Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Kathy Krevat Interview by E. B. Davis

Colbie Summers has moved back in with her father, a place she left with no intention of ever returning. When her father grows ill, Colbie knows she has no choice but to pack up her 12-year-old son, their cat, Trouble, and her gourmet cat food business and go back to the tiny town of Sunnyside, CA.

While Colbie expected that things might be complicated, she certainly never expected the complications to lead to murder. When police suspect her of murdering one of the other women in the Sunnyside Power Moms trade show, Colbie realizes that in order to save her name, her business, and her son, she needs to find out who the real killer is and that might include getting into a little trouble!

Kathy Krevat’s first Gourmet Cat Mystery, The Trouble With Murder, features Colbie Summers who makes people-grade gourmet cat food. The question of whether Colbie can read the mind of her cat, Trouble, or Colbie personifies her own thoughts into her cat’s expressions will keep the reader guessing. Trouble tests Colbie’s recipes for her small business and has Colbie’s back when bad guys come to call. Secondary characters, Colbie’s son, Elliott, her stubborn father, and her best friend, Lani, are memorable as is the next-door neighbor’s doorbell-ringing rooster.   

This is Kathy’s second series. Under the name Kathy Aarons, she writes the Chocolate Covered mystery series for Berkley Crime. Look for my previous interview with Kathy here. Lyrical Underground, an imprint of Kensington, publishes the Gourmet Cat series.

Please welcome Kathy back to WWK.                                                                                E. B. Davis

How did the deal with Lyrical Underground come about? Why another name?

When my agent was in San Diego for a conference, I took her hiking in Torrey Pines State Park, which was probably a mistake since she’s in amazing shape. I let her do all the talking while walking up the steep hills!

I’d had ideas about a single mom moving back in with her grumpy father, living next door to the pretty chickens, and together we came up with the idea of her starting Meowio Batali Gourmet Cat Food. Once I completed the proposal, she sold it to Lyrical Underground.

I wrote the Chocolate Covered Mystery series under the name Kathy Aarons because it was a writer for hire contract. Kathy Krevat is my real name.

The story takes place in the small community of Sunnyside, CA to the east of San Diego. Is Sunnyside a real place or did you model it after another town in a similar location?

It’s a fictional town in a similar location to the real Lakeside, California but is completely made up. I grew up in a small town and used some of those memories to create Sunnyside. I actually avoided visiting Lakeside so that it wouldn’t influence my writing.

Colbie moves back to Sunnyside and her childhood home after her father’s second bout of pneumonia to take care of him. But she and her father don’t have the best relationship after she left home pregnant at age eighteen. How would you characterize their relationship in the intervening thirteen years?

In one word, difficult. They had different views on many issues, but underlying all of that was a genuine love for each other, and a frustration that the other one didn’t understand them and was judging them. Colbie visited regularly once her son was born, so that he would know his grandfather, but he usually left earlier than planned after arguments.

How and why did Colbie develop Meowio Batali Gourmet Cat Food?

When Colbie was the manager of an apartment, she found an abandoned kitten, Trouble, and adopted her. Trouble had digestive issues, so Colbie cooked food for her. Her friends began requesting the food for their own cats, and then their friends, in an ever widening circle. So she started packaging and selling the food, eventually graduating to farmers’ markets. In The Trouble With Murder, she’s hoping to get her products into local health food stores.

Would you say Colbie is in transition?

Absolutely!  She’s on the verge of so many life changes in terms of family, business, life style, and community.

Colbie joins the Sunnyside Power Moms (SPM), who are home-based business owners. What types of services do they provide?

This was such a fun part of writing this book! Besides the “normal” home businesses of Beeswax Candles and Mommy and Me exercise classes, I included Spicy Parties selling lingerie and “adult” products, The Lice Club Lady, and mobile pet grooming.

After a booth show of the SPMs, Colbie finds one of their member’s body—the victim of murder. Why did Colbie become a suspect?

She found the body and then a significant clue was found at her home.

To exonerate herself, she decides to investigate SPM members. Why are they all so reluctant to talk with her?

Besides the fact that she’s the newest member of the group, it’s public knowledge that Colbie herself is a suspect, and they believe she’s trying to get that label off of her onto one of them.

When she questions the life coach member under the guise of seeking help, she finds the coach’s questions very interesting (as did I). Have you ever hired a life coach?

No, but I have friends who did and the process was very helpful to them. 

Horace, one of her dad’s neighbors, makes negative assumptions about Colbie’s thirteen-year-old son, Elliott. Why do people do that?

I don’t know but I really dislike it! For some reason, older generations like to denigrate younger generations. I’m not sure if it’s so they can feel better about themselves, but it’s one of my pet peeves. If someone on social media talks negatively about Gen Xers or millennials, I unfollow them. I volunteer with young people and find them to be actively dedicated to the common good far more than what is portrayed in those kinds of generalizations.

In Horace’s case, he saw a police car in front of their house and drew his own conclusions.

Trouble likes good-cop Norma. Do you think animals can gage people’s character?

Perhaps not all of them, but Trouble can. Growing up, I had a pony who was very gentle with people who were tentative about riding, but if someone got on and started showing off, he’d walk (or gallop) under a branch of a tree (same branch every time) and knock them off.

What’s next, a Gourmet Cat Food novel or a Chocolate Covered novel?

The Trouble With Truth comes out in August 2018!

Awesome questions! Thanks so much for having me visit!

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Thirteen "Dry" Years

Two of these are Sisters in Crime members, not notorious villains.
My Sisters in Crime chapter has a taste for adventure. Luckily for us, we’re based in Savannah, Georgia, a city bursting at the seams with adventure. We’ve toured the county jail, practiced our handgun proficiency, and tested our mystery-solving skills in a haunted escape room. This December, we explored one of Savannah’s newest attractions—the American Prohibition Museum.

Carrie Nation and her Infamous Hatchet
The time before and during Prohibition was a showplace for our nation’s contradictions. On one side, the Temperance movement united strange bedfellows—women’s right’s organizations, Protestant firebrands, and the KKK, which unfortunately found common ground with Prohibition’s peculiar strain of moral zealotry. Temperance’s most visible champion was the hatchet-wielding Carrie Nation (at right), who eventually took her show on the road vaudeville-style, destroying bars nightly for a paying audience.

The anti-Prohibition side was just as diverse. On the one hand were those wealthy manufacturers who stood to lose a powerful amount of money—familiar names like Busch, Pabst, and Yuengling. But the small brewers also suffered, especially the Scots-Irish immigrants who brought their whiskey-making skills to America only to find themselves bankrupt, their families suddenly destitute.

Moonshiner and Product
And thus began the second chapter of the story—the black market and all its associations. The Roaring Twenties ushered in the age of backyard stills and bathtub gin, glamorous speakeasys and shabby “blind pigs,” which were storefronts that pretended to feature some sideshow attraction (see the amazing blind pig!) but instead sold liquor by the drink. Crime became both sophisticated and organized, with quasi-celebrities like Al Capone trafficking in luxury and bloodshed and notoriety.

Savannah was at the heart of the illegal liquor trade. The city was filled with eager customers, and the marshland provided both remote locations for brewing and a convoluted system of waterways for transportation. Once the illicit cargo reached the land, young men in souped-up cars took up the supply chain, racing down twisty dirt roads with jars of moonshine crammed into every available square inch of trunk space. During their downtime, these racers tested their skills against each other for bragging rights. From these races came NASCAR, that quintessentially Southern cocktail of cockiness, rebellion, and potentially lethal speed.

I learned a great deal during my visit to the museum. Prohibition is a fascinating chapter in American history, especially for those of us interested in criminal undertakings. Its effects still ripple through our culture today. I don’t know about my fellow mystery writers, but I found a lot of writerly inspiration in this story of deluded do-gooders and crafty wrong-doers and the potent liquid that fired their equal if opposite obsessions.

*     *     *
Tina Whittle writes the Tai Randolph mysteries for Poisoned Pen Press. The sixth book in this Atlanta-based series—Necessary Ends—is scheduled for an April release. Tina is a proud member of Sisters in Crime and serves as both a chapter officer and national board member. Visit her website to follow her on social media, sign up for her newsletter, or read additional scenes and short stories:

Monday, January 29, 2018

Shari Randall Interview By E. B. Davis

Allie Larkin was living her dream as a ballet dancer when a bad fall put her out of business. Now she’s back home in Mystic Bay to heal a broken ankle while also helping her dear Aunt Gully get her Lazy Mermaid Lobster Shack off the ground. Nothing would help Gully more than winning the local food festival’s Best Lobster Roll contest. The competition is sure to be killer—especially after one of the contest judges dies after eating a roll from one of Gully’s biggest rivals.

Soon, all eyes fall on Gully as the prime suspect. Allie may only have one good leg to stand on, but she’s not going to let her aunt go down for a crime she never could have cooked up. Can Allie, along with her devoted crew of friends, family, and customers, find a way to trap the killer and claw herself out of this hard-boiled murder case?

Aunt Gully sipped her Scotch and patted Lucia’s hand. “There’s no
way on God’s green earth there was anything wrong with that lobster salad.”
Her words echoed in the cavernous kitchen.
Our drawn faces reflected in a glass breakfront across from the breakfast nook. I felt like an exhibit under glass in a museum, a still life called Four Women Hiding Out with Scotch.
Shari Randall, Curses, Boiled Again! (Chapter 9/Kindle Loc 772)

After reading Curses, Boiled Again! and contemplating this interview, I realized Shari Randall drew together elements, which, at first glance, seemed unrelated. But they complemented and enhanced the charm of this fast-paced novel. My thoughts roved among—lobsters, dance moves, Victorian keepsakes and language of flowers, cars, Scotch, mystery children, sibling rivalry, old-time movie stars, mermaidabilia, recipes—and ended with the realization that it’s been too long since I’ve eaten lobster!

Curses, Boiled Again! starts the Lobster Shack Mystery series. Against The Claw, the second novel in the series, will be released on July 31, 2018.

Please applaud WWK blogger Shari Randall in her debut as a newly published novelist!
E. B. Davis

How did the deal come about? Did you write a proposal? Did you create the premise? Was your contract a three-book deal? Funny story. We moved from Virginia to Connecticut, and while we were house shopping we rented a rambling old place on the Connecticut shore that overlooked a tiny town called Noank. Noank has some fantastic lobster shacks, including two of my favorites, Ford’s and Abbott’s. Three days after we moved in, I got a call from my agent asking if I’d do a proposal for a series St. Martin’s wanted set in a lobster shack. I was standing on my front porch, and I remember turning around, looking to over the water to Noank, and thinking, this was meant to be! So I did the proposal, St. Martin’s liked it and gave me a three book deal.

Did you think up the ridiculous and fun title? (I love the lobster’s perspective!) I wish I could take credit for this title but it’s straight from the publisher. I think someone at St. Martin’s cooked up the title and then decided that they needed a book to go with it.

I gathered that Mystic Bay wasn’t too far from Boston, but is Mystic Bay based on Mystic, CT?  You’re on to me! I live near Mystic, CT, and you will not find a more charming little town. Mystic Bay is my version, with shades of even more adorable little towns nearby which shall remain nameless because I don’t want them getting any more overrun with tourists than they already are.

Allie (Allegra) Larkin, your main character, has been side-lined from her career in the ballet due to an ankle break, but unbelievably, it didn’t happen on the stage. What happened to Allie? Allie tripped and fell down the stairs of a house she shared with other dancers in Boston while carrying laundry to the washing machine in the basement. As everyone in the book says, how on earth does a ballerina manage to trip down the stairs? You’ll have to read Book Three to find out.

Aunt Gully (Gina) Fontana opened the Lazy Mermaid Lobster Shack after her husband’s death. We learn that Aunt Gully (their father’s sister) helped raise the sisters when their mother died. How did Aunt Gully get her name? Unfortunately for those within earshot, Gully loves to sing. Her voice is reminiscent of a sea gull’s.

 What is mermaidabilia? Mermaidabilia is what Aunt Gully calls her extensive collection of all things mermaid – jewelry, figurines, dolls, carvings, including a life-sized ship’s figurehead. (BTW that mermaid cameo you found is spectacular!) She decorated her lobster shack with her collection and now her customers bring her mermaid souvenirs from all over the world.

The YUM food network sponsors the contest of four restaurants’ lobster rolls to determine which has the best. The murder resulted from contamination of one restaurant’s sample lobster salad. All of the judges get sick, but only one dies—one who was old and frail and may not have been the intended victim. Allie not only has to figure out the identity of the murderer, but she must also figure out who was the target. You’ve made it doubly hard on your MC. Upping the ante for mystery writers? It’s funny. I remember the moment when I realized what I had done. Whoa! But that’s why we read mysteries, right? To untangle the clues and solve the puzzle. Just wait. My editor says Book Two has even more twists.

Two sisters can hardly be more different. Allie is a ballet dancer, an artistic performer, and a people person. Sister Lorel (Lorelei) has a MBA and is more concerned about PR than about people. How do sisters, born in the same household with the same adults for guidance possess such different values? It’s the ongoing debate – nature vs. nurture. I’ve heard that birth order has a great effect on personality development also, and I’ve found that to be true. (I’m a middle sister.) In Allie and Lorel’s case, I wonder if Allie’s more imaginative temperament developed in response to her sister’s no-nonsense personality. I also wonder if it was inevitable that Lorel was going to be emotionally walled off since I did take her mother away from her when she was four years old. I still feel terrible about that. The funny thing about Allie and Lorel is they want the same thing – to help Aunt Gully’s Lazy Mermaid Lobster Shack succeed. They just go about it very differently.

Allie’s best friend Verity Brooks owns Verity’s Vintage clothing store. The two share a love of old movies and the clothing and dance of those times. What does Verity’s 1962 DeSoto say about her personality? Verity is one of those people who was born in the wrong era. She sees herself as a sixties starlet, perhaps an Audrey Hepburn or Diana Ross. I have to say that I’m with her on cars, and especially on vintage clothes. The elegance, style, quality workmanship, and artistry of designer clothes from the fifties and sixties is breathtaking.

Did you find cars to give readers insight into your characters’ personalities? What about Lorel’s BMW? Aunt Gully’s van? Allie’s no-car-at-all? I adore old cars – especially old muscle cars! And they can be so useful for characterization. I can’t imagine a go getter businesswoman like Lorel in anything other than a BMW. Aunt Gully has a practical mom mobile, of course. Allie’s no-car-at-all probably stems mostly from the fact that having a car in a city like Boston is more trouble than it’s worth.

My daughter had an expensive, but short-lived purple phase. Do all little girls have a purple phase? A mermaid phase? An expensive purple phase? You’ll have to share that story! Little girls do have their phases – purple, mermaid, horse, dance. I had a dance phase and haven’t outgrown it yet.

I’ve exercised with a barre, but what is “floor barre” and how does Allie practice with it? I had to do a lot of research on dancers’ rehabilitation, and I found lots of references to “floor barre.” It just means that the dancers do many of the same stretches they would normally do standing at the barre while they lie on the floor with weight off the injured limb. Part of my research included a visit to the Boston Ballet – they have an onsite physical therapy room with massage/PT tables, Pilates reformer machines, weights, and staff physical therapists and masseurs. It’s a profession that is tremendously hard on the body.

Most sleuths believe there is no such thing as coincidence. Allie wonders about the case, the timing of all the clues, but there are complications that may or may not have anything to do with the murder. Do you believe there is no such thing as coincidence? I believe that all kinds of crazy things happen every day. Having said that, too many coincidences in a mystery frustrate me, frustrated Allie, and I think, can frustrate the reader, also.

The victim, old actress and dancer Contessa Wells, and her sister Juliet live in a huge old house in Mystic Bay. Verity has been asked by Juliet to buy Contessa’s wardrobe for her vintage clothing store, a chance she jumps at. Allie and Verity see a portrait of the two sisters as youngsters. Each sister’s picture is bordered with a braid of hair. What was hair art? The Victorians were fascinating, weren’t they? They would often weave jewelry or other decorative objects from their hair or the hair of loved ones as a way to remember them. Many pieces were made to remember deceased loved ones – the Victorians were obsessed with death – after all, infant and child mortality was extremely high at that time. But friends would also exchange a lock of hair or hair jewelry. Travel was difficult and friends and family often parted from each other knowing that they truly would never see each other again, so the hair jewelry or object was a tangible remembrance. Queen Victoria was known for passing down her hair jewelry to her grandchildren. Creepy and fascinating!

What is a lachrymatory, and whatever were they used for? A small vessel, sometimes found in Greek or Roman tombs, to hold tears. I think they believed that tears had special magical powers (just like in the Harry Potter books). As usual, the Victorians, who had made mourning into an art form, adopted these ornate little bottles. I simply cannot imagine trying to collect my tears, but there you go.

Aunt Gully claims that “Happy lobsters are delicious lobsters.” She won’t accept culls or sleepers. What are they? How does she know which lobsters are happy? Aunt Gully connects with lobsters on a level that mystifies everyone. As a matter of fact, she insists on singing to the lobsters to keep them happy as they become a lucky tourist’s lunch. Culls are lobsters that have lost a claw. They can be okay to eat when you’re not worried about presentation. Sleepers, however, are lobsters that are sluggish. They’ve been stored too long and are close to death. Aunt Gully would never serve one.

What’s next for Allie? Poor Allie! My concept for this series was Murder, She Wrote with a protagonist who could do her own stunts. A dancer fit the bill, but I had to find a way to get her to Mystic Bay – thus the broken ankle. She’s healing slowly and starting to enjoy sleuthing, so stay tuned. She’ll be staying in Mystic Bay for at least two more books helping Aunt Gully make the perfect lobster roll, and …… No spoilers!

How does it feel to be a full-fledged mystery author, Shari? Ha! I’m not sure I’m there yet though holding my first novel in my hands does feel great. Actually, I can remember one time when I truly did feel like a full-fledged author – when you asked me to be part of this blog after I published my first short story in Chesapeake Crimes: This Job Is Murder. That meant the world to me. Thank you, E. B.!

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow

By James M Jackson

In two days I begin the Great Antarctica Adventure. I’ve read all the preparatory material—at least twice. My camera equipment is packed. Batteries charged. Clothing checked against my master list and set aside. Bird books studied. Google translate loaded onto phone (to make up for my nonexistent Spanish skills). Twenty-five days’ worth of medicine set aside. Passport and cash in wallet. Boarding tickets printed out.

I’m ready to go, already . . . except for one thing. I’m not ready to give up my connection to the internet. We’ll probably have internet access in airports and hotels, but for the nineteen days we are on the ship, it is unavailable—at least at a price I want to think about.

I’ve been working on curbing my obsession to the news of the moment. That’s gone about as well as when I tried to quit smoking by gradually cutting down. Something would happen and poof (or puff), I’d be back at my two-pack a day habit. I’m wondering if constant irritation over the news isn’t as dangerous as my smoking habit was. So, I’m going cold turkey. If there’s a newspaper available at port stops, I’ll catch up, but no more checking eighty-seven times a day to see what . . .well, you fill in the blank; I’d just get upset again.

I’m giving up Facebook, too, but only for the trip. I’ll go missing to my 886 friends (as of this writing), and they will go missing to me. I won’t experience three and a half weeks of their lives, because—and I’m just being honest here—I’m not going to check my friends’ back posts when I return. That admission may even cost me a few friends. You mean I don’t care enough about them and their cat Fluffy that I won’t check out each cat shot, each annoying GIF, each political rant. Yep, and I won’t be able to celebrate your book launch or new grandchild, either. When I return to Facebook, it might be like reading a Russian novel and discovering six pages from the middle are missing. I’ll just plow ahead. I’ll miss about 0.08% of each person’s total life. Sure, some important things will happen, but not many—the effect over my total friends is about 2/3rds of one life.

Admit it—you won’t miss my occasional math-geek or writer-geek post, either. Maybe I’ll schedule one or two, just to remind everyone I’m still alive. I have a Writers Who Kill blog due while I’m traveling, and I turned that in ahead of time.

I won’t waste a second mourning the loss of not having access to my Twitter feed.

Email is something else. I remember when all important communications were delivered by the US Postal Service. Back in those distant times, it might take a week or more for a letter to move from sender to receiver. Only businesses used express mail, and faxes were of low quality, slow (two pages a minute) and were sent over long-distance lines you had to pay for by the minute. Oh, and remember telegrams, with their pre-Twitter form of clipped communication as every letter was expensive. STOP.

I’m a writer – what will happen if an agent or publisher wants to contact me? Or a book club wants to schedule me for a meeting? Or someone wants to buy a signed paperback? I’ll employ an automatic responder: “Sorry, it will take me some time to respond to your email. I’m traveling to Antarctica. Be back on 2/22.”

That reminds me of the time my boss insisted he have a way to contact me while I was on vacation. I was whitewater rafting down the canyons of the Green and Colorado rivers. I thought a while and then told him that I supposed he could hire a helicopter rescue company to track down our raft and airlift me from the sandbar or beach we camped at that night.

Today, however, we’re used to being connected 24/7. One might still be forgiven for not answering an email for a day or two if you’d just had quadruple bypass surgery, but otherwise, we expect immediate responses. Well, other than the automatic responder I’ll set up, that just isn’t going to happen. Unlike my days working for corporations where there was someone to back me up, I’m a sole proprietor. It’s me or it’s not.

If that costs me some book sales, so be it. I’m confident the potential loss won’t cause me any sleepless nights or worrisome days. To find out, you’ll have to wait for my return.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

A Plotting and a Planning by Kait Carson

No resolutions this year. Which is good, considering that although I am writing this in early January (and shivering under SW Florida freeze warnings), by the time you read this I’d have broken most of the resolutions. Turns out there is a reason for that, and a solution, and it’s similar to my writing style.

As 2017 faded into 2018, newspapers and blogs filled with stories suggesting goal setting as the avenue to make lasting changes. Resolutions, they say, are all or nothing and once broken, stay that way. Goals provide a different avenue. They can be broken down into small, attainable, chunks. Something that can be measured and achieved. These small successes build on each other until, voila – on December 31, 2018, the goal is accomplished and the change made and lasting. Resolution success by a different name.

Building a year by goal setting makes perfect sense to a writer. It’s the same way we build novels, stories, and blogs. My natural writing style is pantser. I have an overall storyline (the resolution) but no detail to get from inciting incident to satisfying conclusion (attainable goals). In fact, even though I have a general idea of the story, the perpetrator is often a mystery to me until I complete the first draft, and sometimes the second or the third!

A few years ago, I discovered a book that helped me go from pantser to a combination outliner pantser I call a plotster. The book, Rachel Aaron’s 2,000 to 10,000 talked about planning scenes—not the book—using bullet point outlines. The process was a revelation. Scenes are the building blocks of a story like goals are the building blocks of lasting change. Scene by scene the stories in my books unfolded in an orderly fashion and followed an arc to the ultimate resolution.

Goal by goal, the changes I want to make in my life can build on each other to accomplish the changes I want to make in my life. Last year’s traditional resolutions were failures. Forgotten before the month was out. The jury is still out on whether the program will be successful—it’s only January 6 today, but the principles are familiar.

How about you? Did you make resolutions this year? Or like me, did you decide to set goals?