Guest- Kay Finch

News Flash: Dianne KC is our winner from yesterday. Congratulations, Dianne! Check your Inbox for an email from Alyssa.

Jessie: In NH where the weather is feeling like summer!

Several years ago I met the lovely and gracious Kay Finch where I have met so many fellow mystery writers over the years: Malice Domestic. We were seated at the same table at the Berkley Prime Crime dinner and she was a charming dinner companion. It is with great pleasure that I welcome her to the Wickeds today! Take it away, Kay!

Untitled-3My Split Personality

I recently enjoyed signing my third Bad Luck Cat mystery, The Black Cat Sees His Shadow, at Murder by the Book, Houston’s wonderful mystery bookstore. We had a fabulous turnout, and I signed dozens of books. Great day for a writer, right? I had fun, but I also have to admit that I enjoy being in the audience at a book signing more than I enjoy being in the spotlight. The truth is – a writer needs to have a split personality.

You might think the hardest part of writing a novel is the writing itself. Yes, the writing is a huge and time consuming and seemingly never-ending project. When someone tells me they want to write a book, these thoughts cross my mind: “Don’t start. Writing is like an addiction. You won’t be able to stop. You won’t have any free time. It’s much easier and more fun to spend your time reading.” But as hard as writing the book is, as far as I’m concerned that isn’t the hardest part of being an author.

When my first mystery was about to come out, I wished I could hire someone to stand in for me. A person who enjoys sitting alone in a room and writing a book is not the same person who relishes the marketing aspect of writing. I naturally choose to do things that keep me from being noticed. My natural instinct to remain anonymous began when I was a little girl. In the privacy of my bedroom, I wrote short mystery stories. No one knew about them except me. For fear someone might see the stories one day and read them, I decided to burn the pages. Today, that sounds ridiculous and embarrassing. To little me, it made sense.

I might sound like a semi-recluse, but I’m not. I work full-time as a family law paralegal and deal with many people who have more quirks than I do. I enjoy meeting people at book signings and other events once I get there. My personality is seriously split. I’m not only an author, I’m also speaker, paralegal, wife, grandma, sister, daughter, aunt, and friend. And don’t forget – I’m a little piece of each of my protagonists, too.

Readers: I’m happy to give away a copy of The Black Cat Sees His Shadow. To enter the contest, leave a comment about your favorite childhood pet and I’ll pick a random winner at noon tomorrow. Good luck!

Kay Finch

Kay Finch

Kay Finch is the National Best-Selling Author of the Bad Luck Cat Mysteries, Black Cat Crossing, The Black Cat Knocks on Wood, and The Black Cat Sees His Shadow. She’s a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and the State Bar of Texas Paralegal Division. Kay lives with her husband and their rescue pets in a Houston suburb. Visit the author at kayfinch.com.

Guest: Alyssa Maxwell

Edith here, who can’t quite believe it’s almost July! I’m delighted to welcome my friend, name-mate, and fellow historical mystery author, Alyssa Maxwell (no relation) to the blog today! I love her Gilded Newport series, and you will, too. One lucky winner today will win a signed hardcover of the fifth book in the series, Murder at Chateau Sur Mer, which will be out in a month. (I wish I could win!) A bonus for me is that one characters is named Edith.

gildednewport

Here’s the book blurb: Covering a polo match for the Observer, society reporter Emma Cross’s job is to take note of the real players off the field—Newport’s well-bred elite. But the fashionable façade is breached when a woman in gaudy clothing creates a scene demanding to speak to the wife of Senator George Wetmore—until she is escorted off the grounds by the police.  The next morning, police detective Jesse Whyte asks Emma to meet him at the Wetmores’ Bellevue Avenue home, Chateau sur Mer, where the senator’s wife, Edith, has mysteriously asked to see her. Upon entering the mansion, Emma is confronted with a crime scene—the intruder from the polo match lies dead at the foot of a grand staircase.

To avoid scandal, Edith Wetmore implores Emma, a less well-heeled cousin to the illustrious Vanderbilts, to use her reporter skills and her discretion to investigate. When Emma learns the victim was a prostitute—and pregnant—she wonders if the senator was being blackmailed. As Emma peels back layers of deception and family secrets, she may have met her match in a desperate killer who will trample anyone who gets in the way…

I love it! Take it away, Alyssa.

Intertwined Histories

I’m going to tell you a secret, if you promise not to tell anyone. When I decided to write my Newport series, I had no idea what I was doing. I didn’t even know if I could pull off writing a mystery, and although I knew modern day Newport pretty well, I had tons to learn about the city in the Gilded Age.

I was positive about one thing: I didn’t want to fictionalize everything. I didn’t want to write about a city based on Newport, and I didn’t want to write about Newport itself but with fictionalized houses and families. If I couldn’t name actual people and places, what fun would it be?

You see, I felt I had a responsibility to everyone who lives there, and even to everyone who has ever visited Newport. I had to get it right, and I had to be so vivid that readers would say yes, I’ve been there; I swam there, walked there, explored there, etc. Because I understand the kind of hold Newport places on people; I know exactly how it reaches into your heart and makes you part of it. Newport of today is a very international place—at least during the summer tourist season—but the city’s history makes it so essentially and vitally American that Newport belongs to all of us, and those who have lived there or have visited for even a short time, feel a fierce and loving ownership of this very special place. (pictured: Clarke Cook House on Bannister’s Wharf)

ClarkeCookHouse

What do I mean by that? For one thing, there isn’t a period of American history that hasn’t left its indelible mark on Newport. And we literally see that history in its architecture as we move through town—colonial, federal, Civil War, shingle style, the palaces of the Gilded Age, and so on up to current times.

What makes Newport different from many other places is that as times and tastes changed, the old didn’t disappear but remained in use—to this day. It’s true living history, not replicated but alive and vital and constantly changing with each wave of people who pass through. In a way, there’s a bit of all of us in Newport. (Pictured: The Waves, built in the 1920s, now a condominium)

the waves

Then there’s my husband’s family, Newporters for generations back. For them, if for no one else, I wanted to capture the spirit of Newport, especially in my sleuth, Emma Cross—who is independent, determined, proud, hardworking, and gets her strength from the bedrock of Aquidneck Island.

Last summer, we were contacted by a Newport resident who, during renovations of his newly purchased house, came upon two large, framed photographs of my husband’s great great grandparents hidden away behind a wall in his attic. What made this even more exciting was that this house had been built by my husband’s great grandfather’s company, The Manuel Brothers, using materials, such as flooring and woodwork, reclaimed from Bellevue Avenue mansions the company had been hired to demolish. At about the same time, in the 1920s, the Manuel Bros. also demolished a mansion owned by Reggie Vanderbilt, who is a character in the series. What’s more, we believe my husband’s great grandmother, Honora Taylor Whyte, worked as a maid in one of the great houses when she first came to this country from Ireland. My father-in-law and my husband grew up in the same house in the harbor-side Point neighborhood, on same the street where I have set Emma’s childhood home.

manuel brothers

These are just a few examples, but you can see that Newport’s history and my husband’s history is intricately entwined. There could be no fictionalizing the city, or, for me and I think for many readers, the meaning would have been lost.

Readers: Join me for a visit to Newport! Is there a place you’re passionate about? Tell us about it in the Comments and enter for a chance to win a signed, hardcover copy of the 5th Gilded Newport Mystery, MURDER AT CHATEAU SUR MER!

amaxwellpinkAlyssa Maxwell is the author of The Gilded Newport Mysteries and A Lady and Lady’s Maid Mysteries. She has worked in publishing as a reference book editor, ghost writer, and fiction editor, but knew from an early age that she wanted to be a novelist. Growing up in New England and traveling to Great Britain and Ireland fueled a passion for history, while a love of puzzles of all kinds drew her to the mystery genre. She and her husband make their home in South Florida. She is a member of the Mystery Writers of America, the Florida Romance Writers, Sisters in Crime, and Novelists Inc. You can learn more about Alyssa and her books, and find her social media links, at www.alyssamaxwell.com.

 

 

Fun, Facts, and a Few Dead Bodies by guest Patti Phillips

I love Patti Phillips’ Kerrian’s Notebook and was curious about how and why Patti started it. Thank you Pattie for joining us today and filling us in!

Www.kerriansnotebook.com began over five years ago as a marketing tool for a novel featuring Homicide Detective Charlie Kerrian and his wife, Sheila. The idea was to introduce the public to the characters via the website before publication, and get the readership so involved that they would buy the book by the thousands. The original book was never published, but the characters became so popular that the readership responded warmly (and I might add with more than a little glee) to Kerrian looking for bodies everywhere and/or ways to kill people (on the page of course).

 

How many places can you find bodies? Apparently around every corner and under every bush. And that’s just for starters. The enthusiastic readers have been happy to suggest many ways that people can wind up very dead.

Take a look at “100 ways to die an unnatural death.” Wicked Cozy author, Edith Maxwell, contributed to that list with ‘cyanide salts in an almond cake.’ Wicked, indeed.

I love to cook, and it seemed logical to include recipes on the website. Charlie enjoys the same kind of food that my family does, so what you see on the recipe list are some of our favorite dishes. On the site, they are almost always cooked by Sheila and taste-tested by Charlie. In actuality, all are created and photographed by me. The exceptions are two guest posts by Canadian writer, Cynthia St-Pierre (co-author of The Vegetarian Detective series) and one from Chin Bawambi, an uber sports fan and foodie. Cynthia contributed a recipe for brownies and for Mediterranean Potato Salad. Chin contributed Jalapeno Peach Chicken. Please note: Nobody has ever died while eating at any of our houses.

Where do I get my ideas? Kerrian’s Notebook is loosely based upon my own life. If I attend law enforcement, gun safety, or self-defense etc. courses, I take photos and tell the world about the experiences. The family trips to Civil War battlegrounds pay homage to the men and women that fought to keep us free. The facts are double-checked by experts in the various fields and many writers use the details from my articles in their own work.

My golfing stories are light-hearted, but bodies have been known to pop up. Along with the occasional snake.

The stories are personal, the facts are real, even if the Kerrians are fictional.

When the deck guy tore down the old deck top, Kerrian asked if there was a body buried under it and showed photos. When a mouse was seen in the kitchen in the dead of night, Sheila shrieked, an exterminator arrived and the resulting article discussed why rat poison works.

 

From its gentler beginnings of looking for bodies under the floorboards, the website has evolved to include true crime and detailed information about first responders and law enforcement agencies.

 

A connection with Texas and the oldest law enforcement agency in the country, resulted in a series of three articles about the Texas Rangers. Every day, that series is ranked by Google in the top 10 for articles about the Rangers. I cover what they do, how to become one, and relate stories told by a real Texas Ranger I met while I lived in Texas. I could have listened to that Ranger and his wife for days. What a career he/they had!

The fans love The Visiting Detectives series. Guest writers can showcase their fictional detectives during a chat with Charlie and Sheila. We’ve had a time-traveling Sheriff, a psychic investigator, a newspaper publisher, and the vegetarian. The articles and characters couldn’t be more different, and always have links to the projects the writers like to feature. If you know anyone who would like to be a Visiting Detective, contact me (oops, Charlie & Sheila).  J

I knew that my second book would heavily feature fire, so discussions with a firefighter friend led to attending the Writers’ Police Academy where I concentrated on the firefighter strand of classes. Unhappily, around the time of the conference, a civilian friend of mine, along with 1500 other families, lost her house to a wildfire. The information gleaned at WPA became much more personal and focused what happened to her on the why and the how the fire moved so quickly through the tall evergreens. High summer temperatures in that part of Texas only added to the tragedy. Two of the articles appeared in my collection of short stories, “Kerrian’s Notebook, Volume 1” on Amazon.

Those articles led to others – how to become a firefighter; what a firefighter wears in order to stay safe, and sadly, immediately following a week-long course on Crime Scene Photography, the actual post-fire scene of my grandfather’s former house.

Firefighters have a dangerous job. It’s not just a matter of running into a house and grabbing someone from the closet and running back out again. There is zero visibility and the smoke fills the lungs and competes with life giving oxygen that humans should be breathing. In an active fire, firefighters have under five minutes to get in and get out. As we learned at WPA, a room can be fully engulfed in a minute and a half. 90 seconds, folks.

One of the regular readers (and fellow author) has requested that I do an article describing the types of fire trucks used while fighting a fire. Since I always take photos during the research, I think he really just wants to see fire trucks. J  That article will be coming soon.

Kerrian looks for bodies everywhere, but Patti has never found one anywhere on her property or at any friend’s house. She hasn’t checked out the ditch in the new rock slope, though. Hmmm…

Future stories?

“How many cherries will kill you?”

“Krav Maga – self-defense for the real world.”

“Fire trucks”

and many more. Join Patti & the Kerrians at www.kerriansnotebook.com for fun, for facts, and a few dead bodies.

Patti Phillips is a transplanted metropolitan New Yorker/north Texan, now living in the piney state of North Carolina.

Her best investigative days are spent writing, attending The Writers’ Police Academy, cooking, traveling for research, and playing golf. Her time on the golf course has been murderously valuable while creating the perfect alibi for the chief villain in her novel, One Sweet Motion. Did you know that there are spots on a golf course that can’t be accessed by listening devices?

Ms. Phillips (writing as Detective Charlie Kerrian) can be found at www.kerriansnotebook.com. Her book reviews can be read at www.nightstandbookreviews.com

Welcome Author Meg Macy!

by Barb, in Maine wondering if spring will ever come

I first met author Meg Macy at Malice Domestic, the place where so many good things happen. At the time, under the name D. E. Ireland, Meg and her writing partner Sharon Pisacreta had written a book featuring Henry Higgins and Eliza Doolittle as sleuths and were seeking representation. Why don’t you query my agent, I said–and the rest is history.

Now Meg’s back with a new series, the Shamelessly Adorable Teddy Bear Mysteries. The first one, Bearly Departed, was released by Kensington Publishing this week. Cozy mysteries featuring teddy bears, how does that work, you ask? Meg is here with the answers.

Teddy Bears and Murder?

Who doesn’t love a teddy bear? They’re cute, cuddly, fuzzy, and sweet. The farthest thing from murder, right? But in my new Shamelessly Adorable Teddy Bear cozy mystery series, those cute, cuddly, fuzzy, and sweet teddy bears are involved – in a roundabout way, of course.

I first had the idea when I learned that the Chelsea Teddy Bear factory had moved out of Michigan to Missouri. Rats! I’d always wanted to take the tour and missed out. But fiction is second best to reality, and I figured the setting of a teddy bear shop and factory might be intriguing to cozy readers. So I got to work on a proposal and sample chapters; my agent shopped it around; lo and behold, I snagged a wonderful editor at Kensington. Wendy McCurdy loved the idea – but she wanted my book cozier. Cuter. Sweeter. After all, people love teddy bears. I’ve known that for a while, but I’m discovering just how deep that love goes from people excited to hear about my series and the first book, Bearly Departed.

How do the teddy bears feature in a murder mystery? Let’s just say that no bears were harmed (much) in writing the story.

But a cozy mystery wouldn’t qualify as such without a murder! Plus plenty of secrets that swirl around the characters, which makes my amateur sleuth, Sasha Silverman, work hard to prove her crotchety uncle innocent of killing the company’s sales rep. I can’t give away too many details without spoiling the plot. But I can tell you I had a blast ‘mixing’ together several small towns in southeastern Michigan, close enough to where I live, to create Silver Hollow and the Silver Bear Shop & Factory. Sasha Silverman has been managing the shop for seven years – her parents own the shop but are retired – since her divorce from a cheating husband. Her younger sister Maddie works in the office, and together they have to deal with small town gossip, a family crisis, plus staff problems while hosting the annual teddy bear picnic – it all adds up to plenty of adventure.

Bearly Departed is available on May 30th, 2017, from Kensington Books in trade paperback and e-book editions

About Meg Macy:  Award-winning mystery author Meg Macy lives in Southeast Michigan, close to Ann Arbor, Chelsea, and Dexter — the area she chose for the setting of her new “Shamelessly Adorable Teddy Bear” cozy mystery series for Kensington. She is also one-half of the writing team of D.E. Ireland for the Eliza Doolittle & Henry Higgins Mystery series; two books have been named Agatha Award finalists. Meg’s first published book, Double Crossing, won the 2012 Best First Novel Spur Award from Western Writers of America. She’s a graduate of Seton Hill University’s Writing Popular Fiction program. Meg loves reading mysteries, historicals, and other genre fiction, and also enjoys gardening, crafts, and watercolor painting.

Readers: Join us in congratulating Meg on her new series. Is there a teddy bear in your life, or in your memory?

Save

Popcorn Alert: SITE UNSEEN on Hallmark this Sunday!

By Julie, finding it hard to believe it is already June

full size DC for CrimespreemagFriends, we are so excited to celebrate some wonderful news from our friend Dana Cameron on the blog today. Dana’s book, Site Unseen, is going to be a Hallmark movie! It premieres on Sunday June 4 on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries Channel. A few of us will be tweeting during the show–follow the hashtag #Sleuthers and #EmmaFielding

A personal note about Dana. I met her at Malice Domestic many years ago. She was then the vice-president of Sisters in Crime New England, and encouraged my friend and I to join. I may have found my way to this organization that changed my life, but her kindness made me feel welcome.

siteunseen_cropSite Unseen is the first in her Emma Fielding mystery series. I love this series, and can’t wait to see how they adapted it for television. Most importantly, we Wickeds are wicked happy for our friend. I emailed Dana a few questions about her road to Hallmark.

Tell us about the books, and how you came to write them?

DANA: I’d always loved reading, but never thought I’d be a writer, because I thought you had to have “adventures” to write. I was happier with the opposite of “adventures,” which to me was spending time in the library. So I decided by the time I was ten to be an archaeologist, and it was a job I’ve always loved.

Fast forward many years later, and a looter with a metal detector showed up on an archaeological site where I was working with a colleague. When we protested, he pulled a pistol on us. Eventually he left, but at the time, it was really scary. We reported the incident and that was that. Or so I thought.

Months later, I told a friend about this, along with some other “interesting” things that had happened to me and my colleagues in the course of doing fieldwork, and she said that I needed to write it down. Suddenly, that instinct I had as a kid came back. I tried writing a mystery, because I’d always loved them, and after a lot of drafts, and a lot of good, tough criticism, I had a book. That sounds quick but it was a process that about took eight years until the first book came out.

When did you hear that Hallmark was interested in making a movie? What was that like?

site unseen slateDANA: I heard there was interest in optioning the books in late summer of 2016, and we finalized and announced the deal in November. After that, I celebrated and then went back to work, because it’s usually such a long shot that an option will be exercised. And then in February of this year, I got a call from Muse Entertainment that they were developing Site Unseen, most likely for Hallmark Movies and Mysteries; in March, the movie was greenlit, with Courtney Thorne-Smith attached. And in April, I was visiting the sets in Victoria, B.C.!

It all happened so quickly that it didn’t become real until I saw the Maine state flag flying over a Canadian town hall that was standing in for the sheriff’s office and the words “Site Unseen” on the marker! Since then, my feet haven’t left the ground, and I’m given to spontaneous bursts of dancing.

Wow, that is fast! We’d be dancing too! Was that a dream of yours?

DANA: It had been, of course—I think it’s a dream of every writer to see their work performed—but since it’s been about ten years since the most recent book in the series came out, Ashes and Bones, I thought the time was past for Emma to reach an audience in another medium. I spent the time since then writing my urban fantasy series, lots of short fiction, and finishing the historical noir novel based on my Anna Hoyt short stories. So this interest was a real surprise!

When the series started, my goal was to show what real fieldwork was like. With a few notable exceptions (including Elizabeth Peters and Aaron Elkins), a lot of books treat archaeology as merely an excuse for an exotic setting or a source of obsessive characters. I loved teaching, and it had always been a goal of mine to bring some of that to my books, using situations very loosely based on my own experiences. To be able to bring Emma to a wider audience, and know how hard the screen writer, cast, and crew have worked to keep her passion for science and archaeology—and justice—central to the project is absolutely a dream come true!

We couldn’t be happier for you, and can’t wait to tune in on Sunday night at 9/8C!

DANA: Julie, thanks to you and the Wickeds for the chance to chat with you!

The world premiere of “Site Unseen: An Emma Fielding Mystery” is June 4, 9/8C on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries.

Movie Info:
Stars: Courtney Thorne-Smith and James Tupper.

Brilliant, dedicated, and driven, archaeologist Emma Fielding is trying to unearth evidence of a 17th century coastal Maine settlement that predates Jamestown, one of the most significant archaeological finds in years. But the dead body that accompanies it has embroiled Emma and her students in a different kind of exploration.

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Here are some clips from the show:

 

 

Welcome Guest Julie Mulhern!

I’m so delighted to welcome Julie Mulhern to the Wicked Cozy Authors! Julie is celebrating the release of her fifth book, Watching The Detectives, in her Country Club Murders series. This fun series is set in the 1970s and if you aren’t friends with her on Facebook you should be her posts of 70s ads are a hoot. I’m never quite sure whether to laugh or cringe. Julie is giving an ebook of the first in the series The Deep End to one of our commenters! Welcome, Julie!

I remember the first time.

My hands shook.

Tears filled my eyes.

My heart seemed too big for my chest.

The first time. It was pure magic.

The fifth time was no less magical.

I’m talking about the arrival of books on my front porch. My books. Delivered by UPS in a brown cardboard box that barely contains the happiness within.

In the past two-and-a-half years, five of Ellison Russell’s adventures have made it into the world.

Five Country Club Murders.

Five release days.

When The Deep End released, I waited for a confetti cannon to go off, showering me with glitter, confetti, and massive sales.

I don’t wait for that cannon anymore. If I want confetti or glitter (frankly I’m not big on either—it gets in the carpets and I have to vacuum), I need to provide them myself.

This release day, I was a guest on a Kansas City morning show (much more fun than waiting for non-existent cannons) then I went out to lunch with my oldest daughter, visited with some of my favorite readers on social media, and went out for wine with a friend then dinner with my husband.

Did I leave out the part about checking my numbers on an hourly basis? Oops!

I did that too. Because sales matter.

Most cozy readers know about the discontinuation of beloved series. It’s painful. For devoted readers. For the publisher who wields the axe. And—most of all—for the writer.

Sales matter. Maybe not to the reader, but I can guarantee the publisher and the writer care. A lot.

Thank heavens, writers aren’t like used car salesmen. We don’t corner readers, put our books into their hands, and tell them they’ll regret it if they don’t buy. We might want to. We don’t. Except that one…never mind.

I am so thrilled to be with the Wicked Cozy Authors today. I have purchased and loved books by each of them. I buy their books new. From Amazon or Barnes & Noble or my local bookstore. I hope you have too.

Because sales matter.

Readers: Do you have a favorite fashion memory from the 70’s?

Julie Mulhern is the USA Today bestselling author of The Country Club Murders. She is a Kansas City native who grew up on a steady diet of Agatha Christie. She spends her spare time whipping up gourmet meals for her family, working out at the gym and finding new ways to keep her house spotlessly clean–and she’s got an active imagination. Truth is–she’s an expert at calling for take-out, she grumbles about walking the dog and the dust bunnies under the bed have grown into dust lions.

 

 

Welcome Back Cindy Brown — A Gunfight Gone Wrong, Marauding Chihuahuas, & the Real Annie Oakley

Congratulations, Avis! you won an ebook! Cindy will be in touch!

I hope you all have the chance to meet Cindy in person some day. Her smile lights up any room she’s in. Here is are three things that inspired some of Cindy’s latest book Ivy Get Your Gun! Cindy is going to give away an ebook to one person who leaves a comment. Thanks, Cindy!

A Gunfight Gone Wrong, Marauding Chihuahuas, & the Real Annie Oakley

Ivy Get Your Gun may be fiction, but three real-life events inspired the book. The first two were news events in Arizona. When my mom sent me the following clipping, I knew I had the opening to my new book:

Actor Shot During Tombstone, Arizona, ‘Old West’ Gunfight Re-enactment Play

An “Old West” gunfight re-enactment in Arizona ended with real casualties                          Sunday when one of the actors fired five live rounds from his gun instead of                        blanks, injuring another actor and a bystander.

Yep, Ivy’s going undercover at Gold Bug Gulch, a Western theme town a little like Tombstone. She’s also been hired to solve a problem inspired by the following real-life incident:

Stray Chihuahuas Terrorize Arizona Town, Chase Children, Run Wild

Ay, Chihuahua! An Arizona town is overrun with tiny pooches that are terrorizing children    and defecating anywhere they want — and animal control officials can’t get a leash on the problem.  Large packs of the small dogs in Maryvale chase children as they head off to school, and the number of strays has swelled beyond control, officials and residents said.

The third incident was not nearly as dramatic, but a lot closer to home. Ivy is a part-time detective and an actor, so her escapades take place in the theater. In Ivy Get Your Gun, she performs in a melodrama at Gold Bug Gulch, but I also wanted a connection with the show Annie Get Your Gun. I had a difficult time getting hold of the script and the video, so I began by researching Annie Oakley. I’d always been a fan, but I had no idea what a truly amazing woman she was.

She survived a nightmare childhood to single-handedly raise her family out of poverty (when she was still a young teen) and then went on to become the most famous woman in the world, all while maintaining an uncommon degree of integrity. I was smitten. Finally, I received the script in the mail (had to order it off eBay from New Zealand), and was able to get the movie from the library, and…wow. All I had remembered was the wonderful music and some cowboy-type shenanigans. I didn’t remember how stupid they made her look or the makeover she had to endure, and I certainly didn’t know they had changed the real-life ending of Annie’s shooting match with Frank Butler, making her lose on purpose so that she wouldn’t upstage her man. UGH.

But what to do now?  I had the rest of the book in my head and a lot of it on paper. I decided to have Ivy channel me. In addition to acting in the melodrama, she’s auditioning for Annie Get Your Gun. Like me, she has a tough time finding the script in the video and researches Annie Oakley while she waits.  And when she sees what they did to Annie’s legacy, she gets as ticked off as I did and decides to do something about it.

I love how these three real events melded into the book: the gunfight became the mystery, the Chihuahuas became the comic relief, and Annie Oakley became the soul of the book. I hope I did her proud.

Readers: What strong woman do you admire?

Cindy Brown has been a theater geek (musician, actor, director, producer, and playwright) since her first professional gig at age 14. Now a full-time writer, she’s the author of the Agatha-nominated Ivy Meadows series, madcap mysteries set in the off, off, OFF Broadway world of theater. Cindy and her husband live in Portland, Oregon, though she made her home in Phoenix, Arizona, for more than 25 years and knows all the good places to hide dead bodies in both cities.

She’d love to connect with readers at cindybrownwriter.com (where they can sign up for her Slightly Silly Newsletter) or on Facebook or Twitter.