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.





A Wicked Welcome to the Agatha Best First Nominees

By Julie, waiting for spring to come to Somerville

AGATHA FIRST BLOG TOURDear readers, you have all been on my publishing journey with me, capped off by the publication of Just Killing Time last October. I was thrilled when it was nominated for a Best First Novel Agatha Award. Icing on the cake–getting to know the other four nominees. Ellen Byron, Tessa Arlen, Art Taylor, Cindy Brown and I have been doing a blog tour, talking about our books, and our paths to publication. For each blog visit we are answering different questions.

Here are the questions of the day:

Is the book you are nominated for the first book you wrote? And from the time you decided to write a novel how long did it take you to get published?

ByronELLEN BYRON: I’m a playwright who turned to writing for television to Byron Bookmake a living. But during a few months of downtime, a friend started a writers’ group and I thought I’d try writing fiction. I’ve always loved mysteries, but didn’t know if I had the chops to write one. So I decided to challenge myself and just do it!  The first book I wrote was called Reality Checked (now known as You Can Never Be Too Thin or Too Dead). I discovered the Malice-Domestic Convention through a Google search, applied for a William F. Deeck-Malice Domestic Grant and won one in 2013. YAY! It took nine months to find a book agent. Boo. But he loved the book and sent it out. YAY! And it has yet to sell. Boo. But… while I was waiting for that possible sale, I wrote a second book, Plantation Shudders, and that sold in a two (now four) book deal to Crooked Lane Books. So… DOUBLE YAY! From the beginning of that writers group to selling Plantation Shudders took about three years, and it launched nine months later. And I’ve been saying YAY! ever since.

ArlenTESSA ARLEN: I have always enjoyed writing but I had never written a book before Death of a Dishonorable Gentleman. When I finished a Arlen bookmammoth first draft (145,000 words!) in 2009 I read up a bit about plot and structure and then set to work in earnest. After about a year and a half I had what I thought might be a worthwhile book.  It was my husband who suggested I find an agent and this took me about eight months or so. In my ignorance I went with the wrong one! She was awful –she would get on the phone and talk for hours but we never seemed to get anywhere and after several months I realized I had a real dud on my hands. And then my wonderful agent Kevan Lyon contacted me and said had just read my manuscript, loved it and that she would like to represent me. Within five weeks she had negotiated a two book (now four book) deal with Thomas Dunne/Minotaur and DEATH OF A DISHONORABLE GENTLEMAN was published in January 2015.   Now here we are up for an Agatha award. Believe me NO ONE is more staggered by all of this than me!

"Art Taylor"

ART TAYLOR: Looking back over my short story output, I think that I have more failed projects that successful ones—story ideas that Taylor Bookdidn’t pan out, projects that never fully cohered, or even finished, polished manuscripts that simply couldn’t find the right home—and that’s the case with the novel manuscripts I’ve had as well; there are at least four of them in one form or another in file cabinets or filed away in one place or another on my computer. With On The Road With Del & Louise: A Novel in Stories, the process was very much a different one, since I’d never actually thought of it as a novel when I first started writing it; Del and Louise were originally characters in a short, standalone adventure, and it was only over some time—several years—that I began to see that story and other tales as part of a longer and more complex narrative arc, one tied together by the two characters’ search for who they are, what they mean to one another, and where they might find a place to call their own, both a physical space and an emotional one. A couple of the individual stories found their own home at Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine before the good folks at Henery Press became interested in the longer novel project, so that road to publication had a couple of welcome stops en route to the book’s final destination.

HolmesJULIANNE HOLMES: Not even close! I have been thinking a lot about my journey, especially given all that is going on. It was about fifteen years agoHolmes Book that I said aloud “I want to write a mystery novel.” The first thing I had to do was figure out how to write a book. And then I wrote one, which is in a drawer and will never see the light of day. Then I wrote another one, about an ex-cop who runs a theater. That book taught me how to edit. I’d love to see that book in print at some point. I noodled with other ideas, and then this series came into my life. Fifteen years is a long time to hold on to a dream, but it is so worth it!

BrownCINDY BROWN: Like Ellen, I wrote plays before fiction. But then Ivy Meadows came knocking on my mind’s door. A sassy, slightly silly Brown bookactress and part-time PI, Ivy didn’t fit into a play, so I decided to write a novel. I’d been reading mysteries since grade school, was writing professionally (mostly as a copywriter and scriptwriter back then) and had written twenty or so plays and screenplays—how hard could it be? Riiiiight. My first attempts were pitiful. As a playwright, my sense of dialogue was good, but I kept forgetting things like, oh, setting and description. So I took classes and workshops and worked in writers groups and rewrote and rewrote and rewrote. I even took the book apart and started over. Twice. The second time was at the bequest of Kendel Lynn from Henery Press, who helped me fix a fatal flaw (mystery pun intended) and whip the book into readable shape. It’s difficult to say how long it took me to write Macdeath, because I put it aside several times—twice to write non-fiction books for ghostwriting clients, and once to work on The Sound of Murder when I thought Macdeath might not sell. I’m soooo happy it did—I love my characters like they’re my friends.

Here are some of the other stops on our blog tour:

Guest Cindy Brown — The Importance of Light in the Dark

Welcome Cindy! We got to chatting on Facebook when she saw I’d posted a photo of myself at a high school play practice. (You can see the photo and a bit about it on Cindy’s Slightly Silly Newsletter the link is below.) It’s always fun to get to know new authors!

THE SOUND OF MURDER front-smallerIf you looked at my bookshelves, you’d see mysteries and literary fiction, most of them serious, even dark. But I make certain there are always several cozy or humorous mysteries there too. I have to have them handy. Why? And why, if I read mostly “serious “ fiction, do I write screwball mysteries?

Years ago, I was walking the dog when I ran into a neighbor whose husband was terminally ill. We talked briefly about the situation, but veered into the comfort of small talk pretty quickly. I mentioned I was working on a humorous mystery, and her eyes lit up. “I’d love to read it,” she said. I sent her an early draft of Macdeath, my first Ivy Meadows Mystery. I saw her again a few days later, and she thanked me profusely. “I laughed for the first time in weeks,” she said. “You can’t imagine how much that means to me.”

lightI’ve heard variations of the same sentiment several times since. Sometimes it’s simply about getting a break from the serious world we live in: “It was really nice to leave the darkness, and read a fun, light mystery.” (Bill’s Book Reviews on The Sound of Murder) Sometimes the books take on a greater importance for readers. My friend Angela M. Sanders received an email thanking her for writing the Joanna Hayworth Vintage Clothing Mysteries. The reader said her novels were the perfect R&R for him after his days at work—as a humanitarian worker with an Ebola response team in Guinea, Africa,

I believe mysteries are important to us because they create a world where good triumphs. Where bad guys get theirs in the end. Where flawed characters recognize that they need to grow, and set about changing themselves for the better. That’s why I write them. And I write cozy mysteries for what began as as sort of a selfish reason: I didn’t want to live in the dark. I once turned down a great role in the Sam Shepard play “Buried Child,” because I didn’t want to immerse myself in that in that brutal world for months of rehearsal and performance.

That’s not to say that my books—and most cozies—don’t have substance (check out Susannah Hardy’s post: Mythbusting–Cozies Are Not The Shallow End Of The Fiction Pool). I love it when readers recognize the comedy and the gravity in my books: “The setting is irresistible, the mystery is twisty, and Ivy is as beguiling as ever, but what I really loved was the depth and complexity of painful human relationships right there in the middle of a sparkly caper,” Catriona McPherson said about The Sound of Murder.

But what’s even better is the realization that my reason for writing cozies isn’t all selfish: readers need them too. After fellow author Cindy Sample recently lost her beloved mother, she wrote to tell me that Macdeath “brought much laughter when I sorely needed it.”

I’m proud to count myself among the cadre of cozy writers. I believe we’re trying to make sense of what’s going on around us, and to set to the world to rights, even if it’s just for the length of a book.  We’re turning on the light.

CindyBrown-005-2_rt_smallwebCindy 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 Ivy Meadows series, madcap mysteries set in the off, off, OFF Broadway world of theater. Macdeath, Ivy’s first adventure is “a hilarious riff on an avant-garde production of the Scottish play” (Mystery Scene Magazine) and her newest book, The Sound of Murder is “a definite delight”(Suspense Magazine). 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.

Readers: Why do you read mysteries?