Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Life Colors by E. B. Davis

My husband and I started preparing to move from our Virginia home of thirty years, the house where we raised our children, and from the community in which we had friends, in January 2016. Eight years before, we’d bought a vacation home on Hatteras Island (HI), NC. In Northern Virginia, we increasingly felt like strangers. Leaving HI was becoming harder and harder. It’s where we felt we belonged.

Our son and daughter were grown, in their late twenties, and embarking on their chosen careers. The first four months, we spent packing and shutting down our thirty-year-old construction business. Decisions of what to take with us, give to our children, discard, or put into storage were arduous. In the meantime, I tried to write, but the immediate needs of our move prevented me from putting words to the page.

Our vacation home didn’t have enough space for our belongings (including our coats, clothing, tax records, Christmas decorations, etc.). Since it had been built as a rental with small closets and no coat closet, we needed to build an addition to accommodate our stuff. That’s what we did for a living but couldn’t build it while living in Virginia. We could have hired someone else to build it, but it would have cost three times as much and (yes, we’re up on our skillset) it wouldn’t have been built as well.

By May, we were moved into our HI house, had our Virginia home on the market, and completed our building plans. We submitted them to the county, which were approved, hired a helper for my husband, and started building in June. For income and to get to know our community, we serviced pools and spas for vacation rentals (the big tourist industry here) three times per week. The other four days of the week, we built our addition. By July, our Virginia house sold—our bridge burnt—but we had no second guesses. I had the opportunity to submit to an anthology, but not only was the theme one in which I had no experience, I also had no time to write.

The building went agonizingly slow, but by October, when the rental season and our jobs dwindled, I saw light at the end of the tunnel—a cliché, but one that especially fit on HI. Environmental colors here are more brilliant than any place I’ve ever lived. Shoals (underwater sand bars/dunes) reflect light, which surround the island from all sides. Sunrises and sunsets are spectacular. I’ve tried to capture the colors with a digital camera and my iPhone, but I’m always disappointed. The colors aren’t true. I take a picture and view it in my camera while holding the camera against the sky of the picture I just took. The camera doesn’t capture what I see.

That glimmer of getting through this transition enabled me to write a holiday short story for WWK. Just before Christmas 2016, we obtained our occupancy permit and moved our stuff from storage into the addition. Since the temperatures had dropped, I was glad to have my coats and sweaters back. Part of the addition was a new office—for my writing. Our physical transition had finally ended, even if it had taken a full year. We still have a lot to learn about the island and living here, but I also feel it will contribute to my writing. My time is once again my own.

I’m still frustrated because I can’t capture those colors, but I’m also comforted because that digital contraption can’t do what I can do. No device can replace a human, and there is no substitute for the human experience. It’s divine.    


Monday, January 30, 2017

House Hunting for Writers

By Shari Randall

If you visit WWK, you’ve probably seen my blogs about my house, AKA Musty Manor. I love this ramshackle house by the sea, but my lease is up at the end of May so I’ll have to say goodbye to the dear girl soon. The latest nor’easter was not good to my favorite tear down (I have to whisper – I don’t want her to hear) so I’m starting to see the merits in buying a newer home.

Since my dream of tearing down Musty Manor and rebuilding her exactly the same (except with modern bathrooms, modern kitchen, new roof, new windows, new garage, new walls, new wiring) won’t be coming true, I spend a lot of time thinking about real estate, watching real estate shows, and searching real estate listings.

Aside from finding a home where the doors actually close, shopping for real estate is its own consolation. Touring houses appeals to both the house hunter in me and the writer. And if I’m honest, the snoop in me, too.

I spend a lot of time on the real estate website Zillow and realized that it’s a good tool for two writerly things: setting and use of language.

Chez Blofeld
Want a particular setting for your story? The perfect seaside cottage? That modernistic Bond villain lair? A family split level? The executive’s sleek lakeside getaway? They’re a click away on real estate websites and chock full of details that will bring your setting to life. Further, seeing these homes piques the writer’s imagination. Who is the person who kept this all white living room pristine for forty years? Who is the person who put a stripper pole in the middle of the family room? Why are there cat doors in every room of this house? How did those stains get there?

After seeing a home described as having a “captivating kitchen” and discovering that all the appliances had been ripped from the walls, I’ve worked to become fluent in “realestate-ese.”
Not Musty Manor

This coded language helps real estate agents share information with other agents while putting out a positive spin for buyers. If I ever have a real estate agent character, I’ll be ready to write her or his dialogue.

“Cozy” means small.
“Spacious” means it’s a long walk from the television to the refrigerator.
“Convenient to highway” means noisy.
“Great neighborhood” means that the property for sale is the neighborhood eyesore, surrounded by much better tended homes.
 “Expansive” means impractically large and/or this family didn’t want to spend a lot of time together.
“Charming” means old.
“Well maintained” means old.
“Quiet” could mean quiet. Or it could mean it’s an hour's drive to the grocery store.
“Bring your imagination!” means you don’t even want to go there.
“Handyman’s Special"? Run!

Have any adventures in real estate to share?

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Five Lessons Learned as a Nano-Press

by James M. Jackson

What is a nano-press? Small presses are often defined as with revenues of less than $50 million. Micro-press frequently refers to the physical size of the books (often pamphlets or comics). Wolf’s Echo Press revenues are WAY BELOW the $50 million mark, so I thought that I should come up with a distinguishing term, and nano-press sounded about right.

Last year, I decided to produce an anthology of novellas set in the lowcountry of the southeast U.S. I invited three author friends who knew the area well to participate with me. The result is Lowcountry Crime: Four Novellas. It’s on Kindle pre-order for only $2.99. Once it’s officially released the price jumps to $3.99. Hurry! Hurry!

Now, the lessons:

1. Deadlines are there for a reason.

Authors are busy people. They often have multiple current writing projects, need to do their own marketing, and many have jobs in addition to their writing. For this anthology to succeed, I set target dates for each major step in the process for both the authors and the publisher: the initial submission from the authors, the first round of edits back to the authors, the second and final revisions, when the publisher owed proof copies to the authors, and when they had to give their okay.

2. Everything takes longer than expected.

I was dealing with three pros, and my first inclination was to develop a nice tight timeframe to move the project from conception to completion. The sooner revenue began coming in from book sales, the quicker authors could earn out their advances.

And then I reflected on my corporate life when I managed people. I had learned through experience that each of us has built-in biases when we estimate how long something will take. A manager’s job is to adjust the estimate for each person’s bias. Some people pad their estimates. Whatever they say can be shortened by some percent. Others assume everything will go perfectly; their estimates must be lengthened to reflect reality.

I know how long something should take, and that’s how long I want it to take. Of course, it takes longer because stuff does happen. Because I know my tendencies, I took my original timeframe and added significant “extra” time. Sure enough, we needed most of that slack.

3. The last 20% takes 80% of the resources.

Getting something close to correct takes considerable effort, but if you want to get it right, it takes a lot more effort. I didn’t measure the specific time each task took, but I suspect a version of the 80/20 rule is applicable to the effort of producing a book for publication.

I know that perfection in an 85,000-word document is impossible. However, the quality of this book reflects directly on me. Not only did I write one of the novellas in the anthology, I helped edit the others, and a quality product may lead others to want to work with me in the future on projects—or if I screw it up, convince them not to work with Wolf’s Echo Press. You can only make a first impression once!

Which means that I spent considerable time trying to ensure we had no typos (I suspect at least one is still hiding. Please let me know when you find it.) Laying out the manuscript for print meant looking at each page, finding ways to eliminate orphans, making adjustments such as inserting soft-hyphens when justified lines spaced too broadly.

And then there was all the time spent in setting up the distribution process. Choosing appropriate meta data, keywords, developing the description readers will see when they look for the book.

Etcetera. Etcetera. Thank goodness I knew my tendencies and set the timeline with “room to spare.”

4. Order Matters.

Consider this nightmare scenario: despite sign off from the publisher’s proofreader and the author, you discover a homonym somewhere in the book. My experience is that readers will tolerate a typo or two, but if they find a homonym or a character whose name changes, it pulls them right out of the story. They read it twice and then discount the author’s intelligence, the publisher’s quality standards, mentally mark down the number of stars they will give the book in their review, start looking for other errors. Not good; not good at all. We want entertainment on every page, not scrutiny of every page.

Fortunately, most homonyms have about the same number of letters as the correct word. But, let’s say it’s a name change. If this error were caught anywhere early in the process, it would be a small matter to make the fix. Late in the process, it requires change to both the print version(s) and the electronic version(s). And in the print version, if you are unlucky (I was), the change from (say) Jennifer to (say) Jess, shortens the text enough to cause one fewer line, which in turn leads to an orphan on some later page.

Decision time. Let the layout go with the orphan, or change the initial document, the print layout, and the file transferred to the distributor(s)? Of course I changed it, but it was all extra work caused by timing.

When I looked at the print proof version of the book, I discovered a major (to my mind) issue. No one—author, proofreaders, publisher (that would be me)—had noticed that one of the novellas used straight quotes (mostly) instead of curly quotes. As I paged through the paperback proof looking for anything that might be a problem, the $%^&* things jumped off the page and smacked me in the nose.

I immediately knew what had caused the problem (the author had returned edits using a program that did not recognize curly quotes) and how to fix it. However, not only did I need to fix both print versions of the book, I had to fix the two electronic versions as well—and do it in a manner that didn’t screw up the direction of the curly quote in, for example, ’cause. [Checking for the straight quote issue is now part of my processing checklist when I go from document to print layout.]

5. The mystery community is generous.

Unlike much in life, the mystery community does not consider writing and reading to be a zero-sum game. One person’s success does not take away from anyone else. We root for each other and help each other along the way.

Other nano-publishers were generous in sharing their experiences in publishing anthologies. Some people generously offered to proofread the manuscript for the thrill of finding errors and because it allowed them to read the stories first. Thank you for your eagle eyes.

I’ve had the chance to work closely with three fine authors on this project (Polly Iyer, Jonathan M. Bryant and WWK’s own Tina Whittle) and see how they each crafted stories using the lowcountry setting and instructions that the novellas were to be “north of cozy and south of noir.”

Lastly, I do want to thank readers who take the time to leave honest online reviews. I think I speak for all authors and publishers when I say we couldn’t do what we do without you, and we appreciate the reviews you write to help others know of our work.


Save 25%: Lowcountry Crime: Four Novellas is available for Kindle pre-order until 2/7/17 for only $2.99. The print edition is available for pre-order online or at your favorite bookstore.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

An Interview with Tony Healey by E. B. Davis

Beyond the shores of Hope’s Peak, North Carolina, evil waits as his next victim approaches. He’ll make her a princess like the others…

Detective Jane Harper can’t shake the image of the young woman discovered in a field—eyes closed, a crown of woven vines on her head. She expects macabre murders like this in her native San Francisco, not here. Jane and her partner, Stu, vow to catch the killer, but in this town, that’s easier said than done. The police department is in the grips of a wide-reaching scandal that could topple the entire force, and Jane and Stu face a series of dead ends. Until they meet Ida Lane.

Ida knows too well the evil that lurks in the cornfields. Tortured by her mother’s murder years before, Ida is paralyzed by the fear that she could be next. As the killer grows bolder, Jane must persuade Ida to use her remarkable gifts to help in the investigation. It’s a decision that brings them closer to the killer…maybe too close.

In an attempt to find out about Kindle bestsellers, I ran into Tony Healey’s book Hope’s Peak, released in January by Thomas & Mercer Publishers. A week after it went live on Kindle, it listed as third on the Kindle bestseller list. As a Kindle Unlimited member, I read it for “free.” What intrigued me about the book was the blurb. It hinted of a sixth sense element, which pressed my finger on the download button. Healey writes in third-person multiple POVs. It’s a mystery, a police procedural, but turns into suspense when he presents the killer’s POV.

This book will repel many of our cozy readers. Amazon reviews are all over the place, but in a short time, there are pages of reviews. However readers feel, Healey’s book has stirred public emotions. Healey presents a rapist and serial killer attracted to young black women. That sort of reading doesn’t appeal to me, but Healey bestows the flawed main characters with interesting backstories, treats the victims with reverence, and shows violence in a non-titillating way, revealing his sensitivity and insight into the killer’s mind. Even with uncomfortable subject matter Hope’s Peak is a well-written page-turner.

Please welcome Tony Healey to WWK.                                                                        E. B. Davis

Many of the reviewers stated that Hope’s Peak was your first book. You’ve written about fifteen books in what I would have categorized as Sci Fi on Amazon, but I discovered a new subgenre dubbed Fringe Science in which your previous series was placed. Tell our readers about Fringe Science and why you decided to write a mystery assuming this is your first?

I've always wanted to write, but I've come to realize that wanting to write, and having the ability to write are two complete separate things. For the longest time, from my mid-teens to my mid-twenties, I wanted to write. I filled journals with hundreds of pages of notes, ideas, plots—you name it. But it wasn't until I was a couple of years in my marriage, two kids around my ankles, that I was finally ready to write. I'd lived a little bit, had some life experience under my belt, and something just clicked into place. I sat down at our dining table and slowly, sluggishly, typed out a short story called 'Frank'. I followed this up with another story, featuring the same character, for the charity anthology Resistance Front. It just so happened that two well-known scifi authors—Harlan Ellison and Alan Dean Foster—also had stories in Resistance Front.

I guess it went on from there. At that point, 10,000 words seemed an impossible figure to achieve, but I decided to push myself. I had an idea for a sci fi serial, about a ship that gets sucked into a black hole and flung far from home (See what I did there?). I decided I would do one a month, for twelve months, and write them as connected episodes. So twelve episodes, when combined, would make up a 'season', like a TV show.

It was tough going. It would take me a few weeks to write each episode, then I'd spend a couple of weeks editing and revising. But I stuck it out. All in all I wrote three 'seasons' worth, totaling about half a million words.

That was good practice. You learn by doing, and I made every mistake possible to begin with. But something fantastic happened—as I was releasing each episode, they were really taking off. They built me an audience, and a following eager for more from these characters I'd created. When the twelve episodes were done, I packaged them together into a collected edition, and it hit #1 in is category for over two months. So I not only learned how to write, but along the way I got paid for my efforts. I was soon raking in a second income.

With three 'seasons' worth under my belt, I fancied trying my hand at something new. I wrote a short, violent fantasy novel, The Bloody North, and a Young Adult horror, Past Dark. But there was one idea that wouldn't go away.

I have a passing interest in Fringe Science—hence my twitter handle, @Fringescientist. It's things like telepathy, clairvoyance, that kind of thing. The idea I had was for a woman who had known a great trauma, and had some kind of psychic ability 'awakened' by the event. But there was something about it, I couldn't quite it down on paper. I couldn't wrangle it into a short story, so I stopped trying and let the idea rest. Well, in 2015 I finally felt ready. I had an idea for a serial killer plot, but it was missing that all-important 'something' that makes it special. In 'Silence of the Lambs' it was the relationship between Lecter and Clarice that took the book to the next level. That's the kind of thing I was looking for. Inevitably, my thoughts returned to that story idea of a psychic with a troubled past. I put the two together, and had the concept for Hope's Peak.

I think there are two important things to take away from this:
1. It took me several years, and half a million words, to get to the point where I felt ready to write Hope's Peak.
2. The story came together in its own way. Over time, it came together, and that's not something that can be forced or manufactured.

How did the deal with Thomas & Mercer come about?

My friend (and frequent collaborator) Bernard Schaffer was publishing some things co-written with J A Konrath through the Dystel & Goderich agency. The lovely lady he was working with there was an agent called Sharon Pellettier. If I'm remembering correctly, Bernard introduced me to Sharon, and I mentioned that I was nearly finished with a novel. She was interested to read it so, when it was completed, I sent it Sharon's way.

Now, she's a very busy woman. Has a lot going at any one time, so it took a short while for her to get to Hope's Peak, but when she did . . . she wanted to represent it straight away. We sent it around to a few publishers, and Thomas & Mercer put an offer in for Hope's Peak and a sequel. I've been very lucky, really, in that I've had a pretty smooth ride—and both my agent, and my publisher, have treated me very, very well.

From your online biography, I discovered you live in Sussex, England. There’s racial tension in England, but you showcase American racial tension. Why did you set your book in North Carolina, not say, Hastings or Brighton?

I couldn't imagine the story working anywhere else. You know, one of the things you consider is how you open a novel. What's the reader's first sensory experience as they turn the page and start reading? I pictured a black girl, raped and strangled, left in a field of corn. Green stalks swaying in the breeze, rustling like paper. Straight away, you have a sense of place. You feel that weight in your heart for the victim. Not a woman. A girl—denied the chance to even begin having a life before it is taken away from her. In that first chapter I sought to establish a lot, and I remember rewriting it and rewriting it until I got it right. Until it clicked. I wanted the clinical detachment of the coroner. The strong-headed main character, seemingly facing the impossible. Her 'complicated' relationship with her partner, Stu. But at the center of that is the girl. Robbed of everything, and crowned. To me, it was totally about the killer, Lester, taking ownership of her. He was marking the girls as his property, his conquests, his creations almost. I thought that was very interesting and unsettling.

I truly didn't feel the story would work in the UK. I'd also been watching True Detective, and just fell in love with that kind of setting. Vast, open space. A sense of foreboding in every frame. I thought it would work perfectly with the story I wanted to tell.

When a young, black woman’s raped and murdered body is found in a field, detectives Stu Raley and Jane Harper are assigned the case. There are indications that the killer could be a fledgling serial killer, but then their boss, Captain Morelli hands Jane a file for a similar killing that happened decades ago, which Stu and Jane find is the first case of many that have been suppressed by the town’s governing families. What motivated Morelli to reveal this case, and why would town leaders suppress such a horror?

To answer that would be revealing far too much. All I can say is that readers will get their answers in Storm's Edge, the sequel to Hope's Peak, which picks up a few months later and deals with three things: What happens next for our characters Jane Harper and Ida Lane; who covered up the murders of those poor young girls? And lastly . . . why? Who is behind all of this?

I saw Hope's Peak as a story of two halves. One, a serial killer. Two, a conspiracy in a small coastal town. The first book dealt with the killer. The second . . . well, you'll see.

There’s only one character in the book that I think is totally innocent. You’ve even provided some of the victims’ histories showing them not to be pristine in character. Why?

Nobody is squeaky clean. Everyone has dark thoughts. Everyone has something in their past, in their history, that they're not too pleased about. That's just being human. If you're going to write about people, they can't be clean-cut angels who do nothing wrong. That's untruthful writing and, most important of all, it's very boring.

Does everyone have a vice?

Yes. And if you say you haven’t, you're full of shit (hahaha!).

Black detective Albert Goode fascinated me. How does he play the race card?

I don't think he does. He's young, black and gay. He's innocent and offers a different perspective to what's going on. Harper can get pretty cynical, sometimes. I thought it was interesting to have a character in there, a protégé type, who wasn't so beaten by life already. He's fresh-faced. You'll be happy to learn Albie is very prominent in Storm's Edge. He's a great character and I enjoy writing him.

By storytelling through the killer, you turned the police procedural mystery into suspense about three quarters through the book. Why?

Because I think you can only keep the boogeyman element going for so long, before you get fatigued. Yes, it's cool showing a killer slaughtering people. Kidnapping them, doing things to them. We've seen all of that a million times. But what's even more interesting is getting inside their head. Establishing them as a villain and then, at a certain point in the book, rounding them out. Making them a character in their own right. Yes, Lester is an evil, sick, deranged murderer. But he's also a human. As hideous as that notion is, you can't deny that that's how it is in real life. Also, by telling things from his perspective, we got a glimpse of what made him that way. Nobody is born a killer. They evolve into that. Why wouldn't you want to show some of that? Otherwise, what you're writing is a cookie-cutter-killer.

You provide the reader with a glimpse into the killer’s history and sexual depravity. Having four daughters, was it hard to write? Was it important to tell his story?

It was very hard, very uncomfortable. But you know what? You write what makes you squeamish. The secret fears you harbour inside yourself, your phobias, your nightmares . . . you funnel all of that into your fiction, somehow. It just happens.

I have seen a lot of reviews mention the killer's sex scenes in the book. Some are grossed out by them.

That's the point.

What I wanted to do was show our heroes, Jane Harper, Stu Raley, as having 'loving' sex. I don't go into detail, I gloss over it. Love making, as in real life, is best when it's a private, secret act between two people. It's an exclusive connection between two lovers. I didn't want to sensationalize that, or make it pornographic.

Lester having sex, however, was a different thing altogether. I wanted to make it graphic, and sort of gross to read. I wanted it to turn your stomach. This is a perverse man, who kills young women for kicks. He thinks he knows how to love, but he doesn't. So I wanted to differentiate the two in the book, and I think I succeeded in doing that. It's not to everybody's taste, of course, but I can't help that. You write what you've gotta write. But what I didn't want to do, was have what our heroes experience lumped into the same category as what Lester, the killer, gets up to. One is love. The other—what he does—is, as you say, depravity.

Ida Lane was my favorite character. She smokes, drinks, swears, and she’s also a survivor with a courageous heart. Have you met anyone like her upon whom you based the character?

I think she's an amalgam of a lot of people I've encountered in my life. I think she's also a part of me, too. It's interesting, when you write a book filled with characters because you start to realize that all of these people you're populating your story with are you.

Okay, maybe not Lester!

But all the others, there's something of yourself in them. Even if it’s just in the way they conduct themselves. Their attitudes to life. Hopes and dreams. Somehow, all that stuff gets into your book and your characters. I think Ida's perspective on the afterlife, in particular, is pretty close to my own.

Are you hooked on writing mystery?

Yes, but I'm hooked on writing in general. It can be sci fi, fantasy, romance, mystery, you name it. It's the story that grabs me first and foremost. The rest—the category that that story falls into when you've written—is secondary.

Do you write full time or do you have a day job?

I have a day job. I work until midday, and then I write in the afternoons. This sometimes rolls into the evenings too, but mostly I like to read, or Netflix and chill J

On vacation, do you want to go to the mountains or to the beach?

Both? Can I have both? 


Friday, January 27, 2017

Lessons from Edgar Allan Poe by Warren Bull

Lessons from Edgar Allan Poe by Warren Bull
Edgar Allan Poe, inventor of the detective story, master of the short story and renown poet offered some thoughts on writing short fiction and poetry. I summarized some of them below: 

1. Before putting pen to paper have the entire work including the ending worked out in your mind.  

2. Write what can be read in one sitting. The time the typical reader is willing to spend reading has changed since Poe’s time but the concept is still valid. 

3. Work toward unity of “effect.” Poe believed that the aim of a short story was to create a single mood, or ambience, which he called an effect. He favored melancholy and horror, but this applies to any mood. 

4. Poe insisted that the effect should start at the very first line. 

5. Related to the idea above include nothing that detracts or distracts from the design of the piece. 

6. Regardless of the genre keep the story true to the way people really act in a given situation. It may be a fantasy, romance or science fiction but the characters’ actions should ring true to the human heart.  

7. Stress imagination, invention, creation and originality. It is not necessary to invent a totally new situation. Familiar plot lines can be presented in fresh ways. 

8. The resolution must be satisfying. In fact Poe suggested that the ending is often where to begin the piece.

By Warren Bull, author of Abraham Lincoln For the Defense http://tinyurl.com/z9grc2j and Abraham Lincoln in court & campaign http://tinyurl.com/zoxazej

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Sisters' March for Solidarity

How cool to see a man who could be a Trump fan with that sign

This past Saturday, I left early to join two of my sisters for breakfast at Perkins. Afterwards we went on to Sharon, Pennsylvania to take part in a Sister’s March there in solidarity with the one being held in Washington D.C. and all over the country and the world. It’s the first one we’d been on since our Viet Nam War Protest March way back in the early sixties.  It was a warm day for January, and the sun was blessing us after a week of clouds and rain.
The fifth woman used my camera to take the picture.

My sister Elaine had made three poster board signs – one for each of us. We arrived early and parked in a large parking lot across from the small park where we were to meet. Some people were already in the park and others were standing around their cars. We joined some of those in the parking lot and chatted away and got acquainted asking where they came from without asking for names. 

Everybody was excited,
and enjoyed others who have the same beliefs and goals. I visited with five women, and we got a little more acquainted mostly because one
had this adorable little black poodle. Of course, then I had to show  pictures of my collie Maggie, and that led to the fact that I wrote mysteries, and they all wanted my website so I gave them each a bookmark of my first book. One never knows when one will find a follower of their series. Hopefully, at least one of them will.
Suzanne and Elaine. The middle sign was mine.

Gradually the people in the parking lot started heading for the little park where we were all to meet, and my sisters Elaine, Suzanne and I joined them, each holding a sign Elaine made. How exciting that was to join the crowd of people from different areas around that small town. Everyone was smiling, friendly, taking pictures of different signs, and it was so cool to see quite a few men participating, too. There was music, speeches and a TV station taking a video, which I found out was on Channel 27 from a town in Ohio not too far from where I live. It’s too bad my TV is out of commission, but I probably can find it on the internet, I’m hoping. My sister said they reported our march had over seven hundred people. Of course, that doesn’t compare with those in the larger cities, but for this small town that pulled in people from areas and towns around it, that was still a good amount of people.

I loved this sign from three standing close to us.

While we were waiting, a woman came up and said she wanted to interview one of us for the National Archives. Elaine immediately pointed to me because they know I’m a social person who enjoys talking to people. I had to sign a permission form with my name, and maybe where I’m from. I don’t exactly remember, but when that was taken care of, she started asking me questions like why I was there, and so on. It wasn’t a long interview. When she finished she thanked me and moved on.

I think many women feel that way.

Before we were to head out at noon, the woman who organized the march said there would be some Trump hecklers, and we were to ignore them and not get involved. Our motto was Love Trumps Hate.

A minister came and said a short prayer. We all bowed our heads in silence before we started out.

My sisters and I were closer to the end of the line. Part of the time I walked close to a young man pushing a stroller with two tiny girls, one two and a half years old, and the other six months old. He said his wife was a teacher and was teaching a seminar for new teachers, which is why she couldn’t come. I told him I was a retired teacher. (See I told you I’m a social person.)  He asked what grade I taught, and when I said third grade, he smiled and said that’s what his wife taught.  

When we got to the top of a hill where a beautiful library was on a corner, the marchers crossed over with a police officer holding up traffic. Then we all started downhill. While there had been one car that went by with a Trump sign held out by someone, the only other disruption was three or four men in front of a bar that made derogatory remarks. Most of us ignored them, but a few made some comments back. We hadn’t gone far when I heard two black women a few people behind me start singing “We Shall Overcome.” I turned around, smiled and started singing with them, turning every so often to smile at them as I sang – not as beautifully as they did, of course.
This was one of the many pictures Mary took.

After we all got back to the park, although some left, there were more speeches and a prayer, and then we headed out filled with love and happiness to be with such a group of like-minded people who stood up not only for the rights of women, but blacks, LGBTs, immigrants and people of different religions. My sisters and I vowed to attend any future marches that are held within driving distances. We were psyched up with having such a positive and happy day with so many smiling friendly people.

The March in Sacramento in front of the capital.

My youngest daughter Mary on her own attended a march in Sacramento. She was to ride with others on a train there, but she’d worked the night before and was too tired to get up in time to make the train, so she drove there. She was psyched just like my sisters and I. Like her talkative mother, she enjoyed talking to people and took far more and clearer pictures than I took. She was still on a high this afternoon when she called me after I got home from church. Last night she sent me lots of links to speeches made in Washington D.C. by Ashley Judd, Madonna, Elizabeth Warren, Gloria Steinem and also one by Bernie Sanders in Connecticut, and other speakers, too.

I think this spoke for all who marched everywhere. 

Did you march this past Saturday?

Have you ever marched in a protest march?

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

An Interview With Nupur Tustin

by Grace Topping

Many of us have talents and interests that can be quite disparate. Nupur Tustin is no exception. But she took her wide range of talents and interests in music, history, research, mysteries, journalism, and communications and rolled them into a terrific book featuring 18th century composer Joseph Haydn. In her first book, A Minor Deception, which was recently released, Nupur takes readers into the almost fairy tale world of royalty, castles, music, intrigue, and murder. It was a pleasure reading A Minor Deception and talking to Nupur about her writing.

A Minor Deception

When his newly hired violinist disappears just weeks before the Empress's visit, Haydn is forced to confront a disturbing truth. . .

Kapellmeister Joseph Haydn would like nothing better than to show his principal violinist, Bartó Daboczi, the door. But with the Empress Maria Theresa's visit scheduled in three weeks, Haydn can ill-afford to lose his surly virtuoso.

But when Bartó disappears--along with all the music composed for the imperial visit--the Kapellmeister is forced to don the role of Kapell-detective, or risk losing his job.Before long Haydn's search uncovers pieces of a disturbing puzzle.

Bartó, it appears, is more than just a petty thief--and more dangerous. And what seemed like a minor musical mishap could modulate into a major political catastrophe unless Haydn can find his missing virtuoso.

Welcome, Nupur, to Writers Who Kill.

You selected the 18th century composer Joseph Haydn as your main character. Why Haydn?

Nupur Tustin
"I was interested in surprising the public with something new, and making a brilliant debut." Haydn's words about the Surprise Symphony describe my own motives fairly well.

But there were considerations beyond that, of course. The nosy, meddlesome sleuth who blithely rushes in where detectives forbid her to tread may work well enough for a contemporary cozy, but the protagonist of a historical mystery must be discreet enough to invite confidences from all walks of people. Even Kerry Greenwood's delightfully forthcoming Phryne Fisher knows when to hold her tongue.

Haydn was such a person. Story after story attests to his approachable, helpful nature. Haydn willingly helped his wife's relatives, interceded on behalf of Beethoven, who was briefly his student, with the elector of Cologne, requesting that the young man be allowed a greater allowance. This was an unfortunately embarrassing moment for Haydn because Beethoven had lied about his financial status. But that Haydn, distressed by the younger man's apparently impoverished state, voluntarily reached out on his behalf tells us a great deal about the great composer.

Most readers will have heard Haydn’s name or enjoyed his music but may know very little about him. In your research, what was the most interesting thing you learned about him?

Apart from his helpful nature, I'd have to say it was his relationship with his fans. People adored Haydn, and they absolutely loved his music. When one of them, Marianne von Genzinger, took to sending the great composer piano transcriptions of his orchestral works, he took the time to read through the works, correcting and editing, where necessary, and returned them with his comments.

When the townspeople of Bergen, an obscure German town Haydn had never heard of, wrote to him describing their performance of the Creation, the great composer penned an immediate response. He was delighted, he said, to "receive such a flattering letter from a place where I could have no idea that the fruits of my poor talents were known."

Finally, later in life when he began preparing piano works for amateur musicians, he reached out to his fans, using their advice to edit the works so that the pieces would be both pleasing and within the compass of their abilities.

Haydn lived during a time of political unrest and intrigue. Was his life and career as dependent on the reigning powers and currying favor as portrayed in your book?

At the time, only a court wealthy enough to support a musical establishment could have a troupe of musicians and singers. The Morzins, who were Haydn's first employers, unfortunately lost their wealth, and had to disband their orchestra. So, a musician's livelihood was only as secure as his employer's income. This would have largely depended upon the nobleman's ability to cultivate the Habsburgs, rulers of Austria, Hungary, and Bohemia, and, for a long time, head of the loose confederation of German states and principalities known as the Holy Roman Empire.

A musician's income also depended upon his employer being genuinely, passionately interested in music. Fortunately, for Haydn, Prince Nikolaus Esterházy was deeply interested in music. His successor, however, was not. Most of the musicians lost their job after 1790. Haydn was kept on, although he had no duties to fulfill, because he was so well known; it was a matter of pride to keep him on.

The position of Kapellmeister was largely administrative, although, of course, the incumbent was also expected to produce prodigious quantities of music. Haydn himself was to marvel at how much he was able to write given the extent of his responsibilities: keeping his men in order, hiring or dismissing them, settling disputes, being responsible for their behavior, keeping the music library in order, ensuring the instruments were tuned, training opera singers, composing material for the church singers, editing works by other composers that were to be included in the regular performances, and so on and so forth.

Was much written about Haydn that you had a wealth of source material that enabled you to write about him, or did you have to create your own character of Haydn?

I was fortunate in that Haydn's anecdotes as related to his earliest biographers were still extant, and there's quite a bit of research on him.  The Haydn you see is my perception of his character—a warm, personable man deeply invested in his music. I saw no reason to change that.

There is one aspect of his character I've found it hard to come to terms with. Haydn and his wife didn't get on well with each other. She had absolutely no interest in his music.  They had no children either. All of those reasons led him, apparently, to have affairs with other women. Maria Anna took lovers, too, of course. One of these painted a portrait of Haydn. For my novels, I've ignored these extra-marital relationships. It's not something I can condone, so I choose not to dwell on it.

You included a number of real people in your book. What was the greatest challenge you faced writing about actual people?

Although there's quite a bit of information about Haydn, there isn't as much about some of the other people in his life. In a number of cases, I've had to create a personality for them.  There are clues as to what Johann may have been like, or Michael Haydn, for that matter, but for the most part, Haydn's younger brothers are my own creation.

You wrote very knowingly about music composition and performances. Do you have a background in music?

Yes, I had piano lessons as a child. We didn't have a piano at home, so I lived for my half-hour Saturday morning lessons. In 2010, my husband bought me a keyboard, and a year later, he bought me my Weber upright. I resumed piano lessons at the time, and when I began researching the Haydn novels, started studying music theory and began composing.

With planned royal visits, castles, and numerous dignitaries, your book almost has a fairy tale element. How difficult was it to portray life as it actually was during the 1700s? You’ve done it very well.

Thanks, Grace! It was quite the challenge because it wasn't just a question of what life was like in the eighteenth century. But what was it like in eighteenth-century Austria? Using England as my exemplar wouldn't have done at all, and even Germany, to the north, was sufficiently different, although still closer to Austria than England.

I had to go on a treasure hunt, using Leopold Mozart's letters, for instance, Haydn's anecdotes, and research on Mozart to formulate a picture. I found a forum specifically for Eisenstadt expats and gleaned interesting details about farmhouses and their structure and the purchasing power of a gulden, among other things.

What is it about Haydn that has him trying to unravel a mystery?

For me, it's his helpful nature and his sense of responsibility. When one of his men, even someone he doesn't like, disappears, Haydn needs to find out what happened. When it turns out that the man in question has something disastrous planned, his loyalty and gratitude to his employer and his fealty to the Empress oblige him to keep going.

With a Ph.D. in communications and a background in journalism, what led you to writing mysteries, particularly featuring Joseph Haydn?

I've always been interested in history, and I enjoy reading biographical fiction, especially mysteries. My Ph.D. has provided me with invaluable research training, so I felt quite confident I could research and write a historical mystery. I have strategies for finding research material and for interpreting them.  I'm used to reconciling contradictory interpretations and findings, and formulating a hypothesis to make sense of the material.

As far as my background in Communication is concerned, I was still a student when my husband and I began watching two wonderful TV shows, Burn Notice and White Collar. The protagonists, Mike Westin and Neal Caffrey, make frequent use of people's common assumptions to achieve their goals. As a student of communication, that made complete sense to me.

We not only make assumptions about people based on their verbal and nonverbal behavior, our assumptions frequently lead us to misinterpret people's motives. It's a useful technique for the mystery writer who's always striving to keep her readers off-kilter until the very end.

Do you listen to music when you write? Music by Haydn for inspiration?

Listening to music is a family activity for us. We'll all sit around the TV, and watch a music video on YouTube. The kids are metalheads, but we are trying to get them interested in Andrea Bocelli, an easy transition to classical music. Oftentimes, we'll sit at the piano and play and sing Christmas carols—even when it's not Christmas. The kids also like singing nursery rhymes.

But when I write, or read, for that matter, I tend to tune out everything else. I'm just lost in my fictional world.

Please tell us about your journey to publication. What writers inspired you the most?

For the Haydn series, Stephanie Barron's Jane Austen series were a huge inspiration, especially in terms of voice. Emily Brightwell, a modern-day Agatha Christie, in my opinion, has taught me a lot about constructing a good plot.  Kate Kingsbury showed me it was possible to advance a plot using dialogue, and Amanda Carmack's ability to lend her characters emotional depth has inspired my writing style quite a bit.

But I continue to learn from Sisters in Crime, in particular the Guppy chapter, where we discuss topics as varied as craft and marketing. It reminds me a bit of a society that C.P.E. Bach, Haydn's mentor, joined in Hamburg. Artists, craftsmen, and businessmen were all included, and they discussed aesthetics, as well as the dissemination and promotion of their products.

What’s next for Joseph Haydn and your series?

The next book, Aria to Death, delivers a double dose of history. It's set in Vienna, and Haydn is on the track of a dangerous killer who will stop at nothing to get his hands on the lost operas of Monteverdi. Haydn, of course, also has to discover whether the operas have indeed been found, and whether they are genuine.

I'm also currently researching Prussian Counterpoint where Haydn has to match wits with the wily Frederick of Prussia, and gets to meet his mentor, C.P.E. Bach. And in the fourth mystery, Mozart Connection, Haydn will have to step in to save Leopold Mozart, Wolfgang's father, from the gallows.

And, of course, I've written a few short stories. One of them, "The Christmas Stalker," was published in the December 2016 issue of Heater magazine. Another, "The Evidence Never Lies," is now available on Amazon. Both are set in modern-day California where I live.  

For mystery fans, what book would you recommend?

I think it would depend on your interests. For people interested in biographical mysteries, Stephanie Barron kills it with her Jane Austen series. If you enjoy a historical series with emotional depth, there's nothing better than Anne Perry's Thomas and Charlotte Pitt series. For a fast-paced Victorian mystery, take a look at Victoria Thompson's Gaslight Mysteries.

For those who simply like well-researched novels whether historical or contemporary, Susan Wittig Albert's books are a must-read. If you enjoy a sophisticated read, I'd recommend Donna Leon's Guido Brunetti series. And for cozy fans, I'd suggest either Victoria Abbott or Naomi Hirahara. I could go on, of course. But I'll leave it at that.

Thank you, Nupur, for joining us at WWK.

A former journalist, Nupur Tustin relies upon a Ph.D. in Communication and an M.A. in English to orchestrate fictional mayhem. Childhood piano lessons and a 1903 Weber Upright share equal blame for her musical works.

Web Sites:
Haydn Series: ntustin.com
Music: ntustin.musicaneo.com

Buy Links:

“The Evidence Never Lies” Find it here.

A Minor Deception