Friday Fotos — Horsing Around with Laurie Hanan

Horsing around with Laurie Hanan

Intrigued by the idea of polo in Hawai’i? Check out “Another Day in Paradise,” in which dognappings and a sexy Brazilian polo player all come together.

These photos were taken by Hawaii writer Laurie Hanan. We begin with a few rodeo shots, then move on to polo, which turns out to be big in Hawaii. As you would most likely guess, horses aren’t native to the islands. They were first brought there in 1803 when a mare and her foal were given to King Kamehameha as a gift. Horses, ranching, rodeos, and polo became an integral part of the Hawaiian lifestyle over the years. So, today we celebrate horsing around with Laurie Hanan, who got a couple of shots I can’t even believe. Especially, well, you’ll see when you get to the close up.

By the way, I’m always on the lookout for good Hawaii photos. If you have some you’d like to share, let me know and we’ll talk about featuring your shots on Friday Fotos!

More about Laurie Hanan

Find Laurie Hanan on the web at www.facebook.com/lauriehanan. Or read my interview with her, When adventure calls – an interview with Laurie Hanan.

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Susan Cummins Miller — whitewater rafting and Chasm

Susan Cummins Miller — ChasmIn the summer of 2011, Susan Cummins Miller took a whitewater raft trip through the Grand Canyon. From the rafting trip, sprang her thriller, “Chasm.” In this interview, geologist and author Miller describes how that trip affected her writing.

“Retracing part of Major John Wesley Powell’s explorations, especially with a group of convivial geoscientists, was a highpoint of my geological and paleontological career,” Miller said. “I wanted to share the magic of that journey with my readers.”

So, Susan Cummins Miller set out to write “Chasm,” the sixth Frankie MacFarlane thriller. While previous books in the series have been nominated for multiple awards, Miller realized that the writing of this book would be filled with its own share of twists and turns. “Writing a mystery/thriller set on a commercial raft trip in the Grand Canyon offered unique challenges. First and foremost were how to sustain the tension and maintain the reader’s ‘willing suspension of disbelief.’

“If a passenger’s life is being threatened, as Frankie’s is in ‘Chasm,’ then the river guides will find a way to get her out of the canyon so that the other rafters aren’t put in danger. In order to keep Frankie on the river, everyone but the readers and the villains must believe that it’s safe for her to continue with the journey. But if she’s feeling safe, the story loses tension. I painted myself into a few corners and reworked a healthy number of scenes before solving those problems.”

“Chasm” is a thriller in which armed killers stalk a geologist and her students on a whitewater raft trip through the heart of the Grand Canyon. Sounds more like action-adventure than a thriller with multiple plot lines, but that’s exactly what Miller ended up writing. She said, “I didn’t set out to incorporate social issues, but the characters and situations in ‘Chasm’ do highlight topical subjects. The first is the emotional toll PTSD can take on those who serve in the wars in the Middle East.

“A separate element considers the effect insular and controlling polygamous sects can have on children who are raised in that environment—and how a lack of education can stunt a child’s intellectual and social growth. A third plot thread focuses on the conflict between geologist Frankie MacFarlane’s scientific interpretation of Grand Canyon earth history and the views held by those who believe the Canyon strata and fossils were deposited in the Great Flood. And a fourth subplot, dealing with ecoterrorism in the Canyon, is an homage to Edward Abbey and the Monkey Wrench Gang.”

Miller classifies Frankie MacFarlane as a field geologist, college professor, and geosleuth. But, just because geology isn’t the sexiest subject, Miller wants to reassure readers that “Chasm” does not read like a text book. She said, “‘Chasm’ moves as fast as the Colorado River. And taking a raft trip through the Grand Canyon, even from an armchair, will change readers’ perceptions of earth history. Readers experience the Canyon through a geologist’s eyes, which provides a unique perspective.”

For more information about Susan Cummins Miller

Learn more about Susan Cummins Miller on her website at www.susancumminsmiller.com.

Kathi Daley — writing mysteries in record time

Matrimony Meltdown by Kathi DaleyAll writers approach their craft with some purpose in mind. For some, it’s simply to see their name in print. Others want the brass ring—a Pulitzer, an Edgar, and more. In this interview with Kathi Daley, we’ll get a close look at how the author of four different series wrote twenty-three mysteries in four years.

“Matrimony Meltdown is the 13th book in the Zoe Donovan Series,” Daley said. “Zoe began as a whim when I was on Facebook one day and had an idea to share my Facebook page with my dog. I jotted down a paragraph that began with: ‘According to my Facebook bio, which I share with Charlie, my half terrier/ half mystery dog, we’re in a relationship with our two cats, a huge orange tabby named Marlow and a petite black beauty named Spade.’”

Daley said she kept writing and “a week later I had a book.” She published on Amazon and was surprised by the results. “It was the first book I published so I wasn’t expecting much but people loved it and now 19 months later I am about to publish book 13 in the series.” The most recent installment in the series is “Matrimony Meltdown,” which is set against the backdrop of a wedding, a commitment-shy bride, and a future mother-in-law from hell.

The Zoe Donovan series is focused on a group of friends who live in a small town and their everyday-life experiences. “In the course of living their lives they stumble into dangerous situations which compel them to find answers and solve a mystery. My books are about relationships first, followed by mystery, romance, animals, and food.”

Many writers stare at their first blank page longer than it takes Kathi Daley to write a complete mystery. And, the thought of writing a book in six weeks is enough to send even seasoned writers into apoplexy. So, the question becomes, how in the world does she do it? The answer isn’t really any different from what seasoned writers always tell beginners: just write.

“I sit down at the computer,” Daley said. “I type Chapter 1. I ask myself what is going on. In this case [Matrimony Meltdown] it is a wedding. I ask myself ‘okay what is a possible wedding theme?’ I came up with either bride gone crazy or mom gone crazy. Zoe is a simple person who wants a wedding on the beach with daisies for flowers and her dog as a ring bearer. Bride gone crazy wouldn’t work, so I went with mom gone crazy.

“I thought it would be fun to have Zoe alone with Zak’s mom so I decided to have him go out of town and her show up with a wedding planner and crew just as he is leaving. I decided this in about two minutes as I typed the opening paragraph. Once I started, I just moved the characters around and let them live their lives. In other words I let the characters tell the story.”

Those with a penchant for labels would call Kathi Daley a classic “pantser,” i.e., one who writes by the seat of her pants. Daley doesn’t bother with labels.

“I know this sounds like an unspectacular way to write but it is what I do. I can almost write as fast as I can read. It is much the same experience. I just let the story tell itself as I engage with the characters who are very real to me. When you don’t know where you are going, you tend to follow the clues along with the protagonist and take the long route. I believe this is my secret to multilayered story lines.”

Daley doesn’t expect that she’ll ever receive an Edgar or Pulitzer. She said, “This is not ‘important’ literature and I have no designs on writing something that will win awards or generate interest on the talk show circuit. I just have these characters in my head that like to get out and play and I provide a method for them to do so. It is no more or no less complicated than that.”

More information about Kathi Daley

Learn more about Kathi Daley on her website at www.kathidaley.com.

The fraudulent fraud phone call scam

fraud phone call scam

The caller will have details that make the call sound legitimate.

A fraudulent phone call about fraud on an account? This week’s scam tip seems almost too bizarre to be true, but in a recent blog post by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Alvaro Puig, Consumer Education Specialist reported that identity thieves are impersonating credit card company fraud departments.

The fake fraud phone call

With millions of credit card numbers having been stolen over the past couple of years, credit card companies have become more diligent in their fraud detection processes. Identity thieves are well aware of the increased scrutiny each credit card transaction receives, so now they’re looking for ways to avoid detection. Enter the fake fraud phone call.

Here’s how the scam works according to the FTC. The scammer says he’s calling from your credit card’s security or fraud department. He says they’ve flagged suspicious activity on your card. He tells you about a transaction and asks whether you authorized it. When you say you didn’t authorize the transaction, he says he’ll open a fraud investigation, gives you a case reference number, and tells you to call the phone number on your credit card if you have any questions. So far, you haven’t given out any information, but that’s about to change.

The next step is for the caller to tell you he needs to verify that you’re in possession of the card and asks for the security code on the back of the card. That number is the one piece of information standing between you and a string of fraudulent charges on your card.

Tips to avoid the fraud phone call scam

  • Don’t give the caller any information about your account – even if he already knows some of the details.
  • Hang up the phone. Call the customer service number on the back of your credit card. Talk to the fraud or security department and ask about the unauthorized charges the caller told you about.
  • Report the suspicious call to the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint or 1-877-FTC-HELP.

Kay Hadashi returns to Friday Fotos with an Orchids and Ice tour

Island Desire - Kay Hadashi

This romance novel is Kay’s latest, but she also writes the June Kato Intrigue series and a thriller series.

One of the things I love about featuring photos from others is that I get to see parts of Hawaii I’ve never seen before. This week, Kay Hadashi returns with a trip to parts of Hawaii Volcanos National Park she took while researching “Orchids and Ice.” When you get to the photo of the steam vent at the park, take note that it’s the site of a gruesome (but ficititious!) murder in “Orchids and Ice.” I’ve only known Kay Hadashi for a short time, but she seems so nice. Then again, she is a mystery writer. And you know what they say about mystery writers—we’re the ones you call when you need to know how to get rid of the body. Now I need a closer look at that photo!

By the way, I’m always on the lookout for good Hawaii photos. If you have some you’d like to share, let me know and we’ll talk about featuring your shots on Friday Fotos!

Learn more about Kay Hadashi on her website at junekatointrigue.com or in her interview, A change in style for this Hawaii author.

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Jess Lourey talks about writing and secrets

Jess Lourey - February FeverJessica (Jess) Lourey is best known for her critically-acclaimed Murder-by-Month mysteries. A tenured professor of creative writing and sociology, Lourey has also written sword-and-sorcery fantasy and YA adventure. In this interview, Jess Lourey talks about what is important to her in writing and the one common theme she returns to: secrets.

One secret Jess Lourey doesn’t keep is that she writes under three names. Her fantasy novels are written as Albert Lea, her YA novels are under J.H. Lourey, and her other writing is under her given name. Lourey described the reason for writing under a pseudonym.

“It’s important to me that my readers not feel tricked into reading my different styles of writing. My mysteries are funny. My magical realism is dark. I’m currently writing a thriller that is different from anything I’ve created before. So, I’d like my readers to know that I pour my heart into everything I write, and that I get better with every book, but that one piece I write may be very different from another.”

Lourey said that the Murder-by-Month Mysteries have traditionally been set in Battle Lake, which is a real town in Minnesota. With “February Fever,” however, Lourey said she felt like it was time for something different. “I wanted to take Mira James on the road. I also wanted to try writing an extended locked-room mystery in the flavor of Agatha Christie’s ‘Murder on the Orient Express.’ So, I combined those two impulses with a heavy dash of Janet Evanovich-style humor.”

The adventure begins with PI-in-training Mira James’ Valentine’s Day going from bad to worse when she’s trapped on a train containing one murderer and hundreds of innocents in the Colorado Rockies. “February Fever” turned out to be the most challenging installment in the series for Lourey. She said, “It opens with a sex scene, which is super uncomfortable to write. They say to write those as if your mother is dead and can’t read it, but that’s even MORE uncomfortable to imagine, so I wrote this one as if my mom was illiterate.”

Obviously, Lourey’s discomfort didn’t show through in her writing because Kirkus Reviews called this “Mira’s best outing yet.”

Back when she was working on “June Bug,” her second Murder-by-Month Mystery, Lourey said she needed to know what shape a corpse would be in if it had been sealed in an air-tight safe for 100 years. Lourey said she did online searches, but couldn’t find the answer. After the fact, she began wondering if her search terms might have landed her on a government watch list.

“I finally sent an email to the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, which is what we have instead of an FBI office in Minnesota. I was green—it was only my second book—and so I didn’t want to call myself a writer. I posed the question as if it were curiosity. Rookie error. They did answer my question, but I’ve noticed that once a week for the past ten years, a ‘Charter’  [cable company] van works on the transformer outside my house.

“I’m sure the BCA and FBI have gotten weirder questions and have figured out by now I’m not a basement-dwelling conspiracist.” Lourey added, “Can you italicize and underline that so they get the message?” [Done, but I may be on the same watch list, so that might not have been in your best interest.—Ed.]

One of the reasons Lourey chose to set the Murder-by-Month series in Battle Lake was the weather. She said, “Conflict makes great fiction, and when you live where it’s not unusual for the weather to shift 60 degrees in 24 hours, you have a lot of inherent conflict in the setting alone. You also have a lot of weirdos who choose to live here, and quirky characters make for interesting writing.”

Citing the beautiful scenery, the interesting residents, and a 23-foot tall fiberglass statue named Chief Wenonga, Lourey said, “As a writer, what’s not to love? Besides, I was living here when I wrote May Day, the first in the series, and they say to write what you know.”

Writing what you know brings us full circle to where this interview began, which was with the issue of secrets. Lourey said, “Every book I write is about the poison and power of secrets. This is true whether it is a funny mystery, like ‘February Fever,’ an extended family drama like ‘The Catalain Book of Secrets,’ or a seat-of-your-pants YA adventure like ‘The Toadhouse Trilogy: Book One.’ I don’t ever start out meaning to focus on secrets, but that theme seems to bubble to the surface of everything I write.”

When pressed for details, Lourey would only say, “Secrets have absolutely affected my life, and there are three in particular. Fortunately, I write fiction so I never have to talk about them.”

More information about Jess Lourey

Learn more about Jessica (Jess) Lourey on her website at jessicalourey.com.

Fake government website scams

Fake government website scams are dangerous for consumersIn last week’s edition of my monthly newsletter, “The Snitch,” I discussed three tips to help avoid visiting or providing information on a fake website. In addition to fraudulent commercial websites, scammers are now launching fake government websites. These sites are designed to do nothing more than collect fees and steal personal information from visitors.

On April 7, the FBI and the Internet Crime Complaint Center issued a warning to consumers about fake government websites. So far, only a few consumers have been affected by this particular scam, but we’re really only in the beginning with this one.

The fake government website scenario

You need to file a tax form and search online for the IRS website. A link in the results takes you to a site where you download the form you need. The website includes an option to expedite processing of the form. You verify that the form looks legitimate and decide to pay the fee to get things moving. After the transaction, you’ll probably be advised to wait a few days for processing. When that time passes, you realize your form seems to have disappeared. In fact, it has.

The problem is that the website you’ve visited is a fake government website, a replica of the IRS.gov website. By the time you realize you’ve been scammed, the credit card you used for payment has been compromised. It may already be being used for fraudulent purchases. This is a clever twist on the commercial website scam, which has been around for years. As consumers have become more aware of the commercial website scam, it appears that the bad guys have realized they have an untapped “market” in fake government websites.

Now available!

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Three tips to avoid the fake government website scenario

  • Always look for the “.gov” extension on a government website. Never trust those without that extension.
  • If you will be dealing with a company that says it is a service provider to a government agency, research the company by looking for independent reviews. You can also check bbb.org to see if the company has any consumer complaints.
  • Always use a secure connection to process personally identifiable information. To ensure you’re on a secure site, look for the “https://“ prefix on the web address in your browser’s address bar.

April Double Trouble Contest is Live!

The April Double Trouble Contest is on! Entries will be accepted from Sunday, April 12 – April 18. If you are not already receiving The (Little) Snitch — Contest Edition and want to register, click here. (The (Little) Snitch — Contest Edition always contains a double bonus code, which gives you two bonus entries.)

Glen Erik Hamilton - Past Crimes

An Army Ranger plunges into the criminal underworld of his youth to find a murderer and uncover a shocking family secret.

Firefighters discover a badly charred body on a steep mountain ridge in Hawaii's backcountry wearing swim fins and a diving mask. Louise Golden resolves to solve the mystery.

Firefighters discover a charred body on a mountain ridge in Hawaii’s backcountry wearing swim fins and a diving mask. Louise Golden resolves to solve the mystery.

 

How to enter the April Double Trouble Contest

  • Click on the book covers above to visit the interview post for each author. Find the “Double Trouble Entry Code” in the post, and return here to enter the code in the entry form below. You’ll receive one entry for each entry code, so this could give you two chances to win.
  • Tweet about the contest following the instructions in the Rafflecopter widget. Receive one entry for each tweet.
  • If you receive The (Little) Snitch Contest Edition, you also have a code worth two bonus points. Copy that code and paste in into corresponding option below.

April Double Trouble Contest Bonus!!!

April Double Trouble contestIf you leave a comment on either or both interview posts (not on this announcement) and are selected as the winner, you’ll not only win both books, but also a $5.00 Starbucks gift card.

Rules:

Who can enter: This contest is only open to continental US residents over 18 years of age.

When: Contest closes at 12:00 a.m., April 19. Winners will be selected on Sunday, April 19.

Verification of entries: All winning entries are subject to verification.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday Fotos – fabulous Hawaii sunset photos by Laurie Hanan

Laurie Hanan - Stairway to HeavenA beautiful Hawaii sunset is like no other. This week, Hawaii writer Laurie Hanan is my guest photographer and is showing off some of her Hawaii sunset photos. Laurie is one of those lucky people who lives in one of the world’s most beautiful places, has an eye for a fabulous photos, and tells great stories.

This week, she’s sharing some of her Hawaii sunset shots taken near where she lives. Once you see these beauties, you’ll probably be calling the moving van, too. Ah well, just another day in paradise.

Laurie says her Hawaii sunset photos were taken mostly within a few miles of her home. They include locations in Honolulu and on the west side of O’ahu. If you want to learn more about Laurie, check out my interview with her.

Like these Hawaii sunsets? Help me find more!

I’m always on the lookout for good Hawaii photos. If you have some you’d like to share, let me know and we’ll talk about featuring your shots on Friday Fotos!

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Glen Erik Hamilton discusses Past Crimes

Glen Erik Hamilton - Past CrimesGlen Erik Hamilton is a debut novelist with a thriller that has been receiving critical praise. In this interview, Hamilton talks about the book, “Past Crimes,” and how his childhood around Seattle’s docks is involved.

Hamilton said that one of the reasons he wrote “Past Crimes” was to capture a moment. “Seattle is in the midst of an economic surge–the latest in a history that includes Boeing, Microsoft, the tech boom, etc.–which is changing the city radically. Moving away from the city made me want to write about that, and how returning to a place can make you see it with different eyes.”

As a reader who loves crime and mystery thrillers, Hamilton instinctively knew which genre to write. “I became especially interested in telling a story about someone who had been raised with different values of right and wrong. How that person thinks about crime–and about the idea of justice–would be notably different, especially if they are implicated themselves or they have a personal stake in the mystery.”

Reviewers cite a strong sense of place in their reviews. But, other than setting, the Seattle native who lived aboard a sailboat as a boy and grew up around the marinas, commercial docks, and islands of the Pacific Northwest, says there’s not much in his past that relates to the plot in “Past Crimes.” He quipped, “I don’t research crimes by committing them. I just want that on the record, in case there’s any question later.”

Having broken into the traditional publishing world, Hamilton offers advice to aspiring writers. “Go for it! Take a class, join or form a writing group, read your work out loud, go to conventions, and keep plugging away. Don’t get discouraged when you have a bad day of writing. The important thing is that you wrote that day. Make tomorrow another one.”

Now a resident of California, Hamilton is enjoying writing, but looks back fondly on his youth. “One of my favorite moments was while traveling with my parents one summer in the San Juan Islands. I watched my mother, who loves animals, spend half an hour moving extremely slowly to get close enough to a blacktail doe to take a decent picture. When the doe finally spotted Mom, she trotted right up to Mom and waited patiently to see if a treat was forthcoming. That’s when we realized just how tame deer can get in a nature preserve with no predators.”

Hamilton added, “But honestly, my best times were just running around the islands and marinas, and the occasional restricted merchant shipping area. Some kids play in alleys, I played on docks.”

More information about Glen Erik Hamilton

Learn more about Glen Erik Hamilton on his website at www.glenerikhamilton.com.