A Conversation with Margaret Mizushima, author of ‘Burning Ridge’

DSCF4389_pp copyMargaret Mizushima is the author of the critically acclaimed Timber Creek K-9 Mysteries. Her books have garnered a Reader’s Favorite gold medal and have been listed as finalists in the RT Reviewers’ Choice Awards, the Colorado Book Awards, and the International Book Awards. Margaret serves on the board for the Rocky Mountain chapter of Mystery Writers of America, and she lives in Colorado where she assists her husband with their veterinary practice and Angus cattle herd. She can be found on Facebook/AuthorMargaretMizushima, on Twitter @margmizu, on Instagram at margmizu, and on her website at www.margaretmizushima.com.

Mayra Calvani: Please tell us about Burning Ridge, and what compelled you to write it.

Margaret Mizushima: Burning Ridge is fourth in the Timber Creek K-9 mystery series which features Deputy Mattie Cobb, her K-9 partner Robo, and veterinarian Cole Walker. Since I’ve been married to a veterinarian for decades, I wanted to create a mystery with a male vet as a character. I planned to write a police procedural instead of an amateur sleuth mystery, and since I wanted a love interest for the vet, it made sense to create a crime-fighting duo of a female K-9 handler and her dog to round out the cast. The plot for Burning Ridge was inspired by Mattie’s past, and I imagined this twist in her character development while writing book three in the series, Hunting Hour.

M.C.: What is your book about?

Burning Ridge coverM.M.: Burning Ridge is the fourth book in the Timber Creek K-9 series, and it’s an action-packed adventure featuring Deputy Mattie Cobb, her dog Robo, and local veterinarian Cole Walker. When Cole and his two daughters find partial human remains up on Redstone Ridge, a beautiful place in the Colorado mountain wilderness, Mattie and Robo are called to investigate. After Robo finds a man’s burned body, Mattie soon realizes that she has close personal ties to the victim and she’s determined to learn the truth behind his death. But the perpetrator has other plans, and Mattie finds herself the target of a sadistic killer. Cole and Robo search for the missing Mattie while a forest fire blazes on the ridge and time runs out.

M.C.:  What themes do you explore in Burning Ridge?

M.M.: I explore themes about relationships, family, and what ties a family together. Family themes are woven throughout the entire series, and Burning Ridge forces Mattie to examine some special considerations about hers.

M.C.:  Why do you write?

M.M.: Above all, I want to be a storyteller. I want to create stories about good people going through tough times who learn something valuable in the process. At the same time, I strive to entertain folks and give them the type of story that offers a mini-vacation.

M.C.:  When do you feel the most creative?

M.M.: Definitely in the morning. I try to dedicate that time of day to my writing and save the afternoon for appointments and my day job.

M.C.:  How picky are you with language?

M.M.: This is a great question. My primary goal is to provide a smooth read that flows. I want plenty of action that propels the mystery investigation forward, and I want to make sure that my subplots interweave with my main plot. I like to use language that is easily accessible to a wide variety of readers, and even to people who don’t particularly like to read. I’m thrilled when I get an email from someone who says they don’t usually read, but they love my books. Makes my day!

M.C.:  When you write, do you sometimes feel as though you were being manipulated from afar?

M.M.: Good way to say it! I like to begin writing a scene with specific goals in mind, but about half the time, the characters take a turn I never expected!

M.C.:  What is your worst time as a writer?

M.M.: The hardest time is slogging through the first draft of a new book. I try to write every day for a four-month period. It can be a tough climb! As I’ve heard novelist Peter Heller say, “Writing a novel is a marathon, not a sprint.” And after completing the first draft, there is that rugged road called revision.

M.C.:  Your best?

M.M.: I think my favorite time is when I receive a new cover from my publisher. Crooked Lane produces fabulous covers, and each time it’s like opening up a birthday present!

M.C.:  Is there anything that would stop you from writing?

M.M.: I suppose I’ll always be writing something.

M.C.: What’s the happiest moment you’ve lived as an author?

M.M.: When I was offered a contract for my first two books. I had the flu and was driving home from a medical appointment when my agent called. She told me to find a place to park, and after I did, she gave me the news. Illness forgotten! Party on!

M.C.:  Is writing an obsession to you?

M.M.: If having a story play out in your mind almost any hour of the day or night and thinking of character development, plot, and the perfect way to word something is an indication of obsession, I would have to say yes.

M.C.:  Are the stories you create connected with you in some way?

M.M.: Even though Timber Creek is fictional, it reminds me of my hometown. The small town and rural lives the characters lead have many elements that are similar to mine, and Cole’s mixed animal veterinary practice is similar to my husband’s. But Deputy Mattie Cobb is a creation all to herself; except for the search and rescue work she does with Robo, her characteristics and work come strictly from my imagination and research.

M.C.:  Ray Bradbury once said, “You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.” Do you agree?

M.M.: I feel that the business of writing is not for the faint of heart. It’s best for me to stay focused on what’s important—my writing—and to try to keep all the other stuff in perspective.

M.C.:  Do you have a website or blog where readers can find out more about you and your work?

M.M.: My website is at https://margaretmizushima.com/  Readers can connect with me there for my blog and to sign up for my newsletter. Thanks so much for hosting me here on your blog today, Mayra!

 

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Excerpt reveal: Blood and Wisdom, by Verlin Darrow

BloodandWisdom_w12516_750Title:  BLOOD & WISDOM

Genre:  Mystery/PI Novel

Author: Verlin Darrow

Websitewww.verlindarrow.com

Publisher: Wild Rose Press

Purchase on Amazon

About the Book: 

When Private Investigator Karl Gatlin takes on Aria Piper’s case, it was no more than a threat—phone calls warning Aria to either “stop doing Satan’s work” or meet an untimely demise.  But a few hours later, a headless John Doe bobs up in the wishing well at Aria’s New Age spiritual center near Santa Cruz.  Aria had ideas about who could be harassing her, but the appearance of a dismembered body makes for a real game changer.  And what Karl Gatlin initially thought was a fairly innocuous case turns out to be anything but.

Dispatching former rugby superstar and Maori friend John Ratu to protect Aria, Karl and his hacker assistant Matt are free to investigate a ruthless pastor, a money launderer on the run, some sketchy members of Aria’s flock, and warring drug gangs.  With his dog Larry as a wingman, Karl uncovers a broad swath of corruption, identity theft, blackmail, and more murders. But nothing is as it seems, and as the investigation heats up, Karl is framed, chased, and forced to dive into the freezing water of the Monterey Bay to escape a sniper.

Against the backdrop of a ticking clock, Karl races to find answers. But more murders only mean more questions—and Karl is forced to make an impossible choice when it turns out Aria’s secret may be the most harrowing of all… 

An intelligent, intense and engaging tale, Blood and Wisdom races from the opening scene to the final page.  Brimming with colorful, multi-dimensional characters, wit, humor, and a taut storyline, Blood and Wisdom is filled with twists, turns, and surprises.  Novelist Verlin Darrow, a practicing psychotherapist, infuses Blood and Wisdom with fascinating details about psychology and metaphysics, and seamlessly blends elements of hardboiled and softboiled detective fiction.   With its original premise, smart plotting, to-die-for redwood-studded coastal Santa Cruz and Big Sur setting, and protagonist like no other, Blood and Wisdom is a pitch-perfect PI novel.

Blood and Wisdom has garnered high advance praise.  According to Richard House, MD, author of Between Now and When, “Darrow has a sense of plot and style that carries the reader forward into that special place of anxious expectation, the place where putting the book down is unthinkable. Fascinating.”  C.I. Dennis, author of the Vince Tanzi series, including Tanzi’s Luck, praises Blood and Wisdom for its “great pace, fun characters who you care about, plenty of twists, and narrative personality.”

About the Author:

Verlin Darrow is a psychotherapist who was patted on the head by Einstein, nearly blown up by Mt. St. Helens, survived the 1985 8.0 Mexico City earthquake, and, so far, has successfully weathered numerous internal disasters. He lives with his psychotherapist wife in Northern California. They diagnose each other as necessary.

Connect with Verlin Darrow:

https://www.verlindarrow.com/blog

www.verlindarrow.com

 

EXCERPT

 

“Do you think we still need John?”

“I have no idea. Having a bodyguard was your idea, Karl. But if you’re asking me if I’m enjoying helping him, the answer is very much so.”

“Helping him?”

“Of course. That’s what I do.” Aria pulled her hands apart and then tilted them as though she were holding an invisible beach ball.

Something occurred to me. “Are you helping me, too? I mean, in some weird way besides answering my questions.”

“Did you sleep especially well the night we met? Right now, are you present and invigorated?”

I checked in with myself. I was feeling very alert, and the monkey chatter in my head was noticeably reduced. But the idea of somebody screwing with me without my permission was not okay with me.

“You know,” I said, “there’s something my first clinical supervisor told me. Well, first and last supervisor. Let’s face it, I got canned just a few months later, didn’t I? He told me that unsolicited help is interference.”

“I agree. What you’re experiencing is just the side effect of someone at your stage of spiritual development being exposed to my type of energy field.”

“Like what happened to Larry? Aria, let’s not get too weird. I’ve been tolerant of your beliefs, and I know you think all this is germane to the case, but…” I didn’t care to go further with this. I was likely to say something offensive.

She smiled another sweet, gentle smile. “I’m doing the best I can to minimize whatever would be difficult for you to handle, Karl.”

Larry barked. I glanced at him, and he barked again—more urgently this time. He was hearing something alarming that I couldn’t hear yet.

I stood. “Stay here,” I told Aria. “I mean it.” I didn’t wait to see her response.

Larry and I ran outside and hurtled down the front porch stairs. After a half-dozen steps toward the sound of a powerful motor, I saw it. A humongous silver SUV tore across the meadow, heading straight for us.

I dove to the side, behind a dangerously slim fruit tree. Larry remained on his feet, barking frantically as the truck bore down on him. I pulled my gun and called my dog, and thank God he obeyed. He was by my side in a flash.

Unfortunately, neither of us sensed the man behind us in time. He kicked the pistol out of my hand just before Larry took him down, but by then it was too late.

The SUV skidded to a halt, and three men piled out. One of them was the guy who’d stopped me on the road—the driver’s side guy. None of them held a weapon in his hand. They didn’t need them. There were four of them, and I was now unarmed. Presumably, someone was calling this in to the police, but we were out in the boondocks. It might be a while before a car could get to us.

“Larry!’ I called. “Heel!”

I didn’t want him getting hurt. He was astride the big guy on the ground next to me, but he backed off and sat by my side.

Larry’s guy kicked my gun away from me and moved behind us again in case we tried to run. With my knee, that wasn’t an option.

The other three stood directly in front of us now. “We meet again,” the guy with the acne said. “Where’s the woman? Is she in one of these buildings?”

I guess I didn’t answer fast enough. He stepped forward and pistoned a straight right to my gut. Jesus. This guy could punch. I’d tried some amateur boxing when I was young. Nobody had hit that hard—and this guy was a bantamweight at the most. I doubled over, trying not to retch.

“Hit him again,” one of the other men said in Spanish.

Then I heard a primeval bellow—a sound so deep and loud, all of us froze for a moment.

John Ratu sprinted around the corner of the building and tackled the boxer, driving him into the man next to him. Before the other one in front of me could react, John shot out his massive leg and swept the guy’s legs out from under him. In about two seconds, he’d knocked down all three of them.

I turned around. “Attack!” I called to Larry, and he launched himself at the guy behind us. I almost felt sorry for him. I headed for my pistol, which was about fifteen feet to the side of me.

The guy who’d punched me cut me off. He’d scrambled to his feet and eluded a roundhouse kick from John, who was now engaged with the other two attackers.

The man crouched on the balls of his feet, looking like a cross between a boxer and a martial artist. I had no doubt he could beat the crap out of me in a fair fight. It was lucky I didn’t fight fair.

He didn’t either. He pulled a double-edged knife on me and lunged forward, the weapon held low. He was going for my crotch.

I hit the ground and called Larry. We’d practiced this move at the training school we’d attended in New Mexico. With a running start, Larry leapt onto my back and launched himself. He was about head height when he reached our attacker, who was leaning forward. Larry’s open jaws clamped onto the guy’s cheek, and he screamed.

I heard sirens now. I got up, retrieved my gun, and held it on the four men on the ground. Once Larry had disabled his foe, he’d lost interest in the whole attack thing. And it had taken all of a minute for John to dispatch the other two, one of whom wasn’t moving at all.

We waited for the police. After taking all our statements, corroborated by multiple witnesses, they hauled off the thugs and towed away their SUV.

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Review: FROZEN, by Christine Amsden

 

4fd20-frozen_medReview: FROZEN, by Christine Amsden

Release date: April 11th, 2018

Publisher: Twilight Times Books

Genre: Urban Fantasy/Mystery

Series: Cassie Scot: ParaNormal Detective, Book 7

Get your copy on Amazon or Barnes and Noble

Fans of the Cassie ScotParaNormal Detective urban fantasy series will enjoy this the 7th instalment. This time, Cassie is married…but if you think life ends when you’re married, think again, especially in the small paranormal town of Eagle Rock, where everyone seems to have a magical ancestry and magickeeps popping up in unexpected places. In fact, the magic seems to be gettinggreater every year, with sorcerers growing stronger and mothers like Cassiechannelling more magic while pregnant. The Magical Underground tries to keep things at bay, but sometimes it canget out of control, like now…

Two people are found frozen to death, a pack of hellhounds has appeared out of nowhere, and there appears to be a sudden outset of suicides. Who or what is causing all these happenings? It is up to Cassie to find out—only, this time, while nursing her baby and managing her new marriage and family life.

Being a fan of the series and having read all of the previous books, I was happy to find out that the series didn’t end with Cassie getting married in the last book.  It’s not easy solving mysteries and facing dangerous situations in between diapers or arguments with a husband, that’s for sure! I found the story fresh and entertaining, with Cassie’s unpretentious, honest voice shining through the pages. She is both strong and vulnerable, which I love. The writing is engaging, smoothly flowing from chapter to chapter with the “quiet” tone of a cozy mystery. Though the book can be read as a standalone, without the intrusion of too much backstory, I highly recommend reading the books in order for a more satisfying experience.

Reviewed by Mayra Calvani

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the book in exchange for my review.

 

 

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Press release: Manhattan Novelist Awarded The Garcia Memorial Prize for Best Fiction

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Maryglenn McCombs, (615) 297-9875 maryglenn@maryglenn.com 

Manhattan Novelist Awarded The Garcia Memorial Prize for Best Fiction Book of the Year: Diana Forbes wins prestigious honor for her debut novel, Mistress Suffragette 

Mistress-Suffragette-IMAGE-e1512431996188AUSTIN, TEXAS – Manhattan novelist Diana Forbes has been awarded The Garcia Memorial Prize for her debut novel, Mistress Suffragette.  An annual award presented in conjunction with the national Reader Views Book Awards, The Garcia Memorial Prize is awarded to the best fiction book of the year. 

Sex and the Suffrage movement collide in Diana Forbes’s debut novel, Mistress Suffragette.  A brilliantly crafted work of historical fiction that unfolds against the backdrop of Manhattan’s Gilded Age, Mistress Suffragette has earned high critical praise. In a Starred review, Kirkus calls Mistress Suffragette “a sprightly, winning historical novel.” San Francisco Review of Books reports “writing of this quality is rare…a very welcome debut.”  New Theory Magazine notes:  “the plight of the clever main character, Penelope, has a timelessness that every 21st century woman will recognize.” 

About Mistress Suffragette:  Sheltered but feisty Penelope Stanton, growing up in Gilded Age, Newport, Rhode Island is tarnished by her father’s bankruptcy during the Panic of 1893.Penelope quickly attracts the unwanted advances of a villainous millionaire banker who preys on distressed women. After she flees him to nearby Boston, Penelope, by necessity, becomes a paid public speaker in the early women’s suffrage movement. Now she’s speaking out on women’s issues from Boston to New York. But will her disastrous choices in love unravel everything she’s fighting for?  In the glittering age where a woman’s reputation is her most valuable possession, Penelope will be forced to discover her hidden reserves of courage and tenacity—and she’ll have to decide whether to compromise her principles for love.

A mesmerizing tale that blends elements of history, romance, and women’s fiction, Mistress Suffragette is a beautifully-written novel that will stay with readers long after the final page is turned.  Meticulously plotted and brimming with multi-dimensional characters that spring to life within the novel’s pages, Mistress Suffragette leads readers on a rich, rewarding journey to a time long past.  An extraordinary novel by an extraordinary writer, Mistress Suffragette is a timeless, unforgettable tale. 

According to Susan Violante, editor of Reader Views, “We were overwhelmed by both the quantity and quality of entries in this year’s Reader Views Literary Awards. This year’s awards program featured numerous outstanding works of fiction.  Mistress Suffragette by Diana Forbes was a true standout. This incredible novel has it all:  excellent writing, a mesmerizing storyline, and memorable, realistic characters. Mistress Suffragette is an exemplary work of fiction and it is our honor to recognize this title as recipient of the Garcia Memorial Prize for Fiction.” 

Diana Forbes is a 9th generation American, with ancestors on both sides of the Civil War. Diana Forbes lives and writes in Manhattan. When she is not cribbing chapters, Diana Forbes loves to explore the buildings where her 19th century American ancestors lived, loved, survived and thrived.  Visit Diana Forbes online at: www.DianaForbesNovels.com 

Published by Penmore Press, Mistress Suffragette is available in trade paper and eBook editions. Mistress Suffragette is available where fine books are sold. The Reader Views Awards is an annual literary awards program that recognizes excellence in independent publishing. Founded in 2005, Reader Views(www.readerviews.com ) is based in Austin, Texas. The Garcia Memorial Prize honors the life and memory of Garcia, one of the finest Old English Sheepdogs to have ever roamed the earth. Members of the news media wishing to request additional information about the Garcia Memorial Prize or author Diana Forbes are kindly asked to contact Maryglenn McCombs by phone – (615) 297-9875, or by email –  maryglenn@maryglenn.com  

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The Writing Life with Joseph Davida, author of ‘Traveling High and Tripping Hard’

Pixel Egypt Dave
After a near death experience at age fifteen, Joseph Davida left his parents’ home and moved into Manhattan. Too young to get a “real” job, he started up what became one of the biggest weed delivery services in New York to support himself while he pursued his career as a musician and songwriter. For years he worked with some of the best musicians in the world, until a nervous breakdown brought his time in the music industry to an end. During this time he traveled the world before finally settling in Nashville, where he had two beautiful daughters and started a successful chain of retail stores. He now concentrates on being a good father, and actively plans for the coming revolution…while also working to get his many stories onto the page.

Check out his travel memoir, Traveling High and Tripping Hard.

INTERVIEW:

What got you into writing?

I’ve always been writing something. Whether it be music, lyrics, or poetry, I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t writing. Maybe it’s something in my blood. My father was a writer, my grandfather was a writer… I’m even related to Stephen Crane. A bit of misery seems to be the common thread.

What do you like best about being an author?

Not much. Unless you are doing it for purely cathartic reasons, it’s a pretty terrible thing to try and pursue.

When do you hate it?

During the editing process. There are just a million ways to write the same sentence, and being a little obsessive, I usually try to explore them all. (Even though I usually just wind up back where I started anyway.) But sometimes, hating what you write pushes you to keep writing, and to try and write something even better.

THTH_final_4What is a regular writing day like for you?

It depends. If it’s creative writing, they are not really regular, and usually contingent upon what substances I have ingested. If it’s an editing day, I’ll generally try to stay sharp. No matter what day it is, I usually like to start it with a bagel. With lots of butter. If my heart feels like it won’t give out, then I might even have some bacon. If the writing is going really bad, I deep fry the bagels in the bacon grease, and hope I have a heart attack to put me out of my misery so I won’t have to write anymore.


Do you think authors have big egos?

Of course. To think anyone should care about what you have to say, is about the most egotistical thing someone can do. But the truth is all writers are fragile beings, who just want to be loved. If your mother gave you attention as a child, it is doubtful you would want to bother with the whole writing thing in the first place.

How do you handle negative reviews?

I haven’t really had any yet, but I’ll probably be getting some soon. When it happens I’m sure I’ll pretend like it doesn’t bother me, and then will obsess over them until I question every aspect of my life and every decision I’ve ever made. My handlers have been instructed to remove all sharp objects from my vicinity once the book is released.

How do you handle positive reviews?

Haven’t had many of those either, but I’m sure I will receive them with suspicion. My doctor says I am a glutton for self-punishment.

What is the usual response when you tell a new acquaintance that you’re an author?

I don’t bother. I assume if they don’t know that on their own, there is probably a good reason for it. Where I live in Nashville, every person you meet is a writer or a musician. The only thing people generally care about is if you can get them a discount at the restaurant or store you work at.

What do you do on those days you don’t feel like writing? Do you force it or take a break?

It depends where the vodka takes me. If I find a good Neil DeGrasse Tyson podcast on Youtube, you can assume I will not be doing any more writing that day.

Any writing quirks?

Em dashes—and ellipses…

What would you do if people around you didn’t take your writing seriously or see it as a hobby?

I’d sic my dog on them, and then ask if they feel like taking me more seriously now… Sadly, he’d probably just wind up licking their face, so it is unlikely they’d wind up taking me very seriously anyway.

Some authors seem to have a love-hate relationship to writing. Can you relate?

Sure. You can’t be passionate about anything unless you love and hate it. Most people don’t write because it makes them feel good. They write until the demons in their heads get so exhausted, they can only taunt you with whispers.

What’s on the horizon for you?  

Hopefully lots of free drugs, adoration, and writing groupies.

Leave us with some words of wisdom about the writing process or about being a writer.


I’m not sure if I’m very wise, or a good writer…but if there is anything that matters to me, it is honest writing. I’d always rather read something true and from the heart, then something technically perfect, flowery, or full of shit.

 

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Excerpt reveal: Watch Me, by Jody Gehrman

Plug Your Book!

Watch Me CoverTitle:  WATCH ME

Genre:  Thriller/Psychological Suspense/Women’s Fiction

Author: Jody Gehrman

Website:  www.jodygehrman.com

Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin

Find out more on Amazon

A gripping psychological thriller about one college student’s dark obsession with his professor, Watch Me plunges readers into a tense, twisty, and terrifying tale about how far obsession can go…

Kate Youngblood is disappearing. Muddling through her late 30s as a creative writing professor at Blackwood college, she’s dangerously close to never being noticed again. The follow-up novel to her successful debut tanked. Her husband left her for a woman ten years younger. She’s always been bright, beautiful, independent and a little wild, but now her glow is starting to vanish. She’s heading into an age where her eyes are less blue, her charm worn out, and soon no one will ever truly look at her, want to know her, again.

Except…

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Talking Craft with Author M. J. Joseph

The Dark Phantom Review

View More: http://aislinnkate.pass.us/joejoseph-miniBorn and raised in Florida, M.J. Joseph maintains membership in the English Goethe Society, the Siegfried Sassoon Society and other literary associations. He is a supporter-member of the Society for the Study of Southern Literature, as well as an Associate of Lincoln Cathedral. Prior to retiring, Joseph enjoyed a lengthy and rewarding career with an industrial firm where he served as CEO and managed the company’s merger with a larger international corporation. He divides his time between Europe and his home on Florida’s northern coast. M.J. Joseph and his wife Ann have two children and reside in Florida.

Q: Congratulations on the release of your latest book, The Lübecker. To begin with, can you give us a brief summary of what the story is about and what compelled you to write it?   

A: Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to spend time with the Phantom! First, The…

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