Sunday, May 22, 2011

Find out how an auto engineer can write about the gritty side of Detroit.

Mitch Malone Mondays - Dennis Collins

Dennis Collins is a Michigan author who knows what it is like growing up in the auto industry. Dennis and I tipped a few beverages after writer’s workshop and he was interesting. He has two books out about a gritty detective duo called THE UNREAL McCOY and TURN LEFT AT SEPTEMBER. Let’s get right to the questions. Dennis you write about two of the boys in blue. How did you come up with Albert McCoy and Otis Springfield?

A number of my o
ld school buddies went into police careers and I've worked with a number of police officers in conjunction with civic events in Detroit. I'd say that my cops are pretty much a composite of all the officers I've known. I've tried to feature their most positive professional traits as well as a little personal insight.

You write about Detroit which hasn’t gotten a lot of good publicity lately. Do you think the city can make a comeback?

The Detroit that I grew up in was the most powerful manufacturing center in the United States. Our war effort earned us the nickname, "The Arsenal of Democracy." It would be a terrible loss if Detroit was to simply fade into oblivion. The new mayor is a local icon and sports hero with a reputation for getting things done. He was a major part of Detroit's industrial community as a businessman and I believe that he has a realistic vision of what is needed to reclaim the city's former dignity and respect. There is hope but it will take generations.

You worked as an engineer for one of the Big Three in Detroit for a number of years. How did that help you write about the detectives?

My job took me to the manufacturing floor where I needed to interact with the hourly workforce on a daily basis. Auto workers are a large and truly diverse group. I worked with some who were unable to read at even a third grade level and some who were college graduates. One was even a Mensa member. This wide cross section presented a wonderful opportunity for people watching and cultural observations. Some of the characters that I worked with were gamblers and bookies and then there were drug addicts, alcoholics, and ex-cons. But they all showed up and worked as a team most of the time. Many were immigrants and many were from other parts of the country. I don't know of another place where I could have observed a wider spectrum of human behavior. Quite a few of these people translated into characters in my books.

Turn Left at September is a unique title. How did you come up with that?

I actually didn't have a title for that book until long after the first draft was finished. As is my practice I spread several copies around to trusted friends for proofreading and critiques. One of the women who read it sent me a note saying, "your title is on page ---- (can't remember), 'When you get to September, turn left'." It was simply a line out of the book. at first I didn't like it but when I began running it by people for their input I was amazed at how many folks thought it was great. I'm a guy who listens to critics.

Not many people know I did a stint in Bad Axe as a reporter and had to hot foot it out of there when I got on the bad side of some people. You live north of there on Lake Huron. Does being by the water help your creativity?

I have to say that the serenity of the Lake is helpful in getting me in a creative mood and on sunny summer days I often write on the beach (with a pad and pencil, laptops and sand don't mix). But the simple truth is that Lake Huron can be an intimidating and unfriendly environment when the Gales of November rear their heads. In the winter, just pull your shades and write.

Any Future plans?

Kindle has changed the face of publishing and opened up a whole new world with new readers and a much broader market. I have been so encouraged by the reaction to my first two books since releasing them on Kindle, I have decided to introduce my third book The First Domino in electronic format for all e-readers. It should be available very early in June at an extremely attractive price.

Thanks Dennis for the honest answers. To get more scoop on the is books, check out his website at

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

This woman lives in my hometown and lost nearly 200 lbs.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

A female Dr. Dolittle solves crimes...

Mitch Malone Mondays -- Victoria Heckman

I’m not much of an animal person. There is a dog in the fourth Mitch Malone book but I don’t even want to think about that adventure. What does that have to do with Mitch Malone Monday’s? Glad you asked. Today’s guest is Elizabeth Murphy, a creation by Victoria Heckman. Victoria, who I gather through our email conversation, is a bit shy about her talent and wanted the character to appear. I’m good with that. In BURN OUT, Elizabeth talks to animals and with the furry creations, she solves crime. Elizabeth, can I call you that? You don’t have a nickname?

Elizabeth is fine. When I was little people tried to shorten it to Liz, Beth, and the best was Bit. That's not even a name. I corrected them, so I'm told. "My name is Elizabeth." So, that's what stuck!

Okay. Let’s get to the heart of the matter. You talk to animals? It’s not just a dog or cat that shares your living spaces, but any animal out on the street? How does that work?

I can communicate with other animals almost better than my own sometimes. I hear it's like your kids. Tig and I don't have kids yet, but we hope to. Anyway, I talk to Teddy and Edward, our cats, and of course our neighbor's pug across the street, Buster. However, sometimes strangers (strange animals!) are better at giving and receiving. Some animals ignore you, like some people do. I have learned a lot from being a good listener. I think most people really could communicate with their animals better if they tried. I mean, their pets/companions are always trying to tell them something. I guess I'm just the translator! Also, I find that what the animals are saying stems from things their *people* do, and often the owners/humans don't like that--that they have some responsibility in their pet's behavior.

Now I understand you have a husband who is a firefighter. Does he know? Does he believe you or do you have to get your point across in other means. I picture the department’s Dalmatian adding a little emphasis to your points on your significant other’s butt. Can you get animals to do things?

When we first met, I didn't tell him. I mean, how do you say that on a date? But it sort of came out as all secrets tend to do! He knows I talk to the animals, but it wasn't til recently that he really bought into that I could understand what they were giving back to me. It's not like they bark and you can say, "Oh, Tipsy's saying I like liver but not chicken." They tend to send me pictures and sometimes I have to really work to figure out the problem. Animals who are domesticated are easier for me. Every communicator is different (yes, there are a lot of us out there) but I find the animals around humans have figured out the best way to talk to us. Wild animals have a whole other perspective. Think of a camera for a movie. If you are talking to a bird, you might get some nice aerial pictures, but if you are talking to a small dog, he is not going to show you pictures of the problem on the roof. Unless he's been there, of course! As far as getting them to do things, not really. They like something in return, so most of my successes in information or behavior involve a concession on my or the owner's part. Some dogs, for example, just LIKE fetch or bringing in the paper. Most of the time, the animals are not going to do something just because someone wants it. The real exception for both animals and people, is love. If they love you, they will work very hard to make you happy. And if you love them back, then it's a win for all.

Cool gift. Is this a big secret or do people know and call you into service to say find their stray cat?

I haven't had success consistently with finding animals remotely. I know of some who can, I'm just not one of them. I need to see and hear the animal, especially the first time I chat with it. I can do it by phone after that, but it's a lot harder for me. However, if the animal was already a client I can do that. I am better at finding out behavioral issues, which is why most people contact me. Animals always have a reason for doing what they do, and it makes sense to them, even if their owners don't like it. I had a call once from a lady whose cat was peeing on the bed. Can I say peeing here? Anyway, she didn't know why and of course wanted it to stop. I'm glad she called after just the first couple times because her cat had a urinary tract infection and was in a great deal of pain. The woman worked a lot and the cat never seemed to mind but she thought it was because the cat was lonely. Nope, Kitty didn't care, just wanted her person to know something wasn't right.

Now where can people get their hands on this story?

Print copies are available at all your local online shops. The E book will be available from Smashwords any day now and at Amazon shortly after that.

Now Ms. Heckman also writes another series called KO’d in Hawaii. How do you differ from Katrina Ogden, the main sleuth?

K.O. is some of me... most of the ridiculous things she's done, so have I. Embarrassing but true. She's braver than I am, however. She's also taller and thinner!

Thanks so much for being my guest and talking about your gift. I’m a little gifted myself and know it can be difficult to disclose those personal details. If you want more on Elizabeth, Katrina or Ms. Heckman, please visit

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mitch Malone Mondays - A.J. Walker

Today is a bit of a stretch for crime beat reporter and no-nonsense guy like me. I’m interviewing Kip Itxaron, a character in a newly-released book by A.J. Walker called ROOTS RUN DEEP. If you think I have issues, it is nothing compared to Kip, but let me let her tell you about it through the masterful questions by yours truly. Kip, first tell me about the world you live in?

Whose world—the world of the goblinkin or the world of the humans? I’m a goblin (men are hobgoblins, and the race is goblinkin, try to remember that, human) and my world is the Reservation. That’s where the humans make us live. Rocky soil that’s no good for farming, a stinking shanty town, and stuck on the edge is the Great Forest. Don’t go in there or the elves will use you for target practice.

The human world is a world of big cities, palaces, opportunity, and privilege. Humans own everything and make all the laws. I’m familiar with Vancian, the closest human city to the Reservation. I work there sometimes. In the day I scrub floors or clean privies. It’s a crap job with low pay, but that’s all the goblinkin can get. Helps me know the city, though. Knowing the city is essential for my night job. But perhaps I shouldn’t tell you about that.

Not that I believe in that goblin stuff, but W.S. Gager must be out to convert me about things that seem impossible. I understand you see visions? What’s that like? Anything I can place a bet on?

I broke free of the Reservation and journeyed into the distant mountains in search of the Lost Tribe of the Goblinkin. While I was there I visited a cave where the wise ancestors of the Lost Tribe sat in a circle, mummified. I sat with them through the night and had a vision of blood and fire, of betrayal and hope. I learned of my fate, and I learned of the dynasty I would bear. They said I’d change the world, and damned right you can bet on that.

You have quite a history of a self-made woman. Tell us about being raised in a shanty town and then being called to lead your people.

It all started on my job. My night job. The human king Roderick got deposed and I had to smuggle him across the river. My boss got a good sum for that, and I got a lifetime of headaches and responsibility. I didn’t know he was the king, of course, he was disguised, but I soon found out. He made me a deal—raise and lead an army of goblinkin to help him retake his throne, and the goblinkin would get equal rights. Since the guy who overthrew Roderick was out to exterminate my people, I didn’t have much of a choice. My people never have a choice.

Why did he pick me? Because of my fighting ability? My leadership ability? Not likely. He picked me because I was the only goblinkin he knew.

I don’t have any phobias but I understand you have a fear of battle? Why? Do you really have to conquer this? Is war looming?

On a job in the early days, a deal went sour and we had to cut our way out. I killed two that night. One was just a human rogue, but the other was a goblin. The look in her eyes. . .

War isn’t glamorous, war isn’t fun, and yes, war is looming. Everyone should be afraid of war because everyone should be afraid of dying. But it isn’t really dying I fear. I fear what I become when the blood starts to flow.

W.S. made me ask this question because she knew I wouldn’t. It’s about love. I hate talking about this mushy stuff but I understand there is a bit of a love interest in this? How does that work for you?

Roderick. How in the world did I fall for him? He’s a human, and a king without a throne. The king without a throne I can deal with, although it means I inherit a whole lot of enemies. It’s the human part that I don’t get. Let’s be honest, Mitch. Look at yourself in the mirror. You don’t have any tusks, you’re strong for a human but wouldn’t win an arm wrestling contest with a hobgoblin twelve-year-old, and you don’t have even a trace of green shading to your skin. Pink? Brown? Those are colors for shirts, not skin.

So yeah, he’s ugly and a bit of a loser, yet he’s got this inner strength to him. His men don’t follow him for profit or out of fear like with goblinkin leaders, they follow him because they love and respect him. He always tries to do right, even though he screws that up more often than not, and he’s the only guy of any race who admits it when he’s wrong. Can you imagine an elf doing that? “Oh, I was wrong for sticking an arrow in that goblin.” Maybe he’d say, “Oh, I was wrong only to stick one arrow in that goblin.”

Thanks for joining us today Kip. It has been amazing learning about your time and will be looking for the book. Where do I find it?

Thanks for having me. You’ll be over at my place later for me to interview you. We’ll share a bottle of fermented goat’s milk and I’ll cook up some rat on a stick. You can buy my ebook directly from Double Dragon:
from the Kindle Store or at many other online outlets that sell ebooks.

Monday, May 2, 2011

What does a Latin teacher, ballerina, and priest have in common?

Mitch Malone Mondays - Donna Fletcher Crow/Felicity Howard

I’m not happy. Today’s blog features the main character in A VERY PRIVATE GRAVE by Donna Fletcher Crow. Met Felicity Howard, a nun of all things studying for the priesthood. I don’t know where W. S. Gager gets these people. I don’t even go to church and she wants me to interview religious people? You can’t say Mitch Malone isn’t professional and an extraordinary interviewer. So, Felicity, what would possess an American to study in England?

Okay, Mitch, old buddy, let’s get one thing straight. I’m NOT a nun! I’m a thoroughly modern American girl who happened to grow too tall to be a ballerina and found teaching Latin in London boring. If there’s anything I can’t stand, it’s being bored. So I heard that the Church is one place you can still use Latin today and there was this really cool monastery in Yorkshire where a lot of the teachers are monks. I mean, this has to be as good as Hogwarts, doesn’t it?

And, hay, you ought to try popping into a church sometime on your day off. By church I mean a really brilliant one with smells and bells and lots of candles. That’s what hooked me— it’s better theatre than the ballet.

This mystery seems a bit like Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code, except he didn’t have a student do all the sleuthing. What made you think you could figure out who killed your favorite monk?

Well, I guess I have to face it. I have the energy. My church history
lecturer, Father Antony who can be pretty stiff sometimes, but when you catch him unawares is really the dishy vicar, has all the real knowledge. He does go on a bit, but I’ll have to admit, it’s all important to finding these jerks. And I really want to do that because Father Dominic was such an old darling. And, you see, Fr. D gave me his pilgrimage journal just before he died, so he must have thought I could do something with it. We did have this special understanding.

Now you travel with this Fr. Antony across England and Scotland. You want us to believe this is a platonic relationship? Any romance between the pair of you?

Oh, Mitch, you do ask the hard questions, don’t you? Can we just say that I’ve learned a lot from Antony and leave it there for now? I’ve really got so much to sort through and my head is in a whirl— never mind my heart.

Several times you are nearly killed in some very religious places. Was this luck, a higher power, or you just being fast on your feet?

I’d like to say it’s intelligence, but sometimes I can be pretty stupid. I’m trying to learn to look before I leap, but I suppose old habits die hard. And, I am quick on my feet. I keep up my ballet training and it can be very useful in a tight spot. Higher Power? Hmmm. Antony would say so. I’m open on the subject.

What happens next for you? Do you finish your schooling? Come back to America? Get to be a priest?

Okay, in spite of my prickly answer at first, I’ll admit I am considering becoming a nun. Don’t laugh— I just said I’m open. You’ll have to read my next adventure in A Darkly Hidden Truth which will be out this fall. Until then I’m not saying more.

I have to give old W. S. credit. I did enjoy questioning Felicity and finding out what makes her tick. You can check out her antics too. Go to Donna Fletcher Crow’s website: