Sunday, February 12, 2012

A Box of Texas Chocolates

As Valentine's Day approaches, I thought I'd repost my first interview with multiple anthology authors. Today’s interview is with A Box of Texas Chocolates authors, Betty Gordon, Laura Elvebak, Cash Anthony, and the team of Charlotte and Mark Phillips. A Box of Texas Chocolates is the third short story collection from the Houston-based writing group, The Final Twist. Since the group is composed of writers of many genres, they decided to try a multi-genre anthology. Each story features chocolate and Texas. The award-winning A Box of Texas Chocolates is published by L&L Dreamspell.

Welcome, folks. Before we get into questions, please introduce yourself and your story.

Betty Gordon’s biography:

Betty Gordon is a native Texan who draws inspiration for short stories and novels from years of experience in the legal arena as a law student, legal assistant and paralegal. She also has extensive backgrounds in dance and sculpting which continually prick her imagination for future creations. Betty holds a B.S. Degree in Professional Writing, University of Houston-Downtown, as well as graduate degrees in Literature (creative writing) and Visual Arts from the University of Houston-Clear Lake. Publishing credentials: “The Journal of Graduate Liberal Studies,” “Murder in the Third Person,” “Deceptive Clarity,” and numerous short stories in L&L Dreamspell’s anthologies. She is past president of The Final Twist Writers, a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, Writers League of Texas, Ft. Bend Writers Guild, and Bay Area Writers League. (

Synopsis of “The Cowboy’s Rose”: A rodeo cowboy, Hank, and his girlfriend, Rose, become embroiled in a suspenseful crime puzzle. Hank discovers that sitting on top of bucking bulls is nothing compared to involvement with a box of chocolates. Intriguing mystery leads this hard riding cowboy through nerve-racking experiences.

Laura Elvebak writes: “I write The Niki Alexander Mysteries, Less Dead and Lost Witness. I am past Chapter President and current Treasurer and Newsletter Editor for Mystery Writers of America, Southwest Chapter, a member of Sisters In Crime and The Final Twist.

Synopsis: “Dying For Chocolate” tells the story of a meek child car provider who suspects one of her employers is having an affair with her husband and vows revenge with a special box of chocolates she whips up herself.

Cash Anthony says: “I’m a Houston writer of short fiction and screenplays. I’m a semi-retired attorney and a biker chick. In addition to writing stores, I direct for stage and make short films.

Synopsis: “A Bona Fide Quirk in the Law” features Jessie Carr, the heroine of a series of short stories. This is the third one, and the fourth should be released this year. Jessie is a writer and amateur detective with a sideline as an occasional assassin. In this story, she’s terrorized by a rogue cop while out on her Harley, but she finds a way to get sweet revenge.

Charlotte Phillips writes, “I’m from the Keystone State. In addition to Pennsylvania, I lived in Florida and California before settling in Texas. I’ve always been surrounded by book, and spend a good part of my childhood in the doghouse for making up tall tales. It seemed only natural that I move to Texas and write.
Synopsis for “Books and Bon Bons”: A scrumptious assortment of desserts, a seminar on herbal poisons, and a harridan bent on evil, tempt a waitress towards the biggest mistake of her young life. Young Sassy learns vengeance can have unintended consequences.

Mark Phillips says, “I grew up in central Illinois reading the classis, especially Greek mythology, James bond novels, and Batman comics. I am a graduate of both the University of Illinois and Northwestern University. I live in Houston with my wife, Charlotte, and teach math and philosophy at Bellaire High School.
“You’ll find two of my short stories in A Box of Texas Chocolates. In “Truffles of Doom”, innocent homeless poor have been struck down by poisoned Christmas chocolates. Detective Eva Baum tracks a fiend without conscience or remorse to deliver a present of her own—justice.

“The Invisible Hand Will Smear Chocolate on the Face of Tyranny” finds the Rell buying up the cultural legacy of Earth with the merest trinkets of their advanced technology. Earth monopolists and Rell exploiters beware: rogue entrepreneur Kinkaid will sell Earth’s sweetest secret, chocolate, but only at the price of revolution and freedom.

Okay. Now for a few questions.Do you write any other genres?

Betty: Suspense—paranormal and romantic, and thrillers.

Laura: The fiction I write is all mystery. I have written non-fiction articles for magazines in the past, particularly in the self-help field.

Cash: I write several genres of screenplays. I have written documentaries, an adaptation of a YA novel, and a dark thriller. I have a medic-legal mystery in progress. My short fiction is usually mystery.

Mark: Charlotte and I write the Eva Baum mystery series together. I write science fiction and we’ve experimented with one-act plays.

Is there a different writing process for short stories compared to novel?

Betty: There is a big difference between writing the short story and novel aside from the obvious. Most of my short stories are written in First Person while the novels are written in Omniscient or Third Person. I like both formats, but prefer First Person for a short story as it brings me closer to the reader in a brief time.

Laura: While novels have a wider scope within which to work, short stories have to be concentrated with few characters and certain obstacles that the main character must hurdle to attain a goal that’s set out in the beginning, or having the main character finding an alternate goal more worthy.

Cash: For me, it’s hard to give up the layers of subtext, and the variety of settings and characters that you can have in longer fiction. My writers group has been the main cure for that, and they have been tremendously helpful.

Charlotte: For novels we like to start with an outline of sorts for the plot of the actual mystery. For shorts, we often start with an image or the question “what if?”

How do you discipline yourself while writing?

Betty: Discipline is fortunately not a problem for me. Perhaps my years of work and schooling trained me well. My day begins with getting ready as I would for a job—putting my derriere in front of the computer to check emails, taking care of responding to same, and beginning the day’s project which I have visualized before leaving my warm bed. If research is necessary, I do that first and then move forward.

Laura: I work best when I can close myself up in my office at home. I make myself write and once I get past that first bump, the ride gets much easier.

Cash: If I’m writing a first draft, I try not to read back to far before I continue with the story, or I’ll slip into editing mode. When I’m editing and in rewrite, I try to start at the end and work backwards in chunks, so as not to overlook problems.

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

Betty: The Dead and Breakfast anthology has two stories: “Dead by Breakfast” and “Veiled Deception”, published by L&L Dreamspell. “Anna Rose” is in the A Death in Texas: The Final Twist anthology, also published by L&L Dreamspell.

Laura: “Searching for Rachel” is in A Death in Texas.

Cash: “The Stand-In” is in the Dead and Breakfast anthology. I wrote “The Best Man” for A Death in Texas.

Charlotte and Mark: We wrote “Death on the Bayou” for A Death in Texas anthology.

When writing, what themes do you feel passionate about?

Betty: who wins, who loses, and why.

Laura: Injustice and the underdog.

Cash: Injustices for which there seems no remedy, injuries to children and animals, the good and the bad in all of us.

Parade magazine recently asked 89-year-old P.D. James why so many women write detective novels. She responded “…women are particularly interested in strong emotions…the reasons people step over that invisible line which separates the murderer from the rest of us.” Please respond to that statement.

Betty: I’m sure most us agree that women are emotional creatures. We learn to control and direct our emotions, of course, but these strong emotional-based reactions play well in detective/mystery novels.

Laura: What fascinates me is what motivates a person to cross that line. What final straw must break before it tips the edge from fury and hate to an emotion that chills the blood and brings that person to a dead end where there is no other way out.

Cash: I believe people are interested in murder mysteries for the intellectual puzzle most of them offer, in terms of discerning motivations and analyzing behavior, as well as the “car wreck response” that draws our attention to anything violent and out of the norm. When a villain has managed to fool his community while planning something intended to destroy it, I think people are deeply interested, especially if they feel they have been fooled.

Other writing projects underway?

Betty: My third novel, Valley of Obsessions, is in the hands of my publisher, L&L Dreamspell. To learn more about my work, please check my website:

Laura: I am working on the third Niki Alexander mystery, Heartless, and a memoir.
My website: and my blog, A Writer’s Musings:

Cash: Always! I’m working on a new feature-length screenplay called “Nailed” which will, hopefully, be a comedy-thriller, and another short story about Jessie Carr tentatively called “The Wild Throbbing Dark”. I also have several scripts to read for friends who want feedback, and I take writing classes year-round with ScriptforSale. You can get the anthologies at Cash’s eShop, from Cash’s Closet,

Mark: Charlotte and I are hard at work on the next full-length Eva Baum story, tentatively called “The Golden Key”.

Charlotte: Mark is also creating a book on political philosophy called the Water Cooler Dialogues. His hope is to make political philosophy accessible to a general audience.

You can learn more about all our writing projects at

Thanks to all of you for the interview!

Readers can learn about A Box of Texas Chocolates and all the L&L Dreamspell anthologies at
The print book is available for purchase on, Barnes &, and all other online bookstores. It’s also available for Kindle, of course, and in multiple ebook formats at