Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Interview with author BJ Magnani

Hello again! Today we're visiting with author Dr. B.J Magnani, who is on her 4th career. After college, she became a high school and college teacher, obtained an M.S. & Ph.D., worked as a scientist, and then returned to medical school to become a pathologist. Now, writing fiction is her primary passion. 

The former Chair of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at Tufts Medical Center in Boston, MA, Dr. Magnani is currently Professor of Anatomic and Clinical Pathology/Professor of Medicine at Tufts University School of Medicine, and uses her knowledge of toxicology to create medical fiction.


And she has a new book out! Released today on Amazon.


Special bonus- The TEWKSBURY WRITING GROUP Hosts a chat- Writing Advice From BJ Magnani

MONDAY, APRIL 25, 7:00—8:30 PM

Link to register


Let's find out more...

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. All my stories are inspired by events I find in the news that could create catastrophic problems for the world if set into motion—mass poisonings, threatening missile launches, and control of geopolitical resources. I find these scenarios much scarier than traditional horror stories. My stories are in the realm of global possibilities.

A Message in Poison is the third novel in the Dr. Lily Robinson series (The Queen of All Poisons, The Power of Poison) about a Boston physician who doubles as an assassin for the U.S. Government and completes Lily’s personal arc while taking on a new geopolitical mission.


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 write, I start with an overview (all in my head) of what I would like the plot to be and what I would like to happen to the characters. Then I start writing and see where it takes me. I don’t always end up at the place I thought I would. 


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

A. The overlapping themes in the  Dr. Lily Robinson novels are whether ‘the end justifies the means’ and whether ‘the good of the many outweighs the good of the one.’ These create conflict in the protagonist.


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

A. Most people face conflict in their lives. Not as extreme as my protagonist, but I hope they sympathize with the good doctor. Lily Robinson tries to rationalize her life as she struggles to move between assassin and healer—each job a way to save ‘the good of the many.’ With buried emotions, she views the world from a clinical perspective, propelled by her guilt over the loss of her daughter.


Q. What makes a good book or engaging story?

A. The reader needs to be invested in the characters. They can love them or hate them, cheer for their success or failure, but either way, the plot needs to take them to the finish line. 


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. Michael Crichton was an influence on my writing. He was also a physician, and I admired his ability to research a subject, distill it for the audience, and make his stories suspenseful. Taking my medical knowledge and incorporating it into my stories allows me to use the novels for some science teaching. That makes it fun.


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

A. Yes. I like to use part of my story as a vehicle for science education. I use real examples of medical cases I’ve worked on. While the story is fiction, some aspects are non-fiction. But in the end, it’s pure entertainment.


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

A. I believe learning is a lifelong adventure. I’ve wanted to experience new things during my life, and that’s why I’ve had several careers. There’s just so much to enjoy! 


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 tend to write in spurts. If I’m on a roll, I keep going. Other times, I just hope to meet a writing goal for the day. But I’m a notorious re-writer. I usually love the book while I’m writing, but I’m tired of it in the end.


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’m using more editors, not fewer, as I’ve written more books. Each one has different strengths, and that helps me.


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

A. It depends on what they would like to know. In general, write what you love and don’t try and chase trends that may already have come and gone. Read as much as you can: good readers make better writers. Join a community of like-minded souls who will guide you, read your work, and support your courage to put yourself out there.


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. My books are definitely movies or a limited series. I’ve had many people tell me that the stories are very visual, and they can see the places and the action in their minds. So I’m hoping a producer is out there who will fall in love with my work and show the world a woman physician who is not only smart and savvy but a sometimes assassin. 


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

A. I enjoy writing the monthly poison blog posted on my website, and I’ve written another novel in a different genre to stretch my writing skills.

The Poison Blog 


Q. Tell us a fun fact about yourself.

A. I was a competitive equestrian from the time I was 8 years old until college. I had the privilege of riding and showing some of the best horses on the East Coast.


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

A. I would encourage interested readers to look at my website under MORE/COMING SOON for information on events that I will be attending. I have some Zoom and in-person events coming up, and I hope to see as many people as possible for lively discussion and book signings. 


Saturday, April 2, 2022

More news: publications, podcasts, and interviews!

Hello again- it's been a busy time- writing and submitting new stories, doing interviews and podcasts, and getting non-fiction pieces published.

So first, my interview on John Hoda's podcast My Favorite Detective Stories

Another interview with Doug Holder 

My article on Maine Mystery Writers is out in Mystery Reader's Journal

My columns on Writing and Independent publishing are in each issue of Killer Nashville Magazine

I was on a number of Bonnie Graham's podcasts on Technology Revolution: The Future of Now Radio. 

You can find them on Facebook or LinkedIn

and search on my name to bring up the various shows we did.

Latest Tewksbury Writer's Night Out, with guest Matt Cost. Contact Robert Hayes at the Tewksbury Library for information.

 


Monday, January 3, 2022

Latest News and Appearances

 Happy New Year!

For the first post of the new year, I'll be guesting on podcasts in January.

First is John Hoda's Podcast: My Favorite Detective Stories

Thursday January 6th, 2022 at 4PM.

www.johnhoda.com


I'll also be on Bonnie Graham's show Technology Revolution: The Future of Now. 

Wednesday, January 19, 2022 at 11 AM – 12:00 PM

You can listen live on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/bdgraham 

or Facebook

https://www.facebook.com/TechnologyRevolutionTheFutureOfNowRadio


And I'll moderate a Zoom chat for the Tewksbury Writer's Night Out with children's author Carolyn Cutler Hughes, as she discusses how she uses real-life experiences to inspire her work.

Register HERE to get you the Zoom link to join the meeting: https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZwkdeqoqj8iH9XmI7VxEdMHqgICYhptWCJw

Thursday, December 23, 2021

Vegas, Baby!

Took a trip to Las Vegas to play in poker tournaments which I'd qualified for. Our crew went and had a terrific time. Here we are at breakfast. 

L to R: Jody, PJ, Joe, Effin' Dave, Ed, Shaun. John


Da boys


John in his element


   A Team event- The Dream Team: Andrew, Me, Effin' Dave, Chris


Andrew going strong


We got out some- here we are on Fremont street


The nightly Fountains



Inside the Bellagio, going to our awesome brunch






And we even got out to Hoover Dam, an incredible sight.












Saturday, December 11, 2021

Interview With Author Alison Silvey

Happy holidays, all! Hope you're doing well. 

Today's treat is a chat with author Alison Silvey, who's got some delicious scary tales. 

(I made her pose for all these pics, so don't blame her!)


She also published under the pen name Kameryn James. 

In time for Christmas, here's a fun little book:


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. A Dreary, Rotten Underworld Christmas was born from my own stress and loss surrounding this holiday and the chaos people put themselves through to pull off this one day of the year. It was also greatly influenced by the beating many of us took during the year 2020, and the changes we made to emotionally survive.  


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 hand wrote scenes in a journal as they came to me. It flowed more naturally and effective that way. I knew exactly where I wanted each of the three children – Monique (Mo), Jacoby, and Ivan - to end up, yet needed to smooth out transitions both in journals and on the computer screen. This novella is one of only two writing projects I truly let ideas and feelings flow.


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

A. You better be good, for goodness sake! But, a bit more seriously, this is a children’s cautionary tale derived from the old Krampus folklore. But Dreary, Rotten Christmas is more than consequences of disregarding traditions or beliefs. It has modern elements of social media addicts and video game junkies, along with the trials of maturing and seeing beyond yourself.


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

A. Dreary has the classic elements of getting that Christmas gift your mind desires above all else, but sometimes with a price. It encourages responsibility and doing what we have to before what we want to do. I would like readers to take away the realization that we often put so much unnecessary strain on ourselves. We may not be perfect, but most of us do the best we can for our families and friends, even after Christmas.


Q. What makes a good book or engaging story? 

A. For me as a reader and watcher of streaming shows, it is the characters. Some must be relatable. But when writing contemporary magic, urban fantasy, or a retelling of a folk tale, we need those colorful and edgy characters. When writing horror under my pen name, a powerful and unforgettable antagonist is a must. I have also grown to appreciate side characters, as they provide comic relief, story twists, and help the protagonist(s) grow. In this rotten Christmas, I allowed the side characters to hijack the folk tale for a bit.


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. I adore that Neil Gaiman is not afraid to create strange worlds filled with oddball or seductive characters. When writing about horrible children wreaking havoc on holiday traditions, Barbara Robinson’s The Best Christmas Pageant Ever was a masterpiece from my own childhood reading.


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

A. Although my novellas have been primarily for entertainment purposes, readers will find aspects that have been inspired by my work in the mental health field or my own life experiences. In a Dreary, Rotten Underworld Christmas, I suppose I wanted certain readers to know they are not alone.


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

A. Honestly, I would love to one day give up my day job and only write.


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 have a Forever Work in Progress, which I am comparing the two versions of the novel, where I deleted hardly anything from either version. A few months ago, I sent a children’s book off to a publisher that was on the 5th revision, I think. I hit what Steve Pressfield called “the wall” in Do the Work. I told the story and now need a publisher’s view on how to perfect it. With Dreary I revised it like my other works, by attacking the printed draft with a red pen. I relied heavily on a style sheet to track corrections and changes. I consulted other writers and people about the intensity of some character names, such as Hack Frost, Splinter Green, and Splatter Mint. I needed to convey a band of unruly, dark elf like children, yet slightly struggled with some of the names. Mother Gwynelda, the towering caretaker of the children Krampus brings to the Underworld, had a few name changes and revisions to her speeches, mannerisms, and actions.


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

A. A world of advice on writing exists in classes, workshops and online. There is a plethora of tools we can use now, such as writing apps. From my own experience, I would say try out what some people may advise. Yet, realize that what works for them may not work for you. I learned I am not organized enough to use notecards to outline stories. I minimally use bullet journaling to quickly jot ideas and changes. It will take time to find what best creative forms and tools suit you. Then, when you grow as an author, your routines may change.

 
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 can absolutely see A Dreary, Rotten Underworld Christmas as a movie filled with pointy-eared children with green, blue, or peppermint striped hair. I don’t know how it would alter the telling. Maybe more emphasis on the Underworld setting.


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

A. Try to finish one of my works in progress, turn a short story into a picture book, or just let another new story completely take over all other projects.


Q. Tell us a fun fact about yourself. 

A. I have ten nieces and nephews-seven from my older siblings, and three from my husband’s side. At least fifteen babies can claim me as a great Aunty (though I just prefer Aunty). But I have no aunts, uncles, or cousins of my own. 



Sunday, November 21, 2021

Another Crime Bake!

My favorite writer convention to attend is the annual Crime Bake, held here in Mass. We couldn't hold it last year, on account of the plague, so it was great to see people in person again. 

With about 250 mystery writers and fans, it's fairly intimate, and feels like a fun family reunion. 

Thanks to all who worked to make this happen. It was quite an effort this year, with the question: would we be able to meet in person?

I mean, check out this cool gang...

L to R- Brian Shea, his buddy Joseph, Michelle Clark, Chris Knopf, Bruce Robert Coffin, Mo Walsh, Ray Daniel, and Jill Fletcher. 

And these troublemakers- BJ Magnani, Matt Cost, Tom Lyons

More troublemakers: Rebecca Milliken and Nicole Asselin

For some, the whole family comes by to visit, as with Tilia Klebenov-Jacobs, here with hubby Doug and offspring


We hear terrific presentations about writing, publishing, and more. Here's Ursula Wong


Tilia and BJ also gave great presentations


Mystery Writers of America honchos, present and past: Stephen Rogers and Mo Walsh


A few folks new to me: first, Keri-Rae Barnum, with one of our 20th anniversary cupcakes.







And the tall and short of it. Bruce with Don Kaplan


Lots of fun and reconnecting. Can't wait until next year! 



Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Interview with Author Clea Simon- her new book is out today!

Hello again- today we have an interview with author Clea Simon, who has a new book out- to join her many others. 

Here's the description of Hold Me Down (out TODAY!):

In this riveting work of dark suspense from acclaimed author Clea Simon, Gal, a middle-aged musician, is back in Boston to play a memorial for her late drummer/best friend, when she finds herself freezing on stage at the sight of a face in the crowd. The next day, she learns that the man she saw has been killed – beaten to death behind the venue – and her friend's widower is being charged in connection with his death. When the friend refuses to defend himself, Gal wonders why and, as the memories of begin to flood back, she starts her own informal investigation. As she does so, she must reexamine her own wild life, her perception of the past, and an industry that monetizes dysfunction in a dark tale of love, music, and murder.


Clea, a former journalist and rock music critic, is the author of three nonfiction books and 28 mysteries. A native of New York, she lives in Somerville, MA. 


Let's find out more about her 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. To be honest, I’ve been working on HOLD ME DOWN for so long, I’m no longer exactly sure how it started. In many ways, HOLD ME DOWN follows in the footsteps of my Massachusetts Book Award “must read” “World Enough,” in that it takes place in the Boston rock club scene and centers on the subjectivity of memory. I also wanted to explore how the music scene, which I dearly loved, monetizes some forms of dysfunction. After all, nobody cares to see a well-adjusted, happy rock star.
 I also know that I was inspired in part by an interview with Chrissie Hynde I read in the Guardian several years ago. In that interview, Hynde, the lead singer of the Pretenders, talked about being raped when she was in her early 20s by a gang of bikers. What got me was that she blamed herself for being stupid. I’m a rape survivor and this hit a nerve for me. I recognized an element of denial that I held onto for decades and the essential truth behind it: that it is easier to accept culpability than to acknowledge the psychically terrifying truth that you had no power.


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 knew from the start what one of the story arcs would be, but as I wrote it, I realized there was another, deeper arc. And, of course, as I wrote some of the characters went off on their own tangents. So I had some ideas, but basically I just sat down and wrote.

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

A. The subjectivity of memory, how we recover from as well as remember trauma, and the lasting nature of love and family, of any sort.


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

A. I hope it’s a good yarn and emotionally involving! I like to think that even people who have never been to a grungy basement rock club will enjoy taking the trip vicariously, and that even non-musicians will relate to my fading rock star of a protagonist.

Q. What makes a good book or engaging story?

A. Good characters and a plot that grows organically out of those characters.

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. I really loved David Hajdu’s “Adrienne Geffel.” Hajdu is an award-winning music writer and this is his comic novel sending up the whole musician/criticism world. Hilarious. As far as themes go, I’ve always appreciated how Valerie Martin makes unlikable characters sympathetic – and I love how Hilary Mantel makes the past feel contemporary.

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

A. A book has to stand on its own as a work of art. That means it should hit on all levels, but also that it shouldn’t be a tool in a larger agenda.

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

A. I want to keep stretching. I want to improve my writing.

Q. Some writers write fast and claim not to rewrite much. Do you do this, or painstakingly revise?

A. I write pretty fast but then I have to revise extensively. I wish I didn’t but whenever I read my first few drafts, I realize that I’ve left too much in my head and not put it on the page.

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

A. Do the work. Writer. Re-read. Find readers. Revise. Do it again. Set it aside. Do it again. Do. The. Work.

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 for my work to be optioned, but then it wouldn’t be my book. I’d love the money and exposure, though!

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

A. I’m working on two very different projects now. One is drafted, so I’ve put it aside to re-read later. The other I’m still drafting.

Q. Tell us a fun fact about yourself.

A. I went to high school with a serial killer, Joel Rifkin. I have never been tempted to write about him, though, despite my brother-in-law’s urging.

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

A. I feel like I should warn readers that HOLD ME DOWN is very different from my cat cozies. I adore those and hope to return to them, but I don’t want anyone to be taken aback or feel deceived!


Links: 
My website page has more info on the books, including links to outlets, including indie bookstores (Indie Bound):