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

October Interviews

10/07 M.E. Browning, Shadow Ridge

10/14 Alexia Gordon

10/21 Adam Meyer

10/28 Barbara Ross, Jane Darrowfield and the Madwoman Next Door

October Guest Bloggers

10/03 Kathleen Kalb

10/17 S. Lee Manning

10/31 Sharon Dean

WWK Weekend Bloggers

10/10 Jennifer J. Chow

10/24 Kait Carson


For The Love Of Lobster Tales by Shari Randall is now available to download free for a limited time. Go to Black Cat Mysteries at: https://bcmystery.com/ to get your free copy! Thanks for the freebie, Shari.

Keenan Powell recently signed with agent Amy Collins of Talcott Notch. Congratulations, Keenan!

KM Rockwood's "Secrets To The Grave" will appear in the new SinC Chesapeake Chapter's new anthology Invitation To Murder, which will be released by Wildside Press on 10/6.

Congratulations to our two Silver Falchion Finalists Connie Berry and Debra Goldstein!

Paula Gail Benson's "Cosway's Confidence" placed second and Debra Goldstein's "Wabbit's Carat" received Honorable Mention in the Bethlehem Writers Roundtable 2020 short story contest. Congratulations, Paula and Debra!

Susan Van Kirk's Three May Keep A Secret has been republished by Harlequinn's Worldwide Mystery. The WWK interview about the book can be accessed here. We're so glad another publisher picked up this series.

KM Rockwood's "Burning Desire," and Paula Gail Benson's "Living One's Own Truth," have been published in the anthology Heartbreaks & Half-truths. Congratulations to all of the WWK writers.

Please join Margaret S. Hamilton's Kings River Life podcast of her short story "Busted at the Book Sale" here. Congratulations, Margaret!


Wednesday, February 27, 2019

An Interview with Author V. M. Burns by E. B. Davis

I nudged Stephanie. “Look, that’s Freemont.” I pointed with my head in their direction.
Stephanie looked over and whistled. “He’s handsome…too handsome.”
“Agreed.” Freemont, with his fancy suit and manicured nails, looked out of place at the plain red-brick church. The contrast of his immaculate clothes and fastidiously groomed hair looked phony when viewed in the context of the simple elegance and honesty of the small country church. I couldn’t imagine Freemont eating fried chicken.
V. H. Burns, The Puppy Who Knew Too Much, Kindle Loc. 2544

Lilly Echosby and her toy poodle Aggie find a fresh start in Chattanooga, Tennessee, spoiled by the scent of murder . . .

Having solved the shooting death of her cheating husband, Lilly's left behind the drama of Lighthouse Dunes, Indiana, to start over in the hometown of her best friend, Scarlett "Dixie" Jefferson. As she gets settled in her new rented house, Lilly gives Aggie, short for Agatha Christie, her own fresh start by enrolling her in the Eastern Tennessee Dog Club, where Dixie is a trainer.

But drama seems to hound Lilly like a persistent stray. Her cranky new neighbor appears unfamiliar with Southern hospitality and complains that Aggie barks too much and digs up his prized tulips. But what the poodle actually unearths is the buried body of a mysterious man who claimed ownership of the lost golden retriever Lilly recently rescued. Now it's up to Lilly and Dixie to try to muzzle another murderer . . .

Two weeks ago, I interviewed an author whose book also had a cute dog pictured on its cover. This week—puppies!

Maybe it’s the weather and I want at least a two-dog night, but my decision to download the book wasn’t only based on the cover. After researching author V. M. Burns, I knew the writing had to be good because of her 2017 Agatha nomination for The Plot Is Murder, her first book in the Mystery Bookshop series. The Puppy Who Knew Too Much is the second book in the Dog Club Mystery series. She also authors the Detective RJ Franklin series. 

If you read the above quote, you understand that the author’s forte is writing descriptions that transform characters into three-dimensions. That makes for good reading. The characters are distinguishable, no mental groping trying to identify a character, and there are two major, five secondary, and eight walk-on (periodic appearances) characters in this book.

Was the title catchy but unrelated to the plot? Nope, the major characters based the truth and integrity of potential dog owners on a puppy’s reaction and decision. Puppies know and don’t lie!

This is a fun, cozy series I found delightful. Please welcome V. M. Burns to WWK.
          E. B. Davis  

from wdef.com
You live in Chattanooga, Tennessee and set the book there. Lilly’s bestie, Dixie, lives on a nearby mountaintop, but there’s also a river that runs through Chattanooga. Are there dramatic changes in altitude around the city? Did you include real venues in the city or base them on real places?
Altitude isn’t really a problem in the normal sense, not like in places like Denver. Chattanooga is surrounded by the Appalachian Mountains and the Cumberland Ridge. My biggest problem with altitude comes in the fact that I didn’t realize I had a problem with heights until I moved here. I’m originally from Indiana, which is flat. When I moved here, I was amazed at how steep and narrow the roads are leading up into the mountains. So, the anxiety Lilly has about driving up Lookout Mountain to visit Dixie is real. The restaurants and venues in the book are based on real places, although I’ve changed the names. Locals will recognize that Lilly’s favorite coffee shop, Da Vinci’s, bears a striking resemblance to a local Chattanooga coffee shop called, Rembrandt’s. Rarely do I use the actual names of venues in any of my books. After all, I do write murder mysteries.

Set in December, the temperature is mild at sixty-seven degrees. Is this typical or does Chattanooga have its share of snow?
The normal temperature in the winter is mid to upper fifties, but we recently had upper sixties and low seventies right after Christmas. It was wonderful. It does snow (occasionally) in Chattanooga. When it does, there is a rush at the grocery store to buy bread and milk. Most businesses and schools close and they wait until the snow melts, which is a good thing because few residents have mastered the skill of driving on snow and ice. When I first moved to Tennessee, I drove through a blizzard in Northwestern Indiana which was harrowing (even for someone accustomed to driving in snow). I was pleasantly surprised to arrive to temps in the mid-sixties. Mild winters are one of the things I love most about the area.

Agatha or Aggie, Lilly’s toy poodle, is about two-years-old and having behavior problems. Is Aggie’s behavior due to youth or other factors? How old can a dog be and still be a puppy? Does it vary by breed?
Aggie’s behavior problems are due to a lack of training. In the first book in the series, In The Dog House, Dixie mentions that Aggie was rescued from a puppy mill. Often dogs at puppy mills spend their entire lives in cages and are used purely for breeding. These dogs receive no training or socialization. Dogs need to be trained so they know what is expected of them. Dogs and humans can live together happily once boundaries are set and the dog is trained to know what is expected.

Most puppies are considered adults around twelve months. However, different breeds will mature at different times. I have also noticed that my male dog matured slower than my female dog. Age, training, and temperament are all important factors in behavior. Poodles are very smart dogs and need stimulation or they can get into trouble. Lilly needs to learn how to keep Aggie stimulated, and Aggie needs to learn what she should and shouldn’t do.

When the perfect rental house appears too miraculously for Lilly, she doesn’t suspect the nefarious consequences. Is this magical thinking or not looking a gift-horse in the mouth?
Honestly, I think this is the consequences of being stuck in a hotel room with an energetic dog for far too long. I believe Lilly is anxious to get to a place of normalcy where she has her books, her clothes and space for her and Aggie. So, when the rental house falls into her lap, she jumps on it.

Lilly is a CPA, but she hasn’t worked in her profession for over twenty years. I was surprised how easily she adapted to working at the museum, especially given the financial problems caused by the former incompetent financial director. Is she a whiz kid?
You’re right. There have been a lot of changes in the accounting field in the past twenty-five years. However, Lilly kept her CPA license. CPAs, like doctors and lawyers are required to take a certain number of continuing education units (CEU) each year to stay current in their field and to keep their license. The exact number of CEUs needed varies by state. Lilly hasn’t worked outside her home, but at one time she did the accounting for her husband, Albert’s, car business.

Dixie is a lovely, best-friend character. She doesn’t have children, but she has two award-winning standard poodles, whom she ferried around the country to shows prior to their retirement. Are many show-dog people childless, transferring their time, affection, and money from empty-nest to dogs?
That’s an interesting theory. I don’t think I’ve seen any studies on this. However, I can say that competing at dog shows can be expensive and very time consuming. When people with families compete, they often involve the entire family in the process.

Why are German Shepard Dogs also called Alsatians?
The German Shepherd Dog originated in Germany and was referred to as the “Deutscher Schaferhund,” which translated in English to German Shepherd Dog. During World War I, the Allied countries didn’t want anything to do with anything that had “German” in its name. Dog enthusiast believed keeping the name might make people view the breed negatively. In 1917, the American Kennel Club changed the breed name to the “Shepherd Dog.” The British and some European countries referred to the breed as “Alsatians,” which refers to the Alsace-Lorraine region of France which borders Germany. The breed name wasn’t changed back to German Shepherd Dog until 1977.

Some characters in your book seemed shallow, basing their judgments of people on the cars they drove. But people do judge on appearances. Is this the reason for Lilly agreeing to Dixie’s proposal—getting a makeover at the salon or does she just feel like she deserves it after all she’s been through—divorce ending with widowhood, which occurred in the first book in the series, In The Dog House?
In the first book of the series, In The Dog House, Lilly’s daughter, Stephanie, talks about how much her mother sacrificed for her husband and her family over the years. After that, Lilly meets a wise woman, Miss Florrie, on a train. That’s when she decides to stop hanging onto the past and to find her “happy place.” Lilly’s makeover is intended as part of her “fresh start” and a boost to her confidence. After all, she’s been through a lot.

I lived in a neighborhood whose HOA president inspected houses as she walked her cat in a baby carriage around the streets. Does every neighborhood have at least one legalistic, weirdo, judgmental, complaining, bombastic resident?
LOL – I think it’s a requirement.

When Lilly finds two bodies, the local detective acts like she’s his most likely suspect. She’s lucky her daughter, Stephanie, is a lawyer. Stephanie’s boyfriend is a detective, but not a local. Together, they deter the police. But Lilly is very proactive about her defense. Why?
In the first book, Lilly was a victim. Her husband didn’t appreciate her, and she was trying to hang onto someone who didn’t respect her. She lived in a subdivision she didn’t like. She lived in a house that was very similar to all of the other houses because that’s what her husband wanted. She didn’t get a dog because her husband hadn’t wanted a dog. She quit working as a CPA because Albert wanted her to stay home. Lilly is evolving in this second book. She got her dog. She sold the house. She moved to Chattanooga. She is much more independent. However, I think her ordeal hurt her confidence and she is nervous about jumping into another relationship. Over the course of the series, I think readers will notice that Lilly gains self-confidence and takes more responsibility for her happiness.

What is “pica” behavior?
Pica behavior in dogs is basically when a dog continues to eats something it shouldn’t. My cousin had a lab who used to eat socks and washcloths. Every sock had to be accounted for or Tilly would gobble it down. They spent a great deal of money on training and deterrents. However, constant vigilance was the only way they were able to prevent her from eating socks or other small pieces of fabric.

Although Dixie is mindful of dog diets, she proposes Lilly use hot dogs and string cheese, not particularly healthful fare, as training motivators. Why?
Many dogs are motivated by food. When training a dog, you often get great results when using an extra special treat that the dog only gets at certain times. I used to have a poodle who got stressed out whenever I left for work and didn’t want to get in her crate. However, when she saw me get the string cheese, she would willingly get into her crate because she knew that was the only way she would get the cheese. Items like string cheese or hot dogs shouldn’t be given as regular food because they have salt and preservatives that dogs don’t need. However, in small amounts as a special treat, they can work wonders. There are also, nutritious training treats that can be used.

Why do people in the south use their first and middle names like they’re one word, like MaryBeth or JohnRobert?
That is a good question. I wish I knew. However, I have found it happens a lot. I first noticed this when I lived in Indiana and worked for a CPA firm. When the company I worked for acquired a smaller CPA firm in Tennessee, I had to train the new employees. I was given a list of attendees for my class, but I remember being really confused because I couldn’t find many of the people I was supposed to train in our system. When I asked about it, I found that all of the people I couldn’t locate went by a middle name.

My CPA refused to audit the finances of volunteer organizations I was involved in. Yet Lilly gets drawn into two organizations to prepare them for audits. Is this an onerous job few CPAs volunteer to take?
There are a number of differences between finances for not-for-profits and for-profits. I can think of a number of reasons a CPA wouldn’t want to get involved with a nonprofit. I don’t think anyone, including CPAs want to prepare for IRS audits. Lilly is trying to re-establish her work experience and make friends in her new city, so she is willing to take on jobs that others might reject.

When a Tennessee Bureau of Investigation detective, Red, protects Lilly at the request of Stephanie’s boyfriend, she’s attracted to him but denies her attraction, at least at first. Why?
I wanted to balance Lilly’s love life. She is still dealing with a lot of emotional turmoil from her husband’s infidelity. I felt it would be normal for her to struggle with confidence (hence the makeover suggestion). Albert might have been a dud, but he dumped her for a much younger woman. She hasn’t dated in decades and after such a long time, I think she might be reluctant about admitting an attraction in case she misread signals.

How often do you clean out your pocketbook?
You’re supposed to clean it out?

What’s next for Lilly and Dixie?
Things in the rental house haven’t worked out so well for Lilly. She really needs her own place. Lilly becomes involved in the dog club and works on Aggie’s training. The third book in the series, Bark If It’s Murder, will release later in 2019.

Do you have a dog(s)?
Yes, I have two toy poodles. I have a 3-year-old black female toy poodle. Her name was “Lou” when I got her, but I named her after one of my publishers, “Kensington.” I call her “Kenzie.” She is my inspiration for Aggie. I also have a 16-year-old chocolate male toy poodle. His registered name is, “Show Me the Money,” I call him “Cash.” If you read my Mystery Bookshop Mystery Series, Cash is the basis for one of Samantha Washington’s dogs, Oreo. I used to have two chocolate toy poodles, but unfortunately, my female, Coco, died. She was the inspiration for “Snickers” in the Mystery Bookshop series.

With three series, is it time to quit the full-time job?
Interestingly, I just read an article that stated most writers have a full-time job. I suspect it’s because writing doesn’t provide a constant, reliable monthly income. I love writing and hope that I get the opportunity to do this for many years after I retire from my full-time job.


Margaret S. Hamilton said...

Hi, VM, poodle waves from Cincinnati. My two black standards want their morning walk. I grew up with chocolate miniature poodles, but caved to the demands of my kids that we needed a bigger dog. Looking forward to reading your new release!

Shari Randall said...

I've learned so many fascinating things about dogs today! Thank you for a terrific interview, ladies.

Gloria Alden said...

I'm putting this on my list of books to order, I've had collies for years and my collie I have now is a full sized tri-colored collie and Maggie is as sweet as any dog could be.

KM Rockwood said...

So interesting to hear how you weave the dogs so completely into your books! I look forward to reading about them. (Of course, I look forward to reading about the people, too.)