Friday Feature – Author Ann Parker

 

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Bringing the Past to Life through History-Mystery

 

I’ll begin with a big THANK YOU to Kat for offering me a chance to participate in her Friday Feature so I can introduce you to my Silver Rush historical mystery series.

 

My books take place primarily—but not entirely!—in 1880 Leadville, Colorado. Leadville is a real town up at the 10,000 foot mark in the Rocky Mountains. Why, you may ask, did I settle on setting an historical mystery series in Leadville? Well, as my Uncle Walt, a Colorado native, once enthused to me, “Leadville was the site of one of the biggest silver rushes in the world! People came from all over, thinking they’d get rich overnight…”

 

Since I have lived in California all my life, I well understood frenetic craziness that ensues when folks get hooked into the “get rich quick” frame of mind (think: dot-com boom, real-estate bubble, etc.).

 

Uncle Walt continued, “…They didn’t realize that you couldn’t just pick silver ‘nuggets’ up off the ground, and that’s when all the trouble started.”

 

Trouble indeed!

 

My uncle’s enthusiasm for Leadville was infectious, so I began to research Leadville and her history, and to fashion my characters. I decided to make my protagonist Inez Stannert, named after my paternal grandmother, who was raised in Leadville but never breathed a word about it to me, despite her love of telling stories of her life in Denver (yet another mystery!). My fictional Inez Stannert runs the Silver Queen Saloon in Leadville along with her husband’s business partner, Abe Jackson, a free man of color.

 

When the first book in the series, Silver Lies, opens, the reader quickly learns that Inez’s husband, gambler and all-around-charmer Mark Stannert, has been missing for close to nine months. What has happened to him? Did he perish by falling down one of the many mining shafts? Did he just “up and leave?” Is he alive or dead? Well, such questions were not easily answered in 1880 (no Social Security numbers for tracking people down, for instance). So, Inez and Abe carry on as best they can.

 

A woman running a saloon in the wide-open boomtown of Leadville is unusual, but not unheard of: in the 1880 census, 228 men claimed the occupation of saloon keeper or bartender, compared to 3 women. So, who is Inez? She is a woman in a man’s world. She runs a high-stakes poker game, holds her whiskey with the best, plays piano beautifully enough to “make the angels weep.” She also carries a Remington pocket revolver, because who knows when trouble will strike in this tumultuous town, where the law is overwhelmed by the lawless?

 

I conveniently set the Silver Queen Saloon on the corner of the business and red-light districts.  Between that and the general “silver-induced frenzy” the silver boom brought to this region, I had no trouble at all fashioning stories that weave real-life events into my fiction. For instance, in Silver Lies, folks are “dying to get rich.” In the second book, Iron Ties, I explore the (real-life) railroad wars that finally brought the iron horse to Leadville, as well as the plight of the town and railroad’s Civil War vets, many still suffering from the aftermath of the conflict 15 years after the war’s end. The third, Leaden Skies, features the arrival of former president and Civil War general Ulysses S. Grant to town on a five-day visit. I refer to this one as my “dirty politics” book. (The more things change, the more they stay the same. Such seems to be the course of human history.)

 

Of course, there are mysterious deaths, confidence games, tomfoolery of various kinds, and everyone has their secrets—even Inez, who I like to describe as a woman with a shadowy past, a complicated present, and an uncertain future. The series also provides a bit of romance… but I won’t say much about that in fear of spoilers.

 

As I said above, my series takes place mostly—but not entirely!—in Colorado. The sixth and newest book in my series, A Dying Note, finds Inez in 1881 San Francisco, California. Now manager of a music store, she is trying to forge a new life for herself in the “Paris of the West” and put her unsavory years in Leadville behind her. However, as the Kirkus Review of this book notes, “Leaving behind a life of secrets proves no easy task.” Inez carefully constructed life threatens to tumble about her ears when the badly beaten body of a young musician washes up to shore. Inez becomes entangle in the mystery of his death when the musician turns out to have ties to Leadville, ties that threaten to explore Inez’s notorious past.  Publishers Weekly praises the “fascinating period details, flamboyant characters, and surprising plot twists,” of A Dying Note, adding, “Parker leaves the reader longing to see what Inez will get up to next.”

 

As to what new mysteries and challenges Inez may face in the seventh book, all I will say is: stay tuned!

 

Ann Parker lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she is a science writer by day and a crime fiction author by night. Her Silver Rush historical series, featuring protagonist Inez Stannert and published by Poisoned Pen Press, has won numerous awards, including the Colorado Book Award, the Colorado Gold Award, the Willa Literary Award, and the Bruce Alexander Historical Mystery Award.

 

Find out more about Ann and her series at http://annparker.net/

On Wednesdays she blogs at http://silverrushmysteries.blogspot.com/

She spends way too much time on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/annparker.writer

And pins interesting historical bits from her research on Pinterest https://www.pinterest.com/annparkerauthor/

Friday Feature – Stephanie Risner

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Juggling the Muses
“I just love your covens and your OTS stories. When is the next one coming out?” The attractive blonde mother of two hands me the latest copy of one of my series novels and smiles down at me.
Two months from now,” I say, opening the book to the page I usually sign. I stop, pause, and double check the name on the front cover.
The woman, an avid fan of my work, raises a brow and gives me a quizzical look.
“Just making sure I sign the right name,” I tell her. We both laugh.
This is my life as a writer with multiple pen names. I have to double check before I sign, triple check to make sure I’ve put the right books in the right newsletter, and be careful I’m posting the right marketing material to the right Facebook fan page.
There’s a reason I have four pen names. No, that’s not a typo. I said four.  See, when I first started my writing career, I wrote non-fiction books and articles and had a column in a national trade magazine. S. Connolly was my original nom de plume. The initial S because in college I learned quickly that female writers were taken more seriously if their gender was removed from the equation, which could be done by using the initial of the first name, and then the surname. I did submit some of my early short fiction for publication under this pen name, but aside from a few semi-pro magazines, I never sold much.
By the time I’d sold my first novel, I’d already established S. Connolly as a non-fiction author. She had a track record and people expected computer, business, and accounting articles from her, as well as books about witchcraft and demonology.  They weren’t expecting family-friendly epic fantasy. When I sold my first fantasy novel I decided to once again go with initials (first and middle this time) and my married surname – S. J. Reisner. My family-friendly pen name was born.
Four years later I started writing an urban fantasy/supernatural mystery novel. It was bloody and contained language. The characters were shady, crass, and not family-friendly. The books were at least Rated R. I didn’t want my fans with milder sensibilities to be turned off by the potty-mouthed curmudgeons, occultists, and criminals of my grittier fiction. Audrey Brice (Audrey after a great aunt) sounded like a solid urban fantasy/supernatural/paranormal/thriller/horror pen name. That’s how I ended up with pen name three.
While writing said gritty supernatural series, I ended up writing a rather provocative scene in one of the novels that my critique group outright rejected. One of my critique partners said,  “It’s too graphic for urban fantasy-mystery. Have you ever considered writing erotica? You’re actually pretty good at it.”
On a whim, I wrote a few erotic romance novellas and a novel, just to get it out of my system. Also on a whim, I tossed them up on Amazon and Barnes & Noble just because – but under a secret pen name because I didn’t want family and friends to know I was writing trashy novels. It turned out my critique partner was right. I was pretty good at writing erotica. So when I started selling tens of thousands of copies, I had to come clean and claim Anne O’Connell. After all, I’m a firm believer you need to own what you write.  Anne, from my middle name JoAnn, and O’Connell being a play on my surname Connolly.
So, that’s how I ended up with the four pen names. About now, most people wonder how I manage all of them.
Aside from the aforementioned habits, I gave up on multiple websites and blogs long ago. Most authors barely have time to maintain one site, let alone four. These days all my domains point to one website.  That website also contains one blog. I password protect the rated X stuff.  I have one Twitter, one Instagram, and one of all the other social media venues an author should have.
The hardest part seems to be keeping regular release schedules for each persona. I do well with three of them, but S. J. Reisner is the one I slack on. My imagination tends toward the grittier fiction with Audrey Brice’s supernatural horror/thrillers at the top of my priority list.
The upside of having four pen names is that I can write whatever I want to write and it will fall into one of the pen names. I’m never bored because I always have four projects to choose from. I can usually get into any event with at least one of the pen names. My readers appreciate my use of pen names because it helps them find what they’re looking for. Many of the readers from one pen name will check out the other three, and will often end up reading across several or all of my pen names.
Yes, having four pen names is a lot of work and takes a lot of juggling, but if I had to do it all over again – I wouldn’t change a thing.
——————–
When she’s not juggling four pen names, Stephanie Reisner spends her free time with her husband and three cats, and a garden full of weird plants.  www. the-quadrant.com
Published As: S. Connolly, Audrey Brice, S. J. Reisner, Anne O’Connell
Recent Novel Releases:
Falling From Grace (Anne O’Connell) (erotic romance, Midnight Fantasy Press)  April 15, 2018
Eagle’s Talon Gray (S. J. Reisner) (sword and sorcery fantasy, Darkerwood Publishing) ISBN:978-1938839085
Thirteen Covens: Bloodlines (Part One) (Audrey Brice) (supernatural thriller, Darkerwood Publishing) ISBN: 978-1938839092
Get freebies and exclusive content – subscribe to my Newsletter(s)
Visit my website for more information, www.the-quadrant.com  [ Four Pen Names, Four Elements ]

Feature Friday – Author Helen Starbuck

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Becoming a Writer

Copyright © 2018 Helen Starbuck, all rights reserved

 

People write for a lot of reasons. Writing for me has always been an escape, a way of dealing with life, and my favorite form of entertainment. The say if you don’t like the way things are, then rewrite your story. I subscribe to that wholeheartedly. My writing career got its first boost when, as a young teenager, I fell in love with Paul McCartney. My best friend and I wrote romantic stories about Paul and Ringo and it was a way to fantasize that was endlessly entertaining. I view those now as my first attempts at writing a romance novel.

Growing up I read voraciously, in fact my mother complained that I needed to put the books down and go out and ‘do something.’ I was doing something, it was just in my head and she couldn’t see it. I was never part of the ‘in crowd’. No matter how hard I tried, I just didn’t fit in. As a result, I wrote about my disappointments, about my desires and my hopes, and about guys I had had crushes on from afar. Writing about this made the lack of social grace and connection more tolerable. I think watching people and studying them, trying to figure out what makes them tick, like I did in high school, helped me write.  I think most writers have this interior life that drives them and that they use to fuel their writing. We grow and learn from other writers who inspire us.

I still watch and listen to people to hear their speech patterns, to listen to their stories, to get a feel for a character. Sometimes it’s quite amusing listening to those around you, like the twenty-something guy on his way into Home Depot talking on the phone who said, “Yeah, man I’m done. I’m having a garage sale and she’s the featured item.” I still laugh when I remember that. What perfect dialogue, his frustration and his humor visible in one line—a line I intend to use in one of my stories.

The urge to tell a story has always been strong for me. I love mysteries and suspense novels and it always helps if there is a little bit of romance to spice things up. I grew up in Colorado and I write a mystery series set in Denver with an OR nurse as the protagonist and narrator. Professionally, I am an OR nurse so I write what I know. I have learned as a nurse to listen to what is said and what is not said. People tell nurses things they rarely tell other people and you get a great sense of the human experience.

My first book, published in October 2017, is The Mad Hatter’s Son, An Annie Collins Mystery. It’s a tale of love, friendship, betrayal, and consequences. Annie Collins, a nurse used to caring for others in the OR, is drawn unwillingly into the chaos that is her long-time friend Libby Matheisen’s life. With puzzling symptoms and a plea for help, Annie wonders whether Libby is really ill or whether there’s more to the story than what Libby is saying. Faced with Libby’s apparent suicide, Annie is beside herself with guilt and unable to stop asking questions to uncover the truth. The answers to these questions don’t come without a price. Faced with a friend’s life that has derailed, pursuing the mystery of her illness and death threatens to derail Annie’s life as well.

The Mad Hatter’s Son is loosely based on a patient I helped take care of years ago. She had very puzzling symptoms and it took her doctors a long time to figure out what the problem was and it was a shocker. The story is not about that patient, but the circumstances are similar. I am working on the second book in the series, No Pity In Death, which I’m hoping it will be published in the fall of 2018, if everything goes according to plan. It’s a continuation of Annie’s story and involves her helping to solve a rash of patient deaths at her hospital.

 

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The paperback and e-book are currently available on Amazon and at the Tattered Cover in paperback. The audio book will be available in late May 2018. You can connect with me on my website www.helenstarbuck.com where you can sign up for my newsletter and read a teaser chapter from the next book. There are hints at the books planned for the series and a link to a radio interview I just did on Clear Creek Radio. You can also connect with me on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/helensstarbuck/  and on Twitter @helensstarbuck.

 

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