Sunday, January 29, 2012

FAST FIVE Interview with Author Karin Kaufman

Today’s guest is Karin Kaufman, author of The Witch Tree. Though I have been researching the multiple branches of my family tree since 1998, my interest in mystery novels extends far beyond that date to my preteens. After discovering Karin’s novel, a mystery with a genealogist for the main character, how could I resist? Karin and I have been trading comments on Twitter ever since.



FAST FIVE: Karin, thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule for this interview today. Rather than an “elevator pitch” of 140 characters (#hashtags included) can you share with us a more detailed account of The Witch Tree and your research for the novel?

KARIN KAUFMAN: Those hashtags take up a lot of space, don’t they? My mystery is about Anna Denning, a thirty-something genealogist who discovers that a client’s family tree holds the key to a murder. She’s also a widow who’s still grieving the loss of her husband. Throughout most of the novel, she swings between grief and anger—the latter directed at God. When her life is threatened, that anger finds an outlet, giving her the strength to protect herself.

When I decided to write The Witch Tree, it was a no-brainer for me to make my protagonist a genealogist. I’ve been researching my family tree for more than ten years now, so I was comfortable with the subject. Plus, it’s a natural for mysteries. Genealogical research is similar to detective work: you gather a multitude of puzzle pieces and try to fit them together. Often, one small clue is the solution—the piece that allows all the other pieces to fall into place.


FAST FIVE: You have drawn an interesting parallel between genealogical research and detective work, that of gathering and piecing together clues to form a more complete picture. Another similarity between detectives and genealogists is in the resolute way they approach their job, whether to locate a missing ancestor or to nail the guilty party. In The Witch Tree, is “the job” the most important part of your protagonist’s life?

KARIN KAUFMAN: No, Anna’s work as a genealogist is just the catalyst. It gets her into trouble and, in the end, gets her out of trouble. As much as I love genealogy, I didn’t want it to be the focus of the story. I wanted anyone who likes mysteries to be able to enjoy my book. There’s genealogy talk in the book, and the murderer is discovered through genealogy, but the important parts of the book—the characters, their relationships, their struggles—have nothing to do with genealogy.

Still, like all genealogists, Anna loves to dig for and connect clues, and that makes her a good amateur sleuth. She’s tenacious in her work and her life. When she’s thrown into a dangerous situation, she discovers she’s more courageous than she thought she was. And what she considers her weaknesses—her occasional sharp tongue, her past involvement with wicca—turn out to be her strengths.


FAST FIVE: The Mystery/Suspense genre is the focus of Fast Five interviews, but what unique twist makes your novel stand out?

KARIN KAUFMAN: First, it’s a Christian mystery, and believe it or not, there aren’t that many Christian mysteries. Lots of Christian romances and even horror novels, but not so many mysteries.

Second, my protagonist begs to differ with those who think being a Christian means being a doormat. She not only stands up for herself, but in confrontations with decidedly antagonistic people, she stands up for her faith. (Usually with a sense of humor.) I find this tough-mindedness lacking in a lot of Christian fiction. Christian characters often limp through their stories, not wanting to raise any hackles or offend anyone.



FAST FIVE: How does your main character’s profession draw her into suspenseful situations, (murder, for instance?)

KARIN KAUFMAN: Where do I begin? When you explore a person’s genealogy, you can find out almost anything! It’s not all about your parents, grandparents, and so on. It’s about estates and wills, marriages and divorces, natural and unnatural deaths, houses bought and sold, schools attended and occupations held—the list is almost endless. If you start digging into someone’s family tree, there’s no telling what you might find.


FAST FIVE: Oh, so true, Karin! Your comment, “If you start digging into someone’s family tree, there’s no telling what you might find,” is an eerily accurate foreshadowing of the second novel in my mystery series. Is your novel, The Witch Tree, part of a series, and are you working on a sequel?

KARIN KAUFMAN: Yes, it’s part of a series. Definitely. And I’m currently working on the second book. The same Colorado mountain town and same returning cast of characters—Anna and her friends, as well as her dog Jackson. (I’ve received some lovely comments about Jackson, and I’m so glad readers have taken to him. I’m a dog lover, and there was no way I was going to write a book featuring a dogless protagonist!)


FAST FIVE: I think a protagonist who loves dogs automatically registers in a reader’s mind as honest and trustworthy. Include me with your other readers who appreciated that you wrote Jackson into the story. The following is not a Fast Five question, more an “if/then” scenario: If Paris is not an option, then where would you most like to spend your time writing and why.

KARIN KAUFMAN: Actually, I wouldn’t want to spend my time writing in Paris, or being in Paris at all. (Does that sound crazy?) I’d love to write in an adobe house outside Santa Fe or Taos, New Mexico. Northern New Mexico both soothes and invigorates me—the perfect frame of mind for writing. I also wouldn’t mind writing in a shockingly expensive lodge-style house in the Colorado mountains.


FAST FIVE: Another stimulating hideaway to add to my wish list! Thank you for sharing your insiders’ knowledge of genealogical research and the process of creating a like-minded protagonist, Karin. You have offered an insightful look into the personality of your main character and given us much food for thought about research, animal lovers, and your expensive taste in lodging! I am on your list of readers who are looking forward to the sequel of The Witch Tree. 

For more information about The Witch Tree and author Karin Kaufman, please visit:

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Fast Five Author Interview with Kenneth Hoss

Today’s guest, Kenneth Hoss, is the author of STORM RISING-A Kelli Storm novel. He is also a self-proclaimed "computer nut and Texas Rangers fan." Ken and I are members of The Independent Author Network, an internet site designed for like-minded authors and readers, where I discovered his action-packed book featuring protagonist Kelli Storm, a no-nonsense detective who takes a back seat to no one.

FAST FIVE: Welcome, Ken, and thank you for your participation today. Rather than an “elevator pitch” of 140 characters (#hashtags included) can you share with us a more detailed account of the novel and your research for STORM RISING- A Kelli Storm Novel?

KENNETH HOSS: Storm Rising is the first book in a planned three book series. It follows the main character, Kelli Storm, an NYPD Detective working out of the 33rd Precinct in Washington Heights. Kelli is driven to find the person or persons responsible for her father’s death twenty years earlier. In the course of investigating the murder of a young woman, she discovers a link between the woman’s death and her father’s killer.
For my research, I enlisted the aid of a former NYPD Detective who now works for an unnamed Government agency. He provided me with Department policies and procedures, as well as information not readily available on the internet. (Nothing classified.) An example would be, in NYC, Police cars are not called squad cars, but instead they are called RMP’s or Radio Motor Patrol. Another item I had to know were the type of firearms that NYPD officers are allowed to carry, both on duty and off. It’s the little details like that, if incorrect or missed, can ruin your book.

FAST FIVE: As a reader, I always appreciate an author’s close attention to details, especially those that describe or enhance the role of a protagonist’s profession. For Detective Kelli Storm, is “the job” the most important part of her life?
KENNETH HOSS: At this point, “the job” is the only thing that keeps her going. She has to deal with her mother’s illness, an ex-boyfriend who thinks he still has a shot, and an ex-husband she still loves. As if that weren’t enough, she’s a recovering alcoholic. But she doesn’t let any of it stop her from doing her job.

FAST FIVE: The Mystery/Suspense genre is the focus of Fast Five interviews, but what unique twist makes your novel stand out?
KENNETH HOSS: That is a very good question. I would have to say what makes Storm Rising stand out is not so much the twist and turns, though there are several, but the main character. While she is not really “unique”, she is a strong and determined person. Her ability to overcome the odds is inspiring.

FAST FIVE: How does your main character’s profession draw her into suspenseful situations, (murder, for instance?)
KENNETH HOSS: Being a Detective on the NYPD, Kelli has seen her share of bodies. As for murders, she’s seen more than her share. (And will continue seeing them.)

FAST FIVE: Is this book part of a series, and are you working on a sequel?
KENNETH HOSS: Yes. I am currently working on the second book, Storm Warning, and plan to release it sometime in late Spring of this year.

FAST FIVE: Ken, the fast pace you set with Storm Rising guarantees that I will be in line to buy the next Kelli Storm novel, Storm Warning. The following is not a Fast Five question, more an “if/then” scenario: If Paris is not an option, then where would you most like to spend your time writing and why.
KENNETH HOSS: My “dream” location to write is a little spot northeast of Atlanta, GA. It’s a place I visited when I was out there several years back that really took my breath away. The spot overlooks Lake Altoona and is one of the most inspiring views I’ve seen. 

FAST FIVE: Okay, I admit I’ve never heard of Lake Altoona. As inspiration, though, it may end up on my list of dream vacations. Thank you for visiting today, Ken, and for offering a behind-the-scenes look into a writer’s life.

For more information about Kenneth Hoss and his novel, please check out these links:
Twitter: @kennhoss
Available for Purchase ~ STORM RISING - A Kelli Storm Novel ~ at any of the following sites:




Friday, January 20, 2012

Pikake in Bloom: Whether Flower or Fowl

My Saucy Saturday words for today are brazen and cocksure. The brazen Pikake/flower of Hawaii is certainly unashamed and audacious, while the Pikake/peafowl is without a doubt cocksure.

Just shy of nineteen years ago, I first visited Waimea Falls Park for the first time. I took a narrated tram ride to the Cliff Diving event at the 45-foot waterfall where world champion divers put on quite a show, not just swan dives like the divers in Acapulco, but also double somersaults, something that had my stomach doing flip-flops just observing.

After watching an Ancient Hawaiian Hula performance and taking a short tour of a burial temple, I found a quiet picnic area to relax and enjoy my lunch. The valley, cradled between two mountain range structures with a rainforest of trees and plants and flowers, includes hiking trails, water lily ponds filled with fish, many species of birds, including the Nene goose (the state bird) and a huge variety of plants and flowers.

Pikake, the Hawaiian word for peafowls, roam free and are always happy to pose for pictures. One of them, whether peahen or peacock, befriended me while I ate. He kept sidling up to the table until I finally tossed him a few pieces of bread with a side of cheese, which he gobbled up quickly. Then he let out a "honk" that sounded louder than a semi-truck horn! Maybe he was announcing that I had overstayed my welcome.

As I left the area, I spotted another peacock behind a building and hurried over to take a quick picture. I wasn’t satisfied with the shot so I attempted to direct him to greener pastures. Not only was this pikake a willing subject, he slowly spread his tail feathers and all I could say was, “Oh, thank you” as I snapped more pictures.
Pikake Surprise
Feathers Tipped with Many Eyes
Paradise Alive

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Fast Five Author Interview with Laurie Hanan

It is a pleasure to welcome author Laurie Hanan to my blog site today. Laurie grew up in the Hawaiian Islands. After college she traveled in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. She eventually returned to Hawaii, her true home, where she raised her family, then wrote and published her first suspense novel, ALMOST PARADISE. The story, set in Hawaii, showcases Laurie's familiarity with O'ahu and reflects some of the information gleaned from her extensive travels.

Laurie and I met in person for the first time at a local craft fair in Hawaii. She invited me to share a table where we displayed our respective novels. We even found time to discuss writing tips and exchange marketing strategies, along with some good laughs. With my obsession for e-books, print copies often end up on a shelf unread, but, a mystery . . . set in Hawaii . . . on the island of O’ahu? I couldn’t wait to start reading Almost Paradise.


ALMOST PARADISE
by author Laurie Hanan

FAST FIVE: Laurie, thank you for visiting today. I am eager to learn more about your novel and some of the secrets of your protagonist, Louise Golden. You are a member of Twitter, but rather than an elevator pitch of 140 characters (#hashtags included) can you share with us a more detailed account of the novel and your research for ALMOST PARADISE?

LAURIE HANAN: Louise Golden moved to O’ahu after the tragic death of her boyfriend. She’s doing her best to live a low-profile existence, finding peace in the day to day sameness of her job as a mail carrier. One of her elderly customers vanishes, and Louise becomes concerned about the woman, who has no family or friends. The police seem to be doing little to find the missing woman, so Louise starts her own search. She stops for lunch and meets a stunt man who invites her to a movie set. There, she inadvertently overhears a bit-part actor brag about killing someone. Things begin to heat up when he becomes fixated on Louise. She finds herself caught up in a web of bizarre circumstances that include car tails, stolen artifacts, a glitzy celebrity party, exotic dancing, drugs, and, of course, murder.

Most of my research was done online. I looked up Hawai’ian history and legends to check my facts, and Hawai’ian words and place names to be sure I had all the diacritical marks in place. I looked at maps and Google satellite images, and drove through the neighborhoods mentioned in my book. I interviewed a police officer about police procedure, and asked a county coroner about identifying manner of death. (She invited me to visit the morgue, but I declined.) The most enjoyable part of my research was an afternoon spent interviewing a handsome Israeli stuntman about what happens on a movie set.
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FAST FIVE: An afternoon spent interviewing a handsome Israeli stuntman sounds like a great way for an author to gather information about a novel! Laurie, you mentioned your protagonist finds peace in the day to day sameness of her job. Is “the job” the most important part of Louise Golden’s life? (Highlight the characteristics that illustrate your protagonist’s strengths.)

LAURIE HANAN: Louise is a mainlander, an outsider, viewed with suspicion by the locals. Her blond hair makes her even more conspicuous. But when she dons her postal uniform, she’s like a superhero, transformed into that great American icon, The Mail Carrier. In the uniform she’s accepted as part of the neighborhood’s scenery—all but invisible. 

Louise’s strength is her caring and compassion for the people she encounters each day. Her big heart will not allow her to look the other way when she feels someone needs her help. This is also what ends up getting her in trouble.

 FAST FIVE: The Mystery/Suspense genre is the focus of Fast Five interviews, but what unique twist makes your novel stand out?

LAURIE HANAN: My protagonist is not a police officer, private eye, bounty hunter, or secret agent. Her job is not to solve cases or take down deranged criminals. Louise is a very ordinary person, and not particularly heroic. She has carefully constructed her life so it offers little in the way of challenges. As a mail carrier, her goal each day is to deliver all the letters and packages and return to the station at a reasonable hour. Nothing more, nothing less. However, life has other ideas for Louise.

FAST FIVE: A heroine is sometimes described as an ordinary person performing an extraordinary act not of her choosing. Even though your protagonist isn't particularly heroic, how does Louise Golden's profession draw her into suspenseful situations, (murder, for instance?)

LAURIE HANAN: Louise’s job as a mail carrier requires her to be out in the community. For the most part, she’s unnoticed as she goes about her work. This gives her a unique opportunity to observe things other people might not. Though, for some elderly folks, a visit from the mail carrier is the highlight of their day. Louise is drawn into their lives, interacting with them on a personal level.

FAST FIVE: Is this book part of a series, and are you working on a sequel?

LAURIE HANAN: Almost Paradise is the first in the Louise Golden mystery series. The second Louise Golden mystery, How Far Is Heaven? will be released early this year. I am currently working on the third book in the series, entitled Stairway To Heaven.


FAST FIVE: Not a Fast Five question, more an “if/then” scenario: If Paris is not an option, then where would you most like to spend your time writing and why. 
LAURIE HANAN: Paris is not an option. Even if it were, I wouldn’t choose it over Hawai’i. I’ve been to Paris and, as the saying goes, it’s a nice place to visit but I wouldn’t want to live there.
The Louise Golden mysteries take place in Hawai’i, so this has to be the perfect place to work. If I could create the ideal setting in Hawaii, it would be a house by the sea. I’d set my desk up so I could watch the sky change colors and the sea rise and fall. Now and then, dolphins or whales would happen by. Green sea turtles and monk seals would crawl onto the sand to bask in the tropical sun. Flocks of sandpipers would run up and down the shore, picking at the line of debris left by the high tide.
Then again, such beauty would be so distracting, I’d never write a word. So I’ll keep my desk right here beside my sliding glass door, with my view of the back lawn and the house next door.

FAST FIVE: Distracting or not, the house by the sea is an intriguing choice for a writer's retreat. Thank you for the vivid description, Laurie, and again, thank you for visiting today.

Laurie Hanan and Gail Baugniet
displaying their novels at the Craft Fair

Links:





Friday, January 13, 2012

Saucy Saturday with Chinese Hibiscus

Many of my better ideas originate in that space of time between sleep and full wakefulness in the morning. The idea for Saucy Saturday blog posts was one such thought that grew from dream proportions to reality. Once the idea was fairly well developed, I flipped back the blanket (yes, the temperature does drop overnight in Hawaii) and hopped out of bed.

After researching the word in the dictionary, I took up the thesaurus to get my foggy brain around the concept of saucy. Not only did I learn that the word can be applied to a variety of situations but that those "concept" numbers after the long list of words are there for a purpose. I actually followed up and discovered that saucy is considered a communicative quality as well as an attribute of behavior. With a list of synonyms as long as my arm to offer inspiration, I am good to go for an entire year of Saturdays.

The saucy words I chose for today, listed in the Concept Index under communicative qualities, are "genuine" and "indescribable." Both words, genuine - as in natural, and indescribable - beyond words, perfectly describe the ubiquitous Chinese Hibiscus flowers that illustrate my haiku below. I took this picture in Queen Kapiolani Park, near Waikiki, shortly after I moved to Hawaii. Each time I see these flowers, I can't help but smile back.


Twin Hibiscus smile
Queen Kapiolani Park
Sunlight on their face



Sunday, January 8, 2012

FAST FIVE Author Interview with Michele Drier

Author Michele Drier has written news, features, and columns for several daily newspapers in California. She has written successful grants to the National Endowment for the Arts and the California arts Council as well as a host of public and private funding sources for non-profit agencies. She is now the published author of SNAP: The World Unfolds and Edited for Death.
Michele and I met through the on-line mystery writer’s group, Guppies, an affiliation of the national writer’s organization Sisters in Crime (SinC). At the time, Michele was working on a mystery novel, Edited for Death. When she mentioned having published a novel in eBook format, I purchased and quickly read SNAP: The World Unfolds. The story flows effortlessly between the world of celebrity news reports and the everyday business of being conscientious vampires. Michele is a skilled world-builder, creating an atmosphere where human and centuries-old vampire occupy a room with little suspension of disbelief required. She has graciously agreed to participate in a “Fast Five” interview.

Fast Five: Michele, thank you for taking time away from your busy schedule for a FAST FIVE interview today. I know you are familiar with Twitter’s format, but rather than an “elevator pitch” of 140 characters (#hashtags included) can you share with us a more detailed account of the novel and your research for SNAP: The World Unfolds?

Michele: After I’d finished a traditional mystery, Edited for Death, and was frantically looking for an agent or publisher, my daughter and son-in-law suggested that I write a vampire novel.  Odd, because that wasn’t a genre that I read or knew much about, but they pointed out it was a genre that sold well.  So I started by reading a couple of Charlaine Harris and Kelley Armstrong books and discovered that vampires, demons and the whole crowd could have perfectly normal lives—if you glossed over a few idiosyncrasies.

Then my daughter said, “You know, a lot of celebrities could be vampires.  They only come out at night, they ride around in limos with tinted windows, they wear sunglasses all the time” and, bingo, SNAP was born.

I set the Baron’s European headquarters in Hungary, because I’d spent some time there and could write about it knowledgably.  I still did research online beyond what information I already had and one of the ongoing areas is Eastern European names.  I’m going to have to expand my search as the Kandesky vampires expand their media empire east, into the old Soviet Union.

Fast Five: I noticed your tongue-in-cheek remark about glossing over the idiosyncrasies of a few vampires and demons. Such flamboyant co-workers would present an interesting work environment. Highlighting the characteristics that illustrate your protagonist’s strengths, would you say “the job” is the most important part of her life?

Michele: The protagonist, Maxie Gwenoch, is a magazine editor and has worked hard to get where she is.  She’s driven to succeed, decisive, single-minded and proud of having made it to the pinnacle of celebrity gossip news.  When she meets the new art director, Jean-Louis, she’s attracted, but business always comes before pleasure.  As Jean-Louis reveals his secret, and as Maxie begins to fall for him, she fights the attraction, knowing that she’ll have to give up some of her independence for a relationship.

Until now, her job has been what defined her persona and raison d’etre, but falling for a co-worker—who in fact is one of the “family” that owns SNAP—puts a strain on Maxie.  She won’t give up all she’s worked for, but she doesn’t want to lose Jean-Louis. 

Fast Five: The Mystery/Suspense genre is the focus of Fast Five interviews, but what unique twist makes your novel stand out?

Michele: SNAP is actually a paranormal romance that has a different twist.  The Kandesky family, including Jean-Louis, are several-centuries old vampires who are raking in money in the new, 24/7, cash-crazy free markets.  The suspense in SNAP builds because of the psychological pull Jean-Louis has on Maxie.

Oh, and also...the Kandeskys have rivals, the Huszar “family”, who wants to kidnap Maxie for her business brains.

Fast Five:  How does your main character’s profession draw her into suspenseful situations (murder, for instance?)

Michele: In SNAP, Maxie’s excellence at her career is the factor that’s so dangerous. A magazine editor isn’t usually a magnet for murder, but the Kandesky rivals watch Maxie as she solidifies the Kandesky hold on international celebs and gossip and begin trying to snatch her away.  They want a piece of the pie that Maxie is helping the Kandeskys bake.

In Edited for Death, Amy Hobbes is a newspaper editor who assigns her staff to cover murders, murderers and murder trials.  She’s doing this job against the fact that newspapers are a dying business so she uses her creativity to do more with less.  Because of that, and the adrenaline of breaking news, she tracks down leads and follows up tips that she normally would assign to a reporter.

Some of the suspects don’t like the light of press exposure shining on them, so they reason that if they eliminate the messenger, the light will go away, right?  And in this case, it’s Amy who’s shining the light on them.

Fast Five:  Is this book part of a series, and are you working on a sequel?

Michele: SNAP: The World Unfolds is the first of the SNAP books that follow Maxie as she carefully makes her way between a stand-out career on a growing international stage and her attraction for the vampire, Jean-Louis. I’m writing the second one now, SNAP: New Talent; shooting to have it published this winter.

Edited for Death is also the first of a series about Amy Hobbes.  Each book will center on a mysterious murder, but each will also have a murder that my staff at daily newspapers actually covered. This is scheduled for late fall of 2012.

Fast Five: The following isn’t a Fast Five question, more an “if/then” scenario: If Paris is not an option, then where would you most like to spend your time writing and why.

Michele: Oh, well...right off the bat you take Paris away!  Actually, I doubt I could write much in Paris, too much to see, do and be.

Since my stories all live in my head, anywhere that I don’t have a lot of interruptions or other responsibilities is fine.  I’m drawn toward the North Coast of California, Humboldt County, because I lived there on and off for years.  Also, it rains, a LOT, and that’s conducive to staying inside and making up stories.

Fast Five: Michele, thank you so much for giving us an in-depth look at protagonists Maxie Gwenoch in SNAP: The World Unfolds and Amy Hobbes in Edited for Death. I look forward to reading the next in the series of both novels.

Michele’s SNAP: The World Unfolds was recently featured as the Kindle eBook of the Day and can be found at:



http://amzn.to/u1Uo1n ">SNAP: The World Unfolds at Amazon
http://bit.ly/nrddwr ">SNAP at B&N
http://bit.ly/n2mcEI ">SNAP at Smashwords

and Edited for Death:

http://amzn.to/roic00 ">Edited for Death at Amazon
http://bit.ly/o8DHJL ">Edited at B&N
http://bit.ly/qAEsQN ">Edited at Mainly Murder Press




Sunday, January 1, 2012

Indie Author Interviews: In the Hottub ~ Not the Hotseat


In several reviews of "FOR EVERY ACTION There Are Consequences" my protagonist Pepper Bibeau has been described as a "strong female character." This portrayal refers not to her muscular prowess, but to her emotional mettle. In Roget’s 21st Century Thesaurus, the synonyms for mettle that best describe Pepper are: strength of character; energy; fire; heart; moxie . . . and resolve, which in turn is related to determination, earnestness, and fixed purpose.

Words cut both ways and Pepper’s resolve, or fixed purpose, in her professional life tends to waver when applied to personal situations. Uncertainty does not weaken her character, though. By acknowledging indecision as provisional, a safe interim condition, Pepper is able to maintain a comfortable level of confidence and emotional stability.

On Mondays, beginning January 9, 2012, I will present interviews with Independent Authors who have written and published a mystery/suspense novel featuring a strong female protagonist. The interviews will focus on fellow indie-authors, spotlighting their first published novel and the strengths of their main character.

Indie authors interested in a personalized guest interview, please contact me via email: gbaugniet (at) aol (dot) com with the word INTERVIEW in the subject line. Include a link to your novel in the body of the email. If you have an upcoming promotional event that you want to coordinate with the interview, please include that date with your request. Thank you.

FOR EVERY ACTION There Are Consequences