Interview with an Author: Sharon St. George on Plotting

Sharon St. George

Sharon St. George

It’s my pleasure to introduce you to Sharon St. George,  author of the hospital-based Aimee Machado Mystery series. Sharon draws on her past experience as a hospital librarian and medical staff coordinator when writing her hospital-based mystery series. She holds dual degrees in English and Theatre Arts and is a member of Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America. She currently serves as program director for a 90-member nonprofit writers’ organization in northern California. For leisure, she enjoys wilderness llama packing.

Breach CoverJudy: Tell me a bit about your BREACH OF ETHICS, your latest novel.

Sharon: BREACH OF ETHICS (May, 2016 Camel Press) is the latest novel in my hospital-based Aimee Machado Mystery series. The first title was DUE FOR DISCARD (March, 2015 Camel Press) followed by CHECKED OUT (October, 2015 Camel Press).

Judy: You’re visiting today to talk about plotting. Every writer has their own method of getting the story down. What system works for you, and why?

due_for_discard_300Sharon: The crime or murder always involves or impacts the hospital where Aimee Machado works as a librarian specializing in forensics. I usually create five potential suspects, all of whom have some connection to the victim that offers a potential motive. Most of the suspects have connections to each other as well. Once I get that far, I hold off deciding who is guilty until after my protagonist and her team begin sleuthing. I’ve given Aimee friends, family and co-workers who have special skills, so that she has a pool of crime-solving talent to draw from. In real life, I have access to people with similar skills who are available to keep me from writing myself into a corner. By the time Aimee and her gang have gathered clues about each suspect, I have usually decided who did it and why. That’s when the real plotting work begins, which involves some revising from the beginning to weave in the necessary foreshadowing. Then I call on the special skills of my protagonist and her team of crimesolvers to crack the case.

Judy: Describe your writing process and/or a typical day in your life. 

Sharon: I write at home in the morning using a desktop computer and sipping coffee. My home office window looks out on our backyard garden, many oak trees, our llama pasture, and a distant vista of mountains to the west. To set the mood when I start to write each day, I’ve given each book in my series its own music, which I refer to throughout the story. Book one is country, book two is blues, and book three is classical piano. I create Pandora radio stations for each of my novels, and listen to the related music as I write. The book I’m working on now, SPINE DAMAGE, is fourth in the series. It involves a trip to the Azores, so I’ve just created a Pandora station of Portuguese fado music.

checked_out_300 (1)Judy: What’s the best writing advice you have ever read or been given?

Sharon: Write every day if at all possible. Find a like-minded critique group with writing skills equal to, or above, your own level.

Judy: What are you currently reading?

Sharon: I just finished Off the Grid by C. J. Box. I’m now reading Alexander McCall Smith’s The Woman Who Walked in Sunshine.

Judy: Do you read your genre when writing? If so, why? If not, why not?

Sharon: I do read my genre while writing, mostly for enjoyment, but always looking to improve my own craft by reading something done brilliantly by another author, such as McCall Smith’s No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series.

Thank you Sharon!

Find out more about Sharon and her books at www.sharonstgeorge.com.

Poll: Social Media Survey

9de34801380555a988bcd61ee2a7b94fI’m going to let you in on a secret: the best part of being an author is writing—even when the words don’t flow, even when we’d rather be golfing (well, okay, maybe not then but you get the idea).

The hardest thing for authors to do (at least, for this author) is self-promotion, especially at a time when social media is all-encompassing, and our inboxes are quickly filled up with more of the same.

The thing is, marketing is part of the deal, and there are only so many hours in the day, so as authors we carefully select our particular social media channels—and hope for the best.  Some of those selections prove to be pretty good choices; others not so much.

This poll is designed to get your feedback. Please vote, and then, if you’re willing,  share it on YOUR social media platforms. The final results will be posted here on May 26th at noon EST.

Thank you!

One Day Only: 100 Free Books!

Hi-res NewIt’s Friday the 13th and some folks find that a bit scary. Not me! I actually got married on Friday, October 13, 1989. and yup, still married! But this post isn’t about that…it’s about 100 Free Books!

Barking Rain Press is running a promotion. If you are one of the first 100 people to use the code “1000sOfBooks” when you go to check out at www.barkingrainpress.org, you will receive a free ebook. You can choose from all sorts of great books. Of course, I’m more than happy to recommend The Hanged Man’s Noose (click here to add it to your cart!), but there are plenty of other great titles, too. [If you do win a free book, authors and publishers really appreciate reviews.]

Good Luck and Happy Reading!

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My Publishing Journey: Skeletons in the Attic—Editing, ARCs & Blog Hops

71818cc648013546d72e164fdf51e1aeIt’s hard to believe that I just signed the publishing contract with Imajin Books for Skeletons in the Attic in March, and it’s already on the fast track to be published August 21, 2016! After giving the manuscript one final review (and yes, after all my previous readings, I still found some typos!…how do those sneak in?), I sent the document off to my assigned Imajin editor, Todd Barselow.  Todd will complete three rounds of editing. After completing each round, he’ll send the manuscript back to me, at which point I’ll accept or reject changes, and make any revisions necessary to strengthen the book. Our timeline is tight—mid June—but it’s doable.

The next item on my agenda was to create a “Galley Proof” Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) PDF. This has been sent to a handful of authors. These authors have agreed to read Skeletons in the Attic, and provide a back of the book blurb if they enjoyed it. This is a nerve-wracking process, because I’ve approached authors who I really admire. Their opinion means much more to me than just an endorsement.

I’ve also created a print copy, coil bound at Staples Business Depot, for my husband, Mike, to read. As I write this, he’s busy  looking for typos and making notes in the margins—there is no plot hole too small for Mike to notice. Which is great…but, well, you know. Sometimes he thinks he is so darned clever!

Last, but certainly not least, over the next couple of weeks, I’ll be looking for blog opportunities for the week of August 21st, and beyond. This involves approaching other bloggers, and hoping they have a spot for me. The idea, you see, is to get as many readers as possible to learn about Skeletons in the Attic. Early sales are usually an indicator of how well a novel will do. If you have a blog, and would like to host me, I’d love to hear from you.

Stay tuned for updates. There’s only 15 weeks to post time!

Thank you for following my writing journey.

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My Publishing Journey: Malice Domestic – Part 2

At Ellen Byron's table at the Malice Domestic Awards Banquet.

At Ellen Byron’s table at the Malice Domestic Awards Banquet.

I promised to give you an update on my very first Malice Domestic. An annual mystery lovers convention in Bethesda, Md., this year’s Malice officially kicked off on Friday, April 29th. Because I’ve never been to Washington before, I decided to fly in a day early to play tourist. Here’s a brief recap:

Thursday, April 28: Got up at 3:30 a.m. — the airport shuttle picked me up at 4:30 a.m. Arrived at Toronto airport at 5:30, the 2 hour obligatory time ahead of my 7:30 a.m. flight. I was too excited to be tired!

IMG_0513Arrived at Reagan airport at about 9:00, caught the Metro (yellow line to Gallery Place, red line to Bethesda). The subway system is very easy to navigate and very inexpensive. It was about $5 from the airport for an approx. 40 minute trip. Checked in early (thank you Hyatt Regency Bethesda), and then caught the Metro to the White House.

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My first view of the White House.

Yes, the White House is far away...but I still got to pose for this photo in front of it!

Yes, the White House is far away…but I still got to pose for this photo in front of it!

Totally random: a mushroom seller at the Washington Farmer's Market.

Totally random: a mushroom seller at the Washington Farmer’s Market.

I played tourist and walked a few miles to see what I could. I considered a tour bus, but I knew I’d be sitting a lot over the weekend and wanted to be moving, despite the cool/rainy day. I really wanted to get to Arlington, but by 5 p.m., I was just too tired to think about it. Back to the hotel.

Lucy Zahray, aka The Poison Lady

Lucy Zahray, aka The Poison Lady

Thursday evening, Lucy Zahray, aka The Poison Lady, did a great presentation on lead poisoning and everyday products that could be used to commit murder. I already have an idea for a short story! (Did you know that Grecian Formula contains lead? That’s what actually darkens the hair — the lead corrodes).

With Catriona McPherson and Hank Phillippi Ryan.

With Catriona McPherson and Hank Phillippi Ryan.

Friday, April 29: A good night’s sleep, had a quick breakfast with some fellow authors, caught a couple of panels, and then headed off to meet the Sisters in Crime Guppies for lunch at Booeymonger, a local deli-style diner. We were a noisy bunch! A couple more panels and time for dinner with a group of “Facebook Friends” authors. The restaurant was REALLY expensive. I paid $8 for 4 spears of asparagus with a small strip of mozzarella cheese, and $11 for a small (and I do mean small) beet salad. Note to self: Check the online menu before making plans!

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Sisters in Crime Guppies unite at the Sisters in Crime International Breakfast

Saturday, April 30: A big day that started early with the Sisters in Crime International breakfast. Then at 10 a.m. my panel, Extra Extra, Newshounds and Murder. Joining me were moderator Nora McFarland and authors LynDee Walker, Jan Burke (yes, THE Jan Burke), Hannah Dennison, and Kate Dyer-Seeley. Thanks to Nora’s expertise, the panel went off without a hitch.

At the author signing with Art Taylor, winner of the Agatha Award for Best First Novel, and Harriet Sackler, Malice Grants Chair.

At the author signing with Art Taylor, winner of the Agatha Award for Best First Novel, and Harriet Sackler, Malice Grants Chair.

The panel was followed by a multi-author signing, and it was there that I met Harriet Sackler, Grants Chair for Malice Domestic. Harriet suggested we have lunch together in the hotel, and we were joined by 2015 grant winner Keenan Powell, who came all the way from Anchorage, Alaska.

Saturday evening is the main event, with the Agatha Awards banquet. Here, award nominees host tables, and attendees can request to sit with their favorite author. I requested Ellen Byron, who was up for Best First Novel for her Cajun Louisiana mystery, Plantation Shudders.  As you can see by the photo at the top of this post, we really got into the Mardi Gras theme!

My interview at the Debut Author's Breakfast.

My interview at the Debut Author’s Breakfast.

Sunday, May 1: Up bright and early for the 7 a.m. Debut Author’s Breakfast. Here, 21 Debut authors (first published in 2015) were interviewed by Cindy Silberblatt. It was great fun to meet fellow debut authors and hear a bit about their books.

All too soon, the conference was over, and it was back to the airport, but not before a photo opp with some fellow members of Crime Writers of Canada. Back on the Metro, where, due to a flight delay, I spent a few hours at the airport. Got home at midnight, exhausted but happy, and already planning my next conference: Bouchercon 2017 in Toronto. Stay tuned!

Crime Writers of Canada Unite! Back Row L to R: Mary Jane Maffini, Robin Harlick, Judy Penz Sheluk, Vicki Delany, Linda Wiken (aka Erica Chase). Front Row L to R: Janet Costello, Helen Nelson.

Crime Writers of Canada Unite! Back Row L to R: Mary Jane Maffini, Robin Harlick, Judy Penz Sheluk, Vicki Delany, Linda Wiken (aka Erica Chase). Front Row L to R: Janet Costello, Helen Nelson.