Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Developing Traits For a Novel Character

After years of gradually-increasing issues with my right hip, and a slow progression from osteopenia to osteoporosis, I had a total hip replacement in 2018. My years-long experience (often referred to as "aging"😉) was the catalyst for the through-line of my genealogical novel, SHARDS OF MEMORY - Oral History In A Heartbeat.

Even flowers have personality traits

In my case, adjustments prior to surgery included a lessened pace in activities and a shift in diet. This may have slowed the pace of loss, but whether as much or more than medication would have I don't know. The ultimate result was surgery.

The novel's character, a young child injured in a car accident, experiences prolonged hardships due to a damaged leg. Noticeable 
public traits of the child include a sensitive nature, shyness, reticence, and quiet demeanor. 

The through-line of the story illustrates an emotional growth as the child adjusts to adverse circumstances. Assisting with this growth are the four grandparents who entertain the child with ongoing tales of ancestors' lives in their homelands and their immigration to America.

My situation was temporary, and dissimilar in cause to that of the novel's character - ageing verses accident. The condition did, however, give me insight into the emotional impact of a long-term physical disability. 

The standard advice for authors working on novels is to "write what you know." In this case, I wrote about what I knew and then embellished accordingly.

Excerpt from SHARDS OF MEMORY: 

Art’s thoughts of late drifted to stories about ancestral lands he heard as a kid. According to his mother, tales about the old country provided a bridge of acceptance for new generations. But Art’s interest in past events paled in light of concern for his grandchildren’s future. This proved especially true of Gahlen who suffered physical and emotional scars of present day.

The accident had occurred several months after the child’s third birthday. Acute pain in the mangled right leg faded over time, to everyone’s relief. And Gahlen’s sunny disposition encouraged others to accept the tragedy as the will of a higher power.


What personal experience have you used to flesh out a character in your writing?

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Michele Drier - Author: "Novel Research" Interview

In 2011, when ebooks were just beginning to hit their stride on Amazon, Michele Drier and I met through an online writers' group, the Guppies chapter of Sisters in Crime, Inc. We had both dipped our toes into the phenomenon of electronic novels. SNAP: The World Unfolds was the debut novel of Michele's series "The Kandesky Vampire Chronicles."

Michele is a fifth generation Californian. During her career in journalism at daily newspapers in California, she won awards for investigative series. She is the past president of Capitol Crimes, a Sisters in Crime chapter; the Guppies chapter of SinC, current vice president of NorCal Sisters in Crime, and she co-chaired Bouchercon 2020.

Michele enjoyed journalism; but one thing she reveals that I didn't know about her was that she really wanted to be a Formula 1 driver and spent several years hanging around and driving sportscar time trials in California.

Because she has graciously accepted an invitation to discuss the novel research for her latest book, Tapestry of Tears (see Monday’s book review on this blog,) I now welcome author Michele Drier.


Author Michele Drier

Greetings from California. Thanks so much for inviting me. 

As career choices go, if I had it to do over, I’d be an archeologist. I have a deep, abiding love of history, particularly medieval Europe. This love led me to the plot of Tapestry of Tears, the second book in the Stained Glass Mysteries.

Roz Duke, an internationally known stained glass artist, has accepted a commission to reproduce a section of the Bayeux Tapestry in glass for a university in Wisconsin.

To understand the history behind the 11th century depiction of William the Conqueror’s invasion of England, and to further study medieval stained glass, she takes a sabbatical from her studio in Oregon and moves to Hythe, a medieval city in the south of Kent, England. From here, it’s a ferry ride to northern France and the Tapestry Museum in Bayeux, France.

See: History of the Bayeux Tapestry - Bayeux Tapestry
University of Wisconsin Oshkosh (
An odd fact, the discovery of 30,000 pieces of medieval stained glass in the attics of Westminster Cathedral, was the impetus for getting Roz to England. 

And it’s a true fact, giving me the initial plot for Tapestry of Tears.

I’d been to Bayeux and spent the day at the Tapestry Museum and had been to the south of England a few times, including Hythe and the tiny town on Dymchurch. And on one trip, I stood on the cliffs overlooking Omaha Beach, where the Allied assault forces invaded France and broke Hitler’s hold on the world.

As I was writing, I went down the rabbit hole of Google a lot of times, checking and double-checking my recollections; I bought yet another book on the Tapestry; I looked up ferry times and crossings of the Channel (even priced the Chunnel but decided Roz was too cheap to spend that much money!); went through some of my old pictures and wore the pages in my European atlas to shreds checking on all the small roads and sites in Kent.

At one point in the book, I have Roz moving some of her belongings from north of London to Hythe with the help of Hal, a Kentish policeman. I turned to my trusty atlas, tracing their route on the M25 and found the town of Waltham Abbey, a convenient place to stop and spend the night.

As I Googled Waltham Abbey, I discovered they had a medieval cathedral which was the burial site of King Harold, who was defeated by William the Conqueror. Well, of course Roz had to visit it.

I love research and can spend far too many hours chasing leads and tidbits. In an earlier book, Labeled for Death, about vineyard workers found dead, I managed to wheedle a visit to the Wine Library at UC Davis. After interviewing one of the oenologists, I was taken to the stacks and watched as a librarian, wearing white cotton gloves, reverently placed a large (maybe 20” x 24”) loose-leaf book in front of me. It was sample wine grape leaves from 1870 with hand-written descriptions and was how they determined varieties. The same method (with pictures instead of actual leaves) is still used today at all the wineries in California.

On the whole, I think my years in journalism has led me to relish finding sources and unearthing facts—from large to small. At this late date, I doubt I’ll ever be an archeologist, but I can pretend as I follow link to link to link and tuck interesting facts away…or write them on sticky notes that I immediately misplace.


Michele’s Amy Hobbes Newspaper Mysteries are Edited for Death, (called “Riveting and much recommended” by the Midwest Book Review), Labeled for Death and Delta for Death. A stand-alone, Ashes of Memories was published May 2017.

Her paranormal romance series, SNAP: The Kandesky Vampire Chronicles, was named the best paranormal vampire series of 2014 by PRG and she’s currently writing Book Eleven, SNAP: Pandemic Games.

Her new series is the Stained Glass Mysteries, Stain on the Soul and Tapestry of Tears.  She lives in Sacramento with her cat, Malley, and she’s working on the third book in the series, Resurrection of the Roses.

Visit her webpage,

Or her Facebook page, ,

Or find her on her author page at

Amazon link: or


Monday, July 19, 2021

Book review: Tapestry of Tears by Michele Drier

Interest in reading mystery novels began in my preteens. Fascination with stained glass, however, predates memory - at a time when I was surrounded each week by sun streaming through stained glass windows during Sunday mass. Over the years, my experience of viewing stained glass has ranged from daily exposure to church-lined walls during mass in grade school; to the Rose Window of the Notre Dame in Paris; to the front window of Waikiki’s St. Augustine Church by the Sea, which has greeted sailors as their ships approached Honolulu since the late 1800s.

Imagine my delight, as an enthusiast of stained glass and mysteries, in reading the novel Tapestry of Tears, a story about a stained glass expert traveling to England and France to research the Bayeux Tapestry then becoming involved in a murder investigation and a baffling theft.

'TAPESTRY OF TEARS' by Michele Drier

Author Michele Drier's novel suggests an enormous amount of research, which she has condensed into an entertaining and fast-paced mystery. 

As the plot unfolds, along with characters’ relevant back stories, protagonist and stained glass artist Roz Duke prepares to examine the Bayeux Tapestry, an embroidered cloth and unique 11th century artifact/artefact representing numerous historical events leading up to the Norman conquest of England. 

Her self-proclaimed sabbatical from home life in Oregon, intended as a quiet research project, soon turns complicated when Roz happens upon a dead body in a dark corner of a church in England.

Expecting Tapestry of Tears to be a cozy mystery, I was surprised to discover a thriller unfolding. As a Scotland Yard type of investigation unfolds, Roz becomes more deeply involved in not only a homicide case, but theft of priceless property and possibly even seedier activities with even more dangerous suspects. 

Who to trust, and how to remain alive, become her focus - when all she wanted was to immerse herself in the task of transferring historical details from a tapestry to stained glass.

* * * * *

Upcoming post - Wednesday July 21: “Tapestry of Tears” interview with Michele Drier. Get to know more about the author and her process of weaving a well-researched tale about stained glass - and murder.

* * * * *

Tapestry of Tears is available at in paperback and ebook.

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

What's in an Irish Name: Novel Research

Interviews and blog posts for “Novel Research” are focused on
interesting topics that participants have researched before or while
composing a written work - whether fact, fiction, or family history.


My ancestors from Tipperary, Ireland have the name McKeough. The family, including my gggrandmother Margaret, emigrated from Ireland to Canada and later settled in eastern Wisconsin. Generations later, I heard my relatives pronounce the name as "McKey". While delving into the Irish branch of my family tree, I researched the purpose of beginning a name with the prefix Mac, Mc, or O, I learned the following:
In ancient Ireland the population was much smaller than it is today and the mass movement of people was uncommon. Therefore, for a person to be known only by one name was usual. This single name system began to break down during the eleventh century as the population grew and there was a need for a further means of identification. The solution was to adopt a prefix such as Mac (Mc is an abbreviation) or Ó.
Mac means "son of" whilst Ó means "grandson of".

Idyllic Irish Farmland
In the years before my ancestors left Ireland, many rural families in Ireland lived in single-room cabins made of mud and without windows or chimneys. People often lived together in communal clusters called clachans (a small settlement or hamlet) spread out among the beautiful countryside. Up to a dozen persons might occupy a cabin, sleeping in straw on the bare ground, sharing space with the family's pig and chickens.

In the 1840s, my ancestors moved from Ireland to Lower Canada, later known as Quebec. No records of movement for free emigrants to Canada were required until 1865. (The USA required these records since 1773.)
Engaging in genealogical research and then writing stories based on the information garnered from the research is my idea of an exciting pastime. It's not climbing Mount Everest, or kiteboarding on O'ahu (no, that's not me on the water!) but the "high" is still there.

Kiteboarding (or kitesurfing) with Mōkapu Peninsula in background


What names of relatives or locations have you researched in your family tree?

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Novel Research Interview with Tara Tyler

Aside from a possible trip to a land of paternal ancestors, and a tropical cruise if opportunity allows, my traveling days to other countries are mostly behind me. But a journey via literary access is always a possibility - and far less expensive. I recently took on just such an excursion within the pages of Pop Travel, a sci-fi historical novel by author Tara Tyler. Eager to learn more about Tara and her unique research topic of sci-fi technology, I asked her to participate in the Novel Research project.


Gail: Welcome Tara, and thanks for participating in this Novel Research interview today. I recently read your intriguing and well-written novel, Pop Travel, the first book in The Cooper Chronicles. Is writing novels your main career?


Tara Tyler: Thank you so much for this opportunity! I'm actually a math teacher by trade—to prove it’s not so bad and anyone can do it! I’ve also had a hand in everything from waitressing to rocket engineering over the years.

I’ve lived up and down the Eastern US and traveled worldwide, gaining diverse perspectives. Now I live and teach math in Ohio, but still travel to see my three active boys with my Coach Husband. The city of Atlanta holds a special place for me—it’s where I got my first teaching job, went on adventures, and got married. All of which have inspired many of my stories.


Gail: Your eclectic employment background suggests you seldom have idle down time. Is there anything else you do in your “spare time”?


Tara Tyler: Yes, I also write screenplays and am in the process of writing a musical!



Gail: Then I imagine you can envision Pop Travel as a movie someday and have researched accordingly. What is your favorite research method?


Tara Tyler: The internet of course! But I’m also inspired by reading similar novels, getting advice from my friends, other writers and readers, and my husband. My own curiosity and love for mapping things out helps me know what to research. And my research is a never-ending journey: I’m always wondering “what if…” and writing things down to improve a current manuscript or include in a future novel.



Gail: And what interesting details can you share today about technology in the future?

Tara Tyler: The Cooper Chronicles, or Pop Travel series is a near future detective thriller. Technology is at the center of it—and we all know how glitches and nefarious hackers can turn our lives upside-down. My favorite sci fi writer, Michael Crichton inspired me to write it. I love his style and it can be seen in some of my writing, though his medical and scientific expertise far outreaches mine. He was a true genius.

Since no one knows what the future holds for us, it’s easy to invent gadgets we’d like to see developed. But the gadgets and technology need to be plausible, so I research possibilities and embellish. For example, NOVA had a tempting video about teleportation possibilities for Pop Travel which is pop teleportation used by everyone in the future instead of planes. I read some articles about quark technology—the internet may soon be overtaken by the quark-net for faster speed in transmitting overwhelming amounts of data, especially when we use my invention of 3D imaging on our wrists: holographic smart watches called QVs (Qnet Viewers). I made some "prototypes" to give away with my books.

Since Pop Travel takes place in settings all over the world, I had to research places like Sydney, Australia and Mumbai, India. With a good portion of action in India, I relied on my neighbor who is from there to get details about specific locations. She also gave me some key Hindi phrases to use. And one of my favorite parts of research is finding layouts and maps and adapting them. Another big part of the story takes place on a renovated plantation which includes details from the historic South and the Underground Railroad. It’s a blend of history and science fiction.



You can visit Tara at any of her social media sites

and check out her books at

Pop Travel , Simulation , Disposal - POP TRAVEL series, The Cooper Chronicles
Broken Branch Falls , Cradle Rock , Windy Hollow - BEAST WORLD fantasy series

Read Monday's Pop Travel book review here:


If Pop Travel, the sci fi technology of teleportation, were available for humans to travel long distances in
short periods of time, would you choose this as your main mode of transportation,
or do you prefer to have a longer travel time to acclimate yourself to changes in destinations?

*****  *****

Monday, July 5, 2021

Book Review: Pop Travel by Tara Tyler

A majority of the books I have read could be classified as murder mysteries, with subgenre categories of soft-boiled, hard-boiled, thrillers, and cozies. But I have always contended that every good story, regardless of genre, has a mystery embedded within the plot. In that regard, Tara Tyler's “Pop Travel” is no exception; more specifically, it is a murder mystery wrapped in a science fiction technological thriller. 

At one time, in my mind the term “science fiction” for a literary work conjured up thoughts of space travel and light sabers ala Star Wars. But recently, I’ve read several sci-fi novels that have lifted the genre to a new level of entertainment for me. “Pop Travel” is one of those novels. 

"POP TRAVEL" by Tara Tyler

The characters that populate Tyler’s story are well-developed normal human beings, living in a very near future, with a logical amount of technology developed on the shoulders of research beginning with physicist Albert Einstein. Teleportation, pop travel, is an imaginable probability. 

Unscrupulous business owners are also imaginable and, where money is concerned, problems with technology are often swept under the carpet while improvements are being considered (if not actually implemented.) Death caused by lax morals, even in a near future, is still murder. 

If Jameson Cooper, private detective, doesn’t want to face such a fate, he must first face the inevitable need to “pop travel”, a perceived danger he has avoided out of well-placed fear. During an attempt to prevent unnecessary deaths, he becomes attracted to Geri, a modern day femme fatale possibly even more dangerous to Cooper’s success in meeting his objective. 

The entertainment value of this novel is well-worth the time invested in dwelling within Tyler’s near-future world of active teleportation and the resulting consequence of human greed that tends to teleport itself throughout millenniums of history.


Upcoming post - Wednesday July 7: “Pop Travel” interview with Tara Tyler. Get to know more about the author and her process of weaving a well-researched tale about teleportation.


"POP TRAVEL" is available at: Pop Travel - Kindle edition by Tyler, Tara. Mystery, Thriller & Suspense Kindle eBooks @