Oh, gosh, so many to list here! But my go tos would be:
Ray Bradbury, Edgar Allen Poe, Michael Crichton, Madelaine L'Engle, Lawrence Block, Paul Zindel, John D. Fitzgerald, Dr. Seuss, Maurice Sendak, Beverly Cleary, Mickey Spillane, John D. MacDonald, Mark Twain, Matthew Quick, J.K. Rowling, Mitch Albom, C.S. Lewis, Frank Peretti, Robert Heinlein, Roald Dahl, Piers Anthony, Judy Blume, Max Allen Collins, Raymond Chandler, E.B. White, Paula Danziger, and a host of other old school authors who helped me hone my writing chops in later life.
What got you started writing?
I moved to Page AZ, pop. 5568 in 1980, from some 2 million people in Queens. Culture shock for a kid of fourteen. Two years into my desert exile, and mouthing off one time too many to a school bus driver defending my sibling, that landed me in study hall / detention during the time I was supposed to be in band practice. With nothing to read during that month-long in-house suspension, I began writing. I not only found I enjoyed it tremendously, I discovered I was pretty good at it, and I haven't stopped since.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
I'm an AmPro (amateur professional) musician, so I practice clarinet, am teaching myself acoustic, and I do vocals. I'm also a big fan of bodyweight workouts, and do those several days a week. And of course, I'm reading--for pleasure, for craft, or for research. With my unchecked ADD, I'm always moving, thinking, plotting, doing something to keep my mind occupied.
I seriously need to get myself in a pool and swim off all this energy, too.
How do you discover the e-books you read?
Honestly, it varies. If the voice "speaks" to me, be it in 1st POV or 3rd, I read it. Just because a book gets a 4 or 5 star review on Goodreads, Smashwords, Amazon or wherever, if that voice doesn't grab me by the throat and refuse to let me go, the book doesn't get read. And it doesn't have to be a loud, siren-blaring voice or one with an action scene to get me; it could be the character crawling under my skin so subtly I don't know he's there until I'm well into the book. All my books did this to me since I was a girl, and it hasn't stopped. And some of this has infused itself into my writing.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
(LAUGHS) ... Yes! I was fifteen and the teacher wrote three story topics on the board (mind you, I'm still a kid from NYC in Podunk Page AZ, okay?), and all three of those topics, to put it plainly, sucked. So I crafted a story about a kid named Joel and how, during a sudden snowstorm stranding him at home while his family were out shopping, he's knocked out from a partial roof cave-in ... and he dreams he's in the company of eight-foot-tall Norway rats with eyes glowing radioactive blue. The rats wanted his help to find their way out of the NYC sewers to meet up with their other colony friends to travel West, and they were holding him hostage until he completed the task. He DID find them safe passage out--but as rats are want to do, turn traitor on him and planned to eat Joel, instead (all that traveling made them quite hungry, after all). But Joel escapes and a few minutes later, awakes in a hospital bed. Once he's reocvered enough to return home, Joel asks himself aloud if that dream was real as he passes his pet rat's cage. The rat gives him a wink, which, for me, left the reader to decide if Joel really did dream this . . . or did he travel to another portal? Maybe his pet rat knows for sure. That story got me third place statewide when my English teacher submitted it to a contest I wasn't aware of. Nice prize money at the time: $25, a certificate of excellence, and my picture in Page, AZ's newspaper, The Lake Powell Chronicle.
What is your writing process?
I don't really have one. I write mostly at night, as I'm a natural night owl, but since I'm part plotter, part pantser, I couldn't give you a writing process on a bet or on my life. Sorry about that. I just do what works for me.
Typical day: I'm up around 10a.m., check e-mails, do mom stuff like clean house, laundry, dishes, etc. I'll edit a writing piece or begin another, research some, all while having brunch or lunch, and, depending on the time of day, I'll take a nap. I'm up around 6 to 8p.m., begin dinner for the family--my husband works 2nd shift, so I'm usually up for him when he's home--and, depending on the day of the week it is, I'll do a workout and have music practice. On weekends, I catch up with my hard copy books reading, be it in craft or for leisure. Around 2 to 3a.m., I'm in bed with an e-book until sleep captures me . . . and I'm up again several hours later to start the process over.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
Yes, which is why I started writing mysteries: An "I Can Read" book (now you've done it, I've done did dated myself, haha!) titled THE CASE OF THE CAT'S MEOW when I was seven. It was an adorable story about a gang of kids looking for one of their own's cat. They kept hearing its meow, but couldn't find the source. They looked all over the usual haunts of their neighborhood for the cat, and of course, found the cat in the last place they'd thought to look. My second favorite, apart from the book called THE GREAT GATOR ESCAPE, to this day is JENNY AND THE CAT CLUB by Esther Averill. And what would my first books I've read be without THE STORY ABOUT PING and DANNY AND THE DINOSAUR? The impact for me: the adults who wrote then never lost their wonder in life, even when life grew rough as it sometimes does. I took those stories to heart that it was not only okay for an adult to write with a sense of energy, purpose, and to let the characters leap off the page unapologetically, but that TO write, that's what I had to do to make my stories come alive for myself, for another kid, or for that kid at heart I'm writing for. That's another bit of me infused in my writing I can't let go and can't control. And I love it.
How do you approach cover design?
I'm still pretty new to this stage, so I'll likely have to pay for the cover I've in my mind's eye. Like the story ideas I've for my McGuinness / Pedregon Casebook suspense mysteries and for my Volcanis Chronicles adults only series, I let the story dictate what the cover will look like, since they're hollering in this industry that's the product to lure the reader into the story. (**she says with a sarcastic eyeroll and a smile**)
What is your e-reading device of choice?
Kindle Voyage. No question about it. No, this isn't a shameless plug for Amazon and I'm not paid 10¢ for these words, but they really did a great job with a dedicated e-reader easier on the eyes and which the eye is trained to read on the printed page.
Describe your desk
Like Einstein's. Ever see his? That. :-)
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
New York City. Queens, then Brooklyn. And because of it, I'm having so much fun creating my Casebook mysteries. The fifth in the series, titled PANTHER PARKS, I so excited to find a way to bling out that cover, I cannot keep still about it. But of course, I have to. Shame, too, when it's in e-book form, the reader won't have the full effect of what my plans are for the hard copy cover, but you'll get that chance, if you're willing to pay a good price for it. Hey, if Lawrence Block can leather bound and gild the pages of his hard copy stories, I can bling out my books, too.
What's the story behind your latest book?
(LAUGHS AGAIN) ... What's the scoop behind JERSEY DOGS? Glad you asked. I'll try to keep this short.
It's partially based on my teen years, my family's sordid history, and news events. The story itself is about two male cousins, once discovering they're sons of prostitutes, need to stay alive to keep their mothers' murderer from completing his unfinished business.
Why I moved to Arizona when I was a kid was never disclosed until my mother died. And my grandmother, unfortunately to fund her alcoholic habit, turned to selling herself for a bottle. When it was revealed Richard Pryor was an alleged son to a hooker-john union--right around when the iconic comedian died, the scandal of the New York State Governor Elliot Spitzer involved with a call girl was made public--that clicked on an idea for me to take those two facets of my life--my maternal grandmother dalliances and the open secret of my move Southwest--and Spitzer's scandal and Richard Pryor's sordid past, and make it into something fictional. A few nicely woven lies, and JERSEY DOGS began its long journey from 2005 to the present day.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
Short answer: my small press sacked me because I kept "arguing too much" over their final decisions in editorial and layout.
Long answer: Why should I give up my say in how my book looks just because I sell a house my story rights? That's akin to giving your child to a sitter for their care or to a school for their education, and you have NO say in what's being taught or how the kid's being cared for. No, thanks. And when I expressed my misgivings to said house, hideous cover design aside, I'm cited for arguing too much and being unprofessional? All for a paltry 40% net royalty, but **I** have to do 100% of the marketing, promotion, contact-gathering, book tours, gathering reviews, setting up interviews, book tchotchkes, appearances and the like, all costs from MY pocket before I even see a dime, and they get paid before I do? Give me a pluperfect break!
Honestly, with the boon in indie publishing, you'd think the trad and small press houses would learn a bit about how to treat their writers, but I think they're actually doubling down on their willful blindness. No, I wasn't arguing, but I was standing up for my book in a way no one else would do; who else would do it BUT me? And that said, houses really need to employ editors with a halfway decent vocabulary, and not presume just because two-thirds of Devine Destinies and eXtasy Books's reader base are horny sci-fi geeks with an eighth grade reading level, doesn't mean every reader is.
Or maybe I've shown too much cheek to the aforementioned publisher. In either event, something felt off-kilter for me three months after I'd landed the contract with said house, and it just grew until my fed-up balloon popped. Yes, I openly trashed them here, because it's about time these houses were put on notice for their shabby treatment of authors. And this author is mad as hell about it and I'm not taking it anymore.
What do your fans mean to you?
Everything! They're the ones reading the book and paying my royalties, so i'll do what I can to not let them down. Terry Brooks, author of the Shannara Chronicles, said it best: "Books are the cheapest form of entertainment that have the most lasting impact. Make sure to give your readers something to fuel their imaginations, because not only are they investing their money in you, they're investing their time they cannot get back." So very, very true.
What are you working on next?
My first Adults-Only title of the Volcanis Chronicles. It was originally HOLLY JOLLY MURDER, but since that title's already spoken for, it's back to ye olde drawing board for that one. I might just jump in with my January title and get the ball rolling there. But it's a year-long series, one mystery a month with lots of magic, mystery, and, of course, sex (with the occasional threesome or two. **grin**). And, no, kids under eighteen CANNOT read this, so don't ask!
Second project: the 2nd McGuinness / Pedregon Casebook, called KINGZ OF CASPIAN COUNTY. Only a few more chapters to go with that one, cover layout, and that's up in by late 2017, early 2018.
I've seen you on Twitter. Is that your natural hair color?
Yep. I'm an albino, I don't color my hair--I am thinking about adding a purple tint to it, though--and the color is like the shade of air-popped popcorn. Not as tasty though. **grin**
One final Q: Would you have a drink with The Donald?
Sure. He's a fellow June baby like me, and he knew the late Joan Rivers firsthand (also another June baby). I think he'd be a load of laughs--and as a fellow Gemini, we'd never be at a loss for words!
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