Tuesday, 2 June 2020

An Interview with M. H. Norris

In the lead-up to the launch of The Black Beacon Book of Mystery in June, we’ve asked our contributors to answer a few questions so you can get to know them better. Let’s unravel the mystery behind the stories together.

First question, inevitable perhaps considering the pandemic...how are you coping?

Like anyone, I’ve had good days and I’ve had bad days. I’m actually still working so things haven’t changed a whole lot for me at this point.

Is there a story behind your contribution to The Black Beacon Book of Mystery? What inspired
you to write this mystery?

There are two things that man has always done: told stories and committed crimes. They will continue to do so. It’s not unreasonable to think that people combine the two. Back around 2014, I was approached with the idea of doing an anthology. But I needed a concept! I have a love of urban myths and legends but I was also at the beginning of my mystery writing career. I had the idea to combine the two. What if a forensic anthropologist was confronted with cases drawing from myth. After wandering CreepyPasta, I found the Midnight Game. As it’s internet fauxlore pretending to be a genuine Celtic myth, it looked perfect. “Midnight” was born. When a group of high schoolers are found murdered, Dr. Rosella Tassoni is called in when hints of a ritual are found at the crime scene. This sets Rosella off an adventure that will change her life forever. It is also the start of a new series featuring more stories where myth and murder meet.

What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?

When I was writing my first book, I got to sit in on a police training course. It was interesting to learn what they learn. I did an article about it as part of my senior portfolio and things I learned that day still slide into how my characters act in certain situations. What are the key ingredients for a ripping mystery story? Compelling characters, first and foremost. People come to your story for the premise, but unless you have a good character they may not stay very long. Suspects. The goal of any writer is to have people guessing until the very end. How often do you hear someone complain about a mystery, because they saw right through it? Motive. Sometimes the why leads you to the who. Methodology: This can be fun to make up. Also, if you’re writing a serial killer, technically the details really matter. I read the study the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit did on serial crimes and it was a fascinating read. Lastly, lots of research. I’ve accumulated so much over the years, and you’ll often find me reading various books on related subjects (especially on forensics!) or reading articles.

Do you have a favourite fictional sleuth?

I’m giving two answers here.
1. The Vinyl Detective - the lead character of Andrew Cartmel’s “Vinyl Detective” series. He’s not the most traditional crime solver but Cartmel does such a good job at marrying his love of vinyl with intriguing music themed mysteries.
2. Shawn Spencer - while I write a lot darker than most anything Psych gave us, it has always had a huge influence on how I write mysteries.

Tell us about a real mystery you have solved or would like to?

Confession time, I’m a bit scatterbrained. Most often the real life mysteries I solve is where did I sit something that I had earlier in the day. Or, worst case scenario, where did I put that piece of paper with that vital clue?

What are you writing now?

I tend to have a lot of eggs in a lot of baskets at any given time. Right now, I’m working on my contribution to Altrix Book’s Chonosmith Chronicles. I’ll be writing a story set in the 1940s-1950s and it is unlike anything I’ve written before. I’m also working on the first full-length story featuring Dr. Rosella Tassoni. We’ll be heading down to New Orleans where Rosella has to face her own demons while stopping a killer who only lives in the shadows. I also have my weekly column over at 18thWall Productions' website where I talk about writing. You can find me there on Wednesdays. Once a month, I also write for the Stage 32 blog. If you haven’t joined Stage 32, I highly recommend it. It’s a great networking tool for creatives, especially in film. In the realm of not-writing, I’ve been working on helping to bring back my podcast, the Raconteur Roundtable. I’m really excited for this to come back and I’ve had fun returning to this project. I’m also working on a YouTube channel that I’m excited to launch soon.

Where can we follow or contact you online?

Facebook: facebook.com/mhnorris4
Twitter: @girlinpink44
mhnorris.com

Tuesday, 26 May 2020

An Interview with Robert Petyo

In the lead-up to the launch of The Black Beacon Book of Mystery in June, we’ve asked our contributors to answer a few questions so you can get to know them better. Let’s unravel the mystery behind the stories together.

First question, inevitable perhaps considering the pandemic...how are you coping?

Staying at home as much as possible, and reminding myself that there are many other people—infected people, front line workers, unemployed people, nursing home residents—who have it a lot tougher than I do.

Is there a story behind your contribution to The Black Beacon Book of Mystery? What inspired you to write this mystery?

When I was in Junior High School, I wrote a series of stories, inspired by Marvel Comics and the TV show “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.”, called “The Men From ACEL” about a detective/spy agency. The characters in the series were all named after fellow students. The psychology behind this, I don’t know. Was I a shy nerd looking for attention? Did I think the character names earned me a built-in audience? As I became more serious about my writing, I’ve only attempted the “detective agency” a few times. “The Morrison File” is one of those times. (Some of the characters in the story have names similar to those characters in The Men From ACEL.)

What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?

Not recently, but I used to attend a yearly writer’s conference sponsored by Pennwriters, a statewide writer’s organization. Very helpful and very inspiring. I also used to attend Mystery conferences in Philadelphia.

Do you have a favourite fictional sleuth?

Sherlock Holmes is the reason I write mysteries.

What are you writing now?

I work on several projects at once, which probably isn’t a good thing, but sometimes when having problems with one project, I find moving on to another project helpful.

Where can we follow or contact you online?

petyo@ptd.net and Facebook or Twitter @robertpetyo

Friday, 22 May 2020

An Interview with Josh Pachter

In the lead-up to the launch of The Black Beacon Book of Mystery in June, we’ve asked our contributors to answer a few questions so you can get to know them better. Let’s unravel the mystery behind the stories together.

Is there a story behind your contribution to The Black Beacon Book of Mystery? What inspired you to write this mystery? 

My first published story, "E.Q. Griffen Earns His Name," appeared in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine in 1968. I was sixteen years old when I wrote it, and my protagonist was a sixteen-year-old boy named Ellery Queen Griffen. I wrote a second story about E.Q. two years later, and one about his younger brother, Nero Wolfe Griffen, a year after that, but then I moved on to creating my own characters, rather than copying those of other authors. A few years ago, I realized that the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of my first story was approaching, and I decided it would be fun to bring its main character back, fifty years older, to celebrate the occasion. Where would E.Q. be, half a century on? Well, where was I? Writing has over the decades been a paying hobby for me. My job is in education — I teach communication studies and film appreciation at a two-year college in Virginia. So why not make the adult E.Q. Griffen a college instructor? I wrote "50" and submitted it to EQMM — and editor Janet Hutchings not only bought it, she agreed to publish it in the magazine's November/December 2018 issue, exactly fifty years to the month after my December 1968 debut. The next year, I was delighted to see "50" place second in the balloting for EQMM's annual Readers Choice Award.

What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?

In 1972, I backpacked across Western Europe and visited the Reichenbach Falls in Meiringen, Switzerland. A beautiful spot — and, unlike the fictional "221B Baker Street," a real place!

What are you writing now?

A year ago, I was asked to write a story for a collection titled The Eyes of Texas, edited by the prolific Michael Bracken. I created a Texas private investigator named Helmut Erhard, whose grandfather was a German Army officer who spent the last two years of WWII in a POW camp in central Texas and stayed on in the US after the war to raise a family. I had so much fun with the character and the small-town Texas setting that I've now written four more Erhard stories and am working on number six.

Where can we follow or contact you online?  

I don't often tweet, but I'm a pretty regular presence on the Book of Faces, and I have a website at www.joshpachter.com

Tuesday, 19 May 2020

An Interview with John M. Floyd

In the lead-up to the launch of The Black Beacon Book of Mystery in June, we’ve asked our contributors to answer a few questions so you can get to know them better. Let’s unravel the mystery behind the stories together.

First question, inevitable perhaps considering the pandemic...how are you coping?

Like everyone else, I’ve been stuck here at home every day, so I’ve treated that as a chance to do a lot of writing. And reading. 

Is there a story behind your contribution to The Black Beacon Book of Mystery? What inspired you to write this mystery?

I wrote it because it’s a locked-room mystery, and I’ve always enjoyed reading that kind of story.

What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?

Almost every trip I’ve ever taken has resulted in at least one story, so I guess I’ve been on a lot of literary pilgrimages. Most of them lately have been to Bouchercons.

What are the key ingredients for a ripping mystery story?

Suspense and deception. And of course a crime, at its center. I also like plot twists, not only at the end but during the story itself.

Do you have a favourite fictional sleuth?

I have two of them: Martin Cruz Smith’s Arkady Renko and Nelson DeMille’s John Corey.

Tell us about a real mystery you have solved or would like to?

How does a guy who graduated in Electrical Engineering wind up writing fiction for magazines? I think I’ve solved that one.

What are you writing now?

A western about a bounty hunter on the trail of the stagecoach bandit who stole his girlfriend.

Where can we follow or contact you online?

Via my website (www.johnmfloyd.com) or my publisher’s site (dogwoodpress.com/john-floyd/).

Sunday, 17 May 2020

An Interview with Mike Adamson

In the lead-up to the launch of The Black Beacon Book of Mystery in June, we’ve asked our contributors to answer a few questions so you can get to know them better. Let’s unravel the mystery behind the stories together.

First question, inevitable perhaps considering the pandemic...how are you coping?

Staying inside, it’s been weeks since I spoke to anyone but family, except electronically. Fortunately, South Australia has one of the best responses to the epidemic in the world, and we’re feeling pretty confident so far that numbers will remain low.

Is there a story behind your contribution to The Black Beacon Book of Mystery?

The title “The Vicar of Sexton’s Deep” had been at the back of my mind for ages, the iconic image of the old, gothic church in the wild-wood, with strange things happening, and when the time came the storyline gelled very quickly. Discounting the still-incomplete opening adventure, this is the earliest of the Inspector Trevelyan stories, and I was still feeling my way. By the time it was finished, I better knew the Inspector and his world and have since finished two more tales, plus a cross-over with Sherlock Holmes which will be appearing in Weird Tales later in the year.

What inspired you to write this mystery? 

I was intrigued by the combination of real-world and occult elements, and found it very satisfying from a storytelling point of view to set up an overtly occult/satanic scenario and then deconstruct it, reducing it to an everyday explanation. This is the Holmesian formula, but, at the same time, I provided a chilling thread of the supernatural quite distinct from the overt element. It was experimental in this sense, but the experiment seemed to work!

What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?

None to date, I’d have to say, unless you count seeing one of the handful of surviving copies of the Magna Carta in the chapterhouse of Salisbury Cathedral, in 2006. It’s the basis of British law, and might perhaps be considered literature!

What are the key ingredients for a ripping mystery story?

My impressions: A crime of some subtlety, a strong motivation, characters the reader can relate to or at least understand readily, and an unimpeachable chain of logic by which it is solved—I feel it would be very unsatisfactory if the detective made too great a leap of intuition or otherwise came by the facts too easily.

Do you have a favourite fictional sleuth?

The Prince of Detectives, Sherlock Holmes.

What are you writing now?

I write mostly genre material, SF, fantasy, horror, historical, mystery, and adventure. I’m currently writing a short story which concerns small dinosaurs which survived the great extinction, have evolved intelligence and are scientifically uncovering the facts of their ancestor’s demise! I guess you’d call that SF! And I have a couple of Sherlock Holmes pieces to write in the near future for new markets opening up.

Tuesday, 12 May 2020

An Interview with Cameron Trost

In the lead-up to the launch of The Black Beacon Book of Mystery in June, we’ve asked our contributors to answer a few questions so you can get to know them better. Let’s unravel the mystery behind the stories together.

First question, inevitable perhaps considering the
pandemic...how are you coping?

The official lockdown ended yesterday in France but I'm still at home with my two sons as school is reopening progressively with priority given to the children of parents in essential services. My wife had been working from home but she has started going back to work on a part-time basis. I'll be a stay-at-home-dad until life returns to normal. Living in the countryside makes it quite pleasant. We're very happy not to be cooped up in a small flat in the city. The virus hasn't spread too much in this part of France. I think most people have done well and respected the restrictions. It's too early to let our guard down though. This is a devastating virus and we need to do whatever we can to protect each other.

Is there a story behind your contribution to The Black Beacon Book of Mystery?

"The Ghosts of Walhalla" is Oscar Tremont's second adventure (details here) and a lot of it is inspired directly by my visit to the actual setting. Yes, it's a real ghost town in Victoria, Australia! I'll let you work out fact from fiction. Just like Oscar and Louise, my wife and I stayed at the camping ground for a few nights back in 2008 and that's where I began writing the mystery in a notebook. If you ever visit the state of Victoria, you really should try to swing by Walhalla. Ghost sightings not guaranteed but the tour is a lot of fun!

Have you made any literary pilgrimages?

Quite a few. I've visited 221B Baker Street. In Oxford, I drank at pubs frequented by famous writers and characters, like Tolkien and Inspector Morse. In cities like Oxford, Edinburgh, Dublin, and of course, London and Paris, it's pretty hard not to stumble across fascinating sites connected to books. I'd love to visit Agatha Christie's home, Greenway House, in Devon. If I ever go to the States, I'd love to explore everything connected to Edgar Allan Poe.

What are the key ingredients for a ripping mystery story? 

I'm all about the puzzle. You need a great detective and believable characters, of course, but for me the mystery is the key. We all hate it when the solution is too obvious, but it shouldn't be too convoluted either. Whatever the resolution, there must be clues, red herrings, and foreshadowing along the way, so the reader can flip back through the pages and say, "Yeah! It was all right there under my nose!"

Do you have a favourite fictional sleuth?

My unoriginal answer is Sherlock Holmes. After all, he's the detective. The mysteries are excellent for the most part and both he and Watson are wonderful characters. In terms of TV detectives, I really like the sensitive heart but rough-around-the-edges mannerisms of Vera (I've yet to read any of the books) and the quirky Jonathan Creek. One of my favourite authors is Ruth Rendell but her Inspector Wexford doesn't really do it for me.

What are you writing now?

I’m working on an apocalyptic suspense novel about a pyromaniac, but it's early days. I'm also polishing a couple of Oscar Tremont short mysteries. My next publication will probably be my mystery novel, Letterbox. I finished the umpteenth draft last year and think it's ready now...well, almost. 

Where can we follow or contact you online?

Blog: https://trostlibrary.blogspot.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CameronTrostAuthor
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/camerontrost
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Cameron-Trost/e/B006KHJBOI


Thursday, 7 May 2020

An Interview with Duncan Richardson

In the lead-up to the launch of The Black Beacon Book of Mystery in June, we’ve asked our contributors to answer a few questions so you can get to know them better. Let’s unravel the mystery behind the stories together.

First question, inevitable perhaps considering the
pandemic...how are you coping?

One of the few benefits of the pandemic is the way it reveals how people really respond to big events like this, and it’s not the way most TV shows, films, or some books depict it; ie. we don’t walk/sit around making set piece speeches like, “Do you think there will be a war / bushfire / drought / pandemic?” It’s much more diffuse most of the time, with patches of frenzy. So I’m coping by trying to find some hidden benefits.

Is there a story behind your contribution to The Black Beacon Book of Mystery?

The story behind my story is a big old house in South Wales where I lived for about 6 months as a child. It had long corridors, a wide curving stairway and a glass case in the hallway which contained a carving of an emaciated body. The carving freaked my mother out as it reminded her of the Nazi concentration camps. She wouldn’t rest until it was gone. Recalling that, it seemed that it could be part of a campaign to scare someone.

What are the key ingredients for a ripping mystery story? 

A flawed main character, a believable setting in time and place, and a villain who has good reasons for their actions so you feel some sympathy for them too.

Do you have a favourite fictional sleuth?

Robert Gott’s thespian sleuth, Will Power, because he’s hopeless and arrogant with a stunning knack of offending people. Also Poirot as depicted by John Malkovich.

Tell us about a real mystery you have solved or would like to?

A real mystery that would be great to solve is death of Alexander the Great. Was it disease, or was he poisoned? The princes in the Tower would be a good one too.

What are you writing now?

I’m now writing about a mystery man who turned up in a Queensland regional town around 1900 and attracted the attention of the police, which resulted in him being taken into custody and admitted to a mental hospital because in the words of the official report, “He couldn’t give a good account of himself.”

Where can we follow or contact you online?

www.facebook.com/duncrich.au
http://duncrich.wixsite.com/duncanrichardson