Sam Wiebe is the author of the Vancouver crime novels Last of the Independents, Invisible Dead, and Cut You Down. Wiebe’s work has won an Arthur Ellis award and the Kobo Emerging Writers Prize, and he was the 2016 Vancouver Public Library Writer in Residence. His short fiction has appeared in ThugLit, Spinetingler, and subTerrain, among other places. Visit samwiebe.com or follow at @sam_wiebe .
Years ago, long before I wrote anything even the most generous editor would call fit to publish, I took a course on American Lit. I was already reading voraciously, and struggling through my non-literary courses, and and trying my hand at stories of my own.
Our professor introduced our unit on poetry with a video interview of Robert Frost. To this day I remember a phrase Frost used—that to write you have to start “on insufficient knowledge.”
That phrase broke down my biggest assumption about successful writers—that they knew.
To this day, writers publicly hype the amount of research they do, the forensic or procedural authorities they consulted—as if this grants their work authenticity.
I don’t know about authenticity, but it seemed to grant them confidence, something my younger self didn’t possess in abundance. Frost was the first writer I heard who hinted that he, too, had felt unprepared for what he was about to undertake.
I finished my second year of college and then quit. Held a bunch of different jobs, most terrible and low-paying. Wrote sporadically and accrued rejection slips.
In my mid-twenties I went back to college, finished my bachelors, and went on to grad school. Around that time I realized if I didn’t put the time in to write a novel, to finish what I started, then I was probably closing the door on that dream. I had to start. Even worse, then I had to finish.
Without really knowing what I was doing, I wrote a novel. I stole time between classes, on the bus, in the library carrels after others had gone home. I finished a book. It was awful, a mess. But it was a complete, finished, awful mess.
Each year I make a goal for myself, and that year my goal went from “write a book” to “write a good book.” Something I’d be proud of, something I’d be comfortable to submit.
Obviously I’m glossing over a few things, like hard work and luck, but my point is, every step was taken with insufficient knowledge—in other words, in faith.
Faith is a weird word to someone who’s not all that religious. Maybe you prefer confidence. Fine by me. Whatever you call it, with writing, ultimately you learn what to do by doing it. Books on writing, classes, critique groups, only take you so far.
When I was working on what became my debut novel, Last of the Independents, I met Ian Rankin at the Vancouver Writers Fest. After his panel I asked him for advice. His answer was, “Remember, Sam, we’ve all been where you are now.”Nothing ever removes doubt, but other writers—every writer—has felt that same doubt. Maybe there’s some comfort to be found in that.
An ex-cop who navigates by a moral compass stubbornly jammed at true north, Dave Wakeland is a talented private investigator with next to zero business sense. And even though he finds himself with a fancy new office and a corporate-minded partner, he continues to be drawn to cases that are usually impossible to solve and frequently don't pay.
When Wakeland is hired by a terminally ill woman to discover the whereabouts of her adopted child-who disappeared as an adult more than a decade earlier-it seems like just another in a string of poor career decisions. But it turns out this case is worse than usual, even by his standards. With only an anonymous and vaguely worded tip to guide him, Wakeland interviews an imprisoned serial killer who seems to know nothing about the case, but who nonetheless steers him toward Vancouver's terrifying criminal underworld.
And it all goes downhill from there.
Whatever ghosts drive Wakeland, they seem to drive him inexorably toward danger-a journey he's content to take so long as it means finding out what happened to someone the rest of the world seems happy enough to forget. With nothing to protect him but his wit and his empathy for the downtrodden and disenfranchised, Wakeland is on the case.
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Where to Buy Invisible Dead
Evan Hundhausen received his MFA in Creative Writing at Naropa University. He writes blog posts at DirtyFilthyDiscoTrash.com and his self-published short story collection, "Accelerated LearningTechniques for a Budding Sociopath: A Bunch of Short Stories," can be found for sale on Amazon. Currently Evan spends his time writing for magazines, writing novels and even screenplays. See him DJ at djcola.net.
Thank you, Gatsby!
By Evan Hundhausen
Maybe you've had a similar experience as me. I went to grad school to get my MFA, wrote shorts stories, got critiqued, and then looked for journals I should send them to only to get rejected. After grad school I landed smack dab in the real world. I worked at a grocery store where I would see my former MFA professors shopping for organic milk in the dairy section. Basically, I stopped writing all the time and wrote only a "little" throughout the ensuing years like that was okay! But it wasn't. I was uninspired and it took me a long time to realize I needed to go find some more writing classes (say what?!) even though I had my MFA degree already.
It was one of best decisions I ever made and today I'm a proud member of two writers groups, which is where I get the inspiration I need for free!
I write blog posts, I self-publish my books on Amazon and I'm currently learning how to pitch screenplays to Hollywood. I'm not spending thousands of dollars like I did during Grad School. I spend much less and I learn a lot more in writing classes I've discovered around town and in the community I live. I'll mention that one of the most important things I ever learned on writing happened a long time ago at a reading in New York put on by one of my favorite authors.
Tangent starts now....
Now, you should know I'm not one of those bloggers who thinks it's okay to name drop without backing it up (It's not okay. You could get sued, so don't do it!), so I won't tell you who this author was. I waited in a long line to get this author's autograph and when I finally had my chance to stand in front of him, all nervous like, I said, "Your writing has inspired me so much!"He replied with a shrug, "Don't thank me. Thank The Great Gatsby!" I walked away embarrassed. What a weird thing to say to an adoring fan? Only after lots of time had passed did I realize the bomb he dropped on me. Often I will find myself in a used book shop and will buy an old, yellowing copy of "The Great Gatsby" by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I'll put it on my bookshelf or on my computer desk where I write, so I can be reminded how to write a great book. It's reference. I'll thumb through it. Maybe read a paragraph or two to see what I'm up against when I finally go to work on my own fiction. This author ultimately taught me you have to study the "classics" or risk looking like an amateur when it comes to your own writing. It sounds harsh, I know, but stick with me on this idea for a minute, will ya? Have you ever read "Moby Dick?" You probably don't remember this, but it was written in first person. It's like the narrator or main character Ishmael is talking just to you while you both sit at a bar together. "Moby Dick" has been made into umpteen movie versions. A common formula you will find every time you visit a Barnes and Noble; best sellers are advertised there on a table and on each book cover you see, Now a Major Motion Picture. If you read through one of these B&N books you'll most likely notice it's written in first person just like "The Great Gatsby" and "Moby Dick." Is this a coincidence? No way, dude! This is what people want to read today just like they wanted to read years and years ago, so technically nothing has changed when it comes to classic literature. I don't really want to argue with you about it, so keep writing in whatever style you want to, but honestly I can't see how rereading a book like the "The Great Gatsby" could hurt. We all took English classes in high school and college, so we already know what the classic titles are. Now, it's time for all us "aspiring writers" to go back and reread them. Get them at the library. Read them for free online. Get them at the used bookstore for cheap. The "classics" are the tools you want to put in your "tool belt" to make you look like a seasoned professional. For example, you wouldn't want a plumber without a tool belt on to fix your toilet would you? Not likely. Reread and imitate classic books. It's the best way to end up writing a good book yourself, but most importantly, in the end, thank "The Great Gatsby" and not me!
Accelerated Learning Techniques for a Budding Sociopath: A Bunch of Short Stories
If you came here because of "Realizing Magical"-- that was the old title. Me and a friend were sitting around talking and he came up with something like "Accelerated Learning Techniques for a Budding Sociopath" and I thought "That would make a great title for a short story collection!" so I changed the title because you can do that on Amazon. There's no story in the collection titled that. I don't know. It's just to sucker you in to reading my stories. That's it.
I self-publish and it's one of the biggest challenges I've ever had as a writer.
So if you buy one of my books and see a mistake... or don't like it and are thinking about getting a refund please don't return it. Keep it, so I can keep all the money that you spent. And don't troll. Because I will pull out "the whip" on y'all.
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Where to Buy Accelerated Learning Techniques for a Budding Sociopath: A Bunch of Short Stories
Award winning author Kathryn Mattingly has taught fine art, creative writing, and English literature at several private colleges. Aside from her short story collection and literary suspense novels with Winter Goose Publishing, Kathryn’s work can be found in numerous small press anthologies and various print magazines. Kathryn has been a professional editor for a small publishing house and at one time ran her own editing service. In addition to her fiction, she has over 30 nonfiction articles published. Kathryn lives in Historical Old Town Napa, where she shares a 116-year-old house with her husband, their cat Sophia, and a resident spirit named Genevieve.
As a writer I study the masters to perfect my skills. There are lots and lots of things you can do to become a better writer, but nothing trumps that. After years of reading the best fiction out there, I can name three things those bestselling authors have in common, regardless of their genre. They are all great storytellers, they all have a highly developed sense of imagination, and they all create characters we can relate to.
Think Stephen King. He is a master of all three, and because of that he is a legend in his own time. Think Donna Tartt and her Pulitzer Prize winning novel, The Goldfinch. Despite all the varying opinions about her book, I love every word of it. It is art unfolded to me, like an Andy Warhol painting in its reflection of an unsettling societal picture, unraveled in a pure genius fashion.
Steven King’s use of imagination may be more flamboyant than the stark truth of what we experience with Theo’s point of view in The Goldfinch, until you consider how Tartt unraveled her entire story through the eyes of an adolescent boy. And like King, she manages to draw us into her characters by causing us to identify with them. That my friends, opens the door for the character’s world to become our world; their stakes in the game become our stakes in the game.
My books have been categorized as character driven suspense novels. They all have a central theme revolving around something puzzling that the main character is desperate to solve. People often ask which novel is my favorite, and the truth is that I love each of them for different reasons, based on the unique triumphs and challenges I had while writing them. I will say that for whatever reason, the first novel (Benjamin) seems to be a fan favorite. It also won an award as a manuscript. Somehow the pages are sprinkled with an extra scoop of magic, which is that elusive part of fiction we don’t realize we’ve created until our readers tell us. It is what makes readers think about the book long after the last page is read.
My main motivation for writing is how we as people view ourselves, and our world; how we solve personal challenges; how we grow as individuals. My settings are inspired by places I have lived or traveled to, because that’s what moves me emotionally and spiritually. I firmly believe that reading should engage all of your senses and knowledge about the world to date, and then it should mess with that. A good book should make you wonder, ponder, examine, doubt, fear, laugh, cry. A good book should deconstruct and reconstruct you on some level. It should be emotionally and intellectually comparable to the best ride you laid your ticket down on at the fair.
At one point I had a New York agent who encouraged me to get a resume of short fiction published while he worked on selling the books. So I began writing short stories and sending them off to anthologies soliciting submissions for their particular theme. Soon I was published in quite a few of them. This all happened during a time of tremendous change in the publishing industry. Self-publishing had come into being, and all types of boutique publishers appeared on the scene. Pieces of the publishing world fell out of neat order and into temporary chaos. My New York agent retired just as my personal world became equally chaotic.
For the next few years I ran the graphic art department at a private college where I also taught art and literature. When the college closed for financial reasons, my career evolved into being senior editor for Possibility Publishing. We put out a few wonderfully creative books before realizing (like many boutique publishers) that turning passion into profit was not that easy. It was during that time in my career where I once again considered getting my own novels published.
Of the publishers that wanted my work, I chose Winter Goose, because I loved the books they were putting out. I have been very happy with my Winter Goose family and all that they represent, which is a lot of great poetry and imaginative, gut wrenching fiction. They have published not only all of my fiction novels to date (Benjamin, Journey, Olivia’s Ghost, and coming next spring, The Tutor), but also a collection of my short stories (Fractured Hearts). A synopsis of each book can be found on my website: https://kathrynmattingly.com/ and on my Amazon page: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00EILN6YE
Living in Napa, CA has been the inspiration for my next novel, Katia, which will take place here in wine country. I currently work for the Enthusiasts department at CIA Copia in Historical Old Town. Copia is the public facing half of the California campus for the Culinary Institute of America. I check guest registration for classes, run the cameras in the studio during our interactive cooking demonstrations, and give educational tours of the architecturally stunning facility.
I am having a love affair with Napa, where I am lavishing myself with knowledge about wine, food, and art in this richly diverse and creatively lush environment. My hope is that I can somehow sprinkle the pages of ‘Katia’ with a little of the magic so generously bestowed upon this valley of the grapes.
Jackson and Olivia Porter's daughter Ava is thrown overboard during a squall on Puget Sound. In a flash of lightning Livy sees someone on a nearby boat pull something from the water. No one comes forward with their child nor do they recover a body, yet Livy clings to the belief their daughter was rescued. Jackson believes his wife is mentally unstable and falls into dysfunctions of his own. Their marriage is torn apart and Livy flees to the Oregon Coast, where she encounters a legendary ghost-child in the lighthouse manned by her father. She begins to wonder if Jackson is right about her mental instability as she bonds with the ghost, who has a message about Ava. It is as if the squall from nowhere came to reside within each of them, as life unfolds into nightmares of their own making.
Check out Kathryn's Amazon Author Page here!
Where to Buy Olivia's Ghost
I am a single mother to a beautiful son, living and working in the Pacific Northwest. I am an Assistant Director of Career Development at a small, private liberal arts college, where I get to help my students pursue their career paths, whatever those may be. I was born and raised in the PNW, and have lived in Singapore and Mexico – which has shaped my world view and helped lead my career and life journey.
Through my “day job,” I conduct career counseling, work with community members, and develop career prep, networking and experiential programming to serve students and community. As my “other day job,” I am the founder of Montoya Media | Translations through which I serve individuals and business with translating, interpreting, and marketing in both English and Spanish.
Why I Write.
Why do I write? What a wonderful question. For whom are my words? For what are my words? I believe in vocation – that visceral calling towards finding meaning, an internal voice you were born with, and a journey through life that, through deviations, over hurdles, into the mist, guides you closer with each step, even before you know where you are even headed.
Through my position in career development, I get to help guide students through these ideas, and I also believe strongly that we are “natured” and “nurtured” into how we interact with the world, how we process our surroundings, and how we find meaning.
So, why do I write? I find that three reasons drive my writing:
I write to process. Writing is my reflection. My way of making sense of my world. The way I make cross-disciplinary “discoveries” and learn something from my own experiences. My blog is titled “What I Learn from my Son” because I learn so much from raising him. But if I don’t stop to ponder little moments, or to remember a vignette in my mind’s eye, or to just stay still and watch him be, the moments pass and I move on. It is through my blog posts, and through other writing, that I have realized some incredible life lessons, or that I take a step back to reflect on a hardship, or that I find strength and optimism in sometimes either painful, frustrating, or just plain annoying situations. I believe I am a better person for it, and I hope my writing helps me become more well-rounded, more grounded, more inspired, and more inspirational.
I write to share. I am a single mother of one 4-year-old son. I have a very strong family support system. My mom is my best friend, my brother and sister-in-law are my partners in crime. I have a couple close friends and supportive colleagues. This makes me feel loved, safe, and supported. They know most of my life.
But I feel alone. I often feel like all these wonderful things that my son does, and that we get to experience together, will evaporate into memories and no one will “know” us. Writing through my blog is my way of sharing “us” with the world, of sharing little moments, of funny blunders, of how he is growing and learning and becoming himself. Of how I am learning and growing as a mother. Of reinforcing that we are part of something outside of us. I write to connect with others and feel like I am connected with them.
I write because I have to. More specifically, because I am called to. It is part of my nature to use words and language and writing, no matter where and no matter what. Have you ever taken the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator analysis (MBTI) with someone who can help you process your results and the meanings of the types? Or perhaps have you tried to uncover your passions and core strengths through story-telling and reflection? This is what I do much of my time with my students, and of course I believe in this, myself. My MBTI profile partly reflects my way of “being” as an introverted thinker – as I reflect on these two facets I realize that, for me, thinking + introversion = writing to process, writing for peace, and writing to connect with others.
One of my core strengths and meditation activities is writing. I uncovered this realization through story-telling methods to dive to the core strengths (called the Dependable Strengths Articulation Process). I realized that I have always written. When I was in third grade I started writing my first chapter book. Yes, I still have five wide-ruled notebooks full of an 8-year-old’s handwriting about a girl mouse in 4th grade and her adventures with friends, school, and a new house.
When I was in eighth grade I won a writing contest for my poetry and got to spend a day at a local university in a clinic for budding writers.
When I was in ninth grade I read a poem and a short essay I had written in front of my church congregation, about my reflections from a two-week long service learning-based mission trip to northern British Columbia.
Now, I write through my work, and I write through my blog. I have shaped almost every job I have had so that I get to write as part of it. I have been told by countless students that I should “write a book on all of this.”
Writing is drawn out of me. I have to do it.
Maybe one day I will write and publish a book. Until that day –
This is why I write.
Where to See Donna
Richard Keller is an author, broadcaster, narrator, humorist (hopefully you can tell) and all-around swell individual. Even with his dabbling, Richard has produced millions of words for radio, television, magazines, blogs, and newspapers. His company, Wooden Pants Media, helps others bridge the gap to their creativity through publishing, podcasting, and workshops. You can listen to the shows of the Wooden Pants Network, including his programs The Daily Author and The Unfrustrated Entrepreneur at blogtalkradio.com/woodenpantsnetwork. His main book, Coffee Cup Tales, is available on Amazon, Nook, Kobo, iBooks, Overdrive, and library catalogs.
Scene: Mrs. Courtney’s third-grade classroom
Wide Shot: A gangly eight-year-old with horn-rimmed glasses, a dress shirt, and slacks (because his parents didn’t believe in jeans back then) presents a story to one of his favorite teachers.
8YO (Confident): Here it is, Mrs. Courtney.
Scene switches to the beautiful Mrs. Courtney in her Dorothy Hamill haircut. She reads said story, smiles, frowns, and turns to the student.
Courtney: Where did you get the idea for this story about a murder victim found in a frozen pond?
8YO (Less Confident): Umm, from an episode of Another World.
End scene. Begin my official writing career, And, my first official stolen idea.
From that poignant moment on I wanted to be a writer. Oh, I had been imaginative long before this pivotal moment, but I think writing the story and Mrs. Courtney’s approval woke my creative soul.
So, off I went. A few years later I had my mother type up two of my short stories to send to Cricket and Analog respectively. Both were rejected. I kept the Analog story and rejection letter and still wonder why my Magnum P.I./Knight Rider mashup didn’t sell.
In high school, I wrote dirty versions of He-Man because, well, I was in high school. I also started a fantasy tale where the characters were people in my classes. I wish I had kept that one. I also spent plenty of time doodling superhero names and characters on notebook covers at my retail job. Hey, not everyone came at once to the Young Men’s department of Macy’s to purchase Ocean Pacific shirts and skinny ties.
Scene Break: Time given to millennial readers to look up anarchistic references.
At some point toward the end of high school and right before I entered college I stopped writing fiction and turned my sights on the news world. My first professional gig was as a newspaper stringer who covered board of education and town council meetings. The only excitement was getting the article in by 11 pm in time for the next day’s paper. In college, it was copy writing for the two radio news departments I worked for (it was the late 80s, they still had those). I discarded the world of fantasy for the world of news. All right, I discarded one fantasy for another.
And then I abandoned everything as my father encouraged me to take a manager-in-training position at an office supply store. I listened, because my head was so full of junk it drowned out the screaming of my creative soul. I dabbled here and there for many years – writing comic book and television reviews, submitting an article here or there – but it was a hobby. When my soul tried to make it more, the monkeys in my head screeched at it. So, it went into hiding.
Then I relocated to the West. I moved to Colorado and felt the call of my creative spirit from the mountains, Native American spirits, woo-woo (scientific term), or chemical influences of a certain plant. Call it what you will, but it drew my creativity out and began to lessen the monkey chatter.
Once the pieces fell into place I left the corporate world and became a fiction writer once again. I finished my first book, then a second, then two more. I started a publishing company and brought on other authors. I started a few podcasts, formed a network, and brought on others. Soon enough, I owned a creative media mecca.
Not bad for someone who started his creative life borrowing ideas from a cheesy soap.
Am I going to be the next Stephen King in writing or John Lee Dumas in podcasting? I’m not sure I want to be. While I wouldn’t mind their monthly income, I would rather write and broadcast across all genres while I help others build bridges to their own creativity. I have a plethora of knowledge and am truly blessed by my gifts, so why not give some of it away so others can be successful?
That would be a happy ending for any story.
Coffee Cup Tales
Coffee Cup Tales: Stories Inspired by Overheard Conversations at the Coffee Shop, is an anthology of short stories which stem from actions and conversations from Richard’s favorite coffee shop. It’s a mix of humor, romance, spirituality. Fantasy, and hand coughing. Richard won’t tell you what coffee shop they originated from because he may want to hear your conversations for another book.
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Jennifer Soosar was born and raised in Toronto and watched too much 'America's Most Wanted' growing up. Her short fiction has appeared in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Out of the Gutter Online, Flash Bang Mysteries, and the Toronto Star. Her debut psychological suspense novel, PARENT TEACHER ASSOCIATION, was published by Black Opal Books in 2017. She is a member of Crime Writers of Canada, International Thriller Writers, and Sisters in Crime. She has a degree in anthropology.
I started writing short stories when I was in elementary school. The teenagers who hung out at the local shopping mall food court were my first inspiration. They all had long, wild, feathered hair—even the guys—and wore skin-tight jeans. They smoked, swore, and scratched their initials into the food court tables with switch blades. They wore “Iron Maiden” t-shirts with graphics of grinning, rotting corpses across the front. I was both interested and terrified of these teens, so I started writing about them. Of course I didn’t know anything about them so, in writer fashion, I had to make it all up! The first story I ever got published (at age 13) was about a gang of delinquent teens.
The work of Stephen King was another big early influence, especially his short stories in Night Shift. He wrote about darker things and this gave me permission to write about darker things, too. I wanted to write about the things and the people who scared me. It’s an ongoing theme in my writing.
In my 20s, I wrote a bunch of feature-length screenplays, but soon discovered that selling a screenplay was near-impossible. I went back to short stories. I learned that you should never scrap any of your ideas because you can re-purpose them. I took some of my old screenplays and re-worked them into shorter form. My story published in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine (‘Profane Pilgrims’, May 2016) is one example of that.
Once my kids were a little older, it seemed like a great time to get started on the novel I always wanted to write. Parent Teacher Association began with only one idea: ‘a thriller set in an elementary school’. With this in mind, I outlined a basic story with the main conflict being between two characters—a parent and a teacher. The whole thing grew as my imagination took the concept to a darker, creepier place than your typical school environment, but that’s what makes it fun.
While hammering out the first draft during the late summer of 2014, I was excited to learn about the annual ThrillerFest conference in New York. One of the best things about it was PitchFest, an opportunity to pitch your novel to literary agents. I quickly signed up for the next one because I wanted to give myself a hard deadline to finish the book. I now had nine months to produce an 80,000 word manuscript good enough to pitch face-to-face to agents.
The deadline weighed constantly on me. Between thoughts of “what have I done?” to worries that I could deliver, the deadline ended up being the best favor I could have done for myself. There was no way out of it. I had to ignore all the fear and doubts and just keep pounding the novel out. Months went by and it started to take shape. By late June 2015, I finished what was probably the fifth or sixth draft. It was finally time to head down to New York City.
ThrillerFest was an amazing experience and I learned so much. I ended up pitching Parent Teacher Association to ten different agents and nine of them asked to see more. While I didn’t end up landing an agent, I did meet a fellow author who was published at Black Opal Books. Later in the fall, I queried a few publishers, including Black Opal. Five months later, in March 2016, the acquisitions editor at Black Opal said she was delighted with Parent Teacher Association and wanted to publish it. It took another fourteen months to see it in print and I went back to ThrillerFest this past July as a Debut Author.
For me, the most motivating thing with writing is getting something published and that’s why I’ve kept up with doing short stories in-between larger projects. The turn over is faster and it’s very satisfying to get even a small, flash fiction piece published. It definitely keeps you going, and helps build your author resume faster.
It’s good to get a momentum going with your writing, where things are moving at a certain pace. You’re pushing work out the door and working on new ideas. But publishing is very slow. That’s another thing I’ve learned. You need to develop a lot of patience and start planning your projects on a schedule, thinking at least two or three years ahead of time.
One writer I’d like to spend some time with is Ernest Hemingway, to visit his house in Cuba and go deep sea fishing on his boat, Pilar. His life seemed so interesting with all the travel and adventure. He was inspired by his surroundings and life experiences. I admire his clean, straightforward writing style. He could express complex ideas with just a few basic words. That is hard to do.
Parent Teacher Association
A troubled teacher. An aggressive parent. A town's deadly secret.
Fresh out of a mental hospital, Lizanne Demeter is thrilled to get a second chance at her career when she's hired to teach third grade in the backwater town of Splinter Wood, Pennsylvania.
But hopes for a peaceful new life are ruined when Naomi Seabrook, a demanding ‘helicopter parent’, pushes Lizanne to the brink.
While struggling to maintain control of her classroom, Lizanne begins to unravel the secret behind Naomi’s hell-bent agenda. As deadly clues emerge, Lizanne suspects Naomi is guilty of more than just overindulging her child.
With her life teetering on chaos, Lizanne risks everything to expose the shocking truth. But first, she must race against her own spiraling sanity to prove herself a more dedicated teacher than anyone dared imagine—the kind of teacher who makes ALL the difference.
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Where to Buy Parent Teacher Association
Nancy L. (Nan) Reed's love of words has inspired her to write short stories, novels, memory snippets, scripts, and poetry. She calls Colorado the perfect place to live and is Musing at nancylreed.com about writing, designing a tiny house specifically for a wordsmith, and other subjects bizarre and intriguing. She encourages everyone with words to share to put pen to paper. Her books include Words Left Behind: tales from a life gladly lived, A Short Story Olio, Dog-grr-el: canine cadence, hound haiku, puppy poetry, Dog-grr-el: canine conundrums, hound hankerings, puppy puzzlers, Questions: so many questions, and Conversations Between Two Great Friends.
Trek to Contentment
My first flirtation with manipulating words was at age four. With my mother’s help, I laboriously printed, in a very small hand, an annotated menu for my fantasy café. When I was five, Mom took me to the local library, having promised when I achieved that momentous age, I could apply for my very own library card – unheard of in those days at the Dawn of Woman. The puritanical library clerk at the desk refused to issue me one on the basis of my age. When Mom pointed out that nothing in the rules prevented me having my own card, the obstructive woman said I could only have one if I could sign my name longhand, which I promptly did. I treasured my key to the Kingdom of Words that would keep me company, soothe my aching spirit, and provide so much joy and clarity on my life journey.
From the completion of that first tiny menu to present day, I have loved placing words on paper in such a way as to create a story, a picture, a mood, whatever a reader might seek in order to quench the thirst for words. To that end, I have saved every note, outline, partial and completed manuscript I’ve written since age four, hoping one day to turn one of them into something worthy of publication. Not long ago, I measured the volume of those writerly items to discover I had seventeen cubic feet of the stuff – the same volume as my upright freezer.
Through the elementary grades, I wrote philosophical and tragic poetry which I printed by hand on fancy paper and bound with soft leather to give to my mother as Christmas gifts. Years later, rereading my two small poetry collections, I wondered if my mother had thought I was a depressed child – they were Oh! so melodramatic and weepy. After her death, I learned she’d kept them with her at the nursing home. She liked my words.
During high school and college, I added to my piles of barely-begun and not-yet-finished manuscripts, but graduate school left me little time to pen stories. Then came a series of odd jobs and finally admission to the teaching profession. I began to have time to write again, although professional articles and lesson plans usurped much of it. When I moved to Colorado, teaching positions were hard to come by (a glut of teachers looking for work), so I began my thirty year tenure as a classified staff employee in a university library – books and more books! During that time, my ambitions to write fiction were once again sidelined by the need to write scholarly papers to complete a doctoral degree.
Then, finally, I could write what I chose. I found a writing class at the senior center, taught by a gentleman who combined the art of teaching, the skill of authorship, and the talent of an artist. I learned about the craft of writing and had some of my short stories and poetry published in local anthologies. I continued taking classes through a local writer’s group that provided me the opportunities to learn about writing, interact with writers of all calibers, and work with critique groups and partners. They helped me hone my technique and style.
In the past three years, thanks to my publisher, fellow writers, and encouraging family and friends, I’ve published six books with more to come. I find such support helps keep discouragement at bay. At one function, I had the good fortune to meet Avi when he appeared as a guest speaker. Although I don’t write for the same age group as he, I found his advice about writing and publishing to be informative and realistic. Like other well-known authors I’ve been fortunate to meet, he was willing to helping a newbie. I also felt a kinship with him for his love of dogs and took the opportunity to gift him one of my Dog-grr-el books. I wonder if he liked it? It was especially delightful that he liked my visor and told me so. I found him a very unpretentious person and a dedicated writer.
I’ll probably never be a famous author, nor will I build my dream tiny house from my writerly profits, but thanks to many folks along the way who encouraged and supported my efforts, I’m a very contented wordsmith.
Conversations Between Two Great Friends
Conversations Between Two Great Friends (Second Edition, 2017) presents the heart-to-hearts between two ladies of a certain age. The tenor of their discussions ranges from happy to sad, giddy to serious, philosophical to scientific. Their favorite coffee house waitperson, mysteriously mute, and a grieving ghost punctuate their conversations. Spanning from Christmas to Christmas, readers eavesdrop on the private chats of the friends who reflect both Victorian sensibilities and twenty-first century attitudes. Nancy L. (Nan) Reed relishes the conversations with friends that inspired these fictionalized chats.
Where to Buy Conversations Between Two Great Friends
Susan Alice Bickford was born in Boston, Massachusetts, and grew up in Central New York.
After she discovered computer graphics and animation her passion for technology pulled her to Silicon Valley, where she became an executive at a leading technology company.
She now works as an independent consultant, and continues to be fascinated by all things high tech. She splits her time between Silicon Valley and Vermont.
In an interview in the August 10, 2017 New York Times Book Review, Philippa Gregory responded to a question about genres with a provocative answer that definitely caught my attention.
She starts off by going after pornography and goes on to say, "And why does anyone write lazy, sloppy genre novels? The typing alone is so exhausting — surely if you’re going to undertake 150,000 words, you might as well have something interesting to say? Why do people write crime novels with blindingly obvious murderers? Why do they write love stories with idiotic heroes?... Writing should be both individual and universal. Choosing to write a genre novel is like fencing the universe because you are afraid of space."
After I shook off a measure of indignation, I took a step back to consider why I write fiction at all, and why I choose to write dark thrillers in particular.
The desire to hear and tell stories is fundamental to the human psyche and mysteries and thrillers are genres that speak to me but in the past I have written non-fiction and flirted with other genres.
Telling stories was something I wanted to do but I was torn between words and visual media, even in elementary school. In college, I started as a comparative lit major but ended up majoring with studio art. I even went on to get my MFA. Somewhere along the way, I knew I wanted to tell a different kind of story—a narrative story. Fiction called, but I couldn't figure out how to answer. Every time I tried to write, I floundered.
Meanwhile, I fell under the spell of high tech. It started with computer graphics, then expanded to programming, and finally to participating in a full on engagement with Silicon Valley. It was a thrilling ride and I found that many aspects of my career required a great deal of creative thinking. Writing was critical as well. I had the opportunity to work directly with some of the most brilliant minds in the field but I found out that being able to communicate added value even if I was never the smartest person in the room.
When I finally had an opportunity to take a break from my lean-in career about 12 years ago, I found I was consumed by the raw need to sit down and write. Eventually, I returned to working but chose to do consulting because it left me with the mental energy to do what I loved in my spare time: write.
This time I didn't worry about genre or story. It didn't matter that I didn't have a voice or didn't know the basic rules. I simply picked up some thread that was buzzing around in my head and started writing. The only rule was that I had to love the story I was telling myself. I didn't care about publishing or sharing.
Gradually, I started to zero in on certain themes. I noticed that I had a flair for certain aspects. Easily bored, I rotated from story to story every couple of weeks. Finishing was not a critical motivation.
One night I began a story about a young woman who has to escape from someone. Two someones. In the woods like where I grew up in Central New York. It's night. They chase her. They die from their own stupidity as she outwits them. She leaves them, goes home, and.... Hmm. What next?
In the course of one evening, I found my voice, my genre, my inner writing compass.
Part of me had been waiting to write this story for decades. At the end of my freshman year in high school, two girls from my homeroom were brutally murdered. Their murderer was never identified and the world seemed to blame them for their own fates. Now I knew I had to write a tale about a teenage girl who is attacked and gets away. For a while. Her name would be Marly.
This was the easiest part of the story. I soon had to ask myself what kind of family and community Marly came from. Why couldn't she go to the police? Why couldn't she tell anyone what had happened? What were the repercussions? How could I make this plausible?
As I answered these questions, I built a world for Marly. I had to dig deeply into both my personal experiences but also dredge up my understanding of human nature, both good and bad. The more I scratched, the more I itched to go further and further.
In the course of 80,000 words or so, I found my reasons for writing my particular genre, which I call country noir thrillers. I love the moral ambiguity the conflict this creates as we struggle to find our moral guideposts. Story telling is part of my soul now.
My high school friends should have been able to live their own adult lives, make their own mistakes, experience joys and failures. Instead, they gave me a wonderful gift that opened up a window of self-discovery. I just wish they were here to share it.
And that's why I write genre! Rather than discuss this with Philippa Gregory, I would much rather sit down with Sue Grafton, Val McDermid, or Ann Cleeves. A personal conversation with any of them on this topic would put me over the moon.
A Short Time to Die
In this electrifying debut by Susan Alice Bickford, two women from opposite sides of the country find their lives inextricably bound—by blood, by fear, and by a merciless, murderous revenge…
Walking home from a high school dance on a foggy autumn night in rural New York, Marly Shaw sees a flash of approaching headlights. A pickup truck stops and two men get out. One of them is the girl’s stepfather. She runs. They follow. Minutes later, gunshots are fired, two men are dead, and one terrified girl is running—for the rest of her life…
Thirteen years later, human bones are discovered in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California. DNA tests reveal they belong to a mother and son from Central New York. Both have criminal records. Assault. Involuntary manslaughter. Maybe more. Santa Clara County Sheriff Detective Vanessa Alba wants to know how these backwater felons ended up so far from home.
Vanessa and her partner, Jack Wong, head to the icy terrain of the Finger Lakes to uncover the secrets of a powerful family whose crimes are too horrifying to comprehend. Whose grip over a frightened community is too strong to break. And whose twisted ideas of blood and honor are a never-ending nightmare for the one family member who thought she got away…
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Jamie Raintree is an author and a writing business teacher. She is also a mother of two girls, a wife, a businesswoman, a nature-lover, and a wannabe yogi. Her debut novel, PERFECTLY UNDONE, will be released on October 3, 2017 by Graydon House. Subscribe to her newsletter for more writing tips, workshops, and book news. To find out more, visit her website.
I first started writing seriously in 2010, completely oblivious to the fact that a little over a year later, my life would be turned upside down. I was just beginning to feel like I finally knew what I wanted to do with my life--I had completed my first (truly messy) novel, connected with a local writers group, started a blog, and began to build a social media presence. And then I found out I was pregnant with my first daughter.
Thankfully, I was naive about what having a baby would look like or I might have stopped writing then. (In fact, my naivety has served me well in many cases during my writing a publishing journey, and in the pursuit of my goals in general--highly recommended.) Because I didn't know any better, I continued writing throughout my pregnancy and picked it back up again shortly after delivery, thinking I could simply hold the baby in one arm and type with the other. I'm sure my mom still has good laughs about this expectation.
In 2012, there were two new developments in my life: the beginning of what would become my debut novel, and my pregnancy with my second daughter. I was a little less naive by this point. In fact, the stress of balancing motherhood and my passion was really weighing on me. It felt like no matter what I did, I was always failing one or the other--my kids or my commitment to my dream.
In the eight years that have passed since my oldest was just a sparkle in my eye, the struggle has only gotten harder. The further I get into my writing career, the bigger the expectations of me grow. I'm also a passionate parent, and find great fulfillment in nurturing and guiding my daughters. Actually, I'm multi-passionate, so there's weaving in my other pursuits too. In a world where there's an endless supply of to-dos to add to our plates, it can be hard to stay dedicated to what's important.
For me, though, giving something up never felt like a choice. Maybe it's crazy--a lot of times it felt like it--but I simply never considered the option of giving up my dream. Not seriously. No matter how much my kids needed from me (and when I had two kids under two, trust me, they needed a lot), I also realized that I had needs too. It became clear to me very early on in motherhood that in order to the be the best person for not only my daughters, but also myself, I needed to continue to do the things that fulfilled me. And that has always been writing.
One thing my dad has said to me my entire life is, "Don't ask 'if,' ask 'how,'" and whether I realized it or not, that piece of wisdom has guided me in many endeavors in my life. When I had my girls, I knew it would make more sense to put my writing career on the back burner until they started school, when I would have more time. But because I knew I deserved to put myself first sometimes, I asked myself how I could do it instead. And over the years, my girls have become as invested in my writing as me. In fact, my oldest is so proud that she tells everyone she wants to be a writer when she grows up so she can help me write my books. (She melts my heart, I tell you.)
Now, as I take my youngest daughter to her first day of kindergarten, I'm also preparing to launch my debut novel, Perfectly Undone, something I have fantasized about for almost a decade. There have been so many times when I have brainstormed while changing diapers, and snuck in sentences while making dinner. There were times I cried myself to sleep, thinking this dream would never come true. And then times when I sat paralyzed at my computer, wondering what I would do if it actually did. Nothing about chasing a dream while raising young children is easy, but I can say without a doubt that it has been worth it.
"Yes" is such a little word...
Dr. Dylan Michels has worked hard for a perfect life, so when her long-time boyfriend Cooper gets down on one knee, it should be the most perfect moment of all. Then why does she say no?
For too many years, Dylan’s been living for her sister, who never got the chance to grow up. But her attempts to be the perfect daughter, perfect partner, and perfect doctor haven’t been enough to silence the haunting guilt Dylan feels over her sister’s death—and the role no one knows she played in it.
Now Dylan must face her past if she and Cooper stand a chance at a future together. But when Cooper makes a startling confession of his own, can Dylan find the courage to define her own happiness, before her life becomes perfectly undone?
Set among the breezy days of a sultry Portland summer, Perfectly Undone is a deeply moving novel of family secrets, forgiveness and finding yourself in the most surprising of places.
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Where to Buy Perfectly Undone
Kellye Garrett spent 8 years working in Hollywood, including a stint writing for the CBS drama Cold Case. People were always surprised to learn what she did for a living—probably because she seemed way too happy to be brainstorming ways to murder people. A former magazine editor, Kellye holds a B.S. in magazine writing from Florida A&M and an MFA in screenwriting from USC’s famed film school. Having moved back to her native New Jersey, she spends her mornings commuting to Manhattan for her job at a leading media company—while still happily brainstorming ways to commit murder. Her first novel, Hollywood Homicide, was released by Midnight Ink in August 2017. It was a Library Journal Debut of the Month and described as a “winning first novel and series launch” in a starred review by Publishers Weekly.
The Third Act
by Kellye Garrett
"In screenplay speak, the end of Act Two is the main character’s lowest point. In action films, the star’s been captured. In romantic comedies, the couple has had a big fight. In horror movies, all her friends are dead and she’s been stripped down to just a bra and panties." – Dayna Anderson in "Hollywood Homicide (A Detective by Day Mystery)"
I got the idea for Hollywood Homicide while driving down the street. It was about 2010 while I was still living in Los Angeles. I drove past a billboard offering $15,000 for information on a homicide. At the time, I was dead broke and miserable so my first thought was, “I should try to solve that for the reward money.” My second thought was, “That’s the dumbest idea you’ve ever had.”
It turned out to be a great idea for a book though.
My journey to published author has been a long road. I’ve wanted to write a book since I was five-years-old so I clearly took a lot of detours, wrong turns and spent a lot of time stuck—in traffic and in life.
Like any good plotter, I view my divide that journey into three acts.
Act One: The Journalist
Fears of dating myself aside, I came out of undergrad in 2000 ready to take over the world. The economy was good and journalism was still thriving. My plan was simple: work as a magazine editor until I could figure out a good book idea. And I did for almost three years. First, as an editorial assistant at the New York Daily News. Next, as an assistant editor at Vibe magazine, where I covered movies and television. Then an unexpected thing happened. I got bored. Journalism is amazing but it’s a spectator sport. I wanted to be in the game—or should I saw on the racetrack to keep with the car analogy.
So I left my cushy job—even turning down a promotion—to go to film school.
Act Two: The TV Writer
I was lucky enough to get into USC, arguably the top film school in the country. After I graduated, I spent a year as an assistant on a television show that no one remembers then was lucky to get into NBC’s On the Verge program designed to help talented, new writers break into television. It worked. Two years after graduating, I was a staff writer on the CBS show Cold Case. I thought I’d had it made.
Then television writers went on strike and I broke up with my writing partner. The strike only last a few months but our contract wasn’t renewed once the season wrapped. I figured it’d be easy to find another job in television. It wasn’t. At all.
I did some television show developing but it wasn’t nearly enough to make those expensive student loan payments. I was 30, out of work and dead broke. Furthermore, I was completely disillusioned with Hollywood. In true screenplay form, I was at my lowest point and I was desperate to figure out my next step. I decided to finally write that book. And there was some good news that came out of all of this—I finally had that book idea.
Act Three: The Novelist
They say write what you love. I’ve mysteries since the days of Encyclopedia Brown and Nancy Drew. It was a given that I’d write a mystery novel. They also write what you know. At the time, I knew a lot about being a semi-successful, mega-broke black woman disillusioned with Hollywood. So I wrote about a semi-famous, mega-broke black actress disillusioned with Hollywood. When Hollywood Homicide came out earlier this month, many of the reviews highlighted the Hollywood aspect. Publishers Weekly (who gave me a starred review!) said I write “with humor and insight about the Hollywood scene.” And Kirkus Reviews wrote that “Veteran TV writer Garrett uses her Cold Case experience to inform her debut, which sets up more than one charming character and isn’t afraid to go cynical on all things LA.”
It’s funny how things work out. If I didn’t have the requisite end of Act 2 low point, I wouldn’t have had my Hollywood ending.
ACTRESS DAYNA ANDERSON’S DEADLY NEW ROLE: HOMICIDE DETECTIVE
Dayna Anderson doesn’t set out to solve a murder. All the semifamous, mega-broke actress wants is to help her parents keep their house. So after witnessing a deadly hit-and-run, she pursues the fifteen grand reward. But Dayna soon finds herself doing a full-on investigation, wanting more than just money—she wants justice for the victim. She chases down leads at paparazzi hot spots, celeb homes, and movie premieres, loving every second of it—until someone tries to kill her. And there are no second takes in real life.
Multi-Author Blog: https://chicksonthecase.com/
Where to Buy Hollywood Homicide
I'm generally pulled in a million different directions and I wouldn't trade it for the world. Here's a glimpse of my life - hope you enjoy it! And if there's a big lapse between posts, well, that's the way life goes in Amy's world.
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