Saturday, June 12, 2010

Dead Air authors interviewed

Deborah Shlian is a physician, medical consultant/executive recruiter, and author of numerous non-fiction articles and books as well as three published paperback novels - one romance and two medical thrillers (Double Illusion and Wednesday’s Child). Her fourth novel, Rabbit in the Moon, co-authored with her husband, Joel, is an international thriller set in China, 1989 just before the Tiananmen massacre. It has won numerous awards including the Florida Book Award’s Gold Medal for Genre Fiction, the Silver Medal for Mystery Book of the Year from ForeWord Magazine, an Indie Excellence Award, a National Best Books Award Finalist from USA Book News and first place for the Florida Writers Association’s Royal Palm Literary Award. Deborah’s latest medical thriller, co-written with Linda Reid, Dead Air, is the first in a new series featuring amateur sleuth and radio talk show host, Sammy Greene. It was named “hottest new thriller/adventure” by USA Book News.

Linda Reid is a pediatrician-journalist who has served as a medical editor and feature reporter for the evening Eyewitness news at the CBS affiliate in Washington, DC and as a medical editor, writer, and host of educational programming for healthcare professionals and the public in Lifetime Medical Television. She has developed and hosted programs and features for media such as the NBC Network Sex, Drugs, and Rock ‘n Roll, Lorimar-Telepictures, and You TV. During her thirteen-year tenure at UCLA’s Arthur Ashe Health Center, Dr. Chassiakos also served as a staff writer for the television series, Family Medical Center. She is currently the Director of the Klotz Student Health Center at California State University, Northridge. Dr. Chassiakos’ features and essays have been published in the Washington Post, Baltimore Sun, Woman’s Day,, the Los Angeles Times, the Los Angeles Daily News, and Tribune International. She is the co-editor of the Bugbee-Falk award-winning Collaboration Across the Disciplines in Health Care and her medical thriller, Dead Air, co authored with Deborah Shlian, was published in December 2009 from Oceanview Publishing. Dr. Chassiakos has also written a fantasy novel, Renegade Paladins, for imaginative young adult and adult readers.

Ladies, thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions. Tell us about Dead Air.

Talk is cheap, but when this radio host takes action, she may pay the ultimate price. An outspoken, brash, native New Yorker, Sammy Greene isn't afraid to ruffle a few feathers at Ellsford University, her Ivy League New England college. Host of "The Hot Line", a talk-radio show on campus station WELL, Sammy tackles the toughest, most controversial issues facing Ellsford's students. When Sammy stumbles onto the body of beloved professor Dr. Burton Conrad, she turns investigative reporter, aiming to prove that his death was murder, not suicide. Sammy soon realizes she's uncovered the seamy, terrifying underbelly of this prestigious institute of higher education. With students mysteriously disappearing and the entire campus in peril, Sammy Greene must race to find answers. If she’s not careful, someone is going to make sure that she signs off-for good--and her show will be “Dead Air”.

What’s the hook for the book?
College is murder! We send our young adults to college hoping they’ll be cared for and safe. At Ellsford U—they’re not! And radio reporter Sammy Greene is stirring up a hornet’s nest of trouble trying to uncover the killers. With everyone a possible suspect, including the campus Chief of Police, the Dean of Students, and even Sammy’s medical student boyfriend, Sammy’s on her own in her quest to save her fellow students—and herself.

What books came along at just the right time to influence your reading/writing?
We’ve been readers for most of our lives, and have relished a number of books in the mystery-thriller genres. Linda loved the mysteries of Hillary Waugh, the tomes of Isaac Asimov, and the political thrillers of Fletcher Knebel. We both admired Michael Crichton and Robin Cook, ground-breaking authors in the scientific and medical thriller venues.

What are your writing goals?
First, we want to entertain our readers. Our fast-paced, cinematic style will keep you turning the pages, and wondering ‘what happens next’. But we also use the thriller genre to tackle some potentially controversial issues. For example, in Dead Air, we look at cutting-edge medicine and modern university politics. In our story, we expose some of short-cuts academic researchers might be willing to take to gain fame and fortune. One of our characters, the renowned Dr. Palmer, is a respected scientist whose research success had been built on the basis of free-flowing university and government funding. When a challenging economy causes research funding to dry up at his Ivy League university, Dr. Palmer agrees to a public-private partnership with a generous Japanese pharmaceutical/biotech corporation, but is faced with significant moral and ethical dilemmas as profit begins to influence science.

Is there a message in your writing you want readers to grasp?
Enjoy the ride! But, we don’t mind leaving readers with a few issues to think about after they finish the book. Certainly, we would like to promote adherence to ethical guidelines for research, especially when human subjects are involved. As to our characters’ personal lives, we clearly admire Sammy and her courage—both as a reporter, and as a survivor of childhood trauma.

Do you think your writing has improved since your first attempt? In what way?
Absolutely. Both of us have written novels before - Deborah had four published novels before we tackled Dead Air and Linda had one. The more you write, the more you learn about character development and pacing--both of which are critical in a good novel. Of course, collaborating on a novel adds another learning curve. Dead Air was our first together, and we have now completed book #2 in the Sammy Greene series. We have definitely improved our collaborative style with this second book- we have synthesized our “voice” seamlessly so that it is impossible for us to pinpoint who wrote what sentence or what scene.

How do you develop characters? Setting?
We began Dead Air with an idea for a plot, but the project didn’t gel until Sammy Greene was born. Sammy shares some traits with each of us, though she is very much her own person, certainly much more courageous and outspoken than either of us were at her age. We started to develop her as a voice for the moral, political, and ethical concerns we wanted to address in the book, and she grew to be a fully fleshed out dynamo bursting with passions, energy, and joie de vivre. In book 2, and now book 3, it’s Sammy who is writing her own life script and we, Deborah and Linda, are taking notes so we can share Sammy’s adventures with all her readers and friends.

Making Sammy a radio talk show host was a good vehicle to allow her to keep talking, and to highlight her investigations for our readers. Additionally, Linda had worked at her campus radio and TV stations in college and as a Top 40 radio DJ, “The Doc Around the Rock” during medical school. Her experiences provided an authenticity to Sammy’s broadcasting efforts, and a framework for the evolution of talk radio. Many of the other characters such as Chief Gus Pappajohn and Reed Wyndham also drew from our personal circles. The Chief has elements of Linda’s father, and Reed, of Deborah’s husband.

The setting is a student health service on a university campus. Both of us have been Medical Directors of Student Health Services - Deborah at UCLA and Linda at Cal State Northridge. We’d observed the operations of major universities and how education was affected by economic pressures. The idea of placing the story of an unethical medical experiment conducted at a university student health service was a natural. However, we did change the university’s location from Los Angeles to Vermont so that no one would presume this was anything but fiction.

What are your protagonist’s strengths? Flaws?
Sammy is a bright, dedicated young woman who grew up in Brooklyn under the strict tutelage of her loving grandmother, Rose, from whom she learned the Yiddish that she sprinkles into her exclamations. She is 5 feet tall and slim, with curly red hair and green eyes. She has a crackling personality—never afraid to dive into adventures, experiences, new directions. That strength can sometimes lead her into danger—her determination, feistiness, and curiosity can annoy or even alarm those running from her quest to pursue “Truth and Justice”.

Sammy’s father left her mother when she was a child—her mother’s subsequent suicide has scarred her deeply. Sammy hides her vulnerabilities and fears behind a tough exterior; as love knocks on her door, will she have the courage to let emotional intimacy enter her psychological firewalls? Readers will find out in Dead Air.

How do you determine voice in your writing?
We each have a unique voice, but for the Sammy Greene thriller series, we have developed a third voice, Sammy’s, different from our solo efforts. Now, Sammy tells us what to write—and we listen.

How do you promote yourself online and off?
Deborah: For my past novels, promotion focused on book signings, television and radio. But as the publishing world has changed around us, we’ve had to adapt to new venues- especially the Internet. Even many of the radio shows we’ve done for Dead Air have been blog radio rather than in-studio radio programs. We tweet, blog, write articles on sites such as Gather, the Huffington Post, and Examiner,com. We post on Facebook and other social networking sites. Because our books lend themselves to book clubs, we have given talks at libraries and met with many book club members to discuss the issues presented in our novels. Of course we also do book signings and attend writers’ conferences such as Sleuthfest, the Miami Book Fair, Left Coast Crime, and the LA Book Festival.

After hours of intense writing, how do you unwind?
Deborah plays tennis, reads avidly and is learning photography from her husband who is already an award-winning photographer. Linda hangs with her husband and three teenagers, and then curls up next to the unlit fireplace (it is LA, after all!) with a good book.

What are your current projects?

We have just finished the sequel to Dead Air. Devil Wind, set in Hollywood, will be released next April. We are currently plotting our third book in the Sammy Greene thriller series, an international thriller. Meanwhile, Deborah is writing a health column for, while beginning a sequel to Rabbit in the Moon and plotting a tennis mystery. Linda is also working on a sequel to Renegade Paladins and writing for newspapers, magazines, and blogs, including the Huffington Post.

Where can folks learn more about your books and events?
Our website is and includes updates, podcasts, and links to Sammy’s blog. Deborah’s website for her other novels is For Linda’s fantasy books:
Susan, thank you again for taking the time to chat with us. We hope you enjoy Dead Air!

I've have already read Dead Air and enjoyed it immensely. I hope to read more about SAmmie Greene in the future. Congratulations!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

John Foxjohn's Tattered Justice

John Foxjohn epitomizes the phrase “been there—done that.” Born and raised in the rural East Texas town of Nacogdoches, John quit high school and joined the Army at seventeen—Viet Nam veteran, Army Airborne Ranger, policeman and homicide detective, retired teacher and coach, and now a multi-published author. John uses his extensive experience, as well as meticulous research, to write his suspenseful, true-to-life novels and instruct other writers at workshops and conferences in forensics, crime scene investigations, and other facets relating to law enforcement.

John is a member of Romance Writers of America, Mystery Writers of America, Northwest Houston chapter of RWA, Elements of Romance, Kiss of Death, Lethal Ladies, Sisters-in-Crime, East Texas Writers Guild, League of Texas Writers, and more online writing groups than he can count. He is a full time writer and speaker and lives in Lufkin, Texas, but travels extensively across the U.S.

John, it's great to have you here. Wow! What an interesting life and plenty of fodder for writing.
What books came along at just the right time to influence your reading/writing?

Choose any of Louis L’Amour books and you have hit on it. I grew up reading and loving the classics—still do, but I fell in love with the westerns and especially Louis L’Amour. If I was going to say anyone author influenced me over others—it would have to be him.

What are your writing goals?

I continue to strive to get better. One day, I want to write the perfect book. I realize that probably isn’t possible, but I know it isn’t if I don’t try.

Is there a message in your writing you want readers to grasp?

Not really—my goal is to entertain, take the reader out of their world and bring them into the one I have created.

Briefly tell us about your latest book.

Kayla Nugent, a Houston criminal defense attorney, knows money can buy many things, but it can't buy love or friendship, and it shouldn't buy justice. When a best-selling romance author is murdered, the politically motivated D.A. charges Kayla's former best friend with the murder. The decision forces Kayla to face a past that ripped her life to shreds, and defend the one person she'd rather see in jail.
The stress of the high profile trial and a client she doesn't trust hinders Kayla's developing relationship with Darren Duval, a private detective hired to help her. The people close to Kayla try to convince her not to take the case. Only one insists she drop it—the person trying to kill her.

What’s the hook for the book?

Ahh, the hook. How about I wrote it almost exclusively through the eyes of a woman.

Do you think your writing has improved since your first attempt? In what way?

God, I hope so—if not I am in a heap of trouble. When I began I knew nothing about writing, characterization, anything. I look back on some of those first drafts and it almost makes me sick to my stomach.

Were any of your books more challenging to write than the others? If so, why?

My last one was definitely more challenging. First, I did write it through a woman’s POV, but she is an attorney, and involved a huge courtroom scene—a profession and scene I knew nothing about.
I spent a huge amount of time in courtrooms observing trials, talking to criminal defense attorneys, prosecuting attorneys and judges, asking questions, just to get the information I needed. Fortunately, I got about ten times the amount I really needed. That’s good because I am writing the sequel now.

How do you develop characters? Setting?

I do an in depth character study before I write a single word of the manuscript. I know more about my characters than any one. For Kayla Nugent, my protagonist/heroine in Tattered Justice, I had fifty-two pages of character information.

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

I outline, but it is a brief outline, and it mostly consists of the conflicts and the layering I want in the story.

How does your environment/upbringing color your writing?

That’s difficult to answer. I have done many things in my life. I have some experiences very few do—do they show themselves in my writing? I’m quite sure they must. People have told this, but when I am writing, my experiences don’t creep into my mind. Of course, they are there and sometimes they come out and it surprises me when I find it.

Where do you write? When? What do you have around you?

Noise, can’t write in quiet—the nosier it is, the better. I love to write in a crowded IHOP, people talking, moving all around me.

I'm just the opposite. I think I have Adult ADD. lol.

After hours of intense writing, how do you unwind?

I am fond of a glass or two of good white wine, or maybe a Captain Morgan’s spiced rum and Coke, and of course, have them in the hot tub. My hot tub is without a doubt the best investment I ever made.

What are your current projects?

At the moment, I am writing the sequel to Tattered Justice. I am calling it Poetic Justice. It is going to be a fantastic romantic suspense.

I have actually been researching a book for about six years—one that has never been written. I call it Unheralded American Heroes. Everyone knows about this countries famous people, but we have many heroes that for one reason or another, never came into the forefront of American History.
This book is about these heroes—the ones most people don’t know about.

Now, there’s a reason no one has ever written it, it may take me another few years just to finish the research—it’s not easy to find.

Good luck with it.
I am also in the process of writing another David Mason novel.

Where can folks learn more about your books and events?

My next big event is in July—I am presenting a class at the Romance Writers of America’s National convention at Florida’s Disney World.
They can also check out my web site—

Super! Thanks for the inteview, John, and continued success!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Latest Hell Swamp review




Maybe the planets are in alignment or something or maybe my boss just knows what type of books I like, but I’ve been blessed of late with some outstanding books to review and this mystery featuring tough, feisty and savvy State Investigator Logan Hunter is definitely one of them. The author sets the tone right away with a poem, warning of “a wrecked place, the devil’s keep” where “death is always near”. The mystery begins with Agent Hunter’s gruesome investigation of the gory, gutted body of a woman hanging from a chain—bloody entrails scattered about. Prepare yourself for a suspenseful roller coaster ride with plenty of suspects, obstacles, twists, turns and horror—including a sociopath who is bent on stopping the investigation by any means necessary. All that, plus mutilated animals, Satan worshippers and snakes!

Okay, the mystery is definitely engaging but what really captivated me most was the author’s writing style and her skillful portrayal of her characters. Not only that, but she was able to make it as if I were right there in North Carolina; why, I could just about feel the humidity and almost taste the vinegar-based barbeque. And her usage of colloquialisms (expressions such as “dang nabbit” or “dadgum”, and “yonder”) are scattered perfectly, not too heavy, just enough for flavor. But let me get back to the wonderful characters: Logan, the protagonist, is tough and competent, yet feminine, romantic and vulnerable. And the supporting cast of colorful characters literally leaps off the page. One’s body is described as “a corpse of corn”, another has a “navel mouth”, and yet another has “piranha teeth and a nose like a bull’s hairy gonad”. Someone grins ”like a mule eating briars”. Whoa! Is that vivid imagery or what?

The book jacket tells us the author is a life-long resident of North Carolina, ergo it’s no small wonder how she was able to put the reader right there. Susan also published two previous mystery novels so she’s no rookie and that explains the writing skills. Look for Genesis Beach and Just North of Luck. In conclusion, what do we have here? Well, we’ve got a well-written, suspenseful mystery with a likeable protagonist, vivid
imagery, a taste of horror, a little tongue-in-cheek humor and even romance. What’s not to like?

Recommended, by reviewer: Jan Evan Whitford, Allbooks Reviews, 08 June 2010

Published by: L&L Dreamspell ©2009

ISBN 978-1-60318-094-8 Trade paperback,

195 pages $15.95

Thanks a bunch, Jan!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

A Death in Texas interview

Texas-based L&L Dreamspell published A Death in Texas , an anthology of stories about...well, death in Texas. I hope you enjoy my interview with five of the authors who contributed murder and mayhem to this book: Pauline Baird Jones, Loretta Wheeler, Diana Driver, Laura Elvebak, and Shirley Wetzel.

Welcome, ladies. First, congratulations to all of you who have work published in this anthology.

Pauline, please introduce yourself and give us a short synopsis of your story.

I'm Pauline Baird Jones, the award-winning author of nine novels of science fiction romance, action-adventure, suspense, romantic suspense and comedy-mystery, three non-fiction handbooks for writers.

In  "Men in Jeans", Richard Daniels thinks life can't get any stranger working at Area 51 until he is assigned to find out where a Houston area SF writer gets the ideas for her books. Should be an easy assignment--if it weren't for the dead guy in her back yard and the non-business related ideas she's giving him.

I'm intrigued, Pauline.

Loretta, welcome, and tell us a little bit about you.

Hi, Susan. Thank you for having me here today. It’s always been a pleasure to visit here, and doubly nice to find myself being interviewed.

I'm Loretta Wheeler and I currently live in a suburb just outside of Houston, Texas along with my Australian husband and our cat, Lil’ Dickens. When I married John, I moved to Australia for seven years and now have come almost full circle, living within 10 miles of where I lived before. As someone said to me when I returned, I went halfway around the world to wind up in the same spot. My furniture has traveled to more places than some people:)

I write thrillers, and most have paranormal overtones in them. "Dark Pleasures", which is my short story in the A Death in Texas anthology, is a more typical thriller, dealing with a psychopath, a criminal psychologist, a detective, and last but definitely not least, a dog. The dog (Hob) begins as a metaphor but quickly emerges as something more. Much more. Hob fills a very strong niche’ in the story as it develops, and it’s one I think the reader will not only find intriguing, but also extremely unusual. This particular short story was written as a prequel for the novel that will follow.

Diana, it's nice to have you join us. Please tell us about yourself and your story.

Diana Driver:  I’m originally from Cheyenne, Wyoming, but have lived most of my life in Texas.

"Die Mahnung" (The Warning) is a murder mystery, set in a small Texas town. “Jake was the law in this small, sparsely populated Texas county and he decided which laws people obeyed - and which laws he didn't give a hot damn about. When residents began dying, Jake's wife, Jesse, wondered if Jake thought it was okay to get away with...murder.”


Laura Elvebak is the author of LESS DEAD (2008) and LOST WITNESS (2009), (L&L Dreamspell), both awarded five star reviews on Amazon, which features Niki Alexander, an ex-cop turned teen counselor. Her published short stories are "Searching for Rachel" featured in A DEATH IN TEXAS, and “Dying For Chocolate” in the award winning A BOX OF TEXAS CHOCOLATES. Several of her screenplays were written for-hire and optioned. Originally from Los Angeles, Laura now lives in Houston, Texas. Laura is a former chapter president of Mystery Writers of America, is serving a third term as Southwest Chapter’s Treasurer and is the continuing editor of The Sleuth Sayer, the chapter’s newsletter. She is a member of Sisters-In-Crime and The Final Twist Writers.

Welcome, Laura. Please give us a short synopsis of your story.

Okay. Thanks. “Searching for Rachel” is about the disappearance of Rachel  and how it changed her younger sister Tracy's life forever. Now after two years, Tracy has no one. After her father walked out on the family, her mother gave up. Now alone and scared, Tracy is out on the street searching for the runaway Rachel, certain that if she finds her, her father would come home.

Sounds great.

Shirley, how about a few details about yourself?

Shirley Wetzel:  I've been writing since I was first able to hold a pencil, and reading before that. My first "published" book was an autobiography, written when I was in the third grade. It was a pretty short book. I'm a native Texan, born in Comanche in the first wave of Baby Boomers. My dad was in the Navy, so we lived all over the country, finally settling down back in Texas. I have a B.A. from Texas Tech University, an M.A. in Anthropology from Rice University, and an M.S. in Library Science from the University of North Texas. I've been a librarian at Rice University for 28 years. Here's the synopsis for "Feels Like Home" , from A Death in Texas:

Normally, Judy West looked forward to leaving the big city of Houston to return to her roots in Comanche, Texas and visit with her many kinfolks. This trip was different, however. We were gathering in the lovingly restored home of my paternal grandparents to discuss a family tragedy. Cousin Sam, one of the best and brightest of us, had returned from Vietnam a troubled, unhappy man, got involved in the drug trade, and was murdered by his cohorts in crime. They burned down the meth lab, and along with it the ancient log homestead of our Harman ancestors. We all grieved for Sam, for his family, and for our lost history. By the end of the weekend, we had more to grieve about, as unpleasant family skeletons came out of the closet.

Wow! You have my attention, Shirley.
Do you guys write any other genres?

Jones:  The short answer is yes. I tend to wander through generes and liberally mix them together.

Wheeler:  I’ve written one romantic short story titled "The Pan Man". It won an honorable mention on the Long and Short Review and is in their archive section now. I wanted to see if I could write a YA with a happy ever after ending, and was quite delighted when it placed. I’ve also written a children’s story, but it hasn’t found a home as of this time. Its title is "A Butterbean Named A”.

Driver:  My novel, Ninth Lord of the Night is a contemporary and a mix of fantasy & magical realism. The companion book, The Maya, People of the Maize is a non-fiction guidebook about the classic Maya civilization. "Valentine’s Day" is a romantic short story and is included in the anthology, A Box of Texas Chocolates. My next release, The Amber Rune, is a fantasy, based on Norwegian myths and legends.

Elvebak: Mainly mystery suspense, although I have published self help articles for Single Again Magazine in California. Also two of the screenplays I wrote for hire revolved around the 1900 Galveston Storm and another one was a children’s comedy.

Wetzel:  I write historical articles, academic papers, a few poems, and personal essays. I also do book reviews for the mystery website

What books came along at just the right time to influence your reading/writing?

Jones: Becoming a Writer by Dorothea Brande. It’s a wonderful book for the new author not sure he/she has what it takes to be a writer. Playwriting: The Structure of Action by Sam Smiley. I learned SO much about creating characters from this book.

Wheeler: I was one of those avid readers, and moved through several genres, but I was always more drawn to thrillers. I read Poe at a young age, and everything Phyllis A. Whitney wrote, moving rapidly on to Stephen King’s work, along with Dean Koontz and Anne Rice. Stephen King’s The Stand was one of the most profound for me. I enjoyed the way he took something very dark and taught life lessons within it. I also like the idea that he always pushes the envelope. It opens more envelopes for us as new writers.
Driver: Not books so much as information over the internet about the WWII P.O.W. camps located in Texas that held prisoners of Rommel’s elite corps.

Elvebak:  Jonathan Kellerman writes about Dr. Alex Delaware, a child psychologist, who helps the police solves crimes that involve children with severe psychological problems. He probably influenced me the most in writing about Niki Alexander.
James Lee Burke influenced me in a different way in that I loved his characters and his descriptions, as did Robert B. Parker. In some ways, their styles were so different, Parker’s being very spare and Burke painting such vivid pictures with words. Both had a very concise idea of justice.

Wetzel:  That's a very hard question. I was influenced by the Nancy Drew books, and others of that type, before I was twelve. Then I discovered Agatha Christie, and went on from there. Because I have a degree in archeology, Elizabeth Peters' Amelia Peabody series certainly influenced my writing. I found Stephen King's book, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, inspirational and filled with practical information

What makes a good story?

Jones:  Good storytelling. LOL! Okay, let’s see, you need to pull the reader into the story, keep them in the story, entertain and surprise them, and then deliver on the ending.

Wheeler:  I think that varies from person to person. That’s why the bookstores are full. For me, it’s mainly the tension, but I also like it if the story can incorporate a life lesson, or the acceptance of something outside what’s considered a normal concept.

Driver:  Good stories are created by skilled writers who know how to use story elements to their full advantage. A good writer knows how to pace a plot, how to develop a character, set a scene, create dialogue, and use description to its maximum advantage.
The above being said, reading likes and dislikes vary widely. A good story is only considered good if the reader enjoys reading the genre in which the story is written.

Elvebak: Memorable characters who have to conquer seemingly insurmountable problems.

Wetzel:  First of all, an interesting, believable protagonist and a good supporting cast of characters. Setting is important to me, with details that allow me to visualize exactly what the characters are seeing, feeling, even smelling. I'm a Virgo, and a librarian and historian, so I want those details to be correct. A reader at all familiar with a particular place or profession can tell when the writer has been lazy or sloppy with the research. Oh, and a coherent plot is nice too.

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

Jones: Write shorter. That is obvious., but not that easy for me. I tend to write long, complicated plots.

Wheeler:  Well, I know it takes a lot less time for a short story! I refer to it as icing. It’s a treat. More like instant gratification. I do a light outline of the short story, sit down, and let it take over. For a novel, I begin with the outline, then do character sheets, and of course, quite a bit more research. But as with the short story, for me, the story takes over, and I travel down some paths I hadn’t planned.

Driver:  The only difference between creating a short story and a novel is the length; both long and short fiction have a beginning, middle, and end, but in a piece of short fiction there’s no room for intricate and detailed subplots.

Elvebak:  I have to discipline myself to write short, work with one plot instead of using subplots. I actually found it easier than I expected. The problem was tearing myself away from writing the novel and interrupting the flow to write something completely different. It usually was a blessing in the end, showing that I needed that break and to come back to the novel with fresh eyes.

Wetzel:  I find short stories to be more difficult to write than novels because so much must be said in such a limited number of words. Then again, they are easier to finish. I have several finished short stories, and one novel that has been languishing unfinished for some time.

How do you discipline yourself when writing?

Jones:  I use a reward system. If I get xx number of words written, or solve xx problems, then I get to read xx book or xx movie or I can go eat xx.

Wheeler:  Oh streuth! (As they say in Australia). That’s the equivalent of OMG. I do have a hard time with the discipline. The best way for me to achieve my goal is for someone to set a deadline for me, or set it myself. I seem to need that.

Driver:  I stay off the Internet.

I need to discipline myself that way too.

Elvebak:  When the writing is going well, I get completely lost in it. Time means nothing. It melts away. I procrastinate sometimes before I start writing. I’ll finish reading all my email, read blogs, play Freecell, but once I start, I don’t want to stop, and I hate being interrupted. But that’s another discipline.

Wetzel:  This is my biggest problem. I try to follow the adage to "put butt in chair and write," but I'm not too good at that. In 1996 I wrote in my diary "My muse is like the Texas weather: long spells of drought and despair followed by days of wild, uncontrolled outpourings from the skies." Having a deadline is the main thing that makes me sit down and get to work.

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

Jones:  Short stories were painful for me at first, but became my lifeline during a family crisis. When I lacked time to write long, short kept me going. I am in the following anthologies: Dead and Breakfast, A Box of Texas Chocolates, Ghostly Dreamspell, The Mystery of the Green Mist, and Romance of My Dreams I (two stories).

Wheeler:  Yes, I have a story entitled "Siren’s Call" in the Erotic Dreamspell anthology, due to release in the winter of 2010.

Driver:  I have another mystery short story, "The End of the Tour", in the Dead and Breakfast anthology and a sweet romance, "Valentine’s Day", as I said earlier, is in A Box of Texas Chocolates. Both anthologies are published by L&L Dreamspell.

Elvebak:  I have a short story in A Box of Texas Chocolates entitled “Dying For Chocolate”. It's also a L&L Dreamspell anthology.

Wetzel:  A personal essay I wrote about the unusual love story of my aunt and uncle, titled "Two Dollar Wife," was published in A Cup of Comfort for Weddings: Something Old, Something New, in 2005. . I have a historical, creative-non-fiction ghost story called "Sarah Hornsby's Dream" coming out in the next Final Twist anthology, Twisted Tales of Texas Landmarks, being published by L&L Dreamspell this year.

When writing, what themes do you feel passionate about?

Jones:  I’m pretty passionate about not liking themes, probably a hangover from school. Despite my best efforts, I can see themes creeping into my writing. Perhaps because of when I was born (a long time ago) and the tumults of my informative years (women’s emancipation) I find myself writing a lot of about identity and women’s roles, but I try not to be too serious about it.

Wheeler:  Thinking outside the box. In some of my writing, I strive to incorporate some of my belief system. In "Dark Pleasures", the reader sees animals and telepathy in a very different light.
In "The Image", my current work in progress for an e-book, I touch lightly on quantum physics, and how our thoughts are more powerful than we could ever have imagined.

Driver:  There were two themes in Ninth Lord of the Night that I was passionate about. The first, and most important, was that the reader understands the importance of preserving written history. The second theme, and one that occurs again and again in my writing, is that you have to be true to yourself and not live your life according to false principles and predetermined ideas.

Elvebak:  Homeless children and how they got there and how they survive. I’ve used that theme in my Niki Alexander books. I seek answers as to what drives a person to deviant behavior; the psychology of madness or evil; family dynamics and dysfunction.

Wetzel:  Family, relationships, justice, and the strength of the human spirit in the face of adversity

Francis Bacon once said, "Write down the thoughts of the moment. Those that come unsought for are commonly the most valuable." Where are you when you have your most inspiring moments and how do you react to them?

Jones:  I get inspired in many places, but I probably feel most inspired when I am in the mountains. I grew up surrounded by them and miss them where I live now, so it’s always great when I can get home and reconnect. Mountains give you perspective and that’s always good. I am more grounded when I leave them behind.

Wheeler:  I have them anywhere, at any time. I was recently working on a short story for a competition, and got the opening sentence while waiting in line at the Nutcracker.

Whitfield:  Okay, I have to jump in here and snicker, Loretta. You apparently get inspiration in much the same wacky way I do. Love it!

Wheeler:  Fortunately for me it was a short sentence and I was able to wait to write it down. I normally keep writing material around me when at home, but I can tell I’m going to have to start dragging notepads around with me from now on.

Driver:  My best thoughts and ideas come when I’m doing something mundane like housework or just before I drift off to sleep. During those times my mind drifts into the scene I’m working on and I can visualize all the details.

Elvebak:  Usually about 3:00 or 4:30 in the morning. Then I can’t get back to sleep. I’ll be inspired by a dream or a solution to a problem that’s just occurred to me upon waking. I’ll mull over it until I’m wide awake and I’ll either write it down or it will cook in my head until it’s ready to spill over on the page.

Wetzel:  Inspiring moments may come to me anytime and anywhere. They often come to me as I'm drifting off to sleep, in my dreams, and when I'm on the edge of waking up. For these, I have a pen and paper on the table next to my bed. I carry a notepad, and listen to conversations going on around me, at the grocery store, on the shuttle bus, waiting for a doctor's appointment … Many of those conversations these days are one-way, because so many people are on their cell phones, and I have to fill in the other side of the conversation. Once in a great while, something said in a television program or movie strikes me, and books by my favorite authors often have inspiring content.

Do you have any other writing projects underway?

Jones:  In addition to promoting my latest release Girl Gone Nova, and looking forward to the release of my Steampunk/science fiction romance novella, Tangled in Time in 12/2010, I am writing a new novel in my Project Universe/Garradian Galaxy series. Each book can be read stand alone, but they are more fun, IMHO, if you read them all.

Wheeler:  Yes, as mentioned earlier, I’m currently working on The Image, which is novella size and releasing as an e-book. I will return to The Midnight Dance/The Devereaux Chronicles once I’ve completed The Image. The Midnight Dance helped me achieve my PRO position in the RWA when the Marsal Lyon Agency requested a look at the manuscript after reviewing my pitch and query letter. Following that, I will revisit "Dark Pleasures" to complete the story I began in A Death in Texas.

Driver:  Right now I’m writing a fantasy, The Amber Rune. This involves researching runology, occult magic, the Nordic pantheon, and reading ancient Nordic manuscripts.

Elvebak:  I am working on a stand-alone that takes place in the sixties in Philadelphia and revolves around the demimonde world of bar girls and go go dancers. I’m also working on another short story for the next Final Twist Anthology. I had also started on the third Niki Alexander mystery.

Wetzel:  I have a few mystery short stories finished and waiting to be polished, and a mystery novel long a work in progress. My father died recently, at the age of 89, and for the last few years I recorded his stories about growing up, about family members long gone, and about his service in the Navy in WWII. My mother is 89, and I'm now gathering her stories and memories. I've been scanning old family photos, some of them over one hundred years old, and turning them into albums to share with my other relatives. Along the way, in organizing the photos chronologically and in family groups, I realized I've been "writing" our family history. That project is demanding to be done now, while my Mother and other elderly sources are still here to identify people in the photos that I don't know.

Where can readers learn more about you?


Wheeler:  I have two websites for each of the names I write under, and I am on Facebook, listed as Loretta Wheeler. On MySpace I can be found under Southern Nuances. Both of my websites are currently in the process of being updated.

Driver: My website is

Elvebak: My website: and my blog, which I need to attend to more,

Wetzel:   On my blog,, and on the L&L Dreamspell and the Final Twist websites.
Thank you ladies, for joining together for this interview. Bloggers, for more information about A Death in Texas and other Dreamspell publications, go to

Monday, June 7, 2010

Brian L. Porter

My guest today is, indeed, a special one. I "met" Brian L. Porter online several years ago and absolutely had to read
 A Study In Red: The Secret Journal of Jack The Ripper
I later told Brian he gave me the "heebie-jeebies" and he took it as the compliment it was meant to be. He is a prolific writer and I don't know how he has time for interviews, but I'm delighted to snag him for a few minutes.

Here's his biography:
Winner, Best Author, The Preditors & Editors Readers Awards 2009, and also Winner of Best Children's Book, and Best Artwork for Tilly's Tale (under his Harry Porter pseudonym), and with a Top Ten Finisher Award for his thriller Legacy of the Ripper, Brian L Porter is the author of a number of successful novels. His works include the winner of The Preditors & Editors Best Thriller Novel 2008 Award, A Study in Red -- The Secret Journal of Jack the Ripper and its sequels, Legacy of the Ripper and the soon to be published final part of his Ripper trilogy, Requiem for the Ripper, all published by Double Dragon Publishing, and all signed for movie adaptation by Thunderball Films (L.A.), with A Study in Red already in the development stages of production.

Aside from his works on Jack the Ripper his other works include Pestilence (Double Dragon Publishing), Glastonbury (4RV Publishing), Kiss of Life (Mythica Publishing) and The Nemesis Cell (previously released in e-book by Stonehedge Publishing) from Mythica Publishing. Late 2010 will see the release of a paperback version of his e-novel Avenue of the Dead from 4RV Publishing. Mythica also released his short story collection, The Voice of Anton Bouchard in 2009. He has also had a number of shorter works released by various publishers.

Aside from his novels, Brian is a dedicated dog rescuer and shares his home with 12 rescued dogs. Using the pseudonym of Harry Porter, he has written a series of books designed to appeal to young and old alike under the collective title Harry Porter's Dog Tales. The first of these, the heart warming Tilly's Tale was released in November 2009, and the series is written in the hope of raising awareness of the extent of dog neglect and abuse in the world. His other childrens and young adult works include Arcadia 22Heavy -- Mayday and Alistair the Alligator.

In his third and final literary incarnation Brian is also an accomplished poet, writing under the name of Juan Pablo Jalisco and it was as Juan Pablo that he also won the Best Poet of 2008 Award in the Preditors and Editors Readers Poll for that year.

Brian is the Mystery/ Thriller Consultant Editor to Mythica Publishing (UK) and a Science fiction Conceptual Consultant to Stonehedge Publishing, (USA) and is a member of The American Authors Association, The Military Writers Society of America, and The Whitechapel Society 1888, for whom he was the sole judge of their 2009 Short Story Contest.

Whew! Brian, welcome and tell us what books came along at just the right time to influence your reading and writing.

As a young man I was enthralled by the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The air of mystery and suspense that pervaded every Sherlock Holmes tale stayed in my mind for ever and was certainly the major influence on my own writing. I also enjoy the works of Tess Gerritsen and Jeffery Deaver, both of whom were personally encouraging during the writing of A Study in Red. In their own individual way, each of these authors is a master of their craft and also serve to inspire and influence my style of thriller writing.

Oh, I love Gerritsen and Deaver as well. I'm looking forward to meeting Jeffrey at Killer Nashville later this year. Briefly tell us about your latest book.

With pleasure. Purple Death is published by Moongypsy Press and available from the publisher at or from at The book has already received some great reviews and I’m very pleased with its performance so far. Here's a synopsis:

Tranquil suburban Richmond-on-Thames, home to such landmarks as Hampton Court Palace and Kew Gardens becomes the setting for a series of shocking and particularly gruesome murders that leads Detective Inspector Sean Connor and his team into a labyrinthine investigation in which all roads lead towards a thirty year old unsolved murder. The victims, all apparently unconnected to each other, are being dispatched by the use of a singularly unique poison, previously more closely associated with the notorious medieval Borgia family.

As the murders begin to multiply at an alarming rate Connor finds clues hard to come by, and every lead takes him down yet another blind alley as the killer seems to be one step ahead of the police at every turn. Together, he and his assistant Sergeant Lucy Clay must piece together the shreds of evidence that will lead them to the mysterious "Chocolate Woman" and in turn to the brain behind the horrific murders that soon come to be known as "The Purple Death."

Purple Death -- The Movie

This latest thriller from the pen of Brian L Porter has also been signed by Thunderball Films of Los Angeles for adaptation for the screen in movie or TV format, as part of an agreement that will see a number of the author's novels similarly adapted. For more details, please see Thunderball Films.

Congratulations on the outstanding success. More than one movie in the works? That's fabulous!

What’s the hook for Purple Death?
A long held grudge, a femme fatale…a date with Purple Death!

Do you think your writing has improved since your first attempt? In what way?

Yes I do. I’ve worked with some great editors and publishers who have encouraged me to develop my own style and to learn how to show deeper emotions and add ‘flesh’ to my characters so that they now come across as far more ‘complete’ and hopefully, those characters now engage with the readers to a greater extent than in some of my earlier works. For example, in my other new release Pestilence from Double Dragon Publishing I think I’ve created perhaps the most ‘solid’ collection of characters so far portrayed in one of my books. It’s a multi-facetted thriller containing a wide range of very different characters, but I’d like to think that each one is believable and has a human quality that readers can easily identify with.

Were any of your books more challenging to write than the others? If so, why?

Although each book has presented its own particular challenge, Purple Death perhaps gave me the biggest ‘headache’ in terms of the research required. I needed to find a virtually unidentifiable poison, for my serial killer to use, and found it very hard to elicit the information I required from my usual sources of such types of information, the police! Perhaps, understandably, they were reluctant to divulge such information to an author, especially one who is not exactly a household name (yet). Eventually, various internet searches led me to a chemist in Hong Kong of all places who was pleased to help me and we eventually settled on a poison that has resulted in only two known victims surviving ingestion of it in the last hundred years. He was also able to give me detailed descriptions of the effects of the poison, enabling me to write what I hope readers find to be quite harrowing accounts of the demise of my serial killer’s victims in the book.

The Jack the Ripper books, A Study in Red, Legacy of the Ripper and soon to be published Requiem for the Ripper also required mountains of research, all of which I thoroughly enjoy, luckily, as of course, the mingling of fact and fiction has to appear to be seamless in order for the books to work and be believable. Pestilence required a lot of research into the 1950s and the Cold War era, and for The Nemesis Cell I had to do a great deal of medical research and study in order to create a believable plotline. Each of these challenges was very different and for me, these periods of research can provide as much fun as the actual writing of the book itself.

What are your protagonist’s strengths? Flaws?
I try to make each of my characters as believable as possible. Therefore, if I create a pathological serial killer, I also try to show that such individuals can also appear to have a ‘normal’ side, a family, children, perhaps, and that, outside of the evil they may wreak on others, they are in fact, as human as the rest of us. Likewise, if I use a police investigator, he or she may also be shown to be not just a ‘good guy’ but may also have flaws in their personality that lead them to have personal or professional problems within the context of the storyline. They are not just ‘cardboard’ stereotypes; simply there to carry out procedures, they too, are shown to be as human and as fallible as the rest of us.

Do you have specific techniques you use to develop the plot and stay on track?
It may sound incredible, but, when I get the idea for a new book, it tends to come to me as a ‘whole’, from start to finish. The story just ‘appears in my mind and stays there from the day I write the first word until the final page is typed and the book is ready for proofing and editing. Very occasionally, I may change certain aspects of the story during the actual writing, but the essence of the storyline never changes from conception to final chapter.

How do you promote yourself online and off?
Apart from my main website at each of my books usually has its own dedicated website too. I also make great use of the networking sites available from the Ning network and more recently, the Spruz network. Altogether, I have over 100 pages on such sites which enable me to reach a large number of people with news of my work and also to make lots of new friends and useful contacts. I also promote my children’s and dog rescue books, written under my Harry Porter pseudonym, through my site at and through the personal ‘dog blog’ of my lead rescue dog, Tilly, at

Where do you write? When? What do you have around you?
I write at home, any time, day or night, whenever the mood takes me, and I’m surrounded by books on Jack the Ripper, other research volumes, and photos of my dogs.

After hours of intense writing, how do you unwind?
Usually by taking a few of my 14 rescued dogs for a walk, or, if late at night, by watching one of my all time favorite movies, often for the umpteenth time.

What are your current projects?
I’ve just finished checking and agreeing the edits for the final part of my Ripper trilogy. The manuscript of Requiem for the Ripper has now been returned to Double Dragon Publishing and, after the cover has been designed the book should appear very soon. I’m also busy editing for Moongyspy Press, who will also be releasing the paperback version of my novel, The Nemesis Cell very soon. I’d like to ask everyone to also watch out for the release of my adventure thriller, Glastonbury from 4RV Publishing in the coming months.

Where can folks learn more about your books and events?
By visiting my aforementioned websites at or or

My page at Moongypsy Press might also be interesting to your readers. They can find it at In addition. have a full page of my books listed at

Brian, it has been delightful to have you from across the pond. Continued success and do let me know when the Ripper movie is out. Can't wait to see it!
Thank you so much for inviting me along to your blog, Susan. It’s been a pleasure being here.