Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Sacrificing Sapphire (Sapphire Dubois Mysteries Book #4) Release Day!

The day is here!

Sacrificing Sapphire, the fourth book in the Sapphire Dubois Mystery Series about the heiress who captures serial killers, is finally out and available! The eBook is available for all formats via most eBook retailers (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iTunes, Google Play, or Buy Direct.) And the print is available via Amazon, Barnes & Noble (order online or at the store.),

The journey to get here, from staring at the blank page to the book being published, has been as much of a roller coaster as ever. I'd like to thank my agent, publisher, (Diversion Books) and readers for getting me this far. Four books in, one more to go! It's be an adventure, that's for sure.
I'd also like to send a special thanks to the ARC reviewers, who have absolutely exceeded my expectations this time around with their kind words! See HERE!

Here it is guys:

Book 4 in the Sapphire Dubois Series: SACRIFICING SAPPHIRE!

Beverly Hills’ heiress and hunter of serial killers Sapphire Dubois is back in this ferocious, festive, and funny mystery—one where her marriage, her life, and the life of a little girl are at risk in a madman’s twisted sacrament.
Sapphire Dubois is about to celebrate her first Christmas in Beverly Hills with her new husband, Detective Aston Ridder. She has assured him that her days of defying death to save victims from serial killers are over. But after three months of marriage she hasn’t kicked the habit. Sapphire feels compelled to check out a lead—two women with similar descriptions have vanished from the same location. After breaking her promise, the daring crime fighter gets abducted by the very killer she was hunting.
While a distraught Aston scrambles to find his missing wife, Sapphire wakes up in a bizarre reality where she is now the victim, forced to play a part in her abductor’s sick ritualistic game. Soon she realizes she’s not alone; a little girl is imprisoned with her, and Sapphire is her only chance of escape.
Sacrificing Sapphire combines rich L.A. sass and smarts with thrilling psychological suspense.

Mia Thompson is a Swedish-born author living in California with her husband, daughter, and dog, Oreo. She is known for her internationally bestselling series, featuring heiress and vigilante: Sapphire Dubois. Prior to her life as a novelist, Mia studied Filmmaking in Europe, and Screenwriting in Los Angeles.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Sentencing Sapphire Book Club Begins on Wattpad

It's that time again!
With book four of the Sapphire Dubois Mystery Series, Sacrificing Sapphire's December 12th release being just around the corner, I'm starting the Sentencing Sapphire on Wattpad! Yay!

Both Book Clubs for Stalking Sapphire (book one) and Silencing Sapphire (book two) are still open on Wattpad, so if you haven't read them yet, now is a good time.

The Sentencing Sapphire Book Club will work a bit different than its predecessors. This time around, I have divided the full book into two sections. Part One will end with a few food-for-thought book club questions. After a short break, Part Two will be posted and followed by a special treat JUST for Wattpad readers! Stayed tuned for details.

So, without further ado, here it is...
The Sentencing Sapphire Book Club on Wattpad is officially open!

Mia Thompson is a Swedish-born author living in California with her husband, daughter, and dog, Oreo. She is known for her internationally bestselling series, featuring heiress and vigilante: Sapphire Dubois. Prior to her life as a novelist, Mia studied Filmmaking in Europe, and Screenwriting in Los Angeles.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Books That Captured The Imagination

In honor of National Book Month, I'd thought it would be fun to think back on the books that first sparked my imagination--the stories that pulled me in and remember the authors who bear some responsibility for my writing today. (God have mercy on their souls)

I've always been a reader. My taste and preferences may have shifted over the years, but I really can't recall a time when I wasn't reading something for pleasure. My college years were a low point because all the "boring required reading" took time away from "the good stuff." But, my first reading memories were back in junior high school, when I found science fiction.

Arthur C. Clarke, H.G Wells, Issac Asimov, and Ray Bradbury created entire worlds I could climb into, with fantastic creatures and futuristic machines that threatened to control all mankind. It was all pretty heady stuff for an adolescent geeky kid. War of the Worlds, The Time Machine, 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Sands of Mars, I Robot, Fahrenheit 451, Something Wicked this Way Comes, and The Illustrated Man were standouts from those days.

These futuristic stories came to me during the peak of the Gemini and Apollo space programs. (Ask your parents if this reference pre-dates you) Watching real-life manned space flights and witnessing man's first steps on the moon made the outer space stories feel less science fiction and more science fact. I was hooked.

Soon after, I included classic horror into my reading addiction. I can say it was an addiction, even in those early days, because I remember grabbing a book and getting lost in it during any free time I had. I knew I was helpless over my addiction when I was waiting for the bus after school. I was deep into Bram Stoker's Dracula and at some dramatic point in the book, the school bells sounded, and I jumped and slid off the wall I was sitting on. Stoker, Shelly, and Poe were a gateway drug to Jay Anson, Thomas Harris, Ann Rice, and Stephen King.

I still dive into horror and fantasy on occasion, but at some point, mainstream fiction became my primary reading preference. It started with Ian Flemming and the James Bond adventures. What kid doesn't imagine playing that role? Supplemented with Ken Follett's Eye of the Needle, Fredrick Forsyth's Day of the Jackal, my reading list was filled with fast-paced, high-stakes adventures in exotic locations.

I'm not sure when I turned to crime--I mean--turned to reading crime fiction. I remember reading Micky Spillane and Raymond Chandler when something resonated, deep in my brain. The free-wheeling private investigator, the guy who tracked down a Maltese Falcon, or got justice for the little guy, was a man you could count on to do the right thing, no matter the personal sacrifice. Elmore Leonard's dialogue blew me away,  Walter Mosley's gritty urban basement clubs and after hours dive bars explored post-war race relations as Easy Rawlins searched for a missing woman. Although, more recently, Danny Gardner's Negro and an Ofay blew the doors off urban-noir and took it to a higher level. Check that one out when you get a chance.

I worked in the California prison system for nearly three decades. The stories there propelled me into the true crime and procedural genre titles. In Cold Blood, The Black Dahlia, Helter Skelter, and the Onion Field gave a backstory to the day-to-day prison drama I saw. The Onion Field Killer and the Hillside Strangler were on my caseload for a time and these books provided a peek into another dimension of the convicts I saw on the prison yard. Additional clues into what made them "tick."

Procedurals with a tight edge remain my drug of choice. Jeffery Deaver, Michael Connelly, Dennis Lehane, couldn't write fast enough, so I decided to start writing my own. I attended a session at a Mystery Writers Conference and Michael Connelly's advice was simply, "Write the books you'd want to read." And three published books in, I'm having a blast. I haven't stopped reading, now that I'm writing. I'm probably reading even more than ever. There are more new faces; debut authors, incredibly brilliant women writers, and persons of color in the crime writing world, and it makes it a better, richer place. I love nothing more than picking up a new book and getting caught up in a fresh character and unique plot.  I'm enjoying the work of some really sharp, talented writers, and I'm glad to be a part of this community. And it's a great time to be a reader.

How about you? What books have been an influence on you?  Happy reading!

James L'Etoile has twenty-nine years of law enforcement experience in prisons and jails across the country. An experienced associate warden in a maximum security prison, chief of institution operations, hostage negotiator, and director of parole, James is the author of At What Cost, Bury the Past and Little River. You can find out more at jamesletoile.com

Monday, October 23, 2017

Lessons of Revenge Writing

Revenge writing, it's a thing.
Not quite as gross and well known as revenge porn, or going Carrie Underwood on someone's car, but I promise, it's a thing. Ask the Swift.

I revenge write from time to time. Hell, I've even revenge written for other people (see Sacrificing Sapphire, out on December 12.) As a writer I work things out consciously or subconsciously through my writing, and revenge writing, I suppose is a part of that. It's seems, to me at least, like a very healthy way of dealing with issues that would otherwise have remained unresolved. And, since it's just storytelling, revenge writing, isn't something that ever comes back to bite you in the ass. By all means, it's absolutely bulletproof.

Or so I thought...

The first time I found myself revenge plotting (I always revenge plot before I revenge write, otherwise it leads to too much revenge editing) I had been in a long-running argument with my husband about...actually, to properly tell this tale of love and hate--mostly hate--I have to take you back to its beginnings.


I was studying Screenwriting in Los Angeles at the time, and was involuntarily crushing on a guy in my class. It was involuntary because the last thing I wanted at that time was to be distracted by anything unrelated to writing. Nonetheless, I was crushing hard. So hard that I was too mesmerized by his charming smile and bright blue eyes to notice what was on the black T-shirt he wore every once in a while.


I was now married to my crush, and though I was still mesmerized by his charming smile and bright blue eyes, I'd become well aware of what that black T-shirt, with the bold white letters, stated:
I don't take shit. I don't give shit. I'm not in the shit business. 

Not that bad, right? The slogan moderately annoyed me, but it could've been worse; he could've owned one of those FBI - Female Body Inspector shirts.
But the more he wore this shirt, the more it annoyed me. He wore it like it was any other shirt--to the movies, the grocery store, and once to a fairly nice restaurant in Beverly Hills. I'm generally not one who cares that much about how one should look, act, and speak, but this shirt was starting to rub me the wrong way. Every time he put it on I started feeling as if the shirt, along with its now majorly annoying slogan, initiated a Eastwood-like stare down, while singing I'm ba-aaack.
Over the coming years, my relationship with the T-shirt went from dislike, to detest, to hate. And my husband really couldn't see what my problem was.

2009 (maybe..?)

I was in the middle of my initial bout with writing my first novel, Stalking Sapphire, in which the male MC, Aston, starts out in the series as an assh**e. As I sat there typing away, the thought struck me and my fingers froze momentarily over the keyboard. What would an asshole wear, if not THE T-shirt hanging in the closet at that very moment, silently mocking me.
I saw it all play out in my mind's eye. It was top-shelf vengeance. I would write the novel, and one day so many people would read it that when my husband and I walked down the street, readers would stop me and say: "Gosh, that really was one terrible T-shirt in chapter 6."
After which my husband, who may be the most stubborn person on earth, would look at me and say, "Yes. I can see now. It is the second worst T-shirt (the first being the FBI one) since the history of T-shirts. Let's BURN it." 

Yes! I thought and smiled, that was exactly how it would happen. And then I typed.


The T-shirt in question mysteriously (eh...) vanished while I was doing laundry.


Stalking Sapphire got published earlier that year, and had just been put up on Wattpad because its sequel was coming out. For those who don't know, Wattpad=online Mecca for readers and writers. After a few months on there, and right around the time Stalking Sapphire reached a million reads, I decided to shut off my comment notifications to save my email inbox from filling up.

Present Day (-ish.)

A couple weeks ago, I went into Wattpad to check on something and ended up at the beginning of chapter 6 of Stalking Sapphire. That's when I saw them, the amount of comments that had been filling up over the past four years, all centered around this dialogue cluster.

My fantasy had (kind of) come true. I was Thrilled! Ecstatic!  People hated the shirt just as much as I did. Practically radiating with gloat, I clicked on the comment bubble and waited as the page loaded, the way Ralphie waited for the secret code to be revealed in A Christmas Story. The moment the comments appeared I would run up to my husband while pointing and yelling: "See! Seeeeeeee!"
After which he would immediately admit that yes, it was a terrible shirt, and it was a good thing it mysteriously (eh...) vanished in the laundry.
As the comments appeared on my screen, my victorious grin tapered off. The longer I scrolled, the further the corners of my mouth dropped, until finally, I looked like the saddest of all emojjis.
Here are just a few of the comments I saw:

They all loved it. My husband's shirt had not gotten a single negative comment. What else was I wrong about, I wondered. Did red and pink not really clash? Was the ending of Dexter not actually terrible? My way of viewing the world could be completely upside down.

"Oh my God," I said, baffled.

"What?" my husband asked.

"You win..." I said, in shock. "They love your T-shirt. I don't know why, but they love it."

He squinted. "What T-shirt?"

"Come on, the T-shirt. The one that mysteriously (eh...) vanished  in the laundry a few years ago."

No response.

"The one that I hated so much that I wrote about it in my book..."

Still nothing.

"The one that said 'I don't take shit, I don't give shit, I'm not in the shit business!'"

"Haha! Right...hilarious," he laughed, then his eyes grew wide with excitement, and he reached for his phone. "I wonder if I can find it again!"


So...lesson learned. Will now proceed with revenge writing more cautiously as it appears not all of it is as bulletproof as I once thought. It seems it may actually come back to bite you in the ass after all...even if it's a decade later.

Mia Thompson is a Swedish-born author living in California with her husband, daughter, and dog, Oreo. She is known for her internationally bestselling series, featuring heiress and vigilante: Sapphire Dubois. Prior to her life as a novelist, Mia studied Filmmaking in Europe, and Screenwriting in Los Angeles.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

The First Book I Ever Loved

I still have it, a tattered paperback copy of the first book I really loved, Alistair MacLean's Fear is the Key. I was ten or eleven at the time, traveling with my parents, bored out of my mind, looking for something to eat. It was in my mother's handbag; I grabbed it along with an apple, and leaned back against the headboard of the bed in the economy hotel we were staying in. 

Next thing you know it's early the next morning, and I haven't moved. I remember my mom getting up to use the bathroom and yelling at me to go to bed. I ignored her.  It wasn't really a conscious decision, I was just absorbed in that book. Really absorbed: by MacLean's stylistic writing, by the smart dialogue which still sticks in my head forty years later, and by the twisting story which unfolded one little piece at a time, just enough to make you even more curious about what was happening and why. When I went to sleep a few hours later, I had received my first lesson in how a good book can transform your life. It's a lesson that's stayed with me, and one that I have re-learned time and time again.

A good book can be transformative; it can change the way you look at the world, inspire you to do new and better things, bring you to a new place, make you forget. In this case, Fear is the Key did all of those things. It made me forget about where I was (Motel 6 somewhere on the Mass Pike), and brought me to the sweltering environs of the Florida Gulf Coast. More than that, it inspired me to read prodigiously and dream about writing my own books. 

October is National Book Month, and rather than just hope some ten or eleven year-old kid somewhere is going to put down a video game and pick up a book, I thought I would share my experience. Who knows where I would be without Fear is the Key on a drizzly spring night in Palmer, Massachusetts. Reading did so much for me: opened new worlds, entertained me, educated me, and built my imagination. 

There are so many good books out there; they just need to be opened. I truly believe that the answer to so many of the problems facing our society today could be eliminated or mitigated to a significant extent by a return to books. If people flocked to libraries and book stores as often as stadiums and ball fields, think about the effect on every facet of our lives.

I wish I had some great idea to bring this about. I don't; in lieu of that, here are a couple of links to articles that do: 7 Ways to Encourage Young People to Read More and 10 Reasons Non-readers Don't Read--And How to Change their Minds.

Cheers, peter

Peter Hogenkamp is a practicing physician, public speaker and author living in Rutland, Vermont. Peter's writing credits include THE INTERN, a novel based loosely on Peter's medical internship, excerpts of which can be seen on Wattpad; ABSOLUTION, the first book of The Jesuit thriller series; and THE LAZARUS MANUSCRIPT, a stand-alone medical thriller; Peter can be found on his Author Website as well as his personal blog, PeterHogenkampWrites, where he writes about most anything. Peter is the founder and editor of The Book Stops Herethe literary blog for readers and writers written by authors, editors, agents, publishers and poets; the founder and moderator of groups on Facebook (The Library), Google+ (Fiction Writers Anonymous); and the chief of three tribes on Triberr, The Big ThrillFiction Writers and The Book Shelf. Peter tweets--against the wishes of his wife and fouchildren--at @phogenkampvt and @theprosecons. Peter can be reached at peter@peterhogenkamp.com or through his literary agent (Liz Kracht of Kimberely Cameron & Associates) at liz@kimberleycameron.com.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Every Dreamrush of Story Ideas Needs Limits

To celebrate the weeklong Amazon Kindle giveaway of his short story collection, Dreamrush, fantasy author Garrett Calcaterra discusses how limitations, as much as inspiration, help shape a story.

When people find out I’m an author, they always want to tell me about a brilliant story idea they have that I should write. I’m polite, of course, but after thanking them, I let them in on a little secret among authors: ideas aren’t the hard part when it comes to writing stories. In fact, most authors probably have more ideas than they know what to do with, and there’s a crucial step needed before an idea becomes an actual story.

No, I’m not talking about the craft of prose writing (although that is a big component of the hard-part when it comes to writing). Rather, I’m talking about imposing limitations on big ideas so that they can take shape. Let me illustrate what I mean by limitations with some examples from my collection of genre fiction, Dreamrush.

Back in 2011, I came across a call for short story submissions for a steampunk anthology. I was already a fan of the genre, but the editors had a caveat for the stories they wanted. They wanted something different than the typical Victorian England settings found in most steampunk stories. That limitation was what spurred me to write the stories “Deus ex Aurum” and “Gold Comes Out,” a pair of stories that mash up steampunk, fantasy, and alt-history during the backdrop of the California gold rush. I’d actually been wanting to write a story set during the goldrush for a while, seeing as how I grew up just a mile from where John Sutter discovered gold at Sutter’s Mill in 1848, but I’d had that “big idea” for a while, and it had amounted to nothing. It was that call for submissions that imposed limitations on the idea: not only was my story set during the goldrush, it was a steampunk world with John Sutter at the heart of the conflict.

With my novelette “Page Fault,” the set of limitations were quite different. The story was intended to be an introductory tale for a shared-world project in a creative writing class I was teaching. As a shared world project, the class and I devised an entire codex for our fictional world, which created a framework for students to write in the science fiction, fantasy, and horror genres. As such, I had to work within both those limitations, and the limitation that my story needed to set the stage for the students to go on and write their own stories. The end result was a story that not only stood on its own, but stands to this day as one of my favorite stories, incorporating elements of fantasy, noir, cyberpunk, and post-apocalyptic fiction.

The last story in my collection Dreamrush is “Wulfram,” a tie-in prequel to my fantasy series, The Dreamwielder Chronicles. In that instance, I had pages and pages of backstory and history for both the fictional world and the character Wulfram: an evil, shape-changing sorcerer who hunts my protagonist in the first book of the series. I easily could have written an entire novel chronicling Wulfram’s life, but that didn’t really fit into the production schedule nor the story arc of the series, which was meant to be a trilogy starring the dreamwielder Makarria. What made more sense was to write a tie-in short story that showed the hidden side if Wulfram, and also served double duty as a promotional story, one readers could try out without too much investment, and then if they liked it, try out Dreamwielder. With that limitation—literally a limitation to keep the story under 20 pages long—I was able to distill Wulfram’s entire life-story into a single, tragic tale that embodied who he was.

I could go on, as I’m sure any author could, but just like a big story idea, a blog post should have limits…

Get the Kindle edition of Garrett Calcaterra’s book Dreamrush for free for a limited time (August 8 – August 12, 2017) by clicking here. To learn more about the author and his series The Dreamwielder Chronicles, visit www.garrettcalcaterra.com

Monday, July 24, 2017

The Power of Blogging

There are so many reasons not to write that blog post you've been meaning to... work, family, the occasional good night's sleep. But there are many reasons you should be writing that blog post; I'd like to give you another.

A few years ago I wrote a blog about Bob Rohner MD, who taught human Pathology at Upstate Medical Center in Syracuse, NY. 
(4 Lessons from a Great Teacher.) 

Dr. Rohner was the best natural teacher I have ever had. I decided to write the post because Dr. Rohner had been a huge influence on my life, and I had never had the chance to express that to him or thank him in any way. 

I wasn't even sure he was still alive, to be honest, but that didn't make any difference to me; I wrote the post and hit Publish, feeling better about the whole thing, as if writing about him constituted some kind of partial payment to the debt I owed him. And that was that, or so I thought.

This is where the power of blogging comes in. Somehow, I have no idea how, the post got read by some person who referred it to another who referred it to another, and the next thing you know I am getting a string of e-mails from a bunch of other people, all previous students of Dr. Rohner, on whom he had had a similar influence. It was so gratifying to know that many others felt the same way, that I decided to forward the post to Dr. Bob. (And why not send the post directly to the man I wanted to thank?)

I sent the post. A few weeks later, the following e-mail showed up in my inbox:

Peter,my brother in the profession,
Thank you so much for you message, and forwarded blogs...
There are reassurances in what you wrote. ....First I can reassure you that you indeed have a talent for writing.(" Blessed is he who has an alternative profession"....old saying). Now if the federal government  fouls up the health care system of the country you can sit down and write best sellers.
Reassurance? Aye,Peter, when my Bertie (my wife of some 53 years ) died some years ago, I withdrew into the back of my cave in the Tully hills as a reclusive grumpy old man  who emerges only twice a day, mornings and afternoons, to throw rocks at the passing school buses.
I am soon to enter into my four score and seventh year with only vague memories of my days at the medical school. In fact, those days to me now are like a fleeting memory of a dream when one awakens . I need affirmation that they ever occurred. Your message  was such a affirmation and  reassurance.
Saint Paul in one of his letters mentions that no one man can be complete, but each of us has been given an individual talent. He writes of the gifts of prophesy ,healing, preaching, teaching, speaking in tongues,  and a couple  of others that I have forgotten. I found( to my surprise) that my teaching efforts were much more appreciated than I ever thought they deserved. Hell ,Pete, I thought I was just doing what I was assigned to do and it was nothing special. Like your writing....it just flowed out effortlessly one it got started.  Well, actually there was a lot of work put into the preparation of the teaching sessions  mainly because I wasn't all that damned sure of myself and so it will be with your writing.....lots of preparatory work will make the writing ,good to start with ,much better.
I keep remembering Housman's poem to a dead athlete.. especially the stanza  that goes....
"Now you will not swell the rout
of lads who lived their honors out;
runners whom Renoun outran
and the name died before the man."
Well, your message reassured me that there is a chance that my name may even yet out live me.......
NU....Peter....cherish your wife dearly, your time together is short....and thanks again for your cyber remembrance....
Love in God's name,    Bob Rohner

Dr. Rohner died last month, in his 92nd year. When I read the obituary in the Upstate Alumni Journal, I was so thankful I had taken the time to affirm and reassure a man that his life's labor had been appreciated so very much. I encourage you to do the same. I suspect there is someone in your life who 1) helped you in a tight spot, 2) gave you advice or guidance that moved your life in a better direction 3) went out of his or her way to improve your life in some way.

Take the time to acknowledge them; write a blog about the effect he or she has had on your life. I have written four such blogs, and I can assure you that each one was well worth the time I invested writing it. 

A blog I wrote about my pre-medical adviser--who had to give me some very tough advise--was especially gratifying for both of us, and many others as well. 
Look for the Silver Lining

The post I wrote about my father, the number one person in my life, both during his life and still after his death, brought him back to life for the several hours I wrote it, and every time I re-read it. Keep that in mind when you wonder why you are writing a post (or anything, that matter) it only needs to mean something to you, the rest is all a bonus.
A Father's Day Tribute to my Dad

There was also a post I wrote about my favorite professor from college, a man with whom I became good friends after I graduated.(And with whom I remain good friends, even after I wrote the post.)
A Tribute To Edward F Callahan, phD

Cheers, peter

Peter Hogenkamp is a practicing physician, public speaker and author living in Rutland, Vermont. Peter's writing credits include THE INTERN, a novel based loosely on Peter's medical internship, excerpts of which can be seen on Wattpad; ABSOLUTION, the first book of The Jesuit thriller series; and THE LAZARUS MANUSCRIPT, a stand-alone medical thriller; Peter can be found on his Author Website as well as his personal blog, PeterHogenkampWrites, where he writes about most anything. Peter is the founder and editor of The Book Stops Herethe literary blog for readers and writers written by authors, editors, agents, publishers and poets; the founder and moderator of groups on Facebook (The Library), Google+ (Fiction Writers Anonymous); and the chief of three tribes on Triberr, The Big ThrillFiction Writers and The Book Shelf. Peter tweets--against the wishes of his wife and fouchildren--at @phogenkampvt and @theprosecons. Peter can be reached at peter@peterhogenkamp.com or through his literary agent (Liz Kracht of Kimberely Cameron & Associates) at liz@kimberleycameron.com.


Sunday, June 18, 2017

Writing Historical Fantasy Fiction: Resources and Tips for Writers

The key to crafting a captivating historical fantasy is to submerge the reader’s senses.

Writing contemporary fantasy is easier by comparison because, in some way or another, we are simply recording the details of the world around us while we weave our fantasy story. Likewise, pure fantasy worlds are realities we ourselves shape. We make the gods. We make the men. We make all the rules.

When writing historicals, however, we have a duty to capture the details and the experience accurately. How does a writer capture the essence of a past era, whether 100 years ago, 300 years ago, or even millennia?

The answer: research.

As daunting a task as you may think researching your time period might be, if you write historical fantasy, you’ve probably been doing it for a long time without even realizing it.

Here are some sources and references that will be useful to the historical writer.

HISTORICAL DOCUMENTS: Yes, I will start by saying the vastest source of historical detail lies within history books. It’s absolutely true—but very daunting. Apart from earning your degree in history, what else can a writer do to get those necessary details?

FILM & SCREEN: This is avenue of research you’ve explored without really thinking about it. It may even be the reason why you’re interested in writing historical fantasy in the first place: you’ve visited a particular era and you want to go back and put your own spin on it. TV, movies, documentaries. If it’s on a screen, watch it. Get a feel for the way people move, their mannerisms, their speech. Beware, though—you cannot view one program and declare yourself a historian. You’ve got to watch a lot. Look for patterns—consistencies, oddities. Over time, you get a feel for what is perceived by most viewers as the norm. Anything outside it will be viewed either as uniquely difference or wildly inaccurate. Choose your path wisely.

TOURS: Visit the place where you’d like to set your story and seek out historical details yourself. Stop at a visitor’s bureau. Go on guided tours. If you cannot travel, take a virtual tour instead.

Those are what I consider the easy ways. Here are a few others I’ve learned from a wonderful author, Nomi Eve, the author of Henna House, a historical women’s fiction novel set in 1920s Yemen. I had the pleasure of hearing her speak at a writing conference and she gave amazing advice to authors on how to “breathe life into the past”.:

MISSIONARY & EXPLORER JOURNALS: These are first person accounts of strange lands and new places. Some were scientists, out to record every detail of a new land. Some were missionaries, eager to bring back the details of new cultures. You can collect their sensory experiences—taste, smell, sound, color—and wrap your readers in them.

COOKBOOKS: Did you just laugh at me? If you did, then stop, because one of my favorite cookbooks is one based on A Game Of Thrones. The feasts are massive, the food both eloquent and medieval. The cookbook puts me right back in the middle of George R. R. Martin’s world. My second favorite is a German cookbook that is perhaps fifty years old. I love it not only for the recipes but also the stories within, the introductions to each chapter, the side notes about preparation and serving. That cookbook transports me back into the kitchen of someone’s Bavarian great-grandmother and is a historical excursion all on its own.

Think on this a moment…how much of our lives are spend eating and drinking, alone or with others? Cookbooks will tell you not only how food tastes and looks, but how a house smells, how people prepared their meals. You know that one does not snap their fingers to have a feast appear. Work goes into food preparation, and life occurs while we do that work.

MUSEUM CATALOGS: Museums will publish and sell catalogs of their exhibits which you can purchase on-line or in museum gift stores. We can’t all travel to different continents to tour an exhibit, but we can buy the catalogs: they contain pictures of the items on exhibit, along with descriptions and explanations of their use. My favorite museum catalog is one I picked up after viewing a Leonardo DaVinci exhibit.

MUSIC & FOLKTALES: Both are wonderful sources of historical data. Lyrics are signs of the “current” times. Songs are part of a culture’s “oral tradition” and is accessible to all singers, all listeners. We even classify music by the era in which it was recorded. The language, the sentiments, and the “current events” used to write lyrics give great insight into the singer’s world at the time. The bardic tradition truly is alive and well today. Likewise, folktales are windows to the past. You can find folktale collections for sale anywhere you shop for books.

HISTORICAL SOCIETIES: The Internet makes contacting them easier than ever, and they are generally staffed by people who are passionate about the history they preserve. Nearly every town in my area has one. We have a rich coal mining history in my area and so our towns were established on the coal companies, the German and Welsh men who ran them and the Irish who worked them. Lots of history, both Old World and New, have been preserved by our local historians.

SOCIAL MEDIA: Crowdsource your contacts list. Ask questions on Facebook or Twitter. You may be surprised at who in your friends list knows the answer. Social media truly is a global community so you may find a lot of information about the world you are researching just by posting a question.

Five Tips To Improve Your Historical Fantasy Reader’s Experience
Some things to remember: when you set out to write a historical fantasy, remember that it’s a fantasy, first and foremost. You need to incorporate the proper types of plotting, characterization, and story elements necessary for the fantasy genre. The historical aspect should come secondary to the story—it anchors the story, it enhances the setting, it gives individualized details to your character, and it may cause you to alter story specifics to fit the era.

Historical aspects should submerge the readers in the experience so make sure you provide a sensory experience: sight, taste, smell, sounds, and touch.

  1. Capture your setting. Incorporate street names, landmarks.
  2. Pay mind to clothing worn at the time, especially if social classes had great disparity between them.
  3. Add a layer of language. Remember that speech varies among people based on social class and education, even personal experience. Do use slang and foreign words when appropriate. (I’m not a big fan of books written in dialect, though. I don’t want to have to sound a line out just because I didn’t know what to do with all the apostrophes and mysterious contractions.)
  4. Incorporate prevalent religious beliefs. Faith systems are very important because they may influence social behavior, mannerisms, and speech--everything from ethics to OMG.
  5. Make sure your fantasy fits the history, and vice versa. They should enhance each other, not make people wonder what the heck was that author thinking? 
The last one may be the most important tip of all. When I wrote The Heartbeat Thief, I chose to begin the story in the English Victorian era because of its societal views on death as well as a woman’s place in the world. The story itself is a vampire-type tale, where the Immortal steals heartbeats rather than drinking blood to survive. The character wanted to remain within society, not pursue a dark solitary life. A touch on another’s skin is intimate, perhaps to the point of scandalous—at least to a Victorian mind. It seemed like the fantastic elements were ideal for a Victorian setting.

Another reason why I chose that era if because the story is structured to follow Edgar Allan Poe’s story Masque of the Red Death. The first lines of the book mention the character was born the year it was published, each section is started with a relative quote from the story, and the main character’s journey through her mortal/immortal life take place in the same order as the seven apartments of Prospero’s palace. The last room is draped in the colors of black and blood and it is there that Death awaits. Once again, the fantasy and the history complement each other as perfectly as I could imagine.

Give Your Readers An Experience They’ll Never Forget
Ultimately, you want to write the story that takes a reader to a place in time and space that leaves them wondering…could this have actually happened? Historical details aren’t just decorations—they build an environment that readers can experience for themselves. You want them to journey back with you to live out that story, page by page.

And there is no greater reward than hearing a reader tell you that you got it right. This is a review  The Heartbeat Thief earned shortly after it was published.
"Krafton not only tells you a story, she makes you experience it with your senses. You can feel the fog moistening your skin as Senza wanders around London. You can smell the city's decay. You can hear the clatter of horses against the cobblestones. And your own heart will anguish along with Senza as she despairs about life--and death--in an era when a woman's beauty guaranteed her a well-matched marriage, even more than her wealth..." --Ronesa Aveela, author of the Mystical Emona series 
This review quote went a long way to validate the research I’d put into writing The Heartbeat Thief. It makes me feel proud of this book.

You should be proud of your book, also. Put serious work into researching your historical period. Don’t write your book as if it were a history lesson; write it as an amazing fantasy that dwells within the constraints of an interesting time period.

Historical details should infuse the setting and characters with the flavors unique to that place and that time. If you wrote your fantasy story a dozen different times in a dozen different historical settings, you should end up with a dozen separate, unique experiences.

Take your reader back to a time long gone by. Let the fantasy keep them there.

USA Today Best-Selling Author Ash Krafton is a speculative fiction writer who, despite having a Time Turner under her couch and three different sonic screwdrivers in her purse, still encounters difficulty with time management. She's the author of two urban fantasy series (The Books of the Demimonde and The Demon Whisperer) as well as several stand-alone titles. She also writes for upper-YA audiences (formerly under the pen name AJ Krafton). THE HEARTBEAT THIEF, her Victorian dark fantasy inspired by Poe’s “The Masque of the Red Death”, is now available.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Fiction Writing: How To Include Pets, and Why You Should

Described by readers as Silence of the Lambs
meets The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.

Blessed Mayhem, Book 2, releases July, 2017 from
Crossroad Press.

Click Here to look inside Wings of Mayhem.
I love writing pets into my stories. Not only is a great way to show a killer’s soft side, but they become important family members for the main characters. In my stories, I’ve used a Rottweiler, mastiff, and St. Bernard (MARRED and CLEAVED), a calico, tabby, and all-black cat (Wings of Mayhem), pet crows (Blessed Mayhem), and a black bear (A Sultry Abyss in SCREAM). I’ve even borrowed a friend’s Bulldog for Black Out (RUN), but I felt so responsible for him, I couldn’t include him like I’d originally planned. God forbid I returned him emotionally scarred from the experience. It’s much safer to use fictional pets.

Need a way to show your character’s quirky side? Include a bearded dragon, snapping turtle, boa, tarantula, or exotic bird.

Is your character adventurous? Give him a pet moose, lion, leopard, or tiger to love. How ‘bout a pet elephant? When writing about pets let your imagination soar.

Fit the pet to a specific character to cue readers about their personality. By using well-thought-out animals, it can say a lot about who the main players are, where they live, or even, their state of mind. It’s also fun to juxtapose. Give a tattooed biker a Chihuahua or toy poodle. Readers will love it!

A few things to keep in mind when writing pets into fiction...

If you kill the pet, you better have a damn good reason for it, a reason readers will understand.

For example, Bob and I watched John Wick recently. [SPOILER ALERT] I fell in love with the Beagle puppy that his dead wife sent him. When the bad guys murdered him I almost shut off the movie. If my husband hadn’t begged me to keep watching, that would’ve been it for me. Turns out, this moment kicked off the quest (First Plot Point in story structure). Not only is it an important scene, but if it didn’t happen there’d be no story. See? Understandable reason why he had to die. John Wick would not have gone ballistic over a stolen car. The puppy was the only thing left he cared about. It had to happen.

The safer option is to not kill the pets. 

Why Does the Character Have That Specific Pet?

Like I mentioned earlier, you need to know why the character chose that pet. Is he lonely? Does a couple use their pets to fill a maternal/paternal need? Are you using that pet as a way to show the character’s soft side? Does the pet become the only one who'll listen to their fears, sorrow, or hidden secrets? In other words, for an introverted character, pets can assume a larger role in the story so your character isn't talking to him/herself.

As the writer, you need to know why that dog, cat, bird, lizard, or bear is in the story and what role they play in the plot. Does a K9 cop track criminals? Did your criminal character train a horse to be the getaway driver? Does the killer feed his pet hogs or gators human flesh? Why that fictional pet exists is crucial to understand.

What’s the Pet’s Personality?

Catch up with the Grafton County Series.
MARRED is Book 1

Click Here to look inside.
Animal lovers know each pet has his/her own personality. If you’ve never owned the pets you’re writing about, then I suggest doing a ton of research till you feel like you have. For example, while writing Blessed Mayhem I needed to know how crows communicated and how people could interpret their calls. What separated a crow from a raven, what they felt like, what they smelled like, what foods they enjoyed most. In order to make the characters real I spent countless hours of research into the life of crows. They’re fascinating, by the way. I'm now working to coax a pet crow of my own. Story for another time. 😁

What Does the Pet Look Like and How Does S/he Act?

First, you’ve got to know the basics…their markings, voice, breed, habitat, diet, etc. Then delve deeper into the expressions they make when they’re happy, content, sleeping, aggravated, and downright pissed off. Every animal has their own unique personality, mannerisms, and traits. Stimulate the readers’ five senses. Don’t just concentrate on sight. By tapping into these deeper areas, our fictional pets come alive on the page. It can really add a great deal to a story, too. A scene where the hero or villain cuddles with a pet can add a nice break from the tension, a chance to give the reader a moment to catch their breath before plunging them back into terror.

Plus, they’re fun to write.

Does the Basset Hound snore so loudly he keeps the rest of the family awake? Is he now banished to the garage at night? Does the German Shepherd's feet twitch when he's dreaming? Does the Bulldog throw his owner the stink-eye when he can't reach his favorite toy? 

Dogs do more than bark. Use their full range of grunts, moans, groans, happy chirps, and playful growls when your character plays tug-of-war. For cats, nothing is more soothing than a purr rattling in their throat as your character drifts asleep. Soft claws are perfect to massage the hero's back after a brutal day.

Years ago, I had a pet turkey who used to love to slide his beak down each strand of my hair. This was one of the ways Lou showed affection. I'd sit in a lounge chair with a second lounge chair behind me, and Lou would work his magic till I became putty in his beak. He knew it too. After all that hard work, I couldn't deny him his favorite treats.

Symbolism and Locale

Need an already-creepy area to become even more menacing? Have vultures, eagles, ravens, or other carrion birds circle overhead. Use coyotes’ eerie chorus of howls. A lone wolf baying at the moon might be a bit cliche. Try to be more unique with your animals. The woods are filled with animal sounds.

A few favorite background noises and wildlife sounds...

Crickets and tree frogs symbolize a desolate country milieu or swampland.

Dead silence works well too, but sometimes you need that extra oomph to evoke the correct emotional response. Anyone who’s ever spent time outside, in the dark, with only wildlife around for miles, can tell you their calls have a way of raising all your tiny body hairs at once.

Ever hear a Fisher cat? Their cries sound like a baby being slaughtered. This the best YouTube video I could find, but around here they're even more sinister. When a Fisher cat screams it's a tough sound to ignore.

If your character is camping or lost in the woods, ground the reader with the songs of nature and a crackling fire.

Near a lake? Use water lapping against the shore.

Listening to nature and animal sounds can also be a great way to trigger the muse.


If your characters are snuggling with a pet in the first few chapters, then you must include them in later scenes too. Otherwise, the home environment won’t ring true. Where’d the dog go? He was in Chapter Three and now, he’s gone. What happened to him? Animal lovers will notice his/her absence.

If your villain is killed and you’ve gone to great lengths to show how much he loves his dogs, then make sure the reader knows what’ll happen to those dogs after his death. Did your hero just orphan them? Or did the villain write them into his will? Maybe he or she has a family member that will care for the dogs. The tiny details matter. Think of it in terms of yourself. If you own an African Gray, then chances are s/he will outlive you. What provisions have you set in place for his/her care after you’re gone? Same goes for fictional pets.

Aging Pets

Everyone ages, even fictional pets. Sometimes the years aren't kind. Does your dog character limp from arthritis? Then you can't let him charge out the door with a spring in his step. He needs to lumber into a room. He's slower than your younger animal characters. His muzzle now has gray. Around the eyes are graying too. Maybe he takes medication for achy joints. By including the aging process readers can relate. We've all had older pets, and it broke our hearts to see them age. Unfortunately, your fictional pet needs to age too. We can prolong this process, but we need to at least show them slowing down. By doing so, we can also show the emotional angst it causes our character to see them this way.

The Day-to-Day

Does your fictional dog have a favorite squeaky toy? Does your cat like to get high on catnip? Maybe s/he knows where your character stashes the bag, and every time they leave the house the cat gets wasted. Maybe your character goes to the local butcher every Saturday to buy the family dog a bone. If your fictional dog is panting in the summer heat, please give him a bowl of water to cool off. Whatever you do, don't lock him inside a car in ninety-degree heat.

Ever see a dog drunk on apples? It's hilarious! Let your fictional dog eat fallen apples, then show him stumbling back to the house. How about peanut butter? Peanut butter and animals can be a winning combination. Does your fictional cat walk on the counters? Does your fictional dog beg for food at the dinner table? On the sly do your children characters slip bacon to him? How 'bout cauliflower, and even the dog spits it out. You get the picture.

Have fun with your fictional pets. I do. They're some of my favorite characters to write.

Check out how I used pets in CLEAVED
Book 2 in the Grafton County Series.

Plus, why I climbed inside an oil drum for research.

Click Here to look inside.

What about you? Do you enjoy reading about fictional pets? If you write, do you include pets in your stories?

Member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers, Sue Coletta is an award-winning, multi-published author in numerous anthologies, and her forensics articles have appeared in InSinC Quarterly. 

In addition to her popular crime resource blog, Sue co-hosts "Partners In Crime" on Writestream Radio Network. She's also the communications manager for the Serial Killer Project and Forensic Science and founder of #ACrimeChat on Twitter. 

Sue lives in rural New Hampshire where she's surrounded by wildlife...bear, moose, deer, even mountain lions have been spotted. Course, Sue would love to snuggle with the animals, but her husband frowns on the idea.

Enter the Summer Thrills and Chills Giveaway for a chance to win a $25 gift card and six e-books from participating authors.

Connect with Sue online, or join her mailing list and be the first to know about contests and giveaways. As a bonus, you'll also get to play in the Crime Lover's Lounge. Your secret key code will unlock the virtual door.

Twitter: @SueColetta1