Thursday, December 29, 2011

Blessings to All!

As 2012 breathes down my neck, I want to thank all of you authors and industry experts who graciously took the time to answer questions about your writing habits and tell me and the wonderful followers of this blog about your books. With the economy still ailing, I hope I helped you in some small way with book sales, or at the very least, visibility. Many readers are looking for good books, but aren't quite sure where to find them. This blog gives authors a chance to entice, and I must say I've purchased a number of the books mentioned this year. But that's not the best part, in my opinion.

I've met so many wonderful people all over the world, some who've become cyber buddies, and others I've had the privilege of meeting in person at book signings, conferences, or quite by accident. As 2011 winds down, I extend my cyber arms to hug each of you who stop by this blog. I hope you will continue to drop. At the present time, I'm working hard to complete The Goose Parade of Old Dickeywood for its 2012 publication. I'm also writing scenes for Punch Street, the next Logan Hunter Mystery. My book shelf is filled with research on a medieval ancestor of mine, and I plan to write an historical mystery about him ONE OF THESE DAYS.  

Please stop by and keep us informed about what you're reading or writing. I am inviting all who enter here to guest blog on my site during 2012. I'd love to know what readers look for, what reviewers have to say, and how editors and publishers pick through the masses to find gems.

Enjoy the last days of 2011 and plan to celebrate 2012 every day in some way. We have so many blessings in our lives. I count you among mine.


Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Siobhan Cunningham

I'm delighted to have the gorgeous and talented Siobhan Cunningham back on the blog. Welcome, Siobhan, and Merry Christmas!

Thank you , Susan. Merry Christmas to you as well.

How many books have you written? 

Strangely enough, although I write mainly commercial thriller fiction, I started out in the late 80’s helping my ex-husband, Saxophonist Raf Ravenscroft, write four music books on how to play the Saxophone. It’s a tough instrument to master, you need a strong embouchure, circular breathing and understanding neighbors (I used to practice in a wardrobe and never did quite get the hang of it).   

 Raf played the infamous Sax intro on Jerry Rafferty’s haunting ‘Baker Street’, he also played with the Pink Floyd, Marvin Gaye and Tina Turner, to name but a few. We had a recording studio, producing music for film and have an awesomely talented daughter, Scarlett Raven (, a contemporary artist currently being hailed as ‘‘the new Van Gogh & Jackson Pollock, and Prince Harry’s favorite artist’’. 

As respite from my thrillers, Scarlett and I produce a Children’s Picture Book series together, I write the text and she designs the images. They are a fun indulgence that gives a royalty share to dog rescue (  

I am currently producing a thriller trilogy, the first of which ‘The Penance List’ has been published and adapted to Screenplay, I am just about to publish the sequel ‘Unfinished Business’.  

 And I've read them. They're all awesome, Siobhan.   Congratulations!

 Thank you.

What books or authors have influenced you?

I have a long list, too many to mention. Severe respect goes out to anyone that can hold an audience’s attention, sweep them away to another world, keep them intrigued enough to turn 300 or so pages and feel remorse on reading the final page – the loss of a cozy friend.

 What has been your most rewarding experience during the writing process?

Writing is a tough, lonely, mushroom-like existence but there are immense highs when a sentence flows just right, I can spend hours, days going over and over a simple line until it hits that eureka moment, crazy I know. Reader’s mail is rewarding, they are, after all, my reason d’etre. The most common reviews are ‘WOW!’ and ‘I didn’t see that last line coming!’ This gives me courage that I have entertained, kept one step ahead and should keep on writing.

Tell us about The Penance List.

It is a psychological thriller based on David’s obsession with his childhood sweetheart, Tara - the best friend of his bullying big sister. They met when he was 7yrs old at an English boarding school run by and abusive Headmaster. HeDavid loses everything, his virginity, his mother, his heart, and finally his mind. He grows from a beautiful cherubic choirboy into a handsome sexual tour de force killer, manipulating both sexes. We understand the boy but fear the man.

Tara is his opposite, bubbly, successful, fun loving, girl about town with cheeky ‘Sex and the City’ girlfriends and disastrous love affairs.  She has no idea that 20yrs later she and her friends are on David’s revenge list, that he wants payback for his lost childhood. 

As Tara starts a torrid affair with footballing sensation Franco Rossellini, David sets up a stalking base in the apartment above hers, filming her every move.  If he can’t have her, no one can.

Juggling the British press, football fans, Franco’s ex-girlfriend, an ex SAS bodyguard, a prostitute, a hysterical drama-queen stylist and an ‘almost out of the closet’ fashion photographer, Tara’s innocent, light-hearted world becomes embroiled in David’s vengeance. The body count builds as Tara’s time runs out. Based in glitzy London and the stunning Amalfi Coast. Think ‘Basic Instinct’ meets ‘American Psycho’ meets ‘Sex & The City’

Is it available in print, ebook, and Kindle formats?

Yes, print, ebook, kindle and Audiobook. From my days in producing music for film, I write everything with film in mind, so I am happy that it has also been adapted for Screenplay.

A lot of fun is to be had over who should play the challenging role of David. The actor will have to manage a complex role; sexual, charming, loving, as well as evil, cunning and psychotic. He must be attractive to both male and female, and be happy to work in his birthday suit – there are torrid sex scenes.  Some favorites that have been put forward are; Tom Hardy, Jonathan Rhys Myers, Henry Cavill, Mathew Goode. We will see.

What are some of the problems you faced while plotting a series with ongoing characters?

The characters must never become dull, as they progress through the trilogy, layers are shed, the more we get to know them, the more we realize we didn’t actually know them. My job is to keep them interesting to sustain the suspension of disbelief.

How do you develop characters?

I adore people watching, observing. My characters are, in the main, a mismatch of people I have met. Once the storyline takes off the characters tend to write themselves. I am not always in control, which is a bit shocking, but I have stopped wondering about it and just let them get on with it.

One of the lead characters in ‘The Penance List’ does something completely out of character on the final line of the final page… I did not know this was coming until I sat to write it, but the clever thing has set herself up for a wonderful romp in the sequel ‘Unfinished Business’… as I said, I don’t question it any more, I just do as I am told and write.

How do you choose your setting?

In the main I write about what I know, it helps to breath, smell, feel, see, taste each visual as if in a movie scene. But with ‘The Penance List’ the footballer, Franco, has a beautiful cliff top villa which is used to shoot an advertising commercial that Tara works on. I made this ‘image’ up in my mind’s eye. Just before publishing I decided to try and find a real place that looked like my image to be able to give it a name. I found Ravello on the Amalfi Coast – it was perfect.

What are your protagonist’s strengths? Flaws?

David’s strengths are in the scarab shell he formed to protect himself when being abused as a child. They are in his confident beauty, hypnotic gaze and Godlike control over others.  He learned the taste for ‘control’ when he had none, when he hid himself away in the science lab at school, dissecting creatures, smaller and weaker than him. As a boy he was weak, we felt empathy for him, as a man he is strong, we fear him.

David’s flaws were beauty, religion and shame.  His beauty attracted the attentions of an evil Headmaster, his beliefs made him fear the wrath of God if he declined and his shame made him keep a sordid secret from the rest of the world, leading him into a distorted realm of his own.

Tara’s strengths are hard work, laughter and honesty; her flaws are a rose-tinted, stubborn heart that offers misguided loyalty, an overbearing mother… and girlfriends that behave wonderfully badly.

How does your environment/upbringing color your writing?

It has everything to do with my writing, I write about what I know, have seen or been in close contact with.  David was in boarding school, I went to boarding school, Tara worked in advertising, I worked in advertising, Franco is a premiership footballer, I worked in celebrity management (David Beckham’s agency) etc. I also met a violent attacker in my early 20’s (unscathed thank goodness) and helped the police with a photo fit to catch him, he is now in prison. Looking into this man’s eyes the seed of my fictional character of ‘David’ was formed.

If I can I would like to shine a small light on child abuse, to encourage us to listen to our children, cut away the power of secrets and shame.  And also to remind us to follow our gut, look over our shoulder. Have fun, but be careful, evil can step into our sweet little worlds at any time – it certainly did with me that rainy afternoon when I met an attacker.

Although the book is a sexy thriller it is scattered with laugh out loud ‘release’ moments. My upbringing has been to laugh at oneself and adversity, it helps us through.

We all know how important promoting our work has become. How do you get the word out both off and online?

Today writers have to wear a few hats, as well as write a best seller, they need to market, sell, publicize, promote, social network, treat themselves as a business. I dedicate a few hours each day to reach out and talk to readers; they help me create a robust platform to keep producing books from.  It’s a two way street, I write for them, and they give me courage to keep moving.

I guess it will be no surprise for you to hear that (true to form I write what I know) I have included social networking in the next book ‘Unfinished Business’ a little twist in the tale where the victim is snared through social networking.

Can you tell us about current or future projects?

Unfinished Business’ and ‘For My Sins’ will complete the trilogy, which is hard for me because it is the end of the David Trilogy (or is it?) and I do not want to say goodbye to these wonderful characters.

‘The Fallen Angel Trilogy’ crime thriller. A feisty female protagonist makes a deal with God to allow her to ‘take care’ of a few of the ‘bad’uns’ that slip through his and government agency fingers. Think Edward Woodward’s The Equalizer meets  CSI meets Heaven Can Wait (Angels are the new Vampires).

 The La Manga 6’ crime thriller.  For the past10yrs 5 sexy, mature, successful career women have met up for a girls holiday in La Manga, Spain. Where for one glorious week, away from work, family and commitments, they let their hair down and behave badly. But the past is returning to haunt them, not everything that happens in La Manga stays in La Manga. Angry locals, jealous lovers, husbands, gangsters and bodies on the balcony mount up. This may be their last year to get away with murder. Think ‘Sexy Beast’ meets ‘Mad Dogs’ meets ‘Desperate Housewives’.

‘Janet Reger’ a biography of the iconic 1960’s lingerie designer who breathed life into the glamorous undergarments we know today. In collaboration with Alizer Reger & Getty Images Publishing.

 Where can folks learn more about your books and events?

 Check out my websites or twitter

Thank you for the interview,Susan, as always a pleasure to chat with you.

Likewise, Siobhan. Continued success with all endeavors!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Brian T. Shirley: Make Love not Warts

My guest today is author and comedian, Brian T. Shirley. We're sipping coffee and nibbling on Christmas leftovers. Welcome to the blog, Brian. Tell us something about yourself that readers might be surprised to learn.

I love performing onstage in front of a big audience, but I don't like crowds. I'm also a pretty shy person when it comes to one on one encounters. I find it easier to talk to a bunch of people rather than a few.

How many books have you written?


What books or authors have influenced you?

These two books I have published were influenced by Gary Larson. I loved reading his "Far Side" series when I was growing up and his books were the first thing I thought of when I started putting my series together.

What has been your most rewarding experience during the writing process?

I had a lot of help from friends and family with both books. The best part of this was running the one liners I had written by them to see what they thought. I could not wait to see what they thought and watch them laugh as they read them. Even better than watching them read my latest work was hearing my dad read the proverbs aloud.

Tell us about your latest release Four Score and Seven Beers Ago.

This is the second book in my Make Love not Warts trilogy. Much like the first book, this one is full of funny proverbs and insults. There are a few differences in Four Score. Number one is that I've taken popular song titles and made comedic sentences with them, such as " I did the Safety Dance with My Sharona while Jessie's Girl Barked At the Moon." Second I added a funny poem at the end of the book. I did these books as a way for people to laugh at their own leisure and come back to the books to laugh again when they see their favorite lines.

Is it available in print,ebook and kindle formats?

Yes, both books are available in all those formats and at most major book re tailors.

Were any of the books more challenging to write than the others?

Yes, the second book was a challenge. I have over two hundred proverbs in the first book of which I had a good amount of those already written. I started fresh with the second so it took me a little longer.The third book is proving to be an even bigger challenge.

How does your environment/upbringing color your writing?

 I take a lot of my comedy from what is going on around me and my frame of mind at the time. The environment I was in colored a lot of my second book. A lot of the proverbs I wrote were about taking my frustrations out on life in general.

We all know how important our work has become. How do you get the word out off and online?

 First off I must say a big " Thank You " to you for this interview. This is one of the ways I've tried to promote my work. I've done several online interviews to get the word out. I'm also on facebook,twitter and linkedin. I've done online ads and press releases. I have a web site that presents my work as a comedian and an author, so I push both aspects of my career at the same time.
  Offline I've done TV,radio and newspaper interviews for both my books as I promote my comedy performances. I use the books as part of my intro into my shows and as part of my promo material to all the clubs I play. I carry the books with me and sell them after my shows and I've have great success with them in that aspect.

Can you tell us about your current or future projects?

 I'm plugging along writing the third book in this series. I'm also working on short stories for my website and possibly future publication/sitcom material. I'm always writing new material for my show, and I'm hoping to get a novel started later on in 2012.

Where can folks learn more about your books and events?

 They can go to my web site I have excerpts from both books there, short stories,videos, and my tour calendar.

Thanks Susan! Happy Holidays!

Merry Christmas, Brian!

Friday, December 23, 2011

C.J. West: Addicted to Love

C.J. West has returned to the blog just in time for Christmas. C. J. and I are sitting here, enjoying Southern pecan pie and coffee.
C.J., I'm delighted to have you visit the blog again. Have a piece of  cutie, umm, I mean pecan pie with your coffee and tell us about your latest release, Addicted To Love.
Wow! Thanks for the refreshments and the interview, Susan. Addicted To Love is a novel about being passionately in love. The whole town of Highland Falls is overcome with love - monogamous love. It is the ideal setting to settle down until a bizarre series of murders begins. Women begin attacking their men with such brutality the whole town is in shock. Wes Holliday is in town on vacation but finds himself torn between an intense love affair and duty to a town that desperately needs him.  
In the book I explore sex and passion as something that each of us wants and desires and how far we would go to keep passion alive in our everyday lives.
I'm hooked!
Is it available in print, ebook, and Kindle formats?       
Signed print copies are available from my website. Electronic formats are available from Amazon, BN, and Smashwords.
Were any of your books more challenging to write than the others, C.J?
My early books were much more challenging. I find myself distracted by promotion and other activities now, but I write more strategically (for impact on the reader) and I draft my prose much more quickly. My first drafts are now as good as the third or fourth draft of my early books.  
 That's good to hear, C.J. How do you develop characters?
One of the compliments I often get on my writing is that even my minor characters are vibrant. When a new character steps onto the page, I go out and browse for a photo of someone I think looks like the character. As I develop the personality and background of my new friend, I ascribe attitudes and emotions to the picture as I work and after some time I feel like I know the character personally. 
I follow the same procedure and it seems to work well for me. Can you tell us about current or future projects?
I’m working on a 5 book series that’s unique for me. Each book is a self-contained story, but the series also reads like a single book. There is a mystery that runs through the series and becomes clearer as the books progress. I’m excited for a series structured this way and I really like writing the characters. The first book will be available in 2012.
I am also working on a live murder mystery show that will take place in December. I enjoy acting in and directing these shows. They are a lot of fun for me and they are a great way to get the word out about my work.
Where can folks learn more about your books and events?
Folks can find me at any of the following places:
Have a wonderful Christmas, C.J., with lots of book sales! I am looking forward to reading Addicted to Love on my Kindle after the holidays.

Thanks, Susan. I hope you enjoy it, and Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

John Zunski

John Zunski is my guest today. Welcome, John.
Thanks for having me, Susan.

What inspires your stories?

Once upon a time I owned a Dek hockey rink, I was a firefighter for six years, now I own a small town bar; that being said, I’ve been blessed with incredible voyeuristic opportunities. I’ve encountered interesting characters over the years, it would be a wasted opportunity if I didn’t translate some of those characteristics onto the page.  Great characters give good stories; it’s my job to add variables and make the stories memorable.

What genre do you gravitate toward?

I dabble in many genres. Cemetery Streetis a coming of age tragedy/tearjerker –Shangri-La Trailer Parkis a dark comedy. I also have a political satire and a ghost story in the pipeline. A writer friend calls my tendencies schizophrenic – simply because I don’t linger within one genre.  A common link through my work is that the settings are contemporary.  That could change in the future, but my‘schizophrenia’ would have to deepen.  

What are your work habits?

I prefer writing in the wee hours.  I usually take an evening nap, wake up around two AM and write at least two hours before turning in.  Living in the mountains of Montana, the calm of the night resonates with me – during the summer, when the windows are open, I find inspiration in the sound of the creek or on occasion, the sounds of wildlife - especially coyotes and wolves. During the winter, the full moon on snow is super inspiring. If I’m lucky, I’ll catch the shadow of the muse lurking within the night. 

What do you consider your best work?  

That’s a hard question, it’s like asking a parent what child is their favorite. Cemetery Street is emotional – which I love. Any book that elicits emotion is a winner with me. Shangri-La Trailer Park is gritty, it really looks at the dark side of life with a humorous, if not offensive eye. Nightwatching – my ghost story – packs a wallop, it has more twists and turns than a mountain road. My current work – Montana Rural – has some intense moments that have left members of my writer’s group cursing the characters for their actions.   That being said, can I take a powder on the question and give you an answer in twenty years?

Do you plot out your novels in advance or do you write on the fly?

I’ve set out to do both. Cemetery Streetwas plotted, as is its forthcoming sequel Montana Rural. Shangri-La Trailer Park,Nightwatching and Dirty Bum for President piloted themselves.

What experience do you want for your readers?

I want them to have an emotional experience. I hope readers relate to my characters and have lingering images of them. My job is complete when long after a reader finishes  reading one of my books the characters resonates in their memories like old friends.

Are any of your character traits or settings based on real life?

That goes without saying!  Most characters and settings are, but I always will add extra elements. I’ve been asked if Cemetery Street is autobiographical – other than the settings, it is not. I believe you have toadd realistic settings – they’re the canvass on which the painting of the story rests. It would be an injustice to craft a beautiful picture on a paper bag. It cheapens the art. 

What are your most significant challenges when you write?

Getting started. Once I silence the prattle in my mind and fall into my chair, magic happens.

What are you currently working on?

Montana Rural –  it’s a story of a dysfunctional rural fire district in Montana.

Do you have any writing advice you would like to share with aspiring authors?

Be tenacious and never, ever, give up! Actively seek insight and criticism, and when someone criticizes you or your work, use their words as fuel to fire your creative engines.  Stay true to the passion that initiallyinspired you to write.

Good advice, John. Have a Merry Christmas!

You too, Susan.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Lee Carey's Pets in Paradise

My guest today is Lee Carey, author of Pets in Paradise. We're sitting on my sunny deck, sipping a concoction he made. Welcome, Lee.

Thank you for sharing your time with me, Susan. It’s my pleasure to meet a fellow writer, especially one from my great state of North Carolina.
Tell us something about yourself that readers might be surprised to learn.
Susan, you would need a rubber hose and hot light for me to admit many of my adventures and shortcomings.
LOL! Really??? I have a hose and a light around here somewhere.
LOL. Just teasing, Susan. Let’s just say that my high school days were mostly spent focused on anything other than school studies. They didn’t grade on girls, surfing, baseball, and music, which meant my GPA (had no clue what that meant back then) was well-locked into the C- category. I do wished I’d paid more attention in English class. However, after writing for twelve years and countless edits, I’ve finally learned…with the priceless assistance of my UNC graduate wife, Kay. My advice to young writers; ‘please learn the basics when you are young.’
How many books have you written?
Judging from my three-foot stack of ‘rejection letters’, I say somewhere around seven hundred, but really the actual count is: 7 novels and 15 short stories.
What books or authors have influenced you?
Way too many to mention here, so to make a long list short, let’s go with; James W. Hall; Michael Connelly; Peter Blauner; and James Grippando. Hall is the writer I credit with inspiring me to begin writing novels. He made it look so easy – boy, was I fooled.
Tell us about your latest release?
That would be Pets In Paradise. My only novels published in ‘real book’ form (paperback) were pet novels. Pets follows my first, Gabby…All About Me. The idea of a paradise for pets and animals came to me the day we had to put Gabby to sleep. (She was two months shy of fifteen years old.) Anyway, since saying ‘good bye’ to a pet is such a traumatic experience, I wanted to write something light and humorous, hoping to ease the pain, not only for me and my wife, but for all pet lovers. Another goal was to help readers recall those memorable moments and unique personalities they enjoyed with their pets. This novel includes various pets and animals, each with their own personality. I included true stories and traits shared by my friends about their deceased pets. It is the most fun scribbling I’ve ever done.
Is it available in print, ebook, and Kindle formats?
Yes. Both pet novels were published in paperback (available on my website), and are also offered in Kindle and Nook formats. My three Mystery/Crime and two YA/Crossover novels are also on Kindle. The titles and previews are listed on my web page.
How do you choose your settings?
Preferably, the places I like and have spent time. Some are set at the beach, and as I mentioned, North Carolina. Since I was raised on a farm in the country, and now live at the beach, I’ve got most areas covered with personal experiences.
We all know how important promoting our work has become. How do you get the word out, both off and online?
I am fortunate in the sense that I owned and operated a Purina feed store for twenty years. Included in the daily business was advertising through radio, print, and television. So, I fully understand promoting a product. I have become very familiar with Facebook, and have designed my own website, and I am very impressed with Amazon Kindle’s huge impact and outreach. To be honest, Susan, it’s such a breath of fresh air not to need literary agents and their attitudes. Now I write what I feel a percentage of readers will enjoy, putting quotas and sales in a bottle for the next outgoing tide. For me, writing is not about fame and wealth…my goal is receiving emails with a simple ‘thank you’ from readers. In the words of Dirty Harry… ‘It makes my day’.
Where can folks learn more about your books and events?
I welcome everyone to catch the wave to my website: and peruse my scribblings. If they have questions, drop me an email. (Address on site.) And, if they like FB, I can be found under Lee Carey or Sandbridge Author.
Susan, thank you for allowing me to tell your readers a little about the ‘beach writer’. Have a great day and keep smilin’…

Thanks, Lee. Back at you! Have a wonderful Christmas and a Happy New Year! Now pass me another beverage.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Joyce and Jim Lavene: Prolific Writing Team

Just in time for Christmas:  A Spirited Gift by Joyce and Jim Lavene. I'm happy to say that my guests today, the husband and wife team of Joyce and Jim Lavene, are friends of mine who also live in North Carolina. The Lavenes created Carolina Conspiracy, a group of mystery writers from the Carolinas, and we can't thank them enough for getting so many of us together. But more about that later in the interview.

Welcome to the blog, Joyce and Jim. Please have some of my Brittle Bones (peanut brittle from Killer Recipes cookbook) and a beverage.

Thanks, Susan.

I love the cover of your new release! It's quite eye-catching.

We like it too.

How on earth do two married folks write together without a homicide in the house?

You know, people ask us this question more than any other. We’re not really sure why this works for us. Maybe it’s because we worked together for 15 years with our own office supply business. Or maybe it’s because we’ve been married for 40 years. Or maybe it’s because we kill people in our books so we don’t have to kill each other. Of course, we have disagreements sometimes but it works for us.

You have two have written several series. Tell us how you came up with the ideas and a little about each series.

Sheriff Sharyn Howard Mysteries – This was our first. We got the idea from watching the news and seeing the first woman elected as a sheriff in NC. Sharyn was very serious, a little dark. Her father, who’d been the sheriff, was killed in a robbery  and she looked bad in her ugly brown uniforms. She didn’t get along with her mother and had a love/hate relationship with the county ME. We wrote 12 books in this series and hated when it was over. The books are being released now from Harlequin Worldwide in paperback.

Peggy Lee Garden Mysteries – Jim and I have been Master Gardeners for years and thought it would be fun to write about a botanist and botanical poisons. We are good friends with a botanist at the NC zoo who was a big help with these books. Peggy was also an older protagonist which was fun. And it was set in Charlotte so we got to eat out at all the restaurants we used in the book (for research) and had her travel across the state.

Renaissance Faire Mysteries – This is a strange, fun mystery series about a history professor who spends her off time at a Ren Faire in Myrtle Beach where she solves murder mysteries. This was so much fun to write because we love Ren Faires. We made this the best Ren Faire we could imagine with a castle, a lake, a pirate ship and a five acre Sherwood Forest. We’ve had so many people ask us if this is a real place because they want to go there. But it’s not, though we wish it was too! Jessie, our protagonist, apprentices herself and learns a different craft each time she goes to the Faire. So far she’s learned glass making, basket weaving, hat making, sword making and toy making.

The Missing Pieces Mysteries – This is set in Duck, NC and the mayor, Dae O’Donnell, is the mayor of the town. She is a finder of lost things, based a little on Jim’s uncanny ability to find lost things. She’s much more talented since she is also psychic. She has an antique/secondhand shop where she can put all the things she finds. The area is rich with folklore, pirates and ghosts so we wove these into the series as well. Dae finds out in the third book, A Spirited Gift,  that  she is related to the scourge of Duck, pirate Rafe Masterson. His ghost needs her help to clear his name and she needs his help to solve the murder of her friend.

We are currently writing two new series – The Sweet Pepper Fire Brigade Mysteries for Berkley Prime Crime and the Pie in the Sky Mysteries for Pocket Books.

Congratulations to both of you!

Tell us something about yourself that readers might be surprised to learn.

Joyce – I can’t sleep if the closet door is open.
Jim – I have a collection of more than 200 dragons.

How many books have you written?

A Spirited Gift, our December release, will be our 60th published book. We are very excited about it!

WOW! That's fantastic!

Tell us more about A Spirited Gift.
A Spirited Gift is the third book in the Missing Pieces Mysteries. The books are set at the Outer Banks, in Duck, NC. Our protagonist is the mayor of Duck, Dae O’Donnell. In A Spirited Gift, Dae is trying to solve the murder of a friend when she is confronted by the ghostly apparition of a long dead relative demanding justice for his death. The pirate Rafe Masterson wasn’t someone Dae expected to learn she was related to but she has little choice but to help him with him everywhere she turns.

Is it available in print, ebook, and Kindle formats?

It is available in every format in print and online everywhere.

What are some of the problems you faced while plotting a series with ongoing characters?

There is always the issue of keeping your characters fresh as well as keeping up with their lives and everything that happens to them. When you write two or three series a year, you have to keep a running tab on what all of them are doing! It helps to get them in, and out of, trouble.

How do you develop characters?

They really kind of develop themselves. Most of the time they form, sometimes with or without, a plot. Secondary characters are often people we know or that we’ve met.

I have trouble keeping up with character ins two books, so I'm awestruck.
How do you choose your setting?

Setting is so important. We choose it as carefully as we do characters. For Peggy Lee, our garden mystery protagonist, she wanted to be in Charlotte, NC in an urban area that loved to garden. Dae O’Donnell couldn’t have lived anywhere but Duck with its legends and history. Our Renaissance Faire could only have survived in someplace like Myrtle Beach where there are plenty of tourists.

Can you tell us about current or future projects?

Right now, we are working on a new series for Berkley Prime Crime. It’s called the Sweet Pepper Fire Brigade Mysteries and it is set in the Smokey Mountains. Our protagonist is a firefighter from Chicago who comes to the Tennessee Mountains to help out a new volunteer fire dept. We are also working on a new series for Pocket Books called Pie in the Sky which is set at Duke University.

Further congrats!

You guys created Carolina Conspiracy, a unique group of Carolina mystery writers who often travel do the same locations for workshops and other book events. Why did you establish this group? And I must add, I thoroughly enjoy being one of the conspirators.

People often comment on how nice it must be to do things together, and it is. We thought it might be nice for other authors to get together and enjoy themselves while they sell their books. It’s been fun for us too and we’ve made many good friends.

Where can folks learn more about your books and events?
The best place for excerpts and news is but we are also on Facebook and I tweet @author54. Hope to see you there!

So, folks, these two have plenty of great books for your entertainment. What are you waiting for?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

How About a Candy Cadillac for Christmas?

My special guest today is Claire Applewhite, whom I've met in person. Claire is a petite beauty with plenty of charm and talent. We have the same publisher, L&L Dreamspell, in common. It's my pleasure to have you on the blog, Claire.

Thank you, Susan. 

Tell us something about yourself that readers might be surprised to learn. 

People may not know that I study piano and music composition. Recently, I’ve written the music and lyrics for my video trailers.  It is an exciting challenge to match the mood of the music to the theme of the story.

Wow! How exciting! I can hardly wait to see the video trailers.

How many books have you written, Claire?

The Wrong Side of Memphis, Crazy For You, St. Louis Hustle, Candy Cadillac.

What books or authors have influenced you?

Books: Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, A Dark Adapted Eye by Barbara Vine, and authors Walter Mosley, Ed McBain, Mary Higgins Clark.

What has been your most rewarding experience durng the writing process?

When someone emails me or stops me to say that they really enjoyed my book, or especially when they say they meant to read a chapter a night and ended up staying half the night to read more of the book. Or when someone says, “I don’t usually like to read, but I liked your book.”

That IS rewarding.

Tell us about your latest release, Candy Cadillac.

Candy Cadillac is the third in the ‘nam noir series, featuring Elvin Suggs and Di Redding. There was a time in St. Louis history when car bombings were quite active among organized crime figures. Years ago, one of the victims had a girlfriend that lived in our neighborhood, and a detective banged on our door one Sunday afternoon, wanting to know what we knew about her boyfriend, who had, by the way, been blown up when he started his car. By the way, what did we know about her, hmm? This scenario inspired the makings of Candy Cadillac. 

Is it available in print, ebook, and Kindle formats?

It is available in print, ebook and Kindle formats.

Were any of your books more challenging to write than the others?

Candy Cadillac was more challenging to write because it had a ticking clock in it from page one until the end. It was critical that I keep an eye on my timeline. The entire story occurs between a Wednesday and a Sunday evening, and it was the first book that I have written where time lapsed between scenes really mattered.

What are some of the challenges you faced while plotting a series with ongoing characters?

Before I begin writing, I try to decide how much time/space each character will occupy during the story. For example, will it center on the growth of a particular character this time? What role will the others play? Will they all appear or only some of them? How much of a subplot will they offer?

How do you develop characters?

First, I line up 3-5 of the most interesting people I know and select a strong characteristic from each one. Then I blend them into one person. I ask what does this person want more than anything in the world? Who or what is in their way? What are they most afraid of? And then, I make sure that thing happens. The character is definitely different in the end than they were in the beginning of the story.

How do you choose your setting?

For me, the story chooses the setting. I look for the theme or mood of the storyline and it tells me where to set the plot.

Any current or future projects?

Currently, I am working on the fourth in the series, Tennessee Plates, in which Elvin goes returns to Memphis and finds romance—with the wrong woman.

Where can folks learn more about your books and events?

 My website is

Claire, thanks for taking the time for an interview about your new release. Have a wonderful Christmas!

Thanks for having me, Susan. Wishing you a memorable holiday season as well.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Mary L. Tabor: Sex After Sixty

 My guest today is Mary Tabor, author of (Re) Making Love, for those of us over 60.

Welcome to the blog, Mary. Tell us something about yourself that readers might be surprised to learn.

I say, It ain’t over till it’s over. I published my first book when I turned 60.


How many books have you written?

Three: two published and one not: My first book is The Woman Who Never Cooked, connected stories Mid-List Press, winner of the First Series Award. I then wrote a novel entitled Who by Fire (excerpts have won prizes, but the book has not found a publisher yet. My most recent is the memoir (Re)Making Love: a sex after sixty story, published by the fab Anthony Policastro, CEO of Outer Banks Publishing Group.

What books or authors have influenced you?

 A: Nabokov, for the beauty of his prose, his love of games, and his depth of feeling. Speak, Memory is my favorite memoir. Joyce because of the humanity of Ulysses. Folks read all the glosses, try to get all the allusions and get mired in the complexity of the tale when its power is its pure simplicity: one day, two men, each on a separate long journey and a meeting that changes them both and the reader for ever.

 I don’t write like either of them but their power over me has been undeniable.

 What has been your most rewarding experience during the writing process?

My readers when the book was a blog: They shored me up. I forged ahead on the sea of their belief.

 Tell us about your latest release, (Re)Making Love.

 I wrote this memoir live as a blog while I was living it. My husband of 21 years, Oh so Greta Garbo said one day, “I need to live alone.” I cratered. And then I wrote. The journey of the good, the bad and the oh so foolish is my story. But ultimately, the journey turned into a love story I could never have imagined. In this way, the old saw truth is stranger than fiction became a reality.

Is it available in print, ebook, and Kindle formats?

Yes, all three. Check out Amazon here: but you can also read it on your iPad through Smashwords.

Were any of your books more challenging to write than the others?

The memoir was the most challenging because I left the cover of fiction. I do think all heartrending and deeply moving fictions come from the writer’s willingness to venture into the unconscious and that is true of my short stories and the unpublished novel. But with the cover of fiction, I could be as bare as I am in the memoir but never have to say it was true when much of it actually is. With the memoir, my heart, my life and stuff I would never tell you in conversation get revealed. It was hard to do but hard not to do. I suspect that paradox is the artist’s burden.

How do you develop characters?

All my writing begins with a character. Henry James in his preface to The Ambassadors talks of the novel’s “strong stake.” I think what he means is that we must know the trouble that drives the character, but the strong stake is ultimately the fullness of that character’s life on the page. In his preface to The Golden Bowl, he admits how he inexorably chooses to move closer. “There is no other participant, of course, than each of the real, the deeply involved and immersed and more or less bleeding participants….”

In the case of the memoir—and maybe all my work—I grapple with the question, Who am I?  Here’s something I say in the prologue of the memoir, now in its second edition, that might explain better what I mean:

For this second edition that comes now one year after its first publication, I would like to share with you as you embark on the journey of (Re)Making Love what I have learned about living within time’s limits from writing this book and from living beyond its first publication. Rabbi Hillel, who spoke these words 2,000 years ago, has been widely quoted ever since, perhaps most notably in my lifetime by the ilk of Primo Levi and Robert F. Kennedy.

 If I am not for myself, then who will be for me? And if I am only for myself, then what am I? And if not now, when?

 Truly knowing what these words mean has come from the place of not knowing. And by this I mean that I have had to live this journey without the full understanding of their plain spoken sense. I have had to learn the hard way: through the good, the bad and the foolish that this memoir recounts.

 Where can folks learn more about your books and events?



Twitter: http://twitter/com/maryltabor

Continued success, Mary, and Merryu Christmas!

You too, Susan.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Margaret Millmore's Doppelganger Experiment

Margaret A. Millmore was born and raised in Southern California, moved to San Francisco in 1991 and currently resides there wsband.  Reading is an addiction for her, and one she’ll never give up.  She has an active imagination and often made up stories as a child.  After ending a successful career, she found herself with the time to pursue those stories, and the floodgates opened.  She loves just about every kind of story, but especially fiction. "Throw in some supernatural or paranormal overtones and I’m in heaven," she adds. She is the grandniece of Irish author Benedict Kiely and the second cousin of Irish author Sharon Owens. So writing is certainly in her blood. 

Margaret, welcome to the blog. May I pour you a cup of tea?

Thank you, Susan. Yes, you may.

Tell us what books or authors have influenced you.

My earliest love was CS Lewis’ Narnia books, but I’ve been a die-hard Stephen King, Ray Bradbury and Dean Koontz fan for as long as I can remember. I read a great deal, and almost every author I read inspires and influences me.
Tell us about your latest release.

Doppelganger Experiment is psychological thriller based in San Francisco with a touch of the paranormal: After more than four weeks in a coma, Jane woke up to find several things wrong; she didn’t remember the last three years, she was married to a man she didn’t know, and frightening dreams were infiltrating her sleep. But were they dreams or memories? As she struggles to recapture a life she doesn’t remember, she discovers clues that lead to flashes of memories and the discovery of horrific experiments that end in murder... and something worse than murder.  She must uncover the secret to the experiments to recover her life and end the horrible things that are happening.

Is it available in print, ebook, and Kindle formats?

Yes, the book is available in both formats at most on-line retailers.

How do you develop characters, Margaret?

I usually develop the main character(s) when the story idea comes to me, from there the characters develop with the story itself, they sort of write each other.
How do you choose your settings?

I’ve lived in San Francisco for the last twenty years, so it was just natural to use the City as the setting.

We all know how important promoting our work has become. How do you get the word out both off and online?

I use as much social media as I can and of course I shamelessly ask friends and family to spread the word. It’s very difficult to promote, but you really have to put your all into it, I also do a ‘featured authors’ page on my website, this is to help promote my fellow authors and more often than not they kindly reciprocate.

Can you tell us about current or future projects?
  I’m working on a new thriller, but it’s in the very early stages, so at this point, there isn’t much to tell.

Where can folks learn more about your books and events?
  You can visit my website at, or the following links:!/profile.php?id=100002915649470

Here's a blurb for her novel, Doppelganger Experiment:
After more than four weeks in a coma, Jane woke up to find several things wrong; she didn’t remember the last three years, she was married to a man she didn’t know, and frightening dreams were infiltrating her sleep. But were they dreams or memories? As she struggles to recapture a life she doesn’t remember she discovers clues that lead to flashes of memories and the discovery of horrific experiments that end in murder... and something worse than murder.  A psychological thriller based in San Francisco.
 Margaret, it has been a pleasure to have you over. Continued success with your writing endeavors.

Thank you, Susan.