Friday, June 30, 2023

Is Your Creative Gas Tank Running On Empty? Try Switching Gears By Julie Rowe

My mother has a saying, “Switching gears is as good as a rest.” I took this bit of wisdom to heart in 2022. I’d written three romantic thriller series in a row and found myself feeling rather blah about writing another one. Don’t get me wrong, I love the thriller, suspense, and mystery genres. I love giving my protagonists a challenging mystery to solve, and I love putting them in danger while they do it. I have a fan base with expectations for a new thriller series, and I sure didn’t want to let them down.


However, I also recognized that it was time to do something different. I needed to change things up and switch gears. I needed to incorporate something new (to me) into my next series. I was low on creative energy, and the usual things (setting writing goals and being accountable to other writers) I did to jump-start my motivation to write weren’t working. Even brainstorming plots and characters with my writing friends didn’t help, until I added something new. A genre element that gave my main protagonist a whole new set of problems to deal with.


I added a paranormal element.


As soon as the thought occurred to me it was immediately followed by, but paranormal is dead. It’s over-done. I’ll lose readers. Unless…I put my own spin on it. I write damaged heroes. Men who’ve gone through horrible circumstances and come out the other side with long-lasting trauma. They’re flawed, stubborn, and sarcastic. The essence of my protagonists, because my female characters are often the same, didn’t need to change. What needed to change was the rules of the world they lived in.


What really got my creativity rolling was when my daughter asked me to write a vampire story. I rolled my eyes at that request, but then a thought occurred to me. What if I flipped the expected qualities of a vampire? Instead of a rich, powerful, and confident man who used his longer life span wisely, my vampire protagonist was the opposite of those things. Broke, shunned, and living in a well of regret. What if his hunger for power had resulted in the deaths of his wife and son, and he decided to punish himself for the rest of his very long life? What if there are only a few vampires, and becoming a vampire is only possible if the prospect has a very specific and rare gene?


If the greater world discovered them, one of two things would likely happen. One, they would be experimented on and used to find a way for everyone to become virtually immortal. Which would be a disaster. Most vampires become paranoid, obsessive compulsive, and controlling. Some of them lose their sanity entirely. Human beings were not designed to live for hundreds of years. Two, they’d be forced to become super-soldiers and die fighting in some stupid war.


The result of these what if questions is my new series, Sinners Never Die. The first book, Sinner’s Secret has this for a short pitch:


Bazyli Breznik used to rule the world, but now the centuries old vampire is at the bottom of the food chain. He’s broke and drives a yellow cab in NYC. He sleeps in the trunk. He’s an alcoholic. His only friends are drunks. He’s a murderer and believes he’s the most evil creature on earth. He’s wrong.


Here are some of the reviews from readers, old and new:


“Sinner's Secret by Julie Rowe offers a surprising twist on the well-worn vampire/supernatural/romance story. Thanks in large part to its main characters who are a far cry from the standard 'too beautiful to be real' male and the 'tough, but unable to trust female cop'. Julie Rowe avoids the cliches and instead gives us a story where the hero and heroine are full-bodied characters.” — Tracy Henshaw (Reviewer), NetGalley.


“I thought I had set vampires aside, but that was so wrong because now Julie Rowe has ventured into vampire fiction! As soon as I read the blurb, the anticipation began to build.
Readers, the anticipation was correct. This book was worth the wait! Baz is a beautifully imagined vampire. There is no bite followed by a dead, cold, hard body. There was an auto-immune disease, and I imagine many can relate to that. Baz is the curmudgeon you love- think Jason Momoa crossed with Clint Eastwood, being a Julie Rowe plot, there are plenty of exciting scenes (explosions and violence) as well as the other kind of exciting scenes. Nika was a perfect heroine to go along with Baz’s hero. His cousin and mom promise to be entertaining in a second story. I cannot wait for book two!” Reading Obsession (Educator), NetGalley.


“Legit a great action packed read for anyone wanting a different kind of vampire novel with some added in cop drama!” Miranda Austria, Reviewer NetGalley.


Switching gears creatively has made writing fun for me again, and I think that’s transferred to the page (many of the reviews mention how funny the characters are). When I’m done with this series, I will probably look for a new gear to switch to then.


Full-time author and workshop facilitator, Julie Rowe’s first career as a medical lab technologist in Canada took her to the Northwest Territories and Fort McMurray, Alberta, where she still resides. She loves to include medical details in her romance novels, but admits she’ll never be able to write about all her medical experiences because, “Fiction has to be believable”.

Thursday, June 29, 2023

Who Ya Gonna Call?

(This post was originally published in 2015 by then WWK blogger, Kara Cerise. As we near July 4, I thought it appropriate to republish. E. B. Davis)

By Kara Cerise

"There are, from time to time, reports that the White House is haunted by mysterious appearances of figures from history, and I believe them."
~ Mike McCurry, President Bill Clinton's press secretary

Being President of the United States is a difficult and lonely job. Commanders-in-chief carry the weight of the nation on their shoulders during their time in office. Sometimes even into the afterlife. Occasionally ghosts of past presidents and their families pop into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue unannounced just to make sure things are running smoothly.

In the spirit of Halloween and the recent presidential debates, I read Charles A. Stansfield Jr.'s book, Haunted Presidents.

Stansfield Jr. relates a ghostly sighting that happened during World War II while Prime Minister Winston Churchill was a guest at the White House. One night Churchill leisurely soaked in a bathtub while sipping a glass of scotch and smoking a cigar. When he finally stood up and stepped out of the bathtub he saw Abraham Lincoln standing next to the bed. With typical English wit the nude prime minister said, "I'm afraid you have me at a disadvantage, Mr. President." Lincoln's ghost smiled and faded away.

Apparently Abraham Lincoln has been a frequent visitor over the years.

~ Calvin Coolidge's wife, Grace, saw Lincoln’s ghost in the Yellow Oval Room, which he had used as a library.

~ Theodore Roosevelt glimpsed Lincoln in the White House, but did not go public with his sighting. However, he confided in his cousin Franklin Roosevelt about the encounter.

~ Queen Wilhelmina from the Netherlands heard a knock on her door one night when she was staying at the White House. She opened the door, saw Lincoln wearing his top hat, and immediately fainted. Her hosts, President Franklin and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt were sympathetic about the encounter but not surprised.

~ Lincoln's son Willie, who died from typhoid while in the White House, appeared to staff during Ulysses S. Grant's presidency.

Some ghosts don’t like change in or around the White House. First Lady Edith Wilson, President Woodrow Wilson's wife, decided to move the rose garden and ordered workmen to dig up the bushes. When they arrived to do the job they were greeted by a short woman wearing frilly old-fashioned clothes with a turban on her head. She refused to move out of the way and let the work begin. After looking at a painting that Edith Wilson showed them, the workmen believed they had seen the ghost of Dolley Madison who originally planted the roses. Nobody has attempted to move the garden since that occurrence.

I searched and found that strange events have occurred more recently at the White House. Ronald Reagan thought it was haunted. His daughter and her husband saw a ghostly figure in the Lincoln bedroom. Jenna Bush Hagar told Jay Leno that she heard 1920s music in her bedroom coming out of the fireplace when she lived there. At first her sister thought she was crazy but then she heard it too. First Lady Michelle Obama said that she and President Obama were awakened by strange sounds in the hall and got up to investigate. Other Obama family members reportedly felt the sensation of something chewing or gnawing on their feet. (Creepy!)

Many years ago when visitors didn't need to navigate layers of security to tour the White House, I met two friends in the evening for a self-guided tour. We presented our drivers' licenses to the guard sitting behind the kiosk and added our names  to the sign-in sheet. Then we made our way into the historic house.

It was quiet and rather dark in the halls. We spoke in hushed, reverent tones as we peeked inside rooms. I didn't see any ghosts that night, but I felt the presence of people who had lived and worked there.

When a new president moves into the White House and needs advice, perhaps s/he could call on the spirits who used to live there Maybe one question that should be asked of presidential candidates is, “How would you deal with the ghosts of the past presidents looking over your shoulder?”

Have you toured the White House?
Have you ever seen a ghost?

Wednesday, June 28, 2023

An Interview with Shari Randall/Meri Allen By E. B. Davis


This was an opportunity. I wanted to get back to the Inn, see why there’d been something bothering me since I’d seen Diantha’s body…. Unfortunately, it also meant I had to scrub bathrooms and vacuum. Poirot never had this problem.

Meri Allen, Fatal Fudge Swirl, Kindle Loc. 943


Former CIA librarian and amateur sleuth Riley Rhodes is loving her fresh start as the manager of the Udderly Delicious Ice Cream Shop. The leaves are turning, tourists are leaf-peeping, and Penniman, Connecticut is putting finishing touches on the weekend long Halloween Happening. But the village is also buzzing. Former child star Cooper Collins is overseeing the production of a romantic comedy that’s filming on the town green and his domineering socialite mother, Diantha, is planning her lavish Halloween themed wedding at her Inn on the Green. Her fiancĂ© has run the Inn's kitchen for years, ably aided by his recent ex-wife, chef Mary Ann Dumas. An old friend of Riley’s, Mary Ann turns to her when the bride requests a spooky ice cream wedding cake.

But the weekend takes a frightful turn when Diantha is found dead and suspicion falls on Mary Ann. The cast of potential suspects is long―each wedding guest had a chilling motive to kill the vicious heiress. Can Riley unmask the murderer before another guest ends up on ice?


This is the third book in An Ice Cream Shop mystery series written by Meri Allen, who, of course, is none other than our own Shari Randall. Shari set up main character Riley to have quite a few problems in Fatal Fudge Swirl among them solving the murder. While Riley is making a Halloween themed ice cream wedding cake, she’s also been enlisted to read the newly-found Collins family letters from the colonial era. Unfortunately, they’re as boring as yesteryear’s grocery list.


On top of that, she’s creating fall/holiday ice cream flavors, such as Pumpkin Spice and Spiced Eggnog. Her application for Gelato school has been accepted. Not only could she attend the course in New York City, but also in Rome, Italy, a place she’d love to revisit. But, she got into big trouble there with her old employer, the CIA.


This is a great time of year to read a book based on ice cream.         E. B. Davis


To concoct the ice cream cake, in which the bride requested a black layer of chai-latte, Riley uses culinary-grade charcoal to get the black color. It’s favorless. Why is culinary-grade charcoal so popular now? It has medical uses, but what are its qualities for use in food?  One thing that has fascinated me since I started writing mysteries involving food is culinary fads. Culinary-grade charcoal has found its way into ice cream because it looks amazing - check out all the images of black ice cream on Instagram at Halloween. Diantha Collins is not only mad for the spooky holiday, she’s a savvy businesswoman who will share every detail of her Halloween wedding on social media.


How do Riley and Mary Ann know one another?  Riley and Mary Ann went to high school together. They weren’t close friends – they were several years apart – but were teammates on the track team. They reconnected at the Penniman Women in Business Club. Riley definitely sympathizes with Mary Ann, who has to cater the wedding of her ex and his new bride.


Chef Dominic, Mary Ann’s ex and the bridegroom, is into molecular gastronomy. What is that? Is he like Alton Brown, explaining the chemical reactions that happen in cooking/baking?

Molecular gastronomy is two things: one, the science of food and cooking (what Alton does); and two, the use of scientific techniques to create unique dishes. You see this on shows like Top Chef, when a contestant uses liquid nitrogen to make instant ice cream, or foams, or tiny spheres of olive oil that look like caviar. Chef Dominic has become famous for his molecular gastronomy, which put Penniman on the foodie map.


When using liquid nitrogen to make ice cream, it isn’t used directly in the ice cream, it’s used to cool and freeze the ice cream ingredients, right? Or is it added to the ingredients and evaporates out? Dry ice could be used in the same way. Do both give off the fog when they “melt?” Is it really minus 109 degrees at room temperature? Here’s a video to explain making treats with liquid nitrogen, and why you should take care when you do.



Who is Marley Wagner, and why does Riley find him smarmy? Marley is a chef at the Inn on the Green who dreams of opening a restaurant with celebrity Chef Dom. Riley keeps catching Marley eavesdropping and snooping around the hotel, so she’s sure he’s up to no good.


Diantha’s family, the Collins, were one of the original settlers of Penniman. She owns the Inn on the Green as well as several other historic buildings near the Inn. Riley’s former Girl Scout leader, Ruthie, and her granddaughter Lucretia, live in one of those buildings. A retired teacher, Ruthie provides maid services at the Inn. Why does she fear for her job, and that she’ll be kicked out of her house? Ruthie is the sole support for her granddaughter, Lucretia. Lucretia’s father has never been in the picture, and her mother abandoned her as a baby, so Ruthie is the only family Lucretia has. Lucretia is a high school senior and is looking at college, and Ruthie doesn’t know how she’s going to pay for it.


Riley’s mother died when she was three. She and her dad, now owner of a bookstore in town, were alone for all of her upbringing. Her dad married the irritating Paulette five years ago. What is it about Paulette that irritates Riley so much? Oh, Paulette! She’s one of those people who’s just a little too perfect, plus her not-so-subtle attempts at matchmaking keep Riley on her toes.


To seal the deal of using the bookstore as a set in the movie, Paulette offers to use Sprinkles as the bookstore cat when the movie producers ask about adding a cat. Riley is irritated, but secretly, she’s amused. Why? Riley thinks that Paulette has met her match in Sprinkles. The neurotic furball has scared off her pet psychologist and Riley thinks it’s only a matter of time until Sprinkles melts down again. She thinks it would be just desserts if a meltdown happened while Paulette was wrangling Sprinkles for the movie.


Tillie picks up a side gig in this book. What’s she doing? As we all know, Tillie longs for adventure beyond what she finds as the administrative assistant at the Penniman Police Services building. Tillie has started her own private investigation firm, and winds up with a very famous and demanding client – the star of the Skylark movie that’s shooting in Penniman.


Caroline and Riley pick men whose time is not their own. Are they undermining their romantic success? This is an interesting point I’d never considered. (Elaine, you ask the best questions!) Caroline is inexperienced in love, and has simply fallen head-over-heels. Riley let a dangerous attraction get the better of her, and now is second guessing her instincts when it comes to dating.


Jack seems passive-aggressive in this book. He calls Riley ”Penniman’s own Jessica Fletcher.” What’s with him? Jack, the police chief, is a perfect example of the saying still waters run deep. I threw a lot at him in this book. He has a media circus with the murder of a socialite and the movie filming in town. He’s facing an emotional and romantic crisis, plus he’s been walking a fine line with Riley, whose unofficial sleuthing has solved several murders. He’s smart enough to know that she’s an asset, but she’s also “not by the book” and he’s a by-the-book guy. I think he needs a nice, quiet murder-free vacation at his cabin in the woods. Will I give him one? Hmmm….unlikely.


I thought church bells rang to get people into service. Why do Penniman’s church bells ring at the close of service? Are they celebrating getting that chore over for the week? Penniman’s beautiful old church on the green has bells that chime on the hour. Still, I bet some of the churchgoers are celebrating!


Why doesn’t Udderly use no-churn recipes? Isn’t gelato no-churn? Udderly’s ice cream is top quality, made in small batches with the freshest organic ingredients. If you don’t have an ice cream machine to churn the ice cream, you can make ice cream in the freezer using sweetened condensed milk instead of the traditional custard base. Not churning means you give up a lot in terms of texture and taste.


Gelato (Italian style ice cream) has a lower fat content than ice cream and is churned at a slower rate, incorporating less air and leaving the gelato denser than ice cream. Less fat means that you experience more of the flavoring of the gelato as opposed to the creaminess of ice cream, so gelato flavors are more intense. Gelato is also stored at a lower temperature, so it will melt faster on the tongue, another attribute that gives more depth of flavor.

I have learned way too much about the science of ice cream with these books!


I was shocked when Riley got the note from Paolo, her former boyfriend in Rome. And then she didn’t open it for the longest time—why? It was exasperating! Everyone’s dying to know what’s in that note! Riley’s struggling with her feelings for the handsome thief she left behind in Rome. That’s all I can say without spoilers!


What are amuse-bouches? An amuse bouche is a small, savory appetizer – usually only a bite or two – that’s offered free of charge by the chef to guests. It translates from French as “amuse the mouth” and is meant to be a showcase of the chef’s creativity.


What was Newgate? Where was it? Newgate was a notorious Connecticut prison that housed Tories during the Revolutionary War. The prison had been constructed over an old copper mine, and prisoners were housed in underground caverns and shafts, allowed above ground only during daylight hours. It was a cruel and filthy place, and eventually closed down by prison reformers in the 1800s.


What is a black box theater? They’re simple, unadorned performance spaces - usually the walls are painted black, which gives this type of theater its name.


Will we go to Rome with Riley next? Must you do research there? Research in Rome is definitely on my bucket list!


Tuesday, June 27, 2023

It’s a Writer’s Life for Me by Martha Reed

True confession. When I started writing my first mystery novel, I had no idea what I was doing. I had a vague cast of characters, an interesting (to me) exotic setting, and a glimmer of a crime idea. I had very little to no practical knowledge about constructing a plot or developing characters or a story or character arc. The only positive thing I had to tip the scale to my side was an irresistible compulsion to see if writing a well-told mystery story was a creative challenge I could pull off.

And so, the adventure began.

At first, I kept my writing a secret and guilty pleasure. I felt that what I was doing was too baby-new, too fresh, too delicate to share with people. Initially, I was afraid that my feeble first attempt would be scorned, dismissed, that people would scoff. That I wouldn’t be able to write a good story, and I’d end up a failure. Did I need that in my life?

That’s the first hurdle I crawled over.

I started to share the idea that I was writing a novel once I got comfortable enough to defend it. The general reaction was divided into two camps. Yes, there was a group of scoffers, but the larger percentage turned out to be supportive in a hesitant way, excited that some day writing bestsellers would make me rich and famous.

Newsflash: For most writers, the reward that comes from writing isn’t either of those things. And that’s okay.

I studiously worked at making myself a better creative writer. I studied the Golden Age mystery craft masters like Dorothy L. Sayers and Agatha Christie, and the stories of modern superstars like Sara Paretsky, Louise Penny, and Hank Phillippi Ryan. I attended every mystery convention or conference or workshop I could find and afford. Bit by bit, my writing improved.

I knew I was on the right track when my second Nantucket novel, “The Nature of the Grave” won an Independent Publisher Award (“IPPY”) for Mid-Atlantic Best Regional Fiction.

I’ll admit to the thrill I still get when I open a letter (olden days) or email (modern times) that begins with the words: “Congratulations! Your story has been accepted for publication.” The surprising insight is that as nice as awards and publication and readership are, I get more joy and satisfaction from completing the story. There’s no better feeling in the world than listening through the tale and knowing that it’s polished to perfection, and I don’t need to change a single word.

Now that I’ve reached that stage in my writerly development, the next giant step was in realizing that the real gift in living a writing life was in having a purpose.

When I began this journey, I was intimidated by other writers. I quickly learned that we’re all on the same team. We’re all part of the same welcoming, inclusive, and giving community. The more writers I met, the easier it got. I started tentatively volunteering at conferences and with organizations like Sisters in Crime, Inc. As my confidence grew, it got easier still.

Then came the Great Flip Flop when the writer’s community and its members started reaching out to me. I’ve held organizational officer positions. I’ve worked as a short-story editor. I’ve spoken at public events. I get asked for book blurbs and reviews.

I never imagined I would be doing this, but boy, is it fun!

My latest insight is that creative writing has become the keel and rudder for my life. Writing provides my balance and direction. Writing has expanded my life experience. It continues to direct my life changes. My ongoing desire for deep research gives me a very handy excuse to investigate exciting new locales. Writing gives me the confidence to fearlessly enter these new arenas and meet even more new people. And new people and new life experiences enrich my writing.

Like the perfection of a DNA double helix, the yin and the yang, creative writing is the gift that keeps on giving.

Monday, June 26, 2023

Summertime by Nancy L. Eady

 Summert-i-i-ime, and the living is easy…. “Summertime” by George Gershwin

Summer officially arrived last week. Unofficially, at least in Alabama, summertime has been here since Memorial Day weekend, since most of our schools close for the year by the end of May. Often in May and early June, the temperature is already soaring into the 90’s. But this year, unlike some years, the weather has behaved itself by restricting its upper limits to 91  at the worst. That changes next weekend, when we have a forecast high of 101 on Saturday, July 1. It’s been nice while it lasted.

However, summertime living isn’t any easier than any other time of year, really, except for traffic. My morning and afternoon commutes are a lot easier when school is not in session. It always amazes me what a difference it makes. There is less traffic, and what traffic there is moves much more smoothly.

There are two main ways to get to and from work. One involves taking interstates almost the whole way, and the other involves some twisting, scenic backroads but takes about 15 minutes longer. I’ll take my back roads over the angst laden interstate any day. I wind my way through what is technically the center of a major metropolitan area on a two-lane road where tree limbs stretch over the road from each side to form a cathedral ceiling of dappled green or mottled reds, yellows, and oranges, depending on the time of year. Usually, there’s at most one car behind me if anyone is at all. So I arrive at work or home, depending on the direction, peaceful, with my batteries recharged and a sense of well-being I wouldn’t have any other way.

 And hopefully, with my mind having that free 35 minutes to wander down whatever labyrinthine avenues it desires, ideas for my writing too.

Do you have any spots in your daily routine that give you a sense of peace and well-being? Does it help your writing, or do you recharge your batteries in some other way?

Sunday, June 25, 2023

Refilling the Creative Well by Annette Dashofy

I’ve been trying to locate who first spoke about refilling our creative wells. I’ve heard references to it from numerous sources and have talked frequently about it myself. I guess the origin doesn’t matter. We all know it’s something we should do. 

According to my friends and family, lately, I’ve been mostly an all-work-no-play kind of gal. This may be due to having two contracts with two different publishers for two different series. In my “spare time,” I serve as president of my local Sisters in Crime chapter as well as being on the board of Pennwriters. 

I love what I do. Writing is fun (most of the time), and I enjoy being able to help other writers along the way. 

But every so often, my brain shuts down. The next scene just isn’t coming together. I forget how to create words, sentences, chapters. 

That’s when I know I’ve gone to the creative well one too many times. 

I was feeling drained a couple of weeks ago, and when my husband asked me if I had to work that Sunday, I thought about it…and said, “No.” 

Okay, confession time. I did a little work in the morning. Mostly jotting notes about upcoming scenes. My version of plotting. But it was okay, because he had some puttering in his workshop that he wanted to do too. Then I turned off my computer, we grabbed a light early lunch, and we headed to Oglebay Park. 

Oglebay has been one of my favorite places to relax and have a little fun since I first discovered it back in the 70s. There’s a mansion, shops, paddleboats, and fishing. There’s a golf course, if you’re so inclined. (I’m not.) You can rent a cabin or stay in the Lodge. And there’s the Good Zoo. I could spend an entire week there and never get bored. 

But I only needed one afternoon, a few inexpensive hours to enjoy a sunny Sunday. We chose to do nothing but wander the paved walking trails, avoiding the crowds. And the ticks.   

We saw lots of wildlife, most of it scurrying too fast to be captured by my camera. Squirrels and chipmunks played peekaboo with me around trees. But not all of the woodland creatures were so uncooperative.

I’ve encountered deer every time I’ve gone to Oglebay. They’re used to the public, so they don’t get too concerned. Same with the waterfowl. Certain times of the year, I have to fight my way through the Canada geese. (Who am I kidding? Those things scare the bejeezus out of me! They get the right-of-way where I’m concerned.)
These ducks were much less aggressive than those geese.

 And some of the trails pass through gorgeous gardens.

After an hour or so, we headed to town for dinner before coming home, tired but happy and with my creative well refilled. The next morning the words, sentences, and scenes flowed. 

As a confirmed all-work-no-play gal, I have to admit, getting away from the computer and the WIP was just what the doctor ordered. 

What about you? Where’s your favorite spot to escape and refill your well? 

Saturday, June 24, 2023

The Accountant: How movies differ from books by Kait Carson


My husband and I have a penchant for picking up movies from the Walmart discount bin. Sometimes we enjoy them. Other times, we can’t make it through the first five minutes. It’s like putting your hand in a grade school grab bag. Ya never know what you’re gonna get. The determining factor is storyline.

 Movies, because they are visual, can get away with more story problems than books. Watching the story unfold moves the mind from scene to scene with little to no time for introspection. To a certain extent, books do the same. The reader moves from chapter to chapter much as the viewer moves from scene to scene. In a movie, the action takes place in front of the viewer. A novel’s action takes place in the mind of a reader. If the reader finds inconsistencies, their mind goes to work to resolve them. If the author doesn’t do the same at some point—bang—book hits the wall.

The Accountant is a 2016 movie starring Ben Affleck. Hard not to like it on casting alone. It tells the story of Christian Wolff, a high-functioning autistic child who is a math savant. Wolff’s parents take the child to an innovative school, hoping to cure him. Learning that a cure is not possible, but a normal life is, leads his career army father to undertake Chris’s education and cure on his own. Think tough love and add in martial arts and weapons education. Chris’s facility with numbers leads him to become an accountant, a money-launderer, go-to guy to uncover embezzlers for his organized crime clients, and a vigilante. Not necessarily in that order. He has both a moral code and self-awareness. While there are aspects of his personality he cannot control, he is in total control of his behavior. Throughout the movie, he takes his marching orders, via telephone, from an unnamed woman. I can’t be more specific. It would be a spoiler.

The first time I watched the movie, the violence was off-putting. So much so that I ignored the story. Last week we watched it again. This time, I watched it as if I was reading a book. There was a perfect symmetry to the story. The threads established by the opening scenes run seamlessly through the rest of the movie. The ending makes perfect sense—although the setup is too contrived to survive developmental editors. Tension builds with each scene, and Chris’s character changes and grows in a believable way. This second viewing made me realize the story is not about the action, it’s about Chris Wolff and his journey through life. It’s a pure redemption story and from that point of view, never strikes a wrong note.

 As a writer, I’m familiar with Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat. It’s an essential “beat sheet” for movie scripting. The Accountant originated in script form and hit every one of the beats. As a writer, I’m also familiar with the work that goes into connecting those beats. The action story of The Accountant moved from beat to beat with little connection. The redemption story filled in the blanks between the beats, but wasn’t developed until the second half of the movie. This format worked in a visual medium. It would be a much harder sell in a novel where the reader would look for a reason to care.

Readers and writers, do you prefer movies written directly for the screen or those adapted from books? If you prefer those adapted from books, do you find the movies hit all the highlights or move apart on their own trajectory?

Friday, June 23, 2023

Can An Old Dog Learn New Tricks? By Kim Herdman Shapiro

Perhaps I should start this off with a quick correction. I should clarify that I am not an old dog. I am a mature canine. That sounds much better. A mature canine who has spent several decades away from the world of writing.


After working as a journalist for many years—some of which are chronicled in my book, Gelato with The Pope, I found myself in the aughts, newly married and the caretaker of two small children. Life as a new mom is like jumping in the deep end: a lot of frantic splashing around as you attempt to keep yours—and everyone else's—heads above water. Writing was wiped off the horizon. Survival was the only thing on my mind.


But time passes. With children, there is that terrible moment when you look up and realize there will be no more early morning cuddles in bed. Mom has become, if not redundant, then certainly not as essential as she once was. For me, this moment occurred during the pandemic. In the ensuing silence, the faint siren call of writing whispered softly in my ear.


Writing? Really? After all this time? I was rusty. Very rusty. And the world of journalism had changed dramatically from the one I had known. Did I dare attempt something new? Now, as I was staring the possibility of AARP membership right in the face?


Reading mysteries has been one of the literary constants in my life. From my childhood days of the Bobbsey Twins and the Happy Hollisters through to Agatha, Josephine Tey, Dorothy L. Sayers, and more modern-day favorites like Louise Penny. Surely, I had read enough mysteries to be able to write one myself!


But how, exactly, did one do it? I sifted through the various plotting formats - from the Hero's Journey to the Seven Point Plot Structure and the Three Act Method—before settling on Save the Cat! I like the way those 15 beats mark out the major turning points of the plot as well as structure the rising and falling tension throughout the book. I picked up a 4x4 piece of offcut plywood from Home Depot, bought a whole bunch of brightly colored sticky notes and a black marker, and started to build my outlining board. Painfully slowly, the sticky notes began to fill up with more and more text until I finally had the bones of a 40-chapter mystery staring back at me.


Next was Scrivener and Scapple. Scrivener gave me a way to transpose the scrawled sticky notes into chunks of fiction. And Scapple gave me a place to work out the complicated trail of red herrings and clues I scattered throughout the book.


So I had it. My 79,000 words of a traditional mystery. I found an editor and began revisions. Then it was time to start submitting to agents. Right off the bat, an agent requested the entire manuscript. I was thrilled, already picking out my outfit for the Edgar Awards banquet. I never heard from her again. Rinse and repeat this several times, each time my heart pricking at the request, followed by the slow and steady realization that I was not what they wanted. I blinked and two years had gone by. My mystery manuscript was still homeless.


This is the point where being a mature canine has its benefits. Twenty years previously, I would have probably railed against these agents and their inability to see the masterpiece in front of them. But mature canines have been around the block. Life has jostled us, sometimes roughly, over umpteen hurdles. We know, all too well, how easily things can get f@#ked up. Might these agents be right? That my manuscript was still not ready?


Two years in and with the help of a writer friend, I switched the whole novel from third person to Deep POV first person. And then rewrote it using the verité style of prose that had made me successful as a columnist. Things suddenly clicked. I was doing what I was good at, but tweaked and in another format. Rather than learn a new trick, I had reworked an old one. The email I had been waiting for finally landed in my inbox. My mystery series, The Wynter Island Mysteries, and the first book in the series, The Raven's Cry, had found a home with Level Best Books.


So, can an old dog learn new tricks? Perhaps the question should be: do we need to? After all, we mature canines have accumulated a fair number of tricks over the years. Perhaps we don't need new ones as much as we need the inspiration to use our old ones in new ways. Les Brown, Ohio politician and motivational speaker, said, "You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream"[1]. I would never have believed I could start a new career as a mystery author at my age. And yet here I am, apparently chock full of tricks I had no idea I could still use.


Kim worked as a journalist in Canada for many years, with experience in both print and broadcast journalism. Her book, Gelato with the Pope, highlights her time as a syndicated travel columnist in the Nineties.

In addition to her syndicated column, she has written feature articles for various publications, edited a monthly children's publication in British Columbia, and had her poetry published in Do Whales Jump at Night? A Canadian Anthology of Children's Poetry. She won a Microsoft Network award for Footloose, one of the first digital e-zines on the internet.

The Raven's Cry is the first book in her new mystery series, The Wynter Island Mysteries. It is based in the Gulf Islands of British Columbia and follows a journalist seeking a new beginning after undergoing trauma in Afghanistan. Unfortunately, her troubles follow her when the body of her ex washes up on an island beach. Book II, The Loon's Song, is due to be released in Spring 2024 from Level Best Books.


[1] 1992, Live Your Dreams by Les Brown, Chapter 3: The Power To Change, Quote Page 75, William Morrow and Company, New York. (Verified with scans)

Thursday, June 22, 2023

How Time Does Fly by Connie Berry


Today is my wedding anniversary. My husband, Bob, and I were married at Bethesda Covenant Church in Rockford, Illinois, on this very day many years ago. My parents gave us a lovely reception, after which Bob and I took off for a three-month honeymoon in Europe. He had to report to the Air Force in September, and instead of doing something silly like getting jobs and saving money, we blew every cent we had on travel. Neither of us would change a thing.

Remembering those days, and especially looking back at the old photos, reminds me of all the years that have passed. Bob and I have two grown sons. For some reason, our hair has changed color, and our faces have, ahem, matured. Bob is still working full-time in our family business. I’ve retired from one job to take up novel-writing. The world has changed as well. Time does fly.

As I’m finishing up the manuscript for A Collection of Lies, the fifth book in the Kate Hamilton Mysteries, it occurs to me that authors must deal with the issue of time—especially those fortunate enough to write long-running series. Sue Grafton allowed Kinsey Milhone, her private investigator, to age by one year every two-and-a-half books. In A is for Alibi, Kinsey was 32. In her final book, Y is for Yesterday, Kinsey is 39. Man, she packed a lot into those seven years.

Ian Rankin’s DI John Rebus of Edinburgh, Scotland, has been allowed to age pretty much in real-time. He wasn’t young when Rankin began the series with Knots and Crosses. Now, twenty-two books later, Rebus is somewhere in his seventies. He’s retired from the police, struggles with COPD, and spends a lot of time walking his dog, Brillo.

Are there book series where the protagonist doesn’t age at all? I can’t think of one, but I can think of plenty of TV series that would fall into that category—M*A*S*H, for example. The series, set in a field hospital during the Korean War, ran from 1972 to 1983—eleven years. And yet the war lasted only three years, which meant not only that the main characters couldn’t really age but also that they couldn’t ever rise in the ranks or be reassigned. The make-up budget for that show must have been massive.

My own series covers a short period of time so far, from October of an unspecified year to January, fifteen months later. Kate, who was 45 when the series began, has finally turned 46.

Here’s the point: however you decide as a writer to handle the passage of time, you will have to deal with it in some way. On a personal level, time marches on whether we “handle” it or not. 

I say, let’s make the most of it!

For authors, how do you deal with the passage of time in your books?

For readers, is a protagonist’s age important to you? 

Wednesday, June 21, 2023

An Interview with Author Krista Davis By E. B. Davis


Never trust anyone who tries so hard to be perfect.

Krista Davis, The Diva Delivers on a Promise, Kindle Loc. 1878


Sophie is busy handling the first ever convention of the Association of Ghost Kitchens—restaurants that do delivery only—but she’s taking a little time out for a lunch meeting organized by A Healthy Meal. The group is dedicated to providing meals for children in need, and as a bonus, it’ll give Sophie the perfect opportunity to ogle the lavish Old Town home of socialite Geraldine Stansfield. Gerrie’s dining room is impeccably furnished, the table laden with gleaming crystal and prized china. If it weren’t for the dead man lying on the floor, everything would be perfect . . .

No one knows the victim—or at least, no one claims to. But a little snooping by Sophie reveals links to many local notables. In fact, not only was he a client of Geraldine’s late husband, an attorney—every member of the Stansfield clan knew the deceased. But only one knows what he was doing in Gerrie’s house.

Gerrie’s elegant abode looks spotless, but there’s plenty of dirty linen in those family closets. Now Sophie will have to get the killer to come clean before he spoils another appetite—for good . . .

Amazon. com


The Diva Delivers on a Promise is the sixteenth book in the Domestic Diva Mystery series. Sixteen! I applaud Krista Davis for her ingenuity. Her characters are like old friends who take readers along on their investigations. Thank goodness the calories are also fiction!


Once again, Sophie Winston investigates murder within the small community of Old Town Alexandria, VA, a place I’ve visited many times while living in Northern VA. There are brick sidewalks, and many of the homes are on the historic register—just as Krista describes. Sophie and her best friend Nina solve not just one murder, but two, and an attempted murder along with a scam that ties to those murders. There’s a lot of crime surrounding her neighborhood, which gets Sophie investigating during the hot August days and nights.


P.S. Books 10—15 are now on Kindle Unlimited. Read them free with your subscription!


Welcome Krista Davis back to WWK!                   E. B. Davis

How does the industry classify your mystery series? Although there are the cozy elements of the culinary arts, the comradery of friends, and pets—there’s also a lot of blood. Luckily, some of that blood was actually tomato sauce, but there still was enough.


The Domestic Diva Mysteries are considered cozy mysteries. Cozies come in a range. They don’t have to be sugary sweet or hilarious. I remember asking my editor if I could hang someone. She said, “It all depends on how you do it.”


Has anyone ever approached you about movie rights?

Yes. At the moment there is a strike in progress which has brought a lot of things to a screeching halt.


This is the first time, I think, that there was a question that Mars might have been having an affair with Natasha before Sophie and his divorce. Was this an oversight on my part or a new twist?


Sorry, but it was an oversight on your part. Sophie doesn’t know for sure, but she’s not the only one who suspects that may have been the case.


In the last book, Bernie seemed to be making romantic overtures to Sophie. In this book, he volunteers to stay overnight at her place when she is threatened. But Mars kisses her—twice! I’m suspicious. Perhaps he sees the error of his ways. But…is Mars now interested because Bernie seems interested?


Mars doesn’t realize how Bernie feels about Sophie. Not yet, anyway. Mars was comfortable socializing with Sophie as a couple again.


What are ghost kitchens? Why are they appealing to the public over regular restaurant delivery services such as Door Dash?


Ghost kitchens cook food for delivery only. They do not have dining rooms and consumers cannot pick up their food. Some ghost kitchens have a delivery person, and many use companies like Door Dash for delivery of their food.


I was shocked that Charlene asked Mars, Bernie, Nina, and Sophie to deliver her ghost kitchen food. I know she was in a bind, and yet, it seemed inappropriate. Her family was there to help. Why would she ask Sophie, et al., to do so?


Charlene’s family (her mother and Natasha’s mother) were tied up in their own store. Sophie has assisted Charlene in the past. This time Charlene was in a pinch and had run out of options. You’ll notice that Mars and Bernie also agreed to help deliver her food.


Nina asks Charlene about giving the food to children or adults only. Charlene says give it to the kids because often parents are still at the office and order dinner for their kids from there. Is this a new trend?


Ghost kitchens are new, so I guess it is a recent trend. Imagine how convenient it is! School is out for the summer and a fourteen-year-old or a sixteen-year-old without a car is babysitting your children. Mom and Dad are working away from home and can call in an order for what they want their children to eat. It magically appears at their house!


Sophie is helping Colleen Stansfield field the first conference of the Association of Ghost Kitchens. Is there such an organization? Who does Colleen work for?


Colleen works for the Association of Ghost Kitchens. Such organizations and conferences are cropping up. There is an International Association of Delivery Kitchens.


What’s a tomahawk steak?


It’s a bone-in ribeye steak with a long bone attached, hence the name tomahawk. They are well-marbled and a favorite among steak lovers.


What’s a Figaro link silver bracelet?


The figaro link usually consists of three small links in a row, followed by an elongated link and are mostly seen on necklaces and bracelets. They are a popular link for men to wear, though women wear the link as well.


Mariah Carey has a cookie business?


You bet!


Dark roots are still tacky, aren’t they, even if the media seems intent on trying to make them fashionable?


I’m not getting involved in a fashion trends argument! LOL! Let’s just say that is in the eye of the beholder.


At the beginning of Chapter 10, I was shocked when I agreed with Natasha’s answer. Is something wrong with me?


Natasha isn’t always wrong! Natasha is very opinionated and has strict rules for herself that she thinks are appropriate for others.


When Bernie asks everyone to The Laughing Hound for a taste test, he’s trying out wood-burning cooking. I thought only pizza places might have a wood burning oven. Is this different? Is it a new trend? (For readers—here’s the tasting menu—pork with pineapple, crisp grilled whole fish, spiced lamb, brined chicken with sweet corn, smoky pork belly mac and cheese, grilled zucchini, and salad—and finished by a dessert of chocolate ice cream with a French chocolate liqueur and charred marshmallow topping—accompanied with Amaretto coffee topped with melting whipped cream. Many refrigerator doors will be opened during this scene.)


It is a new trend! It’s not an oven, though. It’s a live open fire. You can imagine it takes a special work area, so not every restaurant is capable of wood-burning cooking without a major renovation. But it is definitely a hot trend. (Sorry, had to say it!)


I really thought “petit” larceny was “petty” larceny. Are both adjectives used interchangeably or was I doing another auditory learner mistake?


A prosecutor friend informs me that “petty” is unfortunate American language for “petit.” It differs by state and commonwealth. Some states call it misdemeanor larceny.


It was great finding out more about Officer Wong in this book. Her ex, Eddie, is back in town. He is a narcissist. I have some experience with such individuals. You wrote with authority and authenticity on the disorder. Do you have a narcissist in your life?


I believe I have encountered some narcissists in my life. Thank you for your kind compliment.


Why are narcissists attracted to clever, confident women?


My understanding is that they seek strong women because narcissists are insecure and such women give them the authority they did not receive from their parents. I’m not so sure about that. I suspect it may be because confident women are a bigger challenge and reward.


Why does Natasha jump to the conclusion that Sophie is responsible for ruining her cookie business?


Because the problem arose immediately after Natasha was a guest speaker at the conference Sophie was running. Natasha thinks it wouldn’t have happened if she had not been a guest speaker.


Are deeds to houses still issued?


I certainly hope so! To the best of my knowledge, they are still issued.


Are the temporary credit cards a new phenomenon? I haven’t heard about them. They sound like a good idea, but it’s probably confusing and problematic.


I was very surprised to read about them. I’m in total agreement with you. They sound like a terrific idea, but a hassle. For those not familiar with them, the bank gives you a number for one use only. After you charge something, that number is no longer valid. What a great way to foil credit card thieves! Unfortunately, having been the victim of credit card theft myself recently, I wonder if we’re heading in that direction. Those who are interested in learning more about them can start at this link.


Do you drink Blue Ghosts or eat them with a spoon?


You drink them. Like a Brandy Alexander made with ice cream!


What’s next for Sophie and the gang?


I am pleased to announce that The Diva Goes Overboard has been sent to my editor and should be released in May of 2024!