Wednesday, March 30, 2022

The Santorini Setup: The Back Story—Part One


Kitty Johnson, a dear friend from Minneapolis, brought a gift on her recent visit. She had found a 1993 St. Paul Pioneer Press article about my just-published novel, Sinister Paradise and had framed it. (See photo.) Coincidentally, at the publication party of The Santorini Setup two days earlier, I had mentioned that my new novel is a rewrite of Sinister Paradise.

So, what is the back story of SP/TSS? In 1979, I strapped on a backpack, donned Red Wing steel-toed boots, and flew to Athens. I was in that sweet spot of life—I’d finished my Masters degree and had not yet started a career. A six-week solo jaunt in Greece, my spiritual touchstone, seemed the perfect way to celebrate my freedom before finding a job.

A few days into the trip, I was sitting on a curb studying a map of Athens, when a young woman stopped to see if I needed assistance. She was a student at the American School. A lesbian. She invited me to spend a few days at her place in the upscale Kolonaki neighborhood. She was renting a room at the apartment owned by a photographer who worked for the State Department traveling around the Mediterranean taking pictures at U.S. embassy functions.

“Is he CIA?” I asked.

“That’s my suspicion, but he’d never admit it,” she said.

Through the apartment owner, I met other embassy staff as well as the son of a wealthy Greek industrialist who owned an 80-foot yacht. (Alas, I never stepped foot on it.)  I spent several days absorbing the exclusive lifestyle of the foreign service and American students, an experience few tourists have.

The following week I took a ferry to Santorini and walked up the zig-zag steps to the main town of Thera. Donkey rides were available, but I was pinching drachmas and took the free route—my legs. I stayed at a quaint B&B at Kamari Beach with black sand so hot it could burn feet. I explored the archaeological site at Akrotiri, visited the ruins atop Mesa Vouno, and generally bummed around the beautiful but eerie island, a remnant of a massive volcanic explosion over 3000 years ago.

Back in Minneapolis, I got a job with Control Data’s Education Company. One project involved writing short stories for a reading program. Lesbian literature was starting to flourish and given my forays into fiction at work, I thought I’d try writing a lesbian novel. I loved suspense and mystery books, so I settled on a suspense story set in Greece using bits from my travels. Writing a novel was harder than I had anticipated, though. And I needed more data!

Four years later, in 1983, I returned to Greece to gather more information. For several years, I continued to work on the story in fits and starts. Finally, I took two suspense/mystery writing classes at The Loft Literary Center and joined a writing group that emerged from those classes. With the group’s encouragement, I finished my novel, and in 1993, Madwoman Press published Sinister Paradise.

See the next entry for Part Two of how my first book turned into my fifth book.

The Santorini Setup: The Back Story—Part Two


 Jump forward almost three decades to 2020, when I self-published A Light on Altered Land. Creating an eBook was relatively easy with Kindle I learned, so I decided to turn my two out-of-print novels from the 1990s into Kindle books.


I didn’t have the computer files for Fertile Betrayal, so each page had to be scanned. Scanning introduced errors, however. For example, the scanner often read “rn” as an m. After several rounds of proofreading, I published Fertile Betrayal pretty much word for word.  


Next, I turned my attention to Sinister Paradise. Sara Yager, a Carefree friend and graphic designer, scanned the pages as she had for Fertile Betrayal. As I was proofreading the book, I got so caught up in the page-turner I forgot to mark any errors. What a strong plot, I thought. If were writing the story now, however, I’d make it much more romantic.


While I was proofreading, Sara was mocking up a new cover. My jaw dropped when I saw it. I knew immediately I had to make Sinister Paradise worthy of her stunning cover!


The first rewrite increased the romance and reduced the violence. The second rewrite upped the female energy even more—US embassy official Richard Marcello became Susan Marcello. (Former U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice of the Clinton administration was my inspiration.) This new, sizzling character infused the story with another layer of mystery and sexual tension.


I had the book where I wanted it…except set in 1990, the story seemed dated. No cell phones. No digital cameras. No Google. Another rewrite to bring it into the 2020s was daunting. And so much had changed. For example, the Athens Plaka had been developed with a new subway station, and some of the action happened in space now occupied by the stupendous Acropolis Museum.


But why not let this story reach its potential? With Nancy’s encouragement, I set to work on a third rewrite. 


The passage of three decades made this chore challenging. Luckily Nancy and I had visited Greece a few years earlier (see picture of Nancy and me on the Acropolis). And I had Google, Google Maps, and Google Street Images. However, during one of our last read-throughs, Nancy opened Google Maps on her notebook to follow the action and said, “Why are all the ferry lines running to Athinios and not Thera?” As it turns out, Thera is now the cruise ship port. Yikes! I had to move crucial scenes set at Thera south to the Athinios ferry docks.


Cell phones are a challenge for any suspense and mystery writer. It’s easy for characters to warn others of approaching danger. More scenes were torn apart and reconstructed to accommodate modern technology.


By the end of all the rewrites, except for the basic plot, the book was about eighty percent different. I renamed it for three reasons: 1) I didn’t want it confused with the original novel, available through second-party vendors on Amazon; 2) I wanted a title that placed the action on the tourist destination of Santorini—a hook for people who have visited that island; and 3) The Santorini Setup is such a better book than Sinister Paradise!


So, that’s the story behind The Santorini Setup.  It’s available as a paperback or eBook at Amazon. Your local bookstore can order the paperback, too. For more 

Friday, March 18, 2022

 John Kennedy of interviewed me about my book A Light on Altered Land. The inspiring story of hope is resonating with readers. Here's the link to the interview:

BeliefNet Interview

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

Chatting with Betsy

 Last week I enjoyed talking with Betsy Wurzel on her show Chatting with Betsy, part of Passionate World Chat Radio. We discussed several facets of my book A Light on Altered Land, including medicinal marijuana, end-of-life care, and the possibility for love even after loss. Here is a link to the interview.

Interview with Betsy Wurzel

Monday, March 14, 2022

The NanBec Blog is Back!!!

So much has been happening that we're dusting off our NanBec blog. For years, we've been posting pictures of life events on Facebook, but blogs have more substance. For one thing, they are easier to revisit. If I like a post on Facebook, and want to reread it, it's hard to find, buried under an avalanche of more recent posts. 

Nancy and I have been caught in a whirlwind of book publishing activity. We set up our own imprint, NanBec Books, under which we publish our new books and reprints of books that have gone out of print from the original publishers. I invite you to check out our array at our NanBec Website.

This past week saw a flurry of activity here at Carefree in North Fort Myers FL, where Nancy and I moved in 2018. I'll talk more about Carefree in later posts, but now I want to mention that we held a publication party for my latest novel, The Santorini Setup, in the open-air Kamala Courtyard. Forty women attended and enjoyed Greek appetizers and wine from Santorini. Even cheese from Lesbos thanks to The Artisan Cheese Shop in Sarasota. Here are a few pictures:

Here is a recent review of The Santorini Setup. 

After the death of an artist with connections in Criminal Investigative Services, Senior Foreign Service Officer Susan Marcello is recruited to keep an eye on the Akrotiri dig taking place on the Aegean island Santorini. She reaches out to Britt Evans, a professor of Classical Studies, who’s visiting the island and excavation site. But before Britt even has the opportunity to get to Santorini, she and her friend Nicki are already facing danger in Athens. She quickly notices that things don’t seem quite right on the island–items in dig inventory are mysteriously disappearing and reappearing, there’s something off about deliveries of grapes to a winery on the island, and a dangerous accident at the docks seems like a prelude to disaster.

The Santorini Setup is a romantic suspense story that reimagines Bohan’s earlier Sinister Paradise. Britt, who has faced recent struggles with romance and voices a determination to stay single, experiences immediate sparks with excavation contractor Cassie Burkhardt, a development that could put them both in danger as Britt puts together the clues that get her closer to the truth. The narrative balances the intrigue and the romance, though the novel’s short length serves to make the suspense element feel underdeveloped, and the romance escalates quickly. Readers tuned into details will catch the clear opportunity for a future book digging deeper into some elements, especially with Nicki and her godfather Mikos Zerakis.

The setting of Santorini is atmospheric and enjoyable, and Bohan has clearly done extensive research to make the archeological and classical literature references accurate. Despite readers learning of several characters involved in suspicious island activities relatively early in the story, Bohan provides a red herring and a nice, unexpected twist that helps generate interest. The combination of passion, thrills, and a surprise ending make this a satisfying adventure.

Takeaway: Mystery, danger, and romance abound for a professor searching for a life change in Santorini.