Writer's Notes

A Chat with Author George Cramer

By George Cramer

The Mona Lisa Sisters is a tender journey into the making of a family. The novel is full of careful historical detail and the pleasure of European trains and cities and plenty of mystery to keep the pages turning, but the greatest delight is Lura Grisham herself.

– Ramona Ausubel, author of Sons and Daughters of Ease and Plenty

An enrolled descendant of the Karuk Tribe of California, George Cramer, brings forty years’ investigative experience to crime and historical fiction. He holds an MFA-Creative Writing Program from the Institute of American Indian Arts.

George conducted and managed thousands of successful investigations throughout the Americas, Europe, and Asia. He kept his investigative skills honed by volunteering as a Missing Person’s investigator at the San Leandro, California Police Department.

In addition to the Public Safety Writers Association, George is a member of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and the California Writers Club. He is a contributing author to several anthologies and the Veteran’s Writing Project. Other than writing, his love is long-distance motorcycle riding his 2001 Harley-Davidson Ultra Classic.

George’s debut novel, The Mona Lisa Sisters, was published in 2020.

When and how did you begin your writing journey? Before my sixty-eighth birthday, I was laid off from a fantastic job when H-P bought out Palm, Inc., beginning a journey through the world of age discrimination. One day, I saw a note about a writing class at the Dublin Senior Center—whose doors I swore never to cross. I took the class and fell in love with writing. Overcoming forty-five years of report writing was difficult. One day, the instructor randomly passed out photos to the class. “Take fifteen minutes and describe the scene.” I did not do as instructed. The second I saw the image of two young girls staring up at the Mona Lisa, I knew I was going to write a novel. In fifteen minutes, I had a rough sketch of what began an eight-year ride to The Mona Lisa Sisters.

I knew I needed help and formal training. For help, I joined the Tri-Valley Branch of the California Writers Club, followed by the Public Safety Writers Association. I went to the local community college for formal training, Las Positas, and pursued an English degree. I followed by the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) in Santa Fe, New Mexico, for an MFA.

Writing at sea

IAIA introduced me to a group of superlative authors and mentors. My cohort mentors were Ramona Ausubel, Ismet (Izzy) Prcic, and Marie-Helene Bertino. These fantastic people guided my writing throughout the program and remain in my life.

Thonie asked about projects and what book I’m reading. That’s tough. For pure enjoyment, I just reread Devil in a Blue Dress by Walter Mosley. Two book clubs selected The Mona Lisa Sisters, so I’m reading eleven of the other books selected for the year. I’m reading a half-dozen other novels for a project I’m excited about.

When I began work on Mona Lisa, I set aside a thriller/police procedural spread over forty years, 1930 to mid-1970. I hope to have it published by the end of 2021. I’m also working my way through a crime trilogy. I never knew retirement would be so hectic.

The Mona Lisa Sisters is available through Amazon and the IAIA Book Store. You can reach me at and visit my blog at If you stop by, please leave a comment and follow.

Mystery Readers Only

Guest Post: How Does an Old Time Cop Write an Historical Novel with a Touch of Romance From a Woman’s POV?

The Mona Lisa Sisters by George Cramer

By George Cramer

I could say easily, but that would only be true of the start. In 2011, I was happily and gainfully employed by Palm, Inc. Palm came to fame with the Palm Pilot and was one of the early entries in the smartphone market. Then we were bought out, and the layoffs began.

Looking for work, I learned a great deal about age discrimination. That’s a story for another time. After about a year, I spotted a notice for a writing class at the local senior center, a place I had sworn never to enter. I had the feeling it could provide resume improvement. I swallowed my pride and joined the group.

The class was about creative writing, and I fell in love with the art form. So much so that  I returned to college taking English classes. I have to confess that in a much earlier education process, I earned a string of Ds in English. It might have resulted from sharing a beach house with four other students, all waiting to be drafted. None of whom ever seemed to have any homework.

One afternoon at the senior center, the instructor randomly passed out pictures. The one landing in front of me was two young girls staring up at the Mona Lisa. The assignment was to describe the setting in fifteen minutes. I didn’t do it.

I was astonished that a story filled my head. In the time allotted, I had a rough outline of The Mona Lisa Sisters. The title then, and eight years later, it still is. Until then, all I had written were crime and thrillers.

The first draft was finished in a month. I felt like I had just completed a piece equal in stature to Charles Dickens’ Hard Times. I sat it aside while I finished two writing classes at the local community college. I was ready to finish polishing my soon to be bestseller.

Reading with a fresh eye and very little skill, I realized that, like most first drafts, it was a total mess. I needed more classes. I decided to pursue an MFA in Creative Writing. I learned that Joy Harjo, an artist I admire, was a regular speaker at the Institute of American Indian Arts at Santa Fe, New Mexico. I enrolled, met her, and even sat with her once at dinner.

I continued to write and rewrite The Mona Lisa Sisters. The novel became my thesis project. I loved the help and guidance my outstanding professors and mentors gave me in improving the work. This spring, the novel was completed.

I could have continued rewriting, but after eight years, I couldn’t stand to read another word of it. Querying agents brought a slew of rejections. Unwilling to send one more query, I contacted Russian Hill Press, a small independent press.

Working with the owner was a pleasant but exhausting process. She, the line editor, and I went back and forth, refining what was not as complete as I had hoped. Thanks to them, The Mona Lisa Sisters will be released on August 14.


In addition to The Mona Lisa Sisters, George has written a historical crime novel and is completing the second novel in the Liberty – A Hector Miguel Navarro Novel trilogy. He has had eight pieces published in anthologies and one in 0-Dark-Thirty, the literary journal of the Veterans Writing Project.

Ramona Ausubel, author Sons and Daughters of Ease and Plenty, has this to say: “The Mona Lisa Sisters is a tender journey into the making of a family. The novel is full of careful historical detail and the pleasure of European trains and cities and plenty of mystery to keep the pages turning, but the greatest delight is Lura Grisham herself.”

Lura Grisham Myer lives a perfect life until her world is ripped apart. Wealth cannot protect Lura from the tragedies that befall her in the late nineteenth century. Reborn, forged of pain and misery, she voyages to Paris after months as a recluse in Grisham Manor. There Lura finds new purpose in life when she meets two American girls who face a tragedy of their own.

The Mona Lisa Sisters is available for pre-order. Here is a link to his Amazon Author Page, where you can order the paperback ($14.99) or Kindle ($3.99):

Author George Cramer

George Cramer was born to a Karuk Indian, a career soldier, and one of the last horse soldiers of World War II. George served in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War. Completing his service, he became a police officer, retiring as a sergeant after years of working criminal and undercover investigations. For five years, he volunteered at a local police department investigating missing person’s cold cases.

Recent Awards

2020 Public Safety Writers Association

Flash Fiction Non-Published First Place – Joe

Flash Fiction Non-Published Third Place – Welcome Home

Short Story Non-Published Honorable Mention – Hard Time

Fiction Book Non-Published Fourth Place – A Tale of Robbers and Cops