Guest Post

HAVE A BOOK TO PROMOTE? Lyrical Pens welcomes guest posts. Answer a questionnaire or create your own post. FYI, up front: This site is a definite PG-13. For details, contact cj

Monday, January 30, 2017

A morning in the life of author Robbie Cheadle

cj Sez: Today Lyrical Pens turns the spotlight on South African author and fellow Mystery Thriller Week writer Robbie Cheadle. When Robbie agreed to do a blog tour, you can be sure she didn’t expect these hurdles. Read on…
 Tuesday, 17 January – the New Year starts with a bang

The insistent beeping of my alarm clock drags me from sleep. As the meaning of the beeping registers in my foggy, sleep drugged brain, I jump out of bed and make a dash across the room to turn it off. I don’t want it to wake up the boys, who can sleep late on this last morning of the school holidays. I slip on the wooden floor which has turned into a sheet of ice, and land on my backside. A splendid start to the day. Clearly the new wooden floor cleaning fluid that I had bought in great anticipation of a lovely shiny floor the week before was responsible for this ice skating rink floor. I make a mental note to get it re-cleaned with a less lethal substance prior to Hubby Dear’s great-grandmother coming for a visit on Sunday.

The time is 4.30am, and I am planning to write a post for my blog. I creep across the room and out of the bedroom door and out go all the lights. Damn! The lights have tripped for some reason. I make my way down the passage, holding on to the wall. I manage to switch off the house alarm and garden beams without incident, and feel my way along the kitchen windowsill until I find the bank of rechargeable lamps. Miracle of miracles, they are actually charged, and I have light. I find the stepladder in the kitchen cupboard and climb up to flip the switch on the electricity board. The lights flicker on, warm and bright, and immediately snap off again. I pull down all the switches on the board, re-flick the main switch and gradually start pushing all the switches up to determine which one is the problem. It is the geyser – strange, the geyser is fairly new. I leave this switch down and set about making some tea so that I can prepare the necessary blog post. I have wasted a precious 20 minutes by this time.

One hour and one blog post successfully finalised and posted later, a little note from the school communicator pops up on my screen. The note reads “All parents are reminded to please park on the main sports field when dropping off their children this morning.” What! School starts tomorrow. I open the link and check the calendar. School starts today. Freak! I stampede down the passage and wrench young Michael from sleep. “School starts today and we are running a bit late”, I yell. “Up, up, up, you have 30 minutes to get dressed, washed and eat your breakfast”.

Michael, my youngest, sweet little honey pot boy, is not known for his speed. On the contrary, Michael is a bit sloth-like in the morning and just about drives me insane. I rush about at the speed of light, packing his lunch, filling his water bottle, dragging out his as yet unlabelled stationery and chair bag and stuffing them into his book bag. I, of course, have to do this while preparing Mike’s breakfast and medication and maintaining an air of complete control and calm so as not to panic the child who is embarking on his first day of Grade 5 in the senior primary school.

In the meantime, Hubby Dear has dragged himself out of bed and staggered into the bathroom. He switches on the hot water tap at the basin to run water for shaving. Nothing happens. There is no hot water, but there is a weird burning smell. It is very strong and unpleasant. The geyser has burned out, which is why it tripped the lights. Painful but at least we now know the answer to that particular mystery. I turn my back on that little problem and leave it to Hubby Dear to sort it out.

At exactly 7.15am, Mike and I are in the car and on our way to school. We are actually on time so I am very pleased with myself even if my stomach is still churning and I can’t face anything to eat or drink, even my favourite cappuccino. I walk Michael into school as it is the first day of the new school year. He wants me to come with him as he is anxious and doesn’t know who his teacher is or what friends will be in his class this year. He also doesn’t want anyone to think that he has a Mother. That would be very uncool! He rushes ahead and zaps off into the crowd without a backward glance but with the full expectation that I will compliantly follow. Fortunately, Michael is very happy with his teacher and has lots of friends in his class so the day is looking up, and I set off on the next leg of my journey to the office. I am feeling a bit lighter and brighter.

Of course on days like this one, nothing can go right. I make good progress, and the traffic is very bearable until I get to the last suburban road leading onto the main road where my office is situated. There has been an accident. A bad accident. The cars are backed up for over thirty minutes and, as I drive past the scene which is being attended by fireman and other rescue vehicles, I see the significant amount of dirt thrown on the road to absorb the gore and also two vehicles, completely scrunched and crunched. It is a horrible sight and it puts a damper on my spirits.

I arrive at the office forty-five minutes later, four hours after I woke up and started my day, feeling distinctly subdued. At my desk with my computer booted up the real day starts and the first query of the morning pops up in my email. I sigh and get stuck in to sorting out another muddle that requires urgent attention.
The end

cj Sez: Whew! I thought I had bad days. Robbie’s Sir Chocolate series is a collaborative effort with her two sons. There are two books currently on the market, and the third will launch in March 2017. Where to buy is listed below.

. . . .
In addition to working a full day as a senior member of her company’s Capital Markets team, Robbie Cheadle writes books for children together with her two sons, Gregory and Michael. Michael helps with ideas and making fondant illustrations, and Greg helps by filming and editing the baking videos. Works-in-progress include the rainbow fairies from Sir Chocolate and the sick ice-cream rainbow fairies story and cookbook.

The Sir Chocolate books are all about a little edible man who lives in Chocolate Land where you can eat everything even the flowers and trees. Sir Chocolate and his lady friend, Lady Sweet, have a number of adventures assisting their friends in Chocolate Land with various problems and looking for interesting ingredients for the chocolate delights they make and sell at Sir Chocolate’s Chocolatier. The illustrations in each book are made of fondant, cake and biscuits and each book also contains five simple recipes that children can bake under adult supervision.

The first two books in the series are Sir Chocolate and the strawberry cream berries story and cookbook, and Sir Chocolate and the baby cookie monster story and cookbook

The third book in the series is set to launch in March, 2017. In Sir Chocolate and the sugar dough bees story and cookbook, a greedy snail damages the flower fields and the fondant bees are in danger of starving. Join Sir Chocolate on an adventure to find the fruit drop fairies who have magic healing powers and discover how to make some of his favourite foods on the way.

The Sir Chocolate books are available at these sites (cntrl click on the site name):

“Cream berries story” – Amazon  
“Baby cookie monster story” – Amazon

You can also buy them in South Africa directly from the author by emailing Robbie Cheadle at

cj Sez: In the midst of her busy days, Robbie came all the way from South Africa to visit usplease drop her a comment and let her know you stopped by..

Okay, you-all guys keep on keeping on, and I’ll try to do the same. 
Amazon Central Author Page:
Choosing Carter  -- Kindle  /  Nook  /  Kobo   /  iTunes/iBook
Deadly Star --  Kindle  / Nook  / Kobo
California Kisses—10 romance stories 99 cents Jan. 30 on Amazon
Coming 2017—“Bad Day at Round Rock” a short story in The Posse, a Western anthology of tales of action, romance, mystery, myth, and truth.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Mystery Thriller Week on tap . . .

cj Sez: The days are counting down to the start of an annual event: Mystery Thriller Week on Facebook. 
My books are in there somewhere.
I became a charter member of this international group of more than 200 and have been caught up in a whirlwind of activities ever since. 

Vicki Turner Goodwin is a tireless cheerleader/coordinator/chief-cook-and-bottle-washer of MTW, and if you need more information on the event, I’ll let Vicki introduce you: “Mystery Thriller Week is 11 days in February, bringing together authors, blogger, experts, narrators, and fans. Come experience the international mystery and thriller event of the year. Coming Feb. 12-22, 2017.” 

Launching on February 12 and running 24 hours a day until midnight February 22 is a Live, Interactive Author Spotlight event. I’ll be hosting three of the MTW meet-greet-swag-giveaway times on the MTW Facebook page. Stop by, say “hi” and enter your name to win a surprise. Follow your favorite authors or stop by the page anytime and an author will be there to greet you. My times are:

February 15 from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m.
February 18 from 6:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.
February 20 from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. (happy birthday to me!)

As Lyrical Pens has been doing for the past several weeks, the upcoming series of posts will feature and maybe introduce Mystery Thriller Week authors:

Robbie Cheadle on January 30,
Miriam A. Averna on February 1,
Damon Wakes on February 3,
E. Michael Helms on February 6. 

On February 7, I’ll be a guest on Mysteristas blog ( )

Lyrical Pens will publish some book reviews as well.
Okay, I think I’ve covered everything for the next couple of weeks. If you’re as busy as I am (and I just know you are), you might want to print this page and keep it handy so you don’t forget. I know I will…print or forget. (sigh) You-all guys keep on keeping on, and I’ll try to do the same.     PS: Sign-ups for a quarterly newsletter happily and gratefully accepted at

Choosing Carter  -- Kindle  /  Nook  /  Kobo   /  iTunes/iBook
Deadly Star --  Kindle  / Nook  / Kobo
California Kisses 10-book publishers bundle on Amazon 99 cents
Coming in mid-February 2017—“Bad Day at Round Rock” a short story in  The Posse, a Western anthology of tales of action, romance, myth and truth.   

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Author Morgan Talbot introduces a new cozy mystery series

cj Sez: Today, Lyrical Pens is happy to spotlight Mystery Thriller Week author Morgan Talbot. If you don’t know her, Morgan writes cozy mysteries, one of the most popular mystery genres. Her Smugglers & Scones is the first book in a new series of cozy/culinary mysteries which sound absolutely tasty.

Lyrical Pens: Welcome to Lyrical Pens, Morgan, and here’s my first question:
Where did you get the idea for Smugglers & Scones?
Morgan Talbot: I enjoy reading seaside cozies, but none of them were set anywhere near me, so I decided to incorporate all my childhood trips to the Oregon Coast with a cozy mystery and some love for B&Bs, another cozy trope I enjoy.

LP: How did you determine that all-important first sentence
MT: Honestly, the first few sentences popped into my head all at once. I wrote them on my Facebook author page before I even began the book. Now the book is nearing its release date, and those first lines are almost unchanged. I can only credit my muse—she did all the work in the background—and my editors, who confirmed what my muse had chosen.

LP: What are your protagonist’s strengths and flaws
MT: Pippa Winterbourne is not a mystery writer, but all of the guests at her B&B are—it’s a rule of the charter. Over the years, she’s heard myriad minutiae about the nuts and bolts of murder and how villains think. She can spout murder trivia at the drop of a hat. But Pippa doesn’t get to delve into fictional worlds and get lost in what-ifs—she’s anchored in the real world, with her great-uncle, her BFF, her job, and all the quirks of living in a small town. However, the whole reason she’s in Seacrest stems from a dark period in her life that she never wants to return to—everything she does is aimed at moving forward in her new life, never back.

LP: Are you a pantser or a plotter
MT: I’m a plotter. I use the Snowflake method to plan out my plots, and I do a lot of world-building and character development outside that. I found years ago that if I try to pants a novel, my imagination will get out of hand and I’ll end up with a 250k story when I was only aiming for 100k. So I plot to keep my creativity reined in and focused.

LP: What do you consider the most important element of any story
MT: The main character’s conflict. The mystery can’t be too easy, but the character’s life can’t be too easy, either. I like to get to know my main characters by watching them suffer and triumph. That’s how I got where I am, and I suppose that, in that way, my main characters are very like me.

LP: Where and when do you like to write? Do you need silence or some sound?

MT: I like to write in a room with an even amount of noise. I can write in my quiet living room or in a busy coffee shop, as long as there’s no sudden shouting or questioning where the Oreos went (that would be my kids at home, not people in the coffee shop). Though if I’m at home, I often listen to some instrumental soundtrack music to keep the momentum of the scene going in my head.

LP: Everyone's road to publication is different—traditional, indie. Take us down yours. 
MT: My first publisher, for an epic fantasy novel, lasted a month or two. I self-pubbed it after that, and its sequel. Then I got into mysteries and my next fantasy series around the same time, tag-teaming what I was writing throughout the years. The fantasy series missed an opportunity to be published by a small press due to weird circumstances, so I self-published that one, too, but the mystery series did get picked up for publication by a small press and has three books. I self-published a MG mystery book that I wrote for my daughter’s 9th birthday. After the mystery and fantasy series were all released, I took a year or so off. Now I’m back in the saddle with a new cozy/culinary mystery series with my small press.

LP: Are you working on anything new? 
MT: My new cozy/culinary series is coming out in 2017 with its first installment, Smugglers & Scones. I’m writing the second book right now.

LP: Where can readers find out about you and your events online? 
MT: You can find my blog here: Mysteriouser and Mysteriouser

Author bio: Morgan is an outdoorsy girl with a deep and abiding love for the natural sciences. Her degrees involve English and jujitsu. She enjoys hiking, camping, and wandering in the woods looking for the trail to the car, but there isn’t enough chocolate on the planet to bribe her into rock climbing. When she’s not writing, she can be found making puzzles, getting lost on the way to geocaches, reading stories to her children, or taking far too many pictures of the same tree or rock. She lives in Eastern Washington State with her family.

Blurb:  Pippa Worthy runs the Oregon Coast’s quirkiest bed-and-breakfast—Moorehaven, former home of world-famous mystery writer A. Raymond Moore, whose guests come and write their own crime novels. When a real-life murder takes a local’s life and washes a handsome boat pilot into her arms, Pippa is yanked into a deadly plot of her own. A tangle of secrets crashes past into present, and Pippa, her authors, and her willing local accomplices must uncover clues dating back to Seacrest’s Prohibition days, including a secret Moore himself hid from the world.

Juggling her book-writing guests, small-town intrigues, secret club agendas, and a possibly fatal attraction, Pippa must sort fact from fiction to know who to trust, before a desperate killer claims a final revenge nearly a century in the making.

Morgan says “My publisher just informed me that Smugglers & Scones release date is January 31.”   

cj Sez: I’ll put a note on my calendar to watch for it. Thanks, Morgan, for stopping by and graciously answering my nosy questions. Okay, Lyrical Pens readers, here’s your chance to ask Morgan a question or just give her a boost by letting her know you stopped by along her writer’s path. Comment box is waiting…

Another thing to think about:  Signing up for my quarterly newsletter for info and occasional prizes. Drop me a note at to subscribe. I’m working to send out the first issue, a one-pager, on March 31, and I’d love to send one to you. (’Preciate it.)

That’s all for today, folks. You-all guys keep on keeping on, and I’ll try to do the same.
Choosing Carter  -- Kindle  /  Nook  /  Kobo   /  iTunes/iBook
Deadly Star --  Kindle  / Nook  / Kobo
More Than Friends:
Amazon Central Author Page:

PS:  The boxed set of More Than Friends is available through January 30, so hop right on over to Amazon and get SIX romance novels for less than a buck…a super Valentine’s Day gift. 

Sunday, January 22, 2017

It's all about the drama

cj Sez:  Having worked as a journalist for a few years, I tend to write sparsely, more often than not, too sparsely, and I catch myself revealing things way too early. To justify my methodology, I usually point to Kurt Vonnegut’s eight rules.

Vonnegut's rule No. 4 says: “Every sentence must do one of two things—reveal character or advance the action.” I know what you’re thinking, and you’re right, rules are made to be broken, or there are no rules. However, some rules are best kept for a while, especially by yet-to-be-bestselling authors like me.

I pretty much write like a screenwriter. I visualize the scene and write to that. There’s no room for narrative in movies; it is all action. By necessity, writers of TV series think in terms of every scene and every line, because for each hour-long show, they have about forty-five minutes to tell the story, beginning to end.

I wrote about producer David Memet’s memo to his writers a couple of years ago, but now that I’m in the midst of starting a mystery series, I revisited the piece to help keep me on track.

David Mamet, executive producer of the TV series, “The Unit,” had some serious instructions for the show’s writers. He was so serious that his memo virtually shouted. (He wrote it in all capital letters, and he had an "inviolable rule.") He directed his writers to concentrate on writing drama if they expected to keep their audience entertained. Because if they lost their audience, they’d be out of work. Following are excerpts of that memorable memo:  




(cj: Unless you’re writing a memoir, and perhaps even then, those three questions are pertinent.)
/ / / 

  (cj: They write loglines for every scene.)

cj’s Little Note:
A logline is a 25-word synopsis of your book.
A tagline is a catchy “movie poster” phrase.

Examples for Jaws –
Logline – After a series of grisly shark attacks, a sheriff struggles to protect his small beach community against the bloodthirsty monster, in spite of the greedy chamber of commerce. (from J. Gideon Sarentinos

Tagline – Don’t go in the water.  

Check out David Mamet’s whole memo at: 

Okay, let me know if what you think. Agree?  Disagree? Helpful? 

Be sure to stop back by on Wednesday, Jan. 25, when the guest is fellow Mystery Thriller Week author Morgan Talbot who writes cozy mysteries.

Thanks for visiting Lyrical Pens. You-all guys keep on keeping on, and I’ll try to do the same.
Amazon Central Author Page:
Choosing Carter  -- Kindle  /  Nook  /  Kobo   /  iTunes/iBook
Deadly Star --  Kindle  / Nook  / Kobo
PS:  My short story "Bad Day at Round Rock" is one of six in the Western anthology THE POSSE slated to launch in February. Tales of action, romance, myth, and truth. Watch for it. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Introducing author Stephen Perkins

cj Sez: Today’s guest on Lyrical Pens is Stephen Perkins, another author from the upcoming Mystery Thriller Week annual event scheduled to take place on Facebook in February.
Lyrical Pens:  Welcome Stephen. I’m curious, where did you get the idea for your novel, Raging Falcon?

Stephen: The idea for Raging Falcon was inspired by an event that happened right in my home town of Danvers. A young teacher was allegedly murdered by a freshman student. Much like the old television series LA Law, the inspiration for the plot was ripped straight from the headlines—imagination took care of the rest!

LP: How do you determine that all-important first sentence?

SP:  I believe the first sentence of a novel should contain the essence of the story—almost like a microcosm of the larger scenario to follow. Charles Dickens did this with Tale of Two Cities, in that the classic first line contained the essential spirit of the entire saga.

LP: What are your protagonist’s strengths and flaws

SP:  Raging Falcon’s protagonist is a sorcerer disguised as military officer, sort of like Harry Potter meets General Patton. Major Stacey Keogh is a tragic figure, almost Shakespearean in scope, in that he’s very well-aware of his flaws, but nonetheless finds himself again and again falling prey to negative impulses. Though he manipulates and schemes to the detriment of everyone around him, including his young son, in the end, he manages to find some measure of miraculous redemption.

LP: Are you a pantser or a plotter?

SP:  I suppose the latter, only because I tend to agonize over every detail, almost to the point of driving one insane. In the final analysis, I’m really a perfectionist who is never emotionally and artistically satisfied, until I get the story just right.  

LP: What do you consider the most important element of any story?

SP:  Any classic story is divided up into three acts. You introduce your protagonist and central themes, and then in the second act you greet an opposing antagonist, providing the friction of a central drama than unfolds in the denouement of the third act, or resolution of good versus evil. I believe that story telling isn’t just about entertainment for the reader. As a novelist one is creating not just a memorable tale, but creating myths. I’ve noticed all the best sellers possess this definable quality, in that they transcend the basic narrative, and offer something indelibly mythical.  

LP: Where and when do you like to write? Do you need silence or some sound?

SP:  I can write anywhere and at any time, whether there is peace and quiet or the surroundings are particularly noisy. But, I mostly prefer to write during the evening hours, finding the nocturnal spirit very conducive to maximum stimulation of one’s inherent imagination.

LP: Everyone's road to publication is different. Take us down yours.

SP:  I’ve travelled the road less taken, and feel I’m much the better for it. I want to stand out by remaining unique and original, rather than following commercial trends. For example, I’ve noticed that many of my fellow independent authors endeavor to create trilogies, whereas I’ve committed to creating stand-alone novels. I feel this trend is motivated solely by commercial concerns. After all, why unnecessarily spread a three-act story arc into a series, when one complete volume will more than suffice?  

LP: Are you working on anything new?

SP:  Yes, I just released a second novel entitled American Siren. This story deals with social commentary on the ephemeral nature of pop culture, and, the acquisitive nature of material society in general. It poses the question, why sacrifice the genuine love of family and friends, only to seek ephemeral mass approval from fickle strangers. I’m currently working on a third novel, which won’t be released for some time, entitled Beltane Breaking, an urban fantasy featuring satirical observations of television, the media, and mindless consumerism. There is also a newly elected first woman American president, who in finding her approval ratings plummeting, endeavors to manufacture an alien invasion from outer space, in order that she might be transformed from goat into heroic figure.  

LP: Where can readers find out about you and your events online

SP:  Go to my blog at  There, one can discover a controversial perspective on global and American politics and pop culture that I’m certain they won’t encounter in too many other places online.

Stephen’s bio:  Stephen Perkins is not only a novelist, but a song writer, outspoken armchair geo-politician, and avid consumer of all sorts of coffee products, cappuccino preferably! Yum!

cj Sez: Stephen’s book, Raging Falcon, has an awesome cover, and the blurb makes the story sound fascinating:
Should the son eternally pay for the sins of the father? Is it better to accept death’s fate, or to believe there may yet be a miracle in the face of inevitable darkness? This is the story of a survivor—as indomitable as his domineering father—who, despite balancing on the edge of certain death, finds eternal solace in miraculous redemption. After imprisonment of fifty years, on the anniversary of his conviction for the brutal murder of his freshman math teacher, Old Jim surveys his tragic fate, and magically discovers that there is hope, even in a dystopian world seemingly without saviors.

Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions, Stephen, and best wishes for great sales and marvelous reviews for your novel.

Look for Raging Falcon on Amazon…  Available in paperback or on Kindle.    

And mark your calendars: During the week of February 12-22, 2017, about 200 international authors in the mystery/thriller genre and every sub-genre, me included, will participate in blogs, readings, takeovers, and, drum roll here, Facebook giveaways. I think you’ll have fun connecting with favorite authors and for some of you, meeting new authors, like Stephen Perkins.

Okay, you-all guys keep on keeping on, and I’ll try to do the same.

PS: I’m going to publish a quarterly newsletter with writerly tips, tidbits, and occasional surprises. Drop me a note at cjpetterson@gmail and I’ll put your name on the list. 
A Valentine's Day gift goodie: The More than Friends 6-book bundle of novels by Crimson Romance is still available for under a dollar.
Deadly Star -- Amazon Print / Kindle  / B&N print and Nook / KOBO
Amazon Central Author Page:

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and upcoming events

“The richer we have become materially, the poorer we become morally and spiritually. We have learned to fly in the air like birds and swim in the sea like fish, but we have not learned the simple art of living together as brothers.”  ― Martin Luther King Jr.


cj Sez: So, tell me, what writer, aspiring to be published, doesn’t want to know more about the language of contract options? Specifically, how much do you know about “Negotiating options in publishing deals?” Writers in the Storm blog spot invited Susan Spann to do a guest post on the subject, and she went into some depth—an article definitely worth reading. And Susan has the credentials to back up her post. She’s an attorney whose practice focuses on publishing law and business. Read all about it here:
(And think about subscribing to the blog.)

The following url list of 2017 short story contests came across my desk recently, and I thought you might be interested in one (or more) of them. I haven’t vetted these, so do your due diligence before signing on to any of them.   

Be sure to stop back by on Wednesday, January 18, when Lyrical Pens will focus a spotlight on Mystery Thriller Week author, Stephen Perkins and his new novel Raging Falcon (it’s based on real-life events). 

Find out more about international Mystery Thriller Week authors here:   The event runs from February 12 to 22 on Facebook. I’ll be participating and giving away surprises, so be sure to stop by when the page goes public. I'll have more info on Lyrical Pens as it gets closer to the date.   

I'm on a blog tour at other MTW author blogs next week, First up is Christina Philippou’s blog ( ) on Monday, January 16 (topic is a question/answer interview).

On Tuesday, January 17, I’ll be on Joe Broadmeadow’s blog ( ). I’ll be providing excerpts of “Bad Day at Round Rock,” my short story in the upcoming Western anthology THE POSSE. I’m one of six authors, so THE POSSE offers a variety of human interest stories, all with the usual action you’d expect from a Western. “Bad Day” is a tale of history, mystery, myth, greed, and love, all rolled up into one short story.

You'll have two of my posts to visit on Wednesday, January 18 . . . Lyrical Pens to read the spotlight post on Stephen Perkins and then on to my blog tour stop, where my host will be Jude Roy ( ). Deep point of view is the topic of the post. By the way, Jude was recently named a finalist for the 2017 Freddie Award in the thriller category with his novel, THE LYNCHINGS. Congratulations, Jude!  

If you have a chance to stop by these author blogs, please leave me a note so I can say thanks!

Another thing to think about:  Signing up for my quarterly newsletter for info and occasional prizes. Drop me a note at to subscribe. I’m working to send out the first issue, a one-pager, on March 31, and I’d love to send one to you. (‘Preciate it.)

cj Sez: That’s all for today, folks. You-all guys keep on keeping on, and I’ll try to do the same.
Amazon Central Author Page:
Choosing Carter  -- Kindle  /  Nook  /  Kobo   /  iTunes/iBook
Deadly Star --  Kindle  / Nook  / Kobo
Coming in mid-February 2017—“Bad Day at Round Rock” a short story in The Posse, a Western anthology of tales of action, romance, myth and truth.   

More Than Friends is still available on Amazon for a couple of more weeks—six romance novels for less than a buck.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Author Nupur Tustin stopped by today

cj Sez: When I interviewed author Nupur Tustin for this post, I discovered that she’s uniquely qualified to write her wonderful historical fiction. 

Among her many talents is being a composer, so wouldn’t you think it natural that she choose Franz Joseph Haydn as her protagonist? Okay, maybe not “natural” but it is a remarkable choice. Here are her fascinating responses to my questions:

Lyrical Pens:  When did you realize you wanted to write novels?
Nupur Tustin:  Although I've always enjoyed writing, I don't think I'd ever have considered writing a novel if it hadn't been for two people I encountered as a grad student at UConn. One was the author Scott Bradfield. I was in a creative writing workshop he taught. We critiqued short stories, but for some reason he strongly suggested I consider writing novels. That advice stayed with me, although for the longest time I had no idea what to write about.

I was also fortunate enough to encounter Janice Law, another mystery writer, at UConn. From her came the advice to write the kind of novel I most enjoyed reading. It took a while to admit to myself that I enjoyed a good mystery more than anything else.

LP: What is it like to be a historical fiction writer?
NT: Strangely enough, it's a bit like being a detective. Although there's a wealth of information on every detail from women's undergarments to the post when it comes to Britain and America, there isn't quite as much information about Europe. What there is, isn't available in easily labeled packets. So, I have to think of ingenious strategies to find tidbits of information, which I then piece together like a jigsaw puzzle. Let me explain.

When I needed information on funeral practices in Catholic Austria, the closest thing I could find on the subject was Craig Koslofsky's research on how the Reformation had changed rituals of death and dying in early modern Germany. Better than nothing given the geographic proximity of the two regions, and that both were inhabited by Germanic peoples.

Any book on the Reformation and its impact on rites and rituals would necessarily have to detail customs prior to that event, which meant I'd get some insight into Catholic funeral practices. These practices had apparently not only remained largely unchanged after the Reformation, but didn't really differ from one Catholic country to the next.

Even so I wondered if this general assumption was accurate. Would I be missing out on a singularly Austrian detail, if I didn't investigate any further?

I looked at details of Mozart's funeral, but although he had died in Vienna, he was Lutheran. My character was Catholic. Moreover, Mozart had died in 1791, and my story was set in the 1760s. Joseph II had initiated a number of changes, which, although they didn't go down too well, did affect the way Mozart was buried, giving rise to the common misconception that he received a pauper's funeral.

In an effort to limit funeral expenses, Joseph II insisted that coffins only be used to convey the dead to the burial site. The dead were to be buried only in their shrouds so that the coffin could be re-used for the next person who died. Burial was also to take place outside city limits, initially a practice adopted by Lutherans.

Then, I remembered that Vivaldi had died in Vienna. There was likely not only to be a record of the details of his death, but it would likely have been translated into English. Musicologists until quite recently believed that Haydn had sung at the older composer's funeral, a belief that would have fueled research.

National Library in Vienna  ... (awesome)
I wrote to the National Library in Vienna—a vast collection of documents and works originally owned by the Habsburgs—and received a very detailed account of Vivaldi's last days: his death in an apartment near the Carinthian Gate, the examination of the body by a medical examiner, a list of funeral expenses. No song was sung, although a fee of six gulden would have purchased an a capella rendition of Der Grimmige Tod.

A time-consuming, frustrating process at times, but always fun, in my opinion!

LP: It’s fascinating that you’ve taken Franz Joseph Haydn, an 18th century Classical composer, and imbued him with kind of a modern-day humanity that history books cannot. As a composer yourself, you have something in common, but why did you choose Haydn and what kind of feedback do you get from fans of the great musician?

NT: I knew I was going to write a mystery. I also knew it would be a historical mystery centering around a composer. My love of music, biography, and history determined those facts. But I needed someone with the right temperament.

Nosy sleuths who forcibly insert themselves into an investigation can be fun in a contemporary cozy, but don't work for a historical mystery. Take Anne Perry's Thomas Pitt, for instance. How far do you suppose he'd go, and how many cases would he solve, if he was known to have a propensity to gossip and meddle?

Precisely. Haydn's discretion and his affable nature make him the perfect protagonist. But the more I read about him, the more he captivates my heart. His eager desire to help anyone in need earned him the affectionate nickname of Papa Haydn. He remained unassuming to the end, never taking umbrage at being mistaken for a servant; taking pleasure in the mere fact of anyone, amateur or professional, performing and enjoying his music.

So, Haydn has become not just a muse for the mysteries I write about him, but a moral beacon guiding my life. Many people have achieved success. Not many, though, retain a sense of their roots in the way Haydn did.

LP:  What are you most proud of over your writing career?
NT:  I never thought I'd be able to write a novel. That I've been able to write two while having three young children to take care of—my oldest will be five, and my youngest is about 18 months—makes me quite proud. In addition to the two Haydn novels, I've written a few short stories, been a regular contributor for the SinC Guppy newsletter First Draft, I maintain a monthly blog and send out a newsletter, and I've written some music. That's a lot of writing for a woman as hard pressed for time as I am.

Apart from my writing, I'm most proud of my three beautiful children. My husband and I congratulate ourselves on this wonderful accomplishment nearly every day!

LP:  Lessons you wish you knew before starting on your quest for a career in writing?
NT:  You know, I'm actually glad I knew nothing about the publishing world when I started out. I never would have embarked on this journey if I had. Just as I would never have had children if I'd known how tough it is to be a parent.

But I can't imagine life without my children, and I can't imagine not being a writer.

There are some hard truths you have to accept when you become a writer—that it's a business and you need to market and promote your books in addition to writing them. I accept this part of it just as I accept my children's temper tantrums and frequent bouts of ill-health. No matter what the trials and tribulations, some dreams are still worth having

LP:  What would you tell you 20-year-old self?
NT:  Experience is a far better teacher than I could ever be, so I don't think I'd say much more than: "Follow your heart." That's a variation of Sir Philip Sidney's injunction to "look in thy heart and write." There's a deep, inner wisdom within each of us. When we learn to look within, we can use it as a compass for every endeavor.

LP:  Tell us about an important mentor in your life.
NT:  That's a tough question. I've received nuggets of wisdom from so many people: my parents and teachers, from books, from my husband, and now from my children. What can my children have taught me? Well, to let go and trust in their innate wisdom, for one thing. To hold onto my inner joy, for another.

One time I put my daughter in timeout. There were toys strewn all over the floor, and she hadn't picked them up despite repeated requests to do so. When I went into her room to check on her a few minutes after I'd put her in there, I found her, much to my surprise, playing with some odds and ends and singing to herself.

I was secretly impressed that she hadn't allowed the circumstance of being in timeout dampen her natural good spirits. "Good for you," I remember thinking. "Never let anyone steal your joy from you."

There's so much about life that we can't control. But I learn every day that we can control our attitude.

LP:  What is the best writing advice you ever received?
NT:  The best writing advice comes oddly enough from a songwriter, Pat Pattison: There are no rules; only tools. That's compelled me to look deeper into writing rules, and consider their purpose, instead of following them blindly.

There's nothing inherently wrong with adjectives or adverbs, for example, even those pesky ones that end in "ly." When it comes to describing tone of voice, for instance, adjectives and adverbs—depending on how you've phrased the sentence—are your best tools. How else do you describe the gentleness or softness or harshness of someone's tone?

But when it comes to emotional states, we use a variety of verbal and nonverbal cues to interpret, or misinterpret, a person's state of mind. In most cases, it helps to provide the reader with those cues rather than your character's perceptual interpretation of them. In the case of your character's own state of mind, you might want to consider the unbidden thoughts and feelings, the visceral state of being, that a situation can call up.

I can tell you that my daughter is delighted to see her Dad when he picks her up from school, for example,
I can describe how her eyes light up when she catches sight of his truck pulling into the lot; how she immediately rushes up to the fence around the schoolyard, and, holding onto the bars, jumps excitedly up and down while yelling, "Daddy! Daddy!"  at the top of her voice. How she turns to her friends and teachers to announce that her "Daddy is here, Miss Jen! Look, it's my Daddy, Caitlin!"

LP:  What are you most excited about for the next 10 years of your career?
NT: I've never looked that far ahead in time. I try to live in the present, taking it one day at a time. I would never have guessed at some of the things life has already brought me. So, I'm eager to see what it has in store for me next.

I'll be visiting San Diego for a bookstore event in a few months. This will be my second trip to the city. But eight years ago when I was there to present my research at one of the biggest Communication conferences in the country, I had no idea I'd be back with a mystery novel, of all things. That it would be about a composer, that I would have begun composing, were not only things I couldn't have predicted, they were things I hadn't even dreamed of.

LP:  What’s on the horizon for you?
NT:  The second Haydn novel, Aria to Death, has already been written. I'm researching the third, Prussian Counterpoint, and writing short stories about a librarian named Elsa Cronin, who seems to have a propensity for danger. The first story about her was the lead story in the December 15 issue (Vol. 4, No. 11) of Heater Magazine.

LP:  Tell us about your latest book . . . where you got the idea, how long it took from concept to publication, and how you came up with the title.(The title is usually a real challenge for me.)
NT: Titles aren't exactly my forte, either. I knew I wanted a play on musical terminology, and because the minor mode is frequently used to convey negative emotions, I decided we needed that word in the title. A violinist disappears, so my first idea was: A Minor Problem for Strings.

But I wasn't entirely pleased with it. I briefly considered A Minor Study in Murder, a play on the French "├ętude," usually an exercise in some aspect of technique. But Haydn is confronted with something far worse, so that didn't really fit.

Bart├│, the violinist who disappears, isn't just a violinist. Haydn learns that he's a dangerous man, harboring a deadly secret. His actions, unless Haydn can stop him, could jeopardize the entire Empire. As I continued to think about it, I realized deception was the key theme of the novel. It occurs on a number of different levels as well. So, I hit upon, A Minor Deception. The perfect title!

Thanks for inviting me to Lyrical Pens, Marilyn. I've really enjoyed answering your questions.

A Minor Deception is available in Print and Ebook Format at:
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A former journalist, Nupur Tustin relies upon a Ph.D. in Communication and an M.A. in English to orchestrate fictional mayhem. Childhood piano lessons and a 1903 Weber Upright share equal blame for her musical works. Learn more about this fascinating author at

Haydn Mysteries:

cj Sez: Thanks so much for stopping by, Nupur, and giving us some insights into your writing process. Your "showing not telling" example with your daughter's reaction was spot on. Best wishes for great success with A Minor Deception and all of Haydn's future adventures.

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