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 Author of A Night on Moon Hill

NightonMoonHillFinal-Version-194x300Tanya Parker Mills is the author of A Night on Moon Hill, a 2012 Whitney Finalist. I was privileged to meet her at a writers conference recently, bought her book, and was immediately caught up in the story. It kept me riveted until the end.

 Synopsis: Swimming is Daphne’s one refuge—until the night she finds a body in her pool.

University professor and renowned author Daphne Lessing has never felt at ease in society. But a disturbing occurrence in her once calm and controlled existence suddenly unearths events from her past and thrusts an unusual child into her life.

Ten-year-old Eric has Asperger’s syndrome and is obsessed with fishing and angels. Soon, Daphne finds herself attached to him—and faced with a choice: Does she leave him and return to her solitary, ordered life, trusting others to do right by him, or does she allow this bright child to draw her into the world she has tried to shun? And what about the man that came into Daphne’s life with Eric? Will she be able to shut him out as well?

Welcome, Tanya. Tell us where the idea for this story came from.

I noticed on a walk around my neighborhood in Southern California several years ago that more than a few gates to backyard pools appeared to be unlocked and it got me thinking how easy it would be for someone to sneak in for a free swim during the day while the owners were at work. At first, it was going to be a short story with the trespassing swimmer making a shocking discovery, but then I saw that I could weave it into a larger tale involving Asperger’s syndrome—something I wanted to throw more light on because of my son’s diagnosis at age six. Eric was really inspired by my son.

When did you know you were a writer?

I didn’t really feel I was a writer until I finished my first draft of my first novel, THE RECKONING. Up to that point, I’d piddled around with poetry, lyric writing, and magazine and news articles, but once I’d created a whole story, complete with character arcs and subplots, a whole new world opened up to me in terms of expectations for myself.

What or who are your influences for your writing?

My first influence for my writing came from my father, an author himself. He only ever self-published, but he showed me that it could be done and he believed in me. As far as authors I look up to most, I would have to say Barbara Kingsolver for voice (what she did in The Poisonwood Bible with all those different voices was amazing) and Charles Frazier for description. I’ve always been attracted most to literary fiction and particularly when it’s historical. That’s what I’m eventually aspiring to.

You have published another book, The Reckoning, winner of the 2009 Indie Book Award for Multicultural Fiction and the 2010 Writer’s Digest International Self-Published Book Award for Mainstream/Literary Fiction. Tell us a little about how that book came to be.

I had long had an idea for a coming-of-age type novel set in Baghdad, Iraq based on my own childhood, but I could never seem to find my way into it. Then I attended my father’s writing group with him one weekend and, challenged by him, I decided to try my hand at their writing prompt that day: Write something that includes two true things, one false thing, and throw in a crazy relative. Believe it or not, what I came up with was pretty much the beginning of THE RECKONING (minus the crazy relative), and when his group responded so well to what I had written, I knew I was on my way. This was only three months before the U.S. invaded Iraq, so I wrote that first draft quickly, determined to get the story done about the time of the invasion and use the facts of our attack in the end of the story. By this point, it was no longer a coming-of-age story, but rather a tale of how a grown American woman comes to terms with events from her childhood as the U.S. prepares to bomb Baghdad.

What kinds of books do you like to read?

I read all kinds of books. Right now I’m in the middle of a middle grade novel, “Savvy,” but I’ve also recently finished an historical look at the building of the St. George Temple. I love to read biographies and histories (I recently read a history about the Arabists in the C.I.A., which quoted my father), but mostly I turn to literary fiction and historical fiction. One genre that has never appealed to me is romance, though I’ve come across one or two recently that defied the stereotype and I found worthwhile. Another genre I don’t care for is Horror. I used to indulge in WWII spy novels for what I called my “junk reading,” but I don’t have time for much of it anymore. I do like the action, adventure, and suspense.

What do you find challenging in writing? (And/or) what was the hardest part in writing your books?

My biggest challenge in writing continues to be forcing myself to get going on it on a daily basis. Second to that is doubting myself and whether I truly want to get on what I call the “publishing treadmill” where you then have to produce at least one book a year. I’m a very slow writer (perhaps another reason I admire Barbara Kingsolver) and don’t like to hurry the process.

What has been the most surprising thing you learned from creating your books?Mills_019Business

I’ve been most surprised to find a higher power, if you will—a muse, or divine intervention, even—guiding me and leading me toward the story’s end. Something will occur to me, I’ll put it in the story, and the next thing I know, it has shed a whole new light on some other aspect of the story or led me down an entirely unexpected path. I experienced that a lot in my last book.

Are you working on a new project now?

Yes, I’m doing a final revision on a middle grade fantasy—the first in a series, I hope. I’m nervous because it’s quite different from my other two books, and I’ll probably end up publishing it under a pseudonym. Still, even though it’s fantasy, it’s grounded in reality and it fits with THE RECKONING and A NIGHT ON MOON HILL because it’s fiction that bridges cultures. Given my childhood and background overseas, that’s always a priority for me.

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