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Author Spotlight, Marty Knox

Marty Knox is a friend of mine who has a passion for mystery, especially writing mystery. She throws herself into her research and really knows her stuff by the time it reaches her page. She’s taught me a great deal and is fun to talk to.

The thing that makes Marty so special in my eyes is the fact that her book, Murder@ the Black Mesa Cafe, ended my mom’s nine year reading hiatus. Many books tried, but none made the cut until Marty’s.

Marty and I were talking about readers who love mystery, and I mentioned how Mom had devoured them when I was a kid but hadn’t found a book that interested her in several years. That spunky writer handed me an autographed copy of her book and insisted I take it to Mom, who absolutely loved it. In fact, Mom asks me about the next book nearly every time I see her. That’s why I’m so happy to hear Murder@ the Black Mesa Salon is being released next month.

I’m excited to present my interview with Marty Knox, Ozarks Maven’s June Author Spotlight. She’s led an interesting life and is still going on adventures. After reading her interview, I wish she’d write her autobiography. I think it’d be a bestseller.

For those readers who are unfamiliar with you, please tell us a little about yourself.

I’m a retired math teacher and computer science instructor. I’ve been a writer all my life. Before graduating from college, I was a technical writer and illustrator. After graduation, I taught computer science and computer programming. After teaching college, I was hired as a math department chair at a high school. Now that I’m retired, I decided to write a mystery series about northern Arizona. I’ve always been a fan of classic mysteries and a voracious reader.

What kind of writing do you enjoy?

I love reading classic who-dun-it mysteries. I enjoy writing mysteries—full-length novels in a series. I write classic mystery genre books, but I also like to show the aftermath of how a murder affects families and close friends of the victim. I tend to write modern stories with an Agatha Christie twist.

What do you enjoy most about the writing process?

I start with the basic premise. Each of my books has a basic theme. The first book, for example, is a dichotomy between choosing things or people. The second forces a choice between leaving a lover or killing them. The third mystery concerns a bureaucratic cover-up of a student’s death at a college. My fourth book poses revenge for a cyber-troll’s bullying.

All the ideas swirling around in my head are pictures, scenes, and characters. I use Pinterest as a storyboard to fling all my wild ideas on the board to see what happens. Your readers are welcome to see how storyboarding on Pinterest works for an author. Each board is for different book ideas.

I must outline. For me, it’s like doing a lesson plan. So my next phase of writing is figuring out the first chapter and last chapter, my characters, and what happens. Second is the timeline. So I get a rough outline of what’s going to happen, and then I look for quotes. I love quotes, using them as writing prompts. Tell the story as I see it in my head. Sometimes, my characters take over the story and do what they want.

The rough draft is the fun part of writing, not worrying about punctuation and grammar. I like to throw commas in like pepper to spice up the story. I can be as wild as I want without anybody correcting me. My characters take over and force themselves into the tale; other characters tell me, “I’ll wait for the next book.”

For me, the most critical start in writing the story is organizing a timeline, getting character studies done, organizing the scenes, chapters outlined, writing the first finished chapter, and the last chapter. I write like crazy; no idea is off-limits. Next comes the hard part for me. I always have my delete key handy because this is where I tighten up the story. The second edit is where I fill in the chapters, leave some things out, add some stuff in, and generally re-write the story.

The next process is where I go through and edit my novel. For me, this is the hardest part. Things are cut, better words are substituted, vague statements are made concrete, passive voice is made active and exciting, repeat ideas thinned out, senses and verbs activated, characters become real, and the narrative fascinating. At this time, I also read my book out loud because it helps the flow of language. Because I have a background in academics, I have a problem with vague and abstract words and passive voice.

Then I send the book to my Beta readers who give me feedback. So after I’m done with my thorough edit, I send the work to an editor, ARC readers, my cadre of librarians, and fellow authors. Finally, I give myself one last read on audio, paper, my kindle, my iPad, and on my cell phone for a different viewpoint on which my book will appear.

When did you start writing?

Since I was a reader at an early age, I always told stories. I never had trouble with English grammar because I read a lot. I was in advanced English in high school and received an English scholarship so I could start at junior level college English classes. I worked as a programmer for Ruben Donnelly. I worked for a newspaper, wrote advertising copy, I was a technical writer and illustrator for an electronics company, and finally wrote hundreds of lesson plans, math stories, an undergraduate thesis, and a graduate thesis. Most of what I wrote was technical and academic because I had to make a living when I was raising my children.

To what or whom do you attribute your love of reading and writing stories?

I’ve always told my brothers and sister stories since I was a kid. We would pretend all kinds of adventures. Since I was the oldest and read everything I could get my hands on I interpreted stories like Treasure Island, the Secret Garden, John Carter of Mars, and many more to my siblings. My parents always bought us books for Christmas.

My grandfather had a library of classic literature from the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. So I didn’t know that I was supposed to wait until college to read them: Ben Hur, all of Nathaniel Hawthorne, James Fenimore Cooper, Jane Austen, Dickens, Jules Vern, Alexander Dumas, and more.

My parents were sci-fi nuts, thus I read Edgar Rice Burroughs, Asimov, Norton, and all the excellent writers of the 1950s. Except back then, they weren’t considered literature; they were pulp fiction. Once I was determined to read every single book in my local library. I discovered historical novels, nonfiction, and mysteries.

How have your past experiences impacted your writing?

I’ve had a pretty exciting life. I’ve also had a crazy family. I think rather like Miss Marple, who lived in a small village, I never got to travel much because I was raising six kids and working two jobs. But I’ve always been interested in people and events.

My father worked for a newspaper, and I think that helped me to read widely instead of narrowing my view of life. Even now, I read four or five newspapers every day and various international news sources. I love newsfeeds; it amazes me how much information is out there. I’ve always been interested in people and their stories.

I’ve known tragedy and loss. I was the little kid who listened to my grandparents, aunt, and uncles, and parents about their lives growing up during World War I, World War II, and the Great Depression. Of course, I’m a child of the 60s, so that influenced me also.

However, don’t ask me about the 70s. I was mostly pregnant; it’s a blur of little kids in diapers and an alcoholic husband. The 70s were challenging because I also lost my father, my brother, grandparents, and aunts.

Then, moving to Arizona after my divorce gave me a fresh start, self-sufficiency, a good education, and wonderfully intellectually challenging career. I also met the love of my life, my second husband.

What are some of the jobs you’ve held?

Funny, my youngest daughter has always known me as a teacher. One day we were chatting and the subject came up of bar tending. She was shocked to learn that in my younger days, I was a bartender and waitress while I went to college at Indiana State University. I had an astronomy professor who swore I made the driest martini he ever drank, and I was there in the front row for my 8 o’clock astronomy class.

After that, I was an HTML programmer for Ruben Donnelly. I worked as a graphic artist and advertising sales rep for a newspaper. I had my own graphic arts company. I was a technical writer and illustrator for an electronics company, which was an offshoot of Motorola – it was a horrible place like working for the original Mad Men. I couldn’t stand the misogyny, so I quit. I then worked for a small publishing company as an acquisitions editor and sales rep.

By that time, on the 24 year college plan, I graduated, and started teaching at a local community college – dBASE and Lotus 1-2-3 on DOS machines, and Aldus PageMaker on a Mac. I’ve always worked on both PCs and Macs.

After my husband and I were married, we moved to northern Arizona, and I got a job teaching computer science, programming, finance, web design, and accounting at a community college. A full-time position opened up on the White River Apache nation, Alchesay High School. I was the first woman math department chair, and I brought computers and graphing calculators into the classroom. I taught there until I retired in 2007.

Does your past employment experience ever make its way into your books? Definitely. My protagonist is a computer nerd and cyber-forensic expert who marries a retired ATF agent. The setting is a small town in Northern Arizona between I 40 and old route 66 on the Arizona/New Mexico border. A small town hides many sins.

What inspires you?

People I meet at author signings. Fellow authors. Of course, now, the people in person part is curtailed, but thank goodness for the internet. Virtual conversations will never replace face-to-face, but one does the best they can. I correspond through email every day.

Because of the shelter-in-place, I am so grateful to have human contact with other people through the internet. My sister and I Face Time. Face Time is like woo woo Outerspace Star Trek stuff for a gal who grew up with black Bakelite phones and rare, expensive long distance. I worked at a telephone exchange that had plugs to connect lines.

Now I can listen to people from Bath, England like Joanna Penn. The SPA girls from Australia. The Writer’s Detective Bureau from California. Also, Kobo Writing life from Canada. I listened to my writer’s group in Arizona on YouTube. Also, my local Missouri Writer’s group had a Facebook live meeting except I forgot what day it was and joined in a day late. The world of podcasts, blogs, email, Facebook, and all the social sites is fantastic. The Ozarks Maven has a worldwide readership, lovely to meet people from other countries.

What made you decide to write about the subjects or themes of your books?

Justice for the victims. Whenever there is someone murdered, as my younger brother was, the mystery haunts the families. Even 50 years later, my sister and I still wonder what happened. It was unsolved, although there was a rash of murders around Lake Waco, and the city of Waco. I think I’m trying to still solve his murder by solving others in my books. Maybe my books will give other people peace of mind, and help them solve mysteries in their lives.

Have you met any interesting people while researching your books?

Authors, readers, podcasters, law officers, coroners, nurses, teachers, librarians, so many. Older people who have had long and interesting lives. I love listening to them. I was the kid who loved hearing stories about the old days. I miss hanging out at my little Mom and Pop Café and just listening to people talk. Although when I drove by to pick up my mail, I noticed it had opened. “Cookies” in Golden City, MO. “Frank and Lupes” in Scottsdale, AZ. “Norma’s” in Joplin, MO. When I lived in Snowflake, AZ, the “Main Street Cafe” was my favorite, but long gone now. Darby’s in Pinetop, AZ, is cozy.

What is the most difficult part of writing?

Writing is easy for me. I’ve told stories all my life to entertain friends. People fascinate me. Story ideas pop into my head constantly. I’ll never have enough time to write all the tales I want to tell. Recently I bought Dragon Naturally Speaking, and it has helped me to get the bare bones of my story on paper. I can speak close to 1500 words an hour. I have to get up and take a break every hour because the sitting gets to me. Once I get the story down on paper, then comes the most challenging part.

The challenge of sticking to a daily writing schedule. Now editing that’s the hard part. For every hour I spend writing, I spend at least 4 hours editing. Getting rid of vague and abstract words is my biggest downfall. Next is the passive voice. I read a great craft book called Activate, full of active verbs, which helped immensely. I come from an academic background where vague and abstract words and passive voice are the norm.

Who are your favorite authors, and why do you enjoy their work?

You are asking a person who has 3000+ books on a Kindle and at least that many physical books in my 2nd office. I read two books a day on average. Over my lifetime, I’ve read at least 42,000 books. If I like a series, I will read every book in it. A better question is which books I will read again? However, I’ve read my favorites once every 4 or 5 years. I love a good story.

I’ve read the entire Harry Potter series three times, and yesterday I got a craving to reread the series. I run across a new series; I meet new authors, I belong to three online book clubs. It’s like asking who my favorite child is? Too hard.

I return again and again to the women mystery authors between WWI and WWII. Still, I also love Agatha Christie, Arthur Conan Doyle, all the Golden Age Mystery Writers, Rex Stout, Dashiell Hammett, and Mickey Spillane. I love the Lincoln Lawyer, Stephanie Plum. The ABC books, Sara Paretsky, Janet Evanovich, Betty Webb, Donis Casey, CJ Box, Dick Francis, MC Beaton, JA Jance, I could go on forever. Check out my Goodreads list. Too many books, too little time.

My idea of heaven will be to meet the authors who wrote the plays and stories that got burned the library of Alexandria – by the way there’s a great time travel series with that premise – One Damn Thing After Another. I want to be a ghost and hang out in the Library of Congress and read every book in it; that would take an eternity. I could hang out at The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, like Ground Hog Day, and read to my heart’s content. I enjoy sci-fi, mystery, non-fiction, historical, so many books.

What writing advice did you find most useful when you were honing your craft?

Writer’s Groups: SINC, Southwest Authors, Desert Sleuths, Sleuths Ink, Joplin Writers’ Guild, Ozark Writer’s League, Ozark Romance Writers,

Classes: James Paterson’s Master Class, Gotham Writers Workshops, Udemy

Software: MS Office, Scrivener, Grammarly, Pro-Write, Canva, Photoscape, Dragon Naturally Speaking, Adobe Acrobat Pro, Audacity, Norton Anti-virus, mobi-mover, Dropbox, Shutterstock, Square, Convert Kit, You-tube, Zamzar

Vendors: Amazon, Kobo, B&N, Apple, Google, D2D, Overdrive, Hoopla.

Podcasts: Joanna Penn-The Creative Penn, Kobo Writing Life, The SPA Girls, The Writer’s Detective Bureau, My Favorite Murder, Six Figure Authors, Book Echoes, The Poisoned Pen

Writing Craft Books: Rachel Adams, Angela Ackerman, Stuart Bache, Scott Baker, James Scott Bell, M.L. Buchman, Shawn Coyne, Mark Dawson, Bryn Donovan, David Gaughran, Jeff Gerke, J. Heskett, David Hawson, Joanna Penn, Sara Rosett, K.W. Weiland

Do you have any new work just released or coming out soon? If so, please tell us a little about it?

Author’s Note: Where is Black Mesa, AZ?

“In every land, Hardness is in the north of it, Softness in the south, Industry in the east, And fire and inspiration in the west.” Irish saying

BLACK MESA IS AN IMAGINARY place on Old Historic Route 66. It’s an amalgam of the quirky little places in Northern Arizona and New Mexico that I’ve visited: Snowflake, Taylor, Show Low, Pinetop, Lakeside, McNary, Hondah, Greer, Whiteriver, Saint Johns, Springerville, Holbrook, Vernon, Heber, Overgaard, Payson, Strawberry, Pine, Star Valley, Concho, Winslow, Keams Canyon, Kayenta, Moriarity and many more.

The town lies between Apache and Navajo counties in Northern Arizona. It is off I-40 and 13 miles from Holbrook, on Old Route 66 Highway. Townsfolk have restored the iconic Route 66 architecture. The nearby Petrified Forest and the Painted Desert attract tourists from all over the world.

Survivors of the Irish Brigade founded the town after the American Civil War. Veterans and their wives moved west in the 1870s for a fresh start. They settled in the Valley of the Black Mesa.

A tributary of the Colorado River, the Rio de Plata, flowed through the valley. Carriage Lock Lake (Carraigeacha Loch in Gaelic) was dammed up by the Rio de Plata bumping up against the massive volcanic outcrop of the Black Mesa. The water pools in a lake at the base of the ancient lava flow.

The Catholic Irish settlers named it Carraigeacha Loch. Locals turned the name into Carriage Lock Lake, but descendants still call it by the Gaelic name meaning rocky shores lake. Cowboys used the waterhole as the last chance water before Holbrook; a day’s ride on a fast horse.

The Black Mesa Valley had everything a farmer could want, good grazing land, water, and shelter from the worst storms. People there raise fine working ranch and rodeo horses.

Newlyweds Michael and Minerva Doyle discover Black Mesa, Arizona, after eating lunch in the Black Mesa Café, a stop on old Route 66. The detectives fall in love with the town, buy a house, make new friends, solve mysteries, and have further adventures.

Murder@ the Black Mesa Cafe A Classic Minerva Doyle Mystery Book 1 Who Murdered Mom? A Toxic Mom Instigates Her Death

When an elderly matriarch collapses at a local diner, nearby Samaritans rush to save her life.

Then the mother’s family from hell punishes the newlywed’s good deed with a wrongful death lawsuit.

Minerva and Michael must search for the cause of the domineering mom’s demise before they are ruined. How can they prove their innocence to a feuding clan? Can the couple trust anyone in a small town full of strangers?

Cyber-forensic expert, Minerva, and retired ATF agent, Michael, team up to pit their wits against a clever killer culprit. Who Murdered Mom?

For a FREE ebook copy email me: Use Code MAVEN. Please state your preferred method of an electronic reading device.

Can you tell us a little about your current projects?

My current projects are: Murder@ the Black Mesa Salon Book 2 – July 2020 Murder@ the Black Mesa Dance Book 3 – February 2021 Murder@ the Black Mesa Mailbox Book 4 – July 2021

Murder@ the Black Mesa Salon A Classic Minerva Doyle Mystery Book 2

Who Murdered My Sister? Missing Sweethearts Found In Lake

When her sister disappears on graduation night, a small-town café owner gives up hope after twenty years.

Then picnickers at the lake find two bodies inside an abandoned car. Cyber-forensic expert, Minerva, and Deputy Marshal, Michael, identify the victims. Rose entreats her best friend, Minerva, to discover why the missing couple died. Was it an accident?

Hampered by pre-internet sources, the small town detectives revert to old-style sleuthing to unmask a devious killer who hides in plain sight for two decades. Who murdered the sweethearts?

For a FREE ARC ebook copy email me: Use Code MAVEN. Please state your preferred method of an electronic reading device.

Murder@ the Black Mesa Dance A Minerva Doyle Classic Mystery Book 3 Who Murdered the Nerd? Suicidal Student Snuffed Onstage

When a suicidal student dies backstage at a NICU fundraiser, small-town detectives quickly uncover the victim was murdered.

Cyber-forensic expert, Minerva, and her husband Deputy Marshal, Michael, are stonewalled by a tangled nest of lies and cover-ups from the college. When data servers are hacked, officials refuse to open paper files to the investigator’s team.

Can Michael and Minerva uncover the motive behind the student’s death before the scandal blows up, or will the entire town be held for ransom? Who murdered the nerd?

For a FREE ARC ebook copy email me: Use Code MAVEN. Please state your preferred method of an electronic reading device.

Murder@ the Black Mesa Mailbox A Minerva Doyle Classic Mystery Book 4

Who Murdered the Troll Vigilante Wreaks Fatal Justice In Cyber-bully’s Death

When a notorious cyber-blackmailer devastates the wrong target, he dies in a bullet-riddled truck on a frozen country road.

Cyber-forensic consultant, Minerva, unravels the troll’s hard drive to reveal thousands of victims. Deputy Marshal Michael Doyle and Minerva must team up with a myriad of alphabet soup agencies to narrow down leads.

Victims hide secrets from prying eyes, but one person in the small town deals out an intimate vendetta. Who murdered the troll?

For a FREE ARC ebook copy email me: Use Code MAVEN. Please state your preferred method of an electronic reading device.

More to come: Keep up to date with the latest from the Black Mesa Gazette.

Murder@ the Black Mesa Church A Minerva Doyle Classic Mystery Book 5 (February 2022)

Who Murdered Our Minister? Cult Preacher Meets Doomsday

When a popular charismatic leader’s body is discovered in the chapel, parishioners suspect jealous rivals.

But cyber-forensic expert, Minerva, and town Marshal Michael Doyle are thwarted by undercover ATF agents seeking a bigger prize.

Will Michael’s former Bureau teammates permit local law to infiltrate the secret sect? What plot is locked behind closed doors? Who murdered the doomsday prep preacher?

Murder@ the Black Mesa Route 66 A Minerva Doyle Classic Mystery Book 6 (July 2022)

Who Murdered the Car Guy? Route 66 Fatality No Accident

When an antique auto auctioneer is crushed beneath a ’56 Chevy, the local mechanic gets blamed for negligence. Minerva and Michael Doyle seek to prove the woman’s innocence.

As town Marshal Michael Doyle and cyber-forensic expert, Minerva Doyle, dig into the vintage fundraiser, the law duo is warned to back off wealthy buyer’s motives. Which collector craved the classic automobile? Who murdered the car guy on Old Route 66.

Murder@ the Black Mesa Flood A Minerva Doyle Classic Mystery Book 7 (February 2023)

Who Murdered the Desert Diver? Diver Drowned in Wall of Water

When a roaring wall of water catches a diver during monsoon season, a local posse team scours the neighborhood arroyos. Michael’s retired ATF dog, Bear, locates the body in a wash.

The M.E. rules the diver was murdered, not drowned. Cyber-forensics expert, Minerva, and Town Marshal Michael cover each other’s backs as they investigate their fellow law officers, dive team members, local posse, and best friends for the sinister slayer. Who murdered the desert diver?

Murder@ the Black Mesa Fire A Minerva Doyle Classic Mystery Book 8 (July 2023) Who Murdered the Park Ranger? Forest Fire Blamed in Firefighter Death

When monsoon season lightning starts the Black Mesa Fire, a livestock inspector locates a missing park ranger’s body under a panicked injured horse. Cyber-forensic expert, Minerva, and Marshal Michael Doyle discover the horse was innocent of the rider’s murder.

Then a mysterious slaughter of four wild horses, not caught in the fire, leads the sleuths to a malevolent band of thieves. Who steals mounts for profit? Which devious human activity caused the scorched death of the nosy firefighter? Who murdered the park ranger?

Thank you for reading Ozarks Maven! If you’ve enjoyed my little seeds of wisdom and joy, please subscribe to Ozarks Maven, Like Ozarks Maven on Facebook, or follow me on Twitter @OzarksMaven.

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