Thursday, August 27, 2020

The Call with Jennifer Graeser Dornbush

I knew from the time I was eight years old that I would be a writer. I was always writing little stories and making little books. I was that kid always making up plays and getting her sisters and friends to play the parts. As I grew up, that love for writing morphed into careers in journalism where I was telling human interest stories, and then, public relations and development where I was telling the stories of non-profits and organizations. Eventually, I leaned into my desire to get back to writing fiction and I dove headfirst into screenwriting. I found my forensic, crime writing voice and started to write a bunch of film and TV scripts. As these began to pile up, I got the spark of an idea to turn them into novels. It wasn't soon after that I found myself teaching a day-long forensic bootcamp for writers at the ACFW conference in 2014. That's where I met Julie Gwinn. It was the final hours of the conference and I was standing in line at the Starbucks when someone introduce her to me because they knew I was looking for a literary agent. We probably said five sentences to each other, but that was the start of my journey with Julie and Seymour! I had never written a novel before, so Julie TOTALLY took a chance on me. I spent the next year writing my first novel under Julie's gentle guidance. Then Julie spent the next year plus trying to sell it. In the meantime I had written a movie, God Bless the Broken Road, and we decided to novelize it. That was actually my first book contract! I remember I wrote the first three chapters while we were filming. Two weeks after I turned in those pages, we received several offers. We chose one and that was my first fiction contract with a publisher! It wasn't long after we sold my first novel to another publisher. 

Jennifer's Newest Release, Hole in the Woods

About the Author, Jennifer Graeser Dornbush:

Jennifer Graeser Dornbush is a screenwriter, author, international speaker and forensic specialist. As she says, “I grew up around death.” 

The television or movie screen is the closest most people will ever come to witnessing the forensic world. But Jennifer was raised in it, as the daughter of a small town medical examiner whose office was in their home. There were body parts in the fridge. She investigated her first fatality, an airplane crash, when she was 8 years old, picking up pieces of skull with her father who simply saw it as an anatomy lesson. It was the first of many coroner lessons she experienced over two decades. 

After exploring journalism and high school teaching, Jennifer turned seriously to screenwriting where she began to connect her coroner world to her writing. She sought out a degree at the Forensic Science Academy in Los Angeles to gain more forensic training and earned a unique kinship with LA’s top CSIs, fingerprint specialists, DNA scientists and detectives. To share her love of forensics with the writing world, she authored the top-selling non-fiction authoritative book, Forensic Speak, used not only by show-runners and writers, but also crime investigators and law enforcement. As a forensic consultant, she is frequently asked to consult with TV writers on shows such as Bull, Conviction, Hawaii Five-O, Leverage, Suits and Rectify. 

She created an Amazon top-selling mystery novel series, The Coroner’s Daughter. The first book in the series, The Coroner, released August 2018. The second in the series, Secret Remains, released January 2020. She is developing the series for TV. She wrote the theatrically released film and novel, God Bless the Broken Road (2018). She has developed a TV crime drama series with Echo Lake and Hoplite Entertainment. She also adapted a popular YA novel to script and sold a children’s show. 

She teaches screenwriting and mentors aspiring writers. Jennifer is a member of the Writers’ Guild of America, Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America and FBI Citizen’s Academy Alumni. And she has a great sense of gallows humor. 

Instagram: @JGDornbush
LinkedIn: Jennifer Dornbush 

Thursday, August 20, 2020

The Seymour Agency Q&A with Author Jen J. Danna

Seymour Agency: You recently launched your new series, the NYPD Negotiators, with EXIT STRATEGY. Why hostage negotiation?

Jen J. Danna: In LONE WOLF, the first book in the FBI K-9s series, I wrote a character who was a hostage negotiator. This guy had a really tough job as the middle man between the FBI, who wanted to close the case, and an armed gunman, who was holed up with his family. The negotiator was not only trying to save lives, but was also fighting to satisfy his law enforcement brethren, many of whom saw force as the best way to quickly get their man. This character really stuck with me, partly because the situation he had to deal with was different than anything I’d written before.

SA: How was it different?

JJD: In all my other police procedurals, the protagonist is always reacting to the initial situation, usually a murder, sometimes a natural disaster. I wanted to explore police work from the opposite, proactive angle. Yes, there’s a crisis in play, but the challenge is to save lives before they’re lost, to get the hostages out in one piece, and hopefully contain and arrest the person responsible.

SA: How did you develop Gemma Capello and her first responder family?

JJD: This was the first book I wrote solo, so it was fun to take advantage of my own family history to flesh out Gemma. Like me, her family hails from Siculiana in Sicily. Like me she lost a parent at a young age (though her loss is by very violent means). But I like writing ensemble pieces, where the characters appear throughout the series, so I crafted a family around her, a father and four brothers, who with only one exception are all NYPD officers in various branches of the department (the other brother joined the FDNY). In this way, she can work with at least one of them during her cases.

SA: How does her family play a part in EXIT STRATEGY?

JJD: When an alert goes out, interrupting a family celebration, Gemma, her father, the Chief of Special Operations, and her two older brothers respond. But when the hostage situation takes a turn for the worse and Gemma has to put herself at risk with the hostage taker, everything, including her life, will rest in the hands of her younger brother.

SA: What can we expect next from Gemma?

JJD: The second book in the series, SHOT CALLER, will release in summer 2021 from Kensington Books and Dreamscape Media. In it, Gemma is called to New York City’s notorious Rikers Island jail when a riot occurs and both correctional officers and inmates are taken hostage. It’s a contained but extremely volatile situation, and Gemma and her negotiating team are pulled in different directions as everyone tries to steer the crisis—from the inmates, to the staff at Rikers, to the city administrators that run the Department of Corrections, to the NYPD. She also has to balance her need to peacefully resolve the situation, which takes time, with the tactical team’s desire to go in and rapidly resolve the crisis with force. It’s a real nail biter. Then the third book in the series, LOCKDOWN, will follow in the summer of 2022.

About the Book, Exit Strategy:
In this taut new suspense series featuring NYPD detective Gemma Capello and her close-knit law enforcement family, a madman brings a halt to the heart of the city that never sleeps . . .

After her mother’s death during a bank robbery when she was a child, Gemma Capello grew up to become one of the NYPD’s elite hostage negotiators. In a family of cops, there’s rarely a day when a Capello isn’t facing down some form of threat. Still, despite their unpredictable schedules, they always find time for their annual family summer picnic. But this year, a sudden phone call changes everything. 

A heavily armed gunman has taken hostages at City Hall. Gemma races downtown to join the rest of the Hostage Negotiation Team as they scramble to identify the captives—fearing the mayor may be among them. But as they scramble for answers and struggle to gain control of the circumstances, it becomes clear that the mayor is at the center of it all, just not in the way they initially believed. 

With several lives on the line and a criminal who always seems to be one step ahead, Gemma is the only one able to connect with the suspect. Soon, she finds herself engaging in a battle of wits while enduring a battle of egos in the command center. With time running out and a mastermind who has proven he’ll do whatever it takes to get what he wants, Gemma risks it all—her career and her life—in a last-ditch effort to save the hostages. Now, she needs to figure out how to save herself . . .

About the Author, Jen J. Danna:  
A scientist specializing in infectious diseases, Jen J. Danna works as part of a dynamic research group at a cutting-edge Canadian university. However, her true passion lies in indulging her love of the mysterious through her writing. 

With Ann Vanderlaan, she writes two series. Under Danna and Vanderlaan, they craft suspenseful crime fiction with a realistic scientific edge. Their five Abbott and Lowell Forensic Mysteries include DEAD, WITHOUT A STONE TO TELL IT; NO ONE SEES ME ’TILL I FALL; A FLAME IN THE WIND OF DEATH; TWO PARTS BLOODY MURDER; and LAMENT THE COMMON BONES.

Under the joint pseudonym of Sara Driscoll, they write the FBI K-9s mysteries series, starring search-and-rescue team Meg Jennings and her black lab, Hawk. The series includes LONE WOLF and BEFORE IT'S TOO LATE, STORM RISING, and NO MAN’S LAND. The fifth book in the series, LEAVE NO TRACE, will release in January 2020.

Jen is also the author of the upcoming NYPD Negotiators thriller series, with the first book, EXIT STRATEGY, releasing in August 2020. The second book in the series, SHOT CALLER, will release in 2021, and the third book, LOCKDOWN, will release in 2022.

Jen lives near Toronto, Ontario with her husband, two daughters, and three rescued cats, and is a member of the Crime Writers of Canada.

You can reach her through the contact page on her website or by email at

Social media links: Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Instagram.

Thursday, August 13, 2020

The Call with Shachi Kaushik

I first happened to cross paths with Lynnette Novak on Twitter. I sent her my manuscript seeing her pinned tweet. In a couple of days Lynnette got back to me expressing keen interest and requesting to have a phone call.   

Being a first timer, this was an exciting as well a nervous moment for me. I took help from my SCBWI community to understand what to expect from an agent call.

What I thought would be like a job interview turned out to be a candid conversation between me and my agent Lynnette. 
She was seeking more clarity on my work, my motivation behind writing picture books, my long-term vision and goal, and gauging if a working relationship could be established. Right from the get-go Lynnette made me feel at ease. She spoke of my manuscript’s potential.
As much as Lynnette, I was also trying to figure out if my agent would be a right fit for me. This is a long-term relationship.
She answered all my questions and cleared my doubts about the process and the final product. She discussed her approach when it comes to showcasing work to publishers. I can recall Lynnette’s words stating ‘teach my clients how to improve their writing and grow as authors’ was a very important factor for me. Knowing that she herself has been a writer and worked as a freelancer editor, I knew I wanted someone like her. I knew a writer with the editorial eye could help me tweak my work and further enrich my ideas.
Lynnette offered representation to me over the phone. Finally, I accepted Lynnette’s offer in writing. I really liked her enthusiasm for my work and felt a great connection and was able to imagine her being part of my picture book writing journey.
My agent and I finally made it official on Social Media using Twitter (#TeamNovak) and also on other platforms consecutively. YAY!!!
For me it was a stay at home celebration maintaining social distancing. 

About Shachi Kaushik:

Hailing from a legal profession back in India, Shachi found her new calling in life when she moved to the US a couple years back to start her married life. Shachi spends significant time volunteering for activities at the Round Rock Public Library as the host for Bilingual Hindi-English Storytime. Shachi’s writing is a whole-hearted attempt to retain the diminishing culture and tradition that could be passed to generations to come. 


Shachi also spends time mentoring students which further helps her develop new ideas to serve the Children-Parent community through her book writing. She is a monthly contributor to Austin South Asian for the “Picture Book World” section and her articles have also appeared in Austin Family and BrownGirl Magazine.






Thursday, August 6, 2020

The Call with Felicia Bridges

My call story is a little unique and demonstrates the Lord's perfect timing. I had been to Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference several times over the previous five years. I had pitched my series and received requests from several publishers and editors for the full, but always returned home and convinced myself that it was not quite ready. They were just being kind. 

In 2015, I made a commitment to myself that I would join the scant 30% of writers at a conference who follow through and submit their manuscript as requested. And I added some teeth to the commitment -- I would submit whatever was requested within 30 days of the conference, or I would not attend another writers' conference. As the rarest of creatures, an extroverted writer, swearing off conferences would be a devastating loss of community. Having made many connections with other authors, my conference buddy and I were delighted to discover that one of our friends was having her first book signing in Asheville the day before the conference. We decided it was worth an extra night's stay to be able to celebrate her debut and be rested and ready to go when the conference began the following day. What an exciting moment to see a friend sitting in the midst of the Barnes and Noble, stacks of freshly printed books beside her on the table awaiting her autograph! As we chatted with the author, her publisher introduced herself and my friend mentioned that we were in town for the writers' conference. Her publisher asked us about what we wrote and, after I stumbled through my pitch -- thinking I'd have the rest of the day to practice before the conference began -- she scribbled her email on a scrap of paper and asked me to send her my manuscript. 

Over the course of the next several days, I pitched to several publishers and received other requests for the manuscript, and also pitched to Julie Gwinn. Julie happened to represent the same author friend we had come up early to celebrate! When the conference ended, I pushed through additional edits based on once again learning so much from the conference faculty, and hit send on the emails to those who'd requested my manuscript for CzechMate. There is really nothing quite like that moment. The thrill! The relief! The absolute terror! Within thirty days, I received an email back from Dawn Carrington, Editor-in-Chief with Vinspire Publishing, letting me know that they might be interested in publishing my novel. I immediately reached out to Julie, eager to have a savvy agent in my corner for this next step in the publishing process. She has proven to be a tremendous asset, helping me land a two-book deal and then to augment that with a contract for four more books in the International Mission Force series. 

I love sharing this story because I couldn't have orchestrated this path if I had tried. It demonstrates the importance of supporting fellow authors and building relationships that encourage, support, and promote one another, and trusting God to put us in the right place at the right time.

Czech Mate
Bolivia Knight
Kenya Quest

About Felicia Bridges: 

Felicia Bridges writes adventures that inspire action. Her own escapades as an Army BRAT included living in eight states and two foreign countries by the time she was fifteen. Along with a strong foundation of faith, this nomadic childhood created a passion for missions and travel which leads her writing to exotic places. Her YA series debut, The International Mission Force, features the adventures of teenage missionaries around the globe and currently includes CzechMate, which is set in Prague, Czech Republic; BoliviaKnight, set in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia; and KenyaQuest, set in Mombasa, Kenya. Volume IV, IslandGambit, which is set on the beautiful island of Papua New Guinea, is due to release in  2020. She loves sharing the excitement and adventure of living on mission and is happy to speak to your student group or women's retreat about missions, discipleship, and the gospel. While her degree in Psychology helps her craft realistic characters, her adventures as an HR Manager, short term missionary, mother of four, and Pastor's wife provide her most entertaining tales. Names may be changed to protect the not-so-innocent. 

You can find Felicia at: