Friday, January 29, 2010

Helen Macie Osterman's Notes in a Mirror

Helen Macie Osterman lives in Homer Glen, a suburb of Chicago. She has five children and nine grandchildren. Osterman received a Bachelor of Nursing degree from Mercy Hospital-St. Xavier College and later earned a Master’s Degree from Northern Illinois University. Throughout her forty-five year nursing career, she wrote articles for both nursing and medical journals. Helen is the author of The Emma Winberry Mystery Series: The Accidental Sleuth, The Stranger in the Opera House, and Notes in a Mirror.  She is a member of American Association of University Women, Mystery Writers of America, and Sisters in Crime.

Helen, welcome to the blog.When did the writing bug bite, and in what genre(s)?
When I had children and began telling them stories. I wrote them down and decided to do my own illustrations. Nothing came of this endeavor.

When you started writing, what goals did you want to accomplish? Is there a message you want readers to grasp?
Stories and plots simply found their way into my consciousness. I did it for fun. But, when I began the Emma Winberry cozy mystery series, I decided to instill a social problem into each book. Of course, Emma addresses these problems as well as solving the mystery.

Briefly tell us about your latest book. Series or stand-alone? If you have written both, which one do you prefer?
My latest book is Notes in a Mirror, a story of two student nurses during their three- month psychiatric rotation at a state mental hospital in 1950. This is approximately the time I did mine as a student and it was pre-tranquilizer days. Though the work is fiction, it actually portrays the care of the mentally ill at that time. I enjoy the series because my characters become like part of my family and I’m eager to know what their next adventure will be. They always tell me.

What’s the hook for the book?
The hook for Notes in a Mirror is mirror image writing. The ghost contacts my protagonist by this means.

How do you develop characters? Setting?
In Notes in a Mirror the character of Mary Lou Hammond is somewhat like I was a young girl. I accentuated her fears to increase the tension in the book. The setting is real, just as I remember it.

What are your protagonist’s strengths? Flaws?
Mary Lou grows through the three-month experience. She begins as a timid, easily influenced, young girl and becomes strong and independent at the end of the story.

How does your environment/upbringing color your writing?
I began my life as a protected member of a close-knit family. Through years of nursing, marriage, child-rearing and divorce, I experienced many of the situations that appear in my stories.

After hours of intense writing, how do you unwind?
I unwind by attending water aerobics classes three times a week, tending to my many houseplants, playing the piano, and reading.

What are your current projects?
I am writing about a new character, an older woman living in a retirement community. Haven’t decided yet if it will become a series.

Where can folks learn more about your books and events?

On my web site:

Helen, continued success.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Bruce Wayne: Up From The Ruins

Bruce, welcome to my blog.
Please give us a brief bio before we start the interview.
I am a native of the state of Mississippi I hold a Master of Science degree in counseling and I am a Licensed Professional Counselor. I completed my undergraduate work at two private schools in Mississippi. My concentration was in history and Theology. I attended the University of Memphis and earned my Master's degree in 1993. Now a licensed counselor, I credit bartending for preparing me for my career. I am also an accomplished musician.

When did the writing bug bite, and in what genre(s)?
I guess I caught the writing bug and became serious about it around age forty, although I had written a few poems in my early 20s. My genres are poetry and nonfiction. My poems represent my bartending experiences told in poetry. My poetry titles are: Reflections from the Other Side (the world through the eyes of a bartender) and Vodka Tonics for the Soul.

When you started writing, what goals did you want to accomplish? Is there a message you want readers to grasp?
My initial goal was simply to get my work out there to as many readers as I could. My message is the theme of suffering that all experience, giving ourselves permission to acknowledge it, and being able to rise above our own struggles with persistence and determination.

Briefly tell us about your latest book. Series or stand-alone?
My latest book is a stand-alone book. Below is the synopsis:
UP FROM THE RUINS is the true and inspiring story of a family caught in the crossfire of an alcoholic father with a fiery temper and a love for alcohol who keeps the family on edge with a rootless life of transient living conditions. It is about courage, hope, faith, and the American dream. Faced with the head wind of damnation dealt out by all of the experts and predicted failure, Bruce hears only the beating of his own heart and marches to the beat of his drum. Academically, Bruce struggles in school. The family violence keeps him on edge. He has difficulty sustaining concentration in the class room and cannot complete homework assignments. This leads to the failure of many grades, requiring him to attend summer school. However, his dogs are his heroes and they save the family’s life and become his refuge and source of comfort in the midst of a family that churns with violence.

Ultimately, Bruce does the impossible and reaches the pinnacle of success when he earns a Master of Science degree in counseling and becomes a Licensed Professional Counselor. He identifies with the down trodden and the poor and uses his tumultuous life experiences to help heal the broken hearted. Up from the Ruins is a poignant portrayal of one boy’s journey whose adult life is mirrored by his life as a child. The main character descends downward and spirals upward stretching the emotional elasticity of the human limits, decidedly proving, that there is value to human effort. The reader should be prepared to take a downward descent into the deafened echoes of American life.

What’s the hook for the book?
In this age where the American family is being strained beyond its limits, there is a tremendous need for value on human effort, and feeling that one’s choices can yield results. The main character comes to the realization at a young age that nothing is permanent and ultimately, loss and gain must be the fulcrum that tips the balance of life. Filled with all the thrills of childhood as well as the despair of a lost child in his struggle for meaning and purpose, the character emerges from the depths of chaos.

How do you develop characters? Setting?
I start out by setting the background from which my story will emerge. I use vivid descriptions about the terrain and the places my character lives. I introduce my characters in chronological order and develop their personalities through sequential events. I carefully weave the background inside the family system and drift in and out of those two spheres without losing touch with my reader. Each chapter builds upon the other and draws the reader into each subsequent chapter.

Do you have specific techniques you use to develop the plot and stay on track?
I don’t know what to say about technique, other than to quote Earnest Hemmingway: “Writing is ninety percent perspiration and ten percent inspiration.” In Short, I just followed my instincts and ruminated over each word until I felt it was time to turn the book loose. I understand Hemmingway’s description, but I do believe there is also the element of being born with a skill to write as well.

How does your environment/upbringing color your writing?
I think that my upbringing and life experience is my writing. My latest work is an autobiography.

What are your current projects?
I have a project I want to begin working on that I have spent 15 years gathering research for. It centers on my own profession of psychology. Having been a professional counselor for 12 years concomitant the research, I will be able to draw from both subjective experience and objective scientific research.

Where can folks learn more about your books and events?
The main place to learn about my books is to go to my web site at: You can also email me at for upcoming signings and additional information. My books can also be found on along with more descriptions.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Siobhan Cunningham's Penance List

Siobhan C Cunningham was born in Surrey, educated in Berkshire and has her roots firmly planted in County Wicklow Ireland, She lives in London with her Artist daughter Scarlett Raven.

A former model, she was once married to acclaimed musician Raf Ravenscroft, whose stellar career included providing the saxophone solo for Gerry Rafferty'S 'Baker Street' and the Pink Floyd.

Cunningham has worked extensively in both the music and sport industries, notably for Chelsea Football Club and the management company responsible for the careers of the likes of David Beckham. After a five year stint with horseracing's elite at The Jockey Club, and 10yrs of writing in her spare time, she decided to focus on her passion for writing full time.

Having crossed the paths of two psychotic killers (thankfully unscathed), witnessed the wrath of misguided religion and the abuse of money, sex, drugs, fame and power first hand, she was drawn to write The David Trilogy of thriller novels - The Penance List, Unfinished Business and For My Sins.

The Penance List is being adapted to film, and  will be a slick, glossy Basic Instinct style movie.

Respite from the suspense of her thriller novels comes in the form of her Ginormous Joe children’s picture book series. A humorous, loving, good-wins-over-bad look at life through the eyes of a big white, fluffy, huggable, dog called Joe. Her artist daughter, Scarlett, contributed the stunning artwork.

Siobhan, you're a busy lady. When did the writing bug bite, and in what genre(s)?

Babysitting my siblings; being the eldest of five children I started creating night-time stories for them from the age of 8yrs. Having three brothers, the stories had to be pretty lavatorial, crash bang wallop action humor to keep them entertained, giggling. Have been writing my current thriller series for the past 10yrs.
The Children’s picture books started as respite from the blood and gore of the thrillers, and to be able to collaborate with my artist daughter. It is good to be able to help rescue dogs groups by allocating a royalty share.

When you started writing, what goals did you want to accomplish? Is there a message you want readers to grasp?
My main goal is to entertain, drag the reader into another world, escape for a while. I worked for 8yrs in the music to film industry, so I write with film in mind. I write novels for movies.
The messages within the Thrillers:  good always wins over evil, abusers leave children alone, there is a backlash, the power of passion, women should not to take their romantic life too seriously,  and evil crosses the paths of normal people too.
The messages with the Children’s books: good always wins over evil, treat animals well,  love, care for each other, and accomplish goals.

Briefly tell us about your book(s).
25yrs ago my path crossed that of a serial rapist killer, luckily I got away unscathed, but I remember looking into his eyes and wondering how he had come to be so calm, powerful, cold, indifferent to his actions, to the carnage he caused. How had this animal been created? He looked like a clean cut, handsome mummy’s boy. He could have been a timid bank clerk or scout leader. He had a mother, a sibling a childhood, a life. How could the police not have caught him earlier? I wrote The David Trilogy about a cherubic altar boy who, due to the actions of his peers, teachers, priests, became a cruel warp of everything we hold dear. We hate him but understand him. The lead female is an honest, hardworking, normal, struggling with life, contemporary woman – evil can cross anyone’s path. Passion is powerful.

The thrillers are pretty intense to write; as respite I needed something to work on in-between each book. I had the pleasure of meeting Joe, a rescued Pyrenees Mountain Dog found dying on the streets of Dallas, he recuperated with us and inspired love, courage and laughter in our lives. I write the books in honor of him, a share of royalties goes to saving other dogs like him (SPIN Rescue). I also get to work with my talented daughter who produces the artwork in between her gallery shows (contemporary oils).

What’s the hook for the trilogy?

The power of love, passion, religion, and the carnage it can cause.

How do you develop characters? Setting?
They are based on those that have come into my life. Once I start on the basic skeletal outline the story and characters write themselves in directions I didn’t know existed. It sometimes feels as if I have been taken over by a spirit/ghost. But I guess that happens to many writers, the books write themselves.
As I write with film in mind, I have to be able to close my eyes and see, smell, feel, taste, hear the scene. I think that is why film directors like my work, they see it too.

Who’s the most unusual/most likeable character?
David is the most charming, hypnotic, addictive of characters, But I have a soft spot for one of the sub characters, a camp hairdresser, Anton de Menton, who makes us giggle with his camp antics, relaxing us amongst the fear.

Having read The Pennance List, I agree that David is hypnotic. I had to continue reading to see where this tormented character went next. He held me hostage, I suppose.
Ginormous Joe is a wonderful, huggable, arm stretching hug of a character, he brings a tear to your
eye and joy to your soul.

Do you have specific techniques to help you maintain the course of the plot?
Just reading the manuscript over and over again trying to make sure I haven’t dropped any stitches of the complicated story. Every few pages some form of action must occur, keeping the readers on their toes.

Do you have a specific writing style? Preferred POV?
I have a chatty writing style, direct and shocking. I guess that is me as a person…… shocking, no messing around with polite chat. Life is too short, get to the point.

How does your environment/upbringing color your writing?
Totally. I need authenticity with a touch of fantasy.

Share the best review (or a portion) that you’ve even had.
'' A masterful, dark, suspenseful, psychological thriller, expertly exploiting the tensions between the erotic and the macabre, wonderful dialogue, the characterization is phenomenal! '' - '' Intense, hard-hitting, forceful, narrative, about as powerful as anything I've seen, writing doesn't get much better than this. This book is hard to ignore, impossible to put down. ''

What’s the funniest thing that’s happened to you as a writer?
A wonderful 80yr old lady neighbor had been asking to read The Penance List manuscript. I was nervous to let her as I thought it a little explicit, risqué for her very sweet Christian Miss Marple type soul. Eventually I could put her off no longer. I admitted that it was best she did not read it, it was a little x rated, I didn’t want to embarrass her. She promptly shook her head, dragged me into the garden, behind a tree and whispered into my ear that ‘what anyone does behind closed doors in their own bedroom is their own business, I have a whole library of such books in my bedroom… ‘

What are your current projects?
Completing the second book of The David Trilogy, Unfinished Business, am dreading finishing the third book For My Sins, I love my characters too much to let them go…. (Message to self; - get a life!)
In talks with film directors and producers re the adaptation of The Penance List. Fascinating learning the way film writers work, how to cut a 400 page novel to 100 page screenplay, how the Director sees each scene, what he gets about my characters and what he doesn’t get. Amazing to see.
Completing ‘Ginormous Joe’ book two, where he falls in love. Ahh!.

Where can folks learn more about your books and events?

Siobhan, I wish you the best with all your writing and film endeavors. Keep us posted about their releases.

Susan Whitfield, author of The Logan Hunter Mystery Series