Welcome to this week's Coffee Chat!
Our guest author is Diane Burton, who writes in several genres, but is with us with her mystery hat on and brought a cozy to share, The Case of the Meddling Mama. Love the title!
Glad to have you, Diane. How do you take your coffee?
DIANE: Black. Love my Keurig.
Ally: I think my magic pot is up to the challenge. :) While I pour, please introduce yourself.
Diane Burton combines her love of mystery, adventure, science fiction and romance into writing romantic fiction. Besides the science fiction romance Switched and Outer Rim series, she is the author of One Red Shoe, a romantic suspense, and the Alex O’Hara PI mystery series. She is also a contributor to two anthologies: Portals, Volume 2 and How I Met My Husband. Diane and her husband live in West Michigan. They have two children and three grandchildren.
Something unique that isn't in your regular bio: "As the only non-musician, I worked in a flute store that carried flutes and sheet music for flutes. I once talked to Sir James Galway on the phone."
Connect with Diane Burton online:Diane’s website: http://www.dianeburton.com
Goodreads: Diane Burton Author
Sign up for Diane’s new release alert: http://eepurl.com/bdHtYf
Ally: Tell us about the main character in the book you're featuring today.
DIANE: For years Alex (Alexandra) O’Hara worked for her dad and his business partner at their investigation agency. When they retired, she took over. She’s tall (5’10”) and sturdy, like the peasants in the Old Country (she thinks), and a klutz. She’s independent but thinks she has to prove herself. She gets into more trouble by falling into (and ultimately solving) major crimes.
Ally: What was your journey to publication, including bumps and missteps?
DIANE: Long and arduous. I started writing with intent to publish in 1993. My first published book was Switched, about twins switching places, in 2001. My publisher didn’t like the heroine in the second book, we parted ways. Family obligations interrupted my writing until 2009. A friend told me about publishing through Amazon (Kindle Direct Publishing). I had the rights back to Switched, so I pubbed it in electronic form in 2011, rewrote the sequel and self-pubbed it in 2012. Since then, I’ve published two books a year (except last year), alternating between writing science fiction romance and cozy mysteries. My only romantic suspense was pubbed in 2013 by The Wild Rose Press.
Ally: If you could have a supernatural power, what would it be and why?
DIANE: Teleportation. I live close to two grandchildren and 2,000 miles from the third. If I could teleport, I could visit all of them often. They grow up too fast, so I want to spend as much time as possible with them.
Ally: Tell us about your home. Country or state. Type of residence and general setting. Do you get around mostly by car, subway, etc.
DIANE: After following my husband’s job around the Midwest, we built a ranch house in a Lake Michigan resort town. We’d retired, had no ties to our last town, so we moved close to our daughter and her family (our only grandchildren at the time). I use a smaller version of this town as the basis for Far Haven, Michigan, the fictional resort town in the Alex O’Hara series. Like most Michiganders, I get around by car.
Ally: What is your next writing project?
DIANE: Since it's not released yet, getting The Case of the Meddling Mama launched is next. It is the 3rd book in my PI mystery series. Two routine cases start as an easy-peasy background check on an internet matchup and getting the goods on a philandering spouse. They end with deadly consequences.
Stay in touch with me through my links above for updates on other future releases.
Ally: Let's finish up with these quick answer questions.
- a. an item on your bucket list: an Alaskan cruise
- b. manicure or pedicure: pedicure
- c high heels or sneakers: sneakers
- d. favorite quote: “If I’d known grandchildren were so much fun, I’d have had them first.” ~ unknown (probably a grandparent)
- e. something unique in your handbag (or closet): Epi-pen.
Ally: Thanks for visiting the blog, Diane. Before you go, please show us more of The Case of the Meddling MaMa...
The Case of the Meddling Mama (Alex O'Hara #3)
Genre: cozy mystery
Heat level: 2 of 5
Once again, Alex O’Hara is up to her ears in mysteries. After surviving an attempted murder, all she wants is R&R time with Nick Palzetti. But his mother leaving his father (“that horse’s patoot”) and moving in with Alex puts a crimp in their plans. Then Nick leaves on assignment and the teen she rescued from an abusive father believes his buddy is doing drugs. Meanwhile, Alex has two easy cases to take her mind off her shaky relationship with Nick—a philandering husband and a background check on a client’s boyfriend. Piece of cake.
Release date: April 17, 2017. Available for pre-order at $1.99. After release, it will go up to $3.99.
Thanks for spending time with us. Come back soon!
Welcome to the first Wednesday in Spring!
We actually had snow showers yesterday, but I'm hopeful! In any case, we're cozy inside with mystery author, Molly MacRae.
Morning, Molly. What may I get you to drink?
MOLLY: I usually have tea with milk. When I do have coffee, I want it to be one of those things that’s really more like liquid dessert, preferably with chocolate, whipped cream, and sprinkles.
Ally: Tea it is (although I'll stick with coffee)! While I prepare our drinks, please introduce yourself to readers.
The Boston Globe says Molly MacRae writes “murder with a dose of drollery.” She’s the award-winning author of the Highland Bookshop Mysteries and the Haunted Yarn Shop Mysteries. Molly’s short stories have appeared in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine since 1990. After twenty years in northeast Tennessee, Molly lives in Champaign, Illinois.
Something unique/unusual that isn't in your regular bio: "I like to exercise my writing muscles by stretching my abilities – not always successfully. Here are three examples. A long time ago, I wrote a series of mystery short stories in French. The stories weren’t too good and neither was the French. A shorter time ago, I wrote an even shorter mystery story in Scottish Gaelic (if three lines can count as a story). Again, the story wasn’t so hot, but the Gaelic was impeccable. Much more recently, I won a flash fiction contest at a mystery conference with a story called ‘Hammered by Hamilton’ written as a rap."
Author contact links:
Ally: What can readers expect when they open a Molly MacRae book?
MOLLY: I write cozy mysteries, and while there’s a hint of romance, the heat level is very low.
Ally: How do you choose and name your characters?
MOLLY: Sometimes I choose them and sometimes they just show up. When I’m in control of the situation, I try to choose characters that a) I don’t mind getting inside their heads; b) who can best tell (or lie about) the story; c) who show me something about the emotional setting of the story; or d) who I don’t mind killing. Names can be tricky. I try to pick names common to the region I’m writing about, and that are appropriate to the character’s age. I try to avoid names that sound too much alike, and try not to have too many with the same beginning sounds.
Ally: Does your real life show up in your writing? In what ways?
MOLLY: Oh yes, and not always very well disguised. Take setting and occupations, for instance. All my books and stories, except for the Highland Bookshop Mysteries, take place in small towns in northeast Tennessee, all of them suspiciously like Jonesborough, a town I dearly love and where we lived for so long. Wilder Rumors is about a shady museum curator in one of those versions of Jonesborough. I was the curator (not too shady) of the Jonesborough-Washington County History Museum. Lawn Order is about Margaret Welch who owns a bookstore in another version of Jonesborough. I didn’t own a bookstore, but I left the museum to run The Book Place, a wonderful independent bookstore. The Haunted Yarn Shop Mysteries are about a woman who inherits her grandmother’s yarn shop. My grandmother did own a yarn shop, although it wasn’t haunted and it wasn’t in Tennessee.
Most of my characters are combinations of people I’ve known, or met, or who have caught my eye or ear (or to whom I’m related), but a few of my characters are named after real people. Debbie Keith, Aaron Carlin, and Al Rogalla are co-workers of mine at the library who won the dubious pleasure of being in the Haunted Yarn Shop Mysteries after donating money to our staff charity drive. (Al’s first name in real life is Mike, but I used part of his middle name to avoid confusion with my husband who is also a Mike.) Thea Green also works at the library, and she just showed up in the books one day and stayed. In the Highland Bookshop Mysteries, James Haviland, Sharon Davis, and the Paudel family are named after friends. Needless to say, nothing about the characters, other than their names, is anything like the real people. Although Thea might disagree, and the real Rogalla does have a Scottie named Bruce.
Ranger, Sophie, and Quantum, dogs in the Highland Bookshop Mysteries, are based on dogs who belong to friends. In fact Quantum, who’s a very handsome and accomplished smooth collie, is joining me for a book signing at the end of April in Alexandria, Virginia. Word is, he’s very excited and looking forward to “pawtigraphing” books.
And then there are the bits of observed behavior and overheard dialog. About that, let’s just say if you see me hanging around, be careful; I’m nosy and I write things down.
Ally: What is your next writing project?
MOLLY: Scones and Scoundrels, book two of the Highland Bookshop Mysteries, is almost finished. In it, an eccentric author, who’s visiting Inversgail for the Authors in Schools program, is found dead – poisoned by scones from the tearoom that’s now part of Yon Bonny Books. The book will be out in January 2018.
Ally: Tell us about your home. Your life style.
MOLLY: We live in a university town – Champaign, Illinois – in a small, yellow house in an old neighborhood within walking distance of work, a park, and restaurants. Before Champaign, we lived in northeast Tennessee for about twenty years, within walking distance of bears. Years before that, I lived in Edinburgh, Scotland, for a year.
Ally: How do you spend your non-writing/editing time?
MOLLY: I work full time in the children’s department of the public library. When I’m not writing or working, I like to try new recipes, do crossword puzzles, read, and find more reasons for not dusting or weeding.
Ally: Please answer the following short answer questions:
Ally: Thanks so much for spending time with us. Before you go, we'd love to hear about the novel you brought today, Plaid and Plagiarism.
- Book you're currently reading? The Wreck of the Argyll by John K. Fulton and Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave.
- Favorite accessory: A bracelet that says “So many books, so little time.”
- What comes to you first - character or plot? Sometimes one, sometimes the other, sometimes both.
- What are your hobbies? Cooking, crossword puzzles, and hoping that someday I’ll have time to improve my knitting, embroidering, and needle felting.
- Typical breakfast? Steel cut oatmeal with cinnamon, cardamom, salt, 1/3 of a banana, chopped walnuts, blueberries, and unsweetened almond milk; unsweetened yellow grapefruit juice; tea with milk.
Plaid and Plagiarism, book one of the Highland Bookshop Mysteries
A murder in a garden shed turns the four new owners of Yon Bonnie Books into amateur detectives, in a captivating new cozy mystery novel from Molly MacRae.
Set in the weeks before the annual Inversgail Literature Festival in Scotland, Plaid and Plagiarism begins on a morning shortly after the four women take possession of their bookshop in the Highlands. Unfortunately, the move to Inversgail hasn’t gone as smoothly as they’d planned.
First, Janet Marsh is told she’ll have to wait before moving into her house. Then she finds out the house has been vandalized. Again. The chief suspect? Una Graham, an advice columnist for the local paper―who’s trying to make a name for herself as an investigative reporter. When Janet and her business partners go looking for clues at the house, they find a body―it’s Una, in the garden shed, with a sickle in her neck. Janet never did like that garden shed.
Who wanted Una dead? After discovering a cache of nasty letters, Janet and her friends are beginning to wonder who didn’t, including Janet’s ex-husband. Surrounded by a cast of characters with whom readers will fall in love, the new owners of Yon Bonnie Books set out to solve Una’s murder so they can get back to business.
Your locally owned, independent bookstore: http://www.indiebound.org/book/9781681772561
Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/plaid-and-plagiarism-molly-macrae/1123754332;jsessionid=B836C77F6B38724AA5A1414EA6C4842A.prodny_store02-atgap07?ean=9781681772561
Thanks for Stopping. Come back soon!
Welcome to this week's book talk!
My guest today is children's writer, Kath Boyd Marsh, who also happens to be my critique partner! It's great to have you on the Coffee Chat, Kath! How would you like your coffee?
KATH: If I have really good coffee, I’ll take it black and savor every sip. If it’s hot outside, pour it over ice and give me a splash of milk. WAIT!!! I just bought a bourbon liqueur that tastes like coffee and … maybe not before writing.
Ally: Oh, probably not. I'll pour two cups of black coffee while you introduce yourself to readers.
At seven years old Kath Boyd Marsh self-published her first fantasy on lined notebook paper, stapled together by her grandfather, and starring a creature based on her little sister- the ‘PB.’ Before Kath moved to Richmond, KY to write about dragons, wizards, and other fantastic creatures, she lived in seven states, Panama, and one very haunted house. The Lazy Dr'gon and the Bumblespells Wizard was her debut novel.
Something not in your usual bio: "For five years I volunteered at Alabama Wildlife Rescue in Hoover, AL. I loved every minute of cleaning up after, feeding, and just being around injured and orphaned wildlife. Of all the creatures, I came to love oppossums (the young sneeze to call their mom) and black vultures the best. The vultures in the outdoor ‘flight’ cage had a sharp sense of humor and would untie my boots and steal my refuse garbage bag."
Ally: What genre do you prefer to write?
KATH: My debut book is Middle Grade fantasy fiction for children. I also have a short story that will publish in an anthology this coming summer. That one is Young Adult. I like writing YA. Very PG.
Ally: What is your daily writing process?
KATH: I check my email and get my morning encouragement from my critique partner. Her work ethic drives me onward!!! (Thank you. :) ) If she writes 2000 words, I try to get at least 1500.
Ally: Can you describe your journey to publication, including the bumps?
KATH: Oh, boy. I started the first draft of the book I just published over twenty years ago. It was submitted and revised, and revised, and submitted, and revised for … well over twenty years before it found an editor who believed in it. On the way, I had a publisher send me a note saying they were reading that manuscript and everyone was laughing. And the next day I got a form rejection from the same publisher. No explanation, just Ouch.
On another manuscript- I sent it to an editor who requested it after hearing my pitch at a conference. He wrote back that it wasn’t dark enough, and if I wanted to tackle the darkness issue, I could re-submit. BUT, by the way, He was quitting the publishing industry so I’d have to send it to the other editors at his old publishing company. They would read it. Uh huh. I darkened it, sent it, and got a fast rejection saying it was too dark. Uh huh.
I’ll never forget the agent years ago who sent back my query letter with “no” penciled in on the body of my letter. Ouch!
But during those twenty years I have drafted a lot of other manuscripts, which I continue to revise and hope …
Ally: How do you decide your characters' names?
KATH: I cheat. My parents were heavily into genealogy, so I go to the book and seek an ancestor name or names that I like.
Ally: Since you write fantasy, I assume you've thought about supernatural powers. If you could have one, what would it be?
KATH: I’d want two. Greedy, huh? First would be the ability to protect my family and friends from everything harmful. Keep them safe and healthy.
And even more greedy, I’d want the ability to eat endless amounts of Cheezits and drink Cherry Coke and NOT gain endless amounts of fluffiness/weight.
Ally: Lol. I think we'd all like that one. But getting back to writing, what's the next project?
KATH: I am working on revising my favorite series of manuscripts. Long ago Abdon Mallack, a demon with ambitions, stepped into my writing. I so want her stories published. She has a very dark sense of humor, a clumsy assistant I identify with, and a life that never goes smoothly. If it can go wrong, it will. And in the process of pursuing her goal of establishing her own Hell Colony, her true evilness, well it seems to be changing.
By the way. I did not get her name from my ancestors. Abdon is of course the name of one of the Judges from the Bible- a bit of irony. and Mallack is just evil.
Ally: Quick Answer Questions:
- 1) Favorite Book: Just one? Clowns of God, Podkayne of Mars, and Seventeen.
- 2) Author you'd like to take to lunch: Although I’d be tongue-tied and gob-smacked- Samuel Clemens.
- 3) Do you believe in love at first sight? Well, I have to. That’s what happened when I met my husband. My roommate threatened me if I did not go down and eat dinner with the fraternity invited to our sorority for that night. I went grumbling, and in he walked!
- 4) What would you do, if you couldn't write anymore? Photography. I do love to take photos, even if they are awful and drive my cats and dog crazy.
- 5) Favorite Place to write: If the weather is good, outdoors. If not, wherever I can see outdoors. My office has the essentials, big floor to ceiling windows! I can watch the critters in our yard- turkeys, deer, squirrels, birds, raccoons (who are NOT supposed to be out during the day, but they obviously want a head start on the gingercake I put in the bird feeder. That cranky giant skunk will show up tonight, and no one argues with him.)
- 6) Pets: Rufus-the fox hound who found us three years ago and writes my blog. Nikki Cat- whose mom found us and adopted us ten years ago when her kittens were born. Zoe and Tuck Tuck-cats- who allowed us to adopt them just this fall.
Ally: It was great to have you join us today, Kath. Love the liqueur, by the way. :) I hope readers will check out your book for their young readers. And I'm keeping my fingers crossed that there's a sequel coming soon!
The Lazy Dragon and the Bumblespells Wizard
Genre: MG fantasy
Book Blurb: Can two misfits help each other? For Cl’rnce, a perfect day would involve a nap, another nap, followed by dinner, and a nap. So what if he’s the only dr’gon his age without a wizard partner or the ability to y? at sounds like work, and Cl’rnce is opposed to all forms of work. Moire Ain, on the other hand, has never known anything except miserable, soul-crushing work. She has lived her whole life as a virtual slave to the evil Hedge-Witch. When Moire Ain overhears Hedge-Witch plot to have Moire Ain kill a king, the girl runs away with only a magic book, her pet raven, and a dream of someday becoming a Great and Mighty Wizard. Moire Ain hasn’t even been gone a full day when she stumbles across an irritated Cl’rnce. Grudgingly, Cl’rnce has accepted a quest, and he now finds himself footsore, hungry, and trapped in a tree by a dr’gon slaying knight. With nothing more than some bumbled spells and a helpful raven, the two set o to complete Cl’rnce’s quest and, just maybe, save a king.
Kirkus Review!!! http://bit.ly/2aZvOQN Buy Links: Amazon.com: http://amzn.to/2aFwBpO
Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-lazy-dragon-and-the-bumblespells-wizard-kath-boyd-marsh/1124568990?ean=9781944821005
Indigo Music and Books at: http://bit.ly/29UX6KY
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Happy Wednesday, booklovers!
We have author CJ Petterson visiting this week with an anthology of eight historical western romances, entitled The Posse.
Welcome, CJ! How do you take your coffee?
CJ: I drink my half-caf coffee (about eight cups a day) black, no sugar.
Ally: A gal after my own heart. While I pour, please introduce yourself to readers.
BIO: Author “cj petterson” is the pen name of Marilyn A. Johnston whose publication credits include two contemporary romantic suspense novels as well as non-fiction and fiction short stories that have appeared in several anthologies. Retired from corporate life and now living on Alabama’s Gulf Coast, she takes her pen name from her paternal grandmother. She is currently working on a mystery series that features private detective Jannicka A. Konnor…of course there is a touch of romance.
Something unusual not included in your regular bio: "I once out-shot my policeman (now ex-) husband on the police department gun range. Maybe that’s why there are guns in all of my stories." :)
Click on the links below to visit cj petterson: email@example.comFacebookSimon&Schuster Author PageAmazon Central Author Page blog at: www.lyricalpens.com
Ally: What made you want to be a published writer?
CJ: I started writing creatively after I retired from a job that required a lot of report writing. A couple of years into retirement I was bored and took a university night class called “Storming the Walls of the Publishing Industry.” I wrote my first seven pages, got gobs of positive feedback, and the ball rolled on from there.
Ally: Does your real life show up in your writing? In what ways?
CJ: There is a part of me, real or wished-for, and/or my personal adventures in all of my female protagonists. That’s especially true in one of my romantic suspense novels. I once spent five-and-a-half days white-water rafting in Colorado and also spent two days driving a doors-off, stick-shift Wrangler on a Jeep Jamboree off-road adventure in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The protagonist in my CHOOSING CARTER romantic suspense novel enjoys some of these same adventures.
Ally: Talk about the research you do.
CJ: I love to make deep dives into research rabbit holes and can get lost for hours chasing that Google rabbit. My first book, DEADLY STAR, was great because I learned about nanosatellites, genetically modified foods, DARPA, international politics. The next step was even more challenging and exciting: Using those facts to tell a story, keeping the author speak and info dumps of all my new-found knowledge off the pages. I do most of my research before I start the story, but as I create roadblocks for the characters, I’m always back at Google doing more. Occasionally, I do first-person interviews with law enforcement, or as when I wrote CHOOSING CARTER, with a white-water rafting group in Colorado.
Ally: What's your best marketing tip? What didn't work out for you?
CJ: Get your name, your brand out there. A good story introduces you, but you have to work at keeping your name on the top of someone’s mind when they look for their next story to read. What doesn’t work for me is any marketing tool/method that doesn’t give me a good return on investment. I haven’t found that Facebook “boosts” give me enough bang for my bucks.
Ally: What is your next writing project?
CJ: A final edit on a novella that I finished on Jan 8. A beta reader currently has it. The tentative title is “Ms. Jake Konnor, PI.” Jake Konnor moves from Michigan to Mobile, Alabama, to begin her new career as a private investigator. Her first big case is about a man whose reckless behavior in his teenaged years comes storming back to haunt him thirty years later. When his wife is murdered and his daughter kidnapped, Jake realizes she’s working one of the most complicated cases a fledgling PI can have. I’m planning to submit the story to the publisher within the next month and keeping my fingers crossed that they like it. Else, I’ll start working on my self-publishing skills.
Ally: We can't let you get away without trying a few quick answer questions:
- a. favorite book: Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper, because it got me hooked on action, adventure, and historical fiction.
- b. favorite accessory: Pierced earrings
- c. Do you believe in love at first sight? Actually, yes…oh wait, maybe that’s lust.
- d. favorite song: “Amazing Grace” especially when played by a bagpiper.
- e. favorite quote: Mark Twain: “The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter. ’tis the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.”
Ally: Thanks so much for joining us for coffee, CJ!. Good luck with the anthology. Give us an idea of what we'll find inside the cover...
THE POSSE (8 Historical Western Romances)
Short Story Collection (various authors)
Release date: March 15, 2017
“Bad Day at Round Rock” a historical fiction story is CJ Petterson's latest published work. It is written in overlapping segments about four people—one of whom is based on her maternal grandmother—whose lives are forever changed by a cache of twenty-dollar gold pieces that the outlaw Sam Bass stole in a train robbery. “Bad Day at Round Rock” is chock full of history, mystery, myth, greed, and love…as are the rest of the stories in the anthology.
Seven authors contributed short stories to The Posse. All are human interest tales with all the action you expect in a story about the Wild West.
Lyn Horner: The Schoolmarm's Hero
Frank Kelso: One Way or Another
cj petterson: Bad Day at Round Rock
Charlene Raddon: The Reckoning
Chimp Robertson: Headed for Texas
Jim Stroud: Savage Posse
Chuck Tyrell: Set a Thief
Bonus- Frank Kelso: Tibby's Hideout.
Book Trailer: https://youtu.be/0oo6YmUWwP499 cent EBOOK bargain!
Pre-Order/Buy Link: https://www.amazon.com/Posse-Historical-Western-Romances-ebook/dp/B06XCBBCS7
Thanks for visiting the blog. Come back soon!
Welcome to our Wednesday book talk!
Today's guest is mystery writer Jim Jackson, who has a short story in a new anthology, Lowcountry Crime.
Good morning, Jim. What may I get you to drink?
JIM: For years I had no caffeinated drinks. Now I drink Diet Pepsi straight up.
Ally: I'll grab one from the fridge while you introduce yourself to readers.
About the Author: James M. Jackson authors the series featuring Seamus McCree, whose most recent appearances have been in his fourth novel, Doubtful Relations (8/2016), the novella “Low Tide at Tybee” included in Lowcountry Crimes: Four Novellas (2/2017), and the short story, “And Wine to Make the Heart Glad” cowritten with Tina Whittle for the anthology 50 Shades of Cabernet (3/2017). Jim is currently the president of the 700-member Guppy Chapter of Sisters in Crime. He splits his time between the deep woods of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and Georgia’s Lowcountry. He claims the moves between locations are weather-related, but others suggest they may have more to do with not overstaying his welcome.
Something about you that isn't in your regular bio: "The closest I have been to a live wolf in the wild is fifteen feet." (Ally note: Oooh, that's scary close!)
Author Contact Links:
Ally: Before we get into specific question, give us a brief overview of what type of stories you write.
JIM: My work falls in the mystery/suspense/domestic thriller categories with sex off the page, so the rating depends entirely on your own imagination.
Ally: How do you select the traits and names for your characters?
JIM: I often “sell” a character name or two as part of a charity auction. I’ll use the buyer’s name or the name of the person to whom they are gifting naming rights. In those cases, I make sure the name will work with the sex, age, and ethnicity of the character I choose.
For everyone else, I ask my characters who they’d like to be. I have some rules they must abide by. They can’t have a name that is likely to be confused with another character—unless that confusion is intended. After some experience, I’ve decided I don’t like names that end with an “s” when the possessive will require an extra ’s. As an example, I wouldn’t choose James with the possessive James’s. A name like Hayes is okay since his truck would be written Hayes’ truck.
My main character’s name, Seamus McCree, developed a bit differently. He is in many ways my alter ego, and I chose his first name for two reasons. First, it is the Irish equivalent of James. Second, it is a play on words because Shamus, pronounced the same, is Yiddish slang for a detective or PI, and I planned for my guy to detect things others couldn’t or wouldn’t.
Ally: Tell us about the main character in the book you're featuring today.
JIM: People often ask if Seamus and I are similar. My stock answer is that he’s younger, taller, faster, stronger, smarter, better looking and if that weren't enough, he's independently wealthy. and has all his hair. He should be careful though. With a few keyboard stokes, I can change all of that the next time he appears in print. He and I do think a lot alike and share many of our avocations. He enjoys the outdoors, is a birdwatcher, reads books, and lives in places I have lived.
He’s had a different career path than I. He planned to be a professional soccer player (I played semi-pro), but a severe injury in his rookie year ended that career. He went back to school and earned an MBA (I also have one) and went to Wall Street where he became the top-rated banking stock analyst for an investment bank (neither of which have I done). When a boss changed one of Seamus’s reports because it recommended downgrading a client’s stock, Seamus quit in disgust and ended up consulting with police about financial crimes, which is where we join him in the series.
Seamus is divorced and has a some-time hacker son, Paddy, who in the series has progressed from college kid to young adult.
Ally: What was your journey to publication, developing your style and preferences, including bumps and missteps?
JIM: When I retired early, I gave myself permission to spend six months turning down everyone else’s idea of what I should do and instead figure out what I wanted to do. Writing eventually became the answer to that question. In deciding what to write, I relied on what I like to read. At an early age, I became a fan of the mystery genre and decided to write what I love reading. I allowed my business background to dictate that I should craft a series because each book brings in new readers who, if they like what they read, will go back to book one and read the entire series.
I love reading series because the characters become a part of my alternate-universe family. I feel like I’ve grown up with Lucas Davenport (John Sanford, author) and participated in his maturation from stud to settled family man with an adopted daughter in college. I’ve rooted for Harry Bosch (Michael Connelly, author) as he progressed through and out of police ranks. I’ve been there when V I Warshawski (Sara Paretsky, author) became an insurance investigator and then moved on to be a private eye. And I “know” all the series side characters. When I pick up a book in a favorite series, it’s like comfort food.
A bonus of having series side characters is that different readers have different favorites among the cast. Some promote Seamus’s dart-throwing Mom. Some really like his son, Paddy. Others fall for nonfamily side characters like Owen Lyndstrom or Abigail Hancock.
Yet, I continue to read standalones because I think they often contain an author’s best work. I thoroughly enjoy William Kent Krueger’s Cork O’Connor series, but for me, his best book so far is Ordinary Grace, a standalone. The same with Steve Hamilton, whose Alex McKnight series is set in my neck of the Michigan woods: The Lock Artist, a standalone, is his all-time best. Usually those books come later in the writer’s career.
I wrote the first book, went to a local critique group, and discovered that my 140,000-word manuscript, that could double as a doorstop, contained most writing errors known to mankind. I rewrote that novel multiple times, sent it out to agents, received rejections, rewrote, rejected, repeated. And lo! An agent wanted to represent the book. But the agent was new and had a faulty contract (for example, no provision for what happened if the agent became disabled or died), so I decided not to accept the offer.
The agent is now well-known. Still, I don’t regret the decision because, in retrospect, that version of the manuscript really wasn’t good enough to be published.
I wrote the second book and again tried to get an agent before the manuscript was ready. (Of course, I didn’t realize that at the time.) For entertainment, I played a lot of contract bridge and decided to write the how-to book I wished I had read while I was improving from beginner to intermediate. I sent a proposal to the largest bridge-book publishing company and they loved it. I soon had a contract and after a year of rewrites, One Trick at a Time: How to start winning at bridge became my first published work. It received excellent reviews in the New York Times, Chicago Tribune and Bridge World Magazine.
After my second novel won the Evan Marshall Fiction Makeover Contest (whose criteria were the freshness and commerciality of the story and quality of the writing), a friend I had met in the Guppy Chapter of Sisters in Crime suggested that I try submitting my mystery directly to publishers. Since agents weren’t crawling over each other to sign me, I queried three publishers.
Within a week, two had responded back favorably, and I soon had signed with Barking Rain Press. They published Bad Policy in 2013 and Cabin Fever in 2014. My better half, Jan, suggested I should go back and give the first novel, Ant Farm, one more try. It was a good story and after I did a total rewrite, it won a Kindle Scout contest and Kindle Press contract. It was published in 2015. Determining that a small press couldn’t promote my books as well as I could on my own, I published Doubtful Relations, the fourth Seamus McCree novel in 2016.
Ally: What is your next writing project?
JIM: I consider that to be “Low Tide at Tybee” because I am in the throes of its marketing in the anthology Lowcountry Crime: Four Novellas in which it appears. It released February 7th. “Low Tide at Tybee” brings three of the Seamus McCree series characters (Seamus, his octogenarian, darts-throwing mother, and his now six-year-old granddaughter, Megan) to Tybee Island, Georgia to vacation and escape winter up north. Megan spots a thief going through their beach bags, after which their vacation unravels with a series of twists and turns that will leave you guessing until the end, trying to figure out who done what.
Next up after that will be the fifth Seamus McCree novel, Empty Promises, which takes place in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. A mining company employee is killed on McCree land near the site of a proposed mine that has brought conflict to the local community. Expected release date is late summer/early fall of 2017.
Ally: Before we get to the anthology, let's try a few short answer questions.
- a. Book you're currently reading: The Death Box by J.A. Kerley. Jack is a friend from Kentucky and is better known abroad than he is in the U.S. He writes excellent dark mystery/suspense.
- b. An author (living or dead) you'd love to take to lunch: I would love the opportunity to break bread with Ben Franklin. I could only hope it was a leisurely meal that gave me time to ask about the past and his thoughts of the present.
- c. An item on your bucket list: I’ve checked off many over the years, but flying in a glider plane during hawk migration is near the top.
- d. What comes to your first - character or plot? When I start a short story or novel, I know the inciting incident and let the characters take it from there. I’m often very surprised how they drive the plot and who the villain turns out to be and why they did what they did.
- e. Typical breakfast: Oatmeal of the five-minute-stovetop-cooking kind. I mix the brown sugar into the water as it heats up and cook the oatmeal in the sugar water.
Ally: Thanks for joining us on the Chat today. Before you go, please tell us more about the anthology, Lowcountry Crime...
Lowcountry Crime: Four Novellas
Lowcountry: That portion of the Southeastern United States characterized by low country, generally flat—whether barrier island, tidal marsh, tidal river valleys, swamps. piney forests, or great cities like Charleston and Savannah.
These four novellas capture the unique aspects of the Lowcountry with stories incorporating Charleston high life and Savannah low life, island vacations and life on a boat. You’ll be treated to thieves doing good and rapscallions doing bad, loves won and loves lost, family relations providing wonderful support and life after divorce. Within the broad range of the crime genre, these tales fit north of cozy and south of noir.
Each novella can be read in a single hour to hour-and-a-half sitting or enjoyed at a more leisurely pace, stopping at white space along the way. Within the broad range of the crime genre, these tales fit north of cozy and south of noir.
“Trouble Like A Freight Train Coming” by Tina Whittle is a prequel to her Tai Randolph Mysteries. Tai is accustomed to murder and mayhem . . . of the fictional variety. As a tour guide in Savannah, Georgia, she’s learned the tips are better when she seasons her stories with a little blood here, a little depravity there. She’s less experienced in real life criminality, however, preferring to spend her days sleeping late and her nights hitting the bars. But when she gets the news that her trouble-making cousin has keeled over while running a marathon, Tai finds herself in a hot mess of treachery and dirty dealings. Worst of all, the clues lead her straight into the moonshine-soaked territory of the most infamous smuggler in Chatham County—her Uncle Boone.
In “Last Heist” by Polly Iyer, Paul Swan, Iyer's character from her novel Indiscretion, travels the world buying exotic automobiles for wealthy clients, but underneath his believable cover is a first-class, never-been-caught diamond thief.
When he sees a picture in the Charleston newspaper of a magnificent diamond necklace on the wife of a visiting South American strongman, he can’t resist the temptation to steal it. Paul doesn’t anticipate what he finds in the hotel room’s safe besides the jewels. Now he has to figure out how to stop a political catastrophe without exposing himself as the thief who stole the diamonds, and he has three people complicating his effort: a sexy TV reporter angling for a story, a suspicious cop eager for an arrest, and a rogue mercenary bent on ending his life.
“Blue Nude,” by Jonathan M. Bryant introduces us to Brad Sharpe, who has problems. Not just the problems you would expect resulting from traumatic injury and a destructive divorce. His ex-wife has gone missing and a priceless Picasso has been stolen. The cops have pegged Brad as a person of interest in both cases. Worse, a violent sociopath might want Brad dead. Only with the help of friends and his knowledge of the Georgia Lowcountry can Brad fight to clear his name and resolve the case of the Blue Nude.
In “Low Tide at Tybee,” James M. Jackson brings three of his Seamus McCree series characters (Seamus, his darts-throwing mother, and his now six-year-old granddaughter, Megan) to Tybee Island, Georgia to vacation and escape winter up north. Megan spots a thief going through their beach bags, after which their vacation unravels with a series of twists and turns that will leave you guessing until the end, trying to figure out who done what.
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