Archive for the Category » ‘the Art of Writing’ «

Interview with Playwright, Author, Alretha Thomas

  Shortly after graduating from USC with a degree in journalism, this prolific writer soon realized her interest in her major was not heartfelt. Instead of writing news stories, she wanted to write plays and books. Several years later, her church gave her an outlet to fulfill her writing desires through their Liturgical Fine Arts Department wherein Alretha penned twelve theatre pieces—the community response was overwhelming.  In between plays, Alretha’s first novel Daughter Denied was launched in 2008 and has received glowing reviews from readers and book clubs across the country.  Alretha was awarded the Jessie Redmon Fauset Literary Award for her indie novel Four Ladies Only. Alretha returned to acting and is now writing and acting full time. 

Q. Where do you write? Do you have a special room, shed, barn, special space for your writing?  Or tell us about your ‘dream’ work space.

AT. I write in the family dining room/hang out room. My computer is up against a wall and it’s my special place.
Whenever my husband wants to get my attention, he’ll leave a note on my keyboard knowing it won’t be missed! He calls it my home within the home. Lol! My husband and I often talk about buying a bigger home, if, and when we get a windfall. My dream workspace would have a view of the Pacific Ocean.

Q. Do you have any special rituals or quirks when you sit down to write? (a neat work space, sharpened #2 pencils, legal pad, cup of tea, glass of brandy, favorite pajamas, etc.)

AT. I have to be very comfortable when I write. Thus, I write in very loose-fitting clothing. Usually my blue sundress my husband bought me or my ripped up blue robe. I guess it’s something about blue.  I also must have my desk fan blasting. I have about a half dozen little stuff animals and toys that I keep to the right of me. I think they’re my good luck charms.

Q. Could you tell us something about yourself that we might not already know?

AT. I volunteer every Tuesday at a nursing home not too far from my home. There are about six people there that I feel very close to. I paint nails for the ladies, tell stories and most times just listen. The residents have no idea how much they do for me mentally, emotionally and spiritually. They are wonderful people who for one reason or another are in the nursing home. It makes me grateful and it makes me appreciate being able to get around right now. No one knows what the future holds.

Q. Do you have a set time each day (or night) to write?

AT. I love writing at night after my husband has gone to bed and it’s quiet in the house and the neighborhood. I just love it. I feel like a little girl in a sandbox. No matter what I’m doing during the day, I get excited when I think about the fact that later that night I’ll be writing. So many ideas about what my characters are going to say and do flood my head during the day. It’s wonderful when I can put it on paper.

Q. What’s your best advice to other writers for overcoming procrastination?

AT. Just do it! I’ve never had a problem with writer’s block or procrastination. Thank goodness. If anything, you have to pull me away from the computer!

Q. Where/when do you first discover your characters?

AT. I believe my characters discover me. They enter my subconscious and take over my being. They slowly began to evolve. Case in point are the main characters in my latest mystery novel, “The Women on Retford Drive.” I’ve never met anyone like my protagonist Julia Pritchard or her stepdaughter Blythe Pritchard. One day I just had this feeling about writing about a mother and step daughter being abused and working together to escape their plight. From there, the story just took off.

Q. What first inspired you to write?

AT. My fifth-grade teacher inspired me to write. She gave the class a short story assignment. I got an idea to write a story about a bag boy in a supermarket who falls in love with a young customer. I guess you could say that was my first romance story. The following day our teacher congratulated the entire class on our work. However, she said there was one story that stood out. And that story was mine. I nearly fell out of my chair. I couldn’t believe it. She read it aloud and the class was riveted. While I was watching the expressions on the faces of my peers, I knew in that moment I wanted to be a writer for life.

Q. What comes first to you? The Characters or the Situation?

Join Us with Part Two of this fascinating Interview on October 26th
To Purchase Alretha’s books, click here 
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   August: Mega best selling author, Susan Mallery. September: Jonathan Rabb.  October: Alretha Thomas. November: Joe English. December: Molly Gloss. Coming this winter: Jayne Ann Krentz (Amanda Quick) and Patrick Canning.

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Book Review ~~ Mistletoe Miracles by Jodi Thomas

 

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5 out of 5 quills ~~ A Review

I didn’t want this one to end. 

Jodi Thomas weaves three stories into one. Three sets of lovers finding each other, getting lost again, and finding each other for keeps.
The lovers are diverse with really only one common thread, that being a tiny town, Crossroads, Texas. An arranged marriage, a wounded warrior, and mistaken identity all meld into a wonderful trilogy within one book. I loved it!

There’s never a misplaced word when this writer tells a story. The characters capture the reader within the first few pages. The story line (in this case three) is interesting and believable.
You won’t get a spoiler from this reviewer. For me it’s all about the writing and this author writes like a dream. Interesting settings, great, colorful characters richly drawn and wonderful dialog. 

To Purchase Mistletoe Miracles Click Here 

Did you miss my Interview with Jodi Thomas?

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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   August: Mega best selling author, Susan Mallery. September: Jonathan Rabb.  October: Alretha Thomas. November: Joe English. December: Molly Gloss. Coming this winter: Jayne Ann Krentz (Amanda Quick) and Patrick Canning.

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Interview with Jonathan Rabb, Writer (conclusion)

TS.  This has been a terrific Interview. All writers achieve the same goals using different paths to get there. 

Q. and the all-important: What does the process of going from “no book” to “finished book” look like for you?

JR. Muscle memory. That’s where it is now. I can’t imagine not having a book I’m working on. In other words, I have to be working on something. So, in some sense, I never fully enjoy “finished book” because I’m always at least thinking about the next one. In the same way, I never feel I’m in “no book” territory.

You don’t get a lot of resolution in your creative life if you’re a novelist (at least I don’t). It’s probably why I do crossword puzzles. Resolution is immediate.

Q. How has your life experiences influenced your writing?

JR. How can they not? When I first started writing, I was in NY and single. Now, I’m in Savannah, married with two kids, and a professor of writing. Save for that first novel, I don’t borrow from my own life as the foundation of a novel. Yes, my characters grapple with the same anxieties I grapple with, but they aren’t me in a fictional guise. But as the challenges have changed in my life, I think they’ve changed for my characters as well. And my interests have shifted. Five years ago I would never have thought about a book in Mexico. Now, I can’t imagine not writing it.

Q. Have you or do you want to write in another genre`?

JR. I’ve been accused of bucking genres. My first two books were clearly thrillers, based around historical documents. Then I dove into historical fiction entirely with three books in Germany and Spain in 1919, 1927 and 1936. Yes, there was a mystery in each of those, but the mystery was always less important than the political and social anxieties that the characters were dealing with. Some reviewers called them historical fiction, others literary fiction, still others mysteries. And then I jumped to my last book, which is Savannah 1947 – a much more intimate novel, less about the historical backdrop and more about one man’s struggle. And now I’m doing contemporary Mexico in one book, and 1606 Venice in another

So, I don’t really think in terms of genres. I just write what excites me. So far I’ve been lucky enough that my publishers let me do that.

Q. Note to Self: (a life lesson you’ve learned.)

JR. Writing is hard, maybe harder than anything else in the arts for the simple reason that everyone thinks they have access to language. Very few people walk around thinking, Yes, I can design a dress or produce a self-portrait. But everyone thinks, Hey, I can write. Just look at me on Facebook….

But that’s not true, which makes writing even harder if you really want to take a stab at it.

So, the lesson I’ve learned is: do whatever you can to make writing easier while you’re writing. Take the pressure off and just try and get a single sentence down that you don’t hate. Some days, that one sentence is enough. It paves the way for the days when you write 5,000 words and you can’t imagine how you did it.

Give yourself a break. Writing is hard. Don’t make it harder than it has to be.

Did you miss Part 1 or 2 of this fine Interview? Click here
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   August: Mega best selling author, Susan Mallery. September: Jonathan Rabb.  October: Alretha Thomas. November: Joe English. December: Molly Gloss. Coming this winter: Jayne Ann Krentz (Amanda Quick) and Patrick Canning.

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Book Review ~~ The Colonel and the Bee by Patrick Canning

reviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writing  5 out of 5 quills

 

A Review ~~ The Colonel and the Bee

There is one thing that delights me above all else and that is to discover a writer who can write. One who weaves words with charm and skill. Patrick Canning does this in spades! I have been reading for 55+ years and I have never come across  a Fantasy/Adventure such as this. It really doesn’t fall into any particular genre. You could read it with your kids (with a tiny bit redacted) or adults can read it. Like Spearmint gum, Double your pleasure, Double your fun!

My favorite character in The Colonel and the Bee is the ‘Ox’.  The Oxford Starladder (so aptly named) is a kind of hot air balloon.  But where we picture a simple woven basket large enough to hold two or three people, the ‘Ox’ is a four story wicker house that has a kitchen, staircases, bedrooms, library, and nursery (plants). In fact the Colonel grows rattan bamboo that ends up growing into the structure of the house as a constant form of repair. Genius! 

There is a well known epigram: ‘it’s not the destination, it’s the journey.” For me this book is ALL about the journey. The Colonel and his new-found friend, Beatrix flying above the earth in the ‘Ox’ picking up and dropping off people, having adventures along the way. I don’t know if spending all that time up there is why the  Colonel has such a lovely perspective on life and people but I wish I were one of his friends. 

My readers know me well. I don’t write spoilers or story synopses in my reviews. In my case, it’s always a review of the writing. The writing in this case is superb.  “The tick of the clock still speaks our pace.”  Word magic abounds in this book. 

I loved  the characters, the locations, and the story. Whimsical, captivating, and bewitching. The story could happen. It could be true and if it isn’t the reader so wants it to be possible. I read the end of this story twice when Bee arrives at the Hearth. It was a surprise and left the door cracked for a sequel. From my lips to God’s ear. 
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   August: Mega best selling author, Susan Mallery. September: Jonathan Rabb.  October: Alretha Thomas. November: Joe English. December: Molly Gloss. Coming this winter: Jayne Ann Krentz (Amanda Quick)

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Book Review ~~ Colorblind by Reed Coleman Farr (Robert B. Parker)

reviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writing5 out of 5 quills    A Review  ~~ Colorblind

I have been wandering the streets of Paradise, Massachusetts with Jesse Stone for over 15 years and {over two decades with Spenser in Boston}. Following Jesse as he tries to make his little town a little safer. We all loved the creator of these wonderful mysteries, Robert B. Parker. After his death, Reed Farrel Coleman and Ace Atkins took over these series, helping the Parker estate to keep them alive. 

The latest offering is Colorblind. Whether by intent or coincidence, it’s a timely story of racism, bigotry and tribalism. The plot is complex while remaining very entertaining and keeps readers on their toes.  And if you’re a series fan of any writer, as I am, it’s always fun to meet back up with recurring characters, such as Molly Crane, Luther ‘Suitcase’ Simpson, and Healy. 

I am constantly amazed at the writer who can speak in another writer’s voice. Reed Farrel Coleman does this flawlessly. Giving the fans of Robert B. Parker years more of his stories, even though he is gone. I’ve never been one to write spoilers in my reviews. It’s all about the writing for me. The story. The Characters.  But I will tell you, there is a huge surprise in Jesse Stone’s story line. I mean HUGE! 

Another winner and I highly recommend it. 

Did you miss my Interview with Reed Farrel Coleman?
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   August: Mega best selling author, Susan Mallery. September: Jonathan Rabb.  Coming this winter: Jayne Ann Krentz (Amanda Quick)

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Interview with Professor of Writing, Jonathan Rabb (part 2)

Q. Do you have a new book coming out soon? If so tell us about it.

JR. The paperback of my last one came out a few months ago, and I’m at work on two very different projects right now. One is contemporary in Mexico; the other is 1606 Venice. I’ve never written two at once, but it’s proving to be exciting, even if it is more challenging. We’ll see how it works out.

Q. When did you begin to write seriously?

JR. I was 28 or 29. I decided that political theory wasn’t for me, and I got the idea for that first book, The Overseer. There was no pressure, so I don’t know if I really thought about it as “serious” writing (there’s the old chestnut: you have a lifetime to write your first book, about a year to write your second). But somewhere in there I began to think, “Maybe this is what I’m meant to do.” I got lucky and have been allowed to do it ever since.

Q. How long after that were you published?

JR. I started The Overseer in late 1993 or early 1994. I finished the first draft (a very economical 750 pages) in July of 1996. By happenstance, I was working a translating job and someone else on the job heard I’d written a manuscript and said he had a friend in Lectures at William Morris. He said he’d be happy to show the first chapter to the woman at WM. I sent it to him, he sent it to her, and three days later, the woman called and said she had sent it on to someone in Literary. Three days later, the agent in Literary called and said he needed to see the rest of the manuscript. I sent it over and, two weeks later, I signed with WM. My agent had been an editor, so he helped me trim the manuscript down to 525 pages. We sent it out, got rejected, sent it out again, and then Holt, Crown and Harpers all came in with offers. We went with Crown in June of 1997, and the hardcover came out in June of 1998.

Q. What makes a writer great?

JR. I don’t know. I think you have to find whatever it is that makes writing a need for you, and that’s purely idiosyncratic. And then commit yourself to it. Writing a novel is like any long-term relationship. There’s the infatuation at the beginning, but then the feelings mature. And it can be hard. But it’s the best kind of hard you’ll ever experience if you keep your focus.

I also think taste plays a large role in any of the arts. I suppose we can all look at a select group and say, Yes, those are great writers, but even then, I don’t know. I’d be hard-pressed not to include Graham Greene on that list or Ivo Andric or Joan Didion, and some folks can’t stand any of them. Is there something that ties all the greats together? Maybe it’s that, if they ever wavered, they never gave up entirely. Even Kafka. If Kafka (by my lights in the top three of all time) could muscle through it, then anyone can.

Did you miss Part 1? Click here

Part 3 of this Interview will return on September 28th.
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   August: Mega best selling author, Susan Mallery. September: Jonathan Rabb.  October: Alretha Thomas. November: Joe English. December: Molly Gloss. Coming this winter: Jayne Ann Krentz (Amanda Quick)

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Book Review ~~ Shadow of Murder by Trisha Sugarek

D. Donovan, Midwest Book Review      ‘Book 8 in the ‘World of Murder’ series more than does justice to its companions as it creates both a stand-alone read that requires no prior familiarity with the series, yet dovetails nicely with the emotion-packed approaches and mystery themes of its predecessors.

Homicide Detective Stella Garcia and her partner Sergeant Detective Jack O’Roarke are again challenged by murder, with Jack’s new marriage serving as a quiet opening success to events which quickly turn into hair-raising circumstances based on a true crime.A deadly and gruesome mass shooting of Indian women and children in a family-run store, the killer’s desire to destroy a lovely young woman who neither wanted nor knew him. Unrequited love steeps the story line with a passion and drive that makes it feel true to life and hard to put down.

Forensic profiling has done a good job of identifying the pattern of the deaths; but now it’s up to Garcia and O’Roarke to put together the pieces in a case that leads them to not only identify the perp, but understand what happened and why. The latter charge is what readers are also tasked with in a story line that moves back and forth across time and events to build its case for how events arrived at such a shocking crescendo of violence.

What keeps Shadow of Murder thought-provoking and absorbing is not the ‘whodunnit’ piece; but the ‘why’, which goes into revealing detail about the psychology of a killer’s motivations and psyche. Readers looking for a gripping short murder story which is more psychologically charged than most will appreciate this murder mystery, which pairs a gripping saga with insights that compel reflection long after the case is solved.’
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   August: Mega best selling author, Susan Mallery. September: Jonathan Rabb.  Coming this winter: Jayne Ann Krentz (Amanda Quick)

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Interview with Writer, Jonathan Rabb

TS. I stumbled upon Jonathan Rabb, a local, fellow author and transplant, quite by accident. I found his take on writing fascinating and asked that he share it with my readers.

 Q. Where do you write? Do you have a special room, shed, barn, special space for your writing?  Or tell us about your ‘dream’ work space.

JR. I have a study in the house, which many of my old friends say uncannily resembles my old one-room apartment back in New York before I got married. It’s bookcases everywhere, maps, and an entire shelf devoted to my kids’ artwork. When the writing is going well, it’s hard to find a path from the door to the desk. I like to keep the blinds drawn, with a single overhead soft light. And the desk is an architect’s desk – a flat space with no drawers.

As it turns out, it is my dream workspace.

Q. Do you have any special rituals or quirks when you sit down to write? (a neat work space, sharpened #2 pencils, legal pad, cup of tea, glass of brandy, favorite pajamas, etc.)

JR. My ritual (now) starts with the kids getting up, breakfast, the dog out for walk, carpool (on my days), and then a mug of hot water at the side of my computer, which I refill throughout the day. I usually dive in at about 8:30 and, if I remember to eat lunch, a break at 1, then on again until about 3. And then the kids come home. If I’m deep into a book, then I’m in the study at all hours. Those last three weeks are tough on everyone.

Q. Could you tell us something about yourself that we might not already know?

The Whiffenpoofs

JR. I sang in a group called the Whiffenpoofs in college (the oldest cappella singing group in the country). I also soloed with the NY Pops at Carnegie Hall.

Q. Do you have a set time each day (or night) to write?

JR.  As I said, usually in at 8:30, out at around 3. But that shifts the closer I get to the end of a book. That’s when I need to be with the characters, and I need to know how the whole thing will find its way to a conclusion. Not necessarily a resolution but a stopping point. I can’t step away from it for too long when I’m at that point.

Q. What’s your best advice to other writers for overcoming procrastination?

JR. Writing is all about making choices. They don’t have to be big ones (or at least appear to be big ones at the moment), so make one. Writer’s block and procrastination are really just about being overwhelmed by the infinite number of choices you could make. That can freeze you. So choose. It might be the wrong choice, but at least you’ll be writing. And nothing is ever completely wrong.

It’s the old NY Lottery motto: you have to be in it to win it.

Q. Where/when do you first discover your characters?

JR. For me, place is always a central character, so I usually start there. Then I have to find the people to interact with that character, and that’s when idiosyncrasies and cadences begin to make themselves known. But the best part of creating characters is when they surprise you. That’s when you know you’ve created someone real.

Q. What first inspired you to write?

JR. I was an academic at Columbia in political theory, and I needed an escape. So I came up with an idea for a thriller, in which the main character is a young academic at Columbia in political theory….who saves the world. That was great for my ego and sent me to the computer every day to see how the character would make good on that promise. It turned out to be my first novel, The Overseer.

Q. What comes first to you? The Characters or the Situation?

JR. Hard to say. I think both are crucial – at least according to Stephen King – but I’m not sure I can distinguish them from one another as completely as I’d need to in order to prioritize one over the other. The characters reflect the demands of their situation; the situation shifts to meet the needs of the characters. I suppose the answer shifts from situation to situation and character to character.

Q. Do you ‘get lost’ in your writing?

JR. Yes. My wife often has to call me to remind me to have lunch. Those are the great days.

 

My interview with Jonathan continues September 21st. Don’t miss it! 
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   August: Mega best selling author, Susan Mallery. September: Jonathan Rabb.  October: Alretha Thomas. November: Joe English. December: Molly Gloss. Coming this winter: Jayne Ann Krentz (Amanda Quick)

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Book Review ~~ Invitation to Poetry by Mihai Brinas

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4 out 5 quills  ~~  A Review 

I rarely review books for writers I’m not familiar with…and before you judge me…I’m not a book snob. I don’t review those books because I don’t want to have to write a tough critique. New author/writers should be encouraged and lifted up. Not torn down.  But this poet intrigued me. His poetry had something to say. 

let there be rain ©

he was feeling different
he was just waiting to be seen by the world
a world that did not read poetry books anymore
you could not even find books
as if somebody had burnt them in a huge incinerator
as he was different he has gathered up there
the ashes of poetry books
he is scattering it above everybody
with just a single blow
so it may rain with poetry

Mihai stops us and makes us see a camera shot of the lonely, exhibit guard; the invisible ones. Hidden Truths hurt my heart and what more could a poet ask for. The Healed Healer  was truly beautifully written.  I wish the titles of the poetry were shorter in some cases, but that’s just personal taste. The English translation could be cleaned up….but no….that is perhaps part of the charm. 

I agree with Mihai that poetry is forgotten and not read enough. If you feel the need for a little poetry, I highly recommend his books. The verse is not shallow and you may want to read a poem over a second time…but it’s certainly gratifying and worth the reader’s time. 

 

Bio:  Mihai Brinas is a young (25) poet, living in Arad, Romania. He has published two poetry ebooks .’Invitation to Poetry’ in October 2017 and ‘Alignment of Thoughts’ in February 2018. He ‘loves life, poetry, reading. His favorite place is the town library where he enjoys seeing and touching random books while walking among the shelves.  The smell of books. To be able to choose and read one book or another.’ He writes: ‘when the emotion takes the arm of my thought and asks it out for a stroll.’

 

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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!  April: International adventurer, writer, Tal Gur.  June: Manning Wolfe. July K.M. Ecke. August: Mega best selling author, Susan Mallery. September: Jonathan Rabb.  Coming this winter: Jayne Ann Krentz (Amanda Quick)

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Shadow of Murder ~ Book #8 True Crime Series

     Newest in the true crime series. This one was so much fun to write…it literally fell out onto the keyboard.  O’Roarke, Garcia, and Phoebe Sneed’s personal lives all move along at a brisk pace, in spite of the complicated and cold, then hot, then cold case they are investigating. 

       Another mass shooting at the most unlikely of places, a small neighborhood market run by an Indian family. Is it terrorism? Will there be more? Who would have a motive against this seemingly innocent family working in their store? And it was called in on Detective O’Roarke’s first day back from his honeymoon trip. To make things worse, the killer slipped away leaving no clues, no evidence, no witnesses; leaving five dead and two mortally wounded.
The case quickly goes cold. Out of desperation, the remaining family members bring in a physic-medium who has a strange vision.

Who is this predator with amber eyes?

It takes a tightrope artist of a writer to create chapters that successfully delve into a killer’s thoughts without revealing his identity in the process, but Sugarek achieves this with a dance of introspection that reveals a killer’s religious rituals and the emotional turmoil…” Midwest Book Review for Angel of Murder

“Years ago one of my crew, in a stage production that I was directing, said, “Trish for years now I’ve had this great idea for a play script but I know I’ll never write it….hell, I wouldn’t know where to begin ….  you’re the writer so I want to give you the idea.” His name escapes me; it must have been Billy Bob or Bubba or Junior given we were in Texas at the time.  This idea of Bubba’s blossomed, first, into a one act play, and later into this series of murder mysteries.  All because he and I had a few beers one night and he thought I could write it better than he could. Thank you, Bubba, wherever you are!”  T.S.

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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!  July K.M. Ecke. August: Mega best selling author, Susan Mallery. September: Jonathan Rabb. Nov.: Joe English  Coming this winter: Jayne Ann Krentz (Amanda Quick)

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