Silver Sisters Co-Authors Share

Thanks for joining us for part II of this interview with co-authors and sisters Morgan St. James and Phyllice Bradner who are releasing their second Silver Sisters Mystery, Terror in a Teapot. The first novel was award-winning A Corpse in the Soup.

What are you working on now and when/where do you expect it to be available?

PHYLLICE: We are working on the second edition of the third book in the series, Vanishing Act in Vegas. The Silver Sisters PHYLLICE BIO PHOTO W CROW SHIRTMysteries were published by L&L Dreamspell, but the company went out of business after the tragic death of one of the partners. A Corpse in the Soup, and Terror in a Teapot have now been reissued by Marina Publishing Group with new covers and some minor edits. The same will hold true for Vanishing Act in Vegas, targeted for release in early 2015. The plot revolves around Mara the Magnificent, a beautiful female magician that Godiva’s son is in love with. The twins start their sleuthing when Mara asks them to investigate the demise of a stagehand who fell to his death during her performance, and soon escalates into an investigation of Mara’s death, too. There are lots of wrinkles and turns, and, as in the first two novels, there’s a twist at the end. Morgan is also working on several other writing projects, I’ll let her tell you the rest.

MORGAN: In addition to Vanishing Act in Vegas, Phyllice and I are halfway through writing the next escapade, Diamonds in the Dumpster, I’m working on a new book with Dennis N. Griffin and looking forward to publishing an illustrated children’s book, LaRue the Llama Helps His Mama. I actually wrote it back in the late ’70s to amuse my children, and it will finally be available via Amazon Kids Books quite soon. And, I’m forever writing new short stories. They are my relaxation. My instant gratification, unlike the novels that take so long to write, I am a fast writer. I can write and polish a short story in an evening, and I love that.

Writers, especially new writers, are always looking for tips and helpful information. What is the single most important “tip” you can give to a new writer?

PHYLLICE: Learn to let go of the things you love. When you finish your first draft, get out the machete and whack out all the parts that bog the story down–even if they are your very favorite passages. Take out the run-on descriptions that break your reader’s focus or lend nothing to the natural progression of the plot. I still mourn the loss of some of my best, but superfluous, creations–but I know they had to go.

MORGAN Bio pic stripes onlyMORGAN: I have two that I believe are imperative. Number One: Keep an open mind. Listen to what experienced authors, agents, publishers, and editors tell you. Then make an educated decision as to whether you will follow the advice, but don’t stonewall others’ ideas. Number Two: Don’t give up. Phyllice and I kept at it until we made it to publication. As for staying on a project you know has merit, it took me fourteen years to write Betrayed but I didn’t give up. It is fiction inspired by shocking true events that happened in the 1950s when a promising teenage ballerina was kidnapped.

Are you a member of any writer’s organizations? Why? Why not?

PHYLLICE: I’m not much of a “joiner” so I don’t belong to any writer’s groups. Morgan’s a hot pistol when it comes to joining writer’s groups, though.

MORGAN: I’m a joiner and a networker. Whenever I can, I attend meeting of Henderson Writers Group and Las Vegas Writers Group. I’m also on the board of the Writers’ of Southern Nevada, and we have many exciting events coming up in 2015. When I lived in Los Angeles, I also belonged to Sisters in Crime/LA and Greater Los Angeles Writers Group. I still give workshops at conferences for West Coast Writers Conferences.

Do you have any upcoming book signings or appearances? If so, give us all the details.

PHYLLICE: I will be doing a guest appearance on the Writers Tricks of the Trade show on Blog Talk Radio on December 10 at 6:00 pm PST/9:00 EST. The topic is WRITING WITH A PARTNER. The link for information or to listen live when the show is broadcast is http://bit.ly/1stwn5V. It will also be archived for future listening.TRICKS RADIO BANNER LG

 

MORGAN: I’ll be doing several things in 2015, including giving a workshop or two at “The Big Story” writers conference in Van Nuys CA in February, but the schedule is still firming up. One thing for certain. I can be found on the 2nd and 4th Wednesday of the month hosting or co-hosting the Writers Tricks of the Trade show at Blog Talk Radio. Check http://writerstricksofthetrade.blogspot.com for schedules and also for links to the bi-monthly eZine. All shows and issues of the eZine will be archived. I’m constantly adding new appearances, and try to keep them up-to-date on my personal website, www.morganstjames-author.com and my blog http://morgan-stjames.blogspot.com. For more about the Silver Sisters, visit www.silversistersmysteries.com.

FUN QUESTION: What do you like better, Goodwill or Gucci, and why?

PHYLLICE: I shop at Goodwill all the time. Some of my coolest clothes come from there. Just a few weeks ago I found the neatest cotton sweater with a scene on the front of a black cat looking out a window at a bird and on the back you saw the bird’s view looking in at the cat. I would never, ever, buy anything Gucci…but then Morgan wouldn’t be caught dead wearing my cute cat sweater.

 

MORGAN: I love clothes! I always try to be in style and love dressing up. I also enjoy sharp casual clothes. Makeup, hair, nails, it’s all important to me. Hmm. I’m starting to sound like Godiva! When I met my husband, I didn’t own a pair of flat shoes, except for a pair of Reeboks. The first time I visited Phyllice in Alaska, she said to bring boots. Okay, I did. They had three inch heels and really didn’t work that well in the snow! But the did work for a scene in Terror in a Teapot. Okay, okay, I’m really not as selfish as Godiva and although I lived two houses outside of Beverly Hills, it wasn’t on a magnificent estate.

 

What are the addresses of your website(s) and blog(s):

 

http://www.bradnerartstudio.com

http://silversistersmysteries.wordpress.com

http://www.morganstjames-author.com

 

Published in: on December 5, 2014 at 6:35 am  Leave a Comment  
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Meet Co-Authors of ‘Terror in A Teapot’

Teapot cover in workCo-authors and sisters Morgan St. James and Phyllice Bradner are releasing their second Silver Sisters Mystery, Terror in a Teapot. The first one was award-winning A Corpse in the Soup.

How does this process of co-writing work? Do you each have separate duties? Do you alternate chapters? What’s the scoop?

PHYLLICE: We live in different states and when we first started writing together, our interaction was done mostly by phone and fax. Now, things are much easier as we email our chapters back and forth. When we are plotting a book, we have a kind of writer’s retreat when we get together and brainstorm plot ideas and such. After a few days we wear each other out and go back to our own desks to work. Trial and error has taught us that we each have specific strengths. Morgan is the “Type A” personality and can’t wait for me to plod along. She is what I call an automatic writer, she sits down and bangs out a draft of the chapter. I am the consummate editor, so even if I’m not in writing mode, when I get that first draft, I just can’t wait to start editing it. I clean it up, move things around and add the humorous bits–although Morgan throws in lots of humor, too. Then I send it back to her for another go-around. Our characters are patterned roughly after ourselves and the stories take place in locales that we know, so I sometimes write the draft chapter if it involves a place I’m more familiar with.

MORGAN: Almost everyone asks us that question. I guess the task of writing with someone thousands of miles away seems daunting MORGAN Bio pic stripes onlyto most people, but like everything else in both of our lives, we figured out how to make it work. Besides the e-mails, we have marathon telephone conversations to both create and edit. Thank goodness for headsets and unlimited long distance telephone plans. Phyllice always refers to me as her A-Type sister…spurring her on. Sometimes I’m a real task master when she would rather draw whimsical cats and dogs than solve complex crime capers, but I always manage to draw her in. Most people think writing teams alternate chapters, and I’m sure many do, but Phyllice described how we do it quite well.

Now for the real scoop: how much arguing goes on and how do you resolve differences of opinion?

PHYLLICE: Although we do have some lively discussions, we never really argue. We decided early on that we had to put our egos aside when it came to editing. If one of us wants to cut something that the other has written, we don’t take it as a personal attack. If one of us feels strongly enough to do battle when an item is cut, she’s automatically the winner.

MORGAN: That’s true. We really didn’t know each other for so many years, now that we’ve reconnected through our writing, I don’t believe either of us could live with “rocking the boat.” Phyllice is pretty mellow and I’m rather hyper, but we manage to strike the balance so we can make final decisions that are best for the book, not for our personal likes or dislikes. Phyllice held out for not having real time action in any of our books, but rather a telling of the story, and I didn’t fight it after she explained why she felt that way.

Tell us about each of your solo writing endeavors.

PHYLLICE BIO PHOTO W CROW SHIRTPHYLLICE: I studied Journalism and Art in college and spent many years as a copywriter and graphic designer. Most of my published writing has been in the form of informational brochures: annual reports, travel brochures, political flyers, newsletters. I did publish two small books, “Touring Juneau” and “The Juneau Centennial Cookbook”. The Silver Sisters mystery series was my first stab at fiction. I spend about half my time as a fine artist and I helped to found “Currents,” a cooperative art gallery in McMinnville, Oregon, where I now live.

MORGAN: I’m an “accidental writer.” I didn’t study writing or journalism. When I was an interior designer, a slick design magazine approached my partner and me about writing an article for them. We did, and I found I loved writing. They asked for more. My partner wasn’t interested, but I was. Many articles for them and other publications about diverse subjects followed during the next several years. When we conceived the Silver sisters and A Corpse in the Soup, it was my first published stab at fiction. There are now three books in the Silver Sisters Mysteries series, with a fourth in work, but I’ve written eleven books in total, have a book, blog and Blog Radio Show all called Writers’ Tricks of the Trade and have written over 600 published articles about the business and craft of writing. Many of them are archived at www.examiner.com. My short stories appear in several anthologies…Chicken Soup for the Shopper’s Soul, Chicken Soup for the Soul: Celebrating People Who Make a Difference, THE MAFIA FUNERAL and Other Short Stories, and several more. TRICKS RADIO BANNER LG

What is the biggest challenge each of you faces as a writer?

PHYLLICE: Time is my biggest adversary. I never have enough of it. I create art, operate a small guesthouse, and put quite a bit of volunteer time into my art gallery. So sometimes I have to force myself to sit down and work on the next chapter. If Morgan wasn’t so good about getting me those drafts, it would never get done. Also, she is our agent, taskmaster, networker and marketer. I am especially challenged in the area of outreach.

MORGAN: Mine is the same as Phyllice’s…time!! It is really hard to fit 28 hours of work into 24 hours. I’m a workaholic, so one of my challenges is knowing when to rest. When to wrap it up for the night.

What is the title of your most recently published book? Briefly tell us what it’s about and let us know where we can buy it.

PHYLLICE: Our latest book, Terror in a Teapot, is the second in the Silver Sisters Mystery Series. This comical crime caper takes place in Juneau and begins at Goldie Silver’s antique shop. When a shipment of Russian samovars fails to arrive in Alaska, Goldie starts to track it down. The ladies from the Russian Orthodox church have ordered one of the fancy tea urns as a gift for the retiring priest, but before the wayward antiques are located, his young replacement is murdered. That’s just the tip of the iceberg in quiet little Juneau!

After Goldie’s twin, the manipulative Beverly Hills advice columnist, Godiva Olivia DuBois arrives for a visit, the lost crate finally arrives. The samovars sell quickly, and Goldie has only one left when two menacing Russians bumble into her shop claiming that the fancy teapots belong to them and demand their return. She throws them out, but by the next day it seems that the seven beautiful antiques are cursed. Everyone in town who received one of the samovars has been beaten or murdered, and two more customers are likely targets: a lady from Seattle and Godiva’s boyfriend, chef Caesar Romano. Our curvy sleuths, Goldie and Godiva, try to figure out what the thugs are really after. They are hot on their trail as they track the Russians from Alaska to Seattle and Los Angeles. To add to the fun, the twins’ eighty-year-old mother and uncle, Flossie and Sterling Silver, former vaudeville magicians, get into the act!

MORGAN: Our Silver Sisters books can be purchased at most on-line bookstores, or ordered at your favorite local bookstore, available in Kindle, paperback as well as audio books (CD and MP3 download). Our books are also carried by several libraries across the country. The distributor is Ingram.

Thank you, Phyllice and Morgan, for sharing your co-writing secrets. Please tune in again next week for the second half of this interview with with mystery-writing duo.

Meet the Co-Authors, Who’s Got the Money? Part II

Who’s Got the Money is an amateur sleuth mystery, spiced with humor. Where did the idea come from?

Morgan: You would not believe how many funny things happen in real life, particularly with the type of marketing position both of us held for four years. We’ve been inside the prison factories, military warehouses and “fought the battle” to get orders as high as millions of dollars. It was a zoo! Most people think of prison manufacturing as making license plates. They are shocked to find it’s almost a billion dollar a year business.

Which situations are based on things that have happened to you?

Meredith: The actual scam is fiction but many of the things the trio of sleuths experience were based in things that actually happened to us.

Morgan: For example, the scene with the sleazy guy offering sex in return for a big order really happened to me. Not in that particular job, but in another. He was the purchasing agent for a major aerospace company. Meredith and I also ran down the street in Anchorage, Alaska pushing a cart loaded with thousands of brochures looking for a place to dump them (A scene in the book) because the prison factory sent us thousands, not hundreds as requested for a trade show. The warehouses filled with merchandise stacked to the ceiling–that’s real. Some of our scenes are truly exaggerations, but others will sound familiar to our former co-workers if they buy the book.

How did each of you come to follow the path of a writer?

Meredith: This is my first book, collaborating with Morgan St. James.

Morgan: I began to write years ago with published magazine and newspaper articles. In the late 1990s my sister, Phyllice Bradner, also a published writer, and I developed the Silver Sisters Mysteries series. The first book in the series, A Corpse in the Soup, was released in 2006 and won an award in 2007. We followed it with two more and the fourth currently is in development. Meredith knew about my books and approached me with her idea for Who’s Got the Money? I knew it was great, and jumped at the opportunity.

What advice do you have for aspiring authors?

Morgan: It is really simple. Do your homework, learn your craft and don’t give up. Always put out a quality, well-edited product even if you self publish. I once read a Facebook rant that showed how important this is. The author was upset by poor reviews of a self-published book that lambasted spelling and grammar errors, information dumps, poor formatting and more. The rant was, “It should be about the story, not the mechanics.” No. That is not correct. When a reader pays for a book they deserve a professional product.

Meredith: I believe it’s important to network with other writers for encouragement, help, and promotion. Joining a local writer’s organization and writers conference will help you develop friendships and give you support as you develop your craft of writing.

Getting Even, A prequel to Who’s Got the Money is available on Kindle only. This book tells how our heroine, Jennifer Hayes, gets even after the loss of her job and her money.

Morgan St. James bio: Award-winning Author/Speaker/Columnist Morgan St. James’ says her just-released books, Confessions of a Cougar, and Who’s Got the Money? are stories that begged to be told.

Her short stories appear in Chicken Soup for the Soul books, other anthologies. The recently released The MAFIA FUNERAL and Other Short Stories collection covers everything from true stories to fiction, mystery to romance and some genres in-between.  She has written over 500 published articles relative to the craft of writing and people in the industry, as well as the book Writers’ Tricks of the Trade: 39 Things You Need to Know About the ABCs of Writing Fiction.

Meredith Holland bio:

This is Meredith Holland’s debut novel. She graduated college armed with a degree in Interior Design and designed environments including commercial spaces from healthcare and educational facilities to hospitality.  Her diverse background and passion for problem solving combined with her interior design education easily qualified Meredith for the position of sales executive, marketing products manufactured by The Department of Corrections.

As a marketing representative she supported the programs, products, inmate rehabilitation mission, and government policies. Meredith says she appreciated her time spent growing her region’s Federal customer base and interacting with contracting agents and clients.

St. James and Holland met while they were both part of the marketing team for prison-manufactured furniture and conceived the idea for this comical crime caper.   Meredith resides in Seattle, Washington with her husband and son.

You can find Meredith blogging at http://funnycrimecapers.blogspot.com

Morgan’s websites:

www.morganstjames-author.com

http://morgan-james.blogspot.com

http://silversistersmysteries.wordpress.com http://funnycrimecapers.blogspot.com http://writerstricksofthetrade.blogspot.com

You also can connect with Morgan on Twitter: @MorganStJames, and Facebook: facebook.com/morganstjames

Co-Authoring a Novel: Who’s Got the Money?

My guests this week are writing duo Morgan St. James and Meredith Holland who collaborated on a very entertaining, exciting and humorous novel, Who’s Got the Money?

Synopsis: With $800 Million worth of products produced in federal prisons every year, division director Abby Hamilton had a diabolical scheme to become a very wealthy woman. In fact, she had almost reached her $35 million goal when she made the mistake of hiring three savvy women who blew the lid off Pandora’s box. Despite comical backfires, Jennifer, Kate and Cameron were determined to find out what happened to missing bonus money and managed to pull off an intensive amateur undercover investigation. What they discovered was shocking evidence of something so much bigger—Abby’s clever multimillion dollar embezzlement plot.

How did the two of you come to collaborate on writing a book?

Morgan: Meredith and I both have backgrounds in interior design and design related sales. We met while working for a private contractor who marketed furniture manufactured in the real Federal Prison Industries factories and became fast friends. Meredith knew I’d written several funny mystery books and after we both resigned from the now defunct company she approached me with her idea.

Meredith:  Our experience with manufacturing arm of the Federal Prison system allowed us to develop an interesting angle for Who’s Got The Money.

How do you handle it—do you each write a scene or chapter?

Meredith: Morgan and I collaborate and brainstorm. Working with a partner helps to see the potential in ideas I might otherwise not use.

Morgan: Because I’m the seasoned author, Meredith was my idea person. She has a quick wit and remembered many incidents I didn’t. Between us we hatched a plot that according to a retired undercover FBI agent, really could have worked. I did the majority of the writing and preliminary editing and Meredith just kept those ideas flowing, but also let me know when she didn’t agree with something I’d written. Then we worked it out until both of us were satisfied.

What was the hardest thing to overcome in writing with a partner?

Morgan: From my experience and the talks I give to other writers, I’m quite aware of what will work and won’t work. I’ve written with various writing partners in the past, but all were trained writers, so the challenges were different. I had to make sure our clues and plot were not too complicated or convoluted, because then you lose or confuse the reader. It had to be something everyone could easily understand.

Meredith: Working with a partner helps you stay focused and helps you be more productive.  Our differences or the creative yin-yang are important to collaboration that helps to develop the story line and bring an extra range of knowledge to tap.

What is the best thing about being a co-author?

Morgan: I love the interaction. My epitaph will say, “She wrote well with others.” Writing is a solitary endeavor if you are writing solo. When you have a co-author there is the exchange and balance of ideas and techniques, plus the friendship and fun conversations. You always have the opportunity to learn something new from your co-author.

Meredith: Working or collaborating with a partner can make you a better writer.  We learned to accept and welcome our differences.

Have you written or are you writing other books together?

Not at the moment, but we made sure to leave an open end for Who’s Got the Money? which presents a myriad of possibilities for future books featuring our trio of amateur sleuths.

Where can readers buy Who’s Got the Money? It can be ordered from most online booksellers or from your favorite local bookstore.

Stay tuned for part two of this interview, when Morgan and Meredith talk more about the book and how they each got into writing.

You can find Meredith blogging at http://funnycrimecapers.blogspot.com

Morgan’s websites:

www.morganstjames-author.com

http://morgan-james.blogspot.com

http://silversistersmysteries.wordpress.com http://funnycrimecapers.blogspot.com http://writerstricksofthetrade.blogspot.com

You also can connect with Morgan on Twitter: @MorganStJames, and Facebook: facebook.com/morganstjames

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