As always, you will also find updates on my own writing journey, which took a thrilling turn as the year ended with a contract for three more novels. You will also find a few photos from the Foster homestead in North Central Pennsylvania.
I hope you enjoy this newsletter. I have decided to publish every other month from now on, so the next issue will arrive in March.
Here's to new years and new beginnings!
Congratulations to Billena Calvachi and Patricia McAlexander, winners of the December drawing!
Billena won a copy of Hollywood Homicide by Kellye Garrett and Patricia won Delivering the Truth by Edith Maxwell.
Meet Emilya Naymark
Emilya Naymark was born in a country that no longer exists, escaped with her parents, lived in Italy for a bit, and ended up in New York, which promptly became a love and a muse. Her debut novel, Hide In Place, will be released February 9, 2021, by Crooked Lane Books.
Her short stories appear in the Harper Collins anthology A Stranger Comes to Town, Secrets in the Water, After Midnight: Tales from the Graveyard Shift, River River Journal, Snowbound: Best New England Crime Stories 2017, and 1+30: THE BEST OF MYSTORY.
She has a degree in fine art, and her artworks have been published in numerous magazines and books.
When not writing, Emilya works as a visual artist and reads massive quantities of psychological thrillers, suspense, and crime fiction. She lives in the Hudson Valley with her family.
About her book
HIde in Place:
She left the NYPD in the firestorm of a high-profile case gone horribly wrong. Three years later, the ghosts of her past roar back to terrifying life.
When NYPD undercover cop Laney Bird’s cover is blown in a racketeering case against the Russian mob, she flees the city with her troubled son, Alfie. Now, three years later, she’s found the perfect haven in Sylvan, a charming town in upstate New York. But then the unthinkable happens: her boy vanishes.
Local law enforcement dismisses the thirteen-year-old as a runaway, but Laney knows better. Alfie would never abandon his special routines and the sanctuary of their home. Could he have been kidnapped–or worse? As a February snowstorm rips through the region, Laney is forced to launch her own investigation, using every trick she learned in her years undercover.
As she digs deeper into the disappearance, Laney learns that Alfie and a friend had been meeting with an older man who himself vanished, but not before leaving a corpse in his garage. With dawning horror, Laney discovers that the man was a confidential informant from a high-profile case she had handled in the past. Although he had never known her real identity, he knows it now. Which means several other enemies do, too. Time is running out, and as Laney’s search for her son grows more desperate, everything depends on how good a detective she really is–badge or no.
A Conversation with Emilya Naymark
Q: For most of your career, you have been a web developer and designer, an illustrator, and an artist. What pulled you toward writing and to fiction, in particular?
Emilya: I always wrote for fun, and reading has been a way of life since I was about eight. Over the years, I took writing workshops and enjoyed them, but I was too busy with my career and living a very social life to settle into writing seriously. After having my son, I barely had time for anything, yet reading continued to be not just a way of life but a necessity.
Eventually, I realized that painting no longer fulfilled my need for creative output, and I had a bit of a crisis/epiphany, emerging on the other side determined to make a go of becoming a professional author.
Not having studied writing or even literature in college, save for a few fringe courses on subjects that interested me, I had to start from zero. However, a lifetime of reading voraciously (obsessively) gave me enough of a jump start so that the first short story I workshopped landed in an anthology. And that gave me enough confidence to keep going.
Q: The main character in Hide in Place, Laney Bird, is an ex-cop and a single mom. What were some of the influences behind her character?
Emilya: This is an easy one. My husband was a detective in the NYPD, and unlike many cops, was happy to share stories of his adventures with me. For the few years he worked undercover. His stories approached a level of crazy an author can only dream of. When it came time to create a character, I realized that in addition to having absorbed cop lingo and internalized certain mindsets and behaviors, I also had a very handy fact-checker at my elbow.
As for making Laney a single mom, there is something about a hero having to face danger alone that makes for the most fraught conflict. Where the hero is young, he or she is often an orphan or is separated from their family. With a hero nearing middle age, being alone is easier to construct, but adding the challenge of responsibility for another human raises the stakes. Besides, is there a more primal fear than losing your child? Other than being responsible for losing your child?
Q: Do you have a favorite scene or character in the novel? Can you tell us about it?
Emilya: Well… yes, but those might be spoilers. I’ll tell you about what was most fun to research (other than the Russian mob, which was a demented level of fun).
One of my characters develops a fire obsession and teaches himself fire breathing. To make sure I got it right, I spent months watching instructional videos and reading fire breathing blogs. Personally, fire scares the bejeesus out of me, so getting into the head of a character who had that kind of bravery was exciting. I learned a lot about fire effects (Cotton balls and lighter fluid, anyone?) and homemade flamethrowers.
Q: Does your own history–your flight from the former Soviet Union, your years in Italy, your journey to the United States, which is now home–influence your writing? If so, how?
Emilya: The central case that my detective works is a racketeering case against the Russian mob. The details of how a racketeering case is built owe a heavy debt to one of my husband’s cases years ago, but deciding to make it Russian and set it in Brighton Beach was all me. Brighton Beach, which is directly next door to Coney Island, is still commonly known as Little Odessa. Throughout my life, I spent summer weekends there, visited the specialty shops to stock up on Russian food, patronized Russian restaurants. I can’t claim I understand the mindset of a Russian mobster—or any mobster—but I understand the culture that makes them.
Q: How do you write? For instance, do you write every day and in the same place, or do you write in bursts where and when you can?
Emilya: I try to write every day. Note the word “try” though. It doesn’t always work out. I have a job and a family, and sometimes it simply doesn’t happen. I do try for something writing related every day, even if it’s beta reading, research, or keeping up with social media.
Q: Is there a second novel in the works? If so, can you tell us about it?
Emilya: There is! Book 2 picks up a year after the end of Hide in Place and follows Laney as she tries to navigate a new career, personal relationships (or lack thereof), a strange case at a youth home, and a spectacularly explosive incident involving her best friend.
On writing and reading ...
Each month, I ask an author for thoughts about writing, reading or the writing life. This month, we are joined by USA Today best-selling author Annette Dashofy. Annette writes the Agatha Award-nominated Zoe Chambers mystery series about a paramedic turned deputy coroner in rural Pennsylvania’s tight-knit Vance Township. Annette is the vice president of the Pittsburgh chapter of Sisters in Crime Chapter and is on the board of directors of Pennwriters. She and her husband live on a farm in Washington County, Pennsylvania with their very spoiled cat, Kensi. Til Death, the tenth in her series was released in June 2020.
Annette offers this advice:
"Thank you, Lori, for having me as a guest.
When I first made the decision to become a professional writer, I had no idea of the amount of rejection that faced me. (This isn’t going to be a depressing post, I promise. Keep reading!)
First came the early critique groups who gave me brutally honest feedback when all I wanted was to be told my writing was brilliant. I thank my lucky for them because my early efforts were anything but brilliant. Frankly, they sucked. Had those early critiquers tried to be kind, I never would have grown and improved.
Second came the agents and editors I queried. Some didn’t reply at all. Others sent form rejections. “Not for us.” Eventually, the rejections got nicer and more encouraging. Some even made me happy. Sort of. They were still rejections, after all.
Eventually, I found a publisher who loved my writing and offered me a contract. Was this an end to the rejections? Hardly. Because then came the reviewers. Although I’ve been nominated for some prestigious awards, those 1-star reviews still knock me for a loop. I can have 100 5-star reviews, but that one 1-star will put me into a funk for days.
There are times when a reader reaches out to me to say thank you. To say my book kept them up all night because they couldn’t put it down. To say they think of my characters as friends. To say my book helped distract them during some rough days. To say that my book helped her mother get through chemotherapy.
Yeah. Just sit with that one a while.
Those are the times the rejections become superfluous and I know I’m doing what I was meant to do.
So when you aspiring authors get flattened by the inevitable rejections, keep going, keep writing. Don’t stop. There’s someone (many someones) out there who need your words in ways you can’t even imagine. "
Happenings on the Foster homestead
The title of my historical crime novel, set in the Adirondacks in the mid 1920s, is Spring Melt. Why? Because spring melt, for me, has always been a symbol of hope and renewal. It is not spring yet, but the temperatures rose above freezing the day I took these photos, and the fullness of our creek bed made me feel at peace and at ease. Full of hope. Spring Melt (the novel) will be released in December of 2022.
What's up with my books?
December was an exciting month!
Not only did the ARCs of A Dead Man's Eyes, arrive, but I signed a contract with my publisher, Level Best Books, for three completed standalone crime novels. The first standalone, Never Let Go, will be released in December of 2021. Never Let Go is a thriller set in the Finger Lakes of New York State. Level Best will release two of my novels per year for a while for a total of six novels in four years. That seems so surreal to me right now.
My focus for the next few months will be on promoting A Dead's Eyes well before its release date of April 13. Many authors hire public relations firms to help them secure reviews, interviews and guest posts on blogs. I am undecided about the value of that. I have already arranged one guest post and one interview on my own and my publisher will send ARCs to some of the most widely read reviewers. Authors don't make a ton of money (I will not be quitting my day job.), so I have to think about the return from a monetary investment in public relations.
For now, I think I am going to go it on my own, but I will keep that door open in case I find I am struggling.
In the meantime, my husband and I (mostly my husband :) ) will be creating a landing page on my website for the book that will include the cover art, blurbs (kind words about the book) from other authors, and pre-order links. I will also be trying to figure out ways to connect with readers during these uncertain times. Many authors have done well with virtual events, but I am hoping (fingers crossed) that I will be able to do some in-person events by the time the book is released. If you have ideas, I welcome them!
In the midst of all that, I will continue working on book three of the Lisa Jamison series. I have struggled with writing during the pandemic, mostly because of the insanity of a full house, but I am learning how to find the time and space I need to create. I am itching to write.
And so I will.
What's up at home?
The year ended in typical 2020 fashion with a hawk crashing through the double-pane bedroom window of my 92-year-old mother-in-law's house. Thankfully, she was already up and our wildlife-savvy son was home. Riley threw a towel over the shocked bird and brought it outside. After a few moments, it flew away, apparently unharmed.
I hope 2020 has left you unharmed and that the new year brings you happiness. Here on the Foster homestead, we are preparing for a return to "normal." Our two oldest will head back to college in the next week or so and the twins will return to their hybrid school schedule. In late February, we will begin tapping trees for maple syrup. I hope to have some photos to share.