An interview with Radine Trees Nehring

Radine Trees Nehring is pretty small in stature, but as an artist and an author, she’s LARGE in my estimation! I’ve worked with a lot of authors in the years I’ve been in business, and she’s tremendously inspiring as one who not only has finely tuned her talent as a writer, but she’s equally skilled at balancing all of the peripherals needed to be successful. I suspect we could all learn something from her and enjoy the characters and locales that populate her books.
PJ: Radine, how long have you been writing?

Radine: Well, let’s see . . . I learned to write block letters in the first grade, but I don’t remember writing much in cursive until sixth grade. That year our home room teacher had all students keep a journal and write a bit in it each school day.  In addition, she wrote a short, piquant saying or a poem by some noted thinker or author on the blackboard (they were black then) and we copied that into our journals.  Sure wish I still had that journal, I’d . . . .
Oh–sorry.  You mean writing for publication?  Hmm.  For money?  Well, I wrote my first essay “Where Hummingbirds Matter,” set in the Arkansas Ozarks, in 1985.  It sold almost immediately, and was published on the Home Forum page of The Christian Science Monitor in March of 1986.  (I got several letters from around the English-speaking world about that essay.)   It was soon followed by many, many more Ozarks tales that appeared in The Monitor and several magazines.
PJ: At what point did you reach a place where you felt successful as a writer?
Radine: Honestly?  After I got a check for that first essay and then saw it in print.  Gosh—thousands and thousands of people around the world were reading my words!  (The Monitor is an international newspaper.)  If “Where Hummingbirds Matter” had turned out to be my only published piece, I’d probably still feel like a real writer, twenty-six years later.

PJ: Is the writing life what I expected?

Radine: Since I hadn’t a clue what direction my thoughts on paper would take me at the beginning, or even ten years later, I really can’t answer that question.  At the beginning I knew no other writers that weren’t college professors, “literary,” or poets. I had no idea what the life of a writer was supposed to be like.
PJ: The general public seems to think authors are relatively wealthy. Without prying too much, has your writing income lived up to expectations?

Radine: Again, I had no expectations, so I can’t answer a question phrased like that.  Actually, being offered money for my first essay was a surprise, and being offered a sizeable advance for my non-fiction book DEAR EARTH ten years later was a bigger surprise.  In today’s marketplace, only a tiny percentage of authors live well off writing income alone.   I’m not one of them, and my closest published writer friends report they aren’t either.  We consider ourselves lucky to break even after promotion, travel to conventions and other book events; and paying office expenses.
PJ: Early on, so much focus is given to getting published. Now that you’re published, how has your focus changed?

Radine: Yes, and I’m very grateful for publisher and reader acceptance.
PJ: How long did it take you to get published the first time?

Radine: I wrote Hummingbirds, polished it, sent it off, and it sold immediately.  But then, I was familiar with the market I sent it to, since my family took The Christian Science Monitor when I was growing up, and I loved the essays and poetry on their Home Forum page–an eclectic mix of literary non-fiction, which ended up being good training for me. My non-fiction book of Ozarks story-essays and my mystery series both took longer.  About two years for the mystery series.
PJ: Would you do anything differently if you had it to do over again?

Radine: I did think about this, I really did, but, as I look back, my entire writing life seems a surprising miracle to me, so the only answer can be “No.”  I took steps that seemed right as I moved along, and they turned out okay.  “It just growed.”   (Remember Topsy?)
PJ: Writing new material, rewriting, submitting new work, waiting, promoting published work…the list is large. How do you manage to divvy up your time to give adequate attention to all needed areas?

Radine: That’s really tough today, because all writers are expected to do a majority of their own promotion work, or at least hire a publicist like Breakthrough Promotions.  Though I have both PJ Nunn at Breakthrough and the promotions department at Oak Tree Press supporting my publicity platform, I still do a majority of promotion myself, especially in my home state and area.  Part of the Nehring’s problem is lousy Internet service in the rural area where we live.  Our best service is from Verizon MiFi, but we are at the edge of their coverage area, and service comes and goes.  I do a LOT of waiting for connection, and have actually begun keeping a novel I am reading for review by my computer so I can make wait time more productive by reading.
PJ: What is the single most exciting thing that’s happened to you as a writer?

Radine: Was, and still is, selling that first essay.  Golly, I’m a real writer.

PJ What is the single most disappointing thing that happened to you as a writer?

Radine: Well, I guess the way books are distributed today.  Lots of convoluted ideas and restrictions, such as the mind-set that says publishers must accept book returns from distributors and book sellers, no matter what condition books are in or how long the distributor or store has had them.  (There ARE restrictions about return dates I believe, but I have known about books being returned as long as nine years after they were “sold.”)
I was in the retail business for many years before we moved to Arkansas, and, if merchandise I stocked didn’t sell, we marked it down.  I guess I can sympathize with store owners, but do remember when a bookstore ordered a startling number of cases full of the book I would be signing there one Saturday, simply because they could without any harm.  I was aghast when I saw all those books.  We probably sold one case that day.  The rest were returned.
PJ: What’s the most memorable thing (good or bad) that’s happened to you while promoting your work?

Radine:  The lovely connection with readers who tell me, write me, or e-mail to say nice things about my novels or DEAR EARTH, and tell me what one or more of my ideas or characters meant to them.
PJ: With more books being released each  month now than ever before, what do you believe sets your work apart from the others?

Radine: Probably the people who live in them, plus the “real place reality.” I use only real locations, described accurately and positively. (Positively because I certainly see them that way and they are, after all attractions for tourists and local people.)  Sure, a murder or two may happen there, but it’s obvious the background had nothing to do with that–crimes are committed by a few bad people who are punished in the end.  One example of the location attraction:  A book reviewer from New York who had reviewed my books positively, wanted to see the locations for herself. She and her husband came to Arkansas and toured all the sites I’d covered.
PJ: What would you like to share with writers who haven’t reached the point of publication yet?

Radine: 1. Have your work is professionally edited, especially if you’re writing a book.  I believe that’s something we absolutely cannot do ourselves.  Short pieces, maybe. But in longer work, we get involved in what we think we said, and can easily miss huge boo-boos and confusing writing.  Unfortunately, readers don’t suffer boo-boos lightly, and may never give the writer another chance.
2. NEVER GIVE UP.  Recently a writer in our critique group sold a book she had been dreaming about and working on for sixteen years.  And yes, she did have it professionally edited, even after it had been through our critique group.
PJ: I love your series, as do so many of your fans, and hope it goes on for a long, long time. But might you have plans to write something different along the way?

Radine: No plans for that now.  I would miss Carrie, Henry, and their friends too much. In fact, I miss then when I’m in between novels.  Y’know, writers live double lives–their real life, and at least one fiction life. I do know the difference, but really enjoy my story world as well as my real life with a husband I love at least as much as Carrie loves Henry!
PJ: That’s understandable. So will there be more locales for Carrie and Henry to explore?

Radine: You betcha!  Arkansas has 52 state parks for one thing.  Some are ruled out by the Nehrings because they are simply too far away for the deep research I do.  (I usually make several trips to a site while I am writing.)  In addition to state and national parks, there are tons of exciting festivals and other events, and more . . . and more.

PJ: That sounds very promising! What do you feel is your most effective tool for promoting your published work?

Radine:  Well, the most fun (and easiest for me) is in person. I love talking with people about writing and my books, about their grandchildren, their pets, pet peeves, or whatever!  Secondarily, I enjoy live radio interviews.  I have also been on television, and that’s about the same as radio work.
I realize the importance of the Internet, (like now, when I am responding to your questions via e-mail), but I’d rather be sitting with you, chatting.  As a dear on-line writing friend put it, “Friends should be able to sit down with each other to eat cake and chat–and if I get frosting on my nose, no one cares.”  (Jenny Milchman, the founding mother of “Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day.”)
PJ: What area of book promotion is the most challenging to you?

Radine: Working with the Internet, mostly because of poor reception here, and also the degree of impersonality.
PJ: Do you have a local independent bookseller you’d like to mention?

Radine: Closest to where I live (maybe 20 miles) is “,” 110 West Walnut in Rogers, AR. (moranbks@sbcglobal.net).
Myra and Pat Moran (Pat is a retired lawyer) are antiquarian book dealers, but, since establishing a bricks and mortar bookstore in Rogers’s historic district, they have been supporting and stocking current books by Arkansas authors.  I love going to their store. Always new things to see, and the friendliest people in the world. They act as if they live to support writers.  Myra has designed several terrific book events for me. (For example, she took a booth at an area bridal fair so we could display, sell, and sign copies of A WEDDING TO DIE FOR.)

And, in Fayetteville, AR, about 40 miles away, nationally known “Nightbird Books.”  Just off Dickson Street near the University of Arkansas.  Lively, eclectic, hosts many writers’ events.

Give us a list of your published titles in chronological or series order:

DEAR EARTH: A Love Letter from Spring Hollow.  Non-fiction, 1995.
A VALLEY TO DIE FOR,  first in the Carrie McCrite and Henry King mystery series.  2002.  Set exactly where DEAR EARTH is.
MUSIC TO DIE FOR, set at Ozark Folk Center State Park, Arkansas.  (Think Plymouth or Sturbridge Village in the Ozarks.) Out of print except used and e-books.
A TREASURE TO DIE FOR, set in “Sin City,”  Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas..
A WEDDING TO DIE FOR, set mainly in the historic 1886 Crescent Hotel, and around the hotel in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, a Victorian tourist town.  What kind of wedding does a mature bride dare dream about?
A RIVER TO DIE FOR takes place at Buffalo National River. Carrie’s son Rob takes a part in this tale of archeological looting, abduction, and murder.
JOURNEY TO DIE FOR opens on the restored 1920′s passenger excursion train that takes people through the Boston Mountains from Springdale to Van Buren, Arkansas.  (Van Buren, on the Arkansas River, was founded as Phillips Landing in 1809 and its historic Main Street has been used in many Western movies.) What fun I had holding a shoot-out in an antique shop full of crystal and china on that  Main Street.)
A FAIR TO DIE FOR.  Love this story–as well as all the others, of course. The setting is the War Eagle Craft Fair, War Eagle Mill, and nearby Hobbs State Park in Northwest Arkansas.  One of my readers’ favorite supporting characters, Shirley Booth, takes a large role, and Carrie ends up in more danger than ever before.  Carrie and Henry’s love for each other shines in this novel.
THE WRITER’S JOURNEY JOURNAL published by Wolfmont Press. (Inspiration, information and humor to help you find your way as a writer.) I have used that book as a teaching tool, and have an essay in it, along
with Carolyn Hart, Beth Groundwater, Chris Roerden, Bill Crider, and more.
Share with us an elevator pitch (no more than 30 seconds) of your latest title:

 Carrie McCrite and Henry King follow in the footsteps of senior citizens like Jessica Fletcher, Miss Marple, and Hercule Poirot when they prove smarts and a lively interest in others can trump muscle power and brutality when it comes to mystery-solving in Arkansas’s most intriguing locations.

Where can we buy it?

A FAIR TO DIE FOR and other books can be purchased through your friendly neighborhood bookseller, from online booksellers, and for your Kindle or NOOK.

PJ: What last thing would you like to share with us that nobody knows about you and your work?

Radine:  After this interview, there isn’t a whole lot!  Actually, much about me is revealed in DEAR EARTH, and, according to my friends and fellow writers, in my Carrie and Henry novels, as well.  No, I’m not Carrie, but, as you could expect, there’s a lot of Radine in all my writing, especially as revealed by my friend, Carrie McCrite. If I’m just a teeny bit as brave and caring as she is, I’m right proud and grateful.

Radine, thank you so much! Let’s all go get some cake! Oh yes, and at least one of Radine’s books!

Viral by James Lilliefors

Viral

James Lilliefors

Soho Press, Inc., 2012, 353 Pages

ISBN No. 978-1-61695-068-2

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid

Two brothers separated by years and miles work together to stop an evil plan to spread a deadly virus that will change the world.  Charles Mallory is a private intelligence contractor and former CIA operative.  His brother Jon, an investigative reporter, is alarmed when a call from his brother Charles is not received as scheduled.  Charles is counting on Jon to be a witness to some event that he has yet to reveal to Jon.

Charles is investigating a lead found in a message left by his father in a safe deposit box.  He is acting undercover, using fictitious names but someone is alert to his movements and Charles knows that he is in danger.   When Jon begins to search for his brother Charles leaves clues that only his brother would be able to follow.  Jon is able to decipher the clues but is still lost as to what he is to witness.

Terrible events are happening in a remote area of Africa.  People go to bed at night and just never wake up.  A whole village is wiped out.  Charles is working against time to find out who is behind the scheme and figure out how to put a stop to it before there are more deaths.

The book shifts back and forth between Jon and Charles as well as some of Jon’s contacts in Africa.  The book is well written but at times, it was hard to keep the characters straight.  The descriptions are very graphic and not to be read by a squeamish reader. The entire plot is not revealed until well into the novel.  Viral is an exciting book that keeps the reader on edge.

 

An interview with Elizabeth Zelvin

Elizabeth Zelvin is an incredibly versatile woman and a talented author who consistently utilizes her personal skills and professional knowledge in her writing. Listen and learn:

 

PJ: How long have you been writing?

 

Liz: I’ve been writing my whole life. I first said, “I want to be a writer” when I was seven, and I didn’t even have a Plan B until I was almost forty, when I got a master’s degree in social work and became a psychotherapist. Today, I do both.

 

PJ: At what point did you reach a place where you felt successful as a writer?

Liz: Although I’d published three books (two poetry, one professional) and a lot of professional material, articles and book chapters, I didn’t feel I’d fully succeeded as a writer until my first novel came out. Success as an author is something else again. That’s a matter of business rather than craft.

 

PJ: That’s an important distinction! Is the writing life what you expected when you started out? If not, how is it different?

Liz: The writing life is different from what I expected when my first mystery, Death Will Get You Sober, came out five years ago. As a young woman, I visualized social success and validation rather than the task of writing, but if someone had asked me, I would have said it would be a solitary task. I spend a lot of time at my computer, alone in my apartment, but I’m constantly connected to the community of mystery writers and the larger community of mystery lovers, thanks to the Internet. And since I’m lucky enough to live in New York City, I go to all the parties—book launches, Edgars Week, monthly meetings of MWA and Sisters in Crime—as well as mystery conventions. The support and guidance of other writers has been crucial to the development of my craft as well as the business of getting and staying published.

 

PJ: The general public seems to think authors are relatively wealthy. Without prying too much, has your writing income lived up to expectations?

Liz: May I ROFL (roll on the floor laughing)? The experience that’s best helped me deal with the reality of what most fiction writers earn is my thirty years as a published poet. Nobody expects to make any money whatsoever writing poetry, so the expectations are realistic from the start.

 

PJ: Early on, so much focus is given to getting published. Now that you’re published, how has your focus changed?

Liz: The entire publishing industry, the definition of “getting published,” and the very nature of reading have changed in the few years since my first novel, Death Will Get You Sober, appeared. My first publisher, one of the biggies, dropped me a week before my second book came out because my advance sales weren’t bigger than the first book’s—at the precise moment the economy crashed. I took a year to lick my wounds—and in that year, getting dropped by one’s publisher became the norm, even for successful authors with devoted followings. The e-book market exploded, small presses started to get a lot more respect, and self-publishing became an option that didn’t necessarily put a writer beyond the pale forever. One effect of all that is that I am more conscious about asking myself, “What do I want? What am I willing to do? What part of this process do I like? What do I do best?” My answers to all these questions may change, but they’re very personal. I may not make the same decisions as any of my writer friends about my career direction.

  

PJ: How long did it take you to get published the first time?

Liz: From age seven, thirty years to the first book of poetry, fifty-seven years to the first novel.

PJ: Would you do anything differently if you had it to do over again?

Liz: I would network with other writers a helluva lot sooner, and I would revise my first manuscript a lot more before starting to query agents.

 

PJ: Writing new material, rewriting, submitting new work, waiting, promoting published work…the list is large. How do you manage to divvy up your time to give adequate attention to all needed areas?

Liz: My list includes, in addition to all that, the other “hats” I wear—as a psychotherapist currently working online and a singer-songwriter with an album that’s just been released, so I’m promoting both the new mystery, Death Will Extend Your Vacation, and my CD, Outrageous Older Woman. My way of allotting my time is completely intuitive. I sit down at the typewriter every morning and start tackling whatever seems most pressing. When I’m working on a first draft or have had a brainstorm about a new short story or even a blog post, that gets my morning energy, if possible. But if I have a scheduled session with a client, the writing may have to wait.

 

PJ: What is the single most exciting thing that’s happened to you as a writer?

Liz: Maybe this is not objectively the most exciting event, but the thing I got the most excited about was the call from the person who became my agent at the time I had to negotiate the contract for my first novel. He was not my first agent, I’d already received the offer from the publisher, and I have a different agent now. The story is far too complicated to go into. But I was in the shower coloring my hair when the phone rang, and when I heard the agent starting to leave a message, I absolutely had to take the call. Thank goodness no one Skyped yet back then. We talked for half an hour, and please don’t ask what my hair looked like by the end of the conversation.

 

PJ: What is the single most disappointing thing that happened to you as a writer?

Liz: I’ve already mentioned it: getting dropped by my prestigious publisher a week before my second book came out. It meant I had to revise my expectation of writing a lengthy series. The third book, Death Will Extend Your Vacation, has just come out with another publisher. But in the interim, my whole vision of my mystery writing career had to change. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s certainly different.

 

PJ: What’s the most memorable thing (good or bad) that’s happened to you while promoting your work?

Liz: One very touching moment took place at the Poisoned Pen bookstore in Scottsdale, AZ. PJ Nunn, of all people, had arranged for me to appear on “Good Morning, Arizona” that morning to promote Death Will Get You Sober. I’d spent my four minutes talking about how passionately I feel about the transformational power of recovery from alcoholism, particularly through AA, as personified by Bruce, my recovering alcoholic protagonist. When I got to the bookstore that evening, only a couple of people had shown up. It was one of those moments when my long experience of poetry readings came in handy. But the chairs had been placed in a circle, and Barbara Peters wanted me to give my talk anyway, so I went into my spiel for the two customers, Barbara, and a couple of her staff members. I was just winding up when the door of the store opened and a guy came in. The clerk at the desk waved him in our direction—we were way down at the far end of the store—and he walked toward us. When he got there, he looked at us sitting around in a circle, nodded as if he found it reassuring, sat down in a vacant seat, and said, “Hi, I’m Bob, and I’m an alcoholic.” He felt right at home, and I that made me very happy. He bought the book, too.

 

PJ: Wow, that’s a great story! I hadn’t heard that before. You just never know who’s watching, do you? With more books being released each  month now than ever before, what do you believe sets your work apart from the others?

Liz: I hope this doesn’t sound presumptuous, but I think that my voice, my characters, my dialogue, and my themes are all distinctive. I’ve had my share of crummy reviews like everybody else. But when a reader or reviewer says, “Her characters leap off the page,” “Her dialogue sparkles,” “She has the ability to make readers laugh and cry, sometimes in the same sentence,” or “I was profoundly moved by the struggle of the recovering addict,” I feel tremendously validated. They’re getting out of it not only what I put into it, but what made me want to tell the story in the first place.

 

PJ: What would you like to share with writers who haven’t reached the point of publication yet?

Liz: Don’t do it alone. Join Sisters in Crime, especially the Guppies chapter, and Mystery Writers of America. Don’t start querying until you’re comfortable with critique and revision. Don’t rush the process—including, these days, deciding whether you want to try to get an agent and go the traditional route or e-publish your book yourself. Remember that  in today’s market, distribution and promotion are as important and craft. But don’t forget what made you want to write fiction. If it was for the money, you’re in the wrong business!

 

PJ: What do you feel is your most effective tool for promoting your published work?

Liz: I was born to schmooze. My tools are my fast-talking mouth, my virtual mouth, ie my fast-typing fingers on the keyboard, and the empathy that made me choose to be a psychotherapist and serves me well both in creating believable characters and networking the way we have to do to promote our books.

 

PJ: What area of book promotion is the most challenging to you?

Liz: I confess I’m not on Twitter. You could say it’s the ultimate schmoozing tool, but a limit of 140 characters suggests relationships that are too superficial for me. Hey, I do psychotherapy online. I like to go deep. The other reason is that my brain can only take in so much new technology. I love my iPhone and my GPS. I coexist with my computer and Facebook. So far, Twitter is simply one too many for me.

 

Give us a list of your published titles in chronological or series order:

Novels (series):

Death Will Get You Sober

Death Will Help You Leave Him

Death Will Extend Your Vacation

 

Short stories (series):

“Death Will Clean Your Closet” (Agatha nominee)

“Death Will Tie Your Kangaroo Down”

“Death Will Trim Your Tree” (Agatha nominee)

“Death Will Tank Your Fish” (Derringer nominee)

Short stories (other):

“The Green Cross” (Agatha nominee)

“Navidad”

“The Silkie”

“Dress to Die”

“Choices”

“The Saxon Hoard”

“The Emperor’s Hoard”

 

Share with us an elevator pitch (no more than 30 seconds) of your latest title:

Death Will Extend Your Vacation is the third mystery in the series that started with Death Will Get You Sober. Recovering alcoholic Bruce Kohler and his friends, Barbara the world-class codependent and Jimmy the computer genius, take shares in a clean and sober group house in the Hamptons. Their first day at the beach, they find the body of one of their housemates, a beautiful investigative reporter who was passionate about environmental issues and other people’s boyfriends.

 

Where can we buy it?

Death Will Extend Your Vacationis available at online bookstores or can be ordered from your local mystery or independent bookstore if it doesn’t stock books from Five Star.

 

PJ: What last thing would you like to share with us that nobody knows about you and your work?

Liz: If you’re old enough to remember Jack Benny, he had a comedy routine where there’s a hold-up, and the robber says, “Your money or your life!” There’s a long, long pause, and then Jack Benny says, “I’m thinking.” If it makes a good story, I’ve probably already told it. If I haven’t told anybody yet, it’s probably something I should keep to myself.

Liz, you’re delightful! Keep doing what you’re doing and writing what you’re writing. Folks, I know I say it a lot, but here’s an author who’s worth reading. She’ll take you to new and interesting places. Go buy her books! Till next time…

A Fair to Die For by Radine Trees Nehring

A Fair To Die For

Radine Trees Nehring

Oak Tree Press, 2012, 243 Pages

ISBN No. 9781610091220

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid

Carrie McCrite and Henry King have their own little patch of paradise in scenic Arkansas.  The couple are enjoying their early years of marriage although both are senior citizens.  They have a comfortable home, a close circle of friends and it would seem the couple is living a life that many would envy.

It comes as a shock to Carrie when she receives a phone call from a woman who identifies herself as Edie, Carrie’s cousin.  Edie asks for Carrie Culpepper, which is Carrie’s maiden name.   Carrie has no recollection of this woman but Edie plows ahead telling Carrie her name was Edith Embler and started explaining her connection to Carrie and how she had managed to trace Carrie.   Edie’s statements could be true but then again it might be a well-rehearsed story.  Carrie discusses the phone call with Henry and they decide to invite the woman to lunch and learn more about who she is and why she is contacting Carrie now.  The first thing Carrie begins to worry about is what to have for lunch.  Henry solved that little problem by contacting his friend Chief John Bohnert who offered several suggestions.

Edie arrived as agreed and attempted to explain her background and why she was in the area.  It seems that Edie’s father may have been involved in some illegal drug scheme.  Carrie had never used drugs nor had Henry who is an ex-police officer.  They are both shocked by what Edie has told them about her father.  Before Edie’s visit ends, Carrie and Henry are going to have a lot to be shocked about and find themselves in some very dangerous positions.

Although Edie is invited to stay with Carrie and Henry, she insisted that she had a reservation at a local hotel.   They made plans to meet the next morning and go to War Eagle Mill, a local attraction that is having a craft fair beginning the next week.

This simple lunch and plans to visit War Eagle begin a series of events that reveal “Cousin Edie” may be involved with some dangerous people and her connection to Carrie and Henry place the couple as well as some of their friends in danger.    Carrie helps her friend sell her wares at the fair and while helping makes some inquiries among the other vendors.  These inquiries lead some people to believe that Carrie knows more about their affairs than is actually the truth.

You will have to read “A Fair To Die For” to learn how Carrie and Henry manage to find out the real story behind “Cousin Edie”.  This is just one of the books in the series that take the reader into the world of Carrie and Henry.  Once you’ve read the couple’s story and meet their friends through the pages of Nehring’s books you will want to visit the locations so wonderfully described in these books.  You will also want to read the entire series and wait impatiently for the next novel.

An interview with Natalie Buske Thomas

Natalie Buske Thomas is an author and an artist who is fairly new to me, but I’m thoroughly impressed with what I’ve seen so far and hope to see a lot more of her work in the future. Enjoy!

PJ: Natalie, how long have you been writing?

Natalie: How far back are we going? My first published piece was a poem I wrote at age 11. My father sent it into the local newspaper.  I wrote for the school newspaper, magazine, then the college newspaper (my first year at Purdue University). After that it was magazine articles, a local newspaper column, then books. I have “always” been a writer — getting paid for it is another story.

PJ: At what point did you reach a place where you felt successful as a writer?

Natalie: The defining point for me was when I attended my 20th high school reunion and spent the first couple of hours signing books.

PJ: Oh wow! I bet that was fun! Is the writing life what you expected when you started out? If not, how is it different?

Natalie: Well, when I first started out I was doing things “old school” and collecting paper rejection letters. A memorable one was a slip with the word “Authorgram” on the top, with a convenient checkbox for selecting -with an actual pen, on real paper- if the editor wanted to see the rest of the manuscript or not. These days rejections come much faster, digitally, and with the probability of a much longer critique than a checked box. Submissions also often require much more material since it’s so “easy” to submit references via links, photographs via digital files, samples via .doc uploads, etc. If you ask me, we’ve not really saved anyone more time, we’ve simply restructured how the time is spent. The good news? There are many more opportunities to enter writing contests, gain worldwide exposure, and even get books into the hands of thousands of readers instantly — all over the globe!

PJ: The general public seems to think authors are relatively wealthy. Without prying too much, has your writing income lived up to expectations?

Natalie: While not wealthy, my income has exceeded my expectations because I feared I would never earn money as an author! I was accepted for publication and put on hold after years of trying to get in. The on-hold status held for almost two years, before I finally gave up on that publisher. I didn’t have the heart to start all over again, so I formed my own publishing company (Independent Spirit Publishing) and financed my first print run with a credit card. Back then, 1998, there was no such thing as e-books or on-demand. Publishing was expensive! I took quite a risk with that first book, and it would be another dozen years or so, and five books later, before my investment would start paying off.

PJ: Early on, so much focus is given to getting published. Now that you’re published, how has your focus changed?

Natalie: I’ve swapped “seeking publication” for “spending time on promotion”. A big part of the writing career is marketing. A *big* part! I am grateful I studied marketing in college (purely by accident – had no intention for actually using it for anything!).

PJ: Would you do anything differently if you had it to do over again?

Natalie: I wish I could go back in time and tell my younger self the following:

1. Be careful with that first book. What if it becomes a series and you are stuck with that book forEVER? Please, oh please, find a good editor before you put that thing out there!

2. Following your heart – good! Second guessing yourself – not! Confidence girl, confidence!

3. Get braces on your teeth. Trust me, you will think about that every time you get a new author photo taken.

4. Enjoy the ride. You can ask every two seconds, “When will we get there?” or you can choose to take in the view. Either way you’ll get to your destination, but the latter makes for a happier experience.

PJ: Good advice! Experience is a great teacher. Writing new material, rewriting, submitting new work, waiting, promoting published work…the list is large. How do you manage to divvy up your time to give adequate attention to all needed areas?

Natalie: Multi-tasking! I tackle writing/publishing/promotional tasks the same way I do everything else I juggle. I unload the dishwasher, get on Twitter. I fix the kids’ lunch, work on the next chapter of my book. I transplant some tomatoes, update my Facebook author page. Rinse, repeat.

PJ: What is the single most exciting thing that’s happened to you as a writer?

Natalie: This is kind of silly, but… I was star-struck when I met then-Governor of Minnesota Jesse Ventura. The press mobbed us as I signed a book for his wife. He was much bigger than he looks on TV. Of course I’m the size of a child (under 5″2) so that’s probably mostly my own perspective.

PJ: What is the single most disappointing thing that happened to you as a writer?

Natalie: I was offered a tentative publishing contract, with a catch: I had to commit to 52 author events a year. I asked – it was not negotiable. I was raising small children at the time. I did the math, and no matter how many times I tried to rework the numbers, I knew that 52 events meant a lot of time away from home. I turned the offer down.

PJ: What’s the most memorable thing (good or bad) that’s happened to you while promoting your work?

Natalie: I was attending an author event at a winery. My jacket sleeve caught the edge of my full wine glass – down it went. I was wine-soaked, several of my books were wine-soaked, and I was awarded a yellow “Caution Wet Floor” sign at my table. (No, I wasn’t drunk. Sadly, that’s just how I roll. I could never be a waitress!)

PJ: With more books being released each month now than ever before, what do you believe sets your work apart from the others?

Natalie: I have a unique voice. It’s not intentional – I make people laugh without trying to be funny. I’m incapable of being less than genuine – which has gotten me into trouble. I’ve suffered a lot of losses and had a difficult childhood. I think that’s why I have such a free spirit. I have been at the bedside of both of my parents when they were dying (25 years apart from each other), and that takes courage that I wasn’t sure I had. Not much scares me, and that comes through in my writing. Although, oddly, I cannot drive a car. Seriously phobic.

PJ: What do you feel is your most effective tool for promoting your published work?

Natalie: Being an all-around artist and entertainer. Because I also paint (two of my oil paintings have been on exhibit), dance, choreograph, sing, play instruments, perform in public, and more — I am putting myself out there all the time. Once my readers buy all of my books, they are impatient for the next one. I can’t write nearly as fast as I wish I could. Meanwhile, I do have other artistic projects I can put out there. That helps!

PJ: What area of book promotion is the most challenging to you?

Natalie: I hate the thought that I could be annoying people with my self-promotional announcements. Sure, I always blaze my own trail, but I am incredibly insecure! Selling myself and my stuff – I absolutely hate it. I wish I could say, “This is what I do, take it or leave it,” but the truth is, I need supporters. I have to suck it up and sell myself. I’ve always hated selling things, and worst of all, I’m now selling myself. It’s part of the job though. Take it or leave it. So, I’m all in, even though I find book promotion challenging.

Give us a list of your published titles in chronological or series order:

GENE PLAY, Serena Wilcox Mysteries, book 1
VIRTUAL MEMORIES, Serena Wilcox Mysteries, book 2
CAMP CONVICTION, Serena Wilcox Mysteries, book 3
THE MAGIC CAMERA (for kids ages 8-14)
Contributing author to “Confessions of Shameless” series, “Self-Promoters”
Contributing author to “Confessions of Shameless” series, “Internet Promoters”
Contributing author to “A Second Helping of Murder”
ANGELS MARK, Serena Wilcox Mysteries, book 4

THE SERENA WILCOX MYSTERIES: Books 1, 2 & 3 (revised collection plus commentaries, back-story)
Share with us an elevator pitch (no more than 30 seconds) of your latest title:

What readers have said about ANGELS MARK: “It’s a real page-turner!” “It scared me because I could so see these things happening!” “It made me look at our nation in a different way.” “I dig these kind of characters” “I like the strong female characters – Serena Wilcox of course, but also President Ann Kinji”. “It was so clever – had no idea where the book was going!” And most often: “WHEN’S THE NEXT ONE COMING OUT?”

Where can we buy it?

Amazon or directly from my website (if wanting a signed paperback copy).

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B005GNSJS6

http://www.nataliebuskethomas.com/BuyBooks.html

What are you currently working on?

I am working on book #5 of The Serena Wilcox Mysteries, COVERT COFFEE. I’m also working on a children’s book project, the Irish Stew Adventures, that has evolved into a collaborative effort with my three children.

Natalie, it’s obvious to me you’re incredibly talented (as are your children) and I hope you I can continue to enjoy each other’s efforts and exploits for a long time to come. Thank you for taking time to talk with us here!

The Demands by Mark Billingham

The Demands

Mark Billingham

Mulholland Books, 2012, 416 Pages

ISBN No. 978-0-316-12663-2

Reviewed by Patricia Reid

We are all creatures of habit, and Helen Weeks is no exception.   Helen, a detective for the police department and a single mother, stops at a newsagent every morning for her newspaper, gum and some candy.  As Helen is paying for her items three boys walk into the shop wrestling with each other and messing with the stock.  Javed Akhtar, the owner, chases the boys out of the shop.  Helen and the man behind her in the store are shocked when Akhtar locks the door to the shop and pulls a gun on his two customers.

So begins a situation that is terrifying to the hostages as well as the police attempting to see them released without harm.  The hostages are handcuffed to the radiator. Stephen Mitchell, the other customer taken hostage, seems to think that Helen can use her familiarity with Akhtar and her skills as a detective to miraculously rescue them from the situation.  But he soon realizes she has no power over Akhtar.

Akhtar orders Helen to get in touch with a detective named Thorne.  Helen knows Thorne since she dealt with him when her boyfriend was killed.  Helen learns Akhtar’s son, Amin Akhtar, was involved in a manslaughter case and sentenced to prison. Amin killed himself in Barndale Young Offenders Institution eight weeks earlier.  Thorne is familiar with the manslaughter case and had been surprised the boy got the stiff sentence that he did.

Akhtar does not believe that his son’s death was a suicide and he is demanding that Thorne find out what really happened.  Thorne is racing against time in his investigation into the boy’s death.  Two people’s lives are at stake and it is up to him to save them.  But first he must satisfy all of Akhtar’s questions and prove that his son was murdered.

As Thorne investigates, he finds more and more puzzling things about the conviction and the boy’s death – some that will come as a shock to Akhtar.  The story switches back and forth between Thorne who is seeking answers on the outside and Helen Weeks who is one of the hostages.  It is a race against time as the police outside the newsagent’s shop try to determine whether to go in with force or hope Thorne comes up with answers.

Mark Billingham introduced Sgt. Helen Weeks in the novel In the DarkThe Demands bring Weeks and Thorne together and this reader hopes for more adventures involving Weeks and Thorne.

An interview with L.C. Hayden

I’ve known L.C. Hayden for more years than I dare say, and I truly enjoy both her person and her work! I hope you do too…

PJ: How long have you been writing?

L.C.:  I’m afraid to answer this one, because you’re going to find out that I’m … well, old. Seriously, I was one of those kids who wrote all the time. Others would turn in compositions a few sentences long. Mine were pages long! Professionally speaking, got my first novel published in 1998, but before that, I freelanced for magazines and newspapers.

PJ: At what point did you reach a place where you felt successful as a writer?

L.C.: Every minor step I take pushes me forward, but I still wonder if I’ve reached the successful writer status. Some of those steps include the first time an editor sent me a contract with an advance, my first royalty check, when I won in a contest, the main one being Agatha Award Finalist for Best Novel of the Year for Why Casey Had to Die, when I made the Barnes and Noble Top 10 Best Seller List—and gosh so many more.

PJ: Is the writing life what you expected when you started out?

L.C.: Not at all. I thought I was supposed to write.

PJ: If not, how is it different?

 L.C.:  A writer must also be a full time sales person and promote his/her books. How many books you sell is the bottom line for a publisher—not the quality of the work.

PJ: The general public seems to think authors are relatively wealthy. Without prying too much, has your writing income lived up to expectations?

L.C.:  I am indeed wealthy. Wealthy because I’ve met so many readers who have become true, good friends. The value of these friendships: priceless.

Monetarily, since the advent of e-books, my writing income has more than tripled per month. But then, I also spend a lot on promotion bringing me back to the poor house. Oh sigh!

PJ: Early on, so much focus is given to getting published. Now that you’re published, how has your focus changed?

L.C.:  My focus is on producing a really good book. My early works are good or okay, as you see fit, but my latest ones show that each book is an education to me and the books get better and better.

PJ: How long did it take you to get published the first time?

L.C.: Sit down for this answer, my dear friends: 10 years. Nope, that’s not a typo. Ten years!!

PJ: Would you do anything differently if you had it to do over again?

L.C.: Wish I knew then what I know now.  I’d spent more time developing characters, setting up the work, and creating an atmosphere.
PJ: Writing new material, rewriting, submitting new work, waiting, promoting published work…the list is large. How do you manage to divvy up your time to give adequate attention to all needed areas?

L.C.: I’m super lucky. I retired and became a full time author. But even with that, time just gets away. But now I’ve learned discipline. Set time limits I spend on the Internet, time limits for the time I spend promoting. Then write, write everyday and always read.

PJ: What is the single most exciting thing that’s happened to you as a writer?

L.C.: One of the most memorable things is doing “working” cruises. Major cruise lines invite me to be their Author in Residence. I’m allowed to bring a guest (for free and that’s always my husband.) We cruise around the world, and during the days at sea, I give a one-hour max presentation on writing and/or my books. The ship’s store carry my books that travelers can buy and I have some available after my presentations. Last day of the cruise, I pick up the check and that’s my job. I just returned from a Princess Cruise sailing to the Panama Canal.

PJ: That sounds fabulous! What is the single most disappointing thing that happened to you as a writer?

L.C.:  Since I’m published by small, independent publishers, my books are not automatically sold in all stores. Even the paperback editions of my books that Harlequin publishes—and they’re a huge publishing firm—are not on the stores shelves. Sigh.

PJ: What’s the most memorable thing (good or bad) that’s happened to you while promoting your work?

L.C.: One day the principal called me over the intercom and told me he wanted to see me during my prep period. That was 6th period, I remember so well. I was a good little teacher, so I didn’t worry. When I walked into his office, instead of the principal being there, there was a man dressed in a suit, tie, vest. He reached behind him and locked the door. Okay, what do I do now? He reached for his back pocket and showed me his badge. “I’m Detective So-and-So from the police department.”
My first thought was oh no, one of my students must have really done something bad.
He asked me to sit down. I did and once again he reached into his back pocket, took out a card, and said, “You have the right to remain silent. You have the right to have an attorney present. . .  and he continued to read me my rights.
What’s going on? I thought. I don’t even speed! He shoved a piece of paper between us. “This is what it’s all about,” he said. I looked at the paper and nodded. My first book Who’s Susan? had just been published and I had been talking to my editor. He said, “Now, L. C., if you want people to buy your book, you’ll have to come up with a brilliant campaign. If they go to the bookstore and say they want to buy. . .and they forget the name of the book, you’ve lost that sale.”
So I thought and thought and came up with a brilliant campaign. I would send out three different mailings to a select group. The first would have no return address and the paper inside the envelope would simply say, Do you know who Susan is?
I knew that as soon as people received this first promotional piece, they would be wondering, what’s all this about? Who is Susan? They’d start talking and word would spread.
Two weeks later the same people would get the second mailing. Again, there would be no return address and this time the paper would read: Did you find out who Susan is? Check your mailbox for a future answer.
       Again, tongues would wag. Word would spread.
Two weeks later, the same people would receive the final advertising and this time the envelope would have a return address and the paper inside would explain that Who’s Susan? was my first novel and I was inviting them to the Barnes and Noble signing I was going to have. That was how it was supposed to work out.
This is how it actually turned out: after people received the first mailings, they called the police because someone was sending them an antiabortion campaign through the mail. How they got that out of the flyer, I have no idea. Naturally, the police ignored it because they have more important things to pursue. But the callers insisted that the police do something about it.
My problem is that I’m basically a lazy person. The post office was two blocks away from the high school where I taught. But did I choose to go to the post office? Nope. I mailed the letters from the school’s mailbox. That made it a federal offense. They had to call the FBI.
Now the FBI knew it couldn’t be an antiabortion campaign. They knew it was much more. It was a new drug, called Susan. So they brought in an undercover agent to ask the students about the new drug. The students simply shrugged and asked, “What new drug?”
When that didn’t work out, they knew they had made a mistake. It wasn’t a drug at all, but a gun movement, code name Susan. Again, they brought in another undercover agent to come investigate. Again, the students shrugged and asked “What gun movement?”
“So who’s Susan?  the frustrated agent asked.
“That’s Mrs. Hayden’s new mystery novel,” one of my students answered.
In the meantime, I was in the principal’s office, having my Miranda Rights read.
Sometime, it doesn’t pay to advertise!

PJ: Oh no! That is unbelievable! I wonder how fast your heart was beating that day?? With more books being released each month now than ever before, what do you believe sets your work apart from the others?

L.C.:  The fact that I give everyone a $100 bill when they buy my book! That would be cool, eh? Actually, what people find appealing about my detective in the continuing series is that Harry Bronson isn’t a drunk, loves his wife and his daughters, has a stable life filled with good friends. If you haven’t met Bronson yet, you’ve got to. Guaranteed: you’ll love him.

PJ: What would you like to share with writers who haven’t reached the point of publication yet?

L.C.: Whatever you do, don’t give up. This is a hard business but believe in your books, because if you don’t, nobody will.

PJ: What do you feel is your most effective tool for promoting your published work?

L.C.: Doing the “working” cruises. I meet people from all over the world and they help to pass on the word. Also, any time I have a speaking engagement, I tend to sell lots of books.

PJ: What area of book promotion is the most challenging to you?

L.C.: The part where I say, “Buy my book, please.”

PJ: Do you have a local independent bookseller you’d like to mention?

L.C.: I live in El Paso, TX., and there’s no independent booksellers here. We only have two Barnes and Nobles and that’s it. So sad!

Give us a list of your published titles in chronological or series order:

From most recent to oldest:

Harry Bronson mysteries: When the Past Haunts You

When Death Intervenes

Why Casey Had to Die

What Others Know

Where Secrets Lie

When Colette Died

Who’s Susan?

Inspirational books about miracles and angels: Angels Around Us

                                                                           When Angels Touch You

Bell Shaped Flowers (fiction, young adult)

Horror: The Drums of Geruld Hurd

Writing: Breaking and Entering (editor, published by Sisters in Crime)

Share with us an elevator pitch (no more than 30 seconds) of your latest title:

Retired police detective Harry Bronson is forced to face a painful, secret past when his estranged sister begs him to help her. What he learns about her life over the past decades leads him on a serpentine path in unfamiliar territory. This mystery will keep the reader guessing until the very end as Bronson follows the trail of his lost sister through the corrupt underbelly of the rich and powerful

Where can we buy it?

Best place is at Amazon or directly through me.

What last thing would you like to share with us?

Befriend me on Facebook at Lc Hayden and check out my website at http://lchayden.com Thanks for your time! Now, go read!

Wow, she’s had an interesting time with her book promotion efforts, hasn’t she? Kudos to you L.C. and thanks for sharing! Now, like she says, “Go read!” But I’ll add a little – Go read a book by L.C. Hayden!

Book promotion: What really works?

That’s the million dollar question isn’t it?  I wish I had the million dollar answer. But I’m a problem solver by nature. I enjoy that. That’s probably why I like mysteries as much as I do. There’s a puzzle to solve. A question to answer.

And, since I’m a book publicist by trade, I guess this is a question that I need to consider more than most. When it comes to book promotion today, what does really work?

Well, when trying to find any elusive answer, I often work backwards. The process of elimination. What doesn’t work?

For the purpose of brevity (something for which I’m not well known but I do try), assume that the point of said promotion is to sell books. There are many other apparent points to book promotion but I won’t go there now.

What doesn’t work?

Expecting the publisher to do it. I think we all know that won’t work. We once thought it would if the publisher was one of the biggies but I’m not sure that was ever totally true. Today, I’m sure it’s totally not true unless you’re the biggest author on the list, which most of you aren’t.

Expecting immediate results. I hear it all the time. “I was on the Blah Blah Radio Show and I checked my sales an hour later and hadn’t sold a single book. Guess that doesn’t work!” “I had a book signing at Buy a Book Store and nobody came. That was a waste of time!” Seriously. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve heard something like that. In our so-called microwave society I guess it shouldn’t be a surprise, but it always is. Think about it for a minute. I’ve been at a lot of signing events, and I do always make a point to

Janet Evanovich signing event – I’m guessing her first book signing didn’t look quite like this one.

check out the author/book and usually buy one. But it’s really easy to see the difference in how the author behaves having a huge impact on outcome. Some authors are standing, friendly, laughing, engaging with customers who pass by, while others are sitting, often staring at the table or the wall, with body language that screams don’t come near me! I’ll post about book signings another time. The point is, when is the last time you heard an author interview on the radio and dropped whatever you were doing at the time to rush out and buy a copy of their book? Think repeat exposure – building name recognition and STOP expecting immediate results.

Expecting to wait on book signings until your third or fourth book when you’re better known. I understand the logic in this, but I’ve seen from experience how it can backfire. Book signings are challenging enough these days, but building a following – particularly for a series – starts with the first book. I represented one author who had a lovely series that I really enjoyed who had employed this line of thought and didn’t hire me until the fourth or fifth book. I was shocked when I started contacting stores to set things up and found repeatedly that they weren’t interested. The reasons given primarily focused on low sales and lack of promotional activity for the earlier titles. While it doesn’t seem like entirely sound reasoning from my perspective, I heard it often enough to know it makes a difference to a lot of booksellers. I completely understand why an author would want to avoid the what-if-nobody-comes fear of a book signing event for a little known name, but I think if you’re in it for the duration, you’ve just got to plunge in and start from the beginning.

Expecting social media to do it all for you. This seems to be the most popular one these days. Tweeting and Facebook pages are all the rage. Blogs, blog tours, LinkedIn, Pinterest, whatever. You could easily spend 8 hours a day or more in your jammies from the comfort of your own home without even trying. And you could genuinely be busy doing things (besides playing Farmville) during all that time. But is it working? Is it effective? If you’re reading this, chances are you’re familiar with the blogosphere, Twitter or FB so it must be at least somewhat effective, right? Yes. In fact, it can be quite effective if utilized properly. However, it’s deceptive in its ease of use. A HUGE majority of authors using these social media outlets either don’t use it well (tweeting incessantly something along the lines of “buy my book, buy my book”), or don’t know how to use it well, or find that most of their friends or followers are other authors who are trying to do the same thing. Be honest. Of your 739 followers on Twitter, if 500 of them are authors, how many of those 500 books have you bought? And how many of them have bought yours? Honestly, if all 739 bought yours, which is highly unlikely, how many days/hours of tweeting time investment did you make to get to that point and can you do it again with 739 more followers? Maybe in time. I’m not saying it’s not worth your time to tweet. I tweet. I’m saying look carefully at the time investment vs. outcome. Because even the smallest radio program can put your book in front of several thousand potential readers in about a 15 minute time investment. Sooner or later the numbers will win out.

I could probably go on and on. Those are some things that don’t work, at least not if you focus all of your attention in that one area, which leads back to the original question. What does work?

I wish I could offer you a magic wand that would make your work instantly appealing to every potential reader that sees your information. Wouldn’t that be fabulous? But wait. The key isn’t making your work appeal to every potential reader. Hopefully if your work is good, it already does that. The key is in getting your info out there so more potential readers can see it. Then we trust that many of them will make the right choice and buy it. Book promotion – the effective kind – requires that you consistently increase the number of potential customers who repeatedly see your product information in a variety of venues over an extended period of time. That requires a well-thought-out plan with specific long term and short term goals. In other words, the shotgun approach probably won’t work well for you. Then again, even a broken clock is right twice a day and a blind squirrel finds an acorn sometimes.

What are your thoughts on what does and doesn’t work in book promotion these days?

An interview with Zoe Sharp

I can’t pick a favourite author, really, because there are just so many good ones out there. But if I could, Zoe Sharp would be near the top of the list. I can’t put my finger on what it is, but I just love her writing and can’t wait each time I hear the announcement of an imminent new release. Like now – the next one isn’t until October, but it’ll be here soon. If you haven’t read her work yet, there’s plenty for you to catch up on between now and then!

PJ: Zoe, How long have you been writing?

Zoe: Most of my life, I think. I’ve always written stories that usually fizzled out halfway down the first page. Then when I was fifteen I wrote my first novel. Although that went off to publishers it received what’s known in the trade as ‘rave rejections’ and I put my fictional ambitions on hold for a few years. Instead, I started writing non-fiction ― magazine articles. A great way for a writer to develop their craft, as it teaches you to write to topic, to length and to deadline, and not be too precious about your ‘art’.

PJ: At what point did you reach a place where you felt successful as a writer?

Zoe: The first time I received an unsolicited email from a reader who was a total stranger, writing to tell me how much they’d enjoyed the book and the character. Without readers we are largely talking to ourselves.

PJ: Is the writing life what you expected when you started out? If not, how is it different?

Zoe: I don’t think any writer realizes at the outset how much publicity is required. It seems such a solitary business, sitting at home with your imagination and a blank computer screen. But when that’s done you have to get out there and tell people about your story.

PJ: The general public seems to think authors are relatively wealthy. Without prying too much, has your writing income lived up to expectations?

Zoe: LOL, there aren’t very many authors living the JK Rowling lifestyle, I’m afraid. But I have been able to make a living from the written word ― both non-fiction and fiction ― since 1988, which I view as quite an achievement!

PJ: Early on, so much focus is given to getting published. Now that you’re published, how has your focus changed?

Zoe: My focus is on improving my craft and always has been. As long as I feel each book is better than the last, I’m moving forwards.

PJ: How long did it take you to get published the first time?

Zoe: Hmm, depends what you class as the first time? I wrote the first Charlie Fox novel over about five or six years, in between the cracks of all my other non-fiction work. It probably took six months to find an agent, but only because of the speed of response times. I queried one agent at once, and the second one who asked to see the whole typescript offered me representation. From there it took another year to find a publisher, and another year before KILLER INSTINCT: Charlie Fox book one was actually a real book on the shelves.

PJ: Would you do anything differently if you had it to do over again?

Zoe: Everything! Bear in mind this was back in 1999 ― there simply wasn’t the same info available to a wannabe writer about successful query letters, agent recommendations, nor was there easy contact available with agents and publishers on social networking sites. You simply had to stick a pin in one of the writers’ handbooks and hope!

PJ: Writing new material, rewriting, submitting new work, waiting, promoting published work…the list is large. How do you manage to divvy up your time to give adequate attention to all needed areas?

Zoe: Sleep is very overrated. I admit that when I’m working on a book other things do tend to get neglected, although I’ve altered my writing method for the latest book, working a lot more from notes, and this seems to have helped the flow without too many distractions. It is all important, but at the end of the day my core activity (and I’m SO sorry to slip into management-speak there) is to write the best books I can. Without that, I’ve nothing worthy of promotion.

PJ: LOL I don’t know. I like sleep a lot, but I know what you mean. What is the single most exciting thing that’s happened to you as a writer?

Zoe: There are too many to list, but making some wonderful friends among the writing community is probably the bestthing that’s happened to me, if that counts? The most exciting has to be when incredibly talented US

Beth Rudetsky

singer/songwriter Beth Rudetsky wrote and performed an original song inspired by FIFTH VICTIM: Charlie Fox book nine. The song is called The Victim Won’t Be Me, and the accompanying video was put together by the equally talented and creative students at Vision West Notts.

PJ: Wow that is so cool. What is the single most disappointing thing that happened to you as a writer?

Zoe: People who over-promise and under-deliver.

PJ: What’s the most memorable thing (good or bad) that’s happened to you while promoting your work?

Zoe: I was incredibly honoured to be invited to the Mayhem in the Midlands convention a few years ago as their International Guest of Honour. The delightful William Kent Krueger was interviewing me both for the audience and for a recording which was being made of the event. I had the most awful coughing fit in the middle of the interview, literally gasping for breath and unable to speak. Very embarrassing, but Kent coped brilliantly. He pulled a stocking over his head and attacked me with an axe (a plastic one, I hasten to add) for a self-defence demonstration. My response? I pulled a knife on him ― also plastic, before I get hate mail from Kent’s fans! You probably had to be there …

PJ: I heard about that! Wish I’d been there. With more books being released each month now than ever before, what do you believe sets your work apart from the others?

Zoe: Hmm, these are some great questions. Tricky, too. I hope readers are thoroughly engaged by the character of Charlie Fox, and enjoy the fast pace of the situations she finds herself involved in! There’s also quite a backlist for them to enjoy, and the character evolves throughout the series.

PJ: I know I am. What would you like to share with writers who haven’t reached the point of publication yet?

Zoe: Two things. First, that there are more persistent writers published than there are talented writers published. You will face more criticism in a year as a writer than most people face in a lifetime. How you react to that criticism will be the difference between success and failure. And secondly, pay it forwards.

PJ: That is all SO true. Well said. What do you feel is your most effective tool for promoting your published work?

Zoe: Satisfied readers! I blog on my own website, of course, and put out a regular e-newsletter. I also blog every other week on Murderati, and try to be active on Facebook  and Twitter — @AuthorZoeSharp. And I go to conventions and events both in the UK and the States as often as I can.

PJ: What area of book promotion is the most challenging to you?

Zoe: Blowing my own trumpet. Some authors are very good at the hard sell, but I can’t bring myself to do it — it seems so desperate somehow. I’d rather let people make up their own minds rather than be force-fed one of my books, which I know would put me right off.

Give us a list of your published titles in chronological or series order:

KILLER INSTINCT: Charlie Fox book one

RIOT ACT: Charlie Fox book two

HARD KNOCKS: Charlie Fox book three

FIRST DROP: Charlie Fox book four

ROAD KILL: Charlie Fox book five

SECOND SHOT: Charlie Fox book six

THIRD STRIKE: Charlie Fox book seven

FOURTH DAY: Charlie Fox book eight

FIFTH VICTIM: Charlie Fox book nine

FOX FIVE: a Charlie Fox short story collection

DIE EASY: Charlie Fox book ten — coming Oct 2012 (UK) and Jan 2013 (US)

Share with us an elevator pitch (no more than 30 seconds) of your latest title:

FIFTH VICTIM: Charlie Fox book nine is about not knowing what you’ve got until it’s gone. Charlie is tasked to stem a series of increasingly violent kidnappings on New York’s Long Island while also dealing with the continuing coma of her lover, fellow bodyguard Sean Meyer.

Where can we buy it?

Any good bookstore, hopefully. Either your local indie mystery store, or from one of the major retailers, either in store or on line. It’s also available from libraries, and in Large Print, Audiobook and NALB Talking Book formats.

What last thing would you like to share with us that nobody knows about you and your work?

Zoe: I could tell you that, but then I’d have to kill you … :)

Thanks, PJ, this has been great fun!

There you have it ladies and gentleman. Don’t just take my word for it – see for yourself if her books aren’t some of the very best ones out there! Any questions for Zoe? Comments? 

The Border Lords by T. Jefferson Parker

The Border Lords

A Charlie Hood Novel

T. Jefferson Parker

New American Library, 2012, 400 Pages

ISBN No. 978-0-451-23556-5

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid

Sean Ozburn (Gravas) is undercover for Operation Blowdown.  Sean is one of the best undercover operators but Charlie Hood is taken by surprise when Sean begins acting totally out of character.  Sean operates a “safe house” in Buena Vista, California, a border town.  The house has been wired for sound and video.  The current occupants of the house are four gunmen who are members of the North Baja Cartel, the organization, Sean and ATF are hoping to put out of business.  Sean was in the habit of checking in with Operation Blowdown on a daily basis but he hasn’t checked in for a few days and Hood is concerned that Sean’s undercover identity might have been blown.

Charlie Hood, still on loan from the L.A. Sheriff’s Department, was monitoring the live feeds from the “safe house” when the monitors and audio went dark.  After the team requested an unmarked police car to drive by the house, it was decided it would be best to check out the house on their own.  All of the occupants of the “safe house” had been killed.  Hood found a “Love 32″ in one of the bedrooms.  The machine gun was the same as ones he had seen being packed for shipment at the Pace Arms factory in Costa Mesa.  He suspected many of the guns had been sent to Mexico and were now being used by the Cartel.  After an inspection of the house, it was found that someone had shut off the video/audio system with a key.    When the team viewed the tape from one of the cameras, they were stunned to see Sean smiling into the camera as he reached up to cover the lens.

So begins the bizarre story of Sean Ozburn and his wife Seliah.  Hood works with Seliah to try to get Sean to come in.  Hood hopes that he can trust Seliah but is unsure that she is being honest with him.  As the story develops, the reader becomes aware that Sean is suffering from a disease that he has been infected with and soon his wife is a victim.  Bradley Jones and his wife Erin play small but important parts in this novel.

The Jaguar is the next Charlie Hood novel and there is a brief introduction to the book at the end of The Border LordsThe Border Lords can be read as a stand-alone.  L. A. Outlaws, The Renegades and Iron River are the first three books in this series.