Category Archives: Crime Fiction Writers (Interviews)

Crime Writer’s Interview…A New Misterio Author, Sasscer Hill!

We are delighted to announce that we have a new misterio author, Sasscer Hill. Please help us welcome her to our happy band of mystery writers! (She was already scheduled for a crime writer’s interview when we invited her to join us.)

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a new misterio press author, Sasscer Hill

Sasscer Hill was involved in horse racing as an amateur jockey and racehorse breeder for most of her life. She sets many of her novels against a background of big money, gambling, and horse racing. Her mystery and suspense thrillers have won multiple awards and many award nominations.

Her newest title and first non-horse racing mystery, is Travels of Quinn, a mystery-thriller based on a real American group of gypsy con artists.

Kass (on behalf of the whole gang: I am so pleased to welcome you to misterio press, Sasscer! What can you tell our readers to help them get to know you better?

Sasscer Hill: I was born with horses in my veins and started galloping about the family farm on a stick horse when I was four years old. By the time I was seven or eight, I was sneaking rides on the Belgian plow horses. I did this because my father didn’t like horses and considered ponies dangerous. So instead, I drummed my heels on the sides of a 2,000-pound draft mare, while grasping whatever string or rope I managed to tie to her halter.

a new misterio press author, Sasscer Hill

When I was sixteen, my father passed away. Shortly after that, a wealthy banker and racehorse breeder, Alfred H. Smith, Sr. took me under his wing and gave me a right-off-the-track steeplechase horse to ride.

At sixteen, I was fearless, and by the time I was thirty-six, I was breeding racehorses on my family farm and even rode in and won a timber race in Potomac, Maryland.

Because I had so much experience breeding, raising, training, and racing my horses, writing a horse racing mystery seemed logical. My first book, Full Mortality was nominated for both Agatha and Macavity Best First Book Awards.

Kass: What subgenre of mysteries do you write—cozies, traditional whodunnits, historical?

a new misterio press author, Sasscer Hill
Sasscer’s first book

.

Sasscer: I call my subgenre, “Edgy Cozies.” Some of my characters swear every so often, and sex fires a bit of heat in some of my books.

Not the kind of graphic, gratuitous sex you find in some romance novels, but if there’s a particularly handsome and sexy male in the story my heroine will always look twice, and sometimes more if it moves the plot forward.

Kass: What was your favorite book/author as a child? Why was it your favorite?

Sasscer: My favorite childhood book was The Black Stallion by Walter Farley. I loved all his wonderful action-adventure horse stories and devoured them, starting with a picture book of The Black Stallion given to me when I was three or four.

I’ve always loved books filled with mystery, action, and adventure. After reading everything by Walter Farley, I graduated to the Dick Francis horse racing mysteries. As I got older, I read everything by Robert Parker, then went through all the Dorothy Sayer, Ngaio Marsh, Josephine Tey, and other excellent writers of British mysteries.

The spare writing style of Francis and Parker is what I loved best, and my style tends to go in that direction. I’ve never liked books where the author wanders off into tangents and long descriptions. Anything that slows the pace down too much is a turn off for me.

Kass: So, you already have several books out, most traditionally published. With the latest book, what led to your decision to become an indie author?

I never fit in all that well in the work world. I much prefer self-employment. Novel writing is wonderful; if you write a good story, the readers don’t care if you’re the independent type.

I’ve been with two traditional publishers, one a very small press and the other a larger, better known one. I loved my editor there, but neither publisher did much in the way of marketing—despite the fact that Flamingo Road (my first book with the second publisher) received excellent reviews, including an editor’s pick in the Toronto Star, a starred Booklist review, and it won the $10,000 Ryan Award for Best Book in Horseracing Literature.

When I started working on Travels of Quinn, I suspected it was different enough that traditional publishers wouldn’t be interested. My agent did make an effort to sell it to several of them, but I became tired of the waiting game and self-published it in February of 2020.

Kass: And I read it and loved it, and that started the whole process that culminated with you joining us here at misterio. By the way, huge congrats for winning the Ryan Award!

Tell us, has there been anything particularly interesting you’ve ever had to research for your books?

Sasscer: The oddest thing I’ve ever researched was for the first Fia McKee book, Flamingo Road. There is a drug called Demorphin that was first used at Remington Park racetrack in Oklahoma. It is up to 100 times stronger than morphine and a few of the shoddiest and most horrible trainers were using it. Their sore or injured horses would run through the pain and win—if they didn’t break down before the finish line. The drug was made from enzymes and peptides collected off the skin of a certain South American tree frog. Race trackers referred to the drug as “frog juice.” 

a new misterio press author, Sasscer Hill

I got a tip from a former trainer that I should call Dr. Craig Stevens, a professor of pharmacology at Oklahoma State University. I did and he was delightful. We talked about everything from frog juice to how much we loved the series, “Breaking Bad.” Stevens was the doctor who produced the first test for Demorphin. Thanks to him, trainers were stopped from using this drug. 

But I needed frog juice for my book and asked him what if there was a different South American tree frog which also produced a Demorphin-like substance? And what if the chemical makeup was different enough that Stevens’s test wouldn’t catch it in a horse’s bloodstream? He said it was possible, and I almost did a happy dance knowing I had my drug for Flamingo Road.

In the recent Travels of Quinn, I had to write about Quinn’s time in prison. The novel takes place here in Aiken, SC, and I was lucky enough to meet with Capt. Nick Gallam, who runs the Aiken County detention center. He took me on a tour of the entire facility and answered every question I had.

Armed with accurate information and mental images of the women I’d seen in this prison, I was confident and enthusiastic as I wrote about Quinn’s experience in jail.

Kass: What are you working on now?

Sasscer: I was able to get the rights back for my Nikki Latrelle series. I’ve re-released them with new covers. My novel in progress, Shooting Star, will be my fifth Nikki Latrelle book, and I am delighted to be bringing it out with misterio press!

Kass: And we are delighted to have you as a misterio author!! Folks, see Sasscer’s new book, Travels of Quinn, below…and you can see my review of it on BookBub HERE.

You can connect with Sasscer on her website, or on Facebook, Goodreads and Instagram, and you can follow her on BookBub and/or Amazon for updates on new releases.

Travels of Quinn

Born into a subculture of American gypsies, Quinn’s father and stepfamily raise her to be a con artist. Can she escape a binding marriage contract and a life of crime?

Jailed for theft, Quinn pays restitution working on a horse farm. Unfamiliar with horses, her love for them surprises her. They make her hope for a better world.

Until the farm’s owner is brutally murdered and Quinn is the prime suspect.

On the run, Quinn uses every scam and con she knows to save herself. Can she find the real killer before she’s imprisoned for life or murdered because she knows too much?

A mystery-thriller of deceit, murder, greed and hope, by multiple award-winning author, Sasscer Hill.

Available at:

AMAZON ~ NOOK ~ APPLE ~ KOBO

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

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Crime Writers Interview: Nancy Nau Sullivan

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We periodically introduce our readers to other mystery writers whom they might find interesting. Because as we all know, there is no such thing as too many books to read, especially in these strange times when distraction is a very good thing.

Today, please help us welcome Nancy Nau Sullivan. Nancy has led an interesting life and has many stories to tell…

Nancy Nau Sullivan began writing wavy lines at age six, thinking it was the beginning of her first novel.

It wasn’t. But she didn’t stop writing. After eight years of newspaper work in high school and college, she contributed to editorial posts at New York magazines and for newspapers throughout the Midwest.

Nancy grew up outside Chicago but often visited Anna Maria Island, Florida. She returned there with her family and wrote an award-winning memoir, The Last Cadillac-––a harrowing adventure of travel, health issues, and adolescent angst, with a hurricane thrown in for good measure.

She went back to the Florida setting for her first cozy mystery, Saving Tuna Street, creating the fictional Santa Maria Island. Nancy now lives, for the most part, in Northwest Indiana…or anywhere near water.

Kassandra Lamb (on behalf of the misterio gang): We like to start with an open-ended, “tell us about yourself” question. What two or three things do you feel people need to know in order to understand who you are?

Nancy Nau Sullivan: I must have been born with a bitty little suitcase in my hand, because I can’t sit still—except to write. I was born in San Francisco, but grew up in Lansing, Illinois, in the steel belt outside Chicago. I moved 19 times with my ex-husband, a West Pointer. Over the years, I’ve lived in Spain, Argentina, Mexico, Germany, the South, and now I’m back home in Indiana near the kids.

This peripatetic life has influenced my writing. My new series has an international bent, starting in Santa Maria Island, Florida, a fictional adaptation of Anna Maria Island, my favorite place in the world.

Kass: What subgenre of mysteries do you write?

Nancy: The Blanche Murninghan mystery series is somewhere between traditional and cozy, mostly the latter. The first book, Saving Tuna Street (due out June 23, 2020), takes place on Santa Maria Island when the quiet little island comes under threat from land-grabbing goons. They want to  turn it into a mecca of McMansions. Blanche, who lives in a cabin on the beach, is having none of it—especially when her suspicions tell her the goons are also murderers, kidnappers, and a front for drug-runners.

I picked Santa Maria (fictional Anna Maria Island) because it’s the beloved setting for my memoir, The Last Cadillac. I’m inspired by setting. Blanche will go on to Mexico next, then Ireland, Spain, Argentina, and maybe Vietnam.

Kass: What was your favorite book/author as a child? Why was it your favorite?

Crime Writers Interview: Nancy Nau Sullivan

Nancy: All-of-a-Kind Family by Sydney Taylor and Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder.

I loved the Brooklyn “family” and their customs, and I can still see the maple syrup coming out of those trees in the “big woods.”

Later, I read all of Nancy Drew in her little motor car, finding lost jewels, with a doting father in the background.

Kass: I adored Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books as a kid. So, where are you in your writing career? Tell us a little about your stories.

Nancy: I worked at newspapers all through high school and college, and in New York City publishing following graduation, then went back to my first love, newspapers, for almost 20 years. Along the way, I was always diddling with stories. But it wasn’t until the 1990s, when my life exploded, that I wrote my first book, The Last Cadillac, a memoir of high family drama.

I joined the Peace Corp in 2013, and with no TV (the writer’s enemy), I started writing short stories  and sending them out for publication. I think that was a springboard to getting the memoir published in 2016. I went back to that setting to write Saving Tuna Street, my first mystery due out in June.

I’ve also written a novel about a woman who teaches in a boys’ prison and gets mixed up in their escape plan. The Boys of Alpha Block will be out next year. It’s based on my own teaching experience in a boys’ prison in Florida for five years. They did not escape, but they darn near did everything else in this novel.

Kass: What do you find to be the most fun and/or the most difficult part of the writing process—first draft, editing, researching? Why is that?

Crime Writers Interview: Nancy Nau Sullivan -- The Last Cadillac cover

Nancy: I dread the first draft, and I don’t know why. Once I sit down to write it, it usually flows. I figure if the writing gets boring, then the reader will be bored, so I stop. Take a walk or mop the kitchen floor (I have a very clean kitchen floor).

I am pretty much of a pantser, but I can see the rough arc of the story when I sit down to write. Once I’m in, I don’t want to get out until it’s done. And I love to edit and research.

I’m an old newspaper type with a master’s in journalism, so I guess it’s coded somewhere in my brain to edit and research, or the writing just won’t work.

Journalism requires tight writing and deadlines and checking the facts. The practice has helped because I can see where to cut and fill in later, how long it’s going to take (always longer), and where to pace.

Kass: What’s the oddest and/or most difficult thing you ever had to research?

Nancy: How to make a mummy!

In the No. 2 mystery in the Blanche Murninghan series, Down Mexico Way, which should be out in the summer of 2021, Blanche discovers that a mummy in a museum exhibit is not “real,” but was more recently manufactured.

I had to research ancient methods, and it was fascinating. You should have seen what turned up on my news feed!

Kass: In Saving Tuna Street, your first mystery, what was your favorite (or hardest to write) scene?

Nancy: Those tense scenes involving the kidnapping were the most fun and the hardest. The sentences had to be short and snappy, and I had to put myself in the moment. Fortunately, I’ve never been kidnapped, but I do know fear, and so I channeled it. A friend who was once mugged also helped, and she picked apart that first draft.

At a conference I attended once, Lee Child said: The action scenes have to be longer, and the descriptive, backstory, more mundane scenes have to be on the shorter side (I paraphrase. Sorry, Lee.)

Kass: In Saving Tuna Street, what changed the most from the first draft to the last?

Crime Writers Interview:  Nancy Nau Sullivan -- path to the beach
Path to the beach on Anna Maria Island

Nancy: The main character. The first time I wrote her up, an editor told me she was “flat.” How dismaying.

So I let that puppy out of the cage. Pretty soon she was using her anger as a tool and throwing back shots of tequila with her friend (Blanche is a bit of a drinker). I also got a good look at her appearance—She lives on the beach, and her T-shirt is stiff with salt and the only footwear she has are sandals.

That is a drag when you get kidnapped and have to kick your way out of a van.

Kass: And last of all, what question do you wish interviewers would ask you that they usually don’t? What is your answer to that question?

Nancy: Are you in it for the money?

And the answer is HAHAHAHAHA. What money?

Kass: LOL…Thank you so much, Nancy, for joining us today.

Readers, please check out her debut novel, Saving Tuna Street, now available for preorder! (see below) It’s due to be released by Light Messages on June 23, 2020.

Nancy will hang out for a while to answer any questions you may have. And you can also connect with her on Twitter (@NauSullivan), Facebook, Instagram and via her website.

Saving Tuna Street (A Blanche Murninghan Mystery)

Crime Writers Interview: Nancy Nau Sullivan -- Saving Tuna Street cover

Blanche “Bang” Murninghan is a part-time journalist with writer’s block and a penchant for walking the beach on her beloved Santa Maria Island. When land-grabbing tycoons arrive from Chicago and threaten to buy up Tuna Street, including her beachfront cottage, her seemingly idyllic life begins to unravel. Blanche finds herself in a tailspin, flabbergasted that so many things can go so wrong, so fast.

When her dear friend is found murdered in the parking lot of the marina, Blanche begins digging into his death. With her friends Liza and Haasi by her side—the latter a mysterious, tiny Native American with glossy braids and dark eyes, who seems to appear just when she’s needed most—Blanche stumbles into a pit of greed, murder, drug running, and kidnapping. She has survived her fair share of storms on Santa Maria Island, but this one might just be her last.

Available for Preorder on:

AMAZON ~ APPLE ~ NOOK ~ KOBO

Also two of our books are available for Preorder:

Hostage to Fortune, A Tea and Tarot Mystery, by Kirsten Weiss ~ Releases May 21st!!!

Hostage to Fortune book cover

Tea and Tarot room owner Abigail Beanblossom is used to running interference for her socially-awkward former boss, tech billionaire Razzzor. So when he invites her on a stakeout to investigate the sale of counterfeit wine from his latest venture – an upscale winery – she barrels on in. But the two stumble across the corpse of a wine merchant, and new wine in old bottles is now the least of their problems.

Good thing amateur detectives Abigail and her partner, tarot reader Hyperion Night, have a nose for murder. Their investigation takes them from elegant wine cellars to chic tea parties on the California coast. But just as the investigation starts to get its legs, Abigail discovers there’s more than wine at the bottom of this crime…

Tearoom recipes in the back of the book.

Click HERE for Preorder links!

Lord of the Fleas, A Marcia Banks and Buddy Mystery, by Kassandra Lamb ~ Releases May 26th!!

Lord of the Fleas book cover

What could be more innocent than a country flea market?

When service dog trainer Marcia Banks takes up temporary residence with her best friend in Williston, Florida, her goals are simple: spoil her toddler godchildren and train her newest dog’s veteran owner, a vendor at a local flea market.

Ha, the universe has other plans. When the owner of the flea market is found dead and her client is a prime suspect, she discovers that nothing is as it seems—from the flea market owner himself, to the ornate dragonhead cane he gave to her client, to the beautiful but not very bright young woman whom her client has a crush on.

The only true innocent in the bunch seems to be her guileless client. But when he shares a confidence that puts her in a double bind with local law enforcement, she’s not sure she can even trust him.

Despite her promises to her new husband, the only way out of her no-win dilemma seems to be to find the real killer. The flea market, however, is hiding more secrets, and at least one of them could be deadly.

Click HERE for Preorder Links!

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

Please sign up via email (upper right sidebar) to 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. 🙂 )

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A Crime Writers Interview: Donnell Ann Bell

(Announcement to those who entered our Bag of Books Contest: Winners have been randomly selected and contacted; we will announce the winners on the blog as soon as we’ve heard back from them. — Check your spam folders, just in case.)

For authors who had book releases scheduled during this period of lockdowns and stay-at-home orders, it has been challenging, since their in-person book launch events and signings have all been cancelled. So we’ve reached out to a few of them to offer online interviews. For you all, our readers, we wanted to help you find some new authors…just in case your to-be-read list is getting low. 🙂

We are pleased to introduce you to Donnell Ann Bell.

Donnell has written several bestselling romantic suspense novels and is now introducing the first installment of her new police procedural series, Black Pearl, A Cold Case Suspense (Kass’s review below).

Here is Donnell’s bio:

Crime Writers Interview: Donnell Bell

Award-winning author Donnell Ann Bell knows statistically that crime and accidents happen within a two-mile radius of home. With that in mind, she leaves the international capers to others, and concentrates on stories that might happen in her neck of the woods.

Writing around the theme of “suspense too close to home,” Donnell’s single-title novels—The Past Came Hunting, Deadly Recall, Betrayed and Buried Agendas—have all been Amazon bestsellers. Before turning to fiction, she was an editor for the Colorado Springs Business Journal and Pikes Peak Parent Newsmagazine.

Black Pearl, A Cold Case Suspense, is a 2020 Colorado Book Award finalist for best Thriller. To learn more about Donnell, check out her website.

Kass Lamb (on behalf of the whole misterio gang): We always like to start with a somewhat open-ended, “tell us about yourself” question. What two or three things do you feel people need to know in order to understand who you are?

Donnell Ann Bell: I am literally and figuratively a small-town girl. What is interesting about putting myself in that mindset, is that I thought Farmington, New Mexico was huge while growing up there, and I still consider it home. My parents abandoned me (well, not really; I was in college) and moved to Denver. There, I got a glimpse of what “big” is. Still, it’s all relative, isn’t it? I’ve heard people in New York and Boston refer to Denver as a Cowtown. Funny, I’ve always thought that title went to Fort Worth.

Kass: Why crime fiction? What is the appeal of mysteries for you, rather than say romance or science fiction?

Donnell: What a great question, and one I ask myself regularly when I become embroiled in what-if scenarios and research. I love intricate puzzles. I love pitting a worthy antagonist up against a worthy protagonist, and I love writing about justice in a world that doesn’t always play fair.

My first four books are romantic suspense, and I love romantic suspense, but I’ve never been able to write a straight romance. In defense of romance, it’s a hard genre. Keeping a conflict going without making it seem cliché or a huge misunderstanding is a testament to the many bestselling authors who make up that genre.

Kass: I absolutely agree. I have written some romantic suspense as well and the romance part is much tougher for me to write than the mystery. What type, i.e. subgenre, of mysteries do you write?

Donnell: I write a cross between romantic suspense, suspense, police procedural mystery and thriller. My readers have never quite put me in a box, thank goodness.

Kass: What was your favorite book/author as a child? Why was it your favorite?

Donnell: Oooh, hard question. Three books come to mind. The Velveteen Rabbit, Charlotte’s Web,  Lord of the Flies, any Nancy Drew or Hardy book mystery. Okay, that’s more than three. 🙂 I loved emotional reads and books that made me look outward.

Kass: Where are you in your writing career? Tell us a little about your stories.

Donnell: I have numerous books in a “drawer.” But five published books and I’m working on number six. I’ve been writing for years, but in between writing, I’ve volunteered and coordinated contests, which was a win/win for me because I saw firsthand the amount of talent that never reaches the bookstore or the Internet.

I write around the theme Too Close to Home. Tying in with my small-town mentality, I guess, I like to write about places I’ve been to and leave the international exploits to people such as Daniel Silva, who is my favorite author.

Kass: What do you find to be the most fun and/or the most difficult part of the writing process—first draft, editing, researching?

Donnell: Thought-provoking questions. Research is the most challenging, I think. I can create a plot, and have an idea about the characters, but I have to know that the plot can work first. So, I spend weeks and months researching. I received a huge compliment from retired profiler and FBI agent Peter M. Klismet, who has read my books and said when it comes to research, I’m tenacious. He knows; I have him on speed dial. 😉

Kass: What’s the oddest and/or most difficult thing you ever had to research?

Crime Writers Interview:  Donnell Bell
The road to Montrose, Colorado, where much of Black Pearl is set.

Donnell: Well, I’ve researched some fairly odd topics. I’ll tell you about one book that never quite made it out of my drawer. I was researching cyanide and arsenic and wanted to do something different when framing my protagonist. She had a peach orchard behind her property and was a woodworking expert. I decided to have cyanide found on her wood press.

I interviewed mining engineers in Cripple Creek, my longtime pharmacist, and finally went to the El Paso County (Colorado Springs) Sheriff’s office. I sat down with a lieutenant and sergeant who kind of gave me this squinty-eyed look. Finally, the lieutenant said, “Where does your story take place?”

“El Paso, Texas,” I replied.

At that he frowned and said, “Why don’t you just go across the border and get some?”  He pointed out that criminals are not very smart and are not very complicated.  

That lieutenant, by the way, became my impetus for another character for my debut novel, The Past Came Hunting, so I consider that one of the most fortuitous meetings of my career.

Kass: In your latest story, what was your favorite (or hardest to write) scene?

Donnell: The ending. As I said I wrote romantic suspense for my first four books. In romance, you always have a happily-ever-after ending. But now I’m writing a series. I did tie up all the loose threads and made my ending downright cheery, but I also needed something to encourage the reader to read Book 2.

Debra Dixon is my publisher and editor, and she had me read a novel that I considered Noir—every character was SO damaged, and I didn’t care for it very much (although the plot was spellbinding). But it was the best teaching moment ever, because I saw how the author set up her book for book two. You cannot go wrong with reading outside your comfort zone.

Kass: In your latest story, what changed the most from the first draft to the last?

Donnell: Again, the ending. Also, I layered a bit more. My story revolves around Tahitian pearls, and I added more depth to the story surrounding them.

Kass: And last of all, what question do you wish interviewers would ask you that they usually don’t? What is your answer to that question?

Donnell: What would you do if you had all the money in the world?

First, I’d make sure children never went to school hungry, and I’d give all the teachers, who make sure they don’t, unlimited access to funds and a huge pay raise besides for all their selflessness. I’d also give money to cancer research, Alzheimers, ALS and all the devastating diseases that take loved ones away from us before their time.

After that, I’d keep on writing.

Kass: Oh please, please do keep writing. I love your books. I’ve read The Past Came Hunting and Black Pearl, and am very much looking forward to Book 2 of your Cold Case series.

Crime Writers Interview: Donnell Bell -- Black Pearl book cover

A cold case heats up when a 9-1-1 call puts police at a Denver murder scene, pointing investigators to the abduction of a Colorado teenager fourteen years earlier. A calling card—a single black pearl—is found on the newest victim. Is the murder a copycat? Or has a twisted serial killer, thought dead or in prison, returned to strike again?

Soon, the hunt for a multi-state killer is on and brings together an unexpected team: a Denver Major Crimes police lieutenant; an FBI special agent who investigated the previous murders; a rookie FBI agent with a specialty in psychology; and the only living victim of the Black Pearl Killer, who is now a cop.

Go to https://donnellannbell.com/books for more info and buy links.

Here is Kass’s review:

In this well-paced police procedural, the author brings together a somewhat unlikely task force to look into the fourteen-year-old cold case of an abducted and murdered teenager.

A hardened Denver police detective investigates a fresh case that might be related, while the FBI agent who worked the original case goes to Montrose, Colorado, where the earlier abduction occurred. With him is the girl’s best friend who got away from the abductor, only now she is grown and a seasoned police officer.

Not only is the case fascinating, but the characters are three-dimensional and carefully crafted. I can’t wait to read their next adventure. I give Black Pearl five fingerprints!

You can reach Donnell at:

Website:  www.donnellannbell.com ~~ Facebook:  https://bit.ly/3552VOV ~~ Instagram:  www.instagram.com/donnellannbellauthor/ ~~ Twitter:  @donnellannbell

We hope you’ve enjoyed our Crime Writers Interview with Donnell Bell. Any questions for her? And how about you, readers … have you tried any new authors lately that you really liked?

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

Please sign up via email (upper right sidebar) to 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. 🙂 )

To see our Privacy Policy click HERE.

A Crime Writer Interview: Elena Hartwell

Today, we are pleased to introduce you all to another crime writer whose work we thought you might like. Please help us welcome Elena Hartwell to the blog!

Elena spent more than twenty years in the theater, before shifting her storytelling over to fiction. She writes the Eddie Shoes Mystery Series. Her next novel, Resurrection Lake, will be out in early 2020 with Crooked Lane Books under the name Elena Taylor.

Kass Lamb (on behalf of the misterio gang): Let’s start with a “tell us about yourself” question. What two or three things do you feel people need to know in order to understand who you are?

Elena with one of her horses, Radar. (Photo Credit: Mark Perlstein)

Elena Hartwell: What a great question. I guess the first thing I would say is you can’t ever really understand me! Ha ha ha, but that sort of defeats the purpose. I would say it would help to understand that my animals are one of the most important aspects of my life. I currently have two horses, two cats, and a dog.

Second, that I am an outgoing introvert. This means I enjoy people and don’t mind public speaking or events, but afterwards I need to be alone with a cappuccino to recharge. Lastly, what you do means more to me than what you say.

Kass: Why a crime writer? What is the appeal of mysteries for you?

And her other horse, Jasper. Isn’t he handsome?

Elena: This is something I think about a lot. It’s interesting because I’m not a violent person, so why am I drawn to writing about murder?

I think first and foremost, it’s about the puzzle. I love reading (and writing) the puzzle of “whodunit.” I like to incorporate human behavior into the various pieces of the picture. Because I am most drawn to character and character relationships, I’m intrigued by how we behave under the worst of circumstances. My “bad guys” aren’t all bad and my “good guys” aren’t all good.

I’m fascinated by the grey areas of human experience and how we’re all capable of incredibly bad behavior under the right conditions. What would push a person to commit such a heinous act against another human being? What would make someone else cover it up?

Kass: What type, i.e. subgenre, of mysteries do you write? Why does that subgenre appeal to you as a crime writer?

Two Heads are Deader than One book cover
Available on AMAZON and other retailers.

Elena: My Eddie Shoes Mystery Series is a humorous series about a private eye, set in Bellingham, Washington. I think Eddie and her mother Chava are the only mother/daughter crime-fighting duo in the genre. Eddie, the daughter, is the professional. In the books, she teams up with her mother, a card-counting poker player who was kicked out of Vegas, to solve homicides.

My new book is about a sheriff living in a tiny town in the Cascade Mountains of Washington State. The new book is much more serious, but it also centers around a strong female protagonist. I like that both my protagonists are professionals.

In my Eddie books, Chava is a fun secondary character, because she can work outside the law and the ethics of a private investigator, but my protagonists have to weigh their professional ethics with catching the criminal. So they sometimes have to decide if they are going to do things by the book or take some risks to save the day. They also have training and experience, which gives them tools to go up against criminals and solve crimes, but it doesn’t mean they can’t make mistakes or put themselves in risky situations.

I love the research aspect of how law enforcement and homicide investigations take place in the real world. I enjoy putting as much of that as I can into my own work. As a reader, I read a wide variety of subgenres, including thrillers and domestic suspense, but I tend to write the private eye/law enforcement protagonists.

Kass: What was your favorite book/author as a child? Why was it your favorite?

Elena: It’s incredibly hard to pick just one, but I would probably go with The Hobbit. I loved the world J.R.R Tolkien created. The magic, the animals, the non-human beings. I loved the adventure and the quest and how the smallest of the group made the largest contribution. In some ways it is the perfect book. It grapples with good and evil, war and peace, individualism versus the greater community and culminates with a fight to the death with a dragon.

Elena’s cats, Cocoa and Coal Train, supervise as she writes.

Kass: Haha, and who doesn’t like dragons? Tell us a little more about your stories. Where are you in your writing career?

Elena: I worked professionally as a playwright for several years, including professional and amateur productions of my plays around the US and abroad. Then I moved over to writing fiction.

I wrote a couple manuscripts before the first Eddie Shoes book was published in 2016, One Dead, Two to Go. That was followed by Two Heads are Deader Than One and Three Strikes, You’re Dead.

My latest novel, Resurrection Lake, is coming out with Crooked Lane in 2020, under the name Elena Taylor. I’m working on another manuscript with my agent now. I hope that standalone finds a home as well. After that, I have a few other projects in the works.

Kass: What do you find to be the most fun and/or the most difficult part of the writing process, and why?

Elena: I love the whole process, but that doesn’t mean any of it is easy! The first draft is simultaneously the most challenging and the most fun. Challenging, because I’m just hoping I will have a complete story that’s strong enough for a full-length novel. Fun, because I’m discovering the plot and the characters at the same time and they do things that surprise me.

Kass: What’s the oddest and/or most difficult thing you ever had to research?

Elena: As a playwright, I did a lot of work around Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and service men and women. That was difficult because I did a lot of research, including interviews, and the stories are heartbreaking. I include some of that in my novels, but not to the extent that I did in my plays.

My heart goes out to all the men and women who have served and who struggle. Society owes them an eternal debt of gratitude, regardless of individual politics, and should do more to help them.

Kass: I agree. One of my series is about a young woman who trains service dogs for veterans with PTSD. Now tell us, in your latest story, what was your favorite scene?

Elena: In Three Strikes, You’re Dead, I have a scene where Eddie is in a forest fire. That was so much fun to write, but I also did a ton of research, including interviews with the Issaquah Fire Department.

Best research ever! I got to ride in a fire truck. I have tremendous respect for firefighters and what they do to keep us safe.

Kass: Thanks so much for joining us today, Elena, and please hang out for a bit in case our readers have questions for you.

And folks, you can get Three Strikes, You’re Dead and the other Eddie Shoes mysteries at the retailers below…

Three Strikes, You're Dead book cover
Available on AMAZON and other retailers.

Private investigator Eddie Shoes heads to a resort outside Leavenworth, Washington, for a mother-daughter getaway weekend. Eddie’s mother Chava wants to celebrate her new job at a casino by footing the bill for the two of them, and who is Eddie to say no?

On the first morning, Eddie goes on an easy solo hike, and stumbles upon a makeshift campsite and a gravely injured man. A forest fire breaks out, and she struggles to save him before the flames overcome them both.

Before succumbing to his injuries, the man hands her a valuable rosary. He tells her his daughter is missing and begs for her help. Is Eddie now working for a dead man?

Barely escaping the fire, Eddie wakes in the hospital to find both her parents have arrived on the scene. Will Eddie’s card-counting mother and mob-connected father help or hinder the investigation? And how will Eddie find the missing girl with only her memory of the man’s face and a photo of his daughter to go on?

The Eddie Shoes Mystery Series is available on:

Amazon ~ IndieBound ~ Barnes & Noble

Also on all e-book platforms and Audible.

And coming soon! RESURRECTION LAKE introduces Bet Rivers, interim sheriff of a tiny mountain town in Washington’s Cascade range. With the election looming up ahead, she faces the opportunity to live up to her late father’s reputation, but then a body is discovered floating in the town lake. Bet has never investigated a homicide before, and this one threatens to take everything she’s worked for, including her life.

You can connect with Elena at her website, her blog, or on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Goodreads.

And Kirsten Weiss has a new release today as well! She’ll be taking over the blog next week with a great post on Tarot reading!

Steeped in Murder cover

Steeped in Murder. A Tea and Tarot Mystery

Tea, tarot, and trouble.

Abigail Beanblossom’s dream of owning a tea room in her California beach town is about to come true. She’s got the lease, the start-up funds, and the recipes. But Abigail’s out of a tearoom and into hot water when her realtor turns out to be a conman… and then turns up dead.

But not even death puts an end to the conman’s mischief. He rented the same space to a tarot reader, Hyperion Night. Convinced his tarot room is in the cards, Night’s not letting go of the building without a fight.

But the two must work together, steeping themselves in the murky waters of the sham realtor’s double dealings, in order to unearth the truth – before murder boils over again.

Steeped in Murder is the first book in the Tea and Tarot cozy mystery series. Buy the book to start this hilarious caper today.

Recipes in the back of the book!

Available Now on: Amazon ~ iBooks GooglePlay ~ Kobo ~ B&N

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

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A Crime Writers’ Interview: Nancy Wood

We love introducing you all to up-and-coming crime writers! So we are very happy to welcome Nancy Wood to our blog today.

First, I’ll let her tell you a little about herself.

I grew up in various locations on the east coast and now call central California home. I’m recently retired, having spent 35 years as a technical writer, translating engineer-speak into words and sentences. Kind of like translating ancient Greek, when you’re not too familiar with the Greek part!

Since retirement, my husband and I are wandering across the globe, visiting various places in Europe, but also countries like Sri Lanka and India. You can check out our travel  blog at hansandnancy.wordpress.com.

The first book in my Shelby McDougall trilogy, Due Date, was originally published in 2012. It just got a face-lift and was recently re-released by Paper Angel Press. The Stork, the second book in the series, will be re-released later this year. I’m working on the third and final story (with the working title of The Found Child).

Kass (on behalf of the misterio gang): Let’s start with a somewhat open-ended question. What two or three things do you feel people need to know in order to understand who you are?

Nancy: I LOVE to read; I’ve been a reader since I was teeny-tiny. So, it just seemed a logical progression to try to write fiction. It didn’t have to be life-changing, literary, heavy, or important! I just wanted to craft a book that would engage someone and would hold up as that person read it. I took creative writing classes, wrote stories, and wrote two terrible novels that, thankfully, never saw the light of day.

In 2006, I went to a commercial publishing workshop and was encouraged to try to write a mystery. At that point in my life, mysteries weren’t even on my radar. I started reading them, exclusively, and thought, ‘hmm…, maybe I’ll be able to do this!’

I retired two years ago, and since then, my husband and I have been traveling. A lot. We’ve traveled around the west (Utah, Colorado, Nevada, and California), and have also been to Spain, Sri Lanka, New Zealand, Belgium, the Netherlands, and India. Wow, all amazing countries, and so different.

My other passion is photography; in fact, I seem to spend as much time with the camera as writing these days! Here’s one of my photos. If anyone’s interested, my photography website is nancywoodphotos.wordpress.com

(c) Nancy Wood

Kass: Wow, that’s gorgeous. So tell me, why crime fiction? What is the appeal of mysteries for you?

Nancy: Before I decided to write a mystery, I had never read crime fiction. Now, it seems like crime fiction has expanded to include any subgenre of literature you can think of. Literary, social, cultural, historical, romantic, horror: it all can be incorporated in a mystery. There’s something very compelling about that. To be able to mold the genre to fit your story and your characters. I also love the idea of a series; getting to know a character over time and in multiple settings. 

Kass: What type of mysteries do you write? Why does that type of story appeal to you as a writer? Do you also prefer it as a reader?

Nancy: My books fall into the category of suspense, psychological thrillers. I initially thought I was writing a mystery, but, for the life of me, I couldn’t insert a dead body into the story! I love to read suspense. I love getting scared, but getting scared in a controlled fashion. Reading allows that delightful pleasure.

But sometimes, it’s too much, and I have to read the book in small bites, so as not to get too terrified and lose sleep! Some of my favorite authors in this subgenre are Tami Hoag, Patricia Cornwell, Megan Abbott, Gillian Flynn, Lisa Scottoline, Tana French, and Lisa Jackson.

Kass: You mentioned loving to read since you were “teeny-tiny.” What was your favorite book/author as a child?

Nancy: The Nancy Drew mysteries were at the top of my list. I loved them because I could usually figure out ‘who done it’. The stories were predictable, yet kept me engaged. But the best part was that Nancy was a girl.

Kass: Nancy Drew has certainly inspired a lot of girls through the years, myself included! So where are you in your writing career? Tell us more about your stories.

Nancy: My Shelby McDougall series was picked up this past year by Paper Angel Press. They just re-released Due Date, and The Stork will be out sometime later in the year. I hope that the third book will be released not too long after that.

Shelby, the protagonist, stumbles her way into detecting. In Due Date, she’s signed on as a surrogate mother, and when it’s almost too late, discovers that things are not what they seem. In The Stork, Shelby has switched career paths and is working on her PI license. But her life is turned upside-down with a late night phone call. In the last book in the trilogy, the one I’m currently working on, Shelby will be a licensed PI specializing in locating missing children. Her mom does a DNA swab with a genealogy website and turns up results Shelby would rather not know about.

Treasure Hunt cover

I also have a story out featuring Shelby, called ‘Treasure Hunt.’ It was originally published in the 2018 anthology, Santa Cruz Weird, and is now available as a free download from Paper Angel Press. It’s about a ten-year-old boy whose granny encourages him to sign up for a Saturday afternoon treasure hunt sponsored by the city’s parks department. He’s not very happy about being out in the woods, looking for treasure, with a group of kids he doesn’t know.  The only person he does recognize is a man he’d never wanted to see again.

Kass:  When I first read Due Date in 2012, I really enjoyed it for two reasons. First, I loved the writing. It’s one of the best debut novels I’ve ever read. But I was also intrigued by the topic. What made you decide to write about a surrogate mother?

Nancy: Thank you for your kind words; I am so excited to see Due Date get a second go-round with its wonderful new cover.

Originally, this story was women’s fiction, about the relationship between a birth mother and the adoptive parents. However, it was clunky and slow and needed a lot of work. Around the time I was trying to figure out what to do with this uninspiring manuscript, I was in a brainstorming session at a conference and someone suggested I turn it into a mystery. After a lively discussion in that small group, I realized that if the protagonist were a surrogate mother, I could explore some of the same themes I was interested in–mainly the relationship between the birth mom and the adoptive parents–but also introduce even more complexity to the dynamic.

At the time, I had a lot of friends who’d adopted children through both open and closed adoptions, but I had never known anyone who was involved in a surrogate relationship. I did a lot of reading on surrogacy and talked to a few surrogate moms. I read plenty of discussion boards, forums, and blogs as well. I also researched fertility clinics, trying to figure out how that end of the arrangement works. There are so many legal and financial considerations. I’m still interested in the topic and keep tuned for news stories, changes in the law, or blogs about surrogacy.

Kass: Well, all that research paid off. It’s a fascinating story. Thank you so much for joining us today, Nancy!

She’ll be sticking around for a bit, folks, to answer any questions you might want to pose in the comments.

Nancy: Thank you very much for hosting me! Misterio Press publishes high caliber books that are engaging, well-written, and really fun to read, so I am honored to be here.

Kass (blushing): Aww, thanks!! Check out Due Date below, folks. You will be glad you did! And I’m off to download Treasure Hunt.

And you can connect with Nancy Wood at her website or via email.

Due Date cover

DUE DATE, A Shelby McDougall Mystery

Surrogate mother Shelby McDougall just fell for the biggest con of all—a scam that risks her life and the lives of her unborn twins.

Twenty-three year-old Shelby McDougall is facing a mountain of student debt and a memory she’d just as soon forget. A Rolling Stone ad for a surrogate mother offers her a way to erase the loans and right her karmic place in the cosmos. Within a month, she’s signed a contract, relocated to Santa Cruz, California, and started fertility treatments.

But intended parents Jackson and Diane Entwistle have their own agenda—one that has nothing to do with diapers and lullabies. With her due date looming, and the clues piling up, Shelby must save herself and her twins. As she uses her wits to survive, Shelby learns the real meaning of the word “family.”

Available at all major online book retailers for $4.99. Click HERE for buy links or to download a sample.

Posted by Kassandra Lamb, on behalf of the entire misterio press group of writers. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She is the author of the Kate Huntington psychological mysteries, set in her native Maryland, and a cozy series, the Marcia Banks and Buddy mysteries, set in Florida where she now lives.

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

Please sign up via email (upper right sidebar) to 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. 🙂 )

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A Crime Writers’ Interview: Jo Macgregor

Crime Writers logo

It’s been awhile since we’ve done a Crime Writers’ Interview. 🙂 Today, we’re delighted to introduce you to a great suspense author, Jo Macgregor.

When not writing, Jo Macgregor is a counseling psychologist in private practice in South Africa. She works mainly with victims of crime and trauma, and brings her twenty years of experience as a therapist to her writing, creating deeper characters and realistic psychological scenarios. She started her professional life as a high school English teacher and writes young adult fiction under the name Joanne Macgregor. Her psychological non-fiction (self help) is published under the name J. Macgregor. She writes intelligent novels with all the feels and a twist of humor – fiction that targets your head, heart and funny bone!

Although she lives in the frenetic adrenaline-rush of the big city, Jo has always been in love with nature, and escapes into the wilds whenever possible. She loves reading, is addicted to chilies and bulletproof coffee, and her Hogwarts House is either HuffleClaw or RavenPuff!

Kass Lamb (on behalf of misterio): Let’s start with a somewhat open-ended, “tell us about yourself” question. What two or three things do you feel people need to know in order to understand who you are?

Jo: One, in my day job, I’m a psychologist in private practice. While I keep my therapy work and my writing very separate (I even do it on different days and in different places) and would never “mine” my clients’ experiences for story ideas, I believe my knowledge of psychology — people, personality and pathology — really does inform my writing. I like to think my characterizations are deeper and more real, and certainly my portrayal of psychological problems and how psychologists work in practice are more accurate than I see in lots of fiction.

Two, I think life is more comedy than tragedy, so there is humor in all my books. I can’t read humorless, bleak stories and I certainly won’t write them!

I had to ask my daughter for a third one! According to her, a cornerstone of my character is that I believe it matters how we treat people and that the actions of ordinary people count, and shouldn’t be disregarded or underestimated. She says that informs all my writing. So now you know 😊

Kass: Why crime fiction? What is the appeal of mysteries for you?

Jo: I write romance and dystopian novels, too, but when it comes to reading, crime is hands-down my favorite genre. I think crime stories offer entertaining ways to wrestle with bigger issues facing individuals, cultures and countries. I think we can even grapple with existential issues in crime stories.

In my most recent novel, The First Time I Died, I look at some big questions (Is there an afterlife? What is real? Can romantic love last forever? Should you trust outer “reality” or subjective inner experience more?). But because it’s all wrapped up in a gripping whodunnit, it doesn’t feel like a philosophical lecture.

I also like that crime stories usually end with some kind of resolution — the killer is caught and punished, justice prevails, moral order is restored — and that scratches a deep itch. In real life, this sort of resolution is rare and usually imperfect, so reading crime fiction is a type of satisfying compensatory fantasy. Also, it’s just exciting — it pulls me into a story like no other genre can!

Kass: What type, i.e. subgenre, of mysteries do you write? Why does that subgenre appeal to you?

Jo: I can’t write only one type of story — maybe because I’m a Gemini or maybe because I get bored easily. So, I’ve written a psychological thriller (Dark Whispers) and a mystery with a paranormal twist (The First Time I Died).

Even my Young Adult novels (contemporary romances and dystopians) tend to have a grand mystery or crime at the center of them. In practice, I don’t choose the genre first. What happens is that the idea for a book comes to me, and only then do I pick the genre that would be the best vehicle to explore that idea and the themes that go with it.

Kass: What was your favorite book/author as a child? Why was it your favorite?

Jo: The first books I remember reading — and they remained my favorites for years — were the Famous Five and Secret Seven mysteries by English writer Enid Blyton. Perhaps this is where my love for crime and mystery novels first started! I was fascinated by the mental puzzle of the mysteries and tried to work them out before the child sleuths could, and loved imagining myself solving some grand mysteries!

Kass: Where are you in your writing career? Tell us a little about your stories.

Jo: I have fifteen published books under my belt. Under my full name, Joanne Macgregor, I started with a series for younger YA readers – Turtle Walk, Rock Steady and Faultlines – which have an ecological theme and are set in South Africa.

I have two other books out for younger readers (Jemima Jones and the Great Bear Adventure, Jemima Jones and the Revolving Door of Doom), and half-a-dozen other YA books – three YA contemporary romances (Scarred, Hushed and The Law of Tall Girls) and a YA dystopian trilogy (Recoil, Refuse, Rebel).

And under my pen name for adults, Jo Macgregor, I have two books out – Dark Whispers and my most recent novel, The First Time I Died. I’ve also compiled the therapeutic stories and metaphors I use in my clinical practice into a self- help book called Self Help Stories, which is published under J. Macgregor.

Kass: I do hope there’s a sequel to The First Time I Died. I loved that book! Tell us — what’s the oddest and/or most difficult thing you ever had to research?

Jo: In my dystopian YA series, The Recoil Trilogy, my protagonist is a (reluctant) sniper. I don’t like guns; I see too many victims and relatives of victims of gun violence in my therapy practice. So, I didn’t know much about them.

I had to read a lot, watch a bunch of YouTube videos and watch documentaries on snipers. (One of those documentaries had sparked the original idea for the books!) But I felt that I needed to do more hands-on research — literally.

I found an amazing weapons expert, ran scenes by him to check accuracy, and then went out on the shooting range to shot revolvers, pistols, bolt-action and automatic rifles, and even a monster gun called the elephant rifle, which nearly took my shoulder off with its powerful recoil action.

The shooting was enormous fun and it turned out I was pretty good at it. Although I still don’t like guns and don’t own any, I think getting out and actually doing the shooting was excellent for injecting some real and gritty details into the shooting scenes in the novels.

Kass: In your latest story, what was your favorite (or hardest to write) scene?

Jo: My favorites were the kisses (I love writing kissy scenes, lol) and writing the scenes where the protagonist experiences either flashbacks, hallucinations or psychic visions (it’s up to the reader to decide what they believe!)

The hardest to write was a sex scene which one of my beta readers felt was needed. Although I’ve written smoochy and schmexy scenes before, they usually either stop short of the full Monty or fade to black, so this was the first full sex scene I’d ever written. It made me hysterical with nerves, and I was sweating by the time I finished it. And after all that, I wound up not including it. Other beta-readers and my trusted editor said it wasn’t necessary and felt shoe-horned in, which was how I felt too, so I cut that sucker out!

Kass: Ah, now I want to read that scene!

But seriously, having read The First Time I Died, I can see how a sex scene would have felt forced. It is an excellent book, one of my all-time favorites. Thanks for joining us today, Jo Macgregor, for a great Crime Writers’ Interview!

Jo: Thank you for having me!

Kass: Folks, if you have comments or questions, please jump in below. But keep in mind that Jo is in a very different time zone from the North American continent, so there may be a bit of a delay before she responds.

The First Time I Died
When Garnet McGee returns to her small Vermont hometown for the holidays, she vows to solve the mystery of the murder which shattered her life ten years ago. But after dying in an accident and being brought back to life, she starts hearing voices, seeing visions and experiencing strange sensations. Are these merely symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and an over-active imagination, or is she getting messages from a paranormal presence?

Garnet has always prided herself on being logical and rational, but trying to catch a killer without embracing her shadow self is getting increasingly difficult. And dangerous, because in a town full of secrets, it seems like everybody has a motive for murder.
Fast-paced and riveting,

The First Time I Died is a suspenseful and haunting crime story with a supernatural twist.

Available Now on: AMAZON US  AMAZON UK  AMAZON CA  AMAZON AUS

Readers can connect with Jo Macgregor on FACEBOOK, TWITTER, PINTEREST, AND INSTAGRAM.

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

Please sign up via email (upper right sidebar) to 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. 🙂 )

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A Crime Writers Interview: Teresa Trent

Crime Writers logo

Please help us welcome Teresa Trent to our blog for another crime writers interview. I just love her Pecan Bayou cozy series, and now she has a new series out… oh goody!

Teresa Trent head shot

Teresa enjoys creating small towns filled with quirky characters and high crime rates. She lives in Houston, Texas with her family and spends her time as a writer and caregiver. Teresa started the Pecan Bayou Mystery Series in 2011 and adds to it yearly. Her Piney Woods Mystery Series, published by Camel Press, debuted in 2018 and will also have a new mystery each year. Teresa loves to write with just a little humor and to include characters you might not find in other cozies, including Danny who was influenced by her own son with Down syndrome.

Kass Lamb (on behalf of misterio press): Let’s start with a somewhat open-ended, “tell us about yourself” question. What two or three things do you feel people need to know in order to understand who you are?

Teresa Trent: My life experience plays into my writing. My Pecan Bayou Series has a character with Down syndrome because I have a son with Down syndrome. Because of that, I am around many people like him. I couldn’t “world create” without my character Danny because without him it wouldn’t be my world.

I love a certain kind of story. I want to be touched emotionally but I also want to laugh, so characters need to be human. When I decided to start writing seriously I wanted my voice to be unique and my stories to touch other people’s hearts. I know I’ve written my book correctly when I find myself crying in the final scene. I also laugh at my own jokes.

Kass: Why crime fiction? What is the appeal of mysteries for you, rather than say romance or science fiction?

book cover

And Then There Were None, first published in the U.S. in 1940.

Teresa: I was an English teacher once upon a time, and one of my favorite novels to teach about was And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie. I loved solving the puzzle of finding the murderer.

With romance you know the guy and the girl are going to get together in the end. With a mystery you are never sure if your suspected villain is the right villain, so, the ending in this genre is unpredictable. I love sci-fi, but have never felt I know enough of the science side to write it.

Kass: What type, i.e. subgenre, of mysteries do you write? Why does that subgenre appeal to you as a writer? Do you also prefer it as a reader?

Teresa: I write cozy mysteries because I enjoy the small-town characters and the less graphic situations. I have written some light horror short stories but find I keep coming home to cozies.

As a reader, I enjoy all types of stories. To me a good story is found in the writing more than the genre, so if a book hits the best seller list, I want to read it, not only for pleasure but to see what that author did right!

Kass: What do you find to be the most fun and/or the most difficult part of the writing process—first draft, editing, researching? Why is that?

Teresa: I love writing a first draft. I love collecting thoughts, characters, plot lines, settings and then putting them all into a story. After that comes several drafts where I drag through the story looking for grammatical errors and plot holes and I usually have plenty of both!

Kass: Where are you in your writing career? Tell us a little more about your stories.

Teresa: I write the Pecan Bayou Cozy Mystery Series and the Piney Woods Cozy Mystery Series which both occur in Texas.

A Dash of Murder cover

Book 1 in the Pecan Bayou series.

Pecan Bayou is in the Hill Country famous for wildflowers in the Spring and German food. Austin is also a part of the hill country and politically a little more left-leaning than the rest of the state. It is no mistake that Rocky, my newspaper editor has a Christmas tree that always leans slightly to the left. I so enjoyed creating this cast of characters starting with my amateur sleuth, Betsy, a woman who writes helpful hints for a living, and is constantly having to tackle those pesky bloodstains.

The Piney Woods Mystery Series is in East Texas, close to the Louisiana border. Nora is very different from Betsy and works in the historic Tunie hotel. Piney Woods is an oil boom-bust town heavily influenced by close neighbor, Louisiana. Gumbo is a popular dish on the menu and running across the state line to gamble is a major attraction. Nora and her law man boyfriend, Tuck Watson solve murders together while Nora tries to keep the hotel afloat.

Kass: What’s the oddest and/or most difficult thing you ever had to research?

Teresa: That would be how to explode a port-a-potty. You would be amazed how many You Tube videos there are on the subject.

Kass: In your latest story, what changed the most from the first draft to the last?

Teresa: My latest book, Murder of a Good Man, was a little darker than some of my other stories, so I had to work to bring it up to the lighter form of the cozy mystery. When I first started writing this book, the news had just come out about Bill Cosby, and that was the inspiration for the plot line. What if a guy the whole world loved was really not such a fine gentleman?

Thank you so much for joining us today, Teresa! If you all have any questions for her, please ask them in the comments. And you can connect with her on her blog, on Twitter or Goodreads.

Here is her latest release, folks…

Murder of a Good Man, Book 1 in the Piney Woods Mysteries

Murder of a Good Man coverWhen Nora Alexander drives into Piney Woods, Texas, to fulfill her dying mother’s last wish, she has no idea what awaits her. First, she is run off the road, then the sealed letter she delivers turns out to be a scathing rebuke to the town’s most beloved citizen and favored candidate for Piney Woods Pioneer: Adam Brockwell. Next thing you know, Adam has been murdered in a nasty knife attack.

Suspicion instantly falls on Nora, one of the last people to see him alive. After all, everyone in Piney Woods loved him. Or did they? Nora learns that her mother had a complicated past she never shared with her daughter. Told not to leave town by Tuck the flirty sheriff, Nora finds a job with Tuck’s Aunt Marty trying to get the rundown Tunie Hotel back in the black. The old hotel was Piney Woods’ heart and soul in its heyday as an oil boomtown.

Now the secrets it harbors may be the key to getting Nora off the hook. She’s going to need to solve the mystery quickly to avoid arrest, or worse: becoming the killer’s next victim.

Available on: Amazon    Barnes & Noble     iBooks     Kobo     Paperback

Note: I am going to be traveling when this interview goes live, so K.B. Owen will be fielding comments.

We blog here at misterio press about twice a month, 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. 🙂 )

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A Crime Writers Interview: Mary Feliz

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We are very pleased to bring you another crime writers interview, this time with Mary Feliz, who writes the Maggie McDonald Mysteries featuring a Silicon Valley professional organizer and her sidekick golden retriever.

Mary Feliz

Mary has led an interesting life. She’s worked for Fortune 500 firms and mom and pop enterprises, competed in whale boat races and done synchronized swimming.

She attends organizing conferences in her character’s stead, but Maggie’s skills leave her in the dust. Address to Die For, the first book in her series, was named a Best Book of 2017 by Kirkus Reviews.

Kass Lamb (on behalf of misterio press):  To start things off, tell us one or two interesting things that will help folks understand who you are and why you write what you do?

Mary Feliz:  When I started writing these books, which are set in Silicon Valley, I’d lived there for more than 30 years. I felt the image portrayed by Hollywood and TV focused only on the mega-rich.

The area boasts an extraordinarily diverse population representing all 50 states and all corners of the globe. All major religions have a visible presence, along with those who follow a number of less-well known spiritual paths.

I’ve tried to give readers of the Maggie McDonald Mysteries a feel for what it can be like to be a thread in such a rich tapestry.

Mary Feliz 1st book cover

Mary’s 1st book, which Kirkus named a Best Book of 2017.

Kass:  Why crime fiction? What is the appeal of mysteries for you, rather than say romance or science fiction?

Mary:  Crime Fiction is based on the age-old battle between good and evil. In the fantasy world of cozy mysteries, ordinary people win and justice is always restored. That doesn’t always happen in the real world, but we all need to escape reality from time to time.

Kass:  What type, i.e. subgenre, of mysteries do you write?

Mary:  My books are marketed as cozy mysteries and follow the dictates of the genre regarding no swearing, overt violence, or sex. But I think my characters might be more comfortable being considered the cast of a traditional mystery, in which small groups of clever friends and strangers combine forces to bring bad guys to justice and restore the community to an even keel.

Kass:  What was your favorite book/author as a child? Why was it your favorite?

Mary:  I loved Meg in A Wrinkle in Time, along with her mother’s lab and the family kitchen. I liked that the characters were unabashedly smart. Meg and her little brother Charles Wallace had trouble fitting in at school, but they were able to use their intelligence and their quirks to save their family and the world. And in the end, good wins out over evil.

I also gobbled up every Madeline L’Engle book I could find and loved them all.

snowy egret

We never know who will pop by for a visit at our home on Monterey Bay. In this case, it was a snowy egret.

Kass:  Where are you in your writing career? And what’s next?

Mary:  I’m writing the sixth and, for now, final book in the Maggie McDonald Series, and working on a new series that will take place on Monterey Bay, a National Marine Sanctuary often referred to as the Serengeti of the Sea due to its diverse and abundant wildlife.

Kass:  What was the oddest thing you’ve ever had to research?

Mary:  For Disorderly Conduct, I had to thoroughly research the social, economic, and devastating ecological problems associated with the South American drug cartels growing marijuana on state and federal lands. It was fascinating, but I’d hate to have anyone judge me by my search history.

Kass:  Ha, I hear that! My search history’s pretty scary as well. Thanks so much for joining us today, Mary, and please stick around for a little bit in case any of our readers have questions for you in the comments.

And folks, be sure to check out Mary’s new release, Book #4, in her Maggie McDonald series, Disorderly Conduct. You can connect with Mary at her website, on Facebook or on Twitter @maryfelizauthor

Disorderly Conduct cover

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

With a devastating wildfire spreading to Silicon Valley, Maggie preps her family for a rapid evacuation. The heat rises when firefighters discover the body of her best friend Tess Olmos’s athletic husband—whose untimely death was anything but accidental. And as Tess agonizes over the whereabouts of her spouse’s drop-dead gorgeous running mate, she becomes the prime suspect in what’s shaping up to become a double murder case. Determined to set the record straight, Maggie sorts through clues in an investigation more dangerous than the flames approaching her home. But when her own loved ones are threatened, can she catch the meticulous killer before everything falls apart?

Available now on  AMAZON   NOOK   KOBO

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

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A Crime Writers Interview: The Fascinating Peggy Townsend

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We are pleased to bring you another crime writers interview, this time with the fascinating Peggy Townsend, who has just released her very first mystery novel.

Why do I say fascinating? Read on!

An award-winning newspaper journalist, Peggy Townsend has reported stories that ranged from the trial of a murdering mortician to an Auschwitz survivor’s fight to get back the portraits she’d painted in the death camp. When Peggy isn’t writing, she loves to run and ski and she has rafted wild rivers, twice lived for seven weeks in her van, and has come face-to-face with both a mountain lion and a grizzly bear, which proves she probably spends a little too much time outdoors. Her first mystery novel, SEE HER RUN, published by Thomas & Mercer, just released on June 1.

Kass Lamb (on behalf of misterio press) To start things off, tell us one or two interesting things that will help folks understand who you are?

Peggy Townsend

Peggy in her running shoes!

Peggy Townsend:  I guess the first thing you might want to know about me is that, one dark October night, I chased an escaped serial killer through the woods. I was working the crime beat for my newspaper at the time and just happened to be riding along with this tough, street-smart cop when his radio squawked awake. A serial killer named Billy Mansfield had escaped from County Jail and a witness had seen a man in an orange jail jumpsuit headed downtown.

Most of the searchers went that way. But the officer I was with turned his patrol car in the opposite direction, almost as if he knew exactly where Mansfield would be.

We parked outside a cemetery that bordered a river east of the jail and hurried through the graveyard, flashlights sweeping over headstones and places a prisoner might hide. Then, we plunged into the brush and woods along the river following a faint trail for about a mile until a search dog arrived. The disheveled killer, later found guilty of murdering five women, was found a few hours later hiding on the same trail the officer and I had been following

All of which leads to the second thing you should know about me, which is that, in my regular life, I would have run in the opposite direction of an escaped serial killer.

Also, because I’m a reporter, I’m really, really good at deadlines.

Why crime fiction? What is the appeal of mysteries for you, rather than say romance or science fiction?

I’ve spent a lot of time in courtrooms and in the investigation bureau as a newspaper reporter. I covered the trial of a mortician and casket salesman who tried to disguise his murder of a young male prostitute by refrigerating the body and then dumping it later so it appeared the boy had died when the guy had an alibi. The mortician was foiled, however, by a small blotch of decomposition on the boy’s body, which was spotted by a sharp-eyed medical examiner.

I wrote stories about rapes, gang shootings and about the investigation and arrest of David Carpenter, the so-called Trailside Killer. I attended parole hearings for serial killers John Linley Frazier and Herbert Mullins and got to see the inner workings of the justice system from both the prosecution and defense sides.

So, when I decided I wanted to write a novel, I turned to crime fiction because not only did I know it best, but I loved the whole cat-and-mouse idea of how you catch a killer or a rapist. Plus, as a writer, putting myself in the minds of both the criminal and detective, figuring out plot twists, and dropping clues that may or may not be important, is not only challenging but super fun and creative.

Kass:  Wow, you have had a really exciting career as a journalist. So where are you with your fiction writing now? Tell us a little about your stories.

book coverPeggy:  After spending decades writing non-fiction, I decided to give fiction a try and, let me tell you, it’s a lot harder than it looks. But thanks to my smart writing groups, a talented developmental editor named Heather Lazare, and my wise and wonderful agent, Heather Jackson, I got my first two-book deal last year with Thomas & Mercer publishing. I have an amazing editor at T&M, along with a super-talented team of publicists, road-smoothers, artists and editors so when SEE HER RUN was given an early release in the U.K. and Australia, it hit the bestseller list: No. 4 overall in paid Kindle sales, which made me realize that I can actually call myself an author. I’m finishing up my second novel as we speak.

Kass:  What’s the oddest and/or most difficult thing you ever had to research?

Peggy:  I spent an entire day researching chemical castration (I know, I know) which led me to the discovery that a widely used pesticide not only chemically castrates three-quarters of male frogs exposed to it but also turns one in ten male frogs into females. Scary and weird stuff.

On the lighter side, I now know how to make really good French-press coffee after researching it for my book.

Kass:  In your story, what changed the most from the first draft to the last?

Peggy:  I had to cut a character I loved because my very wise and talented agent said he was a distraction. I protested. I argued. But, deep down, I knew she was right. The character (and his dog) now resides on a lonely Word doc titled simply, “Noah.” Maybe he’ll come back some day, but probably not.

Kass:  Aww, Now I want to meet Noah. I hope you get to write him into a future story. Last of all, what question do you wish interviewers would ask you that they usually don’t? What is your answer to that question?

Peggy:  This is funny because this is often the last question I ask when I’m writing a profile about someone. So, I would like an interviewer to ask me: What is my hidden talent?

The answer would be that I am a whiz at mirror writing, which is writing backward so the message can only be read in a mirror.

I learned to mirror write in fifth-grade after I read a story about Leonardo da Vinci and how he hid all his discoveries and thoughts in his journal using mirror writing.  Because I was a weird kid, I’d do my homework every night and then turn the paper over and trace the backward sentences until I got the hang of it. Now, I’m a master mirror writer. Unfortunately, my penmanship still looks like a fifth-grader’s.

Kass:  And there you have it, folks, an award-winning journalist with lots of real-life stories under her belt and some new make-believe ones she’s eager to tell, and she can mirror-write them for you if you wish…LOL

Thanks so much for joining us today, Peggy, and please stick around for a bit in case our readers have any questions for you in the comments.

You can connect with Peggy on Facebook and Twitter @peggytownsend, and here is her new release:

SEE HER RUN, An Aloa Snow Mystery

book cover

A former reporter for the Los Angeles Times, Aloa Snow knows what it means to be down and out. Once highly respected, she’s now blackballed, in debt, and dealing with the echoes of an eating disorder. Until she gets one more shot to prove that she has what it takes—with a story some would die for…

After the body of a promising young athlete, Hayley Poole, is recovered in the Nevada desert, authorities rule it a suicide. But when Aloa discovers that the girl’s boyfriend died in a similar accident only months before, her investigative instincts are on high alert. It turns out the girl was on the run from secrets that could kill.

This case is murder for Aloa, and Hayley won’t be the last one to suffer. Someone very powerful forced Hayley to run for her life. Now Aloa must do the same.

Available now on AMAZON

We blog here at misterio press about twice a month, 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. 🙂 )

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A Crime Writers Interview: Leslie Karst

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Prepare to have your appetite whetted, for both Leslie Karst’s books and for a good meal.

leslie karst

The daughter of a law professor and a potter, Leslie learned early, during family dinner conversations, the value of both careful analysis and the arts—ideal ingredients for a mystery story. She now writes the Sally Solari Mysteries (Dying for a Taste, A Measure of Murder, Death al Fresco), a culinary series set in Santa Cruz, California. An ex-lawyer like her sleuth, Leslie also has degrees in English literature and the culinary arts.

Please help us welcome Leslie Karst!

Kass Lamb (on behalf of misterio press):  We like to start with a “tell us about yourself” question. What two or three things do people need to know in order to understand who you are?

Leslie Karst:  First, that I’ve been in Santa Cruz, where my mysteries are set, since 1974. I moved here to attend college and, after one look at the towering redwoods marching down to the spectacular seaside cliffs, I knew it was where I wanted to live long term. I think of the Sally Solari series as a sort of love letter to the place.

Ziggy at the Beach

     My dog Ziggy at the beach.

Second, yes, I do have quite a bit in common with my protagonist: we’re both ex-lawyers who are obsessed with food, and we both share a love of dogs, cycling, the Giants baseball team, and opera.

But Sally is far braver than I am—perhaps even too risky. I’d never have the nerve to investigate an actual murder. (Then again, I’d make for a pretty uninteresting sleuth, as well.) And I’d never dream of running a real-life restaurant; the work is far too exhausting and takes up too much of your life. But make-believe-running one in my books is loads of fun.

Kass:  What type of mysteries do you write—cozies, traditional whodunnits, historical, etc.—and why does that subgenre appeal to you as a writer? Do you also prefer it as a reader?

Dying for a Taste Cover

First book in Leslie’s series. Ebook only $1.99 on Amazon.

Leslie Karst:  My Sally Solari culinary mysteries are categorized by my publisher, Crooked Lane Books, as “cozies,” and the covers and marketing for the books reflect this. But to my mind, the series actually falls somewhere on the spectrum between cozies and what are now referred to as “traditional” mysteries. Sally can tend toward the sarcastic and has a fondness for bourbon and the occasional swear word—things not generally found in your typical cozy mystery. As a result, I like to refer to my series as “snarky cozies.”

Since I, like Sally, can also tend towards the snarky, I do love to read this subgenre (the name of which I believe I am the first to employ), and dearly wish there were more of them being published!

Kass:  Why crime fiction? What is the appeal of mysteries for you?

Leslie Karst:  Having worked as a research and appellate attorney for twenty years, I’d say my brain must be wired for tasks that require an attention to detail. Any good mystery story requires the careful and painstaking placing of clues and red herrings, as well as a set of characters who would make for plausible suspects—a process that requires organization and the same sort of attention to detail that my legal career required. So when I decided to try my hand at writing fiction, a mystery novel seemed the obvious choice.

But I also love how crime novels tend to incorporate subplots that are woven into the mystery and which give the reader a glimpse into some new culture or way of life. (Think of Dorothy L. Sayers’ peeks into the worlds of London advertising, bell ringing, and academia.)

Solari's Linguine with Clam Sauce karst

Solari’s Linguine with Clam Sauce

And since I’m an unabashed gourmet, I was of course drawn to the culinary mystery subgenre, where I’m able to indulge in my passion for food and cooking—the more delectably described the better.

What was your favorite book/author as a child? Why was it your favorite?

Leslie Karst:  Okay, this may be super predictable but—like countless other girls who grew up in the 1960s—as a child, I was obsessed with all things horse. So the Black Stallion books by Walter Farley were my favorites, especially the first one, which gave its name to the series. I imagine most kids, at one time or another, have a Robinson Crusoe fantasy of being stranded on a desert island with no adults around, so what could be better than doing so with a gorgeous Arabian stallion as your helpmeet and companion?

Kass:  I loved the Black Stallion books as well, and I’m still a little horse-crazy. Let’s talk a bit about your writing process. What do you find to be the most difficult part—first draft, editing, researching?

Leslie Karst:  As a writer, I’m an absolute plotter (as opposed to a “pantser”). I first come up with a basic idea, next a group of three to five suspects (one of whom will be my eventual murderer), and then a series of plot points and events that will occur during the book. But the last step of organizing these plot points into an effective story arc is by far the most difficult part of the process for me.

With A Measure of Murder, the second in the Sally Solari series, I had compiled a multiple-page list of events and occurrences that I knew I wanted in the book, but which were in a completely random order. Unable to wrap my brain around how to transform them into a workable story line, I eventually printed out the list and cut the events apart with scissors, then spread them out across the dining room table. Over a period of several days I arranged and rearranged the order of events until I had a rough outline I was happy with. I then glued them back together onto new sheets of paper. A literal cut-and-paste job!

Kass:  *smiling* Sometimes old-fashioned scissors and paste work best! In your latest story, what was your favorite (or hardest to write) scene?

Leslie Karst:  There’s a dinner party that takes place midway through my latest book, Death al Fresco. It’s hosted by Sally at her home and her best friends—recurring characters in the series—are all there. I love this scene because it incorporates two of my favorite things to write—snappy dialogue and descriptions of food and cooking.

Sally and her pals are discussing the possible suspects in the case at the heart of the story, but as they exchange comments and jokes—each trying to outdo the others with their witticisms—they savor the luscious Black Cod with Miso and Sake that Sally has prepared (recipe in the book!), washed down by a citrusy Gewürztraminer.

The only problem is that I always find myself heading to the kitchen for a snack when I write these food scenes.

Kass:  And now I want to do exactly that!  Thanks so much for joining us today, Leslie.

And there you have it, folks, a delectable series of “snarky cozies” for your reading pleasure. Feel free to ask Leslie any questions you may have in the “comments” below.

You can visit Leslie on Facebook and you can go to her author website to sign up for her newsletter—full of recipes and fun Italian facts!—and to purchase all of her books.

And here’s her newest release:

Death al Fresco, book 3 in the Sally Solari mystery series:

Death al Fresco book cover

It’s early autumn in Santa Cruz and restaurateur Sally Solari, inspired by the eye-popping canvases of Paul Gauguin, the artist for whom her restaurant is named, enrolls in a plein air painting class. But the beauty of the Monterey Bay coastline is shattered during one of their outings when Sally’s dog sniffs out a corpse entangled in a pile of kelp.

The body is identified as Gino, a local fisherman and a regular at Sally’s father’s restaurant, Solari’s, until he disappeared after dining there a few nights before. But after witnesses claim he left reeling drunk, fingers begin to point at Sally’s dad for negligently allowing the old man to walk home alone at night. From a long menu of suspects, including a cast of colorful characters who frequent the historic Santa Cruz fisherman’s wharf, Sally must serve up a tall order in order to clear her father’s name.

Available on  Amazon,   Barnes & Noble  and  Bookshop Santa Cruz

We blog here at misterio press about twice a month, 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. 🙂 )