Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Leslie Budewitz Interview

Interview with Leslie Budewitz

Editor's note: Although I have been thinking of adding an author/state index, it was the prodding by Leslie that actually saw it accomplished. Check out the home page to see the state and authors listing. Thanks, Leslie. 

           How many books have you published?
Killing Thyme (October 2016), will be my seventh---all since September 2011, which after many years of writing without publication, truly astonishes me. My first book is a guide for writers on using the law in their fiction, Books, Crooks and Counselors: How to Write Accurately About Criminal Law and Courtroom Procedure  (Linden/Quill Driver, 2011), winner of the 2011 Agatha Award for Best Nonfiction. So far, there are three Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries, Death Al Dente  (winner of the 2013 Agatha Award for Best First Novel), Crime Rib, and Butter Off Dead; Treble at the Jam Fest  will be in May 2017, and I’m about to start the fifth, featuring Christmas in the village of Jewel Bay, Montana.

Killing Thyme is the third Spice Shop Mystery, set in Seattle’s famed Pike Place Market. The series began with Assault and Pepper, and continued with Guilty as Cinnamon.

Under what names do you publish?
Leslie Budewitz, my very own! (Not a name even a fiction writer could make up!)

Do you plot the entire book first, then write or plot as you go?
My process has changed over the years. I planned my first four novels, creating outlines with a few sentences for each chapter, though I knew how important it was to let the characters speak and change as the story developed. The last three and the WIP (work in progress) have, insisting on being more intuitive. I always know the basic scenario, the core emotional conflicts, and the ending, although I admit that the killer has changed in the process twice (Crime Rib and Guilty as Cinnamon). The key for me is that the plot must grow from the characters, from what they want and what they will do to get it, so naturally some things do change as I get to know my story people better.

How do you keep continuity on backstory? For example I read a book recently where the lead character said she had three brothers, several books later, she was an only child.
I keep a fairly detailed series bible with those details. Alas, that didn’t stop me from discovering that I had named minor characters in both series Sam and Jennifer!

Who is your favorite author?
Oh, gosh---I hate to answer because I’ll miss a few, and my answer would probably be different every day! In cozy world, I’m particularly fond of  Krista Davis, Cleo Coyle, Barbara Ross, and Victoria Thompson. In other subgenres, I adore Louise Penny and Deborah Crombie, and the wonderfully suspenseful standalones by Catriona McPherson and Laura Lippman. I’m working my way through Jacqueline Winspear’s Maisie Dobbs series, and I’m crazy about Shelley Costa’s new series---watch for The Killer’s Guide to Good Works, out this fall. Literally and figuratively, my reading is all over the map!

Do you write with pen and paper or a computer?
Computer, though I do keep a notebook for each book, where I scribble those thoughts that occur to me in the middle of the night or on a trip without a laptop! For the Village books, I’ve got a bulletin board with pictures I’ve gathered, and for the Spice Shop books, I keep a sketchbook that corrals notes, pictures, and drawings I made while prowling the Pike Place Market and other Seattle neighborhoods, searching for just the right spots!

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Cajun Country Mystery

Plantation Shudders by Ellen Byron is perfect for fans of everything Louisiana. It has eccentric aristocrats, aging plantation homes and so much local color you'd think you were actually in Cajun Country.

Magnolia Crozat better known as Maggie returns home to help her parents run their ancestral home as a B&B. The latest group of visitors includes an Australian family of four, the Cajun Cuties (a group of Cajun Country wannabes), a hipster couple celebrating their anniversary, three Georgia frat boys, a single man and an elderly couple celebrating their honeymoon. When the elderly guests die simultaneously Maggie's family tumbles into the spotlight of the investigation.

Naturally there is a feud going with the police chief and Maggie's family, so Rufus Durand would love nothing more than to embarrass the Crozat family with a murder charge. Arriving on the scene is a new police detective who looks like he has a brain in his head. Unfortunately he is related to Rufus. The plot thickens.

As a huge fan of New Orleans and Louisiana, I loved the local
color and look forward to the second book, Body on the Bayou which comes out on September 13.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Snowstorm Deposits a Body

In the first book in the series, Too Cute to Kill, author Linda Crowder introduces Jake and Emma Rand. He is an attorney specializing in juvenile cases and she is a therapist in private practice and they live in Casper, Wyoming. The next day after a large snowstorm, Jake and Emma, they discover a woman's body partially buried by snow on their property. The woman is not dressed in winter clothing and Jake and Emma cannot figure out how she landed on their property.

While the police try to identify the victim and discover how she died, Emma and Jake decide to investigate on their own. They learn the woman was dead before her body was deposited on their  property, and as the Sheriff fears, the autopsy shows she died of a drug overdose.

When another body is found at the Fort Casper Museum, there
seems to be no connection between the two victims. As Jake and Emma probe deeper they find an unlikely connection and are engulfed in the middle of a confusing and frightening quest to find a killer.

It was a real struggle to find a cozy mystery set in Wyoming and I'm happy I found this series. Jake and Emma are people you would like to have as your next door neighbors. They are active in their communities and are dedicated to their jobs, and they are nice people. The mystery is well plotted and when the pieces fall together, it produces a satisfying conclusion.

I'm already reading the second book in the series Main Street Murder.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

A Cookbook Nook Mystery

It's Pirate Week in Crystal Cove, California, and Jenna Hart has her hands full with pirate decorations and planning for the big Valentine's Day push. In Fudging the Books, Daryl Wood Gerber follows the exploits of culinary bookshop and cafe owner Jenna and her tarot reading aunt, Vera. The shop is decorated with chocolate-themed mystery books, cookbooks with plenty of chocolate recipes and all things chocolate.

The Chocolate Cookbook Club is hosting local chocolatier, aptly named Coco Chastain, at their meeting to discuss her new cookbook. She brings along her publisher Alison Foodie, who is also a local. There's an underlying feud among the author, her publisher and power-hungry copy editor over edits to the manuscript. When Alison wounds up dead, Coco is immediately suspected.

The suspicion spreads to several other characters leading Jenna and
police chief Cinnamon (love the name) Pritchett in one direction then the next. To complicate matters someone has stolen the pot of gold doubloons which was to be raffled off at the end of Pirate Week. The culprit begins posting photos of the pot of doubloons in various places in town tormenting the police to find them.

The plot weaves left then right and all over the place throwing suspicion on everyone in the book including Aunt Vera. Usually I enjoy Gerber's books especially when she writes as Avery Aames and her Cheese Shop books are entertaining, Although Fudging the Books had delicious chocolate recipes, the plot leaped all over and the clues never really lead you to the killer. I also felt some of the characters including Jenna's boyfriend Rhett were very flatly drawn.

The first book in this series is Final Sentence.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Southern Ladies Find Murder

In Miranda James' book Bless Her Dead Little Heart, we meet two unusual characters living in a spacious southern mansion in Athena, Mississippi. Octogenarian sisters An'gel (pronounced ahn-JELL) and Dickce (Dixie) Ducote think their days will be filled with housesitting a huge Maine coon cat and going about their daily life. But when their old sorority sister Rosabelle Sultan arrives at their home spinning a tale about someone trying to kill her, they are soon overwhelmed by Rosabelle's son, daughters, daughter-in-law, grandson and granddaughter.

Always craving the spotlight, the sisters are not sure Rosabelle is actually in jeopardy, and they find it hard to believe someone would try to cause Rosabelle to fall down a flight of stairs. When one of the visitors is killed in a fatal fall down the marble stairs in the Ducote house, the sisters rethink their concern for Rosabelle's story.

Rosabelle's daughters and their half brother rely on her money and
they are not be able to inherit any money from their fathers' estates until Rosabelle is dead. The Ducote sisters enlist the help of the local police to try to protect Rosabelle. When a second person dies under suspicious circumstances, An'gel and Dickce suspect that maybe Rosabelle is not as innocent as she claims. Add the arrival of her estranged Italian husband and his gorgeous valet, there are more twists and turns than an amusement park ride.

The Ducote sisters are charming Southern ladies with lots of spirit. I hope I am as active as they are when I turn 80. Check out the books by Miranda James by clicking here.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Vicki Delany Interview

Next up - Vicki Delany

How many books have you published? (For a look at all those books, click here)
Twenty-Three so far.  I write in many different crime sub-genres. Modern gothic style standalone thrillers (More than Sorrow), The Constable Molly Smith police procedurals (Unreasonable Doubt), the Klondike Gold Rush series (Gold Web) novellas for adult literacy and reluctant readers, and now cozies: The Lighthouse Library series, the Year Round Christmas books, and the forthcoming Sherlock Holmes Bookshop mysteries.  My twenty-fourth published book will be out on November 1st. It’s We Wish You A Murderous Christmas, the second in the Year Round Christmas series for Penguin, and in March it’s time for Elementary She Read the first Sherlock Holmes Bookstore book.

Under what names do you publish?
Eva Gates writes the Lighthouse Library series, set in a library in a Lighthouse on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, but all my other books are published under my own name of Vicki Delany

Do you plot the entire book first, then write or plot as you go?
In my early years I was very much a “Pantser” - writing by the seat of my pants as I went. But when I started writing for Penguin and now Crooked Lane they require an outline, and I found that I much prefer doing it that way.  Writing a comprehensive outline gets the hard stuff out of the way.  Once I’ve written the outline for the publisher, I pretty much stick closely to it, although there are always opportunities to deviate.

How do you keep continuity on backstory? For example I read a book recently where the lead character said she had three brothers, several books later, she was an only child.
Good question.  I am very very sloppy.  I try to keep a series “bible”: a computer file containing information about the characters and the setting, but I stop adding to it. And then I’m in a fluster trying to remember if the character has blue eyes or brown eyes and stuff like that. I feel sorry for the author of the book you are referring to, but I know exactly from where s/he is coming.

Who is your favorite author?
So hard to pin one down. I love the traditional British-style police procedurals as written by Tana French, Ian Rankin, Peter Robinson, Susan Hill. I devour modern Gothic style, like Kate Morton or Simone St. James.  I am the past president of the Crime Writers of Canada, and that has given me the opportunity to discover so many great Canadian crime writers.

Do you write with pen and paper or a computer?
A computer. Always a computer. I’d be lost without it (them?). I have a laptop totally dedicated to writing and writing my books only. I don’t even do blog posts on it. I find that that’s the only way I can focus on writing, and stay away from Facebook and email and all the rest of the distractions. 

Editor's note: See Lighthouse Library Hosts Murder

Monday, August 8, 2016

Local Food Mysteries

The second book in the Local Foods Mystery series by Edith Maxwell features rookie farmer Cameron Flaherty mixed up in more than harvesting vegetables for locavores. Her Westbury, Massachusetts farm is hosting a Farm-to-Table dinner and all seems to be going smoothly until entrepreneur Irene Burr argues with everyone in sight.

She wants to purchase the Old Town Meeting Hall and turn it into a textile museum, but has met resistance from many of the old time residents. When she winds up dead on a neighboring farm, Cam turns amateur detective again. Naturally there are plenty of suspects - Irene's stepson Bobby Burr, mechanic Simone Koyama, custodian Wes Ames and farmer Howard Fisher.

Cam encounters other problems - a jealous boyfriend chef Jake
Ericsson and newfound attention from state police officer Pete Pappas. Trying to manage her crops and investigate the murder draws Cam further into the mystery. When she finds a threatening note then manages to lose it before she can show it to Pappas, she turns her focus back to her farm and the food shares she has to harvest for her cooperative.

One thing I have learned from this series is farming is not for the fainthearted or the lazy. Cam is up early harvesting, gathering, planting new seeds, composting and much more, as well as investigating. Considering she has only been a farmer for a year when she was a software engineer prior to the switch, she is holding her own. To me that was very left brain changing to right brain. I'm rooting for Cam to keep her locavores happy and get her organic farm certification. Wish I were nearby for the dozen fresh eggs!

The first book in the series is A Tine to Live, A Tine to Die.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Shakespeare, Baked Goodies and Murder

When you read any Bakeshop mystery by Ellie Alexander, you'd better have some baked goods handy or you will be drooling all over the book. Juliet Capshaw and her mother Helen bake the best goodies, cakes and cupcakes around in their lovely Ashland, Oregon bakeshop. In Caught Bread Handed, they bake and still have time to solve a murder.

On her morning bread delivery, Juliet stumbles on an open door at ShakesBurgers, a garish and totally unwanted fast food chain in the lovely downtown. As she pushes through the door, she finds the owner Mindy lying on the floor with blood pooling below her wrists and her partner Mathew trying to stop the bleeding.

There are plenty of suspects particularly as the business owners association held an emergency meeting the night before with lots of conflict and accusations. No one wants ShakesBurgers to ruin the image of the Shakespearean setting downtown.

Also Juliet has her hands full trying to bake with only one industrial oven and the reappearance of her estranged husband Carlos. Carlos wants her to return to their life as chefs aboard a cruise ship, but Juliet has grown to love being on dry land and working with her mother. Carlos appears to fit right in at Torte, but will he stay or will he go?

If only there were a way to enjoy the scent of baked goods and fresh coffee creations while reading these books. Andy's coffee concoctions have me craving coffee at all times of the day.

The first book in this series is Meet Your Baker. 

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Connie Archer Interview

This is the first in a series of interviews with authors. First up is Connie Archer.
How many books have you published? (See all her books here.)
I’ve published six books so far. Five in the Soup Lover’s Mystery series:  A Spoonful of Murder, A
Connie Archer
Broth of Betrayal, A Roux of Revenge, Ladle to the Grave
and A Clue in the Stew. And the first book in the Zodiac Mysteries, The Madness of Mercury, was just released on June 8, 2016.  There are two more in the pipeline, but not as yet published.  Zodiac Mystery #2 is titled All Signs Point to Murder (June 2017) and right now I’m working on #3, but haven’t quite decided on a title for that one. 

Under what names do you publish?
The Soup Lover’s Mysteries are written as Connie Archer, and the Zodiac Mysteries are written as Connie di Marco.

Do you plot the entire book first, then write or plot as you go?
I do like to plot things out and have a solid framework before actually beginning to write. And having a good structure means the pacing won’t falter.  My first editor required outlines for the first two Soup Lovers series and I’m very glad she did. It forced me to be very detailed and disciplined with the story, so now I always outline. With an outline, it’s easier to spot problem areas sooner which saves a lot of confusion and rewriting later. 

How do you keep continuity on backstory? For example I read a book recently where the lead character said she had three brothers, several books later, she was an only child.
Ooops! Yes, that can certainly happen. I keep copious notes about all my characters because it’s very easy to make mistakes like that. The main characters in a series will stay very clear in a writer’s head, but the little details can really trip you up. Those details become so familiar, yet you can still make mistakes. I was happily typing away one day and referred to my protagonist’s apartment on Elm Street, and then I thought, wait, was it Elm or was it Maple?  Brain glitch! I actually had to go back and check. 

Who is your favorite author?
Oh, so many, it’s hard to name just one and I’m constantly discovering new authors. I love Tana French and Ann Cleeves and Sue Grafton and many more. I’ve devoured all the classics – Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, Ngaio Marsh, Josephine Tey – at various times and still enjoy reading them. I love thriller authors like Lee Child and Karen Fossum and all sorts of Scandinavian noir, like the Department Q series by Jussi Adler-Olsen. My tastes are very eclectic. 

Do you write with pen and paper or a computer?
Well, I work on a computer, but I start with post-it notes in various colors to storyboard the plot.  Then I keep adding to it and finally transfer all that to a written outline. That way, I can visualize the whole book. That’s not to say it’s carved in stone, because if a better idea occurs to me, I’ll revise it, but once I’ve done that, at least I have a roadmap. Then I write on the computer working through many, many drafts. When I feel it’s complete and in good shape, I print it out. You can see things in a printed version that somehow escape you on the screen. I keep revising until several more versions are finished and I feel it’s in good shape to send to my editor. Then of course the process starts again with the editor’s comments or questions, and after that, the copy editor. I read the entire book each time, trying to make sure there are no errors. And then I read it again when it’s in printed form, just to be sure nothing’s been missed.  


Editor's note: Soup Lovers Series takes place in Vermont and Zodiac mysteries take place in California.