J.A. (Julie) Kazimer lives in Denver, CO. When she isn't looking for a place to hide the bodies, she spends her time with a pup named Killer. Other hobbies include murdering houseplantsand avoiding housework. She spent a few years as a bartender and then wasted another few years stalking people while working as a private investigator before transitioning to the moniker of WRITER and penning over 20 titles. Visit her website at jakazimer.com and sign up for her THIS LITTLE PIGGY WENT TO MURDER Newsletter.
Thank you Amy, and readers, for allowing me much coveted space in this newsletter. Please forgive me if this is rambling and makes little sense, I’m flu-writing, which is, you guessed it, writing while whining about having the flu.
For those of you who haven’t heard of me, which is likely everyone but Amy, let me introduce myself. My name is Julie Kazimer, writing under J.A. Kazimer. I write mostly mysteries and romances, with the occasional divergence into urban fantasy, humor and YA. Oh, and adult-geared fairytales. Not Little Miss Muffet in web-bondage or anything. The series is called, F***ed-Up Fairytales, with CURSES! being the first book.
Overall, since 2012, I’ve had 20 or so books published.
Which really boils down to, I know very little about writing.
Seriously. When I sold my first book, I thought I knew a lot about it. Now I realize how little I understand about writing and the publishing world.
That’s what I wanted to chat about today (sounds like this will indeed be a short discussion).
The thing is, while I don’t know much about writing and publishing in terms of what makes it good or why something becomes a breakout hit, I do know about story. Story is why we read. Imagine a book that has zero story, just beautiful prose, would you bother reading more than the first page? I know I wouldn’t.
Even poets, whose word choice is all powerful, rely on convening some semblance of a tale.
Too many writers suffer over word choice, over whether to use an exclamation point or a period, or if they appropriately named a character…While these are important things to help convey story, they aren’t what readers will expect to find between the pages. It’s all about characters, plot, and pace.
Or I could be wrong. Happens more than I care to admit.
One last thing, if you love an author, then I urge you to reach out to them. Drop an email. It will mean more than you can imagine to them. My favorite author/best friend (I wish), Christopher Moore, is my idol when it comes to this.
Over the years, even before becoming an author myself, I would email him when my real best friend (who I’d throw over in a second if you’re interested in the position) and I would argue about a plot point in one of Moore’s books. Christopher always wrote back with amusing responses. It made me love him that much more. Authors are people too, but ones rarely allowed in polite society.
Haunted in Hollywood: The Adventures of Loey Lane
When a fashion magazine offers YouTube vlogger and model, Loey Lane, a cover shoot at the iconic Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, she jumps at the chance, flying from her small hometown in Kansas to the City of Angels . . . and ghosts.
Soon after arriving, speculation of a murderous ghost haunting the hotel reaches Loey’s ears. As the rumor goes, those that see the ghost will be the next to die. That very night, Loey watches, mesmerized, as the ghost materializes outside her poolside bungalow. Now she, along with her friends known as the LitSquad, will do anything in their power to save Loey from her supernatural fate. Of course, Loey’s best chance of surviving involves teaming up with a ghost-hunter from her past, a guy hot enough to melt away the promise that Loey made to keep him at a distance.
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Judy Penz Sheluk is the author of The Hanged Man’s Noose (Glass Dolphin Mysteries) and Skeletons in the Attic (Marketville Mysteries) for Barking Rain Press. In addition to writing mysteries, Judy has spent many years working as a freelance writer and editor, and is currently the Senior Editor for New England Antiques Journal.
Judy is a member Sisters in Crime International/Guppy Chapter/Toronto, Crime Writers of Canada, International Thriller Writers, and the Short Mystery Fiction Society. Judy was also elected to the 2017-2018 Crime Writers of Canada Board of Directors, representing Toronto and Southern Ontario. You can find out more about Judy at www.judypenzsheluk.com, where she showcases other authors and blogs about her writing journey.
One of the first questions people tend to ask me is how long I’ve been writing, and the answer to that is, “for as long as I can remember,” albeit with this caveat: for many years, I wrote stories inside my head, on my way to and from elementary and high school, or later, commuting to and from work.
Now I know what you’re thinking: it’s impossible for someone to read a story that’s inside my head (at least I hope it’s impossible!) but let me plead my case. You see, for many years I thought everyone wrote stories in their head. And while I wanted to study journalism, circumstances led me to get a fulltime job in the credit department of an insurance company, while I took company-sponsored business courses at night. By age 23, I was the Canadian Division Credit Manager, the youngest Division Manager in the company’s history.
I followed that Credit Management path for several years, leaving the insurance company but finding success with others. And then one day I said to my husband, “I can’t do the corporate thing any more.” And he said, “What do you want to do?” And I said, “I want to be a freelance writer.” He told me to try it for a year. That was 2003. I’ve never looked back, though I have taken a couple of online certificate programs in Fiction Writing and Creative Writing, and I’ve worked hard to build a reputation as a reliable researcher who consistently meets deadlines.
After 10 years of writing and editing for magazines and newspapers, I began writing my debut novel, The Hanged Man’s Noose: A Glass Dolphin Mystery. The premise was one I’d seen in my own small town: greedy developer comes with plans to build a mega-box store, thereby jeopardizing the small businesses on the town’s historic Main Street. As for the Glass Dolphin, it’s the name of an antiques shop, and I come by my knowledge honestly: I’ve been the Senior Editor for New England Antiques Journal since 2007.
It took a while to find a “home” for Noose, and when I couldn’t bring myself to write the sequel to a book that hadn’t found a publisher, I started Skeletons in the Attic, the first book in my Marketville Mystery series. Both books are currently being published by Barking Rain Press, and can be found in print and e-book, as well as in audiobook on Audible, Amazon and iTunes.
I’m also happy to say that the sequels to both books are scheduled. A Hole in One: A Glass Dolphin Mystery #2 is coming out Spring 2018, and Past & Present: A Marketville Mystery #2 is coming out early 2019. Which means, of course, that now I’m working on the sequels to the sequels. Sometimes I think it’s a problem, trying to write two series concurrently, but trust me, as problems go, it’s a very good problem to have.
When I left the corporate world I didn’t know if my life as a freelance writer would work out, but something inside me told me to try, and I never regretted the decision for a moment. That same voice told me to try writing a novel, and here I am, four books written and two more in the hopper.
Amy asked me to include a few lines about an author I’d like to meet, and why. I don’t know how to narrow it down. Every author I’ve read, whether I loved or hated the book, has impacted me, and in turn, my writing. Because all the writing courses in the world can’t change one simple fact: reading truly is the best teacher.
Skeletons in the Attic
Calamity (Callie) Barnstable isn’t surprised to learn she’s the sole beneficiary of her late father’s estate, though she is shocked to discover she has inherited a house in the town of Marketville—a house she didn’t know he had. However, there are conditions attached to Callie’s inheritance: she must move to Marketville, live in the house, and solve her mother’s murder.
Callie’s not keen on dredging up a thirty-year-old mystery, but if she doesn’t do it, there’s a scheming psychic named Misty Rivers who hopes to expose the Barnstable family secrets herself. Determined to thwart Misty and fulfill her father’s wishes, Callie accepts the challenge. But is she ready to face the skeletons hidden in the attic?
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William Nikkel is the author of seven Jack Ferrell novels, a Jack Ferrell novella, and a steampunk/zombie western series featuring his latest hero, Max Traver. A former homicide detective and S.W.A.T. team member for the Kern County Sheriff’s Department in Bakersfield, California, William is an amateur scuba enthusiast, gold prospector and artist, who can be found just about anywhere. He and his wife Karen divide their time between California and Maui, Hawaii.
The challenge and joy of crafting a novel came relatively late in life for me. I was born and raised in Bakersfield, California. Growing up in a small town in the fifties and sixties, I spent a lot of hours outdoors playing. Much of that play involved imagination and creativity. At an early age—actually for as long as I can remember—I immersed myself in my love of art, dreaming that one day I could become a famous artist. But after college, I chose a career in law enforcement and went to work for the Kern County Sheriff’s Department.
As a deputy sheriff, I worked the streets and then detectives, with special assignments in SWAT and Homicide. When health concerns brought about an early retirement, I once again turned to my love of art. After a couple of years and limited success as a profession wildlife artist, I discovered the joy of crafting a story. And once again, I drew on the imagination and creativity that was such an important part of my younger years.
My work fighting crime in the streets of Bakersfield provided me with extraordinary life experiences I bring into my writing to breathe life into my characters and scenes. But like any endeavor worth pursuing, the road to becoming a published author was paved with challenge and disappointment that required dedication and hard work. Having no formal writing background, there was much to be learned. Through the Maui Writers Conference I had the privilege of learning the craft from New York Times bestselling authors James Rollins, Tess Gerritsen, David Morrell, and author Gary Braver—not to mention a host of writers like himself. Since that time, my learning experience has continued to evolve at the International Thriller Writers conference in New York. And if I was only able to offer one piece of advice for the beginning writer, it would be to stress the importance of finding one or two good writing conferences to both inspire and enhance their writing.
In 2001, my wife Karen and I moved to Maui, Hawaii. It was after moving to the island that I decided to write a series of novels based on Hawaii’s many mystical legends and myths. The protagonist, I reasoned, had to love the ocean. Thus, Marine Biologist Jack Ferrell came to life in my stories. In 2008 I finished the first Jack Ferrell novel GLIMMER OF GOLD. Next I wrote NIGHT MARCHERS, and then CAVE DWELLER, a #1 Amazon bestseller. In 2011 I finished my fourth Jack Ferrell novel MURRIETA GOLD. All four books have since been re-released by Shannon Raab at Suspense Publishing, who went on to published BLOOD GOLD, SHIPWRECK, and my latest novel SAILOR TAKE WARNING, which released November 13, 2017. The entire series is available for order in e-book and trade paperback through Amazon as well as Suspense Publishing.
I believe it’s safe to say every writer is inspired by authors they have read and loved. For me, inspiration has come from many talented authors: in particular Clive Cussler (primarily his earlier novels), Jim Rollins, Steve Berry, David Morrell, Lee Child, Robert B. Parker, and especially John D. MacDonald whose character Travis McGee started it all. What a pleasure it would be if he were alive today and I had the great good fortune to be able to sit down with him and discuss writing over glasses of Plymouth Gin.
Sailor Take Warning
Jack Ferrell is spending time at Lake Tahoe. All he wants is a break from Hawaii to put Dana Mores death behind him. But a twenty-dollar gold piece, thrust into his hand by a dying man draws him into the enigma surrounding the coin.
But he’s not prepared to stick around. Then his brother Deacon asks him to help a lady friend out of a jam. A brief interlude of indiscretion has left pretty, dark-haired, Melissa Martinelli the victim of blackmail.
He’s ready to turn the fake coin over to law enforcement, bring about a quick end to the blackmail scheme, and return to Hawaii when he discovers a clue leading to a century-and-a-half old cache of stolen gold. A trail that entangles him in a web of violence and death in the seedy world of coin fraud, blackmail, and lost treasure. Making him the target of a vengeance-driven man named Ryan Chambers who wants the gold, and Jack’s head on a platter. But nobody wants that more than Chambers’ nephew, Paul Davidson.
USA Today Bestselling Author Jon Land says it best: “A darkly demented tale that’s utterly irresistible. The much-appreciated return of Jack Ferrell serves up a smorgasbord of deceit and duplicitousness across a landscape steeped in classic crime noir. Nikkel seems to be channeling his inner Don Winslow in crafting a book that is equal parts Raymond Chandler, Elmore Leonard, and John D. McDonald. Travis Magee has nothing on Jack Ferrell and Nikkel is every bit the equal of the genre greats ‘Sailor Take Warning’ emulates. Be warned: You won’t be able to put it down!”
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JOHNNY WORTHEN is an award winning best-selling tie-dye wearing author of books and stories. Trained theatre and standup comedy he has graduate degrees in modern literary criticism and cultural studies. When not teaching, Johnny writes upmarket multi-genre fiction—thriller, horror, young adult, comedy and mystery so far. “I write what I like to read,” he says. “That guarantees me at least one fan.”
Michael is called of God; just not that God.
Steven King explained horror as three levels. There’s the Gross-Out, which means showing you things that are icky, threatening your ability to hold down your lunch. The Horror which threatens your life with monsters and threats that chase you through graveyards, and Terror which preys upon your imagination and endangers your soul and consciousness.
“I’ll try to terrify you first, and if that doesn’t work, I’ll horrify you, and if I can’t make it there, I’ll try to gross you out. I’m not proud.” –Stephen King
Terror his is the level of spooks I reached for in my book WHAT IMMORTAL HAND, or at least tried. There are a few moments of unpleasant goo (thematically placed of course) and creepy suspense as the threats grow ever closer, but ultimately what makes my otherwise philosophical fiction into a literary horror is my challenge of Terror.
As a literary and cultural critic, I write to theme. The idea behind the book is as central to my process as character, plot and setting. In WHAT IMMORTAL HAND, I wrestled with the very nature of good and evil and realized the western conception of a binary nature of good and evil was at once unsatisfactory and obviously wrong.
“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so,” to quote The Bard speaking through Hamlet.
Good and evil are a a construct, and how we define it is completely subjective. An angel that’s kicking your ass is a demon. It is a simplistic world view that disregards the complexities of actual observation. Winter is bad because it’s cold and things die, while the summer is good because things grow and you don’t need a coat In truth, both are necessary and to label one moralistically superior to the other is short sighted at best.
With this truth rattling in my mind, I envisioned the agents of evil not as bad but as necessary. Like garbage men they serve an important but maligned function.
And herein lies the terror.
There are other systems of belief than Judeo-Christian. There are older and more complex religions that account for the “evil” we see in the world. Hinduism is freed from the West’s binary construct of good and evil and at their center is a trinity of gods, Krishna, Vishnu, and Shiva, the Creator, Sustainer and Destroyer respectively. Each gains ascendency at different times like the seasons, and the wheel turns.
I’d long nurtured a story about the Thugs—an ancient cult of Indian dacoits eradicated in the 19th century. In researching their origins and beliefs I discovered the Dark Mother, Kali, consort of Shiva who drank his tears and became the most terrible and bloodthirsty creation in the universe. She then, became my muse and I walked with Her through the pages of my book and founds saints of a different color and challenged the western mind to a comprehension and appreciation of murder and mayhem.
It was a dark journey for me and my protagonist, Michael Oswald, but we arrived where we must and the horror lies in understanding why.
WHAT IMMORTAL HAND is available now from Amazon from Omnium Gatherum Media.
What Immortal Hand
Michael is called of God; just not that God.
What begins as a routine investigation of a hijacked truck turns into a desperate and personal quest for memories, faith, and meaning. The answers to these, for Michael Oswald, like the strangled cries of a thousand murdered travelers, is found in the dark heart of an ancient cult of killers.
Literary and dark, What Immortal Hand is a road trip across American wastelands and into the depths of spiritual darkness, where the Dark Mother, Kali, has set up house in the New World, and her children, the Thuggee cult of ancient India, are alive and thriving.
Well researched and imagined, in the tradition of Dan Simmons’ Song of Kali, throbbing with symbolism and epic undertones, What Immortal Hand answer’s William’s Blake famous question from The Tyger: “What immortal hand or eye, Could frame thy fearful symmetry?” It is the Goddess Kali, consort of Shiva, Lord of Destruction. Through her worshipers, the Faithful Tigers—The Thugs of old, she culls the roads of travelers and prepares the fires of renewal.
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Less than 48 hours after returning from Las Vegas, my husband and I flew to Los Angeles to spend some time with one of my best friends (and to celebrate my 40th birthday). When I woke up that morning, the wind was howling and I thought to myself “this is going to make the flight fun.” The pilot tells us there were 90 mph gusts over the Rockies. Do you know what 90 mph gusts feel like at 30,000 feet? My stomach and I do. Even Allen said that was the worst turbulence he’s ever experienced. You know it’s bad when it shakes Allen up.
Anyway, we made it to L.A. alive and without throwing up, so we considered that a victory. We made our way to Santa Monica, where we’d be staying for the week, and then on to Thousand Oaks to celebrate my friend Nick’s marriage to the lovely Victoria. There’s this amazing spot in Thousand Oaks called the Gardens of the World that not only makes a lovely backdrop for pictures, but is a tranquil setting in the midst of the hustle and bustle of the Los Angeles suburb.
The rest of the weekend was meant to be relaxing but there’s so much to do and see in L.A. that we were on the go constantly. Our hotel was about 5 blocks from the Santa Monica Pier. The first morning we took a walk on the beach and then to the end of the pier where we met Herman. Herman is a seagull. He perched on the railing a few feet from us and stayed there (so, of course, we named him), studying the fisherman. I chuckled and said, “Herman is waiting for one of these guys to catch a fish,” which was funny because we’d just watched one fisherman cast his rod directly into the ocean. But soon, we realized that Herman was an even smarter bird than we’d realized. That same inept fisherman took one of his remaining rods down the pier, leaving his bait and tackle behind. The moment he stepped away, Herman swooped down, plucked up some bait and flew away to enjoy his morning catch.
Herman is smart. Be like Herman.
Over the next few days, we visited the Museum of Death, took a 5 hour tour of Hollywood and Beverly Hills, and found a lovely little Polish restaurant for my birthday dinner. I found Judy Garland’s prints at Sid Grauman’s Chinese Theater, enjoyed a Brownie Monster at the Los Angeles Farmer’s Market, and visited the original Muscle Beach. Between Las Vegas and Los Angeles, I think this was one of the strangest and most memorable holidays I ever had. I certainly won’t forget turning 40 anytime soon. We ate at a place called Solidarity in Santa Monica. The food was outstanding!
Now, I’m sitting back in my office in sunny Boulder, getting back into the thick of things. And I am reflecting on the teachings of the learned Herman. That bird had a plan. He sat patiently, kept his eye on the prize, and was rewarded with a delicious meal. I get the feeling Herman is quite practiced at his profession. So, my goal for 2018 is to be like Herman. My writing plans are in place, my next class starts in a few weeks, and I know that my patience and persistence will pay off.
Happy New Year! What are your goals?
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.