December Member Spotlight: Isabella “Bella” Maldonado

Retired police captain uses background for writing

by Laurie Fagen

DS Isabella Maldonado HEADSHOT from WN 14

 

Following a 22-year career with the Washington, D.C. area Fairfax County Police Department, Isabella Maldonado, who also goes by “Bella,” is using her job experience to write crime fiction.

When she retired, she held the rank of captain and the title of commander of the Special Investigations and Forensics Unit. This included crime scene detectives, video forensics, computer forensics, fingerprint examiners and the lab facility for Fairfax County PD, which has about 2,000 employees.

Prior to that, she was a district station commander for several years, overseeing the daily operation of a precinct with first line supervisors, detectives, patrol officers and civilian personnel who were responsible for serving some 144,000 residents. During her career, she also held positions that included gang council coordinator, hostage negotiator, commander of the Public Information Office, Police Academy recruit instructor, Spanish liaison officer and patrol officer.

In 2008, she attended the FBI National Academy in Quantico, Virginia, which she describes as an “intensive residential training program for police executives throughout the world.”

As an “avid reader of many genres,” some of her favorite authors include Edgar Allen Poe, Lisa Gardner, Karen Slaughter, Sophie Littlefield, Stieg Larsson, Michael Connelly, Janet Evanovich, Preston & Child, J.K. Rowling, Darynda Jones, John Sandford, Lee Goldberg, M.C. Beaton, Carl Hiaasen and Stephen King. After retiring and moving to the Phoenix area, she decided to pursue a lifelong ambition to write fiction, and felt crime fiction would be the “best fit” given her background.

“I found Desert Sleuths and was incredibly impressed with the talent and commitment of everyone involved in the organization,” she says.

Maldonado has had mystery short stories published in two Desert Sleuths anthologies: “Diablo Ranch” in SoWest: So Wild; and “Cleanoritas, Inc.” in SoWest: Crime Time. She is currently writing her debut novel manuscript about a Latina Phoenix police detective who puts her career and life on the line to bring down a Mexican cartel family while uncovering the shocking truth about her own family’s past.

Since joining Desert Sleuths in 2009, she served as one of the editors of the chapter’s SoWest: So Wild Anthology, and has provided three instructional presentations to the group: “The Top Ten Police Procedural Pitfalls” at a Desert Sleuths monthly meeting; “Getting Your Cop Facts Straight” with fellow member Pamela Tracy and “Hostage Negotiations,” both at the Nuts & Bolts workshop in Scottsdale.

Maldonado says she is looking forward to becoming Desert Sleuths president for 2015.

“It is an incredible honor to have the opportunity to serve the organization that I have so enjoyed for several years. I look forward to helping achieve our goals.”

Her writing tip for members: “Believe in yourself.”

 

Laurie Fagen, who is completing her term as 2014 president of SinC Desert Sleuths Chapter, is finalizing a crime fiction series manuscript with a young radio reporter protagonist. She has short stories published in the past two Desert Sleuths’ anthologies, and is an Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine honorable mention winner. A former broadcast journalist and community newspaper publisher, Fagen is also an artist, art promoter and jazz singer. Her writing website is www.ReadLaurieFagen.com.

 

November Member Spotlight: Judith Starkston

Digging up the past

by Laurie Fagen

DS Judith Starkston headshot

Judith Starkston of Phoenix loves digging into the historical past of ancient empires, but without getting dirt on her hands.

Following a 25-year career as a “classicist,” teaching Latin, English and humanities in the Tempe Union High School District, Starkston unearthed a Greek character named Briseis, who was Achilles’s famous captive. She became the main character for Starkston’s debut historical fiction novel, Hand of Fire, set during the time of the Trojan War, which threatened Troy’s allies. Briseis, a young healing priestess, designated as future queen, must defend her city against both divine anger and invading Greeks. She finds strength in visions of a handsome warrior god but questions if that will that be enough when the half-immortal Achilles attacks. Hand of Fire, a tale of resilience and hope, blends history and legend in this story.

During her research for that story, she discovered the Hittite Queen Puduhepa.

“She struck me as in dire need of becoming a ‘sleuth’ in an ongoing mystery series, so my next book out will be a historical mystery called Blessed by a Curse,” Starkston explains.

She says Queen Puduhepa would be “as famous as Cleopatra” if she hadn’t been buried by the sands of time.

“Pretty incredible that history could totally forget the powerful Hittite Empire, but there you have it,” she remarks. “Now that’s she been dug out by archaeologists, she needs some catch-up promotion into household name status. Plus she’s such a remarkably fun character to write.”

Here’s how she describes her current project: “When a Hittite prince is accused of sorcery and murder, a young priestess of Ishtar must find the real killer to save the prince’s life – and win his heart.”

Organizing the Tucson Festival of Books for the past three years for Desert Sleuths, and a member since 2012, Starkston’s mystery story, “A Season for Death,” was published in SoWest Desert Justice, Sisters in Crime Desert Sleuths Anthology 2012. Its synopsis: “Is death sometimes a kindness or just a crime?”

Her favorite writers – even though she’s afraid she’ll “leave off a couple hundred names” –include historical mystery writers she’s found inspiring to her own writing: Priscilla Royal, Kelli Stanley, Nancy Bilyeau, Ann Weisgarber, who Starkston says doesn’t really write mystery, but is “so darn good,” Donis Casey, Fred Ramsey, Elisabeth Speller, Rebecca Cantrell, Jacqueline Winspear, Rhys Bowen and P.D. James.

She advises members to spend the time and effort to build their writing and reading communities.

“You can’t write alone! That includes both local friends, like DS members, and an extended online community. And never forget a regular critique group. I once heard an agent say the difference between a successful writer and the rest of the writers is the willingness and ability to take criticism constructively and integrate it into the writing.”

She’ll be participating in upcoming events including presenting an all-day workshop called “How to Write Successful Historical Fiction” on Nov. 15 at the Southwest Valley Writers Conference; in a Book Talk at the Salon of the Senses in Phoenix at 7 p.m. Dec. 28, with registration on the Salon website at http://www.spiritofthesenses.org/; and she will be giving a book talk at various times from Feb. 6 to 8 at the St. Haralambos Greek Festival.

For more about Starkston, visit her website at www.judithstarkston.com/.

 

Laurie Fagen, 2014 president of Desert Sleuths/SinC, is finalizing a crime fiction series manuscript with a young radio reporter protagonist. She has short stories published in the past two Desert Sleuths’ anthologies, and is an Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine honorable mention winner. A former community newspaper publisher, Fagen is also an artist, art promoter and jazz singer. Her writing website with a blog is www.ReadLaurieFagen.com.

October 2014 Member Spotlight: Clark Lohr

Living the writer’s life

By Laurie Fagen

DS Clark Lohr

 

With degrees in Writing, Literature and English from the University of Arizona, plus professional still photography training, Clark Lohr of Tucson says he’s “worked a variety of jobs in lots of places” and calls it “a writer’s life.”

But he says it took him years “to get over” his literary education to realize that “genre fiction can be every bit as good, or better, than literary fiction.” A Vietnam vet, Lohr took a novel writing workshop from another veteran of the same war, who told the class he wanted two chapters of a novel by the next class meeting—a sort of “take the hill” approach.

“I just freaked out and started writing,” Lohr recalls. “I took Raymond Chandler’s advice, which goes something like, if you get stuck have a couple of guys come through the door with guns in their hands.”

He loved reading Dashiell Hammett in the ’80s, and also likes the classic “hardboiled fiction” of the 1920s and 1930s. Favorite authors include James Lee Burke, James Ellroy, Tim Hallinan, Paul D. Marks, David Edgerley Gates, David Corbett and others.

Lohr decided he wanted to write crime stories, and focuses specifically on “current border noir.” He cites other preferred authors as Mexican-born James Carlos Blake and his The Rules of Wolfe, and a Spanish immigrant named Paco Ignacio Tabio II, for his P.I. novel from the 1990s, Some Clouds.

Now with two published novels, the first, Devil’s Kitchen, was through Oak Tree Press, thanks to an introduction by Desert Sleuths author Susan Cummins Miller. It’s the story of Pima County Sheriff’s Office Detective Manuel Aguilar who investigates an apparently routine murder and “finds himself in the middle of a hellish conspiracy between a Mexican drug lord and an Arizona land developer.”

DS Lohr cover TheDevilOn85

Lohr has since bought back his book rights and now publishes under his brand name, BarZF Press. His second novel, The Devil on Eighty-five, was published this past January, and is a crime novel from the “ultimate battleground of America’s absurd drug wars: the Arizona-Mexico border. When a Tohono O’odham cowboy is accused of murdering his wife, Manuel Aguilar follows a trail running out the west end of the reservation to Ajo, Arizona—and to Arizona State Route 85, a smuggling corridor where guns and money go south and drugs and migrants go north. Evil loves darkness on Highway 85 and the desert itself is the deadliest player in the game.”

Lohr is current working with Desert Sleuths member Tim Moore to co-write a thriller about the Phoenix Police Department’s hunt for rapist and robber, Ernest Miranda.

“It’s a work conceived and exhaustively researched by Tim,” Lohr explains.

Before joining Sisters in Crime Desert Sleuths Chapter four years ago, Lohr was in the Arizona Mystery Writers, where he served as treasurer for several years.

For his writing tip, Lohr quotes the line “I do not count the time…” from Judy Collins and her song, “Who Knows Where the Time Goes.”

“You must get over reckoning the passage of time,” he says. “You may work four hours on a single paragraph, go to bed, and get up the next day and work on it for a few more hours. It’s often that slow, or slower.”

Lohr will be signing books at the Local Authors Book Sale at the Scottsdale Civic Center Library from noon to 5 p.m. Sat., Nov. 15, plus “talking to anybody who’ll listen.” After that, he’ll be reading from his novels in Benson starting at noon Sun., Nov. 23 at “southern Arizona’s iconic bookstore” Singing Wind Bookshop, Thanksgiving Fiesta, 2.25 miles north of I-10 exit 304.

For more details, visit his website at www.clarklohr.com or follow him on Twitter at Clark Lohr @canontethered. But he says he mostly hangs out on Facebook at Devil’s Kitchen by Clark Lohr “because it’s fun, it’s easy, and I like the jokes.”

 

Laurie Fagen, 2014 president of Desert Sleuths/SinC, is working on a crime fiction series manuscript with a young radio reporter protagonist. She has short stories published in the past two Desert Sleuths’ anthologies, and is an Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine honorable mention winner. A former community newspaper publisher, Fagen is also an artist, art promoter and jazz singer. Her new writing website with a blog is www.ReadLaurieFagen.com

September 2014 Member Spotlight: Tara Majuta

Boredom solution: mystery writing

By Laurie Fagen

DS Tara Majuta

It was the tedium of a bank job that launched new member Tara Majuta of Tempe into writing. She was a “bored bank teller,” and started writing a mystery screenplay. She ended up creating a novel instead, which became The Fascinating Files of Claudia Broadstad, a story she hopes will be made into a movie someday.

Published by Abbott Press in May 2013, it’s the first in a series of eight stories with a “mystery within a mystery.” The novel follows 23-year-old Claudia as she travels the world, trying to solve murder cases and put together clues to explain her father’s disappearance. As she cracks the cases, she receives clues about her dad’s location.

A former financial representative at Charles Schwab, Majuta is currently owner of Majuta Mysteries, specializing in book coaching.

“My passion is to empower those in the creative world with the right skills to become entrepreneurs,” she says on her website, Taramajutabooks.com. She says she will help writers learn the steps needed to create a successful book business; get organized with goal setting, action planning and tracking progress; and understand how to network and pitch a product. Making writing into a business is not easy, but it can be done, she adds.

“Turning your writing craft into a career is hard but it’s possible. Stay focused and keep going.”

Her all-time favorite mystery author is JA Jance.

“Hands down, I think she is the best,” Majuta says.

A SinC Desert Sleuths member since January, Majuta worked on the WriteNow! 2014 conference as speaker liaison.

Meanwhile, she’s working on her next book, where “Claudia has just solved her first case and is on vacation when someone is murdered.”

She will be promoting her book series at the Coolidge Library in Coolidge, AZ at 4 p.m. Tue., Oct. 21, and at All Zona Books in Tucson from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sun., Nov. 23.

She leaves Desert Sleuths with this final thought:

“It takes a very intelligent person to write a mystery novel. Keep up the great work!”

  

Laurie Fagen, 2014 president of Desert Sleuths/SinC, is working on a crime fiction series manuscript with a young radio reporter protagonist. She has short stories published in the past two Desert Sleuths’ anthologies, and is an Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine honorable mention winner. A former community newspaper publisher, Fagen is also an artist, art promoter and jazz singer. Her new writing website with a blog is www.ReadLaurieFagen.com

August 2014 Member Spotlight: Howard Carron

Carron: Renaissance man

 DS Howard CarronFrom selling jewelry on the street in Greenwich Village to studying with Japanese woodblock artist Hodaka Yoshida and sculptor Alfred Van Loen in New York are just a few of the life experiences of Howard B. Carron, PhD.

He also played a dozen or so instruments in bands, wrote restaurant reviews and has done many  interviews.

“They have all given me loads of things to write about and that is the best cliché of all: write what you know,” Carron says.

A long time arts instructor, he taught ceramics in Brooklyn, New York and general shop in Plainfield, Long Island. Carron also spent time as a librarian and media specialist in Plainfield and in The Department of Defense Dependents Schools (DoDDS) in Japan, Azores, Philippines and Germany. From there, he taught Radio and TV Production at Los Angeles City College (LACC), was editor-in-chief of Cigar Lovers Magazine and most recently was supervisor of adult reference in the Maricopa County Library District.

A writer since high school, starting in newspapers and college literary magazines and then for magazines, his favorite mystery writers include Ellis Peters, Colin Dexter, Agatha Christie, Kathy Reich, Betty Webb, Author Conan Doyle, Laurie King and G. K. Chesterton – “just to name a few,” he says. He started concentrating on mysteries with the anthology, “Medley of Murder” anthology and has continued with other anthologies, including being published in several Desert Sleuths collections. They include:

“Where There’s Smoke…” Carron’s contribution to a Barnes and Noble Nook collection anthology in 2012, which contains a selection of short stories from around the world.

“Moshe Goes To Arizona” in So West, So Wild, DS Publishing, Scottsdale, 2011, about “a young Jewish man from Brooklyn, NY in the early 1880s who finds himself on a trail ride, cooking in the midst of cowboys and some rustlers.”

“The Old Miner,” in How Not to Survive A Vacation, DS Publishing, Scottsdale, 2010, when “an afternoon dust storm strands a couple who are entertained by a story told by a knowledgeable old timer.”

“Tourado A Corda” appears in Murder to Military Specifications, Wolfmont Press, Ranger, GA 2010, about “a running of the bulls, Azorean style, on the island of Terceira, which supplies the solution to a problem.”

“Christmas Came Late,” How Not to Survive the Holidays, DS Publishing, Scottsdale, 2009, with “an intimate view into the Bataan Death March, Filipino guerillas, unexpected romance and a daring rescue.”

“A Favor For The Mayor” in Medium of Murder, Red Coyote Press, Phoenix, AZ 2008, where “A Filipino policeman and his restaurant owner friend resolve the case with the help of a song bird.”

“The Last Habano” in Medley of Murder, Red Coyote Press, Phoenix, 2005, where “Cuban cigars and coffee with a dram of fine brandy touched by romance provide the background for this reporter’s tale.”

Carron is currently working on two novels: one on the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo, and the other on the adventures of Moshe, the Jewish cowboy, as he probes his beliefs in a hostile environment.

He shares this writing tip with members: “Do your research, because accuracy is appreciated by your readers. Always try to have a few unusual facts to pique interest.”

A member of Sisters in Crime Desert Sleuths since 2005, he has contributed many articles to The Savvy Sleuth, entitled “Crime Corner: An article by a Desert Sleuth.”

 

Laurie Fagen, 2014 president of Desert Sleuths/SinC, is working on a crime fiction manuscript with a young radio reporter protagonist. She has short stories published in the past two Desert Sleuths’ anthologies, and is an Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine honorable mention winner. A former community newspaper publisher, Fagen is also an artist, art promoter and jazz singer. Her new writing website with a blog is www.ReadLaurieFagen.com

July 2014 Member Spotlight: Rita Marko

Letting the ‘monster’ out 

DS Rita Marko grad class crop

 

 

 

Rita Marko

by Laurie Fagen

A writer for more than 10 years – while working in corporate positions along the way – Rita Marko of Phoenix began penning her first manuscript while she was a planner for the Skokomish Indian Tribe near Shelton, WA.

“It started as a therapeutic response to frustration at working for an Indian community that was simply imploding: chronic poverty, multi-generational substance abuse, self-destructive internal politics and more,” she explains. “That first manuscript is the ‘monster in the box,’ borrowing a phrase from Spalding Gray. The second manuscript actually got lots of positive responses from agents, all of whom were ultimately put off by the subject matter [of] assisted suicide. The manuscript I’m working on now did not seem to start out as a mystery, but there’s a dead body and the characters are trying to figure out ‘who dunnit.’”

Marko describes her current project: “Guilt drives Maggie Boros to search for the killer of a Mexican woman she saw dragged off a Phoenix street, while fate leads her to Ofelia, a 12-year-old who’s come to El Norte in search of a mother she can barely remember.”
Marko won first prize for short fiction about 10 years ago from the Arizona Authors Association. And her favorite mystery writers?
“That’s a tough one. There are so many very fine writers, including members of Desert Sleuths. The ones I seem to return to again and again include Laurie King, Louise Penny and Julia Spencer-Fleming,” she says.

Corporate life
About a month ago, Marko became a management assistant in the City of Phoenix City Manager’s Office. But that was after spending seven years as Community Relations Manager for the Phoenix Public Library, where, among other duties, she developed websites and content for the library and Read On Phoenix. Another library position was as Phoenix Public Library Foundation Director, and fundraising has also been a major part of her career, having spent time as a grant writer for the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.

A member of Sisters in Crime Desert Sleuths for about three years, she and other WriteNow! 2014 committee members researched, visited and proposed a new location for this year’s annual conference.

“I have enjoyed working with the committee on this year’s WriteNow! What a fabulous group of women! I am very much looking forward to the conference. It’s a great line up of authors – I anticipate learning much.”

She leaves this writing tip for members: “There is no substitute for simply applying your butt to the chair!”
Laurie Fagen, 2014 president of Desert Sleuths/SinC, is working on a crime fiction manuscript with a young radio reporter protagonist. She has short stories published in the past two Desert Sleuths’ anthologies, and is an Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine honorable mention winner. A former community newspaper publisher, Fagen is also an artist, art promoter and jazz singer. She just launched her new writing website: www.ReadLaurieFagen.com

June 2014 Member Spotlight: Cathy Ann Rogers

Cropped 35 PixlrUsing right, left brain alike

By Laurie Fagen

 

 

To find a number cruncher who is also a creative writer is an unusual combination, but Cathy Rogers of Phoenix, who writes under the name Cathy Ann Rogers, seemingly uses both the left and right sides of her brain equally.

She’s been an independent bookkeeping, tax and accounting professional in the Phoenix metropolitan area with her own company since 1993, having previously held positions at local companies since the ‘80s, and has been the SinC Desert Sleuths treasurer for three years.

But she debuted her first mystery book, Here Lies Buried, through her publishing company, Aquitaine, Ltd. this year, and is already working on the next in that series.

“I have been flattered to have fans of my book tell me they are excited for the sequel and I don’t want to disappoint them,” Rogers says.

While she says it took 15 years of delays and other procrastinations, Here Lies Buried is a contemporary murder mystery, reaching back to the perilous times of the early 20th century that changed the world’s political landscape. Rogers’ protagonist, Pilar Sagasta, steps into a world of mystery and intrigue when she journeys to Arizona to connect with distant relatives. Inspired by actual unsolved crimes in the Arizona Territory of the late 19th century, the story travels back and forth between the familiar, modern world and an early Arizona brought to life by the words in a forgotten diary. She recently finalized a deal to produce the audio version of Here Lies Buried this summer.

In addition, Rogers has an upcoming anthology of short stories titled “Heavy Mascara,” due out this summer. Another novel manuscript, “Deliberate Fools,” is also in the editing stage and set to be completed this summer. A future project, “Sick in Shadows,” is scheduled for fall 2014.

She has also published short stories in the Wizard of Words anthology, The Path Magazine, two Desert Sleuths anthologies, and in Mysterical-e and Twist of Noir, two online mystery magazines.

Rogers began reading mysteries in grade school, and enjoyed watching Sherlock Holmes on television.

“Looking back, I can see that I have studied the rhythms and patterns of the mystery novel from a young age, so it has not been a great leap to taking a story from my imagination to paper.”

Starting with Nancy Drew, she progressed to her favorite mystery writers including Agatha Christie and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, then later to PD James, Carolyn Hart, Sue Grafton, Anne Perry, Elizabeth Peters, Martha Grimes, and Tony Hillerman.

Her writing tip for Desert Sleuths members comes from her early days of watching TV.

“I believe a child-like imagination and wonder are both essential to creating the inner world of a story,” she explains. “Keep the ability to create mental pictures and don’t listen to anyone who says you can’t achieve your dreams.”

She got involved in Desert Sleuths because she feels it is a “professional organization for professional writers and for those who aspire to be,” and knows how important it is “to be supportive of one another.”

Hers was not an easy path to publication, but she urges writers “to not be afraid to stumble and make mistakes … and not to be discouraged by the naysayers.”

Upcoming events for Rogers include sharing a writing workshop for adults at the Red Mountain Branch Library with Dana King-Esquer from 1-4 p.m. Thu., July 12; and she will be participating in the Anthology 2013 reception and will speak about her book from 2-4 p.m. Sat., June 28 at the Vision Gallery in downtown Chandler. She has a tentative signing at Bookman’s at 19th Avenue and Northern with other anthology authors. For details on these and other events, visit www.cathyannrogers.com.

 

Laurie Fagen, 2014 president of Desert Sleuths/SinC, is working on a crime fiction manuscript with a young radio reporter protagonist. She has short stories published in the past two Desert Sleuths’ anthologies, and is an Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine honorable mention winner. A former community newspaper publisher, Fagen is also an artist, art promoter and jazz singer.

May 2014 Member Spotlight: Timothy Moore

Police detective brings street creds to DS

By Laurie Fagen

DS Tim Moore

“You’re under arrest.”

That’s how Phoenix Police Department Detective Timothy Moore started a Desert Sleuths meeting recently when he was the guest speaker, talking about apprehension procedures. It’s a phrase he knows well from his 28 years with Phoenix P.D., and previous four as a Maricopa County deputy sheriff.

He took his first creative writing class from Nancy McCurry at a local community college, and she invited him to attend a Desert Sleuths conference.

“I was so impressed I had to join,” he adds.

Moore says his daily life will make great content for his crime novels.

“Over the years, I worked a wide range of detective assignments with some really great detectives with good supervisors,” he recalls. “I have had the opportunity to investigate a myriad of crimes and I thought someone might want to read some true crime stories. I can write police reports all day, but they’re not a good read for normal book readers.”

He’s been writing true crime stories for the Phoenix Police Museum’s “Historian” newsletter, and is currently working on a story about a landmark case that involves another familiar phrase: “You have the right to remain silent.”

The working title is “Miranda and the Phoenix Police Department,” about the Arizona arrest 50 years ago that saw Ernesto Miranda’s confession thrown out by the U.S. Supreme Court because his rights weren’t protected.

“I’ve interviewed the arresting officer, Carroll Cooley, Miranda’s family members, and my research should reveal a snapshot of the Phoenix Police Department in 1963.”

His favorite writers include James Ellroy and James Patterson, “because he (Patterson) has some really good women authors writing his series of books.”

He’s also a fan of the local Desert Sleuths anthologies, and adds individual Desert Sleuths member authors to his preferred list, including Deborah J Ledford and her three-book series and audio book; Kris Neri, Pascal Marco, Art Kerns, Clark Lohr, Cathy Rogers and the writing team of Sally Smith and Jean Steffens.

Now coming up on his fourth year as an active member of Desert Sleuths, he’s helped with a variety of projects, including Tucson Festival of Books, the Nuts & Bolts workshop and more.

“I have found that volunteering on committees, speaking on police topics and consulting writers on police issues is pretty fulfilling.”

 

Laurie Fagen, 2014 president of Desert Sleuths/SinC, is working on a crime fiction manuscript with a young radio reporter protagonist. She has short stories published in the past two Desert Sleuths’ anthologies, and is an Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine honorable mention winner. A former community newspaper publisher, Fagen is also an artist, art promoter and jazz singer.

April 2014 Member Spotlight: Jacinda Power

Arizona’s ‘Bones’ 

By Laurie Fagen

ds Jacinda Powers

International traveler Jacinda Power of Chandler, who has lived abroad for a number of years, says being “obsessed” with mystery novels as a child in Kansas makes writing mysteries an integral part of who she is. 

“I frequently ran around the back yard with a magnifying glass pretending to be Sherlock Holmes, Nancy Drew or Encyclopedia Brown,” she quips.

Her interest in law enforcement also began very early.  At 16, she was selected to participate in the Kansas Highway Patrol Cadet Academy and later won a Fraternal Order of Police college scholarship.

By high school graduation, she had decided the forensic sciences would be an excellent career path, despite no degrees offered in the field at that time. A Kansas Bureau of Investigation agent advised her to “get the most unconventional and broad experience you can to distinguish yourself from the rest of the applicants.”

While attending Wichita State University, working on a BS in Biology/minor in Chemistry, she was employed with their Administration of Justice Department, where she met well-known law enforcement professionals, assisted her criminalistics/firearm professor in trajectory re-enactments and had enough credits for a second minor in Administration of Justice.  She learned the basics of forensic anthropology from Dr. Peer Moore-Jansen and Dr. Andrew Chamberlain, both of whom instilled her passion for the subject.

She holds a Master’s of Science degree from the University of Sheffield (UK) in Biomolecular Archaeology, which is the scientific analysis of biological materials from ancient source material.

That was the start of her interest in bones, and after getting married, she and her husband moved to Ireland where she analyzed skeletal remains in sites that were anticipating construction.

“I would clean and reconstruct the skeletons, and assess sex, age, height and any health issue that might have left its signature in the bones or teeth of the individual.”

A return to the U.S. took her to Virginia Commonwealth University to be part of a team that sequenced bacterial genomes, and later, research regarding cancer “suicide” pathways.  Her research has been published in several medical/scientific journals and one in a European archaeological journal.

Fast forward nearly eight years and three children later, Power has been working on a manuscript that includes a postdoc anthropologist protagonist, also trained in biomolecular archaeology, who will get involved in archaeological and current investigations.

Favorite mystery authors include Matthew Cox, Matthew Pearl, Thomas Harris, Michael Gruber, Deborah J Ledford, Alan Bradley and Jasper Fforde.

She calls meeting Desert Sleuths “serendipity,” and has jumped in to help co-chair the Nuts & Bolts writing conference in April.

“I hope to make lifelong friendships here, as well as look forward to learning the craft from all of you.”

 

Laurie Fagen, 2014 president of Desert Sleuths/SinC, is working on a crime fiction manuscript with a young radio reporter protagonist. She has short stories published in the past two Desert Sleuths’ anthologies, and is an Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine honorable mention winner. A former community newspaper publisher, Fagen is also an artist, art promoter and jazz singer.

 

March 2014 Member Spotlight: Eileen Brady

Write what you know

By Laurie Fagen

ds eileen bradyWriters often have varied backgrounds, and Eileen Brady of Scottsdale is no exception. From acting in New York City and singing jingles for radio and television, to working for an architect; from writing for the Scottsdale Tribune to helping with PR for Paradise Valley Community College, it was a her job as a veterinary assistant that “profoundly” influenced her life.

“My coworkers encouraged me to go to veterinary school, traveling all the way to Bologna, Italy to earn my degree,” she says.

With her veterinarian husband, they practiced in Staten Island, upstate New York and now in Scottsdale at the Scaredy Cat Hospital.

That profession also steered her to write the first in a series of mysteries. Originally titled “Dog Shows are Murder,” Muzzled, a Kate Turner, D.V.M. Mystery, is the 2013 winner of the Discovery Mystery Contest and is being published by the Poisoned Pen Press for release May 6. It’s the story of Turner, “who stumbles upon a murder during a house call. When the investigation stalls, Turner tries to find the killer, as her eccentric clients supply her with humorous, helpful and not so helpful clues. The plot may be fiction but the veterinary medicine is real.”

She gives kudos to her editor.

“I’ve been fortunate enough to be edited by Barbara Peters, whose edits not only made sense but tightened up the manuscript in all the right places,” she notes.

She’s currently finishing the second in the series, called “Unleashed.” The tagline: “This time it’s personal, as one of her veterinary technicians is accused of murder.”

The urge to write started with a picture book she thought would “amuse” her daughters, but this Agatha Christie enthusiast quickly got an idea for a mystery and jumped into Rob Hall’s novel writing class at Scottsdale Community College. There she met other writers, including Desert Sleuths member Betty Webb, and joined her critique group.

“The support of this group was instrumental in strengthening my writing skills,” she adds. “I also attended plenty of writers’ conferences and always came away with something useful.”

She describes her reading as “pretty eclectic,” especially since she is now a book reviewer for Mystery Scene Magazine.

“I love Lee Child, Val McDermid, James Rollins and closer to home, Donis Casey, James Sallis, Brent Ghelfi, Dana Stabenow and the list goes on.”

Her advice for Desert Sleuths members? “Write something every day. Even if what you write is awful. That’s what rewrites are for!”

For more, visit her website at www.eileenbradymysteries.com and on Facebook at Eileen Brady, Author.

 

Laurie Fagen, 2014 president of Desert Sleuths/SinC, is working on a crime fiction manuscript with a young radio reporter protagonist. She has short stories published in the past two Desert Sleuths’ anthologies, and is an Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine honorable mention winner. A former community newspaper publisher, Fagen is also an artist, art promoter and jazz singer.