Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Guest Blog on Writing Mystery

This week, Larry and I are guest blogging on the Book Connection. We talk about how we got into writing mysteries and how we write them together. Drop by and leave a comment.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Meet Author JL Greger

Today I welcome thriller/mystery writer JL Greger to my blog. Her book is uncannily relevant with the current flu epidemic gripping the country. Here’s a chance to meet the author.

Could you please start by telling us a little about yourself?
I've been a scientist, professor, and expert consultant on science-related projects not only in the US, but also in the Marshall Islands, Beirut, the Philippines, etc. Now I'm a writer, who tries to put bits of science into her novels.

Please tell us a little about your newest release without giving away too much of the plot.
In Coming Flu (published by Oak Tree Press in July 2012) a new flu strain—the Philippine—kills more than two hundred in less than a week in a walled community near the Rio Grande. The rest face a bleak future when quarantine is imposed. One resident, Sara Almquist, a medical epidemiologist, pries into every aspect of her neighbors' lives looking for ways to stop the spread of the flu. She finds promising clues—maybe too many!

Why do you write fiction?
I enjoy being a storyteller, but I also want to make people think about big picture issues (things that bug me in my blog, www.jlgregerblogspot.blog.com). For example, I was appalled when I compared the amount of column space devoted to crime versus the amount of space allotted to science and health issues in my local paper (The Albuquerque Journal). In Coming Flu, I gave readers a chance to assess who was more dangerous: a nice neighbor infected with the Philippine flu virus or a drug dealer.

That’s kind of heavy.
Not really. Coming Flu is filled with interesting people, quirky and yet like your neighbors. Some are funny and a joy to relax with on a hot afternoon; some you’d rather see only briefly at the mailbox. There’s also lots of action.

What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Writing the opening chapter.

How do you come up with ideas for your novels?
As I read weekly scientific journals, like Science, I “clip” interesting articles. Before I start to write a new novel, I review my file, looking for emerging themes.

For example, about 18 months ago, I noticed many scientists were interested in how the millions, actually billions, of microorganisms in our guts influenced our ability to lose weight. I also noted the exaggerated claims of “so-called diet doctors” in the popular press and on TV. I thought maybe dieters, which include most of us at times, would enjoy a murder mystery, involving scientists studying weight loss. Oak Tree Press will publish Murder: A New Way to Lose Weight in April.

Will any of the characters in Coming Flu appear in your next novel?
Yes. I envision at least three books in this series.

Sara Almquist, an epidemiologist, is the protagonist in Coming Flu and her sister Linda, a physician, is a minor character. In Murder: A New Way to Lose Weight the roles are reversed. The personalities of the sisters set the tones of the novels. Linda is more introspective, i.e. more suited to a mystery. Sara is more of a risk-taker, i.e. suited to a thriller.

What are you working on now?
The next novel in the series. Sara, as an epidemiologist, will accept an assignment in Bolivia. And yes, I have traveled across the Altiplano from Lake Titicaca to La Paz in Bolivia.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Travel and spend time with my dog Bug. Unfortunately, Bug can’t go with me to exotic locations.

Coming Flu is available at Amazon http://www.amazon.com/Coming-Flu-J-L-Greger/dp/1610090985?

Author’s Bio
JL Greger has been a scientist, professor, textbook writer, and university administrator and is not a writer. Coming Fu, a medical thriller, was published in July 2012. The sequel, a medical mystery called Murder: A New Way to Lose Weight will be published in April 2013. The inspiration for the Japanese Chin Bug in Coming Flu is her real dog, Bug. She and Bug live in the American Southwest.

Monday, January 7, 2013


That’s my new word: Abide. It came at me from all directions. Some of your might know that “Be Still” has haunted me for years. (Read about the beginning of the story on our website http://lornalarry.com/pdf/Be_Still.pdf.)

At first it felt like a 2x4 across the head reminding me that I wasn’t in charge and really had no control over much of what happened to me. The last onslaught of “Be Still” was when I went to visit daughter Kim in Texas for a long weekend to attend a women’s retreat. It came at me from ALL directions—spoken, through music, and through people I met there. But this time, instead of feeling like a hammer blow, it felt more like confirmation that I was actually doing it and had been for some time. It still appears on occasion as a soothing affirmation.

Now it’s “Abide.” The dictionary defines it as follows:
  1. to remain; continue; stay
  2. to have one's abode; dwell; reside
  3. to continue in a particular condition, attitude, relationship, etc.; last.

I think the message for me was to continue to be still and trust that the very best would happen, regardless of the current “reality.”

So on the first day of my unemployment in 2009, I followed that old philosophy “begin as you wish to end.” I had put off exercising and getting in better shape. I’d made lots of excuses: I was too stressed, I didn’t have time, etc.

So the first order of business was to begin a serious attempt at getting healthy. I was committed to improving not only my health but also my outlook. I’d felt sluggish which only exaggerated the mild depression I’d felt ever since the announcement of the failure of my former employer several months previously.

Next was a trip to the marina for a walk. When she lived here in California, Kim and I had done this every Saturday morning. It was our time to talk and at the same time enjoy this beautiful place we live. I’d rarely done it since she moved to Texas. That activity belonged to the two of us. But now it was time to own it for myself.
That morning was gray and overcast with just a hint of mist. Perfect walking weather. I plugged my headphones into my iPod, and strode out, listening to my favorite music. I had nearly 8000 “favorites” loaded on the iPod. (Closer to 10,000 today.) The day’s random selection included religious, classical, soft rock, a show tune, new age—just what I needed.

I started at the coffee place and headed toward the Ocean Institute. Once there, I sat on a bench and enjoyed the antics of a baby sea lion on one of the rocks. Then I started back. The “Spirit of Dana Point” was crowded with a group of school-age kids and another group was waiting to board the “Pilgrim.” I was reminded how very lucky we are to have these magnificent tall ships in our harbor.

As I passed Baby Beach, an elegant great blue heron stood in the water, head stretched high as if he were posing just for me. Then he began to walk in the shallow water, ripples moving out as he stepped, his beak occasionally bobbing for morsels under the surface. Abiding.

Throughout the morning, I repeated the mantra Kim and I always said at some point during our walks together: “People spend lots of money to enjoy this place, and we get to live here!”

I still enjoy walking at the marina. On a recent morning, Larry and I took a long walk until it began to drizzle. We enjoyed lunch at What A Dish, our favorite breakfast and lunch place. Abiding.

I found over time that I missed having company on my walks, so since I retired last year, I’ve been taking a two-mile one each weekday morning with several friends. Not only is it good discipline, but I have a chance to catch up with what’s happening with each of them. Abiding.

I did a contract last year and had no time to walk with my friends in the mornings or at the marina. Since I've gotten back to it, I feel blessed beyond measure. God’s still in charge, so I don’t have to be. Each day is truly a gift, and I treasure every one.

Today is your gift as well. So be blessed, and abide in it.