If you are interested in blogging or want to promote your book next year, please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com

Our March author interviews: Karen Pullen (3/1), Lowcountry Crime authors: Tina Whittle, Polly Iyer, Jonathan M. Bryant, and James M. Jackson (3/8), Annette Dashofy (3/15), Edith Maxwell (3/22) and Barb Ross (3/29).

Saturday Guest Bloggers in March: Maris Soule (3/4), and Virginia Mackey (3/11). WWK Saturday bloggers write on 3/18--Margaret S. Hamilton and on 3/25--Kait Carson.

Julie Tollefson won the Mystery Writers of America Midwest Chapter's Holton Award for best unpublished manuscript (member category) for her work in progress, In The Shadows. Big news for a new year. Congratulations, Julie.

Congratulations to our writers for the following publications:

Warren Bull's new Lincoln mystery, Abraham Lincoln In Court & Campaign has been released. Look for the Kindle version on February 3.

Shari Randall's "Pets" will be included in Chesapeake Crimes: Fur, Feathers, and Felonies anthology, which will be published in 2018. In the same anthology "Rasputin," KM Rockwood's short story, will also be published.

Margaret S. Hamilton's short story, "Once a Kappa" was published as a finalist in the Southern Writer's Magazine annual short story contest issue. Mysterical-E published her "Double Crust Corpse" in the Fall 2016 issue. "Baby Killer" will appear in the 2017 solar eclipse anthology Day of the Dark to be published this summer prior to the eclipse in August.

Linda Rodriquez has two pending book publications. Plotting the Character-Driven Novel will be released by Scapegoat Press on November 29th. Every Family Doubt, the fourth Skeet Bannion mystery, is scheduled for release on June, 13, 2017. Look for E. B. Davis's interview with Linda here in June!

Cross Genre Publications anthology, Hidden Youth, will contain Warren Bull's "The Girl, The Devil, and The Coal Mine." The anthology will be released in late November 2016. The We've Been Trumped anthology released by Dark House Press on September 28th contains Warren Bull's "The Wall" short story and KM Rockwood's "A Phone Call to the White House." KM writes under the name Pat Anne Sirs for this volume.

James M. Jackson's 4th book in the Seamus McCree series, Doubtful Relations, is now available. His novella "Low Tide at Tybee" appears February 7 as part of Lowcountry Crimes: Four Novellas, which is available for pre-order.

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Monday, November 28, 2011

Mistress is Dead



Millcreek Hundred, 1827
I climbed the stairs as quietly as I could, stepping over the third from the bottom to avoid the squeak. I held my knife ready in case Mistress was awake and I had to move fast.



As soon as I saw her I knew something was wrong.

Mistress lay on her back, eyes closed. She was quite dead. Her skin was cool but not cold. Her hand, when I lifted it to find a pulse, flopped back onto the counterpane. She had been dead only a short time.

I pulled back the bed clothes and found bruises around her neck. Someone has strangled her and then straightened the bed clothes to hide any struggle.

My first thought was that poor Mistress had been sent to her maker; then I realized that was why I was there myself.

I slipped my now useless knife into my pocket and left the room.

To my knowledge Mistress and I were the only people in the house. That was why I had chosen it as the perfect time to kill her.

The final indignity had come early yesterday afternoon when I packed my belonging and left the farm.

She had smiled at me, wished me well and handed me the letter I was to give to my next employer. I was not supposed to open it, but I did.


December 23, 1827
Ella is conscientious but slow witted. It takes her a great deal of time to grasp the simplest situation.Once she finally learns a chore she performsit with moderate skill. She reads poorly and does simple sums. How was I to give such a letter to anyone considering taking me on? It was bad enough that she had sent me packing for no reason two days before Christmas, but this letter would be better used to warm my hands than to convince an employer to hire me.

I had kept Master’s account books for the last five years and I knew a few things about where his money went. Mistress had been extravagant and impulsive. She liked silk and fine china. Her kitchen held more exotic spices than any of the ships docked in Newport. She was adept at explaining away these expenses. The dress was cut down from an old one, the china bought from a neighbor.
I was so angry when I read the letter that I vowed to come back Christmas afternoon when Master always visits his mother. I knew the other servants would disappear as soon as the phaeton with the flashy chestnut headed for the turnpike.

I had intended to do the deed and leave the way I had come, through the snowy woods along the creek.

I didn’t think I was in any position to cry out against the person who had done my job for me.
Angry as I was, I had decided when I picked up the knife that no one would die for my sin. If someone were falsely accused, I would come forward with my story. If I were discovered, I would face my punishment with grace.


I was curious to know who might have done it. I sat down on the top step to think.
I heard the back door creek open. Someone was coming across the court yard from the kitchen.
I stood up and snatched my spare handkerchief from my pocket.
Lucy came up the stairs with a porcelain tea pot and bone china cup on a tray.

“What are you doing here?” she asked when she saw me.

“I left my kerchief.” I held it in front of her face. “And you?”

“Mistress will want her tea when she wakes.”

“No chance of that,” I pointed to the still form on the bed. “Someone strangled her.”

She looked at me as though she thought I had done it. I held up my hands in protest, hands that were too small to have made the marks on Mistress’ neck. “Let’s go back to the kitchen, drink the tea ourselves, and figure out what to do next.”

She handed me the tray and touched Mistress’ cheek, perhaps to make sure she was really dead. I would have expected her to be more upset, but she looked relieved. She opened the window and poured the tea into the herb garden below.

~~oOo~~

“I don’t think we would have enjoyed the tea,” she said once we were settled in the kitchen. “It might not have killed her but it would have made her wish she were dead.”

“That’s three of us,” I said. While she brewed another pot of tea, I showed her the knife in my pocket.

“If you didn’t do it who do you think did?” she asked.

“It was someone with large hands, most likely a man. Joshua may have done it. He hated us calling him her pet. He did it as a Christmas gift to the rest of us.”

Lucy chuckled. “Many’s the time he sat in this very kitchen and told me how much he abhored her.”

“But Joshua is always so quiet. I thought he liked going out with her all the time. If he didn’t like it, how come he didn’t tell us?”

“I think I am the only one he told. He would come back and sit in this kitchen and list all the stupid things she had done, how he had to fetch and carry for her. If something went wrong, it was always his fault. Though how he could have been at fault if a merchant charged her more than she was willing to pay, I’m sure I don’t know.”

We were silent for a few moments as we sipped the tea. “Maybe the Master himself did it and has gone to tell his mother.”

I thought about her suggestion for a bit. “Or Carl, because she sold his favorite horse. He had begun to pay Master a bit from his wages. She said there was no record, and she refused to give him back the money. I myself made the note each time he gave Master the money, but the horse was gone.”

“Do you think she let you go because you kept the books and knew too much about her?”

"I reckon so.”

“Maybe it was Jenny,” she said. “Mistress made sure Joseph Dixon would never call on her again. Jenny has big strong hands.”

We were silent again as we finished the tea and set the fine china cups in the dishpan to be washed later.

“What should we do?” she asked at length.

“Summon the master.”

 
~~oOo~~

The tall case clock in the front hall was striking ten when we finally heard the clop clop of shod hooves in the lane. Lucy hid in the kitchen with the excuse that Master would want to eat something since he was called back so suddenly. I took him up the stairs to the chamber and pulled back the bed clothes so he could see the bruises on Mistress’ neck.

“Send Lucy for the parson. Can you wash her and dress her for burial? Something fine with a high neck.”

“Yes, if you wish me to.”

“This, then, will be her final lie, that she died naturally in her sleep.”

Friday, November 25, 2011

Uncommon Wisdom


Uncommon Wisdom

Don’t criticize someone until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes. By then you’ll be a mile away and you’ll have their shoes.

Trust me, whatever hits the fan will not be distributed evenly.

When you’re up to your ass in alligators, it’s hard to remember that you set out to drain the swamp.

Doesn’t expecting the unexpected make the unexpected expected?

Always be nice to the lunch lady.

There are two things a woman should never do on a first date — 1) cook and 2) clean.

If someone calls you a donkey, laugh. If two people call you a donkey, keep laughing. If three people call you a donkey, get a saddle

Don’t post anything on the internet you wouldn’t be willing to have tattooed on your forehead.

If you keep calm while others around you are panicking, you might not understand the situation clearly.

Apologize when you make a mistake it will amaze some people and confound the rest.

What gems of wisdom do you have to share?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Turkey Day

HAPPY THANKSGIVING

funny-thanksgiving-clipart-22funny-thanksgiving-picture-2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I hope you and your family

have the holiday you want.

If you don’t, write about it.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Potluck!

Welcome to our Thanksgiving potluck! Grab a glass of cheer, breathe in the savory aromas of cooking food and load up your plate with mouthwatering delights. A hearty thank you to our multi-talented writer/chef guests: Patricia Winton, June Shaw, Betsy Bitner, Tiger Wiseman, Leslie Budewitz and Pat Deuson.

Bon Appétit!

BLOODY CHAMPAGNE OR CRIMSON CHAMPAGNE (depending on the holiday) – E.B. Davis

Pour 1/3 champagne flute with pomegranate ice tea (preferably Arizona)
Top to brim with champagne.

*****
Minestra di Ceci e Zucca CHICK PEA AND PUMPKIN SOUP– Patricia Winton

The original version of this soup calls for dried chick peas (garbanzo beans) and raw pumpkin with twelve hours of soaking the chick peas plus two-and-one-half hours of cooking. I’ve adapted it using canned pumpkin and chick peas. The flavors will intensify if you make it the day before you plan to serve it.

1 carrot
1 rib of celery
2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
2 cans of chick peas (garbanzo beans), drained and rinsed
1 can of cooked pumpkin
3/4 cup of water
2 cloves of garlic
1 sprig of rosemary
Grating of nutmeg
1/4 cup of grated parmesan

1. Wash carrot and celery, peel the carrot, and chop both together until fine.
2. In a pot large enough to hold the finished soup, heat one tablespoon of the olive oil and add the chopped carrot and celery. Cook until soft. Do not brown.
3. Add the chick peas, pumpkin, and water. Bring to a simmer and cook gently for about ten minutes, stirring frequently to prevent scorching.
4. Meanwhile, remove the needles from the rosemary and chop together with the garlic cloves.
5. Heat the remaining olive oil in a small saucepan. Add the rosemary-garlic mixture and cook gently to allow the flavors to blend. Do not brown.
6. Remove the soup from heat. Add the rosemary-garlic mixture and the grating of nutmeg.
7. Combine and check flavors. Usually, canned chick peas have enough salt, but add more if the soup needs it.
8. Puree the soup in a blender or food processor. You may need to use two or three batches if your machine is not large enough, so check first.
9. At this point, the soup can be covered and refrigerated overnight.
10. When ready to serve, reheat and stir in the parmesan. If the soup seems too thick, you can thin it with a little milk or cream.

Serves six

Patricia Winton writes about two of Italy's great works of art: food and crime. She is a former food columnist and cooking teacher who has lived in Italy for twelve years, the past nine in Rome. She's been an ardent mystery fan since reading The Bobbsey Twins at age eight. Her story, "Feeding Frenzy," appears in Fish Tales: The Guppy Anthology. She is a member of Sisters in Crime and its Guppy chapter.

Patricia blogs about life in Italy, food and wine, mysteries and crime. For more information about how Italians use pumpkin (not often for sweets) go to: http://italianintrigues.blogspot.com/2011/11/beyond-jack-olanterns-and-pumpkin-pie.html

She is also blogging about Thanksgiving at the top of the page http://italianintrigues.blogspot.com/

*****
SEAFOOD-STUFFED EGGPLANT SUPREME A LA BOB – June Shaw

4 eggplants
1 lb. crabmeat
1 lb. small shrimp
1 lg. onion chopped
½ lg. bell pepper chopped
2 cloves garlic minced
2 T. cooking oil
1 c. seasoned breadcrumbs
Salt and pepper to taste
Melted butter or margarine

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Cut eggplants in half and parboil 25-30 minutes. Carefully remove pulp of the eggplants with a spoon so as not to break the skin. Set the skin aside on a shallow pan. Mix cooking oil, eggplant pulp, onions, bell pepper, and garlic in a heavy pot and sauté about 20 minutes. Add crabmeat, shrimp, and salt and pepper. Cook about 20 minutes more. Fill eggplant shells with the cooked mixture. Top with bread crumbs and drizzle melted butter on top. Bake until topping is brown. Serves 8 lucky people.

This is one of the recipes from RELATIVE DANGER, the first in my series of humorous mysteries. Other great recipes are in my next books, KILLER COUSINS and DEADLY REUNION. You can learn about them on my website, http://www.juneshaw.com/.

The main character in these books is a spunky widow who thinks she wants to avoid her hunky lover so she can rediscover herself. But he opens Cajun Delights restaurants in all the places she travels—and she is so bad at avoiding tempting dishes and men.

Yep, I live down in Cajun territory. And my hunk, Bob, is Cajun and a terrific cook. What’s not to like? He gives me these great recipes and yes, he could be Gil Thurman from my books: )

*****
ROASTED ROOT VEGETABLES WITH MAPLE-MUSTARD GLAZE – Betsy Bitner

Serves 8
4 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks
2 beets, peeled, trimmed, and cut into 1 inch chunks
1 sweet onion, peeled and cut into 8 sections, vertically (through the root end)
olive oil
sea salt

¼ cup maple syrup (real stuff, not pancake syrup)
2 Tbsp. cider vinegar
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 clove garlic, minced
salt & pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400˚. Toss sweet potatoes, beets and onion with just enough olive oil to coat. Spread vegetables in a nonstick pan large enough to have them in a single layer. Sprinkle with sea salt. Roast for 15 minutes, give vegetables a stir, and roast for another 15 minutes.

Vegetables should be golden brown around the edges and just fork-tender. (The recipe can be made to this point one day in advance. Refrigerate the vegetables covered and bring to room temperature before proceeding.)

To prepare the maple-mustard glaze, combine the maple syrup, cider vinegar, mustard, garlic and salt & pepper in a small bowl. Toss the vegetables with the glaze and return them to the 400˚ oven for 10-15 minutes, so that the vegetables are heated through and the glaze bubbles.
Serve warm.

Feel free to substitute other root vegetables that your family may prefer, such as carrots, turnips, rutabaga or parsnips, although why anyone would want to eat parsnips is beyond me.

You can find Betsy Bitner at Lost in the Adirondacks--a blog about getting a clue while writing a mystery. http://www.lostintheadirondacks.com/

*****
NANNY DELANEY’S ZUCCHINI PIE - Tiger Wiseman

Note: you can skip making the crust yourself and just use a premade piecrust. A regular 9" pie also works if you don't have a fancy tart pan.

Crust:
1½ cups flour
1 stick butter, cut into small pieces
1 Tbsp dried thyme
½ tsp coarsely ground black pepper
¼ cup ice water (more or less as needed)

Filling:
3 small zucchini (6-8 oz each or their equivalent) cut into 1/4 inch thick rounds
1 cup (approx. 4 oz) grated Gruyere cheese
1 cup (approx. 4 oz) grated horseradish Cheddar cheese
½ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp coarsely ground black peppers
½ cup chopped fresh dill
2 Tbsp chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 medium tomatoes, sliced

- Sprinkle sliced tomatoes with salt and allow to drain on a triple layer of paper towels for 20 minutes.

- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

- Put the flour, butter, thyme and pepper in food processor. Pulse until coarse meal in texture. Slowly pour in ¼ cup of ice water, with motor running. Add or water if necessary to form a ball in processor. Stop immediately when dough begins to come together. Chill dough for 30 minutes. - Roll out to 1/8 inch thickness and carefully lay dough over 9-inch tart pan with removable bottom. Pat into place, leaving a slightly thicker amount on sides of the pan. Trim off excess dough. Prick bottom of crust with the tines of a fork and line crust with aluminum foil. Fill with either dried beans or pie weights.

- Bake uncovered for 10 minutes. Then carefully remove beans and foil, baking another 12 minutes. Allow crust to cool slightly. Leave oven on.

-While dough is chilling, sauté zucchini slices, in one or two batches, in olive oil over medium heat until lightly browned on both sides, 5 minutes. Drain on paper towels.

- Mix cheeses together. Spread cheese over bottom of pie shell. Arrange zucchini over in overlapping circular pattern, covering the surface. Then sprinkle with nutmeg, pepper, dill and parsley. Top with tomato slices in a circular pattern. Drizzle top with olive oil.

- Bake pie for 40 minutes. Let it rest 10 minutes. To serve, carefully remove the sides of the pan and run a thin spatula under the crust to loosen it from the bottom of the pan.

Visit Tiger Wiseman at Pen, Spoon & Dagger http://penspoonanddagger.blogspot.com/ to read about the ramblings of a food-obsessed, aspiring mystery writer.
*****
CRANBERRY PUMPKIN NUT MUFFINS – Leslie Budewitz

In 2013, The Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries by Leslie Budewitz will debut from Berkley Prime Crime. The series is set in the lakeside village of Jewel Bay, Montana–where good food and murder cook side by side! Erin Murphy manages Glacier Mercantile, known as The Merc, selling Montana-made foods and products. If it’s made in Montana, it must be good!

Erin loves easy, flavorful food. These muffins are perfect for Thanksgiving morning, when you’re too busy with the turkey and its friends to cook breakfast, or for those post-holiday mornings with a houseful of guests. Make ahead if you’d like–they freeze beautifully!

2 c. flour
1 T. baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp allspice
½ tsp nutmeg
3/4 c (scant) sugar
1/3 c vegetable oil
2 eggs
1-1/4 c. canned pumpkin
½ walnuts, coarsely chopped
2 c. cranberries (fresh, coarsely chopped) or dried

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Stir together flour, baking powder, salt, spices, and sugar. In a small bowl, mix oil, eggs, and pumpkin. Add to flour mixture and combine into a thick batter. Mix by hand; the batter is so thick that it tends to clog an electric mixer. Fold in walnuts and cranberries.

Spray muffin tins with oil. Spoon batter into tins, about 3/4 full. Bake 18-20 minutes or until a knife or tester inserted into the middle comes out clean. Muffins will be soft. Cool slightly before removing.

Makes about 24. These muffins freeze well.

*****
MONKEY BREAD – Betsy Bitner

Okay, I know this is the recipe from Pillsbury, but it still makes an easy and delicious breakfast treat to enjoy while watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

½ cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
2 cans (16.3 oz. each) Pillsbury Grands Homestyle refrigerated buttermilk biscuits
½ cup chopped walnuts, if desired
½ cup raisins, if desired
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
¾ cup butter, melted

Heat oven to 350˚. Lightly grease a 12-cup fluted tube/bundt pan with shortening or cooking spray. In a large plastic food storage bag combine the granulated sugar and the cinnamon. Separate dough into 16 biscuits; cut each into quarters. Place biscuit pieces in plastic bag with sugar and shake to coat. Arrange biscuits pieces in prepared pan, adding walnuts and/or raisins, if using.

In a small bowl, mix brown sugar and melted butter; pour over biscuit pieces.
Bake 28-32 minutes, or until golden brown and no longer doughy in the center. Cool in pan 10 minutes. Turn upside down onto serving plate; pull apart to serve. Serve warm.

*****
THANKSGIVING THEN AND NOW – Patricia Deuson

Everyone has a dish or two they’d rather not find on the Thanksgiving table, often it’s a plate of ribbed slices of ruby red glue. Cranberry jelly, usually from a can. But cranberries are a wonder food and they definitely have more to offer that gelatinous goo. Here’s an easy way to turn them into a palate pleasing accompaniment that is tasty enough to put this little red berry on the road to rehabilitation. It smells wonderful while cooking.

ROASTED CRANBERRIES
3 cups of sorted cranberries frozen or fresh
2-3 tbsp of mild honey
3-4 tbsp of sugar [vanilla sugar is especially tasty]
4 long strips of orange peel
4 medium sized springs of fresh rosemary

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Pour the sorted cranberries in an approx. 9 x 13 oven proof, glass or ceramic, baking dish. Drizzle the honey, sprinkle the sugar and mix [a bit sticky this, just do the best you can] then tuck in the orange peel and the rosemary sprigs. Put the dish in the oven. Set the timer for 10 minutes. Remove dish from oven and give the berries a mix. It will be easy now since the honey has melted, but be gentle. Put the dish back in the oven for another 10 minutes or a bit longer until the cranberries are tender. Cool slightly, remove the rosemary. You can also take out the orange peel, but I like the smell so I leave it in. When cool put the roasted cranberries in a storage container like a nice glass canning jar and refrigerate. Don't forget to use roasted cranberries freely with turkey, chicken, pork, lamb, or mixed in with the apples for a pie.

A SWEDE BY ANY OTHER NAME….Is a rutabaga. It comes from the old Swedish word rotabagge, is botanically, Brassica napus var. napobrassica, and often called a swede. They showed up on every Thanksgiving table at home as a carrot and rutabaga puree which I grew up not eating. I’d pretend to take a spoon, then quickly pass the bowl, certain that on a plate as full as mine this would go unnoticed. It [mostly] did, and the lowly rutabaga remained unnoticed by me until one Thanksgiving I decided to give that puree of rutabaga and carrot a go myself. I tricked it out a bit and it’s now a favorite. It would be the favorite if it wasn’t for dressing, which you might call stuffing. Both are best served with a good splash of turkey gravy. It’s pretty easy to make, too:

1-2 pounds peeled sliced carrots
1-2 pounds peeled diced rutabaga
Cream to taste, if desired
Salt, pepper, nutmeg to taste
4-8 tbsp unsalted butter [if you use salted taste before adding additional salt]

You need equal amounts of carrot and rutabaga to get the right flavor. Put the prepared carrots and rutabaga in separate sauce pans, cover with cold water, bring to a boil and cook until fork tender. Drain. Mash the carrots and rutabaga together with a potato masher, or put in a food processor and pulse until it’s of a smooth but slightly chunky consistency. Add the butter while the mix is still hot so it melts easily. Season with salt and pepper to taste, a dash of nutmeg, and dribble in a little cream. Cream lightens the color and makes it smooth and luscious. It’s strictly not needed but a nice touch and remember this is Thanksgiving! Mix gently to incorporate the seasonings. Carrot/rutabaga puree can be made ahead of time, refrigerated and buzzed in the microwave in a cheery bowl. Serve it with a snappy name like ‘Swedes – My Way’ and a flourish and make sure to pass the gravy.

Pat Deuson who can be found at: http://cooksinn.blogspot.com/

*****
CRANBERRY FUDGE – KB Inglee

This recipe is from a cranberry bog in Harwich on Cape Cod.

11/4 Cups fresh or frozen cranberries
½ Cup light corn syrup
2 Cups chocolate chips (I use Hershey Dark)
½ Cups powdered sugar
¼ Cup evaporated milk
1 Tsp. vanilla extract

Bring cranberries and corn syrup to a boil in medium sauce pan. Boil on high 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally until the liquid is reduced to 3 tablespoons. Remove from heat. Immediately add chocolate chips, stirring until they are completely melted. Add remaining ingredients, stirring vigorously until mixture is thick and glossy. Pour into paper candy cups or an 8 by 8 inch pan lined with plastic wrap. Cover and chill until firm.

*****
VANISHING OATMEAL COOKIES - Warren Bull

Recipe can be found on the underside of Quaker Oatmeal lids.

*****
PECAN PUMPKIN PIE WITH CARAMEL SAUCE- Kara Cerise

This is tasty without the caramel sauce but if you have a sweet tooth add the sauce.

Makes 2 pies.

Pecan Pumpkin Pie Ingredients:
1 can (30 ounces) pumpkin pie mix (usually found by canned pie filling)
1 cup sugar
1 can (5 ounces) evaporated milk
3 eggs
2 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp salt
1 package yellow cake mix
1 cup butter or margarine – melted
1 ½ cups chopped pecans

Caramel Sauce Ingredients:
1 cup butter or margarine
2 cups packed brown sugar
1 cup whipping cream (best is to buy whipping cream in a carton and whip it yourself)

Pie Directions:
Line two 9-inch pie plates with waxed paper or parchment paper; coat the paper with on-stick cooking spray. Set aside

In a mixing bowl combine pumpkin, sugar and milk. Beat in eggs, cinnamon and salt. Pour into prepared pans. Sprinkle with dry cake mix (use the whole box between the two pies). Drizzle with butter. Sprinkle with pecans; press down lightly. Bake at 350 degrees for 50-60 minutes or until golden brown. Cool for 2 hours on wire racks. Carefully run a knife around edge of pan to loosen. Invert pies onto serving plates; removed waxed paper. Chill.

Sauce Directions:
In a heavy saucepan over low heat, melt butter. Add brown sugar and cream, cook and stir until sugar is dissolved.

Cut the pie into slices, drizzle with caramel sauce and dollop with whipped cream.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Shamed Into Exercising

I’m not the most athletic person in the world and prefer sitting in a comfy chair writing or reading rather than sweatin’ to the oldies. I do halfheartedly attempt to exercise by walking or riding a stationary bike at a relaxed pace from time to time. Also, and I think this qualifies as weight-lifting, I heft dishes from the dishwasher into cabinets and vacuum regularly.

I’ve heard about the alleged benefits of exercise and how it releases endorphins in the body which are supposed to create a feeling of happiness. I’m skeptical since I’ve never felt an endorphin or happy after exercise--only tired and hungry. The way I see it, my protagonist burns enough calories for both of us chasing villains around the world.

However, in recent years I’ve noticed that my topography has changed. My axis has tilted and my land masses are beginning to slide into each other. Being more of a thinker than a doer, I thought about this situation…then thought some more. Finally, I decided that there wasn’t much to be done to prevent further continental drift.

I was fine with my decision until a newly fit and trim friend visited. She had joined a gym and enrolled in their 100 squats a day club where they nag, I mean text, a daily reminder, to do squats. (Another great reason not to give out your cell phone number because stuff like that can happen.) It made me think for a minute (just a minute) that perhaps I should be more physically active.

Then, in an unexpected plot twist, my husband said that he planned to purchase a home gym next year. Have you seen those things? They look like updated Inquisition torture devices or something from Silence of the Lambs. My grand plan is to sit on the attached gym chair while reading a book, reach over and clunk the weights occasionally so it sounds like I’m working out.

Then I read that Dara Torres, who is 44 (old for an Olympian), was chosen to swim in the 2012 Olympics. And this summer 62 year old Diana Nyad, suffering from asthma, swam 67 nautical miles, half way between Cuba and Florida, for 40 hours braving multiple jellyfish stings.

To make matters worse, recently 100 year old (that’s not a typo) Fauja Singh finished the Toronto marathon in just over eight hours wearing a yellow turban and matching t-shirt with the words "Sikhs in the City" on the front. The kicker is that he didn’t begin running until he was 89 and now runs 10 miles a day. What the heck happened to aging quietly and gracefully?

This exercise epidemic has spread to the younger generation too. Instead of throwing wild bachelorette parties, young women are choosing yoga or 10k run parties before they get married. What’s wrong with kids these days?!

The bottom line is that I give up. The shame is too deep. Henceforth, I publicly vow to balance my sedentary writing lifestyle with exercise…after I’ve finished reading a book in front of the fire while eating a second helping of pumpkin pie.

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Five Year Pay-Off

I pulled the envelope from the mailbox reading the name of the publisher and the address as I walked into the house. The envelope contained a check. I sat down at my desk and turned it over examining it. My first check—payment for writing fiction.

Calling myself a writer before I was published made me feel like a poser. Almost two years ago, a publisher printed my work, and the poser died. With the check in hand, I assessed my feelings. I felt more solid, as if my words were equal to other writers’ words, my stories just as good and my identity—a full-fledged bonafide paid fiction writer—authentic. An industry insider had validated my writing career pursuit. My dreams were not a Walter Mittyish farce.

Let Heaven’s saxophones wail.

Okay, I’ll admit that the check was only for twenty dollars, and I spent at least twenty hours perfecting my short story over weeks, bringing my pay to one dollar per hour, a rate that I once made babysitting forty-five years ago. But hey, it was better than nothing, and other writers assure me (much to my dismay) that twenty dollars for a short story is high praise and good pay.

I opened my printer and placed the check on the glass, pressed color copy and watched as a replica of the check emerged from the machine. Having had children who received many certificates over the years from sports, scouts and school, I now have an inventory of document frames in my basement. I went downstairs, grabbed one, washed it off, polishing the glass to a gleam, before I placed the copy in the frame and then hung it over my desk. 

When my husband came home, I showed him my check and the framed copy. He laughed. Damn it all. But twenty bucks are twenty bucks—enough to buy a tasty bottle of champagne.

You know what I did that night, and I didn’t share.


Friday, November 18, 2011

The work Isn't Done until the Paperwork is Completeed


The Work isn't Done until the Paperwork is Completed

When I was a mental health clinic manager I had one therapist who did not comply with the simple concept stated in the title. She had no problem with seeing clients. Her clients liked her. She was open to feedback about clinical issues and became a better therapist while she worked in the office. But she did not write progress notes about each and every visit as required by every insurance company and mental health provider organization.

Apparently shortly before every chart audit she would hurriedly compose notes for every client she had seen during the time being audited. When the auditors told us in advance what specific charts would be reviewed, she would write notes in only those charts. She wrote intakes, which were always monitored, treatment plans and updates, which were reviewed frequently, and occasionally she would write discharge summaries, which, you guessed it, were seldom reviewed.

I was blissfully unaware of the situation (everybody else wrote progress notes) until she went on vacation. One of her clients had a crisis. I saw the client and smoothed things over until her next scheduled appointment. Then I wrote a progress note and went to put it in the client's chart. I noticed that for a long-term client she had a very thin chart. When I opened the chart to insert my note, I noticed that the most recent note was dated several months earlier. The client had told me she had been coming in regularly. The clinic was small enough that I had often seen her in the waiting room waiting for her session. I pulled other charts of clients she was working with and found that none of them contained current progress notes. All were months behind. I borrowed a key and inspected her office (but not her locked desk.) If she had written but not filed the notes there should have been reams of notes. There were not.

I called my boss. He went through all the cabinets in her office (but not her locked desk.) The therapist had not written the notes. My boss wrote up a plan of correction with the therapist. Under his weekly guidance and monitoring, she did catch up and write current notes. She promised she would keep up the paperwork, and was notified in writing that failing to do so would be grounds for losing her job. She continued to write notes until the day he stopped personally reviewing her charts. Then she stopped.

My boss instructed me to keep closer track of her paperwork performance. I did. I discovered her lapse. She was eventually fired. She appealed to the powers that be and lost.

At another job one of my duties was to complete internal chart audits as practice for when the real auditors came. I discovered that one of the psychiatrists wrote a progress note for every therapy session. The problem was that he wrote exactly the same note, word for word, each time. I discussed it with him. He said he did not see that as a problem. I suggested it might be. I left it to him and his supervisor to sort it out.

What has this got to do with writing? The novel isn’t done until all the incidental work is completed. Once you finish writing a great novel, you still have paperwork to complete. A publisher may or may not help you find a cover and get the cover formatted. The publisher will not write the description on the cover, front and back. Nobody else will write the one to three paragraph synopses that will be in the publisher’s catalog. Nobody else will write answers to interview questions that will grab potential readers by the collar and have them thinking, “I gotta read this.”

As unfair as it seems, after you worn your fingerprints off typing and poured your very soul into your writing, you need to sweat the remaining details with every fiber of your being. Especially if you are a new writer, the cover art, the words on the outside and your words about your book will have a great deal to do with whether or not someone who has never heard of you will actually put money down and buy your book.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Deepening Character

Last weekend I attended the Crimebake conference. With panelists and speakers so generously sharing their writing and marketing experiences, I find it difficult to address only one idea. I decided to focus on the one I plan to use first.

I’ve seen and filled out lists that include a character’s hobbies, what’s in the fridge, first sexual experience, etc. Gerry Boyle, writer of the Jack McMorrow mysteries and the presenter of one of the master classes, suggested the character sketch method. He writes and revises, over months sometimes, sketches for his characters, writing in their voices.

Sometimes it is difficult to explain a villain’s motives. Sure, the villain has been wronged but so have many people and they don’t exact a terrible revenge. Is it years of daily insults and injuries that turn a person into a killer? What specific combination of nature and nurture makes a character take action so far outside the accepted norm? Becoming that character in voice and feeling might make the motivation clearer.

In my WIP, my villain holds his family close to his heart and takes revenge if any member of his family is hurt. However, at the same time, he makes dozens of victims who are strangers suffer even to the point of death. What are his rationalizations for violating so badly the rights of strangers who have not harmed him or his? I’m going to play my villain until I’m thinking (scary thought!) like my villain and can portray him in my WIP in a sentence or two. Gerry Boyle pointed out that he does not put his sketches (and the one he shared with us was fascinating) in his final draft.20Dr. Christian Szell, Marathon Man

Similarly, I want to know what motivates a young person with so many choices ahead of him to choose to kill. Who does he blame for his pain and why can’t he let go of that blame? Projection, I believe, is a favorite way of dumping characteristics and feelings we don’t want on others. Although I plan to recreate the young killer’s voice, I’d like to avoid becoming an expert projectionist.

Do you have a special way of deepening character?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Pat Deuson, Superior Longing Author

Echelon Press released Pat Deuson’s first novel, Superior Longing, in September. Although this first-in-series novel doesn’t feature the culinary arts, her main character, Neva Moore, is a CIA graduate, which makes me suspect that future novels will feature this aspect of the main character and will attract readers interested in epicure. In Superior Longing, Neva travels to Lake Superior to solve her first mystery with a nicely conceived hook. Please welcome Pat to WWK. E. B. Davis

Thank you, Elaine, for the invitation. Writers Who Kill is a great blog and I’m thrilled to be here!

 How long have you written?

 I started writing short stories in college, won a [quite small] prize or two and then gave it up, with no thought at all. Just stopped. Years later, after marriage, kids, a lot of moving, I was in California on R&R and I had an idea. It was too big for one book, little did I know since it was my first, so I plowed ahead anyway. It turned out to be The Ten Percent Solution, the first of the Cooks Inn series, which like many first books, is still in the metaphorical filing cabinet. The second is Superior Longing, now published by Echelon Press. I’m currently writing the third, Collective Instinct. A fourth, Eye of the Beholder is well under way. I even have an idea about a fifth. Seems crazy, even to me!

Do you belong to a critique group?

No. Wish I did but there are none about.

How many queries did you send out, and do you have an agent?

I don’t have an agent. I probably queried dozens and dozens [and dozens] of them and was universally rejected. When I got serious about writing, about 3 years ago, I decided to go the small press route since large presses are generally closed to un-agented authors. I sent a handful of queries to small presses and got two offers.

How did the deal with Echelon come about?

A query—which I was told was a good one and so asked to send the whole manuscript. But it really began with Amazon. I submitted Superior Longing to their novel contest and made it through a few cuts before being cut. It was fun, a little nerve wracking, but left me wondering what would happen if I just wrote the best book I could possibly write. So went back to work and eventually wrote Superior Longing as it is today. Writing the best book I can is my guiding principal. And a merciless one.

The premise for your plot is interesting. Could you give our readers your hook?

Superior Longing is set during a frigid spring on the beautiful and harsh southern shores of Lake Superior. When series protagonist Neva Moore's uncle drowns and the details of his death twist and turn, her pursuit of the truth weaves through small town politics, smuggling, and superstition, to end where it all began, back in the family and another death in an icy lake.

The book opens with a front row seat to this mysterious death, a death with tragic consequences for Neva. What is the reader really seeing? Only one way to find out.

Did you base your main character, Neva, on anyone?

No. I love to create characters [sometimes I have to stop myself] and find the story people I create more up to the task of solving crime than my neighbors or next of kin.

Neva is a CIA graduate. Do you have culinary training and will you feature cooking and recipes in future books?

Who could resist having a protagonist from the CIA – the Culinary Institute of America, which has its own FBI – Food and Beverage Institute?  But no official training for me, although I’ve cooked all my life. I did teach cooking when we lived in Burkina Faso.  I have a blog: The Cook Inn Mysteries Blog http://cooksinn.blogspot.com/ where either Neva or I talk food, but so far little has shown up in any of the books.  I’d like to make food part of the crime or its solution in one book.

There are two settings in the book? Did you research both or have you lived in both areas?

I think even if you live where a book is set some research is inevitable and often fun. I live in California and have lived in Minnesota, which touches Superior at Duluth, and in Indiana, which isn’t far from Michigan, and the UP, which is nearly engulfed by the waters of the Great Lakes, one of the world’s wonders. The series alternates between a book in California and someplace else. Superior Longing is set on Lake Superior, Collective Instinct is a home book, Eye of the Beholder is set in Saratoga Springs, NY. The first book in this series The Ten Percent Solution, is set at Cooks Inn, the home world of the series.

I read that you’ve spent time in Africa and have traveled extensively. Was pleasure or work involved?

Work. Not mine, my husbands. Two to three year stints in 5 countries.  Africa is a very intriguing place, often breath-taking, and just as often heart-breaking.

What’s next in your writing career?

There are things I love as much as cooking and writing. Gardening is one. In the back of my mind, I have thoughts of a series about gardening where my degrees in agronomy and horticulture would be useful for once, besides in my own backyard.

Pat can be found at:  http://cooksinn.blogspot.com/   Buy the Kindle addition of Superior Longing at: Amazon.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

How to Read a Short Story

Starting with this introduction, Writers Who Kill will be presenting a series of holiday short fiction by our regular bloggers. The pictures are of two of my favorite short story authors, Poe and Hawthorn.

All of us are experienced at writing short. That experience varies but that should only add to your pleasure with our work. I will let the others tell you about their experience when they present their story if they wish to do so. A good story holds up regardless of the author’s biography. So don’t think about who we are, only about what we write.

To prepare you for the series, here are some suggestions to help you read a short story. As with all writing, these are not rules but guideposts.

When most people think of a short story they think of length. How many words? True I carefully track of how many words there are in all my works¸ but there is way more to what makes up a short story than the number of words it contains. Short stories are to be read and enjoyed, not classified. So don’t worry about how long it is.

Short stories are found in as many genres and cross-genres as any fiction. You might be treated to humor, history, romance, mystery, fantasy, science fiction and more. Or any combination. I’m sure that in the selection we will present, you will find several stories that appeal to you.

A short story has to be compact without feeling heavy. Each word has to contain the most meaning possible, but the result should not read like a tightly packed brick. A short story writer benefits from a good vocabulary. Stories can be tightened by changing “she ran down the street as fast as she could” to “she fled down the street” or simply “she fled.”

Every word has to move the plot ahead, so don’t expect full explanations. If the color of the suspect’s dress moves the story forward you will be told it is red, because later a red dress appears in the crowd and catches the eye of the protagonist. If not forget it. But don’t take the mention of something in the story to be the presentation of a clue. There are other ways to move the story ahead besides a parade of clues. Maybe that red dress is a distraction so the detective misses the real clue. I do have to admit to telling that the protagonist in my most recent work bought parsnips at the market when it made not the slightest difference to the story, while her purchase of eggs did. As I say these are suggestions not rules.

You will not be told what happens before or after the story, so be prepared to fill in with your own imagination. The most frequent question I get is something like “Did they get married?” Not in this story they didn’t. Maybe in the next one. The writer may not tell you what kind of poison was used, or the make of gun the killer used, unless you need to know.

A short story has to have a single plot, no subplots. Don’t expect complex relationships among the characters. This may come out in bits and pieces if it is part of a series. Setting is sparse, but if the writer is good, vivid.

In the single arc of a short story the tension increases to near the end and resolves itself quickly. The denouement, if there is one, is short.

As I said, short stories are most often defined by their length. There are weird names, like Flash and Drabble assigned to each category. The lengths and the names change often enough so that I am not going to list them. The story is to be enjoyed. Knowing that it is a short-short or something else will neither add to nor detract from that enjoyment.

So, savor our Holiday Offerings.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Auditory Learning


I’m an auditory learner, but I didn’t know that until I started writing fiction. Auditory learners comprise about 30% of the population. I had noticed that I related to the world a bit differently than most people. I knew that I—

·         remembered lyrics and music with ease
·         recognized voices better than faces. If I heard your voice, then I could recall you and knew instantly who I talked with on the phone
·         memorized phone numbers easily (867-5309 a number that also doubled as lyrics. Can you name that tune/band?)
·         spelled horribly because I spell phonetically, contradicting my mother’s edict that readers are good spellers (Which explains why I’ve been confused for years. She obviously was a visual learner.)
·         had a good vocabulary, but I couldn’t find the words in the dictionary (i.e., dearth)
·         always loved story circle during kindergarten
·         had no trouble learning foreign languages
·         forgave bad spellers, but if you sang off-key, I’d bite
·         had no understanding why microwaves or dryers need a bell signaling the cycle’s end when everyone can hear the motor shut off, a great annoyance
·         don’t have problems reading and answering questions about a passage, which contradicts what the auditory learning experts say I shouldn’t be able to do well. I’ve concluded that not all auditory learners are alike.

What does this mean for my writing?

The Good: I have no problem writing dialogue. In fact, when I write dialogue it is more as if I’m taking dictation than trying to create it. I can also hear the nuances in my characters’ voices, in their tone, sarcasm, cadence and emotions. Just like real people, once I hear their voice, I don’t forget them.

The Bad: I sometimes forget that my characters wear clothing, have facial features and hair color. I’m not an appearance person in real life so those things don’t have a lot of significance to me. Clothing doesn’t make the man. In fact, if you dress too well, I may discount you for it, and that wariness applies to women also. Unlike appearance, I’m physically oriented so my characters have motion and muscle. They think, speak and act, but I work on including my characters’ visual aspects because those characteristics interest me the least.

The Ugly: Spelling phonetically is problematic. Consider the word “definitely.” If you pronounce the word—def’ in-ite-ly—no problem. But often it is pronounced—def’-in-ate-ly or in the South—def’-un-unte-ly. I now memorize, not the spelling of words because it won’t stick that way, but I memorize the correct pronunciation of the word so that I can then spell it correctly. How’s that for convoluted? (I just spelled convoluted wrong because I pronounced it con-vel-uted.)

When I’m taking dictation from my head, I write what I am hearing, and that means if I don’t go over my manuscript carefully, my critique group members may read these sentences:

“Jenny whent to the freezer isle and selected a box of popcicles. The popcicle company’s advertizing-cartoon mascot, a polar bare whereing a grass skirt, adorned the boxes of frozen treets.”

Those sentences sound fine to me! Auditory learners don’t care much about homonyms or spelling because we are hearing the words, not seeing them. Of course, to communicate in the written word, I have a lot to rewrite. Writers who are auditory learners are storytellers in the literal sense of the word. Other writers may think we aren’t erudite, but what they don’t understand is that having an acute sense of hearing and relating to the world through sounds has its advantages too.

What has your writing taught you about yourself?

Friday, November 11, 2011

Time Warp




Time Warp

Written on 11/10/ 11

E-mail confirmation and my airplane ticket both assure me we will leave New Zealand early in the morning of November 12th and touch down on US soil in the evening of November 11th.

If shortly after we arrive we discover we failed to pack something, can I call myself to remind me? Or would that create a time anomaly, which would bring the universe as we know it to an end? If I get a call from me in the states late Friday night, I will let you know. If the universe ends that night — Sorry.

If you had one chance to go back in time and do something differently in your life, would you? What was the situation and what do you think you should have done differently?

There’s the one that got away or the one that didn’t. Words spoken in haste or the words never uttered. Efforts that went wrong or opportunities missed.

For me, I might take the chance to kiss my best friend’s little sister. I could take the time to cool my anger and not adopt the righteous language of my accuser. I should have talked to the college instructor who did not accept me into his poetry class but left a note inviting me to talk to him along with his refusal.

Woulda’ coulda’ shoulda’

What about you?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Conferences and Contests

Sisters in Crime and all its multiple groups offer so much support and useful advice. This weekend I’ll attend the New England Sisters in Crime Crimebake conference. The panels, master classes, and the guests of honor consistently interest and surprise. I look forward to seeing again writers and members of SinC I don’t see often. Mystery Writers of America also sponsors Crimebake but my daily contact with writing groups comes through Sisters in Crime.

I’ve frequently found the advice and information in Guppy emails useful. Recently an email suggested checking out Writers Village that offers contests four times a year. People visiting the site can read for free stories written by winners and runners up in the contests of 2010 and 2011. Winners came from the US and Australia as well as from the UK where the site originates.

Several of the winning stories and runners up held my attention and involved me emotionally. The stories I stopped reading belonged 37426sometimes to a genre I rarely read or portrayed a protagonist too fantastic for my taste.

Winners collect $400. The judges set out their criteria for picking a winner. Even if writers don’t win, they receive feedback.

The site also offers a mini course on how to win writing contests for profit. The course suggests ways of finding contests and criteria a writer can use to judge the contests they find. A writer needs to check out the fee to prize ratio and the spread of prizes. Contests to avoid have promoters without writing credentials, you’ve never heard of the judges or the judges aren’t named, the text at the contest site shows evidence of poor writing, previous winners aren’t show-cased, or, if the winners are show-cased, you can’t understand how the stories won. A writer should avoid a contest that tries to sell another service or product, such as inclusion in an anthology. Maybe the prize isn’t much financially but perhaps the winner is offered a three-month residency or the opportunity to attend a well-known weekend conference.

Apparently there are writers who re-edit the same story to enter different contests and prosper using this method. I think I’d prefer to write a new story, although all that editing could be good for my writing.

Entering a contest presents a challenge beyond submitting to a magazine. The contest criteria offer the writer a clear focus and goal. I plan to look into the world of contests. Several I’ve already reviewed offer feedback on entries and that is always welcome.

snow_road-winter_smallWinter is a season to write and the Crimebake conference and the possibilities offered by writing contests urge me to dig deeper and create.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

An Interview with Author Sandra Byrd

Sandra Byrd doesn’t write crime fiction, our usual focus on here at WWK, but she does write about the mysteries in every woman’s life and in several genres; contemporary women’s lit, historical and YA. So far, I’ve had the pleasure of reading her adult French-Twist series featuring a young American woman who grows in her faith finding her vocation and spouse, and one of her YA novels in the Friends-for-A-Season series. Christian faith and young women are two common traits in her writing. Sandra’s adult Ladies-in-Waiting historical series and the YA series, London Confidential are her most recent publications. Please welcome Sandra to WWK.     E. B. Davis

How did you transition from being a textbook acquisitions editor to a fiction writer?

I had always wanted to be a fiction writer, and loved to write both fiction and nonfiction. I actually went to college on a writing scholarship but once I was there I got scared. What are the odds of supporting myself with writing? I thought. So I changed my major to real estate and got a BSBA degree in real estate. I eventually went to work for a house, which published real estate textbooks, as an editor. From there it wasn't a very big leap to just saying, you know, I'd rather write full time. I learned to rely on God and not the odds!

Your characters and stories are well conceived and plotted. Sorry for the typical question, but how do you find your characters, and do they drive your plots?

Yes, the characters do drive the plots because although things are happening, the stories are mostly about people and the changes within and between them. My first books, the YA stories, were, like many first books, loosely based on some of my own experiences and those of people I knew. I was also working in ministries with girls in that age group, and eventually had kids myself, so I had a lot of material.

Those young ladies grew up and began to email me with their "quarter life crisis" worries. For them, and with them, I wrote the French Twist series. But really - I hope it speaks to all of us women at all ages. God placed dreams in your heart not to thwart them, but to fulfill them. Don't be afraid to both step forward and fall back to take hold of your secret hopes and dreams.

Your very first adult novel, Let Them Eat Cake, was a success. Main character, Lexi, reads Bible passages and applies them to episodes in her life, helping her through difficulty. Was using a Christian theme an asset to getting the book published?

I don't know if it was an asset or not - to me, it reflects how many real Christian women go about life. Yes, of course we trust and seek guidance, but it's a stop-start process and winds around in loops. It tangles. But then it eventually pulls free. When you publish with a Christian house, there is an expectation that there will be a Christian thread in there. Even if I weren't publishing with a Christian house, though, I likely would include some faith in the books. I believe that all of us, whether we acknowledge it or not, are three dimensional. A read is most satisfying for me when it includes all of those dimensions.

The foreign cultures of England and France flavor your books. You live in the state of Washington. The French Twist series was set in Seattle and outside of Paris (and you obviously know the language). Two of your other series are set in England. Have you lived abroad?

I have been a long stay visitor in a few. I spent some time during one summer living in Germany, and one in France. I've been back to France and had a lovely visit to London. But I haven't lived abroad. I am definitely both a Francophile and an Anglophile, though I love being an American.

I did begin French in 7th grade and took it through my first year of college. I wish we still started our kids in languages earlier than we do.

The subthemes of your books are complex. Many of your characters have little control over events in their lives, and yet they must decide upon a course of action. While they do take action, they also consider the consequences of their actions on their friends and family and on themselves. Do you think that consideration is a female or Christian trait? Does the concept of “letting go and allowing God to take control” subvert women’s decision making?

I think women are more relational than men so we do consider how our actions will impact others, and that's not a bad thing, to consider others in addition to ourselves. At some point, though, we can become too encumbered with how our actions may affect others and act, or refuse to act, to our personal detriment. It's fine if you're called to self sacrifice on occasion. It's noble. And yet we are also to love ourselves. Self care and self control are not equal to selfishness. We've been taught to be "nice." There seems to be a cult of niceness that is foisted upon (and often accepted by) Christian women. Nice is not a fruit of the spirit. Kindness is, but that is something entirely different. I remember praying one time and asking God why He didn't force some people that I had been nice to be nice to me in return. I got the clear sense that He was more interested in my growing a backbone!

Nearly all Christians believe that we have free will in this life. We can't be held accountable for our actions, reaping what we sow, if we do not. And it's clear that we will be. That requires us to make our best judgments and act. Perhaps more of us having trouble second guessing than acting.

Do you explore women’s lack of control in your historical series?

Yes. I admire how little control they had over their own lives - they were legally chattel - and yet how much they were able to accomplish and enjoy. I explore in the second Ladies in Waiting book, The Secret Keeper: A Novel of Kateryn Parr (due out next June) how women of that time were able to use their spiritual and intellectual gifts. I admire them. They did so much with very little.

The overall theme of God working for good in each character’s life pervades each of the books I’ve read. Does it matter what course of action we chose if it is all preordained?

I think some things are preordained, and other things are not. I'm willing to bet that most Christians believe that, although they may differ on which "take" weighs the heaviest. God is both sovereign - His will is done, but He also tells us we will account for our actions and our words. So both must be true, and therefore, my actions/choices do count!

In the (virtual) bookshelves, are your novels classified as “Christian” and do you agree with how they are classified?

I think those kinds of classifications are going to go away soon. If you look at my most current release, To Die For: A Novel of Anne Boleyn, on Amazon, and scroll through the 100 books also bought with my book, 98 of them are historical in the secular market. Of the other two, one is another of my titles! I don't mind at all being classified as a Christian author, or having spiritual content in my material. But I like to read in many genres and I think most other readers do, too. I'm more likely to buy a book that was enjoyed by a friend or fellow reader than one which is classified as Christian.

Your books brought tears to my eyes. Is that emotional connection to the reader important?

Thank you so much for telling me. My readers mean everything to me. I write for them, to pay back, in some small way, the many authors who have written books that I have loved over the course of my life. I keep my readers in my mind when the going gets tough. I read to be touched, so I hope I can bring that to my readership, too.

Your topics are varied. In one series, you’re conversant on baking, in another the intricacies of cancer treatment. Are you very good at research or have these topics touched your life?

Both! I do only write about things I really like or care about, because I spend so much time with the topics during research. I tease that, in some ways, it's like earning a Scout badge. I do everything possible to gain as much information as I can on a topic before I write about it. And then, when that book is done, I'm pretty much glutted of the topic and ready to move onto the next badge!

What is your next project, books in your current series or a new series?

I am in the midst of my Ladies in Waiting series, set in Tudor London. The first book, which has just released, is To Die For: A Novel of Anne Boleyn. I've mentioned that the second book takes place during the years of Kateryn Parr. Both of these women were critical to the Reformation. The third book, which I am currently writing, is set during the reign of one of my personal favorites, Elizabeth I. Do stop by my website and check it out. There are castles and palaces to wander through, Shakespearean recipes, and other treats.

Your choice--Brioche or Croissants?

LOL. Brioche for every day, croissants with dark chocolate enfolded within on Sunday!

Find out more about Sandra and her novels at: http://www.sandrabyrd.com/index.php and ask her any question that I forgot to ask. Thanks for the interview, Sandra!


"...this stunning novel ...reexamines Boleyn's life from her beginnings to her rise and eventual fall in the Tudor court. Byrd's novel adds a depth to the character of Anne Boleyn that is often missing in other novels, and she brings the history to life in exquisite detail. Readers might indeed find themselves sympathizing with the young queen. Highly recommended for fans of Philippa Gregory." Library Journal, Starred Review