Wednesday, October 30, 2019

A Chat with Michael Bowen, Author of the Political Thriller 'False Flag in Autumn'

Michael Bowen is a retired trial lawyer and graduate of Harvard Law School who has published nineteen mysteries, ranging from Washington crime stories to plucky couple puzzle mysteries (and sometimes both at the same time). Visit his website at

Mayra Calvani:  Please tell us about False Flag in Autumn and what compelled you to write it?

Mike Bowen:    Why wasn’t there a head-grabbing, script-flipping October surprise before the 2018 midterm elections?  Will there be an October – or perhaps a June or July – surprise in 2020?  Josie Kendall, introduced in 2016’s Damage Control (“ . . . consistently delightful.  Bowen’s ebullient antidote to election season blues . . . . ” – Kirkus Reviews), finds herself mixed up in those provocative questions when a rogue White House aide tries to use her as an unwitting pawn in the 2018 surprise that didn’t happen.  A deft political apparatchik, Josie outhustles the hustler in 2018, but the stakes are much higher in 2020, and the weapons involved aren’t just spin, winks, and leaks but, well, actual weapons.  I wrote this story because I became convinced that there’s something going on politically in the United States that only story-telling can get at properly – because, after all, fiction is truth liberated from the tyranny of fact.

M.C.:  What is your book about?

Mike:  False Flag in Autumn is about redemption.  Josie Kendall isn’t an earnest, idealistic policy wonk.  She is a manipulative D.C. operator who will cheerfully (and skillfully) gin up confected news to change a political narrative that is inconvenient for one of the clients of her employer, Majority Values Coalition.  When innocent lives are at stake, will she take substantial risks and deploy her skills to try to save them – or will she curl up in bed and hope that the victims die quickly and without too much pain?

M.C.: What themes do you explore in False Flag in Autumn?

Mike:  Integrity, redemption, and the willingness to know yourself – to look in the mirror finally and see something that you’re not particularly comfortable with. 

M.C.: Why do you write?

Mike:   God has given me the gift of being able to tell stories that engage the interest and emotions of other people.  To borrow a line from the movie Chariots of Fire, when I use that gift I can feel His pleasure.

M.C.: When do you feel most creative?

Mike:   When I see something – e.g., a computer bag going through the luggage screener at an airport, that could be switched with an identical bag with neither the owner nor anyone else being any the wiser – and realize that no one else looking at exactly the same scene has seen what I just saw.  And when I wonder What if?  What if someone threatens to kill you unless you stop sleeping with his wife, and you’re not sleeping with anyone else’s wife?

M.C.: How picky are you with language?

Mike:    I’m an unapologetic, old-school pedant.  I’ve tried – hard – to check my tendency to correct grammar and diction in conversation, but I still yell corrections at my television screen:  fewer, not less, to her and me, not to her and I, supine, not prone, espionage, not treason, you semi-literate cretin.”  In a deposition once, an expert witness referred three times to his “mythology.”  I finally said, “I think you mean ‘methodology.’  ‘Mythology’ is what I’d call it if we had a jury here.”  Opposing counsel once told me in a letter that he found one of my statements “incredulous.”  I replied that I thought he meant “incredible.”  He peevishly responded, “Please don’t correct my grammar.”  I wrote back, “I wasn’t correcting your grammar, I was correcting your diction.”

M.C.: When you write, do you sometimes feel as though you are being manipulated from afar?

Mike:   Nope.  The internal logic of plot or character can take me in unanticipated and even surprising directions, but that’s because I haven’t thought things through thoroughly enough before I started to write – not because a muse is playing head-games with me.

M.C.: What is your worst time as a writer?

Mike:     Spotting a typo – or, even worse, a substantive factual error – when I’m reading the printed book and it’s too late to make a correction.

M.C.: Your best?

Mike:    When I’m reading something I’ve written and I know the story perfectly well, but I want to go on reading even so simply because I’m enjoying the prose and the way the story is playing out. 
M.C.:   Is there anything that would stop you from writing?

Mike:   No.  If someone threatened to disclose my most embarrassing secret unless I promised never to write another word, I’d say, “You’re too late.  I’ve already revealed it in at least three stories.”

M.C.:   What’s the happiest moment you’ve lived as an author?

Mike:    When I realized that you could lock a snap-lock on the inside of a room by blocking the latch with an ice cube and then stepping outside and closing the door, so that the lock would snap shut when the ice cube melted; and then verified with a lock I bought and installed expressly for the purpose, and an ice cube and a camera, that the trick would actually work.

M.C.:   Is writing an obsession to you?

Mike:     Absolutely.  If the apocalypse comes before I die, I’ll probably be typing right up until an angel on a green horse gallops up to let me know what my fate is.

M.C.:   Are the stories you create connected to you in some way?

Mike:  Sure.  My protagonists have strengths and weaknesses (and good habits and bad habits) that I don’t have, and they tend to lead more interesting lives (especially now that I’ve retired from practicing law), but every emotion, every desire, every conflict of conscience, every resistance to or acquiescence in temptation that I write about is an extrapolation of something that I have felt or experienced or imagined.

M.C.:   Ray Bradbury once said, “You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.”  Thoughts?

Mike:    Bradbury has a far more sensitive soul than I do.  I practiced law for thirty-nine years.  What does a lawyer do when he has secured a not guilty verdict for a client he knows perfectly well was as guilty as Judas Iscariot?  I’ll tell you what he does.  He goes home; loosens his tie and unbuttons the top button on his shirt; puts jazz on his CD player; pours two fingers of scotch;  listens to Miles Davis or John Coltrane until he falls asleep; then gets up the next morning and goes back to work.  Reality doesn’t stand a chance.

M.C.:  Do you have a website or blog where readers can find out more about you and your work?


Monday, October 28, 2019

Meet the Author: Deborah Serani Author of The Ninth Session

Deborah Serani is an award-winning author and psychologist who has been in practice for thirty years. She is also a professor at Adelphi University and is a go-to media expert for psychological issues. Her interviews can be found in Newsday, Psychology Today, The Chicago Tribune, The New York Times, The Associated Press, and affiliate radio programs at CBS and NPR, among others. Dr. Serani has also been a technical advisor for the NBC television show, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. The recurring character, Judge D. Serani, was named after her.


Dr. Alicia Reese, a recent widow and a CODA – a child of Deaf Adults, takes on a new patient. Lucas Ferro reveals the reason for his consultation is that he wasn't really open with his previous therapist. After gaining Reese’s trust, he shares aspects of his life that are clearly disturbing – experiences that create anxiety and panic, but also reveal horrifying psychopathology. Instead of referring Ferro elsewhere, Reese chooses to continue working with him, feeling reinvigorated by the challenge of his case.     
As sessions progress, and Ferro’s disclosures become more menacing, Reese finds herself wedged between the cold hard frame of professional ethics and the integrity of personal truth – and learns just how far she’s willing to go, willing to risk and willing to lose to do the right thing.


Amazon →

What first inspired you to write or who inspired you?  

I always enjoyed reading, and writing just became a way to create and express myself. My school friends really encouraged me to write as they loved reading my poetry and short stories.

At what age did you know you wanted to be a writer? 

In college, the dream about one day writing books really took hold.

Do you take notes when reading or watching a movie? 

No. I love being in the moment of a film or when reading. I may jot some thoughts afterwards, but never during.

Has writing always been a passion for you or did you discover it years later? 

I started writing in elementary school. Back then, it was science fiction short stories, and as I got older, poetry. I wrote a lot of music and songs as a teenager and in college, began writing picture books and novellas. As an adult, I wrote several nonfiction books. And now I’m writing fiction as I enter my golden years. It’s been a unique trajectory for me, but always a passion.

Do you have a day job?  What do you do? 

I’m a psychologist in private practice and professor of psychology at a local university.

Can you name three writing tips to pass on to aspiring authors? 

1. Always write to please yourself, not to please others.
2. Never compromise your voice as a writer. It’s what makes you stand out as an author.  3. Always keep writing. When you finish one project, begin the next. Don’t wait to get your first piece published to write again.

Do you let unimportant things get in the way of your writing? 

Oh yes. Everyday life has a way of interrupting my writing. I write when I can, which isn’t always predictable.

What hours do you write best? 

In the morning hours before anyone’s awake or late at night. But mostly, I write when I have the time to do so.

How often do you write? 

I write just about every day, but that’s because I’m tending to many projects. Books, academic papers, articles for magazines…

Are you an avid reader? 

Not as avid as I’d like to be, but I do love to read books. I tend to shy away from ebooks and prefer holding the real thing in my hands.

What are you reading now? 

I just finished “The Chain” by Adrian McKinty. A scary, creepy, cool read.

What are you currently working on? 

I’m finishing the edit to a children’s picture book for Free Spirit Publishing. I really enjoy writing in different genres and am grateful to have the ability to do so as an author.

Meet the Author: Angela Smith, Author of DARK JUSTICE #Interview @angelaswriter

Angela Smith is a Texas native who, years ago, was dubbed most likely to write a novel during her senior year in high school. She always had her nose stuck in a book, even hiding them behind her textbooks during school study time. Her dream began at a young age when her sister started reciting ‘Brer Rabbit’ after their mom read it to them so often. She told her mom she’d write a story one day and never gave up on that dream even though her mom was never able to see it come to fruition. By day, she works as a certified paralegal and office manager at her local District Attorney’s office and spends her free time with her husband, their pets, and their many hobbies. Although life in general keeps her very busy, her passion for writing and getting the stories out of her head tends to make her restless if she isn’t following what some people call her destiny.






She’s in love with her sister’s killer...

Lauren has loved Luke since first grade. They planned to marry—until he murdered her sister. The moment he was sentenced to prison, Lauren fled with her secret baby and made a new life. Now
she’ll do anything to keep their daughter safe. But her hard won peace shatters when Luke is exonerated, and it sets her on a path of mixed emotions to discover the truth. Letting a killer into their tightly knit family is out of the question. Or is it?

She almost destroys her life by threatening his…

Prison stole his future with Lauren and twelve years of Luke’s life, so the last thing he needs from her is a knife in the back or a gun in his face. Lauren believes he killed her sister, and he has no plans to pick up where they left off. Luke can’t afford to trust her, but he wants nothing more than to convince her he’s worth fighting for.

Their daughter is in danger…

Luke is heartbroken when he learns they had a child together. Now his daughter is in danger. Lauren trusted the wrong person for far too long, but he hopes she’ll now trust him. Luke will risk everything to keep them safe. And Lauren will risk everything if she lets him into her heart.


Amazon →

 Barnes & Noble

At what age did you know you wanted to be a writer?
I don’t remember the exact age, but I’d say twelve or so. I have certain ages I remember that help me remember events. I was diagnosed with diabetes when I was 9. My mom died when I was fifteen. I fell in love with writing after my diagnosis but before her death, and only later learned how much she wanted to write as well.

Do you take notes when reading or watching a movie?
No! Unless I’m reading a book for learning or find a passage I must remember. I read and watch movies for the total enjoyment, and I believe I can learn by totally immersing myself in those experiences.

Has writing always been a passion for you or did you discover it years later?
It has always been a passion for me.

Do you have a day job?  What do you do?
I work full time as a paralegal and office manager for District Attorney’s Office, where I have been for 21 years.

Can you name three writing tips to pass on to aspiring authors?
Read other books without judgment, don’t let fear get in your way, and just write without worrying what comes out.

Do you let unimportant things get in the way of your writing?
Absolutely! Way too often!

What hours do you write best?
The early morning. Also in the evening if I can actually stay up past a certain times, such as on weekends.

How often do you write?
I try to write every day, although I believe writing is like anything else and I need breaks.

Are you an avid reader?
Yes. I love to read any and everything.

What are you reading now?
I’m reading “Everything is Figureoutable” by Marie Forleo. I’m a nonfiction, self-help guru as well as loving fiction.

Has writing always been a passion for you or did you discover it years later?
Yes, it’s always been a passion.

What are you currently working on?
I’m currently under contract with a sweet, contemporary Christmas story, and we are working on edits. I’m also working on the third and final installment of my standalone companion series. But there’s another book that won’t get out of my head, so that might have to come first.

Friday, October 18, 2019

A Conversation with Susan McCormick, Author of 'The Fog Ladies'

Susan McCormick writes cozy murder mysteries. She is also the author of GRANNY CAN’T REMEMBER ME, a lighthearted picture book about Alzheimer’s disease. She is a doctor who lives in Seattle. She graduated from Smith College and George Washington University School of Medicine, with additional medical training in Washington, DC and San Francisco, where she lived in an elegant apartment building much like the one in the book. She served nine years in the military before settling in the Pacific Northwest. She is married and has two boys, plus a giant Newfoundland dog. Visit her website at

Connect with Susan on the web:

Find out more about THE FOG LADIES:

Amazon / B&N


Mayra Calvani: Please tell us about THE FOG LADIES, and what compelled you to write it.

Susan McCormick:  THE FOG LADIES is a cozy murder mystery set in an elegant apartment building in San Francisco where old ladies start to die. I lived in an apartment building much like the one in THE FOG LADIES, minus the murders, when I did medical training in San Francisco. All my life I have read cozy mysteries, so thinking about murder and motivation, the idea for the story and setting came to me then. Elegant apartment buildings are found throughout San Francisco, especially in Pacific Heights, where the story is set. Tenants of all ages live together for years, providing the perfect cast of characters and cozy-type enclosed setting for a series of murders. The name of the book and the idea for the group of women came instantly, before anything else about the story. They call themselves the Fog Ladies because you can count on them like you can count on San Francisco early morning fog burning off by midday. I had my characters and my setting, and then I concocted the murders around them.

M.C.: What is your book about?

Author:  A group of spunky older women and one overworked, overtired, overstressed medical intern who all live in the building work together to decide if the deaths of their neighbors are the natural consequences of growing, or, as the Fog Ladies assume, murder. Mrs. Bridge falls off a stool cleaning bugs out of her kitchen light. Mrs. Talwin slips on bubbles in the bath and drowns. Plausible? Or does evil lurk in their building?

M.C.:  What themes do you explore in THE FOG LADIES?

Author:  Growing old, female bonds of friendship, love, mistakes, even parenting, and of course, murder.

M.C.:  Why do you write?

Author: When I was young, I wanted to be a ballerina, a doctor and a writer. All together, all at once. My ballet days ended before they began at age four when my first performance’s bow took out the backdrop and crashed it to the floor. I tried more lessons in high school, but I was far too old. So all that was left was being a doctor and a writer. The latter took me a while. Being a doctor was a straight shot, four years of medical school, three years of residency, then fellowship, then payback the military with a stint in the Army because they paid for medical school. Though I've been plotting my stories since those ballerina days, being a writer took longer. I wouldn’t write if I didn’t love it.

M.C.:  When do you feel the most creative?

Author:  In the early morning hours, when my family is still asleep, I creep downstairs in the dark and write in the dark and write while the sun comes up and finish when my family wakes up. Our big, slobbery, furry Newfoundland dog dutifully wakes up with me in the morning and is my constant writing companion. Early morning is my creative time, my writing time.

M.C.:  How picky are you with language?

Author:  Each Fog Lady, from meek Alma Gordon to quirky Enid Carmichael to prickly Muriel Bridge, has their own voice, their own language. Since the book is told from several points of view, I was particularly careful, picky, with my words.

M.C.:  When you write, do you sometimes feel as though you were being manipulated from afar?

Author:  This is my favorite part of writing, when characters I created do unexpected things and get themselves into trouble. One of my characters, Enid Carmichael, discovers Starbucks lattes at the ripe old age of eighty. She loves the bitterness, the froth. I wrote that. Then she craved more, and the next thing I knew, she was stealing Starbucks coupons from her neighbor’s newspaper to feed her addiction. She did that. Not me. A character wrote herself onto life support and expected me to cure her health issues. This is definitely manipulation from afar. 

M.C.:  What is your worst time as a writer?

Author:  When the first finger-flying-on-the-keyboard draft is done, after the joy creating new characters and seeing where they take the story, then you sit with your second draft and realize your plot has holes and the characters need fleshing out, and your brain grinds to a halt. Revision, re-writing, and re-creating whole portions of the story are my worst time as a writer.

M.C.:  Your best?

Author:  Though I plot and plan my stories, my best times are when characters take off on their own. Sometimes characters even create themselves. Chantrelle, ne’er do well teen parent, and Baby Owen wrote their own scenes, and provided a potential murderer in Big Owen, the daddy. Once this threesome was introduced, my story evolved and deepened, yet they were nowhere in my mind when I set out to write.

M.C.:  Is there anything that would stop you from writing?

Author:  Even if I couldn’t write them down, nothing would stop me from making up stories in my head. That arguing couple at the National Park? That’s a husband who might lean too close to the edge and “accidentally” fall off. That music competition every four years where only one scholarship is given? That’s a mother who would do anything to help her child succeed. The story ideas are there, endless, even if the outlet is gone.

M.C.: What’s the happiest moment you’ve lived as an author?

Author:  So interesting. My happiest moment and my saddest moment as an author came within a moment of each other. I entered a contest, and when I checked back, I found that two of my books were finalists! I was so excited, so thrilled. I looked to see when the book conference was, the conference that would regale the finalists (in my mind I would wear a “Finalist” ribbon and walk tall and proud) and announce the winner. I called my husband in triumph and told him I needed to be away a certain weekend for my big event. He waited a beat, then said gently, “That was last weekend.”

M.C.:  Is writing an obsession to you?

Author:  Anything that gets you up at 4:30 in the morning has got to be an obsession.

M.C.:  Are the stories you create connected with you in some way?

Author:  Definitely. My first book, GRANNY CAN’T REMEMBER ME, a lighthearted picture book about Alzheimer’s disease, is a direct result of our family’s experience with my mother’s dementia, and my hope to bring our tricks and tools to other struggling families. THE FOG LADIES is set in an apartment building much like one I used to live in. I have been known to eat Cheerios for dinner, like Sarah, the young doctor in the book. I enjoy old ladies immensely. But, luckily, I have never agonized over my doctor career choice like Sarah does after she makes a mistake. And I’m not involved with murder.

M.C.:  Ray Bradbury once said, “You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.” Thoughts?

Author:  I think this means I should try not to think about the 4:30 am time, just enjoy the writing.

M.C.:  Do you have a website or blog where readers can find out more about you and your work?

Author:  You can visit me at

Connect with Susan McCormick on the web: