Interview With AMW Member Kathy Waller

Interview with Manning Wolfe

One of the perks of being a writer is having interesting and talented friends. Today I’d like to introduce you to Manning Wolfe.Manning Wolfe Headshot 2

VPC – Manning, welcome to the AMW blog and congratulations on your debut novel! Can you tell us a little something about it?

 

MW –Yes, it’s called Dollar Signs:Texas Lady Lawyer vs Boots King. It’s the first in a series and this one is set in Austin, Houston, and Port Aransas, Texas. MERIT BRIDGES, an Austin attorney and widowed mother with a lot of sass is the lead protagonist. She works hard, drinks too much wine, and sleeps with younger men. When she goes after a shady corporation threatening her client, she finds Boots King, a hired gun, threatening to kill her.

VPC – I know you’re a lawyer. In what ways did you use your legal background to write the book?

MW – The plot idea for Dollar Signs came from a client that I had several years ago who had gotten involved with an unscrupulous Outdoor Advertising Company (Billboards). Of course, I departed from that scenario fairly quickly in the book as the characters began to develop and the story took on a life of its own. I felt badly for that client and always wished he had gotten a fair shake. In Dollar Signs, I get to have the story turn out as I would have liked in real life. I’ve never practiced litigation although there are some courtroom scenes in the book. I wanted to show the other side of law – the business of it and the strategy that is involved.

VPC – Have you always wanted to be a writer?

MW – Yes, since I was a small child I’ve been spinning yarns and telling tales. I wrote my stories down as drawings, and then in narrative as soon as I was able to write. I loved Nancy Drew growing up and always wanted to write stories with a strong plot. I had great teachers who encouraged proper basic writing habits, so I received a good foundation early on. Much later, I wrote the screenplay of the life of Buckminster Fuller and found that I like combining cinematic style with novel structure. That blend has led me to the way I write today – fast paced legal thrillers with a strong visual component.

VPC – Where did you grow up and how has it affected your writing?

MW – I grew up in a small town just north of Houston called Humble. By the time I was in junior high, I had read every book in our public library. I still remember the wonderful librarian there and her interest in my constant reading habit. My father often asked me to do research in the courthouse archives in Harris County.  Those two things led not only to my legal career, but my writing career as well.  Property and business issues in the law are like a puzzle to me.  I always loved games and still enjoy online games and cards. Sorting out legal problems in real life or in a story is like a puzzle to my brain. I enjoy figuring things out and documenting that in writing.

VPC – Do you have any favorite authors?

MW – I read a lot and across many genres, but my favorites are thrillers. As far as legal thrillers, I like the early John Grisham novels, as well as Michael Connelly’s Mickey Haller series starting with The Lincoln Lawyer. Patricia Highsmith, who wrote The Talented Mr. Ripley, is a master of suspense. John Ellsworth’s Thaddeus Murfee series is very exciting, too. I think Scott Turow’s Presumed Innocent, that was made into a movie starring Harrison Ford, is one of the best legal thrillers ever written. And, of course, most people forget that Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird, another favorite of mine, was a legal thriller.

VPC – So what’s in store for your next book?

MW – The next book in the series is Green Fees: Texas Lady Lawyer vs Browno Zars, about a young golfer who wants to play the PGA tour and gets snagged up with a dastardly con man. It also was inspired by an actual client who was a golf pro. I’m editing it now for release later this year. I have about a dozen Texas Lady Lawyer novels in mind, some of them are outlined and some are just ideas.

VPC- Sounds good! Thanks for dropping by today and good luck on your new book. 🙂

DOLLAR SIGNS Final Ebook Cover 04

To keep up with Manning and her writing, you can go to her website at manningwolfe.com

 

AMW Author Highlight- Gale Albright

Welcome Patric Sanders Back to AMW!

V.P. Chandler here. In continuing my interview series with AMW members, I’d like to introduce you to Patric Sanders. Patric was a previous member who has recently rejoined our group. 

VPC- Welcome back to the group! Why don’t you tell us a little something about yourself, like where did you grow up?

 I was born in Berlin, one month before Hitler invaded Poland, which started WW 2. When the Allied air raids increased in 1942, my mother and I, together with other mothers and children, were evacuated from Berlin, first to rural Silesia, then to Pomerania – now Western Poland. At the end of the war, when the Russians had overrun Berlin, we trekked from close to Prague with a hand-drawn cart back to Berlin. We found our apartment was burned out, and most of our furniture and belongings were destroyed.

I grew up in the Russian sector of the divided city of Berlin. My early play-ground were ruins, discarded trucks and tanks. Even at a young age, the finding of food (berries, fruit, grain), fixing appliances and collecting firewood were important tasks to help my mother.

East Germany was plundered by the Soviets. Rails, machinery, any steel products were taken to Russia. Later, they were returned as Soviet tanks and artillery pieces. German scientists and engineers disappeared from the streets, abducted to Russian research facilities and factories.

But the Western part of Berlin and West Germany received generous assistance from the United States through the Marshall Plan, and many personal gifts by American families through CARE packages and donations. West Germany and West Berlin were rebuilt and quickly became prosperous.

When my mother and I visited our relatives in West Berlin, we enjoyed rarities like oranges, bananas, chocolate, and I loved Wrigley’s chewing gum.

At school, I was taught the superiority of Communism, and that our ‘great friend and brother’ the Soviet Union would bury the capitalist West and defeat America. Despite Communist indoctrination, I received a good education, especially in math, physics, chemistry and geography. I loved reading German and English literature and adventure and mystery tales by Stevenson, Defoe and Edgar Allen Poe. In high school we had two languages – Russian and Latin. From a retired teacher I took private lessons in English. I learned more by listening to the ‘forbidden’ American Forces Network (AFN Berlin) – I loved Glen Miller, Benny Goodman, Louis ‘Satchmo’ Armstrong, and rock’n’roll by Bill Haley, Fats Domino, Louis Prima, Chuck Berry and Elvis. I imitated the way the announcers talked. That’s why later when I worked and met the first British engineers, they said, “Manfred, how come you sound like a Yank?”

I studied electrical engineering & marine electronics at the University of Rostock, which incidentally was founded in 1419 – 73 yrs. before Columbus ‘discovered’ America.

The border in Berlin was open and I often took the commuter train/S-Bahn to West Berlin. I enjoyed Western movies with Gary Cooper, John Wayne and Burt Lancaster – one of my favorites was ‘The Magnificent Seven’ with Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen. Reading the German author Karl May, I was fascinated by the American West, by trappers and Native Americans. As so many Germans, I had ‘Fernweh’ – the urge to travel, the longing to see distant places.

I often went to the Amerika-Haus in West Berlin, a place forbidden to visit by the communists, where one could watch American news reels and movies, listen to jazz, or read American magazines and books.

I dreamt about this far-away land America – this perceived bastion of power, wealth, ingenuity and freedom.

On that fateful day of August 13th 1961, when the Berlin Wall went up, I was visiting my mother in East Berlin. On that day everything changed – the only window to the free West was now closed. Nobody was allowed anymore to cross the Wall. Many people tried and got shot, some bled to death in the ‘no-man’s land’, the death strip.

After university I worked as a test engineer for navigation systems at a shipyard in Stralsund. Six months later, I was drafted into the National People’s Army – NVA. Because of my electronic knowledge, I soon was put in charge of a secret Russian radar unit. After serving 18 months in the army, I worked as an engineer for the State marine electronic company. Now I was hounded by the East German secret police Stasi to join them, to spy on foreigners – but I resisted. I feverishly looked for a way to get out, to cross the border. Finally, in the summer of 1966, I escaped to West Germany in an adventurous way – I describe all this, the Stasi harassment and my escape in detail in my book ‘Chasing The Sun’.

 

VPC- Where else have you lived?

After my escape to the West, I found a job as electronics officer on a German cable ship In Hamburg. Nobody onboard, except for the captain, knew its mission. We sailed across the Atlantic to Portsmouth, NH and loaded cable. American immigration officials denied my entry permit. Then I discovered the power of the American free press. A young reporter wrote a three-part story about my life under Communism, my escape and the denial of entry into the US. Shortly thereafter, politicians up to the NH governor intervened on my behalf, and I could finally set foot on American soil. I explored New Hampshire, Maine, Boston and even visited the ‘Big Apple’.

Screen Shot 2015-12-07 at 9.35.45 AM

Electronics officer onboard cable ship ‘Neptun’ in Subic Bay Philippines, June 1967

In early 1967, we headed across the Atlantic for the Suez Canal and on to Singapore. After steaming into the South China Sea, our captain announced ‘Your pay will now double. We’re entering a war zone.’ For several months, we laid communication cable for the US Air Force around South Vietnam, from Da Nang to Nha Trang, Camh Ran Bay and Vung Tau, all the way to Thailand. From the ship we saw quite a bit of fighting, once we were almost blown up by Viet Cong swimmers, but they attached their limpet mines to a British tanker which was anchored close-by and blew it to pieces.

After completing my contract, I went to London and worked for the Decca radar and navigation company – the same company which under the Decca record label had rejected the Beatles, but signed on the Rolling Stones. I studied English and English literature at a Cambridge university extension and at school met my future wife.

In 1968, I decided to go after my old dream – America. I got married in London, and I found a job in San Francisco. The year was 1968 – hippies, drugs, protests, racial unrest and crime (we were burglarized & completely cleaned out!) were unfamiliar experiences for us. Future jobs took us to Orange County, Southern California, then to Houston. Through my jobs, I was transferred back and forth between Houston and Seattle several times.

With my electronic background, I worked in the marine industry, in merchant shipping, the offshore oil industry, in commercial fishing on the Pacific coast and Alaska, and in the defense industry for the US Navy and the German Navy. During my professional career I saw many interesting places and met great people, and I took notes.

 VPC- How did you come to live in Texas? Do you like it?

After living in the Seattle area for 25 years, in 2005 we had enough of grey skies, drizzle and rain and we retired to Texas sunshine. We love the Austin area and like to hike in the abundant nature parks together with our rescue dog Max, a Blue Lacy, the Texas State dog.

Screen Shot 2015-12-07 at 9.36.09 AM

With Max at Tejas Camp nature park

 

VPC- I know that you like American music, like Jazz. What is your favorite music? Did it influence your life? Is it mentioned in your stories?

I like music in many varieties, from rock’n’roll to Blues, Jazz to classical music and opera. When I write, I like to listen to Mozart and Vivaldi. I include music, classical pieces and hit tunes in my writing. In the mid-nineties, I even made a career change and ended up in the Music industry. I directed international marketing for a Seattle-based manufacturing company (audio mixers, amplifiers and studio speakers), traveling all over the world.

VPC- What other types of life experiences do you use in your stories?

During an adventurous vacation in Australia, while diving at the Great Barrier Reef, hiking through the croc-infested swamps of Kakadu National Park and exploring the wild shores of Tasmania, I decided to write an adventure story. I got my first novel published through Random House Germany in Muenchen – ‘Der Schatz vom Barrier Reef’ – The Treasure of the Barrier Reef, under my pen name Patric Sanders.

Barrier Reef cover

 

VPC- Tell us a little about your books?

My wife urged me to write in English about my life in East Germany and my escape. Based on facts and experiences during that time – life under a communist dictatorship, the far-reaching power of the secret police Stasi and how people coped – I wrote two fiction novels, the cold-war thrillers “Chasing The Sun” and “Singed By The Sun” – both are self-published under Patric Sanders, and available on Amazon Kindle. A third book in the series is in the works – “Hostile Harbors”.

Chasing the Sun cover

Singed By the Sun

 

VPC- What are you working on currently?

As a follow-up to my German adventure novel (set in Australia), I’m writing an adventure thriller ‘Lethal Encounters’, set in Europe, the Pacific Northwest and Hawaii. It’s an international intrigue, where Russian criminals, German combat swimmers, Navy Seals and an adventurer and his Hawaiian friend, who look for the remains of a Spanish gold galleon, collide on a remote Hawaiian island.

VPC- It sounds exciting! (And to the readers our there, I’ve read a few chapters and it’s very good.)

Thanks, Patric, for the interview. I’m happy for this opportunity to share your story.

patric sanders

For more information about his books, here’s the link to his Amazon Author page. 

 

 

The Case of the Naked Picture

"A dazzling, richly textured YA debut." KIRKUS REVIEW

“A dazzling, richly textured YA debut.” KIRKUS REVIEW

A small town in Colorado was recently shocked by a “sexting” scandal involving 100 high school and middle school students sharing nude photographs of themselves and other students.  School officials, parents and police are at a loss to understand and respond–as I can well imagine!

I immediately thought about Brenda Vicars, an Austin area author who wrote Polarity in Motion, a YA mystery that revolves around the issue of sexting. Brenda is an experienced educator, a former teacher and school administrator. She gave me the following interesting interview.

EB: Brenda! Thanks for agreeing to answer some questions. First of all, I guess I thought sexting was a passing fad, and assumed most teenagers would not be involved in this kind of thing. But I just read that more than half of all college students report that they sexted before the age of 18. Does that surprise you?

BV: Yes–that number is way larger than I expected, which may be partially attributed to the loose interpretations of what “sexting” actually means. I still believe that lots of teens don’t want their nude pictures shared–especially with more than the one person who was the intended recipient.

EB: How long has sexting been around? When did you first become aware of it?

BV: I first became aware of it about ten years ago when guidance for parents and educators started being published.

Brenda Vicars has worked in Texas public education for many years. Her jobs have included teaching, serving as a principal, and directing student support programs. For three years, she also taught college English to prison inmates.

Brenda Vicars has worked in Texas public education for many years. Her jobs have included teaching, serving as a principal, and directing student support programs. For three years, she also taught college English to prison inmates.

EB: What do you think is an appropriate response to a discovery like the one in Colorado, where such a large sexting ring has been uncovered?

BV: There should definitely be consequences, but I think felony charges are too extreme when students are voluntarily sharing their pictures with other minors. The felony level category was probably established to apply to adults who deal in child porn.

EB: How serious is this issue? Is it harmful? Is it risky? How concerned should parents of teenagers be?

BV: It might not be any more serious than streaking of the 60s or flashing of the 90s if the pictures were seen only by the intended recipients.  However, once a picture is out there, it can literally go anywhere–including onto child porn sites.  The potential for harm is unlimited both in scope and time.

EB: The legal response to sexting can be quite severe, since having and sharing nude pictures of minors qualifies as possessing and distributing child pornography. is this right? is sexting tantamount to dealing in child pornography?

BV: That’s a great question–and there is no easy answer because the degree of lewdness and the quantity of distribution are different in every instance.  In Texas when sexting first reared its head, it fell into the felony level offenses. But several years ago, Texas statute changed so that minor sexting, first offense, can be a misdemeanor. But even with this reduction of severity, sexting incidents still keep schools, the legal system, and parents challenged.

And, in addition to legal consequences, there can be repercussions at school ranging from community service, suspension, or even expulsion. Sometimes students believe that since their phone is their private property, it is immune from school regulations.  But, when sexting interferes with activities at school, even if the sexting happened at night, Texas schools can take action.

EB: What a nightmare for parents! I suppose one reason we never sexted in my day was that we didn’t have camera phones, smartphones, or digital photography. We had to take film in to be developed–and who is going to do that with a nude picture?

In your book, Polarity in Motion, a teenage girl is horrified to learn that a nude picture of her is circulating throughout her school. It’s a tantalizing mystery, since she has no idea when or how the picture was taken, and you use it to explore a lot of complex issues involving teenagers. Can you discuss some of the issues you find most compelling?

BV: I’ve always been hung up on the numbers of innocent people who, in spite of our well-planned legal system, get incarcerated for crimes they didn’t commit.  News stories about cases being reopened and the innocent being released always strike a note of fear in my heart.  What if these same mistakes happen to students?  Are there cases of high school students being suspended or expelled when they are actually innocent? I hope none of the students I worked with were unjustly punished, but Polarity in Motion is a story of how it could happen.

It’s a thought-provoking book and a great read–146 reviews, of which two-thirds are 5-stars and more than 90% are fours or fives! If you have teenagers on your Christmas list, consider giving them Polarity in Motion, by Brenda Vicars.

Elizabeth BuhmannElizabeth Buhmann is the author of Lay Death at Her Door.

“…blood is shed along the way to a jaw-dropping, but logical, climax that will make veteran mystery readers eager for more…” – Publishers Weekly (starred review)

The Ghosts of Murder

When I hear the word mysterious I think of the supernatural—and ghosts. The word mystery brings to mind murder. Kim Giarratano writes mysteries about the ghosts of people who’ve been murdered. I thought she’d be a good person to interview right before Halloween.

EB: Kim, tell me about ghosts! What are they? Does everyone who dies become a ghost? To whom do they appear, and what do they want?

The Lady in Blue helps solve her own murder.

The Lady in Blue helps solve her own murder.

KGG: For the record, this is ghost mythology according to Kimberly Giarratano. I’m sure experts in the paranormal have other theories.

Ghosts are the soul’s imprint left in the physical world and they can’t let go. Not everyone who dies becomes a ghost (Earth would be overrun if they did). I’d like to think ghosts appear to people who they think can help them or because they think the person will understand them. Ghosts have a story to tell and it’s up to the living to figure it out what that story is.

 

EB: Are they dangerous? Should we be afraid of them? What can they or can they not do in the world we know?

KGG: I’m not gonna put on a false bravado– I’d be freaked out if I saw a ghost. I’m a huge scaredy cat. Ghosts can wreak havoc on the human psyche and mess with our feelings of security, and I’m not sold that they wouldn’t purposefully hurt us. Perhaps some ghosts are out for revenge against the person responsible for their death. And if that person is not around, another living soul will become the focus of the ghost’s revenge.

I think ghosts can affect objects indirectly and directly, ie move things. I think people can feel a ghost’s touch as well, but you might be more susceptible to sensing ghosts if you’re not in such an alert state of consciousness. I bet many people have ghost encounters at night, when they’re drifting in and out sleep.

EB: Do you believe in ghosts? Have you ever seen one?

Dead and Breakfast will be released in early 2016.

Dead and Breakfast will be released in early 2016.

KGG: I’ve never seen a ghost, but I believe in them enough. So many people have recalled experiences with ghosts that I can’t believe they’re all lying.

EB: Both One Night is All You Need and Dead and Breakfast are set in Key West, Florida, which is apparently a hotbed of ghostly activity. I didn’t know this! For real?

KGG: I went to Key West on vacation four years ago and took a haunted ghost walk. According to the tour guide, Key West is one of the ten most haunted cities in America. There are some crazy ghost stories. Look up Robert the Doll online and try not to get freaked out. Also, apparently the ladies bathroom in the Hard Rock Café is haunted.

Kimberly G. Giarratano

Kim Giarratano

EB: I loved the setting in those stories—really got the feel of the place. You must have spent some time there. What is your connection with Key West?

KGG: I was only there for five days, but Key West is an amazing place. I fell in love with the island and I’m dying to go back (just not as a ghost). I made sure to take notes as we walked around. I told my husband, “I’m totally setting a novel here.”

EB: You are working in an interesting niche: would you call it YA paranormal mystery? I would not have thought to combine YA and murder, but you do it with great charm. Are there other books in this genre that inspired you?

cristinasghost

KGG: First, thanks! I guess I would call it YA paranormal mystery with a nice side of romance. My favorite YA authors are Holly Black and Maggie Stiefvater. Their writing is unsurpassed and they really push the boundaries of their genres. Maggie Stiefvater really knows how to create a cast of intriguing characters and Holly Black has a way with words that I have yet to see duplicated in another author. She’s also a Jersey girl (like me), so bonus points for that.

EB: My favorite ghost story is The Turn of the Screw. What’s yours?

KGG: One of my favorite ghost movies is The Others. When I was a kid, I loved the book Christina’s Ghost by Betty Ren Wright (shudder).

Thanks, Kim! Kim is a forever Jersey girl who lives in the woods of northeastern Pennsylvania with her husband and small children. A former teacher and YA librarian, she is the author of Grunge Gods and Graveyards, The Lady in Blue, One Night is All You Need, and the upcoming Dead and Breakfast.

Elizabeth BuhmannHappy Halloween, everybody! Do you believe in ghosts? Ever seen one? What’s your favorite ghost story? Have you ever written a ghost story?

Elizabeth Buhmann is the author of Lay Death at Her Door.

 

Author Highlight: Kaye George

For today’s interview I’m talking to former AMW member, Kaye George who is a national-bestselling and multiple-award-winning author. Kaye George

Welcome to the interview couch, Kaye! Tell us, how did you find Austin Mystery Writers?

 I was at an Austin Sisters in Crime Holiday party at someone’s home, and I mentioned wanting a writing group. Someone led me to Karen MacInerney, who was still in the AMW group then. She invited me to a meeting, and I came back time after time. I attended through all kinds of membership changes until we moved out of Austin.

How did the group help you?

 We were all mystery writers, but we all wrote very different kinds of mysteries. I liked getting different feedback from the viewpoints of all the other writers. I liked it when we had guys in the group, too, because that’s another perspective. Having at least several members was always good, because you don’t want to take all the feedback you get. If two or more readers complain about the same passage or plot point, though, you know you have to change it.

When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?

 Probably in junior high school, when I started to think it might be possible. We had an assignment to write a page of description without telling the reader what we were describing. I wrote about Cocker Spaniel, not telling the reader it was a dog, but saying he ran up the hill on four paws and enjoyed the breeze blowing through his long silky ears–or something like that. The teacher loved it! In fact, she read it to the class as an example of how the assignment should be done. My face was bright red! But I loved that she loved it. Throughout high school and college I submitted short stories to impossible markets, Atlantic Monthly (as it was then called) and New Yorker magazines. I collected piles of rejection slips.

What was the first thing of yours that was published?

 It was a short story in Web Mystery Magazine. I’ve lost track of Rosalie Stafford, who accepted my piece, but still keep up with Earl Staggs, who edited for them. The story was called “Flash Mob” and was published in April 2006. I even got paid for it! I remember being so anxious to get it published before flash mobs fell out of fashion. They’re still around, so I wasted that anxiety. I thought I was on my way and it wouldn’t be long before I got the novel published that I’d been working on. Ha! My first novel, CHOKE, was published in 2011, but THAT novel was published in April 2013 as EINE KLEINE MURDER. April seems to be a good month for me.

Tell us about some of your hobbies.

 I play the violin and love to compose when I have the time. In the past, I’ve had fun arranging things for the string quartet I had in Dallas. Reading, of course, and walking. Hiking in the mountains, but not long, overnight treks, just half-day or shorter.

Tell us an unusual fact about you.

After having been on several panels at mystery conferences, I’m not longer all that terrified of speaking in front of people, and I can play in a string quartet or even duet without the shakes, but I’m paralyzed when I play an audition or a violin solo. I can’t do it without a little “helper.”

I know that you have more than one series. Briefly tell us what those are and what’s new.

As Kaye George, I’m doing 3 series (I know, I’m nuts).

Cressa Carraway Musical Mysteries: Eine Kleine MurderEINE KLEINE MURDER, REQUIEM IN RED (coming out in April 2016)

Imogene Duckworthy humorous Texas series: CHOKE, SMOKE, BROKE          Choke by Kaye George

 

People of the Wind Neanderthal Mysteries:

Death in the Time of IceDEATH IN THE TIME OF ICE, DEATH ON THE TREK (coming out June 2016)

 

 

As Janet Cantrell, just one series.

FCSO cover smallFat Cat: FAT CAT AT LARGE, FAT CAT SPREADS OUT, FAT CAT TAKES THE CAKE (coming out in April) April is a good month for me, but it’s getting a little crowded for 2016.

My first love, though, is short stories. With the other members of this group, we had a lot of fun putting out MURDER ON WHEELS with Wildside Press this year. 71QiKRIkj+L

My next short story will be “Heartbreak in Graceland” in MEMPHIS NOIR, memphis noircoming out by Akashic in November. I have some more in the works, but not definite dates. I try to keep my web page updated, so everything should be there soon after I know it.

Do you have any insights into the publishing industry?

Um, no. I’ve always said that if anyone tells you what publishing will look like in ten years, or even next year, they’re full of baloney. No one knows. But that’s what makes this field so interesting. You gotta be on your toes and keep up!

Thanks for the interview!

Thanks so much for having me here today!

A side note: Hurry up and get the hardcover for Death in the Time of Ice at Untreed Reads. It’s available only through Septemeber!

http://www.untreedreads.com/store/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=873&products_id=1709

And if you’re interested in her Fat Cat series: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/fat-cat-takes-the-cake-janet-cantrell/1122291999

http://www.amazon.com/Fat-Cat-Takes-Cake-Mystery/dp/042526744X/

Here are the links to her novel page and short stories page:

http://kayegeorge.wix.com/kaye-george#!novels/c1qrd

http://kayegeorge.wix.com/kaye-george#!short-stories/c1bfa

Author Highlight- Elizabeth Buhmann

We at AMW are a busy bunch, always working on many projects. I’m so proud to be a part of this diverse, interesting, and productive group! So proud in fact, that I thought I’d do a series of blog posts to highlight what current and former members are up to. Not only are we accomplishing things as a group, but individually we are setting goals for ourselves and we’re achieving them. These folks keep me on my toes! They fuel my desire to create and they give me courage to follow through with projects. By watching them, I’ve seen what can be done.

Austin Mystery Writer Elizabeth BUhmannI’d like to thank Elizabeth Buhmann, author of Lay Death At Her Door, for being the first person in this series.

VPC– Elizabeth, I’ve heard that Lay Death At Her Door is doing well. Any updates on its status? laydeath

EB– I recently got a very nice starred review from Publishers Weekly. Lay Death has been out for more than two years now, and it has done pretty well, in terms of both reviews and sales. I’m happy.

VPC– Any other writing projects that you’re working on that you’d like to share with us?

EB– It’s getting to the point where I’m overdue to get another book out. I have one novel on the brink, but it’s not quite right yet. I’m stewing on that.

I’m not in a hurry. On the contrary, I am trying to detach myself from the gotta-publish, gotta-publish mind-set. The validation that comes from publishing and being read is intoxicating, but publishing can also be a rabbit-hole. When will the next book come out? Did you make the big five? Did you make the bestseller list? In other words, What have you done LATELY?

I don’t need to earn money through my writing, and when it becomes a job with a deadline, I rebel. I admire people younger than myself who are setting out to make a career out of writing fiction (ie, trying to earn enough to give up the day job). I didn’t do that. In my career, I was a writer, but writing fiction is a whole different game. It’s hard work and more difficult than ever—the number of books coming out each year is staggering.

Publishing a novel and having it be well-received was a goal. I don’t want it to become a craving for more and more success and recognition. There are enough books. Maybe I’ll publish again, maybe I won’t. I want to write in peace, on my own terms, at my own pace. If I turn out to be a one-trick pony, that’s fine. It was a good trick.

VPC– I know that you practice Tai Chi. I believe that you’ve recently achieved special status. Please tell us all about it!

Elizabeth getting her second degree black sash cohort.

EB– I’ve been studying Tai Chi for six years and earned my second-degree black sash last fall. I’m pretty obsessed. In addition to my own solo practice, I maintain a Tai Chi blog (taichinotebook.com), take classes and work out with a group of Chinese people in my neighborhood. As a side effect, I have been learning a fair amount of Chinese! And I like reading mysteries set in China. I’ve read all of Qiu Xiaolong’s Inspector Chen novels, which are set in Shanghai in the 1990s.

VPC– I see your from posts here on the website that you read a wide variety of books. What are you currently reading? Anything to recommend?

EB– I have been catching up on Tana French. I read In the Woods and Faithful Place a few years ago; just finished Broken Harbor (six stars out of five, that one!) and The Likeness. Next for me: The Secret Place. I think Tana French is the most brilliant writer working in the mystery field today.

Thanks, Elizabeth! I always learn something new and interesting from you.

Stay tuned. In next month’s author highlight I’ll introduce author Patric Sanders.

Interview With George Wier

George Wier was nice enough to agree to an interview. Thank you, George! George Wier

(He’s a personal friend of mine so he knew I’d give him grief if he didn’t. 😉  )

I know that you’re not originally from Austin. How did you get here?

I moved to Austin in 2002 from College Station. One day I took a look at the world around me and realized that most of my friends and all of my family had moved away. Also, after thirty years of living in Bryan-College Station, I knew everyone and everything that I wanted to know.  In a word, I was bored. I called an old friend who lived in Austin and told him about my dilemma, and without even the hint of hesitation, he offered a spare room in his apartment and told me to load up my meager possessions and come on. I left the next day. This was about September or October, not far from my 37th birthday. I was essentially–and with malice aforethought–wiping out an old existence and beginning a new one. I was time to do that. It was one of the best decisions I ever made. Apart from rooting for the old home team (the Aggies) I took to Austin like a duck to water. I’m home now.

Have you always been a writer? Was there a book that inspired you to write?

Yes, I have always been a writer, ever since I could read. My first inspiration was comic books and film. My first actual attempt at a complete narrative was essentially a skit that was somehow a cross between a story and a script, and was actually inspired by Monty Python. I couldn’t do humor well, though, and sight gags were not my thing. The earliest, clearest influences on my writing came from science fiction, particularly Frank Herbert’s Dune books. I loved those. There is one story idea from those early days that I will attempt sometime in the near future. It’s about an outpost at the fringe of human expansion into the universe, and will be sort of a cross between Castaway and the Star Trek universe. We’ll see, though, if I ever get that done. My hopper is pretty much loaded up at the moment.

Along about 1976 or ’77, I was given a collection of Doc Savage paperbacks by my best friend’s sister. Her name was Peggy Dale Taylor. The Doc Savage books she gave me were the 1960s and ’70s Bantam paperback reprints of the old Street and Smith Doc Savage series written under the pen name of Kenneth Robeson, but mostly actually penned by Lester Dent, who though originally from Missouri, was a member of the Explorer’s Club in New York. Dent wrote about a quasi-private investigator, quasi-superhero named Clark Savage, Jr., and his five aides, who traveled the world righting wrongs and punishing evildoers. They sparked the imagination of this young teenager and would later very largely influence my Bill Travis Mystery series. The difference, however, between Doc Savage and Bill Travis is that Bill is based in Texas and rarely crosses the state line, he doesn’t have a lot of gadgets to help him out, and his small collection of friends are more from the “friends in low places” crowd, and less from the “cream of the crop”. I’ve written ten Bill Travis books, and there are at least eleven more to go before I round out the series, including three prequels. And by the time I’m at the end of that long runway, I should–hope springs eternal–know how to write.

Tell us about the different genres you write. Does the genre influence how you approach or plot your book?

Mostly, I write MY genre. I’m not sure what that is. For instance, the Bill Travis books, though billed as mystery, occasionally cross over the line into the fantastic, or you might call it Science Fiction. The first book, The Last Call, is straight action-adventure. The second book, Capitol Offense, while it has elements of action-adventure, is at least half mystery with some elements of political intrigue. The third book, Longnecks and Twisted Hearts, quite definitely crosses the line into science fiction, yet remains mostly a murder mystery. Books four and five, The Devil to Pay and Death On the Pedernales, are both pretty much straight mysteries. Book Six, Slow Falling, has so much science fiction that it should probably be classified as such, yet it’s my favorite of all of them. And so on through the series. By the time we get to book ten, Ghost of the Karankawa, Bill Travis meets Bigfoot. So, there you go. 

Genre doesn’t so much influence me. The story does, however. It’s going to ultimately be whatever it is. I don’t write from outline, or at least in those few instances when I have and “knew” what was coming in later chapters, the outline might be a simple sentence of what was to happen in that chapter. About the only time I do that however, is either when I’m skipping around in the book and writing it in a non-linear fashion or when I’m collaborating and my co-author needs to fill in what I skipped over. In the latter instance, it’s at least courteous for me to provide some clues as to what, in general, I think should happen here and there in the story. I guess that’s about it on that.

As a side-note, I don’t like to read a lot of books in the genre in which I’m going to be doing any extensive writing (i.e., mysteries) because I don’t like to be unduly influenced by other writers. People tell me that my writing style is similar to John D. McDonald. I must confess, I’ve never read a John D. McDonald book. I hear that they’re wonderful, and at the top of the mystery genre, so I always take that as a high compliment and accept it as gracefully as I can. But, I’ll only read a mystery if it’s written by a friend and this friend needs an endorsement or a general leg up. That’s about it. 

What is the secret to your success?

Writing is like anything else. Most of the battle is won by showing up. You have to sit down and write. You have to write a lot. You have to produce, bang out copy, write like there’s no tomorrow (there really isn’t, after all, there is only today!), plan and scheme and push the envelope. However, I think what you’re asking me is for some formula. Okay, I’ll give it to you. Here are my “secrets” to success (it’s interesting to me that there are no real secrets. The nature of the universe is that we all think that there’s some great secret hidden back of the curtain of reality, and that if we could only somehow penetrate that curtain, why, we’d HAVE IT and we’d simply do that magical little formula and the world would lie at our feet. The secret of the universe is nothing. This is also the definition of a mystery. A mystery is: the answer was not given. That’s all a mystery is. The mystery of the universe is a big fat zero. We don’t do well, as a species, with zero. Nothing is difficult to confront. If you don’t believe me, try walking through an unfamiliar house full of furniture in the pitch blackness. You move slowly, at best, because you’re pretty sure you’re going to hit something hard and kill your shins, or fall down and break your neck. So, in our minds, that darkness, that big zero, is really “something”. (Let me tell you, it’s not!):   

I have, this lifetime, sifted through quite a bit of data on success. I’ve narrowed my findings to ten basic points:

     1. Work toward your goal every single day.

     2. Do not let the sun set without accomplishing something towards it.

     3. Hold on to any wins you achieve along the way and disregard the losses.

     4.Don’t allow anyone to evaluate or invalidate your goals, your dreams, and particularly your abilities.

     5. Thinking about a thing is not the same as doing a thing. Success is only ever accomplished through action. The dream, however, must give your actions purpose and life.

     6. Treat your goals as if they are living beings, and grant them life.

     7. All other rules apply with regard to your goals, particularly the Golden Rule.

     8. Study, learn and become the top person on the planet in your field. Knowing WHY is of immense value. Knowing HOW will guarantee prosperity. Knowing both HOW and WHY is everything.

     9. If you get mad at someone or something that stands in your way, you have granted them or it immense power. Become unflappable. In any situation you are the expert. You are the source. Unquestionably. Success is hidden in the minutiae. It’s the small things that, brought together, create the whole.

     10. Fortune and fame are illusions, and at best are fleeting. Don’t seek these. Instead, seek happiness. You will ultimately find that it resides within you.

I’ve found that most writers have other talents. What are your other talents?

Well, that’s a loaded question. I like to think I’m adept at everything I do, and typically overinflate my abilities, at the very least to myself. However, I like to draw (with a mechanical pencil), I paint, I play violin and I play country fiddle, and I do other things I’m not supposed to do. 

Some of George’s pictures
West Texas  Fall    Secret Meadow

Do you have any advice particularly for mystery writers?

The main piece of advice, I suppose, is what I said above about not reading too much in that genre. But really, you might like to read mysteries and want to write them as well. Really, it’s a personal preference on my part not to do so. I also write a little science fiction, for instance, and I am so well-read in that genre, and will continue to be so, that it’s impractical for me to even think about not reading science fiction. So, whatever your write, whether it’s mystery or romance or whatever, you should write what my friend Joe Lansdale calls “your own genre”. Your writing is YOUR genre. Write what you want to write, and how you want to write it. And, write what you, yourself, would most want to read. That’s the simple one. Do that, and you’ve got it made.

Tell us something cool about Austin that we probably don’t know.

The one thing I like about Austin is that it’s full of secrets. There are so many little-known, out-of-the-way and off-the-beaten-path little hidey-hole restaurants, coffee bars, music venues, acting and dancing troupes, and etc. I love finding those. It’s my goal to find all of them! Sallie and I venture forth at least once weekly looking for that offbeat place that we’ve never heard of before. And I have the knack for smelling them out.

How can we find more information about you and your books?

The best place is my website, www.georgewier.com (which takes you directly to the www.billtravismysteries.comsite). Both of these sites have now been combined into one. Also, I have a wordpress blog at http://georgewier.wordpress.com. Other than that, you can follow me on Twitter at @BillTravisWrite and on Facebook at George Wier-Author. Also, I encourage everyone to communicate directly with me. I usually answer my own emails, and I typically do this quickly. So, please communicate with me. I know that people get punished in this world for the two great crimes: being there and communicating. But, that’s the only way to ever get anywhere. So, yes, get in touch with me and ask if you can’t find the answer. Or just email me to say “Hey!” I’ll say “hey” back at you.

What are you working on now?

Hmm. The question should be “what are you NOT working on now?” I’m working on Bill Travis #11, Desperate Crimes. Also, I’m right at the end of yet another mystery standalone entitled Errant Knight. It’ll be forthcoming in a few weeks as an ebook and a trade paperback. I will have another book coming out from Cinco Puntos Press in January of 2016 entitled Murder In Elysium. Also, I’m collaborating at the moment with Billy Kring (another fantastic mystery author) on the steampunk series The Far Journey Chronicles. Billy and I have completed and published 1889: Journey to the Moon, and have finished and are in the process of editing 1899: Journey to Mars. We have also begun 1904: Journey Into Time. There will be a minimum of four books in that series, with the last one planned: 1909: Journey to Atlantis. Aside from that, I’ve got a few other projects going that I pay attention to, catch as catch can. But I have far more than that planned, including a collaborative series with science fiction great (and friend), T.R. Harris, of San Diego, California. I guess that’s it.

Thanks for the interview. You’ve given me a lot to think about and now I’m pumped up! I can’t wait to get back to my writing!

Interview with Tim Bryant, author of Spirit Trap

I recently met author Tim Bryant at Book People’s Lonestar Mystery Discussion. He’s such an interesting person, I wanted to know more about him, his creative process, and his path to writing. Thanks for letting me interview you, Tim! Tim Bryant

AMW – When did you know that you wanted to be a writer?

TB – I’m not entirely sure I ever wanted to be a writer. I just was one. My grandmother probably knew I was a writer when I was ten years old. It took me at least thirty more years to realize she was onto something. I dedicated my first novel to her. I was happy that she was able to see it before she died.

AMW – What was the first creation of yours that got published?

TB – Well, I had had music published because I came to fiction writing after many years as a musician. The first piece of fiction I got published was my first Dutch Curridge short story. It’s called “Bob Wills Is Still The King,” and it was published in REAL Regarding Arts & Letters Literary Magazine. I had written several other Dutch short stories and a lot of non-Dutch stories too, of course, but that was the one that pretty much started everything.

AMW – How long did it take for you to write your first novel?

 TB – The first novel was DUTCH CURRIDGE. It took close to a year from start to finish, although the real meat of the writing probably took four months. My original idea with it was that I would take the collection of Dutch Curridge short stories— I think there were six or seven of them at that point— and weave them together into novel form. It was a fine idea in theory, it just didn’t work. I finally ended up setting all of those stories aside and writing the novel from scratch. Some of the earlier material worked its way into it, but only here and there. The story about the migrating squirrels and that parts about Dutch’s marriage and divorce, to name two examples. The bulk of the story was new material and was much better for it.

AMW – Did anyone help you? Did you belong to a critique group?

 TB – Unfortunately, I didn’t have any kind of group during the writing of the first novel. I wish I had. That did come along almost immediately after, and a couple of the people are still with me today. My friend Brett Gaffney has been a huge help with workshopping and even helped co-write the book THOSE WHO KNOW US BEST DON’T KNOW US AT ALL. It’s a book of free verse, but it also has a dark, mysterious edge to it and actually shares a character with the Dutch books. Brett’s my first go-to with things, and I do think writers need that. My good friend Jen Moody edited “Doll’s Eyes,” which was part of the Subterranean Press anthology IMPOSSIBLE MONSTERS. She did such an amazing job on that, I asked her to edit the newest Dutch novel, SPIRIT TRAP. She’s top shelf when it comes to editing, and she’s a great fiction writer too. They’re both invaluable secret weapons to have as a writer.

AMW– Do you currently belong to a writing group?

TB – Yes. In addition to Brett and Jen, I have a local writing group that meets regularly. They’re librarians and teachers in addition to being writers, and they’re great motivators, supportive friends, and I owe them a lot as well. I also hang out with Joe Lansdale from time to time, when he’s in town. I’ve certainly learned a lot from Joe. Writing is such a solitary endeavor, I find I really need those connections, just to keep me focused…and sane.

AMW – Your recent book, Spirit Trap, is the third book in the Dutch Curridge series. Tell us a little something about Dutch.

tim-bryant-spirit-trap

TB – Dutch is a private eye in 1950s Fort Worth who worked with the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Department until he realized he was too bad to be a good cop and too good to be a bad one. He identifies strongly with the down-and-out citizens of Fort Worth. He sees himself as one of them, where maybe the other guys on the force didn’t. Dutch has always been an underdog. He’s fought for everything he has (which isn’t much), and he’s ready to fight for every other underdog he meets up with.

On a personal level, he likes Jack Daniels and Dr Pepper, western swing and jazz music and a young lady who writes for the local newspaper. He has a bad ear, which is a leftover from a childhood illness, and a good friend named Slant Face, who hails from Manchester, England.

AMW – The series is set in Fort Worth in 1955. Why Fort Worth and why 1955?

 TB – Having a background in music, I wanted to extend some of that to the Dutch stories, and Fort Worth just has an extremely rich musical history. Especially, in that era of the 1940s and ‘50s. WBAP radio was broadcasting all over this part of the country. Bob Wills and Milton Brown were breaking down musical and racial barriers. Jazz clubs were hot, especially in the African-American neighborhoods. Fort Worth was a wild and colorful place, with Hell’s Half Acre downtown and Jacksboro Highway to the north. Dutch belonged in a place like that. He was right at home.

AMW – I’ve been reading the book and I can honestly say it’s what I call a “total immersion experience”. I can hear the music, the voices, and noises of the time. Did you have to do a lot of research to capture the era?

TB – Yes. I’ve done tons of research, and that research continues. I enjoy it so much, I hardly think of it as being research. I love reading about the history, personal accounts, pouring over maps, watching films and listening to recordings from that era and area. I’ve joked that I probably know more about Fort Worth than most people who live there, but it’s true. I’ve only visited a handful of times, believe it or not, but I’d love to spend more time there.

But yes, I did work to get the full effect of the time and place. The feel and the sounds. Fort Worth is much like a character in the books, so it was essential that I get it right.

AMW– Do you write other kinds of stories besides mysteries?

TB – Absolutely. In fact, I’m not sure I really write standard mysteries at all. The second book in the Dutch series, SOUTHERN SELECT, is probably the most straight-forward mystery I’ve written, and, although it’s quite important in the series, it seems to get overlooked a little. I tend to think of mystery in the larger sense. Not so much cases of missing heirlooms and dead bodies, even if those things do show up from time to time. To me, the best mysteries are the ones that are never solved. They get people thinking and talking. They’re the ones that draw them in, keep them up at night. So I like stories that ask questions more than I like stories that answer them. I think most of my stories ask the questions that intrigue me most.

AMW– You mentioned you’re a musician. What instrument and what kind of music do you play? Is your music available online?

TB – I’ve played music for most of my life too. I’m primarily a piano player, although I can fake a few other things enough to fool a few people. I play totally by ear, by instinct. I’ve been lucky enough to play music all over New Orleans, around Texas, on the same stage and in studios with some of my heroes.

My music is available on iTunes, most places you find music. It’s under either my name or 2Take Tim, which is a nickname I got down in New Orleans, or Ramshackle Day Parade, a cool international band that I put together. That band featured Steve Wickham, who plays with The Waterboys and Tatanka Ohitika— Strong Buffalo— a Dakota-Sioux poet. Almost all of my music  is available at TimBryantsUprightPiano.com.

AMW – What are the next projects you’re looking at? Another Curridge book? Something that’s been on the “back burner” you’ve been dying to get to?

TB – SPIRIT TRAP was the last major thing I wrote. Right before that, I wrote a non-Dutch novel called CONSTELLATIONS. A publisher in New York City is looking at that one. I have two other non-Dutch novels that I’m working on. I tend to alternate between the Dutch books and non-Dutch books, so I’ll most likely finish at least one of them before I return to Dutch.

One is indeed that big one that’s been simmering on the back burner. I think it might be time to bring it forward now. It’s set in the Philippines during World War II, and I’ve been researching that one for a good while now. I was going to say it’s one of those mysteries that’s not really a mystery. I think it would be closer to say it’s a non-mystery that really is one. Everything about life is a mystery, right?

I’ll return to Dutch though. He’s a friend too at this point. He always comes back around, and I’m always happy to see him. There should be at least two more Dutch novels. I think I’ll be back to him in 2015.

AMW – Thank you, Tim and good luck with the new book!