Thursday, December 3, 2009

Radio Interview with Baron Ron Herron

I was interviewed this morning at 7:35 PST today by KZSB AM 1290 in Santa Barbara, California, on Baron Ron Herron's radio. We talked about Lost Witness, the second Niki Alexander mystery following Less Dead. The program airs in Santa Barbara , Goleta , Carpinteria, Ventura , Thousand Oaks and Los Angeles County . In addition, the show is rebroadcast on KNRY AM 1240 in Monterey , Salinas , Santa Cruz and Pebble Beach ; KNWZ-II AM 1270 in Palm Desert, Palm Springs , Indio and Rancho Mirage. The program is delayed broadcast in Australia on 99.7 FM in Queensland and to another 30+ radio stations via ComRadSat. Have no idea when the delayed broadcasts air.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Getting Busy Writing Anew After Promotion

I wrote the first three chapters of the third Niki Alexander mystery several months ago. Seems like ages ago. Everytime I revisited the work, I stalled. With the second book, Lost Witness, just out in October - actually the night before I went to Bouchercon in Indianapolis - I knew I had to promote the book. Too late, I told myself, to get my publicist, PJ Nunn, involved. But I had to do something - get reviews, get signings. Just before Lost Witness came out, A Box of Texas Chocolates, The Final Twist Anthology, which carried my story, "Dying for Chocolate" was released and the authors were promoting. Then, of course, I had my full time job at Black Pearl Exploration.

To tell you the truth, I felt overwhelmed. I've done a few signing for A Box of Texas Chocolates and none for Lost Witness. I'm waiting for a date with Murder By The Book. By word of month, I've sold several copies - not enough - and sent my book out for reviews, put up my author page on Amazon and Goodreads, let people know on Facebook, but there's always more to do.

At the same time I was finishing a short story for next year's Final Twist Anthology with the Texas Landmark theme. Once I finished, I was given the opportunity to edit other stories which would be included. That took time.

Don't let me forget Mystery Writers of America and getting out the Sleuth Sayer for the Southwest Chapter and doing my Treasurer duties, and being on the nominating committee for next year's election. A lot of work for a national organization who won't even recognize my published books. But that's another story for another day. No more whining.

All this time, the third book is calling me. I'm always thinking of the plot and the characters and what goes next. I read over the three chapters. I didn't have a clue where to go next. I bought 3x5 cards. I set my eisel in the office next to my writing desk so I could do a story board. Materials were ready, but I was not. Darn!

So finally, I got most of the other stuff done and out of the way. Thanksgiving is finally over with, thank God! We won't even go there. Too personal. Maybe another day I'll write about my family's dysfunction. For now I'll write fiction.

So I spent most of the weekend rehashing the backstory of Niki and the characters that people my untitled manuscript. I found something I didn't expect. I found my original character sketch of Niki Alexander. She wasn't the same person I wrote in Less Dead and Lost Witness. Most of her character was there, but several paragraphs of her past had never come up. In fact, I'd forgotten the character I had imagined back then. Maybe that part belonged to another character whose story I haven't written yet and but will someday. So I rewrote her biography the way she turned out in my books. Now I had to face the actual writing.

It took quite a while and then I realized what was wrong. I didn't like the first three chapters. It had a good hook, but I couldn't make sense of it. What I had didn't go where I wanted, or how I had planned in the beginning. I needed it to start with a problem that I could fix. The new problem that I discovered by doing the synopsis. I had to kick life into the characters and get to the main plot. So the first three chapters went away.

I've only written three pages so far, but I like what I have and I'll keep writing. I still have several hours of writing time today. So until later, I bid you adieu. No more procrastinating.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Talent Show

The talent show at Bouchercon was fantastic. Anyone there will tell you the same. Above is my roommate for the festivities, Roberta Rogow, a wonderful singer.

When Don Brun emailed everyone for volunteers to be a part of a talent show at Bouchercon 2009, I plunged ahead without even thinking. What was I thinking? Good gravy! It's been 40-some years and a good 40 pounds less since I performed as a dancer. But I couldn't resist. I still love to dance, but haven't in public in a very long time. Still, when the music plays, I sway. My feet move, my hips swivel, my hands take off on their own. What the heck? Why not? My new book came out the night I left Houston, so how else would I get recognized? Darn, I'm a writer, not a dancer.
Here is Parnell Hall, Peter Lovesey and friends, and Don Brun.
And then there was me.

I was the only dancer.

2009 Bouchercon

Indianapolis was a delightful town, though I didn't see much of it. The cool weather, however, was welcome after the 90 degrees Houston experienced during that time.
I arrived by plane from Houston on Wednesday in time for the SinC Workshop with Donald Maass. What a wealth of information. I scribbled, I scratched, I disappeared into my story and emerged with new ideas, hardly able to wait to get back to my laptop and let my fingers flow my brain. I was ignited, mind filled eratically. Could I possibly remember everything before I flew back home and captured it all in my computer? Well, I'm back now, with so much to do and to catch up with job, family, and other writing commitments. Yes, it is still in my head somewhere, simmering, growing, almost ready for birth.
Thursday, the panels began. So many to choose from, each filled with information I had to have. I had to decide which best fit my writing, my story, my mystery and my characters. This could be hard because so many panels fit perfectly. Men, Women & Murder Through the Ages. Okay, I don't write historicals, but I wanted to meet Tony Hays, a new member in the Southwest Chapter of MWA. Well worth the hour, and I got his book.
Heroes for our Times sounded like another relevant one. After all, isn't Niki Alexander a hero to the teenagers she counsels? Murder, Therapy and Social Work. Now that fit Niki. She was a social worker, therapist, counselor. This led to Suddenly I'm Thirsty with Con Lehane, Chris Knopf, J.A. Konrath, Jason Pinter and Tom Schreck. All their characters drank. Niki's an ex-drinker, so I figured she would fit right in. I couldn't help but notice that Joe Konrath and Tom Schreck both had bottles of beer in front of them and drank without shame during the panel. They fit right in.
Then there was Adaptation. Novels to Screen and back. I'm also a screenwriter. Did I ever mention that? These guys know what they're talking about. Sean Chercover has a movie in the works. They made a movie from one of Joe Finder's books, too. Paul Guyot is a screenwriter working with Sean's book.
Them came the presentation of the Barry, Macavity, Derringer and Crime Spree Awards. The night ended at the Gameworks in Circle Center Mall. I spend my time there performing in the Talent Show. Pictures will follow.
Friday came early, but I was ready for the panels, especially since some of my favorite authors were on first. More Noir Than You Are featured Christa Faust, Victor Gischler, Charlie Newton and Jeri Westerson. These folks portray a world that's gritty and real as the cops and the streets make it. What is more natural to follow them than The Dark Side of the Fair Sex with Megan Abbott, Chelsea Cain, Sophie Littlefield and Derek Nikitas. Woman can write noir, too.
A treat was in store following lunch. Michael Connelly interviewed by Michael Koryta.
The afternoon continued with P.J. Parrish, Charlaine Harris and Julie Kramer, among others, talking about How I Met My Protagonist, and finished with a bang with Michelle Gagnon, Linwood Barclay, Andrew Gross, Erica Spindler and Michael Robotham for The Fabled One-Sitting Read. But who can read that fast? These are authors whose characters I like to spend time with and really lose myself in their stories.
The evening ended, for me, with the Rex Stout/Nero Wolfe Banquet. Five courses, each with their own wine, prepared by the chefs Nero Wolfe himself would laud, served by the finest servers, one to each table. But we all had to participate. Some little rhyme or song each table had to come up with and perform for the room. Luckily, our table was blessed by several of the Wolfe pack and P.J. Parrish, who came up with a fitting song and which we performed brillantly.
Saturday we were up early again to meet David Morrell, Laura Benedict, Lee Child and Gayle Lynds for Thrillers! Following them notable authors were none other than Michael Connelly, Sue Grafton, Peter Lovesey, John Lutz and Sara Paretsky celebrating Edgar Allen Poe.
The afternoon continued with Issues, Entertainment or Both? The answers came from Carl Brookins, Cara Black, Mark Coggins, Libby Fischer Hellmann and Mark T. Sullivan. I like to write about issues, sometimes want to chew them up to the point of sounding preachy. But then I stop myself. Have to find the right tone. Speaking of tone, what about Dark Books For Dark Times with Reed Farrel Coleman, Larry Beinhart, J.T. Ellison, Michael Lister and Duane Swiercynski. What more could you ask for?
Answer? Anthony Awards Ceremony. You all know by now who won, right? Later, I was swept up by Sophie Littlefield and her friends for dinner at the Wine Tasting and party at a blues club, where I caught a dance with Joe Konrath. (He probably wouldn't remember, but I do.)
The Bazaar finished us up on Sunday. Rows and rows of tables filled with free books, and fans lined up through the lobby end to end. A fitting climax to a wonderful four days.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

LOST WITNESS Raises the Stakes

LOST WITNESS is now available on Amazon, Fictionwise and Barnes&Noble.
ISBN-10: 160318144X
ISBN-13: 978-1603181440

A lost little boy wound up in the world of homeless teens and in the arms of counselor Niki Alexander. Did he witness a gruesome murder?

Homicide Investigators Luis Perez and Nelson Spalonetti suspected a woman found murdered in an alley was a drug mule from Mexico. Could the child who appeared at the same time be her son? The traumatized boy wouldn't speak; the police needed to find and question Barky, the street teen who found him.

Several years ago Niki quit the police force to work with troubled teens like Barky, not young children, but she couldn't help getting involved in the case of this sad little boy. Working at the Open Palms shelter gave her connections to street-wise people like Tara Barlow. The teens trusted Tara and they might provide helpful information she could share with the police.

Clues leading to the drug world brought Niki to some old friends for help. This also brought increased danger as she got closer to the truth. At the same time, Niki also got a lot closer to Nelson Spalonetti, Luis Perez- new partner. She had avoided close relationships since her husband died, yet there was no denying their mutual attraction.

It seemed strange to Niki and Nelson that so many people were interested in finding the lost child. They had to sort out the complicated case fast, before the boy disappeared forever.

Researching this book took me deep in the world of homeless teens. I wanted to know how they managed to survive. One evening, a friend invited me to join her at the street church across from Covenant House. On a vacant parking lot on a Wednesday night, teens and young adults, some with their own children, came to listen and be counseled and comforted by the non-denominational preacher, have a free meal, do some dealing of various wares, and commiserate with each other. Some laughter, some tears, some recriminations.

This night made such an impression on me that I had to include what I saw and heard and felt in Lost Witness. It represented, to me, a piece of their world that I wanted to understand. I knew some of these people. My own son ran away for a short time when he was about fifteen, an age that is filled with angst and rebellion, a breaking away from the familiar, hoping to find an identity of their own by flailing out like blind puppies. He came back home, but others weren't so lucky. Some didn't have a home to which they could return. Some fell into the abyss from which there is no escape.

I could not ignore the ever present world of illegal drugs and the desperate men and women who are willing to kill for power and money. Trust and betrayal in a life that turns brother against brother, friend against friend. Those who seem invincible or above the dangers of the drug underworld can be crushed in the system.

Throughout the life and death dramas that Niki deals with every day, she needs a personal life as well. She craves love, while at the same time, brakes at the caution signs. As a young widow, she is not eager to fall in love with another cop, but she can't deny the physical attraction she feels for the homicide investigator who replaced her in the homicide division of HPD. Only fulfilling a need, she tells herself, dreading the inevitable knock on the door and the words "officer down." If she doesn't commit, she can't be burned. Again. Yet, how can she stop her heart from feeling?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Hero I Live With

Niki Alexander had to fight for everything she achieved in life. Her college education was cut short when her father stabbed a member of the Mexican Mafia and they had to run for their lives. After her father went to trial and was released because no one showed up to prosecute, they left California for Houston, Texas. Niki applied to the Houston police academy. There she met and fell in love with a motorcycle cop. A year after they married he was killed in a traffic accident. She worked hard to overcome the initial hostility from fellow officers, but she finally applied to homicide and partnered with an older officer who became her friend and mentor and the father she never really had.

Then the unthinkable happened. A shootout with a 17-year-old, high on PCP carrying a gun, who aimed at her and she shot first, killing him. Everyone told her it was a righteous shoot, but she couldn't live with it. She quit the force, got in her car and roamed the country for six months, stopping only to blot out the memory with booze. She finally return, sobered, and went back to school to finish her education and become a psychologist.

But fate intervened when she took a part time position as a counselor for a teen shelter. Part time quickly became full time as she realized why she ended up there. She was meant to save the children so they would never end up facing the wrong end of a gun. Her whole life had purpose now. Her calling in life was to counsel the runaways and throwaways, teach them self defense, and rescue them when they got into trouble.

To her kids, she became a hero.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Procrastination - or as I call it, Organizing

Okay, I've started the third book in the Niki Alexander series. I have so many ideas for it and really want to storyboard the plot so I have a visual.

Speaking of visuals, you should have seen my writing office at home. Stacks of paper everywhere. Books tumbling out of the book shelves two-deep and crammed to the top of the shelves. Totally unworkable. Boxes of stuff in the way of getting to my trusty laptop. When I finally opened my computer, there were hundreds of emails to go through.

You see, I set priorities. I couldn't organize or clean house while writing the first two books and two short stories. They were my priorities. On one hand there was cleaning the house. On the other, writing the books. What would you choose? Working a day job left only so many hours in a day or a week to finish the writing projects.

Now straightening up my office became my priority because I couldn't find anything - like bills, contracts, research, mail, CDs. And I can only concentrate on one project at a time. Reminds me of when I took up sewing years ago when the children were small. I couldn't write while I was sewing an outfit until I finished that particular project. I couldn't sew until I finished a writing project.

So after four weekends of cleaining, I had eight hefty bags and eight paper bags of files that I discarded because they were years old and never looked at anymore. I took out all my books from the shelves and re-arranged them. I alphabetized all the hardcovers, but not the paperbacks. Gee, I can now see what I have. And what I have is no more room for books on my four bookshelves. I couldn't buy another book. (Of course, I just bought James Rollins' newest and Megan Abbott's, because I went to their signings. How could I not???) Signings and Murder By The Book are my weaknesses.

After I cleaned and vacuumed my newly organized office, I checked out my bedroom, closet, bathroom and kitchen. Had to do those, too. Actually that only took one weekend, believe it or not.

So now I'm ready to write. Well . . . there is the pictures in my office to hang, getting the clothes together to give to Goodwill, getting my bank statement to match my checkbook, and the mid-year financial statement to prepare and send to Mystery Writers of America.

Then I can start writing. Or, at least outlining or storyboarding. (Is that as bad as waterboarding?)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

To Outline or Not

I have begun writing the third book in the Niki Alexander series and, after much deliberation over how I wrote the last two books, and the unpublished before that, I decided to do go about the process differently. Normally I would plow into the story after getting a rush of inspiration. Then by page 50, I would brake, because I had nowhere to go.

Finally I would start the outline, draw of graph of plot points and beats, write characters studies, motives and goals for my main characters, especially for the villain. Then I could continue, and track my progress with chapter outlines - after I write them. By then, I found I needed to change the first 50 pages and rethink that first rush of inspiration.

This time I made the decision to plot first, write later. Sounds logical, doesn't it? But I know many writers who don't outline, just go where the story takes them. I've done that in the past and would end up writing 30 or more drafts until I figured it all out. A couple of times I got so stuck and confused, I never finished the manuscript. So maybe I'm an outline-type writer. Maybe because I'm a Virgo.

And since I made that decision, my thoughts have never strayed far from my plot. Questions, some answers, arguments, maybe a different direction have consumed my thoughts - during the day when I'm driving, working, eating. Even my dreams get the backlash. I write down my thoughts when I can and the seeds of these ideas spring forth more ideas. Scratch one, add two. The more I work at it, the more sense it starts to make and I can see a novel developing.

I'm not finished plotting yet, far from it. But I'm hoping that when I am, the story in its full incarnation will spill onto the page effortlessly. Yeah, that'll happen. Well, maybe it will. I'll let you know.

Meanwhile, what are your thoughts about outlining first?