Meet Mary Flodin

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Mary Flodin’s debut novel, Fruit of the Devil, was a finalist for the PEN/Bellwether Award for Socially Engaged Fiction and the Pacific Northwest Writers’ Competition. She was awarded a fellowship to the Squaw Valley Community of Writers and has participated in numerous writers’ conferences, including BreadLoaf Orion and ASLE (Association for the Study of Literature and Environment). Before settling into the writer’s life, Mary taught environmental education, English, and art in California public schools. A native Californian, she lives in a cottage on the Monterey Bay with her husband— a retired NASA climate scientist— and their dog, koi, chickens, and gopher herd. More at www.maryflodin.com.

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About the book:
Ms. Aurora Bourne would do anything to protect her students from harm … even if that means going up against the most powerful corporation on the planet.
While getting her classroom ready for Fall, Aurora feels sick, and it’s more than back-to-school-blues: strawberry fields nearby have just been fumigated and pesticides are drifting into the classrooms. A spate of serious health issues crop up in children and adults around the school, the teenage sister of a migrant student goes missing from the fields, and Aurora realizes why farmworkers call strawberries Fruta del Diablo — the Fruit of the Devil.
When she starts asking questions and gets caught in a web of gangs, trafficking, and high-level corporate crime, a Catholic priest comes to her aid. She has no idea he’s actually an ancient nature god from Pacific Coast indigenous legends.
Fruit of the Devil was published on October 1, 2019, by Paper Angel Press. It’s multi-genre; as Mary says, “take your pick!”:

  • contemporary fiction with elements of mystery, romance, and an edge of magical realism
  • eco-thriller
  • romantic suspense
  • paranormal romantic suspense
  • climate fiction
  • socially engaged fiction
  • environmental fiction

Now on to the interview….

What makes your book unique?
Fruit of the Devil is based on a true story.

Why did you write decide to this book?
One of my earliest memories is of a seven-year-old me explaining to my family that my purpose in life was to be the “secretary of the world” and “write down the things that happen to people.” I’ve written all my life —journals, poetry (some published in small presses and chap books), articles for magazines and e-zines—and I started several novels.
But when—as a teacher in a school surrounded by strawberries fumigated with deadly pesticides—I lived the story I knew I must write, it grabbed me by the scruff of the neck and would not let me go until I wrote it all down. Much had already been written in serious articles and scientific publications about the dangers of exposing children to pesticides, but I felt the story needed to be reframed as fiction—as a murder mystery—for people to truly feel the impact of this environmental and social injustice.

Do you plot ahead of time, or let the plot emerge as you write?
When I was just getting started on my novel, I read that a suspenseful murder mystery should have a “ticking clock”, so I went to the office supply store and bought one of those big one-year calendars, and I plotted every scene as it had happened in real life on the calendar. The story wrote itself. There were surprises – sub-plots and plot twists emerged out of the ether, and new characters appeared to me in dreams and even waking visions, telling me they needed to be in the story. But overall, I simply followed the actual events that took place in a little school on California’s Central Coast at the turn of the century—events which turned the tide for organic agriculture in the region.

Do you consider your book character-driven or plot-driven?
My first draft was almost entirely plot driven. But, as I edited, received feedback, and revised, the characters—their complexities and emotions—deepened, evolved, and became more important to the story. I learned a great deal about human nature and about myself watching my characters develop. See my blog about “Agency” for more on how I came to understand the character arc of my protagonist.

How did you decide on the setting?
Fruit of the Devil is a true story about a community’s struggle to protect their children and one of the most beautiful environments on the planet—the watersheds of the Monterey Bay. Setting is a key element in Fruit of the Devil: one could almost say that the setting stands as a character on its own.

How do you develop names for your characters?
I obviously had to fictionalize the names of actual people, corporations, and most locations—although readers familiar with the Monterey Bay will probably recognize many of their favorite hang outs in the book. The fictional names just came to me. I reached into the ether, and they were there. However, one real character—Destiny—had such a perfect name that, with her permission, I used her actual name in the novel.

Do you have a writing mentor?
I taught English literature and writing in grades third through twelve for decades, and have always been an avid reader, so you’d think I’d know how to write a novel, right? But when I was given the task by the Universe to write the true story of Fruit of the Devil in a murder mystery genre, I realized I had no idea how to even begin writing a novel, much less a mystery.
After finishing my English literature degree, long ago, I went on a decades-long sci-fi binge. Then I discovered fantasy (Robert Jordan!), and wanted to read nothing else. One of my favorite novels of all time, which influenced the evolution of Fruit of the Devil, is Outlander by Diane Galbadon. Barbara Kingsolver, Ursula LeGuin, Marion Zimmer Bradley and many more authors have influenced me. But ten years ago, when I realized I needed to write a mystery and I had no idea where to start, I began reading mysteries voraciously, and watching cop shows and mysteries on TV. (Love the BBC mysteries and Tom Selleck in the Jesse Stone series!) I devoured all of Tony Hillerman, Nevada Barr, Margaret Coel, C.J.Box, and Laurie King.
I bought lots of books on writing, and on crafting mysteries, including Steven King’s On Writing, Anne Lamont’s Bird by Bird, many books by Orson Scott Card including Characters and Viewpoint, James Scott Bell’s Plot & Structure, Jack Bickham’s Scene & Structure, Donald Maass’ Writing the Breakout Novel & The Fire in Fiction, The War of Art by Steven Pressfield, Writing Yourself Home by Kimberley Snow, Writing Mysteries an anthology edited by Sue Grafton, Manuscript Makeover & A Writer’s Guide to Fiction by Elizabeth Lyon, If You Want to Write by Brenda Ueland, Don’t Murder Your Mystery by Chris Roerden, The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Publilshed by Eckstut & Sterry, and The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron.
I also joined the local chapters and attended meetings of Mystery Writers of America and Romance Writers of America, joined Sisters in Crime and Guppies (offshoots of Mystery Writers). I took many writing workshops and attended at least one big writing conference a year, including San Francisco, Santa Barbara, and Pacific Northwest Writers’ Conferences, Bouchercon, Left Coast Crime, Algonquin Write to Market, Squaw Valley Community of Writers, BreadLoaf Orion, and more. I met other writers, and agents and publishers. I found talented editors, a wonderful critique group, and Beta readers, and I learned and learned!
In my writing space I have photos of some of the writers, artists, and crusaders for social and environmental justice I most admire— Mentors Jack London, John Steinbeck, Kurt Vonnegut, Annie Dillard, Cesar Chavez, Mark Twain. But my most precious writing mentor and muse is my foundling husky, Sarah Bella, who mysteriously appeared in my life just as I started writing Fruit of the Devil, and has been sitting at my side, day after day, for all the years I’ve been on this writing journey.

Do you have a writing schedule and a favorite place to write?
As soon as I retired and returned from my celebratory trip to Hawaii, I started working on my novel with the same daily discipline I’d developed over nearly thirty years of teaching.
Now and then, something will wake me before dawn and I’ll feel compelled to rush to my writing space with a new scene, a character who has spoken to me in my sleep, or a revision. But most mornings, I’m up at 7:30. While I grind beans and wait for water to boil, I stretch, review my dreams, and watch for hummingbirds to show up at the feeder outside the kitchen window. Then Sarah, my Siberian Husky, follows me—my coffee cup in hand—into the little back room of our house, which I co-opted years ago for my writing space.
After taking a few moments to greet and honor the spirits who visit me there, and occasionally to smudge with sage, I review lists and notes I left for myself the previous afternoon, open my current manuscript, and begin. About 11, I take a short break for a bowl of oatmeal with my husband and a walk around the garden and pond, listening to my characters and whatever muses show up. Then I’m back at my writing space, usually until 2. Most afternoons, I walk to the beach with Sarah. Sometimes while walking, I get “messages” about the story I’m working on and I have to return to my writing space. I usually don’t look at email, answer phone calls, or schedule appointments until after 1 pm.
It took me three years to write the first draft of my manuscript. Since I had the story all plotted out on a calendar, I knew the end I was writing toward. I believed that when I wrote that final scene and finished my first draft, I would be done, and finally free to clean my garage and get on with my retirement.
Alas, I soon discovered that “Writing is re-writing.” Thus, I embarked upon five more years of daily work with editors, attending workshops, revising and editing with my critique group and Beta Readers, and sending queries to agents. I’ve revised my entire manuscript—with a poet’s attention to every word—countless times. At the Breadloaf Orion Writers’ Workshop last summer, a mentor advised me to forget about the Big Five New York publishers and look for an independent small press.
By the time I met my wonderful publisher, Steven Radecki of Paper Angel Press, all that revising and editing proved worthwhile. Digital, paperback, and hardcover editions of my debut novel, Fruit of the Devil, were released for pre-order on all digital marketplaces and on the Paper Angel Press website on September 15!
Soon, maybe I’ll finally get around to clearing out my garage.

Anything else you’d like to add?
You probably have a story inside you, bothering you, asking to be written. Do it! But realize your story (or poem or play) won’t get written without dogged perseverance. Carve out a private writing space; establish a routine. Show up every day, as faithfully as if it’s a job you’re getting paid for. Believe in your story and in yourself. Good Luck!

Where can readers find you?

Meet Jeannie Sharpe

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Jeannie Sharpe has a deep love to write. Her first attempt at writing resulted in two children’s books, Once There Was An Orange Truck and Orange Truck Helps Katie the Kangaroo Find Her Friends. She has sold 8,900 copies of these titles. Her love for romance came to life when she landed a publishing contract with Solstice Publishing. Her first novel, The Baker’s Husband: A Second Chances Book, was first released by Solstice, and was re-released in June, 2018 by Foster Embry Publishing. Her second book  Her Daughter’s Preacher: A Second Chances, was also published by Foster Embry and was released on August 1.

A career in writing is a dream coming true for this mother of two, Brent, 23 and Bailey, 16. Jeannie has been married for over thirty years to Vance Sharpe. But more than her admiration for writing, her love to sing outweighs it all. She shares her talents with her husband in many venues around the United States and Canada. Be on the lookout for new books by this aspiring author.

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About the book:

Corey’s life fell apart when her preacher husband turned his back on her and their family. Corey is raising the kids on her own, but she is struggling. She has no support from her family and she is estranged from the faith that was her foundation for most of her life. So, when she meets a handsome man that turns out to be her daughter’s preacher, she is determined to keep her distance.

No way, no how, will she make that mistake again.

But this preacher has his eyes on Corey and he will not give up easily. Will Corey learn to love again and possibly find her faith in the process?

Why did you decide to write this book?

I was asked by an editor friend of mine to write a romantic suspense story.

What genre is your book?

Romantic Suspense

Do you consider your book character-driven or plot-driven?

Both with about 10% more character driven.

What makes your book unique?

For one thing it doesn’t have any bad language in it and has a clean romance and it is Christian based.

Do you plot ahead of time, or let the plot emerge as you write?

I let it flow while writing.

How do you develop the names for your characters?

I try to think of different names – to try to figure out names that are usual.

How do you decide on the setting? 

I write for present time normally.

Do you have a writing mentor?

Not at the present time. I’ve gotten help from Nancy Toback in recent years.

What’s your writing schedule?

I try and write some every day, but not on a regular schedule.

Anything else you’d like to add?

I love writing and would love to make it my career.

Where can readers find you?

Facebook: https:// www.facebook.com/ jeannie.sharpe

Twitter: https:// twitter.com/ Jws415Sharpe @Jws415sharpe

Instagram: https:// www.instagram.com/jeanniesharpe/

Instagram: https:// www.instagram.com/sharpejewelry/

Facebook: https:// www.facebook.com/ Sharpe-Jewelry-739595549453517/

 

Meet Sandra Waine

MyPicThis week, as part of my on-going author interview series, I’m hosting Sandra Waine. Sandra currently lives in central New Hampshire with her cat, Irene. She loves to cycle, garden, take long walks in the woods, travel, take pictures and write. There is nothing more interesting to her than eavesdropping in on a conversation. From this, she can imagine all types of stories unfolding…..

Today, Sandra is promoting Passages: A Trilogy (Touch Me From Afar Book 1). It’s a romantic suspense-time travel story, and sounds like a great summer read.

About the book:

It only took twenty-four hours for Samantha Arnesen’s world to change drastically and there was no logical explanation for it. Divorced, forty and needing a complete change, she ditched a logical, safe world back in England and took off exploring other parts of Europe.

A rather embarrassing circumstance in Venice propels Sam into a bold interaction with a handsome stranger. Had she left things alone her safe little life would have continued. But it was not her destiny. A passionate kiss transcends her right into his world of 1865.

Was it irrational, destiny, or a bump on the head?

With no apparent possibility of returning back, it all simply starts to unravel.

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247 pages

Published on January 8, 2017 by Solstice Publishing

Ebook: click here

Print: click here

 

Why did you decide to write this book?

The idea from the Passages Trilogy Book One; Touch Me From Afar came from an ever growing thought pattern about the what if’s. Like, what if there are multiple dimensions around us? What if I could change my life by moving into a different one? What if I could not return from that dimension? As I explored more articles, programs and books on the subject I became fascinated and thought about this trilogy.

What genre is your book?

Romantic Suspense/Time Travel

Do you consider your book character-driven or plot-driven?

Both. My characters are involved in the main plot and sub-plots and weave between quite a lot of ‘stuff’ as time goes on.

What makes your book unique?

Me. I don’t mean that to sound ego driven because it’s not. I am much like Samantha Arnesen. Not clear on my past, what needs to be done today, and what the heck will happen to me tomorrow. Sam’s story, though, is definitely more interesting than mine!

Do you plot ahead of time, or let the plot emerge as you write?

I plot ahead of time and then allow my mind to wander as I start writing. Asking myself along the way things like what else can go wrong? Right? Different?

How do you develop the names for your characters?

I travel all over the place and love to use names that reflect the era and area. That’s normally how I start the process of naming my characters.

How do you decide on the setting?

Yeah, that’s a cool process for me. I do tend to write in areas like England, Scotland, Norway, Italy. Many of the places I have traveled to. While I am there I envelop locals and their customs, often using names I’ve heard along the way.

Do you have a writing mentor?

I do not. But, I have to say I am completely enthralled with the writing styles of Agatha Christie and Jane Austin. I’m not either, but parts of their styles are definitely a part of my writing. Like mystery meets manners.

What’s your writing schedule?

I love to write! So, I make time every single day even though I have a different full-time job. Writing is my pleasure. My release. It’s in my blood.

Do you have a favorite place to write?

Any quiet nook or cranny in or outside of my house will do. I love the way my house feels and looks. It’s cozy. A quaint salt-box style and the colors inside are soft and warm. Inviting. I have many items and articles that I’ve collected from some pretty cool places on planet Earth. So here is my writing haven.

Where can readers find you?

Visit my website at: sandrawaine.com where you can review my latest releases, read my blog, upcoming events list, and also engage all my social media like Facebook and Twitter

Also on my publisher’s site, Solstice Publishing: http://solsticepublishing.com/sandra-waine/

And on Amazon:  https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Damazon-devices&field-keywords=sandra+waine

 

Meet Cynthia Austin

Pic (1)Cynthia Austin lives in Northern California with her husband, two boys, and Olde English Bulldogge named Count Dogula. They love all things horror, gothic, and Victorian which prompts her friends to dub them as “The Adams Family.”

She is an avid reader who may be slightly obsessed with music. She hears music in a way that she believes the artist intended it to be heard: visually, with a storyline that follows. Listening to the songs by her favorite artists, she was inspired to write her first series titled “The Pendant.”

Cynthia has been published twice in The Writer’s Monthly Magazine as well as the online news site, Yahoo! Voices. She has a trilogy published with Limitless Publishing and her newest novel, A Penny’s Worth was released by Solstice Publishing in 2017.

A Penny’s Worth:

Sara Conrad just about had it all, wealth, beauty, a prominent place in Las Vegas society as the owner of a popular nightclub, and a reputation that was second to none.

There was only one thing Sara failed to possess…

Her life.

That’s because it was dominated by a despicable sociopath, her husband, Ezra Silverstein, who rarely let Sara out of his sight and manipulated her every move.

Out of desperation, Sara turned to a bodyguard at her club, Max Tobias, for sanity and salvation. Before long they are on the verge of a torrid affair that threatens not only to engulf them personally but their very lives, as well.

When Silverstein catches wind of Sara and Max’s relationship, he is determined to make them pay for their betrayal. He makes it his mission to inflict a blood thirsty punishment on his beloved Sara and her romantic rescuer.

As events reach their dramatic climax, Sara is stunned to discover Max is not really a bodyguard at all. This revelation turns her entire world upside down leaving her vulnerable and unable to trust anyone, especially the man to whom she had given her heart.

Riveting. Unpredictable. Page turning

The story of a good woman trying to survive in Sin City where Satan himself has set up camp in her own marriage, and the only man she had truly loved turned out to be a virtual stranger.

God help her.

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413 pages

Published July 27, 2017 by Solstice Publishing

Ebook: https://amzn.to/2IDMWzD

Print book: https://amzn.to/2KMeyPw

 

 

 

Why did you decide to write this book?

When writing, I tend to create the final scene before anything else. The final scene in A Penny’s Worth was written years prior while writing my young adult novel, Between Dreams. The ending was too violent for the characters in my YA and to be honest, my antagonist didn’t have it in him. That’s when I knew I would have to write an adult novel where a gritty crime boss deserves what’s coming to him. Thus, Ezra Silverstein was born.

What genre is your book?

Romantic Suspense

Do you consider your book character-driven or plot-driven?

Initially, I would say plot driven. The plot was there first and it should have been straight forward. But once the characters came alive, they took control. They had emotions and feelings they acted out upon, and sometimes the plot changed because of this. Ezra was supposed to be a careless asshole, but he loved Sara. Despite how evil I wrote him out to be, his love for his wife spoke louder. So in the end, the story was character driven.

What makes your book unique?

The readers fall in love with the villain. Despite how evil he was, they were still emotionally tied to him and understood his torment. No matter how bad a person is, there is good buried deep. Ezra showed that.

Do you plot ahead of time, or let the plot emerge as you write?

Yes. I actually allow a story to brew in my head a good year before I even begin to write.

How do you develop the names for your characters?

I select the names. Then my editor disagrees. Then we argue. Then I cry. Then I make changes. Then I revert back to my original choices. Then my editor lectures me on my horrible choice. I argue some more. Then we eventually come to an agreement. We argued a ton over Ezra, but that was one name I would not budge on. It just always felt right. Plus, Silverstein means silversmith and Ezra was a jeweler.

How do you decide on the setting?

By arguing some more with my editor. Initially, the book took place in Stockton, CA, but I quickly changed the backdrop because while the family smuggled drugs, they couldn’t have the lavish life I envisioned for them in a small, central California town. They would be a mediocre drug dealer at best in Stockton. So I moved the plot to Miami where they could use the water ways to smuggle drugs for the cartel. But my editor had a good point; I had never been to Miami. I needed to be familiar with the area so we settled on Las Vegas as I’ve visited the strip enough times to write about it.

Do you have a writing mentor?

Yes, my editor has been a godsend. He has helped me every step of the way in this crazy writing world. He’s actually become somewhat of my crutch. Everything I write has to go through his approval before anyone else can see. He’s brutally honest and has no problem telling me if it’s garbage.

What’s your writing schedule? Do you have a favorite place to write?

I moved into a new home last summer and unfortunately have not found a place I can dedicate to my writing. I do have a beautiful private deck off of my bedroom and I have plans to set up a nice table to do most of my writing outside in the sunny, California weather.

Anything else you’d like to add?

I recently completed my 5th novel titled Tainted Luck and am querying agents and publishers. Hopefully this book will be available by the summer.

Where can we find you?

My blog: BETWEENDREAMSiREAD

Social Media: Cynthia Austin (@CynaMarie) | Twitter

Instagram Handle: Cynamarie

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/cynthiaaustinwriter