Meet-My-Character Blog Hop: Detective Sergeant Danny Ahern

The fabulous Lori Rader-Day tagged me to continue this blog hop about characters in our novels. Lori’s novel, THE BLACK HOUR, came out to rave reviews, and having read it, I can say that I concur with those reviews. Her novel tells the story of Amelia Emmet, a sociology professor who studies violence and then is the victim of a student she’s never met. He also shot himself. Now he’s dead and she’s back on campus, trying to keep up with her class schedule, a growing problem with painkillers, and a question she can’t let go: Why? (Amazon page here.)

postcardSorry I’m late posting, Lori! Should have posted this last week.

The tagline on my KILMOON postcard reads: Family secrets, betrayal, and vengeance from beyond the grave … Merrit Chase has just discovered her long-lost father.

Kilmoon is principally Merrit’s story, but, like Lori, I have dual protagonists and my secondary protagonist surprised me with his insistence on receiving page time. Despite what I’d originally had in mind for this story, Detective Sergeant Danny Ahern became a full-fledged character with his own subplot (which will continue in the second novel in the series!).

I resisted Danny at first. Big time. After all, I wasn’t reeaaallly writing a mystery. I felt a little too high-falutin’ a writer to be writing a mystery, for Christ’s sake.

(Sidenote: Someone remind me to write a blog post about great writing and great story and great literature — and mystery. Boy, was I ignorant!)

But, Danny turned about to be integral to Merrit’s story. She needed someone to play off of, a local Irishman with plenty to say about her apparent connection to the murder that occurs near the beginning of the novel. He doesn’t know whether she’s a suspect or a victim — maybe an accomplice? or a pawn? or both?

Danny isn’t just a straight man sidekick for Merrit to bounce off of though. He’s got his own problems. His marriage is on the rocks because of a previous tragedy (think: backstory) and he’s got an asshole superintendent for a boss. Danny is one of those characters you’ll like. He’s a nice guy with tons of problems and complications in his life.

Is he perfect? Heck no. I can’t abide by perfection in my characters. Danny’s been known to drink too much. He’s been known to let his anger get away from him. He’s been known to side with loyalty over professional duty. It’s this last conflict that tests him in Kilmoon.

I just love Danny. There, I said it. So much so, that in my second installment in the County Clare mystery series (long-drawn-out revisions in process now), he’s the main protagonist while Merrit steps to the side a bit. GREY MAN (tentative title) is definitely Danny’s story.

Since this is a blog hop, please welcome and check out blog posts from the following two stellar storytellers sometime next week.

MACDEATH-set-webCINDY BROWN has been a theater geek (musician, actor, director, producer, and playwright) since her first professional gig at age 14. Now a full-time writer, she’s lucky enough to have garnered several awards (including 3rd place in the 2013 international Words With Jam First Page Competition, judged by Sue Grafton!) and is an alumnus of the Squaw Valley Writers Workshop. Though Cindy and her husband now live in Portland, Oregon, she made her home in Phoenix, Arizona, for more than 25 years and knows all the good places to hide dead bodies in both cities.


Blade coverSUSAN SPANN is a transactional attorney focusing on publishing law and a former law school professor. She has a deep interest in Asian culture and has studied Mandarin and Japanese. Her hobbies include Asian cooking, fencing, knife and shuriken throwing, traditional archery, martial arts, rock climbing, and horseback riding. Susan keeps a marine aquarium where she raises seahorses and rare corals. Spann is a member of the Historical Novel Society and is the author of Claws of the Cat. She lives in northern California with her family.






And Here I Am, Reprising My Blog

Since my previous blog post, I adopted sweet little Fawn, a Chihuahua/terrier mix.

Since my last blog post, I adopted sweet little Fawn, a Chihuahua/terrier mix.

Soon after KILMOON launched on March 18th, I let this faithful old blog of mine lapse. I was just tired, I guess. Plus, I satisfied my blogging urge over on The Debutante Ball, a blog for debut novelists. What an honor to be picked and then participate for a full year! As of this Monday, September 1st, my time on the Ball comes to end.

I wrote my final blog post for the Ball yesterday. Today, I’m already moving on, thinking about this blog. I have no huge thoughts yet. Will just play it by ear. I just wanted to check in here right quick.

So here I am! Feels good to be back. It’s been a tremendous, life-changing year, this year my debut novel launched. Over on the Ball, I came “out” about suffering from depression. What a relief! Transparency is better. I fell into the gray place about a month after KILMOON launched, which tallies with the date of my last blog post before this one.

I can’t promise I’ll be a regular blogger. But I can do my best. I’ve always liked blogging even though it takes time away from writing my next novel. More on that later!

Cheers, xoxo, Lisa

The Underachieving Life: Seems I Haven’t Changed Much …

dogwashLast week on The Debutante Ball we talked about our first jobs. By the time my turn arrived on Friday, I’d expanded the topic to my job life, generally. And I came to quite the conclusion!

The Underachieving Life: Seems I Haven’t Changed Much Since My First Crappy Job

This week I’ve been thinking long and hard about my working life, excluding fiction. And I’ll be honest, I’m kind of an underachiever. I’ve never excelled in any job I’ve worked. I mean, I do fine when I give half a rat’s ass (which is the most rat’s ass I’ll ever give), but I’m not a model citizen of the corporate world, or any world in which I have a boss.

As an example, PLEASE READ ON


Ode to My Wee Pup Luna

Luna2This isn’t going to be the typical ode to a pet, because there’s something bigger I want to talk about, something that kind of relates to my writing. Last week, I’d promised to blog about my KILMOON launch festivities and provide photos. Grief waylaid that because I had to put Luna the One-Eyed Wonder Dog to sleep. She’d had oral melanoma since October. It’s an aggressive cancer, and I tried an experimental treatment. For a long while, she was her normal self, but then in March the cancer started its final attack.

I felt like a bad mama because March was the busiest month I’d probably had in my life, what with the launch, and two conferences, and being preoccupied and stressed out. My wee Luna … <gulp> … but I did right by her in every way I could with painkillers and hand-feeding her soft food. Last week it became time. A compassionate care vet came to my house, and Luna passed away on her favorite chair-throne. I was a wreck, crying so hard that I couldn’t catch my breath and didn’t notice the glistening rope of mucous dangling from my nostril. (Gross, but the truth.)

These first two photos taken on our last walk together just before the compassionate care vet arrived.

These first two photos taken on our last walk together just before the compassionate care vet arrived.

I can’t believe I’m using euphemisms. Sometimes the best thing to do is to kill our pets. Yes, kill. I’m using the word. I take full responsibility for ending her life.

What I can’t shake about the experience was the awful surge of emotion that overtook me when I initially scheduled Luna’s death (yes, I use that word too). It was a surge like power—I had just made a god-like decision to end another creature’s life. It felt awful, just horrible, to have wielded that power even though it was the right thing to do, at the right time (before the cancer got too bad).

The surge of emotion was a physical sensation—and for me it was a negative feeling because, hey, I’m no sociopath. I don’t get off on power, and I don’t lack empathy. Here comes the weirdness that for all I know comes with all crime writers: I imagined what the surge would feel like if I did have such a personality disorder. The surge would probably feel fantastic, in other words, and probably orgasmic.

For a moment there, as my brain tripped off into fiction-imagination world, I knew what it would feel like to be a nutjob. I channeled the other side of the surge, and I creeped myself out. I have a very potent imagination as I imagine most novelists do.

Oh my god, I thought, this is what sociopaths or psychopaths or whatever-you-want-to-call-them feel when they kill.

It was the strangest sensation and thankfully I lapsed back into my weeping self immediately. The thing is, I still remember the feeling of it, and I know I’ll be able to channel it into a character someday.

Meanwhile, I miss Luna. I miss the weight of her on my arm as I carried her around. I miss the dogwalking routines that used to cramp my style — I’d relish that cramping now! I miss her Luna-throne that is just a lonely red chair now. I miss her food bowl sitting alongside the cat’s food bowl. She was sweet, old soul.

Luna the One-Eyed Wonder Dog
2003 – 12-Apr-2014
my sweet pup

5 Lessons Learned from My Book Launch

launch3Back again! I’ve been so busy with launching KILMOON that I’ve neglected this poor blog. Kilmoon launched March 18th, and it’s taken me this long to get back into some semblance of normality. I needed recuperation time! Plus, honestly? I was writing so many guest blog posts for awhile there that I couldn’t face this particular white page.

I’ll provide of few photos of the fun times on Thursday or Friday. Meanwhile, perfect timing had me writing about the launch last week on The Debutante Ball. I took stock of my launch, and these were my lessons learned.

5 Lessons Learned from KILMOON’s Book Launch

KILMOON launched March 18th, so this week’s topic comes at the perfect time to think about my lessons learned. What can I improve upon for the next release?

1. Start earlier. I did a pretty good job of my launch despite the fact that I truly began planning for it about 2-1/2 months beforehand. Given the sheer number of details and my tendency toward chaos, I need to start way ahead of time. I’m observing Natalia and Lori, who are coming out in June and July. They have their shite together, my god! Also, in the name of organization: Buy a binder and tab dividers.

2. Travel a little. Given my life here in Portland, PLEASE READ ON

Blog Hopping: What’s in a Writing Process?

A week ago KILMOON launched into the world! Man, what a week I had. I’ll tell you more about it later. Meanwhile, I’ve been tagged in a blog hop! I was supposed to post yesterday, but I took a day off from everything. I read. I slept. I dozed, napped, slumbered. You name the kind of sleep, and I definitely partook.

Thank you, Heather Webb, for tagging me! Her debut BECOMING JOSEPHINE came out to all kinds of acclaim and buzz. Be sure to check it out!

Each week, a couple of authors will be talking about their writing processes. Please see the bottom of this post for next week’s hoppers. Meanwhile, here’s my process! Please feel free to ask me questions in the comments.

What are you working on?

I’m revising the second draft of the next novel in the County Clare mystery series. I’m calling it GREY MAN. I have a feeling the title will change, as titles do. I have two primary series protagonists: Merrit and Danny. KILMOON was Merrit’s story. GREY MAN is Danny’s story. He’s a detective sergeant. In this novel, Danny’s investigation into the death of a teenage boy leads to tragedy in his own family. I’m having fun deepening Danny’s character. I kind of have a crush on him!

How does your work differ from others of its genre?

My novels are traditional mysteries (but not cozy mysteries). I’d say the way they differ is that I concentrate on character rather than, say, the police procedural aspect of the plot. I use ensemble casts, and all the characters have their own narratives, whether they’re major arcs like Danny’s and Merrit’s arcs, or minor arcs. I’m attracted to secrets and the way the past impacts the present, so my stories tend to be layered. In fact, I’d say my novels are mainstream novels that revolve around several layers of mysteries.

Why do you write what you do?

I’m a private, perhaps even secretive, person, and I love psychology — the dark side of what makes us human. I’m fascinated by what we hide. We’re all supposed to present well-adjusted facades to the world, but, man, what lurks inside even a “normal” (hmm…some might argue…) person like me would shock some people. So, if I have lots of dark stuff within me, what about those of us who actually don’t have a moral compass? What about the sociopaths? Most of all, what about the people who are basically good but are compelled by extreme stress to kill another person? Crime fiction is the perfect vehicle for delving into our humanity.

How does you writing process work?

I start with the characters. I have a detailed questionaire I go through to help me get to know my characters. The analyses suggest plot points and subplots. Since I know my main series characters well already, for GREY MAN I spent time on the new characters. It’s fun, and, I swear, they do take on lives of their own!

My first drafts are big, unwieldly messes. I usually need to work on plot rather than character development, and with mystery this involves clues, setups, red herrings, and other story aspects that non-mystery novelists don’t have to worry about. It gets complicated. So I spend a couple of drafts ironing out plot. Then, I go through and cut, cut, cut, because I overwrite my first drafts. It’s a rather organic process since I don’t do formal outlines. During the final drafts, I’m work on prose, consistency, continuity, and flow.


Be sure to hop to the next stops at these authors’ blogs! Their posts will appear Monday, March 31st.

13H-Lori-Rader-Day-150x150Lori Rader-Day is the author of The Black Hour (Seventh Street Books, July), a mystery set on a university campus in Illinois. Lori works on a university campus in Illinois, but not the made-up one. Best-selling author Jodi Picoult chose Lori’s story for Good Housekeeping’s first short story contest in 2010. Lori is also the recipient of the Chris O’Malley Prize in Fiction from The Madison Review, and has had stories published by TimeOut ChicagoCrab Orchard Review, and others. Find her HERE.


13H-Natalia-Sylvester-143x150Natalia Sylvester is the author of Chasing the Sun (New Harvest/Amazon Publishing, June), a novel loosely based on family events. Born in Lima, Peru, Natalia Sylvester came to the U.S. at age four and grew up in South Florida, where she received a B.A. in Creative Writing from the University of Miami. A former magazine editor, she now works as a freelance journalist and copywriter. Her articles have appeared in LatinaWriter’s Digest, and The Writer magazines. Find her HERE.

A Week of Firsts as an Official Author

Today I’m feeling pictorial and newsy rather than thoughtful or thought-provoking. I’m in the midst of writing guest posts for a blog tour, so I’m saving my deeper thoughts for those. Many cool firsts in the past week, including my first guest post on the blog tour, which you can find here:

BOLO Books interview

Check out News & Events on my website for a list of other stops on the tour. The list isn’t complete yet–a few more spots to come.

In the last week, I saw my books on sale for the first time. I replenished and replenished the piles until they sold out! Woohoo!


I signed books for the first time.


I presented as an author for the first time. (I was a wee bit nervous, but it turned out well.) This is me with co-presenter Christina Lay. Our topic? “What to Expected When You’re First Published.”


And, last but not least, I wore my funny party hat for the first time in public.


This isn’t a first, but it was the first time I’d seen my literary hero Elizabeth George in years. I continue to be a fangirl.