Mug Shot: Member Profile

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Mug Shot: Gary Earl Ross

garyrossPlaywright, novelist, public radio essayist, and popular culture scholar Gary Earl Ross is a professor emeritus at the University of Buffalo. His work includes the award-winning plays Matter of Intent and The Guns of Christmas and the novel Blackbird Rising. His 1925 courtroom drama The Mark of Cain will be onstage this season at Subversive Theatre's Manny Fried Playhouse in Buffalo and his first Gideon Rimes mystery, Nickel City Blues, will be published in 2017. He joined the MWA in 2006.

What made you decide to be an author?
When I was ten — on one of our regular trips to the public library — I fell in love with Ray Bradbury's prose and decided to become a writer. My parents helped immeasurably. My mother, who'd always read to us, passed on her books without trying to censor my reading (and she read a little of everything). My father (the first African American man in the Navy to work in an office because he could type 100 words a minute) gave me his old typewriter. Also, I read almost everything I could get my hands on, from Agatha Christie to James Baldwin to comic books. From the age of 18 on, I published short stories in a variety of venues but didn't finish my first novel (historical) until I was in my forties. A collapsed book deal sent me toward writing plays. My second play, Matter of Intent, won the Edgar in 2006, and as I moved into the last third of my university professorship, almost all my writing (plays, stories, and finally another novel) was in the field of mystery.

Do you outline or fly by the seat of you pants?
I do both. Sometimes a story springs full-blown into my head and almost writes itself. Other stories require a lot of planning, outlining, time, and effort. Some horses can't wait to run while others need spurs to canter.

What non-crime books do you enjoy reading?
I read history and science fiction, as well as "literary" novels and books on film.

How do you handle rejection or bad reviews?
I sigh, shrug, go for a walk, eat a candy bar, and sit down to write. I always feel better the next day.

What advice would you give to beginning writers?
Go for broke. I married early and had a family and pursued a safe career in higher ed (safe once I got tenure). I loved teaching but was never fully satisfied by the scholarly side of things, which is why I continued to write fiction. I longed to get up in the morning and just write stories. I have wondered what my life as a writer would have been like if I had gone for broke early and lived in a hovel as I developed my craft. My children and grandchildren are what make me say I can't regret my choices, but as soon as I could, I retired from university life. In the two years since I've retired, I've published four short stories, written two plays (one onstage this spring), directed three plays (two my own), and completed a novel. Now I get up every morning and write. I've never been happier.

Mug Shot: Nancy A. Hughes

Nancy A. Hughes earned a Bachelor of Science in English with emphasis in journalism and advertising at Penn State, and a certification in corporate community relations at Boston College. Living in rural Pennsylvania, she started her own public relations business, followed by corporate work in media, public, and community relations. All of which she later abandoned for murder and mayhem.

Tell us about your latest work.
I’m thrilled by the enthusiastic response to my mystery novel, The Dying Hour, which was published last fall. The timing was perfect to showcase the excellent work of our VA hospitals and to introduce the mindset of a typical Vietnam hero. In the novel, hospice patient Charlie Alderfer survives a medical catastrophe, only to discover that he faces three final battles — an inoperable aneurysm; a mute and despondent five-year-old visitor; and an intruder who is murdering Charlie’s roommates.

In 2017, the first in my series of romantic suspense novels, A Matter of Trust, will be published in late spring this year. Two more Trust novels will follow. Finally, a sequel to The Dying Hour, titled The Innocent Hour, will follow the Trust series in 2018.

When and how do you find time to work?
Very early retirement gave me the time, but that time must be fiercely guarded from well-meaning people. There's a sense that writing is a hobby that can be fit into spare moments, which makes me the perfect candidate for others' projects. I chose the volunteer work that called to me and schedule it. Self-discipline is key — there's always a plant that needs a bigger pot. I write in sweeps of time, in isolation, to retain my story's continuity. I love the creative process and hate being dragged from it. My husband jokes that in the morning he leaves me home in my bathrobe, coffee on my desk, and finds me still writing when he returns for dinner.

How much and what kinds of marketing do you personally do?
Personally, the Internet is my friend! A professionally designed website; Facebook, both private and public; Twitter; email. Using the latter, I contacted family, friends, associates, and acquaintances who aren't on social media. I generated buzz six months before launch.Book signings are great fun, the most important benefit being the advance advertising the venue. I should blog and write a newsletter — they're on my 2017 to-do list.

My local newspaper, The Reading Eagle, published a story about my book and me in January. I highly recommend finding which of your local paper editors handle local author stories and pitch them. I'm also considering newspaper ads.

And word of mouth! I work the news of publishing a novel into conversations, even with strangers, who eagerly accepted my bookmark which I’ve shamelessly shared. I do not and will not sell books myself.

I owe the MWA so much and urge writers, regardless of genre, to join professional organizations. MWA-NY's meetings, programs, and friendships have surfaced opportunities and expanded my knowledge of mystery writing. I also joined Sisters in Crime and International Thriller Writers, which have many opportunities for promoting.

Finally, assuming my book is worthy, word has spread word-of-mouth to strangers, book clubs, and out-of-state readers. What joy!

What authors have inspired you?
Nancy Drew authors, Daphne duMaurier, Harper Lee, Sue Grafton, Lisa Scottoline, Jack Bickham (The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes and How To Avoid Them), John Grisham, Stephen King, countless others, especially mystery writers. On craft: the Howdunit series, Zinsser, Strunk and White, D.P. Lyle, M.D, and Elizabeth Lyon.

In five words or less, what advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Never give up! Keep learning!

Mug Shot: Lorenzo Carcaterra

Lorenzo Carcaterra is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Sleepers, A Safe Place, Apaches, Gangster, Street Boys, Paradise City, Chasers, and Midnight Angels. He is a former writer/producer for Law & Order and has written for National Geographic Traveler, The New York Times Magazine, Details, and Maxim. His most recent novel is The Wolf. He lives in New York City with Gus, his "Olde English Bulldogge."

What are you working on currently?
Currently, I'm working on my new novel, Tin Badges, for Ballantine Books. It's a crime novel featuring an ex-cop leading a rogue team in a hunt for a killer. They are joined in the chase by his recently orphaned 15-year-old nephew, a budding Sherlock Holmes. It is the first in a planned series and will quickly be followed by The Widow Maker, the sequel to The Wolf.

I also sold a spec script for a TV series to [producer and director] Joe Roth, and we are working to gear up the pilot. The series is called The Prosecutor.

When and how do you find time to write?
You make time. I usually work on the books in the mornings and the scripts in the afternoon. Layered in between are walks with my dog; a workout and reading — papers, books, magazines. I make my own hours and luckily don't need much sleep, so if you total it all up — I probably write for about 8 hours a day; read about 2-3; workout for 2; and watch as many movies and TV dramas as needed — it's all part of the job.

How much and what kinds of marketing do you personally do? How do you feel it works for you?
I have a web site, I blog occasionally for it; Facebook and Twitter — which everyone does. Someone does Instagram for me from photos I send her. It's like chicken soup — it can't hurt. I have to decide to devote more time to social media — making a bigger footprint in that arena. I notice it does pay off for some writers I know and, while I plan to do more, I don't know how well it works for me. I still believe the best way to sell a book to a reader is by word of mouth. I do enjoy going out and speaking to groups — I prefer speaking to reading — and those I find very useful, fun, and productive. Last year I spoke to 500 folks at Boeing headquarters in D.C., had a blast and sold over 600 books and ended up on the Washington Post bestseller list — that's effective marketing.

What fictional detective would you like to be and why?
Lt. Columbo — smart, funny, sharp, and always caught his suspect.

In five words or less, what advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Read everything. Watch everything. Pray.

Photo by Kate Carcaterra.

MUG SHOT: ANNETTE DASHOFY

dashofy-1559-534x800Annette Dashofy is the USA Today best-selling author of the two-time Agatha-nominated Zoe Chambers mystery series about a paramedic and deputy coroner in rural Pennsylvania’s tight-knit Vance Township. With a Vengeance, the fourth in the series, was released in May. Dashofy and her husband live on part of what used to be her grandfather’s dairy farm with one very spoiled cat.

What made you decide to be an author?
I don't think it was ever a conscious decision. My first "stories" were written in crayon! It was simply something I did. In high school, I wrote "novels" in pencil, longhand in lined notebooks. I'd write a chapter or two, pass the notebook/novel around to my "fans" in study hall. They'd give it back and demand I keep writing. Real life got in the way of my fiction for a number of years, but I always wrote, whether it was content for newsletters or promotional copy for the photography business my husband and I ran. The fiction bug bit me hard again back in 2003 when I had a vivid dream that begged to be fleshed out. But as always, it wasn't so much a decision as a necessity to write.

Do you outline or fly by the seat of you pants?
Oh, my. I've done both as well as hybrid versions. I mostly flew by the seat of my pants on the book that comes out in the spring and had so much revising to do, I’ve sworn never to do that again. I need at least a loose outline to make sure the story makes sense. I’m working with a pretty detailed outline for the book I'm currently drafting. Granted, the definition of "outline" varies from writer to writer. I could probably write a whole book on the different versions I've seen.

What non-crime books do you enjoy reading?
There are other books out there besides crime? (Gasps in shock.) I do read a lot of crime fiction, from noir to romantic suspense. However, when I pick up something outside of my genre it’s often a Western. Everyone who really knows me, knows how much I love Westerns, be they books or TV shows. However I sometimes indulge in women's fiction, autobiographies (especially humorous ones), and an occasional Stephen King thriller.

withavengeance-cover-frontHow do you handle rejection or bad reviews?
While I would like to tell you I'm so thick-skinned that these things have no effect on me anymore, I think it's more accurate to say I'm not so much thick-skinned as fast-healing. I tend to gnash my teeth, mutter, and threaten to buy a voodoo doll at first. But after a few hours (or few days depending on the source of the rejection), I shrug it off and keep writing. For the most part I’ve stopped reading my reviews. Or I look at them with my hands over my eyes, peeking between my fingers. The last bad one I read made me laugh. And yell. Because the reviewer’s reasons for the slam were dead wrong! I wanted to tell her to "Read the darned book!"Of course, my number one rule is: DO NOT ENGAGE. Anyhow, to sum it up, I give myself permission to sulk, but only briefly, and then forget about it.

What advice would you give to beginning writers?
I have three bits of advice I always share to aspiring writers. 1.) Learn your craft. Join a writing organization or group and take the workshops and classes they offer. 2.) Write the best book you can write and then revise, revise, revise. And 3.) Never give up. Go back and look at my answer about rejection. Yeah, it stings. But don’t give anyone the power to quash your dream. Keep writing. Keep revising. Keep pounding away. The one and only sure way of never getting published is to stop trying.

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