Guest Post- Sharon Marchisello
I’m happy to introduce you to mystery writer Sharon Marchisello!
Born in upstate New York, I moved to Tyler, Texas, when I was five years old. People called me “Yankee” until I was in high school, when I finally perfected my Southern accent. (The American Civil War, over for a century, had not been forgotten.) I earned a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Houston in French and English and then worked for the Texas Department of Human Resources. In my mid-twenties, I received a Rotary scholarship to study for a year in Tours, France, where I lost my Texas accent. About a year after my return, I moved to Los Angeles to pursue a Masters in Professional Writing from the University of Southern California, which I hoped would lead to a career as a bestselling author. When I graduated and fame and fortune didn’t happen, I got a job at Western Airlines which later merged with Delta Air Lines. I met my husband on the employee bus. In my 27-year airline career, I worked various customer service positions and even did some technical writing in the corporate office. Retired, I now live in Peachtree City, Georgia, writing what I want and doing volunteer work for the Fayette Humane Society. I’m a member of Sisters in Crime and the Atlanta Writers Club.
And if that interesting bio wasn’t enough, here’s an interview where we can get some insights into Sharon’s likes and dislikes…
What do you write?
I write novels and short stories. But I also blog about personal finance (http://sharonmarchisello.blogspot.com/) and I self-published Live Well, Grow Wealth, a primer on personal finance 101.
What genre do you favor?
Mystery / suspense, women’s fiction.
When did you realise you wanted to be a writer?
I have always been a writer. I was telling stories to myself and others before I learned my alphabet. When I was in school, I received lots of encouragement and validation from my teachers with good grades on essays and creative writing assignments.
Nevertheless, it took me a long time to get published. I was in my twenties when I sold my first travel article. I had completed four novels—and abandoned countless others before completion—before my “first” novel, Going Home, found a publisher. Going Home, actually the second mystery I completed, is a whodunnit inspired by my mother’s battle with Alzheimer’s disease. Her situation prompted me to wonder what it would be like to interview a witness or a suspect who could not rely on her memory.
Are you published?
Yes. Besides articles and short stories, I have two mysteries traditionally published by Sunbury Press—Going Home (2014) and Secrets of the Galapagos (2019) And my nonfiction book about personal finance, Live Well, Grow Wealth, was self-published in 2018.
Where can you be found on social media?
Website or blog: https://smarchisello.wordpress.com/
What do you think is the best way to publish these days?
I think the big publishers have the most reach for obtaining advertising, reviews, shelf space in bookstores, and consideration for prestigious awards. If you’re good at marketing and don’t mind doing a lot of non-writing legwork to get your books out, self-publishing is the way to go.
As an introvert who prefers writing to self-promotion, I plan to stick with the traditional route, which unfortunately can be a long, slow process. (And, I’ve found, even authors who are traditionally published have to do most of their own marketing.)
I chose to self-publish Live Well, Grow Wealth because the material was somewhat time-sensitive, and I don’t have a background in finance, which would have helped my credibility with a publisher. The book is based on my own experience of becoming financially independent by living frugally, saving, investing, and developing a healthy attitude toward money. I’m not trying to sell classes or generate business for a financial-planning service, like most authors in the personal finance genre; I just wrote the book and post the blog to share the tips that worked for me.
What are your favorite genres to read? Why?
I like reading for pleasure in the mystery/suspense/women’s fiction genres—the same genres I write. I also like to check out bestsellers to see what makes them so special. Research!
How do you approach starting a new book?
I start with an event, an inciting incident. With a mystery, that’s usually a murder. Then I put characters into the situation, giving each motive and opportunity, and watch how they react. I’m what you call a “pantser” as opposed to a “plotter.”
However, with my only nonfiction book, Live Well, Grow Wealth, I approached it like the training manuals I created for Delta, making a very detailed outline before I began writing. I wish I could outline my fiction as well, but so far it doesn’t work for me.
What are the best writing books or blogs you’ve ever read?
One of the best writing craft books I’ve read was Don’t Murder Your Mystery by Chris Roerden. She offers lots of wonderful tips to apply in the editing phase.
What are your non-writing hobbies, or what do you do to relax?
Besides reading, I love to travel and have visited more than 100 countries; working for an airline was a perfect career for me. My husband and I have taken over 65 cruises together. We’re also Master Gardeners for the Fayette County University of Georgia Extension Office, and we enjoy helping with their many community projects. I like being outdoors, working in the yard or taking walks along Peachtree City’s extensive network of golf cart paths.
Do you have any personal heroes/heroines?
Evelyn Marchisello, my mother-in-law, comes to mind. Unfortunately, we lost her in 2012 at age 97. She was a classy lady, always dressed to the nines, always poised and polite. She graciously allowed me to live with her for two and a half years while I commuted between my Delta job in Los Angeles and my new home in Seattle. I developed a closer relationship with her than with my own mother. (Probably because she met me as an adult and didn’t have to endure my teen years!)
Have you had any unusual or noteworthy occupations?
One of my more memorable jobs—not really in a good way—was in Cabin Service at Delta. My husband and I bought a house in Seattle and the only opening for me there required me to take a large pay cut and join the aircraft cleaning crew. One of my tasks was driving the “lavosine” and dumping the aircraft lavatories. I had just come off a career highpoint, setting up a new station in Amsterdam and training airport customer service agents, so the voluntary demotion just to move to Seattle was quite a blow to my ego.
What was your best date ever?
My week-long cruise around the Galapagos islands with my husband is certainly high on my list. The wildlife is spectacular. The setting inspired my second published mystery, Secrets of the Galapagos.
Tell us something you are really proud of.
I’m proud of the volunteer work I do for the Fayette Humane Society. I’ve been serving as Secretary on the Board of Directors for nine years. I’ve fostered dozens of cats, and while I get somewhat attached to each one, I’m always happy to find them forever homes. I use my verbal skills as the organization’s grant writer, and it’s rewarding when we receive a grant that I’ve applied for. I use my travel privileges to fly kittens from Georgia to rescue groups up north where they have a better chance of getting adopted, and to transport cats with special needs to facilities in other cities for medical care.
For the past four years, I have participated in the Alzheimer’s Walk, in honor of my mother and mother-in-law who both suffered from this awful disease. Because the mother character in Going Home was modeled after my own mother, I sell copies of Going Home at team fundraisers for the Walk and give all the proceeds to the Alzheimer’s Association. I’ve discovered I sell a lot more books when I’m giving all the money to charity than when I’m keeping it for myself!
Can you confide something you wish you were better at?
I wish I were better at public speaking. I’ve come a long way, but I only consider myself competent, not dynamic. I used to be terrified to speak in front of a group, which makes it hard to get ahead in the corporate world. Not to mention, being an author trying to promote her work. So, I joined Toastmasters, attended meetings religiously, and worked my way through the program—all the way to DTM (Distinguished Toastmaster), the highest award. But still, I’d never enter a speech contest or consider a career in public speaking.
Shattered by a broken engagement and a business venture derailed by Jerome Haddad, her unscrupulous partner, Giovanna Rogers goes on a luxury Galapagos cruise with her grandmother to decompress.
At least that’s what her grandmother thinks. Giovanna is determined to make Jerome pay for what he’s done, and she has a tip he’s headed for the Galapagos.
While snorkeling in Gardner Bay off the coast of Española Island, Giovanna and another cruise passenger, tortoise researcher Laurel Pardo, both become separated from the group and Laurel is left behind. No one on the ship will acknowledge Laurel is missing, and Giovanna suspects a cover-up.
When the police come on board to investigate a death, Giovanna is sure the victim is Laurel. She’s anxious to give her testimony to the attractive local detective assigned to the case. Instead, she learns someone else is dead, and she’s a person of interest.
Resolved to keep searching for Laurel and make sense of her disappearance, Giovanna finds that several people on board the cruise ship have reasons to want Laurel gone. One is a scam involving Tio Armando, the famous Galapagos giant tortoise and a major tourist attraction in the archipelago. And Jerome Haddad has a hand in it. Thinking she’s the cat in this game, Giovanna gets too involved and becomes the mouse, putting her life in jeopardy. But if she doesn’t stop him, Jerome will go on to ruin others.
Short excerpt: (Secrets of the Galapagos – 2019)
Laurel tugged at my flipper and pointed. I pivoted through the stream of bubbles in time to see a six-foot hammerhead shark, its flat head barely rippling the water it displaced. I could have touched its coarse, gray skin had I dared. My heart pounded. In our dark wetsuits, did we look like seals? The guides said these Galapagos sharks were not dangerous unless provoked, but who knew when one might decide to add a little tourist delicacy to its diet of fish and crustaceans?
Her dark hair floating around her face, my new friend Laurel gave a thumbs-up. I returned the gesture. I sensed her radiant grin through her mask.
The shark glided away almost as quickly as it had appeared, replaced by a school of surgeonfish, their yellow tails and silvery bodies shimmering in the sunlight. I lost sight of Laurel as I floated among them like a mermaid.
I kicked my way to the surface and lifted my head to drain my snorkel tube. As I pushed a strand of wet hair out of my face, I glimpsed the band of white skin where my engagement ring had been—until last month. Don’t think about that jerk, I scolded myself. Focus on enjoying this incredible cruise. And the mission: justice. Our group had been snorkeling in the chilly waters of Gardner Bay for about an hour, and all I wanted to do now was get back on board the ship, dry off, and tell everyone over a tasty lunch of fresh seafood about our close encounter with the shark. Laurel surely had shot some great pictures.
I pulled off my fogged-up plastic mask and rinsed it in the ocean. The sea had grown rougher since we’d started snorkeling, and dark clouds gathered. A wave slapped my face, sending salty water into my nostrils. I held up my right hand, the symbol for, “I’m ready to come in.”
Where was everybody?
“Laurel?” She’d been swimming beside me moments ago, snapping photos of the vast display of marine life.
I scanned the water for my fellow snorkelers and the guides hovering in the inflatable black boats called Zodiacs. Laurel and I had not strayed that far from the group … had we?
I put my mask back on and ducked underwater to see if anyone was still swimming beneath the surface. Nothing but fish. I didn’t care about the fish anymore.
The sudden sensation of being alone in the cold ocean sucked my energy. I took off my mask again, struggling to hold my head upright and tread water while I regained my bearings.
The steep volcanic outcropping where we’d congregated was on my left. It had been on my right before. I must have drifted to the other side. Seabirds squawked at me as if I had plans to disturb their nests wedged into the jagged, guano-coated crevices.
“Laurel?” She must be wondering what had happened to me.
I dog-paddled around the volcanic rock and then sighted one of the Zodiacs—at least thirty yards away and headed back to the ship. A black speck in the distance was probably the other boat.
“What the—?” I propelled myself in their direction, but the current pushed me back. Instead of aiding my progress, my cumbersome flippers, life vest, and wetsuit—the gear that had kept me so buoyant underwater—now weighted me down. I stopped and waved my whole arm rapidly, the sign for, “Come get me now!”
No heads turned in my direction. The boats were moving farther away.
Damn that Fernando! That self-centered excuse-for-a-guide was too busy flirting and boasting about his exploits to notice two missing passengers.
Something bumped my leg. I couldn’t look.
“Hey!” I shouted at the top of my lungs. I kicked hard and sprang upward, spy-hopping like I’d seen whales do. “Hey!” I had visions of myself drowned in the Galapagos or devoured by a shark—a tragic end to this vacation of a lifetime, this attempt to escape the mess I’d made of my life back in Georgia. So much for ever doing any good in the world.
This sounds great! The Galapagos is on my bucket list. Can you imagine- Sharon and her husband have traveled to over 100 countries! How far have you gone?