Friday, August 15, 2014

The Perils of Co-Writing

My husband is an actor. Of sorts.  Julio has been background or stand-in for Arnold, Sylvester, Brad, Jason (Statham and Momoa), and pretty much all of the biggies.

He has also done theater where he was dressed as the Easter Bunny, as well as has numerous indie films (translation, mostly unpaid) under this belt. The last indie film he was in took 3rd place at the New Orleans 48-Hour Film Festival, which was a great accomplishment for all involved because it was their first time at this particular rodeo.

Julio as the Easter Bunny
He has also done several local commercials, one so convincing everyone keeps asking to borrow money from us because they really believe he got $100,000 in a car wreck from a personal injury settlement.  

For a while we have been discussing writing a short for him. A short would be great for both of us. It would be a great thing to put on his reel to submit when he auditions because I could write something other than the roles he usually gets typecast in-- the thug, the drug dealer, the prisoner, the killer.  All interesting roles, but sort of stereotypical for a large, dangerous-looking Hispanic male.  I could write something that would allow him to show a host of different emotions.  And it would be good for me because my name would be on it.

Julio with Stanley Tucci
I've written a few screenplays, some of them have even won awards, but none have yet been optioned or produced.

While working on indie films, Julio met a valuable contact, a producer/director who has pitched to major network t.v. shows and has had a reality t.v. show produced.  He liked one of my pilots.  But more than that he liked an idea for a short that Julio and I have been tossing around for awhile.  He liked it the way Julio pitched it to him, however, as a t.v. series and is interested in pitching it to a network. Which means we need to start writing it.

I say we, but I mostly mean me. Julio has great ideas, but he doesn't write. Most of the time he doesn't write the ideas down, but tells them to me and expects me to keep them organized like a human card catalog.  And to be honest, organization is a skill I struggle with on a daily basis.

Julio as a Dough Boy in Aztec Warrio
So we have just begun the process.  Julio doesn't know the pain of the writing process. He doesn't start at the beginning, but spouts off all of these ideas about things that are going to happen in different episodes.

Last night we began to finally work together to get the thing on paper. I tried to explain to him that he first needs to understand structure.  Personally, I am not a fan of structure. My goal when I was much younger (much, much younger) was to be this creative genius that broke all the rules in order to fully develop my art.

Newsflash--people who watch t.v. shows don't give a crap about my desire to develop my art.  They want to know what to expect in their weekly cop show, or their weekly comedy, or their weekly night time soap.

They don't want to know in advance what's going to
happen, you know, all those things Julio has pinned down, but they want to know that the first 30 second to 2 minutes is going to set up the plot, that every week there's a different story, or every week there's a new illness or enemy or alien to conquer, or every week there's going to be a murder before the first commercial.

They don't realize they know this or expect this, but if it doesn't happen the way they have anticipated, which has a whole lot to do with why they like the show in the first place, they might not tune in next week.

Julio as a detective on Common Law 

So for me, character is first, at least the protagonist and antagonist.  Then, I try to think about what the big picture is, the reason I'm writing this particular story in this particular way.

Then I try to decide the structure, what is the A-plot, B-plot, and is there going to be a C-plot?

Is there something that is going to repeat every week, such as a flashback, a voice over, talking to a dead relative at a grave, a goodnight John Boy?  Is there going to be something consistent that if and when it fails to happen, it means something.

Then I start with the details of what is going to happen in each episode. And these, too, I map out, so that I can make sure my character has an arc, and the story has an arc, through the first season, and through the end of the show. And if I have more than one primary character, they also need an arc.

Julio thinks you can just come up with ideas about what's going to happen and start writing it. Maybe some people work that way, but it sure doesn't lend itself well to t.v. series writing.  Then again, maybe he just gives me a lot more credit than I deserve when it comes to my ability to create a screenplay or a novel or even a legal brief. As much as I love to write, it requires time and work.

Julio as a thug
And then we came to the biggest crossroads of all--we couldn't seem to agree on the genre or subgengre, other than it's going to be an hour long show, which means it has to be a drama or a dramedy.  We discussed this at length, him making it seem like an edgy soap opera to me.  I pictured it more as a dark comedy.

Finally, I asked him to tell me a song that gave him the feeling of the series. I am thinking tone and mood.  This is how I write, especially for scenes that are difficult, such as emotional or embarrassing scenes. I find music or songs that fit the tone and mood. This doesn't mean the lyrics have anything to do with the story, it's the feeling the song in general evokes.

So of course, I was unable to come up with the words tone and mood and he gave me songs that were heavy and depressing because the lyrics described the character. It took us an hour of back and forth before we finally understood what each other was talking about, and that neither of us was actually talking about the same thing, but finally realized we are on the exact same page as far as tone and mood, subgenre, and protagonist.

Julio marrying George Clooney in Vegas
After that, we came up with some of the structural issues I need to begin the process, and came up with the big picture and the character arcs for the first season and the arc for the entire series. Not that it won't be fine tuned, but that hour of frustration and of sometimes getting snarky and snippy and raising our voices eventually led us off to a great start.

I am not a fan of co-writing. I like to write what I want to write, how I want to write it. But I figure one day I may get a paid job writing a script for t.v. or a movie, and it will be whatever the person paying me wants me to write, whether it's my way or not. So I guess it's good practice.  Plus, if this producer does manage to get this show optioned, a lot more doors will open for me as a writer.

So although co-writing is perilous, we're not talking divorce yet, so I guess we'll keep going and see how it turns out.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Amy Reade: Twelve Question Tuesday

Today I am excited to welcome fellow lawyer Amy Reade to Twelve Question Tuesday.

1.  Please tell me the three most important things people should know about you. 
I have been married for eighteen years, I have three kids, and I grew up in Northern New York.

2.  Are you a dog person or a cat person?
If I say dog person, my cats will be mad.  If I say cat person, my dog will be mad.  It’s best if I say both.

3.  Tea or coffee?
I like tea better, but I’ll drink both.  If I drink coffee, it has to have enough cream and sugar in it to taste like ice cream.

4.  Boxers, briefs, boxer-briefs, or commando? (Either what you prefer or what you prefer on others.)

I say wear what makes you comfortable.  Just don’t wear your jeans so low that you share your preference with the rest of us.

5.  What was the first thing you ever wrote?
The first thing I remember writing was a poem in honor of my baby sister.  It ended like this:  “I love fried chicken like the dickens, but most of all I love my Megan.”  Then when I was in seventh grade I wrote a story called “Klara’s Wish.”   A local author read it on her radio program.  I still have the tape of it somewhere.

6.  When did you finally decide to call yourself a writer?
I started calling myself a writer when I finished my first novel and started to look for a publisher. 

7.  Which of your works are you most proud to have written?
So far, my first novel, Secrets of Hallstead House.  I’m working on my second novel right now, and I love every minute of it.

8.  What is the scariest thing that has ever happened to you?
I’d love to tell you about it, but I’ll end up with nightmares.  I’ll tell you the second-scariest.  When I was a teenager, I was babysitting for a boy who pulled a gun on me.  It goes without saying that I wasn’t allowed to babysit for that family anymore... not that I would have wanted to.
9.  How did you end up getting published?
After a very insightful acquisitions editor suggested that I do something to establish an online presence, I got started on Facebook, then I got a website and Twitter account.  I don’t put a lot of myself out there, but I try to comment on other people’s blogs and FB pages as often as I can.  I’ve also started blogging, and I absolutely love doing it.  That same editor made some helpful suggestions about revising my first manuscript a bit, then I sent it off to Kensington Publishing, which offered me a contract.  The editing process has been fantastic, and I’ve actually enjoyed doing the revisions. 

10.  Would you be food or fighter if the zombie apocalypse were to happen?
I’d try to fight, but sadly, I’d probably end up as food.

11.  What is the most daring thing you have ever done?
I went to law school in a state far from home where I didn’t know anyone.

12.  Would you rather be rich or famous--and you could only have one-- and why?  The fame would be based on something good, not something like being the best serial killer or anything like that.
I’m not sure I’d be good at being famous…way too many embarrassing things happen to me.  So I guess I’d rather be rich.  I’d use my wealth to do good works and help others without attracting any attention.   

My first novel, SECRETS OF HALLSTEAD HOUSE, is the story of a nurse from Manhattan who has endured the deaths of her parents and the end of a long-term relationship.  Looking for a new start, she takes a job on Hallstead Island, part of the Thousand Islands in upstate New York.  When she arrives, she finds that she is not only unwelcome, but also in danger from unknown persons.  She discovers secrets that reach far into her past and will affect her far into the future, but there are people who don’t want those secrets shared.  They will stop at nothing to make sure the secrets remain hidden.

You can find me on my blog at

You can find me on Twitter at

Visit my website at

Finally, you can visit me on Facebook at


Tuesday, July 8, 2014

TEKLA DENNISON MILLER- Twelve Question Tuesday

Today I am pleased to welcome former warden Tekla Dennison Miller to Twelve Question Tuesday.
1.  Please tell me the three most important things people should know about you.
1. I am married for nearly 39 years to wonderful man who recently has had a double leg amputation but he still has a sense of humor has remained optimistic.
2. I have 3 stepsons, one daughter-in-law and 3 remarkable grandchildren.
3. I was the warden of a men’s maximum and a women’s multi-level prisons outside Detroit, MI.
2.  Are you a dog person or a cat person?
Although I love all animals my husband and I have rescued dogs for all the years we have been married. At the moment we have 2 mutts (Rez Dogs) rescued from the Apache reservation.
3.  Tea or coffee?
Absolutely coffee—the stronger the better. But I must admit that I have slight addiction to Chai Latte.
4.  Boxers, briefs, boxer-briefs, or commando? (Either what you prefer or what you prefer on others.)
Sexy boxer-briefs.
5.  What was the first thing you ever wrote?
In fifth grade I wrote a story about my brother and baseball. I still remember the title—“Baseball in his Blood”.
6.  When did you finally decide to call yourself a writer?
It never occurred to me that I would write or one-day be a published author. When I retired early my friends urged me to write about my twenty-year career with the Michigan Department of Corrections. “You should write a book. You have so many fascinating stories to tell,” they said.
I brushed them off. After all the most exciting material I had written all those years were my monthly reports and annual budgets. Trust me, these don’t make best-seller material. So I decided to do what so many of my predecessors had done–I became a consultant. 
Within a month of that decision I got my first job. I was hired to be a keynote speaker at the Massachusetts Sheriffs’ Association conference on the female offender. I was flown to Boston, put up in a nice hotel, chauffeured around and paid $500 for a thirty-minute speech. I was delighted and knew I had made the correct choice. I couldn’t make that much money for a half hour of writing, especially when I didn’t have the skills. I left Boston flying high on my success. 
When I got home I promptly deposited my $500 check and made plans on how to spend it. Shortly after, the bank notified me that the check bounced. “How can this be?” I asked the teller. “It’s written on the Sheriffs’ Association’s account?” Little did I know that by the time I had contacted the association about this, the executive director was under investigation for mismanagement of funds. 
When I discovered this, I told myself, “Perhaps consulting isn’t meant for me. I should try writing. What did I have to lose? I couldn’t have a worse experience.”
Many years later I was a party I was approached by two women who asked, “Are you Tekla Miller, the author?” It took me a moment to ponder the question because I had only been known as “The Warden.” After a quick review of my achievements over the past years, I proudly answered, “Yes, I am.”
7.  Which of your works are you most proud to have written?
I would have to say my first book THE WARDEN WORE PINK because it was the beginning of my wonderful life.
8.  What is the scariest thing that has ever happened to you?
An employee at the women’s prison threatened my life. Her psychologist informed me and the police that he believed she would carry out the threat. I had to have a body guard.
9.  How did you end up getting published?
Although I actually had an agent she gave up on me. So I researched independent presses and Julie Zimmerman of Biddle Publishing took a chance on me and published THE WARDEN WORE PINK in 1996. It is still in print and is used in both criminal justice and women’s studies at several colleges and universities and has been quoted in many nonfiction books.
10.  Would you be food or fighter if the zombie apocalypse were to happen?
Definitely a fighter. I’ve been a fighter all my life. I had to be. I became an orphan when I was 13 years old.
11.  What is the most daring thing you have ever done?
Being the first person—man or woman—in the be the warden of 2 high security prisons simultaneously.
12.  Would you rather be rich or famous--and you could only have one-- and why?  The fame would be based on something good, not something like being the best serial killer or anything like that.
Famous. I’d rather have the reward of helping others than money. I have already helped and would continue to help the wrongfully convicted.
My most recent book is about to be released by Oak Tree Press. MOTHER RABBIT is the true story of my sister, Alyce Bonura who was a single mother that became the Bunny Mother of the Chicago Playboy Club in the mid 1960s.
Although my web site is being updated you can view it at - Tekla Dennison Miller's Web Site  

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Twelve Question Tuesday- Nancy LiPetri

Today, writer Nancy LiPetri joins me for Twelve Question Tuesday.

1.  Please tell me the three most important things people should know about you. 

I have a sense of humor you may not pick up on right away, and amuse myself by having characters say and do things that keep my friends guessing about the real me.

Nature is one of my greatest passions, right up there with my kids and hubby and writing—I’m a shameless ‘bird nerd’ since moving to NC nine years ago, have had my yard certified as a wildlife habitat, and am always looking forward to exploring the next trail, park or beach.

I really enjoy working out, not only to try to stay in shape and ward off everything that stole my mother’s golden years from her, but because being a regular in group pilates, yoga and spin is my big social break away from my home office where I talk to my dog and cats all day. Thank goodness for Facebook friends, too!

2.  Are you a dog person or a cat person? 

Although my recent Facebook photo posts are my daughter’s German Shepherd, son’s puppy and my own sweet old golden retriever, when forced to pick, I’m first a cat person. We have two I find endlessly exquisite. Have always lived with a cat and always will. Besides, there are reasons my wonderful golden is nicknamed Marley Money-Pit Inconvenience.

3.  Tea or coffee?

Tea. Have been fortunate to get spoiled with longjing direct from China, thanks to hubby’s travel. Coffee with creamer is just a weekend treat.

4.  Boxers, briefs, boxer-briefs, or commando? (Either what you prefer or what you prefer on others.)

Boxer-briefs. They show more shape than boxers, yet leave something to the imagination.

5.  What was the first thing you ever wrote?

I kept a diary all through childhood and into college. People always knew to get me a new one for Christmas, you know, the kind with the little lock and key. Guess it’s no wonder my first novel has a “Dear Diary” character. The first multi-page story I remember writing was about horses (I was into The Black Stallion series at the time, in elementary school).

6.  When did you finally decide to call yourself a writer?

Well, I’ve been a copywriter all my adult life, so have called myself a writer for decades. Always wrote for a hobby, too. But not until signing with Oak Tree Press did I call myself an author.

7.  Which of your works are you most proud to have written?

The Wooded Path because it made one of my early readers say exactly what I hoped for, that it’s intriguing and fun and made her say, “Hey, that’s me!”

8.  What is the scariest thing that has ever happened to you?

 Having teenagers. Giving up the control over what’s dearest to you….  I know I sprouted gray hairs when they began to drive. 

9.  How did you end up getting published?

Becoming an empty-nester finally got me the time to complete and polish a manuscript (I know other authors get it done amid the chaos of a really busy life, but I lose hours of reality when I write, and was afraid of letting too much slide), and then over months of querying publishers I received enough positive response to keep trying until I found the right match: Oak Tree Press.

10.  Would you be food or fighter if the zombie apocalypse were to happen?

Fighter! Been wanting to try out this kickboxing on someone. Elbow strike!

11.  What is the most daring thing you have ever done?

Hmmmm, what daring thing could I share? Getting married before we both had graduated and had “good” jobs, not knowing where life would take us.

12.  Would you rather be rich or famous--and you could only have one-- and why?  The fame would be based on something good, not something like being the best serial killer or anything like that.

I’m a practical girl, and I’m sure I wouldn’t enjoy all the attention and lack of privacy that comes with fame, so have to choose rich. But I wouldn’t change my comfortable lifestyle…oh except for maybe buying myself and my daughter more horses…and land for them…and a hot stable hand to help us….

Blurb for The Wooded Path coming September 2014:

Ever wonder if you’re normal? Laine McClelland sure does. When the mysterious disappearance of a bunco friend, Paula, shakes her Lake Norman neighborhood, her seemingly perfect world is suddenly filled with dark thoughts, dangerous temptations and surprising confessions. What is normal once you realize life’s short, anyway? Was her marriage ever enough? She finds herself risking it all…and afraid of what really happened to Paula.

Nancy LiPetri lives on Lake Norman, North Carolina, the setting of The Wooded Path. Originally from landlocked Iowa, she has enjoyed living on both coasts as well as in her husband’s native Chicago, taking her family and copywriting career with her and gathering inspiration for her fiction along the way.

Visit her on Facebook. And to find out what it’s really like on Lake Norman, visit her at

Monday, June 2, 2014

This week I'm participating in the My Writing Process blog tour. I'd like to send a big thank you to friend and author Pat Gligor for inviting me to participate.

Here are the four questions every author must answer on the tour. I hope you enjoy my answers.

1)  What am I working on?
    Right now I am trying to finish up CHOCOLATE CITY JUSTICE, the third in the Crescent City Mystery Series.   

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?
    My novels are influenced by real life cases I handled as a prosecutor and then as an appellate public defender in New Orleans. Having worked both sides in the exact opposite capacity gives me a different perspective into the prosecution of criminals.  In my current capacity, I get to see what the suspects are thinking, why they do what they do, and how they justify their choices. I also get to see when a suspect may actually not be guilty. As a prosecutor, I lived criminal procedure and criminal law so that I can write about it realistically and without having to even think about the nuances. So I think my work differs because it includes some things I've actually experienced, and because I can realistically write about both sides of the coin with the good guys and the bad guys from firsthand experience.

3)  Why do I write what I do?
    I have always been in love with scary things.  Mysteries, the supernatural, horror movies-- if it's scary, I've always been obsessed with it.  So writing mysteries was a natural fit.  I began writing the series when I was a prosecutor, so of course I decided to feature a female prosecutor.  When I began doing public defense, I realized I was gaining an insight to the whole criminal justice system in New Orleans I hadn't had as a prosecutor.  My theme revolves around the idea that justice is not always accomplished by following the law and the two are not necessarily the same thing, which is the underlying drive of everything I write. 

4) How does my writing process work?
    I get a very general plot idea, usually from something that happened in real life.  I then decide on the bad guy and a few other possible suspects. I outline the novel scene by scene, making sure to include the things that need to happen in certain chapters or scenes, such as clues that need to come out or red herrings that need to be planted.  I follow the outline until I come up with a reason not to, such as a plot hole or a better plot device. When that happens, I take a step back, re-outline, and add in or take out what needs to be added or taken out. I may do this process a few times before the book is finally finished.

Next week, the following writers have agreed to participate, so please check out their blogs on June 9th to find out more about their writing processes as well:

Marilyn Meredith is the author of over thirty-five published novels, including the award winning Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series, the latest Spirit Shapes from Mundania Press. Writing as F. M. Meredith, her latest Rocky Bluff P.D. crime novel is Murder in the Worst Degree from Oak Tree Press. Marilyn is a member of EPIC, Three chapters of Sisters in Crime, including the Central Coast chapter, Mystery Writers of America, and on the board of the Public Safety Writers of America. 

Visit  her at and her blog at Blog Link:


John M. Wills is a former Chicago police officer and retired FBI agent. After his retirement from the Bureau, he spent more than eight years as a law enforcement and military firearms trainer for a private company headquartered in Seattle.

He is a freelance writer and award-winning author in a variety of genres, including novels, short stories, creative non-technical, technical and poetry. He has published more than 150 articles on officer training, street survival, fitness and ethics. Read some of John’s articles here:

John also writes scripts for a video production company in Atlanta, and  book reviews for the New York Journal of Books. He is a member of the National Book Critics Circle , Public Safety Writers Association, and Virginia Writers Club.

For John’s photo of the day and interviews with authors, as well as posts about writing, visit his blog: JWills Books & Blog


Amy M. Bennett was born and raised in El Paso, Texas and has lived in New Mexico since 1988.  Her debut novel, “End of the Road”, won the 2012 Dark Oak Mystery contest, and launched the Black Horse Campground mystery series.  


The second book, “No Lifeguard on Duty”, was published in April 2014 and she is currently working on the third book, “No Vacancy”. When she isn’t writing, she works full-time decorating cakes at Walmart of Ruidoso Downs, part time slinging vino at Noisy Water Winery in Ruidoso, and enjoying life in general with her husband, Paul, and son, Paul Michael.


Denise Weeks (AKA Shalanna Collins) writes the edgy Jacquidon Carroll mystery series headed by the award-winning NICE WORK from Oak Tree Press and the Ariadne French paranormal mysteries kicked off with MURDER BY THE MARFA LIGHTS.  Writing as Shalanna Collins, she has just launched (via her second publisher, Muse Harbor Press) her Bliss Sisters Magical Adventures with APRIL, MAYBE JUNE, the 2010 Golden Rose grand prize winner.  Lucky Dog Books/Lochwood in Dallas, Texas, will host the Magical Mystery Tour Launch Party for APRIL, MAYBE JUNE on Saturday, June 14, from 11 to 1.  (Wine, cheese, appetizers, cupcakes, and soft drinks provided!  Belly dance interpretive dance!  Skits!  Come as you are.)

She loves trivia games and has worked as a software engineer, middling
pianist, and secondary school math tutor.  

Visit her website at
and her blogs and

Saturday, May 24, 2014


For those whose writing includes police procedure, particularly in the area of confessions or police interviews, there is new policy out there just decided by the Justice Department, that requires certain federal agencies, such as the FBI, DEA, ATF, and Marshals Service, to use electronic recording to video record "interviews" of suspects.

Keep in mind, this is on a federal level, not state level. Every state agency has its own procedures for conducting interviews.  The procedure and policy may vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction within each state, and may even vary among departments in the same jurisdiction.  For instance, New Orleans has 8 police districts.  Each district may handle its confessions and statements differently, and the different departments in the same district (usually in the same police station) may even have different policies on taking statements.  The homicide division in one district may record all statements taken, while the burglary division in the same district may say they don't own a tape recorder.

The U.S. Constitution requires that statements used against a defendant be voluntary and free from coercion and duress.  It does not require that they be recorded.

The Justice Department has now decided to videotape statements taken from suspects, unless there are extenuating circumstances that prevent it.  (Sounds like a loophole to me, but I'll skip it for now.)  This decision has both positive and negative ramifications.

First, on the positive, it will be difficult for a defense attorney at trial or on appeal to argue that a suspect was beaten or threatened into giving a statement or confession if the whole thing is on tape.  Juries will also be more inclined to convict if they see the defendant admit guilt for themselves.

On the other hand, a suspect who is ready to spill his guts may change his mind in the time it takes to set up the video or audio recorder.  He may have time to think and change his story, or he may have time to decide to ask for an attorney.

There are two caveats to this rule.  As I mentioned above, if it is not going to be easy to get the equipment, such as in cases when a defendant confesses at the crime scene and not in an interrogation room, it may not be practical to haul a video camera out.  (Although with cameras and video in cell phones these days I'm not sure that is a valid excuse not to record a statement.)

Second, a suspect has the right to refuse to have his statement recorded.  This also has implications.  A suspect can claim he didn't make the statement and that's why it's not recorded.  On the other hand, if a suspect doesn't make a statement, or if law enforcement wants to twist his words around, the agent can always say the suspect refused to be taped.

For those who write about federal agents, this can be a new twist or curve in the road when a suspect confesses or gives a statement.  I can picture stories with videotaped confessions that go missing, juries who don't believe the agents that the defendant made the statement but refused to be taped, and agents who really do beat confessions out of suspects and consequently don't tape the statements.  Anything to keep the reader guessing as to what actually happened.

With the new Justice Department policy, writers should at least allude to videotaping or audio taping the confession if one is made to a federal law enforcement officer in the novel , especially if the confession is important to the story and a videotape or audiotape of the statement is not going to be presented. 

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

ILENE SCHNEIDER: Twelve Question Tuesday

Ilene Schneider
1.  Please tell me the three most important things people should know about you.
Hmmm …. Most important? Or most interesting? 1. I became a rabbi at a time when it was still weird. (1976; the first woman was ordained as a rabbi in 1972). 2. My original goal in life was to be the first woman editor of the NY Times. Or Mad Magazine. 3. Don’t ask me a question unless you have a lot of time to listen to me ramble.

2.  Are you a dog person or a cat person?
Cat, all the way. I always say I like dogs, so long as they belong to someone else. But if there is such a thing as reincarnation, then I either once was or will be a cat.

3.  Tea or coffee?
Hot, neither. (Hot chocolate is the only hot drink I like; I don’t even like most soups.) Iced, coffee (with cream, no sugar). Even the smell of tea makes me feel queasy. I think it’s because whenever I had an upset stomach as a child, my mother would give me tea, so I associate tea with being sick.

4.  Boxers, briefs, boxer-briefs, or commando? (Either what you prefer or what you prefer on others.)
No preference in males. Briefs (no bikinis, no high-leg, no thongs) for me. Cotton.

5. What was the first thing you ever wrote?
Around 4th grade, I began to write parodies of nursery rhymes. My 1st paid published work was a eulogy for JFK in Ingenue Magazine, when I was 15.

6.  When did you finally decide to call yourself a writer?
When my first novel, Chanukah Guilt, was published in 2007.

7.  Which of your works are you most proud to have written?
Whew. That’s like asking which of your children is your favorite. Maybe my doctoral dissertation, as it was the hardest. And took the longest. (I’m a world-class procrastinator.)

8.  What is the scariest thing that has ever happened to you?
Probably when I heard a voice from the fire escape outside my apartment window say, “Don’t say anything.” (I screamed, ran out the door, and lost only my pocketbook, on the desk under the window. And my dignity and sense of security. As soon as the lease was up, I moved into a high rise with a doorman.)

9.  How did you end up getting published?
I had “met” the owner of Swimming Kangaroo Books online and asked her if I could send her my completed manuscript of Chanukah Guilt. I had “met” the acquisition editor of Oak Tree Press online and asked her if I could send her my completed manuscript of Unleavened Dead. The pattern was broken in between the two books when the acquisition editor of Adams Media, whom I’d “met” online, asked me if I would be interested in writing Talk Dirty Yiddish.

10.  Would you be food or fighter if the zombie apocalypse were to happen?

11.  What is the most daring thing you have ever done?
If daring = stupid, then hitchhiking alone from Jerusalem to Haifa with nothing but a backpack and sleeping bag, wearing a bikini as underwear under a long tunic. Hey, I was 20! At least I had enough sense to take a bus the rest of the way across the desert to Eilat.

12.  Would you rather be rich or famous--and you could only have one-- and why?  The fame would be based on something good, not something like being the best serial killer or anything like that. 
Both. Or neither. I don’t want to be rich and not have accomplished anything, or famous but living in a homeless shelter. I guess if I were rich I could buy fame.


Rabbi Aviva Cohen is a 50-something, twice-divorced rabbi living a fairly uneventful life in South Jersey. True, her family is rather unconventional. And her first ex-husband moves to her town as the Interim Director of Public Safety (aka, temporary police chief). But her uneventful life turns eventful when she finds herself embroiled in helping solve several suspicious deaths. She thinks she is helping; the police call it meddling. Especially when her solutions are the right ones.

Read about her exploits in the first two Rabbi Aviva Cohen Mysteries, Chanukah Guilt (, just re-issued in a 2nd edition, including a bonus alternate solution, and in Unleavened Dead ( Both books are also available on Kindle.