Tony Lee Moral: Ghost Maven Sunday, Jul 17 2016 

Please welcome Tony Lee Moral, who will talk about writing YA novels, his in particular! And the difference between mystery and suspense:

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Writing Young Adult: Ghost Maven by Tony Lee Moral

In my Young Adult novel Ghost Maven, I dive straight into the action with a kayaking trip in jeopardy in Monterey Bay, California, which quickly puts the central character in peril. Teen readers are impatient, and like to get to the story quickly, rather than having to wade through pages of backstory or exposition. So I start with Alice, the heroine who tells the story in the first person, in great danger, and facing her worst nightmare – open water and the fear of drowning.

Having lived in Monterey and Pacific Grove for two years, where the novel is set, this story about teens is incredibly personal to me. I walked the coastal paths Alice walked, taking in the blues and greens of Monterey Bay. I kayaked over the underwater kelp forests, marvelled at the diaphanous moon jellies in the Aquarium, and smelt the salty sea breeze during many long strolls along Carmel’s sandy beach. It’s a magical place to live, and one where I feel very at home with nature.

I start the novel with a quick succession of chapters, using famous landmarks around Monterey Bay, such as the Aquarium, Point Pinos Lighthouse, Point Lobos forest, Big Sur and Cannery Row. These are places rich in history and literature, from John Steinbeck to Jack Kerouac, as well as shrouded in mystery. Some are even linked to the supernatural. Point Pinos Lighthouse, for example, is said to be haunted, a plot device I use during the thrilling denouement of the novel.

Having written three books on Alfred Hitchcock, I specialise in mystery and suspense. Many readers become confused by the two terms. They are actually two very different processes. Mystery is an intellectual process like a riddle or a whodunit. The mystery of Henry, who saves Alice from drowning, is: who is he really? Is he a ghost? Where does he come from? What secrets does the island hold which he inhabits? What happened to Heather, the high school prom queen? These are all mysteries that run through the book.

We also know that Alice has suffered a terrible trauma in recent months, as her Mom died of a long illness, so is what she is seeing real? I wanted to create an atmosphere of uncertainty and delusion, which is why I wrote the scenes early on when Alice isn’t really sure if she’s seeing Henry or not. Is he a figment of her imagination? So the first half of the novel is devoted to who Henry is and why he holds such a spell over Alice.

Suspense is an emotional process in the reader, rather like a rollercoaster ride, or a trip to the haunted fun house. As Alfred Hitchcock once said, “In all suspense you have to give the reader information, so that they have something to be anxious about.” The suspense in Ghost Maven is: what will happen when Alice finds out who Henry really is? How will she react? What will she do? What will happen when the other sailors come looking for her? This suspense drives the narrative core of the book and invites readers to keep turning pages.

When writing Young Adult fiction, I think it’s very important to channel your inner teen. Ghost Maven revolves around the many first experiences of being a teenager such as: going on a first date, first love, and first prom date. Falling in love and losing a parent are intense feelings for a teenager, both of which Alice goes through, and which I can relate to. Teenagers don’t tend to think of their own mortality, as they have their whole lives stretching ahead of them. It’s only after Alice loses her Mom that she starts to think about the possibility of an afterlife and then Henry appears.

Writing authentic teen dialogue is important, especially if you want young readers to connect with your story. As a zoologist and psychologist by training, I find it fascinating to observe people and listen to the way they speak. When I’m in a queue at the movies for example, I enjoy listening to others talk about the film they have seen or are about to see, and I have three teenage nephews who banter and are fun to listen to. Capturing the intensity and feelings of being a teenager is vital, where everything seems so exaggerated. But I was wary of using slang, since it quickly dates your work.

Another challenge I had was that Henry and Alice are literally from two other worlds, so Henry’s style of speech was more formal and romantic; the flip side to Alice’s modern style. Anything that doesn’t advance the plot or characters should probably be cut. In early drafts I had scenes of Alice shopping in the outdoor markets of Monterey for California artichokes (which I love), but these scenes were the first to go. My advice when writing for teens is more immediate scenes and less narrative summary.


Tony Lee Moral will be signing copies of his Young Adult novel Ghost Maven at Old Capitol Books, 559 Tyler Street, Monterey, California on Saturday 3rd September at 2pm.

Copies of the book are available in October through Saturn’s Moon Press and check out the new website at

Pamela Beason: Race to Truth: Book 2, Run for Your Life Suspense Series Sunday, Jun 12 2016 

Please welcome Pamela Beason, whose multi-faceted activities and unusual work history form her many writing projects.


Most books come both from an author’s imagination and from the author’s experience. That’s certainly true of my stories: my biggest challenge is preventing myself from emptying my brain into every book. I have worked as a mechanical and architectural drafter, geologic research technician, translator, technical writer, managing editor in a multimedia department, and many other jobs too weird to mention. You can imagine what a muddle I could create if I threw it all in.

These days, I am a licensed private investigator, which you might think would be a perfect job for a mystery writer. Alas, the work is not nearly as exciting as it is on television. The biggest reason is that real-life PIs have to obey the law because we may have to defend everything we do in court. Also, discretion is everything when it comes to investigation work, so I can’t write about any case.

But that’s not to say that my investigation experiences don’t go into my books. Lately I’ve focused on my young adult Run for Your Life suspense series. Why did I want to write young adult stories? One, I love to interview teenagers: they are at such an interesting point in life, where all things, terrific and horrific, seem possible. Two, I have met too many teens in the foster care and juvenile justice systems. They often end up there because their parents are criminals, addicts, or just plain negligent, and they are often in danger from relatives, associates, or their own bad decisions.

So I decided to write about a teenager who is forced out on her own because her parents were murdered. The killers are looking for her, too, so Amelia Robinson invents a new identity for herself. She becomes Tanzania Grey, an emancipated minor who learns from undocumented workers how to live under the radar of the authorities. She works hard at picking crops and then at a zoo, gets her GED at age 16, and educates herself though online apps. I was inspired by tough young women athletes to make Tanzania a champion endurance racer. Exotic, challenging, multi-day, cross-country endurance races actually exist and die-hard athletes of both genders seek them out. In my books, my fictional races allow my character to experience adventure and danger around the world.


In Race with Danger (Book 1), Tanzania is determined to win the Verde Island Race’s million-dollar prize to save the life of her friend Bailey. Treacherous terrain and wild creatures that fly, slither, and crawl around this tropical island turn out to be the least of her problems after she draws the name of Sebastian Callendro as her race partner. Sebastian’s personal life has recently put him in the spotlight, and his nosy followers are exactly the kind that Tana can’t afford.

In Race to Truth (Book 2), the exciting second book in the series, Tana receives an invitation to compete in an extreme version of the Ski to Sea cross-country relay race in her home town: Bellingham, Washington. She has always wanted to be part of Ski to Sea, and returning to Bellingham might allow her to uncover clues about her parents’ murders. But sleuthing around near the scene of the crime could also reveal her true identity and cost Tana her life.

I’m working on Book 3, Race for Justice. But I don’t want to neglect my other series, so I’m also working on Book 4 of my Summer “Sam” Westin wilderness mystery series (Endangered, Bear Bait, Undercurrents). Did I mention I’m a hiker/kayaker/snowshoer/cross-country skier/scuba diver? A lot of my outdoor adventures go into my Sam Westin series. I write about the wilderness not only because I want to share my passion for nature and wildlife, but because even when you can call 9-1-1 in the backcountry, help is unlikely to arrive soon. That means self-reliance is crucial for survival as well as for solving crimes, and that makes a perfect setup for a suspense novel.

And I’ve also begun Book 3 of my Neema Mysteries (The Only Witness, The Only Clue), which feature Neema, a gorilla who has been taught sign language in a psychology project. This series sprang not only from my fascination with animal intelligence, but also from my investigation experience, where I have worked on cases that involve the testimony of small children. A gorilla is believed to have the intelligence of a five-year-old human, so if a five-year-old child can testify, why couldn’t a gorilla who knows sign language? The problem, of course, is whether Neema will be believed, because like a small child, she is easily distracted, has a limited vocabulary and no sense of time, and often invents stories to get what she wants.

And finally, I am about seventy percent of the way to finishing a sequel to my romantic suspense Shaken, in which a handsome (of course) investigator is assigned to look into whether a business owner (Elisa Langston) is committing insurance fraud. I wrote Shaken because I know how difficult it can be to prove innocence when accused of a crime. Elisa is a gutsy half-Guatemalan young woman whose Mayan mother deserted her at age 9, leaving her to be raised by her Anglo father. After his sudden death, Elisa inherits the family plant nursery, and under her watch, the business quickly sinks into trouble. There’s an earthquake, vandalism, and arson, a lot of suspicious quirky characters running around, and of course, romance! The sequel focuses on Elisa’s adoptive mother, Gail Langston, who is afraid to fall in love again after her third husband (Elisa’s father) dies.

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About the Author:

Pamela Beason often jokes that she suffers from multiple personality disorder. She’s pretty much interested in everything and can never decide what to focus on next, so she constantly juggles multiple book projects. When she tires of creating fictional escapades, she slips off into the wilderness for a real-life adventure. All her books are published by WildWing Press. You can find links to all her books and join her mailing list on

Nina Mansfield: Swimming Alone Monday, Feb 22 2016 

Please welcome author Nina Mansfield, who will talk about YA crimes, real and imagined:

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The Thrill of Sneaking Out
By Nina Mansfield

It was 1987, maybe 1988, a muggy night in the middle of summer. We were camped out in the garage outside my friends’ summer home on a lake in the Adirondacks. The boys from next door had joined us. We were twelve, maybe thirteen years old, so we were doing the kind of silly stuff that kids that age used to do.

This was in an age before the internet, before cell phones, so we had to find creative ways to entertain ourselves. Someone put on a scuba suit. Someone may have suggested a game of spin the bottle. We probably spent a good deal of time playing truth or dare.

I am not sure who suggested sneaking out and walking around the lake. It would take us hours, at least five. All of the adults had long since gone to sleep. Still, we waited until past midnight. And then, amidst giggles and shushes, we started our trek.

After hiking through the forest and past sleepy lakeside cottages, we made it to the roadway. Someone seemed to know where we were going, because I certainly didn’t. I just followed. Whenever cars passed by, we would jump into a ditch on the side of the road. Sure, it was the blissfully unsupervised 1980s, but a group of pre-teens out at that time of the night would still have aroused suspicions. Not that we were doing anything illegal. And not that anyone had actually told us we couldn’t walk around the lake in the middle of the night. But we knew we were breaking all sorts of unspoken rules.

No actual crimes were committed . . . at least none that I’ll admit to. And I don’t really remember all the specifics. What I do remember is that it was one of the most thrilling nights of my life.

Any moment, we could’ve have been caught. Any moment, someone’s headlights might have spotted us. Any moment, some unseen terror in the night could have devoured us.

Maybe that’s why I included a “sneaking out” scene in SWIMMING ALONE. Because anything can happen in the wee hours of the dark. Especially if there is a serial killer on the loose.

But fifteen-year-old Cathy Banks is willing to take that risk. After all, her friend is missing.

We had no greater calling that night in the Adirondacks. We were just killing time. Luckily, there was no serial killer out there, at least none that we knew of. I’m not sure we would have been so brave if there had been. But I am glad we did it. Because 25+ years later, it is still inspiring my fiction.

SWIMMING ALONE, by Nina Mansfield
The Sea Side Strangler is on the loose in Beach Point, where fifteen-year-old Cathy Banks is spending what she thinks will be a wretched summer. Just when she begins to make friends, and even finds a crush to drool over, her new friend Lauren vanishes. When a body surfaces in Beach Point Bay, Cathy is forced to face the question: has the Sea Side Strangler struck again?

NinaMansfield2016 Nina Mansfield is a Connecticut-based writer. Her debut novel, SWIMMING ALONE, a YA mystery, was published by Fire & Ice YA in 2015. Nina has written numerous plays, which have been published and produced throughout United States and internationally. Her graphic novel FAKE ID: BEYOND RECOGNITION, illustrated by Leyla Akdogan, will be out with Plume Snake in 2016. Nina’s short mystery fiction has appeared in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine and Mysterical-E. She is a member of ITW, MWA, SinC, SCBWI, The Short Mystery Fiction Society and the Dramatists Guild.

You can read more about Nina at:; blog:
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SWIMMING ALONE Buy Links Print: $10.95, Ebook $4.99
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• Fire & Ice:

Jane Casey: Bet Your Life Sunday, Mar 15 2015 

Auntie M is a huge fan of Jane Casey’s Maeve Kerrigan series (The Last Girl, The Stranger You Know, et al). So it should come as no surprise that when she turned her hand to YA novels and introduced Jess Tenant in How to Fall, that she had another hit series on her hands.
The second Jess Tenant Bet Your Life, has the same realistic teen dialogue and situations as the first.

There’s Jess’ complicated family life and her even more complicated attraction to Will, the person who makes her brain fuzzy and who she decides is better off without her. At sixteen, Jess is pretty mature, living in a tiny seaside English town for the past few months, keeping an eye on her mom while pretending she’s not missing Will, away at school.

Hallowe’en night changes everything. Seb Dawson has been left for dead at the roadside with a serious head injury. Jess isn’t a fan of Seb’s, but he didn’t deserve what happened to him.

With her feeling the police are not taking his attack seriously enough, it falls to Jess to find out who was behind Seb’s attack, and her investigation takes her places she doesn’t want to go. It turns out Seb wasn’t the nicest of young men, a secret predator who plays dangerous cakes to abuse girls, from blackmail to spiking their drinks with drugs.

The list of victims who could have a motive for revenge on Seb becomes long. Or could it have been a bunch of them banding together? Even more so, could there be someone else with a need to silence Seb?

The tension rises the deeper Jess finds herself involved until her own life is in jeopardy. Casey has created believable characters and situations that make Bet Your Life a gripping read for adults and teens alike.