August 31, 2013

Elaine Busby

Welcome Back, Elaine Busby
Elaine Busby is an accomplished television professional with more than thirty years experience from hosting PM Magazine to creating her own NW Emmy award nominated shows. Her first novel, Burning Questions was the winner of the 2005 Timeless Love Contest. 

Could you please start by telling us a little about yourself?
I’m a lucky lady and try to have an attitude of gratitude for my healthy and happy child, a loving husband and meaningful work. I also have an aging mother with dementia and an ailing brother with advanced muscular dystrophy. I write when I can as a much needed creative outlet. 

Please tell us a little about your new release without giving too much of a spoiler away.
On the Rocks features a musician, Jade, who starts to suffer from panic attacks,
just as her career begins escalating. An L.A. restaurant owner, Calvin, helps her recover from one, and then wines and dines his way into her heart. However, Jade’s agent warns her that Calvin has an unsavory backstory.
As their romance develops, Jade starts climbing the charts with her new CD. Her panic attacks are also on the rise, and the L.A. gossip mill would love to roast Calvin; all issues she’d rather ignore than investigate.
Will Jade’s life end of “On the Rocks”, like the dark song she’s been composing? Or will she find the strength to seek the truth, and sing those secrets into the light? 

What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Perseverance and skill, courage and will are the four leaves of luck’s clover. I have to make myself stick with it, even when I am in doubt about my writing. 
What comes first: the plot or the characters?
Characters mixed with plot, but the characters end up writing the story in the long run. If you are a would be writer and this is your style: hold on! You’ll have a lot of fun! 
Do you plan all your characters out before you start a story or do they develop as you write?
I only plan the main characters, and the rest find their way into my book on their own accord.
Do you have a ritual when it comes to writing? Example….get coffee, blanket, paper, pen, laptop and a comfy place.
My ritual is to just show up!
Do your books have a common theme or are they all different?
I write romance and therefore follow a typical path for that genre. 
How long does it take you to write and then edit a story?
Too long! 
How do you go about naming characters?
I love to choose names that resonant with me, and I also put in several of my good friends names in my books as a way to honor their character. (And tease them a little bit!)
What so you see for the future of publishing and e-books?
Good question, and better answered by my publisher. 

What are your current books out right now, and what are the books coming up for release?
Burning Questions, published 2007, and On the Rocks, published 2012. 

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I am an active person: I love to golf, water and snow ski, cook, garden and read. 

Is there anything else you would like to tell the readers we have not touched on?
One of the techniques I use in writing my characters is to give them some sort of secret that they are ashamed of. This secret might lead to their undoing, or it might lead them to greater intimacy if they can learn to share it. 

Where can the readers learn more about you and find your books on the web?

August 24, 2013

Richard Marranca

Richard Marranca Explores Dragon Sutra

Richard Marranca has been a writer and college teacher for about twenty-five years. He has at least 150 stories, essays, poems and interviews published. His novel, Dragon Sutra, was recently released by Oak Tree Press and is an action/adventure/mystery/ coming of age novel that unfolds across Southeast Asia. He also has three online books: New York Interview (interviews of prominent authors, artists, scientists); Dragon Café (east west essays) and Sunburst Upanishad: Alexander in India (ancient world novel).
His hobbies include hiking, running, yoga, meditation, travel, museums and movies, tennis and fencing (not much of the last two but they are in my mind). He has had a Fulbright to teach at the University of Munich, as well as six National Endowments for the Humanities summer study grants (Modern Japan, Andes, The Alamo, World War II in the Pacific at East West Center Honolulu, Concord’s Transcendentalists and High Plains Indians of Nebraska). He is president of the New Jersey Chapter of Fulbright and a Trustee of New Jersey College English Association. He is available to talk and give seminars on a variety of topics.  

Do you plan all your characters out before you start a story or do they develop as you write?
Generally I write out a few major characters, a loose outline and the theme. My novel Dragon Sutra is a mix of so many things: I stopped at a spa in Chiang Mai, Thailand and got to know the family, one of whom invited me back to their village for a few days. That gave me great insight into village life, rice fields, religion, food, history and so on. I happened to visit a famous temple called Wat Mahathat – it is an axis mundi for me, just amazing. I kept meeting people there who invited me to teach at a high school for monks and invited me to meet a lot of monks, including Computer Monk who appears in my novel. My friend Michael Jassie, a pilot who works for the FAA, happened to know a guy from California who moved to Phnom Penh, Cambodia and opened a hotel called – guess what – Hotel California and California II. I stayed there and that became the hotel, more or less, in my novel. And I met people there who got me into things that helped me write my novel. In Yangon, Burma I met a kindly taxi driver who really taught me a lot about his culture and toured me around. All these disparate strands joined together, like yin yang, to create a hopefully coherent narrative. I had most of these characters before I wrote the novel, but a few new ones suddenly appeared while I was writing it. Years ago, I taught creative writing at Rutgers and one of the students said creativity is like making soup – you keep putting adding things.     

How much research do you do for your books? Have you found any cool tidbits in your research?
I think it’s good to do a lot of research but to know when to put it away and write. Peter Matthiessen told me some advice on this when he said that you don’t want to let research overwhelm your project. I also had the good fortune to meet E. L. Doctorow – a lunch and interview. He said that you get what you need as you go along. Yes, I think that’s how it works. You do research, you write, you get things along the way. Along with the usual suspects, I now use Youtube for some research – that’s a universe of interesting lectures, programs, travelogues, imagery, etc. Cool tidbits? Let’s see. During research and travels before I wrote my novel Dragon Sutra, I learned that Angkor Wat had much larger human populations than had been thought previously, making it one of the largest civilizations in the ancient world.  

What are your hobbies?
I think I have too many hobbies that have both interfered with but also enhanced my writing. They all seem to be related. I’m into travel, yoga, meditation, running and hiking, biking, museums, movies, taking classes and attending lectures at the Jung Foundation or Open Center in NYC, fencing (which I rarely do), tennis and more. I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s bad for people who live in their head to not know how to do mechanical stuff – work with their hands. So lately I’ve been getting into working on my building. I’m trying to learn how to put up tile. I like the ancient aura of working with cement and tile.   

If you had to choose one person to have dinner with, who would it be? And why?
I can, like most people, get very grandiose if I think of history: Cleopatra, Alexander the Great, Buddha, Jesus, Cesar, Akhenaton or the very mysterious Lao Tzu. I teach a section of world history or humanities I each semester. But let’s stay real here. I’d just be very happy to have dinner with Woody Allen. I’ve grown up on his movies. They encouraged a kind of zany humor and philosophical reach. A while back, I was walking near Washington Square and met an actress who was in my very amateurish film, which was part of my dissertation at NYU. She told me she had a small role in the film being shot by Woody Allen, just a few minutes away. I looked up and saw the lights and the people mulling about. I thought: I’d be happy to have even a tiny role in that movie or get to talk to him. I have a somewhat Buddhist view of things and don’t get caught up in images and things we create in our head. So this is just a passing fantasy for me.   

Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
My mom used to read Dr. Seuss stories to me. My dad used to make up stories based on Jack London. When I began writing in earnest in my early twenties, it was probably my curiosity with many subjects that drove me toward writing.  

Do you have a ritual when it comes to writing? Example….get coffee, blanket, paper, pen and a comfy place.
I was just thinking about this because I’m writing an essay on creativity for my self-help book, and I came across an interview I did with the poet David Trinidad who told me that he copied the character played by Jack Lemon in some movie who used to light a candle and say “magic time.” Ideally, I like to do some yoga or a walk or read before I write, but I’m not fixated on that. I just wake up and write, or return home at night and write. Because of more chaos, more teaching and being on the board of a few organizations, I’ve had to really train myself to just write and edit wherever I am, no matter the noise level. I write in Barnes and Noble or local cafes and such. I do carry earplugs once in a while though. I try to be like a journalist who just has to write.
For a long time, I used to write at the desk in my apartment, but for some reason, a few months ago I completely changed: I write sitting on my bed now with my computer elevated on a box with a piece of marble across it. It just happened that way. I was thinking too that it’s just more comfortable with all that bed around me. Maybe I was influenced by some articles about the dangers of too much sitting, which is constricting for the legs.  

If you could be one of your characters - Who would you be? And why?
I’d like to be Jason, the protagonist in my novel Dragon Sutra. He’s sort of a younger version of me and did something I would love to have done. He went off into Asia just after college graduation and got involved in a romance but also great adventure and mystery. I’ve done a lot of travel, but I regret staying around my home area when I graduated and not venturing out into the world. Adventure and living abroad is a lot better than a bunch of mediocre jobs and goofing off with friends, or even part time teaching, which is what I had done.  

Can you please give us a sneak peek at any of your upcoming books?
Just after my novel got published, I wrote a vampire story to complete a collection of stories, followed by a self-help book based on ten chapters: creativity, nature, passion/love, occupation, friends, family, home, travel and the hero’s quest, spiritual traditions and health. It’s loosely based on Taoism but heavy on Positive Psychology, Buddhism, Greek philosophy, Leonardo, holistic health and common sense. I got the idea because last winter I visited Cali, Columbia. My friend mixed up the schedule, so I was stuck at the airport late all night, where I went into the bookstore and found one magazine in English, “Yoga International.” I opened it by chance to an excerpt on Taoism by Huston Smith, who I am friends with and interviewed years ago. It was a Eureka moment. Go with the flow, be natural, don’t look for destinations, maybe the outcome is good maybe not – who knows, and wu wei (take it easy, be mindful), etc.     

When you have writer's block how do you break free?
I think I do enough running, yoga and meditation that I don’t suffer from writer’s block. If anything, I teach so much and sometimes lack the time to write enough. I’ve had to develop a more spontaneous way of writing that makes a good thing out of a bad thing: lack of time. Writer’s block is usually based on fear or perfectionism. I fear heights and other things, but not the writing process or product. So I think: just write. We’re not astronauts going into orbit or brain surgeons with a patient whose life is in our hands.
Years ago, I recall reading an essay by a Jungian therapist on writer’s block, and she made the point that the writer is just in a less active state and needs time to build up energy and images. So there’s generally no writer’s block in most cases. Your unconscious might be stalling for a good reason.   

How can readers find out more about you and your books?
I have a website,, which has some writings and photographs from travels in Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Latin America. I’m also giving some upcoming talks in New Jersey, such as at the Cranford Library in early September 2013. I also, along with regular teaching, teach online creative writing from time to time. I also have three online books: Dragon Café (East West Essays); The Sunburst Upanishad (about Alexander the Great in India); and New York Interviews (a collection of artists, writers, scientists and more).   

Is there anyone who really mentored or inspired you to keep writing until you were finally published?
Jack Murphy was an early mentor, who died around fifteen years ago. He was a neighbor and a professor who happened to pass my parents house and noticed that it was one of the few in the neighborhood with beautiful trees and bushes and a garden – my father’s doing. So he had that in mind when we happened to meet when I was walking my dog; I got to be friends with his wife and kids too. He brilliantly and selflessly helped me early on as a reader of my stories and as an advisor for graduate school. He was a practical genius and a professor of education, and he showed me and many others the best and quickest path. He was always anxious to help others reach find their path. It all seems easy now, but back then it was unclear.  

While wandering around Asia, Jason comes to Cambodia, where he’s drawn into a dangerous underworld and political violence. He and Rachany, a beautiful woman he met at the Russian Market, are pursued by a mysterious foe. They flee across Cambodia, Laos and Thailand through exotic tribes, ancient cities... and end up in Burma’s rebellion. The beauty and luster of passion and love is counterpointed by the darkness of the criminal underworld and the Cambodian holocaust. Will the fateful past destroy Jason and Rachany? Will their affections flower amidst the corruption and violence? 

August 17, 2013

Shirley Skufca Hickman

Relive Coal Mining with Shirley Skufca Hickman

Shirley Skufca Hickman was brought up in a Colorado coal mining town and wrote about those early years in her first book. She graduated with a B.A. from Western State College in Gunnison, Colorado and later earned two Master of Arts Degrees. Hickman founded the Porterville Writer’s Workshop and has published poetry and prize winning nonfiction. She makes her home in Central California.


How much research do you do for your books? Have you found any cool tidbits in your research?
Since Sarah Darlin’ takes place during the Gold Rush in San Francisco, I did extensive research about the period. Tom McGuire, who hires Sarah and her family to work in his Jenny Lind Theater, was a real person. I combined real people and fictional characters.
I used the Internet for earlier books and found a 1942 Montgomery Ward Christmas catalog and a Croatian dictionary. 

Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
As a child, I loved to read and planned to write a book when I grew older. I told myself, “You have to remember what happens so you can write about it. 

How does your family feel about having a writer in the family?
They are proud, supportive and buy my books. When I was writing about our family in an earlier book, my sisters said, “Write whatever you remember and we’ll swear that’s how it happened.” 

When did you first decide to submit your work? Please tell us who encouraged you to take this big step.
I self-published my first book because I wanted to sell it at a town reunion and trying to find a traditional publisher would take too long. I also self published my second book for the same reason. Both books won awards.
I entered Sarah Darlin’ in an Oak Tree Press’s romance writing contest and won first prize. When they published my book, it was a turning point in my career. I now have an outstanding editor and a marketing advisor. 

When you have writer’s block, how do you break free?
I don’t have writer’s block, but I am a perfectionist and worry that my writing might not be good enough. It has taken many years, but finally I’ve given myself permission to make mistakes and not be perfect. It’s a liberating feeling. 

Do you have a critique group? If so, how does this help or hinder you?
I taught a Creative Writing class at our community college and from this initial group we formed the Porterville Writer’s Workshop. We meet at my house every Wednesday. The members are an invaluable support system. I would never have become a published writer without their constructive criticism. 

Is there anyone who mentored or inspired you to keep writing until you were finally published?
Marilyn Meredith has taught me all I know about publishing and is a dear friend. 

What was your first published work and when was it published?
In 2000 I self-published, Don’t Be Give Up, a nonfiction book about my family during World War II. I am still selling copies of it. 

How can readers find out more about you and your books?

Can you please give us a sneak peek at any of your upcoming books?
My novel, Fall in Love with an Orange Tree or a Book, is about young illegal immigrants and the shadow world in which they live. The title comes from a former student’s mother who told her, “I brought you to the best country in the world. Fall in love with an orange tree or a book. By this she meant, work in the fields or get an education. Her daughter made her choice and went to college. She is now the Director of Migrant Education in our community. Although the book is fiction, everything in it has happened to someone I know.

English aristocrat, Richard Moresby, travels to the California gold fields hoping to make a fortune to reclaim his ancestral estate. But when he meets spirited Sarah O’Malley, an actress at the Jenny Lind Theater, his thoughts of England begin to fade.
Accustomed to rebuffing male attentions in 1850s San Francisco, Sarah is surprised to find Richard intrigues and excites her, but she knows Moresby’s rakish reputation and fears damaging hers, so she rebuffs him.
Moresby persists, and continues to pursue her, but before they can declare their love, they must deal with prejudice, a murder trial, a lynching party, a fire at the Jenny Lind and a terrible secret from Sarah’s past.

August 10, 2013

Lesley Diehl

Lesley Diehl Gets Cozy with Mystery


Lesley Diehl retired from her life as a professor of psychology and reclaimed her country roots by moving to a small cottage in the Butternut River Valley in upstate New York.  In the winter she migrates to old Florida—cowboys, scrub palmetto, and open fields of grazing cattle, a place where spurs still jingle in the post office, and gators make golf a contact sport.  Back north, the shy ghost inhabiting the cottage serves as her literary muse.  When not writing, she gardens, cooks and renovates the 1874 cottage with the help of her husband, two cats, and, of course, Fred the ghost, who gives artistic direction to their work.  She is author of several short stories and several mystery series: the microbrewing mystery series set in the Butternut Valley (A Deadly Draught and Poisoned Pairings) and a rural Florida series, Dumpster Dying and Grilled, Killed and Chilled.  She recently signed a three-book deal with Camel Press for The Consignment Shop Murders including A Secondhand Murder.  For something more heavenly, try her mystery Angel Sleuth.  Several of her short stories have been published by Untreedreads including one (Murder with All the Trimmings) in the original Thanksgiving anthology The Killer Wore Cranberry and another (Mashed in the Potatoes) in the second anthology The Killer Wore Cranberry: A Second Helping.  She invites readers to visit her on her blog and website: /  

Please tell us your latest news!

I signed a three book contract with Camel Press.  The first A Secondhand Murder will be released in September and I’m very excited about it.  The protagonist, Eve Appel, first appeared in a short story I wrote for Mystery Writers of America Sleuthfest 2009 short story contest.  I won first place.  Yippee!  But most important, I found Eve would not let go of my imagination, and I knew she had to become the main character in a series.  It is called the Eve Appel Mystery Series.  The second book will come out sometime in 2014 with the tentative title Dead in the Water. Here’s a bit about Eve’s first appearance in A Secondhand Murder:   
There’s something odd about a fashionista from Connecticut who chooses to open an upscale consignment shop in rural Florida, but Eve  wants to get as far from her bad marriage as she can.  Selling clothing of once-wealthy, Madoff-injured society matrons to the thrift-conscious seems like her kind of therapy until she discovers the body of one of her West Palm clients on the dressing room floor.  Not only do the police come calling, but soon her husband, the victim’s financially strapped family and friends, a hunky private eye with too much sex appeal to be honest, and a mob boss from Boston complicate her life more than Christmas shopping at Neiman-Marcus. 

How much research do you do for your books? Have you found any cool tidbits in your research?

I do a lot of research for my books, most of it fun.  For example, for the second book in the Eve Appel Mystery series, I took an airboat ride through the swamps of Florida.  For the third book I’ll be visiting a game reserve in rural Florida so that I know something about sports shooting on private reserves.  It’s a very popular pastime there and I know little about it.  For another series set in Florida I’m researching mud bog racing or mudding, a sport requiring a 4 wheel drive truck and a lot of dirt mixed with water, aka mud.  There’s a festival near where I live in Florida, but it costs like crazy to get in and is attended mostly by beer guzzling guys and naked babes.  I think I’ll stick to the videos on the internet.
I know a bit about brewing beer because I spent time in microbreweries, picking the brew masters’ minds about the process to write my series about a woman brewer in upstate New York.  It’s a great setting for murder.  My protagonists in my Florida books also like to go to country bars and dance.  So do I, so that research is easy. 

What main genre do you write in?

I write cozy mysteries, most of them humorous.  I do this because I can entertain myself as I write.  I find no point to writing something that doesn’t tickle me.   That’s only part true.  The mircrobrewing series is cozy but serious.  And of course I throw some romance into all my work. 

What are your hobbies?

I go a fitness center and work out, a necessary pastime to keep winkles and sags away from my doorstep.  But then I counter all that sweating, grunting and groaning by cooking.  Hubby and I like to take turns at this, and we also cook together.  Our favorite dish is bouillabaisse.  While researching my microbrewing series, I Iearned to respect the many kinds of beer and love cooking with them.  I especially like making sweet dishes using stout.
My Big Lake Murder Mystery series set in Florida features a retired preschool teacher turned bartender.  To be certain my character can mix a mean martini, I’ve had to learn some mixology skills myself.  I make a dandy Cosmo or pomegranate Cosmo.
I have a small garden which is being drowned this summer by all the rain, but I think I’ll get some nice crops of lettuce, beans and peas.
I read (too much, not enough sleep) and love to hike or go for long walks.  We will be going to Nova Scotia in the fall.
I do some decorating, but on a budget.  I buy many items at yard sales and consignment shops.  I take the adage “Never pay full price” seriously.  This is one hobby that fed nicely into my newest series with Eve Appel as the part owner of a consignment shop.  I do research weekly. 

Do you write full time? What did you do before you became a writer? Or Still do?

As I said before, I was a psychologist.  I taught at the college level for 27 years and was a college administrator for several.  I found I liked being in the classroom with students a lot more than sitting in the boardroom with other administrators which usually is a big snooze.  Since the students one teaches never age from year to year, it kept me young.  Sometimes I regret retiring from the academic life so early; I still have dreams about being in the classroom.  I have many friends that were once students.  It’s really wonderful being able to watch them achieve in their chosen careers and rewarding to think I might have played a small part in that.
Finding the writing life so rewarding caught me by surprise.  I had written many scientific papers and had to relearn how to write creatively, but I embraced the process.  I get a real chuckle out of developing complex plots and crating unique characters, and I draw on my background to make these people humans you’d like to meet or love to hate. 

What is your writing process? Do you outline, fly by the seat of your pants or a combination of both?

I always wrote by the seat of my pants until I signed the three book contract.  Because of the deadlines for the second two books, I decided I needed to outline to rely on, so I developed one for book two.  It helped, gave me direction and jump started my writing when I’d left off for a time, but I violated that outline so much that when I read it now, it doesn’t look like the same book.  I will also create an outline for book three.  I find it’s a useful crutch. 

Do you have a ritual when it comes to writing? Example….get coffee, blanket, paper, pen and a comfy place.

I get up, have my coffee while I read the paper and go over emails.  I eat breakfast, then do promoting, e/g/ setting up programs, readings, signings, writing blogs, replying to emails.  I then do yard work, go off to work out, and have lunch.  Oh right, when do I write?  Usually in the afternoons, and if I have difficulty getting into it, I clean out a closet or do some laundry.  Physical organization of this sort usually clears my head so I can have a successful afternoon of writing.  I write quickly and wish I had taken that touch typing course in high school.  I am the world’s worst on a keyboard, redoing what I’ve put on a page takes forever.  I usually do a chapter, 10 to 12 pages, in two sittings.  I go back and revise that chapter before I go ahead to another.  By the time I have an entire rough draft, I’ve revised it many times.  I send out a chapter at a time to my critique partner.  When I get back her suggestions, I revise that chapter.

If you could be one of your characters - Who would you be? And why?

I love Eve Appel because she’s such a spicy gal, and she’s tall and slender, something I’ve always wanted to be.  She has quite a mouth on her, not for profanity, but for saying whatever comes into her mind at the time.  She has few social graces and must rely on her partner, Madeleine, to smooth over hurt feelings.  She’s smart, wise, impulsive and fun, has wonderful taste in shoes.  I too love shoes, but with my chubby feet I can’t wear the spikey, strappy sandals she does.  Lucky girl, and she can even run in them.  She loves clothes and has a nose for a bargain, something she learned from me. 

Can you please give us a sneak peek at any of your upcoming books?

Here’s a peek at the first in the Eve Appel Mystery series:

She pinned us with a very cop like gaze. “My first case as a detective and it has to concern you two.” The expression on her face said she wasn’t happy with us and was certain we were to blame for the incident.

“It’s not our fault,” I said.

“We didn’t do it.” Madeleine shook her head.

“Maybe, but where the two of you are, there’s bound to be trouble.”

She was, of course, referring to the incident at the spring rodeo in town. Somehow Madeleine’s curiosity about the bulls for the bull riding event led us to the pens where someone—I’d bet my share of the store on it being Madeleine—fell onto a lever or something. The gate swung open and about ten bulls stampeded through the rodeo arena and the fairgrounds, knocking over concession stands, leaping onto the merry-go-round and running off into the scrub until the cowboys rounded them up.

For a tiny person—Madeleine was only five two—she was very clumsy, except on the dance floor where she moved like a ballerina. Off the dance floor she moved like a tiny elephant on speed. Although my appearance was unusual for these parts, six feet without my strappy stilettos and spiky blonde hair—or maybe it was just unusual in general—I wasn’t clumsy or accident prone. I was Madeleine’s friend and, by association, Frida might think of the two of us together.

When you have writer's block how do you break free?

I’m not aware of ever having writer’s block.  Sometimes I feel it’s hard to begin writing on a chapter.  To jump start my writing, I’ll reread the chapter before which usually puts me in the mood for continuing.  At other times, I know I just need to let the writing go for a few days or even weeks until the muse visits again, sometimes at four in the morning.  My muse is the ghost who inhabits our 1874 cottage.  His name is Fred and he has a sense of humor that rivals mine except he likes to play practical jokes like setting our truck on fire.  I think he does this to get attention. 

Is there a genre of book you would like to write but haven't yet?

I have two traditional mysteries begun, but not completed.  One of them has a lot of dark humor in it.  I’d love to get back to them someday. 

What would be the best way for readers contact you? Do you have a website? Email address? MySpace site? Blog? Message Board? Group?

My website is and I can be contacted through my email at  I also like readers to visit my blog which features some interesting interviews with other writers, bits of information about writing and meanderings about my life. 

What is the best and worst advice you have ever received?

Everybody who writes gets the same advice: Write about what you know.  I did that and wrote a mystery about a dead college president and a psychologist determined to solve the case.  That was deadly dull.  Sometimes what you know isn’t so captivating. Or, as in my case, what I knew I didn’t know how to write well.
The best advice I got about writing was another writer advising me to join Sisters in Crime and the subgroup Guppies.  That changed my writing.  I learned from them how to write mysteries.  Reaching out to other writers is absolutely necessary for information and for sanity. 

Do you belong to a critique group? If so, how does this help or hinder you?

I have joined a number of critique groups.  The best one was one a fellow writer (now my critique partner, Jan Day Fehrman) and I started when I moved to Okeechobee, Florida.  It was called the Okeechobee Writers league and is still in existence.  Glenn and I belonged for about five years.  The best thing about the group was that we established procedures for how the group would run early in its existence.  We had a clearly stated goal, guidelines for how we presented material to the group and how feedback was delivered.  Sometimes these guidelines were violated, but we always came back to them to center ourselves and what we wanted to accomplish.  I think determining what the goal of the group is early is the most important aspect of a critique group. 

What's your favorite genre to read?

Mysteries, of course. 

When did you first decide to submit your work? Please, tell us what or who encouraged you to take this big step.

Someone told me to start calling myself I writer because I wrote and to tell others I was a writer.  So I figured if I’m a writer, I need to find an outlet for my writing.  I knew I was writing for an audience and not only myself.  I began submitting my work to agents and going to conferences to solidify my identity as a writer.  Winning the Sleuthfest short story contest in 2009 was a turning point for me.  It gave me confidence that others found my writing worthy of notice.  After numerous rejections from agents, I found a small publisher, then another, then another.  Then I got an agent.  I always do things backwards.  Now I’m considering self- publishing several books.  Backwards, right?
Spunky and outspoken Eve Appel moves from Connecticut to rural Florida intent on starting a new life, free of drama, and more importantly, her soon-to-be ex-husband. The rural Florida town of Sabal Bay, situated only an hour from West Palm, proves to be the perfect spot for her consignment store. Thanks to the recent economic downturn, Florida's society matrons need a place to discreetly sell their stuff and pick up expensive-looking bargains. But Eve's life, and her business with it, is turned upside down when a wealthy customer is found stabbed to death in a fitting room.
As accusations fly and business slows, Eve decides to take matters into her own hands. With the help of an unlikely bunch of friends--including her estranged ex, her best friend, a handsome private eye, and a charming mafia don--she struggles to find answers and save lives. Through a maze of distorted half-truths, dramatic cover-ups, and unrequited passions, Eve learns just how far the wealthy will go to regain what they have lost.



August 3, 2013

Mary Webb

Former Newspaper Reporter Mary Webb


Mary Webb is a former newspaper reporter turned high school English teacher. She is a proud native New Orleanian.
She has written for The San Antonio Express-News, The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune, The (Monroe, LA) News-Star, The (Memphis) Commercial Appeal, The Associated Press’ Denver Bureau, The (Houma, LA) Courier, and The Denton Record-Chronicle. Currently, she teaches English at Lake Area New Tech Early College High School in New Orleans. Previously, she also taught English in Iberia and St. Mary parishes, as well as in Dallas, TX. She resides in New Orleans with her two children, Quentin and Jory, the subjects of The Summer of Superheroes and the Making of Iron Boy. This is her first published novel.
She blogs routinely about the crazy antics of her kids at
Mary is a graduate of Xavier University of Louisiana where she received a bachelor of arts in Mass Communication with a concentration in print journalism. 

Could you please start by telling us a little about yourself?
I’m a former newspaper reporter turned high school English teacher. The Summer of Superheroes and the Making of Iron Boy is my first literary offering. I self-published it 2011, but it was re-released in e-book form through Whiskey Creek Press this past February. It’s the story of my son Quentin’s 18-month leukemia and how he became the world’s first-ever cord and placental blood transplant recipient, courtesy of my newborn daughter Jory, who was his donor. She was an unexpected pregnancy.
I continue to write about them and their crazy antics in my weekly blog at 

Please tell us your latest news!
Whoops! I’m not even a high school English teacher anymore, having signed a contract today to work as an instructional interventionist at the middle school level.
Also, I’m working on my second book, tentatively titled Daddy’s Little Woman. Trying my hand at fiction this time around. 

How does your family feel about having a writer in the family? Do they read your books?
I think, by now, it’s normal for them. As my father would say, I write my life away. I think they think it’s neat, but it’s just so me, that no true extra attention is paid to it. Perhaps if I were to gain some notoriety, they’d be mystified that the rest of the world sat up and took notice.
That’s not to say that they aren’t supportive. And, yes, they do read my books. My little sister Christine said the first draft of the first chapter of the book I’m working on had her at her office desk past 5 p.m. on a Friday, sobbing. I think that’s one of the highest compliments anyone has ever paid my writing. 

What are your hobbies?
I’m a voracious reader (or would be if I had unlimited time). I love movies and music. And, I love hanging out with my family and friends, but especially my kids. 

Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
I think it started with a diary my mother bought me as a souvenir from Disneyland. Writing about what happened to be on any given day simply appealed to me, and it seemed I could weave a tale and go on for pages about even the most mundane of days. I kept a diary well into adulthood, but also excelled in composition classes. Had it not been for a college professor, I don’t think it would have ever occurred to me that’s how I wanted to make my living. I had taken a black and white photography class to satisfy my art requirement. I decided to apply my “skills” and get my money’s worth out such an expensive class by working for the school newspaper. I picked up a few writing assignments, and the newspaper’s coordinator took notice. He told me I wrote a whole lot better than I took pictures. That resonated with me, and I went and changed my major for the umpteenth, but final time, to Mass Communication with a concentration in print journalism. I knew there was a book or two in me somewhere down the line. 

What is your writing process? Do you outline, fly by the seat of your pants or a combination of both?
Mostly, I’m fly by the seat of my pants, though I hate to refer to my practice in such a unorganized sort of way. I prefer to think of it as allowing my creative juices to flow or allowing the characters to be who they are. I’d hate to think that the beautiful prose and the unbelievably poetic lines Toni Morrison spills on her pages are the result of stodgy outlines, though for all I know, they could be.  

Who is your perfect hero? And why?
My son Quentin is my perfect hero, my Iron Boy, because he handled cancer like a true champion. It may have weakened his body, but never his spirit, and I learned more than I ever have through any other experience about how to live life. All this from a 5-year-old. 

What would be the best way for readers contact you? Do you have a website? Email address? MySpace site? Blog? Message Board? Group?
Readers can reach me at or on Facebook at or they can leave me a comment at 

Do you belong to a critique group? If so, how does this help or hinder you?
I belong to a writer’s group called MelaNated Writers Collective, which is made up a group of writer phenoms in New Orleans. As one of the newest members, I have yet to submit anything to be workshopped. I can’t decide if I’m being shy, which is so not me, or deferring to longer-term members and waiting my turn patiently. Could be I’m just being chicken poo and need to throw the work out there, as it can only help me.  

What was your first published work and when was it published?
My first published work was a story that ran in the San Antonio Express-News about a family killed in an automobile accident. It was an unfortunate event, obviously, but I was honored to write it and to have the Metro editor have enough faith in an unproven intern to assign it to me. It made the front page of the Metro section.