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














September Interviews
9/4 Liz Milliron, Heaven Has No Rage
9/11 Marilyn Levinson/Allison Brook, Buried In The Stacks
9/18 Ellen Byron, Fatal Cajun Festival
9/25 Maggie Toussaint, Dreamed It

Saturday Guest Bloggers: 9/14 Debbie De Louise

WWK Bloggers: 9/7 Valerie Burns, 9/28 Kait Carson

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Congratulations to our writers for the following publications:


Shari Randall will be writing again for St. Martin's, perhaps under a pseudonym. We look forward to reading Shari's Ice Cream Shop Mystery series debuting next year. Congratulations, Shari!

Susan Van Kirk's A Death At Tippett Pond was released on June 15th. Read E. B. Davis's interview with Susan.


KM Rockwood's "Frozen Daiquiris" appears in The Best Laid Plans: 21 Stories of Mystery & Suspense, edited by Judy Penz Sheluk. The anthology will be released on June 18th.

Congratulations to Margaret S. Hamilton for being a finalist in the Daphne Du Maurier contest. Margaret competes in the Unpublished/Mainstream mystery/suspense category.

Congratulations to Shari Randall for WINNING the Agatha Award for Best First Novel. Her book, Curses, Boiled Again was published by St. Martin's last year. Read the interview about the book here. Yay, Shari!

Fishy Business anthology authors include KM Rockwood, Debra Goldstein, and James M. Jackson. This volume was edited by Linda Rodriguez.

Please read Margaret S. Hamilton and Debra Goldstein's short stories (don't ask about their modus operandi) in a new anthology, Cooked To Death Vol. IV: Cold Cut Files

Warren Bull's Abraham Lincoln: Seldom Told Stories was released. It is available at: GoRead: https://www.goread.com/book/abraham-lincoln-seldom-told-stories or at Amazon: https://tinyurl.com/ydaklx8p

Grace Topping's mystery, Staging is Murder was released April 30.

James M. Jackson extends the Seamus McCree series with the May 25th publication of #6, False Bottom.

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Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Ellen Byron Interview by E. B. Davis



Louisiana B&B owner Maggie Crozat kicks up her heels at a country music festival--but she'll have one foot in the grave if she can't bring the killer of a diva's hanger-on to heel.

Grab your tickets for Cajun Country Live!, the pickers' and crooners' answer to the legendary New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. Maggie Crozat, proprietor of the Crozat Plantation B&B, plans to be in the cheering section when her friend Gaynell Bourgeois takes the stage with her band, Gaynell and the Gator Girls.

The festival's headliner, native daughter Tammy Barker, rocketed to stardom on a TV singing competition. She has the voice of an angel...and the personality of a devilish diva. But Maggie learns that this tiny terror carries a grudge against Gaynell. She's already sabotaged the Gator Girls' JazzFest audition. When a member of Tammy's entourage is murdered at the festival, Tammy makes sure Gaynell is number one on the suspect list.

Gaynell has plenty of company on that list--including every one of Tammy's musicians. Posing as a groupie, Maggie infiltrates Tammy's band and will have to hit all the right notes to clear her friend's name.


Fatal Cajun Festival is the fifth book in Ellen Byron’s Cajun Country mystery series. If you’ve read the series, this book advances the backstory in a surprising way. Not telling! But if you haven’t read this series yet, please start at the beginning with Plantation Shudders, the first book in the series.

In Fatal Cajun Festival, main character, Maggie Crozat is having Grandmère problems. First, her grandmother proposed their hometown of Pelican, LA host a musical festival. It should be good for the town and coffers of the business community, but the event’s headliner books the entire Crozat Plantation B & B, a good thing, except that the singer and her entourage have extreme dietary necessities. Maggie’s mother, Ninette, who cooks for the B & B, is flummoxed. While Maggie is working on the festival, Grandmère seems to be having a lot of fun drinking champagne for brunch. There’s no stopping the old gal. Even Gopher, Maggie’s Basset Hound, is stupefied.

Please welcome Ellen Byron back to WWK.                                                    E. B. Davis  

When Grandmère proposes Pelican hosting the music festival, I was surprised they were holding it from Sunday through Thursday. Wouldn’t they want to pick up the weekend tourists? The point of the music festival is to attract visitors before they head down to NOLA for the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, which takes place over the last weekend of April and first of May.

Is the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival real? Yes, and it’s wonderful.

Maggie and Bo are engaged. Why haven’t they set a wedding date? Murders keep eating up their time!

Even though the Crozat Plantation B & B is upscale and accommodating, why do the guests think they can have custom meals? Not all guests do. But these are Hollywood guests, a diva and her entourage, all of whom are used to getting whatever they want. They are not used to hearing the word “No.”

The B & B sponsors a booth at the music festival where they will sell pralines, Maggie’s art, and souvenirs. I thought pralines were pralines. Are there other flavors? Oh, there are so many flavors. I recently bought coconut, banana, rum raisin, and a few other flavors at a great store in NOLA called Bernard’s Pralines. The sweet potato praline I enjoyed from Southern Candymakers in the French Quarter inspired the runner story in this book.

Tammy Barker, a Pelican native, won a reality TV show for her singing and became a star. What issues did she have with Maggie’s friend Gaynell? Why does she still have those issues? Jealousy and another issue I can’t go into without it being a spoiler! As to why she still has those issues, well, we graduate high school, but some people never graduate from the events they experienced.

What are some of the trials and tribulations Tammy has being famous? She hates being told what to do by her manager and record company. She thinks she’s way smarter than them. Is she? You’ll have to read the book to find out. 😉

What is a garçonnière? It’s a separate building from the main house where boys were moved to once they hit puberty to keep their over-active hormones away from fragile and very susceptible young ladies!

Tammy makes all the right moves to apologize to Gaynell for her high school behavior. Yet, Maggie, with her artist’s eye, doesn’t believe Tammy. Why? I think Maggie tends to be a bit of a skeptic in general. Also, as her hostess at Crozat B&B, she’s also seen what a diva Tammy can be, so she’s predisposed not to trust her. Or even like her.

Do you think no matter how old you get, you never really leave high school? I think that’s very true for some people. In my case, it was sixth grade that took me years to get over. I was teased and bullied. Those scars stayed with me for decades.

What is Döstädning? And why is Maggie’s grandmother doing it? It’s a Swedish ritual that loosely translates to “death cleaning” where they downsize and organize their belongings so when they die, their survivors aren’t as burdened with managing the detritus of their lives. Grandmère read about Döstädning and decided that since she’s in her early 80s, it would beneficial to everyone if she applied it to what she’d accumulated over her life time to save her survivors the grief and trouble of that.

Why doesn’t Gaynell get mad when Tammy invites the Gator Girls, Gaynell’s band, to rehearse with her? She’s trying to be nice, but she’s also in denial. She wants to believe that Tammy is sincere about letting bygones be bygones.

Why are the Gator Girls so fickle and disloyal? Hollywood, baby! They’ve got stars in their eyes. They’re thinking, let’s see, hitch our wagon to someone who might be a murderer (Gaynell), or to someone who’s already a big star? It’s selfish, but it’s also survival.

I share an aversion with Maggie. I hate man buns. What’s Maggie’s reason for disliking them? Probably the same as yours. And mine! I just find them… I don’t know… ridiculous and silly-looking. So I gave that reaction to Maggie.

When one of the Gator Girls lies to Gaynell and Maggie knows it was a lie, why doesn’t she tell Gaynell? She doesn’t want to hurt her friend’s feelings.

Maggie tries to go undercover to discover more about Tammy’s band members, but she doesn’t make for a good groupie. Why isn’t this the best role for Maggie? She’s a preternaturally honest person, so pretending to be someone she’s not is hard for her. Plus, faking interest in other men makes her feel disloyal to her fiancé.

What is a “parterre” garden? I don’t think I can say it any better than Wikipedia: “A parterre is a formal garden constructed on a level substrate, consisting of plant beds, typically in symmetrical patterns, which are separated and connected by paths. The borders of the plant beds may be formed with stone or tightly pruned hedging, and their interiors may be planted with flowers or other plants or filled with mulch or gravel.”

What is decomposed granite? How do they make it decompose? It’s like gravel but much finer – almost dust-like – and often has a lovely pale brown color, depending on the type of granite it’s decomposed from. I have no idea how it becomes decomposed, so I looked it up. It’s formed by the natural erosion and weathering of solid granite.

Who is Zenephra? She’s a lovely, motherly woman who has a special connection to one of Tammy’s musicians, a damaged young man named Toulouse.

What’s next for Maggie, Bo, and perhaps, Grandmère? I’m super excited because my next Cajun Country Mystery revolves around Halloween. Be prepared for some interesting Louisiana superstitions, a poisoning, and a play being performed in a derelict cemetery filled with deteriorating above-ground tombs!

  


Tuesday, September 17, 2019

My Mysterious Adventure


by Paula Gail Benson

Have you heard about authors writing a short story that later is developed into a novel? Like Sue Monk Kidd’s The Secret Life of Bees?

I’m giving Writers Who Kill this exclusive. The blog message you are about to read may one day be developed into a bestselling (how I wish!) novel, called “Killing Paula.” (After hearing this story, a friend gave me that title, along with some excellent plot suggestions, and told me I could use them. Thank you, Phil Lenski. I’ll be sure to mention you in the acknowledgements.)
HorryCounty.org
Dear readers, I begin with my journey to Myrtle Beach to meet with cousins and friends and enjoy a lovely vacation. I had dodged Hurricane Dorian, which came through the week before. (I would say dodged the bullet,” but don't let me get ahead of myself.) The weather was hot, but beautiful, and I was anticipating wonderful company and food.

SC History Trail
WMBF News
To make the journey, I decided to get a rental car and signed up for roadside assistance. The trip to the beach was delightful. I enjoyed seeing sights I remembered from past travels.

On my route, I drove through the small town of Gallivants Ferry, a place which has been known for generations as the location of political stump meetings. In fact, the Democratic Presidential candidates were scheduled to appear there for a debate on the Monday after I returned home.

Just as I passed the Gallivants Ferry Convenience Store, I heard a loud pop and an electronic notice appeared on the dashboard that my tire pressure was low. I didn’t need to be informed. I’ve experienced flat tires before.

I pulled into the store’s parking lot. Sure enough, the rear tire on the driver’s side was flat as a chunk of butter sizzling in a hot pan. My roadside service paid off. A local company was dispatched and arrived sooner than predicted.

When my rescuer jacked up the car to put on the spare, he pointed to the dent in the rim of the hub cap. It had a red tint around the edge. We were both puzzled about what might have caused the damage.


I conferred with my experts (friends who know about guns and mysteries) and learned that some bullets contain a red substance that leaves a mark. A friend sent me a Guns and Ammo article about the FBI’s “new duty load” with a red interior.
From: https://www.gunsandammo.com/editorial/the-story-behind-the-fbi-new-duty-load/325989
The rental car company asked me to trade the car for another, so I wouldn’t be putting a lot of miles on the spare. After getting supper and checking into the hotel, I headed for the rental car office at the Myrtle Beach airport.

In the humid heat of the night, I followed the parking lot arrows to a place where a woman (I later learned her name was Nancy) sat in a lounge chair with a cooler. She checked me in and opened the trunk to look at the damaged tire. That was when we discovered the hole. Please consider the evidence:



What does that image suggest to you?

Nancy shook the tire. We heard no noise and no bullet fell out, but the hole was consistent with a gun shot. Although, it also might have been caused by my hitting some rebar in the road. Or, another rental car associate suggested, it looked as if something inside the tire might have exploded, bursting the tire and denting the rim.

Meanwhile, back to my bestseller. My friend Phil gave me his list of potential suspects who could be “aiming” for me, including someone who might have made a ghostly appearance. Now, to put it all together in a plausible story!

Anyway, that’s how I began what became a very happy vacation, with an experience that has stimulated my writing brain and, with tremendous luck, could be a bestseller. Remember, you heard it here first!

Have you ever had an experience like mine?

Monday, September 16, 2019

I Can’t Write the Songs, but I Write to Songs by Debra H. Goldstein

When I was four years old, my parents took me to the Papermill Playhouse in New Jersey to see The King and I. Their theory was that if I could sit through a show there, they could start taking me to Broadway shows. From the first notes of the overture, I became a musical junkie. Luckily, my parents encouraged and enabled my addiction.

To this day, I’d rather see a musical than any other kind of show. Some may think it strange when actors burst into song, but to me, the rendition of lyrics enhances my experience. Although the music may help establish mood for many, it is the lyrics that fascinate me. Because of time and phrase limitations, songs have to be written in a very precise manner. Each verse needs to build upon the one before it and the refrain must reinforce the idea being conveyed.

Beginning in the 1940’s, rather than writing musical revues, composers began integrating important

concepts into their lyrics. Sometimes, the songs made points that couldn’t be said specifically in the show. A study of the lyrics Oscar Hammerstein II penned demonstrates consistent themes and lessons
about social issues including racism, prejudice, and tolerance. Examples include “You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught” (South Pacific) “Ol’ Man River” (Showboat), the score of Carousel (domestic violence), and the Sound of Music (the impact of the Nazi takeover of Austria).
Stephen Sondheim often attributed his approach to lyrics as being influenced by Hammerstein. In his

own right, Sondheim’s carefully worded songs in shows like West Side Story, Company, Into the Woods, and A Little Night Music move the story along while commenting on the goals, dreams, and actions of people as life progresses. More recent shows like Hamilton and Dear Evan Hansen incorporate different styles from rap to lyrical prose to address historical themes, lust, the highs and lows of power, suicide, and the angst of teenagers and parents.

I am not a songwriter. I can’t focus on a single word or thought concisely enough to produce a powerful lyric, but I use lyrics to inspire writing moods. When I have the right show music on
in the background, my thoughts are clearer and writing smoother. By the same token, certain songs agitate me or simply break my concentration.


Maze in Blue, my first book, was written with They’re Playing Our Song and 1776 playing over and over in the background. When I tried changing to Wicked, my ideas froze. Ironically, the songs from Frozen paced me for Should Have Played Poker. In writing One Taste Too Many and Two Bites Too Many, the first two books in Kensington's Sarah Blair series, I’ve opted to keep the Broadway channel playing, but I’ve noticed I usually work out difficult scenes to music from In The Heights and Hamilton.

Do you write to music? Any special type? If you are a music junkie like me, what are your favorites?

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Why Writers Kill



While coming up with a topic for today’s blog, I asked for ideas from my “street team” on Facebook. The fabulous Dru Ann Love asked why we write murder mysteries. Why not a mystery without a murder?

Considering we named our blog Writers Who Kill, I thought this was the perfect subject to write about.


I have read a couple of mystery novels in which no one died. To be honest, I kept waiting for the body to show up. Maybe I’m a little sadistic, but I was disappointed when, at the end of the book, the missing person turned up alive and well.

(Just to be clear, I’m only sadistic where fiction is concerned. In real life, I always pray the missing will show up unharmed and weep when they don’t.)

But I digress.

As a writer, I’ve never attempted to not kill anyone in my long fiction. Short fiction? Absolutely. But to sustain the tension for an entire novel, the stakes have to keep rising. How can you raise the stakes any higher than the threat of a life lost? In thrillers, failure usually promises many lives lost.

Fear of being killed. Fear of losing a loved one. And a demand for justice when a life is taken. Those are the biggies to keep the characters driven and the readers turning the page. At least for me.

Another question from my street team, this one from Fran Joyce, involves the other side of the homicide equation—the killer. Fran wanted to know about their guilt and how I decide whether the killer is overcome with guilt or devoid of it. This one offers a lot of variables, which, for me, is what keeps it interesting.

I’ve created killers who were vicious and cold-blooded. I’ve also created killers who are every bit as sympathetic as their victims. In fact, several of my favorite characters in my books have been the so-called villains.

My writing may have been influenced by a favorite early 1970s TV show, Alias Smith and Jones. The western comedy revolved around two outlaws who attempt to go straight. The premise is spelled out in the opening narration of the pilot episode:

Into the West came many men. Some were good men and some were bad men. Some were good men with some bad in them. And some were bad men with some good in them. This is the story of two pretty good bad men.

When I create a villain—or a hero for that matter—this passage, decades later, still plays in my head. I don’t want a character who is completely good or completely evil. They’re no fun to write.

Another quote (and I don’t know from whom it originated) says, “every villain is the hero of his own story.

So whether the killer is heartless and feels completely justified, or whether the killer is consumed by guilt for his actions, I want him to have a motivation that the reader can relate to even if they can’t forgive.

Dear readers, what about you? Do you need a murder in a mystery novel to hold your interest? And do you prefer a villain you can despise? Or one who tugs at your heart a little? 

Saturday, September 14, 2019

The Pantster’s Guide to Writing a Mystery By Debbie De Louise




I first learned what the term “pantster” (writing by the seat of your pants) meant when I read an article about writing. Up until that time, I thought everyone wrote the way I did. I came up with an idea, I mulled it around in my mind, and I sat down and typed the story. The only notes I took were a character sketch and a rough plot. I didn’t have the ending set and changed it as the manuscript developed. I still write that way, but I’ve seen articles that fellow reformed Pantsters have written about how they now plot their books and consider themselves plotters. I have no plans to change, and I know there are many other Pantsters who feel the same.

For those plotters and others who would like to try their hands at pantster writing, here are a few guidelines:

1.     Seek ways to feed your curiosity. The Pantster is on the lookout for great ideas 24/7. While they watch TV; read other books; shop; work; travel, attend movies, plays, and other events, etc. they’re filing away these experiences for future use and mingling them with their memories and imagination. This creative dough mix is later baked into the plot of a new book.
2.     Explore the Concept. Once the Pantster has an idea and is motivated to develop it, she composes a brief note about it, either on paper or typed on her computer. Unlike the Plotter, this note is short and doesn’t consist of an outline; and, while it may change once the Pantster begins writing, it isn’t expanded upon beyond the author’s mind.
3.     Start at the beginning. I know that seems simple, but it’s more complicated than you think. Plotters agonize over the true starting point of their novels because they know openings are important. Pantsters dive right into their stories and worry about editing everything once the first draft is complete.
4.     Let your characters lead.  This is one of the main points of Pantster-writing. Your characters direct your scenes and help create your book’s twists and ending. In the second book of my Cobble Cove mystery series, Between a Rock and a Hard Place, a character ended up being killed whom I hadn’t planned on murdering. This happened again in my current book of the series, Love on the Rocks. As a Pantster, if I’m surprised by the actions of my characters, I assume readers will be, too.

 












5.     Feel, don’t Think. When you write, don’t edit your words. Just let them flow. At the same time, imagine yourself in your characters’ bodies. Use your senses to see, feel, hear, and smell what is happening in the story. This will make a more realistic experience for your readers. Plotters use this technique, too.
6.     If you get stuck, slow down but don’t stop. Plotters feel that crafting outlines and taking copious notes will help prevent writer’s block and/or guarantee that they finish their book. Pantsters, however, have learned to avoid writing roadblocks by slowing down or taking a break for a day or two and then starting again with fresh eyes. That’s enough to start the wheels rolling again and usually results in a more creative path than that taken by a Plotter.
In my current work-in-progress, there was a point where I wasn’t sure what to write next. By using the above method, I overcame this issue and am now continuing the story to its conclusion. Think about the times you lost a report that you were writing for school or when you accidentally deleted a document from your computer. After the screaming and crying, if you went back and began again, you found that you were able to remember most of your work and wrote it better the second time.
7.     End the story at the end. Plotters pride themselves on knowing an ending ahead of time because they have their plots ironed out from the beginning. Pantsters only have a vague idea of their endings. For mystery authors, this may mean that they don’t know the killer until late in the story. I’ve changed the murderer (and the motive if necessary) in many of my books, and readers have told me they were surprised by the endings and couldn’t guess who-dun-it.  In my latest mystery, Sea Scope, I even changed the ending during the final edits.



These steps are only guidelines. Not all Pantsters write the same way. Some combine techniques used by Plotters but still consider themselves Pantsters. There’s no right or wrong way to write. Authors can experiment with different methods, genres, and points-of-views. That’s the fun of writing.

Author’s Bio:
Debbie De Louise is a reference librarian at a public library. She’s the author of seven novels including the four books of her Cobble Cove cozy mystery series. Her latest release, Sea Scope, is a psychological mystery. She lives on Long Island with her husband, daughter, and three cats. 
You can connect with Debbie at the following sites:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/debbie.delouise.author/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Deblibrarian
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2750133.Debbie_De_Louise
Amazon Author Page: http://amzn.to/2bIHdaQ
Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/debbie-de-louise
Website/Blog/Newsletter Sign-Up: https://debbiedelouise.com

Friday, September 13, 2019

Writers and Mistakes by Warren Bull


Writers and Mistakes by Warren Bull



Image by Daniela Holzer on Upsplash

To be human is to err. Authors are people too. Yes, we are.
When Naomi Wolf appeared on the BBC to promote her forthcoming book, Outrages: Sex, Censorship and the Criminalization of Love, the interviewer, journalist Matthew Sweet pointed out two serious problems with her work. First, she assumed “sodomy” meant homosexuality, but in one key case in her book, it referred to child sexual abuse. Second, part of her book was based on  a source that turned out to be inaccurate, she wrote the 19th-century legal term “death recorded” meant the convict was executed, but it actually meant a death sentence wasn’t carried out because the prisoner was pardoned and freed. “I don’t think any of the executions you’ve identified here actually happened,” said Sweet.
After verifying Sweet’s observations, Wolf admitted her errors. On Twitter, she said her research had not been thorough enough. Wolf said she is making corrections and thanked the interviewer. “My thanks to you is substantial” [the records]“deserve to be poured over.”
For additional information see:

I was reminded of what happened when Lynne Mc Taggart contacted Doris Kearns Goodwin and pointed out that sections of The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys, published in 1987 were taken directly from Mc Taggart’s Kathleen Kennedy: Her Life and Times.
Goodwin admitted her errors. Although she had made some references to Mc Taggart’s book, Goodwin had quoted directly from Her Life and Times without indicating the material used was a quotation. In other instances, Goodwin did not sufficiently reference her use of content from Her Life and Times. The author voluntarily stepped down from being a Pulitzer Prize judge and gave up her position as a commentator on the television show New Hour. The publisher pulverized paperback editions of the book. Goodwin made corrections in later editions of the book. Goodwin and Mc Taggart reached a settlement acceptable to both writers. Goodwin changed the way she did research taking more care to be careful of her use of source material.
For additional information see:

Wolf has not been accused of making similar mistakes in her other books. Goodwin has not been accused of plagiarism since 1987.
Goodwin was roundly criticized. I expect Wolf will be too.
My point is that authors can and do make mistakes. We try our best to be as accurate as possible, but errors creep in. To my mind what these two authors demonstrate is that admitting our errors, correcting them as much as we can, and making amends is the best way to act when we make mistakes.
I realize that something like this could happen to me. If it does I hope my response is as honest as graceful as Wolf and Goodwin’s.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

The Bride Wore Flip Flops: A Cape Cod Beach Wedding




By Margaret S. Hamilton






My daughter Lizzie and her husband Greg celebrated their Cape Cod beach wedding on August tenth. I took notes for future stories: the beachside rehearsal dinner and bonfire, the bridesmaids’ luncheon in nearby Woods Hole, watching the tent on the beach go up, the high winds and pounding waves during the wedding, the magical moment when the wind and surf died. As the sun set, guests and band members emptied the reception tent to take photos on the beach. A Saturday morning open water race offered potential as a crime scene, populated by a plethora of fictional evil relatives.




My daughter had planned every minute of the wedding weekend. I handed out band-aids and aloe from my well-stocked travel kit and followed my assigned schedule. We grabbed family beach time: my husband immersed in a historical tome while the girls shared a copy of Semple’s Where’d You Go, Bernadette and the boys tossed a football. We body-surfed, a skill my father had taught me and I, in turn, had taught my children.




The four-day weekend was filled with memories of my childhood summer vacations at my grandparents’ cottage at the other end of the Cape, followed by my children’s visits to the same beach. My husband and I also had an August Cape Cod wedding, but not on the beach.

I hadn’t been to the Cape since 2006, after my parents died. As I strode down Main Street in Falmouth one evening, wearing khaki shorts and a baggy cotton sweater, I noticed passersby nodding and saying hello. Yes, we could have attended college together. Or perhaps they knew my parents, or remembered me from summers working in a Chatham restaurant kitchen. With four generations of Cape Cod roots, I was home.


























Wednesday, September 11, 2019

An Interview with Marilyn Levinson (Allison Brook) by E. B. Davis


Librarian Carrie Singleton is building a haven, but one of her neighbors is misbehavin'. Can resident spirit Evelyn help Carrie catch the culprit who made her a ghost?

In winter, the Haunted Library is a refuge for homeless townspeople. When a group purchases a vacant house to establish a daytime haven for the homeless, Carrie offers the library as a meeting place for the Haven House committee, but quickly learns that it may be used for illegal activities.

As the new Sunshine Delegate, Carrie heads to the hospital to visit her cantankerous colleague, Dorothy, who had fallen outside the local supermarket. She tells Carrie that her husband tried to kill her--and that he murdered her Aunt Evelyn, the library's resident ghost, six years earlier.

And then Dorothy is murdered--run off the road as soon as she returns to work. Evelyn implores Carrie to find her niece's killer, but that's no easy task: Dorothy had made a hobby of blackmailing her neighbors and colleagues. Carrie, Evelyn, and Smoky Joe the cat are on the case, but are the library cards stacked against them?

Most of you know that WWK’s Marilyn Levinson writes under the name Allison Brook. Buried in the Stacks is the third in her Haunted Library mystery series, which was released by Crooked Lane Books yesterday.

I interviewed Marilyn about the first book in this series, Death Overdue, in 2017. I’m happy she joined WWK this year and wanted to interview her about Buried in the Stacks. Feel free to say hello and ask questions of Marilyn about her series using the comments link below.

Welcome, Marilyn!                                                E. B. Davis

Hello, Elaine! I'm happy to be part of Writers Who Kill and to be interviewed by you once again.

The homeless have taken to spending time in the library, especially since the onset of winter. Does this happen at all libraries?

Yes, very often when the weather turns cold. Many homeless seek out comfortable places like the library where they can spend their days until it's time to return to their shelter for dinner and to sleep.

Sally, Carrie’s boss, appoints her the new Sunshine Delegate, which entails sending cards or flowers to ill library staff or those who have a death in the family. When odious Dorothy ends up in the hospital after a fall on black ice, why does Carrie decide to visit her?

Sally suggests that Carrie visit Dorothy in the hospital. Carrie knows that this is more than a request. She also does it for Evelyn Havers' sake. Evelyn, the library ghost, is very fond of her niece Dorothy, despite her unpleasant disposition.  

Doris and Henry Maris are middle-class but are now homeless. How does this happen?

Henry is becoming senile and made several bad decisions that ruined their business. The Marises eventually lose their store and their home. They go to live with their son, but he, too, loses his home when he and his wife separate.

Dylan, Carrie’s boyfriend changes his business plans, which upsets Carrie. Why?

Dylan's original plan was to set up his investigator's office in Clover Ridge. When his boss Mac invites Dylan to become a partner, they both decide that New Haven would be a better locale for the new office as it's closer to Manhattan. Carrie is upset because this means that Dylan will be working half an hour away instead of in Clover Ridge.

Dorothy is convinced mild-mannered Fred, her husband, is not only responsible for her injury, but also for her Aunty Evelyn’s death. Why would she think that?

Someone knocks Dorothy down. Fred is the first person she sees after being out cold for a minute or two. Seeing Fred triggers the memory of her Aunt Evelyn's death years ago when Evelyn died as the result of a fall on ice. That same night, Dorothy suddenly remembers, Fred came home late. In her confused state, she thinks Fred knocked her down as well as Evelyn, who died as a result of her fall.

Ernie Pfeiffer is a crook who swindled Evelyn and her husband. Why would Fred want to invest with him?

Ernie swears that this investment is on the up-and-up. Fred is naïve and believes him. Fred wants to believe it's true because of the promise of big returns on his investment

Is Carrie obsessed with eating avocados?

Like her author, Carrie eats avocados often. She likes the way they taste and knows that they are healthy.

Although Evelyn is a ghost, Carrie learns she hasn’t acted in life or death angelically. What brought Carrie to that conclusion?

One life lesson that Carrie learns in Buried In The Stacks is that everyone has his or her dark side and is capable of spiteful, dishonorable behavior. Before Sally became the library's director, Evelyn helped her predecessor with financial records, etc. Sally refused Evelyn's help in a tactless manner and the two women clashed. Carrie realizes that Evelyn encouraged her to take the head of programs and events position, not because she thought she'd be great at the job, but in hope that she'd be a thorn in Sally's paw. Also, Evelyn put salt in the grumpy computer librarian's coffee when he was less than civil to her.
Most importantly, Evelyn holds back important information regarding investigations if there's a chance that it will make her nieces and nephew look bad.

Carrie suffers from illogical thinking. “…if I couldn’t convince her to tell me the truth, I should have told John what she’d said in the hospital. Then it would have been John’s fault that she was killed and not mine.” (Kindle Loc. 1130) Why does Carrie think John or she were responsible for Dorothy’s death?

Carrie is suffering survivor's guilt and feeling somewhat responsible for not preventing Dorothy's death. If only she'd told John that Dorothy suspected that her husband had tried to murder her! Then she'd no longer be responsible because the problem would be in the hands of the police. And then if Dorothy died, according to her illogical thinking, John would have been responsible for Dorothy's death.

Evelyn fears she exacerbated the rivalry Dorothy had with her younger sister and brother by bequeathing her estate to Dorothy. Why did Evelyn make Dorothy her sole heir?

Dorothy's brother and sister kept on hitting Evelyn up for small loans that they had no intention of repaying. Evelyn got tired of this and decided to leave all of her money (not very much, after losing most of it to one of Ernie Pfeiffer's schemes) to Dorothy, who was her favorite. 

Why does Carrie have great empathy for Evelyn even if she doesn’t always reveal everything she knows to Carrie?

Carrie is very fond of Evelyn. She knows that she holds back information when it might implicate one of her nieces or nephew.

Carrie thinks, “…how sad it was that we weren’t able to choose the people we love.” (Kindle Loc. 1617) Is that true? Don’t we have a choice?

Ah, books can and have been written about this subject. I think it's true that we can't choose the people we love. Sometimes our choices are disasters. Evelyn loves Dorothy and makes excuses for the bad things she does. As for the question—do we have a choice? It's not possible to "choose" a feeling. Only our ability to act on it.

Gillian has lousy taste in men. Will she ever wise up?

Let's hope. She falls for men who are good-looking and forgets to look for indications that will reveal character. Carrie meets a nice young man in the fourth book of the series. In book five, she considers introducing him to Gillian.

When Gillian tells Carrie Haven House will be used after hours for illegal activities, Carrie gets depressed turning it into self-doubt. After her upbringing, is she still idealistic?

Carrie is still idealistic. She joins the group that is bringing Haven Home to the homeless population and is disgusted when she learns it's a front for a group of people intent on making money. She's also an activist and helps devise a solution for the future of Haven House.

Are all families dysfunctional?

More books could be written about this. <g>  I wouldn't go so far as to say all families are dysfunctional, but it's my experience that people have many sides to them. People have quirks, bad habits and worse that impact their loved ones.

Who is Ken Talbot and how does Carrie know him?

Carrie meets Ken Talbot, a lawyer, in Death Overdue, the first book in the Haunted Library mystery series when Ken accompanies members of the Foster family to the library to hear retired Detective Al Buckley talk about his newly discovered evidence concerning the murder of Laura Foster fifteen years earlier. Ken and Carrie forge a friendship and she occasionally calls on
him for help regarding legal matters.

Carrie has complicated relationships with her parents. Although her father was a thief, she has a better relationship with him than with her mother. Why?

Carrie always adored her father and was very hurt when Jim spent periods of time away from the family, even when he wasn't behind bars. Jim shows up suddenly in Read and Gone, asking Carrie to help him out with a "little problem" that she rightfully refuses to touch. But when he's accused of murder, she staunchly defends him though she refuses to call him "dad." Jim loves Carrie and proves it time after time until she sees that it's true. He even gives up his life of crime.
Carrie's mother is not very maternal. She resents having been thrust into the position of a single parent. She's self-absorbed, and critical rather than supportive of Carrie. When Carrie was at her lowest point and asked to stay with her mother and her husband, she was refused.

What’s next for Carrie?

In Checked Out For Murder, Carrie's mother arrives in Clover Ridge with her husband and a movie crew to film a romantic comedy. Meanwhile, Carrie makes a new friend who, so Evelyn tells her, used to live in Clover Ridge until her father was murdered twenty years ago. More murders, more complications, more fun!