Wednesday, August 31, 2022

An Interview with Author Valerie Burns by E. B. Davis


In a brand-new culinary cozy series with a fresh edge and a delightful small-town setting, the acclaimed author introduces Maddy Montgomery, a social media expert who’s #StartingOver in small town Michigan after inheriting her great-aunt’s bakery and a 200-pound English Mastiff named Baby.

When Maddy Montgomery’s groom is a no-show to their livestream wedding, it’s a disaster that no amount of filtering can fix. But a surprise inheritance offers a chance to regroup and rebrand—as long as Maddy is willing to live in her late, great-aunt Octavia’s house in New Bison, Michigan, for a year, running her bakery and caring for a 250-pound English mastiff named Baby.
Maddy doesn’t bake, and her Louboutins aren’t made for walking giant dogs around Lake Michigan, but the locals are friendly and the scenery is beautiful. With help from her aunt’s loyal friends, aka the Baker Street Irregulars, Maddy feels ready to tackle any challenge, including Octavia’s award-winning cake recipes. That is, until New Bison’s mayor is fatally stabbed, and Maddy’s fingerprints are found on the knife . . .
Something strange is going on in New Bison. It seems Aunt Octavia had her suspicions, too. But Maddy’s going to need a whole lot more than a trending hashtag to save her reputation—and her life.


The first book in the Baker Street mystery series, Two Parts Sugar, One Part Murder, by Valerie Burns was released yesterday. I looked forward to reading it, but in the first chapter, I was dismayed. Main character Madison Montgomery wasn’t someone who I thought Valerie would create as a champion. 


First, Madison didn’t have a dog! I was shocked. Second, although Madison had conflicting character traits, she seemed like an entitled spoiled brat. The second chapter rectified almost all of my concerns, and the rest of the book took care of the rest. In fact, this series will be a favorite.  


Yes, in Chapter 2, Madison inherits a dog, no less, a 250-pound, slobbering English mastiff—Baby. Madison steps up to all of the challenges she faces, not only to Baby’s slobbering all over her car (it’s a rental, thank heaven!), but also to overzealous real estate agents, and murder.


Great Aunt Octavia may be dead, but her notes, videos (what’s a VHS tape?), and cold cash make her a wonderful character. And Baby provides character assessments as he greets or growls, as the case maybe.  

Valerie blogs with WWK as her time permits, but I’m okay with that as long as she keeps them coming!                                                                                  E. B. Davis  


Did Madison get on the plane from L.A.? New Bison is about as different from LA as it can get. Is it a real town or based on somewhere you’ve lived? Is New Bison located near to the University of Michigan? Madison was living in L.A. and she’d never heard of New Bison, Michigan either. Actually, New Bison Michigan is a fictional town based on the real town of New Buffalo, Michigan. New Buffalo is located 70 miles East of Chicago on the shores of Lake Michigan and borders my home state of Indiana. New Buffalo is closer to Chicago than it is to the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. While I have not lived in New Buffalo, it is about 30 minutes from cities where I lived in both Michigan and NW Indiana.


Even though Madison seems like a social media maven and a bit of an airhead, she actually graduated from Stanford, which has the lowest acceptance rate in the country. What was her major and why did she pick that major? Like Elle Woods from “Legally Blonde,” there’s more to Maddy than meets the eye. She majored in Art History with a minor in modern languages at Stanford. Low confidence made Maddy believe that her highest aspiration would be marrying a doctor. As a doctor’s wife, she might be asked to sit on the board of nonprofits like museums. So, understanding art would come in handy. As the daughter of a navy admiral, Maddy traveled the world and is fluent in multiple languages. So languages were an easy choice.


The reader can’t help but notice Madison’s daddy issues. According to Great Aunt Octavia, they aren’t all Madison’s fault. What’s the story? Admiral Jefferson Augustus Montgomery loved Maddy’s mother, Leah. When she died, leaving him with a two-year-old daughter to raise, he buried his grief and did his duty. He raised his daughter and worked hard to advance his career. The Admiral is the stereotypical example of a man who thinks his sole job in parenting is providing for his daughter’s physical needs. He indulged her by supplying money while ignoring her emotional needs.


Great Aunt Octavia’s store has done well. Her college major was chemistry. She owns a large home that fronts Lake Michigan. In a video, she tells Madison of the real estate developers who want her house and acreage—and that she won’t sell. I was surprised that Madison wasn’t more suspicious of her very first visitor, a real estate agent, who has clients who want her residential property. Why did Madison agree to go out to dinner with him? Maddy doesn’t see New Bison, Michigan as her forever home. When she meets Brad Ellison, she is still hopeful that she can sell (eventually) and return triumphantly to her old life. At this point, she doesn’t want to close the door on that possibility. Plus, she’s new to town. Brad Ellison is young and handsome. He fits the mold of the type of guy she’s dated before. He’s shallow and I think she sees herself reflected in him.


Madison mainly promotes herself on social media, but when she posts about the bakery and a knit shop in New Bison, and about Baby—they get a lot of attention. Is it always about new news? Or is she better at promoting others than herself? When Maddy arrives in New Bison, she wants to hide from the humiliation of getting dumped by her fiancĂ©. After she arrives, she takes a different tactic and posts on social media to show that she’s doing well. Her hashtags serve two purposes. It makes it easy to find her posts, but it also shows that she’s moving on. She’s not sitting at home crying her eyes out over her ex. Instead, she’s with #Realmen #MovingOn  #LovingtheSingleLife.


I was surprised to learn that few believed Great Aunt Octavia’s conspiracy theory. She was smart, successful, and knowledgeable. Why wouldn’t everyone believe her? “A prophet is not without honor, but in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house.” Mark 6:4. Sometimes it’s easier to accept ideas from strangers than it is from the people we know intimately. No matter how much you love and respect people, some ideas seem so farfetched, that we discount them. Great Aunt Octavia also has some biases that may have colored her views.


I didn’t realize that older Black women were insulted by the use of their first names, even if preceded by Miss. Why is that? I thought it was a sign of respect. But Madison asks to be called Maddy—I was confused. In the past, using a title was a sign of respect. In America’s past, Blacks were property and were denied that respect by Whites, even White children. Many older Black women are insulted when younger people refer to them by their first names. Most are not offended if the title is used with the first name (i.e. Miss Octavia, Miss Hannah). I was raised to ALWAYS use a title when referring to older Black women. For younger people, like Maddy, it’s okay to use the first name without a title. FWIW, my sister (4 years older than me) is insulted when younger people use endearments like, “honey,” “sweetheart,” and “dear,” but I don’t think that’s race-related.


Alpaca fibers are hypoallergenic and rarer than cashmere? YES! I didn’t know that either until I started my research. That’s when I learned that alpaca is hypoallergenic. I also assumed alpaca would be coarse and rougher than cashmere, but I was wrong. Who knew?


Madison has an expensive SUV rental and buys whatever she wants at the knit shop. Is she on Daddy’s dime? Yes, she is on daddy’s dime. Maddy struggles with making decisions, so it’s been easy to allow someone else to take care of the practical side of adulting. That’s one reason owning her own home and running a bakery will be a completely new experience for her. It’s also one reason Great Aunt Octavia wanted Maddy to live in New Bison where she will be forced to stand on her own two feet and make her own decisions around regular people.


Hannah is intriguing. She can be clear mentally, and then totally lose it. Is it emotional shock or tiredness that brings on her blank-slate mind? Are there different types of Alzheimer’s or dementia? There are different types of dementia with different symptoms and stages. There are a number of triggers, including tiredness, diet, depression, alcohol, etc. Alzheimer’s disease is one cause of dementia. Hannah is in the early stages, so she has good days and then bad moments. The bad moments will gradually grow more frequently and last longer. Generally, after resting, she’s usually okay.


Model-beautiful Sheriff April Johnson is a surprising character. Her beauty hasn’t given her much self-confidence, though. What is her background? April has beauty but doesn’t feel she’s smart because of her family and the fact that she didn’t graduate from college. Maddy is a talented and successful social media influencer, but she’s indecisive. The women in this book have a number of traits that many people THINK would make them happy, beauty, success, and money. Yet, like many of us, they find themselves focusing on what they lack rather than all of the wonderful things that they do have.


There is a character named Garrett Kelley. Does Kelley Garrett know? When I was looking for an idea for a new culinary cozy series, Kellye Garrett actually suggested some of the ideas that I incorporated into this book, including the social media aspect. So, yes she does know that I have a character named Garrett Kelley.


Although Mr. Russell is Great Aunt Octavia’s lawyer, Madison spots valuable antiques in his office, and then he shows up driving a McLaren Spider, worth at least 300 thousand dollars. Should we be wary of him? Chris Russell is an attorney in a small town. He’s single with no children. Rather than investing in the stock market, or squirreling away money in banks, he prefers to invest in art and cars.


What are the requirements in Michigan to run for the position of Sheriff? The minimum criteria in the state of Michigan to become sheriff is: 1) US citizen, 2) at least 18 years old, 3) residency in the county for 1 year, 4) GED or high school diploma, 5) physically and mentally fit. New Buffalo (the city New Bison is based on) is in Berrien County and has additional criteria. Most areas prefer someone with law enforcement experience.


Why were the Baker Street Irregulars, comprised of April, Leroy, Hannah, Michael Portman, who is Hannah’s grandson, and Tyler Lawrence, formed? Aunt Octavia was a fan of mysteries and specifically, Sherlock Holmes. After April Johnson was elected sheriff, Aunt Octavia started the Baker Street Irregulars to help her with any challenges. Most of the crimes in the sleepy resort town of New Bison are simple. However, April lacks confidence, so when there were tough cases, she would bring those cases to the Irregulars. Talking through the cases with the group helped to boost April’s confidence, but it was also a good social gathering.


Dr. Michael Portman, a veterinarian, who was in the Army, gets into a debate of Army vs. Navy with Madison. Is learning Morse code a military mandate? Is Tap code different than Morse code? Morse code is no longer a military mandate. However, it’s still taught to certain troops (i.e. radio intercept troops). Tap code is similar to Morse code, but it is not the same. Tap code is a true (2 part) code, while Morse code is a ternary (3 part) code.


Crimes against Native American Women are fifty percent higher than crimes against other women. Is this because legal enforcement is up to Federal authorities in Native American communities? Crime on tribal lands is complicated. If the perpetrator is non-Indian and the victim is an enrolled tribal member, then only a federal agent can make an arrest. If both parties are tribal members, then the Tribal Officer can make the arrest, but tribal courts cannot sentence those convicted to more than three years in prison.


Madison recognizes that she’s actually a lot like real estate agent Bradley Ellison. Why doesn’t she like that thought? Brad Ellison is self-centered and selfish. Maddy recognizes those same traits in herself. She’s never had to think of anyone other than herself. After only a small amount of time in New Bison, she’s forced to focus on more than clothes, shoes, and her own best interest. Now, she’s taking care of Baby. She’s running a business and helping to find a killer.


What’s next for Madison and the Baker Street Irregulars? In the second book in the series, it’s spring and New Bison is getting ready for the annual Spring Baking Festival. Feeling pressure to continue her Great Aunt Octavia’s legacy and bring home the top prize, Maddy’s also working hard to transform Baby Cakes into Southwestern Michigan’s must visit bakery. As if that wasn’t enough to worry about, a second bakery is opening under the ownership of a shrewd investor, CJ Davenport. Davenport is found murdered with a Baby Cakes’ knife in his back. Maddy and the Baker Street Irregulars must figure out whodunit or Maddy’s goose will be #cooked. The second book in the series, Murder is a Piece of Cake, will release in July 2023.


Tuesday, August 30, 2022

What We're Reading Now? Beach Reads! By WWK Writers

The Hollywood Spy by Susan Elia MacNeal

Review by Margaret S. Hamilton

Susan MacNeal sends her intrepid series heroine, MI-Five agent Maggie Hope, on a personal mission to Los Angeles in 1943. Maggie is British, raised in the United States, and a newcomer to Hollywood. In addition to solving the murder of a young woman, Maggie comes up against the Zoot Suit Riots, Nazi supporters, and the Ku Klux Klan. MacNeal’s solid research is evident in her portrayal of Maggie’s visits to Los Angeles landmarks, including a Hollywood studio. Many famous personalities have walk-on roles in the book, including Linus Pauling, who teaches in the Chemistry Department at Caltech, and George Balanchine, who choreographs a ballet for a movie. An enjoyable read!


Seams Like Murder by Dorothy Howell

Review by E. B. Davis

Seams Like Murder is the first book in the Sewing Studio mystery series. It will be released next month. I had no expectations of the book, but the writing was good and the main character was interesting. Abby Chandler visits her aunt Sarah in small town Hideaway Grove because she hasn’t much to go back to in L.A. After a fight with her boss, being put on leave, and finding out her roommate took the cash without paying the landlord, Abby needs peace. Of course, that’s the last thing she gets when a woman is hit and killed by a driver who doesn’t stop in the alley behind her aunt’s shop—Sarah’s Sweets. 

Murder? No one wants to think so, but although Abby didn’t see the accident, she did hear it—and she thinks it’s murder. She gets pulled into volunteering for the town’s Harvest Festival, which gives Abby the opportunity to sleuth. A deputy sheriff provides the point—counterpoint and a bit of romance. A fun read for the beach!


Under a Veiled Moon by Karen Odden

Review by Susan Van Kirk

Under a Veiled Moon is the continuation of a series starring Michael Corravan, Irish Scotland Yard inspector. It will launch on October 11 from Crooked Lane Books. With many parallels to the present day, Karen thoughtfully plots the continuing story of Michael Corravan, whose early history includes his adoption by the Doyle family in White Chapel.

Corravan is placed in the middle of a terrible dilemma when a tragedy based on London's history challenges his Irish roots. He finds himself in the middle of prejudice against the Irish, and the government and media's push to blame the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) for the tragedy. The Princess Alice, a pleasure boat that sailed the Thames River each day, is hit by the Bywell Castle, an iron-hulled collier, resulting in the deaths of 130 out of 600 people. Odden does a masterful job of describing the chaos and attempts to save or recover those passengers.

Who is responsible? The media, as well as the Home Office, wants to blame this on the IRB, a group that could be connected to a recent train bombing. Irish Home Rule is on the table in negotiations at the time, and this could be yet another attempt to push Parliament toward letting Ireland go.

Karen Odden skillfully weaves history, mystery, Victorian society, and politics to create an intriguing story that has connections to the world we inhabit today. I had to read every last word and reluctantly close the book. Loved this story.


Out of the Picture
by Margaret Welch (aka WWK’s own Molly MacRae)

Review by Grace Topping


In the first book of her Museum of Mysteries series, Margaret/Molly writes about Scarlett McCormick, the head curator of a museum of art and archaeology in coastal California. Her description of the museum and its staff makes me wish the museum was an actual place so I could visit it. Margaret/Molly takes something as simple as Scarlett having an idea for an art exhibit and finding a recent photograph of a supposed dead local artist and weaves them into an intriguing mystery. Although the death in this book takes place well in the past, Margaret/Molly infused the story with plenty of suspense and a surprise ending.


 I See You by Clare Mackintosh                                                                                                    

Review by Marilyn Levinson


Zoe Walker takes the London tube to and from work. She is disturbed to discover a photo of herself in the personal ads. She wonders if this has any connection to the attack on a young woman whose photo appeared earlier than hers. Who is taking photos of women and why? As Zoe and the female detective on the case start to get closer to the mastermind behind this nefarious group, Zoe begins to suspect many of the males in her life, including her significant
other who has kept a large secret from her. Gripping to the end, there's even an additional surprise that's sure to satisfy readers of suspense.



Monday, August 29, 2022


We have been preparing to install rails onto our front steps. (I use “we” in the royal sense, since Mark will be doing most of the work while I merely bring various tools to him). In preparation, we have watched at least thirty YouTube videos on how to install outside stair rails. All of which were very helpful until we discovered Saturday morning that not one of the thirty odd videos had adequately discussed the right hammer drill bit for drilling holes in brick. The one recommended by the hardware store Friday night drilled one hole, then was too dull to use. So were the subsequent two drill bits we tried.


Which was how instead of finishing our stair rails, we ended up at the Pell City Animal Control Shelter looking for a dog to adopt. Our beautiful Darwin died a few weeks ago at the ripe age of 15, and our remaining dog, Daisy, a 40 pound border collie/Jack Russell terrier mix, needed a companion. Daisy is a wonderful dog, but brave she is not. One dog she met at the Shelter was young and friendly, but rambunctious and scared her to death. The shelter workers watched that meeting, then brought out another dog named Penelope. Penelope is so gentle that not even Daisy could be afraid of her, so that’s who we brought home.  She is brown and white and Daisy is black and white, so now no matter what we wear, any dog hair our clothes pick up will show quite well.  



Sitting in the car between the two dogs on the way home, watching both tails happily waving and spreading copious amounts of dog hair all over my seats, I realized that some of the best things in life can’t be improved by technology. 

Daisy and Penelope Playing

Sunday, August 28, 2022

Book Jail by Annette Dashofy

In just a few days, I’ll be incarcerating myself in “Book Jail,” which basically means I won’t be venturing far from my desk. I’ll be holed up in my office, pounding out as many words as I can during the month of September.

I had someone ask me why I call it Book JAIL, which has such a negative connotation, when in fact I’ll be doing what I love. Writing. I explained it’s a title I hang on my virtual door and is geared at everyone else: friends who call and want to meet for lunch or groups who want me to speak at their meeting or family who wants…whatever. If I simply say, “no,” they tend to come back with questions. “Why not?” My reply? “I’m in Book Jail.”

Translation? I have a deadline to meet. For some reason, “Book Jail” works.

I’ve had a busy summer of events and some travel. After the last few years of lockdown (now that was some serious BOOK JAIL), it was fun to get out. The problem is I don’t keep up with my word goals when I’m on the road, no matter how good my intentions.

And I need to keep up with my word goals. Better yet, I need to surpass them.

I have a book due in early November. I’m currently working on the second draft of that one. But the first draft was a hot mess, so there’s a lot of rewriting to be done.

The real problem is I have a second book due February first. I haven’t even begun to outline, make notes on, or research that one!

I keep trying to calculate how many days I have and how many words I need to write each day to meet both deadlines. Thank goodness I’m horrible at math because I’m quite certain the answer would send me into a panic attack.

I have three trips coming up in October – November, so I need to take travel into consideration. The November trip also puts a crimp on NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), which is a great opportunity to get a lot of writing done.

NaNoWriMo equals Book Jail.

But that November trip is to Lexington, Kentucky, for the presentation of the Dr. Tony Ryan Book Award, for which I am a finalist. I’m springing myself from Book Jail for that one. I’ll take my laptop and write for a couple of hours each morning. (Yeah, sure I will.)

So if anyone needs me during the month of September—or pretty much any time before February 1—I’m not saying I won’t be available. You’ll just have to wait until after I’ve written a couple thousand words that day before you hear from me.

Fellow writers, do you ever find the need to withdraw into your own Book Jail to make a deadline? And readers, do you have deadlines you struggle to meet?

Or is that just us writers?

Saturday, August 27, 2022

Finding Time to Write by Kait Carson

I have a daily routine. Do you? Mine is super simple. Vacuum up the stray kitty litter around the house, do my daily affirmations, meditate, update my gratitude journal, then write my aspirational diary entry – complete with photos. I like to look back on the year in pictures. Then it’s time to write, catch up on Facebook and Instagram, and check emails. Every so often Microsoft updates intrude on my best laid plans. I admit, I dread them. One of the recent ones, though, gave me a gift – curated news stories. I manage to sneak in some reading time daily before I move on to other stuff. There’s always something interesting.


Today’s must read was an Inc. interview with Richard Branson. I’ve long admired the man – a true adventurer who isn’t afraid to follow his dreams. He’s had an amazing life, marred by little controversy for someone with his very public persona. His Wikipedia page is longer than some books I’ve written. It’s filled with successes and gives honest nods to his failures and heartbreaks. And yes, he’s had more than a few. 


Reading his life story makes me feel tired, and like an underachiever. How does he do it? Even at his income level, he’s only got 24-hours in a day, right? My biggest struggle is finding time enough in a day to do everything I have to, much less everything I want to. In truth, finding time to write, even now when it’s my only job, is not easy. The day fills with this and that and interruptions and before I know it, the word count is in three figures, creativity has waned and my energy meter is pegged at zero.


Okay, back to the interview. The secret to Branson’s success is do what’s fun and time will expand to accommodate your needs. Fun. Pundits from Confucius to Mark Twain have advocated finding a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life. There’s merit in the concept, but not everyone has the luxury.


I was fortunate to find the interview in the middle of a long day. I’d closed my writing program after 184 (count ‘em) words and was ready to sign off. Needless to say, I felt defeated. I love this story, and its characters, yet it wasn’t flowing. I knew my beginning, middle, and end and had lots of twists and turns planned, but the actual writing was hard. The last time this happened, I needed to change my point of view from third to first. This time I needed to change my point of view. I’d forgotten the joy of bringing a story to the page, the fun of creativity. Instead of weaving a gorgeous pattern of words, I was making widgets!


I can’t wait to get back to my stalled-out story after I finish this blog. Gotta go, words are waiting, Thank you, Sir Richard.

Friday, August 26, 2022

The Good Fight Television Series: A Review by Warren Bull


Image from Stillnessinmotion on Unsplash

The Good Fight television series:  A Review by Warren Bull

I had heard of Binge-worthy television shows, but I had never been so caught up by a series that I watched several episodes in a row until I saw “The Good Fight.” I watched a “Scorpion” television series subplot through four episodes on two successive days. I watched the first three episodes of “Picard” in one sitting because I missed the series when it came out and I have watched other shows through the entire run that I had not seen on their first run. But with “The Good Fight,” I started in the early afternoon and continued with only necessary breaks until late at night.

My interest was piqued by an article in the June 20, 2020 issue of the New Yorker about Robert and Michelle King. I wrote before about their television series “Evil,” that, unlikely as it sounds, is a unique and clever presentation combining elements of horror, fantasy, and theology in a thoughtful and unexpected way.  The couple also made “The Good Wife,” which was successful for seven year or so on CBS, but which did not catch my interest as much as the other two.

According to the article in the New Yorker about Robert and Michelle King, they dated for four years. They scheduled an informational meeting with a priest to see if he would consider the possibility of allowing Robert, a devote Catholic the middle of seven children, and Michelle, a secular Jew, and the only child of Holocaust survivors, to marry in the church. When the priest pulled out a calendar, they were too shy to object. Maybe it is the range of backgrounds and experiences that fosters the melding of dissimilar concepts in a creative way.

What hooked me immediately with “The Good Fight” was the opening that showed a liberal lawyer waking up to the unimaginable shock that Donald Trump had been elected President. I remember being shocked by the event too. I identified with the way expectations had been upended, institutions had been uprooted from their traditions, and people formerly on the fringes of society felt empowered to express opinions openly.  The show addressed new topics (to me) including Ponzi Schemes, online bullying, and the creation of realistic false videos by using images and voices by sophisticated computer generation tools. It depicted attorneys defending reprehensible actions and jockeying for positions within a law firm. I was very much interested in the way interactions between races were shown when as part of the plot a white lawyer joined an all-Black law firm. 

For me, this was great television and I give it my highest recommendation.

Thursday, August 25, 2022

Those Who Forget the Past by Connie Berry

A Journey Into Our Past

One of my favorite days this summer was a visit to Mount Vernon, George Washington’s home on the banks of the Potomac. My guide was Grace Topping, a good friend and fellow WWK blogger. I’d been in Alexandria for an author event, and since I had a late flight back to Ohio, I phoned Grace to see if we might have lunch and catch up. My last-minute thought turned into a memorable day.

I’d visited Mount Vernon as a child. My mother, a former elementary school teacher with a passion for history, made sure family vacations included lessons from the past—lots of them. We literally never passed a historical marker. Now, as an adult, I saw eighteenth-century America with new eyes.

Lessons From the Past

Washington’s decision to forfeit power and return to private life impressed me, as did the foresight of the Mount Vernon Ladies Association who, in 1860, purchased the near-decrepit house and opened it to the public. The day was beastly hot, and I pondered again how people lived without the comforts we take for granted—central heating, air conditioning, refrigeration, electricity, indoor plumbing. More than that, I thought about the many enslaved people whose job it was to make life as pleasant as possible for the Washington family while their own lives were considered unimportant—if they were considered at all.

With my mind very much on the past, we headed back to Grace’s car. On the way, we encountered a woman and a young boy, perhaps fourteen or fifteen, who were arriving for their visit. As we passed them, we heard the boy ask, “Does George Washington still live here?”


Do we still teach history in our schools or had this boy simply not been paying attention?

Have We Forgotten Our Past?

“Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” The quote has been attributed to a number of people, including the Irish economist Edmund Burke, the Spanish philosopher George Santayana, and Winston Churchill. How do we reconcile that statement with Thomas Jefferson’s quote about history being written by the victors?

The lesson I learned at Mount Vernon is that history must tell the whole truth, the unvarnished truth, or it isn’t history.

Using the Past in Fiction

Which brings me to fiction-writing. A few years ago I wrote a blog with my top ten tips for creating memorable characters. I talked about creating fully realized characters with skills and  abilities, disabilities and struggles, strengths and weaknesses, fears, failings, and flaws. The characters we create should also have a past—a personal history some call “the rich, full life” with secrets, regrets, successes, failures, and families who have shaped them for better or for worse. Much of our characters’ past histories will never make it onto the page—authors know a lot more than they tell—but our characters’ past lives are what motivate and enrich their present actions, thoughts, feelings, and responses. Giving our characters a personal and cultural history puts their lives in context and helps us reveal their uniqueness as human beings.

We're Not Doomed to Repeat the Past--Neither Must We Forget It

What lessons from the past, personal or cultural, have shaped your life?

How have you used the history of a fictional character to add depth and complexity?

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

An Interview With Rose Kerr

by Grace Topping

It’s always a pleasure to see the debut novel of an author who has labored long and hard to get to publication. Rose Kerr, with her debut novel, Death on the Set, joins that group of authors who report they spent about ten years learning the craft of writing a mystery and taking the long road to finding an agent and then a publisher. It was a pleasure learning more about Rose and her character, Brenna Flynn, and seeing the results of her hard work. 


Death on the Set


Former high school guidance counselor turns amateur sleuth to save herself from a murder charge while working on a reality show.

Brenna Flynn, returns home to Bayview City after the sudden death of her husband. Unable to find work in her field, she signs up with a temp agency to find employment. Sent on an interview for a cooking reality show, she aces it and gets the job of a production assistant. On her second day at work, Brenna discovers a body in the studio. She soon learns she's the police's primary suspect. Determined to clear her name, she uses some skills she's honed as a guidance counselor to learn more about the victim. Drawing people out comes naturally to Brenna, and she becomes a confidante to cast and crew on the show. The stakes are raised with threatening notes, poisonings, and blackmail. Can Brenna uncover who the killer is before someone else dies?





Welcome, Rose, to Writers Who Kill.


In Death on the Set, Brenna Flynn takes a new job as a production assistant for a reality TV show—work she hasn’t done before. She picks up on what needs to be done remarkably fast. What is her secret?


As a high school guidance counselor, Brenna actively listens to people and quickly identifies the important pieces of information. She’s smart, a quick study, and organized. She also makes notes of key pieces of information. Brenna uses these skills in her everyday life. In Death on the Set, she uses those skills when investigating the murder. 


What prompted you to select a cooking show competition as the setting for your book? If this is the first in a series, will you be continuing with the cooking show theme?


Death on the Set is the first of three books to be published by TouchPoint Press. My main character, Brenna Flynn, is a high school guidance counselor. Due to budget cuts in education, she can’t find work in her field. She turns to a family friend who owns a temp agency for help. Brenna will work temp jobs in Bayview City for the foreseeable future. 


As for selecting a cooking show as the place of employment, that came about while watching a cooking reality show on television with our son. The head chef was particularly nasty on one episode, and I said, “He’s going to get knocked off one day.” Our son said, “Mom, that would be a great story.” 


I was surprised to read in your book that your competition show had scripts and held rehearsals. Is that typical for this type of show?


With Death on the Set, I did a lot of research. I spoke with a production assistant who worked on a cooking reality show and an executive producer for Canadian shows on HGTV. I learned some reality shows have a script, and the host follows a format laid out from the script. Sometimes, hosts deviate from the script, like Sean does occasionally in Death on the Set, but the script helps the chefs and judges know what kind of questions the host might ask. 


You sounded very knowledgeable about the stage setup for the cooking show and what has to be done and in place each day. Was this from first-hand knowledge or lots of research?


I’ve never worked in television, but one of my neighbors did and she shared some industry contacts with me. One of whom was a production assistant, the other one an executive producer. They generously answered my many questions on the production side of reality tv.


My husband and I vacationed on the Mexican Riviera, and I met a fellow resort guest who was a production assistant for a cooking reality show. We spent an afternoon poolside chatting about what her role was. She had information on stage setup, the day-to-day operation of a reality show, and what the role of a production assistant was. I watched a lot of cooking shows: MasterChefHell’s Kitchen, and Chopped were three of my favorite shows. The Food Network magazines had an interview with the host of a food show, and he took readers behind-the-scenes on a typical day in his life. 


I always enjoy learning something new when I read. Your scenes with the crime scene clean-up crew were interesting. Did you interview clean-up companies for the information you included?


Our local police department was helpful. The officer I spoke to provided me with information on the basics and gave me the name of the company that provided clean up in our area. They gave me good information I could use.


Your book illustrates that the past is never far behind us. Did you have this theme in mind when you started writing?


Your past is part of who you are. Part of Brenna’s backstory is her life with her husband. After he died, she learned he was living a double life, and now she isn’t sure if she can trust anyone again. This figures prominently in Brenna’s life. 


Since your home is in Canada, why did you set your book in the U.S.? I would love a book set in Canada, and I’m sure other readers would as well.  


That was a publishing decision. What I have done is develop a fictional town (Bayview City) based on small towns and cities I lived and worked in while we were living in Northern Ontario. Lake Superior is part of the fabric of Northern Ontario, and it’s part of Bayview City as well. 

(Photo of Lake Superior courtesy Ryan on Unsplash.)


You belong to a number of writing organizations. What does membership in these organizations contribute to your writing career?


I belong to Crime Writers of Canada, Sisters in Crime, and the Guppies Chapter of SinC. All the organizations have provided me with support from other members, courses, webinars, and workshops that taught me about the craft of writing, marketing, and promotion. There’s so much to learn about the business of writing and these organizations make it fun. I’m also a member of my local library writing group. 


With Death on the Set being your debut novel, you’ve recently been introduced to the world of book promotion. Do you find it a pleasure or challenging?


At first, I found it overwhelming and thought how do people do this all the time? But after talking to other authors about their experiences, I realized it was a necessary part of the business and that my attitude could make this part either fun or a chore. I’ve decided I’m going to have fun with the promotion. It’s a great way to meet new people!


How was your journey to publication? Was it on a smooth path or on a rocky, twisting road?


It was long, almost ten years! And the path was, shall we say, scenic. There were some discouraging moments when I thought I’d never get an agent or be published, but I didn’t quit. I kept taking courses, reading craft books, and learning about writing. I finally connected with my agent and we’re a good fit. When I got the call from my agent about my offer from a publisher, I was so excited. We celebrated long into the night! 


What’s next for Brenna Flynn?


Book 2 is tentatively titled Death in Academia, and is scheduled for a 2023 release. I’m currently working on book three, where Brenna is working with the Parks and Recreation department for a festival. Brenna’s dog, Jake, will continue in the series. 


(Photo of Jake)

Since you began your fiction writing career, what is the most valuable thing you’ve learned along the way?


I have this quote as my screensaver, I don’t know who it’s from: “The difference between a published author and an unpublished writer is perseverance. Don’t give up on your dream!”

Thank you, Rose. I look forward to books 2 and 3, and hopefully many more after that.


You can find out more about Rose at the following sites:



Instagram: @r.m.kerr

Twitter: @rkerrwriter

Pinterest: @rosekerrauthor



Purchase links:



Barnes & Noble:


Author Bio

Rose Kerr lived most of her adult life in small towns. She and her husband raised their family in a small town in Northern Ontario. The town was on the shores of Lake Superior.  Currently, they live in Southern Ontario with their dog, Jake. Rose is a member of Sisters in Crime, the Guppy Online Chapter of Sisters in Crime, and Crime Writers of Canada. For more info visit: