I always thought I would communicate in the world as a writer. But life sometimes takes left turns and I went to broadcasting school instead of journalism school. I spent thirty years having fun, spinning records, interviewing people, and doing love song dedications.
In 1998 my program was selected as the Best Mid-Day Music Show in San Diego at the First Annual A.I.R Awards. (Achievement in Radio.)
Eventually, I felt the need to get a “real” job, one that was stable with good benefits. I left radio and went to work for the US Federal Government. In my private hours, I began doing what I really loved—writing. In 2015 and 2016 I was selected as one of the 50 Great Writers You Should Be Reading by the Authorshow.com.
What question do you wish that someone would ask about your book(s), but nobody has? Write it out here, and then answer it.
Why do you write? It’s a deep-seeded need. As a child I was painfully shy, but after thirty years in broadcasting, I had lost my prepubescent shyness and delved into my first true love…writing. Writing is hard work and it stretches my brain.
What is your writing process? Do you follow a regular routine or do you have any weird, funny, or unusual habits while writing and what are they?
I work full-time for the federal government. I am raising my grandson, (and in my spare time) I write murder mysteries. Whew! I need fifty hours in a day to get it all in. Early Saturday and Sunday mornings are my best times to write. The house is quiet and my brain is fresh.
Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, what do you do about it?
I don’t recall ever having writer’s block. However, I have had writer’s avoidance. When my brain is tired, or when my plot is stuck, I will sink into a bottomless pit of reading and deleting emails. It’s a mindless pursuit and I avoid doing what I should be doing…finishing my book.
What is the single most important piece of advice for aspiring authors?
Stay with it. Writing is a tough business. Over one million books are published every year. Self-published authors often sell only two-hundred-fifty books. With the excess number of books on the market, it’s hard for an author to get the attention they need to help their book to become successful. We are all jumping up and down with our hand raised, shouting, “Pick my book! Pick mine!” Marketing is expensive. There are companies that prey on novice authors. Beware. There are predators that will take your money and offer little in return.
What are your current/future projects?
My current project is Bless Me Father for I Have Sinned. A priest is viciously slaughtered in a confessional. Seattle homicide detectives, Nick Winston and Pat Strom, comb through clues in a frantic attempt to find the killer of the popular Northwest cleric.
Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre? If you write more than one, how do you balance them?
I have loved reading great whodunits since I was very young. It’s only natural that I would want to write one. Murder mysteries are my forte but I have written a romance about an older couple called The Chair. The book was started by my high school English teacher, Larry Flanders, who asked me to complete the novel. My first book was an apocalyptic thriller called Black Phoenix about Iran bombing the United States. That book is still apropos for today.
What do you think is the future for independent authors and do you think it will continue to be easy for anyone to be a published author?
It’s been easy for authors to self-publish for some years now, but as a result there are a lot of bad books on the market. Publishers glean through the weak manuscripts and meticulously edit those manuscripts they accept. In that respect, publishers perform a valuable service for the reading public. On the other hand, many authors have taken their destiny into their own hands and shared their creativity with the world by self-publishing. It’s a great feeling of accomplishment to finally see your book in print.
Are you traditional or self-published, and what process did you go through to get your book published?
I have had two small publishers, and I have self-published other books as well. I have been most successful with an online publisher. He worked hard for his authors, but unfortunately, he went bankrupt.
Have you ever changed a title, book cover, or even the content of your book after it was published? What was that process like?
One of my earlier books was titled The Love Songs Murders. I hired a local girl to model for the front cover and a neighbor who dabbled in photography took the photos for the cover. I thought it turned out well. When I signed with a publisher though, he told me he loved the book, but he wanted to change the title and cover. The Love Songs Murders became The Radio Murders. He put a killer cover on the front and we had success with those changes.
What opportunities have being an author presented you with and share those memories? (i.e. travel, friends, events, speaking, etc..)
Some fellow authors and I participated in a local wine walk. We were housed in a local business called Arts Alive that celebrates and promotes local artists. We had the opportunity to meet readers and, of course, sell some books.
What are your marketing, advertising, promotion strategies and which one(s) have worked the best for you? If you had to share your most valuable promotion tip, what would that be?
I don’t think I have found the golden key yet. I think word of mouth helps tremendously. Getting readers to share online is a big plus. I blog and think that’s been helpful. Direct email is effective. Growing the email list is a top priority. I tried a marketing company, but that soured quickly. It was expensive and ineffective. Be careful when choosing a marketing company to help you. A press release garnered me a front page interview in my local newspaper. That was very successful.
If you are a self-published author, which platform do you prefer? (Amazon, Smashwords, Lulu, Author House, or something not mentioned), and why?
Amazon is the behemoth in the room, and they are good. I think the other companies have to improve dramatically to measure up to the quality that Amazon offers.
What field or genre would you classify your book(s) and what attracted you to write in that field or genre?
I write murder mysteries because they are page turners. I know romance is supposed to be the top genre, but it simply doesn’t offer enough excitement for me. I try to meld both those genres by writing sexy murder mysteries.
What do you do if inspiration strikes in an inconvenient place like (car, restaurant, bathroom/shower, etc..) and how do you capture that moment before it gets away from you?
I keep a small notepad in my purse for just such emergencies.
Do you have a target amount of words/pages for each of your books or do you just know when enough is enough?
I used to aim for three hundred pages, but the reading public has a much smaller attention span than they used to. Who would ever finish IT these days? Not me. In this next novel, I am setting a goal of two-hundred-fifty pages. A fellow author wrote me that he is writing novellas now and will market them as a series. I think he’s got a great idea.
How do you think you have evolved as a person/author because of your writing and do you believe your writing has helped others, how/why?
I am certainly a much better writer now than when I started eighteen years ago. I am a member of a terrific writer’s critique group that is honest, caring and literate. I could never have finished five novels without them. We offer genuine support to each other.
How much influence do you believe a title, cover, content, page numbers have in purchasing decisions of potential buyers/readers?
The cover and title have to be knockouts. It’s the first thing a reader sees and it drives the decision to buy or not to buy a book. I won’t buy huge tomes like the ones Stephen King used to write. I simply don’t have the time to get through them.
Do you believe there is value in a Press Release, have you used any press release service, and what have your experiences been?
A press release written by a friend and fellow writer garnered me a front page story in my local newspaper. I got wonderful feedback and sales from that article.
Do you believe there is value in a review? Do you believe they are under rated, over rated, or don’t matter at all?
Reviews are important. I certainly want five star reviews, but if all of my reviews are rated five stars, I think readers might question their validity. An occasional two or three star review might actually be a good thing. Nobody is perfect all the time, not even James Patterson.
What are your thoughts on authors doing review swaps, paying for reviews, or reviews that just don’t seem right for the book?
I’ve done review swaps, and that has been all right, but admittedly it’s difficult to give someone a bad review if they wrote a glowing review of my book. It can be a bit of a moral dilemma. Even if a book is not a winner, I will find some positives to offer in the review, but I would be honest about the star ratings. I haven’t paid for reviews yet.
Do you believe there are competitors or general readers out to sabotage authors with bad reviews and what are your experiences with this?
Knock on wood. I haven’t had that type of experience yet, but it certainly does happen. Social media has spurred many mean-spirited comments including in book reviews.
Have you ever had an interesting, funny, or even bad experience during a live interview, reading, event, or autograph session?
I have a dog who is a Jack Russell/Terriermix, and she has a sharp, high-pitched bark. While recording an interview with the Authorshow.com, she inexplicably started barking. I walked quickly from room to room to avoid her yapping. Eventually, I was forced to step outside and shut the door behind me to muffle her noise.
With self-publishing being so easy these days, do you believe there is an overabundance of books out there and how do you sort through all the hype or copycats?
There is an overabundance of books on the market and some of them are quite bad. I won’t read past a couple of pages if the book doesn’t hold my interest.
What is your biggest fear about having a book published?
That it won’t sell well.
If you have multiple books published what do you feel is your greatest work, why?
6 White Roses packed an emotional punch. A six-year-old child is murdered and Seattle homicide detectives plow through a list of suspects that include the child’s boozy father, her fragile mother, the pastor of her church and a shy teenager who found the child beautiful.
What is the intended audience for your book?
My core audience is between thirty and sixty. Video appeals to the millennials and Gen Z. Readers older than sixty might take issue with the amount of sex in my books.
Give us a fun fact about your book(s)?
In my first murder mystery, (The Radio Murders) two Seattle homicide detectives find themselves in competition for the affection of the same woman. One cop is straight, the other gay. I had fun writing those scenes.
If you had the chance to get one message out there to reach readers all over the world, what would that message be?
Read and buy my books.
Do you find it easier to connect with your readers with the advances in technology we have today like social media? What platform do you prefer, and why?
I can be repetitious on Facebook just a few times. After that, I run the risk of boring my friends with constant solicitations to buy my book. Twitter is easier to use because the twitter timeline rotates so quickly.
What makes a good story, why?
A good story connects with readers on an emotional level. We’ve got to care about what happens to those characters or we put the book down and fail to finish it.
How important are names to you in your books? Do you choose the names based on liking the way it sounds or the meaning? Do you have any name choosing resources you recommend?
I don’t have a resource book per se. I often use names of people I know.
Do you read your reviews? Do you respond to them, good or bad? Do you have any advice on how to deal with the bad?
I do read my reviews. I don’t get depressed over the bad ones, but I don’t ignore them either. They may contain some valid points I need to take to heart for my next novel. I certainly revel in the five star reviews. It’s nice to get rewarded for the hard work that goes into writing a book. I don’t respond to reviews.
What are some events you have attended or participated in that has been a positive experience/influence on/for your writing?
I went to a Northwest Mystery Writer’s Conference in Gig Harbor this past June. Author Jeffery Deaver was the featured speaker and delivered a talk filled with concrete ideas on how to write a successful whodunit. I was pleasantly surprised. Quite often, “star” authors offer only fluff, but Deaver delivered a solid in-depth speech.
What is the easiest/hardest scene for you to write, why? (Love, action, fight, death, racy, controversial, etc…)
A good sex scene is always fun to write. Action is harder. In one of my early books, after writing the climatic end to a storyline, I realized I had lost track of the gun. Fortunately, I caught that huge error on my final read-through.
What would you like to write about that you have never written about before?
I haven’t written an historical murder mystery and would very much like to try that. I am imaging the research it would entail.
Have you ever had a book idea or characters come to you in a dream? What did you do about it afterwards?
That has never happened to me. I seldom remember my dreams.
Do you have any characters you would like to introduce in other books or a combination of characters from multiple books you would like to write about in one book?
I simply love the two main characters in my murder mysteries. Homicide detectives Nick Winston and Pat Strom have a lively banter that helps them cope with the dark side of their job. The conversation can get salty, feathers get ruffled, jibes will fly, but when trouble comes, they’re back to back. These two are the stars of all my murder mysteries. I love their chemistry.
Were your characters based off real life people/events or did you make it all up?
I use personality characteristics and physical traits of people I know in my books. (Of course, names are changed to protect the innocent.) Often I will just use a portion of a physical trait from a person I know. Once, I used the hands of someone I knew. The hands were small, but very powerful and adorned with many rings. And yes, a lot of my descriptions I just imagine.
What are the most important elements of good writing? According to you, what tools are must-haves for writers?
Good writing has to have a plot that moves, compelling characters, and good dialogue. A computer and good software are must haves. I haven’t tried Scribner yet, but many writers extoll its virtues. MS Word is still great. I use Grammerly to help me edit as I write.
What book(s), author(s), or significant life event(s) have had a positive or negative influence in your life that inspired you to begin writing?
My high school English teacher, Larry Flanders introduced me to good literature. He was a compelling force in my decision to write. Eventually, we wrote a book together.
What are your thoughts about eBooks vs. print books?
I exclusively read eBooks. I know some friends are nostalgic about holding a book in their hands, but not me. My Kindle can hold about 1100 eBooks and they are still less expensive than printed copies.
Do you view writing as a career, labor of love, hobby, creative outlet, therapy, or something else?
I simply love writing, but it is hard work. It keeps my brain active and I am constantly learning.
Were there any challenges (research, literary, psychological, or logistical) in bringing your book to life?
I do a lot of research on the Internet. Google certainly has simplified that process, but sometimes I need to pick up the phone and call an expert. I recently started attending meetings with the NW Mystery Writers Association. They often schedule experts in various professions to speak to us. For example, the organization has invited bail bondsmen to speak to the group about bonding out of jail. Last month, a forensic pathologist did a Q&A about his job. All those tidbits from the experts are invaluable.
Do you proofread/edit your own books or do you send them off to an editor? If you send them off to an editor, who/what have you had the best experience with?
As I am writing my book, my writer’s critique group edits it. I have four other very literate women read my material and offer their suggestions. After I finish the manuscript, I do at least one thorough edit of my own. I then ask a friend of mine who is a smashing editor to read through it and do an edit. From there, it goes to my publisher who runs it through two more editors. When my book is published, I think it’s polished and ready for public consumption.
What are the advantages/disadvantages of self or traditional publishing?
Self-publishing is A LOT of work. You simply have to do everything and let’s face it, most of us are not experts about the entire publishing process which means we have to hire someone to help us. Ultimately, that can get expensive. If you choose traditional publishing, it’s necessary to find a company to accept what you’re selling. Sometimes, you can wait a long time for that to happen. Rejection after rejection can dampen your spirits and drain your motivation. Many of us give up on that pipe dream and self-publish. There are rags to riches success stories, but that’s not the norm. Publishing is a tough business and whether you self-publish or wait on a traditional publisher to give you a contract, it’s a long rough road. Hang tough. Success belongs to those who don’t give up.
Do you have a subject/genre you would never write about, why?
I can’t write traditional romance novels. There’s not enough action. Eventually, I must kill someone.
What motivates you to write and where does your inspiration come from?
I love the magic of the imagination and its ability to create. God gave us all gifts. I think writing is one of mine.
What makes your book stand out from the crowd?
My book covers are outstanding. I write tight, entertaining, fast-paced novels. The books are sexy and that appeals to a certain audience.
Do you design your own cover? If not who does, why?
Through a fellow author, I discovered British designer Jay Aheer. Her website is simplydefinedart.com. She is a gifted and amazing artist. I simply don’t want to use anyone else.
What is your most/least favorite part of the writing process, why?
I love creating the story. The words pour from my brain in a process I simply don’t understand. It’s like turning on a water spigot. Sometimes the water flows fast, sometimes slow, but the words continue to stream until the book is done. Editing is the least favorite part of writing. It's hard work and I have to kill my darlings.