Sunday, March 27, 2016

An Eyeshine Interview & Giveaway

I'm happy to welcome Cy Wyss to the blog today. Cy writes the Eyeshine Mystery series.

Kathy: PJ has a unique ability. Like her mother before her, when night falls, she turns into a cat. Would you like to possess that ability?

CW: Sure! I think that would be fun. It would be great to be able to talk with my cats and really see what their view of the world is like. It would also be fun to be able to roam around outside at night and not worry about what people have to worry about (mostly other people, that is). Of course I’d have to be careful of other animals, but in the book PJ speaks canine and squirrel and other animal languages; that would be the icing on the cake.

Kathy: I currently live with three cats. Do you have pet cats of your own?

CW: Three cats, that is probably a lot of fun. We do have cats, we have two cats. We have an intrepid young black cat named Yellow. His name suits not only his big yellow eyes but also the fact that when we first saw him he and his two brothers wore color-coded collars and his was yellow. We also have a grey tabby named Brucee. He is a bit older and awfully odd. He likes to play fetch with Christmas bows. He also steals my daughter’s stuffed animals and carries them around the house meowing. Both cats are wonderful and I can’t imagine life without cats.

Kathy: Clara is the county's prime cat rescuer. Is she based on a real person or group? Are you involved with any local rescue organizations?

CW: Clara is the canonical crazy cat lady, except she takes good care of all her strays. I don’t know anyone like her. I’ve often wanted to get involved with local rescue organizations, for example being a foster parent for animals. My husband is not keen on filling our house with animals, and I don’t blame him. Still, I’d like to be more like Clara.

Kathy: In human form PJ is a reporter and photographer. In fact, even when young she was known for her candid and "impossible" photos. Do you have an interest in photography yourself? Do you tend to take lots of snapshots of everyday life?

CW: I studied photography in high school and really enjoyed it. I do still like to take pictures and it is facilitated by the fact we all have cell phones with high resolution cameras. I like taking the pictures and then looking back at our everyday life. There is so much in life, and even little things can give great joy so I try to capture some of that feeling.

Kathy: What first drew you to cozy mysteries?

CW: Cozy mysteries are harmless fun. There’s something about a story that’s inoffensive and universally appealing that is hard to resist. I grew up reading Agatha Christies so that’s shaped my ideas of what good mysteries are. Eyeshine was particularly fun to write. I did wonder about including references to a meth lab, but I refrain from any gory details. That’s the challenge: how to make it interesting and contemporary while still remaining cozy.

Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?

CW: I also write thrillers, hard-boiled mysteries, and science fiction.

Kathy: Tell us about your series.

CW: EYESHINE is the first book in the series about PJ, a freelance reporter by day and a cat by night. Every day at sundown, PJ turns into a cat. She wears a camera when she’s a feline and captures some great shots from unusual angles and places. Her brother is the sole FBI agent in Mayhap, Indiana’s field office and helps her stay down to earth while she investigates local crime.

DIMORPHIC is the first book in a series about Judith, a woman who inherits her twin brother’s braindead body. When she falls asleep, she switches bodies. She decides to use this power for the pursuit of evil and DIMORPHIC is the story of how she goes about becoming a superhero. She finds a mentor, sidekicks, and bad guys to chase.

My other series is about Inspector Richter, a detective in the San Francisco police department. Richter is a classic loner, but has a bionic eye. Using this eye, he can see the same information as a lie detector test: heartrate, blood pressure, galvanic temperature, etc. So Richter is a walking polygraph. What advantages does this give him? He still has to work within the confines of the law. His word carries a lot but ultimately he needs proof. His eye simply leads him in the right direction, the rest is up to him.

Kathy: Do you have a favorite character? If so, who and why?

CW: I like PJ. She is plucky and genuine. She views the world a little differently because she spends half her time as a cat. I would think this makes her more straightforward and honest to a fault. She is also a little arrogant, but she knows it and I think that adds to her appeal.

Kathy: Did you have a specific inspiration for your series?

CW: I like the Lilian Jackson Braun Cat Who mysteries. I also like the Rita Mae Brown and Sneaky Pie Brown mysteries. I realized mysteries where cats played a role were popular and thought, what about an amateur detective who is a cat? I meant that not as personifying animals, but somehow about someone who turns into a cat. Thus was born the idea of PJ, a woman who turns into a cat at sundown and back into a person at sunrise. She has to shape her life around her ability so she is not found out.

Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?

CW: Really what got me into self-publishing was Joe Konrath’s blog about it. He was very persuasive that going with a big publisher isn’t in the bests interests of an author any more. It is ironic, since his first books were published canonically. I like the idea of self-publishing, but am finding it difficult to carry out further steps, in particular marketing. Getting yourself known is the big issue. Whether one does that via the canonical route or a self-directed route is less important, I think. The big publishers have the advantage of having publicists and contacts. Anyway, I’m glad I self-published. It has been an enlightening experience.

Kathy: If you could have a dinner party and invite 4 authors, living or dead, in any genre, who would you invite?

CW: I would invite Agatha Christie, Michael Connolly, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Hugh Howey. That would be an interesting party. I’d say that is all of my favorite genres represented: cozy mysteries, darker mysteries, classical literature, and science fiction. I’d love to hear the conversation they would strike up. I would have to prepare in advance so I had some pithy questions memorized to start us off. I would also hope there would be time for some one-on-ones, that would be perfect.

Kathy: What are you currently reading?

CW: At the moment I am reading both the Hugh Howey silo series and a Connolly book starring detective Bosch called THE BLACK BOX. I really like the Bosch series. I haven’t read any of Connolly’s Lincoln lawyer series, but will have to try those as well at some point. Connolly is a master. If I could write half as well as he does, I would be doing great. The Hugh Howey series is partly in preparation for a science fiction book I want to write. I wanted to see what contemporary science fiction was at its best. And I can see why Howey is very popular, the series is very good.

Kathy: Will you share any of your hobbies or interests with us?

CW: Other than writing, I like online gaming. I play World of Warcraft too much. Heck, I like games of most every sort. Lately I’ve been playing a lot of chess with my daughter. That is fun and rewarding to see her improving leaps and bounds at the game. We also play Yahtzee, Life, Uno, and Settlers of Catan. It is nice to have games to play in the late afternoon when she’s home from school and done her homework, but before we go out to her extracurricular classes.

Kathy: Name 4 items you always have in your fridge or pantry.

CW: Milk, for sure. We are big milk drinkers and go through around a quart a day so we always have a large supply of it. In the freezer I always have spanakopita, which makes a nice quick dinner when I don’t have any other ideas. In the pantry I always have cereal bars and fruit rollups for my daughter to have as snacks.

Kathy: Do you have plans for future books either in your current series or a new series?

CW: I’m currently working on a science fiction book. The premise is that the practice of preferring male babies that happens in, for example, India and China, has made it into the DNA and now males outnumber females 100 to 1 in a race called the Vuor. The story is about the clash in values and culture that ensues when the Vuor contact Earth. And, of course, there’s a war hanging in the balance. I’ll see how it goes.

I do plan to write a second book in the Eyeshine series. I am working out a plot, probably involving murder at a county chili cook-off. It sounds like a suitably fun scenario for the background of a crime, and something that everyone can relate to.

Kathy: What's your favorite thing about being an author?

CW: I like being able to write my own schedule and use my time the way I see fit. On the other hand, it gives me enough rope to hang myself and I often find it difficult to write during the long alone times when my daughter is at school and husband is at work. It helps to have writer’s groups to belong to and be able to go to write ins with other Indianapolis area authors. There is a thriving group spun off from the NaNoWriMo group and I’m privileged to be a part of it. I guess that is also one of my favorite things about being an author: being with other authors.

Eyeshine by Cy Wyss


by Cy Wyss

on Tour March 1-31, 2016

PJ Taylor is a reporter with a difference. Each night she turns into a black tabby cat from sundown to sunup. In this first adventure, follow PJ as she chases thieves, drug dealers, and even a murderer. Will PJ solve the mysterious drowning death of cantankerous old coot Chip Greene? Or will a local special needs boy end up taking the blame? Be prepared for twists and turns along the way as PJ applies all her feline senses to this diabolical situation.

Book Details:

Genre: Cozy Mystery Published by: Nighttime Dog Press, LLC Publication Date: November 2015 Number of Pages: 200 ASIN: B017WD3WWU Purchase Links: Amazon Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

People called Brooke Annabeth Taylor “PJ,” which stood not for pajamas but for Peeping Jane. She’d been a photographer and reporter for as long as the town could remember—at least since grade school—and her reportage was known for the most candid and impossible photos, like Peter Parker’s but from nearer the ground. Her job was made more difficult by her moniker because once people found out what it was, they shied away and wouldn’t tell her the secrets that are a reporter’s stock-in-trade. As she got older, it got harder and harder to convince anyone to give her a story. Now, at thirty, she was no longer “kitten cute” and able to wile her way easily into subjects’ confidence. Still, she managed to find a way.
With her penetrating amber eyes and easy smile, people found her disarming. She loved her relationship as a freelance reporter with the town’s paper, and all the vagaries that life entails, such as being a night owl and an absolute bulldog for the truth. If she could have chosen her own moniker, it would have likely combined these: Owl Dog. It was particularly inappropriate, however, because she turned not into a bird or canine every night, but into a cat.
She had been a black tabby from sundown to sunup since shortly after puberty. She often wondered why other people didn’t morph into alternate beings for the dark hours, but was admonished very early on by a loving mother to never, never, ever speak a word of it to anyone. PJ liked to think that was because her mother had a similar power and had suffered, but it could have been due solely to the woman’s intelligence and sense of practicality.
PJ’s father had died when she was ten. The man was a scientist, an absent-minded chemist, and PJ was of two minds about his awareness. On the one hand, his cleverness meant surely he wouldn’t have been fooled by a mere wife, no matter how adept at deception; on the other hand, his absentmindedness meant sometimes he forgot to wear shoes. So it wasn’t a stretch to think he might have no inkling about the bizarreness of his wife or daughter.
At sixteen, with PJ in limbo between childhood and womanhood, her mother suffered a tragic and debilitating stroke that took her life within months. PJ then moved in with her much older brother and his family. By then, she had become as adept as her mother at hiding her talent, in spite of the fact her brother was an FBI agent by that time, at twenty-nine, and extraordinarily difficult to deceive. It helped that after he witnessed firsthand the transformation from girl to cat, he immediately went into a long-lasting shock that consisted of utter denial. Instead of considering how her unique power could assist him in his life of crime fighting, he grounded her for a month and kept her largely confined to her room, especially after sundown.
PJ forgave Robert for locking her up, only because of her natural optimism and sense of personal grandeur. Honestly, grudges were beneath her, as were most things mere mono-modal humans did. She focused on her schoolwork and got all A’s that semester. Much later she discovered her brother had to take a polygraph test every year he was employed with the all-knowing government agency. PJ realized Robert had so thoroughly put the image of his sister becoming a black tabby cat out of his mind that he had convinced himself it wasn’t even a hallucination—it simply hadn’t existed at all. There’s no need to lie if you’re a true believer, and that was the most effective path for a forced deceiver. So PJ kept her secret, and Robert kept his job.
Fourteen years later, PJ was irrevocably known as Peeping Jane and Robert had traveled the country and come back in his forties to set up a one-man field office in Mayhap, Indiana. One day, PJ was out with her best friends Clara Goodwind and Vicky Donnerweise at the Mayhap Spring Festival when the sun dipped low on the horizon, threatening to bring the stars closer and the day to an end.
“PJ, why do you always leave just when things are getting interesting?” Clara said.
She was a buxom woman with big hazel eyes and bright red hair. Her wardrobe favored items with cats in evidence or implied by pithy sayings, such as “Meow Happens,” which her pink tube top currently sported. The woman was Taft County’s prime cat rescuer, with a warren of dedicated chicken-wire pens covering her backyard and a full-time feeding schedule. When she wasn’t volunteering at the county’s humane shelter, she was ensconced in a network of gossips centered at the Mayhap Memorial Library. Clara was an assistant librarian but party to all the good stories the town could provide. PJ found her an invaluable source. If it happened, or was going to happen, Clara knew about it and would talk.
Vicky stood with arms akimbo and watched PJ inhale an elephant ear. She was a striking woman with hair even blacker than PJ’s and blue eyes where PJ’s were yellow. Vicky was tall and muscular, like a man, but lither and hourglass-shaped inside the bulky kit she wore for law enforcement. She was one of Taft County’s deputies, second in their force only to Sheriff Curtis Denning, whom she happened to be married to.
“Land’s sake, PJ, how do you eat like that? You know I’m active all day, but I can’t eat three of those things without being ten pounds fatter tomorrow. Do you just stay up all night on the treadmill or what?”
A loud cry of enjoyment crescendoed from the fairway before PJ could answer, which was just as well since her mouth was filled with fried dough and she wouldn’t have gotten more than a grunt or two out. She didn’t have the heart to enlighten her friend. Every night, indeed, she ran the treadmill of being feline. She wandered miles in the summertime, searched every nook and cranny of the county, chased rodents and vermin, and napped only fitfully and with one eye open under the shifting moon.
She popped the last of the ear into her mouth and said, “It’s genetics. Some people are luckier than others.”
Vicky and Clara groaned.
Clara adjusted her pink-rimmed glasses and slurped her sno-cone. “At least I managed to keep myself to just one Devil Dog. And sno-cones have no calories after noon—everyone knows that.” Clara was constantly watching her figure, which didn’t seem to keep her from growing more buxom by the year. At the rate she was going, she would be a round octogenarian with a radiant smile in fifty years. PJ thought things could be worse.
“So you two coming two weeks from today or what?” Vicky said.
She was having a cookout, a common occurrence in the warmer months, and the Taylors and Goodwinds were regular fixtures. Everyone knew the cookouts were as much a bid to stuff the people of Taft County with reasons why the Denning clan should hold on to the sheriff-hood for the indefinite future, but everyone came anyway. Vicky’s ribs were legendary, and Curtis’s beer was as tasty and free flowing as anyone’s ever was. Today was Saturday, and two weeks from today was going to be the first big Donnerweise-Denning BBQ of the season.
“Yeah, I’ll be there,” PJ said. “At least until sunset.”
Vicky rolled her eyes. “Because you turn into a pumpkin at sunset, right? We’ll never get to see nighttime you. Isn’t Doc Fred helping you with that?”
Doctor Fred Norton was Mayhap’s most celebrated, and only, psychiatrist. Apparently he was a third cousin twice removed to the iconic Oprah Winfrey and had once listened to her problems with aplomb, inspiring her to go on and listen eternally to others. He was given a brief mention in a book of hers, which was now out-of-print. For Mayhap, that was all it took to secure one’s place in the annals of town history. He even had a special shelf in the library to display his pamphlets on the pluses of positive putation, despite the brochures containing more than their fair share of buzz non-words.
PJ’s cover story for disappearing every evening, no matter the weather or event, was a rare and debilitating overreaction to darkness. Everyone thought she ran home to sit in a bright room under full-spectrum lights so she could make it through the dark hours with her psyche intact, her odd and entrenched phobia notwithstanding. Doc Fred made a perfect corroborator. His acute sense of professional delicacy meant he could never confirm nor deny PJ’s hints that he was treating her without success for her illness. Perhaps he had spent the last decades sketching her case study, which would no doubt be picked up by the professional societies should it ever come to a positive conclusion.
“Sorry,” PJ said to Vicky, “I’m not going to talk about it.”
“Oh, right. Shrink’s privilege and all that.”
“Well, get going,” Clara said. “I don’t want to have to carry around any pumpkins your size after dark, if you turn into one.”
“Alrighty. Toodles, people.”

Author Bio:

Cy WyssI live and write in the Indianapolis area. After earning a PhD in Computer Science in 2002 and teaching and researching for seven years, I’ve returned to the childhood dream of becoming an author. I better do it now because I won’t get a third life. Behind me, I have a ton of academic experience and have written about twenty extremely boring papers on query languages and such, for example this one in the ACM Transactions on Databases. (That’s a mouthful.) Now, I write in the mystery/thriller/suspense genres and sometimes science fiction. I know for some people databases would be the more beloved of the options, but for me, I finally realized that my heart wasn’t in it. So I took up a second life, as a self-published fiction author. Online, I do the Writer Cy cartoon series about the (mis)adventures of researching, writing, and self-publishing in today’s shifting climate. I also love to design and create my own covers using GIMP.

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  1. Very good interview! Thanks!

    My husband is always asking me - "If you were a cat, what would you be doing right now?" we are both cat people!

  2. Thanks again for the opportunity to appear on your website. I had a lot of fun writing Eyeshine, and hope everyone has fun reading it!