by Shari Randall
Please welcome Becky Clark to Writers Who Kill. She’s the author of the sassy Dunne Diehl mysteries, the Mystery Writer series, and the new Crossword Puzzle series. The first crossword mystery is PUZZLING INK and it launches on November 3rd.
Becky is giving an ebook to one lucky commenter! I’ll post the winner at the top of this blog on Oct. 13, 2020, at 9 a.m. ET.
Congratulations, Melissa! You are the winner of Becky Clark's
giveaway. She will contact you at the email you posted.
1 DOWN: DEATH BY HOMICIDE
Quinn Carr wishes her life could be more like a crossword puzzle: neat, orderly, and perfectly arranged. At least her passion for puzzles, flair for words—and mild case of OCD—have landed her a gig creating crosswords for the local paper. But if she ever hopes to move out of her parents’ house, she can’t give up her day job as a waitress. She needs the tips. But when a customer ends up dead at her table—face down in biscuits and gravy—Quinn needs to get a clue to find whodunit . . .
6 LETTERS, STARTS WITH “M”
It turns out that solving a murder is a lot harder than a creating a crossword. Quinn has plenty of suspects—up, down, and across. One of them is her boss, the owner of the diner who shares a culinary past with the victim. Two of them are ex-wives, her boss’s and the victim’s. A third complication is the Chief of Police who refuses to allow much investigation, preferring the pretense their town has no crime. To solve this mystery, Quinn has to think outside the boxes—before the killer gets the last word . . .
Becky, welcome to Writers Who Kill! Your new series features Quinn Carr, a crossword constructor. I love crossword puzzles, too! We’re cruciverbalists!
I’m so excited to be here and I love, love, LOVE that you know that word, Shari! I put it in one of the puzzles I constructed recently, and many of my crossword-enthusiast testers didn’t know it. But that is one of the things I like about solving crosswords … learning new words!
Why crossword puzzles (and no you can’t say, why not?)
I would never say that! In fact, I’m very glad you asked this. My dad is why crosswords. I grew up in a big family (eight kids, two parents, several dogs), all of whom are big readers and talkers. We love words and games—especially word games. I know some people think that solving crosswords is a group activity, but they are wrong. It’s one of the few pursuits that should always be solitary, imho. Dad believed the same. I remember him silently working on the newspaper crossword when I was a kid. Finally, my curiosity got the better of me and I asked him about it. He explained it to me, gave me some tips he’d learned along the way as well as a book of crosswords of my own, and I was hooked. My dad wasn’t one to gush, but I knew he was proud when I started doing puzzles in ink. So that’s how the puzzle part comes in. But when I was mulling about another cozy idea to pitch to my agent, I knew my main character Quinn would be dealing with her Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. What better hobby could there possibly be for someone with organizational OCD than constructing crosswords? Those perfectly straight lines, that beautiful symmetry, only one right answer. Nirvana!
Of course, that meant I had to figure out how to construct my own puzzles, which, if you’ll allow me to whine a bit, IS CRAZY HARD! Dad didn’t live long enough to work any of the puzzles I’ve constructed or to read Puzzling Ink, but I think it would have tickled him.
Tell us a bit more about Quinn.
Like I said, she has some OCD to contend with and she creates the crosswords for the local paper, which she has done secretly since she was in high school. (She already felt nerdy enough, she didn’t need kids knowing that too.) She always wanted to be a police officer, but when she was halfway through the hiring process, her OCD reared up and smacked her hard. After trying to regroup on her own in Denver for several years, she finally had to move back home with her parents in Chestnut Station, out on the Colorado prairie. She got a pity job at the local diner, and keeps creating puzzles in secret, which comes in handy because the police chief in town hates to admit there is any crime there so he either sweeps it under the rug, or just tosses the easiest person in jail. But the chief is an avid cruciverbalist—there’s that word again—and Quinn is able to sway his investigation (or lack thereof) by the subliminal clues she sticks in the puzzles just for him.
The world of cozy mysteries is full of characters with unusual names. The main character of your Mystery Writer series has one of my favorites: Charlemagne Russo. Where did the inspiration for that name come from?
I’m so glad you like Charlee. I spend quite a bit of time on the names in my books. I’m always trying to find names that are memorable, lyrical, have some deeper meaning (even if it’s only deep to me), a little bit off the beaten path, and don’t share any of the alphabet with any other characters. At least to begin their names, obviously there are only 26 letters and if … oh, well, you know what I mean. It’s especially important to me for the main characters who will be spending time with readers over the course of several books. Even though there will only be two books in the Dunne Diehl series, that name comes from Cassidy Dunne and Dan Diehl and never fails to make me laugh. I guess two books was a done deal!
Plotter? Pantser? Something else?
Definitely plotter. But my theory is that every writer is a plotter. I think the difference is that some writers plot in their heads, and other have to use paper, and some do a bit of both. I’ve tried just sitting down and seeing what happens, but that is such a waste of time for me. I spin my wheels getting more and more frustrated, not knowing where to start or where to go or what to do. I hate that feeling so I had to figure out a way to create a process that guarantees I can write novels with the smallest amount of angst. Plus, my agent wanted me to write at least two books a year. I hadn’t done that before, so I needed to figure out my process in a hurry!
You’re also the author of a terrific writing book called Eight Weeks to a Complete Novel. What’s your number one tip for writers?
Eight Weeks to a Complete Novel is the story of that process I created for myself. It’s simple, really … just finding an outline template that makes sense to you, and applying some time management tips. The hard part is cobbling together ideas from so many ways of outlining—mine is a hodgepodge of several different ideas that make sense to me—and assessing your writing strengths and weaknesses to take advantage of them. Then, of course, having the self-discipline to just buckle down to do it.
By far the easiest and most useful tip when drafting your novel is to never stop. Only move forward. No editing, no going back. If you have an hour to write, then by golly, you WRITE for an hour. If you can’t think of the right word, then you put brackets around those boring words. My manuscripts are full of “he was [nice]” … “the sky was the color of [blue]” … “the coffee smelled [bad].” Those words get fixed in editing. You never want to slow down the momentum of your writing. Each time you change tasks to look up a word, you leave your creative happy place and it takes precious time to get back to it. When you’re finished with the first draft and you go back to describe the color of that sky, you’re going to know so much more about your story and you can foreshadow that peacock coming up in chapter seven, or that the coffee is going to smell like Clem’s boots … but you didn’t even know who Clem was until you wrote to the end.
Tell us more about the new Crossword Puzzle series.
Well, the first one—Puzzling Ink—launches November 3rd and I couldn’t be more excited! In this one we meet Quinn and her parents, Georgeanne and Dan, both loving, involved parents who are understandably worried about their boomerang adult daughter. Georgeanne is fun to write because her thing is cooking, even though she makes some spectacularly weird food. As Puzzling Ink opens, she’s making cupcakes with red, white, and blue frosting for the 4th of July festival. What’s so weird about that, you might ask. Nothing, except they’re cumin cupcakes and the red frosting is from paprika, the white is miso, and the blue is cream of mushroom soup with food coloring. As a joke, when I sent the manuscript to my editor, I included a recipe for one of the treats Georgeanne makes. The joke was on me, though. She thought it was so funny, now I have to do it every time! (If you want to follow my blog tour, I’ll be sharing one of the recipes at Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen on October 23rd.)
Quinn’s bestie is Rico who she grew up with in Chestnut Station and who now is second-in-command on the police force. He does most of the work, since the police chief won’t, and it’s Quinn’s secret mission in life to oust the chief and get Rico promoted. It’s Rico’s secret mission in life to get Quinn back to the police academy.
Quinn works in the diner for Jake, who leaves her alone one night to handle everything. Her regular customers, The Retireds, hang out there constantly, making unreasonable demands on her. Jethro, one of the town dogs, hangs out in front of the diner all day. Before she can close up, she’s got to shoo everyone out and rouse the drunk from the back booth. Unfortunately, he didn’t just pass out in his biscuits and gravy … he’s dead.
The second book in the series is PUNNING WITH SCISSORS (May 2021), and the third is FATAL SOLUTIONS (Nov 2021).
Launch activities will all be virtual this year with a blog tour, bookstore appearances, book club appearances, and I’m doing something probably absolutely crazy this year … a 24-hour launch party! I’m hosting it with alternating hours at two different Facebook groups, COZY MYSTERY CREW, and my private reader group BECKY’S BOOK BUDDIES. There will be lots of fun and prizes but it’s not a live event so nobody will get thrown into Facebook jail because they posted too much or too fast. People can comment at their leisure, and winners will be chosen the next day, after everyone has had a good night’s sleep. One of the cool prizes I found is an absolutely adorable chiffon crossword infinity scarf. I kept one for myself and will give one away.
Besides books and swag, I’m thinking about giving away a couple of purses I’ve made from old books. Not exactly a crossword theme, although I think I have one made from a dictionary.
So I’m excited about the launch, and am trying to make it fun during this pandemic when folks want a bit of escape from real life. Join Cozy Mystery Crew and Becky’s Book Buddies if you want to get in on the launch fun. (Don’t forget to answer the questions that will open the secret door!) Visit BeckyClarkBooks.com and subscribe to my “So Seldom It’s Shameful” emails for all the details … I give stuff away there too! (All the links are below)
What’s next for you?
Book #3 in the Mystery Writer’s Mysteries—METAPHOR FOR MURDER—will be released in December to go with FICTION CAN BE MURDER and FOUL PLAY ON WORDS. That’s the series with Charlemagne Russo who is a mystery writer and keeps getting real-life mysteries falling in her lap when all she wants to do is write her books and eat grilled cheese sandwiches.
Before that, though, I’m updating and sprucing up my Lazy Low Cal Cookbook … portion-controlled, easy recipes for lazy or new cooks, or ones who, like me, were packing on pounds like they were preparing for the next Ice Age. I decided to revamp it because Georgeanne uses my Black Bean Brownie recipe and gives me a shout-out in PUNNING WITH SCISSORS.
And then I have a standalone I want to get started on, a bit darker than I normally write, so we’ll see how that goes. Even dark stuff needs humor, so I’m not too worried about freaking out my readers. Not too much, anyway. And I have another cozy series I’m chomping at the bit to get busy on.
All that is why I need a system to get my books written and pushed out into the world! I’m not getting any younger, amirite??
Here are all the links you need to come play in my sandbox with me …
• Amazon … https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B004NQO14I
• My website to subscribe … https://beckyclarkbooks.com/
• Cozy Mystery Crew … to hang out with a dozen fabulous cozy authors including Shari Randall … https://www.facebook.com/groups/cozymysterycrew/
• Becky’s Book Buddies … where it’s fun, like Facebook used to be … https://www.facebook.com/groups/beckysbookbuddies
• BookBub … https://www.bookbub.com/profile/becky-clark
• And my Costco club card number ….. oh wait.
Don’t forget to comment to be entered to win an ebook from Becky! I’ll post the winner tomorrow morning on this blog. Do you enjoy crossword puzzles?