Guest Post: Alexia Gordon

Please welcome Alexia Gordon, award-winning author of the Gethsemane Brown mysteries!

Murder in G Major cover frontI returned home late last night from ThrillerFest XIII, International Thriller Writers’ premier event, a conference celebrating all genres and sub-genres of crime fiction. I’ve attended ThrillerFest three times, including this past week’s conference. This year I was lucky enough to participate on my first panel. Undaunted by the fantastical title, “Witches, Werewolves, and Vampires,” I joined my fellow panelists and moderator, Heather Graham, to discuss how and why we used paranormal elements in our crime fiction. We had a good turnout, despite being up against George R.R. Martin, R.L. Stine, and Walter Mosley, and things went smoothly—brilliant questions from the moderator, no one bogarted the discussion—up to a point. The point when a man in the audience, notebook and pen in hand and body language that screamed “unhappy person with an agenda,” asked, “When are police going to take psychics seriously?” (I’m paraphrasing, but that’s what he meant.) This man had attended a panel featuring former police officers who now wrote crime fiction and asked them about the use of psychics in homicide and missing persons investigations. He got the reaction you’d guess he’d get from a group of no-nonsense, “just the facts, ma’am,” retired cops.

DeathInDMinor frontCoincidentally, I’d been in the audience when the man asked the police-turned-authors about psychics. His body language there read the same as it did during my panel. The question was obviously more than just a casual, “Whadda ya think?” kind of thing. He seemed offended when most of the panelists dismissed psychics out-of-hand. Bruce Robert Coffin, a retired homicide detective from Maine (and a friend of mine) who had personal experience with psychics on a major case he’d worked, explained that, while he’d believe in psychic ability if he saw it, so far, he’d seen nothing to make him believe. He described how the psychics involved with his case offered information along the lines of “the body will be found near water, under pine trees.” In Maine. Duh.

Later, during my panel, the man recounted Bruce’s story (and conceded he had a point about “water and pine trees” not being much of a tip in a state full of water and pine trees) and the attitude of the other officers, which had been less charitable. He asked, “When will things change?” Since I include psychics in my series, both fraudulent and genuine, I jumped in to address his challenge. I admitted I’d yet to encounter any psychics in real life I believed were genuine (having gone to a handful for readings as part of my research), however, I haven’t met every psychic. I told him that the history of groups like the Society for Psychical Research had convinced me not to dismiss the possibility that psychic ability is genuine. If respected scientists, including Nobel laureates, took the subject seriously enough to investigate, who am I to say “never”? I also explained that I’m not out to convince anyone that ghosts or psychics or any other paranormal phenomena are real. I’m out to tell the best story I can. The other panelists, some of whom include psychic characters in their novels, said similar things.

KillingInCSharp front smBut, and the reason I’m writing this post, that wasn’t the end of it. The man still seemed angry and left as soon as the panel ended without speaking to anyone. I couldn’t stop thinking about why someone attending panels featuring fiction writers would take it so personally when those fiction writers didn’t wholeheartedly endorse the role of the fantastical in real life crime investigation. As I’d said, I’m out to tell the best story I can. What, I wondered, was this man’s story? I did what any good crime writer would do—I followed him to the book seller’s room. I watched (writers watch, they don’t stalk) him for a while to see if he gave any clues as to why he cared whether law enforcement took psychics seriously. I got nothing from his outfit (sports coat and slacks) nor his name badge (he wrote for a Wall Street publication). I surreptitiously snapped his photo (It is not stalking, it’s research.) so I’d have a record of his name, intending to Google him later. Then I decided to stop snooping and just ask. “Excuse me, are you the man who wanted to know about psychics in police investigations? You seemed passionate about the topic. Are you a psychic?”

Guess what? He’s a psychic medium and a pastor in a spiritualist church. (Writing about Wall Street pays the bills.) Suddenly, his attitude made perfect sense. Of course, he felt passionate about being taken seriously. Who doesn’t?  And he was a professional journalist. That explained the notebook, pen, and tone of his questions. A professional journalist/psychic medium came to a crime writing conference to find out if any crime writers believed in him or if they thought he was a charlatan whose only purpose was to be used as a gimmick or an object of ridicule in crime fiction.

We had a good chat and he even bought one of my books as a peace offering. When he left the book seller’s room, he left me wondering, what are the stories of panel audiences? Audiences get a peek into the lives of panelists, but panelists seldom find out who’s sitting in uncomfortable chairs in an ice-box of a room, listening to them answer questions, offer opinions, and dispense advice. What’s happening in their lives and how do those stories lead them to choose to attend a panel on the paranormal or cops-turned-crime writers or historical fiction or noir or own voices fiction?

If you’re a panelist, do you ever look out at the faces of the people watching you and wonder what their backstory is? If you’re in the audience, how does your backstory influence the response you’re looking for from the panelists?

*****

Alexia GordonA writer since childhood, I put literary endeavors on hold to finish medical school and Family Medicine residency training. Medical career established, I returned to writing fiction. I completed SMU’s Writer’s Path program in Dallas, Texas. Henery Press published my first novel, Murder in G Major, book one of the Gethsemane Brown mysteries, in September 2016. Book two, Death in D Minor, released July 11, 2017. Book three, Killing in C Sharp, released March 2018 and received a starred review in Publisher’s Weekly.

Murder in G Major won the Lefty Award for Best Debut Novel, was nominated for an Agatha Award for Best New Novel, and was selected one of Suspense Magazine’s Best Debuts.

I listen to classical music, drink whiskey, and blog at www.missdemeanors.com, voted one of Writers’ Digest magazine’s 101 best websites for writers, and http://femmesfatales.typepad.com/my_weblog/

Facebook: www.facebook.com/AlexiaGordon.writer/

Goodreads: www.goodreads.com/Alexia_Gordon

Twitter: twitter.com/alexiagordon

Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/alexia_gordon

Instagram: www.instagram.com/drlex1995

Google+: plus.google.com/u/0/100944751118225764344

Website: alexiagordon.net

Blogs:

www.missdemeanors.com

femmesfatales.typepad.com/my_weblog/

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Guest Post: Mary Feliz

Welcome back to longtime Mysterista friend Mary Feliz. Sometimes life imitates art and sometimes it feels like the other way around. But authors don’t cause that…or do they?

Do writers cause disasters? Predict them?

Cover_Disorderly Conduct (Book 4)Creation isn’t causation, but sometimes it feels that way when a novel’s plot becomes the day’s leading news story.

In Disorderly Conduct a wildfire threatens to overtake my characters’ home in the foothills above Silicon Valley. Fire season is a significant a part of California’s climate calendar, so what could be more appropriate than forcing Maggie, Max and the kids into the path of a campfire run amok?

My own experiences with wildfire are limited to detours and coping with smoke and soot blown from distant blazes. But stories of others’ closer encounters abound, and I was confident in creating a realistic but imaginary scenario for the McDonald’s and their neighbors. To create the dramatic opening, I relied on a mash-up of stories from the Oakland Hills Fire Storm in 1990.

It must have worked. My Kensington editor decreed “it’s a bit eerie” when, within a month of typing “The End,” a terrifying fire scenario erupted in Santa Rosa and became national news. Dry conditions and high winds turned sparking electrical wires into an inferno that plowed straight through my nephew’s school, burning it to the ground.

My sister awoke in the middle of the night to a glow on the horizon and asthma-inducing clouds of smoke clogging the air. Her husband dashed to help out at the winery operations he manages. She packed emergency bags while her offspring slept.

Dog with First-Aid-KitIt was the start of an ongoing nightmare that left friends, family, coworkers, and the school with no place to call home. Horror stories were endless, as were uplifting tales of neighbors helping neighbors. Fundraisers followed, helping the newly homeless and giving purpose to those who’d lost their sense of security. My nephew’s school missed only a few days and was temporarily rehoused in neighboring schools.

Statewide, those of us who believed it couldn’t happen to us were forced to accept we’re all at risk. The Santa Rosa fire jumped a freeway, burned irrigated fields, and left charred swathes of suburban homes and businesses. Previously, we’d known that hillsides were vulnerable to conditions that create firestorms, which in turn generate their own weather and confound all predictive models. Naively, those of us who live and work on the flat portions of Silicon Valley told ourselves that concrete pavement, fire retardant roofing shingles, and local fast-responding firefighters protected us. We believed that wide roadways gave us quick exit routes that would serve us well.

We were wrong. Recent fires have erupted so quickly that only the well-prepared have time to escape.

The answer? Assume it can happen to you. Have an escape plan for yourself and your animals. Adapt your strategy as the mobility of youngsters and the elderly change. Make sure everyone in the family knows your emergency protocol and their roles in it.

While it’s unlikely that an imaginative author is to blame for any disasters that befall you, your region undoubtedly has natural disasters and emergency situations of its own. It’s never too early to start planning. The chapter headings in my most recent mystery, Disorderly Conduct, offer emergency planning tips and resources.

*****

About the book

Professional organizer Maggie McDonald balances a fastidious career with friends, family, and a spunky Golden Retriever. But add a fiery murder mystery to the mix, and Maggie wonders if she’s found a mess even she can’t tidy up . . .

With a devastating wildfire spreading to Silicon Valley, Maggie preps her family for evacuation. The heat rises when firefighters discover a dead body belonging to the husband of Maggie’s best friend Tess Olmos. Tess becomes the prime suspect in what’s shaping up to become a double murder case. Determined to set the record straight, Maggie sorts in an investigation more dangerous than the flames approaching her home. When her own loved ones are threatened, can she catch the meticulous killer before everything falls apart?

*****

2017Feliz5773_C5x7WebMary Feliz writes the Maggie McDonald Mysteries featuring a Silicon Valley professional organizer and her sidekick golden retriever. She’s worked for Fortune 500 firms and mom and pop enterprises, competed in whale boat races and done synchronized swimming. She attends organizing conferences in her character’s stead, but Maggie’s skills leave her in the dust. Address to Die For, the first book in the series, was named a Best Book of 2017 by Kirkus Reviews. All of her books have spent time on the Amazon best seller list.

Guest Mysterista: Paula Matter

The request was pretty routine: would it be possible to get debut author Paula Matter in as a guest at Mysteristas? Our schedule was pretty tight around her release date, July 8. But then we met Paula at Malice Domestic and it was decided.

We had to find a way to get her in.

Paula is delightful and funny, and her debut from Midnight Ink, Last Call, set at a VFW post bar is sure to entertain. We offered Paula the opportunity to be a “Mysterista for a Day” and we each asked a different question. She was brave enough to accept.

So without further ado…

Mia: What was it like for you when you received The Call (that your book had sold)?

Cover Last CallPM: It was an email that stated she (Terri from Midnight Ink) needed some info so she could bring the manuscript to the weekly acquisitions meeting. My reply: “Wait, what? You liked it?” and I promptly sent the info she’d asked for. A few days later, I was offered the contract.

Becky: What kind of research did you have to do for this book?

PM: Mainly names for characters. I didn’t want any of my former VFW patrons to be able to see themselves in Last Call. And they won’t because they’re all a great group of people. Mostly.

Kait: What was different about this book that made the difference? How did you know it was “right”?

PM: Maggie Lewis, my protagonist. Also, writing in first person POV, I think. Maggie and I hit it off immediately. She was a somewhat minor character in another novel I’d written several years ago. Beta readers commented how much they liked her, so I decided to give her a larger role.

Liz: The age old question: plotter or pantser?

PM: Definitely plotter. Big time. I need to know the beginning and the ending, and work my way through the middle. I’ll know some of the middle, but not all of it when I get started.

Peg: How long does it take you to write your first draft, and what’s your revision process like?

PM: Years. Agonizing. Seriously? I’m a slow writer and I revise as I go. That’s how I’ve always written my short stories. I’ve learned I need to change that process with novel writing. Must. Get. Faster. Any tips for me? I’m looking at you, Becky Clark.

Sue: How important is setting in your book?

PMLast Call takes place in a very small fictional town in north Florida. I wanted to show a different side of what people imagine Florida to be. North DeSoto is far from beaches and attractions. Being from Miami, but living for many years in north Florida, I wanted readers to see the differences.

Barbara/Katie: As an author, do you read reviews? Critically or for fun? Do you look for comments on any key topics in reviews? What reflections or comments would you like reviewers to include in impartial reviews? (Of course other than I LOVED THE BOOK!!!!!!)

PM: I’m a debut author, so this is the first time I’ve had reviews to read. Reading reviews has become an obsession. OBSESSION. Like checking Goodreads and NetGalley several times a day. And these are for the ARCs. I can’t imagine much time I’ll be checking sites once the book’s released. Yikes! One reviewer was responsible for one little addition during the editing process, so very helpful. I have been loving the comments about Maggie’s development, how she changes. I especially loved this from Publishers Weekly: “That she also has to reevaluate herself and her capabilities adds depth to her character.” PW totally gets Maggie.

Thank you, Mysteristas, for inviting me to your fabulous blog. Answering your questions was challenging and lots of fun!

*****

Author photoPaula Matter (rhymes with otter) is the author of the Maggie Lewis mysteries which take place in a small town in North Florida. Paula’s short crime fiction stories have been published in USA and German anthologies. After losing her job as a catering server, Paula decided instead of getting yet another job as a waitress/bartender/activities director/etc., she’d tackle her mystery novel again.

Originally from Miami, FL, Paula kept moving north until she settled in north central Pennsylvania. A proud mom of one son, she lives with her husband The Saint, and worthy-not-spoiled rescue dog in a valley surrounded by beautiful mountains.

 

Interview: May Cobb

Please welcome May Cobb, author of Big Woods!

Do you listen to music when you write? 

Usually, I don’t. But since my novel, Big Woods, is set in the ‘80s, I listened to all my favorites during that time: Depeche Mode, INXS, Duran Duran, Siouxsie and the Banshees, R.E.M., Front 242, The Cure, Nine Inch Nails, and of course, the soundtrack to the film, Xanadu.

Which books/authors inspired or influenced you the most?

During the actual writing of Big Woods I read and re-read the following three novels: Amanda Eyre Ward’s The Same Sky, for its gorgeous prose and intricate, dual-narrative structure which I tried to borrow heavily from for my novel, Paula Hawkins, Girl on A Train, because it’s hands-down one of my favorite thrillers and her deft gift for propulsion, and finally, Mary Helen Specht’s Migratory Animals, for its dreamy yet crisp prose and vibrant characters.

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

Living: Ruth Ware, A.J. Finn, Tana French, C.J. Tudor, Paula Hawkins, and (deceased) Wilkie Collins. I’d wager that each of these authors would be a blast to have a cocktail with and after I plied them without enough booze, I’d try and pry their writing secrets from them.

What’s next for you?

I’m finishing up a nonfiction project that’s been in the works for twenty years and that my novel interrupted.  It’s the story of the legendary jazz musician, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, who was a multi-instrumentalist who was best known for playing three saxophones at the same time. I first heard his music in college and became obsessed with it and spent the next several years traveling around, collecting stories about him.

*****

big woodsWhen her sister disappears, the only clue Leah has is a cryptic message: Underground. By thewoods.

It ’s 1989 in the sleepy town of Longview, Texas,when ten-­‐year-­‐old Lucy disappears.  Her parents,  the police, and the community all brace for the  worst,  assuming her body will soon be found in Big Woods.Just l ike the other unsolvedkidnappings.

But  then Lucy’s  fourteen-­year-­old sister,  Leah, starts having dreams about Lucy —dreams that reveal startling clues as to what happened. Leah begins her own investigation, and soon she meets a reclusive widow who may hold the key to finding Lucy. . . if only she can find the courage to come forward.

Delving into the paranoia surrounding satanic cults in the 1980s, Big Woods is an emotionally wrought, propulsive thriller about the enormity of grief, the magical bond between sisters, and a small town’s dark secrets.

*****

cobbMay Cobb is a novelist and freelance writer based in Austin, Texas.

BIG WOODS was selected as the Winner in the 2015 Writer’s League of Texas Manuscript Contest, and the pitch to BIG WOODS was selected as the Winner for the 2016 NaNoWriMo Pitchapalooza.

May earned her M.A. in Literature from San Francisco State University and has spent the past several years researching and writing a book about the late jazz great, Rahsaan Roland Kirk (forthcoming).

Her essays and interviews have appeared in The Washington Post, The Rumpus, Edible Austin, and Austin Monthly.

You can learn more about May by visiting her website: www.maycobb.com

 

Interview: Ellen Byerrum

Please give a warm welcome to, and take a few moments to get to know, Ellen Byerrum, author of the Crime of Fashion mysteries!

Which books/authors inspired or influenced you the most?

It would be wonderful to say I read all the classics, beginning with all the cherished children’s books. I would like to sound literary and erudite. However, my family never really believed in children’s books. There was very little evidence of them. Most likely, they couldn’t afford them and thought children’s literature was unimportant. I envied the stacks of colorful books my friends owned. But we had a large bookcase stocked with books that my grandfather had purchased decades before and they had their own charms.

If I wanted to read something, my father would shout, “Read Tom Sawyer!” Well, Tom was okay, but the books I loved were from my grandfather’s vintage stash. They may not have been “the classics” but they were fun: tales of fast-talking, snappy-writing reporters, who plied their trade during the no-holds-barred Twenties and Thirties. They had style and they were hilarious. They could break your heart. My favorite tales of journalism include Gaily, Gaily by Ben Hecht, and Timberline by Gene Fowler. I loved Charles MacArthur and Ben Hecht, who wrote The Front Page. For the big screen, the play was renamed His Girl Friday and star reporter Hildy Johnson was transformed from a man to a woman, with Rosalind Russell in the lead. I loved books and plays and movies where the women took action. I will never forget Russell running after and tackling a source. In high heels!

I also liked Nancy Drew, when I could borrow my friends’ copies. And from Grandpa’s collection, I enjoyed Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre, with woodcut illustrations. So there were a few classics in the mix.

Tell us about your main character.

Lacey Smithsonian is a reporter (surprise!) who covers fashion and solves crimes with fashion clues. She has an eye for nuance and style and even though she’s on the fashion beat, she longs to be taken seriously. Lacey is loyal to her friends, dedicated to her job, and she has a great vintage wardrobe. The wardrobe is courtesy of her great-aunt Mimi, from whom she has inherited a trunk full of patterns, fabrics, pictures, magazines, and the occasional mystery.

Originally from Colorado, Lacey never felt at home in the West, so she’d moved to Washington, D.C., to be on the East Coast. She often finds herself in trouble because she needs to know the end of the story, no matter what dangers that may hold. She finds that Crimes of Fashion are serious and often deadly, and very real. Lacey has studied for and received her Virginia private investigator’s registration, which may come in handy in future books. I called on my background as a reporter in Washington to aid in writing her story. (However, I covered the government, not fashion.)

Tell us a bit about your new book.

2008745529My latest and the eleventh book in my screwball noir Crime of Fashion Mysteries is The Masque of the Red Dress, which combines Washington, D.C., fashion, theatre, and spies.

Seeking inspiration for her Crimes of Fashion column, Lacey Smithsonian attends the D.C. theatre world’s annual garage sale, but things at the prop-and-costume bazaar don’t go quite according to script — all because of one tantalizing, ruffled, ruby-red frock from a Russian émigré theatre. It was famously worn in a production of The Masque of the Red Death by the actress who played Death – and who died on closing night.

Under the crimson costume’s spell, Lacey’s fellow reporter LaToya Crawford practically comes to blows with another woman over buying the dress. But LaToya suffers a bad case of buyer’s remorse and shoves it into Lacey’s hands for safekeeping. Can Lacey (with her so-called ExtraFashionary Perception) divine whether the dress is safe to wear?

Assaults, burglary and murder follow it wherever it goes. This is one garnet-hued garment with secrets and someone wants it enough to kill for it. Lacey’s conspiracy-crazed friend Brooke Barton is convinced that because the theatre is Russian, spies must be afoot. The theatre is a world of illusion, and spycraft and stagecraft have much in common. Shadows and deceptions lead Lacey and the red dress into a macabre dance with an assassin – and a masquerade with death.

What made you interested in writing this particular story? 

Before I wrote mystery novels I was a playwright, and I found myself missing the theatre world. This book allowed me to revisit the theatre and the sorts of people I met there, including the comically anguished playwright, the demanding director, the diva actress, the underappreciated stage hands. At the same time, it seemed like the theatre would be the perfect place for a spy to hide in plain sight, particularly at the present time in Washington. These are dangerous days. After all, the Spy Museum points out that one in every six people in D.C. is a spy.

As I contemplate the next Crime of Fashion mystery, I’m not sure I’m through with some of the new characters. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if a couple of them showed up again.

What’s next for you?

One of the frustrations of thinking about the future is having so many things you want to do, and too many projects to write. However, after finishing my last Lacey Smithsonian book, I feel the pull of the theatre: I am working on a new play. The cross-pollination of writing in different disciplines strengthens your skills. At least that’s what I tell myself.

I am also beginning work on a novel that is a sort of “prequel” to the Crime of Fashion Mysteries. This novel features Lacey’s great aunt Mimi Smith, when she was a young woman working in D.C. during World War II. This is a mystery set on the homefront. Mimi works at the Office of Price Administration (OPA), which governs rationing and investigates fraud and black market goods. Mimi befriends a woman named Kitty who works at various jobs, including a war-time brothel in Alexandria, Virginia. Kitty knows the job is dangerous but doesn’t have much time to think about it before she turns up dead. Mimi becomes involved and seeks to find out what happened because, against the backdrop of World War, no one seems to care about one unfortunate woman or why she was murdered.

The prequel is tentatively titled The Brief Luminous Flight of the Firefly.

*****

EllenByerrum021ret clear cropped 2Ellen Byerrum is a novelist, a playwright, a former Washington, D.C. journalist, and a graduate of private investigation school in Virginia. Her screwball noir Crime of Fashion Mysteries feature Lacey Smithsonian, a reluctant fashion reporter in Washington, D.C., “The City That Fashion Forgot.” Lacey solves crimes with fashion clues while stylishly decked out in vintage togs. Two of the COF novels, Killer Hair and Hostile Makeover, were filmed for the Lifetime Movie Network.

The Woman in the Dollhouse is Byerrum’s first suspense thriller. She has also penned a middle-grade mystery, The Children Didn’t See Anything, the first of a planned series starring a set of precocious 12-year-old twins.

Under her playwriting pen name, Eliot Byerrum, she has published two plays with Samuel French, A Christmas Cactus and Gumshoe Rendezvous, which have received numerous productions.

You can find Ellen Byerrum on her website at www.ellenbyerrum.com.

She is also on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/EllenByerrum

And on Twitter at  https://twitter.com/EllenByerrum

 

 

 

 

Guest Post: M. Glenda Rosen

Please welcome today’s guest, M. Glenda Rosen, author of The Senior Sleuths mysteries!

“The Senior SleuthsMysteries: Murder and Mayhem in a Modern Noir Style

My father was a small-time gangster.  Really.

I grew up in an unusual, and sometimes outrageous, environment.  It wouldn’t take a genius, a psychiatrist or a palm reader to figure out the geneses of my fascination with crime and criminals. In my series, The Senior Sleuths, Zero the Bookie is a version of my dad and several other characters are based on his associates.

Dead-in-Bed---WebI actually met Doc, The Gimp, Johnny the Jig, Fat Lawyer and others in Buffalo, New York, where we lived. As an only child, I created stories in my head with characters to keep me company. Writing became my dream, my ambition and eventually my passion. What a wealth of material there was for me to claim!

I visited my dad’s gambling hall, where a card room was hidden behind closed doors. In our kitchen at home, I saw my dad count “the take” from football and baseball bets. He was a fancy dresser and some of my friends described him as a Damon Runyon character. I wrote a story about him and my mother, in which I called her his “gun moll.”

There were advantages. If I was out on a dinner date and one of my dad’s cronies was there, he picked up the bill.  The waiter would tell us, “The man over there took care of it. Said you’re Vic Barr’s daughter!”  I was equally safe from the pawing hands of any young man. All of them knew who my father was. In addition, my dad taught me incredible life lessons about being generous and never being a quitter.

Knowing I was loved— and having my own sense of humor—has allowed me to view life through glasses of sanity. Writing murder mysteries is a way for me to use some of what I saw and experienced, and turn it into stories that entice and entertain readers. Believe me… I saw and heard a lot!

In my modern noir stories, the hard-boiled detectives are soft-boiled sleuths whose inner shell is softer and gentler, although their outer shell is still tough. Of course, it doesn’t matter—hard-boiled or soft-boiled—they can still be nearly beaten by the bad guys. But it is always the puzzle of the mystery and putting the pieces together to solve it that matters most.

Film noir movies are from the era of the great mystery writer’s books including those by Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, Ross Macdonald and others. Their writing and their black and white movies influenced my writing in recent years. I was always fascinated by how the characters acted and interacted. I especially loved strong women who influenced the actions and the outcomes.

My all-time favorite was “The Thin Man,” where Nora Charles was certainly equal to Nick Charles, her charming husband. Smart, slender, attractive and rich, Nick adored her. Now what woman doesn’t want that?

The plot of “The Thin Man” was enhanced by humor, with the couple’s dog, Asta, running amok at times and oddball characters from Nick Charles’ past popping in and out.  There was always a murder, or several of them, that had everyone, from police to Nick and Nora, in on the chase. In my series, The Senior Sleuths, Dick and Dora Zimmerman, Zero and others take on similar roles.

According to Eddie Muller, Noir Alley host on TCM, “Film noir peaked as a popular genre of film during the mid-1940’s into the 1950’s. These films gave rise to iconic antiheroes like detectives Sam Spade, Mike Hammer and Philip Marlowe. Though the stories change, the mood is the same in a film noir.”

Typical film noir scenes use shadows, dark streets, neon signs, murderers and murders, plus ominous actions and characters. They take place in a city like New York, Los Angeles and Las Vegas.  Muller describes the characters: “The men and women of this sinister cinematic world are driven bgreed, lust, jealousy, and revenge.”  So are my bad characters.

I’m having a great time creating murder mysteries in a modern noir style. The once hard-boiled masculine detective now has a new, softer voice, and there are new heroes and antiheroes. My stories have soft-boiled sleuths. Of course, they still encounter murder and mayhem.

Level Best Books will publish the delightfully humorous antics and serious crime-solving of  The Senior Sleuths. Book One: Dead in Bed is due out February 6, 2018, and Book Two: Dead in Seat 4-A, later in 2018. Book Three: Dead on the 17th of the Month, will be published in 2019.

Still in their early sixties, Dick and Dora Zimmerman’s not only have the time—but the money, the smarts and the chutzpah—to get involved even when they are warned by police and criminals to stay away. It seems murders fall in their laps, sometimes on them. Even when facing danger in the course of solving a murder, they mix wit and humor and are accompanied by a colorful cast of cohorts. They strive for justice, not an easy thing to accomplish when the bad guys are as determined to strive to do evil.

None of us are innocent. We all keep secrets about who we are and things we know.  In my case, I have been able to put these past family peccadilloes and experiences to use. No doubt, thanks to my father, writing mysteries is in my DNA!

*****

In a mystery novel or series, does the plot create the character or do the characters motivate and influence the story, by their behaviors, attitudes, characteristics, physical appearances and other personal idiosyncrasies? Do they motivate each other?

Or, is this a mystery?

“This series is the senior version of Nick and Nora Charles, with a humorous touch, a splash of noir, cracker-jack sleuthing, unusual, captivating characters, and fascinating mysteries.”                                                                                                                                                    Marilyn Meredith

Author of the “Deputy Tempe Crabtree Mysteries”

“Reading Dead in Bed, the first twisty and fast-paced book in Rosen’s new mystery series, The Senior Sleuths, I found myself laughing and biting my nails at the same time. Sure, her characters Dick and Dora Zimmerman are no spring chickens, but they’re every bit as feisty and resourceful as her younger detectives in her Dying to be Beautiful series. What a ride!”

Claudia Riess

Author, “Love and Other Hazards”

*****

About the Author

4F2A3498Glenda Rosen (aka Marcia Rosen’s) newest mystery series is published by Level Best Books, the delightfully humorous antics and serious crime-solving of The Senior Sleuths. Book One: Dead in Bed launched, February 6, 2018, Book Two: Dead in Seat 4-A is scheduled for fall 2018. Book Three, will be published in 2019. She frequently speaks about writing mysteries and does book signing at various conferences and events as well as having numerous articles published such as,  “The Gangster’s Daughter,” in Mystery Scene Magazine and numerous mystery blogs.  She has previously published four books in her mystery series, “Dying to Be Beautiful,” and is also author of “The Woman’s Business Therapist” and award winning “My Memoir Workbook. For a dozen years she has given writing workshops on “Encouraging and Supporting the Writer Within You!” and “Now What? Marketing Your Book.”  She was founder and owner of a successful Marketing and Public Relations Agency for many years, a frequent guest speaker, created several radio and TV talk shows and received numerous awards for her work with business and professional women.  She was chosen 2005 “Woman of the Year” by East End Women’s Network and presently is Board Member and Marketing Co-Chair, Woman’s National Book Association, San Francisco, Board Member, Sisters In Crime, San Francisco, Los Angeles and National, Central Coast Writer’s, Public Safety Writer’s Association, Greater Los Angeles Association of Writers and currently resides in Carmel, California. Member: The Mob Museum, Las Vegas, NV.

www.theseniorsleuths.com

Guest Post: Paul Levine

A big Mysterista welcome to Paul Levine, author of the Jake Lassiter novels. He’s talking about something near to many a writer’s heart: dialog.

Dialogue Reveals Character – Good, Bad, and Funny

In crime fiction, to state the obvious, plot is important. But to me, setting, dialogue and character are the fun parts.

My first Jake Lassiter novel, To Speak for the Dead, was steeped in Miami lore, which is to say it dripped with heat, humidity…and murder. I dedicated the book to “the city of Miami, where vultures endlessly circle the courthouse, some on wings, and some in Porsches.”

This irritated many of my Porsche-driving lawyer pals, though they didn’t dispute the metaphorical accuracy of the comparison. Jake Lassiter often sees his brethren as sharks, vultures, or other predators. “They don’t call us sharks for our ability to swim.”

The book’s setting, Miami, becomes virtually a character in itself and its weather is worth at least a mention. This is Lassiter musing (and sweating) in the just released Bum Deal.

Bum Deal-FINAL-smaller“Summer turned to well, endless summer. September used to be the soggiest month. The buggiest month. The crappiest month. Now the rain and heat last deep into October. For some reason, the downpour usually catches me in my car, the staccato drumbeats against the canvas top so loud I can barely hear Johnny Cash ruing the day he shot a man in Reno just to watch him die. Me? In October, I get the Miami Blues.” – Bum Deal

In thirteen Lassiter novels, including three featuring Steve Solomon and Victoria Lord –  Bum Rap (2015), Bum Luck (2017), and Bum Deal (June 2018) – the linebacker-turned-lawyer cracks wise and busts heads as he seeks “justice or a reasonable facsimile thereof.” Yes, dialogue reveals character, in this case a wry, rueful cynic about what he terms the “so-called justice system.”

“Honest people don’t need to put their hand on a Bible to tell the truth, and dishonest people could swear on their mothers’ lives and still lie.” – Bum Rap

 And this:

“Justice requires lawyers who are prepared, witnesses who tell the truth, judges who know the law, and jurors who stay awake.” – Flesh & Bones

Readers often post their favorite quotes from the Jake Lassiter novels on GOODREADS. Here are a few, which I happen to like, too.

“I’m a brew and burger guy in a pâté and Chardonnay world. I’m as health conscious as the next guy, as long as the next guy is sitting on a bar stool.” – False Dawn

Another reader favorite from GOODREADS finds Jake Lassiter at his self-deprecating best.

“I’ve been ridiculed by silk-suited lawyers, jailed by ornery judges, and occasionally paid for services rendered. I never intended to be a hero, and I succeeded.” – State vs. Lassiter

A wily veteran of the courtroom, Lassiter observes with a critical eye and pronounces judgment with a wry tone:

“I stood there, 230 pounds of ex-football player, ex-public defender, ex-a-lot-of-things, leaning against the faded walnut rail of the witness stand, home to a million sweaty palms.” – To Speak for the Dead

“That’s called extortion, Mr. Lassiter.”

“Actually, counselor, it’s called lawyering.” – Bum Luck

In just-released Bum Deal, my courtroom warrior fights for justice…and his life. He’s battling crippling symptoms of chronic traumatic encephalopathy from his football days just as he’s appointed to prosecute a murder trial. The case looks like a loser with no forensic evidence, no witnesses, and no body. Yet Lassiter believes the defendant is guilty and says, “If your cause is just, no case is impossible.”

In Bum Deal, Lassiter drives north on the Florida Turnpike to Palm Beach County, hunting for a witness in a strip club. Hey, somebody has to do it. Along the way, he passes the football stadium, where his inner dialogue reveals both character and setting:

“My lower back was seizing up as I passed Hard Rock Stadium, where the Dolphins play, or pretend to. That’s where I plied my trade, though not very well, and it’s where I got my brain dinged. Funny, I look back on those days with wistfulness and joy and few regrets. I still call it Joe Robbie Stadium, because that was the original name, and Robbie was the guy who brought the team into existence back in the days of the American Football League.

“After Robbie died, the new owner sold naming rights to Pro Player, basically an underwear company that had the good sense to go bankrupt. Then the name reverted to Dolphins Stadium, and a year later, the “s”was dropped, so it became Dolphin Stadium. I don’t know why. Maybe a shorter name saved money on the electricity bill. Then came Land Shark Stadium, named after the beer supposedly made by Jimmy Buffet, but in reality, just another Anheuser-Busch watery brew that’s sold at the concerts of our Florida troubadour. One year later, say hello to Sun Life Stadium, named after an insurance company. And now, with more money changing hands, it’s Hard Rock Stadium.

“The stadium’s shifting identity perfectly mirrors South Florida, home to shallow traditions and feigned loyalties, fast-buck artists and fly-by-night businesses. This alleged tropical paradise is built on the shifting sands of impermanence and the frail coastline of rising tides.”

Impermanence and frailty. Those are also human qualities Lassiter understands well.

*****

PAUL LEVINE HEADSHOTThe author of 21 novels, Paul Levine won the John D. MacDonald Fiction Award and was nominated for the Edgar, Macavity, International Thriller, Shamus and James Thurber prizes. A former trial lawyer, he also wrote 20 episodes of the CBS military drama “JAG” and co-created the Supreme Court drama “First Monday” starring James Garner and Joe Mantegna. The international bestseller To Speak for the Dead was his first novel. He is also the author of the Solomon vs. Lord series of legal capers. His most recent books are Bum Rap (a Number One Amazon Kindle bestseller), Bum Luck, described by Bookreporter as a one-sit, must-read novel full of memorable characters and unforgettable vignettes, and the newly released Bum Deal, praised in a “starred review” by Publishers Weekly for its “fascinating, fully developed characters and smart, well-paced dialogue.” All of Paul’s books are available FREE for Kindle Unlimited readers. A graduate of Penn State and the University of Miami Law School, Paul divides his time between Miami, Florida and Santa Barbara, California. Visit Paul’s website at https://www.paul-levine.com and follow him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/PaulLevineAuthorPage and on Twitter @Jake_Lassiter