Saturday, December 1, 2012

Tall Chambers: Justified Action

 Earl Staggs

Thanks, Pat, for hosting this stop on the Mystery We Write Blog Tour.  I see you’ve even provided cookies.  All right!  Chocolate chip!  My favorite.

You asked us to talk about how we created and developed one of our characters. I’d like to talk about the development of the main character in my new book.

When I began writing TALL CHAMBERS: JUSTIFIED ACTION, I spent a lot of time developing the main character. The backdrop of the story concerns dealing with terrorists who commit the horrendous act of taking innocent lives. My guy would work for a secretive agency which tracks terrorists and stops them by whatever means necessary. With that as the foundation on which the story would be built, however, the focus soon changes to a more personal and emotional one.

I knew my guy would need the appropriate skills and training for the violent kill or be killed nature of the agency. I gave him a background in Army Special Forces.  He would have experience leading black ops missions in foreign nations, particularly the Middle East.

I decided he would be named Tall Chambers.

When the story begins, Tall is thirty-seven-years old and waiting out the last three months of his twenty-years of Army service. He had risen to the rank of Captain, but after an ugly incident with a Colonel, was demoted to Lieutenant and assigned to a routine and boring desk job at the Pentagon. With his background and experience, the job is unbearable, and Tall is anxious to leave the Army behind. He’s not sure what he will do with his life as a civilian.

When he receives a phone call from an old friend from Special Forces inviting him to take a quick trip to Texas, Tall leaps at the chance to get away from his desk for a few hours. When he asks why they are going to Texas, his friend says they’re going to blow up some people. Tall thinks his friend is joking. On the flight to Dallas, he learns it is no joke. Two vans filled with suicide bombers are on their way to a mall. They plan to explode their bombs inside the mall, killing themselves and more than 2,000 shoppers. The only way to prevent the loss of innocent lives is to blow up the vans before they get to the mall. Under those circumstances, Tall agrees to help.

After it’s over, Tall is invited by his friend to join the special anti-terrorist agency. The agency’s mantra is, “Kill one terrorist, save a hundred lives.” Tall is not fond of killing, but he soon learns to think about the lives saved, not those taken.

Everything changes for Tall when someone dear to him is killed. His only agenda then becomes finding the person responsible. Finding that person requires Tall to make a deal with the worst terrorist of them all. Along the way, he learns some people in high offices are involved in a conspiracy to put a corrupt power in the Oval Office. Tall must choose between exacting personal revenge or stopping them.

I was quite pleased with the way Tall worked out as a character and with the book as a whole.  TALL CHAMBERS: JUSTIFIED ACTION will be available soon in print form as well as ebook. Watch for announcements on my website

You’re invited to visit my website now if you’d like where you can:

. . .read Chapter One of my Mystery novel, MEMORY OF A MURDER.

. . .read a short story called “The Day I Almost Became a Great Writer.” Some say it’s the funniest story I’ve ever written.

. . .read “White Hats and Happy Trails,” a story about the day I spent with my boyhood idol, Roy Rogers.  There’s even a picture of my wife and me with Roy to prove it’s all true.

. . .check out SHORT STORIES OF EARL STAGGS, a collection of 16 of my published tales of mystery, ranging from hardboiled to humorous, available in ebook or print form.

But you can’t go yet. Please leave a comment while you’re here and you may win a free book.

At the end of the tour, I’ll draw two names from those who left comments.  The first name drawn will receive a signed print copy of MEMORY OF A MURDER, a mystery novel with a long list of Five Star Reviews.  The second name drawn will receive their choice of a signed print copy or an ebook of SHORT STORIES OF EARL STAGGS, a collection of 16 tales of mystery from hardboiled to humorous.
Now you can go.
Thanks for everyone who came by. And thanks again, Pat, for being such a gracious hostess. The tour bus is ready to roll on to the next stop. I hope you don’t mind if I take a few cookies for the road.   

Earl Staggs

Mystery author Earl Staggs recently received his second Derringer Award for Best Short Story of the Year. His novel MEMORY OF A MURDER earned a long list of Five Star reviews. SHORT STORIES OF EARL STAGGS, a collection of 16 Mystery tales, is available in print and ebook. He served as Managing Editor of Futures Mystery Magazine and as President of the Short Mystery Fiction Society. He’s a contributing blog member of Murderous Musings and Make Mine Mystery and a frequent speaker at conferences.

Friday, November 30, 2012

"Frank, Incense and Muriel" by Anne K. Albert

Thanks for featuring me today, Patricia. The topic you asked me to discuss is how I created and developed the characters for FRANK, INCENSE AND MURIEL. While I wish I could say they just popped into my head, that’s not altogether true. Many years ago, while teaching, I met a twelve-year old boy named Frankie Salerno. For whatever reason, I never quite forgot him--or his name. 
When it came time to write FRANK, INCENSE AND MURIEL, I wondered what that young boy might be like now as a grown man. He’d been a cute kid, and utterly delightful (when the mood struck). I was certain he’d matured, but I fully expected evidence of that boyish charm just lurking below the surface!
The fictional Frankie Salerno is larger than life, confident of his abilities as a private investigator, and comfortable in his own skin. He’s charming, determined and driven, while his Italian ancestry and devotion to friends and family keep him grounded. He’s a hero male readers can identify with, and one female readers can’t help but fall in love with.
As for the heroine, Muriel, she’s Frankie’s opposite. He’s street wise, she’s book smart. He’s an extrovert, she’s an introvert. He thinks outside of the box, she follows the rules. And yet, in so many ways, they complement each other. She makes him want to be a better man, and he gives her the confidence to accept her femininity and realize that embracing her gender does not in any way undermine her impressive mental capabilities.
Unlike some authors whose characters appear fully developed, I learn a little about mine each time I meet with them on the page. It’s a process similar to meeting a person for the first time. You’re introduced, and in a few brief seconds, you make a snap impression of who you think they are. With each additional encounter, those notions are either proven or discarded until a clear picture of who they are emerges.
Regarding character trait charts and flaws, I’ve tried to figure it all out beforehand, but it’s a waste of time and energy. I write organically, without knowing where I’m headed, what’s going to happen or whom I’ll meet along the way. When I began writing Frank, Incense and Muriel, I knew their names, but nothing more. I write to not only discover where the plot is going, but also to get to know the characters.
Frankie and Muriel are very real to me. They have flaws, foibles, quirks and strengths. As the months and years pass in the series (I envision at least six books), they’ll grow older and wiser. They’ll develop and mature much like the rest of us. I’ll deal with that and the ramifications of their growth when the time comes!
In closing, I’d like to share the blurb of the story.
Frank, Incense and Muriel takes place the week before Christmas when the stress of the holidays is enough to frazzle anyone’s nerves. Tensions increase when a friend begs Muriel to team up with a sexy private investigator to find a missing woman. Forced to deal with an embezzler, kidnapper, and femme fatale is bad enough, but add Muriel’s zany yet loveable family to the mix and their desire to win the coveted D-DAY (Death Defying Act of the Year) Award, and the situation can only get worse. This story, book one of the Muriel Reeves Mysteries, is recipient of the prestigious 2011 Holt Medallion Award of Merit.

I’d like to encourage readers to enter my giveaway contest. Up for grabs is an e-copy of FRANK, INCENSE AND MURIEL. Leave a comment and you're automatically entered.The winner will be chosen at random and announced on my blog on December 11, 2012. Good luck!

Bio: Anne K. Albert’s award winning mystery and romantic suspense stories chill the spine, warm the heart and soothe the soul…all with a delightful touch of humor. When not at the keyboard she loves to travel, walk on a beach, visit friends and family, and of course, read using ‘Threegio’ her beloved and much cherished Kindle 3G. 
She can be found online at FacebookTwitterGoogle+LinkedInGoodreadsPinterestAmazon and her blog. 

Anne K. Albert

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The characters in the "Just Call Me Angel" series

S.R. Claridge
Lucia Maratinzano may not be the main character in the Just Call Me Angel series, but she is, by far, one of the most comical.  Sister to the Cappo Di Tuti Capi, Lucia ran from the Mafia lifestyle at a young age, changing her name to Olga.  Years later she became the beloved Aunt Olga, guardian to the main character in the series, Angel.  Now, in her mid-seventies, Aunt Olga is meddlesome, feisty and her taste in men hasn’t aged with the rest of her.  She likes them young and hot and isn’t afraid to verbalize what she’d like to do with them.  She eavesdrops and tries to play matchmaker, but the most dangerous thing about Aunt Olga is her Taser. She’s Tasered her brother one time, and doesn’t hide the fact that she’d like to do it again.  She calls her brother, Giovanni, an “old coot.” She’s a hot-headed, Italian woman who makes a mean manicotti and the best homemade Cannoli in all of Chicago.

I developed the character of Aunt Olga to provide comic relief in what can otherwise become an intense Mafia world.  In developing her, two people instantly came to mind.  First, my great aunt named Olga Rudanovich.  I used to call her “Aunt Olgs” when I was little.  I don’t remember a lot about her, other than she waddled a bit when she walked and she always gave me Strudel.  The second woman was a friend of my mother’s named Jan Neely.  I used to call her “Granny Janny,” and was she a hoot!  She always had advice to give, a witty phrase and a big smile.  These women combined became Angel’s Aunt Olga in the Just Call Me Angel series.

My name is Susan Claridge and I write under the name, S.R.Claridge. I'm a mom, a wife, a daughter, a sister, a niece, an in-law and friend; but no matter what hat I wear, I’m always the same simply, complicated woman beneath. I love autumn,
moonlight and Grey Goose Vodka martinis with bleu cheese olives. I believe Friday nights were made for Mexican food and margaritas and Sunday mornings warrant an extra-spicy Bloody Mary. I love Jesus and know that any good in me comes from God. I believe in the power of prayer, in the freedom of forgiveness and that people can change. I have a terrible temper and a tender heart, and somehow they balance. At times I may appear teetering on the edge, but I'd rather walk dangerously where there's a view than let life pass me by. Relationships intrigue me and so does the loyalty of Mafia families, which is why I chose these topics for my novels.

No Easy Way  (debut novel; nominated for The Molly Award from the HODRW 2010) 
Tetterbaum’s Truth (book 1 in the Just Call Me Angel series) 
Traitors Among Us (book 2 in the Just Call Me Angel series) 
Russian Uprising (book 3 in the Just Call Me Angel series) 
Death Trap (book 4 in the Just Call Me Angel series) 
Petals of Blood (short story; Pushcart Prize Nomination 2013)
House of Lies (political/cult suspense, to be released October 2012)


"I’d like to encourage readers to enter my giveaway contest. I will be giving away an ebook copy of TETTERBAUM'S TRUTH, book one in the Just Call Me Angel series; or if you've already read Tetterbaum's Truth, you may select another novel of your choice and receive that e-copy instead.  Leave a comment below and you're automatically entered. Include your email address in your comment so I can get in touch with you should your name be selected at random. The winner will be announced on my blog ( ) on December 11, 2012. Good luck!"