MJ LaBeff is an American author best described as the girl-next-door with a dark side. MJ grew up in northeastern Ohio but traded snow for sunshine and moved to southern Arizona where she lives with her husband and two dogs. She’s drawn to writing suspense novels, featuring complicated characters and twisted plot lines that will keep readers turning page after page. When she’s not writing or plotting her next novel, MJ enjoys reading, running, lifting weights, and volunteering for the American Cancer Society.

What is your latest book?

My latest book is Last Spring’s Stranger which was released on January 12, 2021. It’s part of the Last Cold Case series. In this fourth book, I’ve upped the stakes for Homicide Detective, Rachel Hood.

Secrets can have deadly and life altering consequences. The legend of Verch’s Hollow has intrigued the residents of Snug Harbor, Ohio for generations. Myths about the abandoned property abound. When a teenage girl is murdered in the Hollow, her gruesome death threatens to expose a secret from Homicide Detective Rachel Hood’s past. Forced to face the truth of her deception, she reopens a cold case that could jeopardize her career. A victim of adolescent cyber-bullying, messages fill her personal inbox with threatening undertones from years ago. Do keep evidence and share it with an authority.

Enter FBI Agent Nick Draven an occult crimes specialist and Hood’s fiancé. As they delve deeper into the sender’s motive, Rachel has to confront the harsh reality she left behind over twelve years ago: a murdered friend, Tina; a glimpse of the killer at the scene of the crime, who she can’t identify despite her psychic empathy; and her own involvement with the evening’s sinister events.

What are the special challenges in writing a series?

My goal with each book in the series is not to have any spoilers. I want a reader to be able to read book 2 or 4 and have just enough information from a previous book that will encourage them to go back and read the others. That can pose challenges but I’ve found clever ways around it. The other challenge is keeping all of the main characters back stories straight and other details. I’m a big fan of character enneagrams so I rely on these as my guide along with notes regarding a character’s physical looks, ticks, catch phrases and so on. If you’re writing a series I strongly encourage taking the time to keep a journal of the characters.

How many unwritten books are in your head?

At the moment two. I have an idea for a single title thriller that I’m really excited about and looking forward to writing in the future but after I finish Murdered Last Summer book 5 of the Last Cold Case series; I’ll probably write Disappeared Last Fall book 6.

How do you decide which ones come to life now and which ones stay on the back burner?

Great question and until July 2021 I would have replied: as long as MuseItUp Publishing want more books in the Last Cold Case series, I’m committed to writing those first and then fitting in a side project. Unfortunately, MuseItUp closed its doors and so now…dun…dun…dun…I’m on my own! When I received the news via email it was a heartbreaking moment. The publisher sent such a sincere and heartfelt email, making it evident how sad she was to be closing the company. I was blessed that she worked very closely with me so that my books could easily be published again once she “took them down.” Although I was devastated losing my publisher, the experience with them until the very end was more than I could have anticipated. They provided me with formatted manuscripts so that I could release the books on my own in digital and print, and I was able to retain the original cover art. I realize this might not always be the case.

Upon the advice of a friend, I used Draft2Digital to launch the eBooks to all ebook sellers except for Amazon. She advised that it’s best to use Kindle Direct Publishing. I was familiar with KDP as my first book Mind Games was self-published via it. Uploading the manuscripts and cover art on either platform was quite easy!

The challenge is that I don’t know how to format a manuscript and I’m not a graphic designer; I’ll leave that heavy lifting to the experts! So, as long as I have formatted manuscripts and book covers I can self-publish. Again, I was lucky that my former publisher provided all of this to me. Formatting a manuscript is tricky business, I’d encourage any author to work with a professional so that the final product is beautiful in digital and/or print. Same goes for choosing a cover artist to design your book cover.

My hat is off, and I courtesy to the authors out there who can do it all. You are creative beings and true entrepreneurs. You are my heroes!

The biggest piece of advice I can give to any author in this type of situation is to ask your publisher to sign a reversion of rights agreement. If it weren’t from some really close author friends (who helped me during this difficult time) I might have not started with this first step. I had multiple books with MuseItUp. I had signed 5 contracts with them- 4 for the eBooks in the series (3 of the 4 contracts included print books), and there was a separate contract for the series. I had to ask for my rights back for the 4 books plus the series. Why is this important? There’s always a chance of running into a stumbling block when an author re-releases books that were once with a publisher. I was cautioned that Amazon for example might ask me for reversion of rights letters.

I had been nearly halfway through writing book 5 of the series when I received the news but I continued writing. I can’t say what the future holds for Homicide Detective, Rachel Hood and FBI Agent, Nick Draven. Perhaps I’ll start writing Disappeared Last Fall book 6 or that single title thriller tentatively titled, Dead End.


What is the worst writing advice you’ve ever received?

Many years ago I attended an in person workshop given by a widely acclaimed author who told us writers in the room- never use the verb “was” in a sentence. At this point in my writing career, I had completed writing a third book and was working on a fourth. I remember going home and painstakingly working on eliminating “was” from my novel, Haunting Lyric. At my wits end, I called another author friend and she chastised me for believing such nonsense.

C’mon! I understand the advice given to choose a solid verb and avoid using “to be” and other lazy verbs and do your best to avoid adverbs but as a writer you also need to be mindful of how people speak and think. Characters are human beings of our creation so bring them to life appropriately. How’d ya like that? I used “to be” and “was” in my response, HaHa!

BTW, Haunting Lyric has suffered through so many edits and revisions from me that I had an editor say, “I feel like the author has chosen her words too carefully.” No kidding! It remains unpublished.

The best?

New York Times Bestselling author Vicki Lewis Thompson offered me the best advice. She looked me dead in the eyes and said, “Just write.”

Any advice you’d like to offer to writers?

I give writers the same advice she gave me. Just write. There are plenty of rules to learn about but the best thing you can do for yourself is just write. Get the story out and then make it shine during the editing and proofreading process. I also encourage writers to join a professional organization at the national and local level even if you don’t write in that genre. There are so many opportunities to learn and grow and of course meet other writers and authors.

I’m a member of Sisters in Crime and when I first started writing I was a national and local chapter member of Romance Writers of America (RWA) for 8 years. I learned so much from RWA and had the opportunity to pitch to agents and editors. If you’re familiar with my books, you know I write dark thrillers but the advice, workshops, and fellow writers and authors I met through RWA shaped my career and inspired my confidence.

One more piece of advice, find a good critique partner or critique group to read your work. You’ll want them to be familiar with the genre you’re writing and provide gentle guidance and advice.

What are some of the crazy things people have said to you upon learning you are an author? How have you responded?

I guess I’ll start by saying that when someone asks, “What do you do?” My reaction isn’t to say, “I’m a writer.” I work in the financial services industry so I usually reply with the name of my employer. When someone does know I write and mentions it, I’m always a bit bashful. It’s not that I don’t want to talk about my books or writing but sometimes people get a little starry eyed. They don’t realize I’m not “big time stuff.” Of course, my close friends know what a time consuming commitment writing books is for me and that I’ve enjoyed small rewards along the way, but everyone does not know my name. If ya know what I mean!

Recently, I was talking with a neighbor and he was introducing me to some other neighbors and said, “It’s really exciting to have an author in the neighborhood.” I could feel the blush rising on my cheeks. What could I say or do? I just smiled and said, “Thank you.”

The only other funny thing that happened to me was after the Tucson Festival of Books a few years ago. I was shopping at Macy’s with a friend and a woman stopped me and said, “Oh my gosh, you’re that author I met at the festival.” I’m certain if the event hadn’t just been the previous weekend she would’ve walked right past me. We briefly chatted, and I was happy to hear she was already enjoying one of my books. It was a surreal moment to have been remembered.

Care to brag about your family?

Two men who inspire me daily are my husband and my dad.

My husband is smart and a risk taker. He sets out to do something and does it. Failure is never an option with him. He’s the kind of person who makes things happen. I admire his tenacity and confidence, kindness and generosity.

My dad is a first generation American whose parents were immigrants from Croatia. Deda, my dad’s father worked in a coal mine and brick yard, and my dad discovered how physically demanding those jobs were early in his life. He learned English while going to school and after graduating from high school went to college. He earned an Associate’s Degree in Business. Although, he had planned to acquire a four year Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting being married, working fulltime and going to college was hard and another opportunity outside of the bookkeeping job he had presented itself. My dad was very successful as a car salesman and eventually went on to start his own Ford dealership. I marvel at his entrepreneurial spirit and grit to walk away from a great job.

What I’ve learned from both of them is that you have to believe in yourself because if you don’t, no one will.

If you had a million dollars to give to charity, how would you allocate the funds?

I would donate one million dollars to the American Cancer Society and allocate funds for research grants to advance medicine and for travel expenses to help people living in remote areas that are in need of transportation and housing while undergoing treatment in a nearby city.

If you could have one skill that you don’t currently have what would it be?

I like old cars. If I could have another skill I’d like to be a mechanic and own a ’78 Vette and other classic cars. I think it’d be fun to work on a classic.




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Instagram: @mjlabeff



Theresa Snyder is a multi-genre writer with an internationally read blog. She grew up on a diet of B&W Scifi films like Forbidden Planet and The Day the Earth Stood Still. She is a voracious reader and her character-driven writing is influenced by the early works of Anne McCaffrey, Ray Bradbury, Robert Heinlein and L. Ron Hubbard. She loves to travel, but makes her home in Oregon where her elder father and she share a home and the maintenance of the resident cat, wild birds, squirrels, garden, and occasional Dragon house guest.

Time to chat with Theresa!

What is your latest book?

My most recent publication is Shifting Agony & Ecstasy, the second book in the Twin Cities Series.

What are the special challenges in writing a series?

I have three series I am writing – the Twin Cities Series, my paranormal series, The Farloft Chronicles, my fantasy series, and The Star Travelers, my science fiction series. Each has its own particular challenges.

The Twin Cities are novellas, very fast paced. In those I want to not only tell a story with each, but I also endeavor to give the reader more information with each book about the setting, which is a place called The Realms. Several Indie authors and I got together to create The Realms. We wanted a setting we could all write in with some of our own characters and some cross over character – like the authors who write the Star Trek books. We all hope to write in this series for many years to come. Right now between all the authors there are seven books in the series and we have only been writing for a year as of this December.

JamesAndTheDragon_CVR by Sarah

Farloft, my dragon from the fantasy series is very well known on Twitter. He tweets the last Friday of the month. Folks know him, they look forward to his visits, they expect the same Farloft in the books as they find on Twitter. Because he is in his own kingdom in the books and not in modern times I have to be vigilant and not let his character drift far from how he would react to any question on Twitter. It has made his tweeting very interesting. He is over a thousand years old and very wise. He has been asked to solve problems, mediate disagreements and give sage advice on Twitter.

The major challenge for my science fiction series is consistency and continuity. I have been writing in that series since 1990. There are so many characters, that age at different speeds due to their alien heritage, and places they have been, that they go back to periodically from book to book. I have made a huge glossary of hundreds of terms, places, characters, plus a star map. Their universe is astronomical.

How did you choose the genres you write in? Or did they choose you?

I write science fiction because I love creating characters and building new worlds. Science fiction is a great genre to play in. My works are not highly technical. They are character driven like Josh Whedon’s Firefly series.

Farloft was created out of a desire to teach, but not preach to my nine-year-old nephew. What are the consequences if I steal? How do I be the best friend to someone? How is honesty and truthfulness rewarded? I mean, who wouldn’t listen to a wise old dragon?

My paranormal chose me. When we authors got together and started brainstorming The Realms we all decided paranormal was the way to go. The Realms is the place where all things humans think are paranormal, mythological or fanciful live. The other authors picked vampires. I decided I wanted to write a shape shifter. Cody changes from human to wolf – not werewolf, just wolf. I really enjoy my time crawling into a wolf’s skin and seeing the world through his eyes.

Some authors, like me, always write scenes in order. But I know some people write scenes out of order. How about you?

I used to think I had to write in order, but then I woke up one morning and had this great idea for a scene totally out of order – much later in the book. I debated with myself about writing it or not, but the characters were talking to me, so I wrote. You know, it worked out just fine. When the time came in the regular flow of the story, I just inserted it.

Since then I have purchased a program called Scrivener and it literally has you write in chapters that can be physically moved within the program to rearrange as needed. I hate to sound like an advertisement, but it is far superior to Word or any other word processes program for writing books. I would never write with any other program now that I have used it.

How important is the choosing of character name to you? Have you ever decided on a name and then changed it because it wasn’t right for the character?

I simply cannot write a character unless they have a name. I cannot get words down on paper, or think of the way that character should act unless they have a name. I am the same way about a book’s title. I cannot write it without it having at least a working title. My latest book went through three different working titles before I settled on Shifting Agony & Ecstasy.

I don’t think I have ever changed a character’s name once I wrote about them. It has to be right from the start.


Do you dread writing a synopsis for your novels as much as most writers do? Do you think writing a synopsis is inherently evil? Why?

I have fifteen published books. Every synopsis I have written has been like pulling a dragon through a keyhole backwards. A synopsis is extremely difficult for me. If there was a service I could subscribe to that would write mine, I would pay a fortune to have someone else do them. It is so hard to put into three to five sentences what you have been writing on for months. To consolidate it down, make it interesting and yet not give anything away. It is an exercise in futility. Yes, they are inherently evil!

Please tell us about your experience with social media. What are your favorite and least-favorite parts of it?

Before I became a published author last year in May of 2013, I did a little Facebooking and that was all. I would rather speak with my friends personally then post something. When I published my first book my students at school (I run the print shop at our local community college) told me I should get on Twitter to promote and build a community of followers for my books. They said it would be a perfect medium for me. I love to chat. They were right. It is like a constant party. I stroll in and someone is always there waiting to chat about anything from dragons to what they had for lunch. I love it. You dip a toe in the pool and the ripples spread. I have been on twitter less than a year and a half and have over thirteen thousand followers. On Facebook I have a couple of hundred and most of those are ones who followed me over from Twitter. Facebook is just not my style. I heard someone compare Twitter to a cocktail party and Facebook to having friends over for dinner at your home. I far prefer cocktail parties in social media. If I want to have someone over for dinner, I will invite them.

A lot of authors are frustrated by readers who don’t understand how important reviews are. What would you say to a reader who doesn’t think his or her review matters?

I would tell that reader, as an indie author in particular, we need their reviews to help us find our audiences. When you do a review for an indie author you are giving them one of the biggest boosts they can have to promote their work. So, if you love something you have read, write a line or two, it doesn’t have to be a huge review. We authors are all taught the list of things a reader looks at once you get them to your page to buy your books: 1) The cover 2) The description 3) The reviews. If the reviews are not there a great book will often not sell.

What is the coolest surprise you’ve ever had?

About a month or so after I published my first book that was The Helavite War in May of 2013, I received a message on my Facebook page from a man named Max in Italy. He said he was lying in bed reading my book. Imagine that? A guy halfway around the world lying in bed reading My Book! That was the coolest. Still makes me smile.


What might we be surprised to know about you?

I am probably older than most of you think from looking at my photo, even though the one posted here is only two years old. I have had the opportunity to do many interesting jobs in my lifetime. Those jobs, and the people I met through them, have provided a wide range of experiences for me to pull from to write my books.

I used to say I had everything, but been in prison or been a nun. Now I just say I have never been a nun. I have held the follow jobs to today: dog groomer, zoo keeper, Fotomat attendant, hostess in a restaurant, make-up artist (this is where I went to prison to do the make-up for a documentary), retail store manager, retail toy buyer, book buyer, jeweler, diamond salesman, bookstore manager, teacher, dispatcher for an elevator company, librarian, law librarian, dispatcher for a Ford dealership, bookkeeper, paperback book distributor’s sales rep, legal assistant, marketing coordinator, print shop manager, and always in the background, ever present, author.

Is there a question I haven’t asked you that you would like to answer? If so, what is it?

YES: What do you believe sets your work apart from everyone else’s?

All of my work is very character driven. I also think it is very well rounded. They all contain elements of humor, romance, adventure, and reflection. Like a fine wine you can savor on many levels.



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