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

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.

 

 

 

 

Guest: Lynn Cahoon

Edith here north of Boston, enjoying some actual May weather, finally. We have H&H jpegwritten about writers’ retreats several times on this blog, and the core Wickeds just returned from our annual Maine retreat. Let’s welcome guest Lynn Cahoon back on the blog, and hear about when she took herself on a retreat. She also has a new mystery out, Hospitality and Homicide, which sounds fabulous, and she’s giving away one e-copy to a randomly chose commenter here today!

Lynn: Thanks for having me over today! I got to meet several of the Wicked Cozys at Crime Bake last year. Such a fun event!

The Writer’s Retreat

I write a lot about writers. And readers. And bookstore owners.  People I like to hang out with as a person.  And when we hang out, we talk about setting up a magical event called a retreat. I know people who do this. (One is a Wicked.) You see posts filled with pictures of a lovely, deserted cabin on a seashore or up in the woods. Or even on top of a skyscraper in a big city.  And, if they’re doing it right, a message saying “I’ll be off line for a while.”

But I had never taken the time to do my own retreat.  My life is busy with a day job, the writing gig, a husband who likes to visit our lake property often, like every time he can. Driving somewhere to lock myself up and write? It seemed indulgent.

IMG_0660Until I went to Chicago for Printer’s Row. I had a panel and was signing afterwards. Two hours out of a weekend committed and I had a deadline the next week, but I also had a hotel room reserved in a lovely place.  I flew up on a Friday after work, ordered room service for dinner, then opened my laptop. By the time I left on Sunday, I had over 10,000 words and was ready to cross the finish line.

I loved it.

I didn’t get out much that weekend, except to the MWA booth for my event, but my mind soaked up the atmosphere of the hotel, the sidewalk café where I ate dinner, and I watched a group of friends talking and catching up which turned out to be IMG_0681part of an opening scene for the next book I had on deck to write.

By taking some time away from my desk and my computer, I filled the writer well inside me.  And the room service was delicious.  I’ve got another retreat on the books for 2018 and I’m planning time at my next convention to treat at least part of the week as a retreat. I’ve learned the magic.

In Hospitality and Homicide, we find Nathan Pike, a well-known mystery author taking his own writing retreat.  I understand Nathan Pike’s need to get away from his normal life to write his next book.  And having 24-7 access to Greg who’s the South Cove head detective would be a huge bonus, curtsey of our friend the mayor.  No one counted on Nathan writing the murder scene that happened just days after he arrives in town. And no one expected Nathan to work out the how-to details on a ride along with Greg.

Readers: Have you taken a break from real life to fill your creative well? Remember, one random commenter will win an e-copy of Hospitality and Homicide.

A visit to the serene coastal town of South Cove, California, could make anybody feel refreshed and inspired. But as Jill Gardner—owner of Coffee, Books, and More—discovers, some folks won’t live to tell about it . . .

Mystery author Nathan Pike checked into South Cove Bed & Breakfast to compose a compelling novel, not commit murder. But things get real when a rival B&B owner ends up exactly like the victim in his draft—undeniably dead. As Nathan prepares to complete his magnum opus behind bars, Jill’s the only one who can prove his innocence and deconstruct Cahoonthe plot of a twisted killer!

Lynn Cahoon is the author of the NYT and USA Today best-selling Tourist Trap cozy mystery series. GUIDEBOOK TO MURDER, book 1 of the series, won the Reader’s Crown for Mystery Fiction in 2015. She also pens the Cat Latimer series. A STORY TO KILL, and FATALITY IN FIRELIGHT are available in mass market paperback. She lives in a small town like the ones she loves to write about with her husband and two fur babies. Sign up for her newsletter at www.lynncahoon.com

 

 

How I Trick Myself Out of Procrastination – Guest Cheryl Hollon

Liz here, welcoming back our good friend Cheryl Hollon. (We always love when you come to visit, Cheryl!) And today, she’s talking about a subject that’s near and dear to my heart – procrastinating. I definitely need to try some of her methods below…

If procrastination is my weakness, ingenuity is my strength. I have a lot of tricks to get me out from under those time-wasters that eat into my productive writing time. You know what I mean, like Facebook, where you’re only going to check on a few of your friends. Then, whoosh! It’s been two hours.

Meeting my publisher’s deadlines is a serious matter. My engineering career demanded unfailing compliance with project milestones to keep our government on schedule. I treat my writing business with the same attitude.

However, lofty intensions don’t keep me from wandering off the path, so I’ve adopted some little tricks to keep the words flowing onto the page. The first approach is to have a set routine each morning for starting the day. I am more or less on complete autopilot until I’m sitting at my computer out in my writing shed.

My first trick is to open my writing-in-progress document. Then I sprint for one hour without checking e-mail, Facebook or Twitter. This is the most powerful tool in my box of tricks. The second trick is that when I complete my sprint, I can work the Times Mini Crossword Puzzle ( https://www.nytimes.com/crosswords/game/mini ). The reason I choose the mini puzzle rather than the grown-up version? It takes me less than five minutes to solve.

After that, I get some administrative tasks done. But, here’s how I limit my time: I use an hour-glass. It should be called a half-hour-glass because it takes thirty minutes for the sand to run out.

Cheryl 1

Throughout the day, I use various other rewards. Lunch is a big one, so is another cup of coffee. Sometimes, it’s a piece of candy or a chilled Coke in a glass bottle. Basically, whatever it takes to get me to my word target for the day.

What are your tricks?

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Each book in the Webb’s Glass Shop Mystery Series highlights a particular skill within the broad category of glass art. Savannah Webb will teach and participate in each skill area exploring and expanding her knowledge of the craft, along with her assistant, Amanda Blake. As a subject matter expert consulting with the St. Petersburg Police Department, her close associations within the art community and the unusually keen observation skills of her apprentice, Jacob Underwood, combine to solve crimes. Edward Morris, boyfriend and the British owner of the pub next door, fills out the investigation posse with more than moral support accompanied by coffee and scones. The craft topics for the third book in the series are etching glass and slumping glass to make dishware.

The cover art for Etched in Tears (Webb’s Glass Shop Mystery #4) is an image of my favorite museum with the magnificent droopy bench in front. That’s where the body is discovered, so as research, I had to slump myself over the bench to see if it was feasible. I considered it a triumph to get strange looks at an art museum that specializes in surrealism.

Etched in Tears_MM.indd

My husband, George and I have a glass studio in a freestanding cottage behind our house and we enjoy making promotional gifts for my blog tours. For this book, I will be giving away all sorts of etched items: wine glasses, pendants, earrings and maybe some beer steins.

You can read more about Savannah in Etched in Tears, the fourth book in the Webb’s Glass Shop Mysteries, published by Kensington Books. Available for pre-order at your favorite book vendor. It releases on November 28, 2017.

About Etched in Tears:

When a famous glass artist is murdered at his own exhibit, deadly secrets are put on display, and it’s up to glass shop owner Savannah Webb to see through a killer’s cover.

Celebrated glass artist Dennis Lansing is returning to St. Petersburg, Florida, for an exhibit at the world-renowned Salvador Dali Museum. His unique style of embedding document images into his art is at the vanguard of contemporary glasswork. But as Savannah’s first boyfriend and a former apprentice to her father, Dennis’s return home has her reflecting on the past—a trip down memory lane that takes a dark turn when Dennis is found murdered at the museum with an old reference letter from her father in his pocket. A search through her father’s records sheds new light on Dennis’s history, but it seems his present life wasn’t so transparent either. Now, with a gallery of suspects to consider, it’s up to Savannah to figure out who fits the mold of a murderer.

Meet the author:

Author Hollon Photo

Cheryl Hollon writes full time after she left an engineering career designing and building military flight simulators in amazing countries such as England, Wales, Australia, Singapore, Taiwan and India. Fulfilling the dream of a lifetime, she combines her love of writing with a passion for creating glass art.

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Why I’m a Standalone Writer — Guest Lori Rader-Day

I am happy to welcome back Lori Rader-Day. We met at Left Coast Crime in 2014 when we were both debut authors. Our first books weren’t even out yet. Lori’s third book, The Day I Diedreleased on April 11th!

Lori:

[Movie trailer voice] IN A WORLD where the mystery genre is built upon series characters, Lori Rader-Day is a serial author of—standalones.

Hi, I’m Lori, and I write… standalones.

[Everyone chines in.] Hi, Lori.

[A voice from the back of the room] You’re safe here, Lori.

Am I? Am I really? I’m looking around and everyone else—wow, this is hard. Everyone else has a series. Some of them have two or three series. It’s easy to feel as though I’m not doing something right, you know? Like I am not a real mystery author, because I haven’t written a series yet.

Face it. Mystery readers love series. They are always going on about Miss Fisher and Vera and Dexter and Sookie and Longmire. I get it. There’s something great about knowing that the thing you like and have read or, since series books are sometimes turned into television, watched—there’s more! There’s more of this thing I really enjoyed! It’s all good news!

Publishers also love series titles. You know why? Because the marketing does its dang self when it comes to series books. Launch once, write into infinity, and your happy readers from the first book are likely to keep picking up later titles, as long as you let them know they are available. If new readers discover you later into the series, that’s also good news for your backlist sales. Again: all good news.

Wow, you guys are really turning me around on this—

[Voice from the back of the room] Stay strong, Lori.

[Deep breath] OK, right. There’s a reason I write standalones, even so. And the reason is—me. I like standalones. I like to read them. I like knowing that the book I’m picking up is the whole story, that I’m not missing three books prior to this one and hence a lot of backstory. I’m a little OCD on this. If I find a series book that I want to read, I can’t just pick up that new book. I have to go back into the backlist and find the first book. Why? Because I want the origin story. How did this character become an amateur sleuth? Why did they become a bounty hunter instead of a lingerie salesperson (Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum) or a private investigator instead of a lady of leisure (Catriona McPherson’s Dandy Gilver)? I’m not going to skip THAT story of all stories they have to tell. That’s the best one!

So there’s my own reading practices to blame. I will take a good standalone over anything, any day of the week. A fully realized story and character, where everything is left on the page and nothing “saved” for a future book is my kind of book.

Though I do like series books. When I find a character who has the potential to carry an ongoing story of growth and change, of course I’ll read that—

[Voice from the second row] She’s wavering. Do something.

But the real reason that I write standalones has nothing to do with my reading habits and everything to do with my own attention span.

When I was writing my first two published novels, I was working a day job. A demanding one. To get my writing done, I had to use my lunch hour almost every day of the week. I was turning down lunch invitations with real friends to go spend time with these fake friends I was making up. I had to make myself want to be at the blank page, or I wouldn’t show up there. There were just so many other things to do. Life easily gets in the way.

So I had to keep things interesting in what I was writing—giving myself fun assignments like two first-person narrators or a really fun character with bad behavior—but I also had to keep myself engaged with the next thing. As in, when I finish THIS manuscript, I get to write something completely different. I get to write The Brand New Shiny Idea!

The Brand New Shiny Idea cannot be a second book with the same character, you see. That’s not Brand New or Shiny enough.

I guess you can say I use the next book, the next standalone by definition, as the carrot at the end of the stick of writing my current project.

[Mumble from somewhere in row four] Heavy-handed metaphor alert.

There are just so many story ideas out there to be written, and the ones that occur to me have me hopping from one character to another, from one setting to another. For now. Someday I hope one of the characters I write gives me another idea—and then another one—for what she wants to do. I will welcome that turn of events. But until then…

[Murmurs from among the group.]

[Voice from the back] You can do it!

I am a standalone writer. Thank you for your support.

Readers: Do you read standalones? Have you thought about writing one?

Lori Rader-Day, author of The Day I Died, The Black Hour, and Little Pretty Things, is the recipient of the 2016 Mary Higgins Clark Award and the 2015 Anthony Award for Best First Novel. Lori’s short fiction has appeared in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Time Out Chicago, Good Housekeeping, and others. She lives in Chicago, where she teaches mystery writing at StoryStudio Chicago and is the president of the Mystery Writers of America Midwest Chapter.

A Wicked Welcome to Cynthia Kuhn!

I’m thrilled to welcome Cynthia Kuhn back to the blog. The second book in the Lila Maclean Academic Mystery series, The Arts of Vanishing, came out this spring. I love academic mysteries–they speak to my years working at different colleges, and the folks I thought about. . . well, that’s another blog post. Welcome back Cynthia!

Books About Books

VanishingAlthough I love all kinds of books, those about books/reading/writing seem doubly satisfying. If you’re like me, always looking for more books about books, perhaps this will come in handy: a brief list of great reads that focus on texts in one way or another.

The Princess Bride: S. Morgenstern’s Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure
by William Goldman
The story about Princess Buttercup and Westley is purportedly the “good parts version” of a much longer history by “S. Morgenstern.” Goldman created a structure in which a fictionalized version of himself discusses what he’s “left out” of the other book in hilarious editorial asides throughout the text (which appear in red print in certain editions and in italics in others…I know this little factoid because my family loved the book so much that we bought various editions to give as gifts…before the film came out, even). It’s simply superb. The asides are just as fabulous as the rest.

Possession by A.S. Byatt
Possession is not focused on a single book—it’s more about a love of writing in many forms, mixed with a blossoming romance (multiple romances, to be precise). Things advance through the discovery of texts (letters, poems, etc.); the main characters are always reading and interpreting things they find, and the past and the present are woven together into one delicious tale.

The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde
This book features Thursday Next, a literary detective (what a dream career) who embarks on a case where characters are disappearing from texts. It is something like alternative history meets fantasy meets mystery meets humor and the plot is so creative as to be almost indescribable, but I promise that it’s a very fun read!

Book: A Novel by Robert Grudin
Book is as meta as it gets (metafiction is fiction about fiction: texts that draw attention to themselves as texts). From the title itself to the ongoing encyclopedia entries discussing the history of bookselling throughout to the footnotes that cheekily stage a revolution and so much more, the focus is squarely on bookishness. And it’s an academic mystery, with some delightful satire to boot!

Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra
Don’t let the “classic” label throw you—although it’s been called the first (modern) novel, this is as readable and hilarious now as it must have been back in the early 1600s when it was written. It’s almost impossible to imagine how Cervantes conceived of writing such a brilliant text, with multiple levels of authorship and playfulness (very meta), without much in the way of predecessors. Not to mention that the unforgettable Don Quixote, Sancho Panza, and Dulcinea del Toboso have become cultural icons.

City of Glass by Paul Auster
This Edgar-nominated book is highly metafictional and complex. The protagonist Daniel Quinn (whose initials are not the only allusion to Don Quixote and that’s not the only name of the main character, either, but for the sake of this discussion, let’s leave it there) is a writer-slash-private-investigator caught up in a mysterious case that bends back upon itself in surprising and compelling ways. His efforts to solve the case raise all kinds of questions about identity, knowledge, and mystery. There’s a graphic novel version too, by Paul Karasik and David Mazzucchelli, that offers a terrific noir-y adaptation.

84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff
This is not fiction but a memoir presenting a series of letters between a bookseller in London and a reader in New York City who become friends over time through their epistolary exchanges. They talk about books and think about books and send each other books/gifts and, well, you’ll have to read it to find out the rest. The film adaptation is incredibly charming and wonderful too (Anne Bancroft and Anthony Hopkins star—case closed).

There are so many more…what are your favorite books about books?

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ck2x3Cynthia Kuhn writes the Lila Maclean Academic Mystery series, which includes The Semester of Our Discontent (nominated for an Agatha Award) and The Art of Vanishing. She teaches in Denver and serves as president of Sisters in Crime-Colorado. For more information, please visit cynthiakuhn.net.

Agatha Nominees for Best Contemporary Novel 2017

Hi Barb here. Since the nominations were announced, the Wickeds have hosted this year’s Agatha Award nominees for Best First Mystery, Best Short Story, and Best Historical. Today we’re bringing you the nominated authors for Best Contemporary Novel.

The Agatha Awards, given at Malice Domestic, honor the “traditional mystery,” and this year’s nominated novels span the length and breadth of the category–from cozy to edgy, amateur sleuth and professional, female protagonist and male, series mystery and standalone. I’m excited to be on this list with some of my favorite authors.

Agatha Award Nominees Best Contemporary Novel for 2016:

Body on the Bayou by Ellen Byron (Crooked Lane Books)
Quiet Neighbors by Catriona McPherson (Midnight Ink)
A Great Reckoning by Louise Penny (Minotaur Books)
Fogged Inn by Barbara Ross (Kensington)
Say No More by Hank Phillippi Ryan (Forge Books)

Here’s our question for the nominees: Did you know at the outset that your main character was strong enough to carry a book/series? How did this character change as you got to know him or her better?

Ellen Byron: I didn’t know for sure if my protagonist could carry a series, but I knew she had to. I was too in love with the fictional world of Pelican, Louisiana – and the real world of Cajun Country – to stop writing about it after one book. What I find exciting is how I’m always discovering new things about Maggie Crozat. A friend who was trying to wrap her head around the amateur sleuth angle of my series once asked me, “Does she see things other people miss because she’s an artist and very visual?” To which I replied, “She does now!”

I’m currently working on the fourth Cajun Country Mystery, and Maggie just shared she’s an only child, and was lonely growing up. This came as news to me because originally I gave her a brother, but then put him on the back burner because he didn’t contribute to the story. I always thought he’d come back someday, but Maggie has spoken. She’s declared herself sibling-free. I feel so close to her that sometimes I forget she’s not real. Those are the moments when I think, “Hmm, might be time to go back to therapy.”

Catriona McPherson: Oh, I wish this was a series! I miss them all now that the book’s done, even though it took me a while to get to know Jude – my heroine – well enough to write about her with confidence. I knew she was a librarian and she lived in London, but I wrote and wrote and couldn’t get the essence of her. She was flat, while all the other characters came to joyous life around her.

Then one day I was writing a scene in the dusty, disordered bookshop where the story takes place and the thought of all the dirt and mouse-droppings and dust-mites was making me feel itchy. Suddenly, I got that tingly feeling (different from the itching) and I knew that Jude was a cataloguer who’d given up working on the desk with the general public because she’s a germaphobe and the way people treat library books distresses her too much. I used to work in a public library and I know this from bitter experience. Worst bookmark I ever found in a returned book? Bacon rind. Anyway, germaphobe Jude came instantly alive and the book was plain sailing after that.

But it’s not the start of a series. The story of Jude, Lowell the bookshop owner and the irrepressible pregnant nineteen-year-old Eddy is done. Unless I think of another one . . .

Louise Penny: Initially my main characters were going to be the artist couple, Clara and Peter Morrow.  But as I thought about it more, I could see that while strong secondary characters, making them the center, the core of the series simply would not work, for all sorts of reasons, primary that I was afraid readers, and I, would tire if they had too much of them.

The other reason was that the head of homicide seemed so fully formed when he first appeared and I realized he was the one I needed.  Gamache could hold the series together, and that would allow the secondary characters to shine without the burden of carrying the series.  But he needed to be someone whose company I would enjoy, perhaps for years.  And so I made him a man I would marry, since this is, in effect, a marriage.  As it turns out, far from creating Armand Gamache, I actually transcribed him.  Gamache is inspired by my husband, Michael.

Barbara Ross: When I go back now and look at the original proposal for the Maine Clambake Mysteries, it’s amazing to me how much of Julia Snowden was there. Her family was there–her mother, sister, pain-in-the-neck brother-in-law, and niece were there, as was the still acutely felt absence of her late father. Her parents’ unusual marriage between a summer person who lived on a private island and the boy who delivered their groceries in his skiff was there, too.

This last was particularly important to me, because I am not and would never claim to be a native Mainer, so I needed to be able to write with the perspective of someone on the outside looking in. In her view, her parent’s marriage has left Julia forever on the outside, belonging to neither tribe in her resort town. (Her sister Livvie, on the other hand, doesn’t feel that way at all. Which is something that fascinates me, how people can be brought up by the same parents at more or less the same time, yet experience their circumstances utterly differently.)

But there was huge thing I didn’t know at the beginning–how Julia would act and react when put in a series of extraordinary situations. While I had a sense of her character, there was no way to know until those scenes were written. In that sense she continuously reveals herself to me.

Hank Phillippi Ryan: That is such a great question, because it made me examine my choices, and realize I hadn’t asked myself that question at all.

When I began the Jane Ryland books with The Other Woman, that started with a plot. And forgive me, here is a tiny bit of backstory: I had been reading about Governor Mark Sanford, who told his wife and constituents that he was “hiking the Appalachian Trail “when he was actually off with his mistress. And I started thinking about why anyone would be the other woman. It’s so destructive in every way. So someone was quoted as saying “You can choose your sin, but you cannot choose your consequences.”

And I thought: that’s my book.

So I needed a main character to tell that story. And it couldn’t be my first series character, Charlotte McNally, because the story was too big and textured for first person.
But I knew she would be a reporter, a tough, strong, curious, honorable, caring reporter.
And a reporter’s life is all about the search for the next big story. That is natural! So once I decided on “reporter,” it never crossed my mind that she wouldn’t be able to handle it.

But the fabulous part is how she came to life! Jane Ryland is 33-ish, when the book starts, so 64 year-old me, at the time, could not really draw on my experiences at that age, since that was a million years ago. That made me channel her through a different time…how that age would behave now. And I love how she showed up on the page! Confident, and not self-centered, and a little fearless when it comes to asking questions. Sometimes I am too worried about what other people think, and I was delighted to say she is somehow less timid than I am.

SAY NO MORE has her tackling a very difficult and sensitive subject. Not only testing her responsibilities as a journalist, but her emotional capabilities when dealing with victims and perpetrators of campus sexual assault. She turns out to be compassionate, and caring, and I love how she weighs her responsibility to the subject of her story with her responsibility as a journalist.

Yes, I know I wrote it, but you can’t MAKE a character do something they wouldn’t do. That’s when I know the plot is driving the story, not the character. Jane lets me know when I am doing that—it comes across awkward and “written.” And I think, oh, that’s Hank, not Jane. So when I am lucky, Jane reveals herself to me on the page, and I am so proud of her in SAY NO MORE. (Well, eventually.)

Readers: What do you look for in a character to carry you through a book–or series?

Ellen, Catriona, Hank and I will be at Malice at end of this month. If you’ll be there, we’d love to have you attend our panel, “Simply the Best: Agatha Best Contemporary Novel Nominees,” moderated by Shawn Reilly Simmons on Friday at 1:00 pm. (Or honestly, come talk to any one of us at any time.) Louise, we’ll all be thinking of you!

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Welcome Back Sara Rosett!

JHolden is the winner of Sara’s book! Thanks to all of you who entered!

I’m so happy to welcome back Sara Rosett! Mother’s Day, Muffins, and Murder is the TENTH book in her Ellie Avery Mystery series! I met Sara the same night I met Julie Hennrikus at the banquet at Malice Domestic in 2005. Sara had just sold her series to Kensington and we bonded over both being military wives.

Sara is giving away a copy of Mother’s Day, Muffins, and Murder! Leave a comment below by midnight Saturday EDT for a chance to win!

Dream vacation destination?

Anywhere in Europe. I’m not picky! I haven’t been to Prague and would loved to go there.

You’ve just won the lottery. What’s the first thing you do/buy?

This isn’t a physical thing, but I think I’d hire someone to clean my house. Having someone else clean for me would be true luxury.

Favorite mystery/thriller movie?

I love classic movies like North by Northwest and To Catch a Thief. A contemporary favorite is RED.

Favorite junk food? Chocolate. The darker, the better.

What’s one food you absolutely can’t stand? Cooked spinach. Raw spinach is great. Love it in salads, I just don’t like the soggy mess that it turns into when it’s cooked.

What’s one talent you wish you had?

I wish I could sing. I’m tone-deaf and clueless about most musical things.

M&Ms or Godiva?

Both please. I never set limits where chocolate is concerned.

Favorite time of Day?

I’m a night owl. I love curling up with a good book and reading past my bedtime.

Tell us a little about your book. Did an event or idea inspire the book?

Mother’s Day, Muffins, and Murder came about because I wanted to write a story set at an elementary school. I’d already explored many aspects of my main character’s life. Ellie is a military spouse, a professional organizer, and a mom. Other books in the series have focused on the military spouse and organizing angles, so I thought it would be fun to center the book on the school. When your kids are in elementary school, there is a high level of involvement—classroom parties, Field Day, and volunteering in the classroom. I wanted to write about those things and weave a mystery into the setting.

What’s your writing style? Outline or no outline?

Writing without an outline of sorts would be terrifying! I always have a plan with the major points the story will hit. Sometimes it stays the same; sometimes it changes a lot. When I’m writing a book, I write every weekday morning for a couple of hours. I start at the beginning and write through to the end before I go back and revise.

What do you wish you’d known about either the craft of writing or the business of publishing when you first started writing?

I wish I’d known how much publishing was going to change! If I’d had a crystal ball I would have been scribbling away, stock-piling stories for when the ebook revolution hit. I’ve learned a lot about being nimble and keeping an eye on the horizon in the last few years.

What’s up next for you? What are you working on now? 

I’m working on the draft of the seventh Murder on Location mystery, Death at an English Wedding, which is another series that I write. It’s set in England–(obviously!)– and I have the best time escaping to the misty green countryside in my mind when it’s blazing hot and humid where I live. It also gives me a reason to travel—research!

Sara Rosett is a bestselling mystery author. She writes the Ellie Avery series, the On The Run series, and the Murder on Location series. Publishers Weekly called Sara’s books “satisfying,” “well-executed,” and “sparkling.”

 Sara teaches what she knows through the How to Outline a Cozy Mystery course. She loves to get new stamps in her passport and considers dark chocolate a daily requirement. Find out more at SaraRosett.com and sign up to get a free ebook from Sara.

Readers: If you won the lottery what is the first thing you would do/buy?