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Mystery Video of the Moment

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Featured Author - Mary Logue! - Part 4



BLURB: “Mary Logue is one of those rare writers who can, with one hand and a poet’s eye, create an idyllic world—while the other hand, calmly and coldly, reveals a hard truth: we are not safe.”
—K. J. Erickson, author of Alone at Night

“An elegiac tribute to small-town America’s loss of innocence…One of crime fiction’s finest writers, Mary Logue is at the top of her game.”
—Julia Spencer-Fleming, Edgar finalist and author of All Mortal Flesh

“A suspenseful narrative that builds to an explosive climax, then touches the heart with its humanity.”
—Margaret Maron

EXCERPT: From Frozen Stiff:

New Year’s Eve: 11:55 pm

Even though it was twenty below zero outside, wind blowing up a storm, Daniel Walker was stark naked and sweating like a boxer in the beyond balmy two hundred degrees of his cabin’s new sauna.

This is the life, especially in the dead of winter, Walker thought as he tilted his head back and blew smoke from his Davidoff double corona up toward the cedar ceiling. The cigar wrapping was wet and unraveling, but he was almost done. A bottle of Belvedere vodka, nestled in a rapidly melting block of ice, sat on the wooden bench next to him. Wynton Marsalis was blowing his horn through the Bose speakers.

All was so calm. Taking a large swallow of vodka, he could feel the liquid easing its way into his stomach, then sliding into his veins while the sweat beaded up all over his naked body.

Toxins in, toxins out.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Featured Author - Mary Logue! - Part 3

MLM: Why Mystery/Crime/Thriller/Suspense? What was the draw for you?

MARY: Many reasons—I loved reading them, I love the psychology of people pushed to do such acts. One of the main reasons was I wanted to learn how to write a good plot and I figured writing suspense would teach me that. Now I think all good novels must have suspense in them. Also, my mom loved them.

MLM: All of us are influenced and impacted by TV, movies, books and/or authors at different times in our lives. Who, what and which TV, movies, books and/or authors influenced you? When in your life did you discover them and why were they so influential for you? (Don’t be afraid to give us more than one of each kind!)

MARY: My, what a big question. Interesting that you ask about TV. I’ll tell you one show that has stuck with me is the Rockford Files. I loved the realistic view of a private eye, the trailer, his dad, always getting hurt when he got in a fight. I thought LA Confidential was a terrific movie—the tension just rushed it along.

Books—there are so many. I love the old hard-boiled trio of Ross MacDonald, Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett—I’d add Ross Thomas to that list. On the other side of the ocean, I love the newer mysteries of Frances Fyfield and Minette Walters. Again, very psychological.

MLM: Considering the TV, movies, books and/or authors mentioned, is there one TV, movie, book and/or author in particular that you try to emulate in your writing? Which one(s) and why? Please be as specific as you can! J

MARY: Not really—I try to bring in both aspects of the hard-boiled and the cozier mysteries into my work. The more intense psychological drama of the hard-boiled and the depth of setting and character of the cozy. My mysteries are set in a very small rivertown in Wisconsin, but the main character is a deputy sheriff and she has some difficult and sometimes disturbing cases to solve.

MLM: If you could describe your writing with a word or phrase, what would it be? Please look beyond words like mysterious, suspenseful, creative, unique etc., and delve into the core of your writing to tell us what word or phrase you want readers to take with them when they've finished reading your story.

MARY: I’d like to think that there’s a human depth to my work. These are real people who wash the dishes and love and hate. Realistic and generous, I guess.

MLM: In Part 2 we asked if you believe in mystical Irish lore such as Leprechauns. Have you ever used any type of Irish lore in one of your stories? If so, which lore and what was the situation?

MARY: Not in any of my mysteries—however, I wrote a memoir about my grandmother Mae Kirwin called Halfway Home in which I wrote a lot about the potato famine. This was the reason why my relatives came over from Ireland and ended up in western Minnesota.

MLM: Also in Part 2 we asked you about your views on March. Does this show through in your writing? If so, give some examples how, please!

MARY: What an interesting question. I don’t think I’ve put March in any of my books. Maybe because in the upper Midwest it’s often a season we’d just as soon skip over. Per today—high of 28, no sun. Dreary. My first book started in spring—but I think it was late April or early May. When it finally starts to get really nice here.

MLM: Who decides what characters/creatures you write about, you or your muse? What kind of influence do you have over their actions and the plot, or is the muse always the one deciding who done it, where they done it and with what?

MARY: I’d say we work together. As I often tell my students—plan and then be flexible. The planning is me, the flexible is the muse coming in.

MLM: Of all the stories you’ve written please tell us:
a.) Which character/creature did you have the most fun creating and why? What about this character/creature makes it stand out above all the others?

MARY: I wrote a YA novel called Dancing with an Alien, that had a young boy who came down from another planet. It’s a sci-fi romance. He was called Branko and I loved seeing our earth through his eyes.

b.) If you had the opportunity to meet just one of your characters/creatures in real life, who would it be and why?

MARY: I guess it would have to be Claire. I know I’d like her. She’s the main character of my series. She’s not me—more level-headed, more practical, but I think I’d like to have coffee with her.

c.) Which of your characters/creatures would you never want to meet under any circumstance and why?

MARY: I don’t think there’s any I wouldn’t want to meet. Even my criminals are rounded—maybe the guys in my first Claire mystery who have killed her husband.

d.) If you could choose to visit one setting/world you’ve created which one is it, where is it and why this destination over all the others? What makes it stand out over all the others?

MARY: I live in it. The town I made up for Claire—Fort St. Antoine—is composite of several of the rivertowns along the Wisconsin side of the Mississippi. I have a house in Stockholm, which has a population of around 80 some people. I love it there. My house is on the edge of town, tucked under the limestone bluffs.

MLM: On that note, we’ll end our interview for this week. Thank you so much for joining us this week!

MARY: My pleasure

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Featured Author - Mary Logue! - Part 2

MLM: Mardi Gras is Tuesday March 8th this year. Will you be celebrating it this year? Why or why not? If so, what are your plans this year? Care to share any stories of past Mardi Gras celebrations?

MARY: I’ve never really celebrated it. When I was seven I went with my family to New Orleans right after Mardi Gras and remember picking up beads off the street and eating beignets.

MLM: Are you Irish? Do you celebrate St. Patrick’s Day…why or why not?

MARY: I am very Irish, although many generations removed. Logue is an Irish name and my mother’s maiden name was Kirwin. My partner, Pete Hautman, is also part Irish and we make a nice meal. One year he even corned some beef. I always make Irish soda bread and we drink Black and Tans—Guiness and Harp Beer.

MLM: In some areas, St. Patty’s Day is celebrated with green beer and all sorts of other green things, like green eggs and ham, have even been given a spotlight this time of year. What kind of activities will be going on in your area?

MARY: There’s a big parade in St. Paul, MN. A very Irish town.

MLM: One of the greatest things about the Internet is that we can connect with writers of all kinds from all over the globe so we want to know:
a.)What area of the country/world are you from?

MARY: I live in Golden Valley, MN, right on the outskirts of Minneapolis.

b.)What are the average temperatures of your area?

MARY: This is not a good time to ask me that question. We’ve had a nasty winter. Today wasn’t too bad—it got above freezing. But it spit snow all day long.

c.)What type of clothing would most residents be wearing today?

MARY: Believe it or not, you might even see someone in shorts. Minnesotans are hardy and the slightest glimpse of the sun or warmth and they shed clothes.

d.)What tips do you have for people to “survive” the weather where you are?

MARY: Buy flowers for yourself, light candles, read good books, sit in front of the fire, write a poem or two. Write a novel for that matter. It’s a good time to get work done.

MLM: March has strong connections with Ireland, which is steeped in mysticism. What about you, are you steeped in mysticism? Do you believe in leprechauns and the like, or at least enjoy the tales of them? Why or why not? Are there any mystical beings with ties to Ireland that you really enjoy?

MARY: I like the spirit of the people. I’ve been to Ireland many times and have felt so at home there—the people like to talk, they love to tell stories. I fit right in.

MLM: What is your view on March? Does it come in like a lion and exit like a lamb? Do you feel that March is really the time of rebirth, even though many flowers and trees might not start budding until April in northern parts of the world? Why or why not?

MARY: We still have three feet of snow on the ground—so I’m hoping it will go out like a lamb.

MLM: If you could go anywhere in Ireland, where would you go and why?

MARY: I have loved Galway, but if I went again I’d visit Donegal, which is where the Logues are from.

MLM: On that note, we’ll end our interview for this week. Thank you so much for joining us this week!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Featured Author - Mary Logue! - Part 1


The first time I took on an actual writing project that was my own and not schoolwork was the summer after sixth grade. By this time I was an avid reader. I read on the bus, I read in the lunchroom, I read when I was supposed to be sleeping, my pillow was piled so high with books I’m not sure how I slept. I had even mastered the skill of walking down the hall reading. I was a nerdball reader. Reading was my drug of choice. I especially liked mysteries—Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, and Trixie Belden. I had read them all.

I decided it was time to try my hand at such a mystery. It just so happened at this same time that someone for some reason had given me a whole pile of Hamm’s Beer coasters. I have no idea why. But they were fairly large about seven inches across and round and relatively thin. While the Hamm’s beer bear danced on one side of the coasters, the other side was empty so I decided to write on them. I guess you could call this my first ream of paper.

I started writing about two mysterious things from my own life: one was a path that someone had made with a jeep around the pond that I lived on, I always wondered about it. And the other was a piece of paper that appeared to be adoption papers that I had found while walking around my neighborhood. I took these two ideas and put them together. I didn’t get too far on this book, maybe a chapter or two, but it set the stage. It primed the pump. It did all those clich├ęd things that a start is supposed to do. And I remember the feeling of mastery and control I had in creating a world. A mysterious path around a pond and adoption papers—what could they mean? I’ve been stealing ideas from my own life ever since.

I think most writers have one story they keep telling over and over again. My basic story is about a girl/woman who is lost in the woods and has to survive by using what is around her—berries, nuts, the kindness of animals. It’s about getting lost and then finding yourself again. I think my whole Claire Watkins mystery series is about a woman who gets lost in her life and by moving to the country and finding a way to live, she also finds a home.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Featured Author - Ken Dalton! - Part 4

This week we take an even closer look into The Big Show Stopper. Below is a blurb and excerpt, as well as an interesting story from Ken about the creation of the cover!

BLURB: The Big Show Stopper—Synopsis

A sold-out audience’s anticipation turns to shock as they watch their hero, Brady Blackstone, plunge to his death during his opening entrance. After a hunk of Brady’s brain hits Flo, and she loses her dinner, she and Bear discover an item that makes them wonder if was Brady’s death was an accident, or murder?

In the latest Pinky and Bear mystery, The Big Show Stopper, Brady’s not-so-grieving widow, Lucinda Blackstone, retains Pinky Delmont to defend the man accused of her husband’s murder. But wait, if Pinky finds a viable suspect, and her lover is released from jail in less than thirty days, the widow offers Pinky a two million dollar bonus.

Nothing amps up Pinky more than money so he pulls out all the stops and sends Bear to the lush, paradise of Oakland, California, the next to last stop for the Kyle Roubidoux concert tour. In Oakland Bear discovers that two of the men he needs to interview were not with the concert tour. Rene Gagnon, the tour manager was in Quebec City, Canada and Harold Haffner, tour controller had an office somewhere in Los Angeles.

Pinky reviews the results of Bear’s investigation and decides that Quebec City has two thousand percent more charm that Los Angeles. He immediately flees across the North American continent to the Canadian city where he accomplishes little more than getting knocked down by a mime, discovering an outstanding wine, finding a flirtatious female, and firing his rebellious secretary.

To Bear’s regret, during his Oakland investigation, he talks with a blonde named Betty, a babe with a cute face and perfect boobs. It doesn’t take long for him to figure out that he never should have mentioned Betty-the-blonde to Flo. And she threatens to leave him. Eventually she settles down and southern California finds the big Basque investigator becoming flummoxed by cell phones, computers, a crazed, beer swilling Vietnam vet who lives in a drain culvert, and Flo’s decision to wear a spandex at a local gym.

Pinky finally meets up with Bear, and Flo in the small desert town of Needles, California, where most everyday of the year an egg can be fried on the sidewalk.
Will Pinky collect his two million dollar bonus and will the cavalry charge over the hill in time to save the day?

EXCERPT:
A sample of J. Pinkus Derlmont (Pinky’s ethical standards):

I grabbed my phone and called the Carson City jail.
“Henry?”

“Hi, Pinky. What can I do for you?”

“Henry, I understand that you have a man in custody by the name of Jack Spurlock. He is being held for the murder of Brady Blackstone. I called you this morning to clear up any possible confusion concerning Mr. Spurlock’s legal representation. The man in custody for the Blackstone murder is my client. If anyone, including that young whippersnapper, Charles Erickson, starts to sniff around, you will not, under any circumstances, allow him access to my client. I’ll stop by at eleven to talk with Mr. Spurlock. Do you have any questions?”

“Nope. The Blackstone murder suspect is your client, and don’t let Erickson near him. Pinky, on another subject, I’m starting to run a little low. Do you recall the name of my favorite brand?”

“Henry, your last allusion cuts me to the quick. I would never forget the desires of someone so close to my heart. A case of Scotland’s finest will be delivered to your home within the hour.”

A sample of Barate Zabart (Bear dealing with his boss, Pinky):

I turned on the giant sixty-inch TV, and was watching a great baseball game between the Red Sox and the Yankees when the phone rang. Damn! I was afraid that sooner or later Pinky would remember where I was, and he’d put me to work.

“Bear?”

“Yes, Boss.”

“Damn it, stop calling me Boss. I have an assignment for you. I just left Brady Blackstone’s widow. She’s-,”

“Was she dressed up like a widow with a black dress, dark veil and everything? Like you see in those old black and white movies on cable?”

“Cease asking me those inane questions and listen.”

“Okay, Boss.”

I heard Pinky sigh, like he was real tired, or something. “Bear, you are going on a trip.”

Just then the batter hit a high fly toward right field. The fielder raced back and jumped to catch the ball but it went over the fence for a home run.

“Bear, did you hear what I just told you?”

“Ah . . . ”

The ball cleared the fielder’s glove by inches and the Red Sox won the game in the bottom of the ninth with a three run dinger.

Pinky said, “What is that noise I hear in the background? Are you watching something on TV?”

I found the remote and hit the mute button. “Nope.”

A sample of of Florance Sonderlund (Flo’s taker on life):
She walked in from the bright sun. Her killer body was all shiny with little drops of sweat. Flo looked so good in her bathing suit that I almost forgot about Pinky’s phone call.

Flo said, “Hey, why do I have to come in? I was enjoying myself out there.”

“I know, but we just got an investigative assignment from Pinky and we’ve got to get going.”

Her face perked up. “Really, where do we get to go this time? Hawaii? New York City? France?”

“Not even close. Oakland.”

“Oakland, California? Isn’t that the half-baked town that sits across the bay from San Francisco?”

“Yup.”

“Last year Pinky went to Rome while we ended up in Eureka, Nevada. A truly godforsaken place if there ever was one. Where’s His Majesty going this time?”

“He didn’t say.”

“I’ll guarantee you that he’ll end up someplace a hell of lot nicer than Oakland.”

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Featured Author - Ken Dalton! - Part 3

Welcome back readers! I'd like to thank Cupid for picking up some slack and for keeping Mystery Isle pretty clean. We hope you enjoy his interview!

My guests today are, Bear Zabarte and Flo Sonderlund – please, have a seat on our lovely couch! – from Carson City, Nevada. Their tale can be found in The Bloody Birthright and The Big Show Stopper, two novel creations by Ken Dalton.

Before we begin, I must remind everyone to please try and keep your responses to a PG13 atmosphere – the Moonlight Mistresses rules, not mine *eye roll*. Double entendres are acceptable and widely encouraged for events and phrases we don’t want our young readers to really know about. Oooh, it will be so much fun trying to guess what you’re really saying!

*Settling comfortably onto the sofa, draping his arm over the back and sipping his bubbly* That Miss Havana in Reaper’s Domain is one hot teacher and boy would I love to get into her…class! I might actually learn something…oh…did I say that out loud? *Clears throat* Sorry. Let’s get back to the interview.

You two make one fine pair! I did a wonderful job pairing you two up if I do say so myself! Then, I just love all of my matches!

Cupid: Please, Bear, tell our readers how you two first met. Was it by your design, or hers?

Bear: Huh! Did I plan it? Hell no. I was in LA, noising around, and Flo knocked on the dude's door.

Cupid: Flo, would you say it was love at first sight or did you find him repulsive?

Flo: I guess you could say I was lonely. And, take a look, Bear's a handsome man in a big, rugged way. Not many women I know would throw this guy out of bed, if you know what I mean.

Cupid: This one’s for both of you. Since chaotic happenstance tends to put characters like yourselves in situations where they must work together or live together for one reason or another, tell us what chaotic happenstance “forced” the two of you to work or live together. How did you feel about this?

Flo: It happened like this. A few weeks after Clark died – he was a friend who lived across the street from my house – I watched Bear jimmy the front door at Clark's home. I know that sounds bad, but Bear didn't look like a burglar, and as I said, I was very lonely, so I waited till the next day, to build up my courage, knocked on the front door, and invited myself in.

Bear (smiling): I remember that morning. My eyes popped out at her great body. I mean she has a pair of . . .

Cupid: *clears throat* Please remember the PG13 rating.

Bear: Oh! Okay, she's got a bod that turns me every way but off, but at first she wouldn't stop talking. Then she offered to do my laundry, and except for my Mom, no broad ever said that to me before.

Cupid: This one is also for both of you. How long did it take you to know your true feelings for the other? At what point did you know, “this is the one”?

Flo: The minute Bear’s pick-up cleared LA I knew I couldn't go back to living alone again. But is Bear the one and only for me? He could be, but I don't know for sure. I think he loves watching sports on TV more than me.

Bear: Babe, I turned off a basketball game to come down here today. What do I have to do to make you happy?

Flo: You could say you love me.

Bear: Hey, I never heard my Dad say that to my Mom. Basque dudes are tough and they don't walk around spouting that love stuff.

Cupid: Bear, what would you say was your biggest obstacle to overcome before you could settle into a relationship with Flo?

Bear: Before we met I got along pretty well with two pair of 501's and five or six tee shirts. She's always after me to buy some new clothes. And there's my truck! She thinks I should wash it every weekend, when the really good football games are on TV.

Flo: Bear Zabarte, if it wasn't for me you'd still be a crummy bartender at the Old Globe Saloon. I kept after Pinky 'til that pip-squeak paid you a decent salary for doing all his dirty investigative work.

Bear: I guess your right there. Pinky's a little basta . . .

Cupid: Bear!

Bear: Right. Pinky's a small dude who's a giant pain in the butt.

Cupid: This is for either of you. Would you like to thank anyone – other than me, of course – for getting you two together?

Flo: J. Pincus Delmont, that's Pinky. Like I told you, he's the lawyer who sent Bear to LA to investigate the murder of Clark's brother. That's where we met. Oh, I guess I told you that story before.

Bear: Yup, that was Pinky. He's done two good things for me. First, he got me off from that phony second-degree murder rap, and then he sent me to LA where I met Flo.

Cupid: I know our readers have enjoyed learning about you two so far, but I’m getting a little bored, so I’m going to heat things up. Flo, how would you end this sentence, "I wish Bear would _____?" *leans forward to eagerly hear your response*

Flo (smiling): Massage suntan lotion on my back when I lay by the pool. He's got great hands and my man really knows how to use them.

Cupid: Now that’s one of the best responses I’ve heard on this side of the blog. Bear, would you prefer to give Flo a bubble bath or a back massage? Why?

Bear: A bubble bath 'cause when I rub her back all her best parts are on the other side.

Cupid: Okay…*clears throat and adjusts his position in the chair* Let’s continue. How many of you remember that old show, The Newlywed Game? Well, these next questions are going to help us play a similar game. Bear, what would Flo say is your aphrodisiac? *waggles eyebrows*

Bear: Watching her get naked.

Cupid: Flo, is he right? How would you have answered that question?

Flo: I'd appreciate a dinner out, with candlelight and a nice bottle of wine first.

Bear: Okay, a dinner with candles, but then we go home and get naked.

Cupid: You two just crack me up! *crosses ankles and rubs his chin* Bear, what would Flo say is a spot guaranteed to drive you crazy with passion? Is she correct in that assumption?

Bear: It's not a spot, it's a thing. All she has to do is unsnap her bra.

Flo: He's right. It doesn't take much to light Bear's match.

Cupid: It’s good to see you two getting along so well! Flo, as far as you know, what is Bear’s idea of a perfect date?

Flo: The all-you-can-eat buffet spread at the Nugget, that man loves to eat, then home, and if there are no sports on TV, trying to convince me to take my clothes off.

Cupid: Bear, is she correct? If not, what is your idea of a perfect date?

Bear: Yup! That'd hit the spot.

Cupid: Bear, your turn in the hot seat. What is Flo’s idea of a perfect date?

Bear: Once, when Flo was mad at me, Pinky told me I should buy her flowers and take her out to a nice restaurant. Pinky's been married a bunch of times so he knows more about that dating crap. We mostly go out for a Pizza or the all-you can-eat buffet at the Nugget.

Cupid: Flo, is he correct? If not, what is your idea of a perfect date?

Flo: Like I said, dinner in a real restaurant, with candles and fine wine, not another anchovy Pizza while we watch TV.

Cupid: The next two questions are for both of you. What's the most romantic thing your lover has ever done for you?

Flo: Bear's not the romantic type. He's more the, me Tarzan, you Jane, now take your loincloth off.

Bear: Remember that first kick-ass breakfast you made for me in LA. You fried up some bacon and eggs and you were wearing your robe, and you didn't have anything on underneath, and after breakfast we . . .

Cupid: Stop right there. I think we get the picture. If you could change one thing about your relationship, what would it be?

Flo: Holding hands while we walk together in the moonlight.

Bear: Hey, we live in Carson City. On the edge of the Nevada desert. I don't see how stumbling over rocks at night is romantic?

Cupid: Bear, that’s the point about moonlight. It’s usually bright enough so you won’t trip on the rocks in your path. Have the two of you had time to settle into any Valentine's Day traditions?

Flo: A year ago I gave him a beautiful Valentine's Day card and signed it with love and kisses. I'm going to do the same this year.

Bear: I remember that card and what we did after. This year I'll get you a card like that but I can't remember the month for Valentine's Day. Is it March or April?

Flo: It's the month after Super Bowl.

Bear: Oh, February.

Flo: Cupid, I rest my case.

Cupid: Remember Bear, the Super Bowl is on February 6th this year… Anyway, thanks to Bear and Flo for joining us today. We hope you’ll check out their story, The Bloody Birthright and The Big Showstopper.

Thanks again to Cupid, and to Bear and Flo for a great interview! We've had tons of fun and we hope you have too!

To learn more about Bear and Flo's author, Ken Dalton, visit:
his website:

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Featured Author - Ken Dalton! - Part 2

Please welcome Ken Dalton back for Part 2 of his feature!

MLM: Who is your Valentine this year? Why is this person so special?

KEN: My wife, Arlene, is my Valentine’s day sweetheart and has been for the past fifty-six (56) years. (Photo of Arlene on the coast of Italy)

MLM: Congratulations! It's always heart warming to find couples together that long! It means there's hope for us all! Will you two be doing anything special for Valentine’s Day? Care to share or is it a surprise?

KEN: Hope to find the time to spend the weekend in San Francisco. See a show. Ride the cable car. Walk hand-in-hand across the Golden Gate bridge

MLM: If you could choose your ultimate Valentine’s Day gift, what would it be? Have you ever received this as a gift?

KEN: A surprise trip to Trogir on the coast of Croatia. A few years ago we spent some days there and it is one of the most romantic place in the world.

MLM: One of the greatest things about the Internet is that we can connect with writers of all kinds from all over the globe so we want to know:
a.)What area of the country/world are you from?

KEN: I was born in Los Angeles but for the past forty-five years I’ve lived in northern California where the greatest wines are made.

b.)What are the average temperatures of your area?

KEN: Great wine grapes thrive in temperatures that range from a low of 32 in the winter and a top of 100 in the summer with cool nights. Golfers generally play year around and there are no show tires on our cars.

c.)What type of clothing would most residents be wearing today?

KEN: Spring has sprung in my area so the clothing could range from shorts, tee shirt, and sandals to something warmer if we get rain.

d.)What tips do you have for people to “survive” the weather where you are?

KEN: Smile and remember there are the people out there who live through the ice and snow of winter!

MLM: Say you’re at a cabin in the mountains, it’s not exactly warm out and you had the option of where you wanted your hot tub to be. Would you have the hot tub inside or outside the cabin? Why? What is it that you like specifically about it being inside or outside the best?

KEN: Outside. I love the idea of jumping in a hot tub on a cold day, looking up and see the stars. It’s almost as good as snuggling under the covers on a cold night.

MLM: If you could go anywhere in the world for Valentine’s Day, where would you choose to go? Why this destination over others? What’s its connection to you?

KEN: Vernaza, Italy. I’ve traveled all over the world and Vernaza is the first destination where I plan to return and spend two weeks to a month. No cars are allowed, so except for the tourist, life there is pretty much the same as it was hundreds of years ago. (photo of Varnaza)

MLM: Our readers have had fun learning about your life outside of writing, but let's move on to your life inside writing. Why Mystery/Suspense/Crime/Thriller? What was the draw for you?

KEN: I love to read everything, but a well-written mystery with a plot that makes me think is my favorite. I believe we all try to solve the crime before the last page.

MLM: All of us are influenced and impacted by TV, movies, books and/or authors at different times in our lives. Who, what and which TV, movies, books and/or authors influenced you? When in your life did you discover them and why were they so influential for you? (Don’t be afraid to give us more than one of each kind!)

KEN: For all genre, movies, TV, or books, good writing is the key element.
Movies--A Beautiful Mind is a great example of keeping the viewer off balance while engaging the audience.

The movie Doubt demands the viewer to go beyond their comfort zone.
TV--Madmen pulls the viewer into lives that are foreign to most but real and believable.

The BBC show Frost presents the common-man cop just trying to do his job. He’s kind, he’s tough, he’s a man that most viewers can relate with.

Books—Stieg Larsson’s The Girl . . . trilogy is and outstanding example of suspenseful storytelling.

The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver, is a great example of a flowing historical novel that encourages the reader to seek more information about the characters in the book.

Any book by Carl Hiaasen. The man knows how to blend satire with criticism of our lifestyle along with a plot. Funny and thought provoking.

MLM: Considering the TV, movies, books and/or authors mentioned, is there one TV, movie, book and/or author in particular that you try to emulate in your writing? Which one(s) and why? Please be as specific as you can! J

KEN: Carl Hiaasen’s use of humor to make his point. All my books involve a murder, and nothing is more serious than murder, but as Carl Hiaasen, I use humor to lighten the tone.

Here is an example from The Big Show Stopper of how I used humor to soften the situation.

If I moved a finger Ice would shoot me, and if I didn’t move a finger, he’d shoot anyway, so what the hell, I had nothing to lose. I blew some sand away from my mouth. “You’ve got it, Harold. It’s a new game and we’re having a barrel of laughs. Come on over here and lie down next to me. I’ll explain the rules.”

He did and I had to close my eyes when he pushed his naked butt a few inches from my face. Dying was one thing, but having Harold’s boney ass the last thing I saw was a horrible way to go.

MLM: If you could describe your writing with a word or phrase, what would it be? Please look beyond words like mysterious, suspenseful, creative, unique etc., and delve into the core of your writing to tell us what word or phrase you want readers to take with them when they've finished reading your story.

KEN: A good mystery combined with a belly laugh.

MLM: In Part 2 we asked you about your ultimate Valentine’s Day gift. Have you ever used that as a gift in one of your stories? If so, which one and what was the situation?

KEN: Sort of the reverse. In my books, The Bloody Birthright, and The Big Show Stopper, Pinky, as the boss, gives himself the gifts, a desirable place to visit, Rome and Tuscany, while Bear and Flo end up in horrible locations, Los Angeles, Eureka, Nevada, and Needles, California.

MLM: Also in Part 2 we asked you about where you’d put the hot tub and why. Does this show through in your writing? If so, give some examples how, please!

KEN: If this excerpt isn’t true love, what is?

Flo tucked the bankbook back into that soft, warm place between her giant ta-tas. “It looks to me like the book is ours.”

My head spun. Twenty million could take us a lot of places real fast, but then I remembered what the inside of a jail cell looked like.

Flo said, “Earth to Bear, did you hear me?”

“Jesus, give me a minute, I’m thinking.”

I knew what she was asking. I liked money as much as the next guy—and twenty million was a pot full of cash—but a couple of seconds isn’t much time to come up with a guaranteed plan. Maybe if she gave me a day, or a week, I might come up with a workable scam, but once we kept the bankbook, and drove back to Needles, as far as the law was concerned, we’d be as guilty as Donna or Larry.

I looked straight into Flo’s baby blues. “We’ve got to turn it over to Willow.”

“I figured we’d have a week before Willow realized the book was missing. By that time we could be—”

“Babe, have you ever spent a night in jail?”

“No. Is it that bad?”

“Trust me, it’s not worth the gamble.”

“Not even for twenty million bucks?”

“Nope.”

Flo sighed, “I suppose you’re right.”

“Babe, I’d never do anything that would put you in jail.”

“That’s really sweet in a weird sort of way. Bear, I hope you understood that I was just stringing Larry along when I told him I’d go with him back to the motel.”

“I knew. Would you mind if I reached down and pulled out the bank book so we can give it to Willow?”

“Sounds good to me.”

My fingers did the walking for a minute or so of happy searching. Actually, I bumped into the book right off, but I was having too much fun to stop. Finally I dragged it out, and handed it to Flo. “After we give the book to Willow are you ready to head back to the motel?”

MLM: Who decides what characters/creatures you write about, you or your muse? What kind of influence do you have over their actions and the plot, or is the muse always the one deciding who done it, where they done it and with what?

KEN: I’d like to think I make all the decisions but the muse exerts pressure at times and without my say so. She decides some plot twists and if a character lives or dies. A great example is Flo in both books, The Bloody Birthright and The Big Show Stopper. In the first book Flo was suppose to last five to ten pages but my fingers would not let Bear drive his pick up out of LA without Flo sitting by his side.

MLM: Of all the stories you’ve written please tell us:
a.)Which character/creature did you have the most fun creating and why? What about this character/creature makes it stand out above all the others?

KEN: Without question the character is Flo. She has been a blast to work with and many times I’m not sure what she will say next. One minute she’s Bear’s babe the next she’s a pain in the ass. She drinks more red wine than she should but that helps her forget her past. By the end of The Big Show Stopper she has added to Bear’s investigative ability with her computer expertise and Flo’s part will continue to grow in the third book.

b.)If you had the opportunity to meet just one of your characters/creatures in real life, who would it be and why?

KEN: I actually had that experience once. In the fourth book in this series (plotted out but not yet written with the tentative title The Tartan Shroud), I based a character on an old Scotsman with the factious name of Henry Bramble who helps solve the crime. While in Pitlocry, Scotland, a few years ago I met an old Scotsman who fit Henry’s physical stature and this gentleman liked to think he helped the police to solve crimes. Needless to say I was creeped out.

c.)Which of your characters/creatures would you never want to meet under any circumstance and why?

KEN: Ice Conner, the out-of-control Carson City cop in The Big Show Stopper. In my opinion there is nothing more dangerous than a gun-welding, unstable person, who has been given police authority.

d.)If you could choose to visit one setting/world you’ve created which one is it, where is it and why this destination over all the others? What makes it stand out over all the others?

KEN: It so happens that I do visit all the locations where I send my characters, both good and bad.

The good--the tiny Italian village of Vetulonia atop a Tuscan hill. Vetulonia is what the Italian’s mean when they say, “la dolche far niente”(The sweetness of doing nothing).

The bad—a tie between Eureka, Nevada, and Needles, California. Both towns are stuck in the middle of a vast desert wasteland. Needles is hotter and Eureka is but a few breaths away from ghost town status.

Thanks for a great interview Ken! Please check out Cupid's interview with Bear and Flo in Part 3!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Featured Author - Ken Dalton! - Part 1

Wow, I managed to dodge Cupid yet again! Whew! This is getting tiring! He's taken over the main blog, but I'm hoping I can keep him from finding out about this section, or he just might cause trouble here!

February brings us a new featured author - Ken Dalton!
This week he tells us about his path to writing!

After a career of middle management in the tech world, I was offered a golden parachute (early retirement) and found myself with the time to do anything I wanted to do.

As a avid traveler, and golfer, the obvious choice was to write magazine articles. Luckily, I didn’t realize that selling a magazine article was tougher than grabbing an invitation to the pending Royal Wedding. Impossible or not, I received a contract from Golf Illustrated for my first article, Scotland’s Secret Golf Treasures. Two months later I sent the article to the magazine and they mailed me a check for $750.00. Bingo, my new writing career was off and running with published articles and columns that covered the USA from coast to coast.

Flushed with success, or too ignorant to leave well enough alone, I decided to write my first mystery, not realizing there was a world of difference between creating a three hundred page novel as compared to producing a thousand-word article.

It took me quite a few years to produce, The Bloody Birthright, the first of my Pinky and Bear series, and another year to complete, The Big Show Stopper, the next in line.

Today, I sit at my keyboard, pounding my once beautiful fingers into meager stubs, on the third Pinky and Bear mystery (title unknown) so I will meet the goal of a late summer release.

Tune in next week for the next installment of our interview with Ken!
Until then, check out his website:
www.kendalton.com

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Interview with Ann Charles - Part 4

As promised, here's the blurb and excerpt for Nearly Departed in Deadwood!

Blurb
Little girls are vanishing from Deadwood, South Dakota. Afraid her daughter might be next, single mom, Violet Parker, is desperate to find the monster behind the abductions.

With her savings dwindling and just three weeks left to sell her first house or lose her Realtor job, Violet is ecstatic when a handsome jeweler hires her to sell his century-old, Victorian masterpiece … until she sees the dilapidated dwelling. Now, if she could just convince her only buyer to stop rejecting vintage homes as if they’re haunted.

Short on time and long on worry, she refuses to give up her dream of a fresh start in Deadwood. But with a malicious coworker trying to get her fired, a secret admirer sending her creepy messages, and a sexy stranger hiding skeletons in his closet, Violet could end up as one of Deadwood’s dearly departed.

Excerpt
Two hours and two houses later, we bounced along a steep hillside street in Deadwood’s northern Forest Hill neighborhood. My knuckles were white as I clenched the steering wheel, but not due to the steep dropoff on my left.

There was definitely something odd about Doc. Something that made my sweat cold in spite of the hot gusts swirling through the gulch this afternoon. I’d been analyzing it since we toured the first house and I’d caught him sniffing in an upstairs closet. Not sniffing coke or Elmer’s glue, just sniffing.

I’d kept my mouth shut. After all, I had been standing alone in an empty house with a man whose forearms alone looked muscled enough to snap my neck like it was dried spaghetti.

He sniffed every room, every corner, every nook and cranny, everywhere. He was like some human version of a bloodhound. I’d half-expected him to turn around and sniff me at some point.

After inhaling his way through the house, he’d declared that he would pass on the place. When I pressed, he shrugged and just said, “Too big.”

A thorough sniffing of the second house inspired a “too small” from him.

Now, as I parked the Bronco in front of the last house I’d opted to show him today, I could tell by the vertical wrinkles lining his forehead that he was already thinking up another enlightening two-word reason why he didn’t like this home.

“How old is this one?” he asked while tailing me up the sidewalk to the front door.

I checked the listing paperwork. “Early 1900s.” I punched in the code to unlock the lockbox and pulled out the key, expecting him to tell me to forget it, but he didn’t. I held the door for him to enter.

“You first,” he said and waited for me to lead.

This was the third time he’d insisted I enter a house before him. I couldn’t figure out if he was being a gentleman or if this was another of his strange tics.

I stepped inside a well-lit foyer, lined with hardwood flooring. Stained-glass windows in the interior walls shed pink and blue-tinged light into a wide hall from rooms to the left and right. Arched thresholds to adjoining rooms added to the open feel, and a staircase anchored the opposite end.

I beat him to the first sniff. Pine-sol and Lemon Pledge filled the air.

Doc inhaled and grunted.

I couldn’t tell if it was a good grunt or bad grunt, being that I was rusty on my Caveman vernacular.

He tapped one of the stained-glass windows. “I like this.”

I coughed in surprise.

We sniffed our way through a carpeted living room with sage-colored walls to the kitchen. Stainless steel appliances, glass-paned cabinets, and can lighting gave a modern but cozy feel to the room. Whoever had had this place before put some money into it.

While the dining room was small, French doors leading to a well-manicured backyard encased by a split-rail fence gave a false impression of more space.

The downstairs bathroom had a polished granite sink top, a black toilet, a heated stone floor, and a mosaic of the sun tiled into the shower wall.

I paused at the base of the stairs. “You want to continue?”

“Sure.” He smiled for the first time since we’d left his office. The transformation made me do a double-take.

There were three rooms upstairs—an office, a small bathroom with a shower instead of a tub, and a master bedroom. I stood inside the doorway of the latter, waiting for Doc to finish his inhalation of the bathroom.

I heard him come up behind me. “This is just perfect, don’t you think?” I asked. A coined phrase I learned in a one-day seminar about using positive voice inflections to acquire a sale.

In actuality, the house was an ideal bachelor pad. Doc could even set up a computer at home and skip the three-mile commute to the office if he wanted.

“The toilet has a new shut-off valve,” he said.

To which I couldn’t think of a single response, so I just nodded.

He sniffed. “Do you smell that?”

I smelled something flowery, probably carpet freshener—a nice touch by the real estate agent. I’d have to remember that. “Smells like gardenias.”

Doc gasped, coughed, and then wheezed.

I turned toward him. His face had a pale, blanched tone that made his dark brown eyes seem larger. “Are you okay?”

He leaned over, nearly retching now, his neck tendons showing.

I grabbed his shoulder, not sure if I should smack him on the back or poke a hole in his windpipe with a pen. “What is it? Are you allergic to gardenias?”

His whole body began to shudder. He broke free of my grasp and raced out of the room. I heard him clomp down the stairs, then the front door banged shut. Through the window, I watched him lean against my Bronco and wipe at his mouth.

What the hell?

It took a couple of minutes for my adrenaline to stop shooting through my limbs with fire-hose intensity. I swabbed the sweat from my forehead and headed downstairs, locking up behind me.

I climbed into my Bronco and started the engine, waiting for the air conditioning to kick in before looking at Doc. His skin had returned to its normal olive color, his eyes no longer watering, his breathing quiet and rhythmic.

“I take it you’re going to pass on that one, too?”

“I think I want to come back again.”

My mouth fell open. I couldn’t help it. “You do?”

“Another day, though.”

My mouth still gaped. “What happened up there?”

“I don’t like gardenias.”

“You need to seek medical help for that.”

For more info on Ann Charles and her books visit:
her websites:

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Interview with Ann Charles - Part 3

Welcome back readers! Today's installment offers a glimpse into Ann's writing. We hope you enjoy it!

MLM: Why Mystery/Suspense/Crime/Thriller? What was the draw for you?

ANN: It’s the dead bodies. I tried for years to write straight romance, no mystery, no thrill or suspense, just romance plots, and I sucked at it. I couldn’t think of enough reasons to keep the hero and heroine apart, and that problem showed through on the page. Then I threw in a dead body and suddenly everything just clicked into place. I had conflict, I had tension, I had excitement and fear. All of these emotions heightened the romance in the story, and I was finally able to write romance scenes and dialogue that sparked. So, in the end, when I stand up on stage to win my “big” award some day, I’ll start it with, “I’d like to thank all of the dead bodies...”

MLM: All of us are influenced and impacted by TV, movies, books and/or authors at different times in our lives. Who, what and which TV, movies, books and/or authors influenced you? When in your life did you discover them and why were they so influential for you? (Don’t be afraid to give us more than one of each kind!)

ANN: I grew up sneaking reads of Stephen King novels and Harlequin Presents books—so, horror, romance, and sex have been on my mind since I tried on my first training bra. I’ve always been a big movie nut, too. Tremors, Jaws, The Mummy, The Big Country, The Big Sleep, The Thing (the newer version with Kurt Russell), Twister, and Bull Durham are some of my favorites. I watch these movies repeatedly, analyzing the scene and dialogue structure.

For example, when I’m working on a romantic scene with a lot of witty dialogue, I dig out Bull Durham or The Big Sleep and watch for what makes the scenes with the hero and heroine sizzle. Is it that the looks they exchange say one thing while their mouths are saying something else? Is it the words themselves, which have hidden meanings due to a previous scene? Is it the way they don’t touch each other when it’s so clear to the audience that they wish they could?

As to why they were so influential for me, I guess it’s because they are fun, and I seek out things that make me smile or laugh or cringe in fear. I’m not one for dramas, serious movies, or sad tales. I want to escape the daily barrage of negative news and events that always seem to be on the television or in the papers. I want to focus on the things in life that make it wonderful, which to me are love, sex, fear, and excitement.

MLM: Of all of these influences, is there any one TV, movie, book and/or author in particular that you try to emulate in your writing? Which ones and why?

ANN: Sure! Someday I’d love to be able to make readers cringe and gnaw on their knuckles as well as Stephen King and Jaws. I’d like to make readers fall in love with and sigh over my characters like how I adore Humphrey Bogart, Kevin Costner, Kevin Bacon, and Brendan Frazier. As you can tell, it’s hard for me to pick just one or two of any one format. Stephen King is just one of the authors I study these days. I read Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz yearly because it was a story that really taught me how to incorporate setting with story, and a refresher is always good. I also analyze Rachel Gibson’s romances because her heroes knock my socks off and I want mine to do the same to readers. There are so many excellent authors and movies out there that it is hard for me to choose just one.

MLM: If you could describe your writing with a word or phrase, what would it be? Please look beyond words like mysterious, suspenseful, creative, unique etc., and delve into the core of your writing to tell us what word or phrase you want readers to take with them when they've finished reading your story.

ANN: “Quirky”

As in: “Ann Charles’ books are a delicious mix of quirkiness!” :)

MLM: In Part 2 we discussed stress and the holidays. While stress may not always be conducive to writing, do you find that the holidays disrupt your writing schedule? If so, how? How tough is it to get yourself back in writing mode? What does it take to get you back on track?

ANN: Usually, holidays make it hard to focus and I tend to not get as much promotion and marketing and writing done during that time, but this year was different because I had a book release coming in January for which I needed to build buzz. There was no rest for the wicked. Santa didn’t even bother with the coal this year because he knew I’d be too busy to notice.

Right now, I’m working on clearing my plate enough to get busy writing the third book in the Deadwood series. I’m doing a lot of listening to songs that remind me of the book and characters and watching movies that inspire my creativity. It’s a definite shift in gears from the promo and marketing mindset, but the urge to write is building momentum and will hit me full on very soon, I can feel it.

MLM: Also in Part 2 we asked you about where you’d put the hot tub and why. Does this show through in your writing? If so, give some examples how, please!

ANN: I said I’d put the hot tub inside in front of a big screen television so I could watch some of my favorite movies while lounging in it. I think this shows in my writing, because I don’t take myself too seriously on the page. My main goal is to entertain readers and take them away to a place where bad things happen to Violet Parker rather than to them. The fun is watching how she reacts and keeps going in spite of all of the crap blowing up around her.

MLM: Who decides what the characters/creatures you write about, you or your muse? What kind of influence do you have over your story, or is the muse always the one deciding who done it, where they done it and with what?

ANN: I have a little say in the beginning. I make a high level plot outline of what “could” happen, then I hand everything over to my muse and let her take over. She often leads me in directions I didn’t expect to go, and this whole process drives my husband a little crazy. He thinks I should plan everything out in detail well in advance and I just can’t. I trust my muse will come up with much better ideas than I could. Due to this loosey-goosey process, I consider myself a seat-of-my-pants (aka “pantser”) author. I’m often happily surprised by what comes out as the story progresses. In that way, I’m entertaining myself with the story as it rolls out, and I hope that transfers over to my readers.

MLM: Of all the stories you’ve written please tell us:
a.) Which character did you have the most fun creating and why? What about this character makes it stand out above all the others? 

ANN: That’s tough. I am fond of several characters. I’d have to say that so far Harvey in this Deadwood series has been the most fun. I didn’t even have any plans for his character until I came up with the first line of the book, “The first time I came to Deadwood, I got shot in the ass.” At that point, I saw Violet Parker standing there with a double-barrel shotgun pointed at her nose and I had no idea who was holding the gun. From that Old Man Harvey, the gun holder, was born. He turned out to be Violet’s partner in the series and is a huge hit with my readers. Go figure. I laugh every time I write a scene with him in it.

b.) If you had the opportunity to meet just one of your characters in real life, who would it be and why?

ANN: Wow! You ask tough questions. The female in me wants to meet my heroes—Doc Nyce in the Deadwood series, or Mac Garner in my Arizona series—for obvious reasons. J But overall, I’d like to meet Violet, because her voice resonates so strong inside my head. I’d like to sit across from her and try to figure out exactly what traits we share.

c.) Which of your characters would you never want to meet under any circumstance and why?

ANN: That would have to be Ray Underhill from the Deadwood series. Why? Because I’d probably end up in jail for beating him up with a stapler. :)

d.)If you could choose to visit one setting/world you’ve created which one is it, where is it and why this destination over all the others? What makes it stand out over all the others?

ANN: I’d want to visit Jackrabbit Junction, Arizona (fictional town in the Arizona mystery series) because I have been to Deadwood multiple times and know it well, but I don’t know the sites and sounds of my Arizona town nearly as well. I want to smell the desert after a rainstorm, feel the heat of the springtime sunshine on the top of my head, see the purple mountains in the distance. And I’d want to see Ruby’s General Store at The Dancing Winnebago RV Park, because it’s stocked with food and drinks that I love.

MLM: Thanks for joining us again this week and for giving us another great interview!
Be sure to return next week for an excerpt to Nearly Departed in Deadwood!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Interview with Ann Charles - Part 2

Welcome back readers! This installment features questions to help you get to know a little bit more about her writing. Enjoy!

MLM: As this is January and the start of a brand new year, we have to ask: Do you have any holiday memories from 2010 that you would like to share with us? (Memories can be nice and sweet, naughty, or just plain goofy!)

ANN: Four words for you: Dutch Baby & Yorkshire Pudding!

On Christmas, my husband made Yorkshire Pudding and I stuffed my gut and cheeks full of it. My sister-in-law and I fought over the last bits of it like a pair of hyenas. It wasn’t pretty, but Yorkshire Pudding makes rotten leftovers, so you have to gobble it up while it’s fresh from the oven.

[For those of you who don't know, Yorkshire Pudding (according to Wikipedia) consists of flour, salt, eggs, and milk. All ingredients are mixed together to make an unsweetened batter. Traditionally, the batter is baked under meat as it roasts to catch the drippings or baked separately with a small amount of meat drippings.]

Then, on New Year’s Day, my lovely mother-in-law made a Dutch Baby for breakfast. That blew all thoughts of starting my remove-the-jiggle-when-I-walk diet on January 1st. I squeezed lemon juice on it and dusted it with powdered sugar, and then started chowing. Lucky for me, my sister-in-law wasn’t there to fight me for rights to it, and the rest of the family was distracted by the quiche my MIL made, so I snatched the pan and hid in the pantry while I scarfed it all down. Had I choked on the Dutch Baby and keeled over there alone in the pantry, I’d have died a happy woman.

[For those of you who don't know, A Dutch Baby Pancake is (according to Wikipedia) also called a German Pancake or a Bismarck. This too is made from flour, eggs, and milk. However, this dish is mainly flavored with cinnamon and vanilla. In some instances, sugar is added. Baked in a metal pan, this dish usually falls soon after taking it out of the oven. Traditionally served with butter, fresh-squeezed lemon and powdered sugar.]

MLM: Many people make resolutions to change something about their lives.
a.)Do you make resolutions each year? Why or why not?

ANN: I have had a standing “lose weight” resolution every single year since 8th grade. I should be a walking toothpick by now, but while my brain makes the resolution, my stomach refuses to go along with the plan. It grows hungry, breaks into the control booth, and takes over the show. My hands are mere pawns in this game of dominance.

b.)Do you take your resolutions seriously, or do you find you’re just going through the motions because you feel obligated to make a resolution each year but have no expectation to succeed?

ANN: I have good intentions every year, but food just tastes too dang good.

c.)What kind of resolutions do you make?

ANN: I actually make career “goals” every Dec/Jan. I even have this super-geeky goal worksheet I created that employs an acronym I stole from my day job’s yearly review process. Periodically, throughout the year, I consult my goals’ list and see how I’m doing. At the end of the year, I tally my accomplishments and reward myself with some of my favorite treats—Frozen Coke Slurpees and Toffee Nut Lattes. I’m all about celebrating accomplishments.

d.)How successful are you at achieving your resolutions? Do you ever find yourself making the same one, year after year?

ANN: Besides the weight loss baloney, I probably accomplish 70 percent of the goals I have listed. However, that worksheet doesn’t include all of the additional achievements I have throughout the year (for opportunities I hadn’t known would come my way when I set the year’s goals). I also keep monthly, weekly, and daily goal lists. Yes, I need to attend Goal Setters Anonymous. My husband shakes his head at all of the pieces of paper covered with goal lists that flutter around the house.

e.)What resolutions, if any, you’ve made turned out to be extremely difficult or utterly impossible? What made those resolutions so challenging?

ANN: I used to have the goal, “Get The Call from an editor/publisher,” years ago. Then I realized that this is totally out of my control and, therefore, frustrating as hell when it didn’t happen year after year. So, I started making my goals more tangible.

f.)Any successes? Which ones and why do you believe you were able to succeed in the light of other less successful attempts?

ANN: Yes, I got published. I succeeded because I made it happen. I realized about 5 years ago that I was the one in charge of building this Ann Charles empire, not my agent, not an editor, and certainly not a publishing company (since I kept NOT getting The Call). That epiphany spurred me into action. I started actively building my platform higher and higher, and haven’t looked down since.

MLM: The buzz all over Tweetland and Facebook is how stressful many of us tend to find the holiday season (Thanksgiving through the New Year). This year they’ve seemed to be even more so with everything that’s been going on in the US and abroad. Stress isn’t usually conducive to writing, so we need to shed that stress, clear our minds so the words will follow. How do you plan on recharging your soul? Any relaxation tips you’d like to share?

ANN: I recharge with my favorite movies. I love old movies with Humphrey Bogart, Gregory Peck, and John Wayne, such as The Big Sleep, The Big Country, and North to Alaska. Sinking into one of those is a real treat. But I also love more recent movies like Tremors, The Mummy, The Thing, Aliens, and Twister. Anything with a nice dose of comedy and fun dialogue gets my brain cranking out creative ideas and makes me want to hit the keyboard. No dramas allowed, though. I have enough drama in real life.

MLM: One of the greatest things about the Internet is that we can connect with writers of all kinds from all over the globe so we want to know:
a.)What area of the country/world are you from?

ANN: I currently live just north of Seattle, Washington, in a town my mother keeps telling people is named “Brothel” (it’s really named Bothell). I just love meeting her friends and hearing her say, “This is my daughter. She lives in Brothel.” I get a lot of raised brows from her cohorts.

b.)What are the average temperatures of your area?

ANN: 40s, cloudy, and lots of rain in the winter; 70s, cloudy, and a little less rain in the summer.

c.)What type of clothing would most residents be wearing today?

ANN: Fleece, rain gear, and a latte mug/cup.

d.)What tips do you have for people to “survive” the weather where you are?

ANN: First and foremost, if you get depressed by gray sky and long periods of rain every day all day, the Pacific Northwest is not for you. Personally, I love the rain and dark days. My coworkers have decided I am a vampire and do their best to block out the light coming in from the surrounding windows on my behalf—they rock! However, I have no delusions about me being a blood-sucker. I know the truth—I’m a cockroach. Where’s the sugar?

MLM: Say you’re at a cabin in the mountains, it’s not exactly warm out and you had the option of where you wanted your hot tub to be. Would you have the hot tub inside or outside the cabin? Why? What is it that you like specifically about it being inside or outside the best?

ANN: That hot tub would be inside of the cabin placed right in front of the big, BIG screen T.V. and cranked so loud I could hear Humphrey Bogart say, “Somebody’s always giving me guns,” while the tub jets were running.

I’m not into extremes on the weather front. This is one of the reasons I love the Pacific Northwest. I don’t want to shiver uncontrollably or sweat buckets. For that reason, I’ll keep the hot tub inside in front of the T.V. and fill it will bubbles so my two kids, Beaker and Chicken Noodle (nicknames), want to play in there with me.

MLM: If you could go anywhere in the world for the holiday season, where would you choose to go? Why this destination over others? What’s its connection to you?

ANN: I’d fly home and drive my family utterly crazy for a full week. It’s not a glamorous trip, but I miss my family a lot during the holidays. When the week was up, I’d fly to Australia (first class, of course) to visit some wonderful writing buddies I know who live there and spend New Year’s trying to perfect my Aussie accent in between filling my gullet with Tim Tams.
[a chocolate coated cookie with a creamy center]

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Interview with Ann Charles - Part 1



MLM: Please tell our readers about how your path in life led you to become a writer, what influenced your decision to become a writer and at what time in your life you were influenced.

ANN: I grew up wanting to ride camels and dig up treasures in an Egyptian desert, not write books. I read heavily back then, bouncing back and forth between Stephen King’s spellbinding tales and Harlequin’s romances. But did I daydream about penning my own books to share with the world? Nope. Then, during my senior year in high school, I wrote two chapters of a romance novel for an assignment, and the seed was planted.

About seven years after that, I read a romance that was so lousy I couldn’t finish it and decided to write a romance novel that I wanted to read. I wrote that first romance in longhand, a story about an elementary teacher and a retired hockey player, and sent it off to Harlequin in London. The Brits were kind to me. They politely rejected it and told me to keep trying. God save the Queen!

My second romance, Jungle Fever, starred a female archaeologist and a photographer named Wayne. I hooked up with a critique group at that time. They read the book and hated the hero so much that a decade later I’m still not allowed to name any characters Wayne. Ouch!

Determined to figure out this story-writing business, I started my third romance and named it Identity Crisis. Half way through the book, the story lived up to its name and my romance morphed into an action/adventure. What the heck?
Something important happened with that book. I realized that I sucked at writing stories that had romance as the main plot.

With that knowledge under my belt, I picked up my second book again, modified the title to Bungle in the Jungle, changed the plot completely, and wrote a story filled with mystery, adventure, suspense, and a little less romance...and no characters with the name of Wayne! In that book, I discovered my voice and figured out my style. And with that book, I managed to final in the Romance Writers of America (RWA) Golden Heart contest. I was on to something.

So, four books down, and I was starting to get the hang of this writing stuff. For my fifth book, I plotted a story filled with some crazy adventures in the Arizona desert and called it Dance of the Winnebagos. Five chapters into this book, I read Dean Koontz' Odd Thomas and a halogen bulb flickered on in my brain. I suddenly knew how to interject more of my personality and sense of humor onto the page—in the dialogue and narrative. It was amazingly eye opening, and I still read Odd Thomas every year or so for a refresher.

Dance of the Winnebagos won a finalist slot in the Pacific Northwest Writers Association Literary Contest and hooked an agent, who promptly informed me that I needed to write a sequel to the book. Thus came the birth of book six, Jackrabbit Junction Jitters. But neither book won an editor’s attention. They were both a little long and full of mystery, romance, and suspense—a genre mix that wasn’t common at that time.

So, back to the drawing board for book seven, a story that had come to me while visiting my family in Deadwood, South Dakota one summer. I decided to try my hand at first person point-of-view instead of third and tell the story of Violet Parker, a single mom of twins who moved to Deadwood to try her hand at a new career, selling real estate. I had an idea about how to pull in Deadwood’s famous history and yet make it a mystery. I interwove a romance plot to spice up the story. When I finished and sent it to my agent, she called me and yelled, “You’re brilliant!” (You can see why I love her.) Then Nearly Departed in Deadwood won twice over in the RWA Kiss of Death Chapter’s Daphne du Maurier contest—both the first place prize in the Mainstream division and the overall Daphne winner for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense. Finally, after more than a decade of learning and practicing, I’d hit my stride.

But Violet’s story is way too long and juicy to be told in just one book, which I knew from the start, so I plotted out the series. Then I dug into my eighth book, Optical Delusions in Deadwood, which is the second in the Deadwood series and is now in the final editing process, the release planned for early spring.

Which leads to my ninth book, currently titled A Dead Case in Deadwood, the third book in the Deadwood series. I intend to hit the keys by the end of January with an estimated release date of early 2012.

Truth be told, I stumbled backward into this writing career, and continue driving onward in spite of my failures because I’m too damned stubborn to give up. Plus, the highs are addictive as all get out. One of the quotes stuck to the wall next to my computer is by Jonathan Winters: “If your ship doesn’t come in, swim out to it.” Well, I have donned my flippers and nose-plugs and am dog-paddling my way through the waves—in spite of the sharks.

MLM: I love Jonathon Winters! I had his voice in my head saying it to me, lol! Thanks for sharing your journey with us this week!



Readers - Be sure to come back next Thursday
when we post Part 2 of our interview with Ann!
In the mean time, check out her website:
www.anncharles.com