Today I’m hosting author, Maggie Kast
Maggie Kast is the author of The Crack between the Worlds: a dancer’s memoir of loss, faith and family, published by Wipf and Stock. She received an M.F.A. in writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts and has published fiction in The Sun, Nimrod, Carve, Paper Street and others.
A chapter of her memoir, published in ACM/Another Chicago Magazine, won a Literary Award from the Illinois Arts Council and a Pushcart nomination. A story published in Rosebud and judged by Ursula Leguin won an Honorable Mention in their fantasy fiction contest.
Kast’s essays have appeared in America, Image, Writer’s Chronicle and elsewhere. Her first novel, A Free, Unsullied Land, is forthcoming from Fomite Press in November 2015. An excerpted story, “The Hate that Chills,” won 3rd prize in the Hackney Literary Contests and is forthcoming in the Birmingham Arts Journal.
When Is Fiction Fact?
The firm line between fact and fiction is a feature of our time, but it wasn’t always so. While researching my new novel, A Free, Unsullied Land, I read books published in the 1930s, the time of my story. Among them was Lilo Linke’s Restless Days: a German Girl’s Autobiography.
Most reviewers read it as a document of life in Germany at the time. It describes extreme inflation and hunger during the years preceding Hitler’s rise to power, the author’s rejection of Nazi ideology and her travels with the young people’s outdoor organization called Wandervogel. But no one questions whether Linke made things up. The German Wikipedia page calls the book a Schlüsselroman or key novel. In English we name this genre using French, roman à clef, meaning a novel about real life overlaid with a façade of fiction. The key is the relationship between fact and fiction.
So is Restless Days true, and why does it matter? It’s hard, maybe impossible, to say where fact gives way to fiction in this book. Creative non-fiction has only recently been recognized as a genre, and its rules, namely “You can’t make this stuff up,” were not important to Lilo Linke’s readers. Some modern non-fiction writers, like Lauren Slater in her memoir Lying: a Metaphorical Memoir choose to ignore the rules and rely on metaphor rather than fact to make meaning. I love the book and share it’s sense of truth revealed in metaphor, but I also share today’s desire to know what’s actual. And when I write I follow the rules as best I can. My memoir, The Crack between the Worlds: a dancer’s memoir of loss, faith and family, tells only what actually happened.
Fact plays a role in fiction as well, though not the way one might expect. Including an event in a story “because it happened” is the worst possible justification. Events must be believable, not true; like the actual world (verisimilar) but not themselves actual. But when stories are based on historical events, I find it thrilling to see the evidence, like photos of the people on whom characters are based.
In a historical novel like mine verisimilitude is especially challenging. I needed to get the smell and feel and sounds and tastes of the ‘30s in Chicago and I wanted my characters immersed in the historical events of the period, like the unfair trials and convictions of the so-called Scottsboro Boys. I wanted them to meet historical characters like W.E.B. Dubois.
Why my interest in the ‘30s? My mother died in 2003 and her saved letters came to me, most written in that time. In them I discovered a young woman I never knew, a bright, sassy, irreverent girl who drank in speakeasies, flirted with professors and galloped on horseback across the New Mexican desert. (Don’t look for that event in the book. Like so much that really happened, it had to be slashed.) In actuality that girl tamed herself to become my responsible mother. I wanted to give her a fictional life on the page, to take her on adventures she would never have dared, to reveal secrets she would never have spoken. Henriette Greenberg, my protagonist, is compounded of me, people of the period, people I’ve known, and people of whom I’ve dreamed. She is not my mother, and her adventures are entirely invented. I’ve described well-known places as accurately as I could, and I’ve searched for actual words spoken by the historical figures I’ve used. And occasionally, when the words in my mother’s letters were too deliciously expressive of both her gifts and burdens, I stole them word for word.
Website URL: maggiekast.com
Blog URL: http://www.ritualandrhubarbpie.blogspot.com
Facebook URL: https://www.facebook.com/magdance1
Skype: username: maggiekast
We would love to hear from you, so please feel free to leave a comment.
My guest mystery author this week is Gerri Ferris Finger
Gerrie Ferris Finger is a retired journalist and author of several novels, six published in the Moriah Dru/Richard Lake series: The End Game, The Last Temptation, The Devil Laughed, Murmurs of Insanity, Running with Wild Blood and American Nights to be released May 18, 2016. Ms. Finger lives on the coast of Georgia with her husband, Alan, and their standard poodle, Bogey.
The Moriah Dru/Richard Lake Series
I had been retired from journalism and writing another series for a few years when I read a Jack Reacher novel by Lee Child. Now let’s just say Reacher is so much larger than life, he’s on a physical plane all by himself. That caused me to search my brain for a woman in a series that was like Reacher. There may be a few, but lacking female Reachers in my reading, I created Moriah Dru.
Dru, a tall good-looking woman, began her career as a policewoman on the fast track at the Atlanta Police Department. She was approved for a slot at the FBI’s National Academy and takes the Yellow Brick Road challenge. Her prowess under the harshest conditions earned her a coveted Marine Corps’ yellow brick.
Back in Atlanta, she was partnered with Lieutenant Richard Lake. He was divorced, and they become lovers. When he was promoted, she got stuck with some unlovely partners who thought they should she share her bed, too. Not going to happen. Her good friend, a juvenile judge, urged her to leave the force and start Child Trace, a specialty child-finding private detective agency. In The End Game she is challenged to find two abducted sisters bound for the sex slave trade in Central America. With Lake’s help, they succeed. That book won the St. Martin’s Minotaur Best First Novel.
As her story progressed in the now five-book series, Dru’s self-defense skills, including expertise in martial arts, shooting, and out-thinking the bad guys, increased. My editor figured out which fictional character she is most like: Emma Peel of the original British “The Avengers” series on television.
That brings us to RUNNING WITH WILD BLOOD
One time I rode on a Harley Davidson. Just that once. At eighty m.p.h. I like to be enclosed. But I have to admit I have been fascinated with motorcycles and a culture created by generations of men hungering for the unencumbered wild life. Not all clubs (never gangs) are of the outlaw bent, but Wild Blood is.
A couple of years ago, my husband and I were on the highway from hell—I-95 from Georgia to Florida—and a string of bikes flew past us. (My husband is no slouch when it comes to speed.) That’s when the idea of writing a Moriah Dru/Richard Lake thriller/mystery that would feature a biker club came to me.
It’s so easy to connect murder with an outlaw club, but more than that, in Running With Wild Blood I was able to explore the mystique and romance of the culture. I learned many arcane things from my sources—shared by those who knew bikers, including outlaws
In my reporter days I met several scruffy-looking bikers at Bike Week in Myrtle Beach, S. C. They were the spokesmen (no women)—the front men or hail-fellows of the clubs. In the last few decades, the big national clubs have campaigned to clean up their image by sponsoring charitable bike events in places where they are welcome. In winter, Florida seems to be a magnet for Bike Weeks. Who doesn’t want to get the cold north wind out of their face?
While Running with Wild Blood reflects biker practices and traditions (including those with hearts-of-gold), the book centers on the heinous murder of an adventurous teenage girl and her missing friend. The Wild Blood Club is accused. After looking into the cold case, Dru has doubts about the club’s involvement. To clear them, if they can be cleared, Dru and Lake ride Lake’s Harley to a Florida Bike Week with Wild Blood. To be sure, the culture of cop and biker creates a lot of tension. Who would bet that hell wouldn’t break loose when another murder occurs?
My best to readers and riders alike!
You can find more information about Gerrie Ferris Finger and her novels at:
Gerri and I would love to hear from you so please feel free to leave a comment.
This week, it’s my pleasure to host another of my favorite authors, Marcia Meara.
In this post, Marcia answers the question:
Have you ever been reading a book, transported to a place you’ve never imagined, or an event you’ve never even heard of, and found yourself wondering how in the world the author ever came up with the idea?
Happens to me a lot, especially in recent years, when I’ve been reading a lot of Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, and Steampunk. I find myself in awe of writers who can invent entire worlds, cultures, political factions, and people-creature hybrids that have certainly never existed here on earth. How did they think of such places and creatures? And how much painstaking effort must have gone into laying out the fabric of these imaginary worlds and cultures, including setting up the political and social structures within these invented realms, and creating the rules by which their creatures live and function.
I also marvel at writers of more traditional fiction—murder mysteries, love stories, and the like—wondering how they’ve managed to put a fresh spin on their tale, whether through unusual locations, events, or truly engaging characters.
Here’s what I do when the seed of an idea comes to me. I ask myself, “What if?”
For instance, the idea for my first book, Wake-Robin Ridge, was born more than fifteen years ago, when I was on a trip to Chimney Rock, North Carolina, with a group of friends. In our travels along the backroads, we would often pass this little, deserted log cabin, and I wondered who had lived there over the years, and what kind of stories they could tell. One day, I asked myself what if there were two women who had lived in that remote cabin, fifty years apart. What if the first one was hiding there from an abusive husband? What if he found her, and something really bad happened? What if the second woman begins to uncover the first woman’s story? What if there’s a mysterious recluse living across the road from her, and he gets involved in the mystery? My story grew from those questions.
I wanted to set my second novel in Florida, so I could feature the rivers and wildlife I’ve explored for years, and love deeply. I wanted it to be a romantic suspense, with plenty of danger, so I asked my questions again. What if a serial killer is preying on young women in the area? What if his crimes are truly awful, and his way of disposing of his handiwork, even more so? I didn’t know who my lovers were, but one day, while out on my favorite eco-tour boat cruise, I happened to catch myself thinking what a wonderful job piloting that boat would be. And then…the lightbulb went off! What if my heroine had her own eco-tour boat, and what if the hero were a wildlife photographer who needed her help? Voila! Swamp Ghosts was born.
My third book idea came to me in a dream, believe it or not. I was half asleep when I heard Sarah Gray, my heroine from Wake-Robin Ridge, whisper in my ear about a little boy alone in the mountains, who needed his story told. I got up in the morning with Rabbit fully formed in my mind, and started writing. But again, I had to figure out why he was alone on the mountain, so I started jotting down questions. What if his grandparents had hidden him away from the world? What if he’s never seen another person in his life? What if he has no concept of electricity, or running water, or even music? Eventually, his story, A Boy Named Rabbit, looped through Sarah’s and Mac’s, giving my mountain series a whole new direction, and continuing the little touch of paranormal, as well.
My latest novel was simply the natural progression from Swamp Ghosts. I had introduced two secondary characters that I really liked, and I knew they had a story I wanted to tell, but you can only have so many serial killers in one small town, so it had to involve another kind of drama. In Swamp Ghosts, Hunter Painter confesses to Gunnar Wolfe that he has secretly loved Willow Greene since high school. What if Willow has loved him back the whole time, and he never knew it? What if the reason Hunter is so odd is because of deep-seated fears he developed within his strange family dynamic? What if his well-meaning, loving family had become totally dysfunctional, through nothing worse than poor choices and refusing to acknowledge facts? What if this constant denial over the years ended up causing a terrible tragedy, impacting everyone concerned? What if my heroine is the strongest female character I’ve ever written, and my hero is a sweet-natured, but emotionally battered man, in dire need of her help? And there you have the premise for Finding Hunter.
And my current work in progress, Harbinger, has taken me back to my beloved mountains. I love that the Appalachians are filled with ancient legends and tales of ghostly happenings. What if I picked one to work into my story? The legend of The Black Dog, or Ol’ Shuck, as they call him in that part of the world, is probably Celtic in origin, and quite chilling. Ol’ Shuck is a pretty scary apparition, and if you see him, it means someone is going to die. What if I could work that into the current dynamics of the Cole family, introduced in Wake-Robin Ridge, and expanded on in A Boy Named Rabbit? That’s what I’m aiming for, and I hope to have Harbinger ready for release by spring.
The Wake-Robin Ridge tales are all slightly paranormal . . . just a touch of spooky, here and there. The Riverbend stories deal with the eccentric, funny, and sometimes tragic characters who live in the little Florida town. Plenty of drama there, with nary a hint of the paranormal.
And they’ve all come about because I learned how to ask, “What if?” I open a document, and just let the what-if’s flow, and before long, I can see a pattern that might make a good story. It works for me, and maybe some of you will find it a helpful, more organic way to approach writing.
Thanks for having me here today, Evelyn. I always enjoy visiting with you and your readers, and I hope some of you will try asking yourself “What if?”
Wake-Robin Ridge Series
Finding Hunter (Riverbend Book 2): http://www.amazon.com/dp/B014Q8F1UU
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My review of Finding Hunter
The characters who populate the small town of River Bend, come to life in this story about the power of love from the inspired imagination of talented author, Marcia Meara. A truly wonderful novel, this story features two minor characters from Ms. Meara’s previous novel, Swamp Ghosts. Hunter, an introverted, hapless, but troubled writer who carries a load of family problems on his shoulders, and has no idea of the talent he possesses. And Willow, the selfless, caring extrovert, who adores him, and tries her best to point out how valuable his life is.
This story is rather unusual, as it’s the reverse of the standard romance novel. It begins with the romance, expertly written by the way, and works up to the events that threaten to end it forever.
The short poems at the beginning of each chapter add a bit of suspense to the story, as you can’t help but wonder who “The Traveler” is. But everything is revealed in the end. The story pulled me in from the very first page, and kept me reading well into the night. I highly recommend this novel.
Marcia has agreed to do a book giveaway for, Finding Hunter. Leave a comment and you will be entered to win a signed print or eBook copy of this wonderful novel.
This week my guest is author, Jackie Taylor Zortman.
Jackie Taylor Zortman is an award winning published writer/author. Her book “We Are Different Now” tells of her journey with grief after the accidental death of her 21-year-old grandson when he fell 100 feet off a mountain ledge in the pitch black of night on July 5, 2010.
In June 2015, her first place award winning fiction novel “Footprints InThe Frost” was released by Oak Tree Press as a Dark Oak Mystery.
She has written and had published numerous articles and short stores for various publications via The Public Safety Writers Association since 1994 and has won five writing awards. She is a contributing author to the anthologies “Felons, Flames & Ambulance Rides”, “American Blue” and “The Centennial Book of the National Society of Daughters of the Union”. She has poetry published in “Echoes From the Silence” and “Dusting Off Dreams”. She also contributed to Lyn Ragan’s book “Signs From The Afterlife” released in January 2015. In addition, she also writes genealogy and history.
In July 2013, she won two awards in the Public Safety Writers Association’s Writing Contest for her articles “Amache” and “The Siege at Cortez”. In July 2014 she won three awards, including First Place for her novel manuscript “Footprints in the Frost” and articles “Just Routine” & “In God We Trust”.
She lives in a bustling quaint tourist town in the beautiful mountains of Colorado with her husband and both are now retired.
Footprints in the Frost
First place award winning novel, “Footprints in the Frost” introduces homicide detective, Max Richards, and involves his life both on the job and away from it. When he is hand-picked by the chief of police to work a long and complicated serial rape case involving five beautiful victims with whom he must spend much time, his life with girlfriend and bookstore owner, Sami Murphy, becomes extremely complicated. Escaping from the city hustle and bustle to his beautiful and remote Colorado mountain cabin, the two of them attempt to relax and try to untangle the knots in their relationship. What will happen to this couple who are tremendously bonded, but have to decide if their jobs and lives can meld permanently or if it would be better to go their separate ways?
Here is an excerpt from Footprints in the Frost:
At 5:00 Max pulled on his beige London Fog trench coat as he sauntered toward the elevator. After long years on the force, he no longer wore a uniform, but this familiar garb seemed to be quite “uniform” among the men who made up the detective units of the police department.
The door to the elevator opened and Max stepped in among the men and women in uniforms or suits and the chic secretaries or female officers taking it to the ground floor. Reaching the lobby, he exited out the front door. As he approached the parking garage, he couldn’t help but puff with pride at the sight of his car. The many hours of his loving care had paid off. The Corvette and his mountain cabin were hard-earned and Max’s only luxuries. After high school, he had raced cars professionally for a time and the thrill of speed still remained inside his heart. It was probably one of his two vices – the other being a fondness for the lovely ladies.
Pulling into the rush hour traffic, Max noted that the rain beaded up on the waxed hood and was secretly pleased with himself. Minutes later, he was in front of Sami’s bookstore where the CLOSED sign hung on the front door. Knocking three times, Max was admitted by Sami who had only one boot on and was busy tucking her knit shirt into her jeans while she bounced on her unshod foot.
“Hi! Did you remember to bring your thermos? There’s a pot of coffee waiting to go with us.”
Sami was of average height and her figure was slim, but curvy. She had eyes the same shade of blue as robin’s eggs. Her irises were outlined by a deep violet ring and her eyes were fringed with a double row of long, black lashes. She wore her thick, almost black, curly hair long and well below her shoulders. Max had a preference for brunettes and was secretly proud that she looked so much younger than he did, even though he was merely two years older.
“It’s in the car. I’m gonna load your luggage into the trunk before I change clothes and I’ll bring it in when I come back.”
“Okay, good idea.”
Max gathered Sami’s luggage and stepped back outside into the rain. Within a few minutes, he returned to the store, soaking wet. “Do you mind if I change and hang up my wet duds in the back, Babe?” Max had a propensity to call all of the women who wandered in and out of his life “Babe”. And Sami well knew the reason for that, but it didn’t bother her. She knew that, while some may have considered that to be chauvinistic, Max truly liked women and had a great respect for them.
“Not at all, but give me the thermos and I’ll fill it. I hope this rain doesn’t go as far as Colorado with us.” Sami tilted her head up at his rain-soaked handsome face and smiled invitingly, as Max reached a wet hand out to give her his thermos bottle. “It could be kind of cozy, though.”
She couldn’t help but notice the numerous white scars on his right hand and wrist. One night on duty, after a long and exhausting foot chase, the suspect had jumped into a parked car and locked the doors, refusing to come out or roll down the windows so that Max could talk to him. Max, being Max, simply put his fist through the window of the driver’s side door, reached in and unlocked it, pulled the door open, the guy out and pushed him up against the side of the car where he held him there with his cut and bleeding hand. He didn’t talk about those scars with anyone, but she’d asked him about it once. There were other job related subjects that he never wanted to discuss, even though she knew about them. Just not from him. She handed him a towel to dry his face, hands and hair. Then he took her softly in his arms and slowly kissed her. She adored this big man and the kiss jarred her, as his kisses always did.
My ✰✰✰✰✰ review:
In Footprints in the Frost, the author interweaves a romance, a crime, police detection and court procedure into a story that’s skillfully written. The Colorado mountain setting is breathtaking. While the crime is a large part of the story, the reader is immediately drawn into the two main character’s thoughts and actions. Sami, the bookstore owner, is cautiously in love. She puts up with quite a lot from Max, the police detective, who says he’s also in love, but neglects Sami for long periods of time because of his job, and seems to be totally unaware that his flirtations and interactions with other women might cause her pain. Sami and Max stay in the reader’s mind throughout the story, as their ups and downs on the way to making a more permanent commitment will have the reader continually turning pages to find out if they will ever make it to the altar.
Jackie Taylor Zortman
Author: FOOTPRINTS IN THE FROST – First Place Award Winning Novel
Author: WE ARE DIFFERENT NOW – A grandparent’s journey through grief.
Amazon Author: www.amazon.com/author/jackietaylorzortman
Member: Public Safety Writers Association
Winner of 5 Writing Awards
Jackie and I would love to hear from you, so please feel free to leave a comment.
This week I’m hosting author, Peggy Hanson.
Peggy Hanson is an author and travel blogger who loves to share her international life with her readers. Peace Corps,Voice of America, teaching of English–all these have played major roles in her life. Growing up in a series of small towns in Colorado, the daughter of a mountain-climbing Congregational minister and teacher, probably helped mold her affinity to nomadism. In her adult life, she’s lived for extended periods in Turkey, Yemen, India and Indonesia. Her first two books are mysteries in the Elizabeth Darcy series set in other countries: DEADLINE ISTANBUL and DEADLINE YEMEN. She is currently working on the third in that series, DEADLINE INDONESIA, and is also compiling and editing her great aunt Mary’s diaries and letters and pictures from 1888-1920 when she was a missionary teacher and principal in the Balkans. The working title of the diaries is MISS MATTHEWS OF MACEDONIA. or UNHOLY DEATH ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS. It is a story of early feminism and a woman’s bravery in the face of war.
In the past, Peggy has contributed travel articles to magazines in India. Recently she has started travel blogging forjourneywoman.com and travelgogirl.com. Her most recent blog is entitled THE TURKISH DELIGHTS: Women to Travel With, Women to Love.
When time permits, Peggy leads groups of friends to Turkey. And she travels with her economist husband and with a group of close friends who call themselves The Delights. Read the blog on travelgogirl.com to learn more about that group of amazing women! Peggy lives near Washington D.C. with her husband and two energetic kittens.
Called to Yemen to help her old friend Halima, correspondent Elizabeth Darcy combines work with the chance to repay an old debt. But the narrow, mysterious streets are populated with armed men and veiled women; who can tell friend from foe? Her first priority is to help Halima’s young brother Ali, who has become involved with religious extremists. But murder dogs her footsteps, and she is under police surveillance. Abducted along her investigative trail, Elizabeth is drawn into the terrorists’ web. She must work with two men—one Yemeni, one British—who are on a mission of their own. What are their plans? And why have they all ended up in the remote Hadhramaut wadi where the Incense Road once began? Elizabeth pieces together the plot, hoping she’s in time to save Halima and Ali. But can she save herself as well?
Here is an excerpt:
The perpetual charm of Arabia is that the traveler finds his level there simply as a human being. Freya Stark, A Winter in Arabia 1997
It’s a myth that a woman needs a male escort in the Middle East. My taxi driver treated me just as he would any man: he tried to cheat me.
“Fifty riyals?” I asked in mock amazement, leaning into the window. “I won’t pay more than thirty.” My Arabic was rough but, within these parameters, understandable.
The driver I’d selected from the line of jalopies adjusted his loose turban, shifted his wad of qat to one side of his mouth, spat green juice onto the ground and gestured for me to get in—a magnanimous act of compromise on the price. He didn’t offer to help me, so I pushed my carry-on into the front seat and crawled into the plastic-covered back seat. The dashboard had fake fur all over it and looked like a poor ragged animal that had had a hard winter. Egyptian music whined from the radio. I didn’t even look for a seat belt.
The e-mail had arrived in the Trib newsroom in Washington three days earlier. Its heading said, “from Halima in Sana’a.” The message itself was spare: “Come. Please.”
Halima is not the sort to exaggerate. Given the debt I owed her—in truth, my life—my reaction was intense and personal. And here I was.
I’d had a companionable chat on the plane with a charming international type who said his name was Michael Petrovich, so I hadn’t expected to be taking a taxi alone in the middle of the night. I’d thought I’d be dropped off at the hotel in gentlemanly fashion. But plane relationships often don’t last past the luggage carousel, and this one was no different.
He’d turned to me as we watched the line of shabby bags squeak past, stuck out his hand, and with an ambiguous look in his eyes, said, “Elizabeth, this has been a pleasure. More than you can know. I hope to see you again in Sana’a. I’m being picked up for a meeting. Will you be all right?” Petrovich’s gray eyes looked regretful through the haze from passengers lighting up after the flight.
Meeting at midnight?
“Of course!” I laughed. “I’m fine.”
I picked up my carry-on and marched out into chill desert mountain air to the row of jalopies at the taxi stand while he still waited for his luggage. I travel light and unencumbered. The man from the front seat of the plane, the quiet one with khaki pants and a laptop who’d watched as Petrovich and I had walked up and down the plane at the Cairo stop, stood at the baggage carousel waiting for his luggage, too. I’d nodded briskly and felt his gaze follow me.
“Peggy Hanson’s Deadline Yemen is terrific. She brilliantly captures its mystery and its fascination, and yes, its dangers as well. I know—I’ve been there.” – Charles Todd, author of the Ian Rutledge Mysteries and the Bess Crawford mysteries.
“I love learning something new when I read fiction, and Deadline Yemen fills the bill. This is more than a compelling mystery. It’s an education about a place filled with complications, paradox, conflict and deep beauty. In short, this book is a treasure.” – Anne Hillerman, author of Spider Woman’s Daughter, a Joe Leaphorn/Jim Chee mystery.
Deadline Yemen cover by Anne
Other books in the series:
Deadline Indonesia – coming soon!
Peggy has chosen to do a book giveaway for Deadline Yemen. She’ll pick one winner from the readers who leave comments. So please feel free to do so. and good luck to everyone.