Writer Interviews: Kaye George














Like many of my writer friends, I met Kaye through membership in Sisters in Crime. Kaye is the tireless president of the Guppies chapter of SINC. She has rocked in this leadership role and her time and efforts are greatly appreciated by all. I love what Kaye says about how writers are unique animals. It’s so true. We need to stick together and support one another. She is the perfect example of that type of support. Here is a bit about Kaye in her own words:

1. Describe your writing routine and/or schedule?

I’m not a morning person, so I try to get through emails and administrivia in the morning, saving my writing for the afternoon when I can get serious and concentrate. If I didn’t have a husband who posed as the model for Morning Person, I’d probably start writing at about ten at night and go until two or three. Then sleep all morning.

2. What do you do if you get writer’s block?

I can’t say I’ve ever had writer’s block, as others describe it. I do get stuck on a plot knot sometimes and am adept at finding excuses to avoid working on those. But I think my subconscious is doing my work for me. Sometimes a solution will come to me just as I wake up, sometimes in the middle of the night, so the time off isn’t really idle time–it’s me letting my subconscious work.

I’ve noticed that I can direct that subconsciousness. When I’m painting, I’ll wake up with fully formed ideas for a painting. When I’m composing music, themes will get stuck in my head and I’ll have to write them down to get them out. Same thing with writing. When I’m writing, that’s what my mind works on, whether I’m doing it consciously or not. Good thing I don’t have to rely on what I actually think up when I’m awake.

3. Who do you read, or recommend other writers read, in regards to craft?

I’ve read tons of books on writing. As I go through, I underline passages that speak to me, knowing that I MUST take note of these gems of brilliance. Then I never open the book again. I’ve gotten more out of taking courses, I think. I did a weekend with Donald Maas and I did one with Mary Buckham. Those were both pure gold for me. I’ve also taken other valuable courses from Kris Neri, Margie Lawson, and Laurie Schnebly.

4. Who do you read for fun?

Almost no one these days. I’d love to have more time for that! My first love was always mysteries and that’s why I’m writing them. But now that I’ve learned so much about the craft of writing mysteries, I can’t read them for pleasure; I end up studying every mystery I read. I also have committed to reading books to review for “Suspense Magazine”, so there’s little time for anything else.

When I do have a break to read for fun, I leave mysteries and read biographies and light, fluffy things like Maeve Binchy. She’s a real palate cleanser. Also women’s mainstream fiction, like Barbara Kingsolver and Anne Tyler, though I haven’t read any of them for a long time now.

5. When did you first know you wanted to be a writer? Tell us about it.

I think I’ve always liked to tell a story. I was read to as a child and well after I could read. My crayon drawings in kindergarten had to be narrated by me when I showed them to people. There was always a story, never just a drawing. I read a lot of comics later and drew comic strips. When I could finally read real books, I started writing them. My first two “novels” were written in fifth grade. One of them was about the Loch Ness Monster, which I cast as a plesiosaur who had been separated from the rest of her herd, who still lived in the ocean. The story was about her escaping Loch Ness and finding her family.

6. What advice would you give an aspiring writer?

Read! Write, write a lot. You aren’t a good writer when you start out, you have to develop your craft and your voice, your style. I recommend getting feedback. I know some writers don’t like to have their work critiqued. Those are usually, not always, the ones who need it! When you get suggestions, consider them. If they sting, put them away for a month, then look again. There may or may not be merit in the critique, but you can’t tell that when the sting is still fresh. And don’t take advice that doesn’t feel right for you. Including what I’ve just said.

7. What do you think is the most important skill to have to succeed as a writer?

The ability to watch and listen, and get people down on the page as they are. I’m not saying to copy actual people, just note traits and mannerisms that you could possibly use, and store those away. Listen to phrasing and what people talk about. I will admit that I have copied overheard conversations verbatim and used them, or parts of them. You’ll never dream up stuff as good as what you overhear.

8. What is your favorite food and/or drink?

Chocolate and Scotch. They go well together, too.

9. Do you have a favorite book or movie?

I forgot to mention these writers above, since I was thinking about novels. I read O. Henry and Mark Twain over and over. They are my short story gurus. I’ve said before that I would die happy if I could write a short story as good as O. Henry’s worst one.

10. Is there anything I didn’t ask you that you’d like to share?

I’ll get weird here. I’m talking to writers, right? If you are a writer, you are not like other people. It is good to seek out others of your own kind so you won’t feel so abnormal. We are the only ones who know what it means to finish a first draft, even if you’re still months away from anything anyone can read. We can also support each other through the inevitable reject that piles up and weighs us down. We are solitary creatures, but we do need each other. Thanks so much for letting me appear here, Kristi!

BIO: Kaye George is a twice-Agatha-nominated novelist and short story writer. She belongs to Sisters in Crime and Guppies. Her stories have been published separately and in several anthologies. She reviews for “Suspense Magazine” and blogs for a group blogs and a solo one. She and her husband live near Waco, Texas. Visit http://kayegeorge.com/ for more details.

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The Big Guy: Sheriff Warren E. Rupf

Me & Sheriff Warren Rupf


I received some sad news by email this morning. One of my best friends, who is also a former police reporter for the Contra Costa Times, told me that the sheriff we both so closely worked with — Sheriff Warren Rupf — is fighting leukemia and fears he hasn’t long to live.

Rupf, to me, is the epitome of what a sheriff should be. What a sheriff should act like and even look like. As sheriff (he’s now retired), he had firm authority, but also a terrific sense of humor. He was — and is as you can see below in his email to his friends about his diagnosis — a class act. A one-of-a-kind man.

In his efforts to ensure decent media relations, he would sometimes invite my friend and I to elaborate dinners at the nicest restaurant in town with some of his head honcho employees. It was important to him to have a good relationship with the press and he made that possible with his open door policy. Because of this, even though I was just a lowly reporter, I thought nothing of calling the sheriff directly on his phone for a quote. Let me tell you that there aren’t a lot of cops or politicians who treat reporters that way. Trust me.

Even when we wrote things that he may not have agreed with, he always treated us with respect. As a result, he earned my everlasting respect. Today, he and his family are in my prayers.

Here is what my former colleague, Lisa, wrote about Rupf this weekend. In the comments section, many former cops and those in the district attorney’s office talk about Rupf and say how he “ran a good shop” and had the respect of cops everywhere. They call him “one of the good guys,” “Big Chief” and the word “hero” is used more than once.

Here is the link to the article that follows: http://www.contracostatimes.com/news/ci_21023181/retired-contra-costa-sheriff-warren-rupf-diagnosed-leukemia?source=most_viewed

Retired Contra Costa Sheriff Warren Rupf diagnosed with leukemia

By Lisa Vorderbrueggen

Retired Contra Costa Sheriff Warren Rupf has been diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia.

In his trademark, wry and witty voice, the 69-year-old East Bay native who served as his county’s sheriff for almost two decades, sent an email to friends and colleagues on Thursday.

He is exploring treatment options but the prognosis is grim for this type of cancer, he wrote.

“While rather morbid, this may be the only good news,” Rupf wrote. “When you buy this brand, you move rather quickly from check in to check out.”

Yes, Warren was an elected official and as a reporter, I kept my eye on him when he was in office.

But as I grew to know him over the years, I became terribly fond of him. When my son went into law enforcement, the sheriff offered his support and always remembered to ask about the young officer’s progress in the California Highway Patrol. (Warren tested with CHP as a young man but Contra Costa County called him first.)

From me and my family, Warren, we wish you and your family fair winds and following seas as you chart your way through this hazardous passage.

But as always, his own words are far better than anything I could come up with … Here’s what he wrote via email:

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Shipmates and others with whom I have shared so much,

I choose an e-mail to share what follows to reduce the likelihood that the message gets caught up in politics or locker room editing (also an opportunity to respond to the charges that Marines cannot read or write. ) Should you choose to offer any response, it also offers an easy to schedule means. I love you all but I am not excited by the idea of putting you (or me) on a path filled with sympathy cards and grown-man tears.

While some tests are still being evaluated and treatment options explored, both are rather grim. I have acute myeloid leukemia. While rather morbid, this may be the only good news. When you buy this brand, you move rather quickly from check-in to check-out. I hate long, slow-moving lines.

Warren Rupf as a young Marine

Some will say that I should have retired earlier and enjoyed the good life. I say: Poppycock, my life could not have been any better. Be it Marine Corps , Office of the Sheriff , going toe-to-toe with a real labor leader or a beer at the slop chute with an old-school reporter, you made my list of those whom made my life one of few regrets.

I know that there are good men with whom I have lost electronic contact please consider sharing this with them as your paths cross and offer them my regards.

Semper Fidelis,


UPDATE: 3:46 p.m. Contra Costa Sheriff Dave Livingston sent this message to his department and other county offices:

As you may have heard by now, our friend and colleague, retired Sheriff Warren Rupf, has been diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. He is currently undergoing treatment but is facing many challenges as he fights this disease.

Yesterday he shared his condition with close friends and relatives. His family has asked that we respect his privacy during these difficult times. He is not able to accept visitors or phone calls.

Please keep Sheriff Rupf, his wife Carole, and his entire family in your thoughts and prayers.

I will update you when we have more information.

Thank you.

David Livingston


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Writer Interviews: Diane Vallere













I’m excited to introduce you to Diane Vallere. I met Diane through Sisters in Crime and then we became Mysteristas together! She always has something intriguing to add to our weekly Twitter conversation and I can’t wait to read her book. Isn’t she adorable?

Here’s Diane:


1. Describe your writing routine and/or schedule?

I work a FT job but I write during every lunch break. That gives me a guaranteed 5 hours a week, and sometimes I’m able to tack on a bit more here and there, mornings or nights or a day off during the week. I generally average about 1100-1400 words during that lunch break.

I also make a point of using airplane time to write, and can take a cross-country flight (6 ours-ick!) and knock out 5-6K words.

2. What do you do if you get writer’s block?

Change of scenery works well, even if it’s as minor as taking my laptop and sitting at the dining room table instead of the desk.

Another thing I do is the three forks in the road approach. When I’m stuck at a plot point, I longhand write three different possible directions for the story. Inevitably, one of them is the “right” one and I can go from there. Doing three removes the pressure of getting it right the first time. Inevitably, the third one is the charm.

3. Who do you read, or recommend other writer’s read, in regards to craft?

There are so many fantastic books for writers, but my absolute favorite is Lawrence Block’s TELLING LIES FOR FUN AND PROFIT. When I was first starting to write, I would read a chapter from the book each day and the tips would be in the back of my mind as I got the story down onto the page.

4. Who do you read for fun?

I read a lot of different genres, not just mysteries, and I like everything from chick-lit to humorous mysteries to the occasional thriller. I’m on a non-fiction jag right now, which might be because it doesn’t compete or affect what I’m writing and it serves as research in a lot of instances. I just finished a biography about a master counterfeiter and I can’t stop talking about it!

5. When did you first know you wanted to be a writer? Tell us about it.

A few years ago, I was working on a tween novel and went back through old journals from my childhood. I actually found a page where I’d written, “I know what I want to do with my life. I want to be a writer!” I was fourteen at the time.

I was such a fan of Trixie Belden growing up that I remember thinking I would love to write a mystery, but I never had the right idea. Not sure what happened, but the ideas are the one thing I can’t control at the moment!

6. What advice would you give an aspiring writer?

Write the book that you want to read. Because by the time it’s out there, you will have read it probably thousands of times! Also, to always remember why you want to write. For me, it’s the most fun thing I’ve ever done in my life. Also, keep your eyes open to everything that’s happening in the industry. So much change simply means there are many, many more ways to get to the same ultimate goal.

7. What do you think is the most important skill to have to succeed as a writer?


8. What is your favorite food and/or drink?

Popcorn, lemonade

9. Do you have a favorite book or movie?

The Phantom Tollbooth (book). Movie is harder, but I do love How To Steal A Million (with Audrey Hepburn and Peter O’Toole), and Some Like It Hot (Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon, and Marilyn Monroe).

10. Is there anything I didn’t ask you that you’d like to share?

You didn’t ask about my writer’s wardrobe! When I write I tend to wear what any fashion-loving writer would wear: a beat-up college sweatshirt and a pair of Moon Boots  something fabulous with ostrich feathers.


Diane Vallere, a 20-year fashion industry veteran, writes comic mysteries with a stylish twist. She taught assortment planning for a major luxury retailer, placed the first ever order for Spanx, and puts a touch of Halston into everything she writes. Designer Dirty Laundry, the first in her Style and Error mystery series, comes out June 2012. She started her own detective agency at age ten and has maintained a passion for shoes, clues, and clothes ever since. Visit her at dianevallere.com.


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This Writer’s Life: The American Hotel, The LA Riots

Near my home at The American Hotel

The American Hotel


It was April 29, 1992. That day I threw on my Alice-in-Wonderland print dress and laced up my Doc Marten boots. I stepped into the hallway of The American Hotel — where very few people had televisions and Internet access was many years in the future — and was told this:

“You’re lucky you’re moving to Seattle next month because as soon as this verdict comes down, all hell is going to break loose in this city.”

For some reason, I don’t remember which one of my colorful neighbors told me this, but his words are seared into my memory. I paused outside my door and then, almost without thinking, as a primal, self-preservation instinct, I walked back in and changed into jeans and a T-shirt, grabbing my jacket that had a huge picture of Robert Smith from The Cure on the back. The future was uncertain and I felt too vulnerable to step onto city streets wearing a dress that day.

We were awaiting the Rodney King verdict.

Little did I know that I would be wearing those same clothes for the next three days.

About a half hour later, I was on the 710 freeway that snakes from Los Angeles to Long Beach — where my boyfriend was waiting for me. The 710 freeway travels right over South Central L.A. In fact, it swoops very near Florence and Normandie.

As I drove to Long Beach I listened to the radio news announcing the Rodney King verdict and it’s aftermath. First, reports of what was happening at Florence and Normandie near where I was driving: a man later identified as Reginald Denny was yanked out of his car and beaten. A helicopter hovering above captured the beating on camera for the world to see as it ignited rioters across Southern California. The news reports said rioters were attacking drivers, reporters, anyone who wandered into their path.

In Long Beach, the entire town was in an uproar talking about the violence and chaos just north of us. Everyone was in a state of shock and disbelief. It suddenly felt like we had been thrust into a third-world country.

I don’t remember much about those first hours. I think everything was overshadowed by the riots. People were gathered in front of radios and TVs everywhere. All we did was stand around and watch what was happening. On street corners. In restaurants. In coffee shops. At the beach. At the bars. Nothing else existed except the riots. Oddly, I remember that there wasn’t a lot of conversation about it at the time. People were too stunned. Most of us stood there, stricken into silence, watching the news reports.

Later, tired, and ready to go home, I was on the freeway again, this time toward L.A. I was about to exit onto the 101 freeway, which led to The American Hotel. But what I heard on the radio made me change my plans:

Rioters had swarmed onto the 101 freeway and were setting fire to cars and palm trees.

One of the scariest moments of my life was exiting the freeway right then to turn around and realizing there was not an easy entrance to get back on the freeway heading south. My memory is hazy, but I remember the fear that coursed through me and verged on panic. In the dark streets I drove, frantic to get back on the freeway as I saw clumps of people less than a block away swarming the streets with their fury.

I somehow managed to get back on the freeway and, unsure where to go, since I couldn’t go home, headed back to Long Beach.

Meanwhile, as I later learned, back at The American Hotel, my neighbors in our small down-and-out community had taken to the rooftops with their guns, vowing to protect our building, as piss-filled and worn-down as it was.

The guns were a bit of a surprise to me. The UZI that Nicki* had still astonishes me. If you’ll allow me to digress, I have one more character to introduce to you in my life at The American Hotel.

Many, many years later, Nicki still symbolizes L.A. for me. She is a has been, a was, a potential that has shriveled up and died without chance of resurrection.

When I met Nicki, she still had a hint of that Cosmo Cover Girl look, the same looks that graced covers of magazines in several countries; the same looks that had men fork over thousands of dollars to send her on Parisian shopping sprees; the same look that made men leave their wives for her. But her looks had hardened. They were harsh. Worn out. Has been.

Although she still had the flowing blonde tresses, the big blue eyes, the regal stance and profile, her one-time beauty queen figure had spread, filling out her tight Levis. Her skin was sallow, her eyes perpetually ringed by black.

Somehow, she still got the attention she so desperately needed and craved. She demanded it from everyone she came across. Her Bitch Queen attitude, her little Rich Girl persona just had been transplanted to a 12 x 12 room at The American Hotel. A tiny little room without a kitchen or bathroom that was crawling with huge cockroaches.

Like the rest of us, she showered in the communal bathrooms on either end of the fourth-floor hallway, but unlike the rest of us, who lived like Bohemian artists (aka starving artists) and threw futons on the floor and lived out of crates and cooked on hot pads, her room had been turned into one of an adored child.

Her tiny space was crammed with a giant big white bed. Flowing white curtains covered the windows and billowed above the air conditioner that her married boyfriend had installed in her room. He also had constructed built-in bookshelves, a closet, and a tiny desk/vanity with a shelf above it that contained children’s books. She also had a plush area rug and a television on a stand.

Like me, Nicki was a waitress at the Mexican Cantina on the border of East L.A. a few blocks away from The American Hotel. Yet she rhapsodized constantly about the day her boyfriend would leave his wife and kids and move with her to the WEST SIDE of L.A. where she would find a waitressing job at a posh restaurant and make the extravagant tips her haughty look deserved.

Meanwhile, she whined likes a pouty child if she didn’t get her way and argued in a high-pitched petulant shout. She was not innocent. She had been in jail once and mugged twice. Her friend died in her bed of an overdose. When she lived in New York City, men broke into her apartment and tied her and her boyfriend up while they robbed the place. She said she was very nearly murdered that night.

And yet, it is still hard to fathom that during the L.A. riots, Nicki was up on the rooftop with my neighbors with an UZI. That detail alone makes me wish I had never left that night, but stayed in L.A. to ride out the riots.

Days later, when I returned to L.A. my neighborhood had been turned into a war zone. Parking lots that usually were full with commuter’s cars had been turned into armed camps, with camouflage nets strung across the tops. An empty dirt lot near The American Hotel now had trenches dug in it and was patrolled by National Guard members in full body armor. Old hangouts were burned to the ground. Tank-like vehicles rumbled down my street.

But that first night, I knew none of this. That first night, reports of the rioters on the 101 freeway were enough to send me scuttling back to Long Beach. That first night, I got a hotel room and stayed up all night with my boyfriend, glued to the TV. 
At one point I realized I should call my mother (this was pre-cell phone days, people).

When she sleepily answered the phone, I told her I was calling to let her know I was okay.

“What do you mean?”

“Mom, turn on your TV.”

A few seconds of silence and then: “Get in your car right now and drive to Northern California.”

Not going to happen, I told her, and said I would keep in touch.

We stayed up until dawn, until we could no longer keep our eyes open anymore. We stayed up watching footage of L.A. burning, of rioters looting and carting shopping carts full of merchandise, of bricks hitting people’s heads. My neighbor was right. All hell had broken loose in my city.

The next day, blurry-eyed, I hung out in coffee shops all day long. I remember calling in to the Mexican cantina and being scolded by my boss for not coming to work that day. I told him that there was no way in hell I was going to go to work at a restaurant that was notorious for being a hangout for off-duty LAPD. Screw that. It would be fire-bombed, I’m sure.

I was sitting at one coffee shop, the last in a long series I had visited that day, when the Long Beach cops came in and shut the place down. They said they were closing all businesses on that street because “The rioters” (they had taken on a life and entity of their own) were a mile up the road burning the mall.

“The Rioters” — an unidentifiable group of people — had become a solid mass that struck fear in people. What I hated, what I loathed with every fiber of my being, was this sudden acute awareness of race and skin color that faced me at every turn. I hated thinking that the color of my skin was defining me in that moment and defining others, as well. It was shameful to realize that the world had suddenly turned into “us” and “them” overnight. It scared me to think that the L.A. population was being viewed in terms of black and white. Literally. To me, that was more frightening than rioters burning palm trees and cars. I knew I wasn’t the only one who felt this way. I knew that people black and white, felt exactly the same way as I did.

With nowhere to go, my wandering eventually led me to a bench on some cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean. I sat there with my head in my hands for what seemed like hours, but was probably only minutes.

Then, I noticed somebody had sat down beside me. I looked up. It was a black man about my age. He sat in a similar position, holding his head.

When I saw his similar pose, I chortled a sort of delirious, sleep-deprived laugh. He looked up at me and laughed, too. We both were in hell and we knew it.

We spent the rest of the afternoon together. We tried to figure out what had gone wrong in the world, how we had grown up in the middle of it all, and what we could do to stop something like this from ever happening in the future. (Remember we were idealistic college kids!)

We especially talked about “them” — the rioters. Because whatever “they” were thinking, we sure didn’t understand.

Postscript: Not long after, I left L.A. and The American Hotel to move to Seattle in some crazy hope to capture the last of the grunge scene, I guess. 
The following January, I came back to L.A. Before I headed over to The American Hotel, I stopped to fill up my gas tank at the old corner gas station where once, the clerk had given me a free pack of cigarettes when I was short on cash. He was still working there but didn’t recognize me. But out in the parking lot, my old homeless buddy — the one I had given a blanket off my bed to — did. Chris wandered up, asking for change, and then recognized me: “Hey, you don’t live around here any more do you?”

A few blocks away, I pulled in front of The American Hotel and got out of my car, stood in the middle of the street and assuming the correct stance of a visitor at the hotel, and in typical American-Hotel-fashion, screamed at the top of my lungs the names of the residents I wanted to see:

“Carrrooooool! Deeeeennnnis! Jooooooee! Stuaaaaart!”

Nothing. Silence. I was about to turn away, dejected, when Stuart popped his dreadlocked head out the fourth-floor window.

“Hey, man, where you been?” he said. “Thought you moved to Seattle?”

For a few moments, we caught up on the last few months. He told me what everyone else was up to. Most people were doing the exact same thing. Although my life had changed dramatically, life at The American Hotel apparently hadn’t. Carol was still a waitress. Dennis was back in jail. The Iowan farm boys were still working as bike messengers. Nicki was still trying to get her married boyfriend to leave his family for her.

As I drove away, I was suddenly filled with melancholy. I had moved on. I no longer fit in at The American Hotel. It would always have a special place in my heart, but for me, a new era had begun. It was a bit sad to let this bit of my past go; to say goodbye to it, but suddenly, sitting in my car alone, I burst into laughter thinking of crazy Dennis sitting in his jail cell playing his unplugged electric guitar and hollering “I wanna burrita!”

*Name changed.

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Winner in Lisa Unger Giveaway!

The top one goes to the winner!

I’m pleased to announce that the winner of Lisa Unger’s HEARTBROKEN is Stephanie!.

Please email me a mailing address and I’ll get this lovely book on its way. I just finally had time to start reading last night and am loving it. I am honestly already half way through the book. It is that compelling!

Congratulations Stephanie and thanks to everybody who entered.



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