Monday, September 26, 2011

Mondays With Mike: Author Marlis Day

TODAY I’D LIKE to welcome an old friend, Marlis Day.  I met Marlis several years ago when I began attending mystery writing conferences.  Since our first meeting, our paths have crossed all too infrequently, but I’ve watched her progress from a single book to now five novels in print.  Marlis says she comes from a family of storytellers … but rather than me telling the story, let me have Marlis tell it.
Mike:  Thank you for joining us today, Marlis.  Why don’t you pick up the story from there.
Marlis:  Thank you.  I did come from a family of storytellers. My earliest memories are of my mother reading to my brothers and me. I’ve always loved books; first as a reader, then as a writer. I taught middle-school English for over 30 years and read to all my students. When my own children left for college and the nest was empty, I began writing; first articles for magazines, etc, then my first novel. 
MM:  You have written two series … how did that come about?
MD: My mystery series includes: Why Johnny Died (1999), Death of a Hoosier Schoolmaster (2002), and The Curriculum Murders (2004). I joined mystery organizations, went to conferences, and had a wonderful time meeting other mystery writers.  However, when I retired from teaching in 2004, I truly missed the interaction with the young readers. I decided to write a set of middle-grade read-alouds, so I could visit schools and talk with children. Hence, The Secret of Bailey’s Chase (2008), and the sequel, Back to Bailey’s Chase (2011).
MM:  With the two series, you have lead characters in each.  Can you tell me a little bit about them?  Let’s start with Grey Bailey, then Margo Brown.
MD:  My most recent books are about Sparky and Grey Bailey, ten-yr-old cousins who now live together as sisters due to a tragedy. On the first day, they discover they have super powers, but only when they are together.  Sparky is energetic, funny, and impulsive. Her cousin Grey is very polite, well-read, and calm. This duo can only use their “gift” for good and can never tell anyone or they will lose it. (A Gypsy sought them out and passed on this information.)      
Margo Brown is a middle-school teacher who turns to sleuthing when one of her students dies at home, over the weekend, of an apparent accident. Margo finds clues in his writing journal that lead her to believe there was foul play. She enlists the help of her quirky colleague, Roxie, and the two seek justice for Johnny. Margo Brown is a wholesome, Midwestern, teacher, wife, and mother of two. In addition to sleuthing, she takes an active part in community activities and loves to cook. 
MM:  Can you give me a brief summary of their adventures?
MD:  Margo and Roxie are something like Lucy and Ethel in their bumbling along, but they always get their man. In the first book, they find Johnny’s killer. In the second book, they dig into the past and solve a cold case of a teacher in their community. In book three, a student turned psycho, returns to town and begins stalking his former teachers.
Sparky and Grey solve mysteries (Nancy Drew style) and use a little magic when needed. They help clear the name of an innocent man, help the police find a cat burglar, find a kidnapped baby, warn swimmers of a shark nearby, expose a puppy mill, stop a bully, and bust a meth lab. Busy girls!
MM:  Does each series appeal to a different group of readers? Or do you see an overlap between the fans of one and the other?  
MD:  Younger readers prefer the Bailey’s Chase novels, but adults seem to like them all. All the books are wholesome, set in the Midwest, include humor, and offer good role models to young readers.
MM:  How do you develop your characters, and what is more important to you, the plot or the characterization?  And, I suppose fair is fair: how do you develop your plots?
MD:  All of my characters are created from combinations of people I have met. I see them in my mind as real people. I hear them talk and write It down. I find plot and characters equally important. Good characters need a good story. When you have both, the book writes itself. I get my plots from real life and from my imagination. I’ve always been a person who thought – what if?  What if my dog suddenly talked to me? What if my bicycle could fly? What if one of my students died and I didn’t think it was an accident? What if I found a gun buried in my tomato patch and knew there was an unsolved murder on my property 50 years ago – might it be the murder weapon?
MM:  What started you writing? 
MD:  I suppose listening to the stories my family shared. I knew if I didn’t write them down, they’d be lost forever. I enjoyed writing letters as a child, wrote for the school newspaper, wrote poems and stories for parties, plays for my classes. God gave me an unusual experience that I wrote about and sent to a Christian publisher. It appeared in church literature nationwide. I was hooked. I decided to write a mystery when I read Sue Grafton’s B is for Burglar. It was funny, short, and light. I thought: I can do this! Thus, Why Johnny Died was born. (I met Sue Grafton at the KY Book Fair and shared this story; she was most gracious.)
MM:  What are your writing habits? In other words, do you write each day, morning, evening, etc.?
MD:  When I’m writing a book, I’m obsessed. I think of nothing else until it is done. When I’m not at my computer, dialogue and plots are running through my head. I’m a terrible conversationalist at those times.  I slow up when it comes to the rewriting and editing. I’m a morning person, so I usually start my day at my computer.
MM:   Anything upcoming?
MD:   I’m currently editing my first three books for reissue by my new publisher. I’m thrilled to have the chance to go back through them and make them better. Also, I blog and tweet, and answer emails daily. Not sure about any more books. I have five books and they keep my busy with promotions and marketing. I attend state reading conferences, book fairs, and visit schools when invited.
MM:   Any hobbies, etc. for spare time?
MD:  Oh my. I mentor a child at the local school every week. I volunteer at the local community center where I organize the annual dog show, haunted house, and summer reading program. I have five grandchildren and love to attend their school activities. Two live near me and spend a lot of time at my house. I walk, swim, read, teach a Sunday School class.
MM:  How can readers contact you?
MD:  I love to hear from readers and always answer their emails. You can reach me at or visit my website at
My books are available at amazon, on my website, at, most Barnes and Nobles stores. My newest ones are ebooks and they all will be soon.
MM:  Thank you, Marlis … good luck with your ebooks.
MD:  Thank you, Mike.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Mondays With Mike: Author J. D. Webb

OKAY, OKAY … I know this is a day late, but rather than call it Tuesdays with Mike, well … actually, I'm supposed to be on vacation this week.  However, I did want to introduce you to my friend, J. D. Webb.  J. D. has always had the writing bug, but needed to earn a living first.   So, after four years active duty in the Air Force in the Philippines and Viet Nam in the 60s, he spent  the next 25 years in the corporate world (think Dilbert), until his company eliminated his job and he I promoted himself to cobbler – owning a shoe repair business for eleven years. Finally retirement gave him the opportunity to lollygag and write novels; he has had four published so far and he is currently working on three others.

Mike:  Thank you for joining us today, J. D.  I think your latest book is Smudge, can you give us a short synopsis of it?
J. D.  Yes, thank you, my latest book is Smudge: A small-town paralegal wipes a smudge off her ATM screen one night – it’s blood. Then she hears a moan coming from the alley next to her bank. Should she go help? No. But she does.
M: Can you give us a quick two sentence synopsis of Shepherd’s Pie and Her Name is Mommy? If I’m not mistaken they both have the same protagonist. And also Moon Over Chicago.
J: Shepherd’s Pie: Mike Shepherd, laid-back Chicago PI, encounters a self-proclaimed survivalist and decides to chase him for the reward. Ferlin Husky Lewis becomes incensed that this PI bozo wants to put him in jail, so he stalks Mike and many of Mike’s friends.  
Her Name Is Mommy: Mike Shepherd spots a tot sitting alone on a bench in a busy Chicago mall at Christmastime. Mike and his fiancĂ© talk to the little girl and discover her mother has been kidnapped from the mall. Mike’s quest is reunite the young girl with her mother.
M:   As a writer, what is more important: Plot or Character?
J:  Okay which came first the chicken or the egg? Same difference. You can’t have a good novel without a plot. It’s what drives the story. And all aspects of the plot must be resolved in the end. Characters are what holds us to the plot. If we don’t care about the protagonists and hate the antagonists you have a boring book. You have to have both to grab the reader and yank him/her along to the end. And the characters have to be believable. The good guy needs to be smart but still have weaknesses and the bad guy must be as smart or smarter. And my philosophy is that good always triumphs over evil; At least in my books.
M:  What started you writing?
J: In high school I was thrown into a creative writing class as a result of some mischief I had perpetrated. I’d already loved books. When I wasn’t kicked out of the library I was there picking up a book to read. In creative writing class I had the idea:  why can’t I write a book? Even though it took another forty-some years, I got the job done and continue to this day.
M: What are your writing habits? In other words, do you write each day, morning, evening, etc.?
J: Whenever I can. I have a dog with a very small bladder so I’m up at 5 am or so every day. I use that time to do the email, promotion type stuff, then I write till breakfast and at any time I can during the day. For the past year I’ve been full-time caregiver for my wife so my writing has suffered. I grab time where I can. It’s painful in many ways. My wife was my first editor and I miss that. I’m fortunate to have a marvelous writing group which meets each Tuesday night. Without them I’d be lost. I’m grammatically challenged and have these tangents I go off on sometimes that need to be expunged.
M:  Do you have anything upcoming?
J:  I’m about 20 % done with my next novel called Gulf Terror. What if the oilrig explosion in the Gulf was actually a suicide bombing mission by two terrorists? And what if one of them survived and is now loose in Louisiana planning another mission? Two Homeland Security agents are hot on his trail.
M: This may be a little “inside baseball” to some readers, but how do you market your books?
J: One of the drawbacks to being an author is marketing. Most of us are inept at marketing. I’m learning. I’m on the Internet daily promoting and talking about writing. I am the owner and moderator of the Publishing and Promoting Yahoo group with almost 1000 international members. We offer tips and techniques for promoting and publishing to authors, editors and publishers.
I visit my local libraries to give talks and hopefully get them to buy my books. Also I invite myself to local organization meetings to hawk my books. And just like one famous author I sell them from the trunk of my car. Although so far I’m not quite as successful.
M:  Do you have any hobbies or spare time activities?
J: Nope. I gave up golf a few years ago when I was getting more distance from throwing my clubs than from hitting the ball. My wife and I used to travel but since her strokes that has ceased for a time. A caregiver has little time for hobbies. I still love to read but that’s not a hobby – it’s a necessity. I‘ve belonged to a book club for five years and love it. It has forced me to get out of my genre and discover the amazing abilities of many more authors.
M: How can readers contact you?
J:  Here is my contact information:  Email and my website is  I also have a Facebook page:!/jdavewebb
M:  And where can readers find your books?
J:  Publishers  and or at Amazon.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Murder Most Holy to be released as e-book

BREAKING NEWS:  Murder Most Holy, my first book, which was originally published in 2006, will be re-released in trade paper and e-book form shortly.  So for all those asking about a Kindle or Nook edition, be patient and keep watching for more information and links as soon as they become available.  In the mean time, here is a short synopsis of the book:
 When a young nun, the daughter of a despised newspaper publisher, is killed by a bomb planted in her dad's car, the state police are called to investigate and Detective Sergeant Jerome (Stan) Stankowski is assigned to the task. Unfortunately for Stan, the Attorney General's office sends it former star prosecutor, the now burned-out and persnickety Parker Noble, to assist. To Stan's dismay, the local officials assume that Parker, a Deputy Attorney General, is in charge of the operation. Intimidated by Parker, Stan tries to take charge, while silently wondering if his days as a detective are numbered.
Trying to regain control of the investigation, Stan utilizes the assistance of one of the dead nun's friends, the flirtatious Buffy Coyle, whose interest in Stan may be greater than her interest in helping the police. Complicating matters for Stan, Buffy has recently been fired from the newspaper by her friend's father.
Confusing investigators is the fact that the nun's visit was a surprise, known only to her family and a neighbor. To add to their troubles, the father suffers a seizure at the scene.
A mayor under attack by the paper, a police chief with a mysterious four-year gap in his resume, a contractor whose development was blocked by the publisher, a gay group angry at the newspaper for "outing" a gay teacher, and a man whose life was ruined by one newspaper photo, all become suspects in the effort to solve the crime.

Monday, September 5, 2011

First Monday Guest: Author Stephen L. Brayton

SO, HERE I AM, almost seven months after the release of my first novel, Night Shadows, all set to celebrate the publication of my second book, Beta. I’m not going to denigrate the first book, because it was a special thing for me to see one of my projects come to fruition. However, I have to admit, Beta is a little extra special, because of the amount of time I spent writing it and the amount of time listening to critiques, doing edits and rewrites, polishing it up, changing and adding scenes. This was the first story I about which I became really serious. Years flew by where this story did nothing but sit and wait for countless rejections to come back, more critique, and rewriting.

Beta began as the second Mallory Petersen novel, the first, Alpha having been hurriedly written back when I had all these cute ideas I wanted to include. I barely knew what I was writing and certainly had no inkling about narrative flow, dialogue, description, and character development. I remember my first time reading it to the critique group and getting tactfully shot down. I didn’t understand how many wrong things there were to this story. So, I settled on bringing short stories to the group and Alpha soon took a back seat as I practiced and improved my writing craft.

Somewhere in the early part of the new century, the idea for Beta came to me and it hit me pretty strongly. I don’t recall it taking too much time to draw up an outline, throw in characters I had already developed from Alpha, and begin writing the story. I knew I had much more research to do for this story, so it took me a few years to complete. Then, as I said, came the second, third, and fourth drafts with several more to follow.

I thoroughly enjoyed writing this story. I felt good to give my heroine, Mallory Petersen, more depth, more emotion, and to write scenes I can go back and read today and still get choked up about the seriousness of the subject matter or still laugh at the humorous moments.

Night Shadows came soon after, but Beta still lurked nearby, waiting. Waiting for 2007 when it was pitched at a writers’ conference and summarily rejected by every agent. It waited two more years for Killer Nashville and in October of 2009, was picked up along with its shadow buddy by Echelon Press.

Two more years have passed and the time has come to see my hard work pay off. After a couple delays, Night Shadows was released in February and, again after a change of plans, Beta is scheduled to be published the first of October.

I find it also special to start my blog tour on Mike Manno’s site. I first met Mike in 2000, when he visited Oskaloosa promoting his first book at the local library. He introduced me to my first critique group and my path to publication began.

So, where do I go from here? Well, I have many stops throughout the blog-o-sphere in the next couple months including interviews on five blogtalkradio programs. Please visit my website ( or blog ( to see where I’ll be next.

However, followers of this site get the first chance to learn about Beta. Mallory Petersen is a Fourth Degree Black Belt and private investigator in Des Moines, Iowa. Her cases and clients tend to come from the nuttier side of life. However, when she is hired to find an eight year old kidnapped girl, her investigation reveals members of a child pornography ring. She follows a trail around the capital city and winds up in the Quad Cities, partnering with a handsome police detective.

Because of the subject matter, this is not a book for children. I temper the serious nature of the novel with humorous scenes, showing off Mallory’s martial arts skills and tendency to get involved with some quirky individuals.

I hope you’ll join me on my promotional tour and spread the word.

Oh, and what happed to Alpha? Well, I resurrected it, dusted it off, and did a few rewrites. I hope to have news of its progress very soon.

Readers might remember the interview I did with Stephen last February … if you’d like to see it again, follow this link.