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

Our July author interviews: Ellen Byerrum (7/5), Day of the Dark anthology authors (7/12 and 7/19), and Nancy Cole Silverman (7/26).

Saturday Guest Bloggers in July: 7/1--Fran Stewart, and 7/8--Nancy Cole Silverman. WWK Saturday bloggers write on 7/15--Margaret S. Hamilton, 7/22--Kait Carson, and 7/29--E. B. Davis.


“May 16, 2017 – The Women’s Fiction Writers Association (WFWA) today announced the finalists of the second annual Star Award, given to authors of published women’s fiction. Six finalists were chosen in two categories, General and Outstanding Debut. The winners of the Star Award will be announced at the WFWA Retreat in Albuquerque, New Mexico on September 23, 2017.”

In the general category, WWK’s Carla Damron was one of three finalist for her novel, The Stone Necklace. Go to Carladamron.com for more information. Congratulations, Carla!

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. Her short story "Goldie" will be published in the Busted anthology, which will be released by Level Best Books on April 25th.

In addition, our prolific KM will have the following shorts published as well: "Sight Unseen" in Fish Out of Water, Guppie (SinC) anthology, just released, and "Making Tracks" in Passport to Murder, Bouchercon anthology, October 2017.

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 October, 18, 2017. Look for the interview by E. B. Davis here on that date!

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 order.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Visiting the Dead, Savannah-Style


I have always loved cemeteries. The church I attended when I was young had a sprawling one that ran from the back steps all the way to the edge of the woods. I’d play there every Sunday afternoon with the other kids, racing each other and eating dessert beside our favorite graves (mine belonged to my great-great-grandmother Shiloh—it was in the shade of a massive cedar tree and had faded pink plastic roses in a vase at the foot of the marble gravestone).

As a grown-up, I have since toured many historic burial grounds. I learned the Victorian symbolism of the ornate carvings at Atlanta’s Oakland Cemetery, with the downtown skyline at the horizon. In New Orleans, I visited Marie Laveau’s resting place. One winter afternoon, I knelt among the stone markers of the slave cemetery at Barnsley Gardens, a small burial plot in the shadow of the ruined manor home that their hands had built stone by stone two centuries ago.

But my favorite cemeteries are the ones in Savannah, Georgia. Here the air is tangy with salt and dense with humidity, and the etched gravestones weather in the shadows of live oaks draped with Spanish moss. The most famous of the Lowcountry cemeteries is Bonaventure, brought into the international spotlight by Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. It is my favorite too, but not because of its famous residents or infamous goings-on. I love Bonaventure because it nestles in the bend of the Wilmington River, participating in the tidal risings and ebbings of the saltwater marsh. There are benches scattered throughout where one can sit a spell, watch ospreys fish and herons beat their long lovely wings against the breeze.

Cemeteries keep stories alive, and in doing so, keep the memories of our loved ones burnished bright. As a collector of stories, I appreciate this about these resting places, and it’s one of the reasons I opened my novella “Trouble Like a Freight Train Coming” at Bonaventure. It’s the prequel to my Tai Randolph series, and as such, gave me a chance to take Tai back in time to when she was a tour guide. Like me, Tai loves stories.

Here’s the opening scene of that novella, available now in Lowcountry Crime: Four Novellas (which you can find here) and which also includes a story by our very own James M. Jackson, “Low Tide at Tybee,” and two other stories set along the coastal Southeast.
I brushed aside a tendril of Spanish moss and positioned myself next to the grave. My tour group gathered in a semi-circle around me, fanning away with their Bonaventure souvenir programs. Thanks to a tropical depression loitering inland, Savannah was experiencing an unseasonably warm November, the hottest I could remember in my quarter century upon the earth. A stray breeze from the river curled around my neck, and I lifted my ponytail to let it lick my sweat-dampened skin.
"Here in Savannah," I said, "every step you take, you take with the dead beneath your feet. This is a city literally built on human remains, thousands of years' worth. It goes back to the first prehistoric inhabitants of the land, the Yamasee and Timucua. Back to the Yamacraw, the first people to welcome James Olgethorpe, who then began layering English dead on top of the indigenous dead. Some have been moved to graveyards and cemeteries, but some still lie deep in the earth, layers of history, layers of stories."
"Like a lasagna," one of the men at the back said.
I forced a smile. There was always one in every group.
"Most people aren't aware of this," I said. "They get distracted by the cobblestones and carriage rides, the green beer and fried shrimp. The surface. But in Bonaventure, you can't deny it. In Bonaventure, the dead are literally right beside you.”
I enjoyed visiting Bonaventure on the page for this story, but nothing compares to walking those white-pebbled lanes in person. I have learned that a person who is interested in cemeteries and their accoutrements—funeral practices, gravestone art, epitaphs—is called a taphophile. My protagonist and I certainly qualify.

How about you? Would you consider yourself a taphophile?

Monday, February 27, 2017

A View from the Couch: Surviving the Flu

by Shari Randall


After one week, gallons of Gatorade, and plenty of couch time, I’m finally over the flu. This is the first year in ages that I didn’t get my flu shot, so in addition to having to go through a week of illness I also get to beat myself up for not getting vaccinated. What was I thinking?

Turns out I had Flu A, which is widespread in the US right now. If you also have it, you have my condolences.

There are plenty of reasons to dislike the flu, but there is one thing about the flu that I can honestly say I look forward to. Couch time.

Couch time – that time when you feel awful but are conscious enough to enjoy a movie or television show – is the only good thing about having the flu.

My illness coincided with Turner Classic Movies Thirty Days of Oscar celebration. For the month of February, their programming has been Oscar nominated films from A to Z, so I was able to watch some of my favorites (“The Maltese Falcon”) and some films I’ve always wanted to watch (“The Quiet Man”) and some I’d never heard of but decided looked interesting.

“The Razor’s Edge” starring Tyrone Power and Gene Tierney was the latter. This 1946 film based on the blockbuster novel by W. Somerset Maugham was gripping for several reasons, some unintentional. It was probably the fever talking but some parts of this very serious film struck me as hilarious.

The film follows an American pilot, Larry Darrell, who has just returned from serving in World War I. His best friend sacrificed himself so Larry could live, and Larry is overwhelmed by emotions he cannot put into words. He turns down a lucrative job offer, pushes aside his fiancé, and decides to travel.

Nowadays we would say that he goes to “find himself” but at the time of the movie, that phrase didn’t exist. So Larry tells his gorgeous fiancé that he is going “to loaf.” And those questions he has? The only place he thinks he’ll find the answers is Paris.

“So you’re going to loaf in Paris?” the shocked fiancé says. As far as I'm concerned, this is as good a life plan as you’re going to find.

So Larry goes to Paris and eventually finds himself on a mountaintop in India with a holy man played by Cecil Humphreys. This is only the midpoint of the film. In part two the unenlightened decisions of Larry’s friends lead them to tragedy and unhappiness.

His impoverished childhood friend loses her husband and child in a car crash and decides to move from Ohio to Paris to become a dance hall floozie. Larry and Somerset Maugham (yes, he is a character in the film) both just happen to be staying on the Riviera when this friend’s body washes up on the beach.

Did Part Two really occur or was it the fever talking? You decide.

How do you cope when you are ill?

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Cover Wars

By Jim Jackson

For the past week, I have been filling out a questionnaire that will provide the basis for an interview to appear in a magazine later this year. I’ll leave you in suspense about the details so I have fodder for a future blog. One of the questions was, “How did getting/being published change your life?” My response was that after publication I spend much less time on pure writing and significantly more time on sales and marketing activities.

To my way of thinking, it’s all about exposure. I have faith that my novels are well-written and a certain segment of the reading public will like them—but only if they get a chance to read them. The problem is to find ways to make those potential readers aware of my books so they can find out for themselves just how good they are.

Since you never know what works until you try it, I experiment with different promotional opportunities. One I tried last year is called “Cover Wars.” The concept is simple: every week fifteen book covers are displayed on a webpage. The public can vote for the best cover, and the winner receives some free promotion on the website that sponsors the contest. It costs nothing for an author to participate.

Now, I think my Doubtful Relations cover is a really good cover – the kind of cover that makes you want to pick up the book and find out more. I’m prejudiced, of course, but you can judge for yourself. I signed up, waited a couple of months for my turn to participate, and early one Sunday morning the contest including my book opened.

I checked out the competition. There was only one other book that I thought was a contender. Now, those of you who personally know me know I am a teeny, weeny, bit competitive. I wanted to win. The rules were that repeat voting was allowed, but no more than once a day. But the reason I had signed up wasn’t to win; I hoped the exposure would intrigue some folks who did not know my books to give this one a try.

I posted about the contest on Facebook and mentioned it to the Guppy Chapter of Sisters in Crime, where I am currently the president. And, of course, I voted once a day for the best cover!

The other cover that should have been my competition garnered very few votes. The book that turned out to be my major competition was not a particularly strong cover; it was so busy the key message (title and author) was lost.

Some of my Guppy chapter associates got behind the contest in a big way, voting daily and encouraging others to vote. Had each of the chapter’s 700 members voted for my cover just once, it would have won by a landslide. Which tells you the contest exposure was small. The fifteen contest authors ginned up various amounts of support from friends, but there wasn’t a large group of folks out there in cyberland using this contest to find some great new books.

And that led to the marketing result: During the week of the contest, sales of Doubtful Relations declined compared to the average for the previous few weeks.

I also quickly recognized that the free contest was only free in terms of me not spending any money. I spent lots of time thanking people who let me know they had voted for my cover. And Mr. Competitive wasted mucho time tracking how my cover was doing compared to the competition.

I went to bed Saturday night with a very small lead, and woke up Sunday morning having lost by a bunch of votes. The winner had rallied her troops or bots or whatever for a last-minute push.

Lessons for me: Measure all the costs of a promotion, not just the cash outlay. Check some prior results to see the number of votes – that would have given me a clue that the contest was thin on reader engagement. Remember that whatever I tell myself about being disengaged from the result of a contest, I won’t be, so make sure to factor in all that wasted time checking to see how my entry in the race is faring.

So dear readers, where do you find out about new-to-you books that seem to be worth trying?

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Events that Shaped Generations by Kait Carson


Just before the turn of the new year, an article in The New York Times caught my attention. “What Events Most Shaped America in Your Lifetime?” A Pew Survey Tries to Answer.[1]  It was one of those articles that you read as you are looking back on one year, and forward to a new year, or perhaps, looking back on a life and forward to a future. What struck me was how different my list was from the list in the Pew Survey. Sure, there were some similarities. 9/11 and the assassination of JFK, but the Orlando shootings? The election of Obama? Defining moments to be sure, but life-shaping? Can the definition of life-shaping vary so much among the generations?

The article set me to thinking about what events shaped my life. I am a mid-boomer, raised with three channel television in a town where the local newspaper was titled The Rutherford Republican. We were proud to support the first Catholic presidential candidate as students at St. Mary School. Three years later, word filtered through the same classrooms that our president was shot and we were to pray the rosary before dismissal. At home, we turned our TV sets to Walter Cronkite and saw him wipe tears from his eyes. America lost its innocence that day. November 22, 1963. And eleven-year-old children knew if a president was at risk, so was the world. Literature in the coming year reflected both the fear of Russia who was believed to have set the assassin up on us (John le Carre’s The Spy Who Came in From the Cold) and the disillusionment with the world around us that would allow something so awful to happen (Hannah Green’s I Never Promised You a Rose Garden, Mary Mc McCarthy’s The Group, Saul Bellow’s Herzog).

Two assassinations in 1968, Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy, further increased our sense of insecurity, but by then, the world knew that anything was possible, and literature had morphed from reflecting the horror of real life to reflecting the tenor of society. The popular books of the day were Jacqueline Suzanne’s The Love Machine, and Philip Roth’s Portnoy’s Complaint, bracketed by Helen MacInness’s taut WWII based thriller The Salzburg Connection, and Mario Puzo’s The Godfather.

A number of years passed with a number of wonderful and/or horrific, but not necessarily life-shaping events in the national sense, at least not for my generation. We rejoiced in the moon landing. Shed tears following the Viet Nam war on television. The tragedy of Wounded Knee tore at us all. Watergate is still a conundrum. Nixon’s resignation both expected and shocking. Amnesty for draft dodgers, I don’t want to delve into politics so I’ll leave it at that. The horror of seeing the giant Y shaped contrails of Challenger piercing the Florida sky. The firestorm of Waco. Hurricane Andrew and the Iraq war both personal experiences. So many events. Events that marked and changed the lives of those that participated in them, but not the nation as a whole. Not until 9/11.

The world stopped again on that awful day. And again, literature followed suit by offering solace and sympathy. The January best seller of 2002, most telling was John Grisham’s Skipping Christmas. The rest were a mixed bag of mystery, thriller, short story, horror. In short, we seemed to draw comfort from books, however we best found it.

Life changing events are apt to be generational. What were yours? Did literature, television, or movies offer ways to help make sense of the inexplicable, or provide escape?


[1] It is important to note that this survey was conducted between June 16 and July 4, 2016, well before the election of President Trump although the article appeared after the election.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Phantom Lady by Cornell Woolrich: A Review by Warren Bull




Phantom Lady by Cornell Woolrich: A Review by Warren Bull

Phantom Lady was first published in 1942 by Cornell Woolrich using the pen name William Irish. Woodrich is often credited with being one of the authors who developed noir fiction. The book cover blurb states that more of his work has been adapted to film, TV and radio than any mystery writer since Edgar Allan Poe.

Phantom Lady read like an extended nightmare. It began with the protagonist wandering the streets showing signs of smoldering anger to everyone he encountered. On impulse he stopped in a bar where he met a woman and made her an offer. He suggested they go to dinner and attend a show together without exchanging any personal information and without asking any personal information. One evening of companionship is all he asked. After consideration, she agreed. They had a pleasant evening and parted.

When he returned home he found police detectives waiting for him. They told him his wife had been murdered, strangled by one of his ties. They questioned him about his whereabouts at the time of the murder. He told them about the evening, but the shock of discovering what had happened destroyed his memory of details about the woman’s appearance. 

Luckily, several people saw them together. Unluckily, none of the people who saw them remembered that he was with a woman.  He is tried, convicted and scheduled for execution. He has to find the woman to save his life. Imprisoned and knowing that police efforts to find her failed, he must find some way to locate her. But how?

Woolrich builds tension by the steady erosion of time before the execution date. Each time there is hope for proving his innocence, the hope is snuffed out, often by the death of the possible witness.  The author writes with clarity and effectiveness. Some of his descriptions are almost lyrical even when what he describes is grim.


I recommend Phantom Lady highly.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

A Descendant of Immigrants


I’m a descendant of immigrants. Of course that’s not unusual. The only ones in our country, who do not have immigrants in their ancestry, are those who are one hundred percent Native American. They came over from Asia many years ago before anyone else, so they are natural citizens.  

My mother’s side is a mixture of Welsh, Scotch Irish and English. My sister and her husband couldn’t trace them back any further than New England. because the name Jones was a very common Welsh name, Grandpa Jones ancestry was only traced a couple of generations past not far from where we grew up. It was pretty much the same with my Grandma Jones with her English, Scotch-Irish background. 

However we had better luck with my Grandpa Steven Hovanic, He is the one I want to write about. He came over from Slovakia in 1901 with his mother when he was eight years old. It was after his father died, and his already much older brothers were already here. The actual country is a little bit iffy because there were so many changes between Poland, Slovakia and even Austria in those days. Also, the 1920 census that said Poland could have been written down wrong. If my great-grandmother spoke with an accent, and the census takers didn’t understand, they could have written it down wrong. However, my sister and her husband did go to Slovakia and found the cemetery with his family members’ tombstones.






They settled in a little coal mining town in Crabtree, Pennsylvania, and eventually my grandfather married Anna Radesky. Her family lived in Warren, Ohio, so I don’t know how they met. They lived in the Patch, a group of homes owned by the mines for those who worked for the mines. I don’t know what his original mining job was, but he eventually became the superintendent of the mining stables caring for the ponies that pulled the carts full of coal.  Some mines used mules, but from what I’d been told the mine he worked for used ponies.



Each section of the Patch had different nationalities on each street. There were the Italians, the Irish, the Polish or Slovak, African Americans and so forth. From what my father told me they mostly got along although they pretty much stayed with their own group because of the language differences, and maybe because of the different churches they went to.




 Grandma canned the vegetables she raised in her garden and did a lot of baking for her large family. The town had a general store owned by the mine, and the workers or their wives were to do all their shopping there. What they bought was recorded in a ledger, and the amount was taken out of the miner’s pay. My grandmother thought the prices of food and other items in the mining store was too high, so she started taking a bus to the next town to do her shopping. When the fact that she wasn’t buying much at the company store came out, Grandpa was called in and told if they didn’t shop at the company store, he’d be fired. So grandma stopped that.
My grandparents had thirteen children, but twins, who were premature, died soon after birth. The rest were all healthy and survived. The second daughter got a job as a postmistress when she was
in her teens, and she changed the Hovanec name to Hovanic. Most of the many Hovanecs in the
country still has the ‘ec’ ending, but Aunt Margaret thought the ‘ic’ ending sounded better. The company homes were mostly duplexes and because of the size of the family, they had the larger side of the one they lived in. There was room for a big vegetable garden in the back yard as well as a shared outhouse for the two families.

 Grandpa Hovanic was a magician, who entertained with his tricks sometimes when events were put on for entertainment in the patch. I remember the few times I saw him in his later years, when he came back for brief visits, and the magic tricks he did to amuse my children. He also had a weird sense of humor. One Christmas when one of his sons wanted a pony in the worse way, he left some horse droppings near the Christmas tree, and said Christmas morning that since his son didn’t leave a rope for Santa to tie the pony, he must have gotten away. An aunt who has now passed on told me a lot of stories about what they did and played as children.
Many mines used mule but Grandpa's used ponies.

The depression years were hard years for everyone, and I imagine it was just as bad in the mining town my grandparents lived in. One day the mining superintendent called my grandfather in and wanted him to cut back on the feed for the ponies they were using. My grandfather objected, and the superintendent insisted. So Grandpa threw down his keys and quit then and there. Of course, that meant they had to leave their home, too. At that time I think he had about nine children. They packed up everything and headed for Ohio. Grandpa had a strong sense of what was morally right and wrong and passed those strong values on to his children.

Grandma Anna Hovanic had two unmarried brothers and an unmarried sister. I’m not sure if her parents were still alive then, though. They lent them the money to buy a small farm north of Warren, Ohio, where Grandpa and Grandma settled in with their large family. He sent his three older sons including my father out to find a job. When they didn’t find one right away, he went out and got a job right away in a factory, and then got jobs for his sons in that factory, too.
These are my chickens and never butchered.

In addition to a large garden, Grandpa Hovanic and his family raised chickens. When they were large enough he butchered them and with a wagon and horse, he went to Packard Park in Warren, Ohio where a farmers market was set up on weekends. He sold his cleaned chickens that were ready for sale. I heard that customers came to him first because he didn’t leave the neck and gizzard inside to make them weigh more since they were sold by the pound. He probably sold eggs, too, although with a large family maybe there weren’t enough to sell. I know my father once said he didn’t like chicken because that’s about the only meat they ate in those years.


Then World War II came. Three of his sons joined, but the youngest one was allowed out because his very young wife managed to get a Catholic Priest to get him out. Both of them were teenagers. The other two fought bravely, one parachuting into Normandy on D-Day, and the other fought in Northern Africa and Italy. His best friend was shot next to him. Both returned safely. If they suffered from PTSD no one knew because in those days I don’t think anyone talked about it. If they talked about it at all, I never heard anything about it. My father didn’t go because he had two children, and worked in a factory that made shells for the army. He was with the same business until he retired in his sixties, but by then he’d moved up to a position as purchasing agent.

I was five years old when my Grandma Hovanic died of a heart attack.  She was only in her fifties. The only thing I remember of that is my father picking me up to look at her in the casket in the parlor in front of the grand piano. It wasn’t unusual to have funerals in the home then. My aunt Catherine, the oldest child, quit her job to take care of the younger ones, the youngest was eleven year old Adrian, who is one of only two of the eleven children still alive.

Eventually, but I don’t know how many years later, Grandpa Hovanic started dating again. He and his new wife moved to Florida so we didn’t see much of him after that. The aunt who had quit her job to care for her younger siblings, now owned the house, and I don’t think she would approve of a new wife coming to live there. In fact, they never had an indoor bathroom even though her many brothers all wanted to put in one for her. My Uncle Adrian said he always thought it was because Pappy’s wife would never want to live in a place without a bathroom. So until Aunt Catherine died, there was only an outhouse and a pot with a lid in the basement. It never bothered any of the many nieces and nephews who came to visit every Christmas night along with their parents and for picnics in the summer.

One year after my parents had died, my sister Suzanne and I went to Crabtree, Pa. to visit. She had gone with our parents years before so she knew where the house my grandparents and family had lived. It was interesting. Also, we went to the cemetery and were able to find the tombstone for the twin baby boys.







Postscript: When my sister and her husband were doing research, they found out we had a second cousin, Evelyn A. Hovanec, who was a professor at Penn State, in Fayette Pennsylvania. It was within easy driving distance from where we lived. So when my sister and her husband flew in from Washington State, we went to meet her. She had helped with putting in a museum in the basement of one of the colleges building to honor the coal miners and their families. We went to meet her and to tour the museum. I bought her book Common Lives of Uncommon Strength., a book about the women of the coal and coke era of Southwestern Pennsylvania in the years between 1880 and 1970. It’s a fascinating book of first person stories from so many of these women along with pictures.  I used it for one of my short stories, “Death in the Patch.” She also co-wrote a book Patch Work Voices – The Culture and Lore of a Mining People with Dennis F. Brestensky and Albert N. Skomra which was also very interesting.

Do you have stories about the lives if your grandparents or older relatives?

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

An Interview with Agatha Nominee Cynthia Kuhn by E. B. Davis


When Professor Lila Maclean is sent to interview celebrated author and notorious
cad Damon Von Tussel, he disappears before her very eyes. The English department is
thrown into chaos by the news, as Damon is supposed to headline Stonedale University’s upcoming Arts Week. The chancellor makes it clear that he expects Lila to locate the writer
and set events back on track immediately. But someone appears to have a different plan:
strange warnings are received, valuable items go missing, and a series of dangerous
incidents threaten the lives of Stonedale’s guests. After her beloved mother, who happens
to be Damon’s ex, rushes onto campus and into harm’s way, Lila has even more
reason to bring the culprit to light before anything—or anyone—else vanishes.

Last May, I interviewed Cynthia Kuhn on the release of her first novel, The Semester Of Our Discontent. When the Malice Domestic nominations were released, sure enough, that book was on the list in the Best First category. Congratulations, Cynthia, from all of us at WWK, and welcome back.     E. B. Davis

Thank you so much—and thank you for letting me visit WWK again! Happy to be here.

First things first—what was your reaction to the Agatha nomination? As a professor, was there any reaction on campus from students or colleagues about the nomination?

Stunned! And very grateful to those who nominated it and to Malice Domestic. I’m a big fan of the other writers in the Best First Novel category, and it’s an honor to be among them. People on campus were very kind about the news. 

Are there still literature snobs who discriminate against genre authors on campus?

Both on and off campuses, surely. But...to each their own.

When a student fails to cite sources on her paper, Lila reports her failure to the student judicial board. Why didn’t she let the girl off the hook?

Schools have policies in place for dealing with plagiarism, and Lila is following Stonedale’s procedures. The student’s paper was cobbled together from sections of various sources, so Lila didn’t have much of a choice. (Sidenote: there were a surprising number of “big” news stories about plagiarism this year!)

What do suspenders say about a man?

Well, in Spencer’s case, they say he’s dapper. He has an extensive collection. It was fun to “design” the ones that resemble an inked manuscript.

The reader learns more about Lila’s famous artist mother, Violet O. Does she live life large or is she melodramatic?

She lives life to the fullest and she’s a bit over the top. I would love to go to one of her art shows.

Francisco’s behavior seems to change depending on who he is with. Is he arrogant or not?

Great question. I don’t think he is arrogant. Lila can’t quite read him at first, but what seems like arrogance comes from an earnest desire to establish his scholarly credentials, to be recognized as an expert on his topic. The reception of his current project will genuinely affect his career, and he’s on edge about that.  On the other hand, he tends to be more relaxed around his close friends (like most of us are).

Judith, Lila’s mentor, and the department chair, Spencer, are married. Calista is dating Francisco. Are there no rules about fraternization in universities?

It varies, depending on where one works, but some schools do have policies that caution against or ban such fraternization. It can be especially complicated where different levels of authority/supervision are involved—for example, professor and student, or administrator and professor. (But Judith and Spencer were married before he became chair, whew.)

Poor Lila. She submits a nonfiction proposal for a book based on her dissertation. But the focus of it is an unknown author of mystery fiction. She realizes her book proposal won’t be of interest to anyone because she must get the author’s books published first. Is publish or perish still the edict for those without tenure? Has Lila messed up her chances?

Lila would appreciate your empathy for her situation! Yes, in places where research is expected for achieving tenure, it’s publish or perish. Because there was only a small press run of mystery writer Isabella Dare’s books, she is virtually unknown to contemporary readers. In order for Lila to persuade a press to publish her research (which is no small feat even if the author is well-known), she may first need to convince someone to republish Dare’s work. This could go either way for her, and it’s not going to be easy, in any case.

Does Nate deserve Lila’s consideration especially now that Detective Archer is interested?

Readers do seem to have an opinion on this matter after finishing The Art of Vanishing. Let’s just say I’m listening with great interest.

When you beta read, what are the most typical mistakes mystery writers make?

This is a difficult question to answer—every story is different. But there does need to be something upfront that engages readers, whether it’s an instant conflict that pulls us in or a style/character/structure so compelling that we are content to float along for awhile until the conflict is initiated.

Would you read Jane Austen or J. D. Salinger if you had time to fill waiting in an airport terminal?

Jane Austen for the win! Though I do like Salinger as well.

What’s next for Lila?

She will soon have cause to sleuth again—Stonedale University is chock-full of mysteries.