Friday, May 7, 2010

Gayle Wigglesworth: Mud to Ashes

Gayle Wigglesworth is allowing me to ask her some questions about herself and her books. Gayle, welcome to the hot seat. Please tell us about Gayle.

I became an adult in the 60’s when women still knew their place in the world, but somehow I didn’t. I had read SEX AND THE SINGLE GIRL, watched all the Doris Day movies and dreamed of glamour and success. I put a lot of effort into learning to be a banker. I worked hard and I ignored the warnings that said women couldn’t do this or that. Eventually I found myself at a senior management level at the bank. It turned out women could do these things.

When did the writing bug bite, and in what genre(s)?

I am a voracious reader who has always dreamed of being a published author. My first attempt when I moved to San Francisco on a life adventure in the 60’s was a dismal failure. I was living alone in a big city where I knew no one when I started writing my mystery book at night. I ended up frightening myself so badly that I not only gave up writing mysteries, but I stopped reading them for many years. When I started reading mysteries again, I again decided I wanted to write my own. I came up with what I thought was a terrific premise for a series but it wasn’t until I retired from my banking profession that I finally succeeded in getting that first book published.

When you started writing, what goals did you want to accomplish? Is there a message you want readers to grasp?

I wanted to write the kind of book I like to read. That is the kind where good people sometimes get mixed up in bad things and then have to extradite themselves. My mysteries have to be fair to the reader. The clues are in the book. And my characters are not perfect. They make mistakes that sometimes land them in trouble.

Briefly tell us about your latest book. Series or stand-alone? If you have written both, which one do you prefer?

My latest mystery, Mud to Ashes, is a stand-alone. In it my protagonist, Karo Meisner, finds herself in a mid-life crisis. Her daughter has grown up, moved out, and doesn’t really need her any more. Her husband, soon to be her ex, no longer seemed to be the man she married. The dreams she had in her youth had faded so she could hardly remember what they were, and the future was stretching endlessly before her.
Karo wasn’t interested in drinking herself into oblivion, and she couldn’t afford drugs so she decided she would have to remake her life. She moved to a beach town on the California coast to develop her skills as a potter. She would become an artist!

The body her newly adopted dog found in the surf at the beach one day was not part of her plan. Nor was the attitude of some of the potters working at the communal studio she joined. But she was still determined to make it all work for her. Little did she know she was set on a collision course with evil forces that destiny had put in her path. Soon she was going to be catapulted into nationwide notoriety, if she lived long enough.
This novel is a stand-alone mystery which is very different from my previous books which are all part of the Claire Gulliver Series. The advantage in writing a book in a series is the back story, the characters, and the settings are already established. As you write each new adventure the people become more familiar, so they become like family members. You only have to make sure you don’t give away critical information that would spoil a previous adventure for the reader. While in a stand-alone you have to develop all the critical information as you go along. I think a series is easier for the author to write, but a stand alone provides the joy of heading out into unexplored territory.

What’s the hook for Mud to Ashes?
Karo’s dog finds a body in the ocean on the beach near Karo’s home. The woman is unidentified and gives no clue to the police as to who she is. Karo is haunted by this. She can’t understand why someone isn’t looking for the woman. Who is she? Why doesn’t anyone know she’s missing?

How do you determine that all important first sentence?

The most important aspect of that first sentence is to draw the reader into the story and to establish the tone of the book. This doesn’t always happen in the first version. Many times I have to go back to change it, modify it, or even start all over again. What might have seemed perfect when you start the book might not prove to be perfect when you’re half way through with the manuscript. If the tone or the emphasis of the story has changed as you have developed it then you’ll have to change the first sentence.
So don’t let the challenge of creating the perfect first sentence intimidate you and keep you from getting on with your book. Just start and then keep writing. You can hone all your sentences later. That’s why computers have delete keys. Good advice.

How do you develop characters? Setting?

I write pages and pages of character studies on my main characters and the important settings. I want to know who these characters are and what they look like and how they act in different situations and why they act that way. In Mud to Ashes I did an extensive character study on not only the main characters, but on the town of Belle Vista as well. I knew the town so well it’s hard for me to realize it’s only a fictional town. I also drew the plans for the house Karo moved to, and the pottery studio, as they both were the setting for much of the story. I referred to these studies again and again as the story developed to make sure I described the characters and setting correctly.

What are your protagonist’s strengths? Flaws?

My protagonists are ordinary people, the kind you’d like as friends. They make mistakes, and they have to overcome weaknesses which all become part of the story. For instance, in the current book, Karo, has spent years being such a devoted mother that she has forgotten her own dreams, and she has distanced herself from sharing her husband’s dreams to the point that now they are virtual strangers to each other. Yet, when Karo realizes that she is in crisis, she doesn’t wilt and blame others, or turn to drugs or alcohol to mask her pain. No, she takes herself in hand and decides to re invent her life. She is going to find those dreams and make them real.

How do you determine voice in your writing?

I generally write my books in third person as I think it allows the author the maximum flexibility in telling a story, but on occasion I change voices, even in the middle of the book, depending on how I want to present a character. For instance in one book, although the book was written in third person, every section about the villain was written in first person. I decided to do that to help hide the identity of the villain. In some of my books, I write flashbacks in first person to provide more intimacy to that part of the story.

Do you have specific techniques you use to develop the plot and stay on track?

I do not write detailed outlines of the plot, nor develop the syllabus before starting a project. But I do begin with a concept for the plot, protagonist, villain, and the setting already set. I start building the file from those. I develop character studies and descriptions of the settings and start imagining the key scenes. However, I build much of the action as I go, and one chapter or action might send me in a different direction from what I initially imagined.
In my third Claire Gulliver mystery, Claire’s mother, Millie, was only a device to get Claire to Italy for the action, but suddenly she took off on her own story. I ended up writing two mysteries in that one book and I loved it.

How does your environment/upbringing color your writing?

I was the middle child in a large family. That made me a peace maker, a negotiator and a person who fought to be noticed. I continued using those techniques during my career when I felt it was only right that I be paid appropriately and promoted equally as the men I worked with. I think that carries over into my stories. My protagonists are stoic, strong women who are determined to succeed. But like the middle child, they do it by negotiation and strategy, and they try to make peace as they move through life.
My villains are sometimes very dark, but I try to present them in context. I reveal some of the reasons they are the way they are, which doesn’t excuse them in anyway, but at least helps the reader understand them a bit.

Have you started any online networks or blogs to promote yourself and others?

I have had a website since before my first mystery was published, I invite you all to check it out. Additionally, I have a fan page on Facebook, if any of you would like to follow me; I try to keep my fans apprised of significant steps in the process of delivering my books and I share glimpses into the business of writing my books. I do guest blogging and I sometimes blog on my Amazon Author Page.

After hours of intense writing, how do you unwind?

When I’m writing, perched over my computer, fingers flying over the key board, I am just letting out all the information I have been formulating in my mind during the past nights and days pour out. Even when I stop writing, physically, I’m still at in my head. I frequently take an afternoon nap, to quiet my mind and let it sort out all the details. While sometimes I lay awake for hours at night plotting and scheming over parts of a story. I don’t really unwind until the book’s done and usually by then I’m working on another project in addition to the current one.

What are your current projects?

I am completing the final draft of my sixth Claire Gulliver Mystery and I’m well into the first book in a new series, Glenda at Large. I am also planning to reformat all my books in order to publish them on Smashwords so they will be available for a variety of e-readers.

Where can folks learn more about your books and events?

Check out my website, or check out my Author’s Page on Amazon or come to one of the events I’m participating in at . And feel free to contact me and let me know if you like my books and why. I am also happy to add you to my contact list and will notify you when a new book comes out or if I am doing an event in your area.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Interview with Goddess Anthology authors

Texas-based publisher, L&L Dreamspell, has an anthology entitled The Dreamspell Goddess Anthology which showcases twenty-one writers, among them Cornelia Amiri, Helen Henderson, Jodi Diderrich, Joyce Scarbrough, and Diane Lawson. I am delighted to have these five ladies here for an interview.

Welcome, ladies and give us a brief biography and short synopsis of your story.
Cornelia Amiri has eight Celtic/Paranormal/Romance books: Timeless Voyage, Queen of Kings, A Fine Cauldron of Fish, Druid Quest, The Fox Prince, The Vixen Princess, Danger Is Sweet, and One Heart One Way. She also wrote shorts in four L &L Dreamspell anthologies. Living in Houston Texas with her son, she loves to read historicals, romances, and paranormal novels. Books that combine the three genres are her biggest weakness except for chocolate.

The story "Rhiannon” brings to life the myth of the Welsh Horse Goddess, passed down from tribal foretime. Having cleverly thwarted a forced betrothal with the use of a magic bag, Rhiannon weds Chief Pwyll. Though passionately in love they are beset by strange happenings. All eyes point to Rhiannon as the cause of their greatest tragedy. Is their love for each other strong enough to survive the dark days ahead?

Jodi Diderrich: I claim Hebron, IL as my hometown, though I haven’t lived there since I was eleven. At present, I live in Kenosha, WI, with my husband, Dan, and our two dogs, Sam and Molly. When I’m not writing stories, I work as a part-time teacher at a local parochial school and volunteer once a week as an English tutor for the Kenosha Literacy Council.

“Hiram’s Rock” is a murder mystery based in the Alaskan wilderness. Hanna and Hiram are making their annual journey along the Iditarod trail. One morning, Hanna awakens to the realization that Hiram is lying dead beside her. At first, she assumes he must have died of natural causes, but when she moves his body, she discovers a puncture wound in his back. Someone has murdered Hiram in the night, and now, the killer is coming after Hanna who is unwittingly carrying the rock that her man had died for.

Helen Henderson invites readers to ride the Old West or travel to the stars. As a feature-story writer and correspondent, she has written on a wide variety of topics including air shows, military and American history, bicycling the mid-Atlantic states, and antiques and collectibles. She has also authored two non-fiction histories.

“Ambush Luck” is a historical piece of a woman in a non-traditional role in the American West. Married and happy in her life as wife and mother, Helen Rawlings thought she had put her past as a fast gun behind her until a gang kills one of her adopted sons. When the outlaws try to eliminate the only witness -- her other son, Josh, Helen risks everything to once again become the notorious Hell Lost, gunslinger and defender of the righteous. In a traditional western showdown, Hell confronts those threatening her family. If she survives, she would be faced with the biggest crisis of all, rejecting the lure of adventure and once again turning her back on a life riding the high trails.

Diane Lawson: My name is Veva Dianne Lawson. I began life as an attorney and got out of it as soon as humanly possible. Writing has been a part of my life since I was a child. I have been writing seriously for many years.

I have two stories in the Goddess Anthology. “Was Helen of Troy and you remembered it wrong” is narrated by a woman (Catherine) in the present about her past lives of which Helen was one. Her problem is that she thinks the memories might simply be a symptom of insanity. Also, she wants to set the record straight about a book written by her past self about their life as Helen.
The other story, “The Lost Planet of Homely Women” is about an invasion of one planet by another that goes terribly (and I hope humorously) wrong.

Joyce Scarbrough: As an intelligent Southern woman, I am weary of seeing myself and my peers portrayed in books and movies as either post-antebellum debutantes or slack-jawed yokels, so all my heroines are smart, unpretentious women who refuse to be anyone but themselves. Naturally, I felt compelled to write a story for an anthology like this one that featured strong female characters. In addition to my three published novels and "Heart's Tempest," I have three other short stories featured in upcoming anthologies from L&L Dreamspell. I write full time and also do freelance editing.

"Heart's Tempest" is about a hellion named Jaycee Stevens who doesn’t plan to stay a second longer than necessary in the rural Alabama town where she grows up with her alcoholic father. Usually, everything Jaycee does is focused on either getting a college scholarship in softball or pretending to her boyfriend Cole that she’s a lot tougher than she really is. When Cole finds out she has a Valentine’s Day tradition with a boy who’s had a crush on her since third grade, he knows there’s a lot more to this blonde tempest than meets the eye.

Do you write any other genres?

Amiri: I have a Steampunk/Romance novel coming out under the pen name of Maeve Alpin in 05/2010. I have a mystery short story in A Death In Texas.

Diderrich: I write in almost any genre. I’ve written a number of children’s stories, often featuring special dogs and cats that I’ve known. My first prize winning piece, “Sam’s Day”, was about my cocker spaniel, Sam. I’ve also written an unusual not-quite-science-fiction piece that will hopefully become a graphic novel. I also write poetry and have started what will one day be my “great American novel” loosely based on my father’s family.

Lawson: I have had poetry published and my plays, “The Services of Women” and “Broken Things” were produced as part of the EWARD ALBEE NEW PLAYWRIGHTS FESTIVAL in Houston Texas. “Broken Things” went on to be produced off, off, off Broadway in New York and also was presented at the NEW YORK FRINGE FESTIVAL. I have a short film called “Silence” in post-production and am in pre-production for another short film called “Prom Night”.

Scarbrough: All my books and stories focus on the heroine's relationships with her friends, family and love interests, so I think they are best described as women's fiction. While love and romance play a big part in everything I write, my stories feature too many other story elements to be classified as romances

Is there a different writing process for short stories than there is for novels?

Amiri: I have a lot less space to work in but the actual process I use from rough draft to submission is pretty much the same for both.

Diderrich: Only in that I can’t drag it out. I have to force myself to stay short, succinct. Otherwise, it’s the same. I start with a scene and a very broad plot. The main characters come to life as I write that first scene. They just fall into it, becoming more real as the story progresses.

Henderson: My writing crosses many genres from science fiction and fantasy, to historical fiction and adventure. While my fiction doesn't always fit into the true romantic genre, the stories often cross into romance.

Much of the process is the same for short fiction as opposed to the longer length novel. One major difference for me is that where I can mentally plot, organize, and write a short story, I storyboard my novels with pencil and paper. The shift allows me to weave more intricate plots and make sure my characters are in the correct place. By eliminating logic errors, I can focus more on other aspects of the story such as dramatization and bringing the setting to life.

Did you write the story with a particular real life strong woman in mind? How do you relate to the woman you wrote about?

Amiri: My story is about Rhiannon, the Celtic horse goddess. I kept her myth and legend in mind as I crafted this Celtic/Mystery/Paranormal/Romance. In ancient Celtic times Rhiannon was a goddess most women could relate to, they strived to be like her. She was strong but committed to her family.

Diderrich: I don’t know anyone exactly like Hanna, although with five sisters, each of them as individual as fingerprints, I can find pieces of her in each one. There are also parts of Hanna that come from me, her maternal instinct toward her dogs, for example, and there are parts of Hanna that I wish I possessed, like her physical strength and ability to think on her feet.

Henderson: I can see much of my mother and my grandmothers in “Hell Lost”. All three were strong women who were able to rise above the traditional roles expected of women of their time. My mother was known to swing an axe, toss a bale of hay, or do whatever was needed on our family farm. In honor of my coal-country mountain heritage and the women of my family, I write westerns, including “Ambush Luck” in the Dreamspell Goddess Anthology, under the persona of my ancestor, Jessie Treon.

Lawson: “Helen” is about loneliness and trying to make sense of a confusing world. I think we all have these feelings on occasion. “Lost Planet” incorporates the silliness we all see occasionally in men and women. So, no particular strong woman is a part of the stories.

Scarbrough: Actually, the heroine in "Heart's Tempest" is also the heroine in my novel, Different Roads. Jaycee has been living inside my heart ever since she was a motherless six-year-old featured in my Christmas short story titled "Hope Chest." All her stories are dedicated to women who were once forgotten little girls like she was, most of whom are much stronger than they even realize. Fortunately, my own childhood was nothing like Jaycee's. Maybe that's why I feel so much for women like her and have to write about them.

Did you collaborate with anyone else during the anthology process or write on your own?

Amiri: I write on my own.

Diderrich: I’m not big on collaboration. Working with another writer would leave me wondering if my contribution had been truly integral to the work. I’d feel like an interloper, I think. I do belong to a wonderful writers’ group, though, that gives me great feedback on the mechanics of my stories and insight into how a reader might react to it and why.

Henderson: For me, writing is a solitary effort.

Lawson: I am solely responsible for these stories for better or worse.

Scarbrough: I have a best friend named Lee Ann Ward who is also a writer. We critique each other's work and bounce ideas off each other, but when we write it's a one-woman show--unless you count our heroines. They definitely have a say in what happens!

How do you discipline yourself when writing?

Amiri: I try to write at least 2000 words a day but sometime that doesn't work out. I'm striving to be more consistent with it.

Diderrich: I have to make a schedule, which keeps me writing fairly regularly for a while. Eventually, I get bored with the schedule or circumstances change and I have to make a new schedule, but I always need to have something or someone telling me when it’s time to write. Otherwise life just takes over and everything else gets done, but not the writing.

Henderson: I make sure that I always have paper and pencil with me. As well as a few pages of the chapter I'm currently working on.

Scarbrough: This isn't a problem for me, because once I start writing a story, it consumes me and that's all I want to do! So I guess my answer would be that I force myself to eat and sleep while I'm writing!

Have you participated in any other anthologies? If so, which ones?

Amiri: Yes. A Death in Texas, Sleeping with the Undead, and Romance of My Dreams, all with L & L Dreamspell.

Diderrich: I haven’t participated in any of L&L Dreamspell’s other anthologies yet. However, I won second place in a contest, The Golden Journey Short Story Competition, a few years ago with a story, “Sam’s Day,” where the winning stories were published in an anthology, The WriteStuff Writers’ Golden Journey, 2006.

Henderson: “Recov” in Romance of My Dreams, Vol II by L&L Dreamspell (awaiting publication)

“Pirates Reprise” in Wondrous Web Worlds Vol. 9 by Sam's Dot Publishing (awaiting publication)

“Withym: Treasure Beneath the Sands” in The Writer’s Written Word 2008: Compendium of Short Works by the Monmouth Creative Writers’ Group

Lawson: This is my first.

Scarbrough: My story "Hope Chest" was featured in the 2008 edition of an annual Christmas anthology titled CHRISTMAS IS A SEASON published by Excalibur Press, and my story "Journey of a Thousand Miles" was featured in the 2009 edition. I also have a story in the upcoming L&L Dreamspell anthology DREAMSPELL REVENGE Volume1 and two stories in ROMANCE OF MY DREAMS Volume 2.

When writing, what themes do you feel passionate about?

Amiri: I love to write about strong women who know themselves or find themselves (warrior women), and the ancient Celts. My interest in history is as strong a drive as my writing so I often write historicals, usually set in the dark ages or ancient times. I also like to write humor.

Diderrich: I feel very passionate about women and enjoy exploring the ways they handle the problems and advantages they encounter because they’re women. I am also a big animal advocate. I love all animals, even spiders and snakes and find it unconscionable that some humans think they have the right to lord over them and treat them any way they see fit.

Henderson: I am old fashioned enough that I prefer happily-ever after endings, or at least the potential of the future the character wants. My heroes are men to die for and my women worthy of walking beside a man rather than behind him.

Lawson: I always want to make certain that my heroes and heroines (whatever their struggles) end up doing the right thing.

Scarbrough: Love definitely dominates when it comes to my writing, but I also seem to be drawn to writing about emotionally damaged characters like Jaycee. Usually it's the men in my stories with all the baggage, and my heroines are the only ones who can help them get past it.

James Michener once said, “I’m not a very good writer, but I’m an excellent rewriter.” Please respond to that statement as it relates to your individual writing process.

Amiri: Yes, I totally agree. The easy and fun part is the rough draft, meaning the first time I finish the story. The hard part and the bulk of time and writing is put in after that, in rewriting.

Diderrich: Most of the time I agree wholeheartedly with Mr. Michener, and I always go back and reread and edit my work. Once in a while, though, I find, that when I’ve finished my rewrite, the piece has changed to the point that it’s no longer the story I set out to tell. Maybe it’s a better story mechanically, but it’s no longer what I wanted to say.

Lawson: I am still rewriting “Helen” even though Lisa and Linda have already taken it into the anthology.

Do you have other writing projects underway?

Amiri: I am always working on new manuscripts. I have a Steampunk novella coming out in May and a Celtic/Romance novel, Druid Bride, to be released in May as well. I have a short fantasy story in Twisted Tales of Texas Landmarks with L &L Dreamspell to be released in the fall of 2010.

Diderrich: I have a number of projects going on all the time. I have a mystery novel finished looking for a publisher, and I’m half way through a second story using the same protagonist. I also have an idea for a graphic novel that I’d like to see put into print. I wrote the back story and have everything else in my head. I just need an artist to do the artwork for me. Another book I’m working on is a children’s book based on Sam (the dog from “Sam’s Day”) and his big sister, Molly. I wrote it a while back, but recently brought it out and had my critique group look at it. They had good things to say about it, so I’ve been editing it and looking at publishers to submit to.

Henderson: I have a romantic fantasy novel currently under consideration by a publisher, and a second is finishing up the review process.

Lawson: I am currently trying to write a mystery novel.

Scarbrough: I'm about three-quarters done with a coming-of-age novel titled Shades of Blue that my critique group partners have said reminds them of To Kill A Mockingbird. I can't tell you how flattered I am to even be mentioned in the same breath as a book like that. I'm also writing a YA paranormal novel that I like to describe as DEXTER meets BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER. No vampires, just a smart-mouthed dead girl with a penance to pay.

Where can readers learn more about you and the anthology?

Amiri: At and at

Diderrich: My website is Anyone interested in finding my work can look there. If they need more information, there is a link where they can e-mail me. I can also be found on Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter (jodid007) and Booktown.


Lawson: Of course the anthology is discussed in the LLDreamspell website. I also have a website at

Scarbrough: You can read samples of all my work on my pages at Authors Den: For updates about the anthology and all my book events, the best thing to do is find me on Facebook: I love getting new friend requests! I also have a blog called "Blue Attitude" that I don't update as much as I should, but there are some excerpts posted there too:

Ladies, it has been my pleasure to learn more about you.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Chester Campbell's Surest Poison

Chester Campbell was born in Nashville, TN in the midst of the Roaring Twenties. During the Depression-era thirties, he loved to read short stories in magazines like The Saturday Evening Post and Liberty. He never thought about writing until shortly before he was discharged from the Army Air Corps at the end of World War II. He was in the first class (1949) to complete the journalism curriculum at the University of Tennessee. Since then he has written for newspapers, magazines, public relations, advertising, and the fiction market. He currently writes two series of PI mysteries, one featuring retired Air Force investigator Greg McKenzie, the other starring former National Park ranger and small town police chief Sid Chance. Chester lives in the Nashville suburb of Madison, TN.

Welcome, Chester.Tell us about your latest book.
The absolute latest isn’t out yet. It’s A Sporting Murder is due for release by Night Shadows Press in October. The fifth Greg McKenzie mystery, it deals with the consequences of a rivalry between a group seeking to bring an NBA team to Nashville and ardent supporters of the Predators NHL hockey team, who want to keep them out. My newest book in print is The Surest Poison, the first Sid Chance mystery. Three seemingly unrelated murders crop up during the investigation of a decade-old chemical dump that plagues a rural community west of Nashville. Sid Chance, whose law enforcement career was cut short by malicious accusations of bribery, pursues the case after being coaxed out of self-imposed exile by Jaz LeMieux, a wealthy ex-cop. Sid finds himself tailed and threatened. When Jaz helps with the investigation, she is awakened by an explosion behind her mansion. The person responsible will stop at nothing to remain hidden. As the tension mounts, Sid finds himself confronting the unsavory people responsible for his past troubles.

Do you think your writing has improved since your first attempt?
Definitely. I wrote my first novel in 1948 while a journalism student working nights as a reporter for The Knoxville Journal. It was a murder mystery. The plot didn’t sound bad, but the writing had plenty of amateurish errors. I did much better with one I wrote in the sixties, though it, too, needed considerable improvement. When I retired in 1989, I started writing novels with a passion. The first seven failed to find a home, but number eight was published by a small press. The same editor handled the next three books and said each showed improved writing over the previous one. In my earlier efforts, I was guilty of such things as overwriting and too much POV shifting. I have pared down my style to one as lean as a greyhound. Like the celebrated breed, it speeds up the pace.

How do you develop characters and setting?
For a major character, I start with a personal sketch. This includes basic information such as age, location, family, job history. While puzzling this out, I get into where the character fits in the general scheme of things, which helps with development of the story. I flesh out the character as necessary to keep the plot moving. I build minor characters as they pop into the story, giving only enough detail to make them stand out from the crowd.
I enjoy handling the setting and do quite a bit of research when required. Since my books are mostly set around Nashville, and I’ve lived here virtually all my life, it’s only necessary to bone up on areas I haven’t visited in a while. When my characters hit the road, like visits to Israel and Jordan in Secret of the Scroll, it becomes a bit more complicated. In that case, I used my experience as a Holy Land visitor in 1998, where I shot three hours of video. I used several tour books to supplement my memories. Where necessary, I invent locations but work hard to make them realistic. Good old Google helps a lot.

Do you have specific techniques to develop the plot and stay on track?
I’m a seat-of-the-pants plotter, so the stories come out mostly as a stream of consciousness. I have a general idea when I start, then let things go wherever the whims of the characters take them. I’ve used several methods to keep things organized. In one book with several potential killers, I did a detailed timeline for the night of the murder, showing where each suspect was and what they were doing. Most of the time, after I’ve written several chapters, I start a list of actions by chapter, which makes it easy to go back and find places to make changes. That’s what I love about fiction. If the story isn’t going to suit you, change it. Wouldn’t it be nice if real life was that way?

How does your upbringing and environment color your writing?
I grew up in Nashville, TN in typical urban middle class surroundings. The fact that it was during the Great Depression colored things a bit. We were poor, but we didn’t think of ourselves as poor since everybody else was in the same boat. My dad was a small businessman who struggled to stay afloat, and my mother worked at a secretarial job. My grandmother lived with us and looked after the three boys. My parents were staunch churchgoers and raised me to be the same. I’m sure all of that background colors my writing, as well as my experiences during a lifetime of working at various writing jobs. I served in the Army toward the end of World War II, in the Air Force in Korea, and with the Air National Guard until retirement. That led to creation of retired Air Force Lt. Col. Greg McKenzie.

Where do you write? When? What do you have around you?
I do most of my research and some writing on a PC in my bonus room office over the garage. It’s the only upstairs room, which keeps me running up and down steps forty times a day. That may be a bit of an exaggeration, but it helps keep me in shape. Most of my books are written on the laptop while sitting in my recliner in the living room. That’s where I am now. After spending quite a few years working in noisy newsrooms, I learned to block out extraneous sounds and concentrate on the words I’m typing. Sometimes my wife, in the twin recliner beside me, will comment on something said on TV and I won’t have a clue to what she’s talking about. I write mostly afternoons and evenings. Not every day, however. Domestic requirements and other responsibilities get in the way.

What are your current projects?
As mentioned above, the fifth Greg McKenzie mystery, A Sporting Murder, is in the pipeline. I should have a cover and a publication date shortly. In the gestation stage is the second Sid Chance mystery. It will probably have a link back to Sid’s eighteen-year career as a National Park Service ranger. Most of my other projects involve trying to scare up readers for my books. A long-time writers group colleague, Beth Terrell, and I are setting up appearances at various outdoor events, such as the Buttercup Festival in Nolensville, TN and the RC-Moon Pie Festival in Belle Buckle, TN. As an interesting aside, I’m the reserved, withdrawn type. I virtually never speak to a stranger unless spoken to first. But at book signings, I stand and hail people with the question, “Do you read mysteries?” If they say “yes,” I pitch my books. Guess that makes me a part-time outgoing extrovert.

Yes, I met Beth at Killer Nashville a couple years ago.
Where can folks learn more about your books and events?
Info on all my books, including sample chapters, reviews, where to buy, where I’m appearing, etc., is included on my website: I blog weekly at and semi-monthly at My personal blog at, titled Mystery Mania, has been neglected lately, but I plan to reinvigorate it.

Thanks for the interview, Chester, and I'll see you in Nashville in August.

Thanks for the opportunity to be here, Susan.