Earl Staggs

Earl Staggs

Earl Staggs earned a long list of Five Star reviews for his novels MEMORY OF A MURDER and JUSTIFIED ACTION and has twice received a Derringer Award for Best Short Story of the Year.  He served as Managing Editor of Futures Mystery Magazine, as President of the Short Mystery Fiction Society, is a contributing blog member of Murderous Musings and Make Mine Mystery and a frequent speaker at conferences and seminars.  Email: earlstaggs@sbcglobal.net

Interview with Tall Chambers

by Earl Staggs

Recently, I’ve been intrigued by authors interviewing their characters.  I thought it was such a neat and interesting thing to do I decided to interview Tall Chambers, the main character in my Mystery/Thriller novel, JUSTIFIED ACTION.Justified Action

JUSTIFIED ACTION is a serious novel dealing with serious issues.  Tall works for an agency which tracks terrorists and puts them out of business before they strike.  He puts all that aside, however, when someone close to him is murdered.  Then it becomes a personal matter and nothing will stop Tall from finding the killer.

In spite of the seriousness of the story, I decided to have some fun with this interview.  I think you’ll learn a little about Tall and the story that plays out in the book.  I also hope you’ll find a chuckle and a grin along the way.

* * * * *

EARL  — Thanks for coming in for this interview, Tall. (stands, smiles, offers hand)


TALL  —  (shakes hands, sits) Not at all.  Thanks for inviting me.  Nice place you have here. What do you do?

EARL – I’m a writer. I sit here at my computer all day and punch out stories.

TALL – Interesting. Good luck with that, Carl.

EARL —  Uh. . .it’s Earl.

TALL – Sorry.

EARL – That’s okay, but speaking of first names, if you don’t mind me asking, how did you get that unusual one you have?

TALL  –  I don’t mind a bit.  A lot of people ask me about that.  My real name is Tallmadge, an old family name my mother picked out. As soon as I was old enough to talk, I asked people to shorten it to Tall. Everyone did  (grins) . . .except Mom, of course.

EARL  –So it’s not just because you actually are tall.

TALL  – No. I’ve been six foot three since I turned fifteen, but I was thin as a stick. In fact, my nickname was “Splinter.”  In the Army, I learned how to exercise and work out to build myself up.  I still work out an hour or two a day when I can.  I don’t want to become like one of those people who sit at a computer all day and. . .sorry.  No offense.

EARL  – Oh, none taken.  I really should exercise once in a while.  Do you miss the Army?

TALL  – Yes, I do. I didn’t agree with everything they did, but I felt part of something important and thought that in some small way, I could make a difference.

EARL —  But you left the Army. Why?

TALL —  I was reprimanded and demoted for striking a superior officer.

EARL – Oh, my.  Why on earth would you do that?

TALL – I had no choice.  He was doing something that could have ruined his career.  I only wanted to stop him, but he started throwing punches at me.  I threw one back and that was the end of the fight and my career in the Army.

EARL  – I understand after you left the Army, you joined a special agency that does something pretty important.

TALL  – The agency I’m with now is not one of those everyone knows about like the CIA or FBI. This agency keeps a low profile. Very few people even know it exists. I hope you understand I can’t say much about it.

EARL  – So, if you told me, you’d have to kill me?  (laughs)

TALL  – (shrugs – doesn’t laugh)

EARL  – (gulps)  Okay, moving right along.  Can you tell us what this agency does?

TALL  – We track subversive and terrorist groups both here and overseas.  If we determine they’re a threat to innocent lives, we put them down.

EARL  – (grins)  When you say “put them down,” do you mean. . .?

TALL  – (shrugs – doesn’t grin)  Unfortunately, most of them choose to die for their cause rather than go to prison, so we accommodate them. If they want to meet Allah and collect their virgins, we put them in the express lane.

EARL  – (gulps) I see. How do you feel about that?

TALL  – I don’t enjoy it, but it’s necessary. We have a motto:  kill one terrorist, save a hundred lives.  After a while, you learn to think about the lives saved, not those taken.

EARL  – How do you go about doing. . .uh. . .what you do?

TALL  – The usual. Guns, explosives, whatever it takes.

EARL  –  The book is called Justified Action. Is it all about taking out terrorists?

TALL  – (hesitates, looks away) No, not for me. Someone very close to me is murdered. After that, my only focus is finding the people responsible and making things right. I use the resources of the agency, but it’s completely my own personal operation.

EARL  – (gulps)  When you say “making things right,” do you mean. . . ?

TALL  – (shrugs – doesn’t reply)

EARL  – So are you able to find who was responsible and make them pay?

TALL  – (looks away again) Not exactly. It gets complicated. A lot of people are involved, some in high places.

EARL  – How high?

TALL  – As high as you can go.  I can’t say any more than that. I hope you understand.

EARL – I understand completely.  Let me ask you about—

TALL — (looks at watch, stands up) I’m sorry, but I have to go now. I have a job to do just across the street. (smiles, extends hand)

EARL  – (stands, shakes hands)  Uh, okay.  Just across the street? When you say you “have a job to do,” do you mean. . . ?

TALL  –(turns, walks to door)  You’ll hear a lot of noise. I wouldn’t go outside for a while.

EARL  –(gulps, watches him go)

* * *

Thanks for letting me take up some space here, PJ.  I enjoy the interviews and articles you do, and I appreciate the opportunity to make an appearance.

If I may, I’d like to invite your readers to come over and visit my website where they can:

. . . . .read Chapter One of JUSTIFIED ACTION featuring Tall Chambers.

. . . . .read Chapter One of my Mystery novel, MEMORY OF A MURDER.

. . . . .read a short story called “The Day I Almost Became a Great Writer.” Some say it’s the funniest story I’ve ever written.

. . . . .read another story there called “White Hats and Happy Trails,” about the day I spent with my boyhood idol, Roy Rogers.  There’s even a picture of me with Roy to prove it’s all true.

. . . . .and more.

Here’s where:  http://earlwstaggs.wordpress.com

 Hey Earl – you are welcome here any old time! And how bout this all of ya’ll who’ve now had the pleasure of meeting Tall Chambers. Why don’t you leave us a comment and tell us who you think he looks like? Better yet, send a photo! I bet I can wrangle Earl into a drawing for something free for someone. Let’s hear it!

Using elements from your mystery in your promotions by WS Shephard

sbwineProduct Placement for Mystery Novels

by W.S. Shephard

            “Write about what you know,” the advice given to new writers, is sound advice. Since my career was in the diplomatic service, it seemed logical to me to write about that world. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized that it would be a good idea to have a diplomatic sleuth, a sort of Sherlock Holmes in black tie.

And this was the thought behind my creation of a new subgenre, which I call “diplomatic mysteries.” The series introduced several continuing characters, of course starting with my protagonist, a thirty something career Foreign Service Officer named Robbie Cutler. We will see his career advance from embassy to embassy in a variety of jobs, just as happens in the real career Foreign Service. In the most recent novel, “The Saladin Affair,” he is Special Assistant to the Secretary of State, and must contend with Al Qaeda during the Secretary’s first official overseas trip.

Continuing characters start with his girl friend Sylvie Marceau, who helps him solve several murders in “Vintage Murder,” the first book in the series. They become engaged in “Murder on the Danube,” and the third book, “Murder in Dordogne,” takes place on their honeymoon. Everyone’s favorite character, it seems, is TheSaladinAffairCoverRobbie’s Great Uncle Seth Cutler. He is a nationally prominent educator and former intelligence operative. I invented him, frankly, to give Robbie Cutler access to high level intelligence information in Washington. Robbie’s sister Evalyn keeps her brother out of trouble from time to time, when she is not a potential victim of terrorism herself!

One of the threads linking the series is Robbie’s interest in good wines. (I served as Consul General in Bordeaux, and have written extensively about wines.) This has actually become something of a promotional device at retail wine stores, which might not otherwise be expected to feature mystery books. “Vintage Murder” is set in Bordeaux, and on the cover is the wine label for Château Michel de Montaigne, a property actually owned by Montaigne which now produces wine. A key scene in the novel takes place there. I’m told that the estate now features this book in its gift shop.

Wine labels are used, by permission of course, in each novel in the diplomatic mystery series. In the latest, “The Saladin Affair,” the label is of the Dominus California wine, which is owned by the celebrated Bordeaux wine authority, Christian Moueix. The wine is of course also mentioned in the novel itself. This becomes a sort of product placement, and when the book was published, the estate ordered a number of copies of the mystery for its wine clientele.

VINTAGEMURDER            There is no reason why other products cannot be used in the context of a mystery novel, just as products have been displayed prominently for many years in films. With diplomacy, wine is a natural. With your book, it may be another product. Let your imagination be your guide!

About Bill:

Now residents of Maryland’s Eastern Shore, the William and Lois Shepard enjoy visits from their daughters and granddaughters, ocean swims at Assateague, Chesapeake Bay crabs, and the company of Rajah and Rani, their two rescued cats.

Shepard has published several books using the new EBook technology, including “Coffee Break Mysteries,” “The Great Detectives (From Vidocq to Sam Spade),” and “Maryland In The Civil War.” The last two grew out of his lectures under the continuing education program at Chesapeake College.

Shepard notes that he started researching “Maryland In The Civil War” out of his longstanding interest in the overall subject. What he discovered, however, was astonishing – the role of a largely unknown Maryland Governor, Thomas Hicks, in keeping our state in the Union in 1861. It is a story as heroic as any in Kennedy’s Profiles In Courage, and one that should be more widely known.

Shepard, a prize winning mystery writer, is also the creator of a new genre, the diplomatic mystery, now comprising four novels whose plots are set in American Embassies overseas. That mirrors Shepard’s own career in the Foreign Service of the United States, during which he served in Singapore, Saigon, Budapest, Athens and Bordeaux, in addition to five Washington tours of duty. These books explore this rich, insider background into the world of high stakes diplomacy and government.

Shepard is Wine Editor for French Wine Explorers (www.wine-tours-france.com) and is also the author of Shepard’s Guide to Mastering French Wines.

Juggling Two Names and Two Series by Daryl Wood Gerber

Daryl cookingI am one woman with one head, one face, and one body, but at times I wear two hats…and I answer to two names. Good thing I’m a Gemini!

Under the pseudonym Avery Aames, I write the nationally bestselling Cheese Shop Mystery series. As Daryl Wood Gerber, which happens to be my real name, I write the not-yet-released Cookbook Nook Mystery series. (The first debuts July 2013)

Avery and Daryl share a lot of things in common. The same husband, house, computer, and editor at the same publisher. However, they don’t share the same due dates, and they definitely don’t share the same fictional worlds.

As of a few years ago, I only wrote mysteries as Daryl, but I was not fortunate enough to find publication for any of them. Along came an opportunity to write what is known as a work-for-hire. Berkley Prime Crime Publishing wanted a series about a cheese shop owner; the series was to be set in Ohio. Eager to be published so I could prove to the publishing world that I could not only write well but sell well, I auditioned for the material. Within a few weeks, I found myself with a three-book publishing contract. (I now have a contract for five. The fourth, TO BRIE OR NOT TO BRIE, debuts February 2013.)

Because I suddenly had deadlines every nine months, I set aside all of Daryl’s works-in-progress and focused on Avery’s output. I lived and breathed cheese, Ohio, and the cast of characters that populated A Cheese Shop Mystery including cheesemonger, Charlotte Bessette, her feisty grandparents, her cousin and his twin daughters, and her friends and coworkers. I built a fictional world known as Providence, Ohio, a darling tourist-based town in Holmes County near Amish country, and even created maps for the town. I attended writing and fan conferences and introduced myself as Avery. My slogan became: Say Cheese. People started calling me The Cheese Lady.

In the beginning of this dual-personality relationship, I (Daryl) would speak to Avery to bandy around ideas. Needless to say, this nearly drove my husband crazy. A couple of years later, he has gotten used to the fact that he lives with a woman with multiple personalities. I keep telling him that I…She…We…are not crazy. He is almost convinced.

About a year ago, when I (Daryl) realized that I had not only the time but the verve to write more than one book a year, I crafted together an idea for a new cozy mystery series. I wrote a few chapters and created an entirely new world, and then, with the help of my agent, pitched it to my editor. A Cookbook Nook Mystery series stars Jenna Hart, an admitted foodie and avid reader, who helps her aunt reopen a cookbook store and café in the fictional seaside town of Crystal Cove, California. My editor loved the concept, and suddenly I found myself spending a lot of time with Jenna, her aunt, her friends, and the townsfolk of Crystal Cove. The town is beautiful, by the way, and situated north of Carmel and south of Santa Cruz.

What is the most fun about writing two series is that I spend time with two totally different groups of people in entirely different areas of the country. I rarely get my casts confused. These characters come alive when I’m living in that world. Think of it like your own world of friends. You rarely get your best friend from college confused with your mother, right?

However, here’s the tricky part. Because I have two series, I have double the promotion. Eek! That means two Facebook presences, two Twitter names, and double the amount of bookmarks and swag to hand out at conferences and other functions.  Not to mention I need two websites. I don’t know if any of you will go from this blog to my website, but if you do, you’ll see that I’ve created a portal that allows you to visit both Avery and Daryl. Sure, Avery and Daryl have similar biographies—okay, they are identical—but after that, the sites are different in content. Why? In addition to cozy mysteries, Daryl—I…are you starting to see the problem here?—writes short stories (published) and thrillers (soon-to-be-published, I hope). That means Daryl needs her own site so fans won’t be confused.

Brie_Or_Not_Brie_finalIn addition, I have created a writing schedule for both series and both personalities. On the current Finalsentence_cvschedule, I have about three to four months to write a book. As long as I keep focused, I can do it. When I turn in that book, I switch hats (and personalities) and write the next series. Back and forth. Avery, Daryl. Daryl, Avery. Cheese/cookbook. You get the idea. During 2013, Avery and Daryl will each have a book debut. TO BRIE OR NOT TO BRIE, the fourth in A Cheese Shop Mystery series comes out February 2013. FINAL SENTENCE, the first in A Cookbook Nook Mystery series debuts July 2013.

Also in 2013, Daryl is considering a brain transplant or possible cloning. Avery is against both ideas. What do you think?