Interview: Lisa Brackman

Please welcome guest Lisa Brackman, author of Black Swan Rising!

What made you interested in writing this particular story?

Several things. I’d recently moved back to my hometown San Diego. I live in what was a few years ago a swing Congressional district. Because of gerrymandering in many parts of the country, actual swing districts are rare in the U.S., but California has a panel of retired judges who draw districts, so we do have some competitive ones.

Black Swan Rising CoverThe amount of money poured into this race was astounding. At the time it was the most money ever spent on a congressional contest. Much of it was dark money from out of state – money where you do not know who the donors are. There are no limits on this type of spending. As a consequence, every time I turned on the TV I’d see attack ads. It got to the point where you just wanted to take a shower after seeing them.

I was also just very interested in the changes in my hometown in the years I’d lived away. San Diego had become a much more diverse and in many ways more interesting city than the Navy town of my childhood. And you tend to think of the place where you grew up as “ordinary.” It’s what you know from childhood. So to me, San Diego was always baseline “normal.” But go to other parts of the world, and Southern California is an exotic, strange place. I wanted to bring both perspectives to the city as a setting – what makes it “normal” and what makes it unique.

One of the smaller changes that I really enjoyed was the growth of the craft beer industry. San Diego can make a strong case for being the craft beer capital of the country (maybe even the world). We have something like 152 operational brewhouses here. Brewery tasting rooms have become real community gathering places—craft beer culture is lot of fun, and it gets people to other parts of the city they wouldn’t necessarily think to visit otherwise. I don’t know many other places where you will have random conversations about hop varieties with so many different people.

I had also been following something called GamerGate. In case you missed it, “GamerGate” was ostensibly about ethics in journalism covering the online gaming industry. What it really was about was attacking and shaming women involved in that industry who advocated for more inclusive and more women-friendly games or who examined the kinds of sexist and racist tropes common in gaming. These attacks ranged from constant online harassment of women, people of color and at times, their male allies to doxing, “swatting” (calling in a fake police report to provoke a SWAT team response on a target) and real-life death threats.

Most of the attackers were young men who objected to what they saw as encroachments on “their” territory.

Finally, I’d been thinking about mass shootings. They literally happen every day in our country, and it’s very easy to be shocked and appalled by a particular incident at the time it happens, and then that incident quickly recedes from public consciousness, to be replaced by the next slaughter.

There’s a common theme with mass shooters that at the time was not much discussed. They are mostly white men, and the great majority of them have expressed or acted upon misogynist sentiments. Most shootings are in fact “domestics,” with the majority of victims being the male shooter’s family. But look at almost every high-profile mass shooting and you will find anger towards women. Dig a little deeper and you will also find extremist political sentiments. Granted, these are often incoherently expressed but they are there. Christopher Harper Mercer, the killer behind the Umpqua Community College shooting, is an example who also provided partial inspiration for one of the killers in Black Swan Rising. Socially awkward, living with his mother, unemployed, no girlfriend, known to frequent “incel” chatboards, fascinated by Nazis and firearms. Angry at the world, convinced of his own victimhood.

After writing the first chapter and a basic pitch, I put Black Swan Rising aside to work on my fifth book, Go-Between. I ended up writing the bulk of BSR in 2016. The political climate at the time undoubtedly influenced the book, but since I finished it, I’ve watched more and more events unfold that feel like what I wrote. I’ve said that I feel a bit like Casey Cheng, one of the two leads in BSR, a reporter who fears that by giving something a name, she’s helped bring it about. I don’t actually think I have that kind of power, at all, but it’s definitely one of those times that I don’t much like being right.

Tell us about your main character.

Black Swan Rising has two protagonists, with a third POV character who is nearly as prominent. The first is Sarah Price, a young woman who is working on the reelection campaign of a San Diego congressman. She is very smart, very shy, even closed-off. She doesn’t trust and she doesn’t share. There are reasons for that—she has a secret past that won’t stay secret and threatens to engulf both her and the campaign she’s working for. You find out in the first sentence of the novel that she’s being harassed via email. The harassment is explicit and ugly. The question is, why is this happening to her? And also, what will she choose to do about it?

The second lead is Casey Cheng. Casey is a local television news reporter with ambitions far beyond the usual fires, crimes and surfing bulldog stories she generally is assigned to cover.  She gets her wish but not the way she would have liked or hoped when she’s seriously injured in a mass shooting incident. Casey pitches a series of stories about the long-term impact of these shootings—what happens to victims after the sorrow and outrage and public spotlight have moved on to the next slaughter. When she investigates the man who nearly killed her, she finds a connection to a group of online harassers called #TrueMen—and realizes her shooter may not be the only killer they have inspired.

Casey is very different than Sarah. She’s confident, outgoing and more at ease in the world. But she still has to overcome a significant trauma to get on with her life, and though she’s determined to do so, the trauma affects her far more than she would like to admit.

The third major POV character is Lindsey Cason. Lindsey is married to Representative Matt Cason, the congressman running for reelection. She’s a complicated and rather prickly character who is currently serving as the campaign’s finance director even though she doesn’t much like the work, because somebody has to do it, and she wholeheartedly supports Matt’s career. But meanwhile she’s been stifling her own ambitions, and she and Matt are not particularly happy in their marriage. When the campaign itself becomes a target of violence, she has some choices to make—and some danger to face.

How did you get started writing?

When I was five, I wanted to write an epic novel about cats who went camping. But I could not spell “tent,” and my mom was on the phone with her best friend and couldn’t help me. Thus, sadly, that work has been lost to the ages.

What do you think makes a good story, and how do you incorporate that into your books?

Compelling characters, conflict, real stakes (not artificially inflated ones), interesting, vivid settings.

For me, though I do think a lot about story and larger thematic elements, writing still exists on a sentence-by-sentence level.  I really care about the quality of my prose, and I aim to make every sentence tight and effective. On the Big Picture side, I also spend a lot of time just thinking about what I am writing, or want to write, and what that all means, and how I might bring more depth to it.

If you couldn’t write, what would you do?

I would do the other things that I do right now—play music (I sing and play bass guitar), take long walks, hang out with friends, pet my cat, read books, study foreign languages, travel the world. I just need to figure out how to fund all these activities. I’d maybe take up drawing and painting, something I used to do when I was a kid. I’d also want to be more involved in things that I think are important – urban transit, environmental causes in general.


Lisa Brackmann - hiresLisa Brackmann has worked as an executive at a major motion picture studio, an issues researcher in a presidential campaign, and was the singer/songwriter/bassist in an LA rock band. Her debut novel Rock Paper Tiger, set on the fringes of the Chinese art world made several “Best of” lists, including Amazon’s Top 100 Novels and Top 10 Mystery/Thrillers, and was also nominated for the Strand Magazine Critics Award for Best First Novel. Her second novel, Getaway, won the Los Angeles Book Festival Grand Prize and was nominated for the T. Jefferson Parker SCIBA award. Hour of the Rat, #2 in the Ellie McEnroe series, was short-listed for Left Coast’s World Mystery award, as was Ellie #3, Dragon Day (and was a Seattle Times Top 10 Mystery Pic). Lisa lives in San Diego with a couple of cats, far too many books and a bass ukulele.




Interview: John Stith

Read on to get to know John Stith, author of Pushback.

Which books/authors inspired or influenced you the most?

In mystery my list would include Nelson DeMille (love everything he does), Thomas Perry (I love the trope inversion and the intelligence in the Jane Whitefield books), Linwood Barclay (I love the mix of humor and drama in his Zack Walker series), Lee Child (no explanation needed), and Robert B. Parker.

In SF it’s impossible to escape the influence of Asimov/Clarke/Heinlein but I also love Ray Bradbury, Daniel Galouye, Dean Koontz, Preston & Child, Robert Sheckley, and Clifford Simak (he shows that gentle stores can be filled with suspense).

Both lists omit dozens of brilliant, moving writers.

Tell us a bit about your new book.

PushbackPushback is a mystery-suspense novel. It begins with Dave, an investment counselor with PTSD, who survives a blowout accident that kills his fiancée, Allison.

A year later, Dave has found unexpected happiness with Cathy. At Dave’s high-school reunion, he is stunned that he doesn’t recognize anyone there. Cathy, who was previously victimized by a con man, breaks it off. And that night Dave gets a text: “How does it feel to be so quickly forgotten?” Apparently, someone close to Allison is angry that he has moved on so “soon.”

Dave’s PTSD symptoms make him avoid conflict, so he hopes this will pass. It doesn’t. His car is filled with cement. His house is razed. And now, someone is trying to kill him.

Dave’s only choices are to flee to Bolivia or stay and fight. He stays.

What inspired you to write it?

I typically start a book with an emotional issue, plus a vague idea of a plot that appeals to me, and a setting that fits both. One of the emotional triggers of the book was moving on after a huge loss. My wife of nearly 30 years died of cancer, and in the following year I happened to meet a new wonderful woman. But while I was feeling attracted and wanted, I was also feeling guilty that I was still around to experience life, while my former wife was not. I felt disloyal. Intellectually I knew that was wrong, partly because of two things my former wife had told me before she died. Her two greatest desires were to get through the dying process with dignity (she was a 10) and that I would find happiness after she was gone. In writing the novel, I jumped from those feelings to imagining a character who was moving on after a loss, and compounding the situation by adding a character who also felt my hero was moving on too quickly. Someone angry enough to do something about it.

How did you get started writing?

I spent years wishing I were a writer. And then finally I decided to spend a fixed time every day and do it. I started with 15 minutes a day, and that grew. Eventually I sold some non-fiction articles, then worked my way to short stories, and finally to novels. My first eight novels with Ace and Tor were all science fiction, but most with a strong mystery element (a private eye on a distant planet, an amnesia/murder tale aboard a space station, an undercover operative going back home again and finding an old flame in trouble, a starship hijacking, and an investigative reporter wondering why one news team is often the first to reach a new disaster).

If you couldn’t write, what would you do?

Kill myself. Just kidding. Writing is the most fulfilling work I know, so would feel incomplete without it. But I do suffer from having too many interests. If I had additional lifetimes, I would love to develop the skills to become a fine photographer. In another life, I’d love to compose music.


About the book:

At his ten-year high-school reunion, Colorado investment counselor Dave Barlow, who suffers from PTSD, finds he doesn’t know one person there, and soon realizes he must outwit an unknown antagonist before he winds up dead.

“Some people dream about going to their high-school reunion in their underwear. Dave Barlow goes to his and finds himself worse than naked — unrecognized. A lovely, twisty thriller that moves like a roller coaster — racheting up the suspense, then plunging into crisis, or doing a swift loop-the-loop through flashbacks of PTSD before the climb stars again.” — Diana Gabaldon, New York Times bestselling author of the Outlander series.

“PUSHBACK is a fast-paced crime novel guaranteed to keep you reading into the night. Accelerating through enough twists and turns to keep you guessing, PUSHBACK ramps up to a heart-pounding ending that will leave you breathless. Stith, known for his award-winning science fiction, really brings it home in his debut mystery. Bring on the next installment!” — Chris Goff, author of RED SKY


John Stith HeadshotScience fiction and mystery author John E. Stith writes across many worlds. His books have been translated to French, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese and Russian and are even available in braille for the sight-impaired.  His science fiction stories have been categorized as “Hard science fiction,” a label given to those stories thoroughly researched to play fair with the rules of science; something any die-hard SciFi fan can appreciate. PUSHBACK is his debut in

Stith holds a B.A. in physics from the University of Minnesota, has served as an Air Force Officer, where he worked at NORAD Cheyenne Mountain Complex. The passion for science runs in his family, as his father George worked at the White Sands Missile Range on such projects like the rocket sled.

He has appeared on a live nationwide PBS broadcast or Science-Fiction Science-Fact (SF2) and his work has also been sold to film and television. His novel Reckoning Infinity was chosen as one of Science Fiction Chronicle’s Best Science Fiction Novels,  Redshift Rendezvous was picked as a Nebula Award nominee and Manhattan Transfer received an honorable mention from the Hugo Awards and a nomination from the Seiun Award in Japan.

Stith is a member of Science-Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA), Mystery Writers of America (MWA), Writers Guild of America (WGA), International Thriller Writers, Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers (RMFW), Colorado Author’s League and Mensa.  He currently lives in Colorado Springs.

Interview: Carl Brookins

Get to know Carl Brookins, author of Grand Lac!

Grand LacWhat’s your idea of a perfect day?

Early rise, coffee, orange juice, cereal,(hot or cold) a serving of berries and yoghurt: daily newspapers, email, Internet news channels, TV news, 4 hours of work on one or two books in process, lunch with my wife, Internet mail, political discussions, a drink before dinner, research, TV news and more discussion and a good wine with dinner. Readings for the reviews I do.

Do you have a signature accessory, color, fragrance, phrase/expression, or meal?


Which books/authors inspired or influenced you the most?

Shakespeare, John Sandford, William Krueger, Richard Barre

Do you listen to music when you write? 

Sometimes. Jazz and/or classical, depending on my mood and the book I’m working on.

If your latest book were chocolate, what kind would it be and why?

M&Ms because various bits of evidence gradually melt together to form a tasty whole.

What made you interested in writing this particular story?

A tale from my niece which is the genesis action of the novel.

 What themes do you regularly (re)visit in your writing? 

People relating to and helping others out of fraught circumstances.

Tell us about your main character.

Two, in this case; both of retirement age, a man, Alan Lockem, formerly in Military Intelligence, and Marjorie (Kandy) Kane, ex-show-girl, a woman with experience on the runways of the world. Both are possessed of good hearts, honest attitudes and clear, balanced vision. They have seen the best and worst of people. My detective in the other series is a very short, very bright, urban fellow who works with cops and almost never shoots anybody although he’s good with all sorts of weapons. He wears bright red Keds.

Describe your protagonist as a mash-up of three famous people or characters.

Alan has elements of Travis McGee, Marjorie has some reflections of my niece, Theresa and V.I. Warshawski is in there, too.

If you could host a mystery-author dinner party, who are the six writers (living or otherwise) you’d include?

William K Krueger, John Sandford, Wm. Shakespeare, Ellen Hart, Monica Ferris, John D. McDonald

What’s next for you?

My current WIP is a political thriller, about the formation of a new political party, named the Progressive Conservative Party (PCP), a mysterious highly protected government enterprise and strange goings on in North Minneapolis, and murder most foul. This book will engage my detective, Sean NMI Sean, in a deep plunge into tangled and illegal political shenanigans.

At the same time, I’m working on the second about my two protagonists from GRAND LAC. Tentatively called TRACES, this one is focused on the movement of international spies through the transportation systems in Minneapolis and Saint Paul.

How did you get started writing?

I have always been interested in writing and reading—as long as I can recall. As a child I sat beside my mother who would read from her own book, while I read from one I had chosen at the library. In spite of objections from some librarians, as a youngster I read a lot of adult fiction.

What is your favorite/least favorite thing about the writing process?

Sales work.

What do you think makes a good story?

Conflict, questions, tension between people and situations, danger.

How do you incorporate that into your books?

Observation, adaptation, organization, research and good use of language.

How long have you been writing?

My entire life. I was in the seventh grade when I won second prize-50 cents-for a short short Western story. Whenever possible I chose essay test questions in school and got better grades.

What do you know now that you wish you knew when you first started out?

I learn new things and new ideas every day. My critique group, dubbed Crème de la Crime is a constant source of ideas and pointed positive criticism. I wish I’d been a part of them years earlier.

Has that changed the way you write or market your books?


About the marketing thing—love it, hate it?

I love being at conferences, making appearances, working with my PR firm, doing radio interviews and meeting people. Libraries are fun. Getting there is not half the fun, although when I traveled as a member of Minnesota Crime Wave, traveling was fun. A lot.

If you couldn’t write, what would you do?

Read more.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m old, I’ve done a lot of interesting things, have some interesting and unusual family members. I own two successful daughters of whom I am extremely proud. Associating with my very successful wife and girls has taught me a lot about people and attitudes and equality. I’ve worked as a TV Producer-director, film maker, writer, college faculty and student counselor, all careers that now invade my writing at various times.

Where do you see yourself in five years – this is the time to dream big!

I hope I’m still alive, mobile, writing better crime fiction, still reviewing crime fiction and living as independently as possible.


CBrookins2017Before he became a mystery writer and reviewer, Carl Brookins was a counselor and faculty member at Metropolitan State University in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Brookins and his wife are avid recreational sailors. He is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and Private Eye Writers of America. He can frequently be found touring bookstores and libraries with his companions-in-crime, The Minnesota Crime Wave.

He writes the sailing adventure series featuring Michael Tanner and Mary Whitney. The third novel is Old Silver. His new private investigator series features Sean NMI Sean, a short P.I. The first is titled The Case of the Greedy Lawyers. Brookins received a liberal arts degree from the University of Minnesota and studied for a MA in Communications at Michigan State University.


Buy Grand Lac from Amazon

Buy Reunion from Amazon


Interview: Diane A.S. Stuckart

Please welcome Diane A.S. Stuckart, author of Fool’s Moon. Read on to learn all about Diane.

Which books/authors inspired or influenced you the most?

Fools MoonLike most authors, I read voraciously from a young age. Since we were poor, I spent a lot of time at the public library each weekend borrowing all the books I wanted to for free. (Though, sadly, that stack I checked out on Saturday never lasted all the way through the following week.) My favorites in grade school were the Bobbsey Twins, Encyclopedia Brown, as well as the works of Edgar Eager and Zilpha Keatley Snyder. Basically, anything with a mystery and featuring magic or cats (preferably both!) As a teen, I graduated to Phyllis Whitney, Victoria Holt, Mary Stewart, and Barbara Michaels. So you can see that mystery and magic both made an impression on me from the start.

Do you listen to music when you write?

I’m one of the few authors who can’t listen to music while writing. I don’t mind some TV noise drifting through my office door because I can tune it out…though when I’m on a really stressful deadline, I have a mini white noise machine on my desk that I use to block out everything else. On the other hand, when I’m driving and need to do a bit of mental plotting, classical or New Age music helps jumpstart my brain. 

If your latest book were chocolate, what kind would it be and why?

Chocolate-covered cherries! Chocolate for my two black cat sleuths, Brandon Bobtail and Ophelia; the sweet white syrup center for the cats’ white pit bull sidekick, Zuki (short for Azu’car which is Spanish for “sugar”); and the cherry for my human protagonist, Ruby. Besides, I like chocolate-covered cherries…my paternal grandpa used to share a box with me and my siblings when we kids went to visit.

What made you interested in writing this particular story?

Since my previous cat-centric cozy mystery series had been cancelled, much to the dismay of my readers and me, I thought it important to do another feline series. I was also eager to set a story in quirky South Florida, where I’ve lived for more than a dozen years now. And I’d been wanting to add a bit of magic to my next books, so I settled on Tarot, which has been an interest of mine since I was in high school. All these elements came together in the perfect cozy mystery storm that is the Tarot Cats Mysteries!

What themes do you regularly (re)visit in your writing?

Friendship and family tend to be core themes in all my books, along with the notion of being (or learning to be) true to one’s self. My protagonists usually are separated from their birth families by distance. In the course of establishing their new (or simply better) self, they also recreate their absent family unit with friends and even pets. My fond hope is that this gives my readers who are on their own encouragement to do the same for themselves in real life.


About the book:

Two magical tarot cats and their tenderhearted human outwit a cruel criminal in South Florida.

Most days, Ruby Sparks feels like the sign that says Tarot Card Reader Extraordinaire should say Tarot Card Reader Fairly Competent. But as challenging as it is to take care of her half-sister’s new age shop — and her growing menagerie of mystically inclined pets  Ruby never worries that she’s bitten off more than she can chew… until a customer wants her to divine the truth about murder.

When her own life is threatened with a double dose of danger, Ruby begins to wonder if she’s being played for a fool. Luckily, she has Ophelia and Brandon — sibling black cats with a talent for tarot — and a feisty pit bull friend who all lend a paw in collaring the culprit before Ruby finds herself taking her final cat nap.

“Lighthearted and quirky, this will enchant cozy readers and animal lovers.” – Publisher’s Weekly

“…she writes throughout with charm and warmth. Anyone with a pet will enjoy.” – Kirkus


dianestuckartheadshotblackblue3Diane A.S. Stuckart is the New York Times bestselling author of the Black Cat Bookshop
series for Berkley Prime Crime (writing as Ali Brandon). She’s also the author of the
award-winning Leonardo da Vinci historical mystery series. Fool’s Moon (Nov. 8,
Midnight Ink) is her first installment in the Tarot Cats Mystery Series.

Stuckart has written several mystery and fantasy short stories published in various
anthologies from DAW Books and five critically acclaimed historical romances
published by Zebra and Pinnacle Books.

The Texas native has a degree in journalism from the University of Oklahoma, and while a westerner at heart, she migrated to South Florida over a decade ago and now calls herself a Floridian. She is a member of Mystery Writer’s of America, a past board member for the MWA Florida Chapter, and belongs to the Cat Writers Association. Stuckart is married and is a proud caretaker to four dogs and four cats (all but one of them rescues).

For more information on the author, please visit

Facebook: /BlackCatMysteries
Twitter: @dianestuckart

Interview: Nancy Cole Silverman

A big welcome to Nancy Cole Silverman, author of the Carol Childs Mysteries series. Nancy is celebrating the release of her latest book, Reason for Doubt. She was kind enough to provide an ARC for review, then to answer some questions for us.

ReasonToDoubt frontLM: How did you come up with the idea for this story?

NCS: Back in 1996, I was working at a news/talk radio station in Los Angeles when a young model’s body was found in the desert. Investigators soon connected her murder to that of a freelance photographer with whom she had set up a meeting for a photo shoot. But prior to closing in on the suspect, the police began questioning a number of local photographers who knew and had worked with the young model. Coincidentally, my brother-in-law, a fashion photographer, was one of the photogs questioned. Of course, police soon zeroed in on the real killer, and he was arrested and is currently serving a life sentence in prison. However, the story, like most of the stories I’ve used in the Carol Childs mysteries, stayed with me. What if someone close to Carol was involved with a photographer accused of murdering his models. With a lot of creative thinking on my part, I took the premise from that story and developed it into the story you find in Reason To Doubt. The idea that Carol’s young daughter returns from college with a boyfriend/photographer in tow and he is later accused of a murdering three young models was just too good to pass up.

LM: Protecting the source is a big deal in this book, and I remember my journalism friends being schooled in this when I was the sports reporter for my college paper (importance of protecting anonymous sources was not such a big deal for me). What is the California law you reference? Carol is willing to go to jail; does it often come to that point?

NCS: There are no national shield laws to protect reporters and their sources. States are really on their own to design what they feel either works or doesn’t work for them. Consequently, there are thirteen states that have no such protection for news people, and of the remaining thirty-seven states, only twelve offer absolute protection to the reporter. The California Shield Law offers protection from prosecution for “qualified reporters and news sources,” but there is a “balancing test” the court is allowed to administer to determine the qualification of such immunity.

In such cases, it is up to the judge to determine if the information the reporter is holding is available through any other means. If it is not, and the information is deemed important, the judge can insist the reporter reveal any sources or information pertinent to the case, and if the reporter refuses, he or she can be sent to jail until such time as the reporter agrees to give over the requested information or the judge sets them free. Fortunately, this doesn’t happen too often. And as Tyler informs Carol, the decision, since she’s the one who would go to jail, is entirely up to her. However, Tyler reminds her, if she chooses to reveal her sources, her future as an investigative reporter is finished.

LM: There’s a lot of angst between Carol and her daughter. Catie makes what Carol thinks are some poor choices…why? And does Carol really value her job above her daughter as Catie accuses her?

NCS: Cate’s relationship with her daughter was a subplot I wanted to address as Carol’s relationship with Cate changes. What mother hasn’t faced challenged with a growing teenage daughter? Particularly one that brings a boyfriend home from college unannounced?

When Cate’s boyfriend is arrested as a possible murder suspect, Cate lashes out at her mother, accusing Carol of choosing her job over her daughter. What Cate doesn’t know, and what Carol can’t share with her daughter, is that Carol is protecting an anonymous source. Someone who can identify the killer and whose identity must remain a secret. While Carol can’t reveal what she knows, she does know that if she doesn’t follow the story through to the end, Cate’s boyfriend may go down for a crime he may not have committed. The only thing Carol knows for certain is that Cate is determined to stand behind a man the police think may be responsible for the murder of three young women. The situation has Carol’s mind in overdrive. Fighting for her daughter’s love, her job, and perhaps the life of the young man her daughter believes has been falsely accused of murder.

Ultimately, Carol learns she needs to trust that she’s raised her daughter to be a bright woman and that Cate will make the right decision.

In the end, it’s a story of trust and love and giving each other the space we need to find it.

LM: What’s next for Carol?

I’m currently working on a new series with Misty Dawn. Misty is a former Hollywood psychic to the stars, who first appeared on the pages of the Carol Childs mysteries in Shadow of Doubt. When I finished writing Reason To Doubt, I realized I needed to find a home for Misty. She was too dynamic to leave on the pages as a supportive character, and I decided to start a series with her as well. The first draft is currently with my publisher for review, and – fingers crossed – hopefully, you’ll be reading about her very soon.

Until then, stay tuned.


Nancy author photo red shirtNancy Cole Silverman credits the fact both she and Edgar Allen Poe share the same birthday, along with her twenty-five years in talk radio, for helping her to develop an ear for storytelling. After writing everything from commercial copy to news Silverman retired from radio in 2001 to write fiction. Today, Silverman has written numerous short stories and novelettes some of which have been produced as audio books. Silverman’s new series, the Carol Childs Mysteries (Henery Press) takes place inside a busy Los Angles Radio station. Silverman lives in Los Angeles with her husband, four adult children, and thoroughly pampered standard poodle.

Guest Post: Mike Rubin

One thing I’ve never done – and wonder if I could ever do – is co-author. Sure, there are successful teams: Charles Todd, Renee Patrick, Sparkle Abbey. But could I shelve enough of my authorial ego to do it? Today’s guest, Mike Rubin, explores that very topic.

Co-Authoring:  A Honeymoon Collaboration or War of the Roses?

By Mike and Ayan Rubin

RubinCOTTONCREST COVER_jktfront(HR)A number of popular thrillers have been jointly written by two people. For example, James Patterson has more than a dozen co-authors. Clive Cussler writes with co-authors as well, including both his son, Dirk, and Boyd Morrison. Five of Janet Evanovich’s thrillers were co-written with Lee Goldberg, who scripted the Monk television series.

My wife, Ayan, and I are among a small group of American husband-and-wife writing teams, although there are other couples who write together, like British author Nicci French (the pseudonym of Nicci Gerrard and Sean French), and Swedish authors Per Wahlöö and Maj Sjöwall.

Whenever Ayan and I make presentations about our thrillers, we always get asked several questions. One is how we can write together and stay married, and the other is how come only I am identified as the author.

Ayan and I power walk together early each morning, and when I say “early,” I mean 4:30 a.m. During the course of our walks, which began many years ago, we talk about potential characters, plot lines, and the remarkably exotic state of Louisiana in which we live. Such discussion help us stay alert as we exercise. When we feel we have enough material for a novel, we start writing. Our debut book, the multi-generational historical thriller The Cottoncrest Curse, was the first to grow out of these early morning musings.

Before we begin writing, Ayan and I talk extensively about the key characters and their motivations, about the beginning, middle, and end of the story we are conjuring up, and even about the first sentence. We don’t commit any of this to a formal outline however. We find that the process of connecting the dots, filling in the subplots and developing the “minor” characters is the most fun. In fact, during the course of writing, we often discover that a character whom we initially conceived of as incidental to the plot morphs into a major player. For example, in The Cottoncrest Curse, Sheriff Raifer Jackson suspects that what appears to be a murder-suicide at the eponymous Cottoncrest Plantation in 1893 may, in fact, be a double homicide. We had originally considered his naïve deputy, Bucky Starner, to be a tertiary character, and had thought that aged Civil War surgeon, Dr. François Cailleteau, would appear in merely one scene. But as we fleshed out the story, both Starner and Cailleteau became integral to the plot.

CashedOut (1)Although Ayan and I don’t outline our books in advance, we do “outline in reverse,” meaning that as we complete a chapter, we prepare a short synopsis of what we just wrote. This allows us to maintain continuity as we work without tying us down to a preconceived roadmap.

Outlining in reverse is also useful as our plot evolves, since we do not write full-time. Because writing is our avocation and not our vocation, the first draft of manuscript can take us over a year to complete.

In our second novel, Cashed Out, we kept control of the intricate twists and turns in the plot by reviewing the “reverse outline” of our previous chapters before we drafted the next. For us, this proved to be a much faster way to keep track of the action.

Because we agree on the main aspects of storyline as well as the key characters and their motivations before we ever start writing, we don’t have disagreements about the plot. Nor do we argue about whether a character would say or do something one way rather than another. Because we have discussed our key characters extensively, we know how they think and speak before we put a single word on a page. That is not to say that there is nothing left for us to exchange views about, however.

I usually write the first draft, including every idea we ever had. Ayan then reviews my first draft, fully explains anything that might be unclear, winnows out anything that slows down the plot, and rewrites the manuscript as she sees fit.

The two of us then work together on the third draft. Each of us has to defend to the other why we included or deleted certain passages, changed a plot point, or altered scenes. We decide together if we need more or less dialogue or shorter or longer descriptive passages.

We intentionally write thrillers with short chapters. The purpose of for this is to make sure that our finished novel is a compelling “page turner.” We want readers to say, at the end of each chapter, “Well, I’ll just read a few more pages to find out what happened next.”

Once we complete the third draft, we review the manuscript to assure that it is ready for publication. Ayan does all of the fine-tuning.

Though we’re honored that both of our novels are award-winners, what really gratifies us is when we give multimedia presentations and audience members either ask about or speculate on what happens to one or more of our characters after the novel ends. That’s what all novelists hope for—to create characters so realistic that they linger in the reader’s mind.

As to the second question—how come only my name is on our first two novels—it has to do with marketing. We were told by the publisher of our first book that getting people to buy a “debut novel” by an unknown author is tough enough, and that having two names on the cover of a work of fiction may be off-putting. Because we write legal thrillers, and because I’m an attorney who routinely gives presentations around the country, we decided together that it made sense to list me as the author, although on the acknowledgment page in each of the novels I expressly indicate that Ayan is a major contributor. I always make it clear at all book events that the novels attributed to me are in reality a joint effort. Our intent is to get our stories into the hands of readers, not to worry about whose name is on the cover.

Our third novel, Enflamed, is now with our agent in New York. We’re just finishing up our fourth, The Crescent City Killer, and have already started on our fifth. Ayan and still walk at 4:30 a.m., and we’ve many ideas still to develop.


MikeRubin Cottoncrest PR PhotoMike and Ayan Rubin jointly write novels under the name “Michael H. Rubin.” Their debut novel, The Cottoncrest Curse, a multi-generational historical thriller, was published by the LSU Press, was named the IndieFab Book of the Year Gold Award Winner and was lauded as the Best Thriller and Suspense Novel published by a university or independent press in 2014. Suhrkamp has released a German language edition. The Cottoncrest Curse is available in hardback, eBook, and as an audiobook.

Their second novel, Cashed Out, won the Jack Eadon Award for Best Contemporary Novel of 2018, which honors the book of the year “whose characters are vividly portrayed as those individuals who can exist side-by-side with someone living in this world now, and deals with issues of today in dramatic fashion in a setting that must be excruciatingly real.” Cashed Out was also short-listed for both the Silver Falchion Award as the Best Mystery of the Year and the IndieFab Gold Book of the Year as the Best Thriller/Suspense Novel of the Year. It is available as a paperback and eBook.

Guest Post: Kate Willett

We all know some great reviewers. Today, we are so happy to welcome another one, Kate Willett. It’s Halloween–traditionally spooky, but also kinda cozy.


Happy Halloween!

I love October! There’s an endless supply of apple cider, pumpkins pop-up everywhere, and, of course, there’s a spooky chill in the air.

My mom is a fan of this month, too. As soon as October 1st hits, she starts decorating her house for Halloween, with bloody footprints up the stairs and body parts in candy bowls. I prefer the holiday’s more whimsical, fun elements and vintage decorations like Beistle cutouts or tissue dancers. Gore is not my thing. Perhaps that’s why I often pick cozy-type mysteries when selecting reading material.

Why So Cozy_MysteristasIn brainstorming ideas on what to write about for this post, it dawned on me how macabre it is to be a mystery fan. You and I, we—purely for entertainment—search out stories about people who die in horrible ways. With such a grim subject matter, it’s easy to stumble into a murkier and much more explicit mystery than anticipated. And, unfortunately, some things can never be unread.

I prefer safe scares—a thrill without the threat. For instance, on Halloween, people don masks and makeup to transform themselves into someone or something else. Vampires, witches, ghosts and other terrifying figures roam the streets freely.

But it’s all pretend, isn’t it?

The same goes for any haunted house, corn maze, hayride, or forest that materializes this time of year. The creepy clowns and growling werewolves aren’t real. It’s a rush of fear without any of the actual danger.

Cozy mysteries also offer this. The murder isn’t grisly and happens off-page. Blood is kept at a minimum. In many modern cozies, hobbies are an integral part of the plot. The reading experience is fun instead of frightening.

And, because most books are part of a series, I become intimately familiar with the town and the people. I know the bakery is on Main Street, Town Hall is two blocks over, Henry has a long-standing feud with Carl, and Alice and Susan have been friends since elementary school.

Cozies are designed to make the reader feel warm and sheltered from a story’s more unsavory parts. Reading one isn’t going to disturb me the way something else, such as hardboiled crime, might.

Cozies also remind me of my mom. As I mentioned before, my mom is partial to things slightly gruesome and disturbing. But this doesn’t seem to apply to her reading choices. You’d think someone who loves bloody movies about twisted dentists and who decorates her Halloween table with wriggling eyeballs would adore Stephen King and the like, wouldn’t you?

My mother is much more into Ngaio Marsh, Ellis Peters, and, especially, Agatha Christie. Paperbacks by these great authors and others were readily found around my house as I grew up.

My mom’s books introduced me to detectives like Miss Marple and Lord Peter Wimsey. They also showed me the magic of a cozy mystery. Every time I settle in to read a new one, I am enchanted all over again.

This month, I read some great Halloween cozies and reviewed them on MysteryPlease! Reading any of these novels is a great way to kill time tonight in between visits from the neighborhood trick-or-treaters.

What type of mysteries do you most enjoy and why do you find them entertaining?

A big thank you to the Mysteristas for inviting me to guest blog today! I will leave you with a quote from one of my favorite Halloween mysteries.

“I know what Hallowe’en is,” said Poirot. “The 31st of October.” He twinkled slightly as he said, “When witches ride on broomsticks.” ~ Hercule Poirot in Hallowe’en Party by Agatha Christie


Kate enjoys reading stories that let her size up suspects, root out red herrings, collect clues, and figure out whodunit. She reviews mysteries on her blog, MysteryPlease!, and posts mystery-related photos on Instagram @moremysteryplease.