The Devil Knows

The Devil Knows cover

In the early 1960s, residents of Manchester, England were horrified by the sadistic murders of five local youth between the ages of 10 and 17. Known as The Moors Murders, the perpetrators of the crime spree—Myra Hindley and Ian Brady—showed absolutely no remorse for what they had done, nor did they serve up any explanation for why they targeted their particular victims. Upon conviction, the pair received consecutive life sentences rather than execution, the death penalty having been previously abolished. Author David Cooper revisits the scene of Hindley and Brady’s crimes in his new release, The Devil Knows.

Interviewer: Christina Hamlett

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Q: Every author’s journey starts in a different place. Did you always know this is what you wanted to do for a career or did inspiration strike during the course of making a living doing something else?

A: I became interested in becoming an author after I interviewed a soap opera star and the interview was published in a national women’s magazine.

Q: Were you a voracious reader as a child?

A: Yes.

Q: What are some of the titles we might have found on the nightstand of your 10-year old self? As a teenager? As an adult?

A: As a teenager, The History of Mr. Polly. As an adult, Misery.

Q: Who are some of the authors you feel have had the greatest influence on your own voice as an author?

A:  Stephen King

Q: What attracted you to the true crime genre?

A:  I remember the Moors murders very well. I was the same age as their last victim at the time.

Q: So tell us what inspired you to pen a book about a pair of such heinous, unrepentant serial killers.

A: I thought that a story about their relationship would make good reading to give readers an idea of what made them what they turned out to be.

Q: How did you structure your research (i.e., interviews, newspaper accounts, etc.)?

A: I was in touch with Ian Brady and I researched internet and newspaper archives.

Q: As the story began to unfold, did you find yourself coming up with theories of your own on what drove Ian and Myra to commit such terrible crimes against children?

A: I got very involved with the story while I was writing it and my personal theory was that their past personal lives drove them to commit these crimes.

Q: How long did it take you from start to finish?

 A: About 15 months.

Q: Do you allow anyone to read your works-in-progress or do you make them wait until you have typed “The End”?

A: I allow one friend to read my works-in-progress.

Q: Like many of today’s authors, you chose to go the route of self-publishing. What governed that decision for you?

 A: One can get a book published much quicker by self-publishing.

Q: What did you learn about this DIY process that you didn’t know when you started?

A: To be honest with you, I didn’t realise it was so easy.

Q: What are you doing to market your work?

A: I am a member of lots of Facebook groups, so I market a lot that way and on other social media.

Q: Does writing energize or exhaust you?

A: I find it adventurous.

Q: What is a typical writing day like for you? And do you write every day?

A: A typical writing day is mainly doing research and yes, I try to write something every day.

Q: As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?

A: A dog. I love dogs and have three.

Q: Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?

A: Yes, every one. I’m very pleased when I receive good ones, of course. As far as the bad ones, well, I can’t please everybody.

Q: Who is the most famous person you have ever met? Did reality match expectation?

A:  I met Ginger Rogers. I never expected her to be like she was. She was a very nice lady. I didn’t expect a Hollywood legend to appear like a normal person in real life.

Q: Let’s say you could invite three famous people (living or dead) to a small dinner party you were hosting. Who would make the guest list and what would you most like to ask them over the course of the evening?

A: Mother Teresa. I’d ask her why she chose to become a nun.

J.K Rowling.  I’d ask her what the secret is to her success.

Pope John Paul II. I’d ask him what he and Mother Teresa had in common.

Q: What would readers be the most surprised to learn about you?

A: I was a very good friend of a child killer’s wife.

Q: What’s next on your plate?

A: I’m finishing my series about a paranormal investigator, then I’m writing another true crime book about the Cannock Chase murders.

Q: Where can readers learn more about you?

A:  http://davidjcooperauthorblog.wordpress.com

Q: Anything else you’d like to add?

A:  Yes. Thank you for taking the time to interview me.

 

 

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50 Ways to Murder Your Fictional Characters

Sue+Colletta

I find it endlessly fascinating to “meet” other writers and discover more about them, their work, and what makes them tick. Today I’m introducing you to an exciting new crime fiction writer, Sue Coletta, who writes great murder mystery stories. I couldn’t resist poking around inside the mind of a crime writer (Castle, anyone?), and Sue generously shares her thoughts and insights freely. Join me in welcoming Sue to the spotlight!

Interviewer: Debbie A. McClure

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Q         As a crime writer, you must think about how to commit the perfect crime or murder all the time. How do you plot the crimes for your books?

A         I’m a big proponent of Larry Brooks’ Story Engineering and Story Physics. For those who haven’t read these craft books, basically I plan the important milestones– Hook, Inciting Incident, 1st Plot Point, 1st Pinch Point, Midpoint, 2nd Plot Point, 2nd Pinch Point, All-is-lost Moment, Resolution– on index cards. I include theme, concept and characterization and think: What’s the worst crime that could happen to that character, one that strikes at her inner demons? I pose this question as a “What if?” And then work from there. Usually the “What if?” question will lead to more “What if?” questions, thus writing the entire book. Did I answer your question or did I get totally off track? LOL

Q         What is it about crime and mystery writing that draws you in and holds you?

A         I’ve always been fascinated by how a killer’s mind works. What makes someone want to kill? Is it money, passion, or a fantasy they’ve had since childhood? And by people’s inner demons. What drives them? What happened in their life to make them into the person they are today? And the big question; why would one person turn to murder where another wouldn’t? I guess the short answer is psychology.

Q         Who is or was your greatest mentor, either personally or professionally, and why?

A         Again, I’d have to say Larry Brooks. He’s an amazing person and a talented storyteller/teacher and writing coach. His writing is crisp, clean, with a voice that deeply resonates with me. I’m glued to the pages of his books, both craft and crime thrillers. I dissect them like a surgical intern curious about how the body works, and then take what I’ve learned and use it in my work. I’m very fortunate to call him a friend.

Q         You wrote a piece on Molly Greene’s blog about going after the traditional publishing package, which is where you and I “met”. What do you think the future of publishing will look like for writers? (I’ll include a link to that article)

A         Contrary to what some believe, I don’t think traditional publishing will ever die. Or that e-books will be the norm above paperbacks or hardcovers. There’s something uniquely special about the smell and feel of a physical book, and I think too many people feel like I do for the industry to shy away from printing. I do, however, think there will be more hybrid authors that have an agent, continue with traditional publishing, and then self-publish books that don’t fit neatly on a shelf. That’s the best of both worlds, if you ask me, and my ultimate goal.

Q         What is the most difficult part of writing for you, the beginning, middle, or end, and why?

A         That first line is always a bugger to figure out. Really, the first paragraph, trying to encapsulate the protagonist, genre, voice, and characterization, all in one fell swoop. However, since I’ve planned my book in advance I don’t really have much trouble after that. Although, during the planning stage it’s always the big twist ending that I think on the longest.

Q         What is your advice to new writers regarding marketing and building a platform?

A         Start a blog now! Don’t wait. Don’t worry that you think you’ll have nothing to say. Just do it. While you’re at it, implement an email list with a giveaway to lure people into signing up. Everyone loves to get something for free. It can be a short story, a writing tool like my “50 Ways To Murder Your Fictional Characters” (see how I got that in there?), something that peaks interest. I also think it’s important to gear your blog toward your brand. Brand; meaning you, the author, not your book. That’s your product. For instance, when you click on my site it screams crime because that’s what I’m passionate about and write about. When you gear your blog this way your passion shines through, it becomes infectious, and leads others to want to hear what you have to say. It’s magical, really, when you think about it. Give people a slice of yourself, be genuine, help other writers, and you’ll do fine.

Q         People have been fascinated by true crime and mysteries for centuries. Why do you think that is?

A       How much time do we have? I think it boils down to “the forbidden”, “the taboo”. What makes killers tick? What’s the worst thing you can do to another human being? Kill them. Of course the crime writer in me can think of worse things. 🙂 But let’s say “to kill”. Then it becomes what kind of person does this? What pushed them over the edge? And when we hear about killers that had a great childhood, a good marriage, successful children and a high-paying job, we are totally baffled. Again, it’s the psychology of it, I believe, that drives people to want to know more. Sure, some are probably motivated by the gore, but I don’t think that’s the norm. It’s like when you drive by a car accident and can’t look away. You want to know, what happened? Why? Who’s to blame? Because human beings are curious creatures, we try to put logic ahead of madness, and sometimes the two aren’t separate issues. Sometimes the reason, or lack thereof, is simple– because he wanted to see if he could kill and what it felt like. And that’s frightening to think about, because it means we could end up the next victim.

Q         What kind of research do you do for your novels?

A         It depends. I have a few police consultants/coroner/firearm experts I turn to when I need a quick answer. Otherwise, let’s say I’m writing more of a police procedural and I better get my facts right in case a detective reads my story. On my site I have a menu option entitled “Crime Writer’s Resource“, where I’ve listed links to forensic sites, homicide crime scene checklist, writing sites, craft books, writing tools, etc. Each link leads to more links. There are pages and pages of information I’ve gathered over the years, including former detectives who answer questions for writers. All are welcome to use it, by the way.

Q         What is your greatest strength and your greatest weakness, and why?

A         My greatest weakness is also my greatest strength, and I’ll tell you why. I love supporting other writers. I love the writing community as a whole. But when helping someone means I can’t get my own work done, it’s a problem. I have a terrible habit of putting others’ needs above my own. That’s not to say I ever want to stop supporting other writers. I just need to find balance. Does that make sense? I don’t want to give the wrong impression here. Put another way; if I can’t achieve my own goals, how can I help someone else achieve theirs?

Q         If you could interview any writer, living or dead, who would it be and why?

A         This is easy. Edgar Allen Poe. I wish I could crawl inside his mind for just an hour. What a fascinating yet disturbing place that would be.

Q         Crime and mystery writing can take both the writer and reader into some pretty dark places. Have you ever had to wrestle with a character or scene that challenged you to examine your own sense of right and wrong? If so, how?

A         Ooh, good question. I’ve definitely given myself nightmares on more than one occasion, where I was stuck in my fictional world and couldn’t get out. I’ve cried when I’ve had to kill a character I loved. I’ve laughed at other characters. Writing is magical that way. As far as wrestling with my inner demons, no. I’ve never had fantasies about taking a life. When someone pushes me to the breaking point, I just go home, turn them into a character, and then kill them in unspeakable ways. Sure makes me feel better.

Q         What’s next for you, Sue?

A         Good question. Who knows? That’s up to the literary gods, I guess. I’ll keep writing and keep journeying toward my dream. I’m working on two projects now. One is based on a question that’s haunted me for years; what lengths would you go to spend one more day with a lost loved one? And the other is based on a true story; how an undercover operative befriended a serial killer to take him down. Since I’m working with a confidential informant, I can’t say more than that, except that it’s exciting, clandestine stuff.

Find Sue here:

My website/blog: http://www.crimewriterblog.com

Twitter: www.twitter.com/@suecoletta1

Facebook page: www.facebook.com/suecoletta1

Author’s blog: http://www.auniqueandportablemagic.blogspot.com

Contribute to: www.venturegalleries.com and www.marciamearawrites.com

50 Ways To Murder Your Fictional Characters giveaway: http://bit.ly/1HlrCrC

Murder at Melcham Hall

Dave Watson

It was a dark and stormy night. Suddenly, a shot rang out! A door slammed. The maid screamed.

What is it about mysteries that compel us to pour a cup of tea, settle into a cozy armchair by the fire, and proceed to match wits with fictional detectives? Lovers of this genre have a new sleuth to admire in Inspector Wesley – the creation of author Dave Watson whose latest book, Murder at Melcham Hall, is the third in a page-turning series that transpires across the pond.

Interviewer: Christina Hamlett

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Q: Let’s start with some background about your upbringing in Middlesex. Was it a landscape that fueled your imagination for history, mystery and village life?

A:  I was born in 1956 in Heston, Middlesex, some twenty miles from London. In those days Heston was a tiny village where the hive of activity took place along the small parade of shops and, of course, the local public house. The village is steeped in history and I have traced my family back to the early 1700’s where Watson was the predominant surname. When I was a youngster, there were no fences to separate neighbours’ gardens and everyone walked in and out of their neighbours’ back doors. I have always longed for a village life again and maybe one day that dream will come true.

Q: Were you an avid reader as a child? If so, what authors and titles might we have found on your nightstand?

A: I have always been an avid reader. As a child I read all the ‘Biggles’ books written by Captain W E Johns. In my teenage years I read The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings along with Jules Vernes’ classic 20,000 Leagues under the Sea.

Q: Who or what first sparked your interest in becoming a writer?

A: I wrote a couple of short stories for my children when they were in Junior School and that was probably the spark. It was something I really enjoyed.

Q: Are there some favorite authors that influenced your own style of storytelling, character development and dialogue?

A: The authors who have influenced my style of writing are Agatha Christie, Kate Ellis and Jacqueline Winspear. These authors have the ability to write leaving the reader to want to keep turning the page. They create characters that one can envisage and relate to, almost as if they were real.

Q: If you could go to lunch with any of these authors and ask them one question, who would it be and what would you want to know?

A:  It would have to be Agatha Christie, and my question would be, “Did you always decide who the murderer was at the start of each novel, or did you change the culprit as the story unfolded?”

Q: What’s the first book you had published and how long did it take from start to finish?

A: The first book was titled Full Circle and it took me around eighteen months from start to finish.

Q: For many authors, the task of finding the right publisher for their work can be even more time consuming than writing a book in the first place. What was your own experience in this regard?

A: To anyone starting out I would simply say, shop around. The Writers and Artists year book is a good guide. Look for publishers who specialize in your genre. It is also important that you find a publisher who understands your work.

Q: What governed your decision to create a mystery series and what are some of the particular challenges of this approach?

A: Initially I think Agatha Christie is responsible. One of the main challenges in each story is remembering the personalities and mannerisms of the main characters.

Q: So what’s Murder at Melcham Hall all about?

A: The story relates to centuries of corruption and fraud surrounding the ownership of Melcham Hall. When a young girl is found murdered on the estate, Inspector Wesley soon uncovers a web of deceit. Someone living at Melcham Hall is not who she appears to be and when an elderly woman living in the grounds of the estate disappears, things take a dramatic twist.

Q: One of my college professors once said that if you’re going to write murder mysteries, it’s better to set them in an earlier time period versus contemporary because of all the advances in technology that make crime-solving easier. What are your thoughts about that?

A: To some degree that’s correct. I also think readers often prefer to be taken back in time as stories set in an earlier period often carry more nostalgia.

Q: Who’s your favorite character to write about and how did s/he evolve in your imagination?

A: My favorite character has to be Inspector Wesley. I grew up watching old British detective series on television (in the days of black and white television) and Wesley evolved from there. Rather a plain character who sits back to roll a cigarette whilst contemplating the case in question.

Q: How much historical and police procedural research goes into your stories?

A: Quite a lot really. It helps to get a feel for a location and if you can base it on somewhere you’ve been then so much easier to visual places. My police procedural research is mostly done from watching TV programmes and learning from other authors.

Q: Writing is a solitary craft. Do you allow anyone to have sneak peeks at your work in progress or make them wait until the whole thing is done?

A: I occasionally ask family or friends for feedback, especially if I’m unsure about a particular paragraph or chapter. It helps to obtain feedback. I have learnt that no one asks a silly question.

Q: What’s a typical writing day like for you?

A:  I usually shut myself away around mid-morning until mid-afternoon. That time of day works for me. However, it’s in the evening that I read other people’s novels and discuss book matters with friends and colleagues via Facebook and other outlets.

Q: Have your characters ever surprised you by doing or saying something you hadn’t planned when you were fashioning the story in your head?

A: Yes and no. Once or twice I have written a few lines about what one of my characters is doing at the time, only to stop and ask myself the question. Would he/she really say that?

Q: You also have a short story out about a pair of adventurous cats. That’s quite a departure from Inspector Wesley, isn’t it?

A: Smudge’s Adventures is a short story written for charity. A close friend lost her baby due to Group B Strep which is a life threatening infection. My son and a few friends ran a number of 10K races to raise money and I thought I could add to the pile by writing a short story donating all proceeds to the charity. http://www.gbss.org.uk/

Q: What would readers be the most surprised to learn about you?

A: Ah good question. I guess it would be that at 57 years of age I have only been writing for around 4 years. I wish I had started earlier. There’s a story in everyone.

Q: What’s your best advice to writers who are just starting their own journey and wanting to get published?

A: Be prepared to allocate yourself some time each day and stick to it. Put your story together and read it numerous times before asking someone else to proof read it. Take time to find someone who is prepared to edit your work. Only then, search for a publisher, someone who works in your genre. Look at who else they publish. Look to see who publishes other works similar to yours.

Q: What are you working on now?

A: I’m currently working on a 4th Inspector Wesley novel, titled The Loxwood Legacy which I hope to have published in the Spring.

Q: Where can readers learn more about you?

A: The best place is to check out my website www.davewatson.info or take a look at my author page on Amazon.

Q: Anything else you’d like to add?

A: It is an amazing feeling knowing that other people read your books and in doing so share your thoughts and ideas. It makes all those solitary hours of writing so worthwhile!

 

 

Sketch of a Murder

Aya Walksfar

Complex stories with complex characters grab us and reel us in as readers. Throw in twists of cleverly crafted murders, secrets and sensitive subject matter, and you might find yourself wondering what thrilling ride you’ve just jumped on. In author Aya Walksfar’s first three books, Good Intentions, Dead Men and Cats, and her latest, Sketch of a Murder, there is enough suspense, drama and plenty of unexpected turns to keep readers embroiled in what we’ve always known and loved: good old fashioned cases of whodunit.

 Interview: Christy Campbell

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Why do you enjoy writing?   

In my family, my mother and my grandmother carried oral stories. I can’t recall a time when I didn’t sit at their feet listening. Stories were important whether they were told as stories, or as songs. Add to that culture of oral storytelling the fact that my grandfather, Pap, was completely illiterate, even signed his paychecks with an X, and Grandma was nearly-illiterate, though she could read and write at about a third grade level. Due to their own lack of education, my grandparents were passionate about me obtaining an education. To them, books and education were the ticket out of poverty.

For me, writing is about sharing. Sharing dreams, sharing moments that transport people beyond their current existence. To share a special time with them, a piece of myself, very much like what oral storytellers do. Reading gave me so much that I wanted to give that kind of wonder, that kind of freedom to others.

What inspired you to write Sketch of a Murder?

Sketch of a Murder is just one of the murder mysteries that I’ve written. I got into writing murder mysteries after my grandfather was murdered when I was nine years old.  His killer was never brought to justice.  I loved Pap with all the passion that a grandchild of a doting grandfather has, which is to say I practically worshipped him. It was really difficult to accept his death, so I began crafting stories about how the killer was caught, and ultimately punished. It helped me to deal with the grief.

Who is your favorite character in Sketch of a Murder?

I have to admit I love strong female characters, so it’s Nita Slowater. Lieutenant Williams is a very close second, though.

What makes a good protagonist?

Complexity that is logical. The character needs to have a three-dimensional life, a reader needs to ‘feel’ a back story in that character’s life. That complexity needs to be logical; every action, word and thought needs to follow in a logical manner. Why does Sergeant Nita Slowater hate reporters? That hate is part of who she is, but it has to have a reason for being. Why is Lieutenant Williams so against having a female as his second-in-command? Why does Officer Mulder act like he hates everyone equally? Now, none of these things have to do with solving the crimes, directly, but they impact how the characters react and interact which makes the story real.

If a protagonist is always tough, smart mouthed, and so forth, yet the reader isn’t given a feel for why they are this way, then the character becomes a cardboard cutout being moved by the writer and used simply as a device. The reader can’t develop a relationship with that character. When I read, I want to be drawn into a protagonist’s life, feel the joys, and the sorrows, and know there is a logical reason behind them.

How did you come up with the title?

The title comes from the fact that the key to the killer’s identity lies within a homeless, black woman’s art.

Are all your books about crime?

No, my award winning literary novel, Good Intentions, is about the impact of family secrets.

An award! Tell us about which one and what that was like.

The Alice B. Reader Award for Excellence was given to me for my first edition of Good Intentions, published by Rising Tide Press in 2002. I loved having the book recognized by professionals, but the best “award” I ever got for Good Intentions was when a young man contacted me and said it helped him deal with some of his family issues.

What was one of the challenges in creating your book?

Stories come fairly naturally to me, but keeping a timeline correct while the story stretches out over several increments of time, whether that is days, weeks, months or years, can be challenging. I draw graphs to help me with this aspect.

You have a Pinterest site. What kind of thing do you like to pin?

I started out just posting my book covers, some pet photographs, that kind of thing. One night I was moaning because I didn’t know what to do with my Pinterest site, so my wife said she would see what she could do with it. Deva is a fantastic photographer; she simply has an eye for it. She started up a discussion not long after she began working with my site: what did I want to accomplish with Pinterest? I had never given it adequate thought, but after we talked for a while, I realized I would love to pin some photos of places I talk about in my novels, like Mount Baker.

I eventually coupled the photos on Pinterest with doing character interviews on my blog. For example, one character interview was with Sergeant Nita Slowater. Nita’s home town is Mount Vernon, Washington. So one weekend afternoon Deva and I hopped on our bikes (motorcycles) and took a spin up there to do a photography session. That evening Deva posted the photos of Nita’s home town. And yes, we followed Nita’s recommendation about the best pizza place and ate at Pacino’s.

You are involved in social media to promote yourself, which is a great way to get your titles recognized. What makes Facebook, Twitter and your blog different from one another?

FB is more interactive with my readers who become friends. We share on Facebook whereas on my blog I am offering my readers something, a story, and an article, whatever. It is much less interactive although I do love reader comments. To be honest, I haven’t quite figured out how to connect with others on it in an efficient and useful manner. For me, FB is an easier media for connecting with others, finding wonderful sites like Cops Kind to Critters or Wild and Wise Women.

What is the most difficult thing about the writing life?

Marketing. How does a person get their work out in front of the public without becoming an obnoxious bore? Connecting with others on social media, I am discovering, is one of the keys. Not only connecting with other authors, who I’ve found to be extremely generous with their time and expertise, but with readers as well. When I say connecting, I don’t mean doing the constant jumping up and down saying ‘read my book.’ You have to find some way to offer a benefit to others, and they in turn will offer benefits to you. The other key is the long-time standard of physical contacts at bookstores, and other community events.

Learning how to do marketing is a long process with a steep learning curve, and I have a long way to go, yet.

At this point, what is the most important thing you have learned in life, writer or not?

Dream. Don’t ever give up your dreams. Don’t be afraid to dream. Whether you achieve your dreams or not, the journey is awesome.

 

Connect with Aya on Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/ayawalksfar

Visit Aya and meet some of the Special Crimes Team on her blog: http://www.ayawalksfar.com

Check out photos on Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/ayawalksfar

Check out Aya’s books on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/author/ayawalksfar

The Hollywood Murder Series

Peter-Fischer_320w

When Peter S. Fischer left the bright lights of Tinseltown after nearly three decades as a network television writer/producer, it was with no intention of going quietly into a retirement mode on California’s central coast. If anything, the sound of keyboard tapping is louder than ever with his development of The Hollywood Murder Series, a sequence of mystery novels set against the historic backdrop of moviemaking’s glamorous heyday and which he publishes under his own imprint, The Grove Point Press.

The coincidence of my happening to interview Fischer stemmed from my having read his political thriller, The Terror of Tyrants, and – on the heels of my 5-star review (http://thegrovepointpress.com/tag/peter-s-fischer/ ) – sent an email to thank him for writing such a topical and chilling page-turner. Graciously, he not only took the time to respond but also to share his insights about the craft of writing.

Interviewer: Christina Hamlett

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Q: The glitz and glam of Hollywood has always attracted eager young hopefuls like proverbial moths to a flame. Coupled with this, however, seems to be an increasingly pervasive mindset of “entitlement” and arrogance. A case in point was a teen who recently wrote to me and declared, “The problem with movies and television today is that all you old people and your dumb ideas need to go away.” As someone who left the industry after a long career writing for hit series, why do you think that novelists and playwrights have a longer – and more respected – shelf life as authors?

A: First of all, I lend little credence to a teen who, unless she is exceptional, has no business lecturing us “old folks” about anything. I despair of a generation that believes “Thanks” is spelled “Thx” and spends a huge amount of time regaling each other about their last bowel movement or sexual encounter or the spinach they were unable to eat for lunch. These modern day twits know nothing about the art of conversation and for the most part do not even read unless forced to at the point of a hot poker. They get the television they deserve because TV is ratings driven. If you watch, you get it. If you don’t watch, it gets cancelled. Don’t blame us old folks for that!

The average TV executive at a studio or a network is about 30 years old. Movies have always been part trash, part escapism, often mindless and here and there, brilliant and absorbing. In an era where there are more and more low budget indy producers, you get a wide range from rotten to brilliant. No generalization fits. Ditto books and plays. For every Broadway hit, there are a dozen one-night turkeys. The same applies to books, Even in the old days when a handful of publishers controlled all of the market, many books were published that shouldn’t have been. Today, with self-publishing, the situation is even worse. I guess my point is, there will always be mediocre product and happily there will always be literature in many forms that rises above the norm.

Q: Once upon a time in Television Land, married couples slept in twin beds, no one swore, and husbands/fathers were not portrayed as henpecked twits. Nor were there reality shows in which contestants trashed one another and humiliated themselves to win a million dollars. In your view, are there any programs that indicate the medium is still salvageable as an entertainment venue or will it continue its drekky downward spiral?

A: In keeping with my response to the previous question, there has always been rotten television ever since the days of Lucy and Sid Caesar and Milton Berle, shows that were forgotten a day after they were cancelled. The old rule of thumb used to be for every pilot ordered to script, maybe one in five would be filmed. Of every filmed pilot actually aired, maybe one in five would be given an order for 6 and sometimes 13 episodes. Of those new shows, the odds of being renewed for a second season were also about 1 in 5.

It’s comforting to think back to the golden ages of television starting with the one-hour live dramas of the 50s and then the golden age of the sitcoms like Archie Bunker and Mary Tyler Moore and Cheers where the humor was genuine and character driven. For the most part network television is dismal and the best work is being done on the smaller cable channels where ideas and good writing make up for the lack of budget. Mad Men on AMC and House of Cards on Netflix are two prime examples.

Q: Blurring the line between fact and fiction has long been a popular device in doomsday novels, and you chillingly bridge that divide in your political thriller, The Terror of Tyrants. The premise: A corrupt government controls the major media (“an informed public is a dangerous public,” says one of the higher-ups), implements Executive Orders without Congressional approval, confiscates all firearms, fines and imprisons anyone who criticizes the administration, disables national telecommunications, and orchestrates a fake terrorist attack on a California coastal community in order to declare martial law, seize property and authorize assassinations. This book would clearly make a blockbuster movie but, given Hollywood’s fawning adoration of Obama, what are the chances of it getting produced?

A: The Terror of Tyrants will never get made as a movie unless it was championed by a powerful conservative producer with lots of money behind him. And even then it wouldn’t be easy because Hollywood actors and directors would be afraid to get involved. There are a couple of indy companies in Utah that have made some decent movies with a conservative message but in the end if you can’t get widespread distribution, it’s not worth the effort and liberal Hollywood has the theaters tied up.

Q: Any worries that there’s a drone out there with your name on it?

A: No worries. Invariably my name is spelled Peter Fisher by merchants and charities alike and the administration is a lot dumber than they are so I am safe. However, I do feel sympathy for any real-life Peter Fisher who may live in the vicinity.

Q: Your new Hollywood Murder Series is a juicy marriage of two subjects you know best – the mystery genre and Hollywood films. What governed your decision to start the storyline in 1947 rather than present-day? How many “years” have been published to date and how far do you plan to take this series?

A: I placed my books starting in 1947 because I consider the 30s, 40s and 50s, the Golden Age of Hollywood, rife with glamour real or imagined. These were kinder and gentler times as opposed to the chaos of modern day living and there is to me something intriguing about the nostalgia of old stars and old films. Since then hundreds, if not thousands, of brilliant movies have been created but the whole studio system run by Mayer and Warner and Zjukor, that was a world of its own.

I actually never envisioned a series of books, just the one – Jezebel in Blue Satin. And then I had to write a scene in a director’s office and I thought it might be fun to put a real person into the scene so I wrote in Gail Russell. That’s when it struck me that I could do a follow up book after a year had passed and so I settled on Treasure of the Sierra Madre and made characters of Bogart, John and Walter Huston, Tim Holt and even Ann Sheridan. The ninth book (1955) is currently being printed and revolves around Marty which was shot in New York. Number 10 takes place in Texas (Giant), number 11 in Memphis (Jailhouse Rock) and number 12 (Touch of Evil).The latter are in first drafts. There are a couple of on-going arcs from book to book and I believe I will wrap the whole thing up with either 15 or 16.

Q: Who would your protagonist, Joe Bernardi, prefer to brainstorm his ideas and theories with – Jessica Fletcher, Lt. Columbo or Ellery Queen?

A: None of the above. Except in one or two rare cases, Joe wants nothing to do with these murders that keep intruding on his life and when he gets involved it’s because he has a compelling reason why he cannot just walk away. He doesn’t consider himself a detective, not for one moment. He is closest in philosophy to Jessica who never considered herself a “detective,” at least not while I was running the show. Columbo took great delight in playing cat and mouse with his quarries but it was in the line of duty. It’s what he was paid for. Ellery loved the pursuit of the puzzle and wouldn’t quit until he’d unraveled it. So our man Joe is a reluctant protagonist at best , especially considering his job description. Whoever heard of a press agent solving murders?

Q: Does 21st century technology make it harder or easier for fictional villains to commit crimes and, conversely, for sleuths to solve them?

A: The technology of the 21st century has virtually destroyed the credibility of the so called ‘armchair’ detective. DNA is a shining example. Besides all the other highly technical and scientific things crime labs are capable of. It’s another reason why I started the series of books in 1947 . It’s also not a coincidence that we set the TV series Ellery Queen in the year 1947 for the same reason.

Q: What comes first for you when you sit down to pen a new story – the plot or the characters? In the case of a continuing thread such as Hollywood Murder Series, do you have the full map in your head – including the final destination – when you start out or do you sometimes allow your characters to take the steering wheel and, accordingly, take you along for the ride?

A: Good question. All of the above. First I need the gimmick, the incident that brings Joe into the story. I used Joe accused of murder once. I won’t use it again. I used Lydia, ex-wife, accused of murder. No more of that. In another I have his ex-live in gal pal Bunny eye witness to a murder and in deep trouble. In another, someone has plagiarized Joe’s book and ends up murdered. In another Joe sends out a press photo which may have gotten a man killed. etc etc etc.

Once I have the gimmick and I’ve decided the movie I am going to tell the story around, I invent a few characters and start writing. I don’t have an outline and in several cases – maybe half – have no idea what the ending is. Very often a lot of the pieces come to me while I am in the middle of a chapter. For the most part I let the characters take me where they want to go and most of the time I have no problem with it. Remember that between EQ and Columbo and MSW as well as my other shows, I probably have plotted over a hundred mystery scripts of one sort of another. It’s like second nature but more important, I discovered in later years that a rigid outline was stifling my imagination which is the main reason I gave up outlining. I do know the final destination of the series, I know what is going to happen to Joe’s career and to Bunny and to Jill and to the child, Yvette. How I reveal all this remains to be seen….

Q: The publishing industry has changed radically in the past decade and, as the combined result of downsizing at the major houses and the rise in popularity of ebooks, has driven numerous authors – yourself included – to go the DIY route. Tell us about the debut of your own imprint, The Grove Point Press, and the challenges/rewards of wearing multiple hats.

A: I think the days of the mass market, brick and mortar bookstores are over. People are reading less and less and other venues such as Kindle and POD are the coming thing. The old fashioned way the traditionalists do business has no future. If you are lucky enough to get an agent who is lucky enough to get you a deal for a book which they will publish the following year or maybe even later, it will sit on the shelf for maybe 5-6 months and then – unless it’s a runaway bestseller – it will be shunted off to Nowhereland to make room for the next Great American novel. Online your book lasts forever and there are enough success stories to lead me to believe that we are doing this the right way. I say “we” because my son Chris is handling everything about The Grove Point Press except the actual writing and he is doing a fantastic job. I have infinite patience and infinite enthusiasm for what we are doing

Q: If you could sit down for lunch with any famous author from the past whose writing and vision inspired you, who would it be?

A: I make it a rule never to break bread with any writer unless he is a lot smarter than me and a much better writer. This gives me a huge universe from which to select and I could spend all day picking and choosing! So I’ll keep it short. TV writers, only two. Rod Serling and Paddy Chayefsky. Novelists? Thomas B Costain, the first book writer that captivated me when I was 7 or 8. Scott Fitzgerald, Conan Doyle. Sinclair Lewis. Contemporary: Michael Connolly, John Grishham. Scott Turow. Playwrights: William Inge, Doc Simon, Tennessee Williams.

But if I had to pick only one it would be the late Robert B. Parker, creator of Spenser and Jesse Stone. I loved the way he plotted sparsely but effectively, the way he used humor to temper grimness, his facility with dialogue. I believe my style and rhythms, especially in the Hollywood books, are very close to his.

Q: What would your fans be the most surprised to learn about you?

A: Although I studied writing and drama at Johns Hopkins, I had to put my writing ambitions on hold while I raised a family. Then at the age of 35 I literally sat down at my kitchen table in Smithtown, Long Island ,New York and wrote a movie not knowing that nobody sells a movie this way and nobody gets into the business from a place called Smithtown, particularly at my age. It’s a long story but the happy ending has my movie airing on ABC Movie of the Week, produced by Aaron Spelling under the title The Last Child. It gets nominated for an EMMY for Best TV Movie of the Year. I move to Hollywood and freelance for a few months before I meet Peter Falk and get hired by Universal Studios and the rest, as they say, is history.

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The Blade

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What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. Unless, of course, a villain has plans to completely obliterate it from the map. While investigating the theft of a 4000-year-old artifact, a federal agent finds herself confronted with an international fugitive who threatens to destroy Sin City. Such is the pulse-pounding premise of The Blade (Stone Creek Books), an adult thriller recently published by Lynn Sholes and Joe Moore. The pair took time from their busy schedules to talk about the collaborative process of bringing their ideas and characters to life.

Interviewer: Christina Hamlett

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Q: How and when did the two of you become collaborators?

A: Lynn: Joe and I belonged to the same writing critique group that met every week. During the middle of each session we’d take a break and we’d all chat. Sometimes we’d share ideas about other projects we’d like to do. I had this idea about a book I wanted to write, but it wasn’t in my comfort range because of the genre. Joe thought it was a great idea, and after a year or so, he finally threatened me that if I didn’t write the book, then he would. We decided to give co-writing a whirl.

That produced The Grail Conspiracy, our first collaboration, which did very well. It was ForeWord Magazine’s book of the year and an international bestseller. So far, it’s been translated into 24 languages.

Q: So how does your collaborative process work (i.e., brainstorming, logistics, editing one another, utilizing each other’s respective strengths)?

A: Lynn: I can only vouch for what Joe and I do. At first it was very difficult, not because we disagreed on anything, but rather because our styles and voices were so different. Joe wrote male action-adventure with a very bold voice. I wrote historical fiction with a more lyrical voice. So blending took a lot of work, but we stayed with it. As a matter of fact, friends are always guessing which line one of us wrote! They’re usually wrong, but we never tell.

As far as the mechanical process, we do outlining and brainstorming so we know the story. Either of us could write it. Then whoever feels they have the best handle on a scene takes on the first draft of that scene. We send it back and forth for revisions. Using Dropbox makes it easier. We drop a file in the shared Dropbox folder and voilà! The other picks it up.

Q: Where do you get your ideas for the fascinating characters and compelling stories the two of you compose?

A: Joe: An idea that sparks a story can come from anywhere, anytime. Movies, newspapers, magazines, other books. What we look for is the seed that grabs our attention. Our first book written together came from an article in Discover Magazine about a cup found by an archeologist in Israel. He believed it was the Holy Grail and subsequently discovered that traces of blood residue were present. Could it have been the blood of Christ? What if someone used the DNA to clone Christ? The result was our first thriller written together, The Grail Conspiracy. An article I stumbled across on the Internet about the Germans working on an atomic bomb at the end of WWII prompted our latest thriller, The Blade.

Q: When it comes to character development and dialogue in a thriller such as The Blade, do you think it’s easier for a female to write from a male’s perspective or a male to write from a female’s perspective?

A: Lynn: I don’t think it matters to us. Joe and I have never decided to write scenes because of a character’s gender. We don’t take on specific characters when we write; we take on scenes. When Joe has a better handle on a scene or better vision, then he does the first draft of it. If I feel I have a strong image of a scene, then I do the first draft. We both have our strengths, but they aren’t gender-related.

Q: Do you revise as you go along or wait until the novel is complete?

A: Joe: Because there are two of us and we exchange drafts of each chapter many times, the revision process is ongoing, with the final one after input from our editor.

Q: What is your strategy behind short chapters vs. longer ones?

A: Joe: Most of our chapters average 1000 words. We do that to keep the reader turning the pages. If they see that the next chapter is only a couple of pages long, they will decide to read just one more. And then one more…

Q: If The Blade was made into a movie, who would you choose to play Maxine, Kenny and Applewhite?

A: Lynn: Maxine –Julianna Moore, Kenny – Hugh Jackman, Applewhite – Tommy Lee Jones or William H. Macy?

A: Joe: I see Naomi Watts as Maxine, Jude Law as Kenny, and Brian Cox as Applewhite

Q: What’s the best part of working with your partner?

A: Lynn: We left our egos behind years ago. We both have a vested interest in the book so we sort through plot, the details and motivations together. It’s great to have a sounding board and brainstorming partner with the same goal. And the really good part is if someone criticizes something, I can always say, “Joe wrote that part.” 

A: Joe: Like Lynn said, we both have a stake in the book that no one else has. Our spouses give us both a mountain of support, but they are not writers nor do they think like writers. I can ask my wife her opinion and she will give it honestly. But she doesn’t see the big picture; she has other things to think about. I’m sure it’s the same for Lynn and her husband and family. Having a writing partner means I can make a suggestion or throw out an idea, and Lynn will analyze it while considering all the consequences of how it would impact, improve or detract from the story.

Q: Do you ever have writer’s block? If so, how do you handle it?

A: Lynn: Because Joe and I write together, I don’t think we’ve ever had writer’s block. Having a brainstorming partner tends to prevent that. Of course we have plot issues we have to work out, but not true writer’s block. One thing we have learned is that when we come to a stumbling block we talk through it and something eventually pops up. We also know that there will come a time in the process that is devoted to revision.

Q: What’s your favorite thing about writing?

A: Joe: Entering into the “zone” where you lose track of time and place as the words flow freely.

Q: Learning to write compelling fiction takes a lot of time, study and practice. It’s also not uncommon for a writer’s style and vision to evolve and undergo reinvention from what it was originally. Do you ever go back and read your earliest writings? If so, what’s your reaction?

A: Lynn: Yuck! Yes. When I first decided to take writing seriously, I wrote a book called Talisman Rose, mostly to see if I could sustain 100,000 words.  I wrote it on a typewriter which convinced me to get a computer and printer.  Well, I discovered that I could write my way through 100,000 words. But that manuscript rests in a box high in the closet that I never intend to show anyone.  Every time I write a book, I learn something new. Sometimes I look back in horror and slap my forehead asking myself if I really wrote that.

Q: Like many writers, the two of you have ventured into indie publishing rather than going the traditional route. What are some of the advantages and disadvantages you discovered during the process of taking The Blade from concept to publication to marketing?

A: Joe: With the advent of indie publishing, writers have become a self-contained business and must handle most or all of the facets of sales and marketing. It takes away from writing time, but it’s also liberating and fulfilling.

Q: What’s next on your plate (collaboratively or individually)?

A: Joe: What’s next? Maxine returns in The Shield (working title). Former OSI federal agent Maxine Decker is recruited by a blacker than black government operation to track down the theft of alien artifacts originally collected from the 1947 Roswell Incident. Stay tuned!

A: Lynn: As a note of interest, I have just handed over my first four books, written under the name Lynn Armistead McKee, to enter the digital world. Those books are a totally different genre than what Joe and I write. Woman of the Mists, Touches the Stars, Keeper of Dreams and Walks in Stardust are historical fiction in the tradition of Clan of the Cave Bear, but not quite as far back. These are stories about the extinct aboriginal peoples of Florida before European contact.

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Readers can learn more about the authors at http://www.sholesmoore.com/p/author-bios.html.

No Good Deed

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If you have ever harbored dreams of becoming a published writer, it’s likely that anyone you have asked for professional advice has either replied, “Write what you know” or “Write the kind of book you like to read.” Jeanette A. Fratto, author of No Good Deed, not only brings to the table a longstanding fondness for the mystery genre but also shares much in common career-wise with her intrepid protagonist – Probation Officer Linda Davenport.

Interviewer: Christina Hamlett

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Q: Let’s start out with some background on your personal journey as a writer and, in particular, your decision to start penning mysteries.

A:  I’ve been writing all my life, short stories, essays, and articles.  I didn’t tackle a novel until I retired from a 26-year career with the Orange County Probation Department, and chose a mystery because it’s one of my favorite genres to read.

Q: Were you a voracious reader when you were growing up? If so, who were some of the authors and what were some of the books that you feel had the most influence on your own style and sense of story structure?

A:  Voracious! I read all the famous fairy tale and Nancy Drew books, graduating to adult books as soon as I could. Many authors have probably had an influence on me – Mary Higgins Clark for her simplicity in story telling, James Patterson for his ability to keep you turning pages, T. Jefferson Parker for his very intelligent writing and plotting. I admire them and many others but I’d like to think my own voice is distinctive to me.

Q: If you could go to lunch with any famous mystery writer that has ever lived, where would it be and what is the one question you would most want to ask him/her about their life, their books or the publishing industry?

A:  So many questions, and authors pop into my mind.  For sheer fun I’d like to have lunch with Janet Evanovich and ask her how she came up with such crazy, likeable characters in her Stephanie Plum series. Our restaurant would probably have to be a very non-serious place, like  IHOP.

Q: What’s the first thing you ever had published and do you remember what your reaction was?

A:  Aside from articles in my local Detroit paper about my high school doings, my first real publication was in 1983, a short story “true romance”.  Since it was supposed to be “true” I did not have a byline, but I signed a contract and was paid $160 by McFadden Publications. My reaction was – wow! I guess I’m now a professional writer.

Q: Do you ever go back and read some of your earlier writings? What’s your reaction when you do? 

A:  I occasionally revisit earlier writings and I usually think they’re not too bad, and sometimes really good. Other times I wonder, why did I take on that topic?

Q: Your latest release, No Good Deed, is actually a sequel to your first book, No Stone Unturned. Was the decision to do the sequel because you had unfinished elements you wanted to explore or, like many authors, was it because it was hard to part company with the characters you had brought to life and spent so much time with?

A: Actually it was neither. When I finished No Stone Unturned  I doubted that I’d ever write another book, and went back to my short stories and articles. However, my readers seemed to have other ideas. So many asked me if I planned to write a sequel, as they wanted to know more about my characters.  As time passed, all the turmoil connected with writing and publishing dimmed in my mind, and I thought “why not?”  I had my main characters.  All I needed was a new plot.

Q: In the film industry, movie sequels typically draw 60 percent of the audience that liked the original. There’s a danger, however, in either reinventing exactly the same wheel or taking the sequel in a different direction that inevitably disappoints. From your own experience, was it harder or easier to write No Good Deed? How did strike the right balance between delivering something new and yet retaining that which was already familiar?

A:  I found the sequel much easier to write. Where the first book took me several years, the sequel was completed in a year and a half.  I had my main characters, and had the book begin about six months after the first one ended.  The familiarity was the setting.  Linda Davenport is no longer in training but is settled in her first assignment as an investigator. Now she’s involved in something new, investigating a Hollywood movie star accused of molestation.  This brought about some new characters, one of whom may continue into a third book.

Q: Speaking of Hollywood, if No Good Deed were adapted to a movie or a TV series, who would comprise your dream cast?

A:  Funny you should ask.  I was able to get my first book to Oprah. Although it didn’t make the book club “cut”, the feedback I received was that it would make a good movie and I should find a literary agent who could help me with this. That never worked out. However, I often thought about who could play Linda.  Hilary Swank came to mind, and more currently, Rachel McAdams.  Jan should be played by Sara Rue, Edith by Betty White, Gregory by Ben Affleck, and Carol by any current pretty blonde star, since Carol’s part is quite small. David could be played by Josh Duhamel, or if they could find a young Jude Law, that would be the best.

Q: Did you work from a formal outline at the outset or invite your characters to “speak” to you as you went along?

A:  I didn’t use an outline. I had a rough idea and I let my characters speak to me as I went. Amazingly they spoke to me in directions I didn’t plan on taking.

Q: Let’s talk about your intrepid protagonist, Linda Davenport. Her career starts out as a school teacher in Michigan. What was the inciting incident that compelled her to become a probation officer and move to Southern California (besides, of course, our fabulously lovely weather)?

A:  Linda moves to California for a job in publishing.  While on the plane to Los Angeles, she makes the acquaintance of probation officer Carol Alder, who regales her with the many interesting aspects of her job.  Linda’s publishing job fails to materialize and Carol dies in a suspicious auto accident, but not before sending Linda information on how to apply for the next training class of probation officers.  Linda is determined to stay in California, but her job hunting is not successful. She begins to think about Carol’s suggestion that she look into probation.  In the meantime, Carol’s brother Gregory has contacted Linda to voice his concerns that Carol’s accident might have been foul play, and he thinks someone in the court system is responsible. If Linda is able to become a probation officer, she might be able to uncover the truth and put Gregory’s mind at ease.  She applies and is accepted.  Thus begins her journey through the system and her discovery of the truth about Carol.

Q: As a long-time Southern California resident yourself, are some of the settings depicted in your two books favorite hang-outs of your own?

A:  I’ve definitely never hung out at the Swallows Inn, but I live near Laguna Beach and have visited the Laguna Hotel many times for dinner or lunch on their terrace.  Streets I mention are streets I’ve traveled.  The location of the probation offices is accurate as well.

Q: What traits do you and the fictional Linda have in common? In what ways are you radically dissimilar?

A:  Linda and I are similar in that we both came from Detroit, loved to visit the library with our dads, and or course, became probation officers.  We’re dissimilar in that she’s an only child, I’m not; she was a teacher, I never was: my dad was not an accountant; and Linda came to California alone while I came with my husband and two children due to my husband’s job opportunity.

Q: Probation departments aren’t a typical aspect of law enforcement that people read about. Why did you choose to give it an audience?

A: For two reasons. When I worked, I realized that few outside the field really understood what probation officers do (much more than just supervising people).  Also, mystery writers rarely write about probation, yet it’s an important component of the criminal justice system. When they infrequently mention it, they usually get it wrong, mixing it up with parole. In California, probation (county) and parole (state or federal) are separate functions.  I knew the system intimately and decided it was time probation had its own exposure via mystery novels.

Q: Any plans to make Linda’s adventures a full-fledged series?

A:  Possibly. Many readers of my second book are asking me when a third will be available. I’ve been busy promoting No Good Deed so it will be a while before I can concentrate on a plot for #3.

Q: Like many authors, you’ve gone the route of self-publishing. What were some of the considerations that went into your decision to ultimately choose Outskirts Press?

A:  Initially I planned to be traditionally published, period. But after endless queries, and an agent who wanted to represent me but turned out to be unscrupulous, I decided that what I really wanted was to see my book in print. I began researching self-publishing and talking to writers who had done so.  Outskirts Press had a good reputation, we had a comfortable fit, and the cost was fairly reasonable. It has worked out well.

Q: What is a typical day of writing like for you?

A:  If I’m working on a book, I usually set aside a day or two just for writing. When I know I don’t have to write every day I don’t obsess about it.  I make notes as ideas come to me, but my main focus will be on my writing days.  I’ve tried the “write a few lines every day” that other authors do, but it didn’t work for me.  If I wasn’t writing something, I felt guilty.

Q: You’re also passionate about volunteering your time to adult literacy. What brought this interest about?

A:  My love of reading and the desire to volunteer in the community in a helpful way. It’s amazing how many adults are unable to read, or read very poorly. I’ve been with READ/Orange County for over thirteen years and have had various assignments. For the last several years I’ve been the site supervisor for the literacy office at the Aliso Viejo library.  READ has a wonderful free program and many adults have learned to read through the efforts of their volunteers.

Q: Anything else you’d like readers to know about you?

A:  Let’s see, I have two adult children, three grandchildren, speak Spanish, and love to travel with my husband.  I’m also a graduate of CaliforniaStateUniversity, Fullerton (B.A. and M.A.). In my probation career I held many titles, starting as a probation officer. By the time I retired, I had been a division director for many years. My husband and I like to keep fit and over the years have taken pilates, yoga, and strength training classes, not all at the same time. I’m currently doing Zumba once a week, and working out with a personal trainer on two other days. I guess I believe in the saying, “if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it” and I’d like to “keep it” for as long as I can. Regarding my writing, in 2011 and 2012 I was one of the winners in a Writer’s Digest competition, in the categories of short story, feature article, and essay.  I’ve also been published in three anthologies in the past two years,  She Writes, The Write Balance, and Royal Flush.  I have a short story entered in a current Writer’s Digest short story competition, but winners have yet to be announced.