Guest Blogger: Jeri Westerson

History and the Religious Thriller

By Jeri Westerson

When you write about the medieval period, religion looms large. Of course, I’m talking the Catholic Church when it truly was a universal (catholic) church, where everyone who was Christian was Catholic and any reformists were to be condemned. In the time period that I write—late fourteenth England—being a reformist was dangerous but not necessarily life-threatening. That was later, in the fifteenth century (after all, no one expects the Spanish Inquisition).

I’m always looking for something interesting for my disgraced-knight-turned-detective Crispin Guest to deal with, besides murder. And I remembered reading about the Judas Gospel a few years ago. It’s only one of several “apocryphal” gospels, meaning “hidden”, or those that weren’t accepted at the time when the early Church fathers were deciding what to include in the New Testament, like the Gospel of Thomas and the Gospel of Mary Magdalene. But the Gospel of Judas would be sufficiently intriguing and dangerous enough for my detective to discover and try to fend off forces beyond his control. Judas is the “traitor” in TRAITOR’S CODEX, but the “traitor” is also Crispin, whose treason got him disgraced and banished from court in the first place.

By delving into its strange history, the religious reformers of the day (called Lollards), and getting him mixed up in murders and a mysterious agent of the Church out to get this book to destroy it, Crispin has his hands full doing his detecting.

The Judas Gospel, as did many of the apocryphal gospels, had a different voice from the four chosen gospels we know of today. It follows a very spiritually eastern path with its emphasis on one’s inner divinity, and that Judas was the favored Apostle not John, the one to whom Jesus entrusted this distinctly different philosophy. It’s presence certainly made Crispin think about what it means to be a faithful Christian, when the most auspicious decision one could make in the day was whether to follow the orthodoxy of the Church, or follow Lollard tenets. Lollards did not believe, for instance, that baptism and confession were necessary for salvation. They believed in the laity reading scripture in their own language and they considered asking intercession of saints and statues a form of idolatry—essentially, the beliefs that would eventually come to fruition in Henry VIII’s reformation in the sixteenth century.

When I started writing my series, I was interested in the medieval setting, with its mores and society so very different from our own. The challenge was to world-build just enough so that readers not wholly familiar with the fourteenth century and the court of Richard II, would be able to relate to my characters. Authenticity sometimes wars with accuracy (I give you the taste of the language, for instance, instead of writing it in Middle English), but history is never sacrificed for plot. Sometimes it’s tight-rope walking that fine line, but it’s never dull.

Disgraced knight turned detective Crispin Guest is caught in a deadly conspiracy within the Church to suppress what they consider a dangerous relic from falling into the hands of the reformist Lollards. But murder and betrayal are the coin of the realm amid the turmoil stirred up by a mysterious nemesis. Crispin struggles to find a killer and might have to bring a painful truth to light while avoiding falling into the lethal hands of a shadow organization within the Church.
Buy links: Amazon https://www.amazon.com/Traitors-Codex-Crispin-Guest-Mystery/dp/0727888757/ref=sr_1_1?crid=2BH7SKBABH45&keywords=traitors+codex&qid=1561419959&s=gateway&sprefix=traitors+codex%2Caps%2C248&sr=8-1Barnes & Noble https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-traitors-codex-jeri-westerson/1130151313?ean=9780727888754#/Indiebound  https://www.indiebound.org/book/9780727888754Google Play https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Jeri_Westerson_Traitor_s_Codex?id=7MeDDwAAQBAJKobo https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/traitor-s-codex

Los Angeles native JERI WESTERSON is the author of twelve Crispin Guest Medieval Noir Mystery novels, a series nominated for thirteen national awards from the Agatha to the Shamus. Jeri also writes the urban fantasy series, BOOKE OF THE HIDDEN. She has served two terms as president of the Southern California Chapter of Mystery Writers of America, twice president of the Orange County Chapter of Sisters in Crime, and as vice president and California Crime Writers Conference co-chair for the Los Angeles Chapter of Sisters in Crime. See more about Jeri at JeriWesterson.com or visit BOOKEoftheHIDDEN.com

Social Media:Facebook https://www.facebook.com/author.westerson Instagram  https://www.instagram.com/jeriwestersonauthor/
Pinterest  https://www.pinterest.com/jeriwesterson/

Guest: Lori Robinett

Why do I write thrillers?

I write thrillers for the same reason I read them – I’m a chicken. I’ve toyed with the idea of getting my PI license or going to the police academy, but . . .

During a police ride-along, the line between imaginary and real was highlighted for me. Downtown beat. Night shift. Before I went, I researched protocol, questions to ask, how to act. I felt REAL as I climbed into the powerful SUV, with rifle behind my head and a Toughbook in my lap.

Our first call was a gang of 20+ people, shots fired. We raced to the scene.  Gary (not his real name) angled the vehicle across the street, told me to stay put, jumped out and locked the vehicle with a beep. People ran, angry shouts could be heard. Others approached the SUV, one guy sneering at me through the passenger window, teeth bared. After things were sorted out, we were off, hurrying from call to call. To the ER for a rape. To a high rise apartment for a man who wondered if his TV was too loud (yeah, seriously). To a robbery. To a threatened suicide. To runaways.

About the time my ridealong was scheduled to be over, we responded to a low-income apartment building I recognized from frequent appearances on the local news. Another officer met us there and warned Gary to leave me in the SUV because the subject was known to “get hairy.” Gary assured me I’d be able to hear everything he said and, again, locked me in the vehicle.

As I sat in the dark, I listened. The officers knocked, announced themselves. A man’s voice answered, loudly. A crash. Yelling, more crashes, more yelling. Something slammed into a wall. Someone grunted.  More yelling. Then . . . a loud bang.

 Someone’s been shot. I took a deep breath, looked in the side mirror and thought, what  am I doing here?

The radio crackled. “Need a bus!”

Lights strobe in the darkness as more patrol cars and an ambulance converged on the scene.  My heart pounded. People began to wander past and looked into the SUV, probably wondering who the middle-aged white lady was.

More yelling, more thumps and grunts, then “Officer 443 en route to hospital.”

Oh, that’s not good. Officer 443 is my guy.

There I sat, alone. In a bad part of town. Late at night. But, I reasoned, I was sitting in a police vehicle. Surely, somebody’d come back for it, right? They probably didn’t care about a writer, but the SUV, that was different. So, I settled in and watched. And scribbled notes.

And Gary did return. An hour later. The perp had attempted suicide by overdose, but he’d failed. Instead, he went nuts and attacked one of the paramedics. Gary had restrained the guy while the paramedics worked on him as they raced to the hospital.

Yup, I’ll stick to writing about crime. It’s easier, and much less dangerous.

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Fatal Obsession is the most recent Widow’s Web novel – an exciting series where women face challenges that threaten to destroy them, just as they begin to find the strengths within them.

Sophie grew up in the foster care system, an orphan separated from her brother after their parents are killed. After she marries Blake Kendrick and gets pregnant, she’s thrilled that she’s finally part of a real family. When she learns that her husband, a brilliant cancer researcher, has experimented on their unborn child, her world shatters. The powerful man her husband works for is determined to get that child, to use the research within Sophie’s body to save his dying mother. Sophie is forced to go on the run, terrified of what might be growing within her, worried that her baby might need treatment by the very man who is hunting them. The skills she learned in foster care serve her well as she must discriminate between who she can trust and who she can’t, who is a real friend and who is a threat. All the while, an experiment grows within her . . . will they survive?

All ebook buy links are available here:

https://books.pronoun.com/fatal-obsession/

img_0028-002Lori Robinett is the author of the Widow’s Web series. She lives in central Missouri with her husband of 20+ years on a small hobby farm, which is maintained exclusively for the comfort and enjoyment of their miniature schnauzer and beagle. She enjoys reading, writing, and scrapbooking. If you can’t find her, check out the backroads, where she may be bouncing along dirt roads in her lifted Jeep.

Social Media links:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LoriLRobinettauthor/

Twitter: @LoriRobinett https://twitter.com/LoriRobinett

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/LoriLRobinett/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/llrobinett/

Website: http://lorilrobinett.com

Guest – D.J. Adamson

18c9df8f-826a-4eda-93a2-fc844dea3118  The act of self-promotion. Getting Out There!

I worked in sales and marketing before deciding to self-publish. This background gave me the confidence to go forward. I’d trained many people to successfully sell and market. Combining what I knew before with what I know now, allows me to pass on some of the tips I’ve learned about selling and marketing my books.

At the beginning, I mimicked what others were doing.  I played with social media, went to conferences and networked, purchased promotional packages.  Did I have success?  Some. But nothing that put me on the Amazon’s  “most sales list” or matched Hugh Howie’s numbers.

As a past business person, I know a business needs to eventually run in the black. Maybe not the first year, but eventually.  So after two years, I pulled up my expenses and balanced them with my assets.  DEPRESSING.  Yet, instead of discouraging me, it has motivated me to do it all differently. Here is what I have found:

  1. I no longer go to conferences unless the attendees include readers as well as writers.  Writers don’t buy books. Or very few. I’m a reader and have an addiction for anything on paper.
  2. I go to conferences that are close by and don’t cost a flight and hotel to attend. One conference cost me two thousand dollars and I sold one book. I joined active association, like Sisters in Crime, National Women’s Book Association, SCBWI, Mystery Writers of America. I became active. If I wasn’t active, I generally found excuses not to go to the meetings. Kind of like having a gym membership.
  3. I remind myself that I am as good as my last book. I have received one award and was nominated for another. I have received 4+ stars on my novels. Many Goodreads people “Want to Read” my work. But, sales diminish after the book has been out there for a year. I need to produce one to two novels a year. And let me emphasis, Good Novels. That means, I need to be disciplined in my schedule, working on my writing at least four to six hours a day, and I spend about five hours a week on social networking and promoting.
  4. I used to work many social networks. Now, I am only on Facebook and Twitter. Trying to do it all meant I didn’t do any of it very well.  I also limit how much I promote my books, only doing so when I have a special promotion going on, revealing a new cover or mentioning a launch.  Don’t you thumb right past those twenty posts requesting, “Read My Book”?

I use social networking for networking, not marketing. I meet new people in the industry and by putting myself out there, I am received.

  1. I use my Kindle freebies only before I launch a new book.  I hold maybe one/two .99 cent promotions. I try to do a Goodreads giveaway once a month.  I offer two, sometimes three books.  I send them by camel.
  2. I use snail mail to keep others updated on my new work. I’ve found postal mail more beneficial than email. It takes nothing to hit the delete button on a computer. The person getting the postcard has to see what the card is about and who it’s from before giving it a toss in the trash basket.
  3. I set a dollar limit for promoting a book. If you look around, you’ll realize a whole industry has been developed to swallow author’s dollars, promising to get their books noticed. I have limited my promotional money to $500 a book. I know that sounds low, but I think I have sold more books in this past year than the two years combined. I advertise on free or low-cost sites. Amazon ads have been very successful, and the cost is low. Finding a way to get to readers or promote without spending a lot of money has become actually very fun. I had Fiverr.com create my book trailers. Go to my website http://www.djadamson.com to see for yourself. They aren’t bad. They are also on YouTube, and go figure this, the trailer of Outré has been seen by almost five thousand viewers. Did that turn into sales. Probably not. But five thousand people learned my name. Like a shampoos brand, Clairol. You may not buy it, but you recognize it as a shampoo.
  4. I put myself out there by creating a newsletter. Le Coeur de l’Artiste reviews books and interviews authors. I publish it monthly. It comes out, like any other deadlined project, on the 15th of every month. Sometimes not until midnight, but one minute before, I press the send button. The newsletter has not necessarily created sales, but it has branded my name a bit as a writer. Plus, I find a great satisfaction in promoting other authors.

Stephen King said in his work On Writing that to write you need to read a lot. You need to read what is good and what is bad. I read at least 5-6 books a month, just for the newsletter. I also try to read one or two books on promotion and craft.

  1. I began accumulating email addresses as soon as the newsletter idea came to me. So far, my Le Coeur de l’Artiste list is almost two thousand readers. I don’t promote myself in the newsletter, but it can be found on my website. I also offer it to many readers as a PDF. The newsletter has been so well accepted that I now have a blog, L’Artiste, that spends a little longer with an author and their work. I produce it three times a month. I also include others besides authors: musicians, scriptwriters, playwrights, etc. The blog emphasizes that getting the story out has many forms.
  2. There are great books out there by people offering promotional ideas. Read them all. Take an idea, put it on a card, then try it out. One idea at a time. If it doesn’t feel good to you or didn’t pan out, throw the card away and pick up another.  Don’t be bashful, ask others for their promote stories. I have rarely been told to “beat it.” In fact, I think it’s a writer’s responsibility to help other writers. We all know how defeatist we can feel when things aren’t going well.

I am not sure I was helpful to anyone reading this. I am merely sharing my experience so far. I want to write for a long time, which means I need to be sensible about what I do, both with time and money. It might also sound like my whole life is consumed behind my computer.  I still teach a full load of classes, grade papers, make dinner, clean house, and find the time to give my family a hug. Keeping to a schedule helps manage everything. Plus, I am my own boss when it comes to this publishing gig. If I want to take a day off, I do. I just don’t miss a deadline. Readers might fire me!

Putting yourself out there is the ultimate KEY to being SUCCESSFUL.  Please share with me your promotional stories, both the horror stories and those that gave you some success. You can reach me on Facebook, Twitter, or my Website. And don’t miss the latest issue of Le Coeur de l’Artiste.

me-3D. J. Adamson is the author of the Lillian Dove Mystery series and the Deviation science fiction-suspense trilogy.  Suppose, the second in the Lillian series has just been released.  She also teaches writing and literature at Los Angeles colleges. And to keep busy when she is not writing or teaching, she is the Membership Director of the Los Angeles Sisters in Crime, Vice President of Central Coast Sisters in Crime and an active member of the Southern California Mystery Writers. Her books can be found and purchased in bookstores and on Amazon. To find her, her blog L’Artiste, or her newsletter that interviews and reviews authors go to http://www.djadamson.com. Make friends with her on Facebook or Goodreads.

 

Guest Blogger -D.J. Williams

I sat across from Michael Connelly’s agent and wondered how I ended up there. To say that Connelly was an influence in my pursuit to be a storyteller would be an understatement. Along with Grisham and Patterson, he is in the top three of my favorite authors. Connelly’s agent had read my first novel, The Disillusioned, or at least enough of it to request a meeting. I listened as he shared how they had built Connelly’s career culminating with finalizing the Amazon deal for Bosch. I shared with him a story idea that had been resonating for a few years and knew from his response that I had something unique.
When I left his office I knew that The Disillusioned was only the first novel in the Guardian series. But what was next? As I thought about my story idea and my conversation with Connelly’s agent, I had a moment of inspiration. To move the series ahead, a story from the 1920’s would become an underlying mystery revealed throughout the series. It wasn’t enough on it’s own. The challenge was to bridge the gap between these two eras. Eight months later I had a first draft of Waking Lazarus, an epic global adventure filled with riveting characters and page turning twists and turns. While I had written a first draft of Waking Lazarus in less than a year, it took months of rewriting and editing to cross the finish line.
I write in this genre because I love mysteries filled with suspense. I love the rush of diving into a scene and seeing what happens next. And I love writing stories that go beyond entertainment. As you’ll find in the first two novels of the Guardian series there are key themes of light versus darkness, religion versus faith, and power versus innocence that drives the characters forward. You’ll also find that there are strong female characters and colorful settings throughout to keep readers on edge.
One month ago, Waking Lazarus was released worldwide. Once again I’ve been humbled to capture the attention of industry veterans including Peter Anderson, Oscar Winner/Cinematographer, who has endorsed this latest adventure, “Waking Lazarus is a captivating visual story with a colorful narrative. Once I started reading, it was hard to put down.”
I will always remember those few hours being taught a master class in how to build a series that could potentially go the distance. Thank you Michael Connelly’s agent for imparting your words of wisdom!
Lazarus
Waking Lazarus
by D.J. Williams
Jake Harris’ life hasn’t turned out the way he planned. Battling his addictions, and the shattered pieces of his family, he is hired to ghostwrite a memoir. From the 1920’s story of a controversial evangelist, to the present day mystery of a former District Attorney, everything changes when his search for the truth leads to an atrocity hidden from history. With a past he can’t remember, he begins to discover that he is not the person he believed himself to be. Rather, he is a threat to a secret society that has remained in the shadows for nearly a century. Jake is drawn deep inside a world he never knew existed that brings him closer to his own extraordinary destiny.
 

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Sleuthing Women: 10 First-in-Series Mysteries

The Alvarez Family Murder Mysteries

By Heather Haven

I’d like to think the Alvarez Family Murder Mystery Series was a carefully thought out project, but I have a feeling it more or less evolved. When I started out, I knew I wanted to write a mystery series with a human and lovable protagonist, Lee Alvarez, who had a few things going for her. Not perfect, but striving. I didn’t want yet another protagonist who learned nothing, who was ostracized from those she loved, who owned one crummy black skirt and life was one, long penance. Lee Alvarez loves life. She’s funny and learns from her mistakes. Like most of us, she grows as she goes along. After all, life is what happens while you’re making other plans. Lee’s lucky in that she has strong familial support to see her through it all, even though they are often a pain in her jazzercised derriere.

It was also important for my series to include two important elements:  the recently immigrated, which is one of America’s best natural resources, and the family unit.  Hence, the Alvarez Family Murder Mystery Series, a family of detectives, was born. The first book – which took me so long to write, planets formed and decayed in the interim – I knew had to be called Murder is a Family Business to set the tone for the series. However, the Alvarez family is a little off-center. They aren’t the ‘classic’ family i.e., father, mother, sister, brother, and large dog, all driving around in a shiny SUV eating Snickerdoos. Of course, these days a family like that is harder to find than a dinosaur with feathers. Oh, wait a minute. Archaeologists are digging those up all the time from unsuspecting peoples’ backyards. That means the Ozzie and Harriet family does still exist somewhere. Helloooooo out there!

Initially, the book was represented by an agent, but it was going no place fast.  I saw an Internet ad and sent the manuscript off to an online publishing house, with no hopes whatsoever for publication. I sent it because I believe Isaac Asimov is right about Perseverance, “you must keep sending work out; you must never let a manuscript do nothing but eat its head off in a drawer.” Within three-days I had a contract for the first book, Murder is a Family Business, and two months later for the 2nd book of the series, A Wedding to Die For. So you never know. Keep sending your work out, is the lesson here. And never lose the faith.

I’m in the throes of editing the 5th book of the series, The CEO Came DOA. If the publishers and the readers are happy, I’ll just keep on writing about my wonderful Alvarez Family. They are so fun and I love it. Plus I get to be all the characters, including the cat!

I am proud to say Murder is a Family Business, Book 1 of the Alvarez Family Murder Mysteries, is included in Sleuthing Women: 10 First-in-Series Mysteries. The lineup of the other nine authors is impressive. It includes Lois Winston, Jonnie Jacobs, Judy Alter, Maggie Toussaint, Camille Minichino, Susan Santangelo, Mary Kennedy, RP Dahlke, Vinnie Hansen, and yours truly. We are a murdering lot, but fun!sleuthing women 3-D.2

Sleuthing Women: 10 First-in-Series Mysteries is a collection of full-length mysteries featuring murder and assorted mayhem by ten critically acclaimed, award-winning, and bestselling authors. Each novel in the set is the first book in an established multi-book series—a total of over 3,000 pages of reading pleasure for lovers of amateur sleuth, caper, and cozy mysteries, with a combined total of over 1700 reviews on Amazon, averaging 4 stars. Titles include:

Assault With a Deadly Glue Gun, an Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery by Lois Winston—Working mom Anastasia is clueless about her husband’s gambling addiction until he permanently cashes in his chips and her comfortable middle-class life craps out. He leaves her with staggering debt, his communist mother, and a loan shark demanding $50,000. Then she’s accused of murder…

Murder Among Neighbors, a Kate Austen Suburban Mystery by Jonnie Jacobs — When Kate Austen’s socialite neighbor, Pepper Livingston, is murdered, Kate becomes involved in a sea of steamy secrets that bring her face to face with shocking truths—and handsome detective Michael Stone.

Skeleton in a Dead Space, a Kelly O’Connell Mystery by Judy Alter—Real estate isn’t a dangerous profession until Kelly O’Connell stumbles over a skeleton and runs into serial killers and cold-blooded murderers in a home being renovated in Fort Worth. Kelly barges through life trying to keep from angering her policeman boyfriend Mike and protect her two young daughters.

In for a Penny, a Cleopatra Jones Mystery by Maggie Toussaint—Accountant Cleo faces an unwanted hazard when her golf ball lands on a dead banker. The cops think her BFF shot him, so Cleo sets out to prove them wrong. She ventures into the dating world, wrangles her teens, adopts the victim’s dog, and tries to rein in her mom…until the killer puts a target on Cleo’s back.

The Hydrogen Murder, a Periodic Table Mystery by Camille Minichino—A retired physicist returns to her hometown of Revere, Massachusetts and moves into an apartment above her friends’ funeral home. When she signs on to help the Police Department with a science-related homicide, she doesn’t realize she may have hundreds of cases ahead of her.

Retirement Can Be Murder, A Baby Boomer Mystery by Susan Santangelo—Carol Andrews dreads her husband Jim’s upcoming retirement more than a root canal without Novocain. She can’t imagine anything worse than having an at-home husband with time on his hands and nothing to fill it—until Jim is suspected of murdering his retirement coach.

Dead Air, A Talk Radio Mystery by Mary Kennedy—Psychologist Maggie Walsh moves from NY to Florida to become the host of WYME’s On the Couch with Maggie Walsh. When her guest, New Age prophet Guru Sanjay Gingii, turns up dead, her new roommate Lark becomes the prime suspect. Maggie must prove Lark innocent while dealing with a killer who needs more than just therapy.

A Dead Red Cadillac, A Dead Red Mystery by RP Dahlke—When her vintage Cadillac is found tail-fins up in a nearby lake, the police ask aero-ag pilot Lalla Bains why an elderly widowed piano teacher is found strapped in the driver’s seat. Lalla confronts suspects, informants, cross-dressers, drug-running crop dusters, and a crazy Chihuahua on her quest to find the killer.

Murder is a Family Business, an Alvarez Family Murder Mystery by Heather Haven—Just because a man cheats on his wife and makes Danny DeVito look tall, dark and handsome, is that any reason to kill him? The reluctant and quirky PI, Lee Alvarez, has her work cut out for her when the man is murdered on her watch. Of all the nerve.

Murder, Honey, a Carol Sabala Mystery by Vinnie Hansen—When the head chef collapses into baker Carol Sabala’s cookie dough, she is thrust into her first murder investigation. Suspects abound at Archibald’s, the swanky Santa Cruz restaurant where Carol works. The head chef cut a swath of people who wanted him dead from ex-lovers to bitter rivals to greedy relatives.

Buy Links

KindleNook  /  Kobo  /  iTunes
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Bio: After studying drama at the University of Miami in Miami, Florida, Heather Haven went to Manhattan to pursue a career. There she wrote short stories, novels, comedy acts, television treatments, ad copy, commercials, and two one-act plays, which were produced at Playwrights Horizon and well-received. Once she even ghostwrote a book on how to run an employment agency. She was unemployed at the time.

One of her first paying jobs was writing a love story for a book published by Bantam called Moments of Love. She had a deadline of one week but promptly came down with the flu. Heather wrote “The Sands of Time” with a raging temperature, and delivered some pretty hot stuff because of it. Her stint at New York City’s No Soap Radio – where she wrote comedic ad copy – helped develop her long-time love affair with comedy

Heather lives in the foothills of San Jose with her husband of 34-years and her two cats, Yulie and Ellie. She is currently writing her ninth novel.

http://www.heatherhavenstories.com/

https://www.facebook.com/HeatherHavenStories

Twitter@HeatherHaven

Email me at: Heather@HeatherHavenStories.com

Guest Blogger – Nina Mansfield

Why YA?

By Nina Mansfield

Often, when people hear I’ve written a young adult novel, they say something like: “Ooo, YA is really hot right now.” This statement often carries the implication I chose to write YA because the genre happens to be popular at the moment.

Other times, I’ll get a very different reaction that goes something like this: “Well, I know YA is ‘in’, but…” In the silence I can hear the words, “I don’t read kids books.”

To that I can only say that you’re missing out. YA isn’t just for kids.

SwimmingAlonefrnt (2)But I did have kids—young teens specifically— on the brain when I started writing my debut YA mystery novel, SWIMMING ALONE.

I guess it all goes back to the adage, “write what you know.” And as high school English and Drama teacher, I really got to know teens. And I learned they come in all shapes and sizes. They can be impulsive, reserved, judgmental, accepting, free-spirited, aloof, fun-loving, cautious, passionate, restrained, anxious, unconcerned. And because their brains are still developing and they’re filled with hormones, their personalities are magnified ten-fold.  They aren’t quite adults yet, but they really think they are. And while this energy can drive some people crazy, I think it’s kind of magnificent.

As a teacher, I often felt myself stepping back into my teenage shoes—remembering what it was like to fail that quiz, or have that crush, or feel misunderstood. I had to do it to understand my students better. This constant self-reflection came in handy when developing my teen protagonist. No surprise she turned out a lot like a fifteen-year old version of myself: a bit insecure, a bit judgmental, and bit impulsive. She wants to do the right thing, but as far as she’s concerned, adult interference isn’t necessary.

There’s another reason I chose to write YA. I know plenty of adults read YA, and I am one of them. But the truth is, I wrote for young people because it breaks my heart when I hear a one say they don’t like reading. I can’t imagine a life without books. I don’t know if reading saved my life, but it certainly saved my sanity. Pippi Longstocking, Ramona Quimby, Nancy Drew, Sweet Valley Twins… I spent my pre-teen years with these characters. In junior high, thanks to a fantastic teacher, I became hooked on the books of Lois Duncan and Joan Lowery Nixon. Soon after, I started reading Agatha Christie’s mysteries. I remember that feeling of anticipation when I thought I’d figured out the twist in The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, followed by a feeling of triumph when I discovered I was right!

Throughout those tumultuous high school years—when I was in a state of constant heart break—I escaped into Brave New World and 1984. Another extraordinary teacher introduced me to Thomas Hardy. I stayed up late with Tess of the d’Urbervilles, and had my heart ripped open by Jude the Obscure. Oh, these folks had it so much harder than I did—and it helped me put my life in perspective.

I want every child to able to escape into a book when real life isn’t going as planned. During my first year teaching, I discovered even the most reluctant reader will keep turning the pages if there’s enough action and suspense. These were the readers I had in mind when I wrote SWIMMING ALONE.

BOOK BLURB:

The Sea Side Strangler is on the loose in Beach Point, where fifteen-year-old Cathy Banks is spending what she thinks will be a wretched summer. Just when she begins to make friends, and even finds a crush to drool over, her new friend Lauren vanishes.  When a body surfaces in Beach Point Bay, Cathy is forced to face the question:  has the Sea Side Strangler struck again?

SWIMMING ALONE Links

BIO:

Nina Mansfield is a Greenwich, Connecticut based writer. Her debut novel, SWIMMING ALONE a YA mystery, was published by Fire & Ice YA in 2015. Her plays have been published and produced throughout United States and internationally. Her graphic novel FAKE ID: BEYOND RECOGNITION, illustrated by Leyla Akdogan, will be out with Plume Snake in 2016. Nina’s short mystery fiction has appeared in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine and Mysterical-E. She is a member of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and the Dramatists Guild.

 

Guest Blogger -JL Greger

Mystery Writers Are Like Scientists

No way you say.

Wait! I think I can convince you that writing a mystery novel is similar to conducting a science experiment.

  1. Writers and scientists both do a lot of sleuthing. Granted, scientists try to quantitate their observations more than writers. And writers’ descriptions of their observations are hopefully more colorful than journal articles.
  1. They both organize their observations into a whole, which writers call plots and scientists call hypotheses.
  1. They both test and refine their “whole.” Writers edit their prose; scientists run additional experiments.
  1. Both require a lot of hard work to gain occasional flashes of insights. To paraphrase Thomas Edison, they’re “one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.”

Why did I drag you through this discussion? I’m trying to explain why so many scientists and physicians became writers of mysteries and thrillers. Consider Michael Crichton (a physician by training), Kathy Reichs (a forensic anthropologist), Robin Cook (a physician). I’m also explaining how as a retired biology professor I came to write mystery/suspense novels with tidbits of science. My latest thriller is I Saw You in Beirut.

Through this discussion, I hope you learn how bits of science add realism to a mystery.

Did you know? In the early 1960s, scientists identified zinc deficiency in peasants in Iran. At that time, two to three percent of the villagers in some regions of Iran didn’t pass the physical for the army because of stunted growth. Dr. James Halstead, Sr. who was married to President’s Roosevelt’s daughter, Anna, headed the research team at Shiraz. Surprised?

I created Doc Steinhaus, a fictional character in I Saw You in Beirut, who worked on the project in Shiraz as a grad student. He was a logical way to “show not tell” readers about Iran and advance the plot. Let’s face it most foreign agents don’t look or act like James Bond, but they can be a lot more nuanced.

What’s thrilling in I Saw You in Beirut? A mysterious source of leaks on the Iranian nuclear industry, known only as F, sends an email from Tabriz: Help. Contact Almquist. Intelligence sources determine the message refers to Sara Almquist, a globetrotting epidemiologist, and seek her help to extract F from Iran. As Sara tries to identify F by dredging up memories about her student days with Doc Steinhaus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and her work in Lebanon and the Emirates, groups ostensibly wanting to prevent F’s escape, attack her repeatedly. She begins to suspect her current friendship with Sanders, a secretive State Department official, is the real reason she’s being attacked.

Maybe, John Addegio’s comments will convince you that smart scientists make this mystery a real thriller. “Greger writes about international agencies and scientific exigencies with authority, and I SAW YOU IN BEIRUT is a thrilling spy tale with compelling female actors asserting their intelligence in both exotic and domestic, male-dominated, high-stakes political environments.”

Where can I get I Saw You in Beirut?CF I Saw You in Beruit 300 copy

The paperback at Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/1610092201 and the eBook from Nook: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/i-saw-you-in-beirut-jl-greger/1123184446?ean=2940158046957

Bio: JL Greger’s thrillers/mysteries include: Malignancy (winner of 2015 Public Safety Writers’ annual contest), Ignore the Pain, Murder: A New Way to Lose Weight, Coming Flu, and I Saw you in Beirut. The Albuquerque area is the home base for her stories, but Sara (like the author) travels to Cuba and Bolivia in Malignancy and Ignore the Pain, respectively. Her website is: http://www.jlgreger.com