Interview: Warren Bull

Please welcome Warren Bull, author of Heartland and other works.

What’s your idea of a perfect day?
A perfect day would be a crisp October day so clear that the colors of the leafs look freshly painted. I would spend the day with family and friends eating, drinking, singing and celebrating each otherHeartland.

Do you have a signature accessory, color, fragrance, phrase, or meal?
Yes. I like to dress in period clothing when I do readings. My favorite story to read is a Runyonesque tale named The Wrong Man. I wear a pinstriped suit, a navy shirt with a white tie and a fedora. I look like I’m about to sing “Luck Be a Lady.”

Excluding family, name three people who either inspired you or influenced your creativity.
Mark Twain, Abraham Lincoln and Ray Bradbury.

Do you listen to music when you write?
Only in my head.

If your latest book were chocolate, what kind would it be and why?
Killer Eulogy and Other Stories would be dark chocolate, 90% cocoa, because it is a noir fiction anthology.

What made you interested in writing this particular story?
After I write several funny or uplifting stories I find that writing noir “cleanses my palate” as a writer. Then I can be optimistic again in my work.

What themes do you regularly (re)visit in your writing?
I regularly write about making choices and the consequences that result. I like to write about subcultures that relatively few writers depict such as inner city residents.

Tell us about your main character’s psyche or personality. What led her (or him) to be the person s/he
is today?
My anthology has a different main character in each story. In my most recent novel, Heartland, the main character is an adolescent who has to learn to deal with his father’s abandonment, his grandmother’s recent stroke and the issues of forming a stepfamily.

Describe your protagonist as a mash-up of three famous people or characters.
Huck Finn, Oliver and Kim.

If you could host an author dinner party, who are the six writers (living or otherwise) you’d
include?
Abrahan Lincoln (for his wonderful mastery of American English), Mark Twain, Anton Chekhov, Carolyn Hart, Agatha Christie and the author of the biblical book of Luke.

What’s next for you?
I really don’t know. I have a novel into a publisher who I’ve worked with before. I’m currently working on a novel involving more fantasy than my other works. Part of the writing life is not knowing for certain what is coming next.

****

Warren Bull has won a number of awards including Best Short Story of 2006 from the Missouri Writers’ Guild, The Mysterious Photo Contest in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine. His mystery short story collection MURDER MANHATTAN STYLE and his noir short story compilation KILLER EULOGY AND OTHER STORIES are available on Untreed Reads. His novels ABRAHAN LINCOLN FOR THE DEFENSE, ABRAHAM LINCOLN: DEATH IN THE MOONLIGHT and HOMELAND are available on Amazon. Warren is a lifetime member of Sisters in Crime and an active member of Mystery Writers of America. He blogs every Friday at http://writerswhokill.blogspot.com/.  For more information, please visit his website at http://www.WarrenBull.com.

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Interview: Sharon Arthur Moore

Please welcome Sharon Arthur Moore, author of Mission Impastable.

What’s your idea of a perfect day?
A perfect day begins with meeting my writing target early so I can spend the rest of the day reading, cooking, and planning the next story! Not that that happens ever. If I do meet the target early, that means I am in the zone and I keep going!FC - Mission Impastable

I do love the planning/conceptualization stage of writing more than the necessary edits. Beginnings attract me. Bright and shiny new objects draw me in! I’m sort of distractable like my protag Alli in Mission Impastable. A perfect day would include starting a new project.

In my perfect day, I would learn several new things because I value knowledge over most things.

Do you have a signature accessory, color, fragrance, phrase, or meal?
I love to wear lemon fragrances (My fave is Ecco’s “Lemon Verbena”) and various shades of turquoise. I also am known for saying, “Life is too short to wear boring earrings.” I’m also known for saying, “So many reds, so little time,” in relation to my hair color.

Excluding family, name three people who either inspired you or influenced your creativity.
James Congrove (RIP) was my favorite high school teacher who introduced me to a love of history and research I pursue to this day. John Kennedy challenged me to make the world a better place because I walked here. Diane Mott Davidson wrote the first culinary mystery I read (though she didn’t write the very first one ever), and I had a light bulb go off that I could combine my love of mysteries with cooking!

Do you listen to music when you write?
I don’t usually listen to music while I write, but sometimes I’ll play something ominous or fast-paced to set the mood for a scene. Occasionally I play something classical (maybe Simone Dinnerstein’s Bach’s Goldberg Variations). Music is, frankly, wasted on me. When I am writing, I am in the zone and hear nothing but my characters. If I am hearing the music, I’m likely not deep enough in the story.

If your latest book were chocolate, what kind would it be and why?
Mission Impastable would be the darkest bittersweet chocolate available. There are incidents in the story and that pre-date the story that explain much of Alli’s insecurity and that unearth painful times. Her search for what makes a family (both the bitter and the sweet) threads throughout the book and subsequent ones.

What made you interested in writing this particular story?
Well, Diane Mott Davidson and so many other culinary mystery writers that I read inspired me to try this sub-genre of cozy mysteries. But in particular, Alli is a character who tugged at me. In early drafts, she and Gina were co-protagonists. That arrangement was not only awkward (imagine the POV problems), but All was clearly who I favored so she got the good scenes! It became obvious that she was the more interesting character with lots of back story issues to be revealed over the course of the series. Any time I can bring cooking into a story, I’m happy. I wanted Mission Impastable to have lots of good and easy pasta recipes for Alli to share.

What themes do you regularly (re)visit in your writing?
Betrayal of trust is a huge issue in several of my books. Trust is a fundamental requirement for a healthy relationship. When the trust is breached the implications for communication and communion are huge. What does it take to re-build trust? My protag Alli is still struggling with one such betrayal into the sequel, Prime Rib and Punishment. Will she finally cut someone loose or will she forgive and try to forget?

Tell us about your main character’s psyche or personality. What led her (or him) to be the person s/he is today?
We learn early on in Mission Impastable that Alli’s family disappeared one day while she was in high school leaving her to fend on her own. She was unofficially adopted into Gina’s family, her best friend since 2nd grade. Maria, Gina’s mother, views Alli as a daughter, and she provides the security Alli is always seeking. Her lack of trust of permanence causes her to have trouble maintaining a lasting romantic relationship. Alli is a somewhat undisciplined cooking talent. She barely finished high school, even though exceptionally bright, and feels inferior to many around her which manifests itself as bravado and derring-do.

Describe your protagonist as a mash-up of three famous people or characters.
Alli has been described by some as the madcap, impulsive Lucille Ball. I’d throw in some Julia Child, with her passion for cooking and slapdash kitchen ways, and the curiosity and native intelligence of Miss Marple.

If you could host an author dinner party, who are the six writers (living or otherwise) you’d include?
Of course, Diane Mott Davidson would be there! I would balance the rest of the dinner with authors from a variety of genres. Geraldine Brooks must be fascinating dinner conversationalist with all that research she’s done. Since I love medical thrillers and science fiction, I would include Michael Crichton’s ghost and Kim Stanley Robinson. And wouldn’t it be fun to chat the evening away with Toni Morrison and Jodi Picoult? That range of genres should make for a fascinating bunch of topics!

What’s next for you?
I am finishing up Prime Rib and Punishment for a planned late fall release from Oak Tree Press. Alli and Gina supplement their personal chef pay with jobs as part-time instructors at a culinary school where the head chef hates them. Unfortunately, he ends up dead, and the police look to Alli as a prime suspect. I have the next three books after that outlined, so in the next year and a half I plan on completing Potluck, Cooks in the Can and Ancient Grease.

***
After 39 years as an educator, Sharon Arthur Moore “transitioned” to the life of full-time fiction writer. She’s an intrepid cook, game-player, and miniatures lover. She writes culinary mysteries, women’s fiction, historical fiction, short stories, plays, and erotic romance (Under the pen name Angelica French). Sharon has lived in every region of the country except the Pacific Northwest and loved every single one of them. Her current favorite region is the desert Southwest. She is married to the most extraordinary man and claims four children, one daughter-in-law, a grandson, and lab rescue dog Maudie.

You can purchase a Kindle or paperback copy of Mission Impastable at http://amzn.to/1sIlIqz

You can follow Sharon Arthur Moore on:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Sharon-Arthur-Moore-Fan-Page/178609722159624?ref=hl

Twitter: @good2tweat

Blog:“Parsley, Sage, and Rosemary Time” http://www.sharonarthurmoore.blogspot.com

Blog: “Write Away” www:samwriteaway.blogspot.com

Interview: Mary Reed and Eric Mayer

Please welcome Mary Reed and Eric Mayer, co-authors of the Lord Chamberlain Byzantine mysteries; Ten for Dying is the latest.

What’s your idea of a perfect day?

MR: A day Ten for Dyingwithout chores but featuring a fresh pot of coffee and something interesting to read. And let it be a late autumn day, please!

EM: I agree with Mary, but make it a day in early spring.

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

MR: For me? “This is Liberty Hall”, “Lurching from crisis to crisis” (a hat tip to JAB, from whom I pinched the phrase years ago), and “Is it time to catch the bus to Panic City yet?” immediately spring to mind.

EM: That’s a tough one. Signature accessory? I don’t even carry a purse. Hopefully my characters are more colorful than I am.

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

MR: M. R. James (pause for obligatory declaration that MRJ roolz), Ray Bradbury, and Charles Dickens. Quite a varied bunch, but then so is my
reading!

EM: Only two stand out: Mike Ashley who purchased our first joint story and Barbara Peters who bought our first novel. There’s nothing more inspirational than knowing someone likes your work enough to publish it.

Do you listen to music when you write?

MR: No, but I sing a lot around the house.

EM: No. I prefer the sounds of silence.

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

MR: Dark chocolate. Because our latest novel is very dark and a little bitter in a subtle sort of way.

EM: Some kind of chocolate with nuts in it, because we always have a few wacky eccentrics in our casts of characters. In Ten for Dying there’s a fellow everyone can hear coming because he jingles. You’ll have to read it….

What made you interested in writing this particular story?

MR: It’s a continuation of the story arc developing in the previous book, and picks up where it concluded — although I hasten to add all the novels in the series contain a stand-alone investigation.

EM: The first seven books take place early in Emperor Justinian’s reign, starting in 525. According to most accounts Empress Theodora was a powerful figure who exerted considerable influence on her husband during this period. In our series she is John’s most powerful antagonist. She died in 548, seventeen years before Justinian. We wanted to explore how John fared in the very different environment left by her passing.

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

MR: That’s a difficult question. Perhaps one of the most pervasive is that justice is not always possible but it also sometimes comes in strange and unexpected disguises.

EM: As with most detective fiction our books are concerned with the search for justice, and the fact that society and the powers-that-be can make it difficult to come by. Ironically since John is a high ranking official, Lord Chamberlain to Emperor Justinian, his ability to mete out justice is seldom aided by his official position.

Tell us about your main character’s psyche or personality. What led her (or him) to be the person s/he is today?

EM: I’m a bit uncomfortable trying to answer that. It’s a question no one would have asked John or any of his acquaintances because the sixth century was long before the days of psychology, psychiatry, and the literary vogue for probing character. Is it fair to psychoanalyze a man who lived a millennium and a half before Sigmund Freud was born? John, I am sure, would never have imagined a kalamos to be anything other than a reed pen.

It seems almost an anachronism to explain a character’s actions in a way they would never have understood them. What motivates John for the most part is his sense of duty as a Mithran. Mithraism was a soldier’s religion and placed great emphasis on duty. So John acts in accordance with what he feels is his duty towards his friends and in furtherance of justice. He would find any speculation about obscure motivations derived from his past to be of no importance.

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

EM: Sherlock Homes and Batman/Bruce Wayne.

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

MR: As guests I would pick the three writers I mentioned above plus Agatha Christie, Herodotus, and Stephen King. An eclectic mix to be sure, but certain to provide lively discussions and anecdotes!

EM: John D. MacDonald, Graham Greene, Mickey Spillane, Agatha Christie, Georges Simenon, Mary Reed.

What’s next for you?

MR: That’s a good question. We’ll have to let you know when we do! Some ideas are being tossed back and forth but as yet we’ve not had a “basket”.

***

Mary and Eric co-write the Lord Chamberlain Byzantine mysteries, set in and around sixth century Constantinople. Ten For Dying, their protagonist’s latest adventure, was published by Poisoned Pen Press in March 2014.

Website:         http://home.earthlink.net/~maywrite/
Eric’s blog:     http://www.journalscape.com/ericmayer
Mary’s blog:     On 18th of each month on the Poisoned Pen Press blog at
http://www.poisonedpenpress.com/category/news-and-blog/
Twitter:         Mary @marymaywrite and Eric @groggytales

The Blacklist: Why I Love Reddington

Raymond Reddington is my new favorite spy. On the first episode of NBC’s new show The Blacklist, Reddington surrenders himself to the FBI by going into the lobby, taking off his jacket, getting down on his knees (on the seal no less), putting his hands up, and announcing who he is: a criminal on the ten most wanted list, a former government spy turned bad, now turned good. Maybe.

It’s obvious from the first that Reddington has his own agenda. He’s not going to be put in jail. He has his own most wanted list. He will help the FBI catch them, but will work only with newly minted agent Elizabeth Keen.

Who is probably his daughter. Who is married to undercover agent, Tom Keen. Who married her to get to Reddington, we think. Who tells Elizabeth when he’s caught, “You were my job.”

Reddington is quirky. He runs an effective, diverse team of experts and spies. He’s connected to every underworld and terrorist figure worth knowing, it seems. He kills people who betrayed him without blinking an eye. He doesn’t flinch at the most horrendous torture or abuse of people. Yet he has remained human. Loveably, amusingly human.

Reddington delights in life. In the middle of torturing the man who’s pretended to be Tom Keen’s brother, Reddington takes a break to watch his favorite Marx’s brothers stunt on television while he enjoys room service. In the latest episode while his associate copies a book with a secret inscription, Reddington reminisces about a time a man in Pagosa Springs (a hot springs town in Colorado I love) fixed his water pump when it blew out on the mountain. His joy seems real, not a ploy to unnerve his victim.

When one of the FBI agent loses the love of his life, Reddington warns him not to take the path he himself took—revenge. It will not bring you the satisfaction you think it will, he says, and it leads down unexpected waysides that are impossible to turn back from. At the end of the episode, he sends the agent a note that beautifully describes how grief works. He tells him that every day when he wakes up it will be the first thing he thinks about, that one day in the far future, it will be the second thing. Then he goes on to explain how he will heal enough to live again, but he will never be the same.

I love Reddington because he has seen the worst. He became corrupt. Reddington burned out. He got beyond disillusioned. He was more than inconsolable. But he didn’t stay in any of these places. He came out the other side.

Reddington has accepted the world as it is. Corrupt, violent, cruel, unfair, mean. He has accepted the world as it is. Beautiful, wonderful, surprising, miraculous, extraordinary. He goes about his business with a Buddha-like detachment, but a deadly efficiency. He has no causes left—except perhaps to return and be the father he could not be before, to guide Elizabeth through the horrific, marvelous world he helped bring her into. As he ruthlessly hunts down killer after criminal after terrorist, he always stops to smell the roses, enjoy a sandwich, and tell a very quirky story.

Spying on the Home Front

Wow, there are a lot of different kinds of spies! Spies in the movies, spies snooping in our neighborhoods, glamour-ized spies, traitor-ized spies, spies everywhere.

 

But what about spies here on the home front?

 

We don’t hear much about those stories, but there were actually a couple of real occasions during WWII when German soldiers landed on U.S. soil. One such spy was George John Dasch (you can google him and read more!) when he was recruited by the Nazis to land a team of spies on U.S. soil. The spies were given minimal training to set bombs, and they intended to sabotage factories, bridges, and some of the locks on the Ohio River. In June 1942 they landed in New York and Florida, having been set ashore by German submarines, but only 2 months later their plans fell apart when Dasch turned informant after seeing too many flaws in their preparations. He got 30 years in prison, one of his accomplices got life, and the others got the electric chair.

 

WWII was a time when ordinary citizens dared to commit outrageous acts of bravery, often beyond their training. It was a time when everyday folks became spies for a cause they put above their own personal safety. And many of them succeeded! Could we, in our comfy lives today, ever match such acts of derring-do? I wonder.

 

My interest in these tales began when I was a child, listening to the stories of my great-uncle. He used to be postmaster of a very small town in the hills of southern Ohio around the time of WWII. My uncle had a great sense of humor, and he loved pulling my leg. I never knew if he was teasing or telling the truth when he confessed about spying from the post office, tracking German spies who allegedly passed through town. In those days, on the home front in the early days of WWII, nobody knew what might happen. I suspect my uncle exaggerated his tales, but it doesn’t really matter if they were true or not. They were stories, and I loved hearing them.

 

They got me thinking and wondering. What might’ve happened on the home front in those early days after the U.S. entered WWII? Dasch’s story became a jumping off point for one of the subplots in a novel of mine under another pen name (The Jigsaw Window, by Cameron Kennedy). When I write, I like to throw in my own speculations, blend them all together, and end up with a story.

 

My story only speculates about an invasion plan, but I have to wonder: did my long-deceased uncle really have a hand in bringing down Dasch and his team of spies? Probably not, but it makes a nice story and turns my uncle into a hometown hero. My favorite kind of spy.

 

What do you think?

A Glimpse at a Better Life, Just $3.99 a Pop

I had a period after college where I really loved to read gossip rags. You know the kind: US Weekly, OK!, and People (though it’s a bit less of an offender). Plus, a couple of times per day, I’d peruse Perez Hilton and TMZ for all the intrusive bits the weekly rags didn’t have.

And though the words were fun to read, I was really in it for the pictures. The gritty ones, taken with telephoto lenses longer than a standard rifle. Stars in their element, where they thought they were safe. But they’d find out a few hours later that they weren’t, just as soon as their pic went to the highest bidder.

I don’t know why I got so into this, but I have an idea.

In college, we’re still thinking about what our lives could be. What job we could snag, where we could move, what cool apartment/friends/experiences we could have.

But when you’re out of college, reality hits. You’re at your first job. You’re making money (invariably not enough), and “real” work kind of sucks. There’s nothing really cyclical about it like college. There’s no summer break/internship to pine over. There’s no safety net of cramming before a test or dropping a troublesome class. There’s just reality: bills, the work week, life.

And though I was happy, working my first couple of newspaper jobs with my awesome (and also new) husband, I suppose I needed an escape.

And what better escape than spying on someone whose real life is much more exciting than your own?

Plus, I didn’t have to dirty my hands with the actual spying myself. Nope, I could just pay $3.99 or type in a well-worn web address and I had all my spying done for me. The words and pictures setting scenes in lavish places I’d never been to and probably never will, with beautiful people and big drama and huge dreams.

I don’t seek out those magazines much anymore, except for the occasional People buy at the airport. I’m not even sure if Perez or TMZ are still functioning (though they probably are). And if I do happen to see one of those grainy shots of celebs in their element, I feel guilty even looking.

Maybe my change in heart has to do with growing up. Or maybe it’s because I have a family of my own (those pics of celeb kids are kind of terrifying). Or maybe it’s because my own life keeps me busy and doesn’t leave me wanting to live vicariously through a starlet or two.

I’m not sure, but this sort of spying through a medium has lost its luster for me. Now, I’d much rather spy on the kiddo and his cousins at the kids’ table on Easter Sunday.

How have your tastes in spying changed over the years?

Interview: Vicky Delany

Please welcome Vicky Delany, author of Under Cold Stone and other books.

What’s your idea of a perfect day?
I have two perfect days. One, a winter writing day. Just being home alone while the snow flies outside. I’ll write in the morning for about four hours, then deal with email and the business side of things. Work on a jigsaw puzzle for a couple of houunder cold stoners before dinner. After dinner, read or watch a British TV drama on Netflix.

Second. A hot summer’s day. Writing in the morning on the deck and then read and relax around the pool in the afternoon, and friends over for dinner in the evening.

Do you have a signature accessory, color, fragrance, phrase, or meal?
That’s an interesting question. I can’t think of a single thing.

Excluding family, name three people who either inspired you or influenced your creativity.
I learned how to write a novel by taking a course at a community college. The teacher was named Lynda Simmons, and I am still in touch with her. My many, many friends in the Canadian mystery community have always supported me, and we’ve laughed all the way. That’s a lot more than three, isn’t it?

Do you listen to music when you write?
Mozart and only Mozart. I once heard that Mozart was good for creativity. I don’t know if that helps, but it’s my habit now. I don’t listen to anything else, nor do I have the radio on, because that would be too distracting.

If your latest book were chocolate, what kind would it be and why?
It would be a slab of dark chocolate, rich and dense and large enough to be passed around. Under Cold Stone is about family, with all its complexities, as is the Constable Molly Smith series as a whole.

What made you interested in writing this particular story?
I’ve been wanting to take Molly Smith out of Trafalgar, the setting of the previous six books in the series. The difficulty was in finding something for the other characters in the books, her family, Sergeant John Winters the lead detective, and the rest of the police force to do. Trafalgar itself is very much a character in the books, so I still needed to have things happening there. The idea of Molly having to go to Banff, which is not too far away, to help out her mom seemed as though it would work. Meanwhile, back at home…

What themes do you regularly (re)visit in your writing?
Family. The books are police procedurals, but family is always a key storyline. Good families, loving families, dysfunctional families. Molly Smith’s family and John Winters’ play important roles, as well as relatives of victims/suspects/passers-by/other cops etc. ..

Tell us about your main character’s psyche or personality. What led her (or him) to be the person s/he is today?
Molly Smith is a cop. She’s a young woman, still just a beat cop in the small town where she was born and raised. Her fiancé was killed in a senseless attack and after she pulled herself out of her grief she decided she wanted to be a police officer. Her name is really Moonlight Legolas Smith, because her parents were hippies. Her mom is still very active in every controversy in their community. So things can get a bit embarrassing for her sometimes.

Describe your protagonist as a mash-up of three famous people or characters.
I’m coming up blank. Perhaps she’s an original.

If you could host a mystery-author dinner party, who are the six writers (living or otherwise) you’d include?
I don’t read the classic mysteries much, so all my picks are living. Come to think of it, all of them are people I consider friends and have broken bread (or downed a glass) with. So not much of a stretch. Louise Penny, Linwood Barclay, Barbara Fradkin, Mary Jane Maffini, R.J. Harlick and C.B. Forrest come to mind. Come on over, guys.

What’s next for you?
Something totally, totally different. I have a three book contract for the Lighthouse Library series from Penguin Obsidian. It’s very cozy, set in a library in a lighthouse on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Because it’s such a change for me, I have a pen name: Eva Gates. The first book in the series, By Book or By Crook, is finished and will be released February 2015. I am writing the second one now. I am really enjoying writing these. It’s just plain fun.

***

“It’s a crime not to read Delany,” says the London Free Press. Vicki Delany is one of Canada’s most prolific and varied crime writers. Under Cold Stone is the seventh book in the Smith & Winters police series. She also writes the light-hearted Klondike Gold Rush books and novels of gothic suspense. Her Rapid Reads book, A Winter Kill, was shortlisted for a 2012 Arthur Ellis Award for best novella.

Having taken early retirement from her job as a systems analyst, Vicki enjoys the rural life in bucolic, Prince Edward County, Ontario.

Visit Vicki at www.vickidelany.com, on Twitter @vickidelany and Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Vicki.Delany. She blogs about the writing life at One Woman Crime Wave (http://klondikeandtrafalgar.blogspot.com)