Friday, June 17, 2016

Sharing the Author Experience

This week I had the pleasure of attending Dorothea Benton Frank's speaking and signing sponsored by one of our indie bookstores, Watermark Books. Approximately fifty people attended, mostly women. Drinks were available for purchase and it was hosted at an outside venue called Abode, a venue I've never been to before. Brightly colored sunglasses were given to the first dozen to come in the door, and photos were taken of us with them on. When Dottie came in she went up and down the aisles and greated many of us, hugging a few she remembered from previous encounters or friends from way back. Instead of telling us about her newest book "All Summer Long," she shared some of the quirky experiences she has had on her current six-week book tour, followed by answering our many questions. She was funny, gracious and delightful and with seventeen novels worth of experience she had a lot to share.

What did I learn from this experience? 

  • Be your true self in front of an audience. People will recognize ingenuous author behavior. And if you're a little nervous they will understand.
  • Talk about what the readers want to hear. Ask them.
  • "Listen" to questions and answer the best you can. If you don't know, be honest.
  • Dare to be human and laugh at your own mistakes or foibles. We all have them, you know. 
  • Smile. People will smile back and feel special.
  • Laugh when things are funny, but never at someone else's expense.
  • Make eye contact with various audience members all around the room. Again, this makes the audience members feel special.
  • Ask questions of the readers, too. What was your favorite part? Who was your favorite character? etc. 
  • Relax. Reminise. Be relatable. 
  • Share a little bit of yourself. The names of authors you enjoy, your favorite books growing up. 
  • Be entertaining. If the audience enjoys your stories and discussion they will no doubt enjoy your book. 
  • Network. There are other authors, book buyers and sellers in the audience. They are readers, too. Be enthusiastic and enjoy yourself.
I'm going to try and use all of these the next time I'm talking to a group and I hope they come in handy for you.

Write on, my friends.

Bonnie (BD) Tharp is an award-winning author of women's fiction for FEISTY FAMILY VALUES and PATCHWORK FAMILY.  Also, the author of Kindle ebook short stories: THE CROSSROADS & EARL DIVINE.

I have a new Young Adult manuscript ready for an agent or publisher, whichever comes first. Wish me luck!

Friday, June 10, 2016

Interview With Mystery Writer B. J. Bourg by Jacqueline Seewald

Our interview today is with a very special mystery writer. I will refer to him as the real deal when it comes to writing police procedurals.

B.J. Bourg is a twenty-five-year veteran of law enforcement and has worked as a patrol cop, detective, police academy instructor, SWAT officer, sniper leader, and chief investigator for a district attorney’s office. He is a former professional boxer and a lifelong martial artist. He loves vacationing in the mountains and is especially drawn to hiking, climbing, photographing dangerous animals, and traversing wild rivers in anything that will float. Above all else, he is a father and husband, and the highlight of his life is spending time with his wife and children.

B.J., before we start, I just want to congratulate you on the fine reviews you received from Library Journal and Kirkus among others. 

Question: What is the title and genre of your novel? Why did you select them?

Answer: The title is Hollow Crib and it’s a mystery.

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

Answer: When Brandon and Grace were young, I’d take them camping in the Kisatchie National Forest in northern Louisiana. As we explored the area in daytime and at night, I thought it was a great setting for a creepy mystery. I’d tell them scary stories by the campfire and, after they’d go into the tent for the night, I’d stay up by the campfire and plot out what later became HOLLOW CRIB. Earlier this year, Grace and I went on a father-daughter adventure hike in the Kisatchie Forest. Instead of telling her a scary story by the campfire, I read an excerpt from HOLLOW CRIB—she didn’t want to stay the night.

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

Answer: Brandon Berger works as a detective for the Magnolia Parish Sheriff’s Office. His loyalty to his department and dedication to his job are admirable qualities, for sure, but he finds himself struggling to strike the right balance between his family and his job. This is something that many detectives face in their real lives and there’s no easy way to resolve that conflict. While Brandon always tries to do the right thing in his job, he doesn’t always make the best choices when it comes to his family, and this puts a strain on his marriage, which in turn distracts him from his case.

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

Answer: My debut novel is titled JAMES 516 (originally published by Amber Quill Press) and it features a police sniper named London Carter as the main protagonist. I was a sniper myself and, being very passionate about the job, I decided to write something I was dying to read. I didn’t know if anyone else would care to read a book about a police sniper, but I had a lot of fun writing it. It literally flew off of my fingertips and I started to wonder if I’d written it too fast. I was pleased when Amber Quill Press accepted it for publication and later flattered when it won the 2016 EPIC eBook Award for Best Mystery.

Question:  What are you working on now?

Answer: I’m currently wrapping up the sequel to my latest novel, BUT NOT FORGOTTEN, where I introduce readers to a new cast of characters. Clint Wolf is the police chief of a small swampy town called Mechant Loup, and his sidekick is Susan Wilson, a no-nonsense patrol sergeant who moonlights as a cage fighter. In case Hollywood’s reading this; if this series were ever made into a movie, I’d want Gina Carano playing Susan Wilson.

Question:  What made you start writing?

Answer: When I was very young, I started telling stories to get out of praying and reading the Bible. My mom was very religious and she would make my brother and me kneel down in our rooms and pray for what seemed like forever. And then we’d have to read our Bibles. That wasn’t my idea of fun, so I started making up stories to tell my brother. He loved hearing them and I loved telling them, and I later began writing some of them down. I soon discovered Louis L’Amour’s novels and was immediately hooked. I dreamed of being a writer when I grew up and I wanted to write Westerns like my hero. However, life got in the way and it wasn’t until 1998 or 1999 that I decided to pursue that childhood passion. It didn’t take me long to realize the only thing I knew about the Old West was what I’d learned from Mr. L’Amour. I then read a book on writing that suggested I write what I know. At that point, I’d been a detective for about six years and I knew how to solve mysteries, so I began writing in that genre.

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

Answer: Approach everything you do with a beginner’s mind, always hungry for knowledge. Once we think we know it all about a particular subject, that’s when we’ll cease to learn. And above all else, never give up on your dream of being a writer. I’m 45 and I’m still pursuing my dream of being a writer when I grow up.

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

Answer: HOLLOW CRIB is now available anywhere books are sold. It can be ordered in hardcover through the publisher’s website at, as well as through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Books-A-Million, and it’s available as an e-book on Amazon.

Questions and/or comments for B.J. are welcome here.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Keeping a Series Fresh (Part 2), by Susan Oleksiw

Recently I talked about one approach to keeping a series fresh ( All of us who write series want to keep the characters and settings interesting and the stories rewarding. But after five or ten books in the same series, we may begin to worry.

First, in three Mellingham mysteries I focused on Chief of Police Joe Silva as a family man. By putting Joe into a more personal setting, I gave the reader a new perspective on my sleuth. But there are other ways to keep a series fresh.

Second, any series relies on a number of secondary characters who could easily take over the main role of protagonist. In the Mellingham series I generally have Chief Silva working with Sergeant Dupoulis but there are others in the police department. Most recently, in Come About forMurder, I introduced Mindy Dodge, a young secretary in the department, twenty-six years old, petite, and taking criminal justice courses. Joe hired her and tells Gwen, "She's the future." Either Sergeant Dupoulis or Mindy Dodge could take the lead in a Mellingham mystery, to give the series a new perspective.

Third, the town of Mellingham is a typical, small New England coastal town, but it is not Joe Silva's hometown and it's not all he knows. Putting Joe into another setting with a murder would give him a larger landscape in which to work, as well as different colleagues. In Last Call forJustice, Joe is out of his territory but cannot stop himself from pushing witnesses for information about a death. In the Anita Ray series, Anita visits relatives throughout the state of Kerala, and in two novel-length cases is involved with murder away from home. In The Wrath of Shiva, a maidservant is murdered at a relative's home, and in For the Love of Parvati, a corpse washed down river during a monsoon seems to be connected with a missing servant and a stalker of the home where Anita is visiting.

Fourth, we live at a time of tremendous change, and many of these changes are worth exploring in crime fiction. I have considered the idea of exploring the main issues of our time--rising numbers of homeless families and single adults, the opioid crisis and ongoing issues with drug use, the fragmented society divided by ever-smaller social divisions of Baby Boomer, Generation X, and Millennial, and other social divisions. Drug use is the topic explored in A Murderous Innocence. This approach holds special challenges for the writer of novels because of the speed with which the social landscape changes (compared to the length of time required for the publication process).

Fifth, every town or city has corners or pockets that are less mainstream or central, with their own habits and quirks. When the mystery is set in Mellingham, I try to explore one particular aspect of the town. In the most recent book, Come About for Murder, the world of sailing is the setting for murder but also a world the reader explores along with Joe. In Friends and Enemies, the reader learns about the closed world of the paper industry. Other pockets of community are knitting or sewing circles, a group of small business men and women, private clubs with their own set of rituals, and church groups.