Mystery Mondays: Partnering in Writing by Janet Elizabeth Lynn

Today on Mystery Mondays, we host a married couple who write books togethers. How cool is that? Check below for an excerpt of Slick Deal, their latest novel.

But first, her is Janet Elizabeth Lynn on

Partnering in writing

It can work

by

Janet Elizabeth Lynn

Early in my writing career I remember someone said gave me the following equation for completing a novel: Butt +Chair = Book.  It’s a simple formula, but it rings true every time.

My husband, Will Zeilinger and I co-write the Skylark Drake Murder Mystery series, a hardboiled series that takes the reader to 1950s Los Angeles and other areas of the west. Our new book, SLICK DEAL, begins at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, News Year’s Eve 1956. The first murder and clues lead to Avalon, on Catalina Island. This is the fourth of the series and people still wonder how we make it work.

Here are some things we have learned over the last four books:

  1. Character/Voice styles– Combining different styles when writing makes for more interesting character dialogue and personalities. So valuing the styleeach writing partner brings to the table is important
  2. DeadlinesSet deadlines and stick to them. Deadlines include: chapters, plot, character development, and public relations. Anything pertaining to the health and welfare of the manuscript should have a deadline.
  3. OrganizationEach meeting, regardless of what the meeting is for, needs to have a purpose. Agendas are great to keep the discussions on track. Be sure to keep copies of all meeting agendas and decisions for future reference. And not for finger pointing!
  4. SupportNothing beats having someone not only for “feel good” needs but someone to also pick up the slack when things come to a screeching halt, i.e. Writer’s block. We hit this at the same time once and it was scary. The only way I got through it was Will’s positive attitude that we could do it.
  5. And the most important thingWe agreed and practiced the above equation. Some people may call this dedication, we call it sweating.

Janet Elizabeth Lynn and Will Zeilinger

BW Janet Bill 01Published authors Will Zeilinger and Janet Lynn write  individually until they got together and created the Skylar Drake Mystery Series. These hard-boiled tales are based in old Hollywood of 1955. Janet has published seven mystery novels and Will has three plus a couple of short stories. Their world travels have sparked several ideas for murder and crime stories. This creative couple is married and live in Southern California.

 

The next Skylar Drake Mystery, fourth in the series, SLICK DEAL will be available April 16, 2018 and yes…we are still married!

 


SD web coverOn the eve of the New Year, 1956, oil tycoon, Oliver Wright dies suspiciously at a swanky Hollywood New Years Eve party. Some think it was suicide.

His death is soon followed by threats against the rest of his family.

Private Investigator Skylar Drake and his partner Casey Dolan are hired by an L.A. gangster to protect the family and solve Oliver’s mysterious death.

Clues lead them to Avalon, on Santa Catalina Island, a Hollywood movie star playground.

A high profile scandal, mysterious women, treason and more deaths complicate matters, putting Drake and his partner in danger.

Twenty-three miles may not seem far away but false identity and corruption on this island could squash their efforts to answer the question—How in the world can a dead man commit suicide?

SLICK DEAL will be available April 16, 2018…and yes we are still married!

        

Website: Janet  Elizabeth Lynn     http://www.janetlynnauthor.com

Website: Will Zeilinger                 www.willzeilingerauthor.com

 


SLICK DEAL

By Janet Elizabeth Lynn and Will Zeilinger

 CHAPTER ONE

Almost midnight. I was working security for the New Year’s Eve bash at the posh Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel with my partner Casey Dolan. The rented tuxedos we were wearing made us look like we belonged with the rich crowd down on the ballroom floor, but we were working. This was one of the most exclusive parties in the city. I’d been here before and I’ve never known any other hotel with the kind of history this place had. Our job tonight was to keep an eye out for trouble…and I suppose this was a much better way to greet the new year than sitting at home in front of the television with a bottle of whiskey. As a matter of principle, I didn’t take security work. But Dolan thought D&D Investigations would benefit from this job by keeping the lights on and paying our secretary. He was right.

I scanned the crowd and checked my watch—a minute before midnight. The noise level in the room escalated with anticipation. I spotted Dolan at his post under an archway on the other side of the room and smiled. He nodded. From my spot on the catwalk above the ballroom floor I watched as they counted down the last seconds—five, four, three, two… Just as the clock on stage struck midnight, the room exploded with shouts, horns, balloons, and a snowstorm of confetti. The band played “Auld Lang Syne” while a banner unfurled above the bandstand that proclaimed: HAPPY NEW YEAR 1956.

It seemed as though everyone in the world was dancing, hugging, and kissing. My mind disappeared into the past. I remembered my late wife,Claire, and how we celebrated every New Year together. Even when she was big with our daughter, Ellie, Claire was stunning. I pulled out my wallet and gazed at her photo. I miss you honey, so very much.

A man’s voice boomed over the P.A., “Is there a doctor in the house?” My dream with Claire evaporated. I looked down at the stage where a man had grabbed the microphone from the band leader’s hands and shouted, “We need help in the main lobby.”

I motioned for Dolan to stay put while I ducked behind the heavy drapes and crossed the hall to the lobby mezzanine. Fourteen steps would take me down to the lobby floor. I think I only used five. My hand automatically went to my holster, just in case. Pushing through the crowd, I found a portly man on his back in a pool of blood on the terracotta-tiled floor. A tuxedo-clad man loosened the tie of the victim but I knew he was gone. I’d seen that vacant look in his eyes a hundred times back when I worked LAPD homicide.

Somewhere in the crowd I heard “Make way please, we’re nurses.” A couple of women in evening gowns appeared. I held the curious crowd back while the women knelt on the bloody floor and checked for a pulse. One shook her head and placed a lacy handkerchief over the dead man’s face.

Screaming sirens outside announced the arrival of the police. Partygoers scrambled. More than a few were probably here with someone other than the one to whom they were legally and lawfully wed. I identified myself as hotel security to the first officers to come through the door.

“You were first on the scene?” one asked.

I nodded. “Me and about a hundred other people.”

“You see this happen?” I shook my head. Another officer shouted to the crowd, “Anybody here see this happen?”

More police swarmed the lobby with news reporters on their heels. I wasn’t surprised. This party attracted reporters like flies on a dead cat. All around camera flashbulbs popped, making the room as bright as day.

Someone grabbed my arm. I looked into the eyes of a dark-haired woman wearing a full-length fur coat. With all the commotion, I thought she was a tipsy guest who wanted to kiss me. Instead, she pulled in close and whispered in my ear, “Please help me get out of this place. I can’t be seen here.” She turned her back to the cameras. With one hand, she yanked the combs from her hair and let it cascade down to her shoulders. She had the aroma of flowers. Then she turned up the collar of her fur coat to cover part of her face. Tears rolled down her cheeks. I saw the desperation in her eyes.

“Please.” She squeezed my arm. “I don’t know this hotel.”

The elevators and outside doors were blocked by uniformed cops. I whisked her toward a side room.

A cop in a cheap brown suit noticed us walking away and yelled, “Hey, you two. Get back here.”  I used to be a cop and I knew one when I saw one. This guy was probably a plainclothes detective. “You’re interfering with a police investigation,” he yelled.

“Maybe we should go back.” She stopped. “I’d hate to get you into trouble.”

“Believe me. It wouldn’t be the first time. This way.”

I noticed her striking resemblance to Ava Gardner. I pulled her along and headed to an empty room.

The cop caught up with us as I pushed open the door and turned on the light. I pulled out my PI license. He grabbed it from my hand just as I moved my jacket to show him my gun.

“Oh hell. Skylar Drake. I should have known.” He tossed my license back. “Why do you have to mess around with this investigation?”

“You have your job and I have mine.” I nodded toward the raven-haired beauty standing behind me.

“You stay put, Drake, while we sort this out.” I held up three fingers in a Boy Scout salute. He frowned and backed out the door.

I reached into my tuxedo jacket pocket and handed her my business card. Her perfectly shaped eyebrows went up. “Skylar Drake, Private Investigator.”

I nodded. “Now I need to get back to work.”

“I can’t be seen here.” Her tearful emerald green eyes sparkled in the light. “May I count on you to be discreet?”

My mind raced with a hundred things she wanted me to be discreet about.

Another plainclothes detective from my old precinct stormed in. I remember him as a real blowhard. “Drake. What the hell are you doing here?”

“Working and I was just leaving.” I nodded to the woman. “Nice to have met you, miss.”

Before the detective could get out another word, I slipped out the door and walked back to the lobby.

I checked the time—two a.m. The police had finished with most of the guests and allowed them to leave. The party was over. My job was done.

 

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Mystery Mondays: Mary Cunningham On Becoming An Author

This week on Mystery Mondays, Author Mary Cunningham shares her story on becoming an author. Mary and I are both published by Imajin Books, so as always a great big shout out to Imajin Books and Cheryl Kaye Tardif!

It All Starts With Reading

by Mary Cunningham, author, Margaritas, Mayhem & Murder

Andi Anna Jones Mystery # 1

When I was a kid, I had to cross a busy downtown street to walk the two blocks to the public library. Mom would guide me across that first street then let me walk the rest of the way to my favorite spot on earth; well, except for the high school gym on Friday basketball game night.

I guess you’d call me a tomboy. I loved sports; playing and watching. Although, I still had fun cutting out paper dolls with my friend, Cynthia, and playing with her Easy Bake Oven (I was so jealous she had one and I didn’t!)

But, back to the library. I’ll never forget the summer I discovered sports biographies. A whole set of them! Probably due to my yet-to-be-discovered OCD, I commenced reading them in order – A-Z.

I’ll never forget the thrill of learning all about Hank Aaron. I was a huge fan back then of the Milwaukee Braves outfielder. In 1957, as a 10-year-old, I would sit in front of the TV keeping stats during the Braves games. In a record-breaking year, he hit an 11th inning home run that propelled the Braves to the World Series, where he led underdog Milwaukee to an upset win over the New York Yankees in seven games. Yep, “Hammerin’ Hank” was my idol.

I tore through the biographies in record time. Patty Berg, Jim Brown, Althea Gibson, BabePancho Gonzales, Byron Nelson, Warren Spahn. Then, the unbelievable happened. I finished Babe Didrikson Zaharias. Finished. Caput. A through Z. There were no more.

I was crushed.

I muddled along reading Nancy Drew, The Hardy Boys, and then got interested in historical fiction. Then I got bored with the writing and storylines I considered beneath my reading and comprehension level.

As luck would have it, my aunt replaced the ancient librarian (Miss Georgia Stockslaver – yes, that was her real name!) who had been in her position for, oh, around 108 years. Or, at least it seemed like it. What a refreshing change! Nothing against Miss Georgia, but she single-handedly destroyed my older brother’s love of reading. It was the summer after his fourth-grade school year. He took “The Bears of Blue River” to the desk to check it out. Miss Georgia wouldn’t let him read it. “This is a Fifth Grade book. You’ll have to wait ‘til then.” Barely a month away. My brother, who had a bit of a stubborn streak, left the library and never returned, to my knowledge.

ForeverBack to my reading boredom. Between my eight grade and freshman year, the aforementioned librarian, my beloved Aunt Gertrude, began setting books aside she thought I’d enjoy reading. To Kill a Mockingbird, of course, and anything by Steinbeck. I graduated to slightly steamier novels like Forever Amber by Kathleen Winsor, and later, in high school, Lady Chatterley’s Lover. She made me swear not to tell my mother she let me check that one out. I believe I hid the book under my mattress until I finished reading and returned it, safely, to the library.

I now consider myself to be a pretty fair writer. My children’s book series, Cynthia’s Attic, has been well-received by readers of all ages. My new series, Andi Anna Jones Mysteries, has made its debut and am I ever excited! Writing these mysteries has given me a new perspective. While I love writing for middle-grade, it does keep the creative juices flowing when you change things up every now-and-then.

I wouldn’t be writing, however, if not for one important fact.

It all starts with reading!

Margaritas, Mayhem & Murder: Synopsis

Andi’s step-mother is a real piece of work! But is Ruby a murderer?

 Andi Anna Jones, so-so travel agent/amateur sleuth, puts aside her resentment of her father’s widow and books a 60th birthday cruise to Cancun for Ruby and three friends. Never does Andi imagine the cruise will lead to the murder of a has-been lounge singer—or that Ruby will be the main suspect.

Flirting with more than danger after arriving in Mexico, Andi connects with the charming local sheriff, Manual Rodriquez. After an embarrassing night involving the sheriff, too many margaritas, and a Mariachi band, a chance to check out an eyewitness to the murder leads her to Las Vegas.

In Vegas, a mysterious meeting in the Bodies Exhibition, a body preserving in the prep-room, and an evasive owner of a dance studio, give Andi clues to help Ruby. But when Andi is mercilessly drugged and locked in a storage room, she realizes dear old step-mom isn’t the only one in jeopardy. 

WHO IS Mary Cunningham?

x300 dpi MARY CUNNINGHAM org. enhance slightly no blur 4368-004Author, Mary Cunningham, grew on the northern side of the Ohio River in Corydon, Indiana. Her first memories are of her dad’s original bedtime stories that no doubt inspired her imagination and love of a well-spun “yarn”.
Childhood experiences, and a recurring dream about a mysterious attic, inspired characters, Cynthia and Augusta Lee, for her award-winning middle-grade series, Cynthia’s Attic. The setting is in her childhood home in Southern Indiana. Family stories and ancestors comprise the storylines. There are currently five books in the series: The Missing Locket, The Magic Medallion, Curse of the Bayou, The Magician’s Castle, and Legend of Lupin Woods.

Through a horrifying stint as a travel agent and more rewarding experience teaching travel and tourism, the character, Andi Anna Jones, travel agent/amateur sleuth, inspired her latest adult mystery series. She’s currently writing Book # 2 of the series, along with another middle-grade series, The Adventures of Max and Maddie, a historical time-travel, and a biography about a former Army brat/University of Connecticut women’s basketball player who started a non-profit foundation to create scholarships for children of deployed veterans.

Cunningham is a member of The Georgia Reading Association, and the Carrollton Writers Guild.

When she gives her fingers a break from the keyboard, she enjoys golf, swimming and exploring the mountains of West Georgia where she makes her home with her husband and adopted, four-legged, furry daughter, Lucy.

 

An Imajin Qwickies® Mystery/Crime Novella

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000447_00052]Andi’s step-mother is a real piece of work!

But is Ruby a murderer?

Andi Anna Jones, so-so travel agent/amateur sleuth, puts aside her resentment of her father’s widow and books a 60th birthday cruise to Cancun for Ruby and three friends. Never does Andi imagine the cruise will lead to the murder of a has-been lounge singer—or that Ruby will be the main suspect.

Flirting with more than danger after arriving in Mexico, Andi connects with the charming local sheriff, Manual Rodriquez. After an embarrassing night involving the sheriff, too many margaritas, and a Mariachi band, a chance to check out an eyewitness to the murder leads her to Las Vegas.

In Vegas, a mysterious meeting in the Bodies Exhibition, a body preserving in the prep-room, and an evasive owner of a dance studio, give Andi clues to help Ruby. But when Andi is mercilessly drugged and locked in a storage room, she realizes dear old step-mom isn’t the only one in jeopardy.

 

Reviews for Margaritas, Mayhem & Murder!

“If Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum were a travel agent, she’d fit right in working this case alongside Andi, a wanna-be detective readers are sure to love.” —Regan Black, USA Today bestselling author of the Escape Club Heroes and Knight Traveler novels.

Margaritas, Mayhem & Murder…WOW. Snappy dialog, quirky characters, opens with a curious bang and yanked me through the pages. A fun, fantastic read. —Jean Rabe, USA Today Bestselling author, Piper Blackwell Mysteries.

“Grab a margarita and hold on tight; you’re in for a wild ride.”

—Karen MacInerney, Agatha Award nominee and author of the Dewberry Farms Mysteries

“Charming, lively, and unpredictable, Margaritas, Mayhem & Murder excels in a vivid story mystery fans will relish.”—Diane Donovan, Senior Editor Midwest Book Review

Purchase Margaritas, Mayhem & Murder:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B076N6KBM3

B & N Nook: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/margaritas-mayhem-murder-mary-cunningham/1127355519?type=eBook

 Find Mary on Social Media:

Website Links

 

 

 

Mystery Mondays: Melodie Campbell on First Person

I’m so pleased to host Melodie Campbell on Mystery Mondays today. Melodie was one of the first authors to connect with me when I started out. She’s generous with her advice.  She’s full of encouragement. And she’s an award winning author who also teaches writing.

Check below for Melodie’s newest release, The B-Team. So new, in fact, it just came out this week.

So over to Melodie…

First Person Rocks! Here’s what you need to know about the rules…

By Melodie Campbell

(First published on Sleuthsayers Crime Blog in the U.S., 2017)

The rules, the rules…

Always, in my Sheridan College Crafting a Novel class, beginning students are alarmed to find out there are rules to writing.

I’m not keen on rules in general. After all, I became a writer so I could thumb my nose at reality, right? Control the world of my fiction in a way I can’t control real life.

All that said (and I could make a blog post out of just that line above) there ARE rules to writing. A bunch of middle-aged guys behind a baize-covered door didn’t make them up for no reason (double negative – Ha! Rule-breaker, you.)

The rules are there for a purpose. They’re all about logic. Here is one that is perhaps least understood. You don’t have to follow it (more on that later.) But you do need to understand why it is a rule, so that you know the consequences of breaking it.

WRITING IN FIRST PERSON:

Many, many people don’t know the rules of first person viewpoint. So here goes:

The protagonist becomes the narrator. As a writer, you make a promise to the reader. (Remember that phrase: promise to the reader.) In first person, the character that is telling you their story is telling it directly to you. No third party writing it. You are in her head.

I love first person. I *become* the protagonist when reading or writing first person. Studies confirm this. Readers become more involved in the story and protagonist when reading first person. That’s what makes first person rock. In my books <sic> it’s the ultimate escape.

But first person has huge limitations for the writer: the person telling the story must be in every scene. Otherwise, they won’t know what is going on in that scene and can’t convey it to the reader (unless you employ a second person to run back and forth, telling the protagonist. Note the use of the word ‘tell.’ Telling is ho-hum. You won’t want to do that often.)

If your story is in first person, you can’t be switching to another character’s viewpoint. Ever. Nope, not even another viewpoint in first person. Why? Because your reader thinks this: “What the poop is happening here? The book started in first person. The protagonist is supposed to be telling me the story. Now someone else is telling it. What happened to my beloved protagonist? Are the original protagonist and protagonist number two sitting next to each other at twin desks writing the story at the same time and passing it back and forth? This doesn’t make sense.”

In a phrase, you’ve broken your promise to the reader.

So here’s what to do: if you need to write the story in more than one viewpoint in order to show every scene, write the whole story in third person. Then you can change viewpoints as needed.

One more first person restriction: if your protagonist is telling the story directly, then he can’t die at the end of the story. This should be obvious: if he died, who wrote the darn manuscript?

Finally, do NOT write a first person story and have the viewpoint character a surprise murderer at the end! We are supposed to be in his/her head. Logically, we would know.

Okay, those are the rules. You can write what you want, of course. That’s the delight of being an author. I’m sure you’ll be able to name a few crime books that break the rules of viewpoint.

But in my class, you will hear this: The rules are there for a reason. Of course you can break the rules, but if you do, you will lose something (usually reader continuity and engagement.) It’s up to you to decide if you gain more by breaking the rules than you lose by doing so. BUT: If you break them in your first novel, publishers (and readers) will think you don’t KNOW the rules.

So at least go in knowing the rules. And then do what you damn well please.

Final words: Don’t publish too soon. Take the time to learn your craft. And then…be fearless.

About Melodie Campbell

2015 author photo correctedThe Toronto Sun called her Canada’s “Queen of Comedy.” Library Journal compared her to Janet Evanovich. Melodie Campbell has won the Derringer, the Arthur Ellis Award, and eight more awards for crime fiction. Last year, Melodie made the Top 50 Amazon Bestseller list, sandwiched between Tom Clancy and Nora Roberts. She is the past Executive Director of Crime Writers of Canada. Her 13th book, The B-Team, launches this week. It’s in first person.

 

THE B-TEAM!

B-TeamThey do wrong for all the right reasons…and sometimes it even works.

Perhaps you’ve heard of The A-Team?  Vietnam vets turned vigilantes?  They had a television show a while back.

We’re not them.
But if you’ve been the victim of a scam, give us a call.  We deal in justice, not the law.
We’re the B-Team.

 

 

 

 

 

Mystery Mondays: 2018 Call For Authors

Promoting Reading – Promoting Authors

Mystery Mondays began in July 2015. Authors from many genres who write with a hint of mystery have told you about their books, answered your questions about writing, and shared their thoughts with you. Every Monday, you’ve be introduced to another author and maybe discovered someone you’re not familiar with.

Are you interested in guest blogging?

I am now accepting guest blog requests for 2018 starting on February 29th. If you’re interested contact me here.

If you’d like to participate, here’s what you need to qualify:

  • you are a published author – traditional or Indie or any other way that I don’t know about,

OR

  • you are about to publish and have a launch date within a week of blog post,

AND

  • you want to promote other authors and spread everyone’s successes,
  • you write novels with a hint of mystery,
  • you are willing to engage in the comments section when readers comment on your post.

All I ask from you is that you follow my blog, comment on author’s posts and help share via Twitter and Facebook.  If you’re interested send me a message via my contact page.

The Requitements:

You’ll have to send me your bio, back text of your novel, author photo and book cover.

I’d like you to write something about yourself, your novel, your research, a writing tip or a publishing tip. Please keep in mind I am a family friendly blog.

I do reserve the right to edit anything I think might be inappropriate for my audience, which I will discuss with you first. I think anything under 700 words is great, but it’s your book so up to you.

I’m looking forward to hearing from you and sharing your novel with the Internet world.

Mystery Mondays: Val Tobin on the value of Beta Readers

This week on Mystery Mondays, I’m thrilled to host author Val Tobin.  Val has a great process for working with beta readers and editors.  Over to Val…

The Value of Beta Readers

by Val Tobin

I recently came across some writers who don’t use beta readers or who limit their beta readers to one trusted person. This puzzles me. I value my beta readers. Not only do I have a core group I can send my manuscript to, but I always recruit one or two new readers each time.

In his book On Writing, Stephen King mentions he writes for an ideal reader: his wife. She’s the first one to read his work when he’s ready to open the office door and share his creation with another human being. He values her feedback and wouldn’t consider not having her input on the raw material.

In my case, my ideal reader is my mother. She’s always the first beta to read my manuscript. I don’t pass it along to anyone else until she’s read it through. While Mom isn’t a professional writer, she’s an avid reader, a creative personality, and a talented artist. When she gives me feedback, I listen carefully.

Some might wonder if she’s biased – I’m her kid, after all – but anyone who knows her knows she speaks her mind. Once the story has passed through the trial-by-Mom fire and survived, I can hand it out to other betas.

This list typically includes a professional novel writer or two; a friend with a PhD in psychology who used to be a prison guard, a parole officer, and an air force pilot (not in that order); a couple of avid readers; my sister, who has a degree in human biology; and any experts I might enlist.

The experts vary depending on what I’ve written, and they might read just a small section that pertains to their area of expertise. For example, The Experiencers includes a scene with a hypnotherapy session, so I asked a hypnotherapist to read that particular chapter and provide feedback. I wanted to make sure the scene was credible.

While I welcome and appreciate feedback from my betas, this isn’t writing by committee. Some of their suggestions don’t fit my story goals. What I look for in the high-level feedback is where readers get bored or where they sense something off. This lack could be in missing or extraneous scenes, incorrect pacing, faulty characterization, too sparse or too verbose description, vague setting, or off-key tone, but most readers won’t recognize that – they’ll simply point out the part that stalled them, and I’ll take it from there.

If multiple betas point out the same issue, then I will change it. This is why it’s important to me to have more than one beta reader. Sometimes one person might have an issue with something that others deem to be a strength. For example, a sex scene in A Ring of Truth was described as gratuitous by two betas but considered necessary by four others when I asked them specifically about the scene.

In my own mind, the scene was necessary. It served as a way to traumatize a character who had been cavalier about sex up until this point. The situation forced him to evaluate how he views women and relationships, but the revelations didn’t all come in a flood as soon as the scene occurred. He had to grow into the epiphanies. The trauma provided the impetus to change.

Could I have toned it down? Faded to black and still created the trauma? Sure, but it wouldn’t have had the same impact. When writing the scene, I tried to strike a balance between graphic and too subtle, but it had to provide at least a small visceral hit or the point would be lost.

In this instance, the scene remained as is until my editor got to it. He asked me to shorten it and I did. Someone reading with the eye of a professional editor carries more weight, and when he provided valid reasons to reduce the word count there, I made the modifications. The betas alerted me to the possible issue, I evaluated their feedback and made a judgement call, and my editor provided the professional-level feedback required to give it the final polish.

After its release, one reader who reviewed A Ring of Truth nailed the purpose of all the sex scenes in the story when he/she wrote “Sex is a weapon, a tool and a healing.” It’s gratifying when readers get it.

In my opinion, this illustrates exactly why beta readers are invaluable. They don’t exist to tell a writer what to do but to help a writer polish a story. When you’re the creator of the story, you’re too close to it. Readers will point out inconsistencies you miss. They provide an invaluable service, and those who volunteer are thrilled to be part of the process.

Who is Val Tobin?

val-tobin-author-profile-1000x667Val studied general arts at the University of Waterloo, then went to DeVry Toronto to get a diploma in Computer Information Systems. She worked in the computer industry as a software and Web developer for over ten years, during which time she started to get serious about energy work and the paranormal and occult.

In October 2004, Val became a certified Reiki Master/Teacher. She acquired ATP® certification in March 2008, in Kona, Hawaii from Doreen Virtue, PhD.

Val started work on a bachelor of science in parapsychic science from the American Institute of Holistic Theology in March of 2007 and received her degree in September 2010. After obtaining her master’s degree in parapsychology at AIHT, Val has set her sights on the PhD, which she’ll pursue as time and finances permit.

At the end of October 2008, Val returned to Kona, Hawaii to complete the Advanced ATP® training and in April 2010 to take the Spiritual Writing workshop and the Mediumship Certification class. Val wrote freelance for content site Suite101 and was Topic Editor for Paganism/Wicca and Webmaster Resources at Suite.

A published author, she contributed a story to Doreen Virtue’s Hay House book Angel Words. Her novels are available from various retailers in both e-book and paperback.

The Valiant Chronicles

box set 1x3 28nov2017Three Exciting Novels in one box set from Award-Winning Author Val Tobin:

The Experiencers

Not killing her might be the death of him.

Black-ops Assassin Michael Valiant questions his agency’s motives when he’s ordered to silence a group of UFO enthusiasts who look less like terrorists than they do housewives and nerds. Michael finds himself running for his life and dragging his intended target along with him.

Can he save them both, or will the Agency and the aliens find them first?

A Ring of Truth

Some heroes come disguised as monsters.

To ensure her daughter’s safety, Carolyn Fairchild has surrendered to the Agency and the aliens. In retaliation, Michael Valiant, Agency assassin, has gone rogue. He’s made his way to the Northwest Territories to find the alien base in the Valley of the Headless Men. But time is running out, and the abductees are scheduled to be terminated. Who will survive the rampage?

Earthbound

Nothing says bad day like waking up dead.

Who killed Jayden McQueen? Why? How?

In her quest to find answers, Jayden sets in motion events that propel humanity towards a future already written. But just because events appear inevitable doesn’t mean you shouldn’t fight them. Does it?

Earthbound is #23 on the 50 Best Indie Books 2017 Award list from ReadFreely.

Contact Information

Website: www.valtobin.com

Blog: bobandval.wordpress.com

Twitter: twitter.com/valandbob

Facebook: www.facebook.com/valtobinauthor/

Amazon Author Page: www.amazon.com/Val-Tobin/e/B00KC5S69K

Smashwords Author Page: www.smashwords.com/profile/view/valtobin

Mystery Mondays: Mary Clark on Exploring Family Dynamics

This week on Mystery Mondays, author Mary Clark is here to talk about her laster novel, Racing The Sun.

Over to Mary…

Exploring Family Dynamics

by Mary Clark

My latest book, Racing The Sun, is interwoven with surprises, some gently delivered, others more brutal. In several cases, accidents change lives. They also bring together people who wouldn’t have otherwise met. The main character, Leila Payson, a Miami high school teacher, finds that occupation not precarious enough; she moves through the world stirring things up, but not with careless force, but instead at a thoughtful pace. But the world has its surprises for her, too. And these come from close to home.

Her father has been looking into his family history at the suggestion of a life coach (who may be more than that). He shows Leila his DNA results and urges her to sign up on the same genealogy site and take the test as well. She’s interested in finding out about her mother’s line. But then her busy life intervenes and she doesn’t think about this much.

One day she receives an email that her test results are in.

On the site an icon flashed saying she had a hundred and forty notices of DNA matches. The first message said, Hello, our DNA tests say we’re related. Closely related. Get in touch with me if you want. Barb.

Leila wrote back: This is exciting. Who are your parents? Mine are Robert Payson and Kate Garrigus. I thought I knew all my close relatives.

The message came in later that day: Kate Garrigus was a good friend of my mother’s. My mother said she couldn’t have children, so she asked someone to be a surrogate for her. Did your mother ever say anything about this?

Well, no, she hadn’t. Leila asks where Barb lives and discovers it’s not far away. The two arrange to meet in a neutral place, and there Leila receives a great shock. Her understanding of her mother and their relationship changes forever.

With the advent of DNA tests, family secrets are being brought to light. This is one of the little mysteries in Racing The Sun. In this book, I attempt to explore the deep but subtle ways our lives change. That change is our responsibility: whether we let go of others, or reach out, whether we mask our pain, or work through it, whether we retreat from life with suspicion and hatred, or approach with curiosity and love. In our modern lives, change happens fast and almost continuously. Some of it is superficial, although alluring, which tries our ability to distinguish fact from fiction. Some change, though, is fundamental, and carries with it the mystery of our future lives.

RACING THE SUN

Racing The Sun Book Cover SmallLeila and her friends are back with more adventures in this sequel to Miami Morning. Leila works to start her new group, bringing together people of varying abilities. She meets Doug, a paraplegic, who wants to design and build better wheelchairs.
Her relationship with Mark evolves, and she discovers both her father and mother have secret lives. Raoul, her former hearing-impaired student, is back. And so is Mrs. Grisjun, the combative guidance counselor.
Leila’s friend Dov goes to Cuba in search of his new love, the hunky bird guide, Nìco. Cran, the father of Leila’s friend Charles, and husband of the erstwhile Berry, loves his vintage cars. After a racing accident, his life takes a different course.
And when will Leila—inspired by Doug’s experience—first discover she is also racing the sun?

Who Is Mary Clark?

MaryClarkSept2010Mary A. Clark was born in New Brunswick, New Jersey, USA, to parents who lived on the Rutgers University campus. Her family moved to Florida, where she spent her formative years, and where she was infused with awe and respect for the natural world. She also became aware of the lives of migrant workers, segregation, and the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement. Upon moving back to New Jersey, she completed high school near Plainfield and attended a county college before receiving a scholarship to Rutgers.

She graduated from Rutgers-Newark College of Arts and Sciences in 1972 with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. She had a strong sense of being a misfit, which propelled her to find her own place and occupation. She moved to New York City, and worked at the Poetry Festival at St. Clement’s Church, in the then outcast wilds of the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood. For many years she lived in Hell’s Kitchen and worked for community organizations. In 1993 she started a monthly community newspaper, combining her two loves: the neighborhood and writing.  Later she relocated to Florida, and then moved to Virginia where she lives with her mother and three rescue cats.

Her books include: Tally: An Intuitive Life, a creative memoir, and Miami Morning, a Leila Payson novel, both published by All Things That Matter Press. A novel-in-verse, Children of Light, is available on Kindle, published by BardPress/Ten Penny Players. Her poetry has appeared in The Archer, Jimson Weed (University of Virginia at Wise), and Waterways: Poetry in the Mainstream. Some of her memoir, Into The Fire: A Poet’s Journey through Hell’s Kitchen, is online at Scribd.com. Her blog is: literaryeyes.wordpress.com, and her Facebook Author page: facebook.com/maryclarkbooks.

Mystery Mondays: An Inside Look at Anthologies by Medames of Mayhem

When M.H Callway approached me about hosting Medames of Mayhems on Mystery Mondays, I was thrilled! As a Canadian, showcasing a collection of Canadian mystery authors makes me proud of the writers in our little country.

The newly released Anthology is a must read for mystery lovers. You’ll get exposed to a variety of styles and stories, so why not check it out.

Now over to the Medames…

13 CLAWS BY THE MESDAMES OF MAYHEM

What is 13 Claws?

claws2

13 Claws is the third anthology by the Mesdames of Mayhem. It’s a collection of 17 crime fiction stories by 15 authors, three of whom are newcomers to the genre.

We are all animal lovers so it’s natural we’d pen tales centred on our non-human friends. Caro Soles rescues dachshunds from puppy mills and Melodie Campbell’s “Frankenpoodle” works as a therapy dog. All of us own – or have owned – a cat or a dog and like Jane Burfield, several of each at the same time. Cheryl Freedman though favours much more exotic pets: ferrets!

Few cozies in our book though. Perhaps it’s the influence of our troubled times, but our writing has taken a decidedly darker turn.

Who are the Mesdames of Mayhem?

We are 15 established Canadian crime fiction authors. Most of us have won or been nominated for major awards like the Arthur Ellis, Edgar, Derringer, Debut Dagger, Bony Pete and Ippy.

Back in 2013, I had the idea that my two literary critique groups should join forces on social media. Donna Carrick designed our website, set up our Facebook and Twitter accounts – and the Mesdames of Mayhem were born.

Our goal is to promote Canadian crime fiction. Many readers here at home don’t realize that their favorite crime writers may be Canadian. And of course, many American readers never hear about Canadian titles.

We work to promote women crime writers and many of us are longstanding members of Sisters in Crime. It might surprise readers that Sisters in Crime has Brother members, men who promote equity for women authors. I’m happy to say that the Mesdames have a Monsieur of Mayhem, Ed Piwowarczyk.

All of us are published short story writers and most of us are novelists. Several of us are also proficient in other forms of fiction: Lisa De Nikolits and Sylvia Warsh are literary authors; Melodie Campbell and Caro Soles have written books in fantasy and speculative fiction; and Rosemary Aubert is a respected poet. Catherine Dunphy is a biographer and she and Madonna Skaff write for young adults.

For details, do check out our website.

Why create three anthologies?

13 Claws is our third anthology. When we first got together, we thought that an mesdames-thirteen-coveranthology would be a great way readers could get to know the work of many different writers. We do write from comedy to noir. Even better, our readers could go on to read more books and stories by the writers they enjoyed.

To our delight, Thirteen, did really well and the stories by Donna Carrick and Sylvia Warsh were nominated for the Arthur Ellis Short Story award. That encouraged us to issue our second anthology, 13 O’clock with crime stories focused on time. And later, our third collection, 13 Claws.

Why “Thirteen” in the titles?

When we put together our first anthology, 13 of us contributed stories. So I thought: why not simply call our collection Thirteen?

And 13 has proved to be our lucky number! Promoting our anthologies has led to numerous public readings, warm partnerships with our public libraries and community theatres, participation in literary festivals like Word on The Street, radio interviews, you name it – more publicity than we ever anticipated or imagined.

13 Claws features three newcomers? How did that happen?

We love to teach. Several of us teach or have taught creative writing: Catherine Astolfo, Rosemary Aubert, Mel Campbell, Cathy Dunphy, Lynne Murphy, Rosemary McCracken, Caro Soles and Sylvia Warsh.

For 13 Claws, we ran a contest for writers who had never published a crime fiction story. Our winner, Mary Patterson, has a delightful story about a cat detective though she’s actually a dog lover. Our finalist, Roz Place wrote a chilling suspense tale about a disappearance revealed by a cat. And in our other runner-up, Marilyn Kay’s police procedural, a stray cat is at the heart of dark crime.

What do reviewers say about 13 Claws?

Our previous anthologies have been warmly reviewed but we were especially delighted to be singled out by Jack Batten, the crime fiction reviewer at the Toronto Star, who had this to say about 13 Claws:

In one especially clever story by Catherine Dunphy, we get a plot built around boxes of animal crackers.

But just because the contributors to the collection write out of an affection for animals doesn’t mean readers need similar feelings to appreciate the stories. There’s enough suspense and intellectual fascination built into the plots of the majority of stories to satisfy even the most ferociously cynophobic reader. Catherine Astolfo’s story involving a pig offers an intriguing way of giving Paul Bernardo himself a case of the chills. And M. H. Callway’s tale mixes snakes and the real estate business in a way that will make readers run a mile from both.

Maureen Jennings, creator of the famous Murdoch series, writes:

A great mix of shuddery dark and tongue-in-cheek funny. What devious minds all these nice women have.

And Vanessa Westermann, reviewer for Sleuth of Baker Street newsletters, writes:

I can only recommend it. There’s something here for everyone. The stories, ranging from cozy mysteries to thrillers, feature cats, dogs, dragons and snakes – some of which are quite mischievous. As stated on the Mesdames’ website, the writers all share one mission: to thrill readers with their passion for Crime Fiction.

WHO IS M. H. CALLWAY?

windigo

M.H. Callway is the pen name of Madeleine Harris-Callway, the founding member of the Mesdames of Mayhem. Her debut thriller, Windigo Fire, was short-listed for the Arthur Ellis Best First Novel award.

Her award-winning short crime fiction stories and novellas have been published in several anthologies and mystery magazines and are available in the book, Glow Grass and Other Tales.

 

Where to Find Out More

www.mesdamesofmayhem.com

Amazon link to 13 Claws:

Amazon link to Thirteen:

Amazon link to 13 O’clock: