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

Our August Author Interviews--8/2 Maggie Toussaint, 8/9 Kellye Garrett, 8/16 Matt Ferraz, 8/23 Matthew Iden, 8/30 Julia Buckley. Please join us in welcoming these authors to WWK.

August Saturday Guest Bloggers: 8/5--Kathleen Kaska, 8/12 Triss Stein, WWK bloggers-Margaret S. Hamilton on 8/19 and Kait Carson on 8/26. Look for E. B. Davis's blog on 8/29--the fifth Tuesday of August.

“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.


Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Matt Ferraz Interview by E. B. Davis

Matt Ferraz contacted me for a book review of his novel, The Convenient Cadaver (Grandma Bertha Solving Murders), a cozy English mystery. His book description hooked me. I didn’t promise a review, but I also didn’t turn down his offer of a free copy.

After reading the mystery, I had questions and decided to interview him about the book—written while he was getting his master’s degree in biography, a major I didn’t know existed but is available in England. His undergraduate degree is in journalism. The Convenient Cadaver is his third self-published mystery—quite a feat—keep reading and you’ll understand why.

Please welcome Matt Ferraz to WWK.           E. B. Davis

Matt—I find it remarkable that you not only wrote this book during graduate school (when most of us were trying to grapple with our school work) and did so at a relatively young age, but that you also wrote an English cozy and are a native of Brazil. Had you read a lot of English cozies? Were you fluent in English?

In Brazil we have basic English lessons at school, but apart from that I'm self taught. I've always preferred to watch movies with subtitles rather than dubbed in Portuguese, as most of my friends did. That helped a lot. And yes, I've read lots of English cozies, as well as other genres, in their original language. I'm also fluent in Italian and a bit of Russian.

Did you write the book in Portuguese or English?

The book was fully written in English. I prefer to write all my literature in that language, for the Brazilian publishing market is sadly very poor. We have great writers and a rich literature, but it's almost impossible for a newcomer author to be published and make some money out of it.

Although your plot is twisty and enjoyable, the book is character driven. Had you studied the mystery genre?

Yes, I've done a lot of research on the genre. Mystery novels are my favorite kind of literature ever since I learned how to read, so I'm familiar with it. But I wanted the book to be not only about a murder mystery, but also about this family relationship with an older relative. I was inspired by my own relationship with my grandmother. In fact many of Grandma Bertha’s lines are quoted verbatim from her.

Describe Grandma Bertha to our readers, please.

Grandma Bertha is an old woman who still wants to do something memorable with her life. She lives in a remodeled garden shed at her son's backyard with her three dogs, and loves to watch horror movies. Even though she's funny and witty, I think there's still some sadness to Grandma Bertha, for her life didn't go the way she expected. When she sees a chance to fix that, she grabs it without thinking twice.

Grandma Bertha lives with her son, Todd, and his wife, Lydia. All is not well between Bertha and Lydia. In the opening paragraphs, readers know of Lydia’s distaste for Bertha’s three dogs and that Lydia requires a glass of sherry prior to visiting Bertha at the converted garden shed she lives in behind the main house. Often daughters-in-law and mothers-in-law don’t mix well, but Lydia seems especially picky. At one point in the book, Lydia and Bertha discuss the case over a glass of sherry. They even seemed to be working together—giving me hope—but Lydia reverted to form. Is Lydia a hopeless dullard?

If you think about it, Lydia is 100% on the right. She's a middle-aged woman who gave birth a bit late in her life, her husband is desperately trying to get a promotion, and she has to deal with her mother-in-law who she's not fond of. She has a lot to pull through, and the idea that a murderer could be stalking her family drives her over the edge. I really don't blame her for being such a pain in the neck.

When the body of a young woman is found by the three dogs and subsequently by Lydia, what is Grandma Bertha’s motivation for solving the murder? Does she have any experience with investigating?

Many years ago, Grandma Bertha had the chance of helping the police with a murder case, but didn't do it because she was afraid to be wrong. Now she feels it's her obligation to help the police with this one.

Grandma Bertha seems a natural at asking suspects questions, but she actually relies on her considerable life experience to get the case facts. Although the characters are very different in personality, did you base Grandma Bertha on Miss Marple?

Yes, mostly on Miss Marple as portrayed by Margaret Rutherford, who's my favorite actress. Those movies are very different from Agatha Christie's original novels, but are still a ton of fun to watch.

In which POV did you write the story and why did you choose it?

I wrote in multiple POVs in this story, but the important thing is that I wanted the whole action to happen inside the Hepburn's home, including the house, the backyard and Grandma Bertha's shed.

Why would Lydia and Todd make fun of Grandma Bertha trying to solve the crime? Doesn’t Todd know his mother is crafty and smart?

Todd is another character with too much to deal with. He's afraid to stand for himself, so he takes his wife's side because she's stronger than he is.

Why does Inspector Shaw take Grandma Bertha seriously?

After so many years investigating crimes, Inspector Shaw is convinced that even the smallest and apparently silliest details may make or break a case. That's why he's open to hear what Grandma Bertha has to say. He doesn't want to dismiss anything that could possibly help him catching the killer.

Your characters transform from the beginning to the end of the book. What’s next for Grandma Bertha?

The next Grandma Bertha book will be a collection of short stories, which I hope to release in 2018. Right now I'm very busy ghosting some projects, but I will hopefully be able to release this in the first semester of next year.

Are you a beach lover, Matt?

I live far away from the sea, so every time I get the chance to go to the beach, it feels like a special moment. The same is true for Grandma Bertha.

                                                 The Convenient Cadaver by Matt Ferraz

When Grandma Bertha moved to her son’s place, she brought along her three dogs, several cases of beer and many, many Horror film DVDs. While her daughter-in-law insists on the idea of sending Grandma Bertha to a retirement home, a dead girl with three bullets on her back appears near the house. Once in her youth, Grandma Bertha let a murderer escape for not trusting in her own detective abilities. Now, armed with her wit and wisdom, she decides to solve that crime before the police. Could this crazy dog lady be a threat to a cold-blooded killer? And for how long can the family stand that situation?

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

A Visit from Jeffrey Deaver

by Paula Gail Benson

SEMWA Board with Jeffrey Deaver (Photo by PGB)
This year, the Mystery Writers of America’s President Jeffrey Deaver has given a great gift to the regional chapters. On his own dime, he is visiting each of the chapters to provide a writing workshop for members and guests. The chapters organize the event and may use it as a fundraiser and a means of bringing awareness to the chapter’s activities. It’s a wonderful opportunity for writers throughout the country to hear from a master of the craft without having to travel to an expensive conference.

As a board member for the South Eastern chapter (SEMWA), I was thrilled to hear the news. I was even more delighted when the board decided the program should take place in my home state. It’s been more than twenty years since SEMWA held a “skills build,” the title usually applied to a craft workshop, in South Carolina. I remember that long ago workshop because it was one of the first writing seminars I attended, and I still use the concepts I learned there from such distinguished folks as editor extraordinaire Chris Roerden and our own blogging colleague Carla Damron.

Our board’s first task to prepare for the visit was to explore various locations. We finally determined to have it in Columbia. I was delighted that my church’s assembly hall was available. We went through a process of evaluating caterers and setting reasonable pricing to cover the costs. We felt fortunate to be able to offer the event for $25 for members and $30 for non-members and to include lunch and a reception as part of the package. We attracted participants from South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, and Tennessee, four of our six state area. Over fifty registered to attend. To say “thank you” to Deaver for donating his time, we provided each participant with one of his books.

Jeffrey Deaver Presenting Workshop (Photo by PGB)
Deaver’s presentation was generous and comprehensive. He addressed both craft and business aspects of the profession. Some of the important information that he emphasized included:

(1)  Understand what you want from writing and what methods work best for you. He told us that today’s writing world offers lots of options, including traditional, hybrid, and independent. All are viable depending upon each writer’s goals. Be honest about what you are seeking to achieve.

(2)  To build confidence and an audience, produce a regular product and don’t miss deadlines. He pointed out that both Shakespeare and Mozart worked on commission. To build a reputation as a successful, readable author, you must approach the work as a business.

(3)  A writer’s mission is to produce an emotionally engaging story, or creating good and bad characters who confront increasing levels of conflict that are resolved in a largely positive manner. These principles are almost direct quotes.

(4)  Novels, short stories, and plays all require different craft skills. Learning how to write one won’t teach you how to write another. Write in the style that comes most naturally for you and discover all you can about the marketplace for your writing.

(5)  The four basic elements of storytelling are plot, character, setting, and dialogue. Propel your story by conflict and suspense. Always keep the readers on the edge.

Panel Discussion (Photo by PGB)
Following Deaver’s presentation, our board members joined him in a panel discussion of how we had applied his recommendations. Hearing about the individual techniques and applications allowed us to explore the many options open to writers and helped emphasize that success can come in many forms.

The opportunity to meet Deaver and hear about his personal writing habits (he is a confirmed planner who does not write a novel until he has outlined it, then completes it only after revising through approximately fifty drafts) made the day truly informative. I was particularly impressed with his humble, structured approach and his continuing curiosity. If you have the chance to hear his presentation when he comes to a MWA chapter near you, please take advantage of the experience. You won’t regret it.

Group Attending Deaver Event (Photo by Lynda Sasscer Hill)
Also, if you haven’t had a chance to consider MWA membership (chapter membership is included when you join MWA), check out this link to the website.

Have you been influenced by a particular writer or piece of writing advice?

Monday, August 14, 2017

Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz: A Review

By Shari Randall

Writing a review for a mystery is a tricky business. How to keep the review spoiler free while at the same time giving readers a taste of the ingredients that make a book a tempting dish?

This is especially true of Anthony Horowitz’s Magpie Murders. Some reviewers called Magpie Murders “a puzzle within a puzzle.” It was certainly that, but more importantly for me and other fans of classic British mystery, it was a book that better channeled Agatha Christie than any other I’ve read in years.

I read once that when Horowitz was a young man, he traveled around the world, reading Agatha Christie novels as he went. He certainly absorbed all the elements that make Christie’s Poirot books catnip to the mystery reader: the omniscient-but-irritating investigator, the cozy English village, the simmering resentments and crimes barely covered by a lace tablecloth of respectability and good manners. More than that, he’s mastered Christie’s deft and delicate planting of clues in broad daylight.

Horowitz is well known for his work on television’s Foyle’s War and Midsomer Murders. He was chosen by the estate of Arthur Conan Doyle to write The House of Silk and Moriarty, and completed one of Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels to acclaim. Plus, he’s known to millions of young adults as the author of the exciting Alex Rider spy novels. Talk about writing chops.

I couldn’t wait to dive in.

The story opens with an editor, Susan Ryeland, reading the latest book in her best selling author Alan Conway’s Atticus Pünd mystery series. The book-within-the-book is called Magpie Murders. One begins to feel the proximity of a rabbit hole. One doesn’t mind. One jumps in with both feet.

The novel within the novel is perfection. Atticus Pünd (yes, with an umlaut) is just as brilliant, irritating, and pompous as Poirot. He may be German instead of Belgian, but he’s the guy. His assistant, James Fraser, was actually an improvement upon the dim but good hearted Hastings — younger, more sympathetic, more perceptive.

All the usual suspects are there in the village of Saxby-on-Avon: the doubting vicar, the vicar’s bossy wife, the stately home, the aristocratic boor, the aristocratic boor’s unfaithful wife, the snooping maid. There’s even a suit of armor. I positively wallowed in the Christie-ness of it all.

That’s why it jarred a bit every few chapters to be tossed back into the current day, “real world” with Susan Ryeland. She discovers that the last few chapters of Magpie Murders have gone missing. Susan’s search to find them leads her into the twisted world of the author and another constellation of suspects.

Verdict? I give Magpie Murders four and a half teapots out of five. It would have been five but the framing story was bogged down by just one too many red herrings, especially one that just didn’t ring true.

But honestly, reader, you won’t care. If you are looking for a perfectly entertaining and pitch perfect channeling of the great Agatha’s Poirot, look no further. Get the book, make yourself a lovely cup of darjeeling, and dive into Magpie Murders.

Have you read the Magpie Murders or any other great mysteries lately? Please share in the comments below.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Fire and Ice

by Jim Jackson

Here’s a YouTube version of Robert Frost’s short poem, “Fire and Ice,” which was first published in Harper’s Magazine in 1920 and later incorporated in the Pulitzer-winning book New Hampshire. It’s a short poem, and I give you permission to do a quick listen before reading the rest of this blog.

With all the bloviating going on between the heads of state of North Korea and the United States, I was reminded of Frost’s poem, written not long after the end of World War I, but well before the nuclear attacks by the U.S. on Japan at the end of World War II.

I grew up in the age of “duck and cover.” [Oh heck, I just Goggled the phrase and came up with this nine-minute 1951 Civil Defense film featuring Bert the Turtle.] I remember in school curling into a ball under my desk, covering my head and neck with my arms. Other times we filed into the hallways and, making sure not to be opposite a door where flying glass would be a problem, we impatiently sat covering our heads with our hands. The assumption was we should do everything possible to survive an enemy attack.

My house and school were about six miles away from Kodak Park in Rochester, New York. Kodak Park would have been a very likely target in a nuclear war with the USSR because of its film production and processing capabilities. At the time, all the spy-plane cameras and film were produced by Kodak or Polaroid (also a Rochester company back then).

What no one told us back then was that a typical mid-sized hydrogen bomb when exploded in the atmosphere would have a blast zone of nearly seven miles and a thermal radiation hot zone of fifteen miles. That would have been the effect if either of the four megaton H-bombs the US accidentally dropped on North Carolina on January 24, 1961 when a B-52 broke apart had exploded. Although three of the four “fail-safe” devices on one of the bombs did fail, the fourth held and the devices didn’t trigger an explosion. [i]

The world for me would have ended in fire. Crushed or not, I would have been toast.

For those not so near a likely target, the world might have ended in ice. For many years, “experts” predicted a nuclear winter would follow an all-out nuclear war. The hypothesis was that the firestorms caused by the nuclear bombs would combine to throw so much soot into the atmosphere it would block sufficient sunlight to cause a significant temperature drop and induce a permanent winter—at least until the soot precipitated out of the atmosphere.

Hey good news: we have a cure for global warming—a global nuclear war! While generally discredited now because models show cities won’t burn as originally anticipated and therefore not produce enough atmospheric debris,[ii] it struck a chord of plausibility as the world has experienced global cooling because of atmospheric soot. In 1816 the northern hemisphere suffered a “volcanic winter” generally attributed to the ash plume from the 1815 eruption of Mount Tambora in the East Dutch Indies. In the Berkshires and upstate New York where my ancestors lived there, was wide-spread crop failure as snow fell as late as June and frost occurred throughout the summer.[iii]

As a child, I was never scared of nuclear war. It had no meaning for me. The drills were just one of the things you did, like saying the pledge of allegiance every morning. You didn’t think about the meaning of either one. That changed for me in October 1962 during the Cuban missile crisis. It’s the first international news event that I really recall (I turned twelve while it was going on), and I remember it because of the palpable fear I sensed from adults around me. I remember watching the news with my family as President Kennedy announced on live television the embargo of Cuba. I had to ask my parents where “Cuber” was (and learned about New England accents!) I remember the huge typeface of the newspaper that included the critical word: BLOCKADE.

Negotiations worked that time, but there was a subsequent boom in backyard bunker building.

Now it seems some of the 1% are preparing for all kinds of potential disaster with luxury bunkers.[iv] I have neighbors who are contemplating how they could become subsistence farmers and hunt the woods for their meat. My neighbors have armed themselves in preparation of that dystopian future; they would surely have to defend their supplies and food from those who won’t be prepared.

I am making no such preparations, and I frankly have no fears of a nuclear holocaust. When I think of what it would take to survive a nuclear war or collapse of our food supplies, whatever the cause, I realize I don’t want to be a survivor. Maybe it’s because I’m on the downward slope of life. Maybe it’s because I am so distraught about our continual worldwide inhumane treatment of our fellow humans that I secretly think the world might be better off if our species became extinct.

I admit to being a chicken when it comes to death. I’d prefer it to happen with no pain and in my sleep. If it comes to a great disaster, I’d rather go in the fire of one big flash and know nothing of it than by the slow freeze of ice.

I have been thinking about the collapse of our food supplies, but in a fictional sense. It’s the proximate trigger for a future I am sketching out for a possible trilogy. I’ll let you know how that works out.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Brooklyn War by Triss Stein

The words “New York in wartime” are so evocative, and I live just a few miles from one of the places it evokes.  In fact, the opening moments of the musical “On the Town,” a story of sailors in the city in 1944, shows a line of sleepy workers at the gate, waiting for their workday to begin.

It is the Brooklyn Navy Yard. The battleship Arizona, where the war began for Americans, and the Missouri, where it ended, were both built there.  During the war it ran around the clock, every day, employing 70,000 people including women doing what had been men’s work. Eighteen years later it was closed, a victim of new forces too big to fight.

My research confirmed that it would be a great background for the fourth book in my mystery series about Brooklyn. The hard part would be choosing which stories to tell. In the end, I had three.

The frame is the rapidly changing, reborn Navy Yard. In fact, it is changing so quickly it has already passed what I wrote. Erica Donato, historian in training and my series heroine, goes to a community meeting about plans for the new Navy Yard and, exploring the historic grounds, witnesses a murder.         

The main plot is built around the huge conflict of the Yard’s closing.  Lifer employees, unions, congressmen, the Secretary of Defense – they were barely even speaking the same language on that heated issue. The murdered man, a speaker at the meeting, had plenty of enemies including ex-wives, but someone chose to shoot him at the Navy Yard. Who? And why? Blind chance – he was alone, it was dark?  Or more?

The third plot takes another step back, to those busy years of World War II.  Lives were changed by the war, and not just on the battlefields. Erica’s fearsome mother-in -law, learning Erica is researching the Yard, suddenly shares a bit of family history. A young aunt from an old Navy Yard family had battled her parents to work there, had loved it and then seemed unhappy ever after. The mother–in–law demands that Erica find out what happened to her.   

That task arrives on top of her advisor demanding she finish her long-delayed dissertation, her daughter demanding they plan a sixteenth birthday party, and recurrent dreams of a man being shot.

How she deals with it all became the story of Brooklyn Wars.

BIO: Triss Stein grew up in northernmost NY state but has spent most of her adult life in Brooklyn. This gives her a useful double perspective for writing mysteries about the neighborhoods of her constantly changing adopted home. In the new book, Brooklyn Wars, her heroine Erica Donato witnesses a murder at the famous Brooklyn Navy Yard and finds herself drawn deep into both old and current conflicts.

Friday, August 11, 2017

At Bertram’s Hotel by Agatha Christie: A review by Warren Bull

At Bertram’s Hotel by Agatha Christie: A review by Warren Bull

Published first in 1965, At Bertram’s Hotel is one of a number of books by Agatha Christie in which her usual protagonist, in this case Miss Marple, is not a major character. I am reminded of leading British actors and actresses who are willing to take a small part in a film when the part is interesting enough. I know American performers sometimes appear in cameo roles, but it seems to me Brits are willing to do so much more often.

It is a measure of the author’s skill and comfort with her characters that she is willing to present them in small doses while putting a different character or characters in major roles. In this novel a young woman and a police detective are the focus of much of the book. They differ in age, outlook and personality. Each is believable.  The concept of the crime is one I have not seen anywhere else. While some authors essentially write the same book in every work, Christie always had something unique in each novel.

To state the obvious, Agatha Christie has a wonderful way of writing. She is my favorite mystery writer. At Bertram’s Hotel is an example of how well a mystery can be written. Even though the pacing moves along briskly, try to read slowly enough to savor the experience.