Tag Archives: Cape Coral

A forensic field day in Lisa Black’s Cleveland

“Trail of Blood,” by Lisa Black. William Morrow. 432 pages. $24.99 hardback; $7.99 mass market paperback.

Cape Coral writer Lisa Black has designed a rousing story with two timelines. One story tells of a serial killer operating in Depression-era Cleveland. The killer’s trademark? Beheading the corpse and (sometimes) removing other body parts from the victim’s torso. In today’s Cleveland, two corpses show up. One is a decayed body that turns up in an abandoned building about to be demolished. It seems to be the work of the infamous Torso Killer of the mid-1930s. What’s especially intriguing is that the torso proves to be the remains of a Cleveland policeman. The other body, newly deceased, looks like the work of a copycat – a Torso Killer wannabe.

The narration begins with the present-day perspective, though moving back and forth between forensic scientist Theresa MacLean’s investigations of both crimes. Once the investigations are well underway, the second time line opens up, following policeman James Miller as he investigates a crime at 4950 Pullman – the very place where he is found dead over 75 years later. From this point, Lisa Black develops the timelines in alternating chapters, bringing them closer together while doubling the novel’s suspense and interest.

In this way, the reader discovers two versions of Cleveland, two states of forensic science, and two stages of the railroad industry (an important element in the setting and plot). Ms. Black’s interest in fictional speculation about an actual series of crimes has brought her the challenge of creating, for part of her novel, an effective period piece. She has proven to be more than up to the task.

The killer (killers, actually) had done a fantastic job of covering his tracks. In spite of the title (which ultimately takes on an unexpected meaning), the blood trail is almost nonexistent. One great pleasure of this book, the third in Ms. Black’s Theresa MacLean series, is the detailed yet gripping presentation of the forensic investigation. The author, an experienced forensic professional, knows exactly what is possible and probable in such matters and shuns the spectacular and improbable overreach of those popular forensic-based television shows.

A primary question that Theresa has to solve: how does the killer move his victims from the crime scenes to the locations where they are discovered without being seen? Without leaving a clue? Related questions: What is the meaning of the dismemberments? How, in an act of extreme bravado, does he pull off yet another murder at a scene swarming with police officers who expect it?

To read this review in its entirety, as it appears in the August 10, 2011 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the August 11 Naples Florida Weekly, click here: Florida Weekly – Lisa Black (2). For pdf files, click here Black pdf – 1 and here Black pdf – 2.

For additional reviews of Lisa Black’s work, including her earlier books as Elizabeth Becka, click on the following links:


Ft.Myers magazine – Lisa Black

Florida Weekly – Lisa Black

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Keeping Up with Sandy Lender

by Philip K. Jason

This article appears in the November-December 2010 issue of Fort Myers Magazine. Click here to see it: Ft.Myers magazine – Sandy Lender

The early fall of 2010 found fantasy author Sandy Lender in a whirlwind of projects coming to fruition. As she enjoyed her new home – a canal-view condo on Cape Coral from where she can walk to everything she needs – this refugee from Naples added three new titles to the three she already had in print. It’s been an exciting time for her, with new challenges built upon solid accomplishments.


Lender has worked diligently and effectively to build a fan base in the world of fantasy fiction with her “Choices” novels: Choices Meant for Gods (2007) and Choices Meant for Kings (2009). Complex plot lines, striking characters, and the remarkable, legendary domain of Onweald have captivated readers and won the acclaim of critics. Is Sandy Lender an established star in the literary firmament? Not yet. However, the seeds have been sown. With these two titles from ArcheBooks Publishing plus What Choices We Made (2008 from BookSurge), a supplement of related short stories, Sandy Lender is recognized and respected among her fantasy writer peers, and her work has a growing list of followers.

Writing, of course, comes first. Lender loves the time she can spend spinning out her world of sorcerers and dragons, her saga of duty, loyalty, and betrayal. Far less attractive is the time she allots to networking and marketing. Yet she is committed to these tasks.

Thus, the first few days of October found Lender in St. Louis, attending the 34th annual Archon convention. At such a gathering, she interacts with and amplifies her audience: “When I set foot into a convention like DragonCon in Atlanta, ConQuest in Kansas City, ConText in Ohio or Archon in St. Louis, I’m stepping among a crowd of people who watch the same shows I watch. We read the same books. We use the same corny jokes. If I say ‘Kapla,’ they all understand me. I had a radio personality interview me not long ago, and he asked if I wrote anything out by hand. I told him that I do sometimes because my host enjoys the tactile sensation. He kept right on asking questions, but any Stargate SG-1 fan listening that day was rolling! At one of these conventions, everyone would get that reference and then, of course, proceed to buy one of my books because I’m just that cool.”

She is.

Lender considers the business of marketing her work to the public important: “Signings at Barnes & Noble, Borders, Hastings, etc., are hard to come by because corporate rules dictate which authors are allowed to have stand-alone book signings. If you’re not in Amazon’s Top 100, you have an uphill battle. Knowing the customer service rep at the local store is vital. You want to be able to show that person what kind of crowd you can bring in to elevate his or her sales on your special signing day. You want to show him or her how great you are at participating in local author events. Flexibility is an awesome trait.”

Sandy Lender on social media: “I use social media with balance. An author friend of mine alienates people with constant updates. That’s counterproductive. That’s navel-lint marketing. No one cares what time an author went to bed last night. No one cares about the weather in her neck of the woods unless a hurricane has just lifted your roof or an earthquake has just opened a fissure that’s eaten your car. That’s Tweet-worthy. If I see someone updating their status about rain making them feel like taking a nap, I figure they write boring books. I teach this in the social media workshops I give. Now, audience matters in your marketing efforts, even with social media. I have a lot of followers on Facebook who are into companion parrots, so I’ll post updates about crazy things my pet birds have done. The nice thing about that is most people who don’t own parrots get a chuckle out of these antics, too.”

Here’s what’s new:


Problems on Eldora Prime is a young adult sci-fi/fantasy novel that adults can enjoy. When collecting reviews and cover blurbs, Lender sent the manuscript to adult reviewers who are connected to teens in some way. These previewers were encouraging. The premise: “a 17-year-old girl crash lands a spaceship on a foreign and hostile planet. She assumes command for the survivors and ends up learning about leadership as she takes her team through a monster-infested land to what they hope will be a safe haven to call for help. I won’t spoil anything, but ‘help’ doesn’t arrive the way it’s supposed to, and her dragon allies aren’t always the good guys you want them to be.”

This book, which is a slightly revised version of Lender’s entry in the 2009 3-Day Novel Contest, will be published by her own company, Night Wolf Publications. Canadian writer Jamieson Wolf is her partner in this venture.

Why go out on your own? Says Lender “We figured out that we both had awesome books that our test readers praised, and we wanted to publish them without the hassle of agents or publishers or production schedules that relied on other people. We knew of other writers going through the same process. There are some incredibly talented people out there who have skill and storytelling ability, but the gatekeepers aren’t letting them in. So we decided we would help.”

An important Night Wolf project is A Yuletide Wish. “This is an anthology of children’s stories, young adult stories, sweet romances, and poems that encompass Thanksgiving, Christmas, winter, and New Year’s. The cover art is a gorgeous illustration by local artist Aluska Bissaro, who has exhibited at the Naples Press Club’s Authors & Books Festival in the past. She’s extraordinary and the winter scene of a Blacktop Chickadee that she provided is lovely. It really sets the tone of a sweet, family book. We wanted something full of positive, happy endings, and the authors really delivered. We plan to have it ready for ordering by early November.” 

The second new Lender book is What Choices We Made, Volume II, Short Stories and Legends from the History of Onweald. Writes Lender, “This chapbook includes more meat than the first one and includes a novella called The Influential Love Story of Ella and Rohne. My fans will wonder about that for a moment because I don’t write love stories. That’s all the warning you get about that. Local artist Megan Kissinger, who’s preparing the lovely illustrations at The Edison House these days, helped with formatting and the front cover and is responsible for the awesome map of Onweald.”

Sandy Lender’s third new book is Desecrated Ring from Keith Publications, scheduled for Halloween as part of a Halloween series. “This is a horror story that takes place in Collier County. Evil faeries and wolf-like beasts terrorize a woman who doesn’t realize how much we’re held accountable for in our lives.”

A busy author and now a publisher, Sandy Lender is chairing the 2011 edition of the Naples Authors and Books Festival, which is scheduled for early April.

Find out more about this nonstop writer at authorsandylender.com. Also, check out nightwolfpublications.com.

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Lisa Black: Top Talent in Top Form

With “Evidence of Murder,” Cape Coral author Lisa Black leaps to the forefront of contemporary mystery novelists. Her protagonist, Cleveland forensic specialist Theresa MacLean, introduced in last year’s “Takeover,” is a new star in the firmament of crime solvers. LisaBlack-2

When Ms. MacLean’s cousin, Detective Frank Patrick, asks her to help him investigate what seems to be a missing persons case, Ms. MacLean complains that she has “a building full of dead people” to examine. Soon enough, however, the missing Jillian Perry turns up dead. Though preliminary findings suggest suicide, other factors cast suspicion on that hypothesis.

To read the rest of this review as it appears in the September 3-9, 2009 edition of the Naples Florida Weekly, click here: Florida Weekly – Lisa Black

Bonus material: The following capsule biography and interview where prepared for newspaper publication but not used. You get it here exclusively on Phil Jason’s Web Site. See also: Elizabeth Becka and Ft.Myers magazine – Lisa Black

About Lisa Black

 Clevelander Lisa Black started writing fiction in grade school, and she kept on writing longer and more complex stories through high school and college. Shortly after graduating from John Carroll University in 1985, with a B.A. in Political Science, she completed her first full length novel. After too many years as a secretary for a gerontological institute, Black sought a change. She returned to college and earned a B.S. in Biology from Cleveland State University in 1993. After an internship at the Cuyahoga County Coroner’s office, she was hired full time in December of 1995.

at Cleveland Public Library

at Cleveland Public Library

 Several years later, having become an experienced forensic scientist, Black moved to Cape Coral when her husband persuaded her to escape the Cleveland weather. She began working for the Cape Coral Police Department in 2000, and she also became more and more occupied with her writing, which now drew on the material she had learned as a forensic specialist. As Elizabeth Becka, she published two novels: “Trace Evidence” in 2005 and “Unknown Means” in 2008.

The vagaries of the publishing business led this well-reviewed writer to change her publisher and her writing name. Lisa Black brought out the hostage thriller “Takeover” late last year, and now we have “Evidence of Murder,” officially released on September 8.

PKJ:  Do you outline?

LB: I don’t outline formally, but I’ll jot down a sequence of events. I have to know what’s going to happen from the beginning to the end, with all major plot points. And once I start, I keep myself to some sort of word count schedule, with time off only for vacations and major holidays. I have a fear that if I stop, I won’t be able to start again.

PKJ: Do you stop to polish sentences, paragraphs, chapters? Or do you push through an entire draft and then revise the whole thing?

LB: I’ll stop to polish something if I notice it, or go back and add or change something if it’s vitally important, but otherwise I like to go from start to finish and then revise the whole draft, usually twice.

PKJ: Do you do journal work? Character studies? Any kind of practice or warm-ups?

LB: No, I’m terrible! I should do all of that and I don’t. I’m trying to make myself do more prep work to make my characters deeper and more real, and to reduce rewriting (which I loathe).

PKJ: What parts of the writing process do you enjoy the most? — or find just plain hard work?

LB: I enjoy plotting it all out in my head beforehand. I’ll have this and that, but I still need a reason for this to happen…and you think and you go to work and you exercise and buy groceries and think some more and eventually it comes to you. Rewriting is plain hard work, which is why I loathe it. It’s also stressful because I find it impossible to know if my changes are making the book better or worse.

PKJ: Aside from forensic matters, which you already know plenty about and must keep up with on the job, what kinds of research have been necessary in your writing?

LB: I try to go to the places in Cleveland where my scenes take place, and I read books. I read a few books on hostage negotiation for Takeover, on the history of video games for Evidence of Murder, and on America during the Depression for the upcoming Past Crimes.

PKJ: You’ve been living, working, writing in Cape Coral for quite a while now. Any chance readers will see this town, or SW Florida, show up in a Lisa Black novel?

LB: It would be fun to bring her here on vacation. The differences in the climate alone would give me plenty to write about.

PKJ: Any hobbies or causes that you’d like to share with readers?

BL: Write to the troops with www.anysoldier.com! Otherwise my only hobbies are working out, reading, and going to Cleveland to visit my 90 year old mother. I’m very boring, I guess.

PKJ: What started you on the path to joining the mystery writer fraternity/sorority?

LB: I think it’s genetic. My grandfather was a juvenile probation officer. My grandmother read mysteries, my father read and tried to write them, and they’re all I’ve read for as long as I can remember.

PKJ: Most readers read for fun; many writers read to learn from other writers. What have you learned from the work of others?

LB: I learned from Jeffrey Deaver to stick to the story. I learned from Tami Hoag to have lots of emotion. I learned from Patricia Cornwell to have conflict from every facet of the character’s life. I don’t remotely succeed in putting these lessons to use in my writing, yet, but I’m working on it.

PKJ: How do you get into the heads of your villains?

LB: The villain is simply someone who wants something really, really bad, and isn’t going to stop at anything or anyone to get it. While the hero has all sorts of rules and conventions and other duties to deal with as they’re trying to solve the situation, and the villain doesn’t. So I look at things from their narrowly focused point of view, because their narrow point of view is what makes them scary.

PKJ: What’s worked for you regarding networking with other writers?

LB: A subgroup of Sisters in Crime called the Guppies (Great UnPublished). We have an email digest where we support each other and discuss questions about writing. That’s how I found critique partners, who were (and still are) invaluable.

PKJ: What are you working on now?

LB: A novel based on a true story about a serial killer who preyed on Clevelanders during the Great Depression.

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Publish Locally, Think Globally

Cape Coral Publisher Serves New Voices

by Philip K. Jason

FOUNDED IN 2003 as a project of Gelinas and Wolf, Inc., a Las Vegas marketing services company, ArcheBooks Publishing was spun off as a separate company a year later. While its corporate headquarters remains in Nevada, the editorial office – Bob Gelinas’s prime responsibility – moved with Gelinas to Cape Coral. In its relatively short life, this innovative trade publishing house has had steady productivity in a difficult marketplace. From seven titles in 2003 to twenty-three in 2004 to twenty in 2005 to eighteen in 2006 to thirteen in 2007 to about the same number published or forthcoming in 2008. That early pace was probably unsustainable, but it helped to get ArcheBooks the early recognition that a start-up company must have. It won’t be long until ArcheBooks reaches its 100th title.

To see this article in its entirety, as published in the November-December 2008 issue of Ft. Myers Magazine, click here:  Ft.Myers magazine – ArcheBooks

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