Monday, November 29, 2010

Interview with Untreed Reads Author Lesley A. Diehl

This week's author interview is with Lesley A. Diehl, a mystery author that hails from both New York and Florida (although not at the same time).  Her recently published book, A Deadly Draught, is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Indiebound.  More recently, her story, "Murder with All the Trimmings" was published by Untreed Reads as a part of the Thanksgiving Mystery Anthology, The Killer Wore Cranberry.  Please welcome to The Accidental Author, Lesley A. Diehl.

The Accidental Author:  First of all, I would like to thank you for taking the time to answer some questions for the blog.  Okay, now on with the interrogation.  I see from your website that you were a professor of psychology.  How do you feel that your previous career helped you in your writing? 

Lesley Diehl:  I was a lifespan or developmental psychologist, so I always write about the journey of life taken by my protagonist.  The reader gets to see part of that journey, and it is all about change.  I’ve always said murder is merely a catalyst in my work, a horrible event that propels the heroine to do something she might have done at another time in her life, but murder forces her to undertake that now.  In my newest book Dumpster Dying, Emily Rhodes is a retired preschool teacher, tiny in stature, dependent in personality, but she finds herself when she sets out to help her friend who is accused of murder.  This event comes together with another life changer—the death of her life-partner and loss of her retirement income.

AA:  Have you taken courses for creative writing, or is it something for which you have a natural talent?

LD:  I always liked to write, and I was encouraged by teachers in high school and college, but I went into psychology where my writing underwent a dramatic change from creative to scientific.  When I returned to fiction many years later, I had to reteach myself to write creatively.  I did so by reading, joining professional writers’ groups as well as writing and critique groups.

AA:  Your short story, “Murder with All the Trimmings”, available from Untreed Reads, is a traditional mystery story with some decidedly non-traditional characters.  What was your inspiration for this tale? 

LD:  When one of my oldest friends read the story, she said, quite correctly, that it was a story about my aunt.  My favorite aunt is the woman, Aunt Nozzie, in that story.  She was such a character, that, as anyone’s aunt, she would inspire a story.

AA:  In “Murder with All the Trimmings”, the menu for the meal was decidedly outside of the mainstream.  Having had a great deal of experience with Spam myself, I have to ask:  do you personally enjoy Spam?  If so, how do you like it prepared

LD:  I’m not crazy about Spam, but, having said that, let me add that I can and will eat about anything when I think I’m hungry.  I was raised by parents who experienced the depression and taught to eat what was on my plate, so I always think I’m hungry!

AA:  This is a bit of a “chicken or the egg” question, but when you are starting out a story, do you have a tendency to focus primarily on character development or plot? 

LD:  Both.  I seem to get an idea for a character along with the plot.  As I ripen the plot, the character seems to emerge clearly as well.

AA:  About revising and rewriting, have you joined any writing communities online like Zoetrope or Critique Circle?  If so, how valuable have you found them to be?

LD:  I belong to several online groups such as SINC (Sisters in Crime Internet Group) and the Guppies subgroup.  I’ve used them to exchange full manuscripts with another writer or to join one of their groups critiquing a first chapter or chapters.

AA:  Do you let other people (family, friends, co-workers) read your writing for input?  If so, how valuable do you find that input?

LD:  I have a critique partner.  She and I have exchanged work for the past four years, either when I’m in Florida (she lives in Okeechobee) or through the internet when I go back to upstate New York.  She and I cofounded the Okeechobee Writers league.

AA:  Most people who write also have an insatiable appetite for reading.  Is this the case with you?  Do you like to read the same kind of stories that you enjoy writing?  What book(s) are you reading right now? 

LD:  Right now I’m reading Dennis Lehane’s Moonlight Mile.  I just finished Janet Evanovich’s newest.  Burn by Nevada Barr is sitting on my desk and I’m working my way through John Sanford’s books.  I read almost nothing but mysteries although I have a friend who gifts me what she considers “good” literature in an attempt to give me some culture.  I prefer mysteries because I don’t have the patience for stories that don’t move quickly.  I have a lot of reading I want to do, so an author better grab me immediately.

AA:  You seem to have a great love for beer, especially microbrews.  In fact, I see that your novel “A Deadly Draught” centers on the microbrewery community.  Would you say that beer is one of your muses? 

LD:  I have gained great respect for microbrews as I’ve come to learn about them and have gotten to know several brewers well.  I have two muses, however, as I explained on Monday’s Dames of Dialogue.  When I’m in New York, my muse is the ghost who inhabits my 1874 cottage.  I don’t believe in ghosts, but I do believe in Fred who likes to play jokes on me.  My muse in Florida during my winter stay is the alligator who lives in the canal behind my house.

AA:  Speaking of “A Deadly Draught”, this is a traditional paper book.  Now that you have published with Untreed Reads, do you foresee yourself focusing on digital publishing more? 

LD:  I think a writer today would have to be made of concrete not to consider digital publishing.  I’m hoping to send Jay Hartman a book length manuscript as a holiday gift—maybe he’ll publish it!

AA:  If you don’t mind my asking, what types of projects are you currently working on?

LD:  I’m over halfway through my second mystery with Hera Knightsbridge, my microbrewer.  I’m polishing the manuscript for Jay Hartman about a writer whose house is invaded by guardian angels.  I’ve finished a manuscript set in Florida featuring a Yankee who owns a consignment shop catering to the wealthy who were taken by Madoff.  Of course, she discovers one of the matrons dead in her dressing room.  On a more serious note, I’m trying to get back to a manuscript I began several years ago.  It is set in upstate New York.  The protagonist is the mayor of a small village and the owner of an auction house.  Her husband has died and a man from her past reenters her life as a biologist hired to help the community understand coyotes whom they’re convinced are killing their sheep and calves as well as pets.

AA:  If you had one morsel of advice for the aspiring writer out there thinking about transitioning from “writing for fun” to “writing for fun AND profit”, what would that be? 

LD:  Write, write, write.  Get yourself into a good writing group.  Join professional writers’ groups such as Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime.  Go to writers conferences and attend their panels.

Lesley A. Diehl retired from her life as a professor of psychology and reclaimed her country roots by moving to a small cottage in Morris, New York.  In the winter she migrates to old Florida—cowboys, scrub palmetto, and open fields of grazing cattle, a place where spurs still jingle in the post office.  Back north, she devotes her afternoons to writing and, when the sun sets, relaxing on the bank of her trout stream, sipping tea or a local microbrew.

Check out her website HERE and her Blog HERE

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Some News and Upcoming Interview!

First of all, I just want to let everyone know that "Una Boda de Verano", the Spanish Language version of "A Summer Wedding" has hit the "eBooks en Espanol" bestseller list at Barnes and Noble.  It is currently #40 (out of about 1100 titles).  I'm absolutely thrilled!

Also, "5" is hanging around #23 on the eBook Short Story Bestseller List at  With "A Summer Wedding" at #10, I'm hoping that I can have two titles in the Top 20 this week.

Finally, this week, I will be posting an interview with fellow Untreed Reads author, Lesley Diehl, whose story "Murder with All the Trimmings" is available as a stand-alone story or as a part of the Thanksgiving-themed mystery anthology, "The Killer Wore Cranberry".

Stay tunned!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Untreed Reads Black Friday Sale

Untreed Reads is having a Black Friday Sale:

25% off all short stories!

30% off all novelettes/novellas!

40% off all full-length works!

Access the Untreed Reads Store here!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving! Here's some exciting updates...

First of all, "A Summer Wedding" is still holding strong at, but look comes "5".  It has now moved up to the #28 on the eBook Short Story Bestseller List.

But, I have some new and exciting stuff to report.  The Spanish Language version of "A Summer Wedding", titled "Una Boda de Verano" is currently at #37 on the Barnes & Noble "eBooks en Espanol" bestseller list for fiction.  This is especially exciting as this is the first title for Untreed Reads that has been translated into Spanish.  So glad that it is doing so well!

I hope all of you have a wonderful Thanksgiving...and stay author interview with Lesley Diehl is coming up next week!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Interview with Untreed Reads Author: Benson Phillip Lott

This week's guest spot on The Accidental Author is an Interview with Benson Phillip Lott, author of "Pumpkin", a horror short story available through Untreed Reads.  In this interview, he speaks about his writing process, the steps to publishing "Pumpkin", the importance of a relationship with a publisher, and some hints at future works.

Please welcome to the digital podium:  Benson Lott.

The Accidental Author:  What do you find to be your primary motivation for writing?

Benson Lott:  Before I answer that, let me just say that I’m very excited and grateful to have this opportunity. So thank you. As far as my motivation goes I have two main objectives: to get the ideas out of my head so I don’t go crazy and second to entertain people. I love telling stories.

AA:  Is writing something you do in your “down time” or is it a career aspiration?  If it is something you do in your “down time”, what is your “day job”?

BL:  Right now, I’m pretty lucky. I can write every day for as long as I please. I do have a part time job (working for a moving company), but mostly, my days are spent in Microsoft Word, typing away. This is by no means “just a hobby.” Writing is my life. I am extremely dedicated.

AA:  Did you go to school for creative writing, or is it something for which you have a natural talent?

BL:  I was born into a family of writers. I did not go to school for it. Or, let me put it another way. When I was in school, while everyone else was listening to the teacher talk, I was in the back of the class writing screenplays and short stories. I even created a comic book series called “Life Sucks”, most of which I wrote in detention for being late or not participating in class. Traditional schooling just wasn’t my path.

AA:  Your short story, “Pumpkin”, available from Untreed Reads, is what I would call a paranoid horror story.  What was your inspiration for this tale?

BL:  Mostly my own experience with self-deception/insecurity. The interaction between the main character, Raymond, and the pumpkin is quite similar to how I inwardly converse with myself at times. Everyone has that negative voice that tells them things about ourselves and others that may or may not be true. I just amplified it and gave the voice a face…sort of.

AA:  In terms of your writing process, are you more character-centric or plot-centric?  In other words, do you think of interesting characters and then write situations around them, or do you think of interesting plots, and write characters INTO them?

BL:  Some of my stories are definitely more focused on the plot. I always try to insert interesting characters, but when it comes to writing horror my main concern revolves around the structure and pace. However, that may change as I progress, who knows?

AA:  Describe your journey to the publication of “Pumpkin”.

BL:  “Pumpkin” is flash fiction. My whole purpose for writing it was to see if I could pull off writing a story in two thousands words or less. The first draft took me about forty-five minutes. I submitted the same day to five different places. Untreed Reads was the first to respond (about four days later). The other responses said they liked the idea, but had complaints about its edgy material. Jay Hartman [of Untreed Reads] was, and still is, great. He had some issues with the first draft as well, but in his case, I agreed with what needed to be changed. He’s been superb in assisting me with promoting the story and I hope to work with him again on a different project soon.

AA:  About revising and rewriting: 
  • Have you joined any writing communities online like Zoetrope or Critique Circle?  If so, how valuable have you found them to be? 
  • Do you let other people (family, friends, co-workers) read your writing for input?  If so, how valuable do you find that input?
      BL:  I have a small circle of friends and family members with whom I share my stories. Their input is vital. What’s most important is that they’re honest with me. I do not belong to any writing communities but that doesn’t mean I don’t recommend them.

      AA:  How important is it to you to have an ongoing relationship with a publisher like Untreed Reads?  Will you be publishing more stories with them?

      BL:  I’ve already written a sequel to "Pumpkin". If Untreed Reads wants it, they are certainly welcome to have it. I’ve been emailing with Jay at least once a week for over a month and a half. I think it’s important to maintain a relationship with a publisher. Christopher Payne, who selected one of my short stories to be part of his anthology, is now a friend of mine on Goodreads. It’s great to know these types of people (authors, editors, publishers alike). And that includes you as well, my friend.

      AA:  Most people who write also have an insatiable appetite for reading.  Is this the case with you?  Do you like to read the same kind of stories that you enjoy writing?

      BL:  I read just as much, if not more, than I write. And yes, I love horror writers, although my personal favorite is Bret Easton Ellis, who is an enormous inspiration for me. I’m currently reading Lunar Park for what must be the fifth or sixth time.

      AA:  Do you prefer writing short stories, or do you aspire to longer works?

      BL:  I have so many ideas that to write them all as novels would require that I become someone like Stephen King (seriously, that man defies all logic when it comes to producing these 900 page novels in what seems like a matter of months). However, I have written two full-length manuscripts and I see myself gradually progressing toward a third. I’ve started with short stories in order to build my publishing credentials faster.

      AA:  Some people derive a great deal of inspiration from music, while others find inspiration by observing friends, family or complete strangers.  Others have inspiration that arises from their dreams and nightmares.  What is your muse?

      BL:  All of that and more. Ideas hit me all the time, stemming from the most random of places (or people or situations). It’s kind of overwhelming actually.

      AA:  If you don’t mind my asking, what types of projects are you currently working on?

      BL:  Aside from the sequel to "Pumpkin", my first novel is being reviewed by several literary agencies. And as far as what I’m actually writing at this exact moment: I’ve been rewriting a short story from my back of the class/high school days. Yes, it’s a horror. It’s called “Breath of the Midnight Jogger.” I hope to have it finished by the end of the month. Then it’s right on to the next one.

      AA:  If you had one morsel of advice for the aspiring writer out there thinking about transitioning from “writing for fun” to “writing for fun AND profit”, what would that be?

      BL:  Write. Query. Submit. Write. Query. Submit. Write. Query. Submit. Start at any level you want (non-pay, semi pro, pro). If you’re good enough, (or marketable enough) the right person will find you. Or more likely, you’ll find them.

      Born thirty years ago in Fairbanks, Alaska, Benson Phillip Lott now lives and works in San Rafael, California. His fiction has appeared in Untreed Reads horror/flash fiction line (October 2010), JournalStone's 2010 Anthology "Warped Words For Twisted Minds", Static Movement (April issue of 2009) and his poetry has been published in The Twin Cities Times (2003).

      Sunday, November 21, 2010

      Coming soon: Interview with Benson Lott

      Just a heads-up...I will be posting my interview with Benson Lott, author of "Pumpkin" on Tuesday, November 23.

      Spread the word and watch for this fun and insightful interview.

      Friday, November 19, 2010

      My New Story, "The Annex", has been released! (and some other tidbits)

      Hey everyone!  I hate to bump Neil's fabulous guest-blog from the top of the heap, but I have to do a little shameless self-promotion.

      My latest work of fiction, and my longest short-story to date (weighing in at 16+ pages), "The Annex", has been released by Untreed Reads.  It is an office "dramedy"!

      Quick, everyone go check it out for the low-low price of $1.99 at the Untreed Reads Store.

      A couple of other items I would like to report.

      #1:  "A Summer Wedding" still continues to do very well in the UK.  It is currently at #9 on the eBook Short Story Bestseller List, and is #112 on the eBook General Fiction Bestseller List.  I'm happy with that.

      #2:  "5" has really started to pick up in the UK.  It recently jumped from around #200 to #38 on the eBook Short Story Bestseller List.  This means one of two things to me.  Either people are discovering "5" entirely independently of "A Summer Wedding", or they liked "A Summer Wedding" enough to give "5" a try.  I sincerely hope it is the latter.

      #3:  "Una boda de verano", the Spanish Language version of "A Summer Wedding" has been released globally.  I am really interested to see how well this does overseas.  It has already made some sales in the US and UK.

      Stay tuned, everyone.  On Tuesday, November 23, 2010, I will be posting an interview with Benson Lott, author of "Pumpkin", available from Untreed Reads.  It's gonna be GREAT!

      Monday, November 15, 2010

      Guest Blog from Neil Plakcy: The Importance of Networking

      Our first guest blog comes from Neil Plakcy, a fellow author at Untreed Reads publishing.  He writes about his experience publishing one of his short stories, "At the Diner" and the importance of networking to the overall publishing process.  I hope you find this as enlightening as I have.


      Way back in 2002, I wrote a story called “At the Diner,” about a young guy named Jerry who came out of the closet to his mother shortly before she died. That act estranged him from his father, and they didn’t talk again until his father showed up one day at the diner where Jerry worked.

      I set the story in Albany, New York, where I had lived for a while, because I wanted a wintry setting to mirror the emotional coldness between father and son. I put in the stubbornness that had characterized my own relationship with my father, and I revised and polished the story until I thought it was the best it could be.

      As one did back then, I opened up my copy of The Writer’s Market and started looking for places to submit. I got lucky, and in January of 2003 the story was accepted by a small GLBT magazine called In the Family. I got paid $35 and a copy of the magazine. And I thought that was that.

      Fast forward to May, 2010. I belong to a Yahoo group called Gaywritersreaders, moderated by the great mystery writer Dorien Grey. One of the other members is Jay Hartman, who had started an e-publishing company called Untreed Reads. That month, he posted a call for stories -- he hoped to publish one GLBT-related story every day for all of June.

      I saw that call a couple of times before I finally sat down and thought about it. The only story I could send was “At the Diner,” so I emailed Jay to ask if he was willing to consider something that had been previously published, and he agreed.

      I sent him the story, and he wrote back, “When I put out the call for non-erotic LGBT fiction for June, I really wasn't prepared for some of the absolutely amazing, thoughtful and sometimes heart-wrenching works that would come through my email. Your story pretty much encompasses all of those things and more. I would VERY much like to publish this as part of our Pride Month celebration.”

      Wow! Who wouldn’t love an acceptance letter like that? For my part, I was thrilled to have a story published by a press that had taken off the ground fast. I’d been reading Jay’s posts to the Yahoo group for years-- when he was a reader who loved GLBT fiction, and then when he began sharing his experience as a publisher.

      You might say that I was lucky-- I was in the right place (the Yahoo group) at the right time (as Jay was launching Untreed Reads). And you’d be right. But I believe writers can make their own luck. The internet allows us all to connect with each other-- readers and writers and editors and publishers. Aspiring writers need to recognize that it’s not enough to sit at your computer and write the best work you can-- you have to get it out there.

      Based on Jay’s response to my story and its father-son theme, I sent him a novel, The Outhouse Gang, which also has to do with fathers and sons. That book was just published. And it all began with a single story I sent out in response to a request I saw online.


      Neil Plakcy’s newest release is the novel The Outhouse Gang, a story of fathers and sons from Untreed Reads.

      He is the author of the Aidan and Liam bodyguard adventure series, Three Wrong Turns in the Desert and Dancing with the Tide.

      His other books are Mahu, Mahu Surfer, Mahu Fire, Mahu Vice, and Mahu Men, about openly gay Honolulu homicide detective Kimo Kanapa’aka,, and In Dog We Trust, a golden retriever mystery.
      He edited Paws & Reflect: A Special Bond Between Man and Dog and the gay erotic anthologies Hard Hats, Surfer Boys and Skater Boys (2010).

      Plakcy is a journalist and book reviewer as well as an assistant professor of English at Broward College’s south campus in Pembroke Pines. He is vice president of the Florida chapter of Mystery Writers of America, and a frequent contributor to gay anthologies. 

      You can purchase Neil's titles from Untreed Reads at the Untreed Reads online store.

      You can also visit Neil's website at

      Saturday, November 13, 2010

      Bestseller List Updates - 11/13/2010

      Hey, everyone.  I realize it has been a while since I posted a Bestseller List update, so here goes:

      "A Summer Wedding" is still hanging in there at #7 on the eBook Short Story Bestseller List, and is sitting at #109 on the eBook Fiction Bestseller List (out of 16,000+).
      "5" seems to be lingering near the back of the pack around #350 on the eBook Short Story Bestseller List.

      WH Smith:

      "A Summer Wedding":  the ePUB version is rounding out the Top 50 on the eBook Short Story Bestseller List, and the PDF version is just a ways back at #69.
      "5"  still hasn't cracked the top 100, but we'll give it some time.

      Two pieces of exciting news

      All right, so I have some truly exciting news on two fronts.

      First, shameless self-promotion:  "The Annex", my first full-length short story will be published by Untreed Reads later this month.  It has moved from revision/editing to proofreading.  Expect to see it before the end of November.

      Second, I am going to be posting a series of interviews and guest blogs over the next couple of months.  The interviewees/guest bloggers will be fellow authors at Untreed Reads, and we will be discussing all sorts of aspects of writing and publishing.  So, those of you who are reading this in order to learn something about the process of publishing, stay tuned!

      I promise you won't regret it.

      Thursday, November 4, 2010

      Update on "5" in the UK

      Well, my short story "5" has moved up to #124 on the eBook short story bestseller list.  Maybe it will cozy up to the top 10, where it can keep "A Summer Wedding" company.

      Fingers crossed...