Guest Linda Lovely

Edith here, writing from north of Boston, where fall has finally hit. Our guest today is the multi-published Linda Lovely.  Bones to Pick, the first mystery in herFINALBonesToPickfrontCover new Brie Hooker Mysteries series, releases in a few weeks! To celebrate, she’ll give away a signed ARC now or an ebook after the book comes out to one commenter here today. Take it away, Linda.

Wicked Research for Wicked Villains

This blog’s Wicked Cozy Authors title echoes my belief that the best cozy mysteries have plenty of wicked seasoning. Just because a novel eschews profanity, graphic violence and sex doesn’t mean the heroine (or hero) won’t confront a multitude of deadly dangers engineered by wicked, ingenious villains

A mystery’s heroine is most memorable—and heroic—when she faces scary villains. This requires some wicked research. The Writers’ Police Academy (WPA), held each August at a real police academy, offers hands-on experiences that writers can use to create haunting villains and plausible plots. WPA instructors are the same ones who train police in everything from firearms and non-lethal weapons to drones and crime scene investigation. Outside experts also explore subjects like bioweapons, forensic psychology, gangs, and private investigation techniques.

Full disclosure: I’m a five-year member of the Writers’ Police Academy (WPA) “family.” I handle registrations, coordinate the Golden Donut Short Story contest, and help with varied organizational details. I volunteer because the program affords me—and fellow crime writers—invaluable opportunities to pick the brains of experts and get the details right.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESOver the years, the WPA has given me the chance to fire a Glock and an AR-15…feel the tension of making a split-second, shoot-don’t-shoot decision…learn to free myself from a larger assailant…ride in an ambulance with a paramedic…handcuff a suspect…join a SWAT team in clearing a building…wear a duty belt…swing a baton. And the list goes on.

Once I’m home, these experiences weave their way into my cozy mysteries. In Bones To Pick, the first novel in my Brie Hooker Mystery series, Brie’s recall of her dad’s story about gangbangers hiding  weapons saves her life. (Though Brie’s dad is a horticultural professor, he’s also an aspiring crime novelist who attends the WPA each summer.)

In the second Brie Hooker Mystery, which I recently turned into my editor at Henery Press, the heroine flies a drone to gain key information. While Brie doesn’t pack heat, the villains she faces do. So I tap weapons’ knowledge gained at WPA to describe their firearms. Insights into police procedures, CSI techniques, autopsies, poisons and criminal proceedings also figure in how Brie interacts with law enforcement and the legal system.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

In the real world, amateur sleuths seldom prove the innocence of a loved one, solve a cold murder case, uncover fraud, or thwart a radical group’s attempt to rig an election. However, authors can make any of these plots more plausible by weaving in accurate criminal behavior and crime-fighting details.

Writers who can’t attend a WPA can look to information sources in their own backyards Options include ride-alongs with local police and online and in-person programs hosted by Sisters in Crime. Speakers at my Upstate South Carolina SinC chapter’s meetings have included K-9 officers, DAs, judges, detectives, US Marshalls, FBI agents, crime scene investigators, ATF officers, paramedics, bank fraud investigators, and even psychics.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESThe best part? I’ve yet to meet an expert who wasn’t willing to answer my questions. I’ve gained insights into experiences well outside my day-to-day existence. It’s also allowed me to make friends with people from many walks of life. Yes, research improves books, but it also enriches the researcher’s life.

Linda Lovely finds writing pure fiction isn’t a huge stretch given the years she’s spent penning PR and advertising copy. Her blend of mystery and humor lets her chuckle as she plots to “disappear” the types of characters who most annoy her. Quite satisfying plus there’s no need to pester relatives for bail. Her new Brie Hooker Mystery series offers good-natured salutes to both her vegan family doctor and her cheese-addicted kin. While her new series may be cozy, she weaves in plenty of adrenaline-packed scenes to keep readers flipping pages. LindaHeadshot

She served as president of her local Sisters in Crime chapter for five years and also belongs to International Thriller Writers and Romance Writers of America. She’s the award-winning author of five prior mystery/suspense/thriller novels. To learn more, visit her website: www.lindalovely.com  

Readers: Which expert has helped you in some area of your life? Writers: Who is the quirkiest expert you’ve called on in the name of research? Remember, she’s giving away a signed ARC now or an ebook after the book comes out to one commenter here today.

On Persisting

Edith here, with so many tomatoes in my kitchen it’s turning red.

I’ve been thinking about persistence lately. Some of us have talked here and there about how important this trait is for authors to have and cultivate. Why would that be?

Let’s start with finishing a first draft. If you don’t persist and write through to the end, it’s not a book. Not a book you can revise and polish, not a book you can land an agent with, not a book you can sell to a publishing house, and more important, not a book anyone else will ever read. I just finished writing my seventeenth first draft of a novel, and there sure were times I didn’t want to keep digging, keep writing, keep trying to discern what needed to happen next. But I did. The author adage of “Butt in the chair, fingers on the keyboard” really just boils down to persistence.

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Querying agents takes a huge amount of persistence. You just have to keep going until you have one, or more than one, who wants to take you on.  You might have to suffer through a hundred rejections. Once you do sign with an agent, it’s his or her job to persist until your book is sold.

And even before that, you need to persist all over again and come up with another book, the best book you can write, and then another.

Of course we persist in all kinds of other areas of our lives. Maybe it’s coming up with a peace treaty both sides can live with. Maybe it’s conceiving a child. Maybe it’s being patient and firm with a recalcitrant teenage child. Finding good care for an elderly parent. Weeding the garden. Scrubbing a burnt pot. Hiking the entire Appalachian Trail – or just continuing to pedal to the top of a hill.

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A postcard Julie Hennrikus got made up and handed out to us.The background names on this postcard are of women who persisted, from Malala to Alcott, Poehler to Ginsburg, Kahlo to Stanton, and more.

Standing up for the rights of those without a voice is a great place to persist. What if Rosa Parks hadn’t persisted, or Gloria Steinem? Sojourner Truth or Margaret Sanger?

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Julie and I share a senator who persists in standing up for the middle class, transparency in financial transactions, and so much more.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to persist in the first pass revisions of Death Over Easy!

Readers: Where have you persisted with good results? Any place it backfired on you? Which persistent person do you admire?

A Story Comes Knocking

Edith here, hanging onto every last scrap of summer weather and sun-kissed vegetables.

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I pulled out my paternal grandmother’s travel journal recently. I’m not sure why I did, but I sat, mesmerized, turning the pages.

Dorothy Henderson, the eldest of six, at 18 and with her younger and only brother James, drove one of two Cole touring cars from Indiana to Portland, Oregon, and then down to Berkeley, California. She was the first woman to drive halfway across the country (or so the family lore goes). Her father, CP Henderson (my great-grandfather), drove the other car along with his wife, Irma, and the four younger sisters (my great aunts, all of whom I knew).

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Back row from left: Jimmy, Dorothy, CP, Ruth, Irma. Front row from left: Alice, Edith, Helen

I knew of this journey, but I’m not sure I knew of it before a series of strokes stole my grandmother from us when I was in ninth grade. I don’t remember her speaking of the trip at any time. But after reading the journal, a new character, a new era, and an entirely new scope of research came knocking at my brain – and I’m resisting as hard as I can! Here are the reasons:

A. I already write one historical mystery series. B. I already write three books a year. C. I know next to nothing about the period.

But consider these delightful bits that Momma Dot (as her grandchildren called Dorothy) so generously scribed – and illustrated – in a clear hand about the trip that started on June 16, 1918 – ninety-nine years ago! Each of the other children kept a diary, too. Her father was to be the new western regional manager for the Cole car company, so the trip was in part a publicity tour, and the family and the two Cole Eights were written about in the newspapers several times. 20170827_122418

On their first day, it took eight hours to drive 200 miles west from Indianapolis to Cedar Lake, where they camped.

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In certain places after it rained they had to stay in a hotel for a few nights waiting for the mud to dry. She writes, “The roads were almost impassible. Deep, black, sticky mud hub high was everywhere! All of us wish for some good old Indiana roads!”

windmilldrawingThey continued through Illinois and Nebraska, sometimes camping, sometimes in hotels, making about 200 miles each day. She barely complains about anything, instead describing the scenery in vivid language. “A lovely full moon is rising above the fields of wheat that stretch for miles about us. An old windmill looms up threateningly against the black-blue sky. A cross-continental train just shot past across the prairies looking pretty against the sky with the sparks flying.” She drew the windmill and moon on top of her words, too.

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The family made it to Denver in nine days and took a day trip to Pike’s Peak, where “a charge of two dollars was made for each one going up to the top by the new auto road,” and she reports that several of the family felt ill and dizzy at the summit. Having gotten word of poor roads in Wyoming, they decided to continue via Salt Lake City, instead. “The roads were not very good for the most part, being narrow and along ledges, down which you can look for hundreds and thousands of feet.”

They traveled through what Dorothy calls the Great Utah Desert, and helped other travelers along the way, pushing one car up a steep incline, pumping up a tire for another, and sharing water with a third.

My grandmother celebrated her nineteenth birthday in style in Salt Lake City, with dinner on Hotel Utah’s rooftop garden. “Our wonderful dinner was well seasoned with dancing and music so everything was ideal.”

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And on they went, including a stop at Yellowstone.

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From there they made it to Portland, Oregon, finally landing at their new home in Berkeley, California, on August 10.

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My grandmother includes many more rich details about the trip in the diary. Can you see why I have a new story brewing? Or maybe I’ll just let Dorothy tell her own. I also have  the diary of Allan Maxwell, Sr. (my grandfather, and Dorothy’s husband) from his 1912 European “tour” with his older sister Ruth when he was sixteen. Every entry includes the weather (a Maxwell family inherited interest) and what he ate that day – which might sound familiar to those who have been or known teenage boys!

Readers: Have you been blessed with an ancestor’s journal or diary? Or read historical fiction based on a real account?

 

Easing into the Future

Edith here, roasting north of Boston.

I’m in that stage of revisions on my work-in progress (Quaker Midwife Mystery #4) where I print out the manuscript and spend a couple of days at the dining table with a colored pen and words on paper. Last week Ramona DeFelice Long, my dear friend, editor, and writer, wrote a blog post about how she no longer prints out her manuscripts.

Even though using expensive ink smarts, and watching all that paper crank through my printer does, too, I can’t abandon my paper readthroughs. I do it three times during my writing/revision process. Right now is the first time, after I have finished the first draft and addressed all my self-queries I had saved for later (things like, Did the Meetinghouse have a furnace in the basement? Did the post office have lockable individual post boxes? What went on during the winter on the frozen river? And so on). Paper readthrough

Reading straight through shows me continuity issues, weak plot points, and the flow of the book. I see the words differently on paper, too. I’ll do it again just before I send it off to be edited, and again before I send it to my publisher.

I don’t, however, write original content on paper (unless I am absolutely stuck somewhere with time on my hands and no laptop), and would never go back to that.

In other areas I also have a foot in both the paper and the digital worlds. We pay almost all our bills by writing an actual, old-fashioned check and sending it in an envelope with a stamp on it. I know I could do it all online, but there’s something about sitting down with the checkbook that feels safer, and is also a link to the past. I can picture my father doing the exact same thing.

calendarI’m a convert to Google calendar. I love it! It’s on both my computers and on my phone., and it sends me handy reminders. I don’t even need the appointment card from the doctor any more – I just poke the appointment into my phone and we’re done. But I also use a paper calendar at my desk, and we keep one downstairs, too. I like that visual reminder of what’s coming up and what has already happened.

I prefer to read books on paper. That said, having a Kindle is a boon for traveling or for trying out a book from a new author I can’t get from the library or am not sure I want to own.

A couple parts of my life that are reassuringly old-fashioned are cooking and gardening. I just don’t see those going digital any time soon (although I do often find recipes online, so there’s that).

Readers: what about you? Are you all digital all the time, or straddling the worlds as I am? What’s your favorite analog thing, and your favorite digital?

Bastille Day!

Edith here, enjoying full summer north of Boston. Today is the day when, well, I’ll let history.com tell you:

“Parisian revolutionaries and mutinous troops storm and dismantle the Bastille, a royal fortress and prison that had come to symbolize the tyranny of the Bourbon monarchs. This dramatic action signaled the beginning of the French Revolution, a decade of political turmoil and terror in which King Louis XVI was overthrown and tens of thousands of people, including the king and his wife Marie-Antoinette, were executed.”

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The famous Prise-de-la-Bastille painting by by Jean-Pierre-Louis-Laurent Houel

However, another history site gives a rather different take on the storming. “Back in July of 1789, France had already experienced a rough summer that included food shortages, high taxes (as a solution to King Louis XVI’s debts) and the militarization of Paris. Sensing distress, the king called upon the Estates-General—an assembly that hadn’t met in more than a century—to deliver a new tax plan. That resulted in the Third Estate, the non-noble/non-clergy portion of the assembly, breaking from the clergy and nobility, and demanding a written constitution from France….Weeks later, … fears that Louis XVI was attempting to quash any political revolution began to boil.

“That fear culminated on July 14 in a march to the Hôtel des Invalides to loot firearms and cannons, and a resulting (and far more famous) trip to the Bastille for proper ammunition. That hunt for gunpowder—not the hope of freeing prisoners—was the main reason for the storming of the Bastille. The events that followed—the freeing of the few prisoners that remained at the Bastille, but also a deadly battle and the brutal beheading of the prison governor and his officers—were more of a side effect of chaotic uprising, rather than its intent….A year later, France would host the Fête de la Fédération on July 14 to celebrate the France’s constitutional monarchy and to honor France’s newfound unity. “

Vive la Resistance! Every year two widely traveled friends of mine throw a Bastille Day party. They fill their back yard with tables and chairs and decorate with red and blue. They make a big Coq au Vin and all the guests bring French-themed side dishes or desserts. At the end of the evening we all stand to sing the “Marseilles” – yes, they pass out the words to the song.

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My salade composée from last year

This year I’m bringing Chocolate Raspberry Clafoutis – the party is tomorrow.

Readers: Do you celebrate Bastille Day? If not, what’s your favorite revolution?

 

 

Declaring Independence

Edith here. I know you’re all out celebrating our country’s origins, and I wish you the best, safest, and most delicious of gatherings.

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Although all the signatories of the Declaration of Independence were (white landowning) men, I just learned from dynamite mystery author Martha Reed that the first printed copy was printed by Mary Katherine Goddard!

“When on January 18, 1777, the Second Continental Congress moved that the Declaration of Independence be widely distributed, Goddard was one of the first to offer the use of her press. This was in spite of the risks of being associated with what was considered a treasonable document by the British. Her copy, the Goddard Broadside, was the second printed, and the first to contain the typeset names of the signatories, including John Hancock .”

And just in case you haven’t read it recently, here’s the full text of the declaration, thanks to ushistory.org:

IN CONGRESS, JULY 4, 1776
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

Readers: How often do you read the whole thing? Was this your first time? What pops out at you?

Cover Reveal – Biscuits and Slashed Browns

Edith, with some delightful news, and a giveaway!

I have, that is, Maddie Day has, a cover for Book Four in the Country Store Mysteries. The book is called Biscuits and Slashed Browns, and it takes place during maple sap season in Brown County, Indiana. The book releases January 30, 2018. It is, of course, available for preorder wherever books are sold, and preorders really help the author. I’m giving away an apron and a signed cover flat to one lucky commenter today (US aprononly)!

Here’s the cover blurb:

For country-store owner Robbie Jordan, the National Maple Syrup Festival is a sweet escape from late-winter in South Lick, Indiana—until murder saps the life out of the celebration . . .

As Robbie arranges a breakfast-themed cook-off at Pans ‘N Pancakes, visitors pour into Brown County for the annual maple extravaganza. Unfortunately, that includes Professor Connolly, a know-it-all academic from Boston who makes enemies everywhere he goes—and this time, bad manners prove deadly. Soon after clashing with several scientists at a maple tree panel, the professor is found dead outside a sugar shack, stabbed to death by a local restaurateur’s knife. When an innocent woman gets dragged into the investigation and a biologist mysteriously disappears, Robbie drops her winning maple biscuits to search for answers. But can she help police crack the case before another victim is caught in a sticky situation with a killer?

So, without further ado, I present the cover:

Biscuits and Slashed Browns

Don’t you love it? We have the bottles of syrup, the sugaring-off shack, the sap buckets, pancakes, biscuits, a little March snow left on the ground, even the slashing knife.

And on the bench sits Robbie’s cat Birdy. For those of you who didn’t hear, this Birdy is modeled on my real-life cat Birdy, and he died on June 6, just a few weeks ago. I miss him terribly, and am comforted that he’ll live on in this series.

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Birdy, the cat in the Country Store Mysteries – literally, in this case!

Readers: To win one of my Edith Maxwell/Maddie Day aprons–which I save for extra-special giveaways–and a signed cover flat, tell me in the comments section what’s your favorite thing to eat using maple syrup. Pancakes? Maple sugar candy? A mapletini? Oatmeal? Maple bars? Dish, gang.