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Up All Night with Harlan Coben

coben7Harlan Coben is no nonsense. He’ll sit down for an interview, give it his all, but he’s not the kind of guy to schmooze or waste time.

I want to keep you up all night”

An air of mystery surrounds him like an invisible cloak. Fangirls flirt with him at conferences, but you can always tell, though he might be flattered, they’re wasting their time. Because the one subject Harlan Coben will stop and talk about is his family and how much he loves them.

I sat down for an interview with Harlan and discussed how his own kids inspired him to write his Mickey Bolitar series. With twenty bestselling novels, every imaginable award, and over sixty million books in print worldwide, he’s a legend.

So much so that if you think I’m nervous interviewing this giant, you’re right. (Please, Harlan, forgive the insertion of an “R” into your last name. You must think me an utter fool, but were nice enough to never even correct me.)

His focus is amazing. Despite people knocking on doors and barging into the interview room, he never missed a beat. I am sure that’s what makes him the powerhouse he is. His take-no-prisoners, stick your butt in the chair and write, attitude means that he’s centered on quality product.

As he says in the interview,  “I want to keep you up all night, I want you to curse me in the morning, and that’s really my job.”

Celebrating Our Veterans

Heroes are important to writers — especially thriller and suspense writers. They are key to making a plot work, for giving us swoon worthy moments, for making our pulses race and our hearts beat faster as we turn page after page.

But no matter how well we write a character, there is nothing that compares to real life heroes. Ordinary people, sometimes with extraordinary skills, all with enormous courage to confront horrific situations and keep us safe.

NJ Coast Guard (c) Diana Belchase 2011

Today is Veteran’s Day, where we honor the men and women in the Armed Forces who so bravely serve the United States. Increasingly it’s a day we forget about. Lost in the maze of ethnic history months, pilgrims, trick or treaters, and holiday sales — all worthy events — we often disregard it as little more than a note on a pre-printed calendar.

But Veteran’s Day is important. So much so that today is also when others in the world also honor their military personnel. Canada, Australia, and Britain call it Remembrance Day but it’s the same holiday.

So often our unsung heroes are never thanked for the sacrifices they’ve made to protect us all. They receive poor pay, tremendous responsibility, dangerous accommodations, and they do it all with a smile. It’s now our turn to say, “Hey, thanks for being there, for serving, for doing for me what I cannot do for myself.”

So, to all our Vets, and also to those in clandestine service where there is no holiday — officers in the 512px-JTACCIA, NSA, FBI, Homeland Security, Secret Service, and too many others to list, I’m sending you all a huge

THANK YOU!

Each and every one of you — whether on the battlefield or behind a desk– work as a team to keep us and much of the world safe. You humble us with your sacrifice. Our debt to you will never be repaid. God bless you and keep you safe.

Please let our vets know how much they mean to you by leaving a comment HERE or below. We’ll spread the word to make sure they are seen.

Lost Heroes

Columbus Day hardly gets much notice lately. There are furniture store sales, some government offices and banks are closed, a parade in New York City that is no longer nationally televised, and he’s no longer held up like a hero to school children.

(c) Diana Belchase 2012 Palermo Museum

I feel sorriest for kids everywhere who, it seems, are only entitled to heroes out of Marvel comic books and not from real life. It’s fashionable to hunt down every mistake our forefathers made, to talk of their wrongs against society, to hold them accountable for the barbaric practices that were commonplace in their time period.

To tear them down until there is no shred of heroism left.

Granted, Columbus was far from perfect. Just like the other great men of history who entered the slave trade, unwittingly spread disease, conquered lands that were not their own, and took treasure they were not entitled to, so, too, did he. Some say he might not be the first European to find America. But whether you believe that or not, he was the first to colonize and make these lands known to all of Europe. In essence, he was the first non-native American.

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I think of the dangerous voyage my own grandparents made to come to this country. They didn’t speak English, didn’t have a place to stay, no job waiting, yet they crossed an ocean in a ship much like he did, taking a chance that there was someplace better in this world for them to be. Like the settlers that came after him, Columbus crossed the mighty Atlantic in a fleet of three surprisingly small wooden ships, losing one on the way. That took daring, and intelligence, and perseverance that is rare today.

How many people could do that?

I personally have trouble going out of state without GPS, how did this man do this with only the stars to guide him? No maps, no computer, no one who gave him oral directions. Out alone on a rough sea. hoping to see land, commanding a crew who believed they might fall off the edge of the world and might mutiny any moment. He did this a total of four times in the late 1400’s a remarkable 522 years ago. It was equivalent of being the first man on the moon.

Amazing.

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Columbus means a lot to me as an American of Italian descent. My culture is riddled with forced stereotypes: Mafia bosses, New Jersey Housewives, loud arrogant members of the Jersey Shore. We’re thought of as pizza chefs and mobsters. Less widely remembered are the incredible contributions people of Italian descent have made — with our hands building the infrastructure of the U.S. — tunnels, roads, and bridges — with our genius sculpting and painting the decorative parts of buildings in every major American city, and with our minds as scientists and leaders.

The magnificence of the Capitol dome, scientific inventions like the telephone (only in the U.S. do people not know the true inventor of the telephone is Meucci) are ours. We are doctors, lawyers, and teachers. We carry the culture and refinement of the Romans, Tuscans, and Sicilians in our blood. Places non-Italians love to travel and somehow snobbishly distinguish from the Italians who live in the U.S. We are Supreme Court justices and the guy who carries your mail.

We deserve a hero.

Perhaps that is why I am a suspense writer and love the RS genre so much. RS stories are at their core about heroes, some unlikely, some highly trained, all imperfect individuals who must summon an extreme level of heroism and courage few, like Columbus, possess.

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Isn’t it a shame this is how we celebrated Columbus’ 500th Anniversary?

Seven percent of the U.S. identifies itself as being of Italian descent. There are probably more, but so many of us have been taught to be ashamed and try to hide the fact of our ancestry. Among us there is no unified voice that asks for a month devoted to our history. We deserve that, too.

This month is Hispanic History Month. I have been aghast at how little I know of Hispanic history — of which Columbus is a key figure.  It is right and apt that this Italian American’s birthdate falls in the midst of this particular month. Without the support of Spain, Columbus would not have discovered the Carribean and Latin America. He would not have been Governor of Hispaniola. He is as much a hero for those of Spanish descent as he is for those of Italian.

But let’s not squabble. To me, he is a hero for us all.

From Lansbury to Truman, Murder They Wrote

Don and Renee Bain are one of the cutest couples in the world.  He’s tall and lanky, she’s petite, both are soft-spoken, and both are intent on murder.

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That’s no joke.  They murder literally dozens of people each year — within the pages of the books they co-write.  In fact, they are the brains and talent behind Universal’s “Murder She Wrote” series.  With now fifty books under their belt (a few more have released since the video interview) they are the embodiment of Jessica Fletcher now that the series is no longer on the air.

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Angela Lansbury played Jessica Fletcher on Murder She Wrote on TV (photo by Alan Light)

 

But, that’s not all the Bain duo has been up to.  Don Bain — who jokingly refers himself as the “world’s tallest, oldest, bearded stewardess” — was the real author of the sensational “Coffee, Tea, or Me,” book that once was considered steamy enough for mothers to refuse to allow their daughters to become flight attendants.  He also collaborated with Margaret Truman on her Washington, D.C. based mysteries and, until now, could reap none of the credit.

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(Click on covers for more info)

With Renee at his side, they discuss how they come up with story ideas, how they work as a team, how they try to emulate Angela Lansbury’s voice and mannerisms, and the ups and downs of working within the limitations of an iconic series.

Leave a comment or a question below about ghost writing — is it a let down, or a wonderful surprise? — and Don and Renee will give one lucky reader who responds a copy of Close Up on Murder.  

Enjoy!

 

Some of the upcoming titles for Don Bain include Experiment in Murder from the Margaret Truman series, Lights Out, and the rerelease of Coffee, Tea or Me.

Broken Trust Winner!

Thanks to Shannon Baker, author of Broken Trust, for visiting with us this past Tuesday.  Now, without further delay, the winner of Shannon’s book is:

 Carl R Scott

Thanks everyone for your comments.  Don’t forget to go out and buy Shannon’s wonderful books!

unnamedBroken Trust:

Hoping for a new beginning, Nora Abbott takes a job at Loving Earth Trust in Boulder, Colorado. But the trust is rife with deceit and corruption and the body count is climbing. With the help of her mother and a Hopi kachina that technically doesn’t exist, Nora races to stop a deadly plot to decimate one of the planet’s greatest natural resources.

 

unnamed-1Tainted Mountain:

A young ski area owner in Flagstaff, AZ is determined to use man-made snow, an energy tycoon has his own reasons for promoting it, enviros and tribes may use any means to stop it. But the spirits of the mountain just might have the last say.

 

 

 

 UP NEXT:

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89e6aefa60650ad8956edb.L._V176312349_SX200_Join us on Tuesday, April 29th, when Rolynn Anderson guest blogs on a 1932 crime she ‘solved.’

As a writer, Rolynn delights in creating imperfect characters faced with extraordinary, transforming challenges. Her hope: You’ll devour her ‘makeover’ suspense novels in the wee hours of the morning, because her stories, settings and characters, capture your imagination and your heart.

Man-Made Snow is Murder

I’m pleased to have Shannon Baker here today.  She’s the author of the Nora Abbott Mystery series, fast-paced murder mysteries which center around environmental issues and the Hopi Indians.  From the Colorado Rockies to the Nebraska Sandhills, the peaks of Flagstaff and the deserts of Tucson, landscapes play an important role in her books. Shannon worked for The Grand Canyon Trust, a hotbed of environmentalists who, usually, don’t resort to murder.  

Here’s the interview I did with Shannon at Malice Domestic:

Diana Belchase:  Shannon, congratulations on being nominated for the New Mexico/Arizona Book Award for Tainted Mountain and your new book, Broken Trust!  Can you tell me how you came to write them?

Shannon Baker:  When I moved to Flagstaff in 2006, there was a huge controversy raging about man-made snow on the San Francisco Peaks. Those peaks are sacred to 12 tribes and feature in their creation stories. I started researching the Hopi and was fascinated by this tiny, ancient, mystical culture. They believe they hold responsibility for the balance of the whole world. After learning much about the tribe and its history, I’m not going to dispute that claim. How could I not write about it?

Diana: It’s an incredible theme for a series.  Your newest book takes place in Boulder.  Did you always intend it that way? unnamed-2

Shannon: I didn’t intend for this to be a series but when Midnight Ink offered me the option, I jumped at it. Because I love Boulder Colorado, and coincidentally moved back there, I decided to take Nora to Boulder. Broken Trust involves some weird science coupled with bizarre conspiracy theories. I researched Tesla technology, the HAARP facility in Alaska and scary information about using weather as a weapon of mass destruction. It was fun to mash all this up and bring in the Hopi spirituality. Poor Nora has to catch up on her science quickly if she’s going to save the day.

 

Diana: Your books are definitely character-driven, though.  It’s not all science. 

Shannon: I also loved bringing in the beauty and strangeness that is Boulder. I had a blast creating the characters that populate Broken Trust, as well as bringing back Nora’s mother, Abigail, and exploring their evolving relationship.

Diana: Well, here are blurbs from the two books because I know our readers will love reading them.  

And one lucky commenter, who answers the question “What elements must a mystery have to get you to start reading?” will win a copy of Shannon’s book Broken Trust!

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Broken Trust:

Hoping for a new beginning, Nora Abbott takes a job at Loving Earth Trust in Boulder, Colorado. But the trust is rife with deceit and corruption and the body count is climbing. With the help of her mother and a Hopi kachina that technically doesn’t exist, Nora races to stop a deadly plot to decimate one of the planet’s greatest natural resources.

 

unnamed-1Tainted Mountain:

A young ski area owner in Flagstaff, AZ is determined to use man-made snow, an energy tycoon has his own reasons for promoting it, enviros and tribes may use any means to stop it. But the spirits of the mountain just might have the last say.

Corrupted by Kiss and Thrill

It’s hard living life as a prude — especially when you’re a member of Kiss and Thrill.  I admit, sometimes too much flesh on a cover makes me a bit uncomfortable.  Yes, I’m weird, but I like guys better in a tux than in the buff.

When you’re surrounded day after day by a bevy of fantastic writers with equally fantastic covers — that just happen to have half-dressed men on them — it’s too much to bear.  You find yourself bending around the edges.

I’m so proud of these gals!  Look at the wonderful books in the almost never-ending column to the right.

Yes, the ones over there.  The ones with all those hunky guys on them? ———————————————————————————————>

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And look at this new cover from our own Gwen Hernandez, whose new book is debuting in a few short weeks.  Who wouldn’t be corrupted by that?

Before you know it, I’ll be sporting guys like this on my covers, too.  And I’m the gal who was once asked to send in a partially undressed hunky hero photo for a special blog.  Do you know what I sent in?  This:

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A photo of my husband’s bare feet!

So, now that they’ve bent me to their will, and in honor of my dear friends here, I am posting this little video from Pride and Prejudice.  Jane Austen didn’t write it this way — but Lord, she should have.  LOL.

(If you don’t see the video, please update your Adobe.)

Honestly, this video clip makes me happy in so many different ways.  (Collin Firth, Collin Firth in a bathtub, Collin Firth in a robe — need I say more?)  But the main one is that we see through Mr. Darcy’s eyes why and how he is falling in love with Elizabeth.

Often I wonder why heroes in historical literature wanted to marry their heroines.  The men get so little air time to vent their feelings — and in certain books, such as Jane Eyre — okay I hear the protests already — it seems as if the hero falls in love out of the blue.  We know how little the heroine, in this case, Jane, thinks of herself, and how she has begun to worship her boss, but he gives both her, and the reader, almost no clue of his affection until it is sprung upon us.

I suppose that is why I love books with multiple points of view.  I want to know what the characters are thinking.  I want to feel how hopelessly in love the hero is falling.  For me, it’s the best part of the book.  Better than the abs on the front cover.

So, what do you think?  Do you prefer books with one point of view or with more than one?  Do you like half-dressed men on your covers? I really want to know.

Oh, and about the corruption thing — please don’t tell my husband!

A Fashionable Murder

Ellen Byerrum is fantastic.  She’s a novelist, playwright, reporter, Washington journalist, and a graduate of private investigator school in Virginia. Her Crime of Fashion mysteries star a savvy, stylish female sleuth named Lacey Smithsonian, a reluctant fashion reporter in Washington D.C.

Her books are fun, sassy and unexpected.  No wonder two of them have been made into Lifetime movies!

Below: Lacey Smithsonian and the ladies of

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From left: Katharine Isabelle (Lacey’s sister Cherise), Sadie LeBlanc (Stella Lake), Maggie Lawson (Lacey), Mary McDonnell (Lacey’s mother Rose), Sarah Edmondson (Brooke Barton).

Ellen sat down with me to talk about Washington style (which she calls “The City Fashion Forgot”), the stress of Cherry Blossom season, and a haunted Russian shawl inspired by the Hillwood Museum collection.

(If you cannot view the video, please update your Adobe.  For better quality, click the YouTube link on the bottom right of the video frame and then, once on YouTube, adjust resolution by clicking on the little tool cog wheel in the right bottom corner.)

Here is a blurb about Ellen’s latest book, Veiled Revenge

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Washington, D.C., fashion reporter Lacey Smithsonian has always believed clothes can be magical, but she’s never thought they can be cursed. Until now. Lacey’s best friend, Stella, is finally getting married, and at her bachelorette party, fellow bridesmaid—and fortune-teller—Marie Largesse arrives with a stunning Russian shawl. A shawl, Marie warns, that can either bless or curse the wearer. When a party crasher who mocks the shawl is found dead the next day, the other guests fear the curse has been unleashed. But Lacey has her doubts, and she must employ all her Extra-Fashionary Perception to capture a villain who has vowed that nobody at this wedding will live happily ever after….

So, what do you think? Is Washington, D.C. the least fashionable city on earth or do you have your own nominee for that distinction?  What role do you think fashion plays in developing a character?  (To leave a comment please click on the title of this post and scroll to the bottom.)

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