Friday, September 30, 2016

Introducing Rita Chapman

My guest today is Rita Chapman, an Australian writer whose work includes several mysteries and an unusual horse novel. Welcome, Rita.
Tell us a little about you and the place where you live.
I was born in London and moved to Australia in my early twenties. I spent my working life in Sydney, the most beautiful city in the world and moved to Queensland when we retired, for the warmer weather.  We live on the Sunshine Coast, a popular tourist destination and enjoy walking on the beaches and around our pretty river and lakes. 
 When did you begin to write and what got you started?
I didn’t finish my first book until I retired.  I had often started when I was working (mostly on a typewriter) but never found the time to actually finish.  Some my earlier writing I used in my first couple of books.  In Queensland we often go weeks without rain and then it can pour for two or three days.  It was during this first downpour that I sat down to write. 
You've written in several genres. Do you have a favorite?
Horses have always been my passion, so Winston – A Horse’s Tale is my favourite book and genre.
You're second book, Winston-A Horse's Tale, is written (uniquely) from the horse's perspective and first-person viewpoint. Your latest, Dangerous Associations, is also first-person. Is this your favorite viewpoint?
Are your stories plot or character-driven?
My books are plot based.  I usually have an idea of the main story before I start.
Pantser or outliner?
I’d love to be an outliner.  Normally I’m pretty organized but I can’t seem to plot out my chapters and characters.  I find it easiest to just sit down at the computer and let the story evolve.
What are you working on now? Care to give us a peek?
I’m working on a “Missing” series, following on from my first book Missing in Egypt.  This one is called Missing at Sea and follows Anna on a cruise some years later, where a woman goes overboard. 
What are the biggest misconceptions people have about writers?
That they make money!
 What do you like to read? Any favorite authors?
My reading tastes are quite varied.  I love Australian authors Kate Morton and Bryce Courtenay as well as Wilbur Smith, crimes, mysteries, autobiographies and of course anything to do with horses.  My favourite indie authors are Rebecca Bryn and Sarah Stuart, who formed Worldwide Authors, to which I belong.
Do you have any advice you'd like to share for other writers?
For a would-be writer, just do it.  Now that you can self-publish your work doesn’t have to stay hidden in your computer.  Until you try you don’t know what you can achieve.  For other writers,  I think we all know we have to edit, edit, edit!
We all know the importance of marketing today. What are some of the methods you prefer for introducing yourself to the reading community?
I’m not too keen on the marketing side.  I have a website,, where I interview a different author each week.  I’m lucky enough to have a local bookshop stock all three of my books and I like to distribute bookmarks featuring my work.
What do you do for fun and relaxation?
I play tennis at a wonderful social club close to home, swim, walk and of course read.  We also love to travel and have just returned from a month driving in the USA and Canada, seeing Yellowstone National Park and The Rockies.  I even saw a couple of bears!
Missing in Egypt
Winston – A Horse’s Tale
Dangerous Associations

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

New Book Release

Shares The Darkness, my fifteenth novel and the seventh in the Sticks Hetrick crime series, was released today by Torrid Books, division of Whiskey Creek Press/Start Publishing.

The series is set in Swatara Creek, a fictional community near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and the characters frequently visit sites in the capitol. Hetrick is a retired police chief who now works as a county detective. The protagonist in this latest book is one of Hetrick's protegees, Officer Flora Vastine, though Sticks is involved in the events.
Sticks is the focus of the series, but others like Flora and her boyfriend, Cpl. Harry Minnich as well as a few town characters get their stage time. Fans seem to like that I offer this approach and reveal the lives and concerns of ordinary officers and their families in addition to the procedural and forensic detail. The bits of humor (dark, of course, in keeping with the theme)and romance hasn't turned any off to my knowledge.
I conceived the premise for the series in a short story while living in Lebanon PA, hence the location of Swatara Creek near Harrisburg. There is a Swatara creek and even a township with that name, but the town in the books is entirely my invention.
Though a series, the novels can be read as standalones. Titles, in order, are: Something In Common, Cruel Cuts, Corruption's Child, Being Someone Else, Practice To Deceive, A Burning Desire and Shares The Darkness. Here's a blurb for Shares The Darkness:
Jan Kepler and Swatara Creek Police Officer Flora Vastine were neighbors and schoolmates, but never close.
When Jan, a school teacher, avid birder and niece of a fellow officer, goes missing and is found dead in a nearby tract of woods Flora finds herself thrust into the middle of an examination of the other woman's life, which opens personal wounds.
And a short excerpt: Harry’s attitude was more optimistic when he called her cell later that night.
“Peg’s group only got through part of the game-lands and you guys didn’t cover everything either,” he told her. “There are some thick woods out there. Fresh growth on the trees and brush. Deep leaf cover on the ground. You said yourself, her knapsack was half-buried and you didn’t see it till you kicked it free.”
“I was so sure we’d find her after that.”
“I’ve heard hunters telling all my life how difficult it is sometimes to find a wounded deer—even in the season when most trees are bare. Even in a small area like the Preserve, nature can conceal more than you might think.”
“I hope you’re right, honey.”
“If she’s out there, we’ll find her. The Staties have promised two search dogs for tomorrow morning. Aaron said one of the Boy Scout troops is going to pitch in, too.”
Flora lay back on her bed. Despite the shower and rest, muscles in her legs ached from the strain of tramping over the rough landscape. “Before I found the pack I was almost ready to agree with Fred and think she’d gone somewhere else.”
“Well, now you know she must be out there. Fortunately, the weather isn’t frigid like it was last month. She’s young and healthy. If she isn’t too bad hurt and we find her...”
“Oh, God. What if we’re too late, Harry? We...”
“Think positive, babe. Think positive.”
But Harry’s optimism couldn’t obliterate Flora’s fears. Despite her tiredness, it was a long time before sleep came as Flora kept visualizing scenarios of Jan lying in the muck in the darkness, wild animals circling round her, no one responding to her desperate cries for help as the dampness of the night sucked away her strength and will to live.
Buy links:
And other major booksellers.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Those Influencers

Writers on Facebook have recently been posting lists of the 15 authors who most influenced them.

Frankly, I think their number is too few. We're influenced by everything we read. We absorb all these influences, accepting some, rejecting others, until they coalesce into our peculiar style.

Robert Louis Stevenson suggests, "When you read a book or passage that pleases you, sit down at once and try to ape that quality which most pleases you."

No, Herkimer, that doesn't mean you should write like the writers you admire. I can write a pastiche of Hemingway. But I'm not Hemingway. You pick up bits and pieces of technique from other writers, then you make them yours.

Okay. You want to know who I'd put on my list of fifteen. I'm sure there were many more, but here's my list (in no particular order):

1.Edgar Allen Poe
2.Jack London
3.Emily Bronte
4.John Fowles
5.Washington Irving
6.Somerset Maugham
7.John Cheever
8.John Steinbeck
9.John Dickson Carr
10.Arthur Conan Doyle
11.Ernest Hemingway
12.Robert Louis Stevenson
13.Vladimir Nabokov
14.Ruth Rendell

15.Elmore Leonard

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Birding Seed For Novel Idea

"When you have seen one ant, one bird, one tree, you have not seen them all." E. O. Wilson

It's estimated only one-fifth of U.S. citizens engage in the interesting and beneficial (both economical and environmentally) pursuit. Still that's a lot of people for an avocation once regarded as the domain of spinsters and eccentric old men.

Birding has been around since the late 18th century (see Gilbert White and others) and the term bird watching was first used in 1891.

I admit I'm not a list keeper or as dedicated/erudite as some. A nephew of Roger Tory Peterson was my biology teacher in high school and he inspired me to an early interest in this and all things nature. I've continued to enjoy observing, seeing and hearing birds. I've read my Peterson, White, Teale, Sibley and others.

Among my favorites (though not in order and not divulging reasons) are the cardinal, flicker, ruffed grouse, whip-poor-will and crow.

My interest in this avocation was the seed idea for Shares The Darkness, seventh in my Sticks Hetrick crime series, to be published Sept. 16 by Torrid Books, a subsidiary of Whiskey Creek Press/Start Publishing. My character Officer Flora Vastine insisted on playing the lead this time, and I allowed her to have her way. I'm rather pleased with the results.

Here's the blurb for the book:

Jan Kepler and Swatara Creek Police Officer Flora Vastine were neighbors and schoolmates, but never close.
When Jan, a school teacher, avid birder and niece of a fellow officer, goes missing and is found dead in a nearby tract of woods Flora finds herself thrust into the middle of an examination of the other woman's life, as she searches for clues.
As usual, the police have more than one crime to deal with. There’s illegal timbering and a series of vehicle thefts taking up their time. And there are other issues to deal with. Flora is concerned there’s some shakiness in her relationship with Cpl. Harry Minnich who seems to be making a lot of secretive phone calls.
Still Flora maintains focus on the murder. Despite evidence implicating other suspects, the odd behavior of another former classmate rouses Flora’s suspicion. Flora’s probing opens personal wounds as she observes the cost of obsessive love and tracks down the killer.
Sales outlets:
And major book sellers everywhere.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Interview With a Character

Magistrate: What is your name, ma'am?
Ellen: Ellen Kauffman.
Magistrate: And your age?
Ellen: (frowning): Is it necessary to this interview?
Magistrate: For my records--yes.
Ellen: Very well. I was born in 1863.
Magistrate: Thank you (he does math on a scrap of paper). How long have you lived in the village?
Ellen (pausing a moment to consider): Nearly five years. I operate the general store. Well, I do now. Since my husband's death.
Magistrate: Your husband is deceased?
Ellen (nods)
Magistrate: My condolences, Mrs. Kauffman. How long have you known the accused, Ned Gebhardt?
Ellen: Ever since we moved to the village. That poor boy..."
Magistrate: Yes. And you believe him innocent of the crime?
Ellen: I'm not alone in that.
Magistrate (waving a hand in the air): I'm aware of the stepsister. I can understand her loyalty to the boy. But, what about you? What makes you think Gebhardt isn't a cold-hearted killer?
Ellen (raising her voice) : Because I know him. He's not the monster some would have you believe. He's a sad, gentle boy who doesn't have it in him to harm another person--especially not Susie. He loved her. He could not have done those terrible things.

Magistrate (looking stern): There's a rumor--uh. A rumor you are romantically involved with Detective Roth. Is it true?
Ellen (frowning again): I don't see what that has to do with anything. It's none of your business.
Magistrate: I'm afraid it is. For reasons I'll get to in a moment. Is the rumor true?
Ellen (blushes): We've only known one another a short time. I'll admit, we have become friends and allies in the effort to assure a fair trial for Ned.
Magistrate: Yes, that's my problem, Mrs. Kauffman. Do you think his feelings for you have influenced his position on the case?
Ellen: I do not. Simon is an honest, good man and he will put his job before personal feelings. If he finds evidence, he will present it to the court without hesitation. But, you know yourself, there are other suspects. Simon is investigating them, too, though no one else seems to care.
This is a short interview with a primary character from Something So Divine. Here's the blurb for the novel:
When a young girl is found murdered in a Pennsylvania rye field in the autumn of 1897, Ned Gebhardt, a feeble-minded youth known to have stalked the victim, is the prime suspect.

Evidence against Ned is circumstantial and there are other suspects. Influenced by the opinions of Ned’s stepsister and Ellen, a woman who has perked his interest, Simon Roth, the investigator, is inclined to give Ned benefit of the doubt. Then he discovers damaging evidence. 

Still unwilling to view Ned as a cold-blooded killer, Roth puts his job and reputation in jeopardy as he seeks to assure a fair trial for the accused.
The novel is available in both print and electronic formats from the publisher, Sunbury Press (; Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other major booksellers.
Care to read more and see reviews? Go to

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Some Recommended Women Mystery Writers

The first female detective novel was written by a man, James Redding Ware, in 1864. It was another two decades before Anna Katherine Green (I've written about her before) and some other pioneers broke the ice and women became known as both the authors and protagonists of the mystery genre.
Now in the heat of summer as some of you may be seeking books to read, I thought it might be fun to name some of my favorite women writers and what I like about them. Personally, I don't care about the gender of a writer; my only concern is the books. I read widely and these are not the only women I read, so if your favorite isn't on my list it doesn't mean I think her unworthy. Also, my list is not in order of preference, but just a random listing as I think about them.
Ruth Rendell/Barbara Vine (1930-2015) is at the top of my pantheon of favorite women writers. She varies from tightly knit psychological novels to the more cozy-style Inspector Wexford series. Some favorites: A Sight For Sore Eyes, a Rendell standalone; Kissing the Gunner's Daughter (Wexford) and The Chimney Sweeper's Boy (Vine).
Patricia Highsmith, (1921-1995) the American grande dame of psychological thrillers. The Ripley books are probably the best known now and worth a read. My personal choice though would be either Strangers on a Train, her first novel, or The Cry of the Owl.
Elizabeth George, (1949-) an American who writes the Inspector Lynley series set in Britain. Lynley is an interesting character, an aristocrat who chooses to work in the sordid crime world of the police. Still, as a character, I prefer his junior officer Barbara Havers, feisty and disorderly, but dedicated to the work. As to books, you can't go wrong with the first in the series, A Great Deliverance.
Val McDermid (1955-), a Scottish crime writer with three series going--Dr. Tony Hill series, Kate Branigan series and Lindsay Gordon series. My preferred of her work, though, are two standalone novels, A Darker Domain and A Place of Execution.
Rebecca Stott (1964) has only published two crime novels to date, Ghostwalk and The Coral Thief. Ghostwalk, the only one of the two I've read so far, was shortlisted for the Jelf First Novel award and the Society of Authors first novel award. The New York Times compared her to Borge and Edgar Allan Poe, which seems right on to me.
Kate Atkinson (1951-), another Brit, who writes (among other things) the Jackson Brodie series. I've only read two of the books to date and Started Early, Took My Dog stands out as another quirky favorite for its wit, characterization and surprises.
Karin Fossum (1954), billed as the 'Norwegian Queen of Crime' makes the list for her Inspector Sejer series. Fossum, who began as a poet, has about a dozen books in the series to date. My choice, Bad Intentions.
Caroline Graham (1931-) is best known for her Chief Inspector Barnaby series (produced for TV as Midsomer Murders). She also has a quirky style that amuses me. I've liked The Ghost in the Machine and Faithful Unto Death, among others.
Sophie Hannah (1971-) is a British poet and novelist. I love her Waterhouse and Zailer series. A fav being Kind of Cruel, which will confuse and amuse you.
Laura Lippman (1959-), a Baltimore-based journalist turned novelist. Her Tess Monaghan series has been a hit since its debut in 1997. But, don't miss her standalone novels either, especially After I'm Gone and The Most Dangerous Thing.
Mary Roberts Rinehart (1876-1958), a Pennsylvania-native, is often referred to as the "American Agatha Christie." During her long career, she penned three series, some 30-standalones, 10 short story collections and a dozen or more plays. Rather than tossing a coin to decide which to read, I'd recommend her first book, The Circular Staircase, which sold 1.25 million copies and propelled her to fame.
Finally, a writer I only recently discovered: Tana French (1973-), an Irish writer/actor whose talent blew me away when I read my first of her novels. To date I've read: Faithful Place, Broken Harbour and The Secret Place. Her novel In the Woods won an Edgar in 2008 for Best First Novel.

I could have recommended many more, but there has to be a limit in a blog. I also know this list comprises writers who have already achieved a modicum of fame. In recompense, sometime in the near future I'll compile a list of lesser-known women writers who've intrigued me.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Curiosity--it Might Have Killed The Cat, But It's Vital For Writers

It's generally agreed, when our ancestors left Africa to populate the rest of the world they were driven by concerns of  climate and population growth. I believe another reason needs to be considered--curiosity.

The innate curiosity of our species has been responsible for every advance, development, discovery you might consider. Have you heard the story about Isaac Newton poking himself in the eye with a needle? He did it as a scientific experiment. I'd say that's carrying curiosity to the extreme. Still, without curiosity, there can be no driving force.

Curiosity is one of the permanent and certain characteristics of a vigorous mind. Samuel Johnson

Curiosity is immensely important to writers, too. It fires our imagination, makes us ask--what if?.. Come on, admit it, you're as nosey as me. All writers eaves-drop. Well, we do, don't we? I know I've got my fill of story ideas and other useful details that way.

We have seen that central among the traits that define a creative person are two somewhat opposed tendencies: a great deal of curiosity and openness on the one hand, and an almost obsessive perseverance on the other. Both of these have to be present for a person to have fresh ideas and then to make them prevail. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Creativity

All children come with curiosity. They want to touch, taste, smell, eat every little thing they can grab in their sticky little fingers. They're also trying to understand this world they've been born into. Asking questions: Why am I here? What am I supposed to do here? Why is that geek making faces and speaking gibberish to me?

It's all part of the learning process--the importance of which doesn't diminish with age.

For many adults, curiosity begins to dim in the wake of other, more worldly concerns. For writers, it's important for us to preserve our sense of curiosity, even enhance it if we can.
I'm not suggesting you turn yourself in a Miss Marple. But, if something sparks your interest, chase it and see where it may lead you.