Interview: Bryan E. Robinson

Please welcome Bryan E. Robinson, author of the Brad Pope and Sisterfriends Mystery Series and other works.

What’s your idea of a perfect day?
A perfect day would be a perfect writing day in which it’s raining outside (so I don’t want to go out), I can stay in my p.j.’s, sit at the computer, and let my imagination run wild and at the end of that day after having been in the zone for 7 or 8 hours, I feel a sense of excitement, progress, and accomplishment, and I can top it off with a great bottle of wine and a fabulous meal and if it’s cold enough outside, sit in front of a fire in my kitchen with my main squeeze and just be.

Do you have a signature accessory, color, fragrance, phrase/expression, or meal?
Baseball cap, faded, comfortable jeans with as many holes as possible, and limestonea sweat shirt or t-shirt with pockets for my pens, no jewelry including rings, nothing to impede my comfort or computer writing. My favorite color is green, and my favorite meal is pinto beans, homemade cornbread to sop with, Vidallia onions sprinkled over the top, and coleslaw and artichoke relish on the side.

Which books/authors inspired or influenced you the most?
Mostly Southern writers like Pat Conroy, Fannie Flagg’s Fried Green Tomatoes, and especially John Hart’s King of Lies and Down River. And I love Kent Kruger’s Ordinary Grace.

Do you listen to music when you write?
God no. It would be too distracting. I need quiet. Even the dogs barking take me out of the zone.

If your latest book were chocolate, what kind would it be and why?
Creamy milk chocolate with no nuts or peanut butter, just pure chocolate, not dark chocolate, milk chocolate with lots of chunks in it because it’s pure and rich and stimulating and has a lot of chunks (substance) to it.

What made you interested in writing this particular story?
I had a house on the Suwannee River and was amazed at the culture there that nobody had written about. I was haunted by the beauty and brutality of the area: the palm trees, manatee, alligators, and abundant wildlife that you can’t see just anywhere and the underwater caves that divers went into and drowned because they got lost and couldn’t find their way out. The images of the corpses with guidelines wrapped around them like mummies and bulging eyes as they died a horrific death.

What themes do you regularly (re)visit in your writing?
The beauty and brutality of the landscape of the south; as much family dysfunction as I can muster; food that the characters eat; and the flavor of southern living along with a little bit of southern gothic darkness in the murders that occur. And I can’t help but throw in a little bit of humor here and there to spice things up.

Tell us about your main character.
Dr. Brad Pope is a 35-year-old psychologist and reluctant sleuth who always outsmarts the cops by relying on his own psychological wits and instincts to unravel a tangle of murder and intrigue. On the trail of deadly twists and pulse-pounding turns, he is driven by fallout from his tortured past and the tragic consequences of his family to bring justice to those who are in harm’s way.

Describe your protagonist as a mash-up of three famous people or characters.
Dr. Brad Pope is a combination of the sex appeal and good looks of Brad Pitt, the reserved personality, sexual orientation, and smarts of Anderson Cooper, and the heart and sensitivity of Barack Obama.

If you could host a mystery-author dinner party, who are the six writers (living or otherwise) you’d include?
Pat Conroy, Fannie Flagg, Mark Twain, Flannery O’Conner and Eudora Welty, John Hart, and (if I could add a seventh) Lee Child.

What’s next for you?
I just finished the second installment in the Brad Pope series titled, She’ll Be KILLING Round the Mountain and am working on the third installment. I’m also working on a nonfiction daily meditation book for writers titled, Don’t Murder Yourself Before Finishing Your Mystery: 365 Daily Meditations for Writing Resilience.

***

Bryan E. Robinson’s Limestone Gumption is the 2015 New Apple Book Medalist Winner for Best Psychological Suspense. It also won the Beverly Hills Book Award for Best Mystery, the Silver IPPY Award for outstanding mystery of the year, and the Bronze Award for best mystery from Foreword Reviews’ INDIEFAB Book of the Year Awards. Bryan is the Coordinator of International Thriller Writers’ Debut Author Forum, a consulting editor for The Big Thrill, a member of Mystery Writers of America, and author of thirty-five nonfiction books. His books have been translated into thirteen languages. Robinson won two writing awards for his nonfiction work which was featured on 20/20, Good Morning America, ABC’s World News Tonight, NBC Nightly News, NBC Universal, The CBS Early Show, CNBC’s The Big Idea. He hosted the PBS documentary. Robinson maintains a private psychotherapy practice in Asheville, North Carolina and resides in the Blue Ridge Mountains with his spouse, four dogs, and occasional bears at night. His latest books are Don’t Murder Yourself Before You Finish Your Manuscript for writers and the thriller Bloody Bones. He is working on his third mystery/thriller, Michael Row the BODY Ashore.

Website: www.bryanrobinsonnovels.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/BRTherapist

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/RobinsonBryanE

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Bryan-Robinson/e/B00DPT3UJ6

Google: https://plus.google.com/+bryanrobinsonnovels/posts

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show59849.Bryan_E_Robinson

Contact: info@bryanrobinsonnovels.com

Your process can sparkle

I’ve noticed a theme about some of the blogs I follow recently. They’re all about process. Actually, that’s a little too limiting. They’re about owning your process and why it works for you. Except I’ve noticed something else. All of these blogs have a b(sometimes the teeniest) note of…justification. Like, “This is my process and, and…it works for me, okay? Don’t judge because it’s mine and…and…it just is okay?”

(I promise to tie this into our monthly theme. Maybe. We’ll see how it goes.)

Anyway, on one hand this is not really surprising. We writers are sort of a “needy” lot, people constantly looking to justify ourselves. A friend of mine calls this IWS – Inherent Writerly Syndrome. It usually manifests as some kind of insecurity. “I can’t do this. Why did I ever think I can write? OMG, that sentence is awful. This is dreck. This book is the one that is going to reveal my inadequacy. I will lose my readers, my contract, my agent. All of it. I might as well get a job flipping burgers at a fast-food joint because it is OVER!”

This may or may not be prefaced by, “I know. I’ll revamp my writing process. That’s my problem. I’m not disciplined enough; I need to outline.” Or, “I’m too disciplined. I need to be more free form.”

(I’m getting to the theme – I think.)

So we ditch the process that has worked – however slowly and awkwardly – for the past X number of books and look for something new. Something that sparkles like the bright shiny that attracts a squirrel.

(See – I did it!)

Except, the new shiny isn’t better. We don’t write faster. We don’t necessarily write more beautiful prose, less in need of an editor. In fact we can sometimes ruin the thing that made our process work in the first place.

See, our old process isn’t less sparkly. It really does work. It’s just gotten a little dusty and dirty from IWS. Because that’s what IWS does. It throws up dirt and dust and whatnot that disguises all that is sparkly in our writerly lives. And because we are too close, we despair. We seek the new, the shiny. And ignore what is shiny right in front of us – if we would only dust it off.

So today, right here, I’m issuing a challenge to all writers. You are sparkly. Your process, your prose – it is. You’re being sabotaged by IWS. And the only way to defeat IWS is to face it head on and reveal it for the cowardly slacker that it is. “I am a writer. I sparkle.” Not I can sparkle. “Can” implies that sparkling is something you aspire to. No, my friends – we do sparkle! Yeah, some of those early drafts sparkle a little less. So what? Sparkling is not something to aspire to, it is something we do, something we are, and something that will only get brighter with each successive draft.

I challenge you to banish IWS to it’s drab, dusty corner. WE ARE WRITERS, SEE US SPARKLE! Together, we can defeat IWS – or at least send it on a protracted vacation.

(And I told you I’d get to the theme – eventually.)

Mary Sutton | @mary_sutton75

Interview: Sparkle Abbey

Please welcome Sparkle Abbey, authors of the Pampered Pets mysteries.

What’s your idea of a perfect day?
A day with family and no commitments. And if a beach is somehow involved that would make it even more perfect!

Do you have a signature accessory, color, fragrance, phrase/expression, or meal?
We’d have to say our t-shirts. They started out as an idea for our author photo and have since morphed into the way the we’re often recognized. And, of course, they make packing for conferences SO easy!Raiders of the Lost Bark - Final

Which books/authors inspired or influenced you the most?
It’s so hard to pick particular books or authors, but we were both readers of Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden when we were growing up. And then graduated to bigger stories and authors. We love the complicated plots of Lisa Gardner and the fun over-the-top characters of Laura Levine with Jaine Austen and her cat, Prozac.

Do you listen to music when you write?
Yes. The music genre is often dictated by where we are in the story or the type of scene we’re writing.

If your latest book were chocolate, what kind would it be and why?
Definitely sweet and nutty!

What made you interested in writing this particular story?
The setting for Raiders of the Lost Bark, was inspired by an Orange County camping trip that Anita and her family took a number of years ago. For three hot summer days, at the beginning of what was to become a five-year drought for California, Anita’s family pitched their well-used six-person tent at the desolate Ronald W. Caspers Wilderness Park campground. After two restless nights of sleeping on the hard, dusty ground, and watching over their shoulders for mountain lions, rattlesnakes, and dodging bees, they broke camp and headed east—to the even hotter Las Vegas desert, a cold hotel room and running water.

Years later, we tossed around the idea of a story set outside of Laguna Beach. What if our pampered characters were stuck between the sandstone canyons and parched wilderness campsites? How would they cope?

What themes do you regularly (re)visit in your writing?
Certainly family and complications caused by the ones you love; as well as the idea that no one in the world knows you like your own family.

Tell us about your main character.
Our series features two main characters, cousins and former Texas beauty queens, who’ve relocated to Laguna Beach, California. Caro Lamont is a pet therapist and Melinda Langston is a pet boutique owner. They alternate playing the lead in our titles and so the current book features Mel who, along with her friend and employee, Betty Foxx, decide to go “glamping.” That’s glamorous camping, just in case you didn’t know. And Mel, didn’t so much decide as she was blackmailed into going.

Describe your protagonist as a mash-up of three famous people or characters.
Caro is a mash-up of Isla Fisher (a feisty red-head), a young Katherine Hepburn (independent and direct) and because she has such a heart for animals, there has to be a bit of Sarah McLachlan in there too.
Mel is a mash-up of Danica Patrick (gutsy and adventurous), almost any Sandra Bullock character for the obvious reasons, and a dash of Jane Rizzoli’s fashion sense.

If you could host a mystery-author dinner party, who are the six writers (living or otherwishttps://mysteristas.wordpress.com/wp-admin/media-upload.php?post_id=11109&type=image&TB_iframe=1e) you’d include?
(Wow, this is hard…) Agatha Christie, of course, and Daphne du Maurier and… Lisa Gardner and Lee Child because he’s so charming. And Sara Paretsky because she’s also charming and so smart! And Laura Levine, because she’s our idol and would make us laugh.

What’s next for you?
We’re currently working on ideas for books 9 and 10 in the series. (No titles yet, so stay tuned.)

***

Sparkle Abbey is actually two authors Mary Lee Woods and Anita Carter. They are friends and neighbors as well as co-writers of the national best-selling Pampered Pets Mystery Series. Their pen name was created by combining the names of their rescue pets–Sparkle (Mary Lee’s cat) and Abbey (Anita’s dog). The first book in the series Desperate Housedogs, an Amazon Mystery Series bestseller and Barnes & Noble Nook #1 bestseller, was followed by subsequent books that continue Caro and Mel’s mystery-solving adventures. Midwest Book Reviews calls the series “sassy and fun!” If you want to learn more or make sure you’re up on all the Sparkle Abbey news, stop by their website and sign up for updates!

Website: www.sparkleabbey.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/SparkleAbbey

Twitter: @SparkleAbbey

Writing Guilty Pleasures

I love food—cooking, tasting, taking pictures (yep, I’m one of those people), and watching it prepared on the Food Network. So when my MC goes to eat a sandwich, it’s not just any sandwich. It’s a prosciutto, fresh mozzarella, and arugula panini with a garlic fennel aioli.

Likewise, when I’m picking out an outfit for my MC or how her apartment is furnished, I have fun with it. She gets to wear fashionable skinny jeans with a v-neck blouse and midnight blue pumps. Her loft-style apartment is decorated with chic vases and candleholders a la Crate & Barrel.

And I just can’t wait until I get to take my MC on a vacation…Imagine what sort of research will go into that!

The details we sprinkle into our manuscripts not only add richness to our characters, they can also be incredibly fun. These are what I call guilty pleasures, but for writers, a chance for us to truly indulge.

Now, the catch is to not get so carried away writing about, say, that fabulous glass of wine and antipasto platter that it detracts from the main plot or feels unrealistic. However, a few key details sprinkled in can really make a manuscript sparkle.

These are opportunities to let our imaginations run wild, to give our characters their dream wardrobe, apartment, and/or vacation. After all, we put them through enough torture (hopefully); don’t they deserve something nice?

Writers, do you have any writing guilty pleasures? If so, what are they? Readers, are there details you especially enjoy reading about?

Sprinkle in the Glitter

I write in layers. Earlier this month, Mary talked about Draft Zero, also affectionately known as the Vomit Draft, Garbage Draft, or other equally pleasant titles. I actually haven’t learned to write a full Draft Zero yet; I’m still distracted by doing corrections to each chapter as I write. But, I do produce a draft zero of each chapter: lay out the bones, the basics for the chapter, and then I go back and begin layering in the meat of the thing. I tend to write in dialogue, so my early drafts are full of conversation. Then I go back and layer in all of the sensory pieces that were missing: smell, temperature, visual elements, and so on. (Sound is still hard for me, so my writer’s group has to remind me to include sound!) The sensory pieces will go in over the course of a few drafts. At this point, I’m usually ready to move on to the next chapter. After a few chapters, I might realize that I’ve written them out of order, or I find that I need to add a chapter between two I’ve already written.  The current chapter is far from polished, but it has dimension, a certain amount of depth and interest, and it’s moving the story forward.

The writing process is so odd, when you think about it. It varies by every writer, and to some degree, by project–is it non-fiction or fiction, a theme that challenges or one that is familiar, and so on. For me, when I get stuck, I step away from the novel and write a short story or two. I love writing short stories (and reading them, too!). Writing a short story forces me to be efficient, succinct, direct, and did I mention, efficient? It’s wonderful practice, pushing me to include all the necessary story elements in a very small space. I love the challenge of it.

The best part of working in multiple stories at a time, is finding the sparkle. I can get bogged down in my own writing, sometimes feeling like I’ve completely lost my way. There’s that inner critic saying, “This is garbage. You’re an idiot to think you can do this.” Yes, we need to squish that critic like the nasty Japanese beetle that she is, but she’s a chatty little thing sometimes. For me, what often happens next is the best part of writing: I’ll hit a wall in the current project, or I’ll have not had time to write in a few days. Finally, I read a different piece, or the piece that’s being ignored, and then I find it. The sparkle.

Sometimes, there’s just small bits of glitter, a wonderful turn of phrase, a description that has me fully engaged in this imaginary world. Sometimes it’s all confetti cake, a liberal dosing of giant, sparkly sparkle that just squashes that inner critic flat under a giant heap of. . .sparkle. Maybe it’s a scene that makes you stop and think, “I wrote that? Wait, I wrote that!” Because, while the drafts may not be great, they may not be ready to publish or even share among trusted friends, all of us are producing something with a bit of sparkle, that hint of brilliance that keeps us going. We realize, here and there, that this project, this story, is really going to shine when we’re done with all the drafts, all the polishing. Much like the family silver, or the brass table, or the antique bureau, our stories have little bits and pieces of wonderful that we can see and feel, and that we know with enough polishing, sanding, or editing, are going to shine all over.

Where do you look for the sparkle?

Interview: D.P. Lyle

Please welcome D.P. Lyle, author of the Jake Longly series and numerous other works.

What’s your idea of a perfect day?
One perfect day would be a nice cup of strong coffee, a walk around the harbor in Dana Point, a round of golf where I shot par, and completing 3000 words of my latest book. That would be nice. But I can think of one better – any Saturday in the fall watching the Alabama Crimson Tide beat the hell out of their opponent.

Do you have a signature accessory, color, fragrance, phrase/expression, or meal?
Interesting question. I’m not sure I have a signature accessory but I do have a fountain pen on my desk at all times. I collect them and I love to DS 500X763write with them. It goes back to my childhood – – my father was an accountant and kept his ledgers with a fountain pen and the smell of the ink brings back great memories. My favorite color is blue and my favorite fragrance would be my mom’s pecan pie cooking in the oven. My signature expression is – – whatever is, is. It basically means that you can believe whatever you want and you have the constitutional right to be wrong because whatever is, is. As for favorite meal, that’s easy. From the time I was a child my father and I always made barbecued ribs, coleslaw, and cornbread for New Year’s Day to watch football. I do that every year. It’s actually my favorite day of the year.

Which books/authors inspired or influenced you the most?
Obviously, there are many, but two are essential to me. I’ve read everything that James Lee Burke and Elmore Leonard ever wrote. I learned more from these two wonderful writers than from anyone else. Their styles are totally different and yet they both write gritty crime fiction. James Lee Burke is poetry in motion and writes such beautiful and lyrical prose that it is sometimes breathtaking. Elmore Leonard on the other hand writes in a clean and concise manner that every writer can learn from. And if you want to write dialogue, you must read Elmore.

Do you listen to music when you write?
I actually can’t write in a quiet room. If it is too quiet, my mind goes elsewhere. I was the same way in medical school. I couldn’t study in a quiet room. I always had music on. It’s as if the background noise forced greater concentration. That’s still the case today. I mostly listen to blues and blues-based rock.

If your latest book were chocolate, what kind would it be and why?
That’s a funny question. I would say milk chocolate for smoothness and throw in some nuts – – likely pecans being a southern boy – – for insanity. And my latest book is crazy and fun and wild and set on the Gulf Coast.

What made you interested in writing this particular story?
I’ve always enjoyed the work of Carl Hiaasen and love his humorous take on crime fiction. I specially like most of his earlier work. I’ve always wanted to write a comedic thriller since I love both comedy and thrilling stories. In my latest book, Deep Six, that’s what I attempted to accomplish and I think it worked out well. I’m very pleased with the result.

What themes do you regularly (re)visit in your writing?
I don’t ever think about themes but if I had to put a theme on all of my fiction it would simply be good versus evil. That’s common and a cliché, but that’s pretty much what most crime fiction comes down to I think. I’m not big on writing or reading stories that make glowing social commentary because there’s enough of that on the news. I’m bored with it. For me, a story needs to be fun and interesting and move along quickly and I try to do that with my writing.

Tell us about your main character.
The protagonist of Deep Six is Jake Longly. Jake is an ex-major-league-baseball pitcher and now owns a bar/restaurant on the Gulf Coast. His father, Ray, is an ex-military type who is no nonsense and runs a private investigation firm in the same area. Ray and Jake don’t often see eye to eye. Ray wants Jake to work for him and doesn’t understand why Jake would think owning a bar and chasing bikinis was a good career choice. Such a career was fine with Jake. But as fate would have it Ray convinces Jake to at least do a stake out for him and, as I’m sure you expect, things didn’t work out well. That’s how the story starts and it goes completely sideways from there. So you would say Jake is a reluctant PI.

Describe your protagonist as a mash-up of three famous people or characters.
That’s not an easy question to answer and I’m not sure I’ve ever really thought about it. But I would suspect that Jake would be a combination of Nolan Ryan, Raylan Givens, and Lewis Grizzard – – the latter being a Southern humorist if you’re not familiar with.

If you could host a mystery-author dinner party, who are the six writers (living or otherwise) you’d include?
That’s a fairly easy one. Of course, James Lee Burke and Elmore Leonard. I would also invite Mark Twain, Ernest Hemingway, and John Steinbeck as each of these had a great influence on my reading early on. Lastly, Leonardo da Vinci simply because he’s one of the most interesting and brilliant humans that has ever lived and dabbled in so many arenas. I particularly would like to talk to Leonardo about his scientific and anatomical work.

What’s next for you?
Since the second edition of Forensics For Dummies came out in April and Deep Six was just released, I’m involved in promoting those two titles but right now I’m working on the next Jake book as well as outlining another book in an entirely new series. Of course, the radio show that I do with Jan Burke, Crime and Science Radio, is ongoing and always keeps us busy. Also, for ITW, I run Thriller School, CraftFest, and Master CraftFest, and each of these is time-consuming.

***

D.P. Lyle is the Macavity and Benjamin Franklin Silver Award winning and Edgar, Agatha, Anthony, Scribe, Silver Falchion, and USA Best Book Award nominated author of many non-fiction books (MURDER & MAYHEM; FORENSICS FOR DUMMIES; FORENSICS & FICTION; MORE FORENSICS & FICTION; HOWDUNNIT: FORENSICS; and ABA FUNDAMENTALS: UNDERSTANDING FORENSIC SCIENCE) as well as numerous works of fiction, including the Samantha Cody thriller series (DEVIL’S PLAYGROUND, DOUBLE BLIND, and ORIGINAL SIN); the Dub Walker thriller series (STRESS FRACTURE; HOT LIGHTS, COLD STEEL, and RUN TO GROUND); the Jake Longly thriller series (DEEP SIX); and the Royal Pains media tie-in novels (ROYAL PAINS: FIRST, DO NO HARM and ROYAL PAINS: SICK RICH). His essay on Jules Verne’s THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND appears in THRILLERS: 100 MUST READS and his short story “Even Steven” in ITW’s anthology THRILLER 3: LOVE IS MURDER.

Along with Jan Burke, he is the co-host of Crime and Science Radio. He has worked with many novelists and with the writers of popular television shows such as Law & Order, CSI: Miami, Diagnosis Murder, Monk, Judging Amy, Peacemakers, Cold Case, House, Medium, Women’s Murder Club, 1-800-Missing, The Glades, and Pretty Little Liars.

He is a practicing Cardiologist in Orange County, California.

Website: http://www.dplylemd.com

Blog: http://writersforensicsblog.wordpress.com

Crime & Science Radio: http://www.dplylemd.com/crime–science-radio.html

 

 

 

Sparkles In My Brain

From time to time, I play around with short stories – usually as a palette cleanser in between revisions or just before I’m about to start a new book. I’m here to tell you, writing mystery short stories is hard.

The short stories I like best are when the writer withholds the twist to the very end and then the delivers it without explicitly solving the mystery. It’s the reader who solves the story after reading the last sentence. I noticed this technique for the first time in the story The Remaining Unknowns by Tony Broadbent published in the MWA The Mystery Box anthology. Most recently, I saw that technique again used by Martin Edwards in his story, Consuming Passion, published by Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine in July of 2016.

I don’t want to spoil the endings of these stories for you, but rest assured, these gentlemen are master writers. Within in seconds of reading the last sentence of each story, I “got it” and that little synapse arcing across my brain lit it up like the Fourth of July.

Writing an ending like that is so much harder than it looks; I’ve tried with mixed results. It’s hard to come up with a dramatic twist, save it to the end, give the reader enough clues for fair play and to let them connect the dots, all without sucking the tension out of the story.  Am open to suggestions.

Meanwhile, Mysteristas, what kind of endings do you like best?