Monday, February 20, 2017

Interview with Author Christine Verstraete by Jacqueline Seewald

Christine (C.A.) Verstraete is the author I am interviewing today. Find out about her and the unique novels she writes here.

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

Answer:  Lizzie Borden, Zombie Hunter is a mash-up of alternate history, mystery, horror and real life crime, based on the actual Borden murders and trial. It actually started out as Zombie Killer, but the publisher suggested the change as it seemed to work better. I got hooked on zombies and the stories by watching The Walking Dead.



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

Answer: I always found historical crimes like Jack the Ripper and the Borden murders interesting because of the mystery behind them. Looking at the actual autopsy records and reports for the Borden murders, I realized another plausible reason could be made as to why Lizzie Borden could have committed such an awful crime. Since the victims had been hit in the head, it made perfect sense that she’d committed the murders because they’d turned into zombies.

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

Answer:  To me, Lizzie Borden’s character reflects the things she faces – strength in facing and doing the unthinkable, fear that her life may end if she’s found guilty of her father and stepmother’s murders, a bit of recklessness and flaunting of conventions (after all she’s facing the gallows), and a vow to protect her sister and fight for her town, even as she’s mostly rejected by society. Takes a strong person to do that, I’d say.


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

Answer:  I also wrote a young adult novel, GIRL Z: My Life as a Teenage Zombie, which tells the story of what happens when 16-year-old Becca is accidentally scratched and turns into a part-zombie. I’ve also written a kid’s mystery and books on dollhouse miniatures since I’m a collector.



Question:   What are you working on now?

Answer: I’ve been working on a ghost-haunted story novella also set in Lizzie’s hometown and centered on her doctor and neighbor, Dr. Seabury Bowen.  I also started Lizzie Borden, Zombie Hunter 2, which continues the story. It’s been fun writing about Lizzie again!

Question:   What made you start writing?

Answer:  I wanted to write since I can remember, and it seems I was destined judging from one of my baby pictures showing me with a newspaper and a pencil behind my ear. I still write for newspapers as well.

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

Answer:  It can be a long haul from writing to seeing a book in print, but it’s worth the effort to see your vision come to life. It is an exhilarating, frustrating, fun, horrible journey at times. But that’s the writing cycle. It has its ups and downs.

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

Answer:  

Amazon (Print, Kindle and Kindle Unlimited): http://getbook.at/LizzieBordenZombieHunter
Barnes & Noble (Print): http://tinyurl.com/hz6c8cz

About Lizzie Borden, Zombie Hunter:

Every family has its secrets...
   One hot August morning in 1892, Lizzie Borden picked up an axe and murdered her father and stepmother. Newspapers claim she did it for the oldest of reasons: family conflicts, jealousy and greed. But what if her parents were already dead? What if Lizzie slaughtered them because they’d become… zombies?
   Thrust into a horrific world where the walking dead are part of a shocking conspiracy to infect not only Fall River, Massachusetts, but also the world beyond, Lizzie battles to protect her sister, Emma, and her hometown from nightmarish ghouls and the evil forces controlling them.

Questions and comments for Christine are welcome here!





Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Interview with Author Judy Penz Sheluk

I'm celebrating Valentine's Day and Mystery Thriller Week with a special interview. Fellow author Judy Penz Sheluk is my guest today in the writer’s spotlight.


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

Answer: Skeletons in the Attic is an amateur sleuth mystery, but it is suspenseful rather than cozy. It is the first book in my Marketville Mystery series, and was published by Imajin Books in August 2016. As a reader, my go-to genre is mystery and suspense. I remember reading Learning to Swim and A Cold and Lonely Place by Sara J. Henry and thinking, “I’d like to write a book like that.”

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

Answer: The idea for Skeletons in the Attic came to me while I waited with my husband, Mike, in our lawyer's office. We were there to update our wills, and his goldendoodle kept us company while our lawyer was detained at court. The opening scenes of this book are culled directly from that experience. Let that be your takeaway from this: everything that happens in a writer's life may end up in one of their stories.

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

Answer:  Calamity (Callie) Barnstable is a thirty-six-year-old single woman with “loser radar” when it comes to men. Her job as a call center worker at a bank’s fraud unit sounds a lot more exciting than it is (all the interesting stuff gets bumped up to her supervisor). When her father dies in an “unfortunate occupational accident,” she inherits a house that she had no idea existed—with the condition that she find out who murdered her mother thirty years before. A mother Callie assumed had left them for “the milkman or some other male equivalent.”

Here’s a Valentine’s Day Treat—sorry not candy or flowers—instead an excerpt from the novel:

For Callie Barnstable, the protagonist in Skeletons, Valentine’s Day 
has a special meaning. And not in a good way:
 
I was right. The pictures had been taken the year before my mother
 left. February 14, 1986, the date forever etched in my mind. Years 
later, when a boyfriend dumped me on Valentine’s Day, my father 
lamented that I’d fallen victim to the Barnstable curse. What I’d 
fallen victim to, I’d told him, was another classic example of my 
loser radar, a combination of poor judgment and lack of insight. 
I didn’t tell him that I’d actually been expecting a ring, or that I’d 
spent hours picking out just the right Valentine’s Day card, an 
adorable image of two porcupines kissing, with the message, 
“I love you so much it hurts.” It had hurt all right, just not the way 
I’d expected. 
  
Question:   Can you tell us about some of your other published novels or work?

Answer:  I’d love to. The Hanged Man’s Noose was my debut novel, published by Barking Rain Press in July 2015. It’s the first book in the Glass Dolphin mystery series. The premise for Noose is this: A greedy real estate developer comes to a small town with plans to build a mega-box store, thereby threatening the livelihoods of the independent merchants on the town’s Main Street. This is something we see all the time, in growing communities. I merely took that premise and said, “What if someone was willing to murder over it?”


I’ve also written some short crime fiction, which can be found in various anthologies, all available on Amazon. I love writing short fiction, but I find it incredibly challenging. It’s almost easier to write a novel!

Question:   What are you working on now?

Answer:  The sequel to Noose, the sequel to Skeletons, and a couple of short stories.

Question:   What made you start writing?

Answer: I’ve always wanted to write. As a kid, I wrote stories in my head, on the way to school and back again. I thought all kids did that@ In 2003, I left the corporate world to try life as a freelance writer. I’ve never looked back. In late 2011, after taking some courses in Creative Writing, I decided to start The Hanged Man’s Noose. It was an instant addiction.

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

Answer: I always answer this question the same way, with a quote from the late, great Agatha Christie. “There was a moment when I changed from an amateur to a professional. I assumed the burden of a profession, which is to write even when you don't want to, don't much like what you're writing, and aren't writing particularly well.”

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

Answer: Noose is available in print and e-book at all the usual suspects, including B&N, Kobo, Amazon and Kindle. Skeletons, which is print and Kindle only, is also available on Kindle Unlimited.

Judy welcomes comments and questions.



Monday, February 6, 2017

What Writers Can Learn from Tom Brady

On Sunday evening I watched the Superbowl along with my husband. Not being a football fan, I still watched the game with interest. My husband who was very athletic in his youth, played sports, and refereed as well, did a wonderful play by play analysis for my benefit.

By half-time, I was convinced that the New England Patriots would lose the Superbowl. Atlanta had his number. But low and behold Brady would not give up. He persevered. I think this is the mark of a true champion.

What can writers learn from Tom Brady and his performance at the Superbowl? Perhaps to never give up, even when the odds appear to be against you. Making it as an author is a lot like making it as a professional athlete. Only the best survive and succeed. Pit bull determination, hard work and effort are necessary. Never give up!


Comments welcome here.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Goodreads Giveaway for THE INHERITANCE

The publisher of my new romantic mystery
THE INHERITANCE is offering two print copies of the novel on a Goodreads giveaway. The offer is good from now
through January 31st. Here is the website info:


Here’s info about the novel so you can decide if it interests you:

This novel is a stand alone mystery that combines elements of the cozy with romance and suspense thriller. It’s available  as an e-book for all formats as well as in a print edition:
Also available from:
and:

Brief Synopsis:
Jennifer Stoddard, a thirty-five-year-old widow with an eight-year-old son, receives a surprising letter which will change her life. Jennifer’s grandmother has passed away and named Jen as sole heir to her estate. To claim her inheritance she must return to Bloomingvale, the town in the Midwest where she grew up. Jen is informed by her grandmother’s attorney that to inherit she must meet the condition of living in her grandmother’s house for two years. Since the estate is substantial, she agrees. However, there are those who will stop at nothing to make certain that Jennifer does not inherit. Jennifer is forced to call on old flame Police Chief Grant Coleman for help and protection.

Excerpt:

Late that afternoon as Jen left the house and started to drive away, a strange sound whizzed across the open front car windows from the driver’s side through the passenger side. She was startled by the sound. Her heart began to pound. Jen glanced over at the thicket of overgrown shrubs and trees to the side of the grounds that led back into woodlands. Had the sound been a bullet? If so, it had nearly hit her. Her hands shook on the driver’s wheel as she took off at high speed.
One block away she heard the police siren and saw the flashing lights. She groaned. Not again! He signaled with his hand, pointing his index finger for her to pull over. It was all she could do not to burst into tears.
Grant Coleman approached the car like a gunfighter in a spaghetti western. “I thought you learned something the first time,” he said. “Guess I was wrong. License and registration.” He held out his hand with a bored, impatient gesture.
“I have a very good reason for speeding.”
The smile was more of a smirk. The man was infuriating! “I’ve heard them all, but you can try.”
“As I left my grandmother’s house, a bullet passed through my car. I had the windows rolled down. So they weren’t broken, but it just missed hitting me.”
He stared at her. “Maybe it was a kid with a Beebe gun. Are you certain it was a bullet breezing by you? How familiar are you with weapons?”
“Not familiar at all, but I know what I heard.” Jen swallowed hard. “I think someone might have intended to shoot me.”
He let out a loud laugh. “In Bloomingvale? I doubt that very much.”
“So you’re not taking this seriously?” She folded her arms over her chest.
“Admit it. You’re just looking for an excuse to keep me from writing you another ticket.” His intense gray eyes bore into her like the steel blade of a dagger.
Jen raised her chin and stiffened her spine. “You are so wrong. Why don’t you check the area near the house, just to see if you can find anything.”
“Waste of time.” He leaned toward her and she felt his breath on her cheek which caused her to shiver. “Tell you what I will do though. I won’t write you a ticket this time because that’s the most creative excuse I’ve ever heard.”
“So glad I managed to amuse you,” she said.
Jen watched him drive off. He was probably still laughing, the sexy jerk. Several people had come out of their houses and were staring at her. Jen managed to restart her car and drove off before others gathered. She certainly didn’t want to make a spectacle of herself. Letting out a shaky breath, Jen wasn’t certain now if she’d really heard what she thought she had. A professional law enforcement officer didn’t think anything of it. She supposed it might have been nothing at all. Maybe it was a child with a Beebe gun as he suggested. But try as hard as she might, Jen couldn’t convince herself.

Comments welcome!





Sunday, January 1, 2017

New Beginnings: Starting the New Year Right

January 1st marks a new beginning and a fresh start. Yesterday, New Year’s Eve, I was feeling somewhat nostalgic. It was my mother’s birthday which we always celebrated with ice cream cake. In our family no birthday was complete without an ice cream cake. Although my parents are long deceased, I have good memories of those times. I finished reading a novel by Robyn Carr entitled THE LIFE SHE WANTS. Nothing like a good book to cheer flagging spirits!

Today I begin planning what I intend to do during the new year. A fresh start? 

First, as always, comes family needs and concerns.

Second, seeing to health matters.

After that I resolve to continue my writing. This I do faithfully beginning early each morning.

I will also continue to send my work out to various publishers and publications regardless of acceptances. Most writers meet with a lot more rejection than acceptance. In that respect, I am typical. But if writing is something you feel compelled to do—like me—than you work at it regardless.

One of my continuing resolutions is striving to improve the quality of my work. With that in mind, I pay attention to editorial and reader comments. The year 2016 was a relatively good one for work. Two of my novels were published: THE KILLING LAND by Five Star/Cengage, a hardcover Western romantic thriller, and
THE INHERITANCE by Intrigue Publishing, a romantic mystery. There were also quite a few short stories published  in a variety of genres.

I also intend to continue reading diverse books and writing reviews of those I truly enjoy.

I resolve to do more landscape painting.

I confess housework comes dead last—but it does and will get done, as does shopping and cooking. All life’s necessities.

I would like to do some traveling as well in this new year, go places I have never been before.


What are some of your plans or resolutions for the year ahead?

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Reflections on Holiday Shopping 2016

Christmas and Chanukah will soon be here which brings a flurry of holiday shopping.


The where and how of holiday shopping plagues many of us. Nothing can quite compare with the yearly ritual of holiday shopping, which theoretically begins on the day after Thanksgiving, Black Friday. However, in actuality it begins much earlier, of late right after Halloween. In fact, the way things are going, pretty soon the stores will start putting up tinsel on the 4th of July.

The frenetic pace of mall madness increases unabated throughout December. The shopping itself takes on such dimensions that with many people the material supercedes the spiritual aspect of the holidays.

But before the shopping can even begin, there is the business of finding parking at The Mall. Holiday shoppers know when they are nearing this location because traffic becomes as thick as an ant colony, and jockeying for position starts in earnest. Inevitably, a type "A" personality loses patience and aggressively pulls out on the shoulder of the road, speeds ahead, then forces his/her way into the regular stream of traffic. This individual manages to gain perhaps four or five car lengths to ultimately beat the traffic light, forcing other drivers to slam on their brakes and come to an abrupt halt. A cacophony of horns proceeds to announce the general agitation.

Arriving at the mall, one is treated to a breathtaking sight—an unending sea of automobiles. There is quite literally not a parking spot to spare. And so begins the art of cruising for a space. This can be compared to the choreography of a ballet. Automobiles pirouette and arabesque around the lot.

Inevitably, there is a car waiting in each aisle for someone to pull out. Often there are two vehicles set to swoop down like vultures. The poor driver who must pull out of the spot has a serious dilemma: which way to go? One or the other of the waiting drivers must be disappointed, only to drive off angrily, perhaps offering the middle finger salute. Definitely not showing proper holiday spirit! (More like the gunfight at Okay Corral)
Drivers keep cruising, ready to dive like kamikaze pilots when they find a likely target--barely avoiding fender benders--a holiday miracle in itself. No matter how many spaces exist, there are never enough.

Another technique involves following those who are leaving. Sometimes these shoppers are merely putting away their packages and return to the Mall for further exploration. Then there is the individual, fully aware someone is waiting for his/her parking spot, who decides this is a good time to sit and light up a cigarette, fiddle with the car radio, or begin a philosophical discussion on the meaning of life with someone they've conjured on a cell phone.

Most amazing of all are those who decide to grab the closest parking spot. I'm talking here about nabbing the spaces set aside for the handicapped. These artists fall into several categories. First are those who have no physical impediment whatsoever but park illegally because they don't want to continue cruising. We have no trouble spotting them as they run out when the police start ticketing. The second category: those who somehow obtained handicapped stickers yet can move like gazelles, either had some impediment but are over it and kept their stickers, or obtained them illegally in the first place. There seem to be a growing number of these talented artists who we may refer to as prima donnas.

With so many people claiming the right to place handicapped stickers in their automobiles, I am waiting for the time when non-handicapped signs will be issued instead.

After managing to obtain a parking spot and reaching the Promised Land of the Mall, we are greeted by a chorus of Hallelujah from the sound system. Unfortunately, by this time, we are almost too weary to shop.

When Christmas and Chanukah come and all the gifts are finally handed out, matters are not in the least resolved, as a good portion of those gifts will end up being returned soon after. (The heaviest shopping day of the entire year is December 26th) So just when we think our holiday shopping is finally done, it's only just begun!

Then there's the matter of re-gifting. That's the most bizarre ritual of all. This refers to presents that don't come with any clue as to where they were purchased. Even Sherlock Holmes would scratch his head in perplexity.

These are gifts that no one in their right mind would want to keep: purple plaid socks, perfume that would make a skunk turn up its tail in disgust. Well, you get the picture! So what does one do with such odious presents? Naturally, we save them and give them to those who have given us their re-gifts. You know you've gone full cycle when one of your re-gifts is gifted back to you.

So how do we avoid mall madness? More people than ever are turning to online shopping. I would like to suggest that books are excellent gifts to give. You don’t have to run around. You can make your selections in comfort. And you don’t have to spend your life savings. There’s a perfect book for everyone, whether a bestseller or something from an unknown author. There are a multitude of useful nonfiction titles: perhaps a cookbook, a book on home repairs, or history. Fiction provides many choices such as romance, mystery, or thriller.

Naturally I’m going to recommend several books that are current:

Smoking Pen Press has just published an anthology of mystery stories entitled: A BIT OF A TWIST as an e-book. It’s an inexpensive treat. I do happen to be included in this one with a story entitled “The Marriage Counselor.” You can check it out here:

                                     www.amazon.com/dp/B01N2UB8O7


Incidentally, this publisher has open calls for future anthologies. So fellow writers, check them out:


I will also mention that my new novel THE INHERITANCE from Intrigue Publishing  which is a stand alone romantic mystery is available in ALL e-book formats and print. Check it out:

Also available from:


What are your feelings regarding holiday shopping? Do you shop online or prefer to shop in person?  Do you give books as gifts? Do you consider books good gifts? What books would you like to recommend, either your own or those of others? Thoughts and comments most welcome!



Thursday, December 15, 2016

Perfect Presents for the Holidays: Sharing Reading Suggestions


The holidays are a great time to gift friends, family or you yourself with books to read. With people going on vacation, many individuals enjoy relaxing with a good book. And there certainly are a lot of them being published! You can find books to suit every age and taste whether fiction or nonfiction. Let’s share recommendations, whether it be your own work or that of others.

I have just finished reading a wonderful new collection of short stories entitled TO THE CITY, WITH LOVE by Steve Slavin. Usually short story collections are limited in size and scope. However, this compendium is well worth its price. It’s a very large collection divided into six parts and literary in nature. Many of the stories are character studies of the people who live and work in New York City. There is also much humor here as well as sensibility. The book is available both in print and as an ebook from all book sellers.

In addition, I’m going to recommend my own most recent book THE INHERITANCE, a romantic mystery with cozy elements from Intrigue Publishing.





There are also several recent publications that provide great holiday reads.

SHERLOCK HOLMES MYSTERY MAGAZINE #21 published another of my stories, “Spirit of the Law,” which follows a young attorney and his graduate student assistant in solving a murder case:



These characters originally appear in my novella “Letter of the Law” for issue #19.

I have a short story in the new anthology BREWED AWAKENINGS 2 from Caffeinated Press.  My literary crime story is entitled “Our Neighbors Ourselves” and is one of twelve stories.



The holiday issue of NEW ZENITH MAGAZINE, available in both print and digital editions, is chock full of interesting articles for writers as well as holiday fiction which includes one of my new short stories.

Here’s how they describe themselves: “New Zenith Magazine is a quarterly short fiction, poetry, and visual art magazine. Within its pages you will find short stories of all genres, flash fiction, memorizing poetry, hilarious cartoons/comics, photography, illustrations, inspiring author interviews, articles on the topic of writing, provocative writing prompts and more.” 



Finally, my holiday reading gift to you is my latest mystery short story in OVER MY DEAD BODY! Entitled “Genesis,” the story is a free read online at:


Here is another gift for readers:

The editor of Mystery Weekly has provided a free version of one of my short stories:


Okay, now here’s your opportunity to share the books and publications you think will make for good holiday reading. Feel free to mention work you’ve recently had published if you’re an author. Readers, please mention books you have on your wish list and/or recently read and enjoyed.

Comments/suggestions are welcome here to share.