Please contact E. B. Davis at for information on guest blogs and interviews. Interviews for August: (8/3) Dianne Freeman (8/10) Daryl Wood Gerber (8/17) E. B. Davis's Review of Granite Oath, James M. Jackson's new novel (8/24) Rose Kerr (8/31) V. M. Burns.

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

An Interview with Author Korina Moss by E. B. Davis

“…I have to be honest about how I feel.” He stepped closer to me,

his dark eyes never leaving mine.


I felt my heart pick up speed. I caught a hint of his rich cologne. I inhaled, trying to

breathe in more of the intoxicating undertones of citrus and wood. “Go on.”

It came out in barely more than a whisper.


He hesitated a moment more, then finally spoke. “Don’t do anything stupid.”


Wait, what?

Korina Moss, Gone For Gouda, Loc. 2390


Things are going from gouda to bad to ugly for cheesemonger Willa Bauer in Gone for Gouda.

Yarrow Glen’s newest cheese shop, Curds & Whey, has a lot on its plate, but cheesemonger Willa Bauer relishes a challenge. There’s a float to build for the fall festival, plus the French-inspired cheese shop is playing host to celebrity vegan chef Phoebe Winston. But when photos surface that prove this vegan influencer is, in fact, a carnivore, things crumble faster than any cheese on the market: Phoebe is murdered. Willa’s employee, the affable Archie, was the last one to see Phoebe alive and the first person the police suspect. To clear his name Willa must uncover who’s been up to no gouda...

When WWK blogger Korina Moss announced to our group that her contract had been extended for three more books, for a total of six (for now), in her Cheese Shop Mystery series, we applauded. It’s a great cozy series featuring Willa Bauer, cheesemonger and amateur sleuth. Gone For Gouda is the second book in the series, which was released yesterday by St. Martin’s.

Willa Bauer is aided and abetted in her investigations by her two shop employees, other business owners, and a friend, pitting her against the town’s police detective, who also is a widower. In Gone For Gouda, Willa appears to have not just one, but two possible romantic interests, both of which have her tongue-tied but pleased. Willa destresses by making cheese recipes and eating them. I’m a bit worried about her weight and health, but then that’s Korina’s problem.


Please give a cheer to Korina!                                                                            E. B. Davis


Although the cheese shop is French inspired, the book is set during October in time for the town’s fall festival, more reminiscent of an Oktoberfest. What is the history of German Obatzda? Is it the German word for beer cheese?


It’s a classic German type of beer cheese. The dish was created during a time when cheese was quite expensive in the region, so families would look for ways to make every bit of their leftover cheese edible, thus it’s made with different types of cheeses, onions, and spices. It peaked in popularity in the 1920s when it was served for the first time by an innkeeper in Bavaria.


I was surprised that Willa carried vegan cheese in her shop. It seems like an oxymoron. What is vegan cheese made of, and doesn’t it go against Willa’s nature to sell nondairy “cheese”? She grew up on a dairy farm.


Cheese is made from animal milk and often animal rennet (an enzyme found in the lining of a cow’s or goat’s stomach), so it’s definitely not vegan. However, like many vegan foods, plant-based substitutions are made that give it a similar quality to the real thing. Vegan “cheese” uses plant-based milk, nuts, oils, and vegetable proteins. Although Willa grew up on a dairy farm and has revolved her life around cheese, she also supports any customer who may want another version of cheese that’s acceptable for their lifestyle or allergies, whether it be non-dairy or vegan. Of all people, she understands the need for cheese (in any form)!


Sponsored by a vegan cheese company, Phoebe Winston is a vegan celebrity chef doing a demonstration to support her new book at Willa’s shop. She’s also an authenticity influencer. What’s that supposed to be?


Phoebe became famous for being a cut-throat contestant on a reality TV show, but once off the show, those same terrible behaviors got her canceled. She changed her image to one of kindness (hence, becoming vegan and rescuing a dog) and resurrected her celebrity status. Feeling constricted with her kindness identity, she created a new terminology—authenticity influencer. She wanted to make it trendy to embrace who you really are, in hopes of staying on top no matter how she was perceived and becoming the next Oprah. The only trouble was, she wasn’t authentic, herself.


What are stinging nettles? If they sting, how can they be used as an ingredient?


A stinging nettle is a plant (herb) with fine hairs that cause irritation when they touch the skin. Before cooking with stinging nettles, you have to brush off the tiny needles and rinse the leaves. They’re edible without harm after that.


I don’t remember gouda as being crumbly. Is it like blue cheese? What’s the history of gouda? What are the seven categories of gouda? How are they different? 


Gouda has been produced in the Netherlands (where it’s pronounced “HOW-duh”) since the 12th century. The longer it ages (like any cheese), the firmer, darker, sharper, and more crumbly it becomes. Most of us are familiar with the young, mild form of gouda, which is why you’re surprised that the more matured versions can be crumbly. I would liken the texture to that of parmesan rather than blue cheese. The seven categories are based on how long the cheese has been aged.

Young or New Gouda: aged 4 weeks

Young Matured Gouda: 8 to 10 weeks

Matured Gouda: 16 to 18 weeks

Old Gouda: 6 months

Extra Matured Gouda: 7 to 8 months

Fully Matured or Aged Gouda: 10 to 12 months

Very Old or Very Aged Gouda: over 12 months



“The first woman in line had sky-high heels, a pencil skirt, and perfectly slicked

hair that brought to mind that iconic Robert Palmer video.”


LOL, “The Addicted to Love” video?  




After Phoebe is outed as a nonvegan and is murdered, her Maltese, Buttercup, is passed around to those who can house him until another owner can be found. Willa takes a liking to him. Will she ever consider getting a pet besides her betta fish, Loretta?


I didn’t think it was fair for Willa to have a cat or dog, seeing as she can’t keep them in her shop, which is how Loretta came about. (Plus, fish don’t get enough cozy representation!) I did want an opportunity to have a furry friend in the series, so Buttercup arrives in Gone For Gouda. But, boy, when you’re writing, it’s hard keeping track of a dog in the story! I am a huge cat lover, so I do have plans to work a cat into the series in a future book. For now, Loretta rules!


Because Willa allowed her teenage assistant, Archie, to help Phoebe the day she was murdered, and Archie was the last one to leave the house according to the security cameras, he becomes a suspect. Willa must investigate to clear him and feels that his involvement was due to her actions. Willa pumps Heath, the detective, for information, but instead of emotionally venting, she’s learning to deal with him. How?


In Cheddar Off Dead, Willa had just met Detective Heath and didn’t know whether he was a good detective or if she could trust him. Now, she trusts him more and understands him better. She knows he always follow the rules, which might slow him down, but he is also a dogged detective. So instead of hiding things from him like she often did in the first investigation, she lets him in on the information she finds out. She still can’t help investigating with her friends, though. Because Willa is so close to and protective of Archie, it’s difficult for her not to be emotionally involved, and Heath is sensitive to this.


Willa decorates the outside of her shop with a straw cow she’s named Guernsey. For the fall festival parade float, she’s turning Guernsey into a scarecrow cow. How does she combine the two?


Not well, as is the running joke in the book. Willa’s first scarecrow is for the harvest festival’s scarecrow contest. Willa wants to represent Curds & Whey, so she decides to make a Guernsey cow she calls Guernsey. She does her best to shape her into a cow and uses felt to make her udder and brown and white coat. At first, Guernsey is just another craft Willa is bad at making, but the more people make fun of Guernsey, the more Willa loves her. Guernsey ends up becoming Curds & Whey’s mascot, stationed outside of the shop to welcome customers.


What is carne asada? Carnitas? Queso blanco? Pico de gallo?


Those are all delicious Mexican foods. Carne asada is a spicy, marinated skirt steak, carnitas are the Mexican version of pulled pork, and pico de gallo is a chilled topping mixture made with tomatoes, onions, and jalapenos. Willa makes queso blanco in the book, which is a melted white cheese dip. I love Mexican food, so I had to incorporate it in the series, which is why the Let’s Talk Tacos truck is a favorite takeout place in Yarrow Glen.


Is a car’s computer system hooked to the internet? If not, how would someone possibly tap into it—some computer-to-computer link? Don’t you have to actually plug into it—like at a car repair place?


No. The computer systems of cars are connected to cyberspace, so they are vulnerable to being hacked. Hackers can wirelessly send commands to the dashboard functions, steering, and brakes. According to Upstream’s Global Automotive Cybersecurity Report, in 2022, there were over 900 cars hacked, 84.5% remotely.


Is cyser another name for mead?


It’s an apple-based mead. It’s still fermented with honey, like all mead, but it’s just another variety of mead.


Given the method of murder, I can understand Willa wouldn’t take a bubble bath. But, a spa evening for Willa is to pair cranberry scones and Teahive cheese together and eat it. Hard to believe. Does she ever have a massage and/or a mani/pedi?


That’s not really Willa’s style. She has so little time to herself, she would find it a waste of time. Her idea of relaxing is cuddling (such as it is) with Loretta on the loveseat with some good cheese and Alfred Hitchcock’s Rebecca on TV.


Who put you up to the puns in your blurb?


I wish I could take credit for all the puns on the book jacket, but they are courtesy of my editor, Madeline Houpt. She is the cheese pun queen. I wish I had her talent for puns!


What’s next for Willa?


Curds of Prey, the third book in the cheese shop mystery series, will be out in March 2023. It’s available for pre-order now. Here’s what Willa’s up to:


Murder again comes to Yarrow Glen, and cheesemonger Willa Bauer must be the predator… before she becomes the prey.

Yarrow Glen's favorite cheese shop, Curds & Whey, gets to be a part of the social event of the season: Summer Harrington’s wedding. Cheesemonger Willa Bauer is going all out for the wedding shower’s cheese bar. But the eagle-eyed Harrington family is proving to be a pain in her asiago. A last-minute tasting ends in disaster when one of Willa’s potential beaus, Roman, gets in a fight with the groom. Then the shower arrives, and while there’s anything but love in the air, there is plenty of cheese. Oh, and Roman... again. The day officially ends in disaster when Willa finds the groom—who also happens to be the mayor’s nephew—in the stable, dead as a dodo.  At the mayor’s request, Willa must follow the trail of cheese curds to find a killer while continuing to walk a tightrope between two of Sonoma Valley’s most powerful families.



Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Bouchercon 2022 - Land of 10,000 Thrills by Martha Reed

I felt jolted by climate shock as I pulled my jeans, socks, and nubby sweaters out of my Tupperware storage bins to pack for Bouchercon Minneapolis 2022. After Florida living for four years, I had forgotten how comforting a beloved sweater could feel, like being enveloped in a warm bear hug from a dear friend. If the sweater smells like a cedar chest, even better.

At first, my humidity-trained body rebelled, saying “Whoa. What are you doing?” when I stuffed my feet into real shoes versus wearing flip-flops, but once we arrived at the Minneapolis airport, I began to experience the chilly 70-degree temperature and I re-appreciated my fleece-lined wardrobe choices.

I learned a new word at BCon this year: “hygge.” It’s a Danish and Norwegian word that means “a mood of coziness and comfortable conviviality.” As usual, the conference was jam-packed with professional and newbie writers, agents, publishers, readers, and fans, all of whom pretty much settled in and occupied the Hilton Hotel’s lobby bar.

I did, too, because this year I had a great cause to celebrate. “This Time for Sure,” the 2021 Bouchercon anthology edited by the phenomenally talented Hank Phillippi Ryan, won the prestigious 2022 Best Anthology Anthony Award. 

My short story, “The Honor Thief,” is in the anthology with stories by David Heska Wanbli Weiden, Danyanti Biswas, Alan Orloff, and more. A PDF of “The Honor Thief,” is a free read on my website. Here’s a link:

After the conference, instead of flying back to St. Pete right away, I tacked on an extra four days to work on my WIP and to catch up on my conference-induced delinquent word count. Two Florida Gulf Coast Sisters in Crime friends and I rented an SUV. We drove three hours north to a lakeside cabin in the woods for a working writer’s retreat and some unsuccessful fishing.

I joked that this plan sounded like an elevator pitch for a B-rated horror movie. The experience has been anything but that. It is heavenly to toast S’Mores around a crackling bonfire while sharing a challenging “Drop A Hatchet” round robin story before falling asleep huddled under a hand-stitched quilt while the lake gently laps against a dock and the loons warble each other “good night.” Pure hygge.

We’ve decided to try this post-BCon writing retreat next year at Bouchercon 2023 in San Diego. We’re thinking of exploring Santa Barbara and the Pacific Coast. If you’re familiar with that area, what are your suggestions? Have you ever extended a conference into a writer’s retreat? How did it work out?

Monday, September 26, 2022

The Beginning Three Times Over by Nancy L. Eady


I have been editing my first mystery novel for a very long time now, so long that I put it away last year and am just now getting started on one final edit.  I thought I'd share you with the original opening lines, and the first revision and the latest version. 


The 2011 annual Christmas dinner for the local Webster County bar was memorable. Due to a hectic trial docket, the dinner was held December 23, much later than normal, and a rare dusting of snow greeted each of us as we entered the venerable, but still elegant, Radford Grill. The party’s attendance was up that year; William Henderson, the esteemed local bar president for the last 15 years (mostly because no-one else could be bothered with it) and head of the local Democratic party for the last 20 years (mostly because nobody was better at it) had arranged for an after-dinner speaker of national prominence, an unusual treat for our normally cash-strapped local association.

Memorable achieved never-to-be-forgotten status after the national speaker (who was every bit as good as anticipated) stopped talking. As the applause died down, William stood up from the white clothed head table and went to the podium.

"I'd like to thank my good friend, Tim Tolar, for that wonderful presentation. Now, folks, it's up to you whether you want to..."

At that  moment, Jackson Herring threw the double oak doors at the entrance to the meeting room open with a bang and strode purposefully towards William at the podium.


Christmas, cocktails and crime are a curious combination and one that none of us – not me, not Boyd and especially not William - were ready for. When I first arrived at the Christmas Dinner for the combined Webster and Windover County bar, the most trying ordeal I anticipated enduring was coping with Boyd’s latest dating partner, Cindie with an “ie.”

I had counted myself lucky, though, when Boyd sat by me, and Cindie with an “ie” sat on his other side at the half table allocated to our firm. I would like to be able to say that I couldn’t understand what Boyd saw in Cindie with an “ie” (she had introduced herself that way to so many people that I couldn’t separate the name from the qualifier), but the reasons were self-explanatory. Boyd certainly hadn’t been looking for character or intelligence when he asked her out.  As president of the Webster County bar, William, our senior partner, and his wife Molly, along with Molly’s guide dog Sidney, were at the head table.

We had made it through dinner and finished listening to the nationally known speaker that William had persuaded to speak to our always cash-strapped local association, when it happened.

"I'd like to thank my good friend for that wonderful presentation. Now, folks, it's up to you whether you want to..."

At that moment, Jackson Herring threw the double oak doors at the entrance to the meeting room open with a bang and strode towards William at the podium.


            Formal business functions are not my thing.  It didn’t help that this particular function, the joint Christmas banquet for the Webster and Windover County bar associations, was scheduled on Friday December 23.  Unfortunately, as the youngest lawyer in our three-person firm, my absence would have been too conspicuous.  I consoled myself with the thought that the biggest challenge I had to weather was meeting Boyd’s date.  I was wrong. 

            Whatever Boyd saw in Cindie with an “ie” (she had introduced herself that way to so many people that I couldn’t separate the name from the qualifier), kindness wasn’t it.  She was politely cool towards me even though Boyd and I were friends and co-workers.  Her green eyes, fair coloring and striking red hair eclipsed my straight brown hair and matching eyes.  I remind strangers of their first spouse or someone they knew in grade school.

William, our senior partner, along with his wife Rose, her golden retriever guide dog lying patiently beside her, had to sit at the head table rather than at our firm’s allotted half-table because he was president of the Webster County bar. To accommodate the lawyers of the two rural counties, the restaurant had to arrange banquet seating for 30 attorneys plus spouses and significant others. The venerable Radford Grill, the town of Robersdel’s oldest restaurant, had done its best, but the white-clothed circular tables were a tight fit. The rectangular head table, raised on a slight dais, was adorned with a wide evergreen centerpiece stretching the length of the head table, dotted with candles and cherubic faced Santas. This created a strange illusion—the heads of the lawyers and spouses sitting there floated, disembodied, above the rest of the assembly. At least the savory smells from the kitchen were promising. 

As William stood at the front table to make the traditional opening remarks, the dark paneled double oak doors across the room slammed open. Sheriff Jackson Herring strode up the narrow aisle, then skirted the head table until he stood behind William.  

            So which version do you like best?  Would you read any further based on any of these?  What struggles do you have with the opening lines of your own novels?

Sunday, September 25, 2022

Planning a Wedding by Guest Blogger Edith Maxwell

Thanks for inviting me over, Annette and the other Writers Who Kill! I’m delighted to be back.

I am also a writer who kills, of course, although my sleuths or others in town find the already-dead body. But for this post I want to talk about the wedding that anchors the action in Murder in a Cape Cottage, which comes out Tuesday.

Tim Brunelle has been Mac Almeida’s boyfriend for the entire series. He’s been eager to marry and start a family. While Mac is worried about her orderly life being thrown into turmoil, she does love him deeply, and family is important to her. She says yes.

While planning a fictional wedding for book four isn’t as complicated as a real-life one, I had all the same things to think about. When will it be? Where? What are the bride’s colors, who are her attendants, what will guests eat and in what décor? SO many details. My older son was married four years ago, and my younger son will tie the knot in February, so I guess I have weddings on the mind!

I remember when Annette was planning Zoe Chambers’s wedding a few books back. Annette presented dress after dress and quizzed fans on which would be right for Zoe. It was a great promotional scheme, but I didn’t copy it. Here’s a bit from the book describing how Mac found the dress.

With the high metabolism I’d inherited from my tiny dynamo of a grandmother, I still sported a slender figure at thirty-seven. When Gin and my mom and I had started looking for wedding dresses this fall, I’d been worried. I so wasn’t the lace-and-ruffles type, and I also didn’t want some strapless extravaganza.

By some miracle we’d happened across a simple, body-hugging satin dress cut on the bias, and we’d found it right here in Westham at Cape Bridal, a new shop on the outskirts of town. The cream-colored dress—also comfortable, as it turned out—had a flattering scoop neck, pintucked short sleeves, and a short train that could be buttoned up and out of the way for dancing.

I wish I could show you a picture of the dress – except I made it up!

I also had fun thinking of colors – purple and yellow – to accent Mac’s New Year’s Eve wedding. She invites her five-year-old niece Cokey to be flower girl, and Cokey is thrilled. Gin is Mac’s only attendant, for which she wears a purple tea-length sheath dress in a shimmery fabric. Mac’s mom finds a pale yellow dress with a swirly skirt that falls below the knees and a short lace sweater in the same color. After the ceremony at the Unitarian Universalist Church where Mac’s father is the minister, the reception will be at the Westham Hotel, with yellow and purple flowers.

Rosendahl, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Also fun was dreaming up the wedding cocktail to be served before the reception. As the series is set on Cape Cod, where cranberries are grown, I wanted it to include cranberry juice. Mac’s grandmother Reba works with her to refine the ingredients. I presented the scene and recipe over at Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen earlier this month.

Mac will meet Tim’s parents for the first time the day before the wedding, and you can believe she’s nervous. Mac’s father, brother, and Tim take charge of cooking up a Cape Verdean meal for the rehearsal dinner, and it all turns out fine.

You can be sure this book isn’t only a lovely little tale of the week before the wedding. Being crime fiction, the story must include a big old wrench in the works. In this case, the wrench smacks the reader on the head in the first chapter. Five days before their wedding, Mac and Tim discover a decades-old skeleton in the wall of their house – an imprisoned skeleton wearing a wedding dress.

Readers: What’s your favorite wedding story – success, mishap, or fictional? I’ll send one commenter a signed copy of the new book!

Murder in a Cape Cottage

ʼTis the day after Christmas, following a wicked-busy time of year for Mac’s bike shop. It’s just as well her Cozy Capers Book Group’s new pick is a nerve-soothing coloring book mystery, especially when she has last-minute wedding planning to do. But all pre-wedding jitters fade into the background when Mac and her fiancé, Tim, begin a cottage renovation project and open up a wall to find a skeleton—sitting on a stool, dressed in an old-fashioned bridal gown . . .
As Mac delves into the decades-old mystery with the help of librarian Flo and her book group, she discovers a story of star-crossed lovers and feuding families worthy of the bard himself. Yet this tale has a modern-day villain still lurking in Mac’s quaint seaside town, ready to make this a murderous New Year’s Eve.


“She’s handcuffed to the wall,” I whispered. “The poor thing. Somebody seriously didn’t want her to get married.” My heart broke for her, but this was also feeling like a horror movie. My own wedding was only days away.

Maddie Day pens the Country Store Mysteries, the Cozy Capers Book Group Mysteries, and the new Cece Barton Mysteries. As Agatha Award-winning author Edith Maxwell, she writes the Quaker Midwife Mysteries and short crime fiction. Day/Maxwell lives with her beau and cat Martin north of Boston, where she writes, gardens, cooks, and wastes time on Facebook. Find her at,, Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen, and on social media:




Saturday, September 24, 2022

To Hell and Back by Craig Johnso A review by Kait Carson

To Hell and Back is the eighteenth book in the popular and long-running Longmire series by Craig Johnson. I first encountered the series at the recommendation of our own Annette Dashofy when I posted a request for a Wyoming set book for a Goodreads challenge. It was love at first read, and I immediately devoured the series. This latest offering makes me glad I did.


The book is receiving mixed reviews. While Johnson has always featured spiritual and metaphysical aspects of native cultures in his books, this story rests solidly in the realm of the supernatural. Walt Longmire awakes to find himself frozen to a street in an unknown location. The only clue to his identity is the name in his hatband. He discovers he’s in Fort Pratt, Montana—a place where time stands still. Literally. It’s always 8:17 and everyone he meets is vaguely familiar. Stuffed in a pocket is a missing persons poster, a chapbook in a foreign language, and a vintage postcard of the Fort Pratt Industrial Indian Boarding School, a school that burned down at the turn of the twentieth century and tragically took all thirty-one of the students' lives.


At first glance, the book appears to be a sequel to Daughter of the Morning Star. While it resolves the open questions of that book, it also invokes the now reanimated ghosts of desperados Walt dispatched in prior books and brings back one of my favorite characters, Virgil White Buffalo. Regular readers will know that Virgil’s presence serves as a bridge for Walt to Cheyenne mysticism and mythology. This time, though, Virgil needs Walt as much as Walt needs Virgil. In order to serve Virgil’s needs, Walt time travels to the doomed boarding school at the turn of the century where events occur that explain both the chapbook and the postcard. To accomplish Virgil’s goal, Walt and Virgil do battle with the Éveohtsé-heómėse, defined in the Amazon blurb as the Wandering Without, the Taker of Souls.


The book is well written, the language flows beautifully, and Walt’s search to find himself and his purpose in life rings true. I confess I would have preferred this book to feature Henry Standing Bear rather than Walt Longmire. The story is essentially one of Northern Cheyenne tradition, and Henry would have been a more satisfying hero. There is a plot hole that if analyzed renders Virgil and Walt’s quest as moot, but somehow that isn’t an impediment to enjoying the story.


The reappearance of so many of the characters from prior books made me wonder if this is meant to be the last of the Longmire series. To the best of my knowledge, Johnson has been silent on that point, but the book does serve as a wonderful wrap up of open plotlines and questions. That said, the next Longmire will be pre-ordered as soon as it becomes available. I’m eager to see where Johnson takes his hero.

Friday, September 23, 2022

Character Description 2: The Doctor as an Interpreter: A blog by Warren Bull


Image from Bruno Rodrigues on Unsplash

Character Description 2: The Doctor as an Interpreter: A blog by Warren Bull

Let’s suppose that your character is a shrink, i.e., a mental health professional. The professions come in a variety of flavors with different training and approaches. Nurses, counselors, clergy, social workers, clinical psychologists, psychiatrists, and so forth. All need to understand what the person on the other side of the desk is seeking help with. All need to diagnose. How does a writer show the task?  It helps to know what the task entails.

Diagnosis in mental health is tricky. When I was a practicing psychologist, even before I met with a new client, I was safe almost all of the time assuming the client would tell me he or she was depressed, anxious, and had a history of experiencing trauma. There are books based on extensive research that might lead you to believe you could diagnose a person’s problems by going down the list of symptoms in the categories for diagnoses inside the book. It looks like a menu. Two items from column A and three items from Column B means an order of steamed broccoli and shrimp Lo Mein which rules out the option of snow peas with beef fried rice.

Unfortunately, the patient sitting in front of your character has not read the books or taken the same courses as you. He or she might complain of “nerves” or say the problem is like a particular country song or like what happened to a specific character in a soap opera. 

It is the character’s job to translate the story the patient tells into the dialect of psychiatry. However, the categories that science likes to pretend do not overlap with other categories were developed in studies that carefully excluded “confounding variables.” That is, in order to study problems related to past trauma, researchers screened out subjects with side issues like substance abuse, brain trauma, and so forth. Fair enough.  To research on the effect of past trauma scientists want to avoid subjects whose issues might be caused by events unrelated to past trauma. Great, excellent, wonderful except it is awkward telling patients, “I would know exactly how to help you if you had not been injured in that gas pipe explosion and if you didn’t use cocaine.”

Your character needs to listen to a client’s story with the understanding that it makes sense to the client, while keeping an open mind about what the words mean in diagnostic language. “We were like all Italian (Irish, French, Cajun, Southern Baptist Black, etc.) families.” Does that mean friendly, loud, heavy on the alcohol, silent, close, distant, or something else entirely? Your character needs to figure it out.

Just to make things interesting, as the main character in the television show “House” used to proclaim, “Everybody lies.” I would be a bit more tactful but I essentially agree. Patients want to present themselves in the best light possible. They shade their answers to make themselves look positive. They subtly ask for permission to discuss embarrassing concerns and willingly avoid topics that elicit signs of disapproval or disinterest.  

You can make your character more believable by showing their sensitivity, or lack thereof, to the stories their patents present.

Thursday, September 22, 2022

When the Words Sing by Connie Berry


Words, Words, Words

Words are a writer's raw material, but it's how those words are put together that makes a difference. They must make logical sense, obviously, and lead the reader's thoughts to a conclusion. But words can also sing, and that has to do with rhythm. I'm thinking of words and the rhythm of the English language now as I'm finishing an e-book novella to be published in 2023. And since I have an October 1st deadline, I'm sharing one of my posts from July of 2019.

When the Words Sing

We've all had the experience of reading along in a book when suddenly an exquisite sentence or passage zings in your brain and grabs you by the heart. Some passages are beautiful because of the images they conjure; others because of their lyricism. The best combine both qualities. Here's one of my favorites:

Miss Bellringer settled herself in the chair that Sergeant Troy drew forward and rearranged her draperies. She was a wondrous sight, festooned rather than dressed. All her clothes had a dim but vibrant sheen as if they had once, long ago, been richly embroidered. She wore several very beautiful rings, the gems dulled by dirt. Her nails were dirty too. Her eyes moved all the time, glittering in a brown seamed face. She looked like a tattered eagle.

—The Killings at Badger's Drift by Caroline Graham

Did you notice how Graham varies the pace and length of her sentences, ending on that wonderful six-word statement to deliver the final image? The rhythm and pace of language create an atmosphere. Long, smooth sentences slow the mood down. Short, punchy sentences speed things up. Here's another example. Notice how the author uses rhythm, the ebb and flow of language, to create an atmosphere.

When she opens the bedroom window, the noise of the airplanes becomes louder. Otherwise, the night is dreadfully silent: no engines, no voices, no clatter. No sirens. No footfalls on the cobbles. Not even gulls. Just a high tide, one block away and six stories below, lapping at the base of the city walls.

            And something else.

Something rattling softly, very close.

            —All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Language Has a Natural Rhythm

The rhythm of language is part of what writers call voice.

The English language has its own natural rhythm. So does every language, which is partly why I love German with those long, drawn-out sentences that clackity-clackity-clackity to the end. The most important part of writing dialect isn't getting the words right so much as getting the rhythm right.

One of my professors in graduate school, an expert in seventeenth-century English poetry, claimed that the natural rhythm of English is iambic pentameter—the language of poetry, the language of song. Years ago I read that the most beautiful sentence ever written in English comes from the King James Bible, the book of Isaiah, chapter 6, verse 1: "In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple." (NKJV) The most beautiful anything (baby, flower, sunset, landscape) is obviously a matter of personal taste, but that sentence sings to me.

I was fascinated to read an article (a bit technical) on the rhythm of language in the latest issue of Writers Digest magazine ("Poetic Thinking: Writing in Rhythm" by Barbara Baig. September 2019). When I have time, I plan to read the article again. But most of us—writers and readers—know lovely writing by ear. When the words sing to us.

Do you have a favorite sentence or passage that sings to you? How do you use rhythm in your writing?

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

An Interview with author Lori Roberts Herbst by E. B. Davis

“It is only those who doubt who cannot see.”

Lori Roberts Herbst, Photo Finished, Kindle Loc. 3313


When a visit to a Colorado dude ranch turns deadly, it's up to photographer Callie Cassidy to corral the killer...

As maid of honor (aka grande dame) in her best friend's upcoming wedding, Callie wants to plan the perfect bridal shower. And what could be better than a girls' trip with their posse of friends?

The women jump at the idea and suggest a destination—Moonglow Ranch, a serenity retreat-slash-dude ranch owned by one friend's aunt and uncle.

When they arrive, Callie is less than enthusiastic. Serenity doesn't come easily to a former investigative photojournalist. Plus, her horse is stubborn as...well, a mule. She's warned to be on the lookout for snakes. Worst of all—gasp!—Moonglow only serves healthy food. Still, her friends are having a great time, and even Callie's golden retriever Woody and tabby cat Carl seem right at home on the ranch. For their sake, she tries to tap into her inner Zen.

Then the conniving wife of the town's most powerful man interrupts the party and threatens the ranch's proprietors. Callie worries the trip is destined for disaster.

Later, Callie finds the woman's body in the stable, apparently trampled by a horse. Or did she die from a snakebite? Or—as Callie suspects—could something even more sinister be at work?

Answers are as difficult to find as a needle in the haystack. And when the police chief accuses the ranch owners of murder, Callie realizes she'll need to lasso the real outlaw—before the wrong people end up in the pokey.


Photo Finished is the fourth book in the Callie Cassidy mystery series. How I wish it were the first! Reading a series out of order frustrates me to no end, and I hope my questions don’t have too many roots in previous books. But this series is on Kindle Unlimited so I have no excuse for not catching up, at least for the next in series. Unfortunately, I didn’t have time for this interview.  

Lori and my short stories were in the anthology, The Fish That Got Away. I’m pleased to be able to introduce Lori’s long fiction to our readers. Lori starts blogging with us at WWK on September 29th. Please drop in and give Lori a warm welcome!         E. B. Davis


Before we discuss Photo Finished, why did you decide to self-publish? Did winning a Silver Falchion and Chanticleer Awards give you enough confidence to go it alone?


Though the awards definitely boosted my confidence, they actually came after I'd begun self-publishing. I was in my late 50s when I finished the first book in the series, and I simply wasn't patient enough to take the traditional route. (Plus, I'm a bit of a control freak...) As a former journalism teacher, I had a strong background in writing, publishing, and marketing, so I figured I'd be able to learn what I needed to know to make it work. There's been a lot to learn, certainly, but no regrets. I've discovered so many supportive people and wonderful resources along the journey.


Main character Callie and her best friend, Tonya, are in their mid-forties. Is this Tonya’s first marriage?


Yes. Neither of the friends has ever been married.


Bridal showers used to be a few hours on a weekend afternoon. Tonya is having a bridal shower week. I was surprised the mothers came along—at least the main character, Callie’s, and by mistake, Tonya’s mother. Why don’t Tonya and her mother get along? How many times has her mother, Lydia, been married?


It was Callie's goal to create a non-typical celebration for her friend. In the last book, the two of them went through a bit of a rough patch, so Callie feels compelled to show Tonya how much she means to her. Maggie Cassidy, Callie's mom, has always been very close to Tonya, so Tonya would naturally want her present at such a meaningful event. Lydia, on the other hand, has never successfully formed such a bond with her daughter. I think Lydia loves Tonya to the best of her ability, but she struggles with self-esteem issues and a touch of narcissism. She's been married—and divorced—three times, all in a quest to find a man to make her "whole." Tonya can't understand or relate to that.

Why does Tonya, a lifelong friend of Callie, call her “sugarplum” at times? Is this a reference to Callie’s weight?


Oh, no, not at all. It's a term of endearment. Throughout the series, Tonya calls Callie by little pet names, and her favorite happens to be "sugarplum."


Summer can be annoying. Her comments can inflame rather than soothe. And at times, she demands like a child, even if on behalf of her aunt and uncle who own the dude ranch. Why doesn’t anyone comment on her behavior, especially her wife, Jessica?


As an author, it's so interesting how differently readers can perceive characters—from other readers and even from my perspective as their creator. As a yoga and meditation instructor, Summer is usually quite chill—though from time to time she carries an edge about her. In this book, she's especially protective of her aunt, whom she adores. She feels an overwhelming desire to "fix it," and when she can't, that sense of powerlessness elicits a frustration she can't meditate her way out of.


The healthy food served at the Moonglow Ranch actually sounded good, even if Callie is more of a burger girl. But I was baffled by what a Chinese custard tart would be. Is there a difference between regular old custard and Chinese custard?


A Chinese custard tart is made using Chinese puff pastry. I'm not a chef (though I do microwave a mean Lean Cuisine), but I'm told the pastry is less oily than Western versions and has a more floury texture. They're often served in dim sum restaurants.

I know there are donkey sanctuaries, but are there sanctuaries for old racehorses, too?


Sure! They're all over the world. Moonglow Ranch isn't a racehorse sanctuary, per se, but Amaryllis has a passion for saving the animals from the fate that might await them once they're no longer useful.


Carmen gives psychic readings, but she calls herself a healer. She seems like the real deal, since she knew something about Tonya that even Callie didn’t know. Is she a sham or the real deal?


Hmm...I think readers will need to come to their own conclusions about that. The jury's still out. (Hint: she may show up in a future book.)


"…I turned my attention to the cat, taking a moment to fill him in

on the police chief’s antics. He pretended to be disinterested, but I could see

from his twitching whiskers he was listening intently.”

Kindle Loc. 774


Does Callie have a special relationship with her “creatures,” as she calls them? Why does she call them that, and can she communicate with them in a more sophisticated way than humans usually do with dogs and cats? It seems almost paranormal.


Perhaps it's projection on my part, but I've looked into the eyes of my pets and believed they understood my thoughts and emotions. I think many of us who live with dogs and cats experience the same phenomenon. Callie calls Woody and Carl "creatures" because she doesn't want the relationship defined with her as their "owner." To her, they are a family, each holding the same value. Are the golden retriever and tabby cat a bit...exceptional? Perhaps. Or maybe all creatures are exceptional if we had the awareness to see it. (Then again, I'm remembering a certain dog who spent fifteen minutes barking at his own shadow...)


Did you purposely name Colby after a cheese?


Ha! No, the truth is even "cheesier." I'm a long-time fan of the reality show Survivor. One of my all-time favorite contestants was Colby Donaldson, from the Australian Outback season. He always gave off a cowboy vibe, so the name just came to me.


Why do Tonya and Callie call themselves “sisters in insensitivity?”


As journalists, the two of them have developed a somewhat tough veneer. They both hold a bit of a cynical worldview, and it's nice for them to turn to each other for an understanding of that.


Mrs. Finney is an interesting character. How did they find out she was former CIA? Does she always use a fake British accent?


Mrs. Finney's CIA background came to light in book 1, Suitable for Framing, but I won't say much more about that for those who haven't read it yet. I will say that when I started the series, I didn't intend Mrs. Finney to be a returning character, but I just fell in love with her, as did the people of Rock Creek Village.

Why do Callie and Tonya call their mothers by their first names?


Callie calls her mother "Mom." Maggie is a loving, nurturing woman and has earned the moniker. Tonya has never had that type of relationship with her own mother. Since she doesn't feel that bond, she refers to her mother by her first name. It's a way of maintaining a distance.


Are scrambled egg whites any good, even if lathered with salsa?


I like them—especially with mushrooms, onions, tomatoes, and a pat of butter! Oh, and cheese... (there goes the health food aspect).


Callie uses visualization to test her different suspect inquiries. How does that help her investigation?


Callie spent twenty-five years as an investigative photojournalist, so she's trained in interpreting the details of a visual scene. She knows what makes sense and what doesn't. If she can't make a hypothetical scenario work in her brain, it's a good bet it wouldn't work in real life.


I was surprised by Callie’s lack of place setting knowledge. Her mother seems knowledgeable and would have taught her. Callie was an award-winning photojournalist—one would think she would have a bit more sophistication. Why doesn’t she know an appetizer plate from a dessert plate, a dinner fork from a dessert spoon? Why would Tonya have more acumen?


One of Callie's character flaws has always been the unwillingness to invest much time or energy in things that don't seem important to her. As an investigative photojournalist, she was more apt to be found in a war zone than a banquet room, so she never cared much for formalities. For Tonya, social niceties hold more interest, as evidenced by her love of fashion.


Why is it that even when we disbelieve in magic/psychic skills, like Callie, we still want to believe? Does it have something to do with faith?


What a thought-provoking question! Perhaps it is an human quality to desire answers, to want everything to make sense and fall into place. If someone can claim to hold that power, we long to believe them. It's like reading a good mystery—there's just a sense of satisfaction knowing that everything will be wrapped up by the end.


Callie hired two social influencers, whom she gives credit for boosting her business. Do they really help? Is there data?


Absolutely! And yes, there's substantial data to back it up. The main article I used for my research was in Forbes. The right social influencers can steer their audience toward certain businesses.


Are there studies showing that fish experience physical and emotional pain when caught?


Well, you'll find differing opinions on this. Most scientists agree fish don't possess the capacity to experience emotional pain in the same way as humans. But physical pain is a different story. Fish have neuroreceptors that react to painful stimuli, but their perception of that pain is open for debate.


Do you think people project qualities, both good and bad, on people that they want to see in them whether or not true?


For me, there's no a doubt about that. I've always been fascinated with the tendency toward confirmation bias, in which we search out information with the specific goal of supporting our pre-held opinions, rather than forming our opinions based on a wide scope of information. That applies to our views of other people, too, I think. I've watched enough Dateline that it no longer surprises me when someone says of a serial killer, "Well, he was always nice to me."


What’s next for Callie and the gang?


I'm in the very early stages of Book 5, tentatively titled Negative Reaction. The gang will be back in Rock Creek Village, where someone ends up poisoned with darkroom chemicals. Details to follow!