Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Mystery in the Midlands

by Paula Gail Benson

On Saturday, July 28, 2018, in the “famously hot” city of Columbia, S.C., the Palmetto Chapter of Sisters in Crime and the South East Chapter of the Mystery Writers of America (SEMWA) presented the inaugural Mystery in the Midlands conference (so named because Columbia is at the state’s center, halfway between the Low Country and the Upstate, in an area often designated as “the Midlands”). Since last summer's highly successful SEMWA sponsored Jeffery Deaver program, our two organizations had discussed having another event in Columbia. When Sisters in Crime National paid for Elaine Viets to come to Columbia as part of its Speakers’ Bureau program (many thanks for this terrific program!), we knew we had a fantastic guest of honor and set to building a mystery book festival around her appearance.

Presidents Riley Miller (Palmetto Chapter) and Maggie Toussaint (SEMWA) headed our planning committee, which included Carla Damron, Maxine Henry, Debra H. Goldstein, Lynn Chandler Willis, and myself as liaison and event coordinator for each group. We sent out a call to SinC chapters and SEMWA members in the region, asking who might want to participate in a day of master classes and panels. We were delighted by the overwhelming response. In addition to Elaine Viets, 20 authors served on 4 panels and 3 authors taught master classes.

Jaden (Beth) Terrell
Richard Helms
Debra H. Goldstein
We began the morning with Krispy Kremes and caffeine. (By the end of the day, our excellent assistant Billy Itter, a talented cartoonist, told me he now understood that authors were fueled by regular, not decaffeinated, coffee.) The first presentations of the day were the three master classes featuring Jaden (Beth) Terrell (“Don’t Sweat It. Get It Done!”), Debra H. Goldstein (“Turning Up the Heat with Conflict”), and Richard Helms (“The Brains Behind the Words”). All these classes were well attended and the only complaint I heard was that folks wanted to be in all three at the same time. Our gracious presenters have agreed that we may post their materials on our website. YAY!

Lynn Hesse, Brian Thiem, Roger Johns, Paul A. Barra, Lynn Chandler Willis
Following the master classes, our first panel had Lynn Chandler Willis moderating “Getting Real with Crime Fiction” with Lynn Hesse, Brian Thiem, Roger Johns, and Paul A. Barra. Then, we had a lively interview of Elaine Viets by Cathy Pickens. What amazing experiences Elaine has had in conducting research for her novels and short stories! She thrilled us throughout the day with tidbits of what she had discovered about hotel maids, bookstore employees, and male strippers!

Elaine Viets and Cathy Pickens
Riley Miller
During a buffet lunch, Riley Miller presented a super “Hot Leads” introduction of authors. Each table had a composite of author “mug shots.” Riley told the audience an unknown fact about each author in the composite group. The person who guessed the author won a center piece (each beautifully designed by Donna Robison), then the author had a few minutes to tell the audience about his or her work.

After lunch, we continued with “Hot Shorts: The Art of the Short Story.” I was delighted to moderate for Robert Mangeot, Warren Moore, Karen McCullough, Claire Count, and Elaine Viets. I’ll have to brag a little. Robert Mangeot got an acceptance from an editor during our panel discussion! Another YAY!
PGB, Elaine Viets, Robert Mangeot, Claire Count, Warren Moore, Karen McCullough

The final panels were “Characters That Sizzle on the Page,” a lively consideration with Riley Miller moderating Maggie Toussaint, Stacy Allen, and Reagan Teller, and “Turning Up The Heat: Defining Genres,” a great round up moderated by Sally Handley with Leslie Conner, JR Ripley aka Marie Celine, Kathleen Delaney, and Sharon Marchisello.

Riley Miller, Maggie Toussaint, Reagan Teller, Stacy Allen
As you can see, the “famously hot” theme dominated, but the heat remained outside and on the page. Inside, we had to turn up the thermostat because the air conditioning became a little cold! Thank you to St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church (my home church) for letting us use the facilities!

Sally Handley, Kathleen Delaney, JR Ripley, Sharon Marchisello, Leslie Conner
Our bookseller was Books on Broad from Camden, S.C. Thank you, Kim McCathern, for all you did to ensure you had the authors’ books or could offer them by consignment!

Kim McCathern, Books on Broad
Special thanks to Billy Itter (who took care of us throughout the day), Dean Long (who managed audio), Della Carmichael (who provided assistance and materials from the Columbia Visitors’ Bureau), and Krista Merle Anderson (who created our logo). So many Palmetto Chapter and SEMWA members (and their spouses) worked diligently behind the scenes to make the event a true success. Many thanks to them all!

Elysabeth Eldering
Robert Mangeot
We also had a silent auction, to which many of our authors contributed books. Elaine Viets graciously offered a 20 page critique. Special kudos to Marie Waller, Susan Husman, and Michelle McGee for helping to create and transport the baskets.

The proceeds from the auction (totaling $468) will benefit the My First Books SC -- Midlands program, a statewide partnership led by the Palmetto Project and affiliated with Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. It provides books for any registered child from birth to age five.

Seventy-eight people registered for Mystery in the Midlands this year and almost all attended. We were delighted with the participation and look forward to continuing the new

Won’t you come to Columbia for next year’s Mystery in the Midlands?

Monday, July 30, 2018

I HEART Short Stories by Kaye George

What’s not to like? They’re a fast read in a busy life, and they don’t take long to write. Okay, some writers find it hard to get a whole story concept into a limited word count, but I’m one of the many who prefer writing them. I like writing novels, too, but in more of a Dorothy Parker sense: I hate writing, I love having written.

One of the things I like about writing them most is the opportunity to stretch myself, experiment with different forms, genres, and points of view. I even wrote one in second person present tense once, just to see if I could do it. (“You Can Do the Math” in All Things Dark and Dastardly. I read a novel in third person once and would like to try a story that way, too, some day. I would never attempt a novel in either second singular or third plural!

I have exactly one werewolf story to my credit, but it won a prize at Mysterical-E (“Retransformation” Summer 2008). I’ve long wanted to use the character, Isabel Musik, again and hope another story with her will appear soon.

I’ve done two stories that are takeoffs on fairy tales and I’ve loved writing those. They’re probably actually fantasy, but I’ll admit I did commit murder in both of them. The first, “Henry, Gina, and the Gingerbread House,” came out in Grimm Tales in 2011. The stories here are meant to include crimes and they’re a delightful bunch of tales. Henry (Hansel) and Gina (Gretel) are, true to the original tale, motherless waifs who are persecuted by their wicked stepmother while their father is overseas in the service. The stepmother shoves them into a candy shop called The Gingerbread House to confess to shoplifting. They set up a deal to work off the money owed, but they end up indentured to the witch of a woman who owns the place. The kids make out all right in the end.

The second is my latest! I did a version of “Cinderella” using modern technology. I call it “Ella and the Ball” and it was published in Once Upon a Fact in May of this year. It was a lot of fun giving Ella (she hates the derisive nickname Cinder Ella that her ugly stepsisters use) a self-driving pumpkin-colored coach and a fairy godfather who delivers the gown and glass slippers by drone. I completely changed the ending. It’s still happy, but she doesn’t end up with the prince. He was a bit of a pompous ass.

I must point out the major drawback of writing short stories: the income. There’s almost none. They’re fun to write and fun to read, but there’s not much money in them. Anthologies contain stories by many authors and the proceeds are split among them so that they amount to a few dollars a month. A very few dollars. Recently some of us who put them together have decided to do something different with the royalties from the publishers: give them to charities.

The first Austin Mystery Writers anthology, Murder on Wheels, which I helped put together, decided to give the proceeds to the Austin area Meals on Wheels. Each story in that volume features a wheel in the plot, so that seemed like a good fit. The second volume from that group, Lone Star Lawless, is benefitting the Port Aransas (TX) library, which lost all of their books in a recent hurricane. Day of the Dark: Stories of Eclipse, which I put together, gives over 50% of the proceeds to Earth and Sky. I’m the contact point for all three of these, so I usually add a little to the donation when I send it in to the charity organization. It feels good to do that, a lot better than cashing a check for $0.26!


My collection, A Patchwork of Stories: https://www.amazon.com/PATCHWORK-STORIES-Kaye-George-ebook/dp/B0049B2C2A/
All Things Dark and Dastardly: https://www.amazon.com/Things-Dark-Dastardly-Mary-Loesch/dp/0984657800/
Grimm Tales: https://www.untreedreads.com/store/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=6_262&products_id=286
Once Upon a Fact: http://wildsidepress.com/authors-t/tomlinson-katherine/
Murder on Wheels: https://www.amazon.com/Murder-Wheels-Ramona-DeFelice-Long/dp/147940554X/
Lone Star Lawless: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1479429767/
Day of the Dark: Stories of Eclipse: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B073YDGSL5/

BIO: Kaye George, national-bestselling, multiple-award-winning mystery author, writes five series: Imogene Duckworthy; Cressa Carraway Musical Mysteries; People of the Wind (Neanderthal), the upcoming Vintage Sweets series, and as Janet Cantrell, the Fat Cat cozy series.

You can find her short stories in anthologies and magazines, her collection, A Patchwork of Stories, and her own anthology of eclipse stories, Day Of The Dark, by Wildside Press, July 2017. Most recently, her stories have appeared in Lone Star Lawless and in Once Upon A Fact: Futuristic Fairy Tales. The proceeds from both of these go to charities, Lone Star Lawless to the Port Aransas Library, which lost everything in the last hurricane, and Once Upon A Fact to organizations supporting women in STEM fields. Her writing is sometimes dark, sometimes light. She reviews for Suspense Magazine and lives in Knoxville, TN.

She’s lived in several states, many of which, oddly enough, begin with the letter M. She’s been honored with three Agatha Award nominations and one Silver Falchion. Her blogs are TravelsWithKaye.blogspot.com and KillerCharacters.com. Her webpage is KayeGeorge.com.

Heart from morguefile.com
Dorothy Parker photo from Library of Congress, LC-DIG-ggbain-05631 (digital file from original neg.)

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Out, Out, Damn . . .

(Or how my manuscript grows and shrinks draft by draft)

by James M. Jackson

This week I finished the fifth draft of False Bottom (Seamus McCree #6). I will send this draft to two beta readers. False Bottom is set in the Boston area, and although I visited two years ago specifically to relearn areas this story includes, I hope my Boston-based beta reader will make sure I haven’t screwed something up. (What do you mean, they changed XXX Ave. to one-way in 2006?) My second beta reader will hopefully spot broken plot points or missing character motivations I am too close to see.

My writing process has evolved. Now, first drafts are bare bones, primarily concerned with plot. This story came in at 80,000 words. The second draft sorts out plot problems caused by my writing the first draft without knowing how it would end until I wrote it. I also layer in more information about subplots and the psychological aspects of the novel. That added 5,000 words, increasing the count to 85,000.

Draft three is a clean-up draft. Plot becomes solid, subplots are locked in, character motivations and reactions are in place, and I eliminate or combine all scenes not driving the story. That draft came in at 81,000 words. I was reasonably pleased and sent this draft to my story editor.

In a weeks’ time she shredded my work, pointing out minor plot issues I didn’t see, and major motivation concerns I didn’t consider. (Why would an intelligent person do something as stupid as that?) I have two choices, shoot myself or fix the problems.

Since this is not ghost-written, you are safe to guess I chose to fix the problems. I addressed every issue. Sometimes changing a single word resolves the concern. Usually, I add more detail to allow the reader to better understand the character. Occasionally, I must shorten a scene (enough, already, Jim, I get the point), but more often I need to expand the scene (and what did she feel when that happened?) The manuscript grows to 84,000 words in draft 4.

Draft 5 is the chopping draft. Out go the unjustified “justs” (just eighty-eight of those suckers removed this time because I caught many earlier). Out go 131 “outs”. And 154 times I found ways to eliminate “as.” But, you ask, is Is that the worst? Nope, 382 “buts” are no longer present, and don’t get me started on “that.”

This chopping process is not only about eliminating filler words. Often troublesome words lead me to discover convoluted sentences I can simplify for clarity. To be fair, I also find places I must add a word or two to allow the reader to share the meaning I intend. The combined effect of this revision makes False Bottom’s current draft 1,500 words shorter than draft 4.

My last process before sending the manuscript to the beta readers is an auditory review. I let my computer read the manuscript to me. My ear catches typos, double words, and missing words, that my eyes and spellcheckers have missed.

Authors: how does my process differ from yours?

Readers: does this surprise you?

James M. Jackson authors the Seamus McCree mystery series. Empty Promises, the fifth novel in the series—this one set in the deep woods of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula—is now available. You can sign up for his newsletter and find more information about Jim and his books at https://jamesmjackson.com.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

To Review or Not Review, by Kait Carson

Last week I read a blog that discussed the pros and cons of reviewing books. A non-controversial topic at first glance. Not too many variations on the theme. One either reviews or one doesn’t. Right? Wrong. The blog quickly became a hotly debated topic with representation from both readers and writers who surprisingly, or maybe not, look at reviews from different points of view.
Speaking as a writer, it is fair to say we love reviewers and reviews. Positive five-star reviews more than negative one-star reviews, but even one-star reviews, if honest, are opportunities for writers to learn and improve. In addition to bringing the book to a wider audience, reviews count for writers. Amazon uses them to determine placement perks, publishers use them to determine marketing perks, some advertisers use them to determine if they will accept an author’s money and allow them to purchase an ad.  Readers, of course, use reviews to decide if they want to buy the book. If you were scanning the Amazon pages and you noticed two similar books, one with ten five-star reviews and one with 300 reviews and an overall rating of 4.5, which would you buy?
And that brings me to the second bone of contention brought up in the blog last week. Oftentimes (I’m waving my hand here) if I’m reading on my Kindle and I finish a book, I’ll give a starred review and move on. I won’t go back to leave a narrative review unless the book had exceptional characteristics. A remarkable or unique storyline, made me rethink my everyday world or worldview, or something else in the story that deserves comment. My standard exception to this is the first in a series, or if I have been asked to review. Then I will review the book with a brief synopsis, and will discuss what I liked best, and what worked for me (no spoilers) about the book. Many of the writers suggested that their process was similar.
It was interesting that this was the biggest difference between a reader review and a writer review. Readers wanted more. They wanted to know plot strengths and plot deficiencies, if the characterizations were believable, if the reviewer found the story satisfying. Far more in depth than your average Amazon or Goodreads review.
Each reader (and writers are readers, too) has to find their own reviewer comfort level. There is no right or wrong way, provided the review is honest.
Do you review? Are your reviews stars, narratives, or both?

Friday, July 27, 2018

What makes a great critique group meeting? by Warren Bull

What makes a great critique group meeting? by Warren Bull

Image from Pixabay
I just attended a great meeting of a critique group. I always find our meetings helpful to some extent. But why?
I was glad to see each individual attending because of the quality of the writing and feedback he or she presents. Each person has been in the group long enough to know the rules and informal customs such as limiting the time for reading and discussion so that everyone has the opportunity to read. We show respect for one another as people and writers. Meetings always include humor. I feel relaxed and free to both praise and criticize what is presented. Members appreciate what I say. I try to acknowledge the help I get. I like feedback which zeros in on what could be done better.
It is evident that the quality of everyone‘s writing has improved. I vicariously enjoy the other authors’ successes. I have grown to care about the fictional characters constructed by others writing novels. I ache with them, laugh with them and cheer for them. I enjoy the variety of genres presented for review. Our varied backgrounds allow us to share expertise that as individuals we don’t have.
In this particular meeting we had references to poetry used in feedback about prose. We discussed the vernacular used by characters of medical occupations, use of tight third person point of view versus omnipotent third person, plus the advantages and limitations of first person point of view. We also talked about adapting current English to reflect verbalization of different languages at different periods of history. All of this came naturally from reviewing the work presented.
I believe all the factors came together because none of us felt the need to lecture, to compete, or to show off. None of us felt we needed to defend our work. It takes time to develop the trust required for an excellent critique meeting.
As always, the author chooses what use to make of the feedback offered.
Remember, like Neil Gaiman said, “when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.” 

Thursday, July 26, 2018


I’m working on the tenth book in my Catherine Jewell Mystery Series. Those of you who have read my books know each book goes by the month starting with The Blue Rose which took place in June, followed by Daylilies for Emily in July, and on, and on, and now I’m at book ten in March called Daffodils In March. Several people have asked me what I’ll do when I run out of months. I’ll just start over with another murder in June.

I hadn’t started writing this tenth book for some time and finally started in March the last month so far in my series.  I started with a prologue something I don’t usually do. It takes place with high school seniors at an event center enjoying the music and dancing. A young boy leaves early because he has to return his dad’s car so his dad can get to work and the boy is run off the road deliberately. In chapter one, his body is found murdered after being hit on the head with a rock and shot up with some opioid.

 I’ve never murdered young people before, but in this book I’m writing my topic is about the opioid crisis which is so bad in our area and is responsible for so many deaths. Another boy is found unconscious, but revived in time to save him. He refuses to tell who sold him the drug for fear of being murdered or losing some of his friends..

Both of these boys are high school seniors so I’ve come up with six suspects connected with the high school. The boy who was murdered had apparently seen someone he recognized outside the Event Center where some of the boys had left to smoke cigarettes, and apparently buying drugs. It must have been a man who wasn’t one of the chaperones that he recognized.

So the police chief, whose son Josh is a senior, too, asks his son to list those who work for the high school like teachers, etc. They both decide the villain is not likely to be a female teacher so he gives him the names of two male teachers, a science teacher and a math teacher, and a custodian and three coaches. They decided to eliminate the superintendent and principals because they make enough money not to need to sell the opioids. I’ve already written brief bios for them, but I’ll have to give at least one of them a reason for selling drugs.

This isn't my house or road. I don't take pictures of Amish.

On a much nicer note which will have nothing to do with the opioid crises, I’ve created two Amish families as characters. I’ve been thinking about this for some time because I have Amish families living in my area. The blacksmith for my ponies is Amish and every Sunday morning Amish horses and buggies pass my house going either south or north depending on who is having church service followed by a dinner afterwards. Also, in the evening towards dark a buggy goes north, and I figure it’s a young man or boy in rhumspringa, a time when Amish youth are given more freedom to do what they want, and he’s courting some Amish girl north of me. I hear his buggy returning after I’ve gone to bed. I always worry about him on my road with not only car traffic, but large trucks, too. I’ve also hired Amish workers to put a new roof on my sunroom, too. It’s a rare time when I go to Aldi’s grocery store that I don’t see Amish women with their children shopping especially on a Thursday. They don’t come in buggies. They come in Vans driven by non-Amish called Amish taxis.

I took this picture about ten miles north of me. A fascinating store in Amish country.

And now back to my subject of who to choose to be the murderer. Being a retired teacher I hate to make one of the two a drug dealer although that might be a surprise to a reader. Maybe the night custodian, but then he’s usually in the school working nights. And then there are the three coaches. I’m not a big sports fan so that would be easier for me, but I’m not sure if that wouldn’t be too obvious.
And maybe it’s not anyone who works at the school in any capacity but someone the students recognize, but it has to be someone that the police chief can figure out.

Do you ever have trouble coming up with the villain?
If you have any ideas for me, please let me know.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

An Interview with Shari Randall by E. B. Davis

Welcome back to the seaside village of Mystic Bay, where someone’s been found sleeping with the fishes. . .

Ballerina Allie Larkin is still back home, healing up from a broken ankle and lending a hand at her aunt’s Lazy Mermaid Lobster Shack. But now that the famed restaurant is branching out into the world of catering, Allie’s help is needed more than ever—even on the lobster boat. The last thing she expects to find once she’s out on the bay, however, is the dead body of a beautiful young woman.

When days pass and not even the police can ID the corpse, Allie takes it upon herself to learn the truth about what happened. Her investigation leads her all the way from the local piers to the secluded estates of Mystic Bay’s posh elite. But how can she crack this case when everyone seems dead-set on keeping their secrets beneath the surface?

My mind churned with memories of last night, a night that had begun
so magically, champagne and music and a nighttime glide across the bay to
a multimillion-dollar yacht with a star and a handsome musician.
And ended with my sister smeared with her boyfriend’s blood.
Shari Randall, Against The Claw (Kindle Loc. 2102)

Against The Claw, the second book in Shari Randall’s Lobster Shack Mystery series, will be released by St. Martin’s Press on July 31. I interviewed Shari when her first in the series was released, Curses, Boiled Again, which was a wonderful read. But so often an author spends years developing the first book. It’s the second book, written under time constraints, that is critical to the success of a series. I’m pleased to report that I liked Against The Claw perhaps even more than Curses, Boiled Again.

Why? It’s the authenticity. In cozies, the main character inevitably finds a body. Shari builds scenarios that smack of realism. When main character Allie Larkin innocently finds victims in the course of her life, there is no stretch to believe the contrived. Readers are just as shocked as Allie. It’s the author’s gift and a blessing to readers who are jaded and immune to another body find. There is an emotional connection on the visceral level that enables this authenticity. As a writer, I’m reading and studying.

There’s also a lot of fun reading. Shari must have anticipated the first question I was going to ask because at the very end of the book she supplied the recipe of Aunt Gully’s Love Sauce, which surprised me due to it also being a bisque.

I have no need to welcome Shari to WWK, old-timer here that she is—so just drop by and give Shari a high five and a virtual champagne toast.                                                                                     E. B. Davis

Thank you for inviting me for an interview, EB. Champagne and lobster rolls for everyone!

Miranda, the mother of Allie and Lorel, died giving birth to Allie. How does Allie feel about that?

Allie doesn’t miss her mother the way she would if she’d known her. She does have a sense of longing, a sense that there is a missing piece in her life, but it’s wistful, not painful. Her Aunt Gully, who stepped into the mother role for Allie and her sister, Lorel, has been too much fun and too big a presence in Allie’s life for her to feel a sense of loss.

Does Lorel resent Allie?

We would have a field day if we could get Lorel to a therapist! On some level, I think she does but it’s expressed mainly as exasperation. Allie and Lorel are opposites - Allie is intuitive and artistic, Lorel is businesslike and all about the numbers. Oil and water. Plus, Lorel is the older sister and can be bossy. That’s why their relationship is so much fun to write – they are two characters who want the same things but go about them in different, usually opposing, ways.

Is Allie and Lorel’s difference in perspective due to their mother’s death?

I’ll leave that up to the armchair psychologists among our readers.

Bertha Betancourt plays a pivotal role in Against The Claw. Does Bertha play Bruce Springsteen on her boat?

I love to picture Bertha blasting “Born to Run” while she’s out on the lobster boat with the wind in her hair!
How did Bertha become Mystic Bay’s Lobster Lady?

Bertha’s family has been lobstering in the Mystic Bay area practically since the town was founded in the 1600s. Some folks whisper that the Betancourts were also pirates and Bertha loves playing that up. In my research I’ve discovered many women who captain their own lobster boats, so Bertha is part of a fine tradition.

Why did she offer housekeeping services to those owning homes on islands in Mystic Bay?

Lobstering is a difficult profession and it’s seasonal. Bertha, like many lobstermen and women, often has to take other jobs to make ends meet. Mystic Bay has plenty of wealthy residents who need their stunning vacation homes cleaned.

Is the Lazy Mermaid Lobster Shack open for dinner or is it a lunch place?

It’s open for lunch and dinner. Actually, if Aunt Gully is there before opening and thinks you look hungry, she’ll make you a lobster roll. She has an inner Italian mama in her that makes her want to feed everyone.

Lorel has an MBA, but it seems like she mostly does PR work. What is her Boston job?

Lorel’s just turned 30, but she’s flown up the ladder to vice president at her Boston-based social media company. In Book Three, I’ve given her a stunning office with floor to ceiling windows overlooking Boston Harbor.

Aunt Gully is asked by Stellene Lupo, the owner of a premier modeling agency, to cater her famous July 4th party at her nearby estate. The Lazy Mermaid Lobster Shack hasn’t ever catered before. What were the factors they considered when deciding whether or not to accept the job?

Mostly they considered the insane amount of money that Stellene would pay to get famous Lazy Mermaid lobster rolls for her party. But also everyone is dying to get behind the doors of one of the biggest, most secluded mansions in town to be part of this gala party for celebrities and other one percenters.

Stellene’s estate is called Harmony Harbor, but is there a cove or harbor in Mystic Bay that lends the estate its name?

Yes, Harmony Harbor (the estate) is on Harmony Harbor (the harbor). Sorry if it’s confusing! I dream of having a map in my books (are you listening, St. Martin’s?).

Why does Allie characterize Lorel as looking like “the cool blond heroine of a Hitchcock movie?”

Allie’s like me, she’s a fan of classic Hollywood movies. When I picture Lorel, I see an actress like Kim Novak or Grace Kelly, whose cool exterior masks a passionate interior life. As a side note, I’ve had male readers tell me that Lorel is “hot.”

Have tourists ever stolen Aunt Gully’s mermaidabilia that decorates the Lazy Mermaid Lobster Shack?

Not yet. Great idea, EB!

Are a lobster’s claws sharp enough to cut off a human finger?

It depends on the size of the claw, but you should never, in the words of Hector the cook, get casual around a lobster.

There are times when you break past for present tense. Why?

I’m still figuring things out as a writer. When I’m having Allie go through a stressful or exciting experience, I want to get as much into her head as I can, so the reader can share that experience.

Is the stage a place where Allie can escape?

Absolutely. Since her injury, she’s struggled with her sense of self. She’s spent most of her life working toward a dance career. Here she is, just about to take on dream roles, when she’s injured. If she’s not a dancer, who is she? Luckily for Allie, she’s discovered a love of sleuthing.

After finding a body entangled in a lobster trap, Allie experiences trauma. What happens to her?

She comes very close to going into shock. I don’t want to give too much away, but though she’s affected greatly, Allie’s good in an emergency. When she’s faced with difficult situations, she’s able to kick into another gear to keep functioning.

Allie eats ice cream with her friend Bronwyn, who is in police training, in the morning and with another friend Verity, who owns a vintage clothing shop, at night on the same day. Does Allie have an ice cream problem?

This one hits close to home. One person’s problem is another person’s party.

I didn’t know that ballerinas coated their pointes with rosin. I also didn’t know it was sticky. I thought rosin was a powder. Does the stage get sticky and can that be dangerous?

I learned so much from my research with Boston Ballet. Some dance companies travel with their own floors, which are made of a nonslip material called marley. But sometimes on tour, dancers will work in a theater with a slippery floor – sometimes the custodians will wax a wooden floor so it’s nice and shiny – which is a disaster for ballet dancers. So they’ll step into a box of crushed rosin (same thing that violinists use on their bows) to make their shoes slightly sticky. There’s a whole art and science to dancers treating their footwear to work on different stages. But you’re right – too much rosin can be a problem, also.

Detective Rosato commands a Harbor Patrol boat to go after stolen evidence. When Allie leaps into the boat, does she reinjure her ankle? Will she have more time away from dance?

Can’t give away any spoilers, but there is a Book Three….

Allie makes a promise to stop interfering in police stuff. She lying, isn’t she?

Allie is an honorable woman, so she means what she says – at that moment in time. But there is a Book Three….

Will Aunt Gully get a new van?

I thought she would, but then things took an interesting turn. (sorry about the pun!)

Thank you again for the interview, EB. I love being a Writer Who Kills!
To celebrate Against the Claw, I’m doing a giveaway. Just say hello and let me know if you like lobster, and I’ll send a copy of ATC to one commenter. U.S. only, please!