Guest: Wendy Tyson

This is Edith, wondering what New England will give us for weather next! And happy to BitterHarvest fronthave the talented Wendy Tyson back as my guest. Her newest Greenhouse Mystery, Bitter Harvest, came out this week, and to celebrate she’s giving away an audiobook (on CDs) of the book to one commenter today. Wendy was kind enough to consent to an interview, so let’s go (my questions are in boldface)!

You wrote a darker standalone, plus the Allison Campbell series for Henery, about an image consultant. I haven’t read either the standalone or the series, but even the series seems a bit darker than the cozy Greenhouse Mysteries. Do you prefer one style over the other?

I’m a huge fan of crime fiction—from small-town cozy mysteries to great, sprawling international thrillers and everything in between. The Greenhouse Mystery Series is very dear to me because I love organic gardening, and I feel passionate about the regenerative farming movement. Plus, I’ve fallen quite in love with some of the characters.  And these days, when you turn on the news and you’re constantly confronted by some tragedy or another, it’s nice to return to a place that’s welcoming and just a little isolated from some of the world’s misery (even if that place is fictional). That’s how I feel about Winsome, PA, the setting of Bitter Harvest.

That said, I also enjoy writing darker mysteries and thrillers. These books provide a different kind of outlet as a writer, and it’s exciting to sink into an edgier, more complex novel. I guess the answer is no, I really don’t prefer one over the other. I like to think there is the flexibility for me to write and publish both.

Our readers are always curious about our writing schedules and habits. Do you have a day job in addition to writing fiction? When and where do you write your mysteries?

Vermont Respite

Vermont

I do! I’m an attorney and I work full-time as a consultant at a mutual fund company. (I practice ERISA law. Bonus points for Wicked readers familiar with that area of the law.) I have a husband, three sons, and three dogs, and I split my time between Vermont and Pennsylvania. Life is hectic, but writing provides me with the quiet time I need to recharge. Making time for writing isn’t always easy, though.

A schedule? I get up early—around 5:30 am—and write every day before work, until about 7. If I’m up against a deadline, I’ll also write during my lunch break. I try to reserve evenings for my family and for any social media/marketing I need to do. That all sounds very disciplined, doesn’t it? The truth is, while I do stick to that schedule, it’s often not enough to meet my deadlines, and so I tend to be a binge writer. I write for hours during family vacations, on my days off from work, at soccer and lacrosse tournaments, in waiting rooms. I’ve learned the art of writing wherever and whenever. To do that without sacrificing family time, I integrate writing with my life. This means I can write at the kitchen island while the boys do homework or play and a meal is simmering on the stove. I’ve had to learn to block out distractions. (If only I had mastered that skill in college!)

I know you are an avid gardener, as is Megan Sawyer, your Greenhouse series protagonist. What’s your favorite crop to grow, and which give you the most problems? (I’ll add my own answers after yours!)Yard mico farm Tyson

Red peppers are a favorite crop. We plant red bell peppers and Hungarian peppers, and we eat the bells like apples (the kids love them). Peppers grow very well in our climate. Potatoes do as well, and we generally have excellent crops of red and Yukon potatoes. Homegrown potatoes are delicious—earthy and flavorful, even without butter.

Most problematic? That changes to some extent every year. Last summer, we had a tough time with tomatoes (another favorite crop), and mid-way through the summer our basil died for no apparent reason. The year before we had more tomatoes than we could possibly eat, and fresh, fragrant basil until well into fall. We almost always get aphids on our spring kale and spinach eventually…something you learn to live with when you’re planting an organic garden on a small piece of property.

I’d love to hear your thoughts!

E: Oh, man, broccoli was such a pain. It’s good to plant, because it’s healthy and doesn’t mind cold weather. But when the cabbage moth lays its eggs in the head and you’re in the kitchen getting ready to chop one up for your dinner and there are MOVING CREATURES hidden in the florets? Gah! Forget it. I’ll buy broccoli at the farm stand. When I was selling my own produce, the tiny holes the flea beetles chew in arugula and other leafy green crops was a big pain but not harmful, just cosmetically unpleasing. But I love growing my Sun Gold cherry tomatoes every year. I used to start those from seed before hardly anybody knew about them – now all the garden centers sell seedlings.

Bitter Harvest takes place in the fall. Here in New England more and more family farms are putting up hoop houses and nurturing crops like hardy greens all winter long. Do you try to grow year round? 

Absolutely. We were inspired some years back after reading Eliot Coleman’s book, The Winter Harvest Handbook, and my husband built an unheated hoop house and low tunnels in our yard. It’s been a little bit of heaven to go out into a snowy yard and pick fresh spinach or kale. We’ve also grown arugula and pak choi in the low tunnels with decent success.

E: I’ve seen Coleman speak! And still own my copy of Four Season Harvest.

Other than writing about murders and growing food (and being a wife, mom, and dog owner…), what else do you do for fun in your “free” time? Believe me, I’ve been there except for the dog part, which is why I put free in quotes!

Free time…you’re right, there isn’t much left over. I love, love, love to travel. The entire part of a trip, from planning to execution, is great fun, and we’ve managed some interesting trips over the last five years or so. We drove to Montana from Pennsylvania one summer, another summer we did a “road trip” through parts of Western Europe and

Corfu, Greece

Corfu

Slovenia, and we spent three weeks in a house on the Greek island of Corfu a few years back. These trips provide family time and writing time, and I find that a new locale always offers novel ideas and a fresh perspective. Aside from travel, I enjoy hiking and swimming with my kids, especially in our adopted state of Vermont.

Since this year is Sisters in Crime’s 30th anniversary, tell us how the organization has benefited you and helped you along as an author. Are you active in any chapters?

I value Sisters in Crime and the networking opportunities it provides. I’ve met so many inspiring authors through the organization, and I’ve learned a great deal about marketing and the writing industry in general. I’m also a member of International Thriller Writers, and I’ve been an editor and columnist for their two publications, The Big Thrill and The Thrill Begins. I highly recommend that new and aspiring authors join SinC or ITW or another writing organization. Absolutely invaluable.

What’s one thing hardly anyone knows about you? 

I don’t own an e-reader. While I applaud the advent of the e-book, and I see the great value of e-readers for so many reasons, I’m hopelessly attached to paper books. My husband built me a wall of bookshelves, and even so we don’t have enough room for them all. I love the smell, the feel of a new book, the comfort of an old favorite. I am addicted. (There, I admitted it for all the world to see.)

You could do a lot worse with addictions, my friend! What’s next for you on the writing front?

My fourth Allison Campbell Mystery, Fatal Façade, launches on June 13, 2017. I just turned in Seeds of Revenge, Greenhouse Mystery No. 3, and that comes out in late 2017. This year promises to be a busy one!

Readers: Who has an e-reader and who doesn’t? How do you feel about gardening? Favorite vacation travel story? Remember,  Wendy is giving away an audiobook (on CD) of the book to one commenter today.

In Bitter Harvest, Megan Sawyer should be shouting from the barn roof. Washington Acres survived its first year, the café has become a hotspot for locals, and Winsome’s sexy Scottish veterinarian is making house calls—only not for the animals. But as summer slips into fall and Winsome prepares for its grand Oktoberfest celebration, beer isn’t the only thing brewing. When the town’s pub owner is killed in a freak accident, Megan suspects something sinister is afoot in Winsome—but no one is listening. As nights grow longer and temperatures chill, Megan must plow through Winsome’s fixation with autumn festivities to harvest the truth—before another dead body marks the season.Wendy Tyson

Wendy Tyson’s background in law and psychology has provided inspiration for her mysteries and thrillers. Originally from the Philadelphia area, Wendy has returned to her roots and lives there again on a micro-farm with her husband, three sons and three dogs.  Wendy’s short fiction has appeared in literary journals, and she’s a contributing editor and columnist for The Big Thrill and The Thrill Begins, International Thriller Writers’ online magazines. Wendy is the author of the Allison Campbell Mystery Series and the Greenhouse Mystery Series.

Guest: Wendy Tyson

Edith here, very happy to welcome our guest Wendy Tyson. I was asked to read Muddied Murder, her first Greenhouse Mystery and was delighted at how much I enjoyedA Muddied Murder front cover--Tyson it! Here’s the book blurb:

When Megan Sawyer gives up her big-city law career to care for her grandmother and run the family’s organic farm and café, she expects to find peace and tranquility in her scenic hometown of Winsome, Pennsylvania. Instead, her goat goes missing, rain muddies her fields, the town denies her business permits, and her family’s Colonial-era farm sucks up the remains of her savings.

Just when she thinks she’s reached the bottom of the rain barrel, Megan and the town’s hunky veterinarian discover the local zoning commissioner’s battered body in her barn. Now Megan is thrust into the middle of a murder investigation—and she’s the chief suspect. Can Megan dig through small-town secrets, local politics, and old grievances in time to find a killer before that killer strikes again?

Wendy’s also giving away a cool Muddied Murder gift package to one commenter (details at the end). Take it away, Wendy!

Unexpected outcomes: From an unsuccessful book signing, a new series blooms

It was October of 2014, just days before Halloween, and my husband and I had driven to the mountains of South Carolina for a book event, a solo signing at a bookstore in a small town in North Carolina, just over the state border.  I was about a year into this whole publishing thing—my first novel, Killer Image, had been released on October 1, 2013, and the second in the series, Deadly Assets, that past July—and I was still naïve enough to think “if you have one, they will come.” Readers, that is.

Wicked Cozies Photo TysonOnly they didn’t. At least not for that solo book signing in that small town in North Carolina.  Oh, I did my best to get people there. I advertised the signing on Facebook. I tweeted about it every day leading up to the date. I created an invitation. I posted the event on my website. Still, it was me, the lovely and engaging shop owner, my husband, and a plate full of cookies. Not one reader.

I might have felt discouraged, except that a wonderful thing happened: I saw firsthand that small rural town in action. Others with shops along the petite town center stopped in to chat with the bookstore owner. Their kids popped over after school, ate a few cookies, and then quizzed the store owner and me about the latest and best books. There was a buzz in the air, an energy, and despite the town’s remote location, I felt a worldly attention to life beyond its mountainous borders.

It was early evening when we were finished, so after the signing, my husband and I visited the beer shop/café a few stores down to grab some provisions for the evening. There, we joined some of the townspeople who had congregated in the shop to share a drink and a conversation before heading home for the night. The atmosphere felt lively with laughter and debate. With the headlines blasting tragedies, atrocities and injustices at every turn, I could see the beauty of living in a place where people knew you.

And then a funny thing happened. While I stood in that beer shop, watching the locals

The Blue Ridge Mountains

The Blue Ridge Mountains

relax after a tiring day, I had a vision of a similar shop. Only this one would be in rural Pennsylvania. And it would be an organic grocery and café. And the owner would be a woman returning to her roots after a stint as a lawyer in Chicago. I’d been looking for a way to weave my family’s passion for organic farming and sustainable living into my novels, and here it was, served to me after a long, peaceful day in the picturesque mountains of the South. The Greenhouse Mystery Series was born.

I’m no stranger to small towns. I may have grown up outside of Philadelphia, but I spent most of my youth and young adulthood in one small town (or “neighborhood”) or another, and my husband (we’ve been together since we were eighteen) is from a village in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. Even now, with a house only ten miles from the Philadelphia city limit and a job in a sprawling suburb, my home-away-from-home is a particular small town in the Green Mountains of Vermont. But

Wendy's microfarm

Wendy’s organic microfarm

there was magic in that charming small town on that day in late October. Everything had come together, and I wanted to hold on to the magic.

We left the signing feeling pretty good.  Sure, the event had been a bust—at least from the perspective of book sales—and I felt bad about that. My eyes had been opened to other possibilities, though, and I couldn’t wait to get started on a new mystery.  In the end, I’m thankful to the bookstore in that small town, and the townspeople along that adorable main street, for providing inspiration. What a splendid reminder that sometimes we get what we need, not what we Wendy Tysonthink we need.

Wendy Tyson is an author, lawyer and former therapist from Philadelphia.  She writes two series, the Allison Campbell Mystery Series and the Greenhouse Mystery Series. The first book in the Campbell Series, Killer Image, was named a 2014 best mystery for book clubs by Examiner.com. The first Greenhouse mystery, A Muddied Murder, will be released March 29, 2016 by Henery Press. Wendy is a member of Sisters in Crime and International Thriller Writers, and she is a contributing editor for The Big Thrill and The Thrill Begins, International Thriller Writers’ online magazines. Find Wendy at www.WATyson.com.

Wendy Tyson giveaway imageReaders: Where have you found unexpected inspiration? When has the universe given you what you really needed?

Wendy’s giving away this awesome gift package to one commenter today! It includes a signed copy of the book, two seed packets, and a Muddied Murder farmers’ market bag.

Taking a Breather

Edith here, post Christmas, in between books, still north of Boston.

In between books? Is she ever in between books, you ask?

20151218_111841

Preston knows how to take a breather – under the Christmas tree.

Well, yeah, sort of. On Friday I’ll start writing a new book (Local Foods #5, Mulch Ado about Murder). After I finished one round of polishing of the March 1 book on December 16 and sent it along for our very able Sherry Harris to edit, I realized I could take a little break. Shouldn’t we all take a breather now and then, especially at this time of year?

20151227_144558

Me and Allan

Sure, I have blog posts to do, and a couple of proposals to get ready, and a launch to gear up for. Those can wait. One of my sons has been here for more than a week, always a treat. I’ve also spent time with my young friends and with older friends, and will have a whole day with Master J (age 6) on Wednesday.

What a delight it’s been to not anchor myself to 1500 words per day, reading through a manuscript on paper for two or three days straight, or doing multiple editing passes. I really do treat this fiction-writing thing as a job, and a job means working every day but Sunday. So I guess I’m taking a staycation!

I’ve seen movies, baked, played Scrabble,  socialized, gone on a beer tour (fun!), taken

Wine glass coasters made from West African cloth

Wine glass coasters made from West African cloth

endless walks both alone and with others. And sewed. I love sewing. I learned it from my mom, and really enjoyed spending a couple of days creating these cute (and complicated) wine glass coasters for several friends as Christmas gifts.

But mostly I’ve been reading! I have SO many books I wanted to catch up on, and it’s the holidays, after all. Interp-of-murderHere’s my list since December 16 (and I still have four days left…):

  • An Interpretation of Murder by BK Stevens. The first mystery I’ve read with a sign language interpreter protagonist, and a great read.
  • To Brew or Not to Brew from Joyce Tremel – who was our guest right here recently. I loved this Brewing Trouble mystery – and boy, did I think of her on my brewery tour yesterday.
  • Guilty as Cinnamon by Leslie Budewitz (who has also guested with us), the second and very delicious Spice Shop Mystery.
  • Ho-Ho-Homicide. I’m finally getting to Kaitlyn Dunnett’s Liss MacCrimmon series and am glad I did – I really liked Liss and her adventures. Kaitlyn, aka Kathy Lynn Emerson, is another Wicked friend.
  • gerbildaughterThe Gerbil Farmer’s Daughter, my author pal Holly Robinson’s memoir, to which I was very tardy getting to. I knew I would love it, and I did.
  • Princess Elizabeth’s Spy from Susan Elia MacNeal. I’m slowly getting through her Maggie Hope mysteries, which all take place in England during World War II. This is the second I’ve read and I can’t wait to finish the series to date.
  • I read an ARC of Wendy Tyson’s A Muddied Murder, which was right down my alley, since it’s a Certified Organic Greenhouse mystery. Nice job, Wendy – I’ve already sent in my endorsement.
  • Murder at Beechwood from Alyssa Maxwell, another intriguing Gilded Newport MMurderBeechwoodystery. And she has a new early-1900s series coming out, too!
  • And of course, Murder Most Finicky will be out tomorrow from Wicked Cozy Liz Mugavero, so I’ll be sure to finish that by the end of 2015, too

It’s a real breather for me to immerse myself in my author friends’ book – and yes, I know all these authors personally. I suppose I could read books by people I don’t know – but the To-Be-Read pile by people I DO know never gets down to zero!

Readers: How do you take a breather, recharge, regroup? Are reading binges part of it?