Born in Santa Maria California, Marlene Cronkite grew up on the move. She was never in one town longer than three months. Although she found it painful to leave her friends behind, the constant change gave Marlene the creative insight she needed to write and paint.
After Marlene raised two wonderful children, she settled in southern California. She had always been aware that she was an artist. She can’t remember a time when she wasn’t sketching, painting, or even doodling, a portrait or a landscape.
When Marlene felt the desire to write, she joined several writing groups, and it only seemed natural to paint word pictures. In the beginning she wrote short stories, then later expanded to novels.
Marlene belongs to Writer's Village University, and she is a co-moderator for the Hemingway Hall Writing Group. Dangerous Presence is Marlene's first novel.
Where to find M. G. Cronkite online
Blog: Story Gems
Marlene's agreed to be interrogated mercilessly like all of my
Welcome, Marlene! Please make yourself as comfortable as possible under the swinging bare light bulb. Now, tell us, where were you the night of November 11? Not talking, huh? Ok, just tell us a little about what you do when you're not writing sexy crime thrillers.
When I'm not at the computer writing, I'm plotting (in my head) the next scene or idea for my novel. I do paint in oil, but lately I've just been too busy writing for anything else. I hope to start water aerobics soon.
I've snooped around and read the blurb for Dangerous Presence. It goes something like this:
Did the inspiration for this novel come from actual news events or was it solely born from your imagination?
Much of it was born out of my own imagination. However I did a lot of research on serial killers. I wanted my bad guy to be as real and as three-dimensional as possible. My character Jacquelyn Kincaid, aka, Doc, is pretty much my alter ego. She does outrageous things in order to track down this serial killer, which most people in their right mind wouldn't do. I place her in dangerous situations, but somehow she manages to survive.
Who have been the most influential authors for you?
I think that would have to be Robert Ludlum. I like action thrillers, and he impressed me the most with his Bourne series. Also James Patterson with his Alex Cross series. He is probably the most influential for Dangerous Presence.
I haven't been nearly as active as I'd like, but as a fellow Writers' Village University student, tell the readers here a bit about your experience with this online writing community.
I started with Writer's Village University over ten years ago. In the beginning, I took a couple of F2K courses. Then I decided to jump into the big university. I was scared at first, but in time I grew as a writer, and I met a lot of wonderful people.
Are you working on anything at the moment, and can you tell us about it?
Yes, I have two books in the works. One is a sequel to Dangerous Presence. Right now it's in the plotting stage. The other book is about a U.S. Marine who suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. He has survivors guilt after a helicopter crash that killed all of his buddies. He came out alive with an injured leg. The theme is about how he deals with survivors guilt and PTSD. He also falls in love. All this is happening while the plot has him chasing down bad guys who are trying to kill his father and get their hands on a map that leads to millions in buried gold. The working title is Murder in Rogue's Hollow
Random question time! Name some of the top things on your bucket list.
At the top of the list, my goal is to update my blog and write about my experience as a self published author. My long term goal is to finish my two novels and publish them.
Finally, Ms. Cronkite, could you please give us an excerpt of your work, whether published or in progress?
Here is an excerpt of Dangerous Presence:
After I left Barb’s Place, I walked along the wooden boardwalk until I came to the end of the storefronts. I wanted to see the crime scene in daylight hours. As I peered over the top of the cordoned off area, something my father often said popped into my head. “Crime scene investigators invariably screw up. Leave the job to the sleuth whose sensory genius will never fail to uncover important clues.”
With my father’s words in mind, I scanned the alley, aware that if I went in, I’d be invading a crime scene, most likely a misdemeanor. I weighed the risk then carefully ducked under the yellow tape and edged my way around, stepping lightly on partially dried mud.
It was hard to believe that only the night before the alley had been drenched in rain. Now, water soaked deep into the earth, leaving a forest of wet debris. Maybe the investigative team missed something, I surmised. Maybe a clue would appear in the slippery residue. I knew I was grasping at straws. But something within me wouldn’t let go of it.
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The sun was warm, but I shook off an icy chill as images of the shadowy figure in a red windbreaker flashed across my mind. The thought had never left me that whoever murdered Willy returned to the scene of the crime in search of something important. Then again, perhaps I had dozed off and only dreamed I saw the man in the lightning storm bending over Willy’s body. Perhaps he was a figment of my imagination.
All great detectives believe in themselves and follow their gut. I’d heard it all my life from my cop father. Thanks, dad, but if I followed my gut I’d get the hell out of here right now. With that simple truism, I tentatively gazed around.
That which could be seen by the naked eye was rotten food heaped in piles around the dumpster, that and sodden cardboard boxes. Blowflies swarmed, and the place reeked of spoiled waste. My stomach churned. Why am I putting myself through this? I was getting sick all over again.
I swallowed back nausea and focused on the spot where Willy had been propped against the garbage bin. There were food-scraps strewn in different directions as if hungry dogs had had a tug-a-war. I couldn’t take it. I turned to leave.
Then, as I headed out, my eye caught something near the dumpster—something that sparkled intermittently in the sunlight. Probably more garbage debris, I reasoned. The only way I could get to the object was to wade through thick sludge, or jump for a patch of dried earth near the dumpster. I weighed the possibilities of missing the mark and quickly made the decision to leap. I landed a bit wobbly, but in seconds both feet were planted securely on hard clay. I squatted down for a closer look.
The thing was partially buried in mud behind a paper cup, but it was visual enough for me to see a small flashing stone—a ring, perhaps a button?
It was in reach, but I’d have to stretch. Just as I attempted to grab for it, a rat scurried from behind the paper cup. I panicked and bolted forward bracing my hands flat against the dumpster. My awkward stance wouldn’t hold for long before my feet slipped out from under me. Thoughts of lying prone in the middle of a mud puddle flashed through my mind. Not again. Please God, not again.
I closed my eyes, took several deep breaths and counted to ten. I lied and told myself the rats were more afraid of me than I was of them. When my composure returned, I steadied myself, then calmly bent down and reached for the object.
I stood up and held the thing in the palm of my hand. I poked at it. Mud clung to the object, and its shape reminded me of a piece of dog poop with something shiny attached. I poked and studied it some more. Then it dawned on me what it was, and I didn’t want to go there.
I reached into my jean pocket and felt for the paper napkin that I’d saved from Steve’s breakfast. If this were what I thought it was, I’d have to turn it over to Steve right away, no matter the consequences.
Then I froze. The choice may not be mine alone to make. The distinctive sound of tires screeched to a stop in the parking lot.
Car doors slammed, and I recognized Joe’s burley growl.“Looks like your Doc friend is here. Isn’t that her Mustang?”
Steve’s voice was unmistakable. “Yeah, she’s probably inside the saloon playing detective. The girl just won’t listen.”
This was going to be a real challenge. I knew I only had a few seconds before they discovered I wasn’t in the saloon. I held onto the thing wrapped in the napkin and jumped across to the dry patch of earth. I ducked under the crime scene tape and found my way out the same way I came in.
Steve and Joe pushed through the saloon door just as I slid behind the wheel of my car. I carefully placed the object wrapped in the napkin on the floorboard of the car and started the engine. Steve and Joe sauntered over.
“What are you still doing here?” Steve asked, gazing at me through the open window.
“I stopped for gas as you advised.” I hid my muddy hands in my lap.
“Seems you should’ve been gassed up long ago and gone by now.” He glanced over his shoulder at the alley then back at me.
“You weren’t nosing around in the crime scene just now, were you?”
I was never a good liar, so I didn’t answer.
“You know what I think?” he asked.
I looked over at Joe then back at Steve. “No, why don’t you tell me what you think.”
“I think you were back there in the alley just now poking around where you don’t belong.”
“I guess you can’t arrest me on the grounds of what you think, can you.”
“No, but if—”
“In that case I’ll be running along,” I said, putting the car in reverse.
“Now wait a minute,” Joe said. “Why are you in such a hurry?” He chewed on his cigar and glared at me. “You act guilty as hell. You look guilty as hell.” He gazed up at Steve. “Doesn’t she sort of remind you of a—”
“Yeah,” Steve nodded. “She reminds me of a duck. She looks like one, talks like one, acts like one— ”
“Like, maybe she is one.” Joe said, as he stepped up closer to the car and peered through the window. “Like maybe you’d like to tell us what you’re hiding in there?”
I didn't answer.
“What’s the matter? Cat got the good doctor's tongue?”
“I’d really like to stay and chat, but…” I backed up and peeled out of the parking lot. I felt like a criminal and half expected to see a blinking red light pull up behind me.
Thank you very much for visiting, Marlene. I wish you a ton of success! If you're not scarred for life, do come back, will you?
Thank you so much for interviewing me, Mysti. I enjoyed every moment of it.