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Sunday, February 24, 2008

Interview with Lynette Eason!

Join me in welcoming Lynette Eason!

Lynette Eason grew up in Greenville, SC. Her home church, Northgate Baptist, had a tremendous influence on her during her early years. She credits Christian parents and dedicated Sunday School teachers for her acceptance of Christ at the tender age of eight. Even as a young girl, she knew she wanted her life to reflect the love of Jesus.

Lynette attended The University of South Carolina in Columbia, SC, then moved to Spartanburg, SC to attend Converse College where she obtained her Masters degree in Education. A couple of years later, she met the boy next door, Jack Eason—and married him. Jack is the Executive Director of The Sound of Light Ministries. Lynette and Jack have two precious children, Lauryn, nine years and Will, who is seven. She and Jack are members of New Life Baptist Fellowship Church where Jack serves as the worship leader and Lynette does whatever she’s asked to do like take picture for the church directory.

Lynette loves to ice skate, go bowling, walk on the beach, visit the mountains of Asheville, NC, watch American Idol, Law and Order, A & E channel, and surf the web—and of course, read. She is often found online and loves to talk writing with anyone who will listen. She gives God the glory for her giving her the talent and desire to spin stories that bring readers to the edge of their seat, but most importantly, to the throne of Christ.

Beth: Tell us about your writing journey.

Lynette: LONG! Ha, no, seriously, it’s definitely been a journey. Mostly one made up of learning, persevering, the traditional roller coaster ride of ups and downs. I started writing when my daughter was about 6 months old. I’d submit, get rejected, submit, get rejected. I have to admit, I wasn’t really liking the pattern developing. ☺

Then I started a story that just felt…right. I knew it was good, and I felt like it would click with readers of suspense. I submitted it to the FHL, Touched By Love contest and it won 2nd place. I immediately submitted it to Steeple Hill who didn’t reject it outright, but asked for some revisions, then invited me to resubmit. I did and Krista and Emily bought it. Now I’m back on the roller coaster ride, only this one is a ride of a different kind. It’s great, mind-blowing that people actually like my stories, and such a blessing from God that I constantly thank Him!

Beth: When do you feel like it all began to come together for you as a writer—was there a particular moment?

Lynette: I can’t really think of an ah-ha moment. It wasn’t that something just clicked, but just the whole process of writing takes time to learn and I believe in this business, if you persevere, constantly put yourself out there to learn, you will be published. But it does take time and that willingness to learn.

Beth: Who has influenced you most as a writer and why?

Lynette: Um…Dee Henderson and Brandilyn Collins. They both write like I want to. They bring their characters alive, make you care about them, worry about them, hurt for them…and get mad at them. And they skillfully weave the faith element so that every book makes you feel like you’ve grown closer to God as a result of reading it. Awesome. And I want that for my readers.

Beth: Tell us about the writing process for you? Does it begin with a character, setting, or plot?

Lynette: It all begins with the spark of an idea. Once the idea takes hold, I have to go straight to developing the characters. I just can’t write a thing if I don’t know my characters. I have a chart that I fill out for each one, then I take them and put them in the center of that original idea to see what develops. Then the plot starts to take shape and scene ideas come to me. As the story unfolds, I sit down and write out a synopsis, incorporating everything I can think of about the characters and the story. Then I go back and shape it up. After all that, I sit down and punch out Chapter One.

Beth: Tell us about your latest book.

Lynette: Lethal Deception is Book 1 in the Amazon Adventure Series with Steeple Hill Suspense. The back cover reads: Who wanted her dead?

Having rescued Cassidy McKnight from kidnappers in South America, Gabriel Sinclair thought his job was done. Not that the former NAVY SEAL could ever forget the brave, beautiful single mother. But when the danger followed her home, Gabe promised to protect her. Why anyone would want to kill Cassidy was a mystery. Was the motive related to the orphaned toddler Cassidy was raising, a sweet little girl who brought out the father figure in maverick Gabe? Or did a newly revealed family secret have killer consequences?

Beth: What inspired you to write this particulate story?

Lynette: The Department of Motor Vehicles! Hm, does that mean I owe them a cut of the advance? Yikes!

Beth: What is the message you hope to get across in this story?

Lynette: That God is there in the middle of the bad times, whether you feel like He is or not!

Beth: What do you think is the hardest part of writing suspense?

Lynette: Keeping all the red herrings straight! And making sure the story makes sense. Really, just paying attention to all the little details.

Beth: What are problem areas you see in aspiring writers who want to write suspense? Advice?

Lynette: It’s really hard just to pick one problem. I would say to make sure you know how you want to start and how you want it to end before you start writing the story. Then after you get your beginning, because you know where you want to end up, it’s a little easier to write the middle. At least that’s how I do it.

Beth: What are your future writing plans?

Lynette: I just want to write and sell. I have so many stories in my head that I just want to get down. I just consider myself blessed that God has allowed all that’s already happened to happen. I definitely plan to continue to write for Steeple Hill as long as they’ll keep buying. It’s a great group that I work with, especially Emily Rodmell, who is my editor. She’s great. I would also like to branch out and write longer, more gritty stories. So, we’ll see what happens there.

Beth: What is the best advice you ever received?

Lynette: Don’t give up. Persevere, and pray. If you keep at it, learning, honing your craft, eventually you will sell. So, that’s what I did!

Thanks so much, Beth, for having me here. It’s been a blessing!

Thanks, Lynette, for joining me here at KMIS!

Lynette Eason's website.

Don't forget to enter the contest to be eligible to win Lethal Deception.


Guns and Other Weapons

What is the basic gun carried by a law enforcement officer?

Over 95% of the side arms carried by American Law Enforcement are semi-auto handguns as opposed to the revolvers. There are about four main Manufacturers to include Glock, Heckler and Koch, Smith and Wesson, Beretta, & Ruger. Several others are spread out but not as abundant. The most prevalent calibers are the 9mm, .40 cal & the .45. Each has it’s own pros and cons as to capacity and ballistics.

How are guns traditionally carried? On television we see the guns on the belt, as well as shoulder holsters?

The world of holsters is almost as complicated as the handguns themselves. They are traditionally carried strong side of the belt but have security levels from I- III with III being the highest level of retention. Shoulder holsters are generally reserved for plain clothes and specialty units such as aviation.

Do officers often carry another gun? More hidden? Like for back up. Or is that just television?

Yes, that is a very prevalent and common thing. When researching officer homicides over the last 20 years, many, many officers have been shot with their own handguns as a result of wrestling with assailants and being disarmed. And if an officer is carrying a ‘Backup’ weapon, he can transition to it if his primary weapon malfunctions…Murphy’s Law applies foremost to law enforcement.

What other weapons do law enforcement officers use, have in their cars, and carry, and when?

A majority of agencies depending on their budgets carry at least a shotgun in the car. 12 gauge pump. My agency carries Shotguns along with .223 caliber semi-auto rifles i.e Bushmaster, M-4. Some agencies carry carbines (handgun caliber fired through rifle length weapon)

How often do officers have to qualify with their weapons? And the other weapons they use?

Here in NJ we are required to requalify twice a year with at least 3 months between qualifications. This involves a handgun, shotgun, and rifle along with a stress course and low level lighting or “night firing”

What other means of defense does an officer carry?

There is a whole host of what are called less-than-lethal weapons to include PR-24s, ASP batons, bean-bag rounds, OC (Oleoresin Capsicum) Tasers. It would depend on State regulations as to what officers are allowed to carry

Thanks to Glenn Rambo--www.glennrambo.com

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Glenn Rambo--Newest KMIS Team Member

It’s my privilege to introduce my good friend and our newest KMIS Team Member, Glenn Rambo. He’s a nineteen year police veteran and currently a police lieutenant and emergency management coordinator for Woolwich Township in New Jersey. He’s been involved in almost every aspect of municipal police work, as well as private security. He was involved in both September 11th and Hurricane Katrina operations. He has a bachelor’s of religious education degree from Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac, Michigan. Glenn is married with one daughter, and he lives in Southern New Jersey.

Glenn has graciously agreed to help me continue the series about cops and cop stuff for writers that I began months ago. To be honest, helping me means that I write the questions and Glenn answers, since he’s the one with all the knowledge.

Please stay tuned this coming week for his first article, Guns and Other Weapons

And now, please welcome Glenn.

Was there one point where you decided you wanted to pursue writing?

In 1991 as a young patrolman, I was suspended for not doing a minor police report. At the time I did not find this a valuable experience, but I quickly embraced the “art” of police report writing, and it just went from there. I enjoyed filling my report with details and closing any and all loopholes that a defense attorney may use. It quickly became a game and a skill.

What is your writing schedule like? How do you make the time to write when you have a job, a family, and other activities?

I have a horrible writing schedule…lol. I have just been reassigned to criminal investigations with a relatively stable work schedule, so now I try to write an hour a day. My favorite time to write is early Saturday morning. I seem to get most of my best writing done then. It’s difficult at times because I have a newborn child. I have to set my priorities.

Being a police officer, you see a lot of the bad side of things. How does this impact your writing?

It’s tough, but at the same time it allows me to write from a perspective that not very many people can. I try to write on an “every day” person’s level, meaning people the reader can relate to and root for, and have things in common with. I’ve seen a lot of bad, but I’ve also seen the best of people at the worst of times, and I like to try and bring that to light.

Writers always discuss being seat of the pants writers versus plotters. Which are you?

I’m definitely seat of the pants. I have a direction that I want to go but one of my favorite things about writing fiction is where the characters take me. The direction of my books has changed so many times without me giving it any thought, and it always seems to end up in a better place. I almost wish I had the discipline and skill to “plot” but I enjoy where my characters take me.

While you write, do you have any techniques for keeping track of your characters and what’s going on? Are you a list maker or are you able to keep it all in your head?

I use a lot of characters, and yes I must keep track of them. I simply use a yellow note pad and hand write my characters, underline them, and put some comments after that. As long as I stay consistent in my writing schedule, I generally stay fresh with who they are and where they are.

The premise of your book is interesting, as well as timely. Where did you get the idea?

I have worked with and around illegal immigrants my entire almost 20 year career (I’ll start my twentieth year in April.) I see them everyday and have dealt with them on hundreds of occasions. I was watching a news broadcast in 2006 and heard the commentator report that there are between 18-20 million illegals in the country. I thought “Well, what happens when they all get together and don’t want to follow the rules?” The book was born out of that thought.

Often writers say they grow as they write their books. How has writing changed you?

I definitely feel that I’ve matured. Not only as a writer, but as a person. I also feel I’ve grown more compassionate toward people. I’ve certainly grown as a writer and look forward to growing more every day.

What is the biggest thing you’ve learned so far in your writing journey?

Patience, Patience, Patience! You know what? I hate having to be patient. I’m still trying to develop that and try not to rush things. I am such a “I need it done yesterday” person. Writing has taught me things aren’t like that…get used to it.

Can we expect more books from you?

I hope and pray, yes! That will of course be up to my readers. I am just about done the sequel to Crossing the Line and have two other works already started. I’m looking forward to collaborating on a suspense/thriller with a new and dear friend.

Any future plans you’d like to discuss? Dreams you have for your writing?

I look forward to working with more of the writing groups such as the Greater Philadelphia Christian Fiction Writers group and my friends at KMIS. As far as dreams, I just hope and pray that God will continue to allow me to have the gift of health and the skill and desire to write.

I really look forward to helping other readers with technical and consulting questions on law enforcement, military, and emergency services.

Any closing thoughts for our Keep Me In Suspense readers?

Embrace life. I know that sounds silly but I’m seeing an awful lot of repressed and doubting people lately. Enjoy the books you read, enjoy the day you have. Support those whose writing you enjoy. I am very thankful for those at KMIS and how they have taken me under their wings and brought me on board. They are wonderful people, and I hope you continue to support them with their books and projects.

Glenn’s first book, Crossing the Line, was released in January.

US/Mexican Border. 0300hrs. The naked eye can see nothing…the trained eye, everything. Crossing the Line brings readers face-to-face with dangerous border-crossers as they cross lines and cross loyalties. In this non-stop action thriller, join a team of Border Volunteers as they fight for their lives and their country as illegal immigrants come to the US looking for a little more than just freedom. US leaders and volunteers must pull together to form the ultimate alliance for a chance of survival. As the stakes become higher, friendships bond, love blooms, and individual faiths are tested in Crossing the Line.

Check out his website: http://www.glennrambo.com/

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Interview with Lisa Harris!

Today we welcome Lisa Harris, whose new book is just out!
1. Your first cozy mystery just released. Tell us a little about Recipe for Murder.

This was such a fun story to write. A couple years before getting the contract for this book, I had the idea of a cozy mystery series set in South Africa with a fun-loving, busybody, Pricilla Crumb as the heroine. Past retirement age, Pricilla was anything but ready for the rocking chair. When Barbour first opened up their submissions for their new cozy line, I immediately thought about Pricilla who kept popping up from time to time in the recesses of my mind.

In her first book in the series, Pricilla Crumb’s guest list turns into a suspect list. . .for murder. And while Pricilla never expected to be involved in a real life mystery, that’s exactly where she finds herself when she joins her son at his hunting lodge in the beautiful Colorado Mountains. Pricilla, a superb cook and articulate hostess, plans an informal buffet for her son, but the dinner party turns to chaos when a guest is found dead after sampling one of her salmon-filled tartlets. Her determination to save her reputation and find out the truth begins her unofficial career as a novice detective.

2. Did you consider having an older protagonist a risky venture? Pricilla is 64. What challenges did you find in making her a romantic heroine?

There were times when I wondered if I’d stepped too far from what I knew in trying to write about a heroine in her sixties, but since three of the closest women in my life are in their sixties, (my mom, my mother-in-law, and my aunt) most of the time it seemed natural. Not that any of these women would ever try and pull off some of the stunts Pricilla does, but I do think that their influence in my life helped me to portray her more realistically.

I believe, as well, that falling in love, no matter what your age, can be beautiful and exciting. It’s definitely not just for the twenty-something crowd. Age can bring an additional level of maturity, commitment, and depth to a relationship. While at first Pricilla is a bit wary of falling in love a second time, I loved exploring the growth in her relationship to longtime friend Max. Max is the first to realize that he’s in love with Pricilla, but even this confession doesn’t make for a smooth-sailing relationship. There are unique challenges the second time around, but in the end, Max and Pricilla prove that falling in love can be wonderful at any age.

3. Pricilla is always cooking up yummy-sounding menus in your books. Do you like to cook? Care to share a recipe?

Oh, I do love to cook! Or I suppose I should confess that I loved to cook before I had three kids, started home schooling, and started meeting writer’s deadlines. But still, I do enjoy it. Especially ethnic foods from different countries. I’ve learned how to make dishes like Groundnut Stew from Ghana, Fufu from Togo, Raclette from France and lately, beans and rice from Brazil.

This Stroganoff recipe below has become one of our favorites. Brazilians do love their stroganoff (and so do I!) I've never been one to follow a recipe, but you really can't go wrong on this one, so experiment and have enjoy! It's fast and easy. Even my kids love it.

2 pounds chicken breasts or beef strips
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 onion chopped
1/2 tsp. nutmeg (don't leave this out!)
1/2 tsp. oregano
4 Tbl. catsup
3 Tbl. yellow mustard
About 1 cup of heavy cream or creme fraiche. (You might be able to find Brazilian-style creme de leite in a Latino market.)

Cut up meat into small strips or pieces. Saute the meat, onion, and garlic and cook until meat is done. Add catsup and mustard and mix well. When ready to eat, add cream and cook for one minute.

Serve over rice and sprinkle matchstick potato chips on top. Delicious!

4. Now I’m hungry! Did you find writing books 2 and 3 easier than book 1, or harder?

I think the main stress in writing books two and three comes from all the time that has passed since writing the first one. There are certain threads that need to be carried through the entire series, especially the characteristics of the cast. I typically use an excel template to keep track of these things, but I have to admit that I never seem to be organized enough. Still, whatever your method, it’s essential to keep these facts straight! If nothing else, make sure you write down the basic physical characteristics of your characters, ages, and any quirks they might have.

5. You’ve lived in Africa several years, and are now in Brazil. Has this flavored your novels?
Honestly, I’ve had to be very carefully not to let my travels flavor my stories too much. When I do, this is typically where my editors start chopping away. Recently an editor made me cut an entire section because I was sounding more like a travel journal. ☺

But on the positive side, it’s given me the chance to spend years observing people and different cultures. How they live and love, motivations to how they act, how the past has colored the present, etc. I think this has helped me when it’s time to sit down and write about characters like Pricilla who are very different from me.

6. Where can the readers find more about you and your books?

(http://www.keepmeinsuspensecontests.blogspot.com/) for a chance to win a copy of Recipe for murder.

And if you’re interested in learning more about my other books, or want to take a peek into my life in Africa, please visit my blog http://myblogintheheartofafrica.blogspot.com or my website at www.lisaharriswrites.com

To learn more about how to join Heartsong Presents: Mysteries at http://www.heartsongmysteries.com or our authors blog at http://www.spyglasslane.blogspot.com/

Thanks, Lisa! Readers, be sure to visit our contest blog today and leave a comment. You will be entered to win a copy of Recipe for Murder.
Posted by Susan

Friday, February 15, 2008

Research, Research, Oh How I Love Research – Part II

So I’ve discussed the basic areas of legal research… there are just a few! Now what? How do you start finding the information that you need for your novel?

One great place to start is national organizations. Here are a few to get you started:

1. American Bar Association (www.abanet.com) is a great resource for research on a host of legal issues. It won’t necessarily go into a ton of detail, but it will give you a great overview or background on just about any legal issue. I could get lost on its website, there’s so much great information!

2. American Civil Liberties Union… if you are interested in getting the liberal perspective on an issue – often needed to make our stories balanced – or if you are looking for experts on prisoners’ rights issues, this can be a great organization to start with. Most states also have a chapter of the national organization. Here’s the national website: http://www.aclu.com/ with links to issues ranging from prisoners rights to disability rights to religion and reproductive rights.

3. American Center for Law & Justice (www.aclj.org) is a counter to the ACLU. The ACLJ was started in the late 1980s early 1990s by Jay Sekulow. He’s an attorney who was involved in many of the ground-breaking Supreme Court cases during that era, particularly in religious freedom cases. The website also contains many issue papers here: http://www.aclj.org/Issues/. The ACLJ is affiliated with the Regent University School of Law in Virginia Beach, VA, and can be a good starting place for the conservative position on issues like national security, prayer, and education rights.

3. Center for Education Reform (www.edreform.org) is an organization based in Washington, DC, that is focused on helping parents get more rights in education. It’s focus is charter schools and other forms of bringing choice in education to all children, but has expertise in other areas as well.

4. Institute for Justice (www.ij.org) is a more libertarian organization that focuses on eminent domain and entrepreneurial rights, think shipping wine across state lines and other areas where government is restricting the access of individuals to a business area. The website contains information on cases and media information. I attended a law student training program and plan to interface with them on one of my books that involves eminent domain issues.

5. Alliance Defense Fund (www.telladf.org) is another organization that focuses on the conservative position to many cases. I have found them extremely helpful in my role as an attorney, both being trained and calling on them for help with cases, and would expect the same for help with plot-lines. There are trained allies in all 50 states, so if you need an expert in an area, this could be another great place to start.

6. Home School Legal Defense Association (www.hslda.org) is an organization that is driven by a mission to protect homeschooling families that are members. Their expertise spills over into other areas that states use to harass homeschooling families like CPS checks, etc. Again, they have trained attorneys available in most states, so you could call and ask to be connected to someone in a state your book is set in, and if your issue falls in line with theirs, may have found yourself an automatic expert.

7. The State Policy Network (http://www.spn.org/) is an umbrella organization for state think-tanks that focus on free-market issues. It has a blog that focuses on what’s happening in the various states (http://blog.spn.org/) and contains a link to member organizations – another great resource to access experts.

8. CATO (www.cato.org) is a libertarian think-tank based in Washington, DC. It has an extensive list of experts you can email, publications you can review online, and many other resources readily available at your fingertips. I interfaced with one of their experts when needing some information on ethanol research, but there are a host of experts on many, many topics.

9. The Heritage Foundation (www.heritage.org) is the grand-daddy of the conservative think-tanks in Washington, DC. You want an expert? They have one. Education, energy, entitlements, congressional reform, etc. The list is almost endless, and you can identify the expert you need online.

These organizations are literally just the tip of the iceberg, but hopefully this gives you an idea of what is available as easily as clicking on internet explorer.


Monday, February 11, 2008

Interview with Susan Page Davis and Megan Elaine Davis

Candice: When did you and your daughter decide to write together? How does it work? Who does what? Do you both plot and write?

Susan: We were driving somewhere—I’m not sure where, maybe home from church. We were in the van, and my husband was driving. I was telling him a plot I hoped to develop for editor Susan Downs of the new Heartsong Presents: Mysteries line, but it wasn’t quite working out right. Megan was listening, too, and she spoke up, saying something like, “What if you did it this way. . .” Her idea was a good one, and I told her that maybe she should write it with me.

Megan: Mom thought it would be a great way for me to get my foot in the door with publishing a novel. We both plot and we both write—it seems to work best if we brainstorm together to put the initial story together.

Candice: Who are your favorite characters in your books?

Susan: I really like Nate, the hero, who gave up his education when his father got sick and came home to run the marina. After him and Emily, the heroine, I think I like the neighbors best. They are snoopy, pushy gossips, but they’re goodhearted.

Megan: My favorite characters are secondary ones—especially Rocky, a friend of Nate and Emily who helps solve crimes in book one and two, and Felicia who runs the newspaper. I also like Jette who will appear in our third book.

Candice: What sort of research have you done for your three cozies in the MAINEly Murder series?

Susan: We’ve drawn maps of Blue Heron Lake and the fictional town, Baxter. I talked to an attorney about a couple of legal points (like whether certain provisions would make a will unenforceable). We’ve also inquired about the different law enforcement agencies who would have jurisdiction in the northern-Maine setting of our books. Our hero, Nate, goes to work as a county sheriff’s deputy. A state trooper kindly explained to me who would arrest the suspect, where they would hold him, and at what point the State Police would take over the case.

Megan: Emily does a lot of research of her own in our books, so I wound up researching libraries, county courthouses, etc. to find out where Emily would go to find her information. I am also constantly doing quick online research while I write to find the best word, the best name, or to make sure I have facts straight. I’ve also drawn on my memories of summers spent camping in the Maine woods and staying at cottages on Maine lakes.

Candice: Susan, your writing career has really taken off lately. How has this impacted your life? What’s changed? How do you organize your time?

Susan: This has been a great blessing. I am working hard, it’s true, but I was before. The difference now is that those long hours at the computer are paying off. Some other major changes in our family life have dovetailed with my success over the last couple of years. My father passed away in October, 2006. I miss him terribly, but for the two years prior to his death I was spending a great deal of time on his care, and I obviously no longer do that. Megan moved home and took over the lunch preparations and grocery shopping for me, which frees me up a bit more. She also became my co-author, and that’s been a joy. Then her sister Page graduated from college and moved home as well. However, Megan will be getting married this summer and transplanting to England. So our family has been in flux for several years now, and sometimes it’s hard to hammer out a working schedule.
I know I could organize my time better, and I reevaluate that now and then. Basically, I spend most weekday mornings with my two youngest children, still being homeschooled, and catch up on correspondence, financial matters, laundry, and other family and business tasks. The afternoon and evening, if not otherwise scheduled, are now when I do the most of my writing.

Candice: You write romance, romantic suspense, and cozies. What do you like about each genre? Do you have a preference for any of the three?

Susan: Romantic suspense is my favorite so far. My longer books have been suspense, and I’m able to go deeper into the characters’ lives. I like writing longer books. With that said, I also love the lighter cozy mysteries and the historical romance I write. I do love history, and I enjoy research, whether it’s Indian Wars in colonial days, or modern military equipment. I love learning new things and the stories that come through the research.

Candice: Are you working on more than one book at a time now? If so, how do you do that?

Susan: Yes, I’m blessed with several book contracts. Megan and I wrapped up our second cozy together at the end of December. I just finished a historical novella (to appear next fall in the Colorado Snowbound Christmas Collection from Barbour), and I’m halfway done with my next book in the Frasier Island series, titled Inside Story. Megan and I will start the actual writing of our third cozy, Impostors at Blue Heron Lake, any day now.
I plan out my writing days for each book, because I know the unexpected will happen, and if I don’t plan, something won’t get done. My immediate plans include finishing Inside Story by the end of March, allowing time for critiques and revisions before my deadline. While alternating chapters with Megan, I’d like to see Impostors at BHL done by June 30 (our deadline is Aug. 15, but that’s the day before Megan and John-Mark’s wedding, so. . .). When that is done, I’ll be working on a contemporary romance for Heartsong, which is due in October. I’ve blocked out time so that I’ll get that done without interfering with the wedding hoopla, I hope. In between writing books, I block in extra days for revisions, galleys, and critiquing for others.

Candice: Speaking of that upcoming wedding, Megan, how do you juggle writing mysteries with planning your wedding and keeping up with the freelance newspaper work you do?

Megan: I too have to make a schedule for myself. At the moment, I tend to do about two hours of writing in the morning before I start cooking lunch. After lunch until 3:00 I do my newspaper work, after which I talk on the phone with my fiancé, and after supper I write again. Wedding plans so far tend to be sporadic, when I have a free minute to make a call or brainstorm. But I often deviate from my schedule, and spend too much time trying to make a better schedule …

You can read more about Susan and Megan and their books at www.susanpagedavis.com .

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Call the Cops!

Most of us mystery/suspense writers aren’t law enforcement professionals. When we’re writing, there comes that moment when we need professional advice. Some ways we can get the facts we need include books (we all love the Writers Digest Book Club!), personal interviews, and Websites.

There’s usually no substitute for talking to a walking, breathing police officer, especially if your story involves local, county, or state officers. Because laws, customs, and traditions vary so widely from area to area, it’s best to get the scoop from officers working in the venue where your story is set.

So how do you do that if you don’t know any cops?

Over the years, I’ve cultivated several officers and other people engaged in the legal process in my area, including two state troopers, a sheriff’s deputy, a local police officer, a court service officer, a police dispatcher, and several attorneys. This takes time, but every writer in this genre needs to network and find reliable sources.

Recently I needed information about a particular unit within the state police. None of my sources seemed adequate for that. I called the number for the public information officer at the Maine Public Safety Department. I got to talk to the guy we Mainers always see on the TV news saying things like, “We can’t release anything more at this time.” He was actually very helpful to me.

I stumbled a little at first, trying to explain who I was. I’m a writer. I’m writing a story that includes state police officers in a special unit. Yes, I have published books. I won’t make Maine’s Finest look like idiots.

Then it hit me: Give him my web address. I told him my url and I’m sure he immediately typed it in on his computer, because our conversation went quite smoothly after that. Sending him to my site where he could see my beautiful, serious-looking book covers was something I should have thought of immediately.

Of course, he gave me a lot of “no comments” and “can’t tell you that’s” when I started digging about that special unit. But he gave me enough information to get going on the story.

I told him up front, “My main purpose in calling you is to not make glaring mistakes.” And when we ended the conversation, I thanked him and told him I assumed that if I took reasonable guesses at some of my unanswered questions, the department would understand.

My other source is Websites for crime writers. I’ll give you a few here. There are lots of others out there.

Crimescenewriter, a yahoo group for writers of mysteries, gives this description of itself: A forum for asking and answering crime scene investigation, applied forensics, and police procedure questions for fiction or non-fiction writers. Writers are invited to ask and crime scene investigators, forensic scientists, and medical practioners are invited to answer. Of course, experienced writers are invited to help the newer ones and each other.

The Medical Forensics Lab is the project of D.P. Lyle, M.D., and is found at www.dplylemd.com. This site is “a place where fiction writers can learn, ask questions, and exchange ideas.” It links to The Writers’ Forensic Community, “where writers and readers can ask questions...” and also has an experts list.

I also like Police Magazine’s site, www.policemag.com, for info on equipment and many other law enforcement topics.

Looseleaf Law (www.looseleaflaw.com) specializes in publications about all aspects of law enforcement.

So now you have no excuse. Get out there and call (or email) the cops!

Susan (www.susanpagedavis.com)

Monday, February 04, 2008

Interview with Dana Mentink!

1. What was your initial reaction in finding out you sold your first book? In other words, tell us about. . .THE CALL

Well, the first call was actually an e-mail. I printed it out and made my husband read it to be sure it wasn’t a cyber criminal preying on my need to succeed. It was unbelievable and surreal until the day I actually met the lovely Susan Downs, Barbour Editor. She really is a live person, either that or an incredible holographic representation. If she is a hologram, she’s a really charming one.
The CALL came from New York when I sold my first book to Harlequin. I remained calm, stoic even, the picture of cool. When I hung up I decided it must have been one of those sneaky crank calls only they didn’t ask for my credit card number. It wasn’t until I got the contract in the mail that I started believing it. I’m still not sure I really do. Could be an elaborate hoax and maybe we didn’t really land on the moon either. And about that Elvis, guy. I think I saw him at Safeway yesterday.

2.Tell us some of the background behind the ideas for your stories and about the story itself.

For the Finny series I was inspired by Half Moon Bay which is a small seaside community on the California coast. It’s a fantastic place filled with colorful people. Ruth is a compilation of many wonderful people I’ve met. As for the seagulls, I’ve got no idea. I’m kinda afraid of birds. Ask my sister. She has a parrot and I’m pretty sure he’s waiting to get a clear shot at my eye.

2. I find in my own writing that I often grow alongside my characters, especially spiritually. Is there a character who you relate to and who made an input on your life?

Ruth has learned to stop fighting for control of her life and to give it over to the Lord. I would like to say I’ve mastered that concept but it wouldn’t be true. I do aspire to trust fully and unreservedly as she learns to do, but maybe without the mystery solving, near death experiences she’s encountered.

3. What is the number one thing you’ve learned from your writing journey?

Writing is a process by which you share your soul with others. Do it to the best of your ability and let God handle the rest. It comes from Him, after all.

5 Any future plans for your writing you’d like to share? Any specific dreams you’d like to accomplish in the area of writing?

I’d like to write funny. I don’t mean odd funny, but funny funny. That’s why I’m so completely tickled that Barbour Books took on a cozy mystery series. So cool! Humor is my natural bent, probably due to some mental short circuitry, but I believe I touch most people through laughter. I envision myself writing a humorous mystery series, maybe one for each alphabet letter. A is for Aardvark. B is for Bongos. Oh hang on. I think maybe that’s been done.

6. Because I know there are many aspiring writers out there, can you share any tidbits of wisdom on getting published, especially from someone who has just broken in?

Treat it like a business and don’t be afraid of criticism. Oh sure, you can gnash your teeth and throw those comments through the old shredder, but learn from them too. And remember the words of my favorite writer Kermit the Frog. “It’s nice to be important, but it’s important to be nice.”

7. Any writer’s resources you could recommend?

Join a good critique group and read How to Write a **** Good Mystery, by James Frey. Very helpful stuff, don’t you know.

Thanks for the interview, Dana!

Don't forget to visit the contest page to enter the drawing.

Dana's website: http://www.danamentink.com/