Wednesday, 14 October 2015

4th installment of the Hometown Harbor Series!

My guest author today is Tammy L. Grace, author of the Hometown Harbor Series and Cooper Harrington Detective Novels. Welcome back, Tammy!

“Pieces of Home” is the fourth book in your Hometown Harbor Series. How do you keep the stories and characters so fresh with each one?

I think focusing on a different main character in each book keeps the reader (and me) interested. I have always loved reading series and enjoy it when characters recur in books, but there has to be something new in each book for the reader. When I’m writing the current book in the series I tend to think about a story-line for the next one and the best character for that particular journey. Some of the characters don’t lend themselves to the drama or unknown emotional point that triggers a story, which is when I introduce the reader to someone new in Friday Harbor.

I know you spend a fair bit of time researching character names. How did you come up with Ellie?  

The name Ellie is actually based on a wonderful friend of mine, who happens to enjoy baking. That is really the only trait they share, but I like the name Ellie—it was a good fit for the cheery baker in Friday Harbor. At the time I named Ellie, I wasn’t sure if I’d be featuring her in a book or not, but came up with her story while I was finishing the third book. Readers will learn her real name is Elaine, but she goes by Ellie.

From the four books, who would be your favorite character and why?

I enjoy each of the characters in the series, but I think my personal favorite is Sam from FINDING HOME (Book 1). I relate more to her than any of the others, probably because we share some of the same characteristics. Perhaps I put a bit more of myself into her than any other character, being she was my first character in Friday Harbor. She’s introverted, self-reliant, independent, and organized. I’ve always wanted to own a coffee shop and bookstore combination and even had a plan for one, where I’d bake pies. Along with those traits we share, I’m partial to her golden retriever.

Your Hometown Harbor books are Women’s Fiction. And you also write detective novels. How do you find switching between the two genres?

I actually enjoy the change of pace. With the Hometown Harbor series, the stories are an emotional journey, featuring a different woman in each book, making them largely character-driven novels. The lives of the women are intertwined and relationship-based—the perfect relaxing read.  The Cooper Harrington Detective Novels are a much faster pace and more about the mystery and plot than the characters.  The reader still connects with the characters and identifies with Coop and his supporting characters, but the mystery drives the book.  It’s more of a puzzle and more challenging to write.

I like swapping between the two and have started on my second mystery in the series.  I enjoy reading a few different genres and I think writing in different genres helps keep me fresh.

What advice would you like to share with other writers/authors on what has worked or not worked for you when it comes to your writing?

What has worked is to keep writing and write consistently. I think a writer has to find her own method and not try to confine herself to following the advice of all the so-called experts.  I don’t think the exact methodology matters as much as getting your butt in the chair and writing, each day if possible. It’s a bit like an exercise program—easier to do and better results if I’m consistent.

I also think it’s critical to get feedback from a large variety of people—readers and writers. It’s easier for people who don’t know the author to give critical feedback, so seek out a feedback or critique group. 

What’s up next for you?

I always reward myself with a month off after I finish a book.  So, I’m going to do some binge watching and reading and get ready for the holidays. 

I’m still plotting the next Cooper Harrington novel and plan to release it by the summer of 2016.  I don’t have a working title yet, but suffice it to say it will involve a murder, plenty of twists, and Coop will need the help of Annabelle and his loyal canine companion, Gus. I’m excited to start writing it.

Thanks for having me.  It’s always fun to chat with you and your readers.

Thank you!

Excerpt from “Pieces of Home”

Ellie put together the dough for her caramel sticky buns and jumped in the shower. When she walked past the stairs, she saw the brown satchel. She picked it up and the feel of the supple leather, albeit blemished and marred, carried her back twenty years. It had belonged to her father.
She remembered the sting of the bag when her mother had thrown it at her. She demanded Ellie fill it with her things and barked at her to get ready for their drive to the coast. Her parents were delivering her to catch the ferry to Friday Harbor. Her mother, Caroline, had been threatening to send her away for as long as she could remember and today she was finally getting her wish.
            On that day, Ellie had stomped to her room, which had been an afterthought addition in the garage. It was easy to keep clean, since the twin bed took up most of the space and left room only for a small bookcase and closet. Even though her older sister was out of the house, Ellie hadn’t been allowed to take up residence in the old room she had shared with Ceci when they were young. When her younger brother, Teddy had gotten old enough for a room, her dad had added onto the house. Teddy’s room was palatial, outfitted with a queen sized bed, a flat screen television, fancy computer gaming boxes, and new furniture.
Through hot tears, she had crammed her meager supply of clothes and toiletries, one pair of shoes, and a small stuffed animal from her twin bed in the brown duffle. She cried when she said goodbye to her dog, Freckles. She pleaded with her parents to allow the dog to accompany her, but her mother had refused. Her brother, who her parents called “Baby Bear”, was holding the dog when they pulled away from the house.
The drive she had made with her parents was the happiest she remembered them in years. It was the first time she witnessed them not fighting with each other. She sat in the backseat, gripping the leather bag, not saying a word on the four hour drive.
            When they had finally reached the dock, her mother sat in the car, glaring at her as her father lugged the bag and walked her to the ticket counter. Caroline hollered out the window, “Teddy, hurry up. I don’t want to leave Baby Bear too long.”
He handed Ellie the ticket, put the leather strap on her shoulder, and hugged her. “Please be good for Uncle Bob and Aunt Ginny. If it weren’t for them, I don’t know where you’d go.”
            Her throat had constricted when he put his strong arms around her. She wanted him to say I love you, Ellie. She nodded her head on his shoulder, but he hadn’t said anything else and neither had she. He plucked a wad of bills from his wallet and stuffed them in her hand. “Take care of yourself.” He gave a wave and trudged back to the car, shoulders sagging and head hanging. She had seen her mother’s mouth moving, shouting something, but the glass doors of the terminal had shut, saving her from the words.

 Biography & Contact Information

Tammy L. Grace is the author of The Hometown Harbor Series of women’s fiction set in the picturesque San Juan Islands in Washington and a new mystery series set in Nashville, Tennessee, featuring Cooper Harrington, Private Detective.

Born and raised in Nevada, Tammy L. Grace loved reading at a young age. With the help of her middle school teacher, she discovered the joy of writing. After spending a career in local and state government service, she retired and finally has the time to dedicate to writing.

When Tammy isn't working on ideas for a novel, she's spending time with family and friends or supporting her addiction to books and chocolate. She and her husband have one grown son and a spoiled golden retriever.

Books Published with Buy Links

Hometown Harbor Series:

   Finding Home (Book 1)
   Home Blooms (Book 2)
   A Promise of Home (Book 3)
   Pieces of Home (Book 4)

Cooper Harrington Detective Series:

   Killer Music (Book 1)

Book Blurbs

Finding Home:  A coming to life journey for a middle-aged woman, who flees to a small island expecting a change of scenery and discovers much more.

Shattered by her husband's infidelities after twenty-five years of marriage, Sam Collins is plagued by constant fear and loneliness, reliving the tragic death of her parents and the betrayal by the man she loved. She leaves Seattle seeking relief from the relentless darkness that has swallowed her. With only her dog for companionship, she sets out to live in her vacation home on San Juan Island.

In her search for a carpenter, she meets the handsome and very available, Jeff Cooper. Sam's not looking for romance, but can't deny the attraction to the retired firefighter, turned handyman. While working together and eating her pies, Jeff finds himself falling for her.

The past she wrestles to let go of comes hurtling back when she least expects it. In an effort to help a struggling young man, she is forced to confront the anguish she is desperate to escape. While torn between love and friendship, she must face her fears and choose between the life she's known and a chance for a family and home she's been longing for all her life.

Home Blooms:  Return to the picturesque island community where you’ll check in with your old friends and meet a few new ones along the way.

Linda is knee deep in bouquets and boutonnieres, designing a beautiful ceremony for Sam and Jeff. The bride’s matchmaking plot takes shape as she volunteers her best friend, Max, to help Linda create the perfect wedding.

Linda and Max are thrown together when a tragedy threatens to destroy the honeymooners’ newfound happiness before they have the possibility of a life together. Compelled to make some changes in life, Linda uncovers a family secret that causes her to question her existence and leads her on a search for the truth.

As Max begins to penetrate the protective walls around Linda’s heart, a visit from her youth causes her to risk it all. While struggling between the past and the future, Linda has a chance to let more than her flowers bloom.

A Promise of Home:  Spend Christmas in Friday Harbor this year surrounded by the friends you know and a couple of special deliveries from the Hometown Harbor Series.

In between holiday activities, friends of Linda and Max are helping plan their Valentine’s Day wedding. Regi is anxiously awaiting the arrival of her fortieth birthday and the fulfillment of the promise she and Cam made over twenty years ago.

As she anticipates the reunion with Cam, she’s oblivious to the signals the local delivery man, Nate, is giving her. She and Nate work together helping a newcomer open an art and antiques shop. While spending time together, she discovers she has feelings for Nate and bonds with the new shopkeeper over their past losses.

As Regi’s contemplating her choices, she’s dealt a blow that brings her to her knees and reconnects her with the past. In the pursuit of her youthful fairytale promise, she’ll risk the only chance she’s encountered for true happiness and a home.

Pieces of Home:  A story of long ago secrets revealed and the strength of one woman’s journey to overcome the pain of her past.

Ellie hasn’t seen or spoken to her parents in twenty yearssince she came to live on the island with her aunt and uncle.  Ellie’s all grown up now and runs the popular family bakery, Sweet Treats. 

An unforeseen plea for help forces Ellie to reveal a secret she’s kept hidden from even her closest friends.  Her innate kindness and desire to help propel her on a turbulent journey.  The pieces of her past she’s worked so hard to escape resurface and bring her face to face with heartache.  In the midst of unearthing her long buried pain, she faces challenges that threaten her livelihood and those she holds most dear.

When newcomer Blake Griffin arrives, he frequents the bakery in the early morning hours and over fresh cinnamon rolls they develop a friendship.  He renews a sense of hope and joy in Ellie, but she’s hesitant to trust him with her heart.  Instead of letting her past define her future, Ellie must summon the courage to recognize an unexpected path may be a welcome gift.

Killer Music:  When private detective Cooper “Coop” Harrington meets record label mogul Grayson Taylor at a swank gathering of country music artists and politicians he never imagines he’ll be investigating his brutal murder less than twenty-four hours later.

The suspects are plentiful. More than a handful of people could have wanted him dead. Retained by Taylor’s widow, Coop works alongside his best friend and Chief of Detectives, Ben Mason. The investigation leads Coop and Ben to visit the luxurious mansions of recording industry magnates, navigate the murky undercurrents of the political world, and probe complicated family matters. Scandalous indiscretions, secrets, and hints of corruption swirl in the midst of their pursuit of the killer.

Coop’s faithful friend and assistant, Annabelle and his loyal golden retriever, Gus, both lend a hand during the investigation. Even his Aunt Camille mines the local gossip mill to unearth potential killers with motive. Yet the case seems hopeless until a crucial piece of evidence emerges that sends Coop and Ben on a race to catch the killer before someone else dies.

Friday, 5 June 2015

A Police Procedural without the police!

My guest today is Mike Wallace, whose third Quill Gordon mystery has hit the market. Great cover, Mike!
Where did the inspiration for Not Death, But Love come from?
In 2012 I was hired by a family foundation to write the family’s history. It’s one of the best jobs I’ve ever had, because it paid generously and the work was fascinating. By the end of it, I felt the long-deceased family members had come alive inside my head and that I was able to convey a reasonably good sense of them to the readers.

In the course of that work, I came across several things that were a surprise to the people who hired me. There were no terrible scandals, but there were lawsuits and family schisms they hadn’t known about until I started digging. At the time, I was simultaneously working on my second mystery, Wash Her Guilt Away, and at some point it occurred to me that a family history with a deep secret — one worth killing to keep — could make the basis for a good mystery. One of my plans for a future book had been a story centering on a controversial land-use plan, something that would make use of the knowledge I picked up working as a consultant for Wells Fargo Bank and The Home Depot more than a decade ago. I decided to combine ideas to make the land development part of the family history, and was off to the races.
Having your character Charlotte maintain a journal is an interesting approach. What gave you the idea?
It’s an old trope, of course, but when I was working on the family history, I often lamented that none of the family members had kept journals (at least none that had survived). I decided to give my murder victim, a retired English teacher named Charlotte London, a journal. It was originally supposed to provide a set of clues to complement those in the family history, but it ended up being much more than that. Simply put, in the course of creating the journal sections, I discovered that Charlotte had come to life most vividly, and, surprisingly to me, became one of the most dominant and complex characters in the book.

You call this a police procedural with no police. How did you manage that?

With a great deal of outlining. The concept was that the local sheriff, facing a tough re-election campaign, was more than willing to accept the murder as an accident, leading my protagonist and some of the victim’s friends to get together and look into it on their own. As with a police investigation, they gather information and get together periodically to share it and put forth hypotheses. I tried to have them put together information that non-law enforcement people would be able to gather. The historian picks up historical information; the newspaper editor contacts public figures; the librarian looks up the sorts of things reference librarians look up, and the protagonist, charged with completing the family history, talks to people he could plausibly talk to in connection with that task.
What one story would you like to share about the trials and tribulations of writing this novel?

This one was pretty tribulation-free, so let me share an unexpected pleasure instead. When I was doing the section of Charlotte’s journal where she and her lover go to San Francisco just before Christmas of 1970, I went to the public library and looked up the San Francisco Chronicle for that period. As a former newspaperman, I was blown away by how good it was and what writers they had. And to think that people used to make fun of it! They didn’t know what they had until they lost it.

Who would you say represent the three most influential writers in the mystery genre?

Because I work in the classical tradition, I’d say Edgar Allan Poe, Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie. And of course Dickens’ Great Expectations (who was Pip’s benefactor?) is one of the best mysteries ever and a great study in how to keep the suspense and story going. If I wrote hard-boiled noir, I’d probably give a different answer.

How has your writing been influenced by them?

From Poe, I got the importance of atmosphere, and from the other two, the importance of presenting the apt detail in the right way. A modern writer has to do more with character and moral issues (although later Christie was pretty good in those respects), but that’s part of the natural evolution of the genre.

If you could name one author who has influenced the current generation of authors, who would that be and why?

Within the mystery-thriller genre, there are so many styles of writing (especially now, when self-publishing has enabled authors to connect with smaller but more passionate groups of readers) that it’s probably an impossible question to answer.

What would you say is the best formula for putting yourself “out there” in front of your readers?

I wish I knew for sure. I do a weekly blog that seems to be steadily gaining readership, and I’ve been growing my Twitter @Qgordonnovel base. Having a website is essential, and I have a page on Goodreads that I probably don’t tend to as much as I should. The one thing that really seems to work is personal appearances, but there’s a limit as to how many of those you can get until you’re famous, at which point you don’t need them as much.

What would you say is an appropriate balance, percentage-wise, between time for writing and time for promotion/building visibility?

When I became a consultant more than two decades ago, another consultant told me, “The problem with this business is that when you’re working, you’re not selling, and when you’re selling, you’re not working.” So it’s an eternal problem, and not just for writers. With three books out now, what I’ve found is that nothing, absolutely nothing, increases book sales as much as putting out another book. With that in mind, my focus — except for the period immediately surrounding the release of a new book — is on getting the next one written and doing whatever promotion I can on the side. I’d say 80-20 in favor of the writing. But that’s a guess, and people who are better at promoting than I seem to be, might find it worthwhile to spend more time on that.

When did you first know you had a book or three in you?

I’ve wanted to write fiction since I was a kid, but not until I completed my first mystery novel, The McHenry Inheritance, in my mid-40s, did I realize I could pull off a whole book at an acceptable level. What I found, interestingly, was that the structure of the mystery novel enabled me to clarify the rest of the stuff a novel has to have in a way that I could complete it.

Mini Bio

MICHAEL WALLACE is a native and lifelong resident of California. He received an A.B. degree in English Literature from the University of California, Santa Cruz, worked for 19 years as a daily newspaper reporter and editor, and has had a long second career as a public relations and publications consultant. He has been an avid reader of mysteries since childhood and a fly fisherman for more than three decades. He lives in the Monterey Bay area with his wife, Linda Ogren, a university lecturer in biology. Their son, Nick, is in the army.


The McHenry Inheritance

Wash Her Guilt Away

Not Death, But Love
          Video: In production

Twitter: @Qgordonnovel


Monday, 6 April 2015

Clayton Bye: An Author with Life Experience

My guest today is fellow author Clayton Bye, who has self-published another collection of ten short stories he wrote. Behind the Red Door is just going to print now. Welcome, Clayton!

When do you find the time to write?

I used to write in the evenings and on the weekends. Did it for over a decade. Now I begin writing (or writing related work) at 6 a.m. and quit between 4 and 5 p.m. I get to do this because of a physical disability that keeps me confined to the couch.

Will you be Indie publishing, looking for an agent/publisher or a combination? 

I’ll be Indie publishing. I’ve been an Indie publisher for 20 years. I made the decision when I began writing that I would publish my own work, and I’ve seen no reason to do otherwise. In fact, I’m a traditional publisher on the side, and I’ve found it less lucrative than publishing my own work. This is mainly due to authors who don’t want to market their books or they don’t understand marketing.

Who would you say have been the three most influential authors in your reading/writing life? Why?

Damon Knight, Steven King, John D. MacDonald. Damon Knight was an editor and a fantastic author in the heady days of the dawn of modern science fiction. I loved his writing. But the thing that influenced me the most was his comment, “No one should be allowed to write before the age of 40—they don’t have enough life experiences.” I was unable to produce any writing of note until I was in my 30’s. His comment gave me hope to keep on trying.

Steven King creates characters and stories like no other. His book on writing gave me a style of writing that fundamentally changed the way I work. Basically, you treat a story like a fossil you’ve found in the ground. Sometimes you can break of large chunks that allow you to see the shape of what it is you’ve found. Other times you must chip and brush with painstaking care in order to tease the thing out of the rock that surrounds it.