Please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com for information on guest blogs and interviews. Interviews for November: 11/2 Lois Winston 11/9 Christin Brecher 11/16 Laurie Lowenstein 11/23 M.V. Byrne

Thursday, September 30, 2021

What We're Doing Now by WWK Authors

 Korina Moss

I received what's called a "first pass" from my editor at St. Martin's Press for my book Cheddar Off Dead. This is the stage where the publisher has formatted the manuscript, and I look it over to make sure there are no glaring errors. (Their copyeditor and proofreader do so, as well.) I am also writing up the cheese-forward recipes to be included that my main character Willa makes in the book. My deadline is September 20. The book is available for pre-order.

In Korina Moss's cozy series debut, Cheddar Off Dead, cheesemonger Willa Bauer discovers that her new home in a small Sonoma Valley town is ripe for murder... something here stinks to high heaven, and Willa knows it's not the cheese.

KM Rockwood

Miss Grayling, a character who appears in some of my short stories, is at it again. Her cat Arabella, who is fond of presenting dead mice and other treasures, has brought home a diamond ring. When Miss Grayling brings it to a local jeweler, she discovers it appears on a list of recently stolen items. Who would ever suspect an eccentric, elderly lady who lives in her deteriorating Victorian mansion of being a partner to burglary? Yet it is undeniable that she was in possession of stolen goods. Complicating the situation are two neglected children from one of the apartments next door. Miss Grayling, who has a healthy fear of authorities who may decide she is incapable of living on her own, sets about doing what she can to remedy the situations in her own, usually fatal, way.

Marilyn Levinson

I’ve just gone through my first editing phase of Dewey Decimated, the sixth book in the Haunted Library series that I write as Allison Brook. It’s due October 31, and tentatively scheduled to come out in September 2022. Two new characters appear in the book—the ghost of a man who has been murdered and can’t remember much of anything and a brash young investigative TV reporter who insists on solving the murder with Carrie.

Death on the Shelf debuts on November 9th.

My mind is awhirl with plotting ideas for Book Number Seven in the series.

Tammy Euliano


I am incorporating the comments of beta readers in my sequel to Fatal Intent and hope to have it off to the publisher by the end of the month (hopefully before this is posted :-)) I'm starting to plot the third in the series of Dr. Kate Downey, a most unusual anesthesiologist who keeps running into murderous schemes she has to solve. 

 

  

Debra H. Goldstein 

I've been busy promoting recently released Four Cuts Too Many in which Sarah Blair, who finds kitchens more frightening than murder, gets an education in slicing and dicing when someone in the culinary school where her friend teaches serves up a main corpse and Sarah soon discovers that there’s no time to mince words when it comes to finding the real killer. I also submitted the edits for Five Belles Too Many, a tale of five couples, including Mother Maybelle and George, participating in a television competition for the perfect Southern wedding. In Five Belles, which releases in June 2022, Sarah gets roped into being her mother's chaperone. 

Susan Van Kirk

I just finished the final proofread of my fourth Endurance mystery, The Witch's Child. It's off to the formatter and will be out by October 15, 2021. Grace Kimball welcomes home her former student and daughter of a notorious woman who went to prison following a bitter murder trial ten years earlier in Endurance. Not everyone in town is willing to forgive and forget. I'll be editing Death in a Pale Hue (An Art Center Mystery) soon with Level Best Books, and then I begin writing the second book in that 3-book contract. 

 


Shari Randall 
I've turned in final edits for Mint Chocolate Murder, book two of my new Ice Cream Shop Mystery series (written as Meri Allen). Ice cream shop manager and former CIA librarian Riley Rhodes is asked to create elaborate treats for a fantasy ice cream social at the Moy Mull Art Colony. When an unsavory photographer is found dead in a locked room, Riley finds herself in the middle of a deliciously diabolical mystery.
 


Kait Carson

A Key West Kind of Death – Second in the Southernmost Secrets series.

Hank Wittie has put her medical career on hold to manage her family’s newly opened B and B in Key West. The director of the tourist board is found dead at the grand opening celebration in the poison garden he opposed. When his death is attributed to a berry found in the garden, and more deaths follow, Hank must use her medical knowledge and investigative skills to find the killer or lose her reputation and livelihood.

 

 

Molly MacRae

I’m working on the first round of edits for Argyles and Arsenic, book 5 in the Highland Bookshop Mystery series, where murder at a Scottish manor house leads to a poisonous game of cat and mouse – with the women of Yon Bonnie Books playing to win. The book comes out March 1, 2022.

At the same time, I’m madly typing toward the deadline (in three short weeks) for an as yet untitled book in Annie’s Museum Mysteries. The story involves photographs, developed from an old film, that provide clues for solving a mystery – or do they? I’m writing two of the projected twelve books in the series with the rest written by other authors. I’m writing them under the name Margaret Welch, which I chose because Margaret, protagonist in my Margaret & Bitsy mysteries, has always wanted to write books. Why a penname? To separate these books, whose characters and guidelines come from the publisher, from books that are wholly my own.

Connie Berry

Right now I’m finishing copy edits on The Shadow of Memory, fourth in the Kate Hamilton Mystery series. 

 As Kate plans her future with Detective Inspector Tom Mallory, she is also helping her colleague Ivor Tweedy organize an upcoming auction in a seaside village on the Suffolk coast. Netherfield Sanatorium, an abandoned Victorian insane asylum, is being converted into luxury townhouses. Kate and Ivor have been asked to auction off a fine collection of antiques, including a fifteenth-century painting attributed to the Dutch master Jan Van Eyck. But when retired criminal inspector Will Parker is found dead, Kate discovers that the halls of the sanatorium housed much more than priceless art.

Kate is surprised to learn that Will Parker was her friend Vivian Bunn’s first boyfriend. They met in 1963 at a seaside holiday camp when, along with three other teens, they explored an abandoned house where two years earlier a local doctor and his wife had died under bizarre circumstances. Now, when a second member of the childhood gang dies unexpectedly—and then a third—it becomes clear the teens discovered more in the house than they realized. What was the deadly truth they found? When Kate makes a shocking connection between a sixty-year-old murder and the long-buried secrets of the sanatorium, she understands that time is running out for Vivian—and anyone connected to her. 

Annette Dashofy 

As is usually the case, I’m juggling a couple of projects right now. I’m working on revisions to my next Zoe Chambers Mystery, which is due to my publisher in mid-November. I’m also in the rough draft phase of a potential new series. And by rough draft, I mean I’m swamped in the dreaded muddle in the middle but trudging onward.  Finally, I have Crime in the Country: A Zoe Chambers Mystery Anthology coming out October 5. 

 Margaret S. Hamilton


Curtains for the Corpse, a 2019 Daphne finalist, is in final revisions. When Lizzie finds a body at her carriage house renovation site and learns the college student last seen with the victim is missing, she becomes involved in the investigation.

Corniced to Death, a 2021 Claymore finalist, is a work in progress. When Lizzie finds twelve young women locked in the college conference center attic, she is determined to protect them while identifying who brought them to campus.

 

Jennifer J. Chow

I'm excited about my next novel, Mimi Lee Cracks the Code, which releases November 30. In the meantime, I’ve turned in my draft of Death By Bubble Tea, Book One in my new Night Market Mysteries. It’s set to release in June 2022 and is about two opposite-personality cousins, who are thrown together in a delicious mystery, while working at a food stall in a Los Angeles night market. 

 

 

Grace Topping


Since the launch of the third book in my Laura Bishop Mystery Series, "Upstaged by Murder," in the spring, I have been focusing on interviewing mystery authors for our Writers Who Kill blog. It gives me the opportunity to read a variety of books in order to interview them. I'm also learning what I can about writing short stories so I can try my hand at that. Writing short sounds easier than writing a novel, but as other authors have found, it is a bit of a challenge. I've also taken advantage of several online conferences and participated with some online panels. Zoom has been a real blessing, keeping authors connected with each other and with organizations. 

 
James M. Jackson

I’m seeking representation for a spinoff series (Niki Undercover) featuring the undercover FBI Special Agent who first appeared in Cabin Fever (Seamus McCree #3). I’m also working on the first draft of the next book in the Seamus McCree series.

 

   

 

E. B. Davis

I’m revising a short story as per the editor’s direction for Carolina Crimes: 20 Tales of Rock, Roll, and Ruin. My short story is “Stevie and Keith for the Win.” Jenny is arrested for breaking and entering, assault, and theft when she goes to her not-quite ex-husband’s house to take care of their dog while he supposedly is out of town—not! The anthology doesn't have cover art yet. This is the first anthology, which I had a story in called, "Ice Cream Allure."

 I am also trying to promote the Guppy anthology, The Fish That Got Away. My story is, “The Pearl Necklace.”

 

Warren Bull

I have often thought it would be a great benefit to have a computer app or at least a paper map to figure out the answer to that question. But I don’t.

At the moment I am deeply into writing music. I have been singing with the intention of singing well for the past seven years. I feel like I have begun to learn how to learn to sing. For example, Latin words are pronounced differently when singing British Latin than when singing American Latin. It is helpful for me to think of my voice as a wind instrument. I am a saxophone. There are sixteen types of saxophones. I am a tenor saxophone and a baritone singer.

I found it fun to write my own lyrics to songs. The notes dominated. I had to match rhythm and find a way to put the emphasis on words that matter. Sending out a ringing “the,” “and,” or “very” did not work.

I took classes in music theory, which was like taking classes in a foreign language. Words that I knew took on a new meaning. Counting went up to eight. Rhythm is dividing and subdividing. Chords progress. They should anyway.

At this point, I plunk notes and figure out simple tunes. My teacher helps me add depth and character. And the left-hand notes on a keyboard. I am having fun. Some of the songs are actually singable.

Writing is an act of self-disclosure. But standing in front of an audience while self-disclosing, is quite another thing.

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

An Interview with Rhys Bowen by E. B. Davis

 

Georgie is excited for her first Christmas as a married woman in her lovely new home. She suggests to her dashing husband, Darcy, that they have a little house party, but when Darcy receives a letter from his aunt Ermintrude, there is an abrupt change in plans. She has moved to a house on the edge of the Sandringham estate, near the royal family, and wants to invite Darcy and his new bride for Christmas. Aunt Ermintrude hints that the queen would like Georgie nearby. Georgie had not known that Aunt Ermintrude was a former lady-in-waiting and close confidante of her royal highness. The letter is therefore almost a royal request, so Georgie, Darcy, and their Christmas guests: Mummy, Grandad, Fig, and Binky all head to Sandringham.

Georgie soon learns that the notorious Mrs. Simpson, mistress to the Prince of Wales, will also be in attendance. It is now crystal clear to Georgie that the Queen expects her to do a bit of spying. There is tension in the air from the get-go, and when Georgie pays a visit to the queen, she learns that there is more to her request than just some simple eavesdropping. There have been a couple of strange accidents at the estate recently. Two gentlemen of the royal household have died in mysterious circumstances and another has been shot by mistake during a hunt. Georgie begins to suspect that a member of the royal family is the real target but her investigation will put her new husband and love of her life, Darcy, in the crosshairs of a killer.

Amazon.com

 

I can’t believe God Rest Ye, Royal Gentlemen is Rhys Bowen’s fifteenth Royal Spyness mystery. It seems like only yesterday when I picked up the first book and fell in love with the series. In this book, as in the others, Georgie finds herself in difficult circumstances, but this time not because Queen Mary asks her for reports on Mrs. Simpson and her son. Men are being murdered on the royal Sandringham estate. None of them have much in common. A strange phenomenon for Georgie and Darcy to muddle through and figure out. In this episode, Queenie’s faux pas makes for a great laugh. Thanks, Rhys! Well done.

 

 

Please welcome Rhys Bowen back to WWK.                                         E. B. Davis


You mention at the end of the book that the British populace really had no idea of the relationship between Mrs. Simpson and the Prince of Wales. Have all of the press gone from one extreme to the other, especially the British press? But then, Wallis Simpson says in Switzerland, reporters followed them. Was it the secret that was only secret in Britain?

 

RHYS:  It was so strange, looking back on it, that the British press had a gentlemen’s agreement not to mention her until the new king declared that he wanted to marry her. Of course, those who traveled knew all about her, because the foreign press hounded them wherever they went. Can you imagine the press today agreeing not to report on Diana, or Meghan and Harry? And you’re right. They have gone to the other extreme, giving these poor royals no privacy at all, and in fact hounding Diana to her death.

 

Binky, Fig, Ducky, Foggy…all the nicknames! Is this a phenomenon in Britain? Or was this the cute thing do in the upper classes when four names were common? How did they all come to get their names?

 

RHYS: I suppose the upper class has always had such long and boring names that a nickname was a way of showing affection within the family. If you are called Sebastian Alexander Melville it’s much easier to be called Shrimpy, isn’t it? Sometimes nicknames came about because of looks or size: Tubby, Shrimpy, Froggy, and often these were given in the first years of boarding school.

 

And this has by no means died out. My husband’s aristocratic family has cousins called Fig (yes, I stole her name) Dudh, and Puff. Puff is a distinguished elderly lady whose nephew is the current Sir Ferrers Vyvyan of Trelowarren.

 

What is Spotted Dick?

 

RHYS: It’s a suet pudding. These were popular desserts when I was growing up, houses were cold and we needed calories. Suet is animal fat and suet puddings were stodgy and cooked in a pudding basin. Spotted dick was one made with currents and raisins in it, and would have been served with custard over it. It’s usually a humble dish, a nursery dish, not one for polite company.

 

As landlords of the manor (even if they don’t really own it), Darcy says they are obligated to have the neighbors in for holiday festivities. So many of the landed gentry lost the family money during the 20th century. Were they obligated to keep up the old traditions even when they couldn’t afford it?

 

RHYS: Many big estates were sold and divided after WWII because it was impossible to get servants or to pay for coal to heat them. Most people who have managed to keep big estates have been forced to open them to the public, to create attractions like theme parks and zoos. But they still do have celebrations for their estate workers, and local traditions—a harvest festival, for example.

 

But this takes place in the 1930s when servants were still plentiful and the way of life had not changed.

 

Does Mrs. Holbrook work well along with Queenie?

RHYS: Mrs. Holbrook is a sweet and tolerant soul. I expect she manages to keep

Queenie in line without being too harsh on her. And of course, Queenie does cook quite well!

 

When Zou Zou recommends going to an agency to get a cook to replace Queenie, Georgie finds it far too late for a holiday hire. Plan B is to put an advertisement in The Lady. Was that a real publication? Was it a newsletter, magazine, or newspaper?

 

RHYS: The Lady still exists, unchanged since that time. It’s a magazine with articles about home decorating, flower arranging, plus pictures of hunts and balls and coming out parties (debs not the other kind). And advertisements! My daughter got a job helping at a house party one Christmas through an advert in The Lady.

 

Georgie’s plans for the holiday in their own home keep falling through. Except for her granddad, no one who they want as guests can come. But due to their boiler breaking, Fig and Binky must vacate their home. So, they invite themselves to Darcy and Georgie’s home. Georgie’s Mummy also arrives having been spurned by the German Max for his mother. What’s the up side for Georgie now that the party will now go to Aunt Ermintrude’s house near Sandringham?

 

RHYS: The upside is that Georgie won’t be in charge. She’ll be a guest and can enjoy the company without worrying whether anything will go wrong. (Of course it does go wrong, but that’s what mystery novels are all about, aren’t they?)

 

Georgie hopes that while they are away, Granddad will play draughts with Hamilton (Binky and Fig’s butler). Is that darts when you play for ale?

 

RHYS: Draughts is the British name for checkers.

 

Sandringham Estate appears to be northeast of London. You have Darcy and Georgie going through London to get to it. Where is Eynsleigh located?

 

RHYS: Eynsleigh is in East Sussex, pretty much on a direct route from London to Brighton. So main roads lead into London and then out the other side. Before the war there were no ring roads around the city. And yes, Sandringham is in Norfolk, due NE from London.

 


Why are/were affectionate displays between parents and children discouraged?

 

RHYS: The upper-class children were raised by their nanny in the nursery and just brought downstairs to meet their parents at tea-time. Nanny was often warm and affectionate so they got their hugs, but not from parents. (My husband never did anything but shake hands with his father). Children were raised to be future leaders of the empire. Especially boys were told to be a man and never cry.

 

What is cauliflower cheese?

 

RHYS: Yum! One of my favorites. Cauliflower is cooked, then a cheese sauce is poured over it and it is put under the grill until it becomes bubbly.

 

Mrs. Simpson calls the future queen Elizabeth (QEI) “Cookie” and Elizabeth (QEII) “Shirley Temple.” Was Wallis Simpson critical of the royal family publicly?

 

RHYS: She wasn’t in the public eye until the king told the world about her, but at gatherings of social equals she made it quite clear that she loathed the Duchess of York and the young Elizabeth. She mocked the duchess’s dress sense and made fun of the duke’s stammer.

 

Georgie’s interactions with the royal grandchildren Elizabeth and Margaret were interesting. Does she know Elizabeth is bound for the crown?

 

RHYS: Nobody had any idea at that time. It was assumed the Prince of Wales would marry and produce an heir. It was a horrible shock to the Duke and Duchess of York to find themselves thrust into the role of king and queen. And Elizabeth always said that she wanted to grow up to marry a farmer and keep horses. Poor thing.


Did Mrs. Simpson really think she would be accepted as Queen? How could she be that naïve?

 

RHYS: I find it hard to believe now, but the more research I have done, the clearer it is that she really believed that when Edward became king he could override Parliament and the church and make the country accept her as queen. She was, indeed naïve.

 

After WWI, most Britons weren’t enthralled by Germany or Hitler. I saw footage of the Prince of Wales and Mrs. Simpson as Hitler’s guests on the TV show The Crown, which was real footage. How could a future king be so clueless?

 

RHYS: How indeed? They were both great admirers of Hitler and the way he had put

Germany back on its feet. I think he was also a little naïve and of course Hitler flattered him. But the British government saw what a threat he could become—put on the throne as a puppet king, which is why they sent him to the Bahamas, safely near the US coastline.

 

Winston Churchill once said that we should erect a statue to Mrs. Simpson because without her we’d have been conquered by Germany, as Edward would have invited Hitler in.

 

Does being on time for the royal family mean a half hour early? Or was that just for Queen Mary and King George?

 

RHYS: It was just King George who had this thing about being early. It was only at Sandringham that this was enforced: called Sandringham Time, but if you read other books in the series you’ll know that Georgie always made sure she was really early for any meeting with the king and queen, just in case.

 

Does hell hath no fury like a woman scorned?

 

RHYS: There is certainly a character in the book that this could apply to. You’ll have to read the book to find out which one.

 

Do you see parallels between 1935 and 2020 for the royals?

 

RHYS:  I do. I think we have Harry who has been so brave in some ways, fought in Afghanistan, but is so emotionally fragile because of the death of his mother that he chooses a dominating woman. Meghan is clearly the one in charge, just as Mrs. Simpson bossed Edward around.

 

What’s next for Darcy and Georgie?

 

RHYS: I haven’t started to write the next book yet but I can tell you that it takes place in Paris and may involve a fashion show at Chanel’s salon!

 

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Starting Fresh in September by Martha Reed

I didn’t appreciate it at the time, but I had a glorious youth, running wild with my sisters, cousins, and friends at my grandfather’s rambling cottage on Lake Muskoka, Ontario, Canada. Barefoot and tan and pretty much feral, I can still recall the taste of the tart hand-plucked raspberries that grew on long arching canes over the rotting boardwalk in our swamp, and of the Silver Queen and Bread and Butter corn my mother bought by the dozen in brown paper sacks from a local farmer. We team shucked that corn before drenching it in unadulterated Canadian butter and salt. (My family were unapologetic stick of butter rollers.) Schweppe’s tonics and Molson Stock Ale kept us hydrated. Good times, indeed.

August brought the end of summer, and when the leaves on the birch trees at the water’s edge shivered and started to turn it meant that it was time to close the cottage and head south again. I laugh when I imagine the looks on the faces of the US Customs agents who welcomed us back across the Peace Bridge into the States, our Country Squire station wagon crammed with sunburned kids and happy exhausted dogs, suitcases held together by jump ropes, the floating life rafts and squirt guns we bought with our own spending money and by God refused to surrender to anyone, and our pinecone and shiny mica rock collections. Back in those halcyon days the agents just waved us through. I don’t even think our dad slowed down for the gate.

And then it was up to our mom to whip us back into civilized shape, herding us girls into the local beauty boutique for savagely short haircuts with crooked bangs, buying us that one special new outfit from the Sears catalog that we then wore to the first day of school, proud as peacocks, and stuffing our calloused heels and toes back into the one size too big saddle shoes that we would eventually grow into during the school year, our newly bound feet protesting with every step.

Despite our protests and rebellion, there was something magical about September. It felt like a fresh start, a do-over, certainly more of a fresh start than the holiday we celebrated on January 1st. September returned us to school and to classes, offered us the possibility of meeting and making new friends, of growing up just a little bit more and joining interesting groups, challenging sports teams, and special interest clubs. Once you overcame the hurdle of that crippling first day anxiety, it was fun.

So here we stand in September of 2021, and I wonder: if this is my fresh start, what do I want to do with it? I know Book 2 of my NOLA Mystery series needs to be finished, and there are a couple of short story ideas noodling around in my head, but I’m not allowed to start drafting them until the novel manuscript is complete because “after work comes play.” (That’s a Family Rule.) I’ve put my house up for sale and I’ve decided to downsize to a condo because I want to spend my time (and let’s be honest, my increasingly limited energy and focus) more on my writing than on yardwork and spreading mulch. And, with the ongoing COVID-19 vaccinations, it seems like the world is re-opening a bit, so maybe, just maybe it’s time to plan some fresh road trip adventures.

How do you feel about starting fresh in September? Share your thoughts and plans.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monday, September 27, 2021

My Computer: Can't Live With It; Can't Live Without It by Nancy L. Eady

I have a love-hate relationship with my computer, particularly with Microsoft products. One reason is that you can never, ever win an argument with a computer or a program. Whatever gremlins inhabit those tiny bits and bytes use many tricks to make sure I lose. 

One of the gremlins’ favorite tricks is the “spinning circle” trick. It usually happens when I am in a tearing hurry to get something done and the program decides it doesn’t want to have five windows open at one time. Once the computer has had enough of me, it dispatches a gremlin from the word processor or internet browser to the CPU, the disk, or the memory, (or all three), shouting, “Stop the presses!” The program then refuses to work, showing me a snarky circle that keeps whirling. The odds of this hiccup happening increase geometrically when I am working on something 1) with a deadline breathing down my neck, and 2) I have spent 30 minutes or more working on a critical document without having saved it. And yes, I know that’s why Microsoft invented automatic backup, but somehow my computer never has saved the best part of whatever I didn't save before the crash occurred. And there is nothing more irritating than having to rewrite something you already wrote. 

Another favorite trick is the hidden update that improves my life by changing the program. To up the difficulty factor, the change is something important enough not to ignore and subtle enough to require digging through umpteen different settings menus before I can fix the issue. I think the gremlins wander through the setting menus, changing them at random right before I reach them just to confuse me. 

Automatic updates are another pet peeve. The computer used to ask me nicely if I wanted to install updates. I would politely answer “Thanks, but no thanks.” So now it takes matters into its own hands. As I get ready to unplug my computer and pack it up, the computer announces it is installing updates, and forbids me to turn it off, implying that world destruction, fire, flood, and earthquakes will ensue if I do.

But the biggest problem with arguing with a computer is that when all else fails, the computer has the last word with the blank screen of death, a blue/green/black screen with just one tiny cursor in the bottom left corner blinking in time to a chorus of gremlins singing, “Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha.” 

What drives you most crazy about the tools you use for writing? 


Sunday, September 26, 2021

Shaking Off the Rust by Annette Dashofy

After nearly two years of being holed up, limited to Zoom and Crowdcast “appearances,” I took part in my first big in-person event last weekend. 

I was a nervous wreck. 

I’ve been out in public a few times. I interviewed my pal, Liz Milliron, at Mystery Lovers Bookshop for her new release in August. I taught a writing workshop at a local library. I set up a table at a small first responder community day event. All were fun. I remembered how much I loved seeing smiling faces (larger than the thumbnail size of Zoom squares) and hearing laughter and answering questions asked out loud rather than typed into a chatbox. 

Last weekend, though, was the Festival of Books in the Alleghenies, and I was their keynote speaker at the Friday night fundraiser reception. The foundation that supports the festival was raising money for children’s literacy. The reception was held in an art museum. Classical piano music accompanied wine and hors d’oeuvres. 

No pressure. 

This wasn’t my first keynote. It wasn’t even my first keynote where classical piano was played. It was my first keynote in an art museum. 

While public speaking doesn’t come naturally, it doesn’t terrify me. Usually. I used to teach yoga. Standing in front of a roomful of strangers, in yoga pants, doing downward facing dog versus standing in front of a roomful of strangers, in dress clothes, talking about writing? Piece of cake. 

However, it’s been a while. My public-speaking skills were rusty. Normally, the nerves set in about an hour before I’m scheduled to step up to the mic and dissipate as soon as I start talking. This time, anxiety set in a couple of days prior to the event, growing as the evening approached. As we gathered in the museum, I considered a glass of wine to soothe my nerves. Wisely, I did not give in. 

I’m a cheap drunk. One glass, I’d have been slurring and/or snoozing my way through the speech.

Thankfully, the gentleman who introduced me did a great job of warming up the audience. As usual, the nerves vanished as soon as I started talking. The real, live, faces in the crowd smiled back at me, laughed at the right moments, and appeared engaged in what I was saying. Even better, several audience members came up to me afterward to ask questions or tell me how my experience mirrored their own. 

Looking back, it was a wonderful evening. And the festival the following day was wonderful as well. 


I had one more speaking gig there—I did a short reading from my newest book. But those words had already been written. All I had to do was put on my glasses and follow the script.

 


Overall, it was awesome to get out in public again, to exercise my public speaking muscles, and to not have to worry about my internet crashing in the middle of a Zoom meeting. 

What about you? Have you been able to use your face-to-face people skills yet? If so, did they feel rusty?

Saturday, September 25, 2021

The Gifted Writer by Kait Carson

Last week I treated myself to some shopping at Bogan Books, our local indie bookstore. The store is arranged in two rooms. The front room holds the checkout, various items of interest, and the bulk of the books. The rear, where you’ll usually find me, has the mysteries, thrillers, and suspense novels. I was checking out the new releases when I heard a woman say, “Oh, try this series, she is such a gifted writer.” I looked around the mystery room. No one was there. The voice had to be coming from the front of the store.

 

Curious, I peeked through the entry. Much to my chagrin, (and delight since business was obviously good) I spotted four pairs of shoppers. All had books in hand. It was impossible to determine who made the gifted writer comment. The overheard remark made me wonder how the unknown author might feel. Gratified, and perhaps a bit amused.

 

I strongly suspect that every writer is gifted. The gift lies in the way an author selects and strings words together. The mechanics if you will. The innate ability to mix a jumble of words into a pleasing and satisfying stew that imparts information, elicits emotion, and makes the reader want more. Yes, that is a gift.

 

So, why would an author feel amused? To acknowledge only the gift is a little like believing the author waved a magic wand over the keyboard and the story sprang forth. Not happening. The story evolves through years of study of the craft. There is scene and sequel to master, building a world for your characters that is believable, the characters themselves must be dynamic. Then there are the ever-changing conventions of genre to learn and adopt. All of that is tradecraft. And it’s hard work. No author wants the craft to show. In a good story craft appears seamless and disappears behind the gift of words. After all, no one wants to see the sausage made.

 

The unknown reader paid the author the compliment of believing the act of writing came easily. The author, on the other hand, might quote Ernest Hemingway. There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed. As any writer will tell you, how you hide the blood is where the art and craft of writing collide.

 

Writers and readers, what do you think?

Friday, September 24, 2021

Onward: A Movie Review by Warren Bull




Image by Laurent Jollet on Unsplash

 Onward: A Review by Warren Bull

 

Onward is a 2020 American computer-animated urban fantasy adventure film produced by Pixar Animation Studios and released by Walt Disney Pictures. The film is directed by Dan Scanlon, produced by Kori Rae, and written by Scanlon, Jason Headley, and Keith Bunin, and stars the voices of Tom HollandChris PrattJulia Louis-Dreyfus, and Octavia Spencer. Set in a suburban fantasy world, the film follows two elf brothers, Ian and Barley who set out on a quest to find a magical artifact that will bring back their dead father for one day.

Onward premiered at the 70th Berlin International Film Festival on February 21, 2020, and was theatrically released on March 6, 2020. The film received generally positive reviews from critics and has grossed $141 million worldwide.  It lost revenue against a budget that ranges upwards of $200 million. The film also received backlash in several countries in Asia for its portrayal of a lesbian character. The film's financial shortcomings were a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, which led to the widespread closure of movie theaters. Like several other films released in the early months of 2020, it was made available digitally several weeks after its theatrical opening.

 

Although it was called a “flop,” the film had positive reviews and made an unknown amount of money in terms of rentals and online sales. The success of other Pixar movies set a high standard. Although it will probably not become an iconic film, an average Pixar movie is still quite watchable. Think of an average Nobel Prize winner.

 

The film has the distinction of being banned in KuwaitOmanQatar, and Saudi Arabia, because one female cyclops police officer character in the film named Specter briefly indicates that she is a lesbian. The scene in question is a brief scene in which a simulacrum of Colt Bronco is lamenting about how Ian and Barley Lightfoot do not respect him as a father figure. Specter replies to him by saying, "It's not easy being a new parent—my girlfriend's daughter got me pulling my hair out, okay?" Homosexual acts are criminalized in the four countries, which are predominantly Muslim, although Kuwait does not criminalize female homosexual acts. The ban is not universal, and the film was screened in Bahrain, the United Arab EmiratesLebanon, and Egypt, albeit the line was changed in the Arabic-language dubbing to "my sister's daughter".

 

Director Dan Scanlan and producer Kori Rae discussed the film online at Disney+. Scanlan said when looking for an idea he put many notecards up on a board on a wall and encouraged staff members to share their reactions. When he left after posting the cards, he then returned before leaving the building to turn two cards over so the words would not show. He said that showed him the ideas expressed had emotional power in his life.

 

Like the two elf brothers in the film, Scanlan’s father died when he was one year old and when his brother was three years old. He said he had no memories of his father and his brother only has a few indistinct recollections. Making the movie brought his wish that he could see and talk with his father, however briefly, to his consciousness.

 

The filmmakers had fun with the ability to create mythological creatures and mix them together. School is the center of the younger elf’s anxiety, as it is with many adolescents. His fear of driving on a freeway, inviting other students to his birthday party, and standing up for himself will echo with many of us. The actors seemed to enjoy the characters they portrayed. There are many humorous moments throughout.

 

This is a very good movie and I recommend it.