“Monday Mystery” – THE BALI MYSTERY (Amelia Moore Detective Series)

Bali web

Linda Weaver Clarke describes her book’s genre as a “cozy mystery,” or, in her words:

“A G-rated story with no swearing or sex. It has many twists and turns and must have very likeable characters so that it can be turned into a series. A cozy mystery focuses on the plot and characters, and the main character is usually an intelligent woman.”

With that understood, let’s take a look at her latest:


Amelia Moore, the founder of the Moore Detective Agency, specializes in missing persons. Her cases have taken her to some very interesting places and put her in some dangerous situations, but she always solves the case. With the help of Rick Bonito, her business is flourishing.

When Mrs. Brody hires Amelia and Rick to find her missing brother, they find themselves in Bali, Indonesia. They are mystified why her brother quit his job, put his home up for sale, and ran off to this mysterious and exotic island without telling a soul.


Amelia narrowed her eyes and pursed her lips as she watched the hefty man walk out of her office. She was upset. He had demanded she drop her new case or she would be sorry. Yes, he had threatened her if she continued her search, but he did not know that his threat only encouraged her.

Amelia Moore, the founder of the Moore Detective Agency, was in her thirties and had a positive outlook on life. She had short honey brown hair that framed her face and complemented her hazel eyes. Amelia was confident, stubborn, and spunky. She took her job seriously and enjoyed her work. She always chose cases that made a positive difference in people’s lives. This assignment, however, was unusual.


Linda Weaver Clarke travels throughout the United States, teaching and encouraging people to write their family history and autobiography. She is the author of several historical sweet romances, a mystery/adventure series, a new cozy mystery series, and two non-fiction books.

Linda Weaver ClarkeYou can purchase THE BALI MYSTERY or any of her other books from her website.

Originally posted 2014-04-21 06:00:11.

“Wednesday Writer” – Serena Clarke

Last week I interviewed her mother, so this week, as promised, I’m talking with Serena Clarke, fantasy author and book cover designer for a small publishing group here in Southern Utah.

Serena ClarkeME:  Having just interviewed your mother last week, I can’t help but be curious about how influential her example as a writer was to you as you grew up? And tell us a bit about your early years, as well as your early experiences with writing. (Including a photo of you as a child, and you with your mom when you were younger)

SERENA:  I have loved writing for as long as I can remember, long before my mom became an author. I took creative writing classes throughout high school and college and I was constantly coming up with ideas for stories. I was mostly writing short stories because I never thought I would get a book published.

me(Serena as a young girl)

But when she became an author, she inspired my decision to get my books published. She has not only been a big inspiration, but also a big help in the whole publishing process. (I’ll bet! And I’ll also bet she’s been grateful for your help with covers!)

me and mom

(Serena with her mom, Linda Weaver Clarke)

ME:  Which authors (and we’ll leave your mom out of the equation) do you admire most and why? How have they influenced your own writing?

SERENA:  I have always loved fantasy and romance. I loved the idea of escaping into a world of magic and princesses and fairies. Gail Carson Levine is one of my favorite fantasy authors. Ella Enchanted has always been one of my favorite books. I love the way she created a whole new world and she took a classic story and made it unique. Her style made me realize that as an author I can create my own world and come up with my own rules.

Gail Carson Levine(Gail Carson Levine, author of such works as Ella Enchanted)

ME:  Growing up in the red hills of Southern Utah, you might naturally be drawn to this kind of setting in your novels. Do you incorporate this kind of terrain (and please provide a picture of the scenery near your home) in your fantasy novels, and why or why not?

home(Her view of home)

SERENA:  I grew up surrounded by colorful, rugged mountains, fields of lava rock, sage brush, and creosote bushes. In my opinion, it is one of the most beautiful places to be. (Agreed!) But I don’t prefer to write what is familiar to me. If I write what is reality to me, it takes away from the fantasy world. I write about a world that I would like to visit.


ME:  Besides writing, you work with a group called Red Mountain Shadows Publishing. Please describe the group and your role there. (And I’d love to post a sample or two of your cover work.)


SERENA:  Red Mountain Shadows Publishing is a company that helps Independent Authors get their books into shape. We help with the editing process as well as the formatting and cover design.

treasure of isian2

(Book 1 of Serena’s fantasy series)

I do some of the editing, but my main role is as a Graphic Designer, designing the book covers. This is something I enjoy doing just as much as writing!

melinda2(And here’s a cover with a Western flavor)

ME:  Which plays a larger role in your stories—romance or fantasy? And can you see yourself writing in a different genre at any point in the future?

SERENA:  The romance and the fantasy go hand in hand. Usually what sparks the idea for a story is the idea of a developing romance. But what moves the plot line along is the fantasy.

For fun, I have written in many different genres and someday I may publish some of them, but I prefer fantasy. It is the most enjoyable for me.

ME:  Please describe the process you follow in drafting your stories. When it comes down to it, would you consider yourself an outliner or a “pantser,” and why?

SERENA:  I am definitely a “pantser!” As I go along, I may begin to sketch up an outline, but I rarely know where my story will lead me until I am there. I usually begin with a single idea or a scene and think “Hmm…that would make a good story.” So I will write down the scene and think, “Well, what now? How do I get to this point? What happens after this scene?” And then begins the real work!

ME:  What are you working on now and how far into it are you? Also, once this series is concluded, what’s next for you?

alliance of isian(Book 2 of the Isian Series)

SERENA:  I am currently working on the third book in the Isian Series. It is called The Secret of Isian. It should be out by the end of the year, fingers crossed!

What’s next? That is a good question! I have so many other books in mind and not enough time to write them all. So we will see what my imagination decides is priority when I get to that point!

(Since I somehow forgot to ask her the storyline of this series, here’s a quick blurb about the first in the series, THE TREASURE OF ISIAN:

Prince Garin is a brave, proud, adventure-seeking prince. Elani is his most trusted servant and she would do anything for him, even die for him. Their quest to find the mystical Treasure of Isian is immediately interrupted and they find themselves confronted by angry giants, soul-stealing elves, bewitched dragons, a vengeful water-witch, battling foes, and a mysterious kingdom. Elani must face her greatest fears to save her prince and her kingdom. Garin must decide what the most important things are in his life. Will they be able to make a great sacrifice to save the kingdom? And will Elani find true love? Become lost in the adventure, love, loyalty, and mystery of The Treasure of Isian!)

ME:  Finally, please describe your favorite writing space. (And I must have a picture.)

SERENA:  My favorite writing place is laying in the hammock outside my house. A big mulberry tree shades it and it faces the Red Mountain. Being in nature helps inspire my writing. It is most enjoyable in the spring and fall, but not so much in the summer when it is over 100 degrees! (Like today will be :@)

hammock(This is a first in my series–not just a chair or a bed, but a hammock!)

You can learn more about Serena, her writing, and book design on her website. Her books are available on Amazon but you’d do better to click here to get to them (since she’s not the only author named Serena Clarke).

And next week I’m excited to interview clean romance author Marie Higgins!

Marie Higgins


Originally posted 2014-05-28 06:00:31.

“Wednesday Writer” – Lisa Alber

I first met Lisa Alber about ten years ago when we were placed in the same group of aspiring authors at the Maui Writer’s Retreat. Under the tutelage of published authors like Gail Tsukiyama and others, we studied and worked on the craft of writing, in general, and our own stories, in particular. It’s a real pleasure to introduce her to all of you now, especially since her debut novel KILMOON has received such glowing praise.

?????????????????ME:  Growing up in Marin County as you did, what aspect(s) of your childhood or youth led you most to become a writer? (I’d love to post a picture of you as a child.)

LISA:  I spent a lot of time rambling the Marin Headlands, which were essentially my backyard. Without realizing it, I steeped myself in a moody, fog-enshrouded atmosphere that was almost like a giant incubation chamber for my imagination. It’s no wonder I love setting my books in Ireland—the atmosphere is very similar.

(And here’s a picture of the Marin Headlands to prove it. Below it is a picture of Lisa as a kid.)

Marin_HeadlinesKid_LisaME:  What book or books led you to believe you could be a successful novelist, and why? Also, how old were you when you came to that realization?

LISA:  As I think about this, I realize that there aren’t any books that led me to believe I could be a successful novelist. The closest thing I can think of is Anne Lamott’s BIRD BY BIRD: SOME INSTRUCTIONS ON WRITING AND LIFE, and that’s only because of her chapter about allowing yourself to write “shitty” (her word) first drafts.

Bird by Bird

That permission was all I needed to feel comfortable with writing first drafts—which is key. No one gets published who can’t get over themselves enough to complete a first draft. I read Lamott’s book when I was around 30 years old.

(I have to admit I’m relieved to interview an author who didn’t really take herself seriously until she was middle-aged. :D)

ME:  Why on earth did you major in economics at Berkeley? And why a minor in Spanish literature, given your ancestry in Ireland?

LISA:  Ah, economics … I was raised by very practical parents. Get good grades, go to a good college, major in something practical so you can support yourself. Writing fiction was a slow-dawning realization through my 20s, not a forgone conclusion. I majored in economics because it was the least practical of the practical alternatives.

Being a book lover, I minored in literature to keep my sanity, and Spanish literature in particular because in high school I’d done volunteer work in Central America. I wanted to keep up my Spanish. My infatuation with Ireland didn’t come until later.

I thought about majoring in psychology – which would have been a good fit – but I could never have been a psychologist. Or any service profession that centers around working with people all day: doctor, lawyer, nurse, teacher. I’m too introverted. (That, I understand. Most of us are introverts.) ME:  In the early 1990s, before we met, you worked in the editorial departments at Warner Books and Doubleday. What did you do there, and why did you decide to leave? LISA:  So, economics with Spanish literature took me to South America after college. I worked in Ecuador and then Brazil as a financial assistant (learned Portuguese too). That was all very nice, and it sounds good, but I hated it! Come to find out that in the real world I SUCK at numbers. I’ve always been a words-oriented person. So much for being practical, right? I returned to the U.S. eventually and changed careers – to book publishing, which was a far better fit. I had a blast living in New York City, but eventually I left because I’m a true west coaster. I never felt entirely at home in NYC. (Aha! The Atlantic didn’t compare to the Pacific, eh?) At Warner and Doubleday, I worked for senior editors as an editorial assistant. Book heaven, plus a great education in the publishing process. (I’ll bet!) ME:  How pivotal have writer’s conferences and retreats been in your quest to become a published novelist? How many different ones have you been to and which have been your favorites? LISA:  Writer’s conferences and retreats have been instrumental. People I’ve met have opened all kinds of doors, leading to short story publications, a writing grant, long-term wonderful friendships – to eventually being a panelist and speaker at writers conferences. (The latter is new; I’m not very comfortable with that yet.) (Ever the introvert, eh? :D) The defunct Maui Writers Conference (which we both love, right?) is dear to my heart because it was the first and it paved the way. These days, my favorites are specialized conferences such as Bouchercon and Left Coast Crime, which cater to the crime fiction community. ME:  You seem to have had two great influences in your life that have been reflected in your writing—NYT bestselling novelist Elizabeth George and the country of Ireland. Could you talk about the impact each has had on you? (And please provide a couple of pictures for each.) LISA:  Elizabeth George was my first-ever workshop teacher. I consider her a mentor because over the course of three workshops, she gave me specialized feedback.

With-Elizabeth-George_atMWC(Lisa with Elizabeth in Maui)

I was lucky – maybe she liked something about my writing, or she saw my growth – because after the third workshop she invited me to apply to her foundation for a writing grant (which I got) and she also invited me to write a short story for an anthology she was editing called Two of the Deadliest: New Tales of Lust, Greed, and Murder from Outstanding Women of Mystery. This was my first paid fiction publication.

Two of the Deadliest

Most of all, she was the first to tell me I had talent and should keep working at it. I’ll always be grateful to her.

withEGeorge(Elizabeth and Lisa more recently)

And Ireland! Wow, what can I say about that? Something about the country inspires me. It might be my genetic connection to the ancestral homeland … But I think it’s also a comfort thing because of what I mentioned above about rambling the Marin Headlands. Also, Ireland is steeped in a kind of mysticism that will never be totally eradicated by modern life. There are countries/cultures we just fit with, you know what I mean? (I think I do . . . that’s how I am about the Middle East.) ME:  Tell us a bit about your debut mystery, KILMOON, and what gave you the idea for the story.

kilmoon_72dpiLISA:  KILMOON is a mystery set in Ireland. In it, Californian Merrit Chase travels to County Clare to meet her long-lost father, the famous Matchmaker of Lisfenora. Her simple, if fraught, quest turns complicated when she’s pulled into a murder investigation and she discovers that her father’s dark past is at the heart of the chaos. Murder, vengeance, betrayal, and family secrets—not the family reunion she was hoping for!


The first inkling for a story idea came as a result of wandering into a pub called, of all things, “Matchmaker Bar,” Lisdoonvarna, Co. Clare. (And I remember you talking about this experience in Maui!) Come to find out that every September Lisdoonvarna hosts an annual matchmaking festival with a bonafide matchmaker. The man’s a local celebrity. Since I tend to think in sinister terms rather than fluffy terms (no romances for me!), I got to wondering what could lurk beneath the façade of a charming matchmaker. I liked the juxtaposition of darkness hiding beneath happily-ever-afters.

Kilmoon-Church-sign(And nothing connotes darkness like an old Irish cemetery)

ME:   What are you working on now, and are you going to stick with Ireland for now or set a story closer to home in Oregon?

LISA:  Sticking with Ireland! I’m currently revising the second in the County Clare Mystery series. This story centers around the detective, Danny, who along with Merrit, are the series protagonists. (KILMOON is Merrit’s story.)

I’m calling the second novel Grey Man, and in it things get personal, oh so personal, for Danny when a teenage boy dies and disaster hits Danny’s family as a result. (Sounds great! Can’t wait.) ME:  Finally, what five things about your writing space make it specifically yours and why? Please tell us about them in the voice of your protagonist’s father, Liam the Matchmaker. (And I must have a picture of your office or writing space.) LISA:  (As Liam) We Irish, we love our symbols and our spaces. We like nothing better than to ritualize the simplest tasks, from making tea to stoking a peat fire. I suppose it should surprise no one that Lisa Alber parked her writing desk in front of the picture windows in her living area. Not to be hemmed in, that lass, even while pursuing her solitary writing tasks. You can see her rituals right there, in the latest journal that always sits at her side (with an owl on it; she loves owls). You will also see a framed German proverb that says, “Begin to weave and God will give the thread,” not to mention her mascot, Liam the Lion—which is my nickname, if you must know. She also can’t be without her full-spectrum desk lamp because it does get a mite murky in Oregon, just like it does in Ireland. (Love it! And you have to read it with an Irish accent, whether you can do a good one or not!)

photo(And here’s the photo…I spy an owl.)

Lisa Alber’s County Clare mysteries feature Merrit Chase, a recent transplant from California, and Detective Sergeant Danny Ahern. Her debut, KILMOON, has been called “moody,” “utterly poetic,” and a “stirring debut.” She received an Elizabeth George Foundation writing grant based on KILMOON. Ever distractible, you may find Lisa staring out windows, fooling around online, or drinking red wine with her friends. Ireland, books, animals, photography, and blogging round out her distractions.

You can find Lisa at: website | Facebook | Twitter | blog.

Please come back next Wednesday when I’ll be talking with Linda Weaver Clarke, author of cozy mysteries, sweet romance, adventure stories and more!

Linda Weaver Clarke

Originally posted 2014-05-14 06:00:12.