Chills, thrills and spills with Thriller Thursday by Amy Shojai
THRILLER THURSDAY is a new occasional feature of Bling, Bitches & Blood. As a member of International Thriller Writers and alumni of the ITW Debut Author Program, it is my honor to showcase select ITW authors and books participating in the ITW Bloggers Program. If you love reading great books as much as I do, check out my Spotlight Guest Elena Hartwell!
Now here’s something you don’t see every day–a playwright deciding to write thrillers. (I’ve found my identical twin separated at birth! Ha!) When I learned that Elena shared my love of theatric-icity, I had to ask for more information. Take it away, Elena!
Elana & Chance
Question:What do theater, horses, and murder have in common?Answer: Author, Elena Hartwell.
My writing career started in the theater, as a director, producer, and educator. As a playwright, I’ve had several productions around the US and abroad. Sometimes it was satisfying and wonderful. Sometimes it was painful and always required I “sell” my script over and over and over to the next theater down the road. For twenty years, I worked teaching theater, directing, and producing.
But my heart always returned to the writing.
Plays are satisfying, but require a village to “complete.” So I started my first novel. It was a 120,000-word mystery. I was worried it was too short. I’ve since learned most first time mysteries are 65-70,000 words. I learned a lot with that first book. Plays are in permanent present tense and each character has their own POV, because they are inhabited by individual actors. Novels, on the other hand, are usually in past tense and with a specific POV. I learned the difference between writing atmosphere and writing specific descriptions.
I wrote another book. It was better. But didn’t sell. So I wrote a third book and landed an agent. I thought I’d “made it.” But that book didn’t sell either. So I wrote a fourth book and pitched it to an Independent press. One Dead, Two to Go hit the shelves on April 15th.
Elena’s husband J.D. and Jasper
So how do you stay grounded in a world where you have little control over your own destiny? My method is my horses. Two years ago, I met an Arabian gelding named Second Chance. He was given that name because he survived a kill pen, where he was to be sold for dog food. He arrived at the equine rescue where I volunteered and I fell in love. Unwilling to let anyone touch him, he walked over and put his head on my shoulder the first time we met. We’ve been together almost every day since. In December, my husband and I bought Jasper, a dynamic, confident ranch horse we found at the end of a dirt road on the Nevada/Utah border. Now I share my love for these magnificent animals with him. No matter what happens in the publishing world, I stay grounded. For that I am eternally grateful.
Thriller writer Elena Hartwell
MORE ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Elena Hartwell was born in Bogota, Colombia, while her parents were in the Peace Corps. Her first word was “cuidado.” At the age of nine months, she told two men carrying a heavy table to be careful in their native tongue. She’s been telling people what to do ever since. After almost twenty years in the theater, Elena turned her playwriting skills to novels and the result is her first book “One Dead, Two to Go.” The Eddie Shoes Mystery Series launches April 15, 2016, to be followed by “Two Dead Are Better Than One” and “Three Dead, You’re Out.” For more information on Elena, please visit elenahartwell.com or like her Facebook Page ElenaHartwellAuthor and follow her on Twitter and at Pinterest. You may get to see cute pictures of her dog and her horse.
“One Dead, Two To Go is smart, page-turning fun, with the most feisty and likable P.I. since Kinsey Millhone. Looking for your next favorite detective series? Look no further.” —Deb Caletti, National Book Award finalist and author of He’s Gone
“Elena Hartwell doesn’t just burst onto the scene with this clever mystery novel—she kicks the door in and holds the reader at gunpoint.” —Peter Clines, Award-winning author
“The writing is cinematic and vivid, the characters well-drawn, but the dynamic between Eddie and Chava, which reminded me fondly of Cagney and Lacey, is what makes the story. Fans of the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich should de nitely check out One Dead, Two to Go. Recommended.”—Max Everhart, author of the Eli Sharpe Mystery series
“Unlike the standard-issue PI, Eddie seems allergic to guns and violence and worries about a bad haircut as much as stalking danger. Funny, clever, and full of grabbing plot twists, Elena Hartwell’s One Dead, Two To Go, the debut novel in her Eddie Shoes series, takes the mystery lover into unexpected territory, including the introduction of Chava, the intrepid mother who is kicked out of Vegas by the Mob and shows up uninvited on Eddie’s doorstep. is is a fast, memorable and entertaining read. Warning: you’ll want more.” —Scott Driscoll, author of Better You Go Home
Elena Hartwell’s debut novel One Dead, Two to Go
SYNOPSIS: Private Investigator Edwina “Eddie Shoes” Schultz’s most recent job has her parked outside a seedy Bellingham hotel, photographing her quarry as he kisses his mistress goodbye. This is the last anyone will see of the woman… alive. Her body is later found dumped in an abandoned building. Eddie’s client, Kendra Hallings, disappears soon after. Eddie hates to be stiffed for her fee, but she has to wonder if Kendra could be in trouble too. Or is she the killer?
Eddie usually balks at matters requiring a gun, but before she knows it, she is knee-deep in dangerous company, spurred on by her card-counting adrenaline-junkie mother who has shown up on her doorstep fresh from the shenanigans that got her kicked out of Vegas. Chava is only sixteen years older than Eddie and sadly lacking in parenting skills. Her unique areas of expertise, however, prove to be helpful in ways Eddie can’t deny, making it hard to stop Chava from tagging along.
Also investigating the homicide is Detective Chance Parker, new to Bellingham’s Major Crimes unit but no stranger to Eddie. Their history as a couple back in Seattle is one more kink in a chain of complications, making Eddie’s case more frustrating and perilous with each tick of the clock.
I am absolutely blown away both by the wonderful name suggestions and the enthusiastic voting for the pet stars of SHOW AND TELL. Arrrooo!!! and meee-WOW! Some names were hotly contested, with y’all rallying the troupes to vote.
SHOW AND TELL: An animal behaviorist and her service dog race a deadly storm to expose a treacherous secret others will kill to protect. The story once again takes place in the fictional town of Heartland, Texas. When September Day figures out missing pets aren’t lost, but instead stolen to be training bait for dog fights linked to a drug distribution ring, she has 24 hours to save the victims (furry and human). For those who have read the first two books, you’ll be pleased that SHOW AND TELL brings the story full circle. (Okay, that’s enough of a hint!).
The winning names not only will be included in the book, but your name and real pet’s description will be added to the “fact or fiction” acknowledgements in the book, and I’ll send you a paw-tographed copy of the book as soon as it comes out. I would also like the WINNERS named below to please email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) 1-3 photos of your named pet for possible use in future blogs/publicity about the book.
Because of the incredible interest, and I wanted to acknowledge your effort, I’ve included the names of the runners-up in the contest, too. BRAVO! And…here’s a teaser. All the runners-up will get a prize, too–not sure what just yet, but because it’s still percolating, but will have something to do with the book promo so you can share bragging rights with your peeps. Stay tuned!
For the past week, I’ve battled the “crud” with congestion, fever, coughing, aches and more. Apparently everything from the flu, pneumonia, colds and any combination thereof have afflicted many of my friends here in North Texas. I sure hope you dodged the bug!
Magical-Dawg thinks he’s “helping” by stealing the soiled tissues. Eww…sorry, TMI.
When you work for someone or a company, there’s always a bit of “wiggle room” built in, and you can call the Boss to say you’re just not able to attend to business and need a sick day. But that doesn’t happen when you work for yourself. It reminds me of that commercial playing these days, where the parent tries to tell the toddler, “I need a sick day…”
When you work for yourself, that just ain’t happening.
So those of us who are self-employed limp along and do our best to fulfill commitments. I don’t remember the last time that I forgot to send in my newspaper column–how embarrassing! And I didn’t have much of a voice and knew that coughing on camera wouldn’t be appealing, so yesterday I stayed away from my regular TV Pet Talk segment. Meanwhile, I’d love to unscrew my head to get rid of the yuck and the painful breathing/choking/coughing trifecta.
I’m a bit better today. And I promise, you can’t catch my “bug” by reading the blog, it’s not that kind of virus, LOL! I did want to update y’all on my must-do-projects I worked on despite the brain-fuzz-icity.
Cat Writers’ Association Collaborates with BLOGPAWS!
I’m honored to be the 2015-16 CWA Conference/Program Chair, and this week we announced an official collaboration with BlogPaws Conference 2015. I’m delighted that the CWA-branded WRITER TRACK of two professional panels will be highlighted at this prestigious blogging and social networking event.
Publish Or Perish? This publishing panel features pet book authors and publishers Amy Shojai of CWA, Pam Johnson-Bennett a best selling cat behaviorist and author, Lisa Erspamer a best selling publisher of cat and dog books, and Bob Mayer, a best selling author and publisher. The panel will discuss the current state of publishing from the “traditional” to “indie” paths, how publishing has changed, why bloggers should write a book (or become a publisher), how to choose your publishing path, pitfalls to avoid, and how to leverage social media and blogging to build your author platform.
Bridging the Gap Between Bloggers and Publishing This publishing panel features Layla Morgan Wilde, Janiss Garza, Alana Grelyak, and Deb Barnes. The session will be a “how to use your blog as a springboard to professional publishing” by learning how to write, research, edit, and design your blog posts in such a manner that they become a portfolio of quality work to help open the door to publishing deals. Learn more about the speakers and events at the CWA Website here.
I’ve had the privilege of knowing and working with Lea-Ann Germinder for many years, and am thrilled to be featured in an interview on her fabulous GoodNewsForPets site. You can check out the interview here–but be sure to check out all the marvelous pet-centric news and information provided in this stellar site.
SHOW & TELL PROGRESS
The next thriller has progressed in fits and starts, it seems. But I’m determined to get this book finished and into the “paws” of all of you fantastic reader-fans who have been sooooo very patient. I’m very much hoping to launch the next NAME THAT DOG and NAME THAT CAT contest late this month, so stay tuned. The first two books HIDE AND SEEK and SHOW AND TELL would never have happened without you…and the contests and wonderful characters y’all suggested made them that much better.
Now, it’s your turn. Have you been afflicted with the “crud” or something similar, but still had to work? How’d you manage? Did your boss understand? (My boss is a b*tch about being lazy, LOL!) Do tell!
I’m feeling a bit philosophical these days, as I continue to swim the fiction waters of the HIDE AND SEEK thriller sequel, once again with dog viewpoint and cat-astic plot points. Between the puppies.about.com nonfiction postings, this blog and the weekly newspaper columns, my work–and life–revolves around pets. For more than twenty years, I’ve puzzled over their actions, behaviors, motivations and care, nearly 24/7. Pets rule. That’s who I am.
Some folks write to change the world. They do so with passion, dedication, and great skill, and I admire them greatly. I also write to make a difference. Sometimes manage to save lives. I rarely know what impact the work has, though, because those who most benefit from my writing never read it. I blogged about how cats read a couple of weeks ago, but some critters skip the reading and instead probably baptize it. Please don’t leave my newspaper columns on the floor. It’s disheartening.
After decades puzzling about P’ETiQuette and studying furry foibles, I’m channeling my “inner dog” with the current thriller to extrapolate what pets think–and specifically, what Shadow (the hero service dog) wants out of life in general and this adventure in particular. Macy the Maine Coon in the story has a much bigger role this time around, and I’m having a ball as his feline character develops.
There are some clueless humans, too, that September and her fur-kids must deal with. I get to speculate what exactly pets see in humans that allows them to put up with clueless folks who seem scent-blind and hearing-stupid toward all the clear-as-crystal animal talk being sent our way.
So I accept that I’m different. Pets are my obsession, my fixation, my passion in life. My true readership will never ask for a pawtograph, or care if I have initials after my name. But they will do back-flips for the right treat, and wag and purr with delight should a human finally understand that tail-talk.
But until my audience comes out from under the bed, or tires from dog-earing one of my books and actually SPEAKS in language most owners understand–and puts me gloriously, wonderfully out of business–I’ll keep typing, blogging, and fiction-ing away.
So now it’s your turn. Listen to your inner “pet” and please share–what do you think your dog or cat (or both) want their clueless humans to understand? Maybe it’ll go in the HIDE AND SEEK book, too!
Nope, you’re not high on puppy Prozac. The cover of the book has changed! In fact, this is version number seven, and it’s by far the most striking and mysterious, while offering a taste of what to expect. Like it? I love it! While many folks (me included) thought the first cover worked extremely well, the powers-that-be decided to go another direction.
Isn’t that a great cover quote from D.P. Lyle? I just received another terrific advance quote from the awesome Dr. Marty Becker. Read about ’em on the LOST AND FOUND page.
NAME THAT PET CONTEST RESULTS
Thank you to everyone for your participation in the “Name That Dog” and “Name That Cat” contests to help me find the perfect choices for some of the furry characters in the book LOST AND FOUND.
More than 85 terrific cat and dog names were suggested. I narrowed the choices to about a dozen each, set up polls for you to vote, and we had over 800 votes result.
I’d say pet people are passionate about pet names! Without further delay, here are the results.
DOG HEROES NAMED
Caren Gittleman suggested the winning dog name Dakota because it means “trusted friend” and is also the name of her lovely Sheltie (who helps her co-write Dakota’s Den Blog).
In the book LOST AND FOUND, the main character September mourns the loss of her heart-dog (we’ve all been there right?) who died trying to save her husband. Therefore, her long lost canine partner DAKOTA is mentioned throughout the book.
Raelyn Barclay offered several dog name suggestions including Bruno, which won the second hero dog spot. Congratulations!
When September’s nephew becomes lost in the blizzard, she enlists the aid of a still active senior citizen tracking dog to find the boy. BRUNO is the star in that chapter, and demonstrates that old dogs still have the stuff of heroes.
CAT HEROES NAMED
Patricia suggested the winning cat name Macy. This name garnered more than a hundred individual votes from readers, wow! Macy is the name of Patricia’s seven-year-old yellow tabby, and named after a character in the Bold and the Beautiful television show.
September’s sable and white Maine coon cat is mentioned throughout the book, including cat-training scenes that demonstrate just how smart cats truly are! Macy literally “nails” the villain at just the right moment to help save the day.
Karyl Cunningham has been one of my most faithful blog followers (~waving at Karyl) so I’m delighted readers chose one of her name selections as the second cat hero character–Simba is the second cat name winner. Simba is the name of Karyl’s slightly chubby, arthritic senior citizen kitty.
As in all good thrillers, tragic victims often kick off the story. The first is a lovely woman in the wrong place at the wrong time, and she leaves behind a beloved rescue kitty–Simba, slightly chubby aging kitty with a bit of arthritis who finds a forever home with the victim’s daughter.
In addition to having their pets’ names spotlighted in the book, and their own contribution noted in the acknowledgements, these four winners will receive an advance copy of the book.
Thank you again to everyone who suggested names and voted. The response demonstrates to me why I love pets–and writing about them so much–because never mind the age or breed or attitude. In our heart of hearts, true pet lovers know that EVERY dog and cat has a hero inside them.
LOST AND FOUND is scheduled for release September 20 in Amazon Kindle (and other Ebook formats), with print versions available about a week later. I will of course post to my blog (here) as well as Facebook, but will also send out an email newsletter notification–if I have your email.
In fact, what the hey. Send me an email to amy @ shojai.com with LOST AND FOUND in the subject line between now and the release date, and I’ll add you to the drawing for a free copy of the book. Don’t be shy, you can share this with other thriller/pet lovers.
Now go pet your hero dogs and cats for me. Oh, and stay tuned–the regular WOOF WEDNESDAY blog will go out later today with more puppy-licious info. 🙂
I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, check out weekly PUPPY CARE must knows, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay tuned for more news about my forthcoming THRILLER, LOST & FOUND!
Yes, the day has come. I am delighted at the outpouring of interest in naming dogs who appear in my forthcoming thriller LOST AND FOUND. There were 29 total suggestions for canine character names. Some were wonderful names but the same as one of my human characters (now THAT would be confusing!), and others seemed too similar to other suggestions. I ended up choosing four or five of my favorites from your suggestions and then drawing the remainder out of a fish bowl. Two canine characters, both “hero dogs,” will be named based on your votes. (Watch for Feline Friday for the kitty poll picks!).
The winner’s names and why they chose their selection will also be included in the book, and winners will receive an advance copy of the book.
Just who ARE these canine heroes?
A dark sable German shepherd dog, trained for search and rescue, and protection (Schutzhund) was devoted to the main character, September. He died protecting her husband, and she still deeply mourns his loss. He is the “ideal” dog she compares all other canines to.
A senior citizen German shepherd comes out of retirement to track down the September’s missing nephew Steven. He ends up defending his trainer as well as giving September a chance to escape.
Does your dog’s name embody the essence of these doggy characters? Love, devotion, fearlessness, great heart? Looks don’t matter, neither does breed or age or even sex–everyone knows that all dogs have the heart and soul and devotion of heroes, so make your choice and follow your heart!
The poll below allows you to choose THREE (3) of your favorites. You can come back and vote again as many times as you’d like–and I hope you’ll encourage family and friends to champion your cause and also vote.
DEADLINE MONDAY AUGUST 30TH!
I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, check out weekly PUPPY CARE must knows, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Don’t forget to vote for your NAME THAT DOG/CAT character choice in the forthcoming THRILLER, LOST & FOUND!
The past two days I’ve been in purgatory–I won’t call it hell, because it’s the ABSENCE of something vital to my writing life. And I’ve learned (horrors!) that I’m an addict. . .
. . .of the Internet.
In the olden days (lawsie, sound like my Grandma used to!) words were typed and the smell of well-inked ribbon perfumed the room. Any piece of writer-icity fortunate enough to claim a home traveled via the U.S. Postal System–which meant a May 1st deadline required mail drop off at least a week in advance. Once Email emerged–and I’ll admit I arrived late at that party–writers not only saved on postage $, we gained something much more valuable. Extra time. Have a column due on May 1st? as long as you hit “send” before midnight on April 30, you’re golden.
And I’ve been burned several times by downloading emails infected with viruses or having a computer go belly up. So the past year or so all my email stays “online” in a virtual database I can access from any computer, anywhere. Even my email address book remains online, for ease of contact. Makes life simple.
Until the Internet goes ka-flooey. (That’s a technical writerly term, which loosely translated means !@#$%^&*O!@#$%^&!!)
Besides the inability to read or answer email and send articles, I couldn’t post blogs here, over at my RedRoom site, or update my spankin’ new puppies.About.com site, spread the furry news via Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. Particularly annoying, I could get Email via my Blackberry but couldn’t do more than answer a word or two without thumbs being sabotagued by the auto-correct feature. Arg!
So are you (gasp!) addicted to the Internet? How do you handle outages? I ended up working with my co-author on another project that didn’t require online access. And I suppose tomorrow I’ll do more of the same since the forecasts call for more crappiocca weather.
I’ve always thought technology offered countless benefits. What about you? Do we depend on the “un-wired” world too much? What do you do when your working life goes ka-flooey? Play hookey?
I would love to play hookey sometime. But my boss is a real bitch.
I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions–and to stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter with pet book give-aways!
I had a wonderful time–again–in NYC at Thrillerfest. With four-track speaker panels, it was tough to choose between stellar topics and terrific speakers. And I have to say, the receptions and after-hours spent in the bar catching up with old friends and making new acquaintances was a highlight. This was my fourth Thrillerfest and (hard to believe) it was the best ever! The picture above is of me with my friend Paula Lanier and author Jason Pinter. Visit me over at my Facebook page for more images of Allison Brennan, John Gilstrap, Shane Gericke, Steve and Liz Berry, Sandra Brown and more.
I also managed to video snippets of some of the sessions. But frankly, I was too busy enjoying the event and taking copious notes to do too much picture snapping. One of the best times for me was participation on a “social media” panel, and then a book signing. Go figure–nonfiction pet books were a hit! Of course, lots of thriller/mystery/suspense writers include dogs or cats in the story, so a book on behavior or treating gunshots, arrow, animal bites and such comes in handy. Videos include:
2010 Debut Authors with Brad Melzer speaker, Thrillerfest Saturday July 10, 2010, Silver Bullet winner Brad Meltzer speaks to the audience, and Debut Authors: Avery Aames, Graham Brown, Ryan Brown, Carla Buckley, Teresa Burrell, Pamela Callow, JJ Cooper, Reece Hirsch, Jeannie Holmes, Brett King, Sophie Littlefield, Boyd Morrison, Alan Orloff, Brad Parks, Sharon Potts, James Rubert, Stephen Jan Schwartz, Norb Vonnegut
Make Your Career a Thriller with Panel Master Jeff Ayers interviews authors Joseph Finder, Laura Caldwell, Stephen Coonts, Chris Kuzneski and John Gilstrap
Is Nonfiction More Thrilling? Peter James interviews True Thriller Award Recipient Mark Bowden, and Panel Master Doug Preston hosts nonfiction panel with authors Sean Michael Bailey, Emily Benedek, Mark Bowden, W. Craig Reed and Kathleen Sharp
Lisa Scottoline interviewed by John Land, and Daniel Palmer and Michael Palmer singing “The Writer’s Prison Blues” at the Awards Banquet.