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Guest Interview with Julianne Holmes (Click for Comments)

Julianne Holmes aka J.A. Hennrikus and I decided to try something different – an exchange interview.  Not only is she my guest today, but I will be visiting her tomorrow on the Wicked Cozy Authors blog. http://wickedcozyauthors.com/2016/08/09/a-wicked-wecolme-to-debra-goldstein. To learn more about both of us, leave a message or a question on both blogsites.

DSC_30831) You have had a career in arts management which has included establishing physical box offices, program operations, and running a non-profit that promotes and supports the arts.   Most of this work translates to the performing arts and yet, today, we are talking about you and the written word.   What made you chase wanting to be a writer when you obviously are already so well established in the theater related world?

I love working in arts administration—I’ve been doing it for over 30 years. But I’ve never been a creator in that field. I was always too afraid to try and go on stage. I found my passion, my work, in helping creators get their work seen. For me, writing taps into my own creativity. I’m not sure when I decided I wanted to write—fifth grade maybe—but I’ve been trying to get published for the past ten years, and finally had my dream come true last October.

2) You write another a different name – is there a reason for that? How did the premise for your books come to be and how did you get selected to write them?

There are two lessons in this story. First, when I started on this journey, I didn’t understand all the ways you could get published. I’m sure you didn’t either. One route is being a work for hire. An editor at Berkley had an idea for a series, and had created an outline and a wonderful premise. Second, I’ve been part of the mystery writing community for a long time, and met a group of women who had all recently gotten contracts. We decided to blog together, on the Wicked Cozy Authors blog. Via their agent, this opportunity was opened up, and I was connected to it. I had to write a proposal, and some sample chapters, and got the job.

Regarding the name, since it is a work for hire, I needed to find a penname. My parents were going to name me Julianne Holmes Hennrikus, but my grandmother told them it was too long, so I am Julie AnneClockandDagger Hennrikus. When I had to find another name, there wasn’t far to look.

3) Tell us about your books, especially their themes and your protagonist.

The Clock Shop Mystery series takes place in Orchard, Massachusetts, which is out in the Berkshires. Ruth Clagan inherits her grandfather’s clock shop, the Cog & Sprocket. She is also a clockmaker, but had a rift with him, so she is trying to heal that in JUST KILLING TIME. In the second book, CLOCK AND DAGGER, it is a few days before the New Year, and Ruth is trying to get the shop ready to be reopened.

I love writing this series. CLOCK AND DAGGER is about second chances, and throughout the series I try and show how Ruth not only fixes clocks, she fixes life in Orchard. Orchard also gives Ruth a chance to rethink her life path after a bad marriage. A handsome barber works next door, so there’s a little romance as well.

4) Clocks are not often a focal point in books, but you work knowledge about them in so well that one often doesn’t know something has just been taught.   Do you do a lot of research? How? And how do you decide what to leave out?

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESAs it turns out, I have a friend whose husband is a clock maker. I didn’t know that before the series, but I’m thrilled to have him helping me with research. I also went to visit the American Clock and Watch Museum, and spent hours wandering around. I do learn more than I use in the books. What I want people to feel is how beautiful timepieces are, and how much of an art it is to fix them. I will say that ever since I’ve been working on the series, I notice them in people’s houses, and always ask about them. There’s always a story attached to a clock. It’s almost like they keep memories as well as time. I love that.

5) You have been active in Sisters in Crime – how has that influenced you?

I would not have this series if it weren’t for Sisters in Crime. I wouldn’t have a group of wonderful friends, who’ve made this journey so much better by being part of my life. Sisters in Crime is an amazing organization, and resource. Becoming a member was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

6) Shamelessly plug your new book. Tell us how we can get it and what you are working on now.

LOL! CLOCK AND DAGGER is book #2 of the series, and came out August 2. It is available wherever folks get books. I’m finishing book #3 now, tentatively called CHIME AND PUNISHMENT. It will be out next year. I’m so grateful to be on this journey. Thanks so much for having me on the blog!

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The Clock Shop Mystery series debuted in October 2015 with Just Killing Time, which was nominated for an Agatha Award for Best First Novel. Clock and Dagger was released August 2, 2016. As J.A. Hennrikus she has had short stories published in Level Best Books anthologies: Her Wish in Dead Calm, Tag, You’re Dead in Thin Ice, The Pendulum Swings, Until It Doesn’t in Blood Moon. As Julie Hennrikus she runs StageSource, the service organization for the New England theater community. She is on Twitter (@JulieHennrikus), Instagram (@jahenn), Pinterest, and Facebook. She blogs with the Wicked Cozy Authors, Live to Write/Write to Live, and is on Killer Characters on the 20th of each month. Julie is a board member of Sisters in Crime and the New England Chapter of Sisters in Crime. She is also a member of Mystery Writers of America and the Guppies. JulianneHolmes.com

Guest Blogger: Bill Crider – How to Write a Novel (Click for Comments)

survivors will be shot again finalHow to Write a Novel by Bill Crider

I’m sure you’re read Somerset Maugham’s wise words about novel writing before, but they bear repeating, mainly because I’m going to elaborate on them for a bit.  Here they are: “There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.”

My first novel was published the year I turned forty.  You could say I was a late bloomer, and I guess that’s true.  I’d always wanted to write, but I hadn’t known how to go about it.  I thought there was some arcane secret method that everyone knew but me.  So naturally I set out to learn what it was.

Having been a reader all my life, I assumed that the secret method would be found in a book, and I set out to read as many books about writing as I could get my hands on.  I read Writers Digest and The Writer.  I listened to writers talk about their habits.

You probably know where this is going, so I’ll keep it short.  I never did find out the secret.  What I did between the living and the dead (2)find out was that there was no secret.  Just as Maugham said, there are rules, but nobody knows what they are, least of all me.  Even after having written fifty or sixty books (but who’s counting?), I still don’t know.  Every time I sit down and see the words “Chapter One,” I feel as if I’ll never get any further.  But somehow I do.

How do I do it?  Well, I’ve adopted what I like to call the Alice in Wonderland approach.  When the White Rabbit asks the King where he (the Rabbit, not the King) should begin, the King answers, “Begin at the beginning and go on till you come to the end: then stop.”

So the answer (for me) turned out to be in a book, after all, even though it wasn’t a book where I expected to find an answer.  It happens that for me, there was only one rule for writing a novel, not three, and it worked out unexpectedly well when I finally put it into practice.  And now that I’ve come to the end of this little commentary, I’m going to stop.

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50 075BILL CRIDER is a former college English teacher and is the author of more than fifty published novels and an equal number of short stories. He’s won two Anthony awards and a Derringer Award, and he’s been nominated for the Shamus and the Edgar awards.  His latest novel in the Sheriff Dan Rhodes series is Between the Living and the Dead. His new one, Survivors Will Be Shot Again, will be out in August from St. Martin’s Press.  Check out his homepage at www.billcrider.com, or take a look at his peculiar blog at http://billcrider.blogspot.com.

Fourth of July Thoughts by Debra H. Goldstein (click for comments)

fourth of july cakeFourth of July has become synonymous with flag waving, excitement and best of all hamburgers, hotdogs, ribs, cole slaw, potato salad, watermelon and banana pudding. People also claim it commemorates the signing of the Declaration of Independence and America’s birth as a new nation.  Most have the food element down pat, but not the historical facts. 

Independence was declared on July 2, 1776. That was the day the final draft was presented for edits and comments.  It was not until July 4, 1776 that the Continental Congress approved the modified document. From that point on, both the agreed compromise declaration and the ornamental version signed in August carried the July 4th date.

Each word of the Declaration of Independence is important but I can’t help focusing on the signatures affixed to it.  john hancockWhether one looks at John Hancock’s bold signature or the other less flamboyant ones, there is a message of bravery in each name.  Those who signed knew they were rebelling against the mother country in a treasonous manner. There would be no going back, but they had accepted any potential consequences because they were signing their personal names in the name of a greater concept: freedom.

I am a student of history.  War, peace, societal changes and even the mudslinging of today’s political climate will all one day be part of history. Perhaps though, we should step back for a moment and embrace the unity of today.  I’m going to by taking a moment to thank those who signed the Declaration of Independence for this country I love. Then, I’m going to get in line for a hotdog.

Guest Blogger: Elaine Viets – The Art of Living (Click to Leave a Comment)

ArtofMurder_revised(2) (1)The Art of Living by Elaine Viets

I’m not a fan of most house museum tours – I don’t want to pay twenty bucks to look at rich people’s art and old furniture. There’s one exception:

Fort Lauderdale’s Bonnet House Museum & Gardens.

I can’t wait for you to read The Art of Murder, my new Dead-End Job mystery. The Art of Murder opens at Bonnet House, where I worked as a volunteer greeter.

Bonnet House, built in 1920, was the colorful home of artists Evelyn andbonnet-house_0 Frederic Clay Bartlett. Evelyn took up collecting miniature orchids at age 101, and lived to be 109. Their house was filled with light, life and color.

Bonnet House was Frederic’s idea of a Caribbean plantation house. It’s built around a courtyard sheltered by feathery palms and bright with flowers. The house has whimsical touches: gilded baroque columns swirl around the drawing room doors, balconies are frosted with New Orleans wrought iron, and Evelyn’s collection of brightly painted wooden animals, including giraffes and ostriches, are everywhere.

Brazilian squirrel monkeyEvelyn loved animals, and Bonnet House still has swans and a troupe of adorable Brazilian squirrel monkeys living on the grounds. The monkeys, the last of Evelyn’s pets, escaped from a bar. Hey, it’s Florida.

Frederic built Evelyn the charming Bamboo Bar and Shell Museum as a birthday present. Most men won’t even fetch their wives a drink, but Evelyn had a custom-built bar. Evelyn drank exotic Rangpur lime cocktails, madeBonnet House Bamboo Bar from maple syrup, rum, and Rangpur limes she grew in the gardens. Considering how long she lived, her Rangpur lime cocktails were health drinks.

Bonnet2Vibrant Bonnet House seemed the perfect place to start Helen’s fifteenth adventure. Helen and Margery are touring the mansion-turned-museum when they see Annabel Lee Griffin, a young, talented artist, at a museum painting class. Later, they also see Annabel’s deadly end. Helen is hired to investigate her death. Was Annabel killed by her jealous husband? Her best friend? A lover from her bohemian past? Helen has her own brush with death as she searches for this artful killer.bonnet_house3

Next time you’re in Fort Lauderdale, visit the Bonnet House museum at bonnethouse.org. It’s even prettier than these Website photos. See how Frederic and Evelyn mastered the art of living.

 

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Elaine Viets is the author of 29 mysteries in three series, both hard-boiled and cozy: the Dead-Endelaine headshot Job mysteries, the Josie Marcus Mystery Shopper mysteries, and the Francesca Vierling mysteries. She has won the Anthony, Agatha and Lefty Awards.

Follow her at www.elaineviets.com, ElaineVietsMysteryWriter on Facebook and @evmysterywriter. 

 

 

Guest Blogger Lois Winston – Jersey and Mystery, Perfect Together (click for comments)

Jersey and Mystery, Perfect Together by Lois Winston sleuthing women 3-D.2

I’m a Jersey Girl, but for many years I denied my heritage. When asked where I was from, I would say New York. Technically, I hail from what’s called the New York Metro area, but I would conveniently omit the “Metro” part. Why? Because of all the put-downs and jokes New Jersey endures from the other forty-nine states. Ever hear anyone joke about Wyoming? Hawaii? Maryland? No, Only New Jersey has the distinction of being known as the armpit of the nation.

I left New Jersey when I was seventeen and didn’t return for nearly thirty years. That’s when I began to appreciate my home state. In less than an hour I can be in the mountains, down the shore, or in Manhattan, depending upon my mood. New Jersey has culture, sports, and cow pastures. Horse farms and high-rises. We’re home to many famous people and a few infamous ones.

It wasn’t until I was an adult that I learned New Jersey is actually the legal owner of the Statue of Liberty, but try telling that to New York. However, since New York usurped our national landmark, we took their beloved football teams. That’s right, folks, for those of you who live in other parts of the country, both the New York Giants and the New York Jets play in New Jersey.

We’re also not at all like we’ve been portrayed on The Sopranos, Jersey Shore, The Real Housewives of New Jersey, or Jerseylicious. Well, at least not a good 95% of us.

Anyway, with my new appreciation for my home state, I decided to set many of my books here, including my Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series. Not only do I use my state, but I also use actual New Jersey towns as my settings. When I read a book, I love to connect with the location. Part of the fun for me in reading the Stephanie Plum books is recognizing the places where Janet Evanovich sets her scenes. I’ve been to the Macy’s in Quaker Bridge Mall and spent many an hour stuck in traffic on Route 1.

For me, setting my stories in places I know is a no-brainer. Not only is it easier than making up a place or setting a book somewhere I’ve never been, it’s also a way of letting people know that there’s more to New Jersey than they’ve been led to believe.

Setting a book in New Jersey also gives me the opportunity to place my protagonist in diverse locations while still keeping her in or near her hometown. Many cozy mysteries take place in or around a small town in the Midwest, down South, or in New England. If the author wants to place her protagonist in a different environment, it involves the protagonist taking a trip. With a series set in New Jersey, I can have Anastasia shopping at Ikea in the morning, antiquing in Lambertville in the afternoon and at a casino in Atlantic City in the evening. At least, I could if she ever again has two nickels to rub together.

Assault With a Deadly Glue Gun is the first book in my Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series. It’s also one of the books featured in Sleuthing Women: 10 First-in-Series Mysteries, a collection of full-length mysteries featuring murder and assorted mayhem by ten critically acclaimed, award-winning, and bestselling authors. Each novel in the set is the first book in an established multi-book series—a total of over 3,000 pages of reading pleasure for lovers of amateur sleuth, caper, and cozy mysteries, with a combined total of over 1700 reviews on Amazon, averaging 4 stars. Titles include:

Assault With a Deadly Glue Gun, an Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery by Lois Winston—Working mom Anastasia is clueless about her husband’s gambling addiction until he permanently cashes in his chips and her comfortable middle-class life craps out. He leaves her with staggering debt, his communist mother, and a loan shark demanding $50,000. Then she’s accused of murder…

Murder Among Neighbors, a Kate Austen Suburban Mystery by Jonnie Jacobs — When Kate Austen’s socialite neighbor, Pepper Livingston, is murdered, Kate becomes involved in a sea of steamy secrets that bring her face to face with shocking truths—and handsome detective Michael Stone.

Skeleton in a Dead Space, a Kelly O’Connell Mystery by Judy Alter—Real estate isn’t a dangerous profession until Kelly O’Connell stumbles over a skeleton and runs into serial killers and cold-blooded murderers in a home being renovated in Fort Worth. Kelly barges through life trying to keep from angering her policeman boyfriend Mike and protect her two young daughters.

In for a Penny, a Cleopatra Jones Mystery by Maggie Toussaint—Accountant Cleo faces an unwanted hazard when her golf ball lands on a dead banker. The cops think her BFF shot him, so Cleo sets out to prove them wrong. She ventures into the dating world, wrangles her teens, adopts the victim’s dog, and tries to rein in her mom…until the killer puts a target on Cleo’s back.

The Hydrogen Murder, a Periodic Table Mystery by Camille Minichino—A retired physicist returns to her hometown of Revere, Massachusetts and moves into an apartment above her friends’ funeral home. When she signs on to help the Police Department with a science-related homicide, she doesn’t realize she may have hundreds of cases ahead of her.

Retirement Can Be Murder, A Baby Boomer Mystery by Susan Santangelo—Carol Andrews dreads her husband Jim’s upcoming retirement more than a root canal without Novocain. She can’t imagine anything worse than having an at-home husband with time on his hands and nothing to fill it—until Jim is suspected of murdering his retirement coach.

Dead Air, A Talk Radio Mystery by Mary Kennedy—Psychologist Maggie Walsh moves from NY to Florida to become the host of WYME’s On the Couch with Maggie Walsh. When her guest, New Age prophet Guru Sanjay Gingii, turns up dead, her new roommate Lark becomes the prime suspect. Maggie must prove Lark innocent while dealing with a killer who needs more than just therapy.

A Dead Red Cadillac, A Dead Red Mystery by RP Dahlke—When her vintage Cadillac is found tail-fins up in a nearby lake, the police ask aero-ag pilot Lalla Bains why an elderly widowed piano teacher is found strapped in the driver’s seat. Lalla confronts suspects, informants, cross-dressers, drug-running crop dusters, and a crazy Chihuahua on her quest to find the killer.

Murder is a Family Business, an Alvarez Family Murder Mystery by Heather Haven—Just because a man cheats on his wife and makes Danny DeVito look tall, dark and handsome, is that any reason to kill him? The reluctant and quirky PI, Lee Alvarez, has her work cut out for her when the man is murdered on her watch. Of all the nerve.

Murder, Honey, a Carol Sabala Mystery by Vinnie Hansen—When the head chef collapses into baker Carol Sabala’s cookie dough, she is thrust into her first murder investigation. Suspects abound at Archibald’s, the swanky Santa Cruz restaurant where Carol works. The head chef cut a swath of people who wanted him dead from ex-lovers to bitter rivals to greedy relatives.

Buy Links
Kindle– https://www.amazon.com/Sleuthing-Women-First-Mysteries-ebook/dp/B01E7EEJLA/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&ref_=as_li_ss_tl&ref_=nav_ya_signin&ref_=pe_2427780_160035660&linkCode=ll1&tag=loiswins-20&linkId=7012336080a0b797be8d95851657c50c
Nook– http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/sleuthing-women-lois-winston/1123663544?ean=2940153179940
Kobo– https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/sleuthing-women-10-first-in-series-mysteries
iTunes– https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/sleuthing-women-10-first-in/id1103428642?mt=11

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Lois Winston
Lois Winston

USA Today bestselling and award-winning author Lois Winston writes mystery, romance, romantic
suspense, chick lit, women’s fiction, children’s chapter books, and nonfiction under her own name and her Emma Carlyle pen name. Kirkus Reviews dubbed her critically acclaimed Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series, “North Jersey’s more mature answer to Stephanie Plum.” In addition, Lois is an award-winning craft and needlework designer who often draws much of her source material for both her characters and plots from her experiences in the crafts industry. Visit Lois/Emma at http://www.loiswinston.com and Anastasia at the Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers blog, www.anastasiapollack.blogspot.com. Follow her on Pinterest at www.pinterest.com/anasleuth, and onTwitter at https://twitter.com/Anasleuth. Sign up for her newsletter at https://www.MyAuthorBiz.com/ENewsletter.php?acct=LW2467152513

Guest Blogger Heather Weidner: How Much of Your Fiction is True?

HeatherHow Much of Your Fiction is True? by Heather Weidner

Recently, I was asked if any of my mysteries are based on real events or contained real people. I do mix in some real life in my short stories and novels. All of my city settings are actual places. I tend to set my works in Virginia locales. If a crime occurs, I make up that location’s name. I wouldn’t put a horrific event at a real restaurant or store. But if you’ve been to the cities, you’ll recognize landmarks and street names.

Sometimes, I get ideas for crimes and capers from real cases, but I usually take liberties with the details. In my short story, “Washed up,” (Virginia is for Mysteries 2014) a beat up suitcase washes up on Chick’s Beach, and it’s filled with some mysterious contents. Back in the ‘80s, there was a real case where suitcases filled with body parts did wash up on beaches along the East Coast. In my story, I thought it would be interesting for beachgoers to find something old and sinister in an unexpected place.

For some of my characters, I blend characteristics of several real people to make a fictional person. And phrases that family and friends say frequently appear in my stories. I have two co-workers who keep asking me to make them villains. I haven’t done that yet, but I do hint from time to time that unruly team members will end up in a dumpster in a future story.

I carry a notebook with me wherever I go and always jot down names and interestingsecret lives private eyes cover tidbits that might one day make their way to a story. I use friends and family member’s names for minor characters. In Secret Lives and Private Eyes (June 2016), my sleuth, Delanie Fitzgerald, gives herself all kinds of aliases during her investigations. These are usually names of friends and family. And every once in a while, you’ll find police, EMTs, or FBI agents named after my favorite authors, rock stars, or actors. Delanie Fitzgerald is named for F. Scott Fitzgerald, and her company, Falcon Investigations, is in honor of Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon.

I did have an odd author moment when a woman with the same name as one of my main characters followed me on Twitter. It was a fun surprise.

Even though mysteries are fiction, a great deal of research goes into the project to get the details right and to make it plausible. And surprisingly, there can be quite a lot of truth in fiction.

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Heather Weidner’s short stories appear in Virginia is for Mysteries and Virginia is for Mysteries Volume II. Currently, she is President of Sisters in Crime – Central Virginia, and a member of Guppies and Lethal Ladies Write. Secret Lives and Private Eyes is her debut novel.

Originally from Virginia Beach, Heather has been a mystery fan since Scooby Doo and Nancy Drew. She lives in Central Virginia with her husband and a pair of Jack Russell terriers.

Follow Heather at www.heatherweidner.com and on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Goodreads.

Secret Lives and Private Eyes Synopsis
Business has been slow for Private Investigator, Delanie Fitzgerald, but her luck seems to change when a tell-all author hires her to find rock star, Johnny Velvet. Could the singer whose career purportedly ended in a fiery crash almost thirty years ago, still be alive?
And as though sifting through dead ends in a cold case isn’t bad enough, Chaz Wellington Smith, III, a loud-mouthed, strip club owner, also hires Delanie to uncover information about the mayor’s secret life. When the mayor is murdered, Chaz, is the key suspect. Now Delanie must clear his name and figure out why landscaper Tripp Payne, keeps popping up in her other investigation. Can the private investigator find the connection between the two cases before another murder – possibly her own – takes place?
Secret Lives and Private Eyes (June 2016) is a fast-paced mystery that will appeal to readers who like a strong, female sleuth with a knack for getting herself in and out of humorous situations.

Guest Blogger: Susan Van Kirk – Benjamin Franklin’s Contribution to My Mysteries

Benjamin Franklin’s Contribution to My Mysteries by Susan Van Kirk

Thanks, Debra, for allowing me to check in with your readers today.

novella pictureI broke the string of titles this week with the launch of a novella about my detective who has a strong role in my Endurance mysteries. Oh, I know Ben Franklin is probably disappointed that I didn’t use one of his proverbs this time, but my novella is also a break in a string of full-length novels.

The first of my mystery series is called Three May Keep a Secret, and it came out from Five Star/Cengage in December, 2014. (At this point, I’m sure you’re continuing the title in your head with the rest of the proverb: “if two of them are dead.”) My main character is a retired English teacher and likes Franklin’s sayings. He was a master of borrowing proverbs from other writers and slapping his name on them, or designing his own aphorisms about human nature.

This first novel introduced the small town of Endurance and its inhabitants. Grace Kimball, recently retired teacher, finds herself in the middle of a murder investigation when she takes over a part-time newspaper job from a murdered reporter. Unfortunately, with that job comes lots of secrets from the town’s history, and one of them throws Grace right in the gun sights of a killer.

Jeff Maitlin, who recently moved to town to run the newspaper, is Grace’s “love interest,” but, frankly, he is a suspicious character himself. After he moves to town, people begin dying unexpectedly. Is he involved? Or is his mysterious past just that—something better left behind him? TJ Sweeney, local detective and Grace’s friend, is very leery of this guy. Is he carrying out Ben Franklin’s title, or is he innocent in at least two murders?

The second novel in the series, Marry in Haste, will be out in November from Five Star/Cengage. That Franklin proverb ends with “Repent at leisure.” This book is the story of two marriages, and from that title I’m sure you can figure out how happy they were. The lovely surprise is that these marriages were a century apart. One plot is from 1893, the other from the present day, and both involve a mysterious death. Domestic violence is the topic, but the plot does not use graphic violence. I was more interested in how attitudes and laws have changed over a hundred years, and how this subject affects people psychologically.

The third novel, not yet published, is called Death Takes No Bribes. This time Ben Franklin didn’t follow it up with another phrase because his proverb is self-explanatory. The high school principal, known throughout town as a good man, is found dead at the beginning of the story, and why would Death take someone who was such a role model? Soon it becomes clear that appearances do not always reflect reality.

I’ll bet Ben Franklin could say a thing or two about that.

Franklin left so many wonderful proverbs, mostly published in his Poor Richard’s Almanac(s). I have scratched my head trying to figure out how to use some of them as mystery titles. Here are a few examples:

Fish and visitors smell in three days.

If your head is wax, don’t walk in the sun.

He that lieth down with dogs shall rise up with fleas.

He that composes himself is wiser than he that composes books. (What?)

Hunger is the best pickle.

So is it any wonder that when I decided recently to write a novella, I dispensed with the Benjamin Franklin titles temporarily? The Locket: From the Casebook of TJ Sweeney is the first of a possible spin-off series about my detective. It just launched as an e-book on Amazon.

After solving a double homicide in the hot Midwest summer, Endurance police detective TJ Sweeney isn’t given long to rest. A construction crew has found human bones while digging a building foundation on the outskirts of town.

Sweeney’s investigation soon concludes this was a murder victim, but from many decades earlier. Readers are treated to a wonderful walk with Sweeney through the big band era and the early years of WWII. Trying to identify the remains and put a name on the killer takes the detective through a maze of dead ends and openings, twists and turns.

And then it becomes personal …

I’m starting to think about titles for the next novel. Possibly, “Love your neighbor, yet don’t pull down your hedge”? Grace lives in a small neighborhood on Sweetbriar Court. Hmmm. Lots of possibilities for squabbles over property lines …

So, readers, what are some of your favorite Franklin proverbs?

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susan van kirk

Susan Van Kirk is the author of a nonfiction memoir, The Education of a Teacher (Including Dirty Books and Pointed Looks.) Her Endurance mysteries are published by Five Star/Cengage and include Three May Keep a Secret and Marry in Haste (Nov. 2016). The Locket: From the Casebook of TJ Sweeney is on Kindle from Amazon. She is a member of Sisters in Crime and its Guppy Chapter, and also Mystery Writers of America. While she is often visiting her children in the Phoenix/Scottsdale area, she can also be found at home in a small town in the middle of Illinois. Visit her website at www.susanvankirk.com

Guest Blogger Judy Penz Sheluk: Creating a Fictional Town

Book Cover _1MBCreating a Fictional Town by Judy Penz Sheluk

Agatha Christie was the master of creating atmosphere and place, whether she was at the English seaside, or solving a murder in Mesopotamia. I’ve never been to Minnesota, but when I sit down to read the latest John Sandford novel, I feel as if I’m returning to familiar territory. And anyone who’s read Louise Penny has visited Three Pines, even though it’s a fictional town in Quebec. So when I started writing The Hanged Man’s Noose, I wanted the book to be set in Canada, more specifically, a small town north of Toronto, Ontario. The town would be fictional, but there would a basis for the setting, places that were familiar to me.

At the time, I was living in Holland Landing, a small community in the town of East Gwillimbury, about 35 miles north of Toronto. There isn’t a lot of industry in the Landing, unless you count a couple of local diners, pizzerias, convenience stores and the like, but the neighboring town of Newmarket has a lovely revitalized Main Street filled with indie shops and restaurants, and there’s a nice park at the end of it, complete with a large pond called Fairy Lake. What both East Gwillimbury and Newmarket have in common is growth. In recent years, farmlands and forests have been razed for housing developments and big box stores, with much more planned.

Such growth does not come without contention. We tend to forget that our own homes often sit on plots of land that were once forests and farms. But reading about the latest plans, listening to the groups hotly opposed, gave me the first germ of an idea. What if a greedy developer from Toronto came to a small town with plans to build a mega-box store on the town’s historic Main Street?

That’s the premise behind The Hanged Man’s Noose, the first in the Glass Dolphin mystery series, although the plot does thicken considerably. One reviewer (Jack Batten, WHODUNIT, The Toronto Star) wrote, “In her first book, Toronto writer Judy Penz Sheluk probably scores a record for the most characters with skeletons in the closet … even the sleuth figure, an investigative reporter, guards a personal mystery in a book whose author hits large in the business of concocting secrets.”

I decided to merge Newmarket and East Gwillimbury, borrowing a bit from each, and embellishing a lot. I wanted this to be the sort of idyllic town I’d like to live in. Naming my fictional town was easy: outside the Holland Landing Library and Community Centre,Sam_Lount_plaque there is a plaque dedicated to Samuel Lount, a 19th century politician who had lived in the Landing, but had the misfortune of being hanged for treason.

What could be more perfect for a mystery than a town named after a traitor? Lount’s Landing was born, and along with it, a historic Main Street that includes the Sunrise Café (suspiciously similar to the now-closed Sunshine’s Café in the Landing), and the Glass Dolphin antiques shop, from which the series gets its name. The title of the book comes from name of the local pub, The Hanged Man’s Noose (the owner is a bit of a history buff).

Once I had my town, it was time to populate it with characters. But that’s a story for another day. I invite you to read the first three chapters free at http://barkingrainpress.org/hanged-mans-noose/http://barkingrainpress.org/hanged-mans-noose/. If I’ve done my job, you’ll want to read more. If so, you can find it in trade paperback and eBook at all the usual suspects, including Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

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IMG_4019Judy Penz Sheluk’s debut mystery, The Hanged Man’s Noose: A Glass Dolphin Mystery, was published July 2015 by Barking Rain Press. Her short crime fiction is included in The Whole She-Bang 2, World Enough and Crime, Flash and Bang, and Live Free or Tri: a collection of three short mystery stories. Judy has also contributed to two multi-author cookbooks, Bake, Love, Write, and We’d Rather Be Writing.

Judy is a member of Sisters in Crime, Crime Writers of Canada, International Thriller Writers, and the Short Mystery Fiction Society.

In her less mysterious pursuits, Judy is the Senior Editor for New England Antiques Journal and the Editor of Home BUILDER Magazine.

Guest Blogger Carolyn Mulford – Lookng at Your MS

Thunder-FrontCover 1Looking at Your MS by Carolyn Mulford

Writing a book is a long, hard slog. Typing the last word of the first draft brings a moment of exultation and an evening of celebration. I go to sleep confident the plot intrigues, the characters appeal, and the language delights.

The next morning reality hits. Knowing I will find countless imperfections as I rewrite 330 pages, I suffer an episode of the second-draft blues.

These blues aren’t unique to novelists. I discovered a low follows the first-draft high when writing feature articles for magazines. Working as a magazine editor, I confirmed that almost every writer shares my inability to read our own words objectively right after completing a draft and can’t judge what the rewrite will entail. I devised a visual assessment system, an objective way a writer or editor can judge what kind of work and how much a manuscript needs.

I adapted the system to novels years later while writing Show Me theShowMeTheAshesFront Murder, the first book in my mystery series featuring a former CIA covert operative who returns to Missouri. She solves rural crimes with two childhood friends. By the time I finished the draft of the just-released fourth book, Show Me the Ashes, I’d begun to share the system with other novelists.

By following these three simple steps, a writer or editor can estimate how much work a first draft will need.

Riffle or scroll through your entire manuscript.

If pages look gray, expect long descriptions, info dumps, telling rather than showing. Lots of work to be done, including cutting and moving information.

Watch for long sections of dialogue or long sections without dialogue. An  imbalance may signal a pacing or structural problem.

Turn through each chapter.

Do the same visual check as above.

Summarize the chapter’s action in one sentence. If nothing happens or half a dozen different things vie for attention, the chapter needs a rewrite, not an edit.

Read the end of the chapter to see if it propels the reader to the next chapter. If it doesn’t, you may need to end the chapter in a different place.

Read the opening to see if the reader who put down the book will be lost. Readers tend to stop at the end of a chapter and may not start the next chapter for days.

Look at each page.

 If you see only two or three paragraphs, anticipate some rewriting.

Check the first word or phrase of each paragraph. If all or most paragraphs start the same way, you’ll be editing that page. Anticipate slow going.

Look for periods. If most sentences are long or the same length, prepare to edit. You’ve been using your eyes. Use your ears, too. Read aloud to check sentence structure, sound, emphasis, and rhythm.

Read the verbs.

The verbs alone should summarize what happens on that page. If they don’t, replace weak verbs. Look for forms of to be, verbs with modifiers, and passive voice. Strong verbs produce shorter, more dynamic sentences.

The visual assessment system won’t yield a comprehensive analysis of our first drafts, but it indicates how much we still have to do and guides us in the rewrite.

Using the system doesn’t prevent the second-draft blues.

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Carolyn Mulford worked as a magazine editor and freelance writer on five continents before moving back to her home state of Missouri andMulford12csmall focusing on fiction. She writes the award-winning Show Me series, character-driven mysteries featuring three women: Phoenix Smith, a former spy who adapts her tradecraft to solve crimes in her hometown; Annalynn Keyser Smith, a civic leader who becomes sheriff after her husband’s violent death; and Connie Diamante, a struggling singer who uses improv to extract information. Achilles, a K-9 dropout, serves on their team. The fourth book, Show Me the Ashes, came out in hardback and e-book March 16. Harlequin Worldwide Mystery will issue a paperback edition of the second book, Show Me the Deadly Deer, in June. Carolyn also writes historical novels for tweens and teens. Thunder Beneath My Feet, set during the devastating New Madrid earthquakes of 1811-1812, came out in February 2016. The first chapter of each book appears on Carolyn’s website: http://carolynmulford.com.

 

 

Guest Blog: Virginia is for Mysteries – Volume II

Virginia is for Mysteries – Volume II
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Heather Weidner and Teresa Inge are blogging today about their experience coordinating the Virginia is for Mysteries anthology series.
Virginia may be for lovers, but to nineteen authors, Virginia is for Mysteries: Volume II. The anthology of nineteen short stories, set in and around the Commonwealth, features Virginia landmarks and locations such as Virginia Wine Country, the Poe Museum, Luray Caverns, Colonial Williamsburg, the Great Dismal Swamp, Nimrod Hall, the Barter Theater, and Mill Mountain, to name a few. The stories transport readers across the diverse backdrop of the Old Dominion to a unique and deadly landscape, filled with killers, crooks, and criminals.
Where did you all get the inspiration for Virginia is for Mysteries?
Teresa: Inspired by the state logo, Virginia is for Lovers, I brainstormed the idea of coordinating a Virginia based anthology with Sisters in Crime Central Virginia and Mystery by the Sea chapter members during Mystery Day at the Library of Virginia in 2011.
How did you market the anthology?
Heather: We held over 52 events and signings for the first anthology, and we have quite a few events planned for Volume II for 2016. We have a website, blog, Facebook page, and a Twitter account. Our authors blog and post regularly about their stories, Virginia locations, and writing. We have been part of events in Virginia, Maryland, and North Carolina.
How did you find a publisher?
Teresa: Based on the suggestion of Jayne Oremod, a Virginia is for Mysteries author, I contacted Koehler Books about publishing the anthology.  When Koehler offered to publish the book, this became the icing on the cake – having a respected Virginia publisher on board.
This is your second in a series. Tell us about some of the opportunities you’ve had with these books.
Teresa: We’ve travelled across the state of Virginia participating in over 52 book signings, panel discussions, and writing sessions.
Heather: It has been such a pleasure to meet so many mystery fans and readers on this journey. My favorite moment was when we signed a copy for Dr. Hal Poe, a relative of the Father of the Mystery, at the Poe Birthday Bash in Richmond, Virginia.
Tell us about some of the challenges you’ve faced with an anthology.
Teresa: Working with multiple authors, schedules, and timelines can be a challenge.  Since each author has valuable input about how to market and promote the series, finding a happy medium through brainstorming ideas is a plus for any anthology series.
Heather: We are fortunate to have so many talented writers as part of these projects. Sometimes, it’s a challenge to make decisions and plans when we’re spread out across the Commonwealth of Virginia. But our size is also our biggest asset. We have an incredible social media reach when we work together to promote the books.
What is one thing you would recommend to a group who wants to put together an anthology?
Teresa: Assign two book coordinators, a marketing coordinator and other book tasks to authors to ensure each author is involved and tasks are completed in a timely manner. It takes a village to coordinate a successful series.
Heather: Work with your planning team to define the rules and expectations up front. Everyone can’t do everything, but everyone can do something to promote the books. We are so much more successful when we work together.
To learn more about the Virginia is for Mysteries authors, check out the following links:
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Teresa Inge

Teresa Inge grew up in North Carolina reading Nancy Drew mysteries. Today, she doesn’t carry a rod like her idol, but she hot rods. She assists two busy executives and is president of the Sisters in Crime Virginia Beach Chapter. Teresa is the author of “Shopping for Murder,” and “Guide to Murder” in Virginia is for Mysteries, “Fishing for Murder” in the FishNets anthology and has coordinated anthologies. Visit Teresa on Facebook, Twitter, and www.teresainge.com.

Teresa Inge’s Website: http://www.teresainge.com/
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Heather Weidner

Heather Weidner has been a mystery fan since Scooby Doo and Nancy Drew.  Originally from Virginia Beach, Heather lives in Central Virginia with her husband and pair of crazy Jack Russell terriers. When she’s not reading and writing, she enjoys kayaking, photography, and visiting the beach as much as possible. She is President of the Sisters in Crime, Central Virginia Chapter. Heather’s story “Washed Up” appeared in Virginia is for Mysteries. Her debut novel, Secret Lives and Private Eyes, will be published in May 2016. She writes the blog Crazy for Words and is a guest blogger for a variety of sites. Visit Heather on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Goodreads.