Saturday, July 6, 2019

Cover Reveal for A Darkened Room- Zack Taylor #6

Am putting the finishing touches on the latest Zack Taylor mystery, A Darkened Room.
Then it goes off to the editor. Two years in the making, now it's getting close to release!

I love the cover- exactly what I wanted.
For me, the value in being an Independent author means I get the covers I want, not some idiotic green garage door (like Barry Eisler). The image goes with the brand we've established for this series, and evokes the theme.

What do you think?

Monday, June 17, 2019

I'm on TV. And Moxie!

Here's a great interview I did with Diane and Tom McGary, for Dracut TV. I talk about the importance of writing and the arts, some favorite authors, and a few other things.


It's a prep for my appearance/reading at Dracut Arts on Saturday, July 20, 2019 at 4:30 PM – 5:30 PM
Dracut Arts, Christ Church United, 10 Arlington St., Dracut, MA
More info here


And before that, I'll be signing books at the Moxie Festival in Lisbon, ME on Saturday July 13th.
Come on down and try some Moxie!
Here's the writeup from the event last year.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Making a Mystery in Somerville

A few authors and an interested and interactive crowd came together to make a mystery. This was hosted in a joint effort by the Somerville Library and the folks of the Somerville Media Center, in the Assembly Square area. It's a cool space for many community events.


We had a panel of Sisters in Crime mystery authors who took suggestions from the audience as to locale, characters, motives, and weapons, and we started putting together a mystery incorporating those elements.
L to R: Marita (from the library, who coordinated the event), Clea Simon at the flip chart, Elizabeth Elo, and Frances McNamara.


Thanks to all who came out in the misty night to hear us talk about the process of writing a good mystery. Lots of fun showing the process and explaining how we make decisions.



And they really got into the spirit, contributing some interesting characters, locales, and situations.
One of the character names put forth is one I'm stealing for a story! 
Gotta say, with the pros on the panel, we created a rather good mystery outline.


And of course they were promoting our books. (Nice lineup on top!)
Thanks to all for a fun night! Video link soon! 


Sunday, June 2, 2019

Maine Crime Wave Conference 2019

We had a blast at the recent Maine Crime Wave Conference in Portland, ME, which is helped by the Mystery Writers of America, the Sisters in Crime, and the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance. Lots of authors- old friends and aspiring writers came together for a weekend of craft sessions, panels on various subjects, and schmoozing with fellow writers.
To see a writeup of the conference from last year, click here.

Nothing says a New England Writer Conference like Connie Johnson Hambley.
To see an interview with Connie, click here




And we were off to a rousing start, with a good crowd.



Plenty of books for sale by the attending authors.
 Sales were handled by Barbara Kelly of Kelly's Books To Go.


This fellow Dick Cass was instrumental in getting things to run smoothly. 
To see an interview with Dick, click here
Here he is with Jessica Sweet.


 Superstar thriller writer Gayle Lynds with another conference helper, Hannah.


Gerry Boyle with his latest book


And with agent Meg Ruley and the best-selling Lisa Gardner

 
Here's James Hayman checking out my books!
To see an interview with James, click here


To see an interview with Kate, click here


The Milliken crew: Maureen, Rebecca, and daughter
To see an interview with Maureen, click here


Bruce Coffin (R) making a point


To see an interview with Barb, click here


Vaughn Hardacker, who has a Wendigo novel which makes a great pairing with my Shadow of the Wendigo.


The Holms- Chris and Katrina




And here with Jessica Elliott


Eddie Vincent, of Encircle Publications


Ruth McCarty


James and Meg



A lovely day, with lots of learning and good information being swapped.
Thank sto all who worked to make it happen!

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Interview with Mystery/Thriller Author Carmen Amato

Today we're checking out the work of Carmen Amato, who has quite the resume for writing her thrillers. I met her at last year's Killer Nashville conference. Check this out:
Following a 30 year career with the Central Intelligence Agency, Carmen Amato created the Detective Emilia Cruz mystery series, which pits the first female police detective in Acapulco against Mexico's cartels, corruption, and culture of machismo. KIRKUS REVIEWS called the books "Consistently exciting" (CLIFF DIVER) with "Danger and betrayal never more than a few pages away." (KING PESO) The series was recently awarded the Poison Cup for Outstanding Series by the CrimeMasters of America.




Q. So how did this novel (series) come to be? Was it envisioned from the start as a bigger canvas, or did it expand organically out of an idea? Please tell us a bit about the origin.

A. Drugs.

Not mine, but the violent impact of what the illicit drug trade is doing to Mexico.

We lived there for several years, giving me a ringside seat to cartel violence. It really got in my face—literally—when an armed drug addict came into our church during midnight Mass on Christmas Eve.

My first book, the standalone political thriller THE HIDDEN LIGHT OF MEXICO CITY, took on both cartel violence and Mexico’s vast social disparities.

Next came the Detective Emilia Cruz police series, which is wholly based on what is happening today in Mexico. Rival drug cartels fight for territory, politicians are bribed to look the other way, and ordinary people are caught in the middle.

Emilia’s challenges are pulled from the headlines. There’s no need to make up bizarre serial killers when cartel violence and corrupt politicians provide more than enough inspiration. For example, Emilia’s perpetual hunt for women who have gone missing—referred to as Las Perdidas or the Lost Ones--was inspired by the hundreds of women missing from the Juarez area.

So in an odd way, I have that drug addict to thank for jumpstarting my writing career.

Q. Did you start with the germ of an idea and start writing to see where it went, or did you map a good deal out in your head (or even outline) before crafting?

A. When I wrote political thriller THE HIDDEN LIGHT OF MEXICO CITY, I knew that I wanted it to address the class system in Mexico. Rule #1 there: Stay in your place.

When we lived in Mexico, I had a great circle of friends who were women from all over the world—Russia, Germany, England, as well as the US. All of us were taken aback by the rigid social norms in Mexico. I wrote THE HIDDEN LIGHT OF MEXICO CITY from our collective point of view.

My inspiration for how to write the book was Ken Follett’s THE KEY TO REBECCA. My initial outline was mostly in my head, which was a mistake. I also started writing a scene that occurs about two thirds of the way through. Another mistake.

After 8 full-length novels, I’m much more focused. Outline, then write from start to finish. Lots of changes along the way, of course, but fewer revisions.

Q. What do you feel is the main theme(s)? Why do you feel this is important, and what would you want a reader to take away from reading this book? 

A. My Detective Emilia Cruz series takes on cartels, official corruption and Mexico’s culture of machismo. Acapulco is a great setting from a detective series point of view—in 2018 the city was the homicide capital of Mexico.

As a female and a cop in Mexico, Detective Emilia Cruz lives in a pressure cooker. It’s hard to know who she can trust and harder still to have a normal relationship when she’s immersed for so much of the time in a stew of paranoia and danger.

When I write the Detective Emilia Cruz mystery series, I do it from Emilia’s deep point of view. Through Emilia’s experiences, I want the reader to feel the heat of Acapulco’s sun, smell the salt tang coming off the ocean, and know the gut-twisting fear of being a cop in one of the most beautiful and dangerous cities in the world.

My goal is to bring the reader shoulder-to-shoulder with Emilia, hearing her heart pound and helping her calculate the odds of survival.

Q. Are there writers with similar themes to yours? Who are your influences (can be writers, or even artists, musicians, or others) and what is it about their work that attracts you?

A. The Detective Emilia Cruz series is similar to other international detective series, such as Jo Nesbo’s Harry Hole series, Peter May’s Hebrides trilogy, Martin Cruz Smith’s Arkady Renko series, and Leighton Gage’s Mario Silva series.

We all make cultural elements of the setting integral to the plot. I love the unique aspect of a mystery that can’t be set anywhere else.

Q. Is storytelling mostly entertainment, or does it serve other functions? Do you have particular goals other than telling a good story?

A. I write about people who face hard things like discrimination, violence, and corruption. But my characters live to fight another day. Moreover, they find someone to stand and fight beside them.

When Felix Contreras, the host of NPR’s ALT.Latino show asked me about the Emilia Cruz character, I told him that she represented hope. Despite Mexico’s drug cartels and high murder rates, there are still good people fighting the good fight.

Emilia walks a fine line between the corruption around her and the personal relationships which sustain her. It helps that she’s a good liar.

Q. Any other goals you've set for yourself, professionally or personally?


A. Two very different mystery series are slowly assembling themselves in the back of my mind, along with the plots for a dozen more Detective Emilia Cruz novels. I’m an historian by training so I’d like to get back to that at some point, too.

Q. Some writers write fast and claim not to rewrite much. Do you do this, or painstakingly revise? When you send the book off to the publisher, are you happy with it, or just tired of it?

A. I write slowly and rewrite a fair amount. I’m always trying to create a certain pace and a vibrant visual impact. I won’t let anything hit an audience until I’m happy with it.

Q. Do you have good editors, and if so, how do they help you? Do they look for particular things? Do you have different people for different editing levels?

A. I rely on several fellow authors to critique a WIP at various stages. I also use a proofreader when the draft is done.

Q. If a writer came to you for advice, how would you help?

A. Two pieces of advice:
1. Don’t fall in love with your writing. Fall in love with your setting, characters, and plot, but be ready to polish your prose over and over.

2. Check points of view. Keep each character’s point of view separate.

Other than that, enjoy the journey. No matter where you are on the publishing road, there are twists and turns ahead. Enjoy them all.

Q. Stories can be told by using a different medium. Can you see your book as a film, audio, etc.? How would that alter the telling?

A. I’d love to the see Detective Emilia Cruz series as a television series. Think Hawaii 5-0 meets Narcos. I’ve been lucky enough to have significant interest and several contracts but no actual show as of this writing.

Q. What's the next step in your writing world?

A. RUSSIAN MOJITO, the next book in the Detective Emilia Cruz series comes out in June. A murdered Russian pitches Emilia into the explosive world of Mexican fuel thieves, even as she scrambles to find her kidnapped stepfather and fugitive human trafficker El Acólito. Her cranky partner Franco Silvio is now her boss, making their relationship even more fractious. As always, disparate threads come together in the end, but in very, very unexpected ways.

Beyond fiction, I’ve partnered with crime fiction author Jeanine Kitchel to write a series of literary essays on the narco noir phenomenon. Criminal Element recently published our first entitled “The Ascent of Narco Noir: A Literary Gamechanger.”



Q. Tell us a fun fact about yourself.

A. Retired CIA intel officer.

Yep. That’s all I’m gonna say.

******

Dale, thank you so much for the opportunity to chat!

Readers are invited to join me at any of the links below:

Carmenamato.net
Books on Amazon
Subscribe to Mystery Ahead
Facebook
Pinterest

Visit Carmen's website at carmenamato.net to get a free copy of the Detective Emilia Cruz Starter Library. The Starter Library features “The Beast,” the story about how Emilia became the first female detective in Acapulco, which was first published in The Huffington Post. You’ll also get “The Angler,” the story based on a real life murder mystery, plus the exclusive “Who’s Who” guide to the series, plus Carmen’s bi-monthly Mystery Ahead newsletter.

See why Amazon Hall of Fame reviewer Grady Harp wrote: "For pure entertainment and a gripping story likely resulting in nail biting, read Carmen Amato's addictive prose. She knows this territory like a jaguar!"isit Carmen's website at carmenamato.net to get a free copy of the Detective Emilia Cruz Starter Library. The Starter Library features “The Beast,” the story about how Emilia became the first female detective in Acapulco, which was first published in The Huffington Post. You’ll also get “The Angler,” the story based on a real life murder mystery, plus the exclusive “Who’s Who” guide to the series, plus Carmen’s bi-monthly Mystery Ahead newsletter.

See why Amazon Hall of Fame reviewer Grady Harp wrote: "For pure entertainment and a gripping story likely resulting in nail biting, read Carmen Amato's addictive prose. She knows this territory like a jaguar!"

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Interview with Debut Author Jason Walcutt

Another great interview today- this one with debut author Jason Walcutt, whose new book Gaia Hunted, is now available.



Let's find out more about him and his work.

Q. So how did this novel come to be? Was it envisioned from the start as a bigger canvas, or did it expand organically out of an idea? Please tell us a bit about the origin.

A. I had just moved to Salem, MA, which is a pretty funky city. The place is surging with great energy. In a lot of ways, it's almost a mecca for alternative beliefs and spiritual practices, and I knew I wanted to harness some of those ideas in a book.

At the same time, I had finished writing an international thriller, and I wanted to write something that contained a similar plot structure. I love addictive, page-turning thrillers. Books like Marathon Man by William Goldman and Eye of the Needle by Ken Follett are some of my favorites.

I've always enjoyed genre bending stories and novels, so I thought it would be interesting to blend these two elements: International thriller with elements of fantasy.

From this point, the next stage of the idea was inspired partly by a movie and a television show. The move was Stargate, a Sci-Fi film that came out in the 90s. There are a lot of fascinating ideas presented in both the movie and subsequent television show, but the idea that most attracted me was that of the false god. In the universe of Stargate, the Egyptian pyramids were actually built by aliens who presented themselves as gods to humans. I was drawn to the concept of religions and deities actually being something completely different than that which originally presented.

The television show is Joss Whedon's Dollhouse—a Sci-Fi show about a woman's path to self-awareness as her memory and personality are constantly erased and reprogrammed. I loved the idea of a person being able to access previously unattainable knowledge and skills. This is summed up perfectly in the movie The Matrix when Neo famously claims, “I know Kung Fu.”

From these divergent points, I weaved my idea together. As is common for me, I brainstormed the idea over a two week period—although it had probably been simmering on the back burner of my mind for a far longer period.


Q. Did you start with the germ of an idea and start writing to see where it went, or did you map a good deal out in your head (or even outline) before crafting?

A. I do a lot of outlining prior to writing. Only once, on my first novel, did I write by the seat of my pants (ie no outlining). What I produced was a dystopian novel with a plot similar to Xenophon's Anabasis, but it combined Furries and mix martial arts fighting. Needless to say, it was a hot mess which will never see the light of day.

Nowadays, I outline the entire novel. I usually write out a few paragraphs for each chapter that include the characters involved, the primary conflict in the scene, and important details that need to be included. When I get stuck on a particularly challenging chapter, I'll often extensively outline it.

Q. What do you feel is the main theme(s)?

A. There are quite few in the book, but I'll focus on two in particular.

The big theme is the idea how a weak person can become strong. The story is about Mattie, who is a young, depressed woman filled with self-doubt. It's about her discovering truths within her that eventually transform her into an enlightened, confident and powerful individual.

Another theme is the push and pull between male and female energy—so called, Ying and Yang in eastern philosophy. In GAIA HUNTED, I create a world which is divided between two groups of gods—Mother Goddesses and Father Gods. Mother Goddesses identify with love, compassion and empathy. While Father Gods represent intellect, logic and justice. The conflict between these two groups is at heart of the entire novel. 

Q. Why do you feel this is important, and what would you want a reader to take away from reading this book?

A. The primary purpose of this book is entertainment and to enjoy a good story. I do think it is possible to change our mental, physical and emotional outlooks. We unfortunately live in a world where so much of our reality is tunnel vision. Although social media has some good qualities, it unfortunately exacerbates feelings of loneliness and isolation. If this book helps a person view their life and existence differently and in a more positive light, then I think that is more important than any number of book sales I could possibly achieve.

Q. What makes a good book or engaging story?

A. A lot of long hours and hard work! But in particular, a good book for me is a fine balance between an unpredictable plot and fascinating characters. Throw in great dialogue and a vivid setting, and I think you have a best seller.

Q. Are there writers with similar themes to yours? Who are your influences (can be writers, or even artists, musicians, or others) and what is it about their work that attracts you?

A. There are many but here are some of my favorite authors and why I love them.

JK Rowling: For her ability to create believable fantasy worlds and characters that are easy to love.
Neil Gaiman: The type of writer who always keeps you guessing.
Steven King: A true master of the art—who effortlessly combines amazing plots, characters and intriguing ideas.
Margaret Atwood: A great author I love for her ability to create timeless classics that still resonate today.

Q. Is storytelling mostly entertainment, or does it serve other functions? Do you have particular goals other than telling a good story?

A. We are all protagonists in our own stories, and I think that's one of the powerful things about storytelling. We place ourselves—whether we realize it or not—into a story, and we project the story of our own life onto characters. In some ways, we know and understand fictional characters better than our family and best friends. The heroes and myths that we create in our world are shaped just as much by real people as fictional ones. That's powerful. A story takes a mirror and microscope to our own lives; it illuminates parts of us that we've never thought about.

Q. Any other goals you've set for yourself, professionally or personally?

A. My main goal right now is being the best possible father to my daughter. Needless to say, the time I've had for writing post-child is significantly less than what it used to be, but my goal for the next ten years is to put out at least one novel per year.

Q. Some writers write fast and claim not to rewrite much. Do you do this, or painstakingly revise? When you send the book off to the publisher, are you happy with it, or just tired of it?

A. For me, re-writing is the true art of the craft. My first draft of a novel is always a pile of garbage burying gems. Re-writing for me is about digging out those gems and polishing them until they sparkle. To give you an example, on my computer, I have 17 drafts of Gaia Hunted. Now, not all of them were full-on re-writes, but each draft represents a significant amount of time and energy I committed to editing and improving the novel.

When the book is done, I just know it. It's a gut feeling. It's gotten to the point where if I add or remove anything else, it's just going to make it worse. Lastly, I'm typically very proud of it.

Q. Do you have good editors, and if so, how do they help you? Do they look for particular things? Do you have different people for different editing levels?

A. I have great editors. I use a mix of family, friends, professional writers and editors who read early drafts. From friends and family, I'm generally looking for their overall impressions—do they like the characters, story and ideas? From writers, I look for feedback about craft. For example, does this conflict make sense? Or is this character necessary? From professional editors, I'm looking for the nitty-gritty—spelling, grammar, punctuation and structural mistakes.

Q. If a writer came to you for advice, how would you help?

A. Depends on what they are looking for, but I've always believed in creating community in the writing world, and it's one of my favorite things about being a writer. For a time, I was the community outreach director on the board of Mystery Writers of America, New England Chapter, and the thing I loved most was connecting different writing community and exchanging ideas. I would advise to go out and meet some other writers. Typically, they're pretty interesting people.

Q. Stories can be told by using a different medium. Can you see your book as a film, audio, etc.? How would that alter the telling?

A. Actually, the audio book is going to be available for sale soon. I was really lucky. The voice actor, Emily Frongillo, with whom I worked was incredible. She's so good that whenever I read over parts of my novel, I hear Emily's voice.

Seeing GAIA HUNTED as a movie would certainly be a dream come true! All the storytelling mediums are unique and special in their own way. I honestly don't know how it would it alter the novel seeing it as a movie, but I sure as heck want to see.

Q. What's the next step in your writing world?

A. My big goal is to finish editing the sequel of GAIA HUNTED and start writing the third book in the trilogy.

Q. Tell us a fun fact about yourself.

A. Despite not being a native speaker, I have only spoken Spanish with my daughter since she was two months old. Conversations around the dinner table have been getting interesting lately.

Q. Any other information you'd like to impart?

A. I would like to express how thankful I am to friends, family, readers and other writers for being so supportive of GAIA HUNTED! Many thanks!

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Mystery Panel at A Freethinker's Corner bookstore

We traveled to the wilds of Dover, New Hampshire, to take part in a Sisters in Crime "Making a Mystery" panel at A Freethinker's Corner bookstore, a cool Indie shop that's still pretty new, and as we found out, a big supporter of local authors.


Good to see another local shop that encourages the community to spend their dollars on local good things.

Inside has a lot of fun stuff to check out.




Even work from local artists!



So we set up our book displays and got ready.




And then fun time, where we took suggestions for various elements to start building a mystery. 
Have to say, it was like a good thing. Of course when you've got pros like these on the panel, you're going to get something spectacular.
To see an interview with Toni, click here
To see an interview with Connie, click here