Saturday, July 31, 2021

Summer Sillies by WWK Bloggers

 The Writing Prompt

I pumped my legs like pistons, climbing the stairs, and followed Burt, who raced ahead of me to the
roof. A flight below us, Jackson followed. He had a gun in his hand. His footfalls echoed ours as he chased us. The clang of the metal steps deafened me until Burt burst through the roof door at the top of the stairs. The heavy door banged shut behind us.


We were trapped. In a few seconds, an armed man would come through that door. I looked around to find a weapon or a place to hide.


“We wouldn’t be in this mess if you weren’t too nosy for your own good.”


Was Burt out of his mind? “This isn’t the time for recriminations,” I said, and scanned the nooks and crannies in the deteriorating brick I planned to restore for a rooftop oasis.


“You can’t leave well enough alone. You think you’re smarter than the cops.”


The door opened. The tip of a gun poked out like a periscope.


Our Endings

E. B. Davis

“No Burt, I don’t think I’m smarter than the cops.” I pulled my gun from my jacket pocket and aimed it at Burt. I took out my badge. “Because, I am a cop. Special Agent Renee Carter. Jackson here is my partner.”


Burt looked confused. “But you’re my neighbor. You’re a jeweler and an amateur sleuth.”


“I was undercover. We’ve been tracking your illegal activities now for over a year.” Jackson cuffed Burt and read his rights. I heaved a sigh of relief. Having to play sleuth with him had been trying. I bet he laughed after our investigative adventures. He’d thrown red herrings at me, trying to lead me away from his activities. But the herring I could deal with. It was the anchovies on his pizza I hoped never to smell again.


Tammy Euliano

“I am smarter than the cops. Get down.” I picked up a brick, measuring its heft in my right hand, and grabbed a small broken piece with my left. Burt lay on his stomach, out of Jackson’s line-of-sight. I tossed the small piece underhand to land to the left of the door, which swung wide at the sound. As soon as the back of Jackson’s bald head came into view, I threw a fastball – or fastbrick – right on target. He fell with a loud thud, the gun skittering from his hand. 


I retrieved the gun and handed it to Officer Burt. “You stay on meter maid duty, Burty Boy. Mom and I will take care of the real crime.” Breathless, she smiled at me from the open doorway, her cane pressed into the back of our assailant. This wasn’t the first mystery we’d solved together, and it surely wouldn’t be our last. Unless our publisher gets bought, of course.


Grace Topping

I waved my arms at Jackson as he peered through the narrow opening. “Okay, Jackson, we’ve had enough. Your invitation to a murder mystery dinner sounded like fun, but this has gotten a little out of hand.”


“I told you we shouldn’t have come,” Burt muttered.


A shot rang out and bits of stone exploded on the wall beside my head.


“Yikes, duck,” Burt shouted, pulling me down beside him near the floor. “I don’t think we are playing anymore.”


That realization struck home just as the bullet had landed. Now what could we do? We were unarmed and this was no longer playacting. Just then I caught sight of a long-forgotten television antenna that lay on the floor. I grabbed hold of it.


“Distract him while I come at him from the other side.”


“How in the hell am I going to do that?” Burt’s eyes were wide and frantic.


“I don’t know. You’re the mystery writer here. Think of something.” Spotting a brick nearby, I grabbed it and thrust it into his hands. “When I say now, toss this at him as he comes through the door.”


With that, I snuck around the roof skylight that was just high enough to cover me.


Jackson pushed open the door, stepped out, and fired another shot.




Burt tossed the brick at Jackson. It didn’t land anywhere near him, but it was enough to distract him. Coming up from behind him, I swung the rusty antenna at him, hoping to knock him over and then we could pounce on him.


The antenna hit him with just enough force to cause him to lose his balance. He wavered, and 

before he could stand erect, he plummeted over the side of the building.


Burt looked stunned. “How are we going to explain this to the police, especially since you threatened him during dinner?”


“I was only following the script he gave us.”


Burt and I collided at the door trying to get through it at the same. With any luck, the script I left on the dining room table was still there and no one had taken it.


Kait Carson

Those people who think locked room mysteries are impossible puzzles should try meeting a gun-toting madman on a roof. I raced for the edge. My head spun as I looked to the street below. Down had been much closer the last time I was up here. Only one thing to do.


“Follow me, Burt.” I hooked a foot into a gap in the bricks and came down hard on my chin. The bricks were my salvation. Ignoring the pain from my bleeding lip, I grabbed a brick and hurled it in the direction of the stairwell. The clink of brick connecting with metal and the sound of a shot exploded in my ears. The gun, knocked from Jackson’s hand clattered to the pebble rooftop.


Burt’s laughter rang in my ears. He stooped to pick up the fallen weapon. A double-barreled shot-gun now pointed directly at my chest. “Maybe I should have said you wouldn’t be in this mess if you weren’t too nosy for your own good.” His finger tightened on the trigger. “You’ll never bother me again.”

KM Rockwood

I grabbed the edge of the door and gave it a mighty heave.


Jackson stumbled forward, his arms flailing wildly as he tried to regain his balance.


I zipped around behind him, dashing through the door as it clanged shut behind me. I threaded the sturdy padlock through the hasps and slammed it home.


Jackson wasn’t getting through that any time soon.


As I started down the stairs, I heard a single shot.


And I probably wouldn’t have to worry about that jerk Burt giving me a hard time any more.


Warren Bull

Burt rammed his shoulder against the door. Jackson cursed. He dropped the gun when the door slammed against his hand. The door swung open wide.  I dived at the weapon. As if it had a mind of its own, the gun bounced back through the opening. I heard it hit the metal steps as it careened down to the bottom.

Jackson was injured and unarmed. Great. But he was enraged. He burst through the doorway, growling like an animal.


“I can toss you both off the roof with one hand,” he said. “It’ll look like an accident. I’ll be long gone before the police arrive.”


"Not if we cooperate," I said, throwing a brick at his head. I missed, but it didn't matter.

When he lunged at me, Burt hit him in the back of the head with a piece of masonry. Jackson whirled so he didn't see the chunk of brick I threw that hit Jackson in the back. We kept it up and Jackson kept turning and lunging uselessly until he heard the police sirens. Then he dragged his wounded body back to the stairs. He started down much slower than he had mounted the stairs.


We watched the police arrest him and retrieve his gun.

"Okay, maybe you were smart to get him to chase us to where we could defend ourselves and keep him occupied long enough for the cops to get him. I bet that was the murder weapon and his fingerprints will be all over it," said Burt.

I smiled and said nothing. I had fled in panic. Burt saved us by ramming the door, but I was never going to admit it.


Shari Randall

“Oh, ye of little faith.” I reached into the pocket of my cocktail dress – how I love a dress with pockets! -  and pressed the button on a micro transmitter. The blades of a police chopper thumped in the distance. I sighed. It wouldn’t be here in time.


I hefted two bricks, one in each hand. I hurled one at Jackson’s hand, knocking the gun to the ground. As he bent to retrieve it, I hurled the other, hitting him square in his hipster glasses. As Jackson sagged to the asphalt, I grabbed his gun.


The chopper pulled even with the rooftop. Burt gasped, his face pale in the police helicopter’s spotlight. “What just happened?”


The chopper hovered, the down draft swirling as SWAT officers leapt to the rooftop and secured Jackson. I pulled Burt close. He was cute, but a little slow on the uptake.


“I’m not smarter than the police,” I said in his ear. “I am the police.”


James M. Jackson

Which was really bad technique since if I had been standing there, I could have grabbed the Sig Sauer P365 and twisted it from Jackson’s hand and broken a finger. But I wasn’t, so I picked up a brick. I didn’t bother pointing out to Burt that since I was the one who figured out Jackson was the killer, I was smarter than the cops (and that it was Burt who had taken the front stairs up, not the back stairs down).


All 5’2” ninety-eight pounds of Jackson slipped through the doorway following his P365, which was the thing I stared at.


Jackson directed the gun at my chest. “You got prayers to say, now’s the time to say them.”


I looked up at chimney swifts chittering overhead. “Thank you, Lord for the safety you have provided me.” I rifled the brick at Jackson’s knee. 


The fight was over in five seconds. I had Jackson pinned beneath me and his P365 secured in my pocket.


“You’re crazy,” Burt said. “He could have shot you.”


“He tried,” I said, “But he forgot to release the manual safety.


Margaret S. Hamilton

Little did Burt know. I had a plan. I padded in my sheepskin boots to the other side of the roof and whistled.

Herschel poked his big black head outside his rooftop kennel. Alert, poised for action, awaiting my command.

“Hershey, come!” I slapped my thighs. “Time for fetch!”

All hundred pounds of Cane Corso coiled muscle, topped with a massive head and heavy jaw, sprang to attention, crossed the roof, and made the four foot leap between buildings to join me, a wooden rolling pin clamped in his huge jaw.

Herschel dropped the rolling pin at my feet and woofed, tail wagging. I slipped him a treat from my stash behind a loose brick in the wall.

I picked up the rolling pin, but instead of throwing it, I screamed “Get the gun!” and added “Burt, out of the way.”

Herschel charged across the roof and leaped for Jackson’s gun, clamping Jackson’s lower arm in his mighty jaws. Jackson screamed and dropped his gun, Herschel still holding his arm.

I raced across the roof, snatched the gun, and handed it to Burt. “Make yourself useful while I call the police.”

I fed Herschel a handful of treats, and spent the next thirty minutes throwing the rolling pin for him. Herschel periodically stood on Jackson’s prone body, making sure his prey hadn’t gotten away.

Burt said, “I thought you spent time up here working on renovations, not playing with a guard dog.”

I rubbed Herschel’s short, coarse, coat. “You never know when you might need a Cane Corso.


Thursday, July 29, 2021

Dogs in Mystery by E. B. Davis


My fellow bloggers know I recently became a grandparent to a dog. I’ve always enjoyed pets in mysteries, perhaps living vicariously through those main characters and their relationships with their animals. I’ve never had pets so I’ve avoided using them as characters in my manuscripts. My fear is that my lack of experience with dogs would be apparent to pet-owner readers. But now, after six weeks of caring for a dog, I know why so many cozy mysteries include pets, especially dogs. Pets not only add a dimension to the coziness of those mysteries, but the pets can help their owners investigate. I want to enumerate my findings, but like any grandparent, I must first tell you a bit about my grand-dog, Rocky.


Two months ago, my daughter, Audrey, rescued Rocky, a Corgi/Beagle mix, from foster care. Rocky’s former owners had two dogs. When the mother of the family died, Rocky was put into foster care with a rescue operation. He is seven-years-old and very well trained. His stay in foster care lasted for only a few days when Audrey adopted him. We believe Rocky was the mother’s dog. He loves women over men and hangs out in the kitchen watching my every move while preparing and cooking meals. He has separation anxiety when left alone, which we now understand from other owners of rescued dogs is a common problem. We also believe the mother was at home full-time, and he had the companionship of the other dog. Although he was crate trained, the dogs shared a large crate. But without the other dog, crate training isn’t very effective. When left alone, he becomes morose and woeful.


When he first came to our Hatteras beach house a month after Audrey took ownership of him, I think Rocky was still in mourning. I don’t think he understood his abandonment was not his fault—he didn’t do anything wrong (at least that’s what we think is his perception). I’ve always had the idea that dogs could be smart and soulfully empathetic. Rocky has confirmed those notions. But not all dogs are so smart or as astute to their owners as Rocky.


From what I’ve learned from Rocky, I’ve compiled a list of ways that dogs and their needs can aid amateur sleuths. For those of you who are experienced with dogs, most of my observations will probably be no-brainers.


1.     People have discussions with their dogs. No matter how nuts, people talk to their dogs. Thinking out loud enables the main character to express his/her impression of people and use their logic to try out theories of the crime all the while including the reader. It doesn’t matter that the dog can’t contribute. Although they can nod or change their facial expressions. Readers can decide if they agree or disagree with the main character’s findings and logic.

2.     Dogs do have opinions of people. They can react to someone in a positive or negative way so taking the dog along in the investigation can be helpful. Owners know by how the dog reacts whether or not the dog likes or trust the new person.

3.     Due to a dog’s need to walk/exercise and use the facilities, dog owners are thrown together in the neighborhood or in dog parks. People talk to each other while tending to their dog’s outdoor needs. There are also those times when walking the dog allows for snooping. While I was walking Rocky, I noticed no one around. The neighbors had gone out for the day. All was quiet. We ducked under an unoccupied rental house to explore its sound-side views. I looked back into the neighborhood and caught our jerkwad neighbor on someone else’s property pulling out utility flags that had been place by a surveyor, something the homeowner had paid for. Like I said, he’s a jerkwad hatwack—not just my opinion. The jerkwad has become notorious. In a small place like Hatteras Island, reputations are important. So, you can also observe as well as interact with others while dog walking.

4.     The nose knows. Dogs noses can find evidence. Rocky unearths stuff we’d rather he didn’t, but in a mystery, his ability would be awesome.

5.     More commercial places are allowing dogs. Pet stores, ACE Hardware, the beach, and many bars and restaurants, especially if they have outdoor seating, are becoming pet friendly. People are curious about dogs. Many people come up to Rocky and extend their hands. They want to learn about him. Through their curiosity, asking questions, main characters can in turn ask people questions. Since they started the questioning, they can’t very well object.

6.     Protection—I’ve unfortunately had run-ins with bad dogs. I even wrote a short story about one terrible experience. A few summers ago, the brother of a beach friend of mine and his family came for vacation with their dog. They always violated the leash laws. When they were in the ocean, I was sitting in my low beach chair. Their dog came up to me, he was at the level of my throat since I was sitting, leaned into me, and growled. Luckily, my friend’s husband was sitting nearby. He yelled and took hold of the dog. Since then, I’ve avoided the dog, opting not to sit with them on the beach when they visit.

This summer, my friend reassured me that the dog had matured, settled down, and mellowed. I decided to trust her judgment. Rocky was sitting next to me when the dog charged. I’m unsure if the dog was lunging at me or Rocky. Even though Rocky was the smaller dog, he didn’t back down. Rocky doesn’t bark. I’ve never heard him growl—until then! That little dog howled and growled. The dog lunged for a second time. Rocky, the middle-age male that he is, wouldn’t put up with the designer dog and kept his defensive stance. Finally, the dog’s owner grabbed his collar. Like my neighbor, the dog is a jerkwad, at best. Mighty Rocky is my hero!

7.     Comic relief—dogs’ antics never end. We have Rocky on a long leach attached to a sand spike so he can roam. He’s quite good at tying us all up in his leash while we are sitting on the beach. The chairs, umbrellas, and tables become bound up. We’ve taken to moving the tables and chairs once the leash makes a Cat’s Cradle of our beach settlement. It’s easier than winding the dog back through his path.


In my next manuscript, look for Rocky as a character. We didn’t know what we were missing, even if they are a lot of work! Do you include your pets in your manuscripts?

Rocky can play peekaboo! I put that at 12-18 month child intelligence!

P.S. The Caroline Crimes Anthology, for which I wrote three stories before submitting one--I got into the anthology!! Look for "Stevie and Keith for the Save."

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Finding that Golden Nugget - Persistence Pays Off by Martha Reed

You would think after producing four mystery novels that I’d have writing them down to a science. Craft a catchy opening hook, develop an interesting plot with sufficient red herrings, introduce a few new stand-out characters, and catch the killer in eighty-five thousand words. Seriously, how hard could it be?

It turns out that writing every new novel is an arduous journey because each one of the little buggers is completely different in its own uniquely quirky way.

I completely rewrote my first manuscript four times until I was satisfied, and I almost gave up. I clearly remember sitting at my dining room table tugging on my hair while wondering, “When will this (@#*&!) be done?” When it was finally finished, I wondered if I even wanted to continue exploring my creative writing dream and begin another novel because I thought the experience would be too brutally similar. I doubted I was up to the task.

Talking it over with a wise friend, he said that when I was ready to quit was when I was really only beginning. I now call him Yoda. Promising to give it a fair chance, I dug in and to my surprise writing my second book was pure delight, the quickest one I’ve ever finished. I sat down, opened my laptop and the story flowed like I was watching a movie on a screen.

The third book involved weaving together three different and complex family histories and storylines. I had a lot of fun meshing birthdates and genealogies and that took some time, but in the end, it worked. Book Four came to me in an inspirational flash while I was listening to Tears for Fears music on a writer’s retreat. Grabbing my notebook, I scribbled down an initial outline during one day’s session and now, when I go back and review my notes, I’m amazed at how much of the completed story was actually represented on those first few pages. It was pure magic.

And now we come to Book Five.

Book Five involves researching a new setting and a location and that’s been slowing me down. Because of the internet, finding interesting new details to share with my readers is easy enough, but I keep getting distracted by this interesting information, especially when Googling street maps, and I tumble down long rambling rabbit holes. Eventually, when I do pop back up, I’m carrying a golden nugget of fact or some fascinating detail that will make my story so much better, one that I can really use. Then I’ll check the clock and wonder, “How on earth did writing that paragraph take me four hours?” I’ve even disbelieved the clock until I stood and my body reminded me that yes, I really sat planted in my chair for that long.

But mostly what I wanted to share today was about getting through the sloggy writing bits and finding those magical golden nuggets. Earlier this week I had three straight days of framing up a new chapter while thinking, “Where is this going? This is pure crap.” Taking myself for repeated walks, I considered whether the story was rolling off the rails even while my writerly instinct told me it was not and that I should continue to follow it out. Working on blind faith, that’s what I did. I hemmed and hawed and plowed straight through. The morning of the third day I saw a glimmer of something good, the merest hint. Fearlessly, I pushed on. On the fourth day I opened the same draft manuscript, started working on those same crappy paragraphs and tried again. And then suddenly magic happened. One of my new characters, previously silent and pretty much in the background stepped forward, transforming the scene with one surprising move into one filled with dramatic suspense. Where did that come from? I sat back, grateful and amazed, and in that moment my creative well of confidence filled back up until it brimmed over. Now I feel re-energized and ready to see where this odd story is going to take me next. As its writer and technically its first reader, isn’t this exactly what we want to experience with our work?

Have you ever wanted to give up on a story project? What was it that made you keep at it and got you through to the end?

Monday, July 26, 2021

Suspension of Disbelief by Nancy L. Eady

 As I write this, I am sitting on the couch trying to convince my 19-year-old she will not die because some huge fire ants bit her foot. I also commented that MOST people don’t kill ant beds while barefoot. She’s not listening, though, because we also found a huge ant (that sucker was over 1/4 inch long) in the house. Now she is convinced the ants “know who she is” and are “coming to get her.” This same child has been trying to convince my husband and me that Elon Musk is evil and “planning something” which includes the destruction of planet Earth. She used to believe COVID vaccines contain miniscule bits of metal allowing the government to track the vaccinated until we let her put a magnet to our arms and it didn't stay put. Critical thinking is not her forte, unless she is parsing any parental statement, suggestion, or rule. 

Excessive drama aside, I do envy her ability to suspend disbelief. Most authors depend on a reader’s ability to suspend disbelief at least partially. The tough part is giving the reader enough details to let them enter your world while remaining consistent with your own vision of the mystery you want them to experience. And if you ask a reader to suspend disbelief for a particular situation, setting or event, you need to be consistent. Don’t ask them to suspend disbelief for one thing then throw in something contradictory.  For example, a dog walker investigates crime better than the local police can but then the police solve the crime without the dog walker’s assistance.

With certain settings, the idea of suspension of disbelief applies even when the details are true. Just because something happened in real life doesn’t mean readers will believe it.  A city dweller may not believe a law firm in a small town would leave its back door unlocked so the strange man who has spent every day for years wandering the courthouse square muttering to himself can slip in to get his daily coffee. Having worked in the law firm where it happened, I know it is 100% true. And since I plan for someone based on him to be a major character in my next novel, I must find a way to either make that believable or convince my reader to suspend their own disbelief. 

What books have you read that made suspending your disbelief easy? What stories do you write that ask the reader to suspend their disbelief, and over what issues?  

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Step Away From the Review by Annette Dashofy

I, like many authors, have a love/hate relationship with reviews. We do what we can to get them early so Amazon algorithms will smile upon us. We search out flattering turns of phrases that we might be able to pull and use in social media to entice prospective readers. We (I) breathe sighs of relief when those first reviews come back saying wonderful things about the new book.


And yet, I implore authors, especially new authors, to avoid reading their reviews. As in, avoid it like the plague. Because, here’s the thing—as soon as strangers start reading your book, you are going to start getting those dreaded three-, two-, or even one-star reviews.


I can tell you from personal experience, you can have a hundred glowing five-star reviews, but the solitary one-star will put you in a funk for at least a week.


Or maybe that’s just me.


Some of the lower-rated reviews can be laughed off. The reader gave the book a one-star because it arrived damaged. Or because they didn’t like fantasy when the cover clearly shows wizards and dragons.


The sad truth is some people are mean. They not only don’t like your book, they want the entire world to dislike it as well.


I have at least one review out there (a one-star) in which the reader rants about every aspect of the story and proceeds to give away every plot twist, every reveal, including the ending. That one makes me break out in hives. Dude, if you disliked what you were reading so much, why not toss the book in the trash and move on? Why immerse yourself into the story so deeply that you felt the need to re-tell the entire thing in five long paragraphs on a review site?




Most of the time, I put on blinders when I’m looking at my books on those sites. I avoid the reviews, find what I’m there to look for, and close the page. Unfortunately, the other day I got lured in. I clicked on the reviews. And as I said above, in spite of all the lovely five-stars, the handful of one-stars are what captured my eye and made me question my career choice.


At which point, I gave myself the same advice I’ve given others over and over again. Step away from the reviews. I did, but they still stung.


I’ve always been told those reviews are not for us. They’re by readers, for readers. Fine. Lately, however, there seems to be a new social media trend. Readers post reviews trashing a book and then tag the author. Why on earth do these people feel the need to do this? We’ve already faced truckloads of rejections from agents and editors to get to this point. It’s not like we need to learn what that feels like.


So I’m putting these questions out there: To my fellow authors, do you read your reviews? Have you ever found yourself tagged in a bad one? To my fellow readers, do you write reviews, even if you dislike the book? And if you’ve ever tagged an author in one of those bad reviews, can you please explain your reasoning? I’d really like to understand.  

Saturday, July 24, 2021

On Writing by Kait Carson


The five cornerstones of writing are who, what, where, when, and why. Every story, short or long, must answer those questions. Omit one and the story fails to satisfy. Address only those five questions and the story will have bones, but no heart. Heart comes from drawing the reader in and making them care. If your reader sees, hears, tastes, smells, and touches your scenes and story elements, they become an active participant. It’s what encourages them to turn the pages until the end.


Taped to the flat of my laptop are two post-it-notes. One has passwords for frequently visited sites, the other reads: Sensory Elements. That one is written in red caps. When I first began writing, I was so busy telling the story that I forgot to let the reader experience the story. This reminder post-it-note has gone from laptop to laptop until it’s nearly worn thin. I’m not sure I need it anymore, but writers are a superstitious crowd. I’m petrified I’ll neglect the obvious if I dispose of it.


The mantra of add sensory elements has followed me for so long that I’d forgotten when and where I happened upon it. A recent post by Kate Flora on Maine Crime Writers reminded me. I’d read her original teaching post a number of years ago and attempted all of the exercises. The hardest, and most valuable, for me was describing something five ways each time using only one of the five senses. Now, when I have a scene that seems flat, I consider the five senses and seek one sensory element that sets the scene apart.


My characters live in the Florida Keys. Heat bakes skin, breezes bring tangy whiffs of salt and seaweed, rain pounds and bounces from the pavement striking the skin like tiny knives, lightning smells of ozone and raises fine hairs on the body, fall morning air has the taste of a hearty burgundy wine, sand crunches underfoot, the noon sky darkens to midnight black in advance of an approaching storm. These descriptions help the reader participate in the story, and hopefully whet the appetite for more after the current tale ends.


Readers and writers, what brings you into a story and makes you want more?

Thursday, July 22, 2021

The Blank Page by Connie Berry

Every story ever written begins with a blank page.


Oh, yes, there may be thoughts circling in your brain. Some as-yet unformed characters. The first glimmers of a setting and a plot. But none of this has made it to the page—or, more likely, the computer screen.


A blank page means limitless possibilities. Anything is possible. Even if a writer has ideas, those ideas can still change because nothing is set in stone. This is as true for plotters (those who plan out a story in advance) as it is for pantsers (those who let the story unfold organically as they write). Either way, as words begin to fill the metaphorical blank page, the possibilities narrow. If X happens, then Y is no longer a possibility. If my protagonist chooses a particular course of action, the alternative (barring a major rewrite) must be left behind.


Writing a story is a process that involves choices for both the characters and the writer. Those choices will impose limits that must push the characters toward a conclusion, a revelation, that, at some point, becomes inevitable.


When I think about writing a new book, as I’m doing now, I always think about my life.

As a child, I was taught by my parents that all possibilities were open to me. With enough desire and work, I could become a teacher, a doctor, a lawyer, an archaeologist, a professor, a business executive, a writer, or anything else that captured my passion.


Over the course of time, my choices, plus the skills and abilities I possessed, narrowed the field. Since I wasn’t blessed with the math gene, a career in science wasn’t in the cards. My dislike for hot weather and sweating made archaeology less appealing. I didn’t care about the world of business or the law. I didn’t have the patience it takes to teach children. What I did love was reading, writing, researching, learning, answering questions, and communicating what I’d learned. That narrowed my field of opportunities pretty dramatically, and the resulting path led to my two careers—teaching theology to adults and writing mysteries.


At the moment, I’m trying to apply the lessons I’ve learned in life to the main characters in my new book (whoever they turn out to be). Here are the questions I’m asking right now: What does my main character want? Why does she want it? What foe (external or internal) will prevent her from getting it? What events will force her to make choices leading to consequences and eventually to change and growth?


This brings me back to the blank page. I’ve yet to write a single word. First, I have to make choices. I must narrow the field and place my main characters on the path I’ve chosen for them.


Does a blank page terrify you or fill you with anticipation? 

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

An Interview With Ginger Bolton

by Grace Topping


There is something special about a good mystery that features food—and what could be more appealing than reading about all types of donuts? Ginger Bolton in her Deputy Donut mystery series takes us into the world of donut making and murder. Throw in a few police officers and you have the perfect recipe for an intriguing mystery. While reading one of Ginger’s books, don’t be surprised if you find yourself checking online for the location of the nearest donut shop.  


Beyond a Reasonable Donut

Back Cover Copy


Selling her corn fritters at a carnival, Deputy Donut CafĂ© owner Emily Westhill faces off against a murderer who doesn’t play fair…

Emily and her assistant, Nina, are looking forward to manning the Deputy Donut tent at the Faker’s Dozen Carnival in Fallingbrook, Wisconsin—a festival held on Friday the thirteenth to celebrate good and bad luck. But Emily has barely dropped the corn fritters in oil when bad luck boils up. First, their bucket of confectioner’s sugar disappears—and then while a mime creates a distraction, a magician robs their cash register.

After the carnival, their misfortune continues. Emily discovers that someone has broken into artist Nina’s loft and vandalized a large painting in progress with the bucket of stolen sugar, which is now on the head of the mime, who seems to have been suffocated. Emily would bet Nina was the intended victim, but the cops think Nina silenced the mime. Now Emily must catch the killer white-handed—before someone else kicks the bucket…



Welcome back to Writers Who Kill, Ginger.


Thanks for inviting me! It’s good to be back.


Beyond a Reasonable Donut is the fifth book in your Deputy Donut mystery series. What is the greatest challenge you face sustaining a mystery series?


Putting my characters through yet another stressful time.


What inspired you to make Emily a young widow and the co-owner of a donut shop? Are you a big fan of donuts?


First, yes, I’ve always loved donuts. I attempted making some at around the age of fourteen. After that failure (not a failure if you like chomping on hockey pucks), I knew for certain that donuts had to be purchased and could never be made at home.


Then, much more recently, author Laurie Cass mentioned Cops & Doughnuts, a bakery in Clare, Michigan. It had been about to go out of business. All nine Clare police officers pitched in to buy and run the bakery. As soon as Laurie mentioned it, a donut-sized lightbulb went off in my head. A donut shop run by cops and/or people close to cops would be a great place for an amateur sleuth to collect clues and eavesdrop on conversations. Of course, I visited their bakery, and of course, I tried their donuts, and of course, I posed in one of the cutouts in front. And in case you are wondering, their donuts are perfection.


A former 911 operator and detective’s widow, my main character Emily Westhill has first responder friends who might help or hinder her investigations. Her business partner, Tom, is her late husband’s father. Tom is the town’s retired police chief and was, like his late son, a detective. Tom tries to prevent Emily from snooping around and placing herself in danger. Emily would never purposely place herself in danger. . . .


When I started writing the series, I got a deep-fryer and learned to make donuts at home! They can also be baked, but (ahem) baked donuts are not as indulgent as deep-fried ones.



In Beyond a Reasonable Donut, the book opens at a Faker’s Dozen carnival. What exactly is a Faker’s Dozen? Do they hold a Faker’s Dozen carnival where you live?


I made that up. It’s a play on “Baker’s Dozen,” thirteen instead of twelve. Faker’s because the carnival is held on Friday the thirteenth and celebrates good and bad luck. The “fakers” at the carnival include magicians and a mime whose story doesn’t end well. At the fair, Emily and her assistant are selling thirteen corny fritters for the price of twelve.



I love the recipes you include at the end of your books. In this book, you included a recipe for Corny Fritters, which calls for smoked paprika, black pepper, and chili powder. An option is to sprinkle them with granulated or confectioners’ sugar. Do people actually eat these savory donuts with sugar?


I like them with just enough sugar to wake up the taste buds. I’m amazed at the variety of foods served at fairs and carnivals. My Threadville novel, Threaded for Trouble, ends at a fair. I wrote that someone at that fair offers deep-fried fruit-flavored gelatin for sale. I thought the idea was outlandish and would cause readers to smile, but no one would actually attempt to make it. Before my book came out, I read about someone serving deep-fried gelatin at a fair. Hmmm. I can think of a couple of ways of making it work. Maybe.



What’s the most unusual donut recipe you’ve included in a book? Do you create your own recipes?


I’m not sure it’s unusual, but my favorite original donut recipe is the one for Black-and-Whites from Goodbye Cruller World. The dark chocolate, cream-stuffed donuts are baked, so you don’t need a deep-fryer. I do create my own recipes, but I have to tell you--writing entire books is almost easier than remembering to write down all the ingredients and steps in a recipe.



With so many books in the series, do you find yourself running out of donut recipes? Who does your taste-testing?


In each book, I mention donuts that Emily, Tom, and their assistants make, then I choose the ones that might appeal most to home cooks. I find taste testers for my donuts wherever I can, but I have to try all of the results, several times, myself. It’s hard work, but someone has to do it.



This is the second series you’ve written. I remember fondly The Threadville Mysteries, featuring murder and mayhem in a village of needlecraft shops. The first in that series, Dire Treads, was nominated for an Agatha Best First Novel Award and the Bony Blithe Award in 2012. Did you find it difficult transitioning to a new series with all new characters?


It wasn’t difficult. I enjoy returning to previous settings and characters and handing them new challenges. Writing subsequent books in a series is easier in some ways because I already know the characters and what they would do in a situation. 


Starting a new series is easier in a different way—I have the freedom to invent and explore new characters and settings, and I’m not bound by what I wrote in previous books. 


It’s all fun!


Deputy Donut, “Dep,” Emily’s tabby cat, makes appearances in each book. Do you find having a cat in your series and on your covers draws more readers? What is it about cats in books that readers love?


I’m sure that the adorable kitten on the cover of Survival of the Fritters helped readers want to read that book. Every time I see that kitten, I melt. And the artist, Mary Ann Lasher, has done a spectacular job with Dep on every cover. 


Real-life cats are unique characters. They can be funny and endearing, and they tend to have traits that all readers who are owned by cats easily recognize. Our main characters’ pets can make readers feel close to our human characters.


Besides, readers and cats really go together. A book in your hand, a cup of tea by your elbow, and a purring cat on your lap... 


What is the nicest thing a reader or reviewer has said to you about either of your series?


People have said such wonderful things that it would be hard to choose. I love it when they say they’ve been entertained, because that’s my main goal.


With a number of books in the Deputy Donut series, are you giving any thought to perhaps a third series?


I have more ideas for series than time to write them!

What’s next for Emily Westhill and her friends?


Christmas preparations, a blizzard, hosting stranded passengers after a tour bus goes off the road, and a deadly ice sculpture nicknamed Frosty the Donut... Is Emily’s houseguest an innocent victim or a murderer? Deck the Donuts will be on store shelves on October 26, 2021, and is available for pre-order now.


Thank you, Ginger.


For more information about Ginger Bolton and her series, visit her at