This month's newsletter features John Hoda, a retired investigator who now writes thrillers and nonfiction books, and hosts an awesome podcast. Read my interview with John and learn more about my own publishing journey in this issue. Look for my standalone thrillerNEVER LET GO in your favorite bookstore December 20.
A DEAD MAN'S EYES is a Shamus Award finalist!
I was sleep-deprived (teen boys nearing the end of the school year)
Thursday morning when I sat down to check my messages and emails. So it
didn’t sink in when I first saw the message from friend and mystery
author Bruce Coffin congratulating me as a Shamus Award finalist.
The realization took the breath right out of me. I was not expecting
this. Not at all. I became a cliché. I punched my fist in the air. I did
a little dance. I stifled a giddy scream because my college-student
daughter was still asleep.
I am thrilled, honored, humbled, you name it, to be selected as a
finalist and to be in the company of so many amazing writers. (Click here
for a full list of finalists.) The awards honor novels and short
stories published in 2021 that feature as a main character “… a person
PAID for investigative work but NOT employed for that work by a unit of
That includes journalists like my main character Lisa Jamison.
Winners will be announced in August, according to the website.
Winning would be nice, but I am honored just to be a finalist. A DEAD
MAN’S EYES is the first in my Lisa Jamison Mystery Series. NEVER BROKEN, book 2, was released in April and NO TIME TO BREATHE, book 3, releases from Level Best Books in April of 2023. My first thriller, NEVER LET GO, releases in December.
A DEAD MAN’S EYES was also a nominee for an Agatha Award in the Best First Novel category.
What a great year this has been!
NEVER BROKEN, book 2 in the Lisa Jamison Mystery Series, is now available! Order Here!
If you read and enjoyedmy books,please consider clicking on a rating or leaving a review on your favorite website, such as Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble or Book Bub. Reviews are important to newbies like me, who are also published by small presses. We greatly appreciate them.
A DEAD MAN'S EYES, book 1 in the Lisa Jamison mystery series and an AGATHA AWARD nominee, is available through any of these links or from your favorite book store.
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org signed copies of any of my books. Signed copies make great gifts for book lovers!
John A. Hoda is a crime fiction writer, business coach for private investigators and podcaster of My Favorite Detective Stories. John has written the six-book FBI agent Marsha O’Shea police procedural series about a badass female agent trying to get her mojo back. He has written four how 2 books on the business side of private investigations and coaches private eyes at
www.ThePICoach.com. The podcast is heard in 79 countries with over 50,000 downloads. He interviews best-selling and award winning authors about what make their flawed fictional detectives tick. John is a licensed private investigator and has owned his own firm for 25 years. He is a former insurance fraud investigator, and police officer. John graduated from Indiana Univ. of Pa with a degree in Criminology.
John is set to release his Gwendolyn Strong small town cozy mystery series in the fall of 2022.
Twenty years ago, Sandra Jenkins, a law student in New Haven, CT, was brutally murdered. Her alleged killers were quickly apprehended. Case closed. End of Story. That is until new evidence exonerates them and a new investigation is begun, but not by the cops. An investigative journalist turned podcaster is looking to make headlines and is burning up social media. FBI agent Marsha O'Shea is working the case quietly as a special project for the FBI Deputy Director. As they get closer to the truth, bodies start to drop. Will Marsha find the killer before she becomes the next target?
This police procedural is the fifth book in the series where Agent O'Shea must work outside of normal channels and she puts together a diverse team to solve the case. In real life, podcasters are using social media to bring much light and heat onto cold cases with some excellent results.
Q: You have been a police officer, an insurance fraud investigator and a private investigator. Now you write novels that feature investigators. What attracted you to investigations as a career to begin with?
John: I worked as a gas pump jockey in high school at the gas station where my local police department gassed up. I would talk with the officers and listen as calls came across their radio. They would peel out of the lot, using their lights and sirens, with me standing there with my squeegee dripping. I was hooked. I came home one night and told my parents I wanted to go to college to study criminology. I graduated from an in-state college and got a job on the same department. After a couple years of low-pay, nights, weekends and holidays, I took a job as an insurance investigator and that is when my desire to be the best investigator really took over. I dedicated 40 years to the craft of investigation and investigative interviewing.
Q: You have several books (fiction and nonfiction) that released over the past four years. Are you a prolific writer or were some of those books already written when you decided to publish?
John: With the exception of my first novel where I answered the muse and published in 2013, the remaining eleven books were all written and published between the end of 2017 and the fall of 2021. I worked on a three-months-per-book drafting schedule. I wrote one day a week and both days of the weekend. I would self-edit at night before turning them over to content editors, copyeditors and multiple proofreaders. All the covers are professionally designed. I credit the speed and efficiently to taking the time to develop detailed outlines, so when it came time to create, I had a running start. I tell people that the mindset around prolific writing is that you make time for your writing and that you don’t ‘find’ time for it. I am pretty draconian about my schedule.
Q: What fuels your fiction most: your time as a police officer or your time as a private investigator?
John: Even though I was a uniformed officer for only two and half years, it was formative in my outlook towards investigating. Since 2005, I have been involved in several high-profile murder investigations as a criminal defense investigator and that led me to work with wrongful conviction exoneration cases. I have looked at policing and criminal investigations from both sides of the aisle. I was also a reader of Lawrence Block’s Matthew Scudder series, Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch series and Laura Lippman’s Tess Monaghan series so I always had a great crime novel on my coffee table or nightstand. I am a hybrid between real life experience and reading those greats. I can’t forget Joseph Wambaugh whom I had on my podcast
Q: FBI Agent Marsha O’Shea, protagonist of your series by the same name, first appears in your debut novel Phantasy Baseball: It’s About a Second Chance. Can you tell us more about that decision and about her evolution?
John: Good eyes. Yes, Marsha O’Shea was the protagonist’s love interest in my first novel. When I decided to write my debut crime thriller with a mystery twist, Odessa on the Delaware, that protagonist, Joe, plays a cameo and I also brought forward a newspaper reporter with Marsha O’Shea and started asking “what if” questions. That is how the story developed. Marsha comes from a cop family and is a female field agent in the male hierarchy of the FBI. A student scholar athlete, she is very competitive, but as 9/11 turned the Bureau from the alpha crime-fighting federal law enforcement agency to the domestic intelligence gathering arm of Homeland Security, she found herself counting her days to retirement on a back-water organized-crime squad. Then a shooting war with all the crime families in Philly starts and she realizes this is a chance to get her mojo back. The remaining books in the series follow her growth as a top-gun investigator with a lot of bumps along the way. She and Joe heat things too. I won’t spoil the ending.
Q: Why did you choose self-publishing over traditional publishing? Any advice for those struggling with that decision?
John: When I decided to write my first novel, I came to that fork in the road. I read J.A. Konrath’s tome: The Newbies Guide to Publishing. It sold me on the indie path from jump street. Why on God’s green earth would I give up publishing rights, over 82% of my royalties and so much control over how my book would look and when it would be published? As an entrepreneur, I was not afraid of publishing and marketing, so the decision for me was a no-brainer.
I gave a traditional author advice who asked me this question after a podcast just this past week. I said that the publishing and marketing steps can be broken down into smaller steps and you can plan to take one step at a time. I took Joanna Penn’s How to Market a Book and treated it like a college text. Then I took a blank white board and started filling it with different colored sticky notes for writing, publishing, marketing and website development and I ordered the sticky notes of tasks in a step-by-step fashion. When I was not writing the best damn books I could, I worked the steps. I listened to her podcast and the Self Publishing Show by Mark Dawson and James Blatch and the Sell More Book Show by Brian Cohen and H. Claire Taylor. I learned what I didn’t know and I am still learning. I would never consider the trad route and would tell wannabe authors to not to get overwhelmed with the prospect of publishing and marketing your books. You do it one step at a time.
Q: You enjoy acting as well. Can you tell us more about that?
John: I am fortunate to attend a church in New Haven with one of the few scripture-centered acting troupes in the country. I am taught how to act by the same director who taught Paul Giamatti. I gradually took on more difficult roles over the years and just love working with a cast to bring a play to life. We do a couple plays a year and it is fun.
Q: What are you working on now?
John: Upskilling my writing. I moderate a study group using Donald Maass’s The Emotional Craft of Fiction and hope to be accepted to a critique group which focuses on one deep-dive critique a week on just one writer’s work. Both are very powerful. I want to be a better writer and find that self-study doesn’t do it for me. Group accountability is the key for my growth.
I am also working on my Milford Series of Gwendolyn Strong Small Town Cozy Mysteries. I am enamored with the immediacy of the first person present POV in cozies and was a big fan of Agatha Christie, A Conan Doyle and Dorothy Sayers. I hope to release all four books, so far, in the fall. I am commissioning covers as we speak.
I still have one Wrongful Conviction Exoneration case on my desk and won’t quit until all the appeals are exhausted.
This is where you will find me virtually and in person!
(For the always-updated website version, click here.)
News and Events
June 11, Local Author Day, The Windmill Farm & Craft Market, 3900 NY-14A, Penn Yan, NY, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. This is a new event for The Windmill, which is host to over 175 indoor and outdoor shops filled with hand crafted items too numerous to count on Saturday and Sundays from April through November. It’s a awesome venue and I am thrilled to take part in this. I will selling and signing books with lots of other authors from the area.
June 13, Rough Draft Bar & Books, 82 John Street | Kingston, NY 12401, 6 to 8 p.m. Beer,
wine, coffee and books! What could be better? I will among several
authors selling and signing books at this event. The building itself,
made of stone and located at Kingston’s historic four corners, is worth
checking out. They have awesome pastries and pies, too. Come by and say,
July 23,Dansville Mural Festival, Main Street, Dansville, NY., Noon to 6 p.m.
I will be selling and signing books at this fantastic new event! Come
celebrate the arts in downtown Dansville as teh committee dedicates the
Dansville wall mural, which will be created in the weeks leading up to
the festival on the north wall of Caffe Tazza. The festival includes
free art experiences for all ages, vendors, food, fun and more. 5 pm
mural dedication. Evening live band and beer and wine from Caffe Tazza
and Battle Street Brewery.
August 6,Frosty Hollow Festival, Frosty Hollow Bed & Breakfast, 1077 Cherry Springs Road, Coudersport, PA., 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.So
many people have talked about this annual event that I just had to join
in. You’ll find vendors spread across the property, great deals, fresh
garlic and delicious wood fired pizza. I am told it is a blast and is
well-attended by vendors and patrons. I will be selling and signing
books while slipping off to grab some of that wood-fired pizza!
September 8 – 11, Bouchercon World Mystery Convention, Hilton Minneapolis, 1001 Marquette Ave. S., Minneapolis, MN.
Bouchercon is an annual convention of creators and devotees of mystery
and detective fiction. This will be the first in-person Bouchercon since
Covid and I cannot wait! I hope to see you there!
I have counted five frogs in our garden pond so far by watching them plop into the water from the rocks when I step closer. The birds are getting harder to find with all the foliage, but this little guy was willing to pose for a bit.
What's up with my books?
With NEVER LET GO in the hands of my editor, it's time to get back to NO TIME TO BREATHE, book three in the Lisa Jamison Mystery Series. I am so close to completion at 62,000 words, yet so far away. I need to immerse myself in the manuscript again to get things rolling. My goal is to have it in the hands of beta readers by the beginning of August. The manuscript is not due until October, but I need time to make changes and to do any required edits of NEVER LET GO.
When I submit that manuscript, I will have fulfilled my first three-book contract with Level Best Books. Has it been that long already? The time has flown. I still have a contract for the three standalones, so they won't be rid of me that easily. Plus, I feel the seeds for book four of the series germinating in my brain. Book four might take me a while to write though because my baby, the first novel I ever wrote, will be published by Level Best in 2023 and it needs lots of my attention.
I spent six years researching and writing SPRING MELT, an historical courtroom drama set it the Adirondack Mountains in the mid-1920s, and it shows. The second half is faster-paced than the first half. I need to meld that pacing a bit and it won't be easy. Courtroom scenes are fast-paced by nature and that is the reason for the pacing discrepancy. I will be studying some of my favorite historical authors -- Jamie Ford, Anita Shreve, David Guterson-- for some inspiration.
So, if you are a friend of family member who visits our home every now and then, expect a disorganized mess. Writing will take priority over housework and maintenance these next two years. I'm willing to live with it if you are.
What's up at home?
Our kids are growing up! It's been a spring of big changes in our household. The twins are 15 years old and they want to earn money. One twin started his first job at an ice cream shop in Corning, NY, a few days ago. It's so strange to drop my "baby" off to work. The other twin wants to wait a year before getting a formal job. He is going to help with some long-overdue maintenance and spring cleaning at home in exchange for a bit of cash. Our oldest came home for just a few days at the end of his semester at Penn State. Right now, he is in Wyoming for a geology class with a group of Penn State geology and bio-geology majors. He returns in three weeks. He spent one weekend of May at Green Lakes State Park near Syracuse, NY, doing research with graduate student and will return later in the summer. He will also be analyzing data for a professor and working at Wegman's. So we won't see much of him. Our daughter will be working at her cousin's concession stand for the summer, earning money for her semester in Japan. She was thrilled to learn that she earned a Global Studies scholarship from Temple University to help cover her expenses. I am so excited for her, though it will be strange to be without her for three months. Thank goodness for Facetime! I am glad I have my book contracts, so I don't have much time to things about this great big house that will be empty of children in a few years. On the plus side, I will have lots of writing spaces to choose from!
The Lastest: Interviews, reviews, articles and podcasts
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