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Friday, November 21, 2014

Guest Blog by Author Sharon Ervin

I have the pleasure of introducing a guest blogger today who has written a number of Five Star/Gale/Cengage mysteries. A former newspaper reporter, Sharon Thetford Ervin has a B.A. 
degree in journalism from the University of Oklahoma. She lives in McAlester, Oklahoma, is
 married, has four grown children, and works half-days in her husband and older son’s law 
office as probate clerk and gofer. JINGO STREET is Sharon’s eleventh published novel. 
And now, here’s Sharon:
 
WASTE NOT....

 Lethal injections in Oklahoma are considered the most
 humane way to dispose of evil-doers. In both centuries
 before we hanged bad guys (and dolls) in Oklahoma, or
 used firing squads. Later we invented and used an electric chair, affectionately dubbed by the press, “Old Sparky.”
 Eventually, however, as media coverage expanded and taxpayers began to feel personally responsible for executions, we decided capital punishment would be more humane if we restrained a miscreant and injected     chemicals to snuff him or her.
            The Bible says we are to put habitual evil-doers “away from us.” Death, of course, is the ultimate putting away. As a newspaper reporter, I covered several trials of people who were accused of and proven to have committed atrocities against fellow human beings.
            Once in private, after a devout Christian judge pronounced the death sentence, I asked if speaking those words––"I hereby sentence you to die by lethal injection"––troubled him? He said, “Not at all.”
            The convicted man had murdered––mostly women––on three different occasions. Twice the man’s attorney convinced juries that the accused was insane at the time he committed those acts. Twice jurors ordered him committed to the state department of mental health. When he had completed treatment and his sanity pronounced restored, he returned to society where he murdered another female. The trial I covered was for his third. Again he went with the tried and true insanity plea. The third time, however, was not a charm.
            Several of the people on Oklahoma’s death row are strong physical specimens. It occurred to me that ailing folks might benefit from those healthy retinas, tissue, hearts, lungs, livers, etc. Poisoning a whole person by lethal injection seemed wasteful.
            I didn’t mention those thoughts to anyone at first, afraid the theory might sound Frankenstein-ian. However, the more I thought about it, the better the idea seemed. Killing a healthy, physically viable sociopath was like throwing out the baby with the bathwater.
            I theorized some with law enforcement personnel, all of whom scowled. After thinking it over, some said a lethal injection destroys organs and probably renders other parts unusable. One thoughtful fellow mused that harvesting organs from a living donor probably would not be legal.
            When an Oklahoma inmate did not die on the table after receiving the lethal injection in April (2014), some suggested we return to one of our prior methods of capital punishment. Hanging would leave most organs and living tissue usable. A firing squad or "Sparky," probably not so much.
            My writer’s imagination began plotting a story in which a personable, handsome, prime physical specimen murderer became enchanted with a lovely, naive young lawyer, and she with him.

           That mental maneuvering created JINGO STREET, my eleventh published novel, this one released by Oak Tree Press in October. This novel introduces Max Marco, 36, who murdered his first man when he was eight years old. Growing up in foster care and institutions, Max was a product of society’s answer to unwanted children.
            Attorney Anne Krease, 22, grew up like a hothouse orchid, protected, sheltered, and naive. Under normal circumstances, these two should never have met. When they do, however, the chemistry between them is volatile. Tempestuous. Turbulent.
            Writers read the same news stories everyone else does. We process them differently. JINGO STREET is a product of reality mingled with my imaginings.


Note: Sharon welcomes your thoughts and comments.   

Monday, November 17, 2014

A Sense of Place

I remember reading about other countries and thinking I'd love to go visit them someday. Greece. France. Australia. Italy. Scotland. And so many more. The novels I read gave me a sense of these places I might never have had. While I love to travel I don't get to do it as often as I like. We've been in almost all the states, but a handful, so it is my hope that someday I will have seen them all. But the magic of those places first reached me in books.

As a novelist we try to make the "place" in the story as much a character as the people. The best novels are the ones that put us "in" the story. We hear our footsteps echo on the stone floors of the castle. We smell the earthy smell of cool stone. We can dream ourselves into the story if we can visualize where the story is taking place.

Many authors write about places they have never been. Through the internet and research, as well as interviews we can get a sense of where we want the story to take place. It's not always obvious where the best place will be. There have been times I did not see where my characters were located. But I did hear their dialog, feel their conflict, and eventually the fog cleared and I could see in my mind where they were.

My novels take place in my home town. But my mother was from Arkansas and her stories brought it to life for me. My first published story was about a small southern town much like where she grew up. She told me I captured it very well and brought back memories for her. That's what all authors hope for - a story that resonates with readers. It might be the "place," "the time," "feelings," "shared experiences," ANYTHING. With luck - Everything.

Grandmother used to always tell me to walk in someone else's shoes so I could understand what they feel. It's not always easy to do, especially with other cultures. But some things cross cultures - family for one. While our traditions and language may differ from the French for example, we both cherish our families. We love our countries, our food, our music. So, a story with all these elements will appeal anywhere. The key is to put the reader there. Wherever "there" may be.  

 Write on, my friends.
~~~~
Born and raised in Kansas, Bonnie Tharp spent much of her formative years in her grandmother’s kitchen as official taste tester. Although not much of a chef herself, she enjoys good food and believes all the best discussions happen at the kitchen table.
Bonnie is the author of Patchwork Family, published in March 2014 by Belle Bridge Books. It’s the sequel to 2010’s Feisty Family Values, a novel of women’s contemporary fiction.



Friday, November 14, 2014

Interview With Author Carole Price by Jacqueline Seewald

Today I have the pleasure of interviewing Five Star/Cengage author Carole Price who is a Buckeye, born and raised in Columbus, Ohio. She attended The Ohio State University. She moved to Livermore, California in 1980 with her husband and two daughters. Carole is a member of Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime. I originally interviewed Carole when her debut novel TWISTED VINES was published. Her new novel is entitled SOUR GRAPES.


Question: What is the genre of your novel?  Why did you select it?

Answer: I write suspense with a touch of romance. I think it’s fair to say this genre picked me since that’s mostly what I read. I love mysteries, particularly international intrigue.

Question:   What inspired this novel? How did it come about?

Answer: I took a college course on Shakespeare. When my daughter moved to Ashland, Oregon, home of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, I fell in love again with the Bard and the theater. When I signed on for a behind-the-scene tour, my creative juices started to flow. Why not create my own festival and bring Shakespeare to the Livermore wine country?


Question:  Could you tell us a little bit about the heroine and/or hero of your latest novel?

Answer:  When Caitlyn Pepper inherited a vineyard and two Shakespearean theaters in Livermore, California, she gave up her job as a crime analyst in Ohio. She never expected her law enforcement training would be so useful in this idyllic wine country setting. In Sour Grapes, Cait is once again faced with murder and mayhem at the Bening Estate. Someone seeking revenge for a shooting that occurred during a bank robbery when Cait was on duty as a cop, tracks her down in California. As always, the actors’ safety is her priority, and she will do whatever it takes to protect them while they are performing.

Question:   Can you tell us about some of your other published novels?

Answer:  Twisted Vines was the first book in my Shakespeare in the Vineyard mystery series. Sour Grapes, the second in the series, was released October 22, 2014.

Question:   What are you working on now?

Answer:  I’m currently working on Prey in the Vineyard, the third in the series. I introduce Cait’s friends, Sadie and Luke Sloane, who recently purchased a winery in Livermore, CA. Sadie is Amish and left her community in Sugar Creek, Ohio to further her education. The story revolves around the Sloane’s and the trouble they inherited when they bought their winery. Cait is busy with her Shakespeare Festival, but manages to help her friends with the mystery surrounding their winery.

Question:   What made you start writing?

Answer: My love of a good mystery—the intrigue, the puzzle solving, the hunt to crack the crime, and to watch the characters grow in their quest to solve them. My only regret is that I didn’t start writing until after I retired. This has been of interest to many people at my book events. It’s never too late to pursue a new career.

Question:   What advice would you offer to those who are currently writing novels?

Answer: Never give up. Enjoy the whole writing process, including the frustrations that are bound to occur when you put your whole heart into a project. Care about your characters. Take a creative writing class and join a critique group. I went through Livermore’s Citizens Police Academy and became a volunteer. I work events, like the wine festival and the Livermore rodeo, and I role-play with the SWAT team. Volunteering has provided me a better understanding of police procedures and the passion the men and women have for their job, and the pride they have for their city.

Question:  Where and when will readers be able to obtain your novel?

Answer: Five Star/Cengage released Sour Grapes on October 22. Both books in the series are available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and local bookstores.


Questions and/or comments for Carole are most welcome!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Crime Bake 2014

I had a very different idea for this months post on Author Expressions, but life got away from and Crime Bake arrived.

For those unfamiliar with some of the somewhat smaller crime and mystery conferences, Crime Bake is held in Dedham, MA, every year during the Veterans Day weekend. This is the thirteenth year, and the registration usually closes in the summer. The special guest this year is Craig Johnson, so I've seen several guests sporting cowboy boots, western shorts, and sheriff's badges. This is not what we usually see in New England.

Most posts about conferences provide information for writers gleaned from various panels and talks. This post is about what I get out of the conference aside from professional development and networking.

The advantages of a small conference are many but I'll point out a few of those that I especially appreciate. I attend partly because Dedham is only an hour or so drive from my home. I also attend because this is sometimes the only chance during the year to spend time with some of my writer friends. During the rest of the year we're busy writing and promoting, meeting readers and learning what they like. During this conference, I can catch up with what my friends are writing and doing.

In addition, every year I have a chance to congratulate someone who just got her or his first book or first story published. We all have a first book, and we all have people who have helped us or guided us along the way. Yesterday evening I ran into Cathy Strasser, whom I met in past years. Her first book is out. An Uncertain Grave is set in the White Mountains, a beautiful spot in New Hampshire I used to visit as a child. Congratulations to Cathy, and I wish her many more successes.

The cover for the new edition of the Level Best Books anthology of the best crime fiction of New England for 2015 is gorgeous. Rogue Wave continues the tradition of excellence in short fiction set in New England or written by New England writers. When Kate Flora, Ruth McCarthy and I came to the conclusion that we had to let this go, we were fortunate to find a group of writers who were interested in taking it on. (Actually Kate Flora did the leg work for this.) It's wonderful to see the new anthology every year, getting better and better. It's become an institution and I hope it lasts.

The offerings of the conference change every year in small but interesting ways. I enjoy discovering these, and learning more about how to run a conference. My great respect to everyone who works on Crime Bake and makes it the pleasure that it is. 

Friday, October 24, 2014

. Settings and Wars - Patriots and Patriotism

FOUR SUMMERS WAITING  was my first published print book. Its setting was Long Island,New York, 1861 Washington City, and the battlegrounds of Virginia. . It is a Civil War saga that emerges as a love story between my true Simms family ancestors, Maria Onderdonk and Henry Simms. Maria and Henry exhibit spirit and courage as they struggle through epic events of a nation at war.
The book has had three editions, 1st, Large Print, and presently is an eBook available on Amazon, Smashwords, B&N, Apple and Kobo.

Almost a century before the Civil War,  teen-aged Patriot, Joseph Onderdonk, (Maria's ancestor) lived on the farm land of Long Island, NY during The American Revolution. The Cow Neck  Long Island Patriots were one of the first groups to organize and declare their desire for independence from England. Joseph exhibits exceptional courage during the terrible time of British occupation  of New York. in my story THE RED COCKADE. I revised and published  this story with the hope that it would inspire Young Adult and Adult readers to learn about early patriots who helped establish our nation. I also wished it would inspire patriotism at a time when it is sorely needed by many adults in our country.

The thought that both books had similar settings, and  that both contained true ancestors and real people and events from two different wars fought in our country didn't occur to me until I began to think about a theme for this blog.  The creator of both beautiful covers for my eBooks  is a gem. She is Patty Henderson at: http://www.boulevardphotografiica.yolasite.com .



At a time when most young people have Iphones, Ipads, tablets and laptops, either of these books will be a good choice to impart a little history to our country's future citizens.

Four Summers Waiting was chosen for Thorndike Press's "Clean Reads " series. Need I say more when you are thinking of gifting today's teens with a love story?
The Red Cockade was chosen for an NEH grant, but it was put on a shelf when the grant was not received. I hope the revision will be enjoyed by all ages.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Monday, October 20, 2014

Ten Tips On Creativity

The "Ten Tips on Creativity" was created by author and writing teacher, Emily Hanlon in 1996. I have it posted on the tack board above my desk and refer to it often. (Not to be reprinted without permission of the author.)

  1. Don't think. Our best ideas emerge as a spark or image. Like dreams, they make little sense. 
  2. Creativity is cyclical. You will not be creative all the time. Creativity has its own internal rhythms. Listen to yours. 
  3. Nothing kills creativity faster than criticism. Good critiquing leaves you inspired, not deflated.
  4. Spend time listening to your Inner Critic. By becoming aware of its foul jabber, you can challenge its roadblocks. 
  5. Being a creator is risky business. Learn to push ahead even when you are afraid. Learn to love the risk. 
  6. Don't be afraid to fail. Every successful creator fails. Failure means you've uncovered a path that does not work.
  7. Don't be afraid to write garbage. "Garbage" writing is the rich, fertile ground that allows your work to grow!
  8. Nurture your creativity. It is as fragile as a budding flower. 
  9. Be passionate. Creativity is passionate. Passion is creative. 
  10. Learn your craft and write! The more you write, the better you get. Successful writers are disciplined writers.  
 I met Emily Hanlon in 1999 at a writers retreat. She guided me onto the fiction writer's journey and I haven't stopped the ride. She is a terrific writer, teacher and all around super human being. 

About this week's blogger:

Bonnie Tharp’s novel, Feisty Family Values was published by Five Star Publishing in hardback and released in February 2010. Patchwork Family was released in paperback by Belle Books Publishing in March of 2014, and continues the story of a very feisty family. You can find out more about Bonnie & her books at http://bdtharp.com.