Understanding Your Characters

Part of what makes a great story is great characters. Any reader can tell you that. Writers talk about developing characters, fleshing them out, giving them back story, making them flawed and relatable. These are all vital steps in creating great a character.

But once the character is created, I find I have yet one more hurdle that I have to jump: I have to understand my characters.

A young couple in Galway contemplate the evening

But you created them, you might say with surprise. You wrote their background, you devised their likes and dislikes, fears and dreams. What’s left to understand?

Lots.

Characters run the show. They get away from you, the writer, taking their own story in directions you hadn’t anticipated. Yes, I know that sounds ridiculous. Yet it happens to all writers.

In my current work in progress, I realized after finishing the second draft that I had the wrong killer. A different character was standing in the wings looking guiltily around, trying not to make eye contact with me. Ah-hah, I thought. That’s the real killer!

Trying to pull a fast one on me, I might add.

In several of my books I have another problem of understanding with some of my characters: I write characters who are not native English speakers.

My mother and grandmother in Warsaw

As we all know, language affects not just the way we talk but even the way we think. Writing a foreign character (foreign to me, that is) means not only understanding their native tongue enough to be able to replicate their thoughts, but also understanding the way they frame their thoughts in the first place.

A Pole, an American and an Irishman walk into a bar…. They’re all thinking a little differently and it’s my job to understand those differences.

A woman examines a grave in Warsaw. What might she be thinking?

I’m not complaining. I love that job! I spend time improving my language skills. (By the way, for anyone interested in learning French, I recommend the lessons by Paul Noble. They’re very good!). Extra bonus, it helps when I travel the world and meet new people. So it’s a good problem to have. And one that I hope I have succeeded in overcoming.

But you tell me. If you’ve read any of my books, I’d love to hear your thoughts on my foreign characters and how well I’ve captured their differences.

Learn more about Jane Gorman and the Adam Kaminski mystery series at janegorman.com.

Guest Author – Carole Price

Murder never eauthorphoto copyntered my mind until I retired. I love puzzles of all kinds, but I favor a good mystery. As a teen, I listened to Inner Sanctum, Dragnet, and the Falcon on the radio. After retiring, I attended my first book signing, joined a critique group, and was on my way to thinking how I might murder someone (not literally). Opportunities come in the most unexpected ways. When our daughter moved to Ashland, Oregon, home of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, my husband and I attended many performances. It was a life-changing experience. I fell in love with the Bard and the theater, took behind-the-scene tours, and interviewed a stage manager from the festival. Later, after I returned home, I had a phone conversation with an artistic director from the festival and thought why not bring Shakespeare to Livermore wine country, create my own theater, and add a mystery. Then I remembered Livermore does have their own Shakespeare festival of three plays over one month, yet different from my two theaters. The outdoor stage at a world-class winery is a great way to take in the works of Shakespeare.

But first, before venturing into plotting a murder I needed to understand police procedures. So I signed up and graduated from the citizens’ police academy and became a volunteer with the Livermore Police Department. I went through their daunting clearance process¾fingerprinting, drug testing, and a polygraph test¾and passed or I would have been denied access to the police station. I remain an active volunteer and have many opportunities to work with the officers and enjoy their thought-provoking encounters and learning experiences. The officers have been generous with their time to answer my questions. They even bought a few of my books.

My series takes place in Livermore, California, where I live, with scenes inside the station’s interview rooms. Because my publisher had specific rules when using the name of a real town or city, I had to get permission from the police chief and the city attorney to use one of their interview rooms in my book as long as I didn’t say anything that would portray the police department or Livermore in a negative light. Living in Livermore wine country has offered me opportunities to interview winery staff members, take winery tours, and decide where to plot a murder. I chose to create two Shakespearean theaters and vineyard on top of a hill on the outskirts of town. A private tour of one of our many wineries is how I learned where empty wine bottles were shipped from and how they are packaged. This information was useful in my newest book, Vineyard Prey, which will be released October 21, 2017.

VINEYARD PREY BLURB

front cover 2Cait Pepper, owner of the Bening Estate, and navy SEAL Royal Tanner return to help friends who recently acquired a vineyard in Livermore, CA. Sadie, an Amish girl, and her husband Danny Lord are excited about their new adventure of owning their own vineyard until a couple agents from the Drug Enforcement Agency knock on their door with a warrant to search their property. When Danny bought the winery, he neglected to check the owners’ background.

Desperate to save her friends from danger and embarrassment, Cait is torn between where to focus her efforts to help—the Lords or the actors and her Shakespeare Festival. Cait uses her cop skills to solve the problem of finding drugs at the Lords’ vineyard while avoiding another tragedy that could put her Shakespeare Festival in peril.

About the Author

Carole Price is a Buckeye! Born and raised in Columbus, Ohio, she attended The Ohio State University. She worked for a national laboratory in northern California before turning to writing mysteries. Carole fell in love with the Bard after attending plays at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland. She graduated from the Citizens Police Academy and is an active police volunteer for the Livermore Police Department, a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers. She actively promotes her books at conferences, literary groups, and many other venues. Carole and her husband reside in the San Francisco Bay Area in the middle of wine country.

Amazon

https://www.theladykillers.typepad.com/caroleprice

https://www.Facebook.com/caroleprice

https://www.carolepricemysteries.com

https://www.amazon.com/author/caroleprice

 

Guest – Marian Allen

A DEAD GUY AT THE SUMMMERHOUSE

How the DEAD GUY was born

When I began college in 1 968, I had read enough Gothic Romances to be contemptuous of the formula: Orphan girl in her late teens is hired by a brooding older man to work at a spooky, reclusive mansion; is drawn to two men, one of whom seems charming and one of whom seems threatening; pries into the secrets of the house, in spite of being warned not to; is plunged into seemingly occult danger and learns that the real threat is the supposedly charming man and that her savior and true love is the supposedly threatening man.

As an amusement, I began writing a sort of Anti-Gothic Romance: An orphan boy in his late teens is hired by an elderly ex-flapper to work at a mansion where nearly everyone is active in the community; is only drawn to one woman and stops being drawn to her when she turns out to be weird; tries his hardest to get people to STOP telling him the secrets of the house; is plunged into seemingly occult danger and learns that things just may be a little on the spooky side, after all.

After I wrote it, I decided I liked it too much to let it be just silly. As I matured in years and writing experience, I dragged it out occasionally and reworked it, adding characterization and (I hope) depth. At last, I decided it was as full as I could make it and submitted it to an agent. She loved it, and got back some very encouraging letters from publishers, but no sale.

I put it away again for a few years, decided I could improve it at this stage of experience, and reworked it again. By this time, small press publishing had blossomed, and I sold the book to Hydra Publications. During a business transition, Hydra offered me my rights back and, not knowing where that press was headed (it turned out to be getting even stronger and better) I retrieved my rights, went in with two friends and fellow writers to found Three Fates Press (which died and was transformed, under the amazing Amanda Rotatch Lambkin, into Line by Lion Press) and then Per Bastet Publications, and A DEAD GUY AT THE SUMMERHOUSE was finally born.

The cover delights me. The cover art is one of the first works done by my #4 daughter, Sara Marian, who is also one of our partners and one of our authors. Our other partner, T. Lee Harris, a fine arts graduate who does our formatting and cover design and is also one of our authors, found the perfect font for the time period.

A DEAD GUY AT THE SUMMERHOUSE is available in print, eBook, and audio.

deadguy180

 

Mitch Franklin thinks he’s got it made when the town’s wealthiest eccentric hires him to look after her two lapdogs. Then he meets her family. Five years ago, the last guy she hired played head games the family and servants are still trying to recover from. He also wound up dead. Now, some people think Mitch might be just like him. Some people think Mitch might BE him, back from the grave. Will Mitch survive the anniversary of his predecessor’s death, or will he be another DEAD GUY AT THE SUMMERHOUSE?

Indiebound http://www.indiebound.org/book/9781942166085

Amazon http://bookshow.me/1942166087

Audible http://www.audible.com/pd/Fiction/A-Dead-Guy-at-the-Summerhouse-Audiobook/B01B1Y5K4Y/

Marian Allen bio:

ma2015Marian Allen writes science fiction, fantasy, mystery, humor, horror, mainstream, and anything else she can wrestle into fixed form.

Allen has had stories in on-line and print publications, including multiple appearances in Marion Zimmer Bradley’s SWORD AND SORCERESS anthologies. Her latest books are her YA/NA paranormal suspense, A DEAD GUY AT THE SUMMERHOUSE, her collection of science fiction stories, OTHER EARTH, OTHER STARS, and SHIFTY, her collection of fantasy stories set in the world of her fantasy trilogy, SAGE, all from Per Bastet Publications. She blogs every day at Marian Allen, Author Lady.

Blog and Social Media:

Blog: Facebook: Facebook page: Twitter: Google+: Google+ page: LinkedIN:

Amazon author page: Pinterest: Goodreads:

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.

 

Mystery and Mysticism by Paty Jager

paty shadow (1)My brother is an artist who creates his own bronze statues and patinas bronze work for other artists. When he told me about a specific piece he’d put the patina on and how it had a unique configuration, he had my attention. His words, “This would make a great murder weapon.”

That sentence stayed with me for several years.

And finally, when I decided to write a murder mystery series, I jumped at the idea of using a 300 lb bronze statue as the weapon. Only I had to come up with a plausible amateur sleuth and give her a profession. That is how Shandra Higheagle, a potter who is half Nez Perce Indian, came to be. I wanted her to have the Native American background to keep with my tag line, “Murder mystery and steamy western romance starring cowboys and Indians.”  And I wanted her to use her heritage to help solve the murders. That is where her Nez Perce grandmother came onto the scene.

Shandra’s Nez Perce father was a rodeo bronc rider who died in a rodeo accident when she was four. Her Caucasian mother and step-father kept her from her father’s family until Shandra rebelled as a teenager and spent a summer with her grandmother.  While Shandra still wasn’t allowed to let people know of her Indian heritage, she kept in touch with her grandmother. The first book opens with Shandra returning from her grandmother’s funeral and seven drum ceremony.

Where is this all going you ask?  When Shandra is suspected of killing a gallery owner and then the county sheriff’s detective turns his interest to her best friend, Shandra’s grandmother comes to Shandra in her dreams, guiding her to the evidence that will help them find the murderer.

Shandra has a hard time believing in these dreams, yet the detective believes. Her dreams cause her conflict with herself and allows her to let someone in after years of keeping herself closed off.

One of the most difficult and rewarding parts of writing these books is to come up with dreams for Shandra to have that reflect what is going on with the mystery without giving anything away.

The first three books of the Shandra Higheagle Mystery series are now in an ebook box set.

Here are the shortened blurbs for the first three books in the Shandra Higheagle Mystery Series.

higheagle-1-3-box-2700px

Double Duplicity

Potter Shandra Higheagle’s Nez Perce grandmother visits her dreams, revealing clues that help Shandra uncover not only one murder but two.

Tarnished Remains

Digging up Crazy Lil’s past takes Shandra Higheagle down a road of greed, miscommunication, and deceit.

Deadly Aim

The dead body of an illicit neighbor and an old necklace sends potter Shandra Higheagle on a chase to find a murderer.

Windtree Press / Amazon / Nook / Apple / Kobo

Paty Jager is an award-winning author of 25+ novels and over a dozen novellas and short stories of murder mystery, western historical romance, and action adventure. She has a RomCon Reader’s Choice Award for her Action Adventure and received the EPPIE Award for Best Contemporary Romance. Her first mystery was a finalist in the Chanticleer Mayhem and Mystery Award and is a finalist in the RONE Award Mystery category.  This is what Mysteries Etc says about her Shandra Higheagle mystery series: “Mystery, romance, small town, and Native American heritage combine to make a compelling read.”

blog / websiteFacebook / Paty’s Posse / Goodreads / Twitter / Pinterest

patyjager logo

What do Jessica Fletcher, Shania Twain, and Sarah Winnemucca have in common? by #Paty Jager

canstockphoto26040640I was asked this question for a blog interview I did: Describe your protagonist as a mash-up of three famous people or characters.

These are the people/characters I picked and the reasoning behind choosing them.

The first is a character: Jessica Fletcher of the TV series Murder She Wrote. Jessica is always finding herself in the middle of murders and so is Shandra Higheagle my protagonist in the Shandra Higheagle Mystery series. They are both amateur sleuths and they both have creative minds. Shandra is a potter who sells her sought-after vases as art pieces.

DanPost_DP3544_15The second person is real: Shania Twain, the country singer. Her artistic nature and panache reminds me of Shandra. My character buys a new pair of fancy cowgirl boots every time she sells a vase. She likes the flashy, fancy ones with embroidery and cut-outs. And while she dresses with flair and adds special touches to her vases, she loves to ride her horse, snuggle with her dog, and dig in the clay that she uses for her art.

The third person is also real and a part of history: Sarah Winnemucca, a Paiute woman who was an activist and educator from 1844-1891. Shandra has been kept from her father’s Nez Perce family while growing up. Now that is an adult, she is exploring her heritage. The more she travels to the reservation to get to know her family, she is determined to help her people and family through her art and educate the masses. I have a post here about some other fascinating Paiute women.

When this question was first put to me, I had to think about it a bit. But once I started connecting the people with my character it became clear who she was and how she related to each of these women I picked.

I’m currently working on the 6th book in the Shandra Higheagle series, Reservation Revenge. This book is all set on the Colville Indian Reservation. The home of the Chief Joseph band of Nez Perce and 11 other tribes. It has been a learning experience writing this book. Both culturally and as I try to make it twist and turn.

If you want to learn more about Shandra Higheagle you can go here.

You can get the first book of the series for free:

Double Duplicity (652x1024)Book one of the Shandra Higheagle Native American Mystery Series
Dreams…Visions…Murder
On the eve of the biggest art event at Huckleberry Mountain Resort, potter Shandra Higheagle finds herself in the middle of a murder investigation. She’s ruled out as a suspect, but now it’s up to her to prove the friend she witnessed fleeing the scene was just as innocent.

With help from her recently deceased Nez Perce grandmother, Shandra becomes more confused than ever but just as determined to discover the truth. While Shandra is hesitant to trust her dreams, Detective Ryan Greer believes in them and believes in her.
Can the pair uncover enough clues for Ryan to make an arrest before one of them becomes the next victim?

BUY LINKS

Amazon / Kobo / Nook / Apple / Windtree Press

Paty Jager is an award-winning author of 25+ novels and over a dozen novellas and short stories of murder mystery, western historical romance, and action adventure. She has a RomCon Reader’s Choice Award for her Action Adventure and received the EPPIE Award for Best Contemporary Romance. Her first mystery was a finalist in the Chanticleer Mayhem and Mystery Award and is a finalist in the RONE Award Mystery category. This is what Mysteries Etc says about her Shandra Higheagle mystery series: “Mystery, romance, small town, and Native American heritage combine to make a compelling read.”

All her work has Western or Native American elements in them along with hints of humor and engaging characters. Paty and her husband raise alfalfa hay in rural eastern Oregon. Riding horses and battling rattlesnakes, she not only writes the western lifestyle, she lives it.

blog / websiteFacebook / Paty’s Posse / Goodreads / Twitter

patyjager logo

 

 photo source: © Can Stock Photo Inc. / dizanna

Inside the modern jail

By Sally Carpenter

This post first appeared some time ago on Writers Who Kill. The information is good for any writer who sets a story inside a modern jail. The picture of jails as long rows of cells with men clanging cups against iron bars just isn’t true nowadays. This description is from the 1980s but I’m sure it’s still relevant. Jails are moving away from “cells” to “pods.” Read on

If you write crime novels, you might set a scene inside a jail. Do you know what a modern jail looks like or how it functions?

Jails are intended for short-term housing of up to one year only. Prisons are constructed for long-term housing of many years so they are larger and have more amenities. Juveniles are housed in other facilities designed for that population.

For about eight months in the mid 1990s while I was finishing my seminary studies, I was the jail chaplain intern at the DuPage County Jail in Wheaton, Ill. At the time the jail had just finished constructing new cells with better security that allowed women civilians on the floors.

The new cells were in a tower. The basement level housed the solitary confinement cells and the upper floors had the male general population (I’ll discuss the female inmates later). The top floor was for illegal immigrants.

Security cameras monitored the hallways and the elevators. A person approaching the elevator had to wait for the deputy watching on the camera to open the door by remote control.

On each floor the cells were arranged in “pods,” now the industry standard for new jails. A few years ago I visited the Ventura County (Calif.) Main Jail as part of a Citizens’ Academy program and that facility also used “pods.” This format provides deputies greater visibility and control over the inmates.

The center of the pod was the control room encased in bulletproof glass. A deputy sat inside and watched the inmates at all times. While on duty deputies were not allowed to do anything that would distract them such as reading or watching TV (nowadays I assume that prohibition includes texting and using a cellphone).

The cells, also made of glass, were in a row racing the pod center. Each cell had a bed, sink, toilet and shower for one man. The inmates used the toilet in full view and the small shower doors provided only a minimal amount of privacy. The deputy could see every action of each inmate. A speaker system allowed the deputy to listen in as well.

Inside the pod center was a panel where the deputy could open and close the cell doors. The deputy controlled access at all times. If a fight broke out, the deputy inside the control room would remain safe as he or she summoned help.

The cells opened into a recreation room that housed a TV high on the wall as well as tables and benches that were permanently bolted to the floor. During the daytime inmates, who were not confined to their cells, could go into the rec room if they choose. The deputy watched the activity inside this room as well. At night all inmates were “locked” inside their individual cells.

The only “windows” were small glassed-in slits just under the ceilings that let in a tiny amount of sunlight. The inmates couldn’t see anything outside the building.

A glass-walled meeting room, with a table and benches, was attached to the rec room. Again, the deputy controlled access to and from this room. Once a week I came to the room to lead a Bible study for the inmates. The deputy could see inside this room although I never had any trouble from the inmates. Some inmates came to the group just to break the daily monotony but most were genuinely interested in bettering themselves.

The inmates never left the floor except to go to court or as a group to the gym (the men lined up and moved through the hallway in a line with several deputies escorting them).

Meals were prepared in the kitchen, placed in individual covered trays, and then delivered to the floors on a wheeled cart. The inmates ate in the rec room or their cells. After eating the dishes were collected and returned to the kitchen for washing.

Inmates called trustees did meal preparation and cleaning. Doing trustee work gave the men points to reduce their sentences. Many of the trustees enjoyed the job as they could get out of their cells, move around, and perform a useful task.

The deputies did not carry weapons. My supervisor suggested that I not carry my purse into the jail, so I locked my handbag in the trunk of my car. I was also told to never bring anything from the outside to give to an inmate, and never take anything from them.

A deputy told me that most of the men were in jail for one of two reasons: drugs or lack of education. The jail had a small library where the inmates could not only do legal research but also work on GED classes.

The female population was far smaller and was housed on two floors in the older section of the jail that did not have “pods.” These were the traditional-type dorm cells with bunk beds. The cell doors had steel bars, not glass. The interesting thing about the women is that they complained about their living conditions far more than the men did.

One thing I learned from this experience is how much we take our freedoms and privacy for granted. At the end of the workday I could leave the jail and drive home. The inmates didn’t have that luxury.

The chaplain program was run by the nonprofit organization JUST (justice, understanding, service, teaching) of DuPage that provided free Bibles and Qur’ans for inmates as well as worship services and educational programs. For more information, visit www.justofdupage.org.

 

 

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.
 

guardiancomboad

Guest Blogger – Susan Breen

Sometimes You Have to Jump

I wouldn’t consider myself a bold person. I slow down at yellow lights. Occasionally at green ones. I look both ways, twice. So I startled myself when I decided the protagonist of my first mystery would be a Sunday School teacher.

This was not at all the safe choice.

Sunday School teachers are not generally considered exciting. In movies they are the ones with buttoned-up shirts. They’re no fun. They quote scripture and sing hymns. At best, they’re considered prudish, at worst fanatics. Why would you want to spend 300 pages with one?

I thought about that a lot. I also worried there would be people who would simply not want to go near a book with a Sunday School teacher as a protagonist. Would I be considered one of those raving people who launch themselves at you at street corners? (I like to sit and write in Bryant Park in Manhattan and quite often people come up and try to convert me to one thing or another.)

However, beyond the fact of being fairly stubborn and wanting to write about what I wanted to write, there were several compelling reasons why I thought a Sunday School teacher would make an interesting detective.

Sunday School teachers, and people of faith in general, see the world as organized by a set of rules. There is a reason why things happen. So when things go wrong, when people are murdered, when your neighbor shows up dead on your front lawn, it’s all the more disturbing. Not only does it upset the protagonist, it upsets the natural order of things. In this case, Maggie Dove is forced to confront what she believes. It raises the stakes.

So that was one reason.

The other reason was that it would bring Maggie Dove into contact with people of all different ages. Maggie Dove is 62 years old (that was my other bold choice.) But as a Sunday School teacher she comes into contact with young people, such as her favorite student, 6-year-old Edgar Blake, and older people, such as his 39-year-old mother. And then, of course, Maggie’s not confined to the world of the church. She’s active in her village and comes into contact with a variety of people. I like stories about communities.

Then there’s the fact that I have spent about 300 years teaching Sunday School. I know the ins and outs. I know that if you decide to cook pretzels with your students, for example, you may set off the alarm in the kitchen. which will require the entire church to evacuate during the minister’s sermon. I felt I could flesh the novel out with that sort of detail. It’s a world that I know, and a world that I love.

So, am I happy with my choice?

Absolutely! And for my next novel, my protagonist is going to be a vampire. (Not.)

Maggie Dove coverSusan Breen introduces a charming new series heroine in this poignant and absorbing cozy mystery with a bite. Maggie Dove thinks everyone in her small Westchester County community knows everyone else’s secrets. Then murder comes to town.

When Sunday School teacher Maggie Dove finds her hateful next-door neighbor Marcus Bender lying dead under her beloved oak tree—the one he demanded she cut down—she figures the man dropped dead of a mean heart. But Marcus was murdered, and the prime suspect is a young man Maggie loves like a son. Peter Nelson was the worst of Maggie’s Sunday School students; he was also her late daughter’s fiancé, and he’s been a devoted friend to Maggie in the years since her daughter’s death.

Maggie can’t lose Peter, too. So she sets out to find the real murderer. To do that, she must move past the grief that has immobilized her all these years. She must probe the hidden corners of her little village on the Hudson River. And, when another death strikes even closer to home, Maggie must find the courage to defend the people and the town she loves—even if it kills her.

Buy links:
Bio:
Susan Breen’s first mystery, Maggie Dove, was just published by a digital imprint of Penguin Random House. The sequel, Maggie Dove’s Detective Agency, will be published on October. 18, 2016. Susan’s short stories and essays have been published by a number of magazines, among them Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, American Literary Review and anderbo.com. Susan teaches creative writing at Gotham Writers in Manhattan. She’s also on the faculty of the New York Pitch Conference and New York Writers Workshop. She lives in a small village in the Hudson Valley with her husband, two dogs (cockapoos) and a cat. Her three grown children are flourishing elsewhere.

 

Social media links:

Guest Blogger- Leslie Langtry

Thank you so much to the Ladies of Mystery for allowing me to guest today!

I’m Leslie Langtry – A USA Today Bestselling Author of the Greatest Hits Series, The Merry Wrath Mysteries and a new book and series with UKULELE MURDER launching on July 6!

This new ukulele 002series is a thrill for me. I’m an amateur ukulele musician. I’d never played an instrument before. So one day, the local music store had a sign up for a ukulele class. I bought my first uke and signed up.  This is me then, with my pineapple ukulele.

I’d like to say it wasn’t long before I was blasting out complicated fingerstyle songs – but that would be a lie. It took me longer than most people to figure out how to make the chords while strumming because I seem to be coordinationally challenged (in fact, I can barely talk and walk without falling over – something that is quite embarrassing at the gym).

But I kept at it. I bought books on everything from the history of the instrument to song collections. I practiced and practiced and was eventually a little better. Over time I expanded my repertoire to include a few Beatles songs, one or two by Jim Croce and a few kitschy tunes (but NOT Tiptoe Thru The Tulips…never Tiptoe Thru The Tulips – I have to have some standards after all).

And then one day, my cousin presented me with a ukulele she said my Grandpa Smiley played. Fate had smacked me upside the head and told me to go forth and uke on. My husband didn’t care for this advice, as it sent me on a ukulele bender where I bought 3 more ukes. But Fate said it was okay, so he really doesn’t have an argument there.

I am, in no way, an expert or a virtuoso – but I do have the ukulele madness. I’m obsessed.

So, when my publisher announced they were starting a continuity series set in Hawaii, I jumped at the chance. Now I could be a virtuoso – well, at least in fiction. And Nani Johnson, ukulele artist extraordinaire  was born.

I still practice every week. And my goal – once both kids are in college – is to join the local ukulele club.

But for now, I just have to be content with pretending to be a ukulele performer on paper.

And I’m totally okay with that.

If you’d like a chance to win a copy of UKULELE MURDER and this cute totebag:book bag 2

Leave a comment below! And thanks again to Ladies of Mystery for hosting me!

Leslie Langtry

Blurb:

UkuleleMurderUkulele Murder ( A Nani Johnson Mystery)
Aloha Lagoon Mysteries book #1

Nani Johnson thought she had it made when she moved from Kansas to the resort town of Aloha Lagoon, Kauai. In spite of her certifiably crazy mom, Nani is determined that nothing will stop her from becoming a ukulele virtuoso! Unfortunately her Julliard training doesn’t help her break into the local music scene due to some heavy competition from the Terrible Trio—three hostile, local musicians. The only work she finds is a few bar mitzvahs and gigs at the kitschy Blue Hawaii Wedding Chapel.

But when one of Nani’s competitors drops dead right after a public feud, Nani becomes the police’s main suspect. A missing murder weapon, mysterious threats, and a heck of a frame-up job all have Nani worrying she’ll be trading in her flowery muumuus for prison orange. Enter hunky local botanist Nick Woodfield, who just might be able to help her clear her name…that is if he doesn’t have secrets of his own. With the bodies stacking up, the danger closing in, and the authorities circling, Nani must track down a killer…before she ends up the latest victim of the Ukulele Murderer!

Coming July 6!

Buy Links:

Amazon: available July 6

Nook: http://bit.ly/1TlQ0MC

iBook:  http://apple.co/1Vo1WRB

Kobo:  http://apple.co/1Vo1WRB

Smashwords:  http://bit.ly/1Sx66mq

Print: available July 6

BIO:

Leslie Langtry is the USA TODAY Bestselling author of the Merry Wrath Mysteries, the Greatest Hits Series, and Sex, Lies & Family vacations.

She is not, nor ever has been a former CIA agent or an assassin (a question that surprisingly comes up more than you’d think). She has been a Girl Scout Volunteer for 15 years and was a troop leader for 10 years – which gave her a wealth of material that she uses in her books.

Leslie lives in the Midwest with her family and assorted animals and has an unnatural obsession with cake. You can find out more about her and her books at http://www.leslielangtry.com.

SOCIAL MEDIA LINKS:

https://www.facebook.com/LeslieLangtry/

https://twitter.com/LeslieLangtry