Storytelling, Blowing Stuff Up, and Heir Hunting with JL Simpson

What do you do with a character who’s terrible at everything?

Today’s podcast guest, JL (Janet) Simpson, has a unique character on her hands, Daisy Dunlop. As you’ll hear her describe, Daisy is terrible at everything. Which is an interesting foundation for a character in a mystery novel.

But, as with so many of us, after multiple failures at finding her vocation, Daisy finally discovers an occupation she can call her own.

In the intro, I mention that the shortlist for the Arthur Ellis Crime Writing awards were announced last Friday. You can click here to see the whole list. It’s a great way to find new authors and books. The site also lists all the previous years’ short lists and winners, so you can work you way backwards, if you like.

Horse With No NameThis episode of the podcast is sponsored by my cozy mystery novel, Horse With No Name.

Would you risk your life simply to be yourself?

Julia Thom is new to the small town of Horse, but she’s not new to trouble. When reclusive watchmaker James Hunter is beaten, but has no memory of the event, Julia vows to find the culprits. Even if Hunter hadn’t saved Julia herself from being assaulted, she would still be on the case; meddling helps keep her focus off her own complicated life. Julia is fast becoming a thorn in Police Constable Jack Merrick’s side and he flounders as he tries to figure out how to deal with such a headstrong woman.

When the attackers strike again and the violence escalates, Julia’s determination redoubles, putting herself in more danger than anyone could have anticipated. While Julia and Merrick grapple with finding unknown assailants, they must also find a way to come to terms with one another.

This novel is FREE for a limited time at all online vendors:
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You can find out more about today’s guest, J.L. Simpson, and all her books on her website JLSimpson.com. You can also find her on Twitter @JLSimpsonAuthor.

Press play (above) to listen to the show, or read the transcript below. Remember you can also subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts. And listen on Stitcher.

You can also click here to watch the interview on YouTube.
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Finding the Character that Wants Her Story Told with Judy K. Walker

Author Judy K. Walker tells us how she found her main character Sydney Brennan, and coined the term ‘Thrillergy’, in this interview.

I love that Judy talks about using her experience working for a lawyer on death penalty cases as part of the foundation for her PI’s background.

Stories come from many different places and Judy lets us in on parts of her process for writing her books. Since we recorded the interview, she has published the first book in the ‘Thrillergy’ she mentions – it is called Prodigal is separate from the Sydney Brennan Mysteries.

This podcast episode is sponsored by the free mystery novella, Charlie Horse.

1890. Frontier British Columbia. When one of her students is accused of a crime, will new schoolteacher Julia Thom be able to prove his innocence?

For a limited time you can click here, or on the cover image at right to get your free copy.

You can find out more about today’s guest, Judy, and all her books on her website JudyKWalker.com. You can also find her on Twitter @JudyKWalker.

Press play (above) to listen to the show, or read the transcript below. Remember you can also subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts. And listen on Stitcher.

You can also click here to watch the interview on YouTube.
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Writing Comedy and Depth with Kim Hunt Harris

Just like life, Kim Hunt Harris’s Trailer Park Princess cozy mystery novels are a healthy mix of funny moments and challenging times for her amateur sleuth Salem Grimes.

When I read The Middle Finger of Fate, the first book in the series, I was struck by how funny Kim’s writing is, and how touched I was by her character Salem’s ups and downs. Salem is someone really REALLY trying to turn her life around. And she’s going through one of those times in life when no matter what she does things seem to wrong. And the harder she tries to right them, the wronger they go. (We’ve all had times like that!)

And yet, Kim’s writing is so funny, and so sweet, that I laughed outloud throughout the book. Don’t even get me started about the car with the ‘bucket’ seat. Oh my! 😉

If you like Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series, do yourself a favor and try out the Trailer Park Princess books. You can thank me later. 😉

You can find out more about today’s guest, Kim, and all her books on her website KimHuntHarris.com. And you will find her on Twitter @kimhuntharris.

Press play (above) to listen to the show, or read the transcript below. Remember you can also subscribe to the show on iTunes. And listen on Stitcher.

You can also click here to watch the interview on YouTube.

Keep reading →

Book Excerpt from Blogging Is Murder

Hello readers!

Today the lovely Gilian Baker has a treat for us. She’s got a brand new book coming out, Blogging Is Murder, and she’s sharing an excerpt with us, as well as some behind the scenes thoughts about why she wrote this book and the very current and present issues about online privacy and security that concern us all.

Take it away, Gilian!

******

The first book in the Jade Blackwell Mysteries series, Blogging is Murder, came about as a catharsis for the frustrations of trying to make a living from my first blog. The issues that arise are ones that every blogger deals with. And cyber-theft is a blogger’s biggest nightmare.

In the scene I’ve chosen to share, Jade, our protagonist, learns that her friend and fellow blogger, Liz Collins, has been hacked, and more besides. The hacker has taken over Liz’s blog and her social media profiles. The situation has now escalated and Liz is at her wit’s end. Jade meets her friend at the little tea shop in Aspen Falls, Wyoming, Tea & Sympathy, to offer comfort…and to satisfy her curiosity.

“Well, last night we decided to bring the sheriff in because the hacker—Connie is her name, by the way—showed up on our doorstep.” Liz took a gigantic breath once she’d gotten the words out.

“What?”

“Yeah, that’s why we’re so freaked out. But we didn’t want to make a scene in front of the kids, so we decided to go to the sheriff station today to see what he recommended.”

“So, what did he say?”

“First, we made an official complaint. I have to print out all the correspondence from my hosting and social media companies, so there’s proof in our file. Oh, my gosh, Jade. I have a file at the sheriff’s office.” She dropped her head into her hands as I grabbed for her tea cup before she tipped it over.

Reaching over the table, I patted her arm, making the usual comforting noises while she cried. Why would someone decide to invade her life like this? Why would someone go to the trouble of hacking to add to a blog and social media profiles? Were mine safe? I needed to take immediate action when I got home.

I stopped patting. “Wait a minute. This Connie woman showed up on your doorstep last night. How on earth did she find out where you lived?”

Liz’s red face looked up, her eyes peeking at me through her eyelashes. “My physical address is still on my accounts. You know that legally you have to have an address listed on the emails you send to your subscribers.”

I nodded, with a sinking feeling of what was coming next.

“I meant to get a P.O. Box, Jade, but it always got pushed back on the priority list. I mean, with all the other stuff you have to do as a blogger, it just didn’t seem that important, even though I’d read other peoples’ stories about similar situations. I guess in the back of my mind I just didn’t believe anyone would do it to me.”

She paused to blow her nose loud enough to make several patrons turn and look. “I’m not some huge celebrity, although the blog is gaining popularity.”

“Oh, Liz. Don’t blame yourself. I’ve been doing exactly the same thing. In fact, we’ve all heard those stories. But in every case, those savvy online entrepreneurs didn’t take action until someone came to their houses either.” I made a mental note to hit the post office PDQ to get the P.O. Box I’d been procrastinating.

*Note from Gilian:
Per FCC regulations, bloggers are required to include an address on all correspondence they send to people who sign up for their newsletters. Even though it’s recommended to use a P.O. Box as this address, it’s not uncommon for bloggers to use their physical address. The idea to add this to the story occurred when I read a post from a blogging personality who described a night when a fan showed up at her house asking for advice.

“Part of me knows that, but I keep thinking about the kids. I should have been protecting my family, Jade. But something else always seemed more urgent.”

“I know.” I patted her arm again. “What else did the sheriff suggest?”

“We started the process to get a restraining order against her so if she shows up again, they can do something. The cyber-crime stuff is less cut and dried.”

“Well, you know I’ll do whatever I can to help. Just give me a call.”

Liz blew her nose again, this time with barely a sound, and gave me a more genuine smile. “I know, Jade. I feel better just talking about it.” She looked at her watch and sniffed. “Oh, man. I’ve gotta get going. School lets out soon.” She looked up at me with wet, hazel eyes. “Thanks so much for dropping everything to meet me, Jade. I know you must have a hundred other things on your plate today.”

“Don’t be silly, Liz. Family and friends always come first.” As the words came out of my mouth, my mind went to my huge to-do list that had just gotten longer… now I needed to add “keep people from hacking my life” to it.

*******

One of the reasons I decided to include the cyber-security angle as part of the plot in the book was because of the pervasiveness of the problem. The average person now uses the Internet to shop, bank and file their taxes. What must it be like to also have to worry about someone hacking into your blog—the way you make a living? How can bloggers protect the personal information of the fans who buy their products and services? How difficult is it to get into someone’s Facebook account and post as that person?

Does the hacker go free? Is Liz able to save her livelihood? Who get murdered and why? The answer to these questions are answered in Blogging is Murder, now available for pre-order.

Gilian Baker is a former writing and literature professor who finally threw in the towel and decided to just show ‘em how it’s done. She has gone on to forge a life outside of academia by adding blogger & ghostwriter to her CV. She currently uses her geeky superpowers only for good to entertain cozy mystery readers the world over. When she’s not plotting murder, you can find her puttering in her vegetable garden, knitting in front of the fire, snuggled up with her husband watching British mysteries or discussing literary theory with her daughter.

In her next life, she fervently hopes to come back as a cat, though she understands that would be going down the karmic ladder. She lives in Flagstaff, Arizona with her family and their three pampered felines.

Connect with Gilian on her website or on Twitter @GilianBaker

Find Blogging Is Murder on Amazon.
Watch the book trailer.

Down the Rabbit Hole of Research with Tracy Tonkinson

Today I have a guest post by mystery author Tracy Tonkinson. Tracy was a guest on It’s a Mystery Podcast in 2016 (you can hear our chat about Chicago history and the inspiration for her novels here) and I’m thrilled to have her back to talk about the research she does for her mystery novels. In today’s article, she explores the fascinating origins of cesarean section births. How does that subject intersect with mystery novels set in 1880s Chicago, you ask? Read on to find out. Take it away Tracy!

madmanI wrote my first Diamond & Doran mystery, Madman, because I found a half-forgotten detail of history so compelling it begged for its own story.

Researching Madman was so intoxicating I almost forgot that I was supposed to be writing a book. And therein lies the problem for the historical novelist. If you love history as I do, then rummaging around in old books, online directories and ancient filing cabinets is as close to heaven as it gets. But it can also lead to the hell of the eternal rabbit hole.

I cannot tell you how many times I have started researching for the name of a real person to use in a Diamond & Doran mystery only to uncover so many other fascinating facts that I find myself diverted into outlining books 1 through 10 of a series yet to be written, which all sounds fantastic until I realise I am now weeks behind on the book I should be writing.

Madman came to me because of a real bombing incident that happened in Haymarket Square, Chicago in May 1886. The true perpetrator was never caught, though 9 men were hanged for involvement in the riot that followed. That anonymous perpetrator was my inspiration for Diamond & Doran’s hunt through the mean streets of Chicago to track down the culprit. Along the way, they became a real team and a series was born.

PoisonBook 2 in the series, Poison came about because I researched a serial killer only caught in Chicago in 1893, even though it was clear he had been stalking victims for years. The details were so horrific I wondered how he could have escaped detection for so long, so I devised a plot in my book that enabled my villain to come and go at will, enticing his victims to go with him willingly, if unwittingly, to their deaths.

Book 3, Vendetta has just hit Amazon and the research for this book took me to a different place. This time I wanted to explore something that would have a dramatic effect on Doran and his whole family, including his partner Diamond.

We all love a good medical drama. In the 19th century, medicine was at an exciting intersection between what may seem to us barbaric and even comedic treatments for a variety of ailments, and real progress in medical procedures. In Vendetta I got the chance to explore some of this progress.

The delivery of babies had for centuries been practised for women by women. By the 1880s there were qualified obstetricians with special skills and understanding of the dangers and complications that come with childbirth. But within the medical profession these specialists in childbirth were often considered to be little more than ‘baby catchers’ and held in low regard by many of the doctors in general practise. ‘Baby catching’ was, after all, women’s work and what self respecting male doctor would involve himself in something so menial?

vendetta-tracy-tAt a time when a child and its mother’s mortality rate was staggering by today’s standards the answer, I discovered through my research, was that a surprising number of young doctors were drawn to the complex business of helping women bring to full term, and then deliver, healthy children. One of these men was Dr. William Jaggard. Jaggard was a real obstetrician practising in Chicago during the 1880’s. He was an expert in the practise of Caesarian operations, a procedure so dangerous that the likelihood was, even if the child was saved, the mother would die from shock caused by blood loss, or through infection introduced during the procedure.

While the success rate for Caesarian section today is virtually 100%, for which I for one am thankful as the mother of a child delivered by C section, even the skills of someone as dedicated as Dr. William Jaggard were sometimes not enough to save mother or child. But researching Jaggard’s difficulties, both in surgical terms and in terms of getting the respect his skills deserved as an expert in childbirth, was a fascinating rabbit hole to fall into and proved that the work he did is still by and large the method used in modern C section today, albeit in more sanitary conditions and with far better understanding of the risks involved in anesthetics and blood loss for mother and child.

My next Diamond & Doran mystery will no doubt lead me into researching areas that I never imagined would be useful to my story idea, but sometimes you fall upon something while you research that is so juicy you just have to find a way to include it in your story. And that’s the real excitement of research.

Until next time, here I go, back down the rabbit hole!

To download Tracy’s book, Madman, for free you can sign up at: http://www.diamondanddoranmysteries.com/
Poison is available at: http://authl.it/6hj
Vendetta is available at: http://authl.it/6hs
Like the Diamond & Doran Facebook page at: Facebook.com/DandDMysteries/

TracyTTracy Tonkinson was born and raised in England and now lives in Ontario, Canada. She is a fiction writer and avid reader of historical mystery fiction, thrillers and adventure novels. Her aim as a writer is to make her readers laugh a little, cry a little and feel breathless with excitement as they race to the end of each adventure she involves them in.

Book Club Visit

img_0835I had a great time earlier this week visiting the King Albert Street book club in Coquitlam, BC.

The ladies in the club had read Horse With No Name and then asked me to join the group and answer questions. We talked about character motivations, history of the North Okanagan, transgendered cowboys, and lots more.

They even fed me cheese, which makes them my best friends for life. 😉

Indie Author Day 2016

I had the great pleasure of participating in Indie Author Day on October 10, 2016. The downtown branch of the Vancouver Public Library hosted 30 authors in the promenade area. Photos from left to right: Reading from Horse With No Name With my friend and fellow author Joel Mark Harris Indie authors on the VPL …

Q&A with Thriller Author Michael Parker

Today I’m thrilled to have British thriller author Michael Parker answer some questions about his books and his writing.

Michael ParkerMichael is the author of ten books. His first novel, NORTH SLOPE was published in 1980, and is now available as a POD paperback and Kindle on Amazon.

You can find out more about Michael and his books at www.MichaelParkerBooks.com


1. What drew you to writing the types of books that you write? Books that interweave historical events, mystery and elements of the thriller genre.

Having been brought up with children’s classics through to ‘grown up’ fiction, I became fascinated with authors such as Hammond Innes, Desmond Bagley, Denis Wheatley and many others. I discovered new authors in the library such as Nigel Tranter who wrote ‘The Master of Gray’, a novel about Queen Elizabeth and Mary, Queen of Scots. One of the writers who had the biggest impact on me was Mickey Spillane with his Mike Hammer novels. Ed McBain was another. So there was a fairly eclectic mix of authors from which I learned the art of story-telling in different genres.

2. A couple of your books involve events from WWII. Is this period of particular interest to you? Do you think you’ll write another book set in this time?

Devils TrinityWhen I learned that the British invented centimetric radar to defeat the Nazi wolf packs in the Atlantic in World War Two, it fascinated me enough to want to write something. I invented a fictitious island off the north coast of Scotland for the story. Apart from the military research, I studied much about whaling and life on a remote island and how the island community lived. I don’t think I’ll write another war story though.

3. Where do your ideas for books come from?

Usually from some relevant fact. i.e., The discovery of oil in Alaska (North Slope). Centimetric radar (Shadow of the Wolf). Constructing a railway line from Mombassa to Uganda in the nineteenth century (Hell’s Gate). An American project to divert the Gulf Stream in the nineteenth century, later abandoned (The Devil’s Trinity). The sale of Nazi gold by the Bolivian government (I had a friend who was involved in the early stages (A Dangerous Game). There are other reasons, of course, but mainly inspired by real life events.

4. One of your reviewers described your books as ‘impossible to put down’. How do you create tension and compelling forward momentum in a book?

I believe it is important to keep the reader ‘hooked’. An opening paragraph is the first hook, but each scene should, I believe, finish with a hook too; this encourages the reader to want to read on. When I put my characters in seemingly impossible situations, I have to come up with a way for them to extricate themselves without inventing something that would seem unlikely. The elements of those situations must be planted elsewhere in the plot without the reader realizing why they are there.

5. Your book that was released earlier this year, A Dangerous Game, is set in present-day America and Mexico. Do you have a preference for writing in the present or the past?

Eagles ConvenantI’ve no particular preference; it depends on where my inspiration has come from. Writing in the present means keeping up with modern trends like technology etc., whereas writing in the past means I can avoid such things as cell phones, computer hacking, forensic science etc. But whichever way I go, it doesn’t make it easier.

6. Please share a bit about the book you are currently writing.

I have brought Marcus Blake back (A Covert War) to investigate the death of a British cabinet minister. Officially the minister died from cancer, but a suicide note was found by his body with a disgusting revelation about his private life. The police and the coroner are all satisfied it was suicide, but one man believes it was murder. Marcus has a part time secretary working for him. Her name is Vereen and she is a single mother on benefits who likes smoking marijuana. Marcus learns of a private clinic where illegal genetic engineering is carried out. The cabinet minister was connected to this in some way, but his secrets have gone to the grave. Vereen comes under the influence of a nightclub owner who is involved with a satanic set and is also linked to the dead minister.

I am about halfway through the first draft and have a couple of dead bodies in there so far. This novel isn’t inspired by anything other than to change direction a little and develop a mystery thriller.