Category: Interviews Page 1 of 2

An Interview With FATALLY HAUNTED Anthology Author Roger Cannon

Roger Cannon is one of the authors that will appear in Fatally Haunted, Sisters in Crime/Los Angeles’ upcoming 2019 anthology.

STORY TITLE: “Strands of Time”

Rev left his hometown ten years ago, but an old grudge lives on. Too late to save an old flame, he’s on a mission to find her killer.

Q: What intrigued me about the theme of Fatally Haunted that led to my story?

Back in my scufflin’ days, I was a student at an international summer session at the University of Uppsala in Sweden. I signed up for a Contemporary European History taught by a professor from The London School of Economics. He told us about a different way to consider history. He said, “Think about those heavy ropes seamen use to secure their boats. The rope consists of many strands of fiber that wind over and over again, from one end of the rope to the other. The strands disappear from sight and reappear further down the line, more weathered with different tensions and appearance.”

The professor continued after this image had sunk in. “Now, think of history as strands of time. Some threads run through history, and many are repeated over and over again. Texture and circumstances change, but many surface at a later time, often with negative outcomes. However, if we can learn from our earlier efforts and strengthen the  (moral) fiber, history can change for the better. The theme of this anthology reminded me of how our pasts can haunt us, and if change isn’t made, then we’re doomed to repeat the past. My professor’s imagery of “strands of time” has been with me for decades, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to weave it into a contemporary story.

 

Q: Is my story a who-dunit, a why-dunit, or a how-dunit? Why did I make that choice?

My story started as a who-dunit because there were three possible suspects in a murder. By throwing a clock in the mix, urgency drove the story into a why-dunit.

 

Q: What is different about writing a short story? What did I learn from this experience?

I had finished my first draft of Fresh Pursuit, my next book. My writing mentor, Jerrilyn Farmer, advised me to leave it alone for a month or two, so I could approach my rewrites with “fresh eyes.” My writing group colleagues – Cyndra Gernet, Lori Dillman, and Mary Marks mentioned this contest and encouraged me to submit a story. I’d never written a short story before, but I had a window of time to try something different. I learned to chunk the story down and try to keep it moving. Working with a lot of Latino street gang kids and the graffiti crowd as a continuation school teacher in Montebello gave me rare access to these insulated worlds – fertile ground for a writer of crime fiction. I expected a rejection, but my colleagues pushed me to give it a go. I knew I’d get good feedback for this genre at the very least. That’s what I wanted as my takeaway. It would make me better for the next time. It’s inspired me to start writing vignettes from my life. Like Dan Poynter once wrote, “I don’t want people to die with a book still inside them.” That’s me. This experience encourages me to produce condensed stories whenever I have time. btw – I submitted a little story about meeting Sugar Ray Robinson on Christmas eve in 1970 to The Daily Breeze in my area and they printed it a few days before Christmas. What’s the worst they can say? – No. What else can they say? – Yes! My learning is – Submit your work!

 

Q: How did my editor help me improve my story? What insights did I gain from working with her? 

Sheila Lowe is a gifted editor. Her comments about strengthening the inner life of my characters made perfect sense. I agreed with 95% of her comments and made the adjustments. The other 5% (or less), I would counter back with my reasoning, and then we had a dialogue. Firm, but fair. This inclusion and thoughtful discussion about moot considerations allowed us to reach a finished product to our mutual satisfaction. I’d recommend her to anyone.

 

Q: What’s next for me? What am I working on?

I intend to have a polished version of my current book completed by August, 2019.

I’ll try to get an agent or publisher interested.

I will have a knee replacement Jan 2. It’s impetus for me to return to Portugal in November, 2019 and walk the 200 mile Portuguese Way trek from Porto to Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain. I walked the 500 mile Camino de Santiago, “the French Way,” four years ago. It’s inspirational on so many levels. Two of my best friends will join me on this three-week adventure.

My next book, The Red Squeeze, will have two of my protagonists from earlier work. It’s set in Scandinavia and involves breaking up a Red Mafia smuggling syndicate. I’ll spend time in Stockholm after the Camino to do research with the local police where I have very good contacts.

 

Q: What does my writing space look like?

A three-piece computer desk with a big monitor and good light behind it is my operational choice. I’ve got a printer and scanner atop a two- drawer filing cabinet. I have three wire racks atop 9 bankers’ boxes with research for upcoming projects. I love research! Beyond them are two 8’ high bookshelves with a potpourri of my favorite reads and reference books. I’ve set up my bookshelves and file cabinets for easy access to each project’s research as needed. My office floor is filled with piles of highlighted papers, story ideas, and critiqued work. I must have been a musician in a past life because I often come alive at seven or eight in the evening and will work until midnight or one. I like music in the background – oddly enough, I’m not distracted by the lyrics – it just relaxes me. I focus so well when I’m in my writing world: door closed sans phones, e-mails, or texts.

 

Thanks for asking.

Roger Cannon

 

An Interview With FATALLY HAUNTED Anthology Author Cyndra Gernet

Cyndra Gernet is one of the authors that will appear in Fatally Haunted, Sisters in Crime/Los Angeles’ upcoming 2019 anthology.

STORY TITLE: “The Funnel of Love” 

A twenty-something carney worker accused of a crime in Arizona flees to the assumed safety of California.

Q: What intrigued you about the theme, Fatally Haunted ?

I write lots of short stories and many have a haunting quality. In fiction, as in life, people say things or take action they later regret. If the words or actions are extreme enough, they lodge in a person’s conscience and don’t let go.

I was delighted when my story, The Funnel of Love, was chosen for this anthology.

Q: Is your story a who-dunnit, a why-dunnit, or a how-dunnit?

My story is a bit of all three. The reader doesn’t know the answer to any of these questions until the end of the tale.  I didn’t really make the choice to use all the dunnits so much as the developing story required them. I am a no-outline writer who lets the story lead me and often don’t know where it’s going until it’s there.

 

Q: What’s different about writing a short story? What did you learn from this experience?

For me, the difference between short story writing and novel writing is great. Short stories are a comfortable fit for me, novels are not. I tend to get lost and stuck when writing a novel, but with the short story form, I’m free to just fly. I love to get in there, paint a mood, develop a character, and move on. Perhaps it comes from being a Speech Pathologist who sees students for only a half-hour at a time before the next group arrives. When I took my first yoga class and when I wrote my first short story, I felt the same way; “You’re so familiar. I know you. I’m home.”

 

Q: How did your editor help you improve your story? What insights did you gain from working with her?

My wonderful editor Sheila Lowe was so generous with her time, attention to detail, and her compliments. She offered several suggestions for clarification or expanded descriptions, always in an upbeat manner. If I ever edit anyone’s work, I will use her positive attitude as a model. I was touched that when she met my family, she praised me as a writer.

 

Q: What’s next for you? What are you working on?

I just finished another short story that isn’t crime related. In fact, it’s a love story, a love letter to a house I used to live in that I am finally missing after ten years. What’s next for me should be the business of submitting my stories to agents or editors. I find that aspect of writing very difficult so probably what I’ll really do is just write another short story.

 

Q: What does your writing space look like?

The space where I write can be anywhere I carry my laptop. I have written in my backyard, in libraries, parks, my living room, my bedroom. I have no permanent space or even a desktop computer. My favorite place to write is atop the bed in the den, propped up on pillows, my two mini-dachshunds beside me.

Likewise, I have no writing schedule. I am not disciplined. I know it is better to be so, but I have finally ‘owned’ my writing style which is write when it moves me or for class, quit when something inside says to, and choose to ignore most writing advice.

If I can manage to be a writer with this approach, so can you.

 

 

 

An Interview With FATALLY HAUNTED Anthology Author Tony Chiarchiaro

Tony Chiarchiaro is one of the authors that will appear in Fatally Haunted, Sisters in Crime/Los Angeles’ upcoming 2019 anthology.

 

STORY TITLE: “The End Justifies the Means” 

An abused employee seeks vengeance against his tyrannical employer, only to be faced with the ultimate question: is sweet revenge worth the ultimate toll?

Q: What intrigued you about the theme of fatally haunted that led to the story you wrote?

The word, “haunted,” inspired me to develop my main character’s extreme and ongoing frustration with his boss, the latter, who had hounded him unceasingly. The ultimate act upon his employer was indeed a fatal solution. Hence, the phrase, fatally haunted, amply describes my character’s state of mind just prior to his unspeakable crime.

 

Q: Is your story a who-dunit, a how-dunit, or a why-dunit?  Why did you make this choice?

My story is a how-dunit. It’s complete fantasy, but demonstrates the length an individual may go to resolve an untenable situation. There certainly were other alternatives to his problem, but not for him.  He believed there was no choice other than to go forward with the act committed.

 

Q: What is different about writing a short story?  What did you learn from this experience?

With a short story, one can produce a complete tale in a scant number of words. Yet, there’s still plenty of time to set a mood and create something that may touch the reader in a way that can be powerful. I learned there may be a significant amount of “reading between the lines,” or speculation on the part of the reader, but that in fact may add to the overall value of the genre.

Q: How did your editor help you improve your story? What insights did you gain from working with her?

My editor, Sheila Lowe, provided an experienced set of eyes and the generosity to assist me in the honing of my story into a more concise work. Her able suggestions showed how I had missed some salient points with police procedures, among other things. This enabled me to complete a better story.  I am grateful for her insights and appreciative of her valuable suggestions.

 

Q: What’s next for you?  What are you working on?

I’m currently working on a sequel to my first novel which is yet unpublished. My initial novel entitled, “The Most Likely Suspect,” is about a young man who is wrongly accused of murder. He and his two friends work hard toward solving the crime and establishing his innocence.

The sequel, presently entitled, “Murder on P Street,” follows the same characters as in the first novel who have now established their own detective agency.  Numerous crimes, including a murder, are scrutinized by the trio of youthful investigators whose lack of experience is made up for by their tenacity and unorthodox methods.

Finally, I have approximately a dozen more short stories that I am hopeful of having published.

 

Q: What does your writing space look like?

My writing space is the den of my home in east Pasadena. I have a lovely view of a wide street lined with ancient Jacaranda trees which are always gorgeous but especially so when in bloom. The oak desk in my den is surrounded by three tall bookcases filled with a wide variety of books.  There are several French doors and windows in the room, leading to the side and back of my home where the blue sky above is in plain view. It’s a comfortable setting which helps foster many enjoyable hours of writing.

 

 

 

 

An Interview With FATALLY HAUNTED Anthology Author B.J. Graf

B.J. Graf is one of the authors that will appear in Fatally Haunted, Sisters in Crime/Los Angeles’ upcoming 2019 anthology.

STORY TITLE: “Blood Shadows”

Haunted by his slip-up at a crime scene, a serial killer learns he has no idea of the real mistakes he’s made.

 

Q: What intrigued you about the theme of FATALLY HAUNTED that led to the story you wrote?

As Detective Eddie Piedmont, the hero of what I hope will be a mystery series would say, crime, especially homicide, rips a hole in the fabric of society. The gaping hole is obviously most apparent in the family of the victim, but murder and crime also affect the family of the perpetrator. I thought it would be a great writing challenge to start with the notion of a sociopath who knows he’s made a mistake at his latest crime scene, and take it from there. “Blood Shadows” was the result. Eddie’s not in this story, but his former partner is.

 

Q: Is your story a who-dunit, why-dunit or how-dunit?

“Blood Shadows” is 75% why-dunit, and 25% how-dunit because of the recent updates and changes in genetic data that figure into the narrative.

 

Q: What is different about writing a short story? What did you learn from the experience?

I think all stories tell you what they want to be and where they want to go as you’re writing. “Blood Shadows” wanted to be a short story. The compressed structure, with the twist, and brevity demanded it. There’s a relentless quality to a short story whereas a novel has to vary the pace unless you want to either bore or tire the reader. A short story is a snap shot. A novel is a feature film.

 

I learned a lot about recent changes in how DNA can be used to solve cold cases, and also something about what it’s like to inhabit the psyche of a sociopath from the experience. Every time I write I also learn how much I have to learn about writing.

 

Q: How did your editor help you improve your story?  What insights did you gain from working with her?

Laurie Stevens was invaluable in pointing to a couple of places in the interior monologue where my killer needed to show more savvy than he did in the first draft. She also pointed out a couple of spots that I thought were clear to the reader, when in fact they needed a bit more clarification.

 

Q: What’s next for you?  What are you working on?

My background is in Classics and Film, and I’ve written a futuristic mystery novel titled GENESYS RX which I hope will be the first in a series that takes on some themes familiar from Greek mythology. This story is set in the L.A. of 2041 where teens are falling prey to Alzheimer’s. Against this background my detective Eddie Piedmont catches a homicide that takes him into dangerous waters with drug cartels and the fertility business that are tied into the Alzheimer’s crisis, and eventually leads Eddie back to very personal family issues. I hope to get the book published this year, and just signed with a terrific literary agent, Sandy Lu of the L. Perkins Agency. Sandy is sending out the book as we speak.

 

Q: What does your writing space look like?

I have a little office in my home crammed with mysteries and other books, but generally, I bring the books out and write at the dining room table because it has a view of the garden and more room for the cats to come and disturb me.

An Interview With FATALLY HAUNTED Anthology Author Lisa Ciarfella

Lisa Ciarfella is one of the authors that will appear in Fatally Haunted, Sisters in Crime/Los Angeles’ upcoming 2019 anthology.

STORY TITLE: “Tick-Tock”
Lulu joins Sammy in one last heist, only to find she can’t escape her demons in the City of Angels.

Q: What intrigued you about the theme of FATALLY HAUNTED that led to the story you wrote?

Well, all of my writing stems from innately dark places. I like to joke that writers don’t chose to write Noir, but Noir instead, chooses it’s victims! We really don’t have much of a choice. Our brains naturally goes to the dark side!

Q: Is your story a who-dunit, a why-dunit, or a how-dunit?  Why did you make this choice?

Tick-Tock is a combination of all three really. There’s a definite twist on the Who-dunit angle with double crossing dealings throughout, and the characters absolutely have their own shady way of pulling off their agenda in the how-dunit category. And then there’s Lulu’s past that helps out with the why-dunit part.
Q: What is different about writing a short story?  What did you learn from this experience?

I still have my first crime fiction novel in the works, so as of yet I’ve only written short stories. What I’m finding as I finish my novel is that threading plot holes together so they make sense throughout from A-Z is a definite challenge. In a short story, you have less pages to work with so it’s easier to pull of a coherent tale. But, I’m making it happen!

Q: How did your editor help you improve your story? What insights did you gain from  working with her?

Oh my gosh! Laurie was amazing. My first experience working hands on with a professional editor for a story that’s gonna be published in a big way, and it was great! She worked with me by phone many times over the course of like, a couple weeks. And she had great insight in how to improve and sharpen my tale! I’m super happy with the way it turned out! And can’t wait to do it again with my next story!

Didn’t realize what a diff professional editing would make, but wow!

Q: What’s next for you?  What are you working on? 

I have a few more short stories brewing, but my main goal is to get my crime fiction novel finished and published in 2019. It’s a bit scary. I have the same fears probably most other writers have. I want my first book to be great enough that people will come back to read more of my stuff later. So, it’s hard not to be real self-critical. But now that I know how much professional editing helps, that’s a big plus!

Having it provided through Sisters in Crime was great!

Now, If i can just figure out a way to afford it on my own for my book…

Q: What does your writing space look like?

Oh, have laptop, will travel!  I’m typing on it now. I’ve typed every story I’ve ever written on it.
It’s a 2014 Mac air, and got me through grad school and more…it’s gonna need replacing soon, but I can’t bear to part with it. Don’t know what I’d do without it!

I just take it everywhere, and wherever the inspiration and time strikes, I write on it! School, the library, the park, wherever. Don’t really have a space at home, roommates and all don’t lend much privacy or quiet time!

An Interview With FATALLY HAUNTED Anthology Author Alison McMahan

Alison McMahan is one of the authors that will appear in Fatally Haunted, Sisters in Crime/Los Angeles’ upcoming 2019 anthology.

 

STORY TITLE: “King Hanuman” by Alison McMahan 

The first Khmer-American police officer on the LBPD has plenty to contend with, but she never expects the simple arrest of a child car thief to lead to a gang war.

Q: What intrigued you about the theme of FATALLY HAUNTED that led to the story you wrote?
The challenge is what intrigued me. As a writer, how does one convey “haunted” without extensive use of flashback or interior monologue? Both are techniques I prefer to avoid. So my challenge was to convey my protagonist’s hauntedness with a judicious use of flashback and interior monologue, to make myself use techniques that I was hesitant to use normally.

Q: Is your story a who-dunit, a why-dunit, or a how-dunit?  Why did you make this choice?
Both who and why. The protagonist is a female Khmer-American police officer in Long Beach, CA, in 1990, a time when vicious gang wars were being fought by the established Mexican and Chicano gangs in Long Beach and the newly arrived Cambodian gangs. The battles lasted all through the nineties.

Q: What is different about writing a short story?  What did you learn from this experience?
This is my fourth short story to be published in an anthology. I like them because the challenge is limited. It’s like fighting one round of a boxing match instead of the nine rounds of a novel. Also, I’m considering a novel series about this character and wanted to see how readers felt about her before I went another eight rounds.

Q: How did your editor help you improve your story? What insights did you gain from  working with her?
Rachel Howzell Hall was fantastic. When I first sent in the story she was about to go on vacation, didn’t have time for a full edit, so she gave me two general comments: to “kill some darlings,” and put in more references to the protagonist’s past as a Khmer Rouge survivor. I made those changes and sent her the new story when she returned. She had a great insight into the last, climactic moment which really makes the story work. She’s a fantastic editor!

Q: What’s next for you?  What are you working on? 
I’m writing a historical novel (not a mystery) about the first woman filmmaker, Alice Guy Blaché (I previously published an academic study of her work).  Once that is in my agent’s hands, I’ll return to a mystery novel about Thavary Keo, the protagonist of this story.

I have two more short mystery stories on completely different subjects coming out with other anthologies this year and next.

Q: What does your writing space look like?
I have two teenagers, so no room for a real writing desk. I write sitting on my sofa with my feet on an ottoman and my laptop on my lap. I get up at 4 am to write, and I watch the sky change colors as the sun comes up. Then I wake the kids and get on with the day, sneaking in more writing time whenever possible.

 

An Interview With FATALLY HAUNTED Anthology Author Julia Bricklin

Julia Bricklin is one of the authors that will appear in Fatally Haunted, Sisters in Crime/Los Angeles’ upcoming 2019 anthology.

STORY TITLE: “Auble’s Ghost”

At the dawn of the twentieth century, Captain Hurman Auble of the LAPD is obsessed over bizarre clues left by a serial killer—and vows to find him before he strikes yet again.

Q: What intrigued you about the theme of FATALLY HAUNTED that led to the story you wrote?

I’m notorious in my family for being able to recall events and conversations from thirty years ago, but not being able to remember what I said or did yesterday. Smells, tastes and quotes often make me flash back to things years or decades old. When I saw the description for “Fatally Haunted,” I thought, what would it be like to be in a crime-solving profession in an age without computers or modern forensics? What if one’s recollections were the key to solving a murder? And then I remembered clippings I’d saved about a real, dogged LAPD detective from 1905 and used fiction to fill in some gaps in his real story.

Q: Is your story a who-dunit, a why-dunit, or a how-dunit? Why did you make this choice?

“Auble’s Ghost” is a how-dunit. I really wanted to explore the mechanics of transportation and communication by killer and detective alike in the early twentieth century.

Q: What is different about writing a short story? What did you learn from this experience?

It’s ironic, but I feel like I have a lot more freedom. Yes, by definition the word count is substantially shorter than a book or a screenplay. But, at least for me, it opens up a whole bunch of worlds from which to create an impactful experience. What I learned from this experience is that a writer needs to figure out very quickly what needs to be said, and what needs to be left to the reader’s imagination.

Q: How did your editor help you improve your story? What insights did you gain from working with her?

Sheila Lowe helped me trim pieces that weren’t needed to keep the story moving forward, and made sure that I double-checked some historical processes/wording that may or may not have been necessary. What I learned was that no matter how many works one has published — 0, 10, 100 — the editor is critical to successful story.

Q: What’s next for you? What are you working on?

My true crime book Blonde Rattlesnake: Burmah Adams, Tom White, and the 1933 Crime Spree that Terrorized Los Angeles is slated for release June 1, 2019, so I’ve been working on some pre-marketing for that. I’m now writing my fourth book, about the life and times of Ned Buntline, the complicated man who discovered William “Buffalo Bill” Cody and made him a household name.

Q: What does your writing space look like?

My writing space is actually my dining room table. It’s got my computer, piles of reference books, magazines, bills, papers. Surrounding the table are . . . more piles of reference books.

An Interview With FATALLY HAUNTED Anthology Author Gobind Tanaka

Gobind Tanaka is one of the authors that will appear in Fatally Haunted, Sisters in Crime/Los Angeles’ upcoming 2019 anthology.

STORY TITLE: “Cat Walks Into A Bank”

A Marine Corps veteran must overcome PTSD flashbacks to thwart a violent bank robbery crew and protect her prospective new girlfriend.

 

Q: What intrigued you about the theme of FATALLY HAUNTED that led to the story you wrote? 

My Catherine “Cat” Suzuki character is a Marine Corps veteran dealing with combat post-traumatic stress disorder. I wanted to explore Cat’s re-entry into civilian life, which no longer feels “normal” to her. Six-months back as a civilian is the point when veterans begin to transform their mindset from what they developed as war fighters. I set the story a year after discharge, so Cat has put in a lot of work and gotten a lot of help.

 

Q: Is your story a who-dunit, a why-dunit, or a how-dunit?  Why did you make this choice?     

“Cat Walks Into A Bank,” falls in the suspense or thriller genre. Our hero deals with the heist in progress, in contrast to a traditional or classic mystery in which a hero solves a crime in retrospect. A roller coaster ride versus a puzzle – both are fun, just different.

We meet Cat going about her business, watch her spot the imminent threat, and we see her overcome PTSD and utilize her skill set to save lives, just as she did in combat. In this story we never learn the villains’ motivations (why-dunit), and we watch who-dunit and how-dunit in real time along with our hero. The focus is on our hero Cat: who she is; what her life challenge is; why she takes action; and how she saves the day.

 

Q: What is different about writing a short story?  What did you learn from this experience?

For years I focused my fiction on the novel format; this is my second short story. My first didn’t work because it read as part a larger work – too many settings and too many characters, with too many complications that needed resolution. With this story I put my protagonist in a single setting with a limited cast of characters. Everything gets resolved in short order.

In writing and revising this story I got more effective and efficient in clarifying all my story elements, including theme, character, structure, and foreshadowing. This efficiency will inform my novel writing as I deal with higher quantities and more connections between characters, locations, and scene transitions. The story beats remain in the same relative positions.

 

Q: How did your editor help you improve your story? What insights did you gain from working with her?   

My editor, Rachel Howzell Hall, is amazing. Her story suggestions were on point, improving my story immensely. In particular, I originally had traumas from two life stages haunting my protagonist, and Rachel pointed out that the military backstory alone sufficed. So I put aside the extra subtext for a future story, whether for Cat or another character.

Dialog and action are strengths of mine, but Rachel’s questions inspired me to improve clarity of emotions and hone description and continuity.

Rachel understood the tone I sought. Cat Suzuki is a competent professional character with compassion for others, in the process of developing compassion for herself. Cat has issues, but she is a badass when she needs to be, because she trained to be.

Rachel also appreciated my aim to portray Cat as a well-rounded and particular individual, not a stereotype. Cat is a woman and person of color rooted in her community and the semper fi warrior tribe. At the same time, she is eclectic and idiosyncratic. She is her own person.

I thoroughly enjoyed the editing process. I feel fulfilled by polishing a complete story. I’m thrilled with the result.

 

Q: What’s next for you?  What are you working on?     

I’m writing another short story, as well as mystery and thriller novels, mostly detective and police procedurals. Some feature Cat Suzuki, some other characters.

I’m continuing to write poems with an aim toward building two themed collections.

In many stories, whether thriller or mystery, the hero pretty much stays the same at the end of a case as they were at the beginning. We see how resolute, clever, and courageous the detective is as she fights through fear or at least turmoil in every case, but no character change. We love Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone, Robert B. Parker’s Spenser, and Lee Child’s Jack Reacher. We know what to expect and the authors deliver.

Other heroes go through big changes in a case. Dashiell Hammett’s Sam Spade, Nevada Barr’s Anna Pigeon, Craig Johnson’s Walt Longmire. In “Cat Walks Into A Bank,” Cat takes command and finds purpose, changes and grows. I’d like to have her constantly growing, curious and open-minded.

 

Q: What does your writing space look like?       

I wish I had a dedicated writing space. I mostly park my laptop on our long dining table, but have to clear out every few days. A small worktable in our bedroom worked for a while, but I cannot work there during sleep hours. I don’t use the living room sofa much, too hard on my back.

At home alone I can focus well, but I do react to a lot of sounds. Cats scurrying don’t require my attention unless they crash something, but I’m alert to feeding my dog or seeing what he barks at, answering the doorbell.

When family is home, I’m conscious of needing to take care of people. I react to movements and conversation. Even if they are talking to someone else, I’ll pop out of my flow.

Sometimes I’ll go to a library, or a favorite café or restaurant, and carve words on paper. Unlike at home, I don’t need to take care of anyone at a Third Place, so the hustle and bustle makes great background noise. Business hours and getting a table are sometimes issues, but I get a lot of characters and snippets of dialog at busy places.

My writing group, Midweek Writers, is crucial for social support. I relish time with my tribe of writers. When we listen, when we give feedback, we all improve our story analysis. We brainstorm rewrite directions. We meet frequently, so I’m more productive. I always want to bring a piece, whether it’s a scene or a poem or an essay, so I have deadlines that, while voluntary, are more than self-imposed.

When I read aloud I feel the words in my diaphragm and throat, hear the words come out my mouth. I get instant feedback on rhythm and voice. I feel when words flow or stumble, when they suit a particular character or sound unlike them. So reading aloud at home is good, but reading to my group and also getting feedback is better.

I participated in several writing groups in the past. Most I thoroughly enjoyed. Two I found uncomfortable after several meetings so I stopped. Each functions differently, and I learned what type of dynamic benefits me.

In one we met weekly in a café, greeted one another, and opened our laptops to write in silence. We socialized only after using the scheduled time to get some writing done, and didn’t discuss that night’s unedited work, just writing in general. I found it helpful in building a habit. Nowadays I write every day, even if just jotting a few notes or working out a particular story problem in my head while shopping or walking my dog.

Sisters in Crime Los Angeles truly changed my life. Attending meetings and conferences for over twenty years I picked up a ton of methods, techniques, and information new to me as a technical and business writer. For example, you can read on my blog about the monthly meeting speaker who inspired me to eliminate writer’s block.

More importantly, meetings are fun! Lots of laughs, ah ha moments, that’s right moments, handshakes and hugs. I love belonging to a welcoming community of writers. The friendships I’ve formed far outweigh the other benefits.

 

 

An Interview With FATALLY HAUNTED Anthology Author A.P. Jamison

A.P. Jamison is one of the authors that will appear in Fatally Haunted, Sisters in Crime/Los Angeles’ upcoming 2019 anthology.

STORY TITLE: “Death of the Hollywood Sign Girl”

Haunted by bad news, a young man hikes up to the Hollywood Sign and is forever changed by what he witnesses there.

Q: What intrigued you about the theme of FATALLY HAUNTED that led to the story you wrote?

A: “Fatally” and “Haunted” grabbed me immediately. These two powerful words teased, taunted and tormented me by reminding me of a tragic Hollywood tale I had discovered while doing research for a noir mystery novel set in Los Angeles. After hearing about the “Fatally Haunted” contest, I thought of two additional words:  “What” and “If,” and then “The Death of the Hollywood Sign Girl” started to unfold…

Q: Is your story a who-dunit, a why-dunit, or a how-dunit?  Why did you make this choice?

A: My story is mostly a why-dunit. Once I completed the beat sheet – it sort of chose me.

Q: What is different about writing a short story?  What did you learn from this experience?

A: For me, writing is like learning to juggle 60 craft balls at once (things like theme, plot, diction, details, atmosphere, arc, humor, habits, metaphors and morals). While honing these “juggling” skills, I have been laboring over my first novel for, let’s just say, longer than it takes to birth five African bush elephants. 

This short story enabled me to forget about the novel for a bit and just focus on a beginning, middle and end that dared me to incorporate secrets, surprises, characters, conflicts and twists in under ten pages. I loved the beautiful, painful and delicious discipline of having to tell my whole story in these few pages. It was challenging on every writing level –but it was also empowering. After wrapping up my short, “Death of the Hollywood Sign Girl”, I was able to return to my novel, “Securities & Insecurities” with a fresh outlook and a renewed passion.

Q: How did your editor help you improve your story? What insights did you gain from working with her?

A: OMG. The amazing and awesome and wicked-smart Editor Sheila Lowe was fantastic. She was passionate, positive, kind, smart, savvy, insightful and detailed, but most of all, I loved her editing process. She understands the world of the writer (being one herself). She took the time to tell me what she loved about my story and writing style in detail before she started discussing any of the edits. I found this so helpful. She posed her notes as thoughtful questions so instead making me feel defensive or possessive about my work or words, she helped my brain get focused on crafting better answers and – her notes made the story stronger! 

Sheila knows I am just a huge fan of hers and I will always be grateful for all she did. She truly rocks! (That said, lest anyone thinks that I didn’t go through lots of rounds of edits. I did. I had the great fortune to workshop the short story in my awesome writer’s group led by the fabulous Jerrilyn Farmer. Then I ran it by three trusted writing friends. As Hemingway liked to say, ‘The only kind of writing IS rewriting.’ And that’s what I did. A lot.)

Q: What’s next for you?  What are you working on? 

A: I am almost done with my first novel – “Securities & Insecurities.” It’s the first book in a trilogy about a socially awkward financial prodigy who gets herself hired into the most elite training program on Wall Street to prove that her best friend’s death was no accident. The mystery is set in the crazy, cash and cocaine 80’s, where working on Wall Street really could be murder… Additionally, I’m half way through an Irish fairy tale mystery, and then I’m going to finally tackle the noir Hollywood murder mystery that inspired my short story.

Q: What does your writing space look like?

A: I’m not sure how to answer this great question. There is the physical writing space that hosts a chair, a laptop, hot milk laced with coffee and cinnamon, and my neighbor’s golden retriever lounging by my side. Then there is the mental workspace that somewhat mimics a pinball machine on tilt on most days. So many images, ideas, words, thoughts on craft, plot, structure and story bang about in my brain. I’m always looking for solutions to the darling yet demanding daily writing challenges I face. One of my favorite professors, Neil Landau, once said: ‘Go to bed by asking yourself a question that needs answering in your story. When you wake up, you just might have the answer.’ 

Thank you for reading these answers, I hope you enjoy my short story: “Death of the Hollywood Sign Girl.” Now I must go to sleep to try and get more answers on my next writing endeavor… Hee Hee.

P.S. I would be woefully remiss, if I didn’t also properly thank the Sisters In Crime team: Shannon Muir Broden, Sue Ann Jaffarian, Micheal Kelly and Sheila Lowe, for all their amazing help, humor, support, responsiveness, wisdom, and kindness. I am grateful and honored to be part of the 2019 Sisters In Crime Anthology: “Fatally Haunted.”

An Interview With FATALLY HAUNTED Anthology Author Peter Sexton

Peter Sexton is one of the authors that will appear in Fatally Haunted, Sisters in Crime/Los Angeles’ upcoming 2019 anthology.

STORY TITLE: “Darkness Keeps Chasing”

LAPD Detective Bill Laswell’s worst fear begins to unfold when he receives an early-morning call informing him that his thirteen year old daughter has been abducted.

Q: What intrigued you about the theme of FATALLY HAUNTED that led to the story you wrote?


A: The idea that we could embrace any definition of “haunted” for our stories intrigued me, whether it be someone haunted by guilt, or that one case that continued to plague them, or literally haunted as if by a ghost. I thought that opened up a plethora of possibilities.


Q: Is your story a who-dunit, a why-dunit, or a how-dunit?  Why did you make this choice?


A: Darkness Keeps Chasing is a cross between who-dunit and why-dunit. To be honest, I rarely find myself writing the who-dunit story. As a reader, the who-dunit has lost much of its luster. I find myself more involved in the story when reading a why-dunit. Learning why someone did that bad thing he or she has done is what keeps me turning the pages. 


Q: What is different about writing a short story?  What did you learn from this experience?


A: With short stories, you need to know the ending and be writing toward it from the first word. You don’t have the luxury to meander about in backstory or complicated sub-plots. Also, you need to remember you don’t have time to develop a large cast of characters. Everyone needs to have a specific purpose.


I believe we learn something from every writing experience. In this case, the non-linear sequence of events in the first draft of the story made it difficult to follow, so that needed to be addressed and remedied.


Q: How did your editor help you improve your story? What insights did you gain from  working with her?


A: My editor helped me to take a step back and look at my story with far more critical eyes. It’s easy to overlook things when we’re too close to them, when we’re living with them every day. Working with my editor reminded me of the need to get away from my story for as long as I could between edits. The longer the better. You see a lot more with fresh, rested eyes.


Q: What’s next for you?  What are you working on? 


A: I’m currently working on the first book in a series featuring police detective Angela Poole. I’ve been developing Angela Poole and the other series characters for several years now. The book is called Mercy Street and tells the story of a family who is murdered in their home. Nothing is what it appears to be, and the sole-survivor, the eighteen-year-old daughter, seems unwilling to help the detectives. Three months pregnant with her first child, Angela Poole must face demons from her past while pursuing the killer. Mercy Street is scheduled for a 2019 release.


Q: What does your writing space look like?


A: Carefully choreographed chaos. My trusty, hard-working laser printer at one end of my desk, my laptop computer, and whichever fountain pen from my collection I’m currently enjoying. I do all of my edits freehand, so I print all of my work several times along the way. Occasionally, I’ll write entire chapters freehand. Although I type much faster than I write, I truly love the act of putting pen to paper. And I find that writing in cursive is a more intimate, more creative way to write.

Visit his official author page …www.petersexton.net

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