Friday, April 11, 2014

Hoosier Hoops and Hijinks Interview: Andrea Smith

Published by Blue River Press.
Please allow me to introduce you to yet another author from Hoosier Hoops and Hijinks. The tales in Hoosier Hoops, the current anthology from the Speed City Indiana chapter of Sisters in Crime, all involve one of Indiana's greatest obsessions: basketball.

Today's guest is Andrea Smith, the president of the Speed City chapter. She began writing mysteries and romantic suspense because there were few positive African-American female protagonists in her favorite genre. Smith has published three short stories featuring her Chicago police detective Ariel Lawrence. Her story in this anthology, "Fallen Idols", introduces a new character: Lenora Wise.

Q. What gave you the idea for "Fallen Idols"?

I actually sort of ripped it from the headlines. When we chose a basketball theme for our chapter’s third anthology, I thought about all the sports figures who were in the news for behaving badly. Indianapolis really loves its basketball, so I wondered what if there are some heroes on the city’s beloved team who aren’t what they seem and don’t deserve the pedestal they’ve been put on.

Q. You're using a new heroine in this anthology: Lenora Wise. Tell us a little more about her.

Like many who go into law enforcement, Lenora Wise became a cop after losing a loved one to crime. Her mother was shot and killed in a carjacking, and the killer was never found. Every time Lenora catches a murderer, she feels she’s getting justice for her mother. I developed Lenora for this story because I wanted to explore what it’s like for a detective to move to a new city and have to fit into a new police structure. Lenora had been with the St. Louis police department and became disillusioned because her superiors were more concerned about boosting their careers than getting criminals off the street. She hoped the Indianapolis police department would be different.

Q. Will there be more stories with Ariel Lawrence?

Absolutely. I have an Ariel Lawrence novel under revision. She has to catch a serial killer while working with a partner she loathes. There are ideas for three other stories in the Ariel Lawrence detective series. Ariel’s a fierce defender of justice for the everyday person who can’t defend themselves. And she believes neither money nor prominence should make a person immune from the law. Often her cases involve white-collar criminals who believe their position and their millions mean they don’t have to play by the same rules as others.

Q. Who is your favorite author (or current fave) and what really strikes you about their work?

Walter Mosley who writes the Easy Rawlins Mysteries is one of my faves. His writing is lyrical to me, and he’s created an iconic character who will forever live in readers’ minds. That’s something I’d like to achieve.

I also enjoyed Lisa Scottoline’s legal thriller series and like her stand-alone novels. She draws strong women characters and mixes thrilling plots with humor.

Q. What's your current (or next) project?

In addition to the Ariel Lawrence novel, I’m finishing a historical mystery short story for our chapter’s next anthology. It’s set in 1930s Indianapolis, and features a husband and wife who find themselves hunted by police for a murder they didn’t commit. I also plan to turn a short story I wrote featuring an amateur sleuth into a novel. The character, Lela Ames, is a feisty, middle-aged beauty salon owner/entrepreneur who everyone brings their troubles to. Usually those troubles result in Lela having to solve a murder.

Thanks for visiting us today!

Check out Hoosier Hoops and Hijinks on Amazon. You can learn more about Andrea Smith at the Speed City chapter's website.


Sunday, March 16, 2014


When I take the trash and recyclables to the curb on Sunday, I often think about the changes my life has gone through.

I used to think, "A year ago, I was in my own home."
Then, it became, "A year ago, my father was alive."
Now, it's become, "Two years ago, I was in my own home."
Next month, will I say, "Two years ago, my father was alive--?"

Do we ever stop grieving for what we once had?

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Mardi Gras Murder interview: Meet Selina Alaniz

Art by Karrett Barbosa
Selina Alaniz contributed "The Jester and the Girl" to Mardi Gras Murder. When the story begins, you think you know what's going to happen... but there's a surprise. We decided to ask her for more details.

Your story, "The Jester and the Girl", deals with an unusual meeting. Can you tell us what inspired the story without giving too many spoilers?  :)

My inspiration for "The Jester and the Girl" came from me wanting to tell a story that was a little different and a little twisted. I wrote these characters with this in mind and just allowed them to take me down this mysterious path. I also think New Orleans itself helped shape some of the elements like the tone and atmosphere. The city has a lot of history and has an allure that lends itself to telling a story like this.

We're pleased we're the ones who got to be your first short story publisher. Any more stories in the works? Novels?

I am so thankful and grateful that Mystery and Horror LLC were the ones to publish my first story. I don't have anything definitive yet but the wheels are turning so we'll see what I can come up with.

Speaking of novels... What do you enjoy reading?

I have to mention R.L. Stine because he was the author I grew up reading. I read every Fear Street and Goosebumps published. I still have most of those books and intend to keep them as long as possible. I love Charlaine Harris, Rachel Caine, and Stephen King. I also love Jane Austen and the Bronte Sisters. Right now I am reading Dystopian novels. I find it interesting to read all these different authors ideas of how people would survive in these end of the world scenarios.

Plotter or pantser?

That is a good question. I think I am a pantser with a hint of plotter. I like to have a general outline of my characters and story but I will sit at the computer and just type away. I'll let my characters do the talking and just go with it even it differs with what I initially started with.

Thank you for being with us today!

Mardi Gras Murder contains thirteen tales of crime that take place during the carnival season. It's now available at in print and Kindle formats. Other authors in Mardi Gras Murder include Paul Wartenberg, Nathan Pettigrew, and Debra H. Goldstein.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Mardi Gras Murder Interview: Meet Daniel Moore

Today, we're meeting Daniel Moore, the author of "Even". The tale is straight-up modern noir and I knew that I was going to be sending an acceptance before I even finished reading it. What drives an author to write noir? Moore gave me some clues.

Sarah: What inspired the idea for "Even"?

Daniel: While going through my personal backlog of books a few months back, I found myself reading all the Ken Bruen titles on the list. Bruen's a brilliant crime fiction author who once lived a criminal life alongside people who were obvious inspirations for the heroes in his books. That kind of credibility rally pulled me in. The book which got me into the drafting process for "Even" was "Her Last Call to Louis Macniece" where an aging English hood gets tangled in an affair with an American pickpocket. The idea that a seasoned crook and murderer could've been so easily crippled by a young woman paying him too much attention and wind up disrupting his entire enterprise struck me as an easy-to-understand joke that related far beyond crime fiction. It was a nice reminder of what a villain could look like to a protagonist that appears almost too capable in the face of danger.

Sarah: How did you pick the genre/setting/era you write in?

Daniel: I wrote this piece as a crime story because I think criminality and the law are the home of the modern and postmodern romances. Whether this speaks good or bad about society today I can't say, but there is, I feel, a deep fascination with what is and isn't criminal and who falls on either side of that line. I have that interest too and I think that's to blame for why the story takes place in seedy dwellings just beyond more civilized settings. I think the story reads as thought it takes place today, but I never think of my stories in the present but rather years from when I'm putting the words to paper. I think if you read the story with that in mind it'll drastically change the experience.

Sarah: Who is your favorite author and what really strikes you about their work?

Daniel: I can't give enough praise to William Gibson as being the author who speaks most directly to my imagination as a reader and a writer. If there's one external influence I'm grateful for in giving me the idea of going down the path to becoming a writer it'd be him and his work. Gibson has a way with words I don't think any other author has. Sometimes it reads as though he's perfectly translating what's in his head onto paper in a way that makes no compromises for the sake of the reader and forces you to bend to his will. And after a page, you'll do just that. Whether it’s the exploration of the mind through drugs or choice or technology, Gibson has a way to remain scarily relevant and topical after decades of writing in a way that only Vonnegut was capable of. His work has always been a source of inspiration. If one day my work were ever to be compared to his, it would be the only time a comparison wouldn't feel like an insult.

Thank you for being with us today!

See Daniel's story for yourself. Mardi Gras Murder is now available at in print and Kindle formats. Other authors include Harriette Sackler, Nathan Pettigrew, and Marian Allen.

Sunday, January 05, 2014

Must-see news from A Strong Man's Cup of Tea

Any survivor of the USA holiday marathon MUST read this post from Keith Stewart.

A Strong Man's Cup of Tea: Holiday News You May Have Missed
NOW is the appropriate time for the Hallelujah Chorus to wash over our cities and towns, for the almost never-ending "Holiday Season" is finally complete. For whatever rea$ons, we have stretched and pulled what really is a 2-3 day celebration and made it into a 3-4 MONTH blowout.

Seriously, go there and read the entire article. Hilarious.


Sunday, December 15, 2013

Undead of Winter Authors: Meet James C. Simpson

Today, I'm introducing James C. Simpson, the author of "Mit Den Augen Der Toten". It's a story that involves a bad place in a turbulent time, and some very cold weather. Phenomenally cold. If it can make me feel cold in Florida, that's cold!

Q. What gave you the idea for “'Mit Den Augen Der Toten”?
A. The concept for that story was a combination of things. It was based off of some actual firsthand accounts that were told to me by German soldiers who had fought in the east. World War 2 has always held a special fascination for me. It was the most epic time in history and had a very apocalyptic feeling. This real-life horror lends itself to supernatural terror very easily and I took it from there. You can sense an obvious Lovecraftian influence, but the isolation and the cold is based off of my own experiences in the wilderness and being alone. The winter is a great setting for horror because it really is a dead period. It's cold and bleak and it's little surprise that so many horror stories are set in these months.

Q. Your story was one of the best for conveying a true sense of cold. Did you research it, or is Pennsylvania that bad in the winter?
A. Pennsylvania has had some rough winters. No one wants to lose their power, but it is genuinely frightening to lose it in the winter. I've had that happen to me and it can be an arduous experience, especially if you don't have a generator!
The winter always creeps me out the most. All I see is dead trees and hear the whistling wind. No other time of the year does it feel more desperate and lonely.
No small wonder that Frankenstein bookends in the Arctic.
Some of the accounts are based off of my experiences, but others were taken from what I heard. I guess the Russian winter was so extreme that it actually turned the oil into gelatin. That's pretty scary. Not to mention, it was so cold that the abandoned livestock would actually die from exposure and die where they stood...literally, like statues.
I have no love for the winter. I love Christmas, because I'm sentimental like that, but after that, I'm ready for the summer!

Q. How did you pick the genre/setting/era you write in?
A. I have a certain obsession with World War 2 and own several books on the subject. In fact, I have another story being published in a few months that is also set during that war and contains a supernatural element. The war in Europe was of particular interest because of the dimensions of the conflict. Hitler was in effect, the last of the conquerors and it's frightening to think how close he came to taking over the world. I remembered some of the stories I had been told and combined them with the concept of an ancient evil, relative to what the Third Reich was. I have to imagine that the forces of darkness must love something like the Nazis. The Third Reich actually were obsessed with the occult, so that's where that idea came from. I have to figure that is they knew of some supernatural power, they would undoubtedly have wanted to use it, crazy as that sounds.
I feel like this might even be a hint at something future I'll write about, perhaps something mythological. I've had a concept for a long time about Nazis uncovering an ancient evil in an attempt to derive power from it, only to have it consume them and it may return again in future stories, possibly even a novel.

Q. What was your favorite part to write in “Mit Den Augen Der Toten”?
A. The beginning on the Russian front was some of my creepiest stuff. That was certainly interesting to write, but I confess, I never mapped out the story much, I just let it flow. I wanted something strange and unnatural to be found and when it came time to write about the remains of the camp, I just imagined this elemental force that raises the dead and that was pretty strange.  I had a dream about it and it was kind of unsettling, so I jotted it down and if it seems kind of whacked out, blame it on my dreams!
The toughest part when you write something like this is the ending. How do you properly conclude these things and make your readers remember them?
I really hope my last line wasn't too vague.

Q. What's your current project?
A. I have another story coming out in early 2014. That should be out in an anthology called “Luna's Children: Stranger Worlds.” I also have a few more writings on my plate, including another trip back to Nazi Germany, this time involving an ancient vampire, and I am trying to write a western horror, as that's another genre I am very fond of.

We look forward to seeing them!

Undead of Winter is available in print and Kindle format at Amazon. You can enjoy James' story there, along with other fine offerings from authors like Alex Azar, Stephanie Stamm, and D.J. Tyrer.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Paul Wartenberg: Serious Ways To Celebrate Saturnalia

You Might Notice a Trend: Serious Ways To Celebrate Saturnalia

From Paul Wartenberg: author, NaNoWriMo 2013 winner, and author of a well-received story in Strangely Funny. You may find his post strangely funny as well.