Issue 20: Risky Business

Back before Christmas, but after I’d made my 2018 recap, I had a chance to read Imogen’s Secret  and Imogen’s Journey. Absolutely could not put these novels down, so I reached out to the author to ask a few questions and B Fleetwood talks about how a novel became a trilogy and what’s next for Imogen.

Micah Dean Hicks picks the Playlist for Break the Bodies, Haunt the Bones. And note: tonight Micah Dean Hicks has an event in Florida. Details at the end of the playlist.

Of Elections and Influences: How the 2016 Election Inspired Libby Fischer Hellmann’s HIGH CRIMES

Barbara Winkes chats about her new book, Killer Instinct, and talks about her writing spaces.

Almost forgot … my review of The 19th Bladesman. It should have run elsewhere, but the site wasn’t one I wanted to continue working with, so here it is.

Did You Miss It?

Brian wrote about his favorite TV Characters, posted another Eclectic Mayhem and shared his best reads of 2018.

Plus, Issue 19 went live a few weeks ago, with Isabella Maldonado, Dana King and Susanna Beard.

Risky Business: Stepping Out Side Our Comfort Zones

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There will always be something to react to on social media, and the publishing world has given us plenty lately.

Yesterday, when I saw saw some of the responses to Jason Heller’s thread, the top tweet here was the one that had been retweeted. Now, if you go to the thread this is part of and start at the actual top, the response made more sense.

But as it was, what I saw that seemed to be the source of ire was these two tweets. And I have no issue with them at all. Heller is absolutely correct – each person makes a choice about how to approach their craft.

He’s also very right about something else that doesn’t have to do with money. He’s right about the fact that writers are often approaching their craft from a comfort zone and afraid to take risks. I’m not talking about with earning a living; I’m talking about taking chances to blend genres and push boundaries.

To even push ourselves.

There’s a real wisdom here that has been obscured by the tweets that came before. I get why some people are defensive about the money thing (Heller encouraged quitting the day job and writing) and unwilling to go there. Forget about that. I am not talking about that.

I am simply talking about the balls-free approach to writing that so many have settled for. In this past year I wrote a manuscript outside my genre. So far outside it scared the crap out of me. It ended up being a passion project that I fell in love with. It forced me to stretch as a writer.

I didn’t want to let it go. I was ready to be done writing police procedurals, to put crime writing behind me.

And then along came another character. Something I learned in the process of writing that passion project infused with this character and she didn’t just tap on my shoulder and suggest we spend some time together. Nope. She showed me the story.

I started writing January 9. Yesterday, I finished what I’m calling an unprocedural. It may be crime, and the character may be a cop, but it is far outside the lines of what I’ve done with any of my books to date. It’s personal and messy and – like that passion project I penned last year – it made me cry writing it.

Again, I have a manuscript I don’t want to let go of. For the second time in less than a year I’ve finished something I’m voluntarily re-reading. Since I re-read and revise as I go I’m usually sick of it by the time I’ve written the final words.

Not this time.

I credit how I feel about these two books to taking personal risks and infusing more of myself into the narrative. Not that the books are about me, but because I have found my emotions that connect to the character’s stories and channeled that into them.

Even at the end of this story, I wrote the last chapter and then the next day had to sit down and write it again, because there’s a second POV character in this book and I realized that I’d sidestepped the emotional depth of the scene by looking at it through the wrong eyes.

Will it matter to anyone else? Who knows. What I know is that I am most proud of these two manuscripts, and the short story I wrote last year, Crossing Jordan. That was very personal, because one of my parents is trans, but still very much in the closet day to day.

Frankly, the overwhelming majority of us aren’t making much money writing. Why should I worry about writing to formula, convention or expectations when there’s so little to gain from it?

Instead, I will take those risks, step outside my comfort zone, push myself to grow. I may not have royalty checks to cash, but I’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that I didn’t play it safe.

Killer Instinct: Barbara Winkes Writes About an Ex-Cop With Regrets and Shares Which of Her Characters She’d Take With Her to a Deserted Island

 

KICoverSR: Practice pitching: tell us what your new book is about in 50 words or less.

BW: It’s a vigilante thriller. An ex-cop killed a murderer and, after an investigation, served a sentence. She is trying to distance herself from her past, but then one of her former cases becomes active again, and she can’t stay away—even considering the risk that history could repeat itself.

SR: Where did your idea for this book come from?

BW: I wanted to work with a character that’s a little different from the usual “female cop hunting the serial killer” theme that I am drawn to as a reader and writer, because these women are by the book. Joanna threw out the book. She felt like the system failed, and took matters into her own hands, and she’s been paying for it. A new relationship and past connections create a tug of war between past and present.

SR:  Harry Potter, Luke Skywalker, Katniss Everdeen or Arya Stark? If your protagonist could be any fictional character for a day who would it be and why?

BW: I’m thinking Arya, because of the setting. Killer Instinct is one of my darkest books, so this would probably be a good fit.

SR: Was there a specific issue that really motivated you to write this particular story?

BW: Generally, the infuriating amount of misogyny that we can’t seem to get rid of on this planet. I don’t think that vigilantism is the solution, but as a writer I have the privilege to explore those ideas in fiction.

SR: What’s one thing that you and your protagonist have in common?

BW: I can easily dwell on old decisions, though in my case, there’s nothing this tragic, fortunately.

SR: If you were the right gender could you have a romantic relationship with your protagonist? Why or why not? Would it be a good relationship?

BW: If I wasn’t married…I might still find her a little intimidating. And I gave her a love interest!

SR: What’s the first book you remember reading that had a huge impact on you? How did that story affect you? How do you think it shaped your desire to be a writer?

BW: I’ve always been drawn to suspense, and serials, right from the start. I read a lot of books with characters like Nancy Drew as a child, then moved on to adult mystery and thriller series. That’s where I always wanted to go as a writer, to have a series that readers can discover and binge on. My next release after Killer Instinct will be Impressions, #8 in the Carpenter/Harding series.

SR: What was your journey to publication like? What kind of obstacles did you have to overcome?

BW: I had to wait for Christmas! The book is set during the holidays, so I wanted it to come out before. The coziness of Christmas music and parties with friends present a backdrop and also a stark contrast to the isolation Joanna feels in the beginning.

SR: You have to flee the country. Where are you headed to and why that location?

BW: I hope I’ll never have to flee from Canada—it’s my home of choice! Iceland? Since we’re already used to the cold…

SR: It’s the zombie apocalypse. You have to pick a weapon from what’s currently within 10 feet of your present location. What will you defend yourself with?

BW: The lamp next to me? Otherwise I can only hope that the pen is truly mightier than the sword.

SR: How long will you survive in the zombie apocalypse? How long will your protagonist survive? Why?

BW: Me, not so long. I write action and thrillers, but I don’t think I’d be that savvy when it comes to real zombies…Joanna, she’d be okay for a while. The book is called Killer Instinct, after all.

SR: What advice do you have for aspiring authors?

BW: Write a lot, read a lot. Develop a good marketing strategy before the first book is even out (this is something I wish I’d known more about six years ago). Get early feedback from people who trust to tell you the truth. There is a lot of advice out there from many. Examine it carefully, and find out what works for you.

SR: Now for fun, if you were stuck on a deserted island and found that magic lamp with a genie and the genie had the power to bring any character in any of your books to life to be your companion, who would you pick and why?

BW: Jordan Carpenter from the Carpenter/Harding series – she’s as capable as Joanna, but more by the book and less scary! Although she wouldn’t like being apart from Ellie, so she might try to intimidate me into sending her back.

SR: And if the genie would only bring characters from works by another author to life who would you pick to spend eternity on that deserted island with?

BW: James Patterson’s Women’s Murder Club. I think they’d be fun to hang out with. Or Tess Gerritsen’s Rizzoli & Isles. Either way, we could all share a lot of stories to pass the time…

 

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Barbara Winkes writes suspense and romance with lesbian characters at the center. She has always loved stories in which women persevere and lift each other up. Expect high drama and happy endings.


Discover a variety of genres, serial and standalone. Women loving women always take the lead.

 

 

 

http://www.barbarawinkes.wordpress.com

Writing Spaces: Where Barbara Winkes Pens Her Works

My office

My wife told me that before I moved in, she never know what to do with this room. It used to be a music room, a game room, the cat’s room—and then it became my office. My father-in-law built the shelves, and I added some decoration later, like a Women’s Murder Club poster and some photography. We both have our separate offices, which, I think is a good thing when you work 100% or even partly from home.

The Kitchen

As much as I like to have my own professional space, it’s fun to write there sometimes (hey, snacks, coffee and tea are close). I do it more often in the winter, because I have a nice view on where we put our Christmas tree.

The backyard

Obviously, only in the summer. I feel privileged to be able to do what I do, but even more so when I set up on the deck to write.

What are your ‘must haves’ that make up your writing space?

The spiral notebook with the notes for the book I’m working on, and some pens. That’s pretty much it.

A

 

Barbara Winkes writes suspense and romance with lesbian characters at the center. She has always loved stories in which women persevere and lift each other up. Expect high drama and happy endings.

Discover a variety of genres, serial and standalone. Women loving women always take the lead.

http://www.barbarawinkes.wordpress.com

Online Issue 18: Happy Thanksgiving

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It isn’t the turkey or the stuffing or the pumpkin pie that will make your Thanksgiving truly great. It’s the books you can buy on Black Friday, and we’ve got you covered with tons of recommendations! First, Jenn Stroud Rossmann talks about what engineers read, then Susanna Beard shares what she has lined up and Rusty Barnes talks about what’s overloading his Kindle. Barbara Winkes also drops in to talk about the books she’s reading and ones she hopes to get to soon (such as Vox, which sounds fascinating). Who’s reading Gary Philips? Who has Max Ellendale’s latest on their nightstand? Who is anxious for Nicole Chung’s memoir? Check out those TBR piles to find out.

In my latest review I look at Jenn Stroud Rossmann’s The Place You’re Supposed to Laugh. Lots of great insights about family, life and identity here, with appeal for teens and adults alike.

Need to escape all the family togetherness? Rusty Barnes talks about his latest novel, The Last Danger, and cross-border crime. (What could be a better gift for the wall supporter on your shopping list?)

And in case your family Thanksgiving is nothing but political squabbles and family drama, Susanna Beard has cuteness on tap with her two trusty author assistants, Cookie and Tipsy. Pictures here.

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Miss our latest issues? Issue 17 contents  – featuring Tom Leins, Paul Brazill, Kelli Owen, JL Abrama, JJ Hensley, Terrence McCauley, Barbara Winkes and more – can be found here.

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We’ll be back next week with CJ Lyons, Ovidia Yu, Wendy Webb and more.

Plus, December 1 I’ll kick off my Advent Calendar, covering a book, movie, TV series or something else I enjoyed from this past year and recommend.

(Not a ‘best of’ list, because I haven’t consumed everything so I couldn’t possibly say what’s best. And not a ‘best of stuff by my friends’ list either. Most or all come from people I have never met.)

Teetering on the Nightstand: Barbara Winkes talks about works from Tess Gerritsen, Alexandra Sokoloff, Christina Dalcher and more

What are some of the titles in your current TRB pile?

Where Are You, a romance about college best friends that fell in love, but lost touch and meet again in the present, Breaking Steele (#3 of the Jasmine Steele Mysteries), and Rise of the Darkwitch (LGBT YA Fantasy). What’s next will depend on time and mood, but with Halloween approaching, the fantasy novel might be a good idea.

What book are you currently reading?

The first book in Max Ellendale’s Four Point Trilogy. A female cop hunting a serial killer? I’m there. I’ve always thought of this premise as a metaphor of the fight against patriarchy (at least in fiction, it usually comes with the desired outcome).

414myifeqnlWhat do you hope to add to your TBR pile soon and why?

I’m always up for the next good thriller, but I’ve come across a book called Vox, a dystopian novel. Women are only allowed to speak a 100 words a day, and the main character is challenging that rule. It might make me too mad at the moment. Alexandra Sokoloff’s The Huntress/FBI thrillers look interesting to me (a female serial killer, vigilante justice), and so does The Book Addict by Annette Mori (a lesbian romance with a bit of magic. I have read more by this author, and her stories are always outside the box. Since I’m not a genre purist, I appreciate that). I have my comfort genres, but I also like contrast.

Bonus: Which author do you want to see have a new book out soon?

I’d love to see a new book in Tess Gerritsen’s Rizzoli & Isles series. I have a few favorite serials. Coming back to them is always like meeting with old friends you haven’t seen in a while. I find it very comforting – even if the content isn’t. And a new book by Karin Slaughter that featuring Lena Adams (for the same reasons).

 

Check out Barbara’s Q&A about Cypher!

 

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Barbara Winkes writes suspense and romance with lesbian characters at the center. She has always loved stories in which women persevere and lift each other up. Expect high drama and happy endings.

Discover a variety of genres, serial and standalone. Women loving women always take the lead.

Online Issue 17: “Living My Best Life”

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This issue begins and ends with mourning. We mark the passing of long-time reviewer and crime fiction enthusiast, Theodore Feit, with his final review.

We’re also reeling with the fresh pain from the news that Evie Swierczynski has passed away after her fight with leukemia. Many years ago, I was hired to travel to Philadelphia and interview Duane Swierczynski for a magazine feature. I got to meet his children and Meredith. I’m lucky enough to say I’ve known Duane for many years, and yet I do not know him and his family well … and yet Duane’s posts over the past several months have made many of us feel as though Evie was a part of our family, because he captured her spirit and shared her with us all.

All I really know today is that their grief is unfathomable. In the days and weeks ahead I’ll be thinking of Duane, Meredith and Parker as they begin the unfathomable journey forward without Evie.

One thing Duane mentioned months ago was that Evie always said, “Living my best life.” For her, it was a statement of sarcasm in response to misfortunes. (DS FB June 7)

May we all cherish the moments we have and truly live our best lives.

Scroll down a bit and you’ll see a list of ways to pay tribute to a loved one’s memory.

Sticking with the Music Theme

Paul D. Brazill’s Supernatural Noir is out in stores now, and he’s sharing his new work’s playlist with us.

Author Interviews

Kelli Owen talks being a Nerdy Klutz, how that impacts her zombie apocalypse plan, and what a vampire story has to do with prejudice.

Brian Lindenmuth chats with Terrence McCauley about writing westerns.

Robert White talks about Thomas Harris, David Lindsey and Martin Cruz Smith, his protagonist’s biggest fear, and how real life events inspired Northtown Eclipse.

When The Hunger Games and The Handmaid’s Tale Collide: Barbara Winkes talks about her Dystopian tale, Cypher.

Reviews:

Sandra Ruttan takes a look at In The Galway Silence, the latest Jack Taylor novel by Ken Bruen.

Brian also has a horror review column up, just in time for Halloween.

And, in sad news, the review of The Line by Martin Limon marks Theodore Feit’s final review. Our condolences to Gloria on Ted’s unexpected passing last month. He was a long-standing reviewer who was committed to sharing his love of books, and will be missed.

Actors Wanted

Tom Leins picks the Actors who Could play Joe Rey, the Gunrunner, Slattery and Wila.

To Be Read Features

Wondering what some of your favorite author are reading these days and hoping to crack open soon?

What Do John Verdon, Annette Dashofy, Gwen Floria, Eric Beetner and Kyle Mills Have in Common? JJ Hensley talks recent reads and more.

J.L. Abramo talks about global events that impact his current reading, works by Erik Larson and Bryan Burroughs and his hopes for new Tim O’Brien novels.

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When The Hunger Games and The Handmaid’s Tale Collide: Barbara Winkes talks about her Dystopian tale, Cypher

Cyphercover1 (2)SR: What’s your new book about?

BW: Cypher is a dystopian novel in which some citizens have signed many of their rights to the “City” government. They give up their names, and become numbers instead, which puts them at the mercy of the Identity Agency. Ami went into the program after being pressured by people close to her, and her fate worsens from there. Katlena, who is an inspector with the Identity Agency, still believes in the system, and she thinks that if she rises through the ranks, she can help change it to the better. Both of them have secrets they guard closely. Mutual attraction might put them at risk, and it’s unclear whether they can trust each other—or who the enemy really is.

SR: Was there a specific issue or incident that really motivated you to write this particular story? What was the prompt?

BW: Part of it was that The Hunger Games, many years after I’d read The Handmaid’s Tale, got me back into reading dystopian fiction. I always add suspense and romance to my books, not matter the main genre. Finally, I looked back on my own experience of being unemployed for a while, and the toll it took at times. It’s not hard to feel like a number—even though my life, of course, was far from Ami’s.

SR: How do you think your protagonist would respond if aliens landed in the center of town on page 57?

BW: Both Ami and Katlena have seen strange things in their lives, but I’m sure that would freak them out on a deeper level. Page 57, it’s the morning after, and Katlena wakes from a nightmare. That would be an interesting time to add aliens…

SR:  Your protagonist has to flee the country. Where are they headed to and why that location?

BW: Mexico perhaps. If I believe HGTV, they could get affordable housing close to the beach, and I think they’d be able to go there with the funds they have.

SR:  What conspiracy theory is your protagonist most likely to believe in? Roswell? JFK? Princess Diana? What about you? Any conspiracy theories that you think might have some truth to them?

BW: These days, I’m extra careful, because there’s so much of it out there and online, sometimes you have to remind yourself that there is still an objective reality. I try to check myself and not fall for something that’s too easy or too good to be true.

SR:  Is your protagonist more likely to go insane or end up in prison?

BW: Since they are working to change the system, and their opponents aren’t happy about it, prison is a likely prospect if they don’t succeed.

SR: What’s your protagonist’s greatest fear? Why?

BW: In the beginning, the greatest fear for both of them would be related to their individual stories—how events could affect their life plans. Later on, it’s the fear of losing each other.

SR: Is there something you hope the reader carries away with them after they’re done reading? An insight or philosophy that you wanted to come through in your work?

BW: All of my works have women coming together to work toward a common goal, if it’s cops hunting a serial killer or characters of a different background hoping to change society to the better (in the case of Cypher, undo some of the cruel reality that is part of their world). I even did it with vampires and witches in RISE. It’s important to me to convey that vision, even if it doesn’t always happen in the real world. I’d like to think that most women and men would prefer equality, but I focus on women(-loving women) protagonists in my books.

SR:  Cage match between you and your protagonist. It’s a fight to the death. Which one of you will be left standing, and why.

BW: I’d like to think we’d both turn on the villain that organized the match—though I’d have to admit that the majority of my characters would be better equipped to fight said villain.

SR: What’s the first book you remember reading that had a huge impact on you? How did that story affect you? How do you think it shaped your desire to be a writer?

BW: I think every book I loved, or left me with a strong emotional reaction, has shaped that desire. It’s a rush to experience those reactions while writing and creating a world out of nothing, and it’s even more of a rush when readers “buy it”—pun intended. When a reader tells me they couldn’t put the book down, it makes me completely giddy—because I know how that feels.

SR:  What’s the best thing about writing?

BW: Writing.

SR:  What’s the worst thing about writing?

BW: Not writing (for whatever reason).

SR: Are you drawn to things that are really popular or wary of them? Do you find it helps you to market your work if you’re familiar with what’s currently selling or do you ignore all of that and focus on what you’re interested in?

BW: Sometimes I take a look, sometimes I don’t—it’s often a spur of the moment decision. Sometimes I’m far behind the trend and quickly have to finish the books, because the movie is coming out in a couple of weeks…As for marketing, not all mainstream trends apply to lesbian fiction (where all genres co-exist under that one roof). For example, romance is always the biggest seller here and there. However, when a friend mentioned domestic suspense on social media—often a female protagonist finding out her husband might or might not have some dark secrets—I realized I hadn’t come across any stories of the kind in F/F fiction. Of course, equal marriage written into law isn’t that old, so we have a lot of catching up to do on HEAs first.

SR: What movie or TV world do you wish you could live in? Why?

BW: Ocean’s Eight. How much fun would that be?

SR: You strike it rich. What charity are you going to create or support?

BW: I would love to give a ton of money to organizations that care for women who have experienced violence, be it random, in the home or in a war zone. I think you need to build a good, free society from the ground up, and that includes the eradication of child “marriage,” expanding choice and so many other things. LGBT organizations. Invest in science and also conveying to the public why it matters…how much money are we talking again? I’d also love to go beyond and be able to produce media, increase the representation of lesbian characters in all genres. I have many ideas.

SR: What factors influence you when you’re choosing a book to read?

BW: The blurb, most of all. If the characters sound compelling and I want to know more about them, I’ll want to check out the book.

SR: Where can people catch up with you?

BW: Come talk to me on Twitter (www.twitter.com/barbarawinkes) or Facebook  (www.facebook.com/AuthorBarbaraWinkes), or follow me on BookBub (www.bookbub.com/profile/barbara-winkes) to stay up to date with new releases and sales.

 

Barbara Winkes has visited us to talk about Secrets, done Secrets casting call, chatted about The Amnesia Project and talked about The Amnesia Project’s soundtrack.

Barbara Winkes writes suspense and romance with lesbian characters at the center. She has always loved stories in which women persevere and lift each other up. Expect high drama and happy endings.

Discover a variety of genres, serial and standalone. Women loving women always take the lead.