When Did I Become a Writer–and a Giveaway by Vickie Fee

Barb here. I’m so happy to welcome Friend of the Wickeds Vicki Fee to the blog today.

Vickie will give away a signed paperback copy of Til Death Do Us Party to one lucky commenter here.

The next entry in Vickie Fee’s Liv & Di in Dixie cozy mystery series, TIL DEATH DO US PARTY (with the electric pink cover), comes out March 27. The Dixie gang travels to Las Vegas for Mama and Earl’s rockin’ Elvis-themed wedding, while Liv juggles a bachelorette party for Mama and a problem-plagued soirée back home. Mama and Earl’s happily-ever-after seems like a sure thing, but all bets (and nuptials) are off when they get to the Burning Love Wedding Chapel. Their Elvis-impersonating minister has left the building…permanently. And worse, Liv’s cousin, Little Junior, is suspected of his murder. With Mama’s happy ending on the table and Little Junior about to lose it all, the stakes are higher than ever. Liv and Di must hit the Strip to find the real killer before he finally plays his ace…

WHEN DID I BECOME A WRITER?

When people ask how I became a novelist, I usually tell them I worked many years as a newspaper reporter and finally decided I wanted to write my own stories instead of other people’s—and that editors take a dim view of reporters who make up stuff. This is true, but only part of the story. My writing roots go much deeper.

I was the kid who couldn’t wait to write about my summer vacation. While most of my classmates seemed to dread these little writing exercises, I relished them. Not that my summer vacations were all that exciting, but I knew I could make them sound exciting if I just found the right words. By the third grade, I was nerdily reading my way through the 10-inch-thick unabridged dictionary at our house. I started this self-imposed project because I was deadly serious about the school spelling bee. But I soon became much more interested in the meanings and sounds of words than their spelling.

In the fourth grade I won a national essay contest in my age group, which garnered me a congrats over the school public address system, a box of candy from my principal and an appearance on a local TV news show. Not only that, but they gave me a huge pile of cash (a $25 savings bond). My writing career was assured at that moment. However, I spent a few decades writing for school and then writing for newspapers before I broke into fiction.

The mystery writer seed was also planted early on, even if it bloomed late. By age 12 I had moved from Nancy Drew to Agatha Christie. I loved trying to unravel the whodunit. I loved the setting. But more than anything I loved the characters, especially Miss Marple. I daydreamed that Miss Marple was my great aunt with whom I spent summers in St. Mary Mead, having tea, untangling her yarn and—most importantly—helping her solve murders. As years passed, I read voraciously and explored many genres, but my first love remained traditional mysteries. And if I didn’t like the way a novel ended, or thought the author didn’t resolve a subplot the way the she should, I would rewrite it in my head. I believe this is when I became a mystery writer, although I didn’t know it at the time.

I’m now a certified (or certifiable) mystery writer, with three books published and a fourth set to release in a few days. From this side of things, I understand better how my favorite authors sometimes went off course with a subplot or an ending. Writing a novel that weaves together an intriguing plot and compelling characters isn’t easy. I don’t claim to have mastered the mystery, but those rare, precious moments when things come together and I feel like I’m getting it right are glorious. Still, at some point in every manuscript so far there has come a moment when I’ve asked myself, “Why did I ever think I was smart enough to be a mystery writer?” But when one big piece of the puzzle finally falls into place, I think, “I’m brilliant! I’ve just figured out my own mystery.” The one that I made up myself.

Readers: Was there a moment when you knew (at the time or in retrospect) that you would become a writer, or teacher, or doctor or…? Comment or simply say hi to be entered to win Til Death Do Us Party. (Love the title.)

Bio:

Vickie Fee, the highly-caffeinated author of the LIV & DI IN DIXIE mystery series, was born and raised in Memphis, where Elvis and BBQ are king. She worked many years as a newspaper reporter in small Southern towns populated with colorful characters, much like those in the fictional town of Dixie. She now lives in Marquette, Michigan with a peek-through view of Lake Superior and a longsuffering husband. Catch up with Vickie (www.vickiefee.com) on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/VickieFeeAuthor), Twitter (@vickiefeeauthor), or on the mystery blog (www.chicksonthecase.com).

The Pitfalls and Pratfalls of Writing a Humorous Cozy Series — guest Vickie Fee

Today we welcome guest Vickie Fee the author of the Liv and Di in Dixie mystery series. I think the Liv and Di in Dixie idea is so clever and fun! Thanks for stopping by Vickie! Vickie is giving a way a mug (pictured front and back) a bag of coffee and a copy of her latest novel It’s Your Party Die If You Want To. Leave a comment below for a chance to win!

cozyintofallpromobk2Here’s a little bit about the book: Between a riverboat gambler-themed engagement party and a murder mystery dinner for charity, Dixie, Tennessee party planner Liv McKay is far too frenzied to feel festive. Add to the mix her duties at the annual businesswomen’s retreat and the antics of a celebrity ghost-hunting diva, and Liv’s schedule is turning out to be the scariest thing about this Halloween—until the ladies stumble across a dead body in a cemetery…

Morgan Robison was a party girl with a penchant for married men and stirring up a cauldron of drama. Any number of scorned wives or frightened philanderers could be behind her death. As Liv and her best friend, Di, set out to dig up the truth, they’ll face the unexpected and find their efforts hampered by a killer with one seriously haunting vendetta…

If you’ve read the first or second novel in my Liv and Di in Dixie mystery series, you may think they’re humorous – or not. But if you scan through some of the reviews on Amazon, you’ll see a number of readers describe them as funny, fun, humorous. A few reviews have even dubbed them laugh-out-loud funny. Of course, a recent GoodReads review commented there was a bit of humor, but she wished there’d been more.

One of the risks of writing humor is that what’s funny to one person isn’t necessarily funny to another.

its-your-party-die-if-you-want-to-qWhen I’m writing, I’m aware some people will find the books humorous and some not so much. But there are other elements in the stories — Southern charm, sass, colorful characters, family ties, some parties, since my protagonist is a party planner — and even a few dead bodies and a little mystery. So when I complete a manuscript I’m optimistic that I’ve thrown a little something in the pot for everyone.

Since becoming a published author, I’ve encountered a less obvious peril of writing a humorous series: People who think the books are funny for some reason assume the author is also funny. It was initially terrifying for me at in-person events when I realized people expected me to be funny.

I can be mildly amusing at dinner parties with a small group of friends who know me well and have managed expectations, depending on how much we’ve had to drink.
But a stand-up comic, I’m not. With strangers the best I can usually manage is funny in a socially awkward, hopefully endearing in a nerdy, but not pathetic way. And that’s my best trick.

With the recent release of my second book, I have several in-person events lined up in the next month or so. Just thinking about it gives me sweaty palms. My husband, who knows me well, has told me many times this year since the release of the first book how proud he is that I’ve pushed myself so far outside my comfort zone to promote the books. There’s a reason for that. It’s called fear. My fear of not selling any books is greater than my fear of embarrassing social situations.

So I’ve developed a couple of strategies to help me through personal appearances.
(BTW, envisioning the audience naked does nothing to allay my fears. If anything it makes me feel even more uncomfortable).

Any time I possibly can, I love doing events with other authors. Being part of a flock or gaggle, or even a pair, is far less intimidating for nerds in the wild than flying solo.
This provides the added advantage of hawking each other’s books. I can gush about another author’s book in a way that would seem egomaniacal if I said such things about my own book.

In addition to safety in numbers, I keep one card up my sleeve. I rehearse one   funny answer to a fairly common question. If no one actually asks me that question during the Q & A, I play like a politician and work their question around to my prepared answer. Not vickiefeemug1being a stand-up comic, I’m still working on my delivery. But the audience generally cuts me some slack for being such an obviously socially awkward book nerd — which actually gives me some street cred as an author.

Vickie Fee is the author of the Liv and Di in Dixie mystery series from Kensington. She blesses hearts and makes Jack Daniels whiskey balls that’ll scorch your tonsils. Her latest book, It’s Your Party, Die If you Want To, came out last week. Book Three in the series, One Fete in the Grave, will be released in May 2017. Find Vickie at www.vickiefee.com

Readers: What about the rest of you, do you have any tips for handling nerves, speaking in public, embracing your inner nerd, or overcoming social awkwardness?

Welcome Guest — Vickie Fee

I’m delighted to welcome Vickie Fee to the Wicked blog! I think the name of her series is so clever. It’s the Liv and Di in Dixie Mystery series. Thank you so much for joining us today!

DeathCrashesthePartyLarge“How did you end up writing murder mysteries?” Implication being, “Why would a nice woman like you write about murderers?” I’ve been asked this question quite a few times since word got out that my debut novel, Death Crashes the Party, was to be published.

It started innocently enough for me. See if any of the telltale signs apply to you.

You might be a mystery writer if:

While driving you work out scenes, saying the dialogue out loud. At a stoplight you notice the driver in the car beside you staring. You begin to nod your head rhythmically as if you are singing along with the radio instead of talking to yourself or your imaginary friends.

While watching mystery movies with friends and loved ones you feel the need to point out significant clues and red herrings.

You explain to companions how you knew who the killer was early on in the movie. They say, “Oh, I bet you read the book.” You pretend you read the book even if you didn’t so you don’t seem like a wise acre.

They say the average person walks past a serial killer 26 times in his or her life. You observe people in malls, restaurants and libraries trying to pick those people out of the crowd.

VickieFeeMug1You’re sitting in a meeting at the day job, with the boss droning on and on. You’re trying to listen with one ear just in case, but your mind is elsewhere. You are not unique in this. Everyone in the meeting is thinking about something else. Only they’re thinking about what they’re going to have for lunch or do this weekend. You’re thinking about them, what kind of character you’d make them in your novel and how you’d describe them.

You notice Bob from accounting sitting next to you is staring out the window. Snow has begun to fall. You can almost read his mind. He’s fantasizing about a vacation on a tropical island. You start writing the scene for him in your head, describing him sitting on a white sand beach with turquoise water lapping against the shore, a fruity cocktail crowned with a little umbrella in his hand. Then you leave Bob and begin to walk down the beach. It’s now your vacation and you’re collecting seashells along the shore. You spot something shiny peeking through the dune. You brush sand away and see it’s a ring – adorning the finger of a dead hand, connected to a very dead body buried in the sand. You wave and call out for help.

The police arrive and naturally suspect you, since you discovered the body. But you know this body has no connection to you. You’re on vacation thousands of miles from home. You never could have afforded a vacation like this if you hadn’t won it in a raffle. Especially, since your financial planner absconded with your life savings.

The police identify the body as your financial planner. You become their prime suspect. You understand that the two of you showing up on the same tiny tropical island at the same time is a huge coincidence. Has the killer orchestrated all this – you winning the vacation and being on hand when the body’s discovered – to frame you for murder? Who is this killer? Then you remember Bob from accounting sitting on the beach, trying to look innocent as he sips on his drink with the little umbrella in it.

Suddenly you turn to look Bob in the face, but he’s gone. In fact, everyone at the meeting has gone to lunch and you’re sitting alone at the conference table.

This is kinda, sort of the way it started for me. Readers: What about you? Do you display the symptoms of being a mystery writer or incurable mystery reader? What’s your story?

Author Bio:
Vickie Fee grew up on a steady diet of Nancy Drew, daydreams and sweet iced tea. Originally from Memphis, she now lives in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan with her husband, John. If she cranes her neck slightly, she can see Lake Superior from her office/guestroom window. Her debut novel, Death Crashes the Party, came out December 29, 2015.
After earning a journalism degree, she spent many years as a reporter covering small Southern towns populated with characters much like those in her books’ fictional town of Dixie, Tennessee. When not writing, Vickie enjoys reading mysteries and watching B movies from the 1930s and ‘40s. She’s currently working on the next book in the Liv and Di in Dixie mystery series, published by Kensington. Learn more about Vickie and her books at www.vickiefee.