My Mask

So, what’s in a name? Well, quite a lot actually. And some of it is a surprise. Kait Carson is forty-something woman, brave, strong, and a pseudonym. Many writers use pseudonyms. Every one of us for a different reason. My reason had to do with my day job. By day, I’m a paralegal with a probate/litigation practice. I work for one of the largest law firms in Florida. My first book, Zoned for Murder, had to do with the death of a lawyer. I was very naïve. I was petrified my readers would speculate about the lawyers in the story and think they were real. Well, none of the six or seven dozen people who read the book had any such questions. But the fear was very real.

When the time came to write the second in the series, Murder in the Multiples, It seemed quite natural to have Kait take credit for the writing. And when I got my first traditional contract, well, Hayden Kent is a probate paralegal. She does take after me in that regard. Kait seemed to be a natural to use for Death by Blue Water as well.

Kait and I have gotten to know each other fairly well over the years. We seem to fill the missing gaps in each other’s personalities. Kait  is much braver than I am. Loves public speaking, is always ready to chat up readers at a book signing and is quite good with technology. Her alter ego, not so much. In fact, I’m painfully shy and would rather curl up with a good book than go out to a party. We do both share a fondness for public speaking. Now that’s a go figure if I ever heard one. I’m more analytical and less emotional than Kait. We both love a good mystery. Reading them or writing them.

When I created Kait, I never thought that she would be anything other than a mirror image of me. I never expected her to have a different personality, or not share my likes and dislikes. But Kait, after all is a character. Just as my characters have different personalities, strengths and weaknesses, so does Kait. It’s good that we complement each other. I can only imagine the strife if we argued. Kait is completely capable of calling a book store and asking if they’d like to have a signing. She’s always cheerful, and never has a down day. Both of us love animals. Both of us support our military. Kait would get up on Karaoke night. I would die first. Kait’s basic CV is identical to mine. We live in the same place, are married to pilots and have a lot of animals. Both of us love writing. Both of us are natural story tellers.

I’ve had the unique experience of having people I’ve met as Kait tell me that they know someone who looks like me. No, not really. But at first glance…I confess that I get that a lot, but I never own up to my double persona. Not until I know them better.

Kait is my mask. She protects me from confusion, and embarrassment if someone wants to play name that lawyer (and that happens a lot). I trot her out for public events and she’s so comfortable that I forget I’m not. Kait is me, but not me, or maybe me the way I wish I were. I never expected my pseudonym to become a friend, but she has. Kait, I’m glad to know you.

What about you? Do you have an alter ego? If you are a writer, is your pen name person different to you? If you are a reader, do you care if the writer hides behind a mask?

Interview: Jerold Last

Please welcome Jerold Last, author of The Origin of Murder and other works.

What’s your idea of a perfect day?
Most of them—surrounded by dogs and family, working at a job I love, living in California where the weather is (mostly) great. There seems to be a lot to be thankful for. On the other hand, “perfect” is a pretty high standard. Maybe more book sales would be nice, too!

Do you have a signature accessory, color, fragrance, phrase, or meal?
Interesting question for a male writer. Let’s go with the meal: Something Mexican, like Chiles Rellenos, or veal parmigiana.

Excluding family, name three people who either inspired you or influenced your creativity.
Raymond Chandler, Ross MacDonald (aka Kenneth Millar), Dashiell Hammett.

Do you listen to music when you write?
Not usually. I concentrate better when it’s quiet. If it were music, it would be classical.

If your latest book were chocolate, what kind would it be and why?
Dark chocolate, my favorite kind!!!!!

What made you interested in writing this particular story?
Galapagos CoverThe Origin of Murder takes place (mostly) during a tour of The Galapagos Islands on a small cruise ship. My wife and I took the exact same tour several years ago. Elaine kept a journal of the trip, which gave me a lot of my research source material. Most of my novels are set in South America, so this locale fit the series theme and it’s one I know from first-hand experience.

What themes do you regularly (re)visit in your writing?
South America, suspenseful whodunit mysteries, dogs (especially German Shorthaired Pointers), unusual and interesting places I’ve actually visited or lived in.

Tell us about your main character’s psyche or personality. What led her (or him) to be the person s/he is today?
Roger and Suzanne have elements of Nick and Nora Charles from Chandler’s The Thin Man in their characters—wealthy enough to come and go as they please, a taste for good food and good wine, obviously very much in love with each other. But they’re also much more contemporary. Both are highly educated professionals, Suzanne a university professor and a working scientist, Roger a private detective with a law degree. Suzanne started out with a much more positive view of the innate goodness of man than she has evolved to after being involved in helping solve so many murder cases, while Roger is pretty much the same character in all the books. Roger uses deductive logic, and is no slouch at it (think Sherlock Holmes, but a whole lot tougher), while Suzanne uses a mixture of scientific deductive reasoning, an incredibly organized memory of facts, and intuitive leaps of logic to complement her husband’s crime solving skills.

Describe your protagonist as a mash-up of three famous people or characters.
Sherlock Holmes, Philip Marlowe, and Chuck Norris.

If you could host an author dinner party, who are the six writers (living or otherwise) you’d include?
Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, Ross MacDonald, James Lee Burke, Robert B. Parker, and Carmen Amato, author of a contemporary mystery series set in Acapulco, Mexico, who I’d like to meet.

What’s next for you?
I just finished the first draft of the next novel, hopefully to be published some time this summer after several rounds of editing, entitled “Hunter Down”. It will be set with a background of the Southern California hunt test circuit, where hunting dogs are tested for their bird finding and retrieving skills against a standard expected for the dogs at three progressively more demanding levels—Junior, Senior, and Master Hunter.

***

The author is a Professor of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at the University of California’s Medical School at Davis, near Sacramento in Northern California. Jerry writes “tweener” mystery books (hard boiled stories that follow the cozy conventions of no graphic sex and no cussing) that are fast moving and entertain the reader, while introducing the readers to a region where he has lived and worked that is a long way from home for most English speakers. He and his wife lived previously in Salta, Argentina and Montevideo, Uruguay for several months each. Jerry selected the most interesting South American locations he found for Roger and Suzanne to visit while solving miscellaneous murders. Montevideo, Salta, Machu Picchu, the Galapagos Islands, and Iguazu Falls are also characters in these books, and the novels portray these places as vivid and real. Jerry and his wife Elaine breed prize-winning German Shorthaired Pointer dogs; Elaine also provides technical advice for Jerry’s novels like The Deadly Dog Show and editing for all of the books.

Twitter: @JeroldLast
Blog: rogerandsuzannemysteries.blogspot.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/RogerAndSuzanneMysteries

About The Origin of Murder:

Armchair tourists sought for an exciting, if murderous, cruise through Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands. In The Origin of Murder, Roger and Suzanne’s dream vacation turns into a nightmare as they share a cruise ship 600 miles offshore with a murderer. This recent entry into the Roger and Suzanne mystery series can be read on its own, or in order; all of the books in the series are designed to be complete stories. Currently has a perfect score of five stars on Amazon (11 reviews). Free from Kindle Unlimited or KOLL.

Character Surprises

So there I was writing happily along. By gum, I had a series going. Two great protagonists striking up a romance, maybe getting married. That had distinct possibilities for all kinds of side-line conflict. Good chances for collaborating.

Wonderful villain–a dark magician, very skilled, full of wicked tricks–to go up against my two love birds and wreck everything.

When suddenly he turned on me.

“You’re going to do what?”

“Wait.” I picked up my outline and waved it in front of the computer screen. “This is not in the script!”

He paid me no mind. He had the bit in his teeth. He raced ahead.

“You’re not even who I thought you were. Or what I thought you were!”

He didn’t pause to answer. I had to follow. Right into an amazing story, at least I was amazed. It’s all in Beneath the Hallowed Hill. He took over the novel, but then transformed and – POOF — I have no villain. I have to invent a new one.

Ever had this experience when writing? How about when reading or watching a film? Did a favorite character violate your idea of who he or she was? Did one of them up and die without asking your permission first?

I want to hear all about it.

Top 10 Lessons (!Surprises!) along the Writer’s Journey

10.  They’re just words.  Who would’ve thought that writing them could be so hard?  Your nemesis at the day job doesn’t think writing is hard.  In fact, he or she will write a novel one day, just to show you how easy it really is.  Except, it’ll be something serious, not a silly genre book.  Who cares about a wider reading audience?

9.  Your head plays mind games with you.  Your Work-in-Progress is simultaneously garbage and brilliant.  How is that possible?

8.  You wrestle with your story when it doesn’t go in the direction you intended.  You never thought your story would take on its own life and behave like a recalcitrant teenager.

7.  You wrestle with a character who wants to hijack your story.  Wait a minute.  Just whose story is this, anyway?

6.  “Don’t think; just write.”  Get out of your own way and let the story flow.  You end up writing in the zone.  Where’s that?

5.  Your muse works overtime on your story and will suddenly jolt you awake in the middle of the night with the brilliant insight you need to get from point A to point B.  You’re not lost at all!

4.  When you still haven’t sold anything yet, Big Name Authors mentor you anyway.

3.  Editors are just readers, too.  Every reader has individual tastes, and everyone likes different stories.  If someone doesn’t like your story, that doesn’t mean it’s “bad.”  Your story is unique, and that’s good.

2.  Even with a unique story, your first submission isn’t instantly snatched up by New York editor.  Editor is never heard muttering “OMG!  It’s the next ___(fill in blank with current bestseller)!”

1.  Your first publication dies in oblivion.  Oh well.  You write the next one.  Are you surprised?  You write because writers write.  It’s what we do.

Guest Post: Gigi Pandian

Magicians in Mysteries

Like mystery novelists, magicians deceive and surprise. When you read a mystery novel or attend a magic show, you’re signing up to be surprised.

Stage magicians have a long history in mystery fiction, especially locked-room “impossible crime” stories. They’re a natural for the genre because they’re masters of illusion. Of course, a magician’s deception is meant to entertain, not to conceal a crime. But these skills or deception overlap, making magicians the ultimate detectives.

Clayton Rawson, a mystery author who wrote during the Golden Age of detective fiction in the 1930s and ‘40s, created The Great Merlini, a magician character who solves impossible crimes in four novels and over a dozen short stories. John Dickson Carr, the master of locked-room mysteries, didn’t have a recurring magician character, but he featured them in many of his books. These days, several mystery authors write about magicians, from Daniel Stashower’s clever mystery series featuring Harry Houdini to practicing magician Andrew Mayne’s new series about magician-turned-FBI agent Jessica Blackwood.

Clayton Rawson locked room mysteries book on shelf  webres

Much like in a surprising stage show, I love that sense of wonder that comes with a seemingly-impossible feat that’s based in reality as opposed to a supernatural explanation.

I didn’t set out to write two mystery series involved stage magicians. But based on my love of fair play puzzle plot mysteries, those masters of illusion were a perfect fit. They demanded more space in my stories than I’d intended, and I started writing locked-room mystery short stories featuring The Hindi Houdini so he wouldn’t take over my Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mystery series where he’s the side-kick!

In my latest novel, Quicksand, not one but two of the main characters are magicians. Jaya QUICKSAND by Gigi Pandian book cover mediumJones’ best friend Sanjay, aka The Hindi Houdini, and a 90-year-old retired stage magician both help her outsmart the villains that tricked her into help robbing the Louvre.

And in my new Accidental Alchemist mystery series, I followed in Daniel Stashower’s footsteps and selected a real-life magician as one of the characters in the series. Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin, known as the Father of Modern Magic, plays a key role in the backstory of The Accidental Alchemist, and I had so much fun creating the backstory that I wrote him into the second book in a much bigger way, including a whole section of the book set during his lifetime in the 1800s.

Surprise! I’m now a mystery author who writes about magicians. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Quicksand: A Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mystery

A thousand-year-old secret room. A sultan’s stolen treasure. A missing French priest. And an invitation to Paris to rekindle an old flame…

Historian Jaya Jones finds herself on the wrong side of the law during an art heist at the Louvre. To redeem herself, she follows clues from an illuminated manuscript that lead from the cobblestone streets of Paris to the quicksand-surrounded fortress of Mont Saint-Michel. With the help of enigmatic Lane Peters and a 90-year-old stage magician, Jaya delves into France’s colonial past in India to clear her name and catch a killer.

***

Gigi Pandian is the USA Today bestselling author of the Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt mystery series (Artifact, Pirate Vishnu, and Quicksand) and the new Accidental Alchemist mysteries (The Accidental Alchemist). Gigi’s debut mystery novel was awarded a Malice Domestic Grant and named a “Best of 2012” debut mystery by Suspense Magazine. The follow-up, Pirate Vishnu, was awarded the Rose Award (at Left Coast Crime just last week!), and her short fiction has been short-listed for Agatha and Macavity awards. Gigi spent her childhood being dragged around the world by her cultural anthropologist parents, and now lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Sign up for Gigi’s newsletter at http://gigipandian.com/newsletter/, connect with her on Facebook (facebook.com/GigiPandian) and Twitter (@GigiPandian), and check out her gargoyle photography on the Gargoyle Girl Blog (http://www.gargoylegirl.com/).

 

 

The surprise in knowing

I’m not pyschic. Never will claim to be. Never will pretend to be. Never will actually be (duh).

But I knew I was going to be in a world of hurt on Sunday.

Knew it.

In fact, I’d known it for a week.

Why? Because if you follow me on Twitter, you know I’m a pretty intense KU Jayhawks fan. Heck, it’s hinted right there in my bio with a loyal “Rock Chalk.”

And though my team has been in the top ten for pretty much the entire season, I knew they’d lose on Sunday.

How’d I know? Because the NCAA set them up to lose.

Not that the March Madness governing body gave the Jayhawks a crappy seed—no, the No. 2 seed they had was probably better than they deserved.

No, because the NCAA was looking for a game with a storyline. It seems like the last couple of years that rather than just blindly seeding, the basketball gods have been looking for built-in headlines. Just my opinion, of course. But this trend was most definitely obvious when they seeded the Midwest draw, lining up a meeting between my Jayhawks and a program that has had a great couple of years, Wichita State.

The Jayhawks and the Shockers don’t play in the regular season. They haven’t in nearly 30 years, when Wichita State called off its yearly meetings because they were getting beat by 50 points a game. Not very much fun for them, obviously.

But since the program’s resurgence a few years ago, the Shockers have been eager to play the Jayhawks on the regular. Something Kansas Coach Bill Self is opposed to, preferring to use non-conference games to travel to big recruiting areas like New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.

Of course, the Shockers and their fans don’t buy this. The Jayhawks play other in-state schools in exhibition (Emporia State, Fort Hays State, etc.). Therefore, they assume KU won’t play ball because they don’t want to get beat by the little guy and have their basketball dominance be challenged in-state by a much smaller school.

And, though I’m a Jayhawk, I’ll admit there’s probably some truth there.

The NCAA knows this. And they know this is exactly the sort of drama that makes money. It plays well on TV, sells tickets, greenlights souvenirs.

So, what does the NCAA do but set up a second-round match up between the two schools.

The moment I saw that, I knew KU wasn’t going to make it out of the first weekend. In fact, I wasn’t even totally sure they’d make it out of the first game—because it would be just like them to lose so they wouldn’t set up a game against the Shockers at all. But my boys won Friday, as did Wichita State. And I knew that by about 6:30 on Sunday, I wouldn’t see anymore of my Jayhawks for another year.

You just can’t win against a team that fired up unless you fight fire with fire. And you can’t fight fire with apathy or dread.

And my Jayhawks lost.

The foreshadowing worked.

I’m going to try to remember the feeling in the pit of my stomach that I’d had all week the next time I plot a story with something awful building in the background of my main character’s life.

Because this past week should feel exactly like the run up to that character’s inevitable loss.

There it is: what we can learn from college sports as writers, without even having to watch the game.

Now, on to baseball season. Go, Royals!

Interview: Jamie Lee Scott

Please welcome Jamie Lee Scott, author of the Gotcha Detective Agency Mysteries, the Uncertain police procedural series, and the Broken Bones Mysteries.

What’s your idea of a perfect day?
A perfect day would have temps of sixty to seventy degrees, and I’d get to spend the entire day with my horses. It could be competing in a barrel race or rodeo, or just at the barn: grooming, cleaning, and hanging out. Riding, training, and forgettingElectileDysBlogPost the rest of the world exists for a few hours, or more. Me and my little miniature Aussie dog, Chica, and life on the farm.

Do you have a signature accessory, color, fragrance, phrase, or meal?
My husband would say my colors would be black or brown, with a splash of color in my accessories. I used to make handmade glass beads for a living, so I’d always wear dark colors, so the jewelry colors would pop. I love the dark colors, though, as I get older, I think the colors are less flattering. I still love the bright colors for my jewelry.

As for fragrance, I love men’s fragrances. If I’m going to wear anything, it’d be Hugo Boss’s original fragrance for men. It’s clean, and not overwhelming.

If you read my books, you’ll realize my favorite word is “sh!t.”

Excluding family, name three people who either inspired you or influenced your creativity.

  1. I don’t think I’d be a writer today if it wasn’t for the professor of my Critical Writing class, Dr. Burke. She nurtured my writing, and told me I was good. She also taught me to love the word sh!t. Ha! I wish she was still alive, so I could thank her.
  2. A barrel racer named Fallon Taylor. A few years ago, she was told she’d never walk again, much less ride horses, or complete, and yet in 2014 she qualified in the #2 spot for the National Finals Rodeo. She’s a firm believer in phrases like: She believed she could, so she did. And she’s a cheerleader for the little guy, never putting those at the bottom down , because she was once there. She’s my hero.
  3. Lanny Bassham, a former Olympic athlete who wrote the book, With Winning in Mind. Reading that book taught me so much about being a better athlete (competing with my horses), and about being a better business person, and a writer.

Do you listen to music when you write?
Sometimes. Many times I want complete silence, so I can get into the other world I need to be in. But when I do listen to music, I listen to movie scores, or jazz. I want to be in the mood of the story I’m writing. Or the character’s mood. If I’m writing very dark, I love to listen to the score from Black Swan. I swear I know every note of every song.

If your latest book were chocolate, what kind would it be and why?
Peruvian chocolate, because it’s a new taste, that leaves you wondering what you just had, and yet somehow wanting more.

What made you interested in writing this particular story?
When I was in New Orleans for the Romantic Times conference, I met the chief of police of the wonderful city of Thibodaux, Louisiana. We had dinner with a group of writers I’d done a collaboration with. He was kind enough to bring along several of his officers, and it was a free for all question and answer session throughout dinner. Well, I was intrigued, to say the least, and I asked if I could ride along with one of his officers. I ended up riding with his female officer, Rebecca Shaver. During that twelve hour shift, I decided, I wanted to write a series featuring uniformed police officers. I researched and realized that in smaller towns, these officers not only do their own crime scene work, they also act as detectives in homicides. And my Uncertain series was born.

What themes do you regularly (re)visit in your writing?
It seems I like to kill off unlikable people. Other than the character in my first novel, most of my victims deserved a nasty, violent death. They’ve mostly been parasites. I need to explore that more. Find out why I do that. Hahaha.

Tell us about your main character’s psyche or personality. What led her (or him) to be the person s/he is today?
In my first series, the Gotcha Detective Agency Mysteries, I played with words for the title, so I carried on the tradition with Uncertain, by naming my main character Harper Leigh.

She’s an officer who was played as a pawn by her previous police chief. But that’s a story in itself. She’s damaged, and flawed, and trying to fix herself as she comes back onto the force.

She’s recovering from a work related injury, and facing the fight of her career, when she thought she’d just fought that fight.

She’s also working for her ex-husband, whom she still loves, and he still loves her. It’s complicated.

Describe your protagonist as a mashup of three famous people or characters.
Uma Thurman in Kill Bill, because she’s hella tough, and both Thelma and Louise, because she’s kind and conflicted, and loves with all her heart.

If you could host an author dinner party, who are the six writers (living or otherwise) you’d include?
I love my friends, so I’d pick Hildie McQueen because she’s hilarious and the life of the party. Scott Silverii because he has the best cop stories ever. Liliana Hart because she’s the sweetest and she spills the beans on Scott. Mike Alber because I love him to death and he writes for TV, so I never get to see him anymore. James Duffy, so I could impress him enough to get him to hire me to be on his writing staff for Major Crimes. Finally, I’d pick Elmore Leonard, because he’s my favorite writer of all time, and he’s no longer living, but he’d be a hoot with the ones I already have assembled at the table.

What’s next for you?
I now have three mystery series going, the Gotcha Detective Agency Mysteries, Uncertain police procedural series, and my newest, Broken Bones Mysteries, which is a cozy mystery series based around a dog bakery, and includes recipes for dog treats. I’m trying to put out three full length novels a year, and hopefully a few novellas in between. I will have a Gotcha mystery, Who Gives a Split coming out next.

***

Jamie Lee Scott is the USA Today Bestselling author of the Gotcha Detective Agency Mysteries. Originally from the Central Coast of California, Jamie was swept off her feet by a dashing Iowa farm boy and moved to the Midwest. After several years of running a restaurant with her husband, she felt the urge to kill people. Rather than going postal, she decided to start writing fiction. Her new series, set in the fictional town of Uncertain, CA, debuts in 2015. Jamie also writes screenplays for movies and TV. Though she has yet to sell to Hollywood, her short script, No One Knows, was sold in 2012, and made the film festival rounds in 2013-14. No One Knows has been nominated for multiple awards, and won its category at the Bare Bones Film Festival. She lives on a small farm with her family, 2 dogs, 2 cats and 3 horses. When she’s not reading or writing, she’s riding horses and competing in barrel races.

www.jamieleescott.com
www.facebook.com/authorjamie
@authorjamie