scenes and dead bodies. By chance I met a retired homicide detective from NYC. I also have some friends who are retired deputies. Recently, I met a private investigator and border patrol agent.

The Investigation Discovery channel is a wealth of information and TV shows like Dateline NBC and 20/20 are also helpful to see how a crime scene is investigated, how a criminal is interrogated, and what the investigators have to say about working the case, uncovering clues, and what led them to the victim and criminal.

Of course, there is the internet where you can find law enforcement professionals who are willing to answer author questions, and blogs devoted to authors writing crime fiction.

Readers can find MIND GAMES on Amazon. And you can find out more about MJ LaBeff on her website.

Thank you MJ for visiting my blog today and good luck with all your writing projects!



Q&A with Thriller Writer O. N. Stefan

Olga is an accomplished writer of suspense thrillers. That’s a genre I particularly enjoy. Let’s find out more about Olga and how she comes up with her stories.

olga for web site3

Author O.N. Stefan

JC: First, Your website tells us little about you. What do you do when you’re not writing?

Olga: When I’m not writing, I could be gardening, or cooking or catching the latest movie.

JC: Your life sounds wonderful, either writing, or gardening or cooking… nice. So, let’s move onto to your writing and your books.  What made you decide to write thrillers rather than other kinds of mystery genre, like police procedural or detective stories?

Olga: I love reading something that propels me into a world where every turn can mean danger or death.

JC: Speaking of danger and death, here’s a peak at one of Olga’s books, The Death Caress. This book trailer says a lot!

That really makes me want to read this book! Now, back to our interview. Olga, It sounds as if you begin your writing with a germ of an idea and you take off from there. How would you describe your writing style—an outliner or one who lets things flow.

Olga: I like to do a chapter by chapter breakdown with a sentence of two to describe what happens in that chapter. Although, I don’t always stick to this. It just depends where my characters want to go and as long as it fits the story, I let them have their own way.

JC: Yes, I absolutely agree with you. It’s best to let the characters tell the story. Fighting them is a losing battle! Speaking of the characters, Tell us about the main characters in your books. What are some of their unique characteristics?

 Olga: Amanda Blake, my main character in The Deadly Caress is scared of feathers and the dark. She has to fight her fear of 4these things to escape her captor.

JC: In reading your reviews, it seems readers like the suspense you created in your books—How do you maintain suspense throughout the story?

Olga: This is a matter of conducting the symphony (book) orchestra with a light or heavy touch to set the speed and intensity of the reading experience. Learning to control this pace is a key tool and one I’ll be forever perfecting.

JC: So nicely put! Indeed, creating that wonderful tension is something we all struggle with. You seem to have an intuitive feel for it. Let’s digress again for just a moment and look at the great book trailer for Sleep Then My Princess. The trailer gives a good sense of the suspense we’ve been talking about

JC: I’m always interested in the journey other writers take from the completed manuscript to the published work. I noticed you decided to self-publish your two books. What led you to this decision?

Olga: Originally, I only wanted to traditional publish and tried to find an agent. I was successful in securing an agent but she closed her agency before she was able to place my thriller due to ill health.

After this, I tried sending my first thriller to publishers but it would mostly come back unopened or never to be seen again. Follow-ups didn’t get me anywhere either.

Therefore, I decided to follow the indie publishing route and published with Amazon Kindle and a few other retailers.

JC: Your path sounds similar to the frustrating journey many of today’s authors face. How sad to get an agent and have the agency close before she could sell your book! So many disappointments on the road to publishing. But, you got the books to readers. Thank goodness! Tell us in your own words what readers can expect when they read your books.

Olga: I write what I enjoy reading, emotions laid bare, action in dispersed with lighter moments and gripping threatening situations that have me on the edge of my seat. And wrapped in all that, a mystery that I want to solve.

new wild fonts imageIn Sleep then my Princess, I take the reader inside a depraved serial killer’s head and lay bare the emotions of an innocent woman whose life has been ripped from her and whose present season of recovery is being trespassed. The love of a niece for her mourning auntie connects the reader to the prologue and adds another level of emotion to this complex plot.


JC: Olga, thank you so much for stopping by. Here’s where readers can connect with O.N. Stefan. She writes an active blog and she’s available on Facebook and Twitter.


Website: http://onstefan.weebly.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ON-Stefan-543137822419408/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/olgaolha

Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00I68JS3S

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7830264.O_N_Stefan







Q&A with Cozy Mystery Writer Nikki Haverstock

Nikki is a fascinating person. Not only is she a skilled archer but she is also a skilled mystery writer who spends a good bit of her time cattle ranching. How’s that for unusual? When you read a Nikki Haverstock mystery, you’ll get the flavor of archery along with a good dose of her love for animals.Nikki 3

Death Indoors Ebook web

Click to order

Today, is Nikki’s launch day for her fourth book in the Target Practice Mystery Series, Death Indoors. We will learn about her, her characters and her new book.

JC: I know my readers will all be asking the same question.What made you leave collegiate archery for cattle ranching and writing mysteries?

Nikki: My husband had an office job that he was very unhappy with. I encouraged him to find what it was that he really wanted to do. We both were sick of the traffic, congestation, crowds, lines and overall pressure of city living. I loved teaching and coaching but after a decade, I was eager for new challenges. When my husband was offered the opportunity to work on a ranch, we leaped at the chance. It took me a few years to figure out a new career but I’ve never been happier.

JC: That sounds like a very bold thing to do. I suppose being a competitive archer is also bold. I doubt few of my readers know someone with your skill. How has archery played into your mystery series?

Nikki: Archery has provided the setting for my current series. I’ve been shooting, competing and coaching in the archery industry for almost sixteen years. Like any subculture, we have terminology and moral codes. I love being able to share this great sport with people.

JC: What made you decide to write cozy mysteries versus a detective story or other forms of the mystery genre?

Nikki: I read a lot of genres but cozies have always been some of my favorite books. As I started out publishing, I wanted to do something that I loved and felt comfortable with. I also enjoy the good people not getting hurt and bad people paying for their crimes. Cozies tend to be very comforting and who doesn’t need some comforting?

JC: You’re right. We have enough stress without our books causing more. At least that’s what I think. Part of what makes your books so much fun is one of your “secondary” characters, the dog, Moo. Many of your readers have fallen in love with Moo. Tell us about Moo and how he evolved in your stories.

Nikki: I’m thrilled that readers love Moo as much as I do. I owned and was owned by Great Danes for almost a decade and though we don’t have one now, we plan to have more in the future. (Right now we have two Terrier/Chihuahuas and a greyhound) Moo is a combination of all the features that I loved about my Great Danes.

I’m not totally sure what prompted me to include a dog, but I think part of it was that if I was going to spend so much mental time in this world, then there needed to be a dog present for me to be happy.

JC: I love that a dog had to be in our stories for you to be happy. Indeed, I love books with animals (when the animals are safe.)  Moving from Moo to your main characters. Introduce Di and Mary to our readers and share with us how they’ve evolved over the course of your series.

Nikki: Their growth is very slow because my books are set very close together in this world. Book 1 is in Fall, Book 2 Dec, Book 3 Jan and Book 4 Valentines weekend so only four months total. Di and Mary become roommates in book 1 and now are best friends. Mary is getting back into competing after a setback. Di is starting to train in archery while recovering from a divorce.

Here are first books in the series. You can start with Book 1 and move right through to Book 4. Click on the covers to order on Amazon.


5136Q6ML7FL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_51cO48N8KDL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_51m837SEaML._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Death Indoors Ebook web

JC: Getting back to your writing. What are some of the challenges of writing a series?

Nikki: Keeping all the details straight is a big challenge. I love having reoccurring characters but that requires that I keep all the facts consistent. Another challenge is keeping the books different but still similar. I try to think of my series like a TV show where the show feels the same episode to episode while having different storylines each time.

JC: I’ve had other writers say keeping the facts straight is a big challenge. One writer said her readers will often correct her. Let’s talk a moment about your writing style. Do you tend to outline or plan your stories or do they flow as you write?

Nikki: I’m both a plotter and a pantser, a plotser–my new word. I start with the murder, who, when, why and how. I usually start with something I’ve seen in the archery industry and say “What if?” And take that answer to the farthest extreme. Once I have the victim, murder and murderer, I flesh out the rest of the story. I put together a list of other suspects and why they could be guilty.

I have a few sub-plots that I try to advance a little each book.

JC: And, Nikki, you chose the self publishing route. What made you go in that direction versus traditional publishing?

Nikki: I had two friends that I knew that self-published and I was intrigued by the entire process. I loved the fact that they had control over every aspect of their career and their ability to control their timeframe. I’m obviously a control freak

Now, let’s hear more about the fourth book in the Target Practice Mystery Series, Death Indoors

When opportunity “nocks”…
Di is competing in her first tournament of the competition season, but an annoying coach is distracting her and every archer around her.  When he is found dead of a heart attack brought on by Taser, then Di, Liam and Great Dane, Moo, hatch a clever plan to discover which of the many suspects with motive and opportunity helped the coach shuffle off his mortal coil.
A wholesome, cozy murder for every sleuth in the family

Death Indoors Ebook web

Click to order

You can order Death Indoors TODAY!







And, you can find Nikki at these sites:

Twitter and Youtube


Welcome JQ Rose–Mystery and Romantic Suspense Writer

JQ Rose

JQ Rose

I’m excited to welcome JQ Rose to our blog today. I’ve read her newest book, Deadly Undertakingwhich I found both suspenseful and quite amusing.

Today we will talk to her about her books and her writing. I’m thrilled to have another mystery writer to introduce to our readers.

Before we begin, JQ. Readers love to know more about the writers they love. Tell us a bit about that lady driving that flashy car…

JQ: Glad to, Joan. And, thanks for hosting me on your blog today. Here’s a little something about me.

After writing feature articles in magazines, newspapers, and online magazines for over fifteen years, I entered the world of fiction. My published mysteries are Sunshine BoulevardCoda to Murder, and Deadly Undertaking. Blogging, photography, Pegs and Jokers board games, and travel are the things that keep me out of trouble. Along with my husband, Gardener Ted, we spend winters in Florida and summers up north camping and hunting toads, frogs, and salamanders with our four grandsons and granddaughter.

Joan:  My readers are always curious about the way we write and how our stories emerge. Describe how you go about writing, more pantser style or outlining?

JQ:  I write using a combination of pantser and outlining. I like to scribble out an outline with scene ideas from the beginning and close to the end. I say close to the end, because many times, after getting close to the end, the story has taken an unexpected turn so I throw out the outline and go where the characters take me. Often there is more than one possibility for the ending. I have fun playing with fictional characters and situations.

Joan: I love the way you say you “throw out the outline,” because the characters take you in unexpected directions. That’s one of the things I enjoy most about writing fiction. Speaking of the writing itself, tell us about your writing routine? Do you write a certain number of words a day? How do you distinguish between the writing and the editing?

JQ: While writing Deadly Undertaking, I learned to set aside time after lunch for writing. I tried to write for an hour plus every day. When I sat down at 1 pm, I didn’t look at Facebook or check emails until I had written out that part of the story swirling in my head. Once I got in the habit of writing after lunch, I looked forward to it and felt cheated if I missed my hour of writing. I don’t determine a word count. I write for the hour, but if I’m wound up about the story, I’ll go longer if time allows.

As far as editing is concerned, I edit along the way, not for content so much, but for clear sentences and spelling. I usually read over what I wrote the day before so the story flows from one section/chapter to the next to make sense. My critique group is a lot of help when it comes to content and editing.

Joan: That’s very interesting. I wish I had a good critique group. It’s very hard going it alone. And, I like the idea of writing for a specific length of time. I may give that a go instead of writing 500 words a day as I’m currently doing.

I really liked Lauren, your main character. She’s very feisty. What would you say are her strengths—the things readers will enjoy about her?

JQ: Lauren Staab is a strong woman who has had to overcome the loss of her fiancé and deal with watching her mother disappear into the depths of Alzheimer’s disease. The strength of her love and loyalty to her family is evident when she returns home to care for her mother and to help her father in the family business, Staab and Blood Funeral Home.

Joan: I thought it was very ironic setting your mystery in a funeral home. That made me smile. Dead bodies among the dead bodies. What made you select the funeral home as your setting?

JQ: The sage advice for writers is to write what you know. I know about the funeral business because my dad and two brothers were funeral directors. I grew up setting up the chapel for a funeral service, dusting caskets, and placing floral arrangements to display around the casket and/or in the church.

Joan: Ah, so that explains a lot. But, I have to say, as a reader, the funeral home was perfect. Talking more about Deadly Undertaking, when readers pick up your book, what will keep them turning the pages? (besides the unique setting).

JQ: Excellent question.This is the whole crux of writing a mystery, isn’t it? Why will readers keep turning pages or tapping their screens?

  • They’ll be curious to find out who committed the murder and why the killer decided to place the body in the garage of the funeral home.
  • Henry, the shadow man, plays a big part in the story. Lauren can’t find a reason for him to be there interrupting her life at the most inconvenient times.
  • The book is a romance too. Lauren is looking for love because the only men in her life are her dad and brother. Will she find her true love?

Joan: And, for those exact reasons, I kept tapping my screen! But, I won’t give anything away.

Most writers are voracious readers. Tell us about the books you read and how those books have affected your writing.

JQ: I decided to write mysteries because I read and enjoyed Sue Grafton’s mystery alphabet series– A is for Alibi and H is for Homicide to name a few. Then I read Janet Evanovich’s humorous Stephanie Plum mystery series with titles like One for the Money, Two for the Dough, etc. They opened my eyes to incorporating humor into mystery. I still enjoy reading mysteries with surprising endings, but I also read books on writing. I’m never too old to learn something new to improve my storytelling.

Joan: Indeed, your flare for the humor and storytelling definitely come through in Deadly Undertaking

Give us a taste of this latest mystery and tell us about your other books and how we can find them.

JQ:  Thank you, Joan, for the opportunity to list my books. My latest mystery Deadly Undertaking, was released by Books We Love in October. Here’s the blurb that will give you a taste for what it’s about:

Click to Order on Amazon

Click to Order on Amazon

Lauren Staab knew there would be dead bodies when she returned home. After all, her family is in the funeral business, Staab and Blood Funeral Home. Still, finding an extra body on the floor of the garage between the hearse and the flower car shocked her. Lauren’s plan to return to her hometown to help care for her mother and keep the books for the funeral home suddenly turns upside down in a struggle to prove she and her family are not guilty of murdering the man. But will the real killer return for her, her dad, her brother? Her mother’s secrets, a killer, a handsome policeman, and a shadow man muddle up her intention to have a simple life. Welcome home, Lauren!

Amazon http://amzn.to/1Lu6GxI

Amazon UK http://amzn.to/1Gz1utF

Barnes and Noble http://bit.ly/1H72tvV

Books We Love Bookstore http://store.payloadz.com/go/?id=2395820

Kobo https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/deadly-undertaking


Books from MuseItUp Publishing—

Click to order on Amazon

Click to order on Amazon

Coda to Murder

Pastor Christine Hobbs has been in the pulpit business for over five years. She never imagined herself caring for a flock that includes a pig, a kangaroo, and a murderer.

Detective Cole Stephens doesn’t want the pretty pastor to get away with murdering the church music director. His investigative methods infuriate Christine as much as his deep brown eyes attract her.

Can they find the real killer and build a loving relationship based on trust?

Amazon.com http://tinyurl.com/ap376tb

MuseItUp Publishing http://museituppublishing.com/bookstore/index.php/now-available-in-ebook/coda-to-murder-detail

kobo.com and major online booksellers.

Sunshine Boulevard

Click to order on Amazon

Click to order on Amazon

Who or what is killing the seniors on Sunshine Boulevard?  Follow Jim and Gloria Hart, snowbirds who annually migrate to Florida for warm sunshine, fun, and games in snow-free winters. However this season, Jim Hart, a volunteer First Responder in his retirement community of Citrus Ridge, is drawn into the investigation of the mysterious deaths. Even in the midst of the unfortunate demise of the residents on Sunshine Boulevard, the Harts try to enjoy the winter with friends. They don’t realize that their friends are getting together for their own kinds of affairs with each other. The neighbors are in a dither over the deaths, but perhaps more intrigued by the gossip about the affairs and why the naked lady was found lying in the geranium bed.


The e-book is available at

Muse It Up Publishing Bookstore


Amazon.com http://amzn.to/1Z1rovZ

Kobo Books https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/sunshine-boulevard

Romance and Mystery Authors on Writing

Click to order on Amazon

Click to order on Amazon

Joan and I join thirteen authors sharing tips on writing, publishing and marketing.

Amazon link- http://amzn.to/1OFAczz








Connect with J.Q. Rose online at

J.Q. Rose blog http://www.jqrose.com/

Facebook http://facebook.com/jqroseauthor

Google+ google.com/+JQRose

JQ Rose Amazon Author Page http://tinyurl.com/aeuv4m4

Goodreads- http://www.goodreads.com/jqrose

Pinterest http://pinterest.com/janetglaser/

If you enjoyed this interview, check out all the author interviews on my blog.




New Mystery Release–The Devil’s Music by Pearl R. Meaker

She is releasing her first novel, The Devil’s Music on May 1st. You have an opportunity to hear about it first today and to learn more about Pearl. Be sure to pre-order her book. 

JC: Hi Pearl and welcome to Joan Says, Writes, Reads. I’ve read a number of your short stories on your blog and love your writing style. That’s why I’m excited to know that your first novel will soon be released. Let’s spend a little time talking about you. What happened to make you decide to go from mystery reader to mystery writer?

Pearl: I don’t really know, it just happened.

 It got great reviews so I kept writing Lord of the Rings fanfiction. Over the next 6-7 years I wrote around 200 stories and had a lovely group of regular readers, several of whom started to encourage me to write original stories that I might be able to have published for sale.

When I took a novel writing course, the first lesson required submitting two ideas for stories one of which you’d work on for the class. The ideas I thought of were both mysteries. In fact they were related stories with the same main characters. The one that was chosen to use for class assignments is now The Devil’s Music, the first book in the Emory Crawford Mysteries Series that releases May 1st. The second idea became the second Emory Crawford mystery, which is now with my publisher beginning the publication process to be released in the fall of 2015.

I didn’t sit there and say, “I want to be a mystery writer.” Those were the stories that came to me when I needed ideas for the course, and I suppose it makes sense that my muse would guide me to my favorite genre.

TDM Cover CleanWhite

Click to order

JC: I can relate to what you’re saying. How wonderful that you built a fan base for your fiction before you released your first novel. Before we go any further, I’m going to share the blurb about The Devil’s Music so our readers will know more about the book.

The Devil’s Music

The Devil’s Music is the first book in the Emory Crawford Mystery Series.

But who is Emory Crawford?

She doesn’t do martial arts – she knits, crochets, does crafts, and cooks.

She’ not a swinging single – she’s a wife and empty nest mother.

She’s not a long and leggy model type – she’s a typical middle-aged female.

She’s not built like an athlete – she’s soft and squishy.

She’s not a power career woman – she’s a homemaker.

And when an acclaimed scholar and musician is found murdered on the Twombly College campus where her husband teaches chemistry and forensics, Emory Crawford emerges as the most inquisitive, persistent and clever amateur detective since Miss Marple.images

So, Pearl, we’ve learned a little about Emory. I wonder what she might say about you, her creator.


“Emory here. You asked what I would tell you about Pearl, so here goes.

Pearl is a better writer than she gives herself credit for, but then, she’s too hard on herself about most everything. She’s always been a rather slow person. Oops! I’d best amend that: not slow mentally; slow motion. Things always take her longer to do than she thinks they’re going to – and longer than other people think they should take her to do. But that’s OK. She likes to stop and enjoy the scenery as she goes through life. You’ve most likely heard the expression “Never a wasted minute.” Well Pearl likes to say, “Life happens in the wasted minutes.” She values the time to daydream, to look closely at the world and to learn all sorts of tid-bits about all sorts of things.

She uses up some of her energy fighting depression and other effects of her ADHD. Yes, I know. I just said she’s a slow mover and now I’m saying she has hyperactivity disorder. Her mind and emotions are what’s wound too tight, not her physicality. That’s often the case with females with ADHD, which is part of why, for a long time, it was thought only males had the disorder. It causes her a fair amount of troubles with work – even with her writing – but it is also part of her being observant, curious about everything and being able to hyper-focus on things that interest or intrigue her.

Pearl is a creative person like I am. She fades when she’s not making something with her hands. Arts, crafts, special meals, photography, writing – and most usually it’s something for someone else. And singing and playing fiddle too, though she’s not as good a fiddler as I am, but then, I started playing at a younger age. She didn’t start playing till she was 50 years old. She also used to play baritone ukulele and various types of flutes.

She’s a good wife and mother, her husband and children say so, not just me. She likes to care for those she loves, though often the forgetfulness of her ADHD makes her seem less caring – she doesn’t call or email like she knows she should. Pearl loves to do things that make people happy, makes them glow and smile. Things like all the crafts she makes for folks, or stopping strangers in stores or when walking down the street to tell them she likes what they’re wearing – telling them they’re lookin’ good.

Like me, she loves animals – both wild and domesticated. She’s always had pets. She had a horse from late elementary age till her first year of college. Had several parakeets, fish and a variety of other critters. For the past 30 years or so she and her family have mostly had cats. They have four of them right now.”

JC: Thank you, Emory. Now we know a lot more about Pearl. Wasn’t that fun? Pearl, we know you began your writing with fanfiction stories. Tell us about your journey from there to novel writing and onto getting published.


As I said earlier, I began with the 6-7 years of writing LOTR based fanfiction for public perusal and review on various fanfiction archives. This was great experience and a good learning opportunity. I owe my group of readers a huge Thank You as they started me on my way.

The next step was having two short stories published by a now out of business magazine. Dead Eyes is in the online archive of Abandoned Towers, and The Peach Tree, appeared in their last print edition (and is the prize for the first person to comment here). This was while I was taking the entry level Breaking Into Print course from Long Ridge Writers Group.

 My instructor – now my writing coach – Mary Rosenblum was so excited about my story ideas. In the very first email I got from her she was already saying they would be attractive to publishers. As the class went on I was having my usual self-doubts and asked her if she’d said that just because she was my instructor. She took the question in the spirit it was asked and told me “No.” She was already working as a writing coach and was (still is) very on top of the industry and knowledgeable as to what is marketable.

When the book was finished, after about a year and a half, she suggested a couple of publishers to submit it to and I went with Promontory Press. They accepted it and now it’s on Amazon.com for pre-order and I’m still a bit in shock over it all.

JC: You were fortunate to meet Mary. We writers indeed need to hear those encouraging words. I, too, have a writing mentor. She’s not a coach, but she’s been very encouraging. With all rejection letters lining our walls it takes a tremendous amount of dedication not to give up. I’m very glad you persevered and are now in shock.

But, we are not in shock. We are happy to introduce Pearl to the world of mystery reading.Check out her links below. Pre-order your copy of The Devil’s Music.

Thank you, Pearl for joining me today. And, I encourage my readers to hook up with Pearl. She will soon begin a virtual blog tour where you can learn lots more about her. Be the first to comment on this blog and Pearl will send you one of her delightful stories.

Where to Find Pearl and her books

The Devil’s Music–Amazon

Pearl’s Website and blog where you can meet Emory and the characters who live in Twombly


Twitter @PearRlMeaker

Don’t forget to join the conversation and maybe win Pearl’s delightful story The Peach Tree.






Author Spotlight–Clea Simon

Clea-glasses-insetI’m thrilled to host Clea Simon today on my blog. She has written many wonderful cozy mysteries featuring several series characters but always a cat. Her cat mysteries are quite fun because she treats cats as cats. She doesn’t have cats do super-cat things.

You can read my review here.

Let’s get right on with some questions for Clea and I know you all want to hear about her latest release.

JC:  You are having such a prolific and successful writing career, Clea. When did you first start writing.

Clea: I’ve written for as long as I can remember – in elementary school, I used to make up stories and write them out as little books. But after graduating college, I drifted into journalism, because it seemed like the only career that was really open to me that would involve me writing. My first three books – all nonfiction – grew out of my journalism.

JC: I have a journalism background as well and I noted so does your series character, Theda. Let’s move on to my pressing question since I am such a cat lover. What made you decide to blend mysteries with cats?

Clea: For me, the big decision was to switch from nonfiction to writing mysteries (fiction) at all. I was always a reader of mysteries and I’d befriended the owner of a local mystery bookstore (Kate’s Mysteries) because I was such a regular. Kate Mattes, the owner, used to throw a holiday party that was pretty legendary – dozens of authors signing in the little house that held the shop, so many fans that the crowd would spill out onto the lawn… Well, my third nonfiction book involved cats (The Feline Mystique: On the Mysterious Connection Between Women and Cats, St. Martin’s), and Kate invited me to sign it at the party. I said, “but it’s not a mystery.” She said, “Clea, believe it or not, there’s quite a lot of crossover between women who love cats and mystery readers.” So I came and I signed and we all sold (and bought) lots of books and drank a lot of wine. And at the end of the night, Kate turned to me and said, “You should write a mystery.” And the next day, I started what became Mew is for Murder  (Poisoned Pen Press), my first mystery. My 17th mystery, Kittens Can Kill, comes out in March – and I now have two new series going – so I guess she was right.

JC: And, congratulations to you! And let me add my thanks of Kate. Introduce us to your current feline companions and tell us how they compare to the ones in your books.



Clea: Musetta, my current cat is the model for all the cats in my books, really. Both Theda Krakow and Dulcie Schwartz have tuxedo cats like her. My other heroine, Pru Marlowe, has a tabby named Wallis, but her attitude is pure Musetta. Musetta is a rescue kitty from Animal Rescue League of Boston. She rescued us!

JC: I enjoyed Theda Krakow. Tell us about her as a character.

Clea: Like many “first protagonists,” she’s based on me – I also left a newspaper job to freelance, and I was also a music critic. Theda is at a point in her life that many of us know – single, her friends are her family, and the music world – “clubland” – is where she and her friends gather, united by a shared love of/interest in live music.

JC:  You have a new series character Pru Marlowe. Tell us about her and what made you decide to create a new character.

Clea: I am currently writing two different series. The Dulcie Schwartz series started in 2009 with Shades of Grey (Severn House). Dulcie is a graduate student at Harvard. She is studying Gothic literature – full of ghosts and supernatural events – but she sees herself as quite rational. She is an academic, after all, but one afternoon she is visited by the ghost of her late, great cat, Mr. Grey, who warns her not to enter her apartment. She does anyway, and finds her roommate has been murdered… The most recent of the Dulcie/Mr Grey books is Stages of Grey, which Severn House published in the US in Oct. 

The Pru Marlowe pet noirs kicked off in 2011 with Dogs Don’t Lie (Poisoned Pen Press). I call them “pet noir,” because these are me writing dark – Pru is a tough girl, but she’s got an even tougher tabby, Wallis. Pru left her smalltown home for the big city, but after a brief, severe illness she has started being plagued by an annoying sensitivity …. She can hear what animals are thinking. Now, she has retreated back to her Berkshires hometown where she is working as a behaviorist. In this opening book, she finds a man dead and bloody by his distraught rescue dog. And she knows the dog didn’t do it…

JC: Wow! They both sound intriguing. I had wondered what you meant by “pet noir.” Thanks for clarifying that for us.  I, too, am working on a series and I wondered if you could share some of the challenges with developing a series.

Clea: Keeping all the minor characters straight! Also, coming up with plausible reasons for non-police to keep getting involved in crimes. But it’s fun. And  I love writing series because you don’t have to say goodbye to your characters just because you’ve finished a book.

JC: Nor do your readers have to say good-bye! We, readers get very attached to our characters as was illustrated when Arthur Conan Doyle tried to kill off Sherlock Holmes. 

JC: Give us an idea of how you went from an unpublished writer to published writer. What advice would you give new writers.

Clea: The ability to write is like a muscle. You have to work it – write every day. Write as much as you can. And learn to listen to criticism. Just writing without revising is pointless except as a journal exercise. If you want to get good, you have to listen to readers, to editors, to your colleagues. Write, write, write, revise, revise, revise. And never stop reading.

JC: What wonderful advice! Thank you. Now tell us about Clea. We know you’re an accomplished writer and that you love animals. What else would you like your readers to know.

Clea: I read a huge range of books. I’m a fan of Hilary Mantel and Anthony Trolloppe, and I’m just now finishing up the Jill Lepore book on the history of Wonder Woman. I think if you don’t read, you shouldn’t write. My husband is also a writer, and our house (and life) is filled with books!

Kittens Can Kill cover

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Here’s a blurb from Clea’s newest release that will come out on March 3, 2015. There’s lots of time for you to catch up with the series. KITTENS CAN KILL is the fifth Pru Marlowe pet noir published by Poison Pen.

The dead don’t keep pets. So when animal behaviorist expert Pru Marlowe gets a call about a kitten, she doesn’t expect to find the cuddly creature playing beside the cooling body of prominent Beauville lawyer David Canaday. Heart attack? His three adult daughters angrily blame drug interactions, feline allergies—and each other. And begin to feud over their father, his considerable estate, and that cute ball of fluff. While the cause of death is pending, each sister has an axe to grind—with arguments that escalate when David’s partner reads out the will. Pru’s special sensitivity to animals, which caused her to flee the cacophony of Manhattan for the quiet Berkshires, adds further problems. The local vet is overwhelmed as the animal hospital’s money runs out. There’s a needy Sheltie and some invasive squirrels, too. But the dead man’s kitten, his former partner, and his troublesome family keep drawing “wild-girl” animal psychic Pru back in. Despite the wry observations of her trusty tabby Wallis, now the wrongfully accused kitten’s guardian, and the grudging compliance of her cop lover, this may be one time when Pru can’t solve the mystery or save the kitten she wants to believe is innocent. A single witness knows the truth about that bright spring morning. How far can Pru investigate without risking her own hidden tale?


Follow Clea on Twitter @clea_simon. You can find all her books on Amazon and Barnes & Noble and all the major outlets. Or you can go to her website www.Cleasimon.com. Even better go to her delightful blog: Cats, Crime and Rock & Roll.



Virtual Blog Tour–An Intimate Murder by Stacie Verdick Case

Today I’m hosting a fellow mystery writer. Stacie Verdick Case recently released An Intimate Murder.
Stacy Verdick Case Photo

She is sharing some of her thoughts about mystery writing with us.

When you write mysteries, the biggest challenge an author faces is leaving the reader wanting more. I don’t just mean at the end of a book but at the end of scenes, and chapters too. The best compliment you can receive is, ‘I couldn’t put your book down,’ because it means you’ve done your job as a writer.

You have to hold back a little and at the same time, you have to reveal all. That sounds cryptic but if you read the genre you’ll know what I’m talking about. You have to hold enough information back to keep the reader intrigued, but give them all the same clues that your protagonist has in order to solve the crime. That’s a tough balance to maintain.

So how do you keep the reader reading? Think of holding back as an interruption, or a pause. Let me elaborate.

If your character opens a trunk to look inside, just as they’re about to discover something of significance buried there, you need to interrupt that moment. Gunshots will ring out to send the protagonist scurrying away. Of course it doesn’t have to be as dramatic as gunfire, it could be something as benign as someone calling from another room. Something delays discovery and makes your reader want to push forward and read on to find out what’s in the darn trunk!

I’ve read recommendations that you should end in the middle of action, in scenes and chapters. I sort of agree. I prefer to end where something begins, not really in the middle. My reason is if at the end of a chapter you’re thinking, ‘I’ll go to bed when I finish this chapter’, but you get to the end and something has just begun, chance are you’ll want to keep reading to find out where this is going. Stopping in the middle of the action can be awkward and hard to accomplish effectively.

Where should the break go? Well for me, because I’m not a plotter, it’s instinctive. I can feel while I’m writing that this is the spot. If you need a better guideline than instinct (all you plotters out there), it’s  where if your favorite show went to commercial break you’d leap out of your seat and yell at the TV. That’s the perfect spot to add a break. To put it another way it’s just after a major revelation.

I’ve read books where authors break in the middle of dialog. For me this is taking things a little too far. It’s annoying but not in the stay up all night reading sort of a way, more like the I’m going to drop this book in the nearest trash sort of a way. That’s not what we’re going for here. To me dialogue is one thing that should remain unbroken. Of course, now that I’ve said that someone will come along who breaks dialogue really well, and I will want to see how they did it, but so far it hasn’t happened.

Blurb for Stacie’s new release, An Intimate Murder

Cover_An Intimate Murder

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A Catherine O’Brien Mystery.

When Jonathan and Susan Luther are murdered in their home, St. Paul homicide detective Catherine O’Brien and her partner Louise discover this isn’t the first time the Luther family has been visited by tragedy. Is it a case of bad family luck or is there something more?


“Way to go, O’Brien.” Bob Shackelford leaned over my shoulder and tapped the newspaper. “Front page. I think that’s a first for you. Usually your tirades are limited to interoffice email. You’re really stepping up in the world.”

“Thanks, Shackelford. Say, you oughta have that growth looked at.”

“What growth.”

I pointed to his head. “Oh, never mind, it’s your face.”

“Haw, haw, O’Brien. Very childish”

He was right but it was the best I could manage on limited coffee.

He lifted the paper from my desk and unfolded it in mid-air. “At least the story appears on the bottom half of the front page. Hardly anyone looks at the bottom half.”

The headline read, Saint Paul Police Defensive Over Botched Investigation. Under the headline was a photo of me in front of Pam Hind’s house. The photographer had snapped the photo while I was speaking. My lips curled back from my teeth and I was pointing into the crowd. I looked like KC when he sees the neighbor’s cat on our porch.

Shackelford tweaked the edge of the paper. “It took me a whole ten seconds to skim down far enough to see this article.”

I snatched the paper from his hands and began to read.

Officer Catherine O’Brien, a seven-year veteran of the Saint Paul Police Department, gave an impromptu press conference outside the house of Mr. and Mrs. Jonathan Luther who were murdered inside their Saint Paul area home Tuesday morning.

Officer O’Brien, stumbled drunkenly down the sidewalk, scolded the media, and referred to the press as “vultures” after attempts to question the officer about the path of the homicide investigation. This outburst is just the latest in what has become a pattern of denial and hostility by the Saint Paul Police Department and crime lab when questions regarding investigative procedures arise.


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Be sure to comment today and visit Stacie’s other stops to enter to win a $50 Barnes and Noble GC to one winner, and a signed ARC of An Intimate Murder (US only) to two randomly drawn winners via rafflecopter during this tour and her review  tour.

Find Stacie on Goodreads, Facebook or her website, www.StacieVerdickCase.com  Twitter @SVerdickCase



Spotlight on Cozy Mystery Writer–Susan Bernhardt

Being a huge cozy mystery fan, I’m very excited to have fellow-mystery writer, Susan Bernhardt here to talk about her new release, Murder Under the Tree.

 Aren’t we all looking for a new writer? I’m happy to introduce you to one of my favorites. Welcome Susan!

Susan Book

JC: I know you began your career as a nurse. Tell us about your journey from nursing to writing.

SB: I’m a registered nurse and volunteer at my local free clinic. I started writing as a challenge to myself. I always was competitive in my younger years and as I got older I challenged myself in many things. I loved to read cozy mysteries and after reading many cozies in a series, I thought I could write a decent cozy. My challenge was to write a cozy, that would be traditionally published, and to see my mystery on Amazon. Also I wanted to sell a certain number of books that I have exceeded. I’m happy to say that my initial criteria was met.

JC: Congratulations for meeting your goals. Now, you have new goals. You indeed sound like a person who likes to stretch herself.  How has nursing played a part in your writing?


 She also volunteers at a free clinic. I draw from my own experience when describing the settings, Kay Driscoll’s activities, etc. I have scenarios that take place at the free clinic in The Ginseng Conspiracy and in Murder Under the Tree. However, the Kay Driscoll series is not a medical mystery series by any means.

JC: Yes, drawing from your experiences is a great way to write a compelling book. I know you said you like cozy mysteries, but my guess is you also read many other kinds of mystery–police procedural and detective stories. What made you decide on the cozy sub-genre?

SB: My love for the cozy played into my decision. It’s exciting and fun to write a mystery about a small town that holds wickedly, intriguing secrets and to have an amateur sleuth.

Everyone in a small town is right there. They can be watched, observed, questioned. Sudbury Falls in my mystery series is a charming, insular town where secrets, assumptions, and the relationships of the people are intense.

JC: Sudbury Falls sounds wonderful. Tell us about your delightful character Kay Driscoll and how you created her.

SB: Thank you, Joan. Kay Driscoll is actually based on myself, and her family is based on my family. You always hear, “Write what you know.” And that’s what I did.

Kay Driscoll is a newcomer to Sudbury Falls. She can take in the city with fresh eyes and sees things differently, from the people who live there. To quote a review, “Kay’s sweet, tough, vulnerable, and reckless in her sense of justice. She continues her pursuit for the truth, even when her life is in danger. “


Click cover to order

JC: And, so would you pursue the truth even when your life is in danger? 🙂 You don’t have to answer that one! Speaking of your reviewers, you have had some great reviews on Amazon. Many talk about the wonderful town of Sudbury Falls. Does your second mystery, Murder Under the Tree take place in the same town?


 The town’s population just keeps decreasing. 🙂  Sudbury Falls is inspired by the insular town in northern Wisconsin in which I live. I could give tours of Sudbury Falls, (and actually have) where the murders and other events from the mysteries take place.

JC: How cool of give tours of Sudbury Falls. Maybe you’d return to my blog and do that one day?

Writing a series takes a certain amount of finesse–not tell too much but making sure each book is a stand-alone.  What have you found to be some to the biggest challenges to writing a series?

SB: I think it’s easier to write a series than not.  In subsequent novels, the author already knows the main characters, the town, the homes and other places, like in my mystery, Sweet Marissa’s Patisserie, the crime fighting headquarters of The Ginseng Conspiracy.

The author needs to know when to end the series and move on to something new. After many novels, it would be difficult to keep up the level of excitement.

JC: I think after many novels it would be difficult to keep up with a lot of things. I don’t know how people like Martha Grimes do it. I know my readers want to hear more about your new release


Click cover to order

While Kay attends a Christmas tea at Hawthorne Hills Retirement Home, a beloved caretaker dies from an allergic reaction to peanuts. When the official coroner’s report rules the cause of death to be accidental, a small group of   residents suspect foul play and call upon Kay to investigate. 

Kay uncovers sinister plots of fraud, revenge, and corruption at the Home. During this season of peace on earth, good will to men, additional murders occur. Despite multiple attempts on her life, and with the support once again of her best friends, Elizabeth and Deirdre, Kay continues her quest for bringing justice for the victims. 

Kay’s first Christmas in Sudbury Falls is an unforgettable one, with equal amounts of celebration and danger. Tis the season to be sleuthing!

The Ginseng Conspiracy and Murder Under the Tree by Susan Bernhardt can be purchased at: Amazon, iTunes, Barnes and Noble, MuseItUp Publishing, Kobo Publishing.

Connect with Susan

Website: www.susanbernhardt.com

Twitter: @SusanBernhardt1

Author FB page: https://www.facebook.com/TheGinsengConspiracyBySusanKBernhardt

Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/skbernha/


Spotlight on Thriller Writer–Stuart R. West

Stuart R West-1

Today we are fortunate to have Mr. West here to answer a few questions and tell us more about the behind-the-scenes in the creation of this amazing psychological thriller. BTW, read the review of Godland I posted on Monday.

JC: Welcome, Stuart. I’m very excited to talk to you today. The first thing I thought about when I was reading Godland was how in the world did the author come up with the idea to write such a book. So, tell us, what sparked this story?

Godland 200x300

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West:  Joan, actually it started with the characters.

 I thought of four of the most different characters I could create. Then the plot just sorta’ came together after that. Actually, it was the second book I wrote. It took quite a while to gel.

JC: One thing I loved was the way you introduced the characters. I wondered how you’d  link them. Then, you skillfully showed the connection. It did feel as if the reader was experiencing a puzzle and suddenly all the pieces fit. And, indeed the characters fascinating. The most appealing is a fifteen-year-old girl. Your fans know you have written YA books. How did your experience as a YA writer contribute to Shannon’s character?

West: Not sure my YA books prepped me for this sucker. But having a recently graduated high school daughter, I had first-hand experience in watching teens, how they interact, the whole nine yards. Quite a different world. They’re welcome to it. LOL.

JC: The way you developed both Shannon and Lindsay felt very real. Your teenage daughter has taught you a lot! Let’s look at your writing style for a moment.

I enjoyed the page-turner aspect of it—short sentences, short chapters with many breaks. Tell us how you came about this style of writing.

West: Joan, I think you kinda’ need a short, snappy style for this genre. Maybe I’m wrong. But it does lend immediacy and urgency toward the stuff going on. I find action the toughest thing to write. I’d much rather be wallowing in character-building, psychological issues, and mood setting. My style kinda’ changes, depending on the book I’m writing. Usually, I like to put a lotta’ humor in my tales. Godland? Not much to laugh about.


Even though you say you like wallowing in character-building and psychological issues, you managed to do that without the wallowing. The short crisp writing in the mind of the character did it for you. And these characters have some major mental issues–One is a narcissist another is a psychopath and another is mentally challenged. What research did you need to do to create these kinds of mental illnesses?

WestUm, no real research.

 Love when that happens. Edwin’s loosely based on my grandfather (whom I barely remember. But I certainly remember my dad’s stories about him).

JC: Besides having believable characters your action scenes are very believable. I can envision you acting them out in your living room (ha!). How did you create them in such detail?

West: By swinging a light sabre around in the TV room, of course! (My dog thinks I’m crazy).

JC: My mind cannot fathom the TV room scene. But, I can clearly envision the rural Kansas setting. Tell us about the setting. How did this setting contribute to the suspenseful nature of the book?

West: Well, the old adage is, write what you know. For better or worse, I know Kansas. Lived in a Kansas City suburb all my life. Visited relative’s farms. I’m pretty familiar with the terrain. In many ways, people think of the Midwest as epitomizing the heart of America. Solid family values, strong work ethics, “aw, shucks” Mayberry folks never giving it up. But that’s not the Kansas I see. It’s creepy. There’s still an active Klan. Lots of black magic worshipping and animal sacrifices. More serial killers than you can shake a stick at. Gun laws that would make Charlton Heston turn over in his grave. I’m trying to scratch the hidden underbelly of Kansas, exposing the moral decay, hypocrisy, and evil at its core. For crying out loud, Kansas just passed a law stating restaurant owners can deny service to anyone they think might be gay if it offends their religious beliefs!!!

 I never planned it that way. But someone’s gotta’ do it. I guess.

Godland 200x300

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JC: Makes me really not want to go there. Indeed, rural Georgia sounds similar. Deliverance created the same scary location in Georgia that you captured in rural Kansas.  Remote, isolated, full of hidden secrets and hypocrisy.  Can’t wait to see the movie version of Godland.

You’ve described yourself as a pantser. Most readers do not understand what that word means to us writers.  For me that means that characters often pop up when I’m not expecting them. What does the term pantser mean to you in your writing style?

West:  Let the characters take me on a trip. Just not so enjoyable at times.

JC:  I’m not one to read horror books. I was surprised to see your book in the horror genre. I see it more as a suspense, finger-nail biting book (Is that what horror is?). Tell us what you mean by “horror.”

West: To tell you the truth, I think I did Godland an injustice by categorizing it as horror. You’re right. It’s more of a dark suspense thriller. I may’ve limited the audience by hanging the horror plate on its’ back-end. There’re plenty of horrific elements. But, no, there’re no supernatural shenanigans going on. I like to think of Godland as the Texas Chainsaw Massacre told with sensitivity. Um, did that sound dumb?

 Let’s let the readers decide. Here’s a short blurb about Godland:

An embittered farmer. A New York corporate raider. Two teenage high school girls. A failed small business owner. Past and present collide, secrets are revealed. These disparate people gather at a desolate Kansas farm for a hellish night not everyone will survive.

Godland is a dark psychological suspense horror thiller. A Midwestern nightmare. Farm noir.

As for me, I will suggest to my friends that Godland is a great read whether you call it a horror or a psychological thriller.

JC: Finally, Stuart, what do you hope readers will say about Godland?

West:  Call Homeland Security! This guy’s a threat!

It was great fun having Stuart here today. We invite you to ask your own questions. Meantime, do not waste another minute. You can order Godland at all the e-book outlets, including Amazon, B&N as well as MuseItUp Publishing bookstore.

Keep the lights on while you read!



Spotlight on Author, J. R. Lindermuth

One of the pleasures I have as a writer is meeting other authors. What fun it was to run into the wonderful crime writer, J.R Lindermuth. He agreed to join us today and share something about his writing career and his new book, A Burning Desire.A Burning Desrie COVER

J.R began his career as a newspaperman. He is now a librarian in an historical library. During his “retirement” he has published 26 books! Three pages listed on Amazon. Wow. I can’t even imagine. And, if I’ve miscounted, I’m sure my readers will forgive me. The bottom-line is that J.R. is a prolific writer.

JC: Thank you for taking the time away from your writing to join us today. As I said, you went from a newspaperman to a novelist. Tell us about that transition.


 It was the Army decided I had the makings of a journalist and sent me to J-school. That provided me the means to make a living, with no heavy-lifting involved, while I sought markets for my fiction.

Finding those markets took longer than I might have liked. But being a reporter covering a variety of beats and later an editor gave me a wealth of experiences and skills which have helped my other writing.

JC: I, too, have a journalism background and I found it to be most helpful in my writing. I learned things like how to think at the keyboard (very helpful to a writer) and how to write succinctly.  I have no experience as a librarian, however. My guess is your work in the library, particularly in the area of genealogy brings another dimension to your writing.


J.R. Lindermuth


 You gain an insight into people and how they struggle to meet the challenges life throws at them. This helps the writer to create realistic characters, to portray motivation and to understand people throughout history have coped with the same issues, experienced the same emotions, though influenced by the time in which they live.

JC: I’m sure your work with helping people uncover the people of their past has helped you to create the fascinating array of characters you’ve introduced to readers. But, looking over the wide number of books you’ve published–crime thrillers to a Christmas story–what do you enjoy writing the most?

JRL:  I cannot tell a lie—mystery/suspense is my favorite genre. And, if you read any of my other stories or novels, you’ll always find some sort of mystery element embedded.

JC: Many writers struggle along the path to publication. Tell us about your journey.

JRL: It was a long and often frustrating process. I worked for nearly 40 years as a reporter and/or editor. During that period I published short stories and articles in a variety of magazines.  Novels went out and rapidly returned with a “thanks, but no thanks” response.  A veteran New York agent took me on and then died. I kept trying.

I didn’t succeed in publishing a novel until after my retirement. That novel, “Schlussel’s Woman,” a historical mystery, was accepted by a publisher who went bust before the book could be released. Lacking the many options available now, I published it and another through iUniverse before landing a contract with Whiskey Creek Press in 2006 for the first in the Hetrick series.

JC: OMG! Talk about bad luck. First your agent dies and then your publisher goes bust. You are a great role model for the aspiring writers out there. The goal is to persevere no matter what. Congratulations on doing that.

Check out JRL’s blog Lindy’s Lair. How do you find time to write your books and to blog regularly?

JRL: We’re told these days blogging is an important aspect of building a marketing brand. I’m not entirely sold on that. Don’t misunderstand—there are some very good blogs out there. But the energy it takes to produce them on a daily or weekly basis detracts from the writing of fiction, which is a wholly different animal.

I probably should blog more often than I do. My preference is to do a blog when a subject grabs me and not because of any schedule imperative.

JC: Let’s talk a moment about your characters.  In one of your blog posts you wrote:

Give us an example of when you were surprised

JRL:  I’m not much of an outliner.  I like to come up with a basic crime/idea and then see where my characters go with it.

For instance, “The Limping Dog,” a standalone novel, is about the theft of an innovative microprocessor system. But my initial impression was of a man knocking on a door. He turned out to be an insurance investigator who had a different intent, which eventually circled back to the same crime.

In the seventh Hetrick novel, which I’ve just submitted to the publisher, Officer Flora Vastine, Stick’s protégé, who was a minor character in the first book, takes over as protagonist. Sticks, Harry and Brubaker are all there, but Flora takes precedence in the investigation.

JC: That sounds wonderful. I get very attached to all the characters in series novels. Sometimes I think the secondary characters are more interesting than the protagonist. It’s exciting to hear that you took a secondary character and developed her into a protagonist.

Writing a series is very challenging. You’ve written two series: the first with the protagonist Stick Hetrick (7 novels) and two books starring Sheriff Tilghman. What have you found to be the biggest challenges with writing series characters?

JRL: Making sure your character continues to grow. Change is a part of life and if that doesn’t happen with your characters, they will grow stale and become mere caricatures. Hetrick, for example, has moved on from his original position as a consultant to his successor as police chief to a new job as county detective and from a widower to a man with a renewed love life.

JC: I know my readers are dying to learn more about A Burning Desire. Here’s a short blurb:

 Officer Flora Vastine as an outbreak of arson shakes residents of rural Swatara Creek, Pennsylvania

At first, the minor nature of the fires inclines authorities to see them as pranks, possibly the work of juveniles. Then, tension increases in the wake of a murder at the site of one fire and an increase in the value of targets.

Thank you for being with us today. Tell us where we can find all your books.

JRL: I’m a member of EPIC, International Thriller Writers and, currently, vice president of the Short Mystery Fiction Society. There are no independent booksellers in my immediate area (the closest are about 60 miles distant). The historical society library has been generous in allowing me to display my books for sale and I depend a lot on the support of area public libraries and the fans I’ve gathered over the years. Like many in a similar position, on line promotion is vital to getting the name out there.

My website is http://www.jrlindermuth.net


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