Tag Archive for: Sasscer Hill

Looking Forward to Deckle Edge

by Paula
Gail Benson
This weekend, I’ve delighted in reading
about all the activities at Sleuthfest. Next weekend, in Columbia,
S.C., we’re looking forward to our own literary festival, Deckle Edge, on
Saturday, March 23. The “deckle edge” is the rough edge on hand cut
paper, often seen on early printed books. If you’re in the area, please come to
the main library on Assembly Street for a day of celebrating the written word.
I’m particularly excited to be moderating a
panel about the Detective in the South. The panelists are authors David
Burnsworth, Sasscer Hill, Roger Johns, Raegan Teller, and Maggie Toussaint.
Here’s some information about the topic and participants:
To paraphrase Raymond
Chandler, “Down the mean streets a detective, man or woman, must go, who is not
himself or herself mean.” What happens when those mean streets happen to be in
the American South? Does the setting change the crime or detective, or both?
Join us for a lively discussion involving traditional and unique fictional
detectives whose investigations have a Southern flair!
David Burnsworth became
fascinated with the Deep South at a young age. After a receiving a degree in
Mechanical Engineering from the University of Tennessee and fifteen years in
the corporate world, he made the decision to write a novel. Having lived in
Charleston on Sullivan’s Island for five years, the setting for his Brack
Pelton novels was a foregone conclusion. He and his wife call South Carolina
home. He also writes a series featuring private detective Blu Carraway. http://davidburnsworthbooks.com/
Sasscer Hill is the author of
the Agatha and Macavity nominated Nikki Latrelle horseracing series. Her latest
novels, Flamingo
 and The Dark Side of Town,
have followed Fia McKee, who after being put on leave for use of excessive
force as a Baltimore police officer receives a second chance working for the
Thoroughbred Racing Protective Bureau. Flamingo Road won
the $10,000 Dr. Tony Ryan Best in Horse Racing Literature Award for 2018. In
addition, Sasscer, herself and expert horsewoman, has written a Nikki Latrelle
prequel for Young Adults and a number of short stories. https://www.sasscerhill.com/
Roger Johns writes the Wallace Hartman Mysteries from
St. Martin’s Press/Minotaur Books: Dark River Rising (2017)
and River of Secrets (2018). He is the 2018 Georgia Author of
the Year (Detective·Mystery Category), a 2018 Killer Nashville Readers’ Choice
Award nominee, a finalist for the 2018 Silver Falchion Award for best police
procedural, runner-up for the 2019 Frank Yerby Fiction Award, and the 2019 JKS
Communications Author-in-Residence. His articles and interviews on writing and
the writing life appear in Career Authors, Criminal Element, and the Southern
Literary Review. He co-authors the MurderBooks blog at 
Raegan Teller is the award-winning author of the Enid
Blackwell series. Murder in Madden (Pondhawk Press, 2016) was
her debut novel, followed by The Last Sale (2018) and Secrets
Never Told 
(2019)Her mystery novels are set in and
around Columbia, where she lives with her husband and two cats. Teller writes
about small town intrigue, family secrets, and tales of murder, and while her
books are fiction, her books are inspired by real events. She is a summa cum
laude graduate of Queens University, Charlotte, and a member of Sisters in
Crime, South Carolina Writers Association, and Charlotte Writers Club. 
Maggie Toussaint is a
scientist by training, a romanticist at heart, and an award-winning author of
mystery, romance, romantic suspense, and science fiction. Her series
protagonist Baxley Powell has inherited the ability to dreamwalk in order to
find answers about crime. Through her investigations, Baxley seeks justice for
the dead and solace for the living in a unique lowcountry setting. Maggie is
the Past President of the Southeast Mystery Writers of America and a member of
Low Country Sisters in Crime. https://maggietoussaint.com/
We hope you can join us!

Sasscer Hill: Racing toward a New Series

Sasscer Hill

Hill’s horse racing mysteries have been compared with those of Dick Francis.
Her debut novel, Full Mortality, was
nominated for an Agatha and a Macavity. She has written additional novels
featuring Nikki Latrelle and also published a number of short stories.
Recently, she signed a multiple book deal with St. Martin’s Press Minotaur
Books for a new series.
Welcome, Sasscer, to The Stiletto Gang. Tell us about
your background and how you began writing mysteries.
Hi, Paula, I’m honored to
have been invited to speak with The Stiletto Gang readers today.
Mysteries have always been my favorite fiction genre. As a youngster, I
loved the Nancy Drew books and read all the Sherlock Holmes stories.
I also loved horses, action, and
adventure. Naturally, I discovered Walter Farley’s Black Stallion books and became addicted to them as soon as I could
mysteries were my favorite genre growing up, from Dick Francis to
Josephine Tey, if I was going to write, mystery writing was my natural choice. But
like so many of us, I got an office job after graduating from college (Franklin
and Marshall), and the mystery writing never had a chance until later in life. I
spent twenty years working in marketing and promotions for several
Washington, DC associations, and two different academic book publishers. I
managed to
a romantic suspense novel while I was still working, but when the novel was
completed—and soundly rejected—I soon realized I had a lot to learn if I wanted
to be a published author. I took classes at the Bethesda Writer’s Center in
Maryland, near DC. After some eye-opening courses, I wrote FULL MORTALITY,
later published by Wildside Press.
In the last few years, you’ve made significant changes
in your life by selling your family home in Maryland and moving to South
Carolina. How has that affected your writing?
I lost most of 2012 and the beginning of 2013 to
selling the farm that had been in my family for over two hundred years, my
horses, and moving to Aiken and setting up a new home and life. Once I got
settled in 2013, I wrote the novel with the working title FLAMINGO ROAD and
more than 50,000 words of my WIP, THE DARK SIDE OF TOWN. My life is easier and
far more convenient since the move, giving me more time to write. I love living
in Aiken where I am surrounded by horses, clean air, and very little traffic or
What made you decide to write a new series?
I had no choice. By the time I finished the third book in the Nikki Latrelle series for
the small Wildside Press, I’d learned New York publishers were not interested
in a new book in a series that was already in the hands of another
publisher–unless, of course, the series had been blessed with tremendous sales.
A word to the wise: you are unlikely to get tremendous sales when publishing with
a small press.
I was lucky enough to secure a
savvy, reputable agent who told me
if I wanted a bigger publisher, hopefully one of the “Big Five,” I had
to start a new series. So I did, creating “Fia McKee.”
Describe your new protagonist, Fia McKee. How is she
like and different from Nikki Latrelle?
Fia McKee is a thirty-two-year old agent for the
real life agency, Thoroughbred Racing Protective Bureau (TRPB.) She has more
life experience than twenty-three-year-old Nikki Latrelle, who was always
hoping to avoid involvement in altercations or stressful events. Fia, on the
other hand, strides in with her eyes open. She was a patrol cop and undercover
agent for the Baltimore City PD, and has already seen much of life’s horrors.
Nikki Latrelle had a horrific
childhood, and wants only to leave all that behind her. Fia’s childhood was
great until her mother walked out on her when she was fifteen and her father
was murdered. She became a cop because of the anger that burned inside her at
the injustice of her father’s unsolved murder case.
James M. Jackson, Sasscer Hill, PGB, and Susan M. Boyer at 2013 SC Book Festival
 Your second Fia McKee mystery just won First Place in the Carrie McCray 2015 Competition for First
Chapter of a Novel.
Tell us about your journey in getting the two book
deal with St. Martin’s Press, Minotaur Books and when the books will be
As I write this, the St.
Martins contract is being finalized, and I do not yet have a publication date.
Believe me, Paula, you’ll be the first to know!
I finished the manuscript with the working title FLAMINGO ROAD around
August of 2014. I started the second in the series in October of 2014. My agent
began shopping FLAMINGO ROAD in December of 2014. When an editor at St. Martins
Minotaur showed interest in FLAMINGO ROAD, but with some reservations about the
public’s interest in a horse racing novel, I immediately went to work.
Jenny Milchman, Sasscer Hill (VP of Palmetto Chapter of SinC), and Suze Maze at 2015 SC Book Festival
 Phone calls and research
provided me with statistics on the strong popularity of horse racing. I cited
things like NBC’s unprecedented ten-year extension agreement to broadcast
rights to the Breeders Cup weekend races. I wrote about the recent ESPN poll
showing horse racing is the most popular non-team sport, beating out tennis,
boxing, and even NASCAR. How England’s three-day Cheltenham Racing Festival had
the biggest attendance in history this past March. My agent sent all of it to
the St. Martins editor.
Then the stars aligned like
magic. I received the Carrie McCray award for the second book in my new series.
The Nikki Latrelle series drew an extraordinarily favorable review from
racing’s leading turf writer and racing analyst, Steve Haskin. At the end of
this lovely endorsement he wrote, “Dick Francis lives!” And most amazingly, a
horse named American Pharoah broke a thirty-seven-year Triple Crown drought
wide open with 22 million television viewers, tremendous press, and a cover photo
on Sports Illustrated. I received an
offer the next day.
Wow, what a wonderful whirlwind! Now that you’re busy
with the new series, will you have time to write more short stories?
I honestly don’t know.
What advice would you give to writers and aspiring
Never give up.
Learn your craft, but follow
your heart.
Always be kind and gracious–think Hank
Phillippi Ryan. Remember, you
never know if the person
you are talking to might hold the key to unlock a door you haven’t been able to
pass through.
Know your market. Have a list
of who might buy your book.
Join groups, but don’t let
them take too much of your time.
Nothing is as important as
Network, but do so within
reason. See previous sentence.
When you go to meetings note
(A) writers you like and admire. Also, note (B) writers you don’t like or
admire. Tip: Be sure not to behave like the B writers!
Sasscer, thank you for being with us and many
congratulations on your much deserved success. We’re looking forward to reading
your new series!

A Town Called Malice

This past weekend, I had the pleasure of traveling down the
New Jersey Turnpike into Maryland with the lovely and talented Laura Bradford
to the annual Malice Domestic convention. 
(And for any of you ‘80s-music devotees out there, does anyone else
think of The Jam song, “A Town Called Malice”? 
I do.)  As always, it was a
wonderful time, filled with the nicest mystery writers and the most wonderful
readers, people who are so devoted to the genre as to have encyclopedic
knowledge of every book every written, it would seem.
Laura and I couldn’t be more compatible as roommates:  she likes the room cold like I do, goes to
bed early like I do, and is always willing to listen to my latest hare-brained
idea concerning a new book or plot twist. 
Oh, and she loves pretzels, just like I do!  I couldn’t have asked for a better person to
share the experience with, right down to our delightful Burger King meal at a
rest stop on the Turnpike, which she managed to make enjoyable.
Sara J. Henry, a debut novelist who won the Mary Higgins
Clark Award—an award for which I was a judge—at the Edgars prior to the
convention for her novel LEARNING TO SWIM, also won the Agatha for Best First
Novel.  If you haven’t read this book,
get it.  It’s fantastic.  It begins with a woman on a ferry who sees a
little boy being thrown overboard and it takes off from there.  A fantastic read.
I was on a panel that was geared toward sports-related
mysteries, a result of my last book—PHYSICAL EDUCATION—being set in the world
of women’s college basketball.  Alan
Orloff made a fine moderator—or shall we say “referee”—for the panel which
included Beth Groundwater, Sasscer Hill, and Laura DiSilverio.  Although I didn’t have much to say about my
less-than-illustrious CYO basketball career, I was able to relive the moment
that I hit a walk-off grand slam in our town’s softball playoffs.  Good times.
Laura crafted a panel moderated by Aimee Hix that exposed
the “dirty little secrets” that writers have including who they model their murder
victims on, what the eat when they are on deadline, and how they come up with
their ideas.  For the record, my
answers:  1) no one you know (not that I
would ever tell); 2) pretzels; 3) while driving.
If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a thousand
times:  writing is a solitary, sometimes
lonely profession.  To be around five
hundred people who all love the same thing—mystery—is exhilarating and
fulfilling.  I leave Malice every year
energized to finish that first draft or start something new and to everyone who
attended and contributed to that feeling, I say “thank you.”
Maggie Barbieri