Author Interview: Writing Historical Mystery

find the facts, quote from The Roman Heir, Zara Altair
Picture

The Roman Heir in Conversation

I’m speaking with avid reader Oleg Moskalensky about The Roman Heir on Tuesday, July 25, 2017 at 3 PM Pacific Time. (Convert to Your Time).

The wonderful thing for authors is that readers come from all vocations. Oleg is an IT consultant and developer of specialized programs and apps for business.

The story takes place in Ostia, Italy, and Oleg actually lived there when he was young.

Since Oleg is lively and opinionated, this will be an especially fun interview for me.

Be Part of The Conversation

Make this more than a talking heads conversation. Click the video link to add your comments and questions. Or join us here ​https://youtu.be/gjWEmAgG08EE.

I’ll be talking about creating a mystery, writing about another time and place, and whatever else you and Oleg throw into the mix.

The Roman Heir, An Argolicus Mystery

You can pick up your copy of this Argolicus Mystery at Amazon or a version for your favorite eReader. There’s still time to read before the interview.

If you enjoy the book, please leave a review.

I’m an indie author, and publish my books without the backing of a major publisher. That means no six-figure advances and no advertising budget. This makes it difficult to promote my novels so new readers can find them. But you can help me.

Honest reviews and genuine ‘word-of-mouth’ make all the difference. I’m not asking for one of those awful ‘book reports’ we did at school. All you have to do is leave a star rating and a couple of sentences on Amazon or Goodreads. Or a short review on your blog. Or tell your friends about it on Facebook or Twitter.

Let people know what you liked about this book, and why they might like it too. And if there was something you didn’t like, you can say that too: constructive criticism helps me write a better book next time.

But please, *no spoilers!*

​Zara

Mystery in History
After Rome, before the Middle Ages, Italy belonged to the Ostrogoths.

A naive teenager. A sister with secrets. A corrupt patrician.  Argolicus unravels the threads.

Argolicus and Nikolaos deliver a gift but arrive hours after a brutal murder. They look for an answer until they find that a man’s secrets do not go with him to the grave.
When Argolicus leaves Rome to retire to his estate in southern Italy, his powerful friend Boethius asks a small favor. Before he sets sail to the south, deliver a book to a young man in Ostia near the port at the mouth of the Tiber river.

When Argolicus arrives in the dying resort town, he finds chaos and sorrow in the villa. The young book lover’s father has been viciously murdered just hours before and the young man asks for help.

With just days to find the killer before his ship leaves port, Argolicus must probe the politics of the dying town. But with every investigation he makes, the circle of possibilities grows. Success seems out of reach and he must disappoint the family, until a ruffian accosts him and pieces fall into place.

Picture The Roman Heir, An Argolicus Mystery, Zara Altair, crime, historical fiction, Italian detective

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The Power of Good Verbs

Andrea Lundgren

Writers are told to make their verbs work for them–which means picking verbs powerful enough to stand without modifiers and adverbs like “very,” “slowly,” “quickly,” and the like.

But sometimes this can lead to distracting the reader, where the verb used is so particular, so unique, and so unusual as to send them to the dictionary or make them ponder the term longer than necessary. It isn’t always that important to the story to say “he contemplated” rather than “he thought.” Sometimes, the best verb is a simpler one, the one that gets out of the way and tells the story without holding the plot up.

For example:

He ran his fingers through his hair in a hurried gesture before opening the door to his boss’ office. She was there, sitting behind the desk in pristine glory, and the words he’d rehearsed in his head for days on end suddenly…

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Countdown to Publish

The Roman Heir, An Argolicus Mystery, Zara Altair, historical fiction, mystery, Italian detective

Sunday Sojourn – Roma Nova

Creating an alternative past.

Jennifer C. Wilson

Morning everyone, and welcome to the first Sunday Sojourn of June (where is this year going?). Today, I’m welcoming Alison Morton to the blog, and she’s taking us somewhere you may feel you know, but not as you know it, and explains how to create a new, fictional state…

Alison MortonNov16_sm

Hello, Jennifer. Thank you for inviting me into your blog world. Let me take you to an imaginary one in Central Europe, to a city state in the mountains. Its people are tough, its history long and its heroines valiant. Well, nearly always valiant; they do have their bad days.

This is Roma Nova! Founded sixteen hundred years ago when the Roman Empire was crumbling, this tiny country has struggled its way through history, survived  and thrived. Silver in the mountains, Roman engineering genius and a robust attitude to threats has brought them through. Roma Nova lives by core Roman values…

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Behind the Author: Real People, Heroes, and Imaginings

Sikelgaita, heroine of author Zara Altair,Image by Alayna at Deviant Art

Formative Ideas

Every author draws from personal history when creating characters. The main character, the protagonist, along with the antagonist derive from your experience to emerge as rich, engaging people in your story. Behind the list of characteristics, flaws and shortcomings, physical makeup, and the like, intentionally or unintentionally the author draws from personal experience.

Often the tiny details, some never revealed in the story, or mere hints, emerge from the author’s own life experience.

Childhood Heroes

My childhood heroes were without superpowers. The Lone Ranger, Sky King, Sergeant Preston of the Yukon on the radio. And the non-human Lassie (in books). And in newspaper comics, Brenda Starr, Reporter.

A little later my father, an Episcopal priest, who devoured Georges Simenon with the Larousse by his side listened to The Whistler and The Shadow as we drove each Sunday from services in Arroyo Grande to services in Atascadero, California.

As we drove along the oceanfront and then inland to rolling hills and oak trees, the mysteries and revelations of human behavior gone wrong fascinated my young imagination. The question The Shadow asked at the beginning of each episode made me wonder about every person I met:  Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?

That question was the start my lifelong pastime of making up stories about strangers I saw. As an adult, my notebooks filled with sketches of people I saw who sparked some mini-story in my head. An innocuous looking housewife who harbored a secret jealousy that ate at her heart. A hobo—now street person—who had once been (fill in the blank).

Observation: The Author Skill

Both detectives, The Shadow and The Whistler, watched and listened. I’ve been a mystery fan ever since.

I didn’t find my voice as a fiction writer until I started writing mysteries with a central character who delves into moral ambiguities in a time when murder was not a crime.

All those mini-stores over the years were accumulated into flawed character background to challenge my protagonist with their secrets. A person can do good in the world and yet perform a base evil like murder.

Those observations of strangers—how they moved their hands, or walked, or stood at attention ramrod straight or with drooping shoulders—help populate stories with characters with idiosyncrasies and deep or shallow motivations.

Personal Heroine

Other than Brenda, I never quite found a female heroine until around 10 years ago when I read John Julius Norwich’ The Normans in Sicily. And then, Sikelgaita!

Her’s is not a name on everyone’s lips. However others have romanticized her. (See image above)

When Robert Guiscard saw her he dropped everything stunned by her presence, divorced his wife, and married her.
Key concepts:
Stunning presence
Married with children (9)
Fought at his side in full armour in battles
Loyal to the end over many years (27) until his death

I admired her because she was not a single woman with superpowers defying all odds but an embodiment of a multi-faceted woman.

Real People, Heroes, and Imaginings

Your story begs for believable characters. Writers can borrow from real life, observations, their personal hero set, and imagination to create characters who resonate with readers. When it comes to Write What You Know even your heroes have a place in rounding out characters.

Zara Altair

Zara Altair writes mysteries set in ancient Italy. Argolicus thinks he has retired, but he and his tutor, Nikolaos, are drawn into puzzles, politics, and murder.
She consults with a select group of writers as The Story Bodyguard.

The bulk of this article was originally posted as a response to David Amerland’s Sunday Read: Superpowers, June 4, 2017.

Image by  Alayna at Deviant Art

 

Free Books from 20 Authors

20 Crime, Mystery, Thrillers, and Suspense writers promotion

May Promotion!

A quick note to let you know the May promotion starts today!

Authors to Readers selected 20 authors in the Crime, Mystery, and Thriller genres. You know that’s a wide variety of books to read. Visit the promotion from today through May 12th for free novels and special promotions from each author.

Each author was personally invited and, then, vetted for quality.

Enjoy the reads. If you like the stories, show your appreciation and leave a review.

Forward this email on to your crime, mystery, and thriller loving friends. Share the joys of reading a favorite genre at a price you can’t beat–Free.

If you haven’t read The Used Virgin  or The Peach Widow this is your opportunity to read another Argolicus Mystery. The free version of The Peach Widow disappears at midnight, May 12, along with all the other specials. Be sure to visit today!

Thanks!

Zara

The Secret Source of Support: Fellow Writers

Fellow writers provide a rich source of knowledge. You can use this knowledge to expand yours. From writing groups to indie author idea exchanges you can build your personal knowledge base on writing and publishing skills.

New writers, especially, can fall into the trap of spending hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars on writing and publishing courses. Before you do that seek out fellow writers for critiques of those courses before you buy in by midnight tonight.

I’m not saying don’t take courses. Education is beneficial. First get feedback on the cost reward of the program. Build a network of fellow writers to learn which courses and which paid blog or advertising spots will serve you well.

There are many ways to gather invaluable knowledge for other writers and authors.

  • Join a critique group — before you self-edit, and then send your manuscript to an editor, your critique group will help you find your blind spots from punctuation, spelling, typos, and grammar to plot holes.
  • Join a local writing group — this may cost you a few dollars a year, but you will meet a wider circle of writers and authors and have the opportunity to attend group events where you can expand your knowledge even more.
  • Join an online group — expand your knowledge globally by exchanging ideas with fellow writers. Social media like Facebook and Google+ have groups and communities where you can exchange ideas, get reviews of courses and paid advertising opportunities, and even get feedback on book cover ideas. Keep in mind the writers are not graphic designers. Or get suggestions on cover designers familiar with your genre. Get tips on what works and doesn’t work with Facebook fan pages, Amazon marketing, Facebook marketing, genre specific book descriptions, or just dealing with Amazon and other book retailers.
  • Join a professional writers organization — a good choice is one that is genre specific. Join forums to where authors discuss details of publishing and marketing.
  • Attend conferences — meet writers, agents, publishers and learn from experienced authors. If you are working with a limited budget, find one that is close to reduce air travel, stay with a friend to reduce hotel costs. Remember that much of the great conversation and discussion happens outside of the formal presentations. Socialize.

By the time you have expanded your circle of writing and author friends you will know more about how to improve your own writing, where best to spend your writing budget, and you will discover tips and resources you would not have imagined if you had not connected with other writers.

These suggestions are the tip of the iceberg when it comes to learning from other writers. You’ll find offhand remarks that change your thinking and tips that refine your writing, your publishing skills, and your professionalism.

Zara Altair

Zara Altair writes mysteries set in ancient Italy. Argolicus thinks he has retired, but he and his tutor, Nikolaos, are drawn into puzzles, politics, and murder.
She consults with a select group of writers as The Story Bodyguard.