Category Archives: Writing, Reading and Publishing

One Question Interview ”” Ann Parker

I started doing my One Question Interviews because I am lucky enough to be able to meet tons of eclectic and interesting authors. It occurred to me you might want to meet them, too. So I wrote a dozen or so questions on index cards, steered the authors to a quiet corner with me and my iPhone, then had them pick a question at random. I hope you like them and their books as much as I do. Visit their websites, find them on social media, buy their books, and/or ask your library to carry them. Share this post and the video with anyone who might enjoy their books.

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SilverLiesCoverIron_TiesLeadenSkiesCoverMercurysRise coverWhat_Gold_Buys_Cover

Ann Parker wanted to live in Colorado since she was a child, but through various “twists of fate” and life decisions, has only managed to move one set of hills east from where she was born and raised in Northern California. She wrote her first novel when she was 12 years old featuring… a strong female protagonist and set in the Old West! (Started young.) She’s  been a wordsmith since then, making a living by spinning words in one venue or another since she got out of college, mostly as a science writer. What she REALLY wanted to be was an astronomer (hence the double degree in Physics, with English Literature tagging along because she lived and breathed stories and words). Ah well, maybe next time.

She works like a crazy woman in her day job(s) and writes fiction the rest of the time. She lives with a spouse and a cat who uneasily (and barely) co-exist.

Her favorite book as a child was The Tall Book of Mother Goose, copyright 1942, illustrated by Feodor Rojankovsky. This book came out long before she was born, so it must have been handed down from a cousin or some such. She loved the beautiful illustrations first, before she could read. At some point a little later on, she taught herself to count and recognize numbers using the page numbers. And when she finally could read, the whole world of poetry and “literature” opened up. This book has a little of everything. Mystery (who cut off the tails on Bo-Peep’s sheep?), danger and adventure (Jack and Jill! Up the hill! Then Jack falls down!), horror (little Miss Muffet and that scary spider), love (Mary and her little lamb)… you name it! She still gets a great feeling of “resonance” looking through the book.

What_Gold_Buys_CoverAnn’s newest book WHAT GOLD BUYS, set in Leadville, CO, is the fifth in the Silver Rush mystery series, and is available RIGHT NOW for pre-order.

Read descriptions of all the books in the series on Amazon.

Connect with Ann at her website,  on Goodreads, and all the usual places.

 

A Promise For Sidekicks

The literary world is full of sidekicks ”” Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson, Stephanie Plum and Lula, Linus and his blanket.

So are movies ”” Thelma and Louise, R2D2 and C3PO, the Karate Kid and his actual side kick.

So are meals. After all, what’s the point of mashed potatoes without gravy? Bagels without cream cheese? Cheesecake without strawberries? Orange jello without grated carrots?

I never said all sidekicks were good.

We have sidekicks in our real lives, too. Spouses, significant others, kids, siblings, BFFs, business partners, cubicle mates, roommates, critique partners, beta readers, pets.

Nala for Marshmallow Mayhem

Nala’s sidekick is this red pillow.

Everyone brings their unique angle to the relationship. And don’t forget that nobody thinks they are the sidekick ”” everyone is the hero of their own story. Some are equal relationships, others might tilt weekly or even hourly in favor of one or the other depending on a million different negotiations, verbalized or not. (But in the case of pets, the sidekick is always the one without opposable thumbs.)

As a writer, I depend on all these types of sidekicks, real and imaginary. The real people keep me moving forward, helping with my manuscripts or my psyche, calming, cajoling or kicking me, whichever I might need at that moment.

The imaginary people help creatively. They populate and drive my stories, often doing things that surprise and delight me … and sometimes confound me, spinning me off in a scary new direction.

But then there’s a group of sidekicks in that nebulous world between real and imaginary. I call them My Readers. I feel their presence almost more than I do my real-life sidekicks because they’re always hovering on my periphery. They never go to school or work, they don’t sleep, they don’t disappear while on a ski trip or a Netflix eight-season binge. I spend an inordinate amount of time wondering how to get My Readers to fall in love with my characters. How can I pull them into this plot with me? How can I get them to laugh, or gasp, or cry, or keep turning pages?

My Reader sidekicks are always in my head. I’m compelled to be a better writer for them, to be a better storyteller, to give them more than they give me.

I doubt I’ll ever be able to give them that much, but I can promise all my sidekicks one thing. I will never put carrots in their jello.

 

 

 

Twisting By The Fool

There are all kinds of twists ”” delicious twist doughnuts, intricate twist hairstyles and jewelry, and of course, plot twists.

None of which I’m going to talk about today.

Instead, I want to chat about Dire Straits.

Writing is a physical ordeal, despite all outward appearances. In 2006, the first time I participated in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month where you write 60,000 words of a new novel in 30 days), I learned a valuable lesson. Among many, many other things, I learned I had to exercise every day.

Subsequently, because I’m *ahem* older and wiser, I’ve learned, in no particular order, menopausal women pack on weight like mastodons preparing for the next Ice Age … a body in motion tends to stay in motion … standing is better than sitting … the hip bone’s connected to the back bone, the back bone’s connected to the neck bone, the neck bone’s connected to the head bone … and you’ve gotta shake dem skeleton bones.

Dire Straits also knows this.

Here is my workspace.

standing desk, ergonomics

When I know I’ll be writing and/or concentrating at my desk for lengthy periods, I set my alarm every hour. I have a playlist called “Becky’s Dance Party” and when the alarm sounds, I choose one song. Sometimes I pull out my trampoline and bounce in a raucous manner, sometimes I bop around in the room. But this is my favorite song to dance to …

And if you’ve been sitting there reading blogs, email, and Facebook for a while, I challenge you to crank the volume and join me as a twisty fool for three minutes and thirty-one seconds. I guarantee you will have more energy and better focus when you finish.

Now get back to work!

One Question Interview ”” Kim Fay

I started doing my One Question Interviews because I am lucky enough to be able to meet tons of eclectic and interesting authors. It occurred to me you might want to meet them, too. So I wrote a dozen or so questions on index cards, steered the authors to a quiet corner with me and my iPhone, then had them pick a question at random. I hope you like them and their books as much as I do. Visit their websites, find them on social media, buy their books, and/or ask your library to carry them. Share this post and the video with anyone who might enjoy their books.

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the map of lost memories2013 Edgar Award Finalist for Best First Novel by an American Author

In 1925 the international treasure-hunting scene is a man’s world, and no one understands this better than Irene Blum, who is passed over for a coveted museum curatorship because she is a woman. Seeking to restore her reputation, she sets off from Seattle in search of a temple believed to house the lost history of Cambodia’s ancient Khmer civilization. But her quest to make the greatest archaeological discovery of the century soon becomes a quest for her family’s secrets. Embracing the colorful and corrupt world of colonial Asia in the early 1900s, The Map of Lost Memories takes readers into a forgotten era where nothing is as it seems.  As Irene travels through Shanghai’s lawless back streets and Saigon’s opium-filled lanes, she joins forces with a Communist temple robber and an intriguing nightclub owner with a complicated past. Deep within the humidity-soaked Cambodian jungle, what they bring to light does more than change history. It ultimately solves the mysteries of their own lives.

Kim Fay is the author of the historical novel, The Map of Lost Memories, a 2013 Edgar Award finalist for Best First Novel by an American Author, and the food memoir Communion: A Culinary Journey Through Vietnam, a Gourmand World Cookbook Award winner. She is also the creator/series editor of the “To Asia With Love” guidebooks and has contributed to the The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook and Sisters in Crime’s Writes of Passage.

She was born in Seattle and spent her childhood reading Nancy Drew throughout the small towns of Washington State. After working as an independent bookseller at the Elliott Bay Book Company, she moved to Vietnam in the mid-1990s. She fell in love with the country and lived in Saigon for four years, and she has been traveling regularly to Southeast Asia for more than twenty. She currently resides in Los Angeles where she is working on a novel about Vietnam in the 1950s, as well as a mystery series set in L.A. in the 1970s.

www.kimfay.net

https://twitter.com/kimkfay

https://www.pinterest.com/kimkfay/

https://www.facebook.com/kimfayauthor/?ref=hl

 

One Question Interview ”” Ellen Byron

I started doing my One Question Interviews because I am lucky enough to be able to meet tons of eclectic and interesting authors. It occurred to me you might want to meet them, too. So I wrote a dozen or so questions on index cards, steered the authors to a quiet corner with me and my iPhone, then had them pick a question at random. I hope you like them and their books as much as I do. Visit their websites, find them on social media, buy their books, and/or ask your library to carry them. Share this post and the video with anyone who might like their books.

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PlantationShuddersSmallerPLANTATION SHUDDERS, Ellen Byron‘s debut novel, was nominated for a Lefty Award for Best Humorous Mystery, and for an Agatha Best First Novel award. She’s a television writer whose credits include WINGS, JUST SHOOT ME, and STILL STANDING, as well as pilots for all the major networks. She’s written over 200 magazine articles, and is also a playwright whose work includes the award-winning one-acts, GRACELAND and ASLEEP ON THE WIND.

PLANTATION SHUDDERS comes out in paperback on August 11th. BODY ON THE BAYOU, the second book in the Cajun Country Mystery series, launches on September 13th.Body on the Bayou (smaller) (2)

 

Connect with Ellen on Twitter, too!

 

 

 

 

 

What If?

I’m still reeling over a conversation I had with a friend at my book club the other night.

In passing I said something about wondering what your life would be like if you’d never had kids. She looked at me as if I had inadvertently started reciting ancient Sanskrit texts about cheesemaking.

She said she never did anything like that.

She must have misunderstood me. “You’ve never come upon a car accident and been thankful that you stopped to tie your shoe or else it could have been you t-boned in the intersection?”

Nope.

“You’ve never pictured how your life would be now if you’d gone to a different college or grown up in a different town or been born a different race … or … or?”

Nope.

I’m still stunned because I think about things like that forty-leven times a day.

What if my boys hadn’t been in marching band in high school? I wouldn’t have met her or been in this book club.

What if my oldest son hadn’t worked a crap retail job where he met a kid who joined the Navy? He wouldn’t have joined and wouldn’t have worked in emergency medicine to find out how much he loved it. Plus, my younger son wouldn’t have joined and therefore wouldn’t have been in Guam to meet and marry his lovely wife. And what if she hadn’t joined the Navy?

What if we hadn’t taken that vacation to the Pacific northwest? My daughter wouldn’t have fallen in love with the area, wouldn’t be living there now, and wouldn’t have met and married her lovely husband. And what if they didn’t have the mutual friend who introduced them at her birthday party? What if she decided not to have that party?

What if I’d have chosen a different college? I wouldn’t have met hubs or created those amazing creatures we call our children.

Those questions never end for me and it honestly never occurred to me that everyone doesn’t do the same thing.

My family will attest to the fact that I’m a planner. I love lists and any/all methods of organization. I ALWAYS have a contingency plan. I’ve seen those people on the side of the highway with a flat tire on their way to the airport. I ALWAYS know who I can call to rescue me in any situation.

Lest you think I’m a complete whackjob, because I fear it’s beginning to show, this doesn’t preoccupy all my thoughts and actions. But I take comfort in knowing regardless of what the universe throws at me, I have a way (often several) to cope.

Of course, who’s to say that your life would be better or worse if one little butterfly flapped his wings differently? It’s all utterly unknowable, and maybe that’s the draw for me.

In my novels I tend to explore the issue of a perfectly ordinary someone thrown into extraordinary circumstances. What will they do? What would I do?

In Banana Bamboozle, a slightly overweight middle-aged woman sees a girl she is convinced is her niece, even though the niece died as an infant.

In Marshmallow Mayhem, she and her cohorts stumble on a dead body.

In the new mystery I’m *thisclose* to finishing, a midlist mystery writer is pulled kicking and screaming into a murder investigation that hits way too close to home.

What would I do? What would you do?

And for years I’ve been noodling over a novel about the seemingly inconsequential choices we make every single day that could lead to either your best day or your worst, if only you veered left instead of right. Guess what the working title is? Yep … “What If?”

The concept fascinates me. Maybe that’s why I’m a writer.

What about you … do you ever play the ‘What If’ game? Do you think I’m a complete whackjob? Because of this or all the other weird stuff you might know about me?

One Question Interview ”” Mark Stevens

I started doing my One Question Interviews because I am lucky enough to be able to meet tons of eclectic and interesting authors. It occurred to me you might want to meet them, too. So I wrote a dozen or so questions on index cards, steered the authors to a quiet corner with me and my iPhone, then had them pick a question at random. I hope you like them and their books as much as I do. Visit their websites, find them on social media, buy their books, and/or ask your library to carry them. Share this post and the video with anyone who might like their books.

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Mark Stevensmark stevens book award‘ newest mystery was nominated for a Colorado Book Award! I’ve read his Allison Coil series and I wish I had more than two actual thumbs-up to give. I guess I could get by with some metaphorical thumbs, but I’m not zen like that.

 

 

 

Mark has a presentation “Write What You Don’t Know” coming up at

  • Bemis Library
  • Saturday, April 16 from 2 – 4:30 p.m.
  • 6014 S. Datura Street Littleton, CO 80120

 

mark's books

 

One Question Interview ”” Zoe Burke

I started doing my One Question Interviews because I am lucky enough to be able to meet tons of eclectic and interesting authors. It occurred to me you might want to meet them, too. So I wrote a dozen or so questions on index cards, steered the authors to a quiet corner with me and my iPhone, then had them pick a question at random. I hope you like them and their books as much as I do. Visit their websites, find them on social media, buy their books, and/or ask your library to carry them. Share this post and the video with anyone who might like their books.

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Jump the GunZOE BURKE lives in Portland, Oregon, where No Gun Intended, her new Annabelle Starkey mystery, takes place. In Jump the Gun, the plot began in Chicago and ended up in San Francisco, with Las Vegas in between. Burke is working on the next book in the series, which–so far!–is situated in Manhattan. But no matter where the action takes place, the Annabelle Starkey series is an entertaining read suitable for any couch or beach chair.

Find Zoe Burke at her website … on Facebook … and at Poisoned Pen Press.

NoGunIntendedSM

Zoe has a book signing coming up at
Copperfield’s Books
850 4th Street
San Rafael, California
March 26, 7:00 pm.

 

 

 

 

The Color of Permission

In the novel I was reading this morning, I misread someone’s dress “the color of persimmon” as “the color of permission.” I like that so much better.

It set off a cavalcade of metaphor ”” not all good, mind you ”” in my head.

a chair that beckoned your secrets

salami with garlic so strong it hurt your feelings

anticipation that rotated like a pie display

a martini the color of heartache

well-worn sneakers in the shape of recovery

a violin solo melancholy as a September evening

danger that kept coming around like a gas station hot dog, persistant and ominous 

Okay. Your turn!

Whoever Reads The Most Books Wins

My newest book is WHOEVER READS THE MOST BOOKS WINS, a journal for readers. I knew I wasn’t going to have a new novel out by the time I went to the Left Coast Crime mystery convention in February, but I wanted to have something to give away to some of the sweet readers who say complimentary things about my mysteries. And, you know, for bribes.

Whoever Reads front coverIt’s slim, so you can fit it in your purse or backpack with no trouble. There’s room for 30 book entries, with some extra pages at the end to make notes of titles you want to read or other important bookish news. I priced it as low as Amazon would let me, at $6 because I know avid readers will go through these fast.

One mom told me she bought some for her competitive, albeit reluctant reader. She’s hoping that completing this journal will be the impetus he needs to keep turning pages. Wouldn’t that be great?

For myself, I am of a certain, ahem, age, so I wanted a place to jot down important ideas about the novels I read, and especially my book club books to jog my memory when it came time to discuss them. It’s disturbing how many times I try to remember things like, “What was that book … about that girl … who did that thing … over at that place …”

Embarrassing.

Here’s what the interior looks like …

interior Whoever Reads

I will be giving these away on a regular basis to the subscribers of my newsletter. If you see your name as a winner in an upcoming issue of my So Seldom It’s Shameful News, all you have to do is send me your mailing address and one will be winging its way to you. Just a little gift to say thanks for your interest in my books.

Okay, now back to reading!