September 22, 2014

Made It Moment II: Liz Zelvin

Filed under: Made It Moments — jenny @ 10:18 am

Voyage Of Strangers

A lot of people are going to relate to Liz Zelvin’s Made It Moment. Or should I call it a Made It Miracle, as Liz does? For everyone who has been through the wringer during these tumultuous publishing times…for every reader who has wondered what life is really like for those who pen their favorite stories…for every human being who has felt caught up and swept about in a wind over which they had no control…well, thank goodness for one thing. Miracles do happen. Don’t quit before it does. Just listen to Liz (whose first moment can be read after this one).

Liz Zelvin

I Call Them Miracles
Jenny Milchman is well known in the mystery community for asking fellow writers what they consider their made-it moment. Jenny, I have two things to say to you about that: “One???” And “I call them miracles.”

Use of the word miracles is not religiosity on my part, but a reference to a mantra without which I could not have survived as a writer: “Don’t quit five minutes before the miracle.” It was a loooong five minutes until my first made-it moment.

I first said, “I want to be a writer” at the age of seven, and I completed the first draft of my first mystery, Death Will Get You Sober, more than fifty years later. Four years, many revisions, and many rejections later, in November 2006, legendary editor Ruth Cavin of St. Martin’s Press said, “I like it.” Having spent most of my adult life embarrassed to say, “I’m a writer,” when I’d never succeeded in publishing a novel (or anything else until my late thirties), I suddenly had not only validation but total credibility as a writer in the world.

“What do you do?”
“I’m a writer.”
“What have you published?”
“A novel.”
“Who’s your publisher?”
“St. Martin’s.”
“That’s great! Who’s your editor?”
“Ruth Cavin.”

My second made-it moment came two years later, on the day Death Will Get You Sober was launched. It was my sixty-fourth birthday. I had a launch party at the formidable Otto Penzler’s Mysterious Bookshop in New York. (It would only be stretching it a bit to call getting Otto to talk to me another made-it moment.) His staff had selected my book as the monthly selection of its First Mystery Book Club, so I had fifty copies to sign even without purchases by those who attended the party. I invited everyone I knew, and more than sixty people not only showed up, but bought the book. What an evening–I was flying!

Fast forward to February 2014, past the crash of the economy, past getting dumped by Minotaur (the St. Martin’s mystery imprint), past the enormous paradigm shift in the publishing industry and indeed the whole tech-addled world. In December 2013, after racking up 150 agent and editor rejections, I had bitten the bullet and self-published my latest manuscript, Voyage of Strangers, a historical novel about what really happened when Columbus discovered America from the point of view of a young marrano sailor, as an e-book on Amazon. I did everything I could to promote it, including paying for the opportunity to give away 26,000 copies for free, so peculiar has the publishing biz become. I hadn’t quite completed the last five minutes or turned the very last stone, but I thought my career as a fiction writer was probably over.

On February 17, 2014, out of the blue, I received an email from a senior acquisitions editor at Lake Union, Amazon Publishing’s imprint for literary and commercial fiction. It said, in part: “I wanted to tell you how moved – and impressed – I was with Voyage of Strangers. I was very taken with your unflinching look at the Inquisition and the devastation wrought by the Spanish Conquest. It was heartbreaking and eye-opening, as I think the best historical fiction tends to be. Your reviews are fantastic – and I’d like to see the sales match the levels of the reviews.” Now, that was a made-it moment and a solid gold miracle.

To paraphrase Jane Eyre: Reader, I married them. Amazon is my new fairy godmother. Voyage of Strangers will appear on September 30 in a new e-edition and in trade paperback and audio editions. I’m working on the sequel. And am I a writer? Hell, yes!

Elizabeth Zelvin is a New York City psychotherapist and mystery writer. Her latest novel, VOYAGE OF STRANGERS, is about what really happened when Columbus discovered America and is the sequel to the Agatha-nominated short mystery story, “The Green Cross.” Liz’s mystery series featuring recovering alcoholic Bruce Kohler started with DEATH WILL GET YOU SOBER and includes the novels DEATH WILL HELP YOU LEAVE HIM and DEATH WILL EXTEND YOUR VACATION as well as a novella and several short stories. Liz is a three time Agatha Award nominee and a Derringer Award nominee for Best Short Story. Liz’s author website is at

As Liz Zelvin, she is also a singer-songwriter with an album of original songs, OUTRAGEOUS OLDER WOMAN, available on Amazon. Liz’s music website is at For more than a decade, she has worked with clients all over the world as an online therapist at Liz is also a poet with two books of poetry published, a former Peace Corps Volunteer in West Africa, and a doting grandma.

September 18, 2014

Made It Moment: Joe Chiba

Filed under: Made It Moments — jenny @ 8:05 am

Summer In Italy

It’s been a while since we’ve had a love story on the blog, and this is an unusual sort of one. In this age of genealogical research, and long lost relatives being found, author Joe Chiba weaves a family love story, of falling in love with one’s heritage and homeland. But his Made It Moment expands even beyond that…all the way to the world wide web, where Joe realized just how large the tapestry he is now part of as a writer can be.

Joe Chiba

I began my journey on the road to becoming an author in 2008, when something wonderful happened that changed everything for me as a writer. But to understand it all, we need to go back to 1976. It was the summer, and thirteen-year-old, twin Italian cousins, John Mastrogiulio and Joseph Mastrogiulio, made their first visit to my family’s home in Queens, New York. Before that blistering July day, I had never heard of them. The next day, they were gone, back to Italy, and out of our lives forever. Or so we had thought.. The truth was, the brothers did not return to Italy, but remained in Brooklyn, New York, secretly hidden from us for reasons unclear even to this day. But that did not stop Destiny from allowing us to find each other once again. It was thirty-two years later, in 2008, that Cousin John located my family in Queens. This was approximately one year after my father’s death, when John had found a forgotten letter written to him and his brother many years earlier by my father. The family reunion that followed sounded a chord in me, the writer in me, and it was enough to get me going on an idea for a story. I wrote the factual bits of the reunion with my cousins in a letter to a good friend of mine in California. That friend suggested I turn the story into a book, and I agreed. But much more had to be done before that could happen.

I had to travel to Italy. Being reunited with my Italian cousins motivated me to do just that, and to embrace my Italian heritage. I fell in love with Italy during my first visit in the spring of 2009. And I began a writer’s journey, eating and drinking and writing my way through the country, writing about everything and anything that I was absorbing, about this rich and wonderful culture I had been missing out on for so many years. I knew I had to write and publish my story after seeing Italy with my own eyes, hearing it with my own ears, and tasting it with my own lips. I turned the true-to-life reunion and my experience in Italy into a fictional story about a man in search of a long-lost cousin, whom he believes is in Italy. That is how Summer in Italy was born.

And although I knew the story needed to be published for readers to share in my joy, it still took about five years before I saw the dream turn into a reality. In the months of putting the book together with Oak Tree Press, I worried about this and worried about that. Probably not unlike many other writers being published for the first time. I knew it was happening, that I would soon see my book’s cover, with the animated version of that lemon tree tunnel my wife and I marveled at in a garden in Sorrento, Italy. Now it was on the internet where others would see it, too. And yet, still I did not realize the impact it was having on me. Not until my wife and I sat down in front of the computer screen, went to our account, and ordered Summer in Italy along with an Andrea Bocelli CD.

Andrea Bocelli! Doesn’t everyone in the world know him? My silly, little book of an adventure romance about Destiny was for sale in the same venue where millions of people shop for Andrea Bocelli’s music. Me and Andrea Bocelli! How could this be? That’s when it hit me. That was my moment. I immediately realized that my silly, little book wasn’t all that silly after all. It was something, a real something out there for the world to see. And if I could be in the same circle as Andrea Bocelli (well, not exactly in his circle, but you know what I mean), then I had made it! I didn’t care if my book would sell one copy (the one to me and my wife) or a million copies. I never cared. I wrote my book from my heart, because I believed it was a story that needed to be told. And now it was out there. I had made it into a moment. Maybe a small one, to get crazy excited about my book being on along with music from super celebrities like Andrea Bocelli. But it was still a moment. And when the package from Amazon arrived and my wife opened it, a feeling of utter elation swept over me. I saw my book sitting on top of that Andrea Bocelli CD. I am no super celebrity, but my book is out there. And that’s all that counts.

Joe Chiba was born in Queens, New York, into a large and loving Italian family. He spent his youth playing stickball in the street and soprano horn in his neighborhood drum & bugle corps. After Joe received a B.A. from Albright College in Pennsylvania, he moved to Japan to teach English and explore the exotic Orient. Summer in Italy is Joe’s first novel, which has won the 2013 Oak Tree Press Romance/Timeless Love Award. Joe lives in Honolulu with his Japanese wife, Sakura.

September 16, 2014

Made It Moment II: Stacy Green

Filed under: Made It Moments — jenny @ 10:34 pm

All Good Deeds

Stacy Green’s Moment is going to surprise you. Because it isn’t about writing at all. Or rather, it is, but with the most indirect of links. Stacy’s Moment has to do with fear. Of braving the unknown…in this case, a lifelong phobia that latched on stronger with the advent of parenthood. Fully aware of the preciousness of life, it became hard for Stacy to live as fully as she wanted to. Then came her Moment.

What is writing but a leap into the unknown? Stacy’s leap was physical. And it allowed her writing to fly.

(For those who wish to read more Stacy Green, here’s her 2012 Made It Moment.)

Stacy Green

In my latest thriller, ALL GOOD DEEDS (Lucy Kendall #1), my heroine has an immense fear of death. It’s this fear that causes her to risk her life for justice. She dances around the torment that keeps her up at night. Lucy’s fear of dying is my most personal contribution to her. I still have nights where I wake up with the blinding realization that one day, I will die. The End. Fade to Black. But that’s not the entire story.

All my life, I’ve had a terrible fear of flying. Statistics didn’t matter. The countless number of flights my friends took didn’t matter. I still believed I would be on the plane that crashed, and the fear worsened when I became a parent. What if I left my daughter without a mother?

This fear has kept me from writing conferences since I began seriously writing in 2011. I learned my craft from books, online classes, webinars, social media groups, etc. All of my interaction with other writers has been limited to online or within driving distance. And when you’ve got a kid who spends half her life swimming, Saturdays are taken up with meets instead of monthly Sisters in Crime meetings.

Until now, I’ve done all right. Releasing my fourth book and finishing my Delta Crossroads Trilogy has resulted in many new readers, and I’m ambling down the path to success. But I really wanted to take the next step. In my heart I knew I wouldn’t have a chance at the next level of writing if I didn’t.

I’d missed the deadline for Writer’s Police Academy in January because it was in North Carolina, and I was a chicken. Two months ago, as I sat reading the itinerary for the umpteenth time, I knew this was the one conference I needed to go to. Three days with law enforcement and EMS telling writers how their jobs and lives really work, helping us to get things right! Three days with other mystery and thriller writers! Most of my publishing friends were romance authors, with the exception of a few, and I really wanted to talk shop. Plus, Lisa Gardner, one of my all-time favorite authors, was giving a presentation.

I can’t really say what made me do it But I emailed Lee Lofland, the man behind WPA, and sure enough, there was a cancellation. I had a spot if I wanted it. I didn’t stop to think. I paid the dues and booked my airfare. I was going.

And I felt okay. Surreal, but okay. As the September 4th flight approached, I grew more worried about navigating the airports on my own or making some technical error that would cause me to miss part of the conference. I was excited to go, and I mostly believed I’d survive the flight.

That didn’t stop my blood pressure from rising. Even thought I felt pretty good, a doctor’s visit on another matter revealed my blood pressure to be 142/90. Way too high for me. I hoped it was simply stress, but how could it be since I felt okay? Could I really be that physiologically affected when I wasn’t pacing the halls in anticipation?

At 6:30 in the morning on September 4th, I took my very first flight. Alone. I wasn’t scared. Nervous, but as I walked through the gate, there was no rising panic. That came when I stepped onto the American Airlines jet and realized exactly how narrow they are. A brief moment of claustrophobia nearly overwhelmed me, but I powered on. With the help of a very kind couple, I found my seat and chatted until take off. Conversation kept me out of my very imaginative head, and then it was done.

By noon, I was in Greensboro and looking at an entirely new phase of my career. I felt professional, in control, and most of all, brave. I faced my very greatest fear on my own (and don’t misunderstand, my husband was amazingly supportive. He just couldn’t go with me) and came out so much better for it. I found that aside from the occasional queasiness, I really loved flying. And more importantly, the experience at Writer’s Police Academy truly changed my life. I learned so much and made so many contacts with law enforcement officials who really do want to help. Even better, I met Lisa Gardner and Alafair Burke and both were extremely sweet and happy to talk to fans. And the networking with other writers! There were so many, writing all different types of mystery. Arriving in Greensboro, I only knew a handful of attendees via social media, but once I conquered flying, I had no problem diving in and chatting to anyone and everyone. I even introduced myself to Lisa Gardner in the restroom! We’ll call that a fangirl moment. Thank God I’d washed my hands.

My Made It Moment – one of what I hope will be many – isn’t really about professional success. It’s about realizing that I’m a lot stronger and braver than I gave myself credit for, and (forgive the cliché), I really can do anything I put my mind to. My imagination has come alive with the idea for a new police procedural series featuring one my most loved characters, Cage Foster, and I’ve been pounding away on the second book in the Lucy Kendall series. I want to write all the time! It’s been a while since I’ve felt that way, and I know it’s because I faced that nasty fear.

Taking that trip has taken my dedication to a whole new level, and I am so excited for the next year.

What are your greatest fears? Do have a fear you’ve conquered?

PS. I had a blood pressure check this week. 117/78. Guess the unknown is truly scary after all.

Born in Indiana and raised in Iowa, Stacy Green earned degrees in journalism and sociology from Drake University. After a successful advertising career, Stacy became a proud stay-at-home mom to her miracle child. Now a full-time author, Stacy juggles her time between her demanding characters and supportive family. She loves reading, cooking, and the occasional gardening excursion. Stacy lives in Marion, Iowa with her husband Rob, their daughter Grace, and the family’s three obnoxious but lovable canine children.

September 9, 2014

Made It Moment: Brandon Daily

Filed under: Made It Moments — jenny @ 10:06 am

A Murder Country

Ack!! We’ve all been here on this writing road, right…? In a position of frustration and uncertainty? The release date of Brandon’s hardcover has been postponed. He will share with us going forward how this leg of his journey goes as he waits for the release. In this age of tumult in publishing, I think we all understand the vagaries of this industry. Or we don’t understand them–but we understand that lack of understanding. What I can promise you is that Brandon’s ongoing story will probably turn out to have more to offer emerging writers out there, while established authors can nod and reflect with him, than if it’d been perfectly smooth. While everyone can also discover a great book the moment it’s available! Good luck, Brandon. Suspense Your Disbelief is rooting for you.


There’s little more exciting than a release day, and I am so happy to help Brandon Daily celebrate his right here on the blog. Especially because Brandon’s Moment has to do with the same links to the past that his debut novel does. What inspires us to sit down and craft a tale? What keeps us sitting before a computer, hour after hour alone, with the end uncertain at best? Brandon remembers the moment the writing bug bit him, and it led in winding, wandering ways to his Moment today.

Brandon Daily

When I was young, maybe eleven or twelve, I was riding home in the backseat of my parents’ car. We were coming home from a camping trip in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. My nose was close to the window and I remember staring out at the darkening sky, looking out to the silhouette of hills and trees. In my mind, I could see a lonely man out there making a campfire—in the light of the fire, he was burying a body. That fictional man was so real to me—I felt I could actually see him, that I knew him somehow. Until then, stories were what other people made up. Not me. But that vision kept playing itself again and again in my mind, and I always wanted to find out who he really was.

I kept that character stored away in my mind, a secret. But it wasn’t until college that I started creatively writing. The more I wrote, the more comfortable I felt with narrative structure, and I began playing around with different forms, different genres. When my first story was accepted for publication in a literary journal, I remember the excitement, the pride . . . and the fear—other people would read my thoughts, know my mind—judge me. But it was such an amazing feeling, and I kept writing and kept submitting my work.

After more of my short stories were accepted for publication, I looked back on the beginnings of a novel I had started years before; it was a story about three men within the Appalachian wilderness, violent men forced to confront themselves and their beliefs. One of the characters in that novel, The Rider, was patterned off the man I’d seen all those years ago in my mind. It had been a big idea, complex and deep—one that had scared me off. But there was something personal there, and I felt like I needed to finish it, not for others, not to be published; instead, I did it for me. I needed to release that shadow man out into the world.

Now, looking over the final edited copy of the book (A Murder Country), which is set to release September 9, I stop and read a paragraph, then another. I am so proud of the story; it is the amalgamation of all my thoughts and dreams and work. I look at The Rider in the book and see in him that shadow man from years ago, but now he is full and he is flesh: the product of my imagination from when I was that young boy driving in a car with his parents, imaging the world in a strange and new way.

Brandon Daily was born and raised in southern California. In 2012, he and his wife moved to central Georgia, where he now teaches high school English and Literature. He holds an M.A. in American Literature and has worked as an adjunct professor and freelance editor.

Brandon’s short fiction has been published in several online and print magazines, and his one act play “South of Salvation” was performed and won first prize in the CAST Players One Act Play Festival in 2012.

A Murder Country (Knox Robinson, 2014) is his first novel, and tells the story of three violent men living in the late nineteenth century; each man is seeking an understanding of his life and his place within the larger realm of the world. The novel is inspired by Brandon’s fascination with the tension between nature and man as well as the power and fragility of belief and conviction within humans.

Brandon is currently working on his second novel and several more short stories.

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