Susan Whitfield

Award-winning, multi-genre author Susan Whitfield is the author of five published mysteries and Killer Recipes, a real cookbook with mysterious names featuring recipes from mystery writers across the country. Her first women’s fiction novel, Slightly Cracked, was published in 2012.

Please tell everyone a little about yourself, Susan.

SusanWhitfieldSusan: A life-long native of North Carolina, I’ve lived in both the eastern and western parts of the state. I taught high school English for thirteen years before moving in high school administration for the remainder of my career. I retired and began my second career, writing. I have five published mystery novels: Genesis Beach, set along NC’s Crystal Coast;  Just North of Luck, set in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Hell Swamp, set along Black River in Pender County, Sin Creek in Wilmington, and Sticking Point in Beaufort. I’m a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, Coastal Carolina Mystery Writers, and North Carolina Writers Network. My husband and I live in Wayne County just a few miles from our two sons and their families.

Briefly tell us about your latest book. Is it part of a series or stand-alone?

slightlycrackedSusan: I’ve been writing the Logan Hunter Mysteries, publishing the first novel back in 2007. As much as I have loved Logan, I knew as an author I wanted to write other stories and perhaps other genres. When I wrote Slightly Cracked, women’s fiction, I knew I wanted to write more in that genre, so I ended the Logan Hunter Mysteries with Sticking Point, published in February of this year. I think I left Logan in a good place after putting her through some horrible ordeals in Genesis Beach, Just North of Luck, Hell Swamp, and especially Sin Creek. While I did enjoy the series, I also have a fondness for stand-alones like Slightly Cracked. I am currently trying my hand at historical fiction. More on that later.

What’s the hook for the book?

Susan: Tying this into the last question, in Sticking Point, Logan investigates the death of a fifteen-year-old bully whose death was ruled natural causes.

Who’s the most unusual/most likeable character?

sticking pointSusan: In Sticking Point, Logan must work with another investigator whom she thinks she despises. They are uncomfortable and it shows, but as the investigations rolls along, they begin to understand and appreciate how the tragic past has affected each of them. My favorite character in this book is the bed and breakfast owner, a British lady with strict rules and secrets of her own, but the novel moves from a mystery into a love story that I’m quite proud to have written.

Do you have specific techniques to help you maintain the course of the plot?

Susan: I hate outlines so I start without one and then at some point I reach a roadblock and build an outline to get me straightened out. As much as I hate them, I have to admit they’ve fixed a multitude of problems for me.

Do you have a specific writing style? Preferred POV?

Susan: I call my own writing “elementary” because I don’t use big words. It’s just easy everyday writing. I prefer first person but I wrote the women’s fiction in third person because it’s important for the reader to get into the heads of four characters.

How does your environment/upbringing color your writing?

Susan: I grew up in North Carolina and have lived here all my life. It makes sense to set the books here. While I don’t exaggerate my Southern background, I try to use local and regional dialects and showcase different areas of the state. Setting is almost always a feature in my books.

Share the best review (or a portion) that you’ve ever had.

Susan: 

“Sin Creek by Susan Whitfield, is an eye-opener and a heart-breaker, but with the sweetest redeeming ending.

Having had a long-standing friendship with a detective, when reading Sin Creek, I felt a sense of déjà vu about events I know to be true. These foul crimes do exist and are proliferating all over the world, both promoted by and brought to law enforcement attention by the Internet. Whitfield portrays the underpinnings of one man’s vile world of pornography with researched accuracy.

Though this story is fiction, the very same types of exploitation continue to happen and escalate. If you never understood how lewd and dangerous the world of porn is, read Sin Creek. It’s fiction but true to life. It’ll make you shudder.”

What are your current projects?

Susan: I am currently writing an historical mystery, titled Sprig of Broom, about an ancestor who was a Knight of the Bath. This is by far the most challenging project I’ve ever done because I’m traveling back to medieval times. Research is on-going and I want to represent my ancestor as accurately as possible while filling in the gaps with fiction that seems to be true. It’s a slow process and I anticipate a lengthy amount of time before it’s complete.

Where can folks learn more about your books and events?

Susan:  I blog at www.susanwhitfield.blogspot.com
My web site is www.susanwhitfieldonline.com
I’m also on Facebook and a member of Booktown at www.booktown.ning.

Thanks for joining us today, Susan.

Susan: Thank you for the interview.

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Debra R. Borys

Debra R. Borys has over ten years freelancing experience ranging from fiction to articles, feature stories, press releases and radio spots. I interviewed Debra last year on Literature & Fiction. She has joined us today to talk about her latest novel, Bend Me, Shape Me.

Please tell everyone a little about yourself, Debra.

Debra BorysDebra: I recently returned to small town Illinois to be closer to family, but I spent over fifteen years living in Chicago and then Seattle where I volunteered with organizations that offer services to homeless youth and adults.  Getting to know people who live on the streets struggling to survive changed the way I think of them and  sparked an interest in creating my Street Stories suspense series.

I have been a serious writer all of my adult life and have had several short stories published in addition to the first novel in the Stories series, Painted Black.  I operate an on-again/off-again freelance writing and editing business that helps fill in my time and pay a few bills.  I have two grown sons and an adorable mixed breed small dog named Sophie who enjoys keeping me company by the computer.

When you started writing, what goals did you want to accomplish? Is there a message you want readers to grasp?

Debra: With the Street Stories series I wanted to create an awareness of the people who are homeless.  Too often we walk by without looking at the person standing on the street corner or if we do notice we jump to negative conclusions about who that person is.  There are a wide variety of people living on the streets and they all have different stories to tell.  While the stories in my novels are fiction, they are based on reality.  If you find my characters interesting, I guarantee you will find the real people you can meet on the street or at the shelters even more enjoyable and surprising.

Briefly tell us about your latest book.

bend-me-beta-finalDebra: In Bend Me, Shape Me, Snow Ramirez is convinced psychiatrist Mordechai Levinson is responsible for one kid’s suicide and is targeting her brother as his next victim. But no one will listen to a seventeen-year-old street kid, especially one diagnosed as bi-polar.  When her squat mate Blitz slits his own throat in front of her, she knows it’s time to convince someone to trust her instincts.

Once again, reporter Jo Sullivan finds herself the only person willing to listen to one of Chicago’s throwaway youth.  Helping out kids less fortunate than herself keeps her mind off her conflicted feelings toward her father and his battle with lung cancer.  To save Snow, however, she risks her own life in an unexpected twist of events.

What’s the hook for the book?

Debra: My plots are inspired by real life news stories.  For Bend Me, Shape Me an article about a family suing their son’s psychiatrist planted the germ of an idea.  Their autistic son had been exhibiting violent and dangerous behavior after beginning treatment and because the family insisted on further investigation, the police discovered the doctor was actually a paranoid schizophrenic who planned to brainwash his patients into becoming his own private security force.  I simply asked myself “What if?”  What if the patient had no family, no one who cared what happened to him?  What might the end result have been?  For me, the end result was this book.

How do you develop characters?

Debra: The street characters in the series are inspired by the people I met on the streets of Chicago. In some cases, they are loosely based on specific encounters I had, or may be composites of people My protagonist Jo Sullivan is much more negative and dark than I am, but she shares the same concern for helping the homeless and has a thing for tequila, like me.

Who’s the most unusual/most likeable character?

Debra: People will be able to identify with Jo the easiest, simply because she is the more “normal” character in the way she thinks.  What’s more, she cares and her caring draws the reader into that same emotion. But it is Snow who seems to grab the most attention from readers.  As one reviewer put it: “Snow is strong, brave, troubled and incredibly fierce.  Watching her open up and trust was profound.”  “Snow is a powerful character who has been a part of too much darkness for a girl of eighteen. She is street wise and has spent her youth protecting her brother Alley and drowning her sorrow in pills.”

Do you have specific techniques to help you maintain the course of the plot?

Debra: For this book I started using Microsoft’s OneNote to keep track of plot, characters and research.  I created a notebook for the series and then created tabs that will relate to all books in the series, such as Characters, Locations, Research, etc.  Each tab can have many pages; for instance, each character has his or her own page where I can keep track of their traits and background stories.  The tabs can also be grouped into sections, so I create a section for each novel with one page for each chapter where I summarize what is to happen and also record notes and checkpoints I want to remember to go back and look at later.  You can create multiple notebooks for projects and I have begun one for a new cozy mystery series I am working on currently.

Share the best review (or a portion) that you’ve ever had.

Debra: I’ve been very pleased with the reviews of Bend Me, Shape Me so far.  The review excerpts posted below are typical of what’s been said across the board

“Borys offers fascinating characters, a look at inner city homeless children and combines it with a suspenseful mystery that kept me flipping the pages….The pace slowly built towards the climatic conclusion keeping me engaged. Borys did an excellent job of bringing all of the threads together.” — via Caffeinated Book Reviewer

“True to Borys style you get a very surreal feeling of what life on the streets is really like. It’s gritty, dirty, frightening, and cold. She portrays this life effortlessly, and before long you’re pulled into this harsh life these kids live. The plot moves along at a good pace throughout the story, slowing and spiking at just the right points, and the characters are fleshed out so well that you immediately feel a connection to them – even if you’ve never lived the same kind of life.” — via Darian Wilk.

“The author uses vivid imagery that will stay with the reader, and may even haunt you a little when you’re done reading. These books have definitely caught my attention and I can’t wait to see what comes next.” — via Jenn’s Review Blog

What are your current projects?

Debra: Because I recently moved back to small town Illinois where I was raised, and also to do something a little lighter in tone, I am writing a cozy mystery which I hope will turn into a series.  The title is A Bull By The Horns and in it a country wife who is the caretaker of an art colony established on a working farm tries to solve the murder of a famous literary writer.  Or is he?  Suspects include a painter, composer, poet and mystery author, as well as an irascible old neighbor upset at the establishment of such an “artsy, fartsy” community a mere five miles from his doorstep.

Where can folks learn more about your books and events?

Debra: Details and news are always available at my websites: http://www.Debra-R-Borys.com and http://www.StreetStoriesSuspenseNovels.com.

I also have sites set up for each book where you can read the reviews and any news about events: www.BendMeShapeMe.net  and www.PaintedBlackNovel.com .

You can walk into your local bookstore and ask them to order you a copy of either book. If you prefer online shopping, both print and ebooks are available at Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com, and ebooks can be also purchased at Kobo.com

Thanks for joining us today, Debra.

Debra Thank you for this chance to share my work with your readers again.

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Lyn Miller Lacoursiere

Meet Lyn Miller Lacoursiere in her latest video and learn about her six novels in the mystery series, the Lindy Lewis Diaries.

The Lindy Lewis Diaries

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Patricia Crandall

Patricia Crandall has published numerous articles and short stories in various magazines and newspapers. In July, 2012, she was named an Honorable Mention Honoree in the annual short story competition for her story “The Crazy Jug.”

Please tell everyone a little about yourself, Patricia.

Patricia: I have published a vast number of poetry/haiku, numerous articles and short stories in small press magazines, a variety of newspapers and web sites. I have won poetry awards and have four books in print, Melrose, Then and Now, a historical volume, I Passed This Way, a poetry collection, The Dog Men, a thriller which draws the reader into a tempest of animal abuse, lawlessness, and kidnapping within the confines of small-town happenings, and Tales of an Upstate New York Bottle Miner, – seeking adventure in abandoned dump sites and the challenges of entering flea markets.

I live with my husband, Art, at Babcock Lake in the Grafton Mountains near Petersburgh, New York. My children and grandchildren live nearby. I devote time to my family, writing and community work. I enjoy reading, skiing, golfing, knitting, walking/hiking, swimming, exercising and traveling.

When did the writing bug bite, and in what genre(s)?

Patricia: In the nineteen fifties, my interest was captured by the Nancy Drew series by Carolyn Keene. Each holiday, I would request the latest Nancy Drew title and upon receiving it, I would curl-up in an over-sized chair and begin reading the fast-paced adventure.

I dabbled at creating my own mystery stories at an early age. My first effort detailed a long, frightening chase by a sinister man. A dark tunnel appeared, leading to (of course) a haunted mansion. The not-so-brilliant ending had me saved by the man of my life at the time – my Dad.

Briefly tell us about your latest book.  Is it part of a series or stand alone?

Patricia: My latest book is The Dog Men.

The Dog Men is a stand-alone Adult/YA book, although readers have requested I write a series. They bonded with the characters, particularly Lester Cranshaw, and want his adventures to continue. I am writing a new thriller, The Red Gondola, to include Lester Cranshaw.

The Dog Men: Ten-year-old Wyatt and eleven-year-old Hannah uncover the dark world of illegal dog fights when they trespass at a Vermont farm and peep through a barn window. And when crotchety old Lester Cranshaw’s dog, Paddy, turns up missing, there is no holding him back from investigating the situation and the kids join in. In the dead of night, after the trio are captured and held hostage at the Inglis farm, Wyatt will need all of his wits and courage to escape in order to save the lives of his friends. The Dog Men draws the reader into a tempest of animal abuse, lawlessness, and kidnapping within the confines of small-town happenings. A chilling plot and a peerless relationship between kids, adults and pets.

What’s the hook for the book?

Patricia: I have delved into the horrific world of illegal dog fighting. One editor considered my book then titled Missing Children.  He requested a change in subject matter, stating, “I just can’t add to the deluge of fiction about children, kidnapping and sex. Whereby, I researched the sordid sport of dog fighting and the characters that inhabit it. It became The Dog Men.

How do you develop characters? Setting?

Patricia: My characters develop themselves. I create them using a combination of real and imagined people. I’ll admire one person’s hair color, another’s features, still another’s body language and put them together. Any attempt I make at molding a character does not work. If I force a character to act against his/her will, the story is all wrong. I will sit back and think it through, letting the character direct me. I have read other author’s essays confirming this dilemma. It is a fact. A character will lead and the writing flows until the next hurdle due to plot, scene description, etc.

Who is the most unusual/most likeable character?

Patricia: My unusual/most likeable characters are (1) Lester Cranshaw of The Dog Men. See description above. (2) Gert Carver and Nina Westakott are two favorite characters from my bottle mining stories. Gert and Nina, friends for many years, now share a common passion – bottle mining. Nina was a homemaker and a widow. She and her husband raised four daughters and had been active in the community until his death. Gert, a spinster, had spent productive years as a beloved schoolteacher who started her career in a one-room schoolhouse and ended with her retirement at a district high school. These days, the two women have time to nurture their newest hobby, searching for antique bottles in the local dumps.

Do you have a specific writing style? Preferred POV?

Patricia: My writing styles are varied. I write mainstream, mysteries, non-fiction, historical, flash fiction, young/adult and poetry. I work on several stories at once. This pace keeps my thoughts fresh. I continually submit my work for publication and enter contests. My ultimate goal is to write well.

I consistently learn from the unique style of other writers. I pay attention to the voice they use. When a writer captivates me, I do not wish to imitate his/her writing. I want to achieve what they have accomplished by leaving a reader satisfied and anxious to read more of their books.

How does your environment/upbringing color your writing?

Patricia: My parents and teachers would often tell me, “Patty, you are a dreamer. You have a vivid imagination. Put it to good use.” It was at that point, in lieu of playing with friends or watching the new small-box-wonder – TV, I sat at an old desk in the kitchen and wrote mystery stories. I also drew stick figures to illustrate the action in the stories. The discovery of boys replaced pen and paper. The telephone became my favorite instrument and I lost interest in reading and writing until a formidable nun taught me English in High School. With a revival of interest, I picked up where I left off, writing salable poetry and a variety of articles, essays, and short stories. Presently, I am taking a writing course and penning novels.

Share the best review that you’ve ever had.

Patricia: Comments for “The Garden of Love,” a flash-fiction story published in Flash-Fiction World, include:

“Awesome piece! The ending adds another whole dimension entirely.”
“Good story”
“I want more!”
“Amazing!”
“Loved it.”
“Clever!”
“Great end.”
“Fantastic.”

Where can folks learn more about your books and events?

Patricia: Visit my blog at: www.authorpcrandall.blogspot.com. Visit me on facebook and twitter. Visit my Editor and Virtual Assistant Manager’s blog: www.lindabarnett-johnson.blogspot.com. Go to Amazon and for my books, The Dog Men and Tales of an Upstate New York Bottle Miner.

Lastly, my pattern for a writer’s success is Winston Churchill’s famous quote: “Never, never, never give up!”

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William E. Marden

W.E. Marden  (Daniel Quentin Steele) is a Jacksonville author and native Floridian. A former educator, he has been a journalist and public relations professional. He has covered and reported on crime and cops, courts and trials in several Florida cities. He has worked as a speech writer and political and media consultant. He has had one novel published in the U.S. and Great Britain as well as short stories published in the U.S., Canada, Australia and England.

Hi William, Please tell everyone a bit about yourself.

William: I’ve worked in newspapers, P.R. and education, but I’ve always been a writer whatever paid my bills. In the last two years, I’ve experienced a creative and personal rebirth. I’d spent years getting ready to glide into an uneventful and quiet countdown to death when something funny happened. There’s nothing like thinking you’re going to lose it all, and probably die, to wake you up to the beauty of living every day. I have married, loved, lost, changed jobs, lost people I loved, been unemployed, been defeated again and again, but I’m still here. However, none of those things are why I’m really here. What I write, what I put down on paper or in electronic form, those are why I’m here. I’m a writer. That’s the bottom line.

When did the writing bug bite, and in what genre(s)?

William: In the fifth grade. I wrote a short story about some friends of mine and myself in an adventure in a mine. I read it in class. My teacher and the other kids in my class loved it.  I was hooked.  The genre was adventure. The first genres I wrote seriously in as an adult were science fiction, fantasy and horror.

When you started writing, what goals did you want to accomplish? Is there a message you want readers to grasp?

William:  I wanted to write short stories and later novels that would sell/be published. I’ve always been an avid reader and simply wanted to be published in the magazines I’d read and have other people read and enjoy my work the way I’d read other authors. I’ve never had a ‘message’ per se.

Briefly tell us about your latest book. Is it part of a series or stand-alone?

William:  My latest work is a complete departure from anything else I’ve ever written. It’s one novel, broken into four volumes for purposes of length.  Each volume until the final  breaks on a nail-biter, a cliffhanger. The series or overall novel title is When We Were Married. Volume One is subtitled The Long Fall, and Volume Two is subtitled Second Acts. It is written under the Daniel Quentin Steele pseudonym. This book (s) is mainstream with no fantasy elements. It’s set in Jacksonville Florida in 2005 and 2006 and tells the story of the end of the marriage between an obsessed prosecutor with the State Attorney’s Office and his beautiful University of North Florida professor/wife. The novel explores how Assistant State Attorney Bill Maitland and Debbie Maitland-Bascomb react to the end of their marriage, how Maitland prosecutes a variety of murderers and drug dealers while Debbie loses her husband, lover, children and finally her career in education and must make a new life for herself. The novel is a realistic behind the scenes look at the courtroom, cops and crime and features explicit sexual scenes during the end of the marriage and afterwards.

What’s the hook for the book? 

William: Four words: “When we were married.” The novel shows how four words said at the wrong time and place can destroy a twenty-year relationship, devastate a family,  shake a courthouse and send out ripples that will impact lives on three continents.

How do you develop characters? Setting? 

William: In the case of When We Were Married, I started with the physical descriptions of the two main characters which  fueled the action of the first long intro chapter and once the actions that launched the novel were taken, worked backwards through flashbacks and sessions with an empathetic psychiatrist to flesh out the history of the two characters and how they became the people they are at the start of the novel. Once you realize that Bill Maitland is a dedicated lawyer but a short, fat, balding middle aged man married to a taller, busty,  beautiful woman who has fought to maintain her figure and is catnip to men, you don’t have to be a genius to see the train wreck that’s coming. The first chapter focuses on Bill and Debbie’s personal life, but enough of the day to day workings of the State Attorney’s Office is shown to make Maitland’s work life and his role as day to day top prosecutor for a three-county circuit believable. It takes longer to get a better look at Debbie’s professional life as an Associate Professor, but the depiction has drawn reader praise for its authenticity.

Who’s the most unusual/most likeable character?

William: That would have to be Bill Maitland, although readers have indicated that Debbie Maitland  fills that role for some and there are others who could claim that ace defense attorney, Lew Walters AKA “The Shark”  is the most fascinating character. One of the things that many readers have praised the most highly are the number of strong characters. Many readers see Maitland as a hot tempered, unreasonable jerk at the beginning. Even as he’s revealed as a compassionate, honest and honorable man, he still has a LOT of character flaws that are revealed as the novel progresses. Most of his problems, including the loss of his wife and alienation from his children, he’s brought on himself. Debbie Maitland is a gorgeous woman who has had men after her since she was 13, enjoys the effect she has on men, and has few female friends because she likes the fact that most of the women who could be her friends don’t want to be because of her effect on their men. She’s conceited, with reason. But she loved Bill Maitland for nearly two decades, fought to hold onto a sexually unfulfilling marriage until she couldn’t any longer and in the end her children mean more to her than the best sex she’s known in twenty years. Lew Walters is a take-no-prisoners legal mercenary who’ll cut almost anyone’s throat, except his best friend, Bill Maitland. And even though  he’s conceited, he’s just that good in a courtroom.

Do you have specific techniques to help you maintain the course of the plot?   

William: Much of the novel is foreshadowed so that the plot as it progresses, moves from one climactic moment to the next which readers have already been expecting for some time. Two key elements in the novel are introduced early and then later in the first volume and come to fruition in the second volume. In the second volume two major plot threads are introduced and begun. One will be the spine of the third volume and the other plot will occupy much of the fourth volume. And over and above these specific plot points, the main thread of the entire four-volume series is – what will happen to Bill and Debbie. The real theme of the entire four-volume set could be summed up by the title of the second volume – Second Acts. In other words, when lives are ruined and marriages end, can two people even if they love one another, ever put things back together again? Or should they move on?

Do you have a specific writing style? Preferred POV? 

William: My preferred POV is first person. I’ve written one novel and a few short stories in third, but first is preferred. When We Were Married is somewhat unusual in that it’s a combination. It is primarily first person POV, that of Bill Maitland, but large portions of the novels are written in third person as well, usually that of Debbie Maitland. I’m not really sure why that works, but in my mind it does and readers don’t seem to have any problem following the POV changes.

How does your environment/upbringing color your writing?

William: I was born and raised and have lived in the North Florida area that is the setting for “When We Were Married.”  I’ve used Jacksonville as the setting for other novels. I worked as a reporter covering cops and courts for more than a decade and has the chance to see the public and private sides of prosecutors, defense lawyers, cops, criminals, trials and most of the other aspects of life explored in WWWM.

Share the best review (or a portion) that you’ve ever had.

njreaderBD

Posted January 5, 2012

An excellent, compelling read

I read this book continuously over a couple of days, staying up late to finish it, and found it a compelling book. The main characters are complex people and like any good narrative story how you view the characters changes. Unlike many such tales of a couple splitting apart, the author goes into enough depth that you actually start understanding the human feelings at the center of this. This is not the evil spouse leaves the good spouse, the good spouse is devastated then gets their life back together. It is a lot more complex than that. There are nuances, wheels within wheels, that keep you guessing and at least in my case made me change my opinions about the people. I think maybe because I have been married for 23 years and have had my ups and downs and elements of the story remind me of my own life, in many ways it haunted me, made me think about my own feelings and emotions and as a result dug me in deeper.

Mr. Steele’s writing is excellent. It isn’t overly wordy and the dialog is both jarring at times and realistic, the anger and love and confusion expressed in the words paints a vivid picture of people in turmoil. Defining this book simply based on its category would be like defining a Raymond Chandler story as just another mystery and dismissing it as such without reading it would be a major mistake.

What are your current projects?

William: I’m currently in the process of writing the third volume of When We Were MarriedThe Wind Is Rising and hopefully in the next several weeks will be posting  a third novel, a previously written urban fantasy titled Lady White Eyes.

Where can folks learn more about your books and events?

William: My e-books are sold on Barnes and Noble and on Smashwords for most readers and in most formats. They’re currently not available in hard copy, although I hope to arrange that shortly.  I have a website and a Facebook page for Daniel Quentin Steele and I welcome any contacts via my Daniel Quentin Steele email address.Both Volume 1 and 2 are selling for $9.95 a download.

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/when-we-were-married-volume-1-the-long-fall-daniel-steele/1106754384?ean=2940013654587

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/when-we-were-married-2-second-acts-daniel-steele/1108241609?ean=2940013760448

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/115234

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/124503

http://www.dqsteele.com/about.html      (website)

http://www.facebook.com/danielquentin.steele  (facebook)

https://twitter.com/#!/QSteele1   (twitter account – would love to be followed)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q-xRNKxC7ak   (youtube – The Unknown Writer interview)

Thanks for joining us today, William.

William: Thank you for this opportunity to get some information out about my books.

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Warren Bull

Warren Bull has won a number of awards including Best Short Story of 2006 from the Missouri Writers’ Guild, Great Manhattan Mystery Conclave short story contest, The Mysterious Photo Contest in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, and Best short story in Strange Mysteries Anthology. He was a finalist for the Young Adult Discovery Award and a Derringer Award.  He has more than forty short stories published, novels Abraham Lincoln for the Defense, Heartland and Murder in the Moonlight, and a short story collection, Murder Manhattan Style.

Please tell everyone a bit about yourself, Warren.

Warren: I spent my childhood in Rock Island, Illinois, which is along the Mississippi river. I attended Knox College, where one of the Lincoln – Douglas debates took place, and the University of Illinois. My graduate training was at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and what is now Alliant University in Fresno, California.

I was first licensed as a psychologist in 1983, and have worked for agencies and in private practice with people of all ages as a therapist and as an administrator. I worked as a clinical psychologist for more than twenty-five years but still claim to come from a functional family.

I blog at Writers Who Kill. I’m a lifetime member of Sisters in Crime and an active member of Mystery Writers of America. 

When did the writing bug bite, and in what genres?

Warren: I had a very good writing teacher in the fourth grade and I’ve been writing ever since.  My mother used to read letters I sent her from college to the neighbors, which I discovered to my deep embarrassment during my first visit home from the holidays.  As a psychologist, I shared an office with Casey Dorman who wrote e-novels long before they became popular. Casey’s an excellent writer and a good guy, but I thought if he could do it so could I.  I write mostly mysteries because I enjoy mysteries and I’ve written essays, memoirs, general or “literary” fiction, historical fiction and fantasy.

When you started to write what goals did you want to accomplish? Is there a message you want readers to grasp?

Warren: Good question. My initial goal was to get published. Once I got published, my goals evolved and they continue to evolve over time.  I’m not very interested in “solve the puzzle” mysteries. I like to read and write about characters in a variety of setting facing life challenges.  I’d like readers to identify with my characters and share their experiences. I’ve written about Abraham Lincoln as a great man who is flawed and fully human.

Tell us about your latest book.

Warren: Heartland available at Avignon Press is a Young Adult novel recently chosen as the Book of the Day by Killer Nashville.  The paperback edition is available at the link above. Please support the publisher who supported me.

Sixteen-year-old Tom Allen life is imploding. His father has all but vanished from his life; Tom’s stepfather is entirely too involved. Tom’s beloved grandmother suffers a stroke, which leaves his mother emotionally distant. Meanwhile his sister is too sophisticated to worry about his concern.  When Tom reads an old family memoir from his grandmother’s cedar chest, he becomes intrigued by his ancestors’ struggle to form one united family from two shattered families. They face man-made and natural dangers while they battle to survive the smoldering conflicts in “Bleeding Kansas” that will soon erupt into the bloodiest war in American history — the Civil War. With the help of friends and family, past and present Tom eventually comes to terms with the pain and possibilities of his own family.

What’s the hook for the book?

Warren: When the two riders appeared out of nowhere, I knew they came to kill my pa.

(The opening sentence.)

How do you develop characters? Settings?

Warren: With historical stories and novels research is essential.  There are readers who know all about things like shooting a black power rifle or men’s trousers in the 1840s so if I refer to “cordite” before it was invented or write about a man putting something into his non-existent rear pants pocket, I am going to make readers angry They are going to throw my book against the wall and never buy anything else from me again.  I like to have three independent sources for everything. 

Who is the most unusual character?

Warren: I have a number of characters who keep popping up in my work because they keep popping up in my head. One of them has been in half a dozen short stories in various venues but he never gives his name.  I know it but he wants to keep a low profile.  I don’t know that anyone except me knows how often I write about him.  He is a veteran of World War II who fought in the battle of the bulge, like my father.  He has a post-traumatic stress disorder and a deep – set distrust of authority.

 Do you have specific techniques that help you maintain the main course of the plot?

Warren: I use a timeline and a list of characters.  I also make a few notes of events that I want to use.  Every time I try to use an outline I get bored with the story before I get the novel written. I wish I could use an outline but I can’t.

What colors your writing?

Warren: I worked as a psychologist for more than twenty-five years, which gave me the opportunity to know and work with a wide variety of people I would probably never have met otherwise. I worked with people of all ages, ethnic backgrounds, religions and social classes.  My clients had many unusual life experiences.

Also, although I am a male Caucasian, I have lived and worked in settings where my ethnicity and gender made me a minority. 

 Share the best review that you’ve ever had.

Warren: I’m grateful that Murder Manhattan Style has garnered some great reviews. The stories have been compared to the works of Damon Runyon and Raymond Chandler. New York Times Bestselling author Nancy Pickard wrote, “Warren Bull is a short story master, and this collection shows him at his best with quick stories told in crisp, clear prose. There’s variety, drama, history, humor, pathos, compassion and even Shakespeare here, along with surprising and satisfying endings to every story.”

What are your current projects?

 Warren: I am working on two very different projects at the moment. I am waiting for copyediting on a short story collection of very dark stories tentatively titled, No Happy Endings, and I am about 1/3 of the way into a middle grade novel about the adventures and misadventures of three sisters whose mom has run off with a rock bank.  I am busily researching television schedules, mimeographs and dial telephones in the early 1960s.

 Where can folks learn more about your books and events?

Warren: I have a website http://www.warrenbull.com/

An author dashboard on Goodreads Goodreads Author Page

And an author page on Amazon.com  Warren Bull’s Author Page

 Thank you for joining us today, Warren.

Warren: Thanks for the opportunity.

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Susan Wingate

Susan Wingate, award-winning, bestselling author, has written nine novels, two short story collections, a few plays, one screenplay and tons of poems. Her latest novel Drowning (contemporary women’s fiction), won 1st place in the 2011 Forward National Literature Award and was a finalist  in the 2011 International Book Awards.

Hi Susan, please tell everyone a bit about yourself.

Susan: I co-host the very popular talk radio show, “Dialogue: Between the Lines.” I was born in Phoenix, Arizona and graduated from AZ State University in 1994 with an undergraduate degree in accounting. Three years later, I moved from Phoenix to an island in Washington State where I began to concentrate fully on writing. After the writing “bug” bit me, I quit accounting to write full-time. Since then, I’ve  written several plays, one screenplay, two short story collections and nine novels. My amateur sleuth series entitled The Bobby’s Diner Series has received acclaim from reviewers and in book competitions. My pseudonyms include, Myah Lin (literary fiction) and JJ Adams (noir mystery). My gritty novel, A Falling of Law (JJ Adams) is often described as Chandleresque in style. Writing as Myah Lin, my novella, Camouflage was a Finalist and received an Editor’s Choice Award in the 2009 Textnovel Writing Contest. 

As a lover of education and the arts, I teach writing,  draw and paint abstracts using oil as my favored medium. I still live in Washington State with my husband and a bunch of crazy animals.

When did the writing bug bite, and in what genre(s)?

Susan: My passion for writing really took hold in my thirties. I guess you could say I was a late bloomer. I always enjoyed writing but had some negative writing experiences very early on that colored my ambitions to the point of quelling the longing to write all together — for a while, that is. Then, it seemed nothing could keep me from putting pen to paper. At first I wrote poetry, then short stories, then on my move from Phoenix to Washington State, I formulated an idea for a novel, for the entire 1900-mile drive. The moment I set foot into my new home, I dragged out my ring-bound notebook and started to scribble. It felt like I hadn’t been alive before that moment. I knew writing would be my life from then on.

When you started writing, what goals did you want to accomplish? Is there a message you want readers to grasp?

Susan: Well, our goals change as we grow in writing but my very first goal was to write a novel. It was like baby steps. I’d never written a novel and I really had no right to be writing one then! Only three years before my move, I’d gotten  my bachelor’s degree in accounting but my life was undergoing a big metamorphosis. I honestly believe that the urge to write in me was so strong that I somehow created this metamorphosis and moved (under the guise of different reasons) in order to get to a place that would feed my muse and could free me to write. By the way, this is the first time I’ve ever expressed what happened to me, in words, written OR thought. So, thank you for the reveal — to your readers and also to me.

A message for readers? Yes. Always do what you love. Grab that brass ring. Now!

Briefly tell us about your latest book. Is it part of a series or stand-alone?

Susan: I’m nearing the close of a year-long book promotion for Drowning, which did remarkably well in sales and in competitions — Thank you, God! And, now my publisher is getting ready to release my debut YA novel entitled Spider  Brains. We’re serializing Spider Brains chapter-by-chapter on my blog “Writing from the Couch” at www.susanwingate.com. Spider Brains is the first in a series of four companion books.

What’s the hook for the book?

Susan: Addition Problem: If you have one teenage girl plus a spider bite, what does that equal? Answer: Transformation!

If one were to bake the story Spider Brains into a cake, they should sprinkle in Charlotte’s Web, toss in one Jellicle Cat, then stir in a little Spiderman — but as a girl and not in that goofy latex outfit! A tale of hope, transformation, transition and inspiration.

Who’s the most unusual/most likeable character?

Susan: In Spider Brains? I happen to think Matthew is the most likeable character.

How does your environment/upbringing color your writing?

Susan: Well, my father was a very funny, loving person. He was also a writer. So, I guess you could say that I have inherited my father’s funny gene. He loved words and their usages. I remember many days whether sitting around the table talking or taking long drives through the Arizona desert, my dad would play this game — to make up new words and then give them definitions. I still play it today. In fact,  Spider Brains has a few original words slipped in just to keep people on their toes. But, in  Spider Brains, Susie Speider loves words too and longs to be the editor of the high school newspaper. The current editor, Tanya, is Susie’s idol.

Today, I live in a home that sits on five acres of lush water-soaked land on an island in the Pacific Northwest. I look out my windows and see snow spattering the ground and patches of grass sneaking through the icy layer. Deer visit each morning, each afternoon for rolled oats, corn and pellets. Eagles perch on an enormous Noble Fir and they peer down into the massive pond for fish and ducks. My windows create a total encapsulation of nature at every turn of your head. It’s like heaven here and I get to sit and write about it. That’s my environment.

Share the best review (or a portion) that you’ve ever had.

Susan: One that stands out from the crowd just happened, for  Spider Brains , I’m happy to say. It was written by another Amazon bestselling author and award-winning novelist, Joshua Graham. This was what he had to say about  Spider Brains:

Simply put, Susan Wingate is a master of the written word.  In  Spider Brains, she weaves a heart-warming tale full of wit and intrigue: a nod to Kafka’s Metamorphosis in a quirky blend with The Princess Diaries.  There are laugh out loud moments with the teenage protagonist, Susie Speider, whose voice was well executed and credible.  But there are also moments that tug at the heartstrings and even bring a tear to the eye, as we see Susie’s angst when she faces pain from the past, as well as redemption through the relationship with her mother. Whether or not you’re a fan of YA literature, you’ll love  Spider Brains.  But don’t expect anything ordinary!

 I kind of like that one! OMGeee. Who wouldn’t? Right? Thank you, Joshua. J

What are your current projects?

Susan: I’m currently working on an Apocalyptic Thriller entitled Eschatos: The First Witness. I love this story. It will be such a joy to put the final period on this one and then send it out to publishers.

Where can folks learn more about your books and events?

Susan: They can find me all over the internet: at my website www.susanwingate.com, on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Goodreads, EZRead.com, Amazon.com, B&N.com and Smashwords. My print books can be found in libraries and bookstores across the country as well.

Thanks for joining us today, Susan.

Susan: Thank you so much for hosting me! I’m thrilled to have been asked to contribute to Literature & Fiction.

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