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

May Interviews

5/5 Lynn Calhoon, Murder 101
5/12 Annette Dashofy, Death By Equine
5/19 Krista Davis, The Diva Serves Forbidden Fruit
5/25 Debra Goldstein, Four Cuts Too Many

Saturday WWK Bloggers

5/1 V. M. Burns
5/8 Jennifer Chow
5/22 Kait Carson

Guest Blogs

5/15 M. K. Scott


E. B. Davis's "The Pearl Necklace" will appear in the new SinC Guppy anthology The Fish That Got Away to be released in July by Wildside Press. The anthology was edited by Linda Rodriguez.

Paula Gail Benson's monologue "Beloved Husband," from the perspective of Norton Baskin the second husband of Marjorie Kinan Rawlings (who wrote The Yearling and Cross Creek), appears in the Red Penguin Collection's An Empty Stage (released March 28, 2021).

Martha Reed's "Death by GPS" will appear in the Spring 2021 issue of Suspense Magazine, which will be released in the second week of April. Congratulations, Martha!

Susan Van Kirk has a new audiobook, A Death at Tippitt Pond, that will be released this month. Marry in Haste will be released in May by Harlequin Worldwide Mystery, as will Death Takes No Bribes in September. Congratulations, Susan.

Congratulations to Martha Reed. Her short story, "The Honor Thief" was chosen for the 2021 Bouchercon Anthology, This Time For Sure. Hank Phillippi Ryan will edit the volume, which will be released in August at the time of the convention.

Margaret S. Hamilton's short story, "Killer Weeds," appears in the January 20 edition of Texas Gardener's Seeds: From Our Garden to Yours. Congratulations, Margaret, who, if you follow Facebook know, is a superb gardener herself!

Congratulations to Jennifer J. Chow for garnering a 2021 Lefty Nomination for Best Humorous Mystery Novel. We're crossing our fingers for Jennifer!

Congratulations to Paula Gail Benson whose "Reputation or Soul" has been chosen for Malice Domestic 16: Mystery Most Diabolical anthology to be released this spring.

KM Rockwood's "Stay Safe--Very Safe" appears in this year's 2020 BOULD anthology. Congratulations, KM!

Annette Dashofy signed with agent Dawn Dowdle of the Blue Ridge Literary Agency. Congratulations, Annette!


Sunday, May 9, 2021

The New Girl and a New Chapter By Korina Moss


Hello new friends!


I’m thrilled to join Writers Who Kill, and connect with so many mystery buffs who follow this eclectic and talented group of crime writers. My bio briefly introduces me, but let me tell you a little more about myself and my path to becoming a cozy mystery author.


I grew up an avid reader. Even though I loved crafting my own stories, I had a hard time believing I could ever be a published author, like those I revered. Maybe this is why the few times I’ve come across the first edition of Chicken Soup For the Kids’ Soul in a library or thrift store, I still open it to locate my name. It was my first published story, and spurred me to continue to write.


When the Hartford Courant had a statewide contest for the best Connecticut Christmas short story, I entered “A Perfect Christmas, Guaranteed,” about a family, too busy to bother with the season, who purchase holiday insurance for the promise of a picture-perfect Christmas with all the trappings. But their vision for it is not what this magical insurance company has in store, leading them to, of course, discover the true meaning of Christmas. My winning story was published in the newspaper and read on National Public Radio on Christmas Eve. The following year, it was turned into a short ballet where I spent eight months shadowing the director in order to write a feature article about the process. The ballet was performed with The Nutcracker that Christmas season at the Bushnell Theater. 



I was in the process of attempting to turn it into a television movie screenplay when my then-husband and I adopted a child. I made promises to myself to return to writing in earnest as soon as our son started preschool. However, the school environment presented some challenges for him, and he was later diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and high-functioning autism (ASD). I would spend the next thirteen years advocating for him in the school system so he could get an equal education and live up to his potential. My writing projects took a back seat, but I kept creating. I was hired to write biweekly humorous essays about motherhood and small-town life by our local Patch, an online newspaper. When that gig ended, I started my own personal blog just for the fun of it.


Mid-2016 found me newly single, which meant my SAHM (Stay At Home Mom) status was no longer an option. While co-parenting and working part-time, I had to step up my writing game or leave the dream behind forever. In short, I finished writing a cozy mystery novel I’d been pecking at for years, got an agent, and with a new project proposal, received a contract from Macmillan Publishers for a three-book deal. (More on that in my next blog post.) In the meantime, our son is finishing his junior year in high school with honors.


I continue to navigate this new chapter of my life as if it were my own best-selling novel—I make sure to sprinkle in some humor and adventure, perhaps throw in a dash of romance, attempt to figure out the mysteries, and strive for a happy ending.



We all turn the pages to new chapters in our lives—a job change, an empty nest, retirement…. I’d love to hear about yours. How have you navigated a major change? What have you learned about yourself in the process? 



Saturday, May 8, 2021

AAPIHM Book Recommendations By Jennifer J. Chow

Every May, we get to celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. As an avid reader, my idea of celebration involves books.


Books that I’ve recently read by AAPI creators and loved include the following (my opinions are asterisked):


·        Vanessa Yu’s Magical Paris Tea Shop by Roselle Lim (August 4, 2020)

Magical realism/Rom-com
"...similar to the sweet fabulist-romcom style of Lim’s debut, this new book follows a young woman’s culinary and magical adventures."—BookRiot


*A luscious book filled with treats about love, family, and destiny.


·        Nights When Nothing Happened by Simon Han (November 17, 2020)

Literary fiction/Family saga

“A deeply affecting portrait of one family’s immigrant experience—and the toll that the American Dream takes on those who chase it.” —Harper's Bazaar

*An intense and quietly moving portrait of a family in a cultural crossroads, entwined with internal excavations.


·        Arsenic and Adobo by Mia P. Manansala (May 4, 2021)

Culinary cozy mystery

"This debut introduces readers to Filipino American food and culture, with its emphasis on family…” —Library Journal, starred review

*A great start to a new cozy series filled with serious eats and culture.

·         The Tiger Mom’s Tale by Lyn Liao Butler (ARC; releases July 6, 2021)

Women’s fiction/Mothers and daughters

"The Tiger Mom's Tale is a heartfelt, delightful read. Lyn Liao Butler's story of Taiwanese and American identity had me turning pages and laughing (and drooling over the delicious descriptions of food)."—Charles Yu, author of Interior Chinatown, winner of the 2020 National Book Award


*A must-read moving journey of growth and character, imbued with warmth and authenticity.


Here are a few novels I’m looking forward to picking up soon:


·       Dial A for Aunties by Jesse Q. Sutanto (April 27th)

Rom-com/Murder mystery

People have compared it to Weekend at Bernie’s—but involving a dead blind date, meddlesome aunties, and an over-the-top wedding.


·        Clark and Division by Naomi Hirahara (August 3rd)

Historical mystery

Set in 1944 Chicago. After her family’s release from Manzanar, a Japanese American woman must hunt for the real truth behind her sister’s death.


·        Steelstriker by Marie Lu (September 28th)

Young adult

The concluding book in the Skyhunter duology, this novel explores issues of complicated friendships, homeland loyalty, and chilling scientific modifications.


What AAPI book recommendations do you have?


Thursday, May 6, 2021

The Four-legged Characters Who Appear in My Mysteries by Susan Van Kirk


Over the last two weeks I visited my children, their spouses, and ten grandchildren in Arizona, arriving there from Illinois. When I flew back home last week, my body said, “Oh, thank you for the 60% humidity and Midwestern-recognizable pollen.” April in Arizona does not do wonders for my allergies and asthma with the dust in the air and the unfamiliar pollen on gorgeous shrubs that are currently blooming like crazy. But because of the pandemic and vaccinations, this was the first opportunity I’d had in fifteen months to see my family, so I took it, and through the wonders of multiple allergy medications, survived.


I have a confession to make, and I know this sounds crazy, but allergies have put me at a disadvantage when it comes to mystery writing. You see, studies have shown that readers love to buy books with dogs or cats on the covers, and they can’t wait to read mysteries where pets are a big part of the story. Often I smile or laugh at Heather Weidner’s popular Instagram photos of dogs and cats in humorous situations or with hysterically funny messages. People simply love their pets.


 I have absolutely no experience with pets because I’m so allergic to them that I can’t be near them. They seriously affect my breathing. For me, there is no such thing as a hypoallergenic cat or dog. I react badly to more than their hair, so all my life I’ve had to stay away, even having to change my airplane seat on occasion if someone’s beloved pet is sitting or stored under the seat next to me. I don’t hate peoples’ pets; in fact, I love to watch them from a distance and take in their over-the-top cuteness.

 So when I go to Arizona, I’m thankful my family makes alternate accommodations for their three dogs. Each has a dog, and I’m happy the grandkids have both the joy and the responsibilities this brings. But when I visit, their cute dogs must go somewhere else for a few days. I’d like to think my younger son’s golden doodle, Bo, loves my visits because the doggie spa pampers him, featuring the luxury of being waited on paw and foot. Molly and Spirit, the dogs of my other two children, have had various arrangements with neighbors or other relatives. It’s all worked out.


So even without knowing much about raising pets, I’ve been able to include them in my mysteries. My Endurance series has featured Stella, the English cocker spaniel, who in real life lives across the street from me. I often watch her from my front window and smile at her antics in her yard. Her purpose in Death Takes No Bribes is to provide a neighbor an excuse to walk past Grace Kimball’s house and stop to talk. My detective, TJ Sweeney received a kitten named Eliot Ness from Grace. However, TJ is rarely home, so Eliot often stays at Grace’s house with Grace’s sister-in-law, Lettie. In fact, Eliot saves several lives in my second Endurance mystery, Marry in Haste. He is the hero. My current WIP features Skye, the charcoal cat with green eyes owned by a woman who is Wiccan (a follower of modern-day witchcraft.) It also mentions Angus as a minor character, a dog owned by one of the townspeople when she was a child.

 It is possible to write what you haven’t experienced, but it takes research, expert contacts, and patience. I’m eager to ask questions of pet-lovers so I can write truthfully about the animals featured in my books. Quite a few dog and cat lovers have come to my aid in describing their pets’ special talents, and this helps me write truthfully about them. I even do it without sneezing.

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

An Interview With Lynn Cahoon

by Grace Topping


During this extended period of time staying at home, reading has become even more important to me than ever before. One benefit from it has been discovering books by writers I hadn’t read before—NY Times bestselling author Lynn Cahoon being one of them. Lynn has a lengthy list of books she’s written both as Lynn Cahoon and Lynn Collins, so I have lots of books by her to look forward to. It was a pleasure talking to Lynn about her multiple series and the latest release in her Kitchen Witch Series, Murder 101.



Murder 101 

Kitchen Witch Series


Mia Malone has opened a catering business in Magic Springs, Idaho, putting both her culinary expertise and her gift for spellcasting to good use. But it’ll take more than witchcraft to make a murderer disappear behind bars…

Mia Malone has landed a lucrative and convenient gig, catering a reunion at the old school that’s become her new business headquarters. The town swirls with rumors that St. Catherine’s Preparatory is haunted, but there’s one living visitor that Mia wasn’t expecting—her mother. Theresa Malone stepped away from the magic that runs in Mia’s family, much to the annoyance of Mia’s grandmother. Soon Mia has to deal with more than personal drama when Robin Hanover, the head of the reunion committee, is murdered in one of the classrooms.
Robin had a history as a mean girl. Could one of her old enemies have been nursing a grudge all this time? Or is the culprit even closer to home? Mia will need the help of her magic, her wits, and her family to figure out the truth—before she gets schooled by a clever killer…



Welcome, Lynn, to Writers Who Kill.


Murder 101 just released on April 27. What inspired you to write mysteries with a witch as your main character?


I’ve always been drawn to the supernatural. In second grade, I read a ‘short’ story about Art in the Park at night. It drew me into the paranormal genre. Add in “Bewitched,” “Charmed,” and Harry Potter, and I’m hooked. 

Since the Kitchen Witch series is set in Magic Springs, Idaho, I wanted a magical main character to match the town. 



In your first Kitchen Witch mystery, One Poison Pie, Mia Malone wants to exact revenge on her ex, Isaac, using magic. What keeps her from using magic to turn him into a toad?


One of the things Mia is learning from her grandmother is that magic has consequences. Just like any action, we create results. And exacting revenge is responding to the negative emotions and cravings we all have. Mia knows that harming Isaac with magic won’t solve the issue and will rebound on her. So she takes the high road. 



Are you going to take a break before diving into your next book?


Um, no. I kind of took a week’s break while I edited the third Kitchen Witch book before sending it off to my editor, but I’ve got a stack of books to write this year. I’m getting a slow start on Tourist Trap #13 this week. Changing from third person to first person POV is a little challenging, but I’m finding it fun to be in Jill’s head again. She’s always challenging.


You have an impressive list of books. How was your journey to publication? Did it happen right away, or did it take you years to become an overnight sensation?


I started writing seriously when I got divorced in my 40’s and took classes in the MFA program. It was a great way to get the stories out of my head and onto paper. Then I put it away when I started dating my current husband. Fast forward six years and I went through a breast cancer diagnosis. As I was contemplating my future (or lack of it), I realized that being a writer was important to me. So I started writing again. I sold three essays that year. But it took until 2012 and a lot of writing and learning before I sold my first novel (The Bull Rider’s Brother – Lynn Collins). After that, it started snowballing, and in 2013, I sold the first three books for the Tourist Trap series that released in 2014. Now I have four current series and will be releasing a fifth one in 2022. So no overnight sensation path for me. 



At what point did you feel you had made it? Could it have been when you became a NY Times bestselling author?


Do we ever feel like we have made it? There are always new challenges. I sold my first large print edition of Kitchen Witch this year. I’m self-publishing Cat Latimer stories starting this year. And I’m trying to break into a bigger genre (mystery or woman’s fiction) someday. There’s always a new mountain to climb and a new challenge to meet. Which is why I love being an author so much. It’s never boring. 


With a number of different series, how do you keep them all straight? Do you write more than one book at a time?


I don’t write more than one book at a time anymore. I used to try to get my ‘spec’ book – the one I haven’t sold yet – written during my ‘free’ time while I was writing contracted books. The problem is with a full time job (in addition to the writing), I don’t have free time.  Writing a series is like visiting old friends. You get caught up and in their world quickly. And that helps keep the worlds straight. Also I have what I call book amnesia. By the time I finish writing a book (including all the editing process), I’m done and into another book. Which keeps me from going back and forth between series. 



Do you have a favorite among your series?


I appreciate each series for the lessons I learned while writing them. They all have strong female characters who I’d love to be friends with. Each brought a new learning phase into my life. I don’t think I have a favorite. 



You have an equally long list of romances, writing as Lynn Collins. Do you still write romances, or have you totally gone over to mysteries?


I wrote a full sweet romance last year, The Bull Rider’s Mother. I want to finish off that series with at least one more book. Kadi’s horse trainer needs to find her own cowboy. And, I’d like to write a novella for each full book and then release them all in print. One full book and one novella for each print edition. But that’s down the road.


The other two series I write under Collins need a few more books as well. All that’s holding me off is time.



Which do you find harder to write, mysteries or romances?


Since I’m big in developing community, both are in my wheelhouse, so I enjoy writing both. And I’ve written several books in both genres now, so neither is hard. Trying a new genre and getting the tone right, that’s hard. 



Do you have any new projects coming up? You said that some day you would like to write the next big gothic romance. Are you getting any closer to that goal?


Speaking of a change in tone. After I finish this Tourist Trap book (Lucky 13), I’ll be writing a new series where the protagonist is a bookstore owner who remade her life after surviving cancer. She runs the Tuesday night survivors book club out of her store. Writing from a cancer survivor’s POV is going to be a little tricky with my history. But I’m excited to write the books around cancer cures that may or may not be true. 


The gothic romance is still on the WTW (Want to Write) pile.



You write about small towns. Do you live in a small town? What is it about them that you like best? Is there anything about them that you don’t like?


I do live in a small town. Or a big, little town. We have a small mall and a couple of chain restaurants. It’s considered the most haunted small town in America. I’ve grown up either in a small town or a rural area, so I love having space around me. I tried a duplex once and didn’t like having people so close. And I didn’t do well at all in the college dorms. I like having room to think. And when I go into town, I love the idea of people knowing my business. LOL  


Which is also the bad thing about living in a small town. But mostly, I love the sense of community you get. 



Writing so many books, how do you balance writing and promoting with home life?


I’m not sure I do balance, at least not well. I’m getting better at taking real time off, but even then, I’m thinking about the business. Or the next book. Or what I should be doing. I’ve always had a goal to take one day/night off a week, and I’m getting better at that. The good news is I don’t have kids at home or a lot of other commitments. I’m very stingy with the free time I have, which makes me have to prioritize well. 


You’ve included recipes in your books. Do you enjoy cooking? With your busy schedule, perhaps I should ask if you have time to cook? 


I love cooking. I love baking. My waistline doesn’t like me to bake. LOL. And, with such a busy schedule, I found we were eating out and ordering in too much. So my husband (the Cowboy) took over the cooking duties. He’s made fresh bread and tries new recipes. I love the way he’s jumped in, but I still make my soups to freeze for lunches and sometimes, cookies. 



What do you have coming up next? Do you plan to attend any conferences?


This year is a busy writing year. I have five books left to write this year. Currently, I’m writing a Tourist Trap book for next year’s release. Then I’ll be doing one of the new series, another Tourist Trap, a Cat Latimer, and then the second in the new series. Whew. And if I find any time, I’m going to start working on a proposal. 


With the ongoing pandemic and my underlying health issues, I’ll probably not attend any conferences in person this year. But in 2022 I’ve got several lined up that I want to attend. Kensington does several cozy cons at mystery bookshops each year. We’ll see what works into my schedule. I can’t believe we’re talking 2022 already. 



Thank you, Lynn. Good luck with that busy schedule.


Learn more about Lynn Cahoon at www.lynncahoon.com or www.lynncollinsauthor.com



Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Learning from my Students

By James M. Jackson

When I graduated college with a math degree and a secondary school teaching certificate, I planned to be a secondary school teacher. I’d bless the unwashed masses of hormone-laden teenagers with my love of algebra, and geometry, and trig, and calculus, and probability and statistics. Best of all, I would imbue them with a love of that sublime universal language of numbers called mathematics. Yeah, right.

Mr. Genius-at-Numbers sometimes loses the practical answer in pursuing the theoretically correct answer. For example, I convinced my parents it was less expensive for them to let me go to summer school (where I took two courses and played tennis all day) and I could graduate a semester early, saving them that tuition, room, and board. I neglected to consider that the only teaching jobs available in January are to fill vacancies caused by death or disability (of which, visibly showing pregnancy was the most common one back in the Pleistocene era of 1972). Long story short, I became an actuary, not a high school teacher.

Over the years of teaching various classes in actuarial science and contract bridge for intermediate players, I learned I love teaching people who want to learn. But if you don’t care; I don’t care. I would have made a lousy high school teacher. So, in the end graduating a semester early was a good thing.

When teaching high school math or actuarial sciences, I acted as the expert. There were right answers and wrong answers. If I learned anything from the students, it was to discover different ways to present material so people with different learning styles could “get it.”

Contract bridge has its factual aspects, but much of learning to play well involves sharpening judgment skills. I always learn new aspects of the material when I teach it. Often, if I haven’t taught a class in some time, I rediscover things I had forgotten. Student questions often require me to look at a situation from a different perspective, allowing me to gain a deeper understanding of the game. I have the privilege of learning from my students—even if they don’t realize it.

After nearly fifteen years of writing novels, a friend asked me to develop a class on revision and self-editing for the Kiss of Death chapter of Romance Writers of America. I’ve continued to update and improve that month-long course and am currently teaching it for the Guppy Chapter of Sisters in Crime.

There are rules, of course, in writing fiction—but not very many. For every purported “rule,” we can find a classic or bazillion-dollar best-seller that vaporized it. When it comes to writing processes, absolutes are meaningless. I provide guidance and share my experiences and learnings from others, but they are only intended as suggestions. The lessons I provide are certainly valuable, but the real learning for students occurs in doing the homework assignments and receiving feedback on their work.

Invariably, students complete homework in ways I had not expected. Occasionally, their technique is something I want to try myself. More often, their novel approach does not work, and I must help them see that. Knowing something doesn’t work is not the same as being able to understand why something doesn’t work. Preparing the explanation often leads me to deeper insights and understanding of the issue. When that happens, I feel like I should refund their tuition because I’ve received such a marvelous bonus.

I pay them off in thanks and look forward to the next opportunity to teach and learn.

* * *

James M. Jackson authors the Seamus McCree series. Full of mystery and suspense, these thrillers explore financial crimes, family relationships, and what happens when they mix. Furthermore, a novella is the most recent addition to the series. You can sign up for his newsletter and find more information about Jim and his books at https://jamesmjackson.com.

Monday, May 3, 2021

Cutting Yourself Some Slack


by Linda Rodriguez

I believe in holding yourself to the highest standards you can manage and have tried to do that for most of my life. However, sometimes we have to learn to cut ourselves some slack – in meeting deadlines (although I’m terribly obsessive about those), in meeting others’ expectations, but most of all, in dealing with our own, often destructive, perfectionism. I’m at one of those points in my life where I’m having to tell myself to stand back and treat myself a little more gently.


After a long period of illness and injury where I had to focus all my limited energy and strength on immediately-paying editing and teaching, I’m moving back into writing my own creative work and back into blogging and social media. It’s an exciting time, but it’s also tremendously frustrating. I simply do not have the energy, strength, and focus that I used to have. When I look back at everything that I used to accomplish in a day or a week, I feel real grief at having lost that kind of drive and concentration. I’m having to come to grips with the idea that I may never regain it. So, the little bit of progress that I make each day in my own work, along with the full slate of editing and teaching that I continue to have, disappoints me and makes me feel like a failure.


Yet, I am making forward progress in my own creative work. I am resuming my participation in the two group blogs to which I belong and about to resume blogging on my own blog. And I am doing this while still maintaining a fairly heavy load of freelance work. Am I writing the many thousands of words a day that I used to manage, in addition to the freelance work that I have always done? No. I am, however, putting words on the page each day and making forward progress, even as I feel like I’m moving at a snail’s pace. I tell myself I have to learn to adjust my expectations of myself to fit my current circumstances.


It’s not even just my own expectations of myself that are the problem, however. Other people have developed expectations of me through the years, expectations that I have played a role in establishing within their minds. As I begin to slowly move back into blogging and social media, other people have a tendency to want me to interact with them and do the things they would like me to do, at the level of commitment and energy that I formerly brought to the table. Consequently, I have a twofold problem.


Back when I was healthier and uninjured, I was an activist and someone who could always be counted on to volunteer my time and energy and skills for projects to better whatever community I was dealing with. Unfortunately, I am not that person any longer. This is a bitter disappointment to me, and it seems to be even more of a disappointment to a number of people with whom I have been involved for years. Having always been a people-pleaser, like so many who were raised in dysfunctional or abusive families, it’s harder for me to deal with their disappointment – and sometimes with their manipulation — than it is for me to deal with my own severe disappointment in my new self.


Still, I am making progress on my own work daily once again, and I am moving forward in this new, changed iteration of myself. I choose to focus on those positives and try to ignore the disappointment and negative feelings of myself and others. I am lowering my expectations of myself to what I feel is a more realistic level for my current reality, and I am going to expect the people who will remain in my life to do the same, once I explain things to them. If they can’t, I will no longer be able to keep them in my life.


The odd thing is that I think what I’m going through at this late stage of my life is something that many people have to go through, especially writers, who must be self-motivated, self-initiating, and self-disciplined. I think I was able to avoid it much longer than the average person, simply because I was blessed with an unusual amount of drive and strength — through no effort or achievement of my own, I must say. Now, that drive and that strength have been forcibly reduced, and I am having to learn to say “no” – to other people’s demands on my time and energy and my own unreasonable expectations of myself. I suspect this is actually a healthy thing I am being forced to do.


How do you deal with expectations that have become unreasonable or unwanted, your own, as well as those of the people around you? What strategies have you readers who are writers developed for allowing yourself some leeway or cutting yourself some slack when it is needed?

Linda Rodriguez's 12th book, The Fish That Got Away: The Sixth Guppy Anthology, is about to be published. She also edited Fishy Business: The Fifth Guppy Anthology, Woven Voices: 3 Generations of Puertorriqueña Poets Look at Their American Lives, and The World Is One Place: Native American Poets Visit the Middle East. Every Family Doubt, her fourth mystery featuring Cherokee detective, Skeet Bannion, and Revising the Character-Driven Novel will be published in 2021.

 Dark Sister: Poems was a finalist for the Oklahoma Book Award. Plotting the Character-Driven Novel, based on her popular workshop, was published in 2017.  Her three earlier Skeet novels—Every Hidden Fear, Every Broken Trust, Every Last Secret—and earlier books of poetry—Skin Hunger and Heart's Migration—have received critical recognition and awards, such as St. Martin's Press/Malice Domestic Best First Novel, International Latino Book Award, Latina Book Club Best Book of 2014, Midwest Voices & Visions, Elvira Cordero Cisneros Award, Thorpe Menn Award, and Ragdale and Macondo fellowships. Her short story, “The Good Neighbor,” published in Kansas City Noir, has been optioned for film.

 Rodriguez is past chair of the AWP Indigenous Writer’s Caucus, past president of Border Crimes chapter of Sisters in Crime, founding board member of Latino Writers Collective and The Writers Place, and a member of International Thriller Writers, Native Writers Circle of the Americas, Wordcraft Circle of Native American Writers and Storytellers, and Kansas City Cherokee Community. Learn more about her at http://lindarodriguezwrites.blogspot.com

Sunday, May 2, 2021

Dear Character, I hope this finds you . . . by Molly MacRae

Interruptions happen. To anyone, in any job. There you are, at home or at work, engrossed, productive, in the zone, when something happens to interrupt you. A cat or co-worker (sometimes the same thing) has a question. An important call or customer requires your attention. A machine blinks twice and dies. 

Speaking as a writer, that break in concentration can snuff the glimmer of an idea that just sparked or frighten away the perfect word the moment before I swoop it into my word net. This kind of interruption is part of life, though. These interruptions often feed our creative lives, and they’re usually easy enough to recover from.

LIFE, though. The one in all caps. LIFE has a way of delivering unavoidable, industrial-sized interruptions that aren’t so easy to get past. These great gaps in creative output aren’t all due to dire or tragic circumstances (though many are). Some are joyful, some pedestrian. The nature of these yawning chasms in our writing productivity doesn’t really matter. They all break the threads of our stories and cut the lines of communication with our characters, and that can feel like another kind of tragedy. Especially to a writer on a deadline. Notice the “dead” in deadline. Makes me shudder.

Over the past dozen years several near-catastrophic fissures have opened between me and books I meant to finish on time. We’re talking interruptions that lasted six weeks and more. How did I get back into those stories? Going over my notes and outlines helped. So did reading the manuscript up to the point I stopped. Those activities mended the threads of the stories. They showed me how the characters were coping with the pickle I’d dropped them into before dropping them and not returning for far too long.

It can still be hard to get back into actually writing, though. I’ve felt distant from the characters’ lives and conversations, their tensions and conflicts. For all I knew, they’d been getting on perfectly well without me. That sounds needy, but a writer needs her characters. So, here’s what I’ve done, on occasion, to reopen the lines of communication—I’ve written one of the characters a short, friendly letter asking how they are, what’s up, and to please write back.

When I wrote to Kath Rutledge, main character in the Haunted Yarn Shop Mysteries, she got back to me almost immediately with a ten-page letter that had everything I needed to be off and writing again. Toward the end of that book, Plagued by Quilt, I wrote her again to see if she knew more about how she and her posse from the yarn shop were going to catch the killer than I did. Of course she did; that’s why I’d made her the protagonist in the first place. She shot a six-page letter back to me and the whole experience was very satisfying.

So, my advice if you’re flummoxed by a long or short interruption or stumped by what happens next, is talk to the experts—your characters. Write them or call them. They’re standing by and they’ll be happy to hear from you.

Writers, what tips do you have for restarting after LIFE interrupts your writing routine?


Molly MacRae writes the award-winning, national bestselling Haunted Yarn Shop Mysteries and the Highland Bookshop Mysteries. Visit Molly on Facebook and Pinterest and connect with her on Twitter  or Instagram.


Saturday, May 1, 2021

The Power of Pets by V. M. Burns

 Recently, I participated in a panel discussion with four other cozy authors. The moderator asked if we felt pets in cozy mysteries were an industry expectation or a reader expectation? If you’ve read any of my books, you already know that I love dogs, especially poodles. If in doubt, check out the covers of my Mystery Bookshop series. Those are my dogs (Coco and Cash). So, my inclusion of dogs in my books is because they are a big part of my life, not because the publishing industry expects cozy mysteries to include a pet. However, this question set my gears in motion.

There are quite a number of rules or expectations when it comes to cozy mysteries. Cozies typically feature a female protagonist who is an amateur sleuth. They are almost always set in a small town or village rather than big cities (although this is changing). Cozies can’t have graphic violence, explicit sex, or bad language. When I was discussing covers for my first book, The Plot is Murder, my editor asked for my ideas. To be completely honest, I didn’t have many ideas. I’m not good at covers or titles. I know what I like when I see it, but I’m not one of those authors who has a picture of their covers in their minds. I suggested books (it’s set in a bookstore) and maybe a dead body because…well, you know. This was my first rodeo, but thankfully, it wasn’t my publisher’s. My editor reached out and asked if I’d mind if they included my dogs. Apparently, the art department said that books with pets sell better. Imagine that. Who knew? Did I mind? Are you kidding? Of course not. Those are my fur babies. So, that’s how Coco and Cash (aka Snickers and Oreo) became the models on the covers of the series.

Over the years, I’ve gotten a lot of emails from readers who share pictures, comments, funny, and sad stories of their poodles (dogs, cats, birds, rabbits, etc.). That’s when I learned the power of pets. No one ever told me to include a pet in my books. Even when I was asked to write a second series, the topic of pets never came up. I chose to include dogs in my second series, Dog Club Mysteries, because I used to belong to a dog club and thought it would be fun. Did I mention that I love dogs? The idea of writing a cozy mystery that revolved around a dog club appealed to me because it would enable me to include lots of different breeds without the hassle or expense.

My current dogs, Kensington and Chloe are a part of my family. We’ve weathered a lot (especially over this past year). Based on the responses I hear from readers, pets are one thing that many people have in common. Regardless of race, age, or religion, humans share a bond with their pets. So, back to my panel discussion question. Are pets a reader expectation or an industry requirement? I don’t believe pets are a requirement for cozy mysteries. However, I do believe that pets have the power to bridge gaps and bring people together in books as well as in our real lives.


While visiting the land of Miss Marple and Sherlock Holmes, bookstore owner and amateur sleuth Samantha Washington finds herself on a tragical mystery tour . . .

Sam joins Nana Jo and her Shady Acres Retirement Village friends Irma, Dorothy, and Ruby Mae on a weeklong trip to London, England, to experience the Peabody Mystery Lovers Tour. The chance to see the sights and walk the streets that inspired Agatha Christie and Arthur Conan Doyle is a dream come true for Sam—and a perfect way to celebrate her new publishing contract as a mystery author.

But between visits to Jack the Ripper’s Whitechapel district and 221B Baker Street, Major Horace Peabody is found dead, supposedly of natural causes. Despite his employer’s unfortunate demise, the tour guide insists on keeping calm and carrying on—until another tourist on their trip also dies under mysterious circumstances. Now it’s up to Sam and the Shady Acres ladies to mix and mingle among their fellow mystery lovers, find a motive, and turn up a murderer . . .

Buy Links: Amazon, Apple, BAM, Bookshop.org, Google Play, Hudson, IndieBound, Kobo, Nook

About the author
V.M. (Valerie) Burns was born and raised in South Bend, Indiana. She is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Dog Writers Association of America, Thriller Writers International, and Sisters in Crime. V.M. Burns is the author of the Dog Club Mystery series, the RJ Franklin Mystery series, and the Agatha Award nominated author of Mystery Bookshop Mystery series. She currently resides in East Tennessee with her two poodles. Readers can keep up with new releases by following her on social media.

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Website: vmburns.com