Author Archives: Vinnie Hansen

Setting Dilemma (plus a New Release)

by Vinnie Hansen

Sue Grafton and Marcia Muller were my gateway drugs into mystery addiction. I had a slight preference for Grafton’s series except for one aspect. Sue Grafton set her stories in Santa Teresa, a thinly disguised Santa Barbara, while Marcia Muller, at least initially, set her tales of murder and mayhem in a real San Francisco.

When I started the two series, I lived in San Francisco, and Muller’s PI, Sharon McCone, resided on the street parallel to the house I rented with friends. I loved to imagine her backyard abutted mine. When I looked out my upstairs bedroom window, I viewed Bernal Heights and adored the idea that McCone worked in a law office right over there.

Bernal Heights (photo by Timothy Vollmer, CC-BY 2.0, Wikimedia Coomons)

Bernal Heights in San Francisco (photo by Timothy Vollmer, CC-BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons)

I couldn’t understand why Grafton had relinquished this charm. Everyone figured out Santa Teresa was Santa Barbara anyway.

So when I began my own mystery series, I decided to place it in a real Santa Cruz, which had definite appeal to my local fans. People have purchased my books simply because particular haunts were mentioned.

However, I created a fictional restaurant for my protagonist Carol Sabala’s work place, and site of the first murder in the series. I also made Carol different from myself, taller, younger, half Mexican-American, and a California native with a small family. Carol was a baker with PI ambitions, while I was a teacher.

In One Tough Cookie, my second mystery, I didn’t want another person to die at the restaurant, so I transported Carol to Watsonville High School, my actual place of employment. Since this was a public institution rather than a private business, I decided not to give it a fictitious name. With twenty-twenty hindsight, I would never recommend this choice to anyone!

Vinnie posing on the Watsonville High School sign

A younger me at Watsonville High

Even though the characters were fictional, at minimum amalgams of many people, my colleagues identified them as this person or that. This tendency of theirs filled me with anxiety since many of the characters behaved badly.

Of course, local readers probably would have formed these opinions even if I’d given the high school a different name. Since I worked at Watsonville High, they would have ID’d any school as Watsonville High just as everyone knows Santa Teresa is Santa Barbara. And they would have speculated on which characters represented which colleagues, just as readers who know me imagine Carol Sabala as me, even with her long hair and questionable actions.

That’s why, with the rewrite and re-release of One Tough Cookie, I decided not to give Watsonville High School a fictitious name. Also, I’ve been retired for five years now, and a fresh team of educators occupies the school. I don’t think readers will make the same associations they did before. (At least I hope they don’t.)

And the real location may work some magic, the way Muller’s San Francisco captivated me.

Readers, do you enjoy stories set in real places you’re familiar with, in which you can recognize streets and favorite haunts? Writers, how do you feel about using real vs. fictitious settings in your stories?

Drum roll, please!! Here is the new release (under the misterio press imprint) of…

One Tough Cookie, A Carol Sabala Mystery

OneToughCookie
Carol Sabala’s boss sends the baker and amateur sleuth on a mission: find out who tampered with a teacher’s cookie dough and sickened the faculty. While Carol hones her investigative skills by gathering clues on the campus, a student is found dead on the high school’s stage. Did she fall? Commit suicide? Or did a killer hurl her from the catwalk?

When Carol seeks answers, a ruthless stalker comes after her!

Now Available on AMAZON and SMASHWORDS

 

Posted by Vinnie Hansen. Vinnie fled the South Dakota prairie for the California coast the day after graduating high school. She is the author of the Carol Sabala mysteries and was a Claymore Award finalist for Black Beans & Venom, the seventh and latest installment in that series. She’s also written many published short stories. Retired after 27 years of teaching English at Watsonville High School, Vinnie lives in Santa Cruz with her husband, abstract artist Daniel S. Friedman.

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

8 Ways For an Introvert to Enjoy a Convention

by Vinnie Hansen

As authors, we often attend conventions. Probably you have done so as well in the course of your career.

After several Left Coast Crime Conventions and one Killer Nashville Convention, as a painful introvert, I finally have the hang of how to enjoy these events. This is the wisdom I’ve gleaned:

The Willamette River in Portland

The Willamette River in Portland, Oregon

1.  See the venue. On my trip to Nashville, exhausted as I was, I caught a hotel shuttle to the downtown strip at night and walked place to place until I heard music that appealed to me—The Don Kelley band at Robert’s.

At the recent Left Coast Crime, the sun was shining when I arrived in Portland. Knowing the weather wouldn’t hold, I seized the moment and walked to Powell’s Books. These were unforgettable experiences. In both cases I went with another person I didn’t know well. I feel bonded to them through the shared activity, which brings me to tip #2.

My new friend, Cindy Brown, author of MacDeath

My new friend, Cindy Brown, author of MacDeath

2.  Attend the convention alone. If you go with a good friend or spouse, you’ll spend too much time together. It’s natural, especially for a shy person like me. A huge benefit of a conference is meeting other writers and making new friends. Which brings me to tip #3.

3.  Park the idea that the conference is mainly about selling books. All writers want book sales, but that’s my point. Attendees can develop marketing fatigue. They tire of people thrusting books in their faces. Calm down. Let people get to know you. Share yourself. Then maybe they’ll buy your book. But . . .

Vinnie's bookmark
4.  Be prepared. Take bookmarks and/or cards and have them handy. Tuck some in the conference lanyard pocket. I kick myself for every time I had interest in my book and was not able to hand the person my info.

5.  Promote others. If you like someone else’s book, give it a plug. It builds friendships and good karma.

6.  Get involved. I’ve asked for and been lucky to receive panel assignments at all the conventions I’ve attended. I’ve made lasting connections with my panel mates. But volunteering is another way to form bonds. I don’t regret a minute of the hour I spent “manning” the Sisters in Crime table in Portland, or the time I spent helping Robin Burcell heft around boxes of books in Monterey.

Lovely, Dark & Deep: What Makes a Literary Mystery panel with authors John Addiego, Jennifer Bosworth, Deborah Reed, Susanna Calkins and Vinnie Hansen

Lovely, Dark & Deep: What Makes a Literary Mystery panel with authors John Addiego, Jennifer Bosworth, Deborah Reed, Susanna Calkins and me (far right)

7.  Observe your surroundings. As writers, isn’t that imperative? I met people who holed up in their rooms to make their word counts and I admire their discipline. But what do we write about if we don’t observe what’s around us?

judge with a fluffy white catThe Portland DoubleTree had a Cat Fanciers Show right next door. For the nominal fee of four dollars, I discovered a fascinating foreign world and gained a wealth of information.

8.  Take photos. They are so important for follow-up Facebook posts or blogs like this one. And, at my age, they really help me to remember all those people I met!

These simple practices have transformed my convention experience from intimidating to stimulating.

Have you had to attend conventions for your job? How do you feel about them?

OneToughCookieComing soon! The re-release of One Tough Cookie, A Carol Sabala Mystery, under the misterio press imprint. So stay tuned.

Posted by Vinnie Hansen. Vinnie is a retired English teacher and award-winning author. Her cozy noir mystery series, the Carol Sabala mysteries, is set in Santa Cruz, California.

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

Contemplating Christmas and Cuba

by Vinnie Hansen

With the release of Black Beans & Venom, my seventh Carol Sabala mystery, my mind turns to Cuba, the book’s setting.

My husband and I ventured there during December, 2010, partly to attend the International Jazz Festival. But one doesn’t have to attend an event to hear the Latin beats there. Full bands perform on the sidewalk. Guitar and woodblock duets float from a park, and trombone players practice on the seawall.

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I did not miss the canned muzak that assaults us during the holiday season in the United States. In this communist country we saw few signs of Christmas—and heard fewer.

Which is not to say I dislike Christmas music. Last year the ukulele group for which I play keyboards, the All in Good Time Orchestra (AIGT), performed Oh Holy Night at two holiday events.

When that music swelled and our vocals rose in “Fall on your knees/Oh hear the angel voices,” the vibration filled me with ecstasy.

Vinnie playing her keyboard with ukulele band.

Vinnie rockin’ it with her ukulele posse, the All in Good Time Orchestra

Since other groups also performed Oh Holy Night, this year our director suggested we do a piece that no one else would do—a Paul McCartney song. I expected a familiar tune. Instead I was introduced to a short melancholy piece that is now stuck in my head like an earworm.

Junk is not a Christmas song. But after once again watching people on Black Friday punch each other in order to score a television set, the lyrics speak to me. To paraphrase: Buy, buy the ads cry, but why, why the discarded junk asks.

Which brings me back to Cuba, a place singularly lacking in true junk. We all picture the old American cars there, but those aren’t the only things kept alive on the Caribbean island. Between the U.S. embargo and the collapse of the Soviet Union, the people lack supplies.

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So a wooden seat is crafted for an old bike. A worn tennis ball becomes a kid’s baseball. Old headlights are brightened with silver paint.

 

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Kids play with slingshots fashioned from branches and elastic. A cart with no wheels squeaks by on rusty rims.

So many of the details of Cuba wormed their way into my heart and into Black Beans & Venom.  While primarily a story of suspense, the book is also a tribute to the resourcefulness of the Cuban people.

As the holiday season commences and AIGT rehearses Junk, I think of this island country pressed into recycling, reusing, and repurposing. Is there a way to catch that spirit of resourcefulness, I wonder, without being forced into it?

Are there countries or regions you’ve visited where you were particularly impressed by the locals? What’s your favorite Christmas music?

book cover Black Beans and Venom, A Carol Sabala Mystery

No one wants P.I. Carol Sabala to take the case. Her boss is apprehensive about an illegal investigation in Cuba. Carol’s boyfriend worries about her physical safety. But the client is rolling in dough, the office has unpaid bills, and Carol chafes under the mundane tasks assigned to her.

In Old Havana, Carol sets off to track down Megan, the client’s missing daughter, who is battling metastasizing cancer and running from a sociopathic boyfriend. Struggling in the exotic world of the island, Carol races to find Megan, before the disease or her ex-boyfriend kills her.

Now available on AMAZON and SMASHWORDS

Posted by Vinnie Hansen. Vinnie is a retired English teacher and award-winning author. Her cozy noir mystery series, the Carol Sabala mysteries, is set in Santa Cruz, California.

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week,  usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

Spooky Nights

by Vinnie Hansen

As night falls, we advance toward the 100-year-old mausoleum in the cemetery. There is no electricity. Candles and a kerosene lamp light the way.

vINNIES POST mausoleum

Me reading by lamplight

Vinnie reading by lamplight

Here in Santa Rosa Memorial Park, I join seven other mystery writers to read our spooky stories in the echoing marble chambers.

Even though we are competing with the Giants playing in the World Series, the annual event draws a standing-room-only crowd.

No one rose from the dead around us except in our tales.

However, two nights later, at the Dead Writers Costume Party, three local Santa Cruz writers used an Ouija board to conjure up Edgar Allan Poe. Asked what he wished he’d written about, Poe replied: H-O-E-S

Three "dead" authors conjuring up a 4th one.

Three “dead” authors conjuring up a 4th one.

vinnies post HP Lovecraft

This delightful evening, a fundraiser for the Young Writers Program, featured H.P. Lovecraft as an animated host.

I resurrected my Emily Dickinson outfit for the evening. Before I retired as a teacher, I would wear the costume when teaching Dickinson. I’d stay in character for the entire class, in spite of questions like, “Are you a virgin?” and “What’s it like to be dead?”

I also rubbed shoulders with the lovely Beatrix Potter who brought along her hedgehog and Peter Rabbit.

Vinnie as Emily Dickinson, with "Beatrix Potter"

Vinnie as Emily Dickinson, with “Beatrix Potter”

Among others in attendance were Kurt Vonnegut, Dashiell Hammett, Mark Twain, Djuna Barnes, Virginia Woolf, and an imposter Emily Dickinson. Authors were invited to read and I recited “my” poem:

A word is dead
When it is said,
Some say.
I say it just
Begins to live
That day.

If you had gone, which author would you have impersonated? Why? And which author would you have wanted to contact in the Great Beyond?

Posted by Vinnie Hansen. Vinnie is a retired English teacher and award-winning author. Her cozy noir mystery series, the Carol Sabala mysteries, is set in beautiful Santa Cruz, California.

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week,  usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

The Big 6-0 (plus a new release)

by Vinnie Hansen

I just turned 60. Shhhhhhh. I received my first official senior discount at the Museum of Decorative Arts in Prague.

I’ve been told these are the wonder years as in, “I wonder where I left those keys?”

Or the “hereafter” years, as in “I wonder what I came in here after?”

Attack of the 50-yr-old Woman poster

The poster my friends made for my big 5-0 birthday

Like all decade birthdays, the Big 6-0 rears up and demands notice. What do the sixties hold?

I passed through remarriage, moving and menopause in my forties. I retired from my teaching career in my fifties.

In the three stages of womanhood, I skipped motherhood and went right from “maiden” to “crone.” Or, maybe that rich mid-section of my life was about motherhood in the sense of birthing my books.

So, what’s left? I’ve learned that the answer to my question is kan reki, sometimes spelled as one word kanrekiKan means “cycle” and reki means “calendar,” but my friend Yoshie told me that I could just think of it as “good year.” How lovely!

In eastern culture, sixty is the preeminent birthday. The lunar calendar has a sixty-year kan or cycle, during which the twelve animal signs—rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog and pig—pass through the five elements—metal, water, wood, fire and earth. I have just completed my journey through one complete cycle of the reki, or calendar. We are now in The Year of the Horse and 2014 is a wood year, the same conditions that existed at the time of my birth.

What does this all mean? This is the year for me to take stock of where I am before beginning my second 60-year cycle of life. This is a time for transformation, the year for rebirth.

Japanese characters for kan reki

Yoshie sent me these Japanese characters for kan reki. On a 60th birthday a Japanese person often dresses in red for good luck, and the birthday celebration focuses on the theme of rebirth. The Japanese pulled this tradition from Chinese culture. The special kan reki celebration is also common in Korea and Hawaii.

Already this has been the year of the rebirth of my mystery series. Previously indie published, the books are being re-released from misterio press. The dazzling exteriors look professional. The interiors are more polished. Perhaps the books will prove a prophetic metaphor for my self—snappier exterior and smoother interior.

Even though my husband claims that I am mighty fine the way I am, I love the idea that now is the perfect time to create myself anew.

Vinnie and husband in front of Lennon Wall

The newly-minted 60-year-old me (wearing red pants!) with husband Daniel at the Lennon Wall in Prague.

This month, I’m also celebrating the re-release of Art, Wine and Bullets under the misterio press imprint. Please check it out below, and then talk to me in the comments. What was your last Big O birthday, and how did you deal with it?

book cover for Art, Wine and Bullets

An innocent visit to a premiere Santa Cruz gallery turns into a nightmare case for Private Investigator Carol Sabala. The strangled body of the gallery owner offers an opportunity to cement her reputation and to save her employer from insolvency. But precious time spent assisting her photographer boyfriend impedes her investigation while his sudden obsession with photographing her impedes their relationship.

When Carol plunges into an art world offering urban graffiti to paintings of polka-dotted cats, she confronts the age-old questions: What is art? What defines an artist? She also confronts what defines a successful private investigator as she unravels much more than a murder case.

Available on   AMAZON  and  BARNES & NOBLE

Posted by Vinnie Hansen. Vinnie is a retired English teacher who has received several awards for her stories and books. She is the author of the Carol Sabala mystery series.

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week,  usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

Break Out the Bubbly!!

(photo by ori2uru, CC 2.0 license, Wikimedia Commons)

(photo by ori2uru, CC 2.0, Wikimedia)

 

It’s time to break out the virtual bubbly again here
at misterio press because we have a BIG announce-
ment.

Drumroll, please… We are thrilled that a new
author, Vinnie Hansen, has joined our group!

Vinnie has some impressive credentials, including
a master’s degree in creative writing and a bunch
of literary awards. She’s led a checkered an
adventurous life, and we are tickled pink that she’s
landed with us here at misterio, bringing her
intrepid heroine, Carol Sabala, along with her.

We are also please to announce the re-release of
Murder, Honey (the first Carol Sabala book) under the misterio press imprint. Over the next year or so, the plan is to bring the whole series in under the misterio umbrella.

So grab a glass of virtual champagne and pull up a chair. Here’s Vinnie to give us a snapshot of her journey through the ups and downs of life and writing.

Take it away, Vinnie…

Vinnie_authorTN

When I was a baby, the government built Highway 14 right through my parents’ shack. The family relocated to a house on the edge of tiny Philip, South Dakota, where I grew up with my nine brothers and sisters.

Vinnie Age 1 by dad's sign

Age 1, by one of my father’s signs. He painted signs for a living.

 

Vinnie Age 5 - Behind the house

Age 5 — already taking care of other creatures’ babies.

downtown Philip, SD

                                    Downtown Philip, SD

Starting at age ten, I was “farmed out” to my older siblings to take care of their babies.

This is how I came to be in Haight Ashbury, Golden Gate Park and Guerneville, California in 1967, 1969 and 1970. When I returned home wearing bellbottoms and a puffy shirt, my dad remarked that letting me go to California was “like turning a horse loose in an alkaline pasture.”

The day after I graduated from high school, I left South Dakota in a Woody, but the car threw a rod outside of Flagstaff, Arizona. I sold it and bought a bus ticket to L.A., arriving in the middle of the night. I hid from the pimps in the bathroom. My sister-in-law rescued me.

Even though I had been a valedictorian, no one had mentioned college. I had no plans beyond a summer exchange program in Switzerland. I owe my brother Wayne for turning me on to community college. My first night class was Creative Writing. I was hooked!

I eventually earned a bachelor’s and then a master’s degree in English, the latter with an emphasis in Creative Writing. Flannery O’Connor was once asked if she thought universities stifled writers. She responded, “My opinion is that they don’t stifle enough of them.”

I left college thinking I was hot stuff and set off to write The Great American Novel.

Up to that point, I had worked jobs from delivering newspapers to nude modeling. When I finally had to get serious about earning a living, I returned to school for a teaching credential.

Vinnie posing on the Watsonville High School signOn a Friday, I landed a job at Watsonville High School. I moved the 80 miles from San Francisco to Santa Cruz during the weekend and started my new job on Monday—teaching four different courses in four different classrooms.

During my 27-year career, I was lucky enough to teach Creative Writing and to serve as advisor for the campus literary magazine. I continued to pursue my writing dream. My stories appeared in several literary and mystery magazines and my short story collection was a semi-finalist for the Iowa School of Letters Award.

In 1999, I started my Carol Sabala mystery series with Murder, Honey. The book was in first-person and set in Santa Cruz, but I didn’t want people to think the protagonist was me. (Silly me!)

Yet, the adage “write what you know” had been drilled into me. At the time, I was married to Mr. Wrong, a sous chef at an upscale Santa Cruz restaurant. So I made my heroine a baker/amateur sleuth at a swanky dining establishment.

When I got divorced, so did Carol Sabala. She moved on to new men and new venues. I liked that my main character was growing and changing over the years. Like me, as her knees gave out, she changed hobbies from volleyball to mountain biking. The ukulele band with which I play keyboard snuck its way into my latest mystery, Art, Wine & Bullets. I’m currently a yogini, but haven’t included yoga yet in a mystery.

Vinnie doing a yoga pose on the Santa Cruz dockMy series now contains seven books, one of which won a Best Book of Fiction of 2005 award (that was a great day!) and another was a 2013 Claymore Award Finalist.

In my work-in-progress, I come full circle, sending Carol Sabala to South Dakota.

I am thrilled to continue my literary journey with misterio press!

Kass here again. Please check out the new edition of Vinnie’s Murder, Honey, with updated text and its great new cover!  (Psst! I’ll also be celebrating the re-release of my first novel later this month.)

Murder, Honey book cover

 

When the head chef collapses into baker Carol Sabala’s cookie dough, she is thrust into her first murder investigation. There is no shortage of suspects at Archibald’s, the swanky Santa Cruz restaurant where Carol works. The head chef cut a swath of people who wanted him dead, from ex-lovers to bitter rivals to greedy relatives. Even Carol had plotted his demise! 

Available on AMAZON for just $3.95  (It will be out in paperback very soon!) 

And pleased join me in welcoming Vinnie to misterio press!

 

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week,  usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not harvest, lend, sell or otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses.)