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


July Interviews

7/07 Leslie Budewitz, Carried To The Grave, And Other Stories
7/14 Sujata Massey, The Bombay Prince
7/21 Ginger Bolton, Beyond a Reasonable Donut
7/28 Meri Allen/Shari Randall, The Rocky Road to Ruin


Saturday WWK Bloggers

7/10 Jennifer J. Chow

7/17 What We're Reading Now! WWK Bloggers

7/24 Kait Carson

7/31 Write Your Way Out of This! WWK Bloggers



Guest Blogs

7/3 M K Morgan













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Warren Bull's short story, "Just Another Day at the Office" appears in the anthology, Red, White, and Blue available this month by Whortleberry Press. Congratulations, Warren!


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. It will be released on June 21st.


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 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!

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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."


Wednesday, July 28, 2021

An Author Interview with Meri Allen (Shari Randall) by E. B. Davis

 

Justice will be swirled by amateur sleuth Riley Rhodes in the first in Meri Allen's brand-new mystery series, The Rocky Road to Ruin!

Riley Rhodes, travel food blogger and librarian at the CIA, makes a bittersweet return to her childhood home of Penniman, Connecticut – land of dairy farms and covered bridges - for a funeral. Despite the circumstances, Riley’s trip home is sprinkled with reunions with old friends, visits to her father’s cozy bookshop on the town green, and joyful hours behind the counter at the beloved Udderly Delicious Ice Cream Shop. It feels like a time to help her friend Caroline rebuild after her mother’s death, and for Riley to do a bit of her own reflecting after a botched undercover mission in Italy. After all, it’s always good to be home.

But Caroline and her brother Mike have to decide what to do with the assets they’ve inherited – the ice cream shop as well as the farm they grew up on – and they’ve never seen eye to eye. Trouble begins to swirl as Riley is spooked by reports of a stranger camping behind the farm and by the odd behavior of the shop’s mascot, Caroline’s snooty Persian, Sprinkles. When Mike turns up dead in the barn the morning after the funeral, the peace and quiet of Penniman seems upended for good. Can Riley find the killer before another body gets scooped?

Amazon.com


Shari Randall, now writing as Meri Allen, has created a new ice cream shop mystery series. Her previous Lobster Shack series was nominated for an Agatha Award for, Curses, Boiled Again.

 

In the first book of this new series, The Rocky Road to Ruin, readers meet Riley Rhodes, the main character. Riley’s history provokes the question: How can a librarian also be a spy for the CIA? We learn a bit about Riley’s latest CIA caper, and I hope in subsequent books we learn more. As a writer, I see subplots abounding from Riley’s background. Food blogging? Another gateway to subplots or complications of the main plot.

 

The secondary characters supporting Riley are positive influences with the exception of her stepmother, who is unintentionally passive aggressive or perhaps, it is intentional. And yet, it may be that Riley can’t stop resenting the woman, but for what reason? In any case, Riley will have to deal with her stepmother in one way or another once she determines who or what is the problem.

 

Welcome Shari Randall’s Meri Allen to WWK.                                                   E. B. Davis

 

What is the thinking on the name change? You are writing to the same cozy mystery market. Your writing was nominated for an Agatha award. Why change a successful brand with a new name? (I’m so against this because for me it’s the writer not the book.) 

My agent says the traditional thinking is, “new series, new name.” He’s the pro, so I followed his advice.

 

Is there a Penniman, Connecticut? If not, where did you come up with that name? Is it a New England surname? Is there a Seven-Mile River?

Penniman exists only in my book, alas, but it was inspired by my favorite bits and pieces of real Connecticut villages and towns – the covered bridges, the town greens, the unique bookshops and tea shops. The story is set in what’s called the Quiet Corner of Connecticut, the northeastern corner, and it is filled with many special small towns. But there is a real-life Eight Mile River near me. The name Penniman came to me because I’d decided to name Riley’s dad’s used bookstore The Penniless Reader, and I worked backwards from there for the town’s name.

Riley’s father was a former teacher and now owns a second-hand bookstore. Her stepmother, Paulette, was a nurse. How does Paulette have the money to support her champagne tastes?  

Paulette’s first husband was loaded and she got a sweet alimony deal.

 

The ice cream store, Udderly Delightful, was created by Riley’s best friend Caroline’s mother Buzzy, who has died. Caroline lives in Boston and works as an art appraiser for an auction house. Why does she want to keep Udderly Delightful open? 

For Caroline, holding onto the shop is holding onto Buzzy’s memory. Caroline and Mike were adopted by Buzzy after spending several difficult years in foster care. Udderly Delicious was Buzzy’s baby and a Penniman institution, and Caroline doesn’t want to give it up

 

Although Buzzy adopted Caroline and Mike, they are full siblings, and yet they have little in common. Why, if they were both raised by Buzzy, does only Caroline seem to have Buzzy’s values?  

This is a great question. Nature vs. nurture, right? I think Mike’s brash, outgoing personality, and athletic prowess took him in a different direction than Caroline, who is shy, artistic, and introspective.

 

Even though Buzzy has died, she is very much a character. Riley’s mother died when she was two years old. Was Buzzy like a mother to Riley also? 

Buzzy did fill that role for Riley, and that’s part of the reason she decides to take the job as the shop manager. Riley lived in Washington DC for many years and traveled extensively, so staying in Penniman also means she can be close to her dad.

 

Was Riley released from the CIA’s employ, or does she feel the need for a career change after what happened in her last assignment?  

Riley wasn’t fired, but a disaster in Rome made her doubt herself. She sees the job at the ice cream shop as a chance to regroup and shift gears. Riley has lots of creative ideas from her travel and food blog, so she’s eager to explore those possibilities.

 

When Riley is stressed, how can she possibly eat hot fudge sundaes topped with potato chips?   

A potato chip topping is delicious! The chips add a nice salty crunch.

 

Buzzy’s cat Sprinkles (does she have a urine problem or does the name refer to those adorning the top of ice cream?) is also a main character, an antagonist of sorts. Sprinkles plays a game with Riley that could get her hurt. Is there nothing Riley can do about it?  

Sprinkles, a fabulous snowy white Persian, is definitely named for the pretty ice cream toppings. She’s a diva who considers herself an adornment to every life she encounters. A former show cat, Sprinkles was kicked off the circuit for biting, scratching, and general bad behavior. She doesn’t want to share Caroline with Riley and resorts to all sorts of sabotage to get her way. It keeps Riley on her toes.

 

When a scruffy kitten appears on the farm, Riley names him Rocky because he looks like he’s already survived a few rounds in the boxing ring. But Rocky appears at the murder scene and has a nose for investigation. Will Rocky become Riley’s sleuthing sidekick? 

Rocky is my nod to Koko and Yum Yum, the cats in The Cat Who series. He’s an inquisitive little thing. Though he leaves most of the sleuthing to Riley, he’s usually where the action is.

 

Will readers become familiar with Riley’s “Rhode Food” blog? Will there be excerpts?  

What a great idea! There will be now!

 

You describe a waffle iron to make waffle cones, but waffle cones are thin and crisp. Is this a different type of waffle iron than those the home cook is used to? Are the waffles fried and then rolled while they are hot?  

Yes, that’s exactly right. Here’s a video. Riley has her eye on this waffle cone machine. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rzL2acsqMJw

 

When was Riley in the army? Helicopter crash?  

Riley went in the Army right out of college. The crash occurred during a training mission in her first year, so her dream of being an army officer was crushed. After rehabbing from several broken bones, she returned to running, a passion of hers in high school, and decided to follow her love of books into a library degree and an eventual job at the CIA library (yes, they have their own). Riley’s background and training in the army, plus her frequent travels, put her on the radar of some higher ups at the CIA and she was approached about doing occasional missions.

 

Why do Caroline and Riley indulge Sprinkles in her obnoxious habit, which is? (It makes me shudder!) 

 I didn’t think it was possible myself, until I saw a friend’s cat do it. We don’t want to spoil anyone’s breakfast, so I won’t say what it is here. Read the book and find out!

 

Wouldn’t the alcohol in Boozy ice cream prevent it from freezing? Is it more of a slushy?  

Yes, alcohol lowers the freezing point of ice cream and sorbets, and an ice cream maker must take that into account. What Buzzy called Margarita Ice Cream is more of a margarita sorbet, and it gets even more delicious as it melts into a slushy.

How much ice cream research did you do to create the series? Was it fun? Delicious? Did you try to make any at home? Brownie Bomb, Peach, Sun Flower…homemade marshmallow topping…all of them sound like treats! 

First lobster and now ice cream! Suffering for my art! I’m spoiled. I love taking road trips and followed lots of back roads to some fantastic ice cream shops. Because I set the shop in the eastern part of Connecticut, I concentrated the research there and discovered some fabulous ice cream shops: Buttonwood Farms (which also inspired the book’s sunflower festival), the UConn Dairy Bar, Michael’s Dairy, We-Lik-It – I ate a lot of ice cream while writing this book.

Like many people in 2020, my husband and I spent a lot of time at home, and decided to invest in an ice cream maker. That little machine has earned its counter space. There’s a batch of chocolate chip ice cream going right now.

 

What’s next for Riley?  

Riley will be back for at least two more books. Book Two’s working title is Mint Chocolate Murder, and the murder will take place during a fantasy ice cream social. I’m having a lot of fun dreaming up ice cream treats for that one.

 

 

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?

 

(SIGH)

 

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…

                                                                                                 www.gingerbolton.com

 

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. https://copsdoughnuts.com/about/ 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 www.gingerbolton.com



 

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Celebrating the 2019 and 2020 Agatha Nominated Best Short Stories

by Paula Gail Benson

Last Wednesday through Saturday, the Malice Domestic board organized and presented a series of online panels and interviews called More Than Malice. While those of us who enjoy gathering for our annual reunion missed the in-person event, the virtual one helped us reconnect.

More Than Malice culminated on Saturday with the announcement of the Agatha awards. For two years now, we’ve had to celebrate those nominees and winners from afar. Teapots will be awarded when we’re all together again, but in the meantime, yesterday on The Stiletto Gang, I profiled the Best First Novel nominees and listed their new and upcoming work.

Today, I’m continuing to celebrate with the Agatha nominees for 2019 and 2020 Best Short Stories. They are a talented group of authors and I feel fortunate to count them as friends. If you haven’t discovered them yet, please consider reading their work. For 2020, I’ve included the links to the nominated stories.

Here are the Agatha nominees for Best Short Story (award noted by **):

2019 Best Short Story

“Grist for the Mill” by Kaye George in A Murder of Crows (Darkhouse Books)

“Alex’s Choice” by Barb Goffman in Crime Travel (Wildside Press)

“The Blue Ribbon” by Cynthia Kuhn in Malice Domestic 14: Mystery Most Edible  (Wildside Press)

**“The Last Word” by Shawn Reilly Simmons, Malice Domestic 14: Mystery Most Edible (Wildside Press)

“Better Days” by Art Taylor (Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine)

2020 Best Short Story

**“Dear Emily Etiquette by Barb Goffman (Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine Sep/Oct)

The Red Herrings at Killington Inn by Shawn Reilly Simmons in Masthead: Best New England Crime Stories (Level Best Books)

The Boy Detective & The Summer of ‘74by Art Taylor (Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine Jan/Feb)

Elysian Fieldsby Gabriel Valjan in California Schemin’: The 2020 Bouchercon Anthology (Wildside Press)

The 25 Year Engagement” by James Ziskin in In League with Sherlock Holmes: Stories Inspired by the Sherlock Holmes Canon (Pegasus Crime)

Kaye George

Kaye George
has an amazing resume. She’s worked as a janitor, mental health center secretary, waitress, bookkeeper, short order cook, mainframe computer programmer, and nurse’s aide. She was the wife of a minister. She plays the violin and composes music. (I feel fortunate that she contributed the overture for a Sherlock Holmes musical I wrote.) She has written short stories as well as novels, including the Imogene Duckworthy, Cressa Caraway, People of the Wind (Neanderthal), Fat Cat, and Vintage Sweets series. A former blogging partner here at Writers Who Kill, she has served as Past President of the Guppies Chapter of Sisters in Crime and remains an active member of the Guppies short story critique group, where she offers sage advice to all of us struggling with the craft.


Barb Goffman
Barb Goffman’s “Dear Emily Etiquette” has been honored with the Agatha and the Ellery Queen Readers Award and is a finalist for the Anthony and Macavity awards to be given at Bouchercon in New Orleans. Her stories have received the Agatha and Macavity awards and she has been a finalist for national crime-writing awards thirty-three times. Her short story collection, Don’t Get Mad, Get Even, won the Silver Falchion. Barb gives generously of her time in talking with groups. She was a panelist this year at Mystery in the Midlands. As a member of the Chesapeake Chapter of Sisters in Crime, her stories have appeared in its anthologies, which she also assists in editing. She has her own editing service and is the proud mother of Jingles.


Cynthia Kuhn

Cynthia Kuhn
has written five academic mysteries about Professor Lila McLean. She received the Malice Domestic grant for this first novel, which also won the Agatha for Best First Novel. The other books in the Lila McLean series have been nominated for the Lefty for Best Humorous Mystery. How to Book a Murder is the first in her Starlit Mystery series. In addition, she has written academic nonfiction texts. She lives in Colorado with her family and is an English professor at Metropolitan State University in Denver, where she teaches literature, writing, and film.



Shawn Reilly Simmons

Many of us know and are grateful to
Shawn Reilly Simmons for her work as a Malice Domestic board member, and her being a co-owner/publisher and editor at Level Best Books. She edited Malice Domestic 14: Mystery Most Edible, which includes her Agatha award-winning story. In addition, she received the Anthony for editing that anthology. Along with writing and editing short stories, she is the author of seven novels in the Red Carpet Catering Mystery series featuring Penelope Sutherland, chef-owner of a movie set catering company. She lives in historic Frederick, Maryland, with her husband and son, Russell.


Art Taylor

Art Taylor’s
On the Road with Del & Louise: A Novel in Stories won the Agatha for Best First Novel and was a finalist for the Anthony and Macavity awards. His “English 398: Fiction Workshop” won the Edgar. His short fiction has received three Agatha awards, an Anthony award, four Macavity awards, and four Derringer awards. Murder Under the Oaks, which he edited for the Raleigh Bouchercon, received the Anthony award. Like Barb, Art has appeared in numerous virtual presentations, including serving on the short story panel with his wife Tara Laskowski and John Floyd at the 2020 Mystery in the Midlands. In February 2022, he, Tara, and son Dash will be guests of honor at Murder in the Magic City.

Gabriel Valjan

Gabriel Valjan
is the author of three series: (1) Roma (a prequel and five novels); (2) Company Files (the second book received Agatha and Anthony nominations), and (3) Shane Cleary PI Mysteries published by Level Best Books. His short stories have appeared in numerous anthologies and been listed for the Fish Prize (three times), the Bridport Prize, and Honorable Mention for the Nero Wolfe Black Orchid Novella in 2018. Art Taylor is the editor for California Schemin’, the Bouchercon anthology that contains Gabriel’s nominated short story.

James Ziskin

James Ziskin
lives in Boston, but has spent a life working around the world. He trained to be a linguist at the University of Pennsylvania. He’s worked in New York as a photo-news producer and writer, then as Director of NYU’s Casa Italiana. For fifteen years, he ran large international operations concerning subtitling/localization and visual effects in Hollywood post production. He has worked and studied in France, Italy, and India. His Ellie Stone Mysteries have won the Anthony and Macavity and been finalists for the Edgar, Barry, and Lefty awards. “The 25 Year Engagement” has been named a finalist for the Edgar, Agatha, Anthony, and Macavity awards.


If you are not already a fan of short mystery fiction, these authors’ stories are a great way to get hooked. Why not check them out?