Killer Ideas by Paty Jager

I was visiting with my brother this weekend and he told me I had to come visit him. He had discovered some great ways to murder someone at the new fish hatchery where he works.

Not that we think a lot a like or anything… 🙂 This is the same brother who cave me the inspiration that started my Shandra Higheagle Series. As a bronze sculptor, he had details about how some statues were put together that gave him an idea on how to conceal a murder weapon which he passed on to his lovely big sister who likes to write stories about killing  people. LOL

How he works at an Indian fish hatchery which I can make fit into my new Gabriel Hawke series. You can bed as soon as things slow down around here with harvesting and company, we’ll take a trip to see all the great ways he’s found to hide a body or shorten a life. I know that sounds gruesome, but when you are constantly trying to find new and plausible ways to commit a murder that will stump your main character and your readers, you have to dig into every possibility.

For me a good murder mystery read is one where I’m interested in the method of murder as well as why it happened and by whom.

My first Gabriel Hawke book releasing in January has a unique twist to how the murdered victim is found.

Here is the blurb to Murder of Ravens to pique your interest.

The ancient Indian art of tracking is his greatest strength…

And also his biggest weakness.

Oregon Dept. of Fish and Wildlife  State Trooper Gabriel Hawke believes he’s chasing poachers. However, he comes upon a wildlife biologist standing over a body that is wearing a wolf tracking collar.

He uses master tracker skills taught to him by his Nez Perce grandfather to follow clues on the mountain. Paper trails and the whisper of rumors in the rural community where he works, draws Hawke to a conclusion that he finds bitter.

Arresting his brother-in-law ended his marriage, could solving this murder ruin a friendship?

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Setting Chaos Right

by Janis Patterson

Admittedly, there is something strange about those who spend a great deal of their time in thinking up ways to do away with another of their fellow beings. Someone once wrote that a person who repeatedly tries to devise a way of killing another is either a psychopath or a mystery writer, and that sometimes the line between them blurs. I resent that. I spend a great deal of time finding ways to eradicate some poor soul, but I don’t feel like a psychopath. At least, not most of the time.

So why do I do it? Why do any of us do it?

Aside from the fact I’m much too afraid of getting caught to even think of trying anything for real, I believe we do it because as writers and as readers we fans of murder have a very strict sense of honor and decency and justice.

Whether we’re plotting the demise of a nosy next door neighbor or creating a scheme to eradicate the populace of a distant planet, we are creating mayhem and chaos. Murder is against the natural order of things – it is unnatural, and the unnatural is disturbing to us. However – if we create it ourselves as writers, we control it. We know from the beginning that however bad things get, we can set it right and good will triumph again.

Now I can hear some of you muttering that there are many books where the killer is not punished, that he walks away unscathed. Yes, of course there are, but in the traditional mystery framework (even if it is set on a distant planet many eons in the future or the past) we know that the bad will be punished and order restored. Even if the law is not served, justice will be, and the two are not always the same thing. Sometimes a murder can be a good thing, and to punish the killer would be unfair. As was written in Texas law until not too many years ago, there are some folks who just need killing!

By contrast, real life is messy. People are murdered and the perpetrator is never caught, and sometimes even if he is he isn’t convicted. There is no guaranteed happy/good/righteous ending, and sometimes the uncertainty of that ambiguity is unbearable. I think people turn to mysteries both as readers and as writers because they need the framework of justice guaranteed to be triumphant. I know I do.

In the worlds we create horrible things happen, yes, but in the end right and justice prevail. The murderer is going to be stopped some way. Our senses of balance and security and rightness are restored. All is well.

Would it could be that way in real life.

 

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What’s an author to do?

By Sally Carpenter

New authors looking for publishers now have two less options.

Last month Oak Tree Press, an independent publisher of novels in various genres, closed its doors. That came as no surprise. Some years ago the publisher had fallen too ill to continue the work, and the company has been slowly winding down ever since.

Some OTP orphans with ongoing series signed on with other small presses, particularly with a firm run by a former OTP author! Other writers, the ones who had only written one or two books and were no longer actively writing or promoting their work, quietly let their books go out of print.

The big surprise in October was the announcement that well-respected indy mystery publisher Midnight Ink was shutting down in 2019. The press had a number of well-known and successful authors under its wing.

Every mystery has a motive, but MI has released little information as to the closure. MI is owned by a larger entity, so my guess is the decision came from the corporate level. I assume the parent company no longer wants to invest in mysteries, focus on other genres, or get out of book publishing all together.

Most, if not all, MI authors are represented by agents, which may make it harder, not easier, to find a new home. Some indy presses do not want to handle the legalities of working with agents. Also, many small presses generate book sales too low to adequately compensate an agent and her author.

As for the orphan authors hooking up with a large New York-based publisher, fuggitaboutit. The large firms, which have now gobbled up the majority of publishers, seem only interested in blockbuster sales, celebrities and their ghost writers, or writers with a massive social media presence. Average midlist authors need not apply.

And signing with a large publisher is not a guarantee of stability. I know of authors who had multi-book contracts with the “big boys” but the contract failed to renew. The reason most given was “low sales.” But these authors had books in libraries, rave reviews in top publications, and worldwide sales. Just how “low” is “low”?

So where does this leave the orphan author? Fortunately, while options are closing in one area, new possibilities are springing up.

With the death of one small press, another seems to appear. Some authors I know are now with presses I had never heard of before. With desktop publishing, anyone can start a book firm from ones own kitchen.

Some orphan authors who have an established fan base are going the indy/self-publishing route. They’re in total charge of cover, content, distribution and deadlines. Nobody can fire them.

The downside of such freedom is the responsibility. Unless the author is a highly skilled jack-of- all trades, she needs a designer, editor and publicist. She must do all the formatting, marketing and grunt work. She also covers all the costs of publication. Self-pub is not for the faint of heart, but for writers who have the time and perseverance.

I will be interested to see what happens to the OTP/MI orphans. Most, I’m sure, will land on their feet. Others may leave writing and move on to other pursuits. And some may launch new small presses.

 

 

 

 

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Guest Blog Interview with Lois Winston

lois-winston-med-res-file(1)Today we are interviewing USA Today award-winning and best selling author, Lois Winston. If you have checked out her Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers blog: www.anastasiapollack.blogspot.com  It’s a must. She has great stuff going on over there all the time.

And now the interview:

When did you start writing?

I wasn’t someone who always knew she wanted to grow up to become an author. I had other career goals. However, one night twenty-three years ago I had an exceptionally vivid dream. Over the next few nights the dream continued, unfolding like the chapters of a book. Since I rarely remember my dreams, this was quite unusual, and I decided to commit the dream to paper. The next thing I knew, I’d written 50,000 words. Ten years and many rewrites later, that story became the romantic suspense Love, Lies and a Double Shot of Deception, the second book I sold.

Have you always wanted to be a mystery writer?

No, I began my career as a romance writer, but my day job was as a craft and needlework designer for magazines, book publishers, and craft kit manufacturers. One day an editor mentioned to my agent that she was looking for a crafting mystery series. With my background, my agent thought I’d be the perfect person to write one.

Why do you write mystery?

Once I began writing mystery, I discovered I enjoyed writing mystery more than romance. After I wrote Assault With a Deadly Glue Gun, the first book in the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series, I never looked back and have been writing mystery ever since.

I think this is partly due to genetics. My grandfather rose in the ranks to become captain of one of the largest east coast law enforcement departments in the twenties through the fifties, working out of the county prosecutor’s office. He was responsible for capturing quite a few murderers, bootleggers, and gangsters over his long career. I like to think there’s a part of him in me that steered me in the direction of writing mystery.

What kind of a mind do you think it takes to write mystery?

I think mystery writing takes a very analytical mind. You have to create a puzzle for the reader to solve, because that’s what mystery readers like to do. However, you can’t make it too easy for them. No author likes to hear that a reader figured out whodunit early in the book. You’ve got to come up with plausible red herrings that keep readers guessing.

How did you come up with the character Anastasia Pollock?

When I was asked to write a crafting mystery, I researched the sub-genre and discovered that all the crafting mysteries I came across involved a craft shop owner or crafter of one specific craft—quilting, knitting, scrapbooking, etc. I wanted to create a series that was a bit different. So I made Anastasia the crafts editor for a women’s magazine. I had freelanced for many craft and women’s magazines over the years and was familiar with the workings of magazine publishing. Giving Anastasia such a career enables me to feature a variety of crafts in my books.

I love the crafting aspect. What is your favorite craft?

I’m partial to needlecraft, especially counted cross stitch. I stitched my first sampler when I was in fifth grade for a class project on colonial America and eventually parlayed my love of needlework into a design career.

What is Anastasia’s favorite craft project? What is her favorite crafting mystery from her series? Why?

Hmm…I don’t know that Anastasia has ever mentioned which of her craft projects is her favorite. I know she was emotionally invested in the family scrapbook she put together for her deceased neighbor’s daughter in Scrapbook of Murder, but guilt had a lot to do with that.

As for Anastasia’s favorite mystery in the series, you have to understand that Anastasia is a reluctant amateur sleuth. She’s never forgiven me for turning her world upside-down by killing off her husband before the start of the first book and revealing he was a closet gambler who left her and her kids in debt greater than the GNP of your average Third World nation. She’s not the kind of sleuth who enjoys sticking her nose in other people’s business, but I’ve given her no choice. If pressed, she’d probably admit her favorite book is the one in which she decides she’s spent enough time grieving Dead Louse of a Spouse and moves on, but I won’t say when this occurs in the series.

What’s new for you on the horizon?

Once I finish up my blog tour for the release of Drop Dead Ornaments, the seventh book in the series, I’ll begin work on Anastasia’s next adventure. Right now I’m giving both of us a break from each other, something I’m sure she greatly appreciates.

Drop Dead Ornaments

DDO-ebook72dpiAn Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery, Book 7

Anastasia Pollack’s son Alex is dating Sophie Lambert, the new kid in town. For their community service project, the high school seniors have chosen to raise money for the county food bank. Anastasia taps her craft industry contacts to donate materials for the students to make Christmas ornaments they’ll sell at the town’s annual Holiday Crafts Fair.

At the fair Anastasia meets Sophie’s father, Shane Lambert, who strikes her as a man with secrets. She also notices a woman eavesdropping on their conversation. Later that evening when the woman turns up dead, Sophie’s father is arrested for her murder.

Alex and Sophie beg Anastasia to find the real killer, but Anastasia has had her fill of dead bodies. She’s also not convinced of Shane’s innocence. Besides, she’s promised younger son Nick she’ll stop risking her life. But how can she say no to Alex?

Buy Links

Amazon https://amzn.to/2MBo1xS

Kobo https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/drop-dead-ornaments

iTunes https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/drop-dead-ornaments/id1431548050?mt=11

Nook https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/drop-dead-ornaments-lois-winston/1129345148?ean=2940161937181 

USA Today bestselling and award-winning author Lois Winston writes mystery, romance, romantic suspense, chick lit, women’s fiction, children’s chapter books, and nonfiction under her own name and her Emma Carlyle pen name. Kirkus Reviews dubbed her critically acclaimed Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series, “North Jersey’s more mature answer to Stephanie Plum.” In addition, Lois is a former literary agent and an award-winning craft and needlework designer who often draws much of her source material for both her characters and plots from her experiences in the crafts industry.

Website: www.loiswinston.com

Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers blog: www.anastasiapollack.blogspot.com

Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/anasleuth

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Anasleuth

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/722763.Lois_Winston

Newsletter sign-up: https://app.mailerlite.com/webforms/landing/z1z1u5

Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/lois-winston

 

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Holiday Recipes from the Ladies of Mystery

Since this is the 5th Monday of the month and we don’t have a person scheduled, we decided to make the 5th Monday or Thursday of a month a day when we gather and give you recipes, talk about our lives, or what is happening that you might be interested in as a group.

Today, because of the holidays approaching a few of us are giving you recipes. These are in the order in which they arrived in my inbox.

CANDIED SWEET POTATOES

Warning, I never measure.

As many sweet potatoes (the lighter yellow ones, not yams) as you think you’re family or guests will eat. Put this in pot and cover with water. Boil until easily pierced with a fork—but you don’t want them mushy. When cool enough, peel, and slice into half or quarters depending upon how large they are. Layer in a baking dish. On each layer put several pats of butter and sprinkle with brown sugar. Be generous. Bake in the oven at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes. If you prepare ahead of time and refrigerate, bake for 45 minutes.

My recipe is something I always fix for Thanksgiving. I like these way better than the canned yams with marshmallows so many serve. My aunt always made these for our Thanksgiving feasts all during my childhood and brought them when I became the host for the big dinner. She is no longer with us, but having them brings back memories of my aunt.

–Marilyn Meredith


From the recipe box of my character Shandra Higheagle

Shandra’s Sixty-minute Cinnamon Rolls

3 1/2 to 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

4 TBSP sugar

1 tsp salt

2 packages Active Dry yeast

1 cup milk

1/2 cup water

1/4 cup butter

Brown sugar to cover the dough

Cinnamon to cover the brown sugar

1/4 cup melted butter

In a large bowl thoroughly mix 11/2 cups flour, sugar, sale, and undissolved yeast.

Combine milk, water, and butter in a saucepan. Heat over low heat until liquids are very warm (120-130 degrees F) ( I use the microwave and a pyrex measuring cup) butter does not need to melt. Gradually add this to the dry ingredients and beat 2 minutes at medium speed of electric mixer, scraping bowl occasionally. Add 1/2 cup flour. Beat at high speed 2 minutes, scraping bowl occasionally.  Stir in enough additional flour to make a soft dough. Turn out onto lightly floured board; knead until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Place in greased bowl, turning to grease top. Cover; place in warm (98 degree F) to rise for 15 minutes.

Turn dough out on floured board and roll into a large rectangle. Spread with melted butter, cover with brown sugar, and sprinkle with cinnamon. roll up long side and cut in 1-11/2 inch slices depending on if you want fewer but larger rolls or more rolls. Place cut side down in a buttered 9″ x 13″ pan. Let rise in  in a warm, free from draft area for 15 minutes. ( I usually fill my small sink with hot water, place a cooling rack over it and set the pan on that with a towel over the top. My daughter uses the warming oven)

Bake at 425 degrees F, for 15 minutes or until done. Drizzle with a milk and powdered sugar glaze.

–Paty Jager


CARAMELIZED VIDALIA ONION DIP

2 T. butter or margarine

3 large Vidalia or other sweet onions, sliced thin

1 8 oz. pkg. cream cheese, softened (can use light)

1 8 oz. pkg. Swiss cheese, shredded (can use reduced fat)

1 C. grated Parmesan cheese

1 C. mayonnaise (can use light)

Vegetable Chips (I use Terra)

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add sliced onions and cook, stirring often (30-40 minutes) or until onions are caramel colored (scrape the bits from the bottom). Combine all the cheeses and mayo in a large bowl and add and mix the cooked onions. Spoon into a baking dish and bake about 30 minutes or until the top is browned and bubbly. Serve with the veggie chips.

Make ahead: You can make and assemble the dip the day before, put into the baking dish, cover and refrigerate. Bake as instructed above but for 45-50 minutes instead of 30 minutes.

–Karen Shughart

Murder in the Museum: An Edmund DeCleryk Mystery and soon-to-be released Wheel of Death,  a mystery by 22 authors.

photo source: canstock

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Undermind at Work

That’s not a typo. I have not been undermined at work. I’m rereading Guy Claxton’s Hare Brain Tortoise Mind, and he refers to the slow processes of creativity and insight as the undermind—the part of the brain that’s working beneath the level of verbal expression and logic, the part that can detect patterns the conscious surface of the mind misses. The part that creates what the surface mind cannot. I read the book eighteen years ago when it first came out, but I wasn’t writing fiction back then, just academic research papers. I perceive its ideas differently now.

On this reading, I see in it an explanation of how pantsing a plot works. Those of us who write that way often marvel at how we laid clues we didn’t know were there and how we brought in characters whose purpose was unclear at the time, but who later revealed why they showed up and asked to be included. The undermind is best at solving complex, ambiguous problems and recognizing hidden patterns. The other mode of thinking, what Claxton calls d-mode, for deliberative mode, is better at problems with clear rules and defined parameters. I see d-mode as the revision mind and the undermind as the first draft mind. I’m at a point of indecision near the end of a first draft. D-mode wants me to evaluate my options. The undermind wants me to keep writing and see what happens.

I can apply the concepts of the undermind and d-mode to how my characters solve problems as well.  Claxton describes experiments in which trying too hard, having time pressure, or having too much at stake can all inhibit subjects’ problem-solving and pattern-detecting abilities. The slow, unhurried tortoise mind is better at breakthroughs, and yet the nature of a mystery plot is anything but slow and unhurried. Still, a character may encounter a puzzle early on, be unable to solve it, attend to other problems while the initial puzzle simmers in the back of her mind, and then have a flash of insight. The flash isn’t a flash, though. All along, her undermind was at work. I’ve seen mystery writers use this pattern well, showing the protagonist’s frustrating sense that the solution is near while not quite grasping it yet, knowing that something in the mind-shadows wants to be understood.

D-mode works well while talking because it’s verbal and structured. When characters are doing the logical kind of problem-solving, dialogue is natural. Claxton cites studies in which subjects were asked to solve puzzles and either talk or be silent while they did it. With clear though challenging puzzles in which all the information was present and needed to be analyzed, talking improved the outcomes. However, with insight problems, bewildering visual puzzles that required creative shifts of perspective, talking got in the way or turned into babble such as, “I don’t know what I’m thinking. Nothing. I’m not actually thinking.” Silence gave better results. In fiction, this second process might take place in an internal scene, a sequel or reflection. The different modes of problem-solving could lead to conflict, as an analytical type needs to talk things out while an intuitive type needs to stop talking—and stop listening to words—in order to think.

My preference for creating my first draft from the undermind may be why I like a plot mandala better than an outline. I draw a circle and begin writing character names and story themes in what feel like the right places, then let my undermind connect the patterns among them.

Images: 19th century Chinese puzzle ball with the twelve concentric balls inside; puzzle cube; math equation dice.

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Promotion, Not My Favorite Task

As all writers know, promotion is a necessary part of being an author. Necessary if we are to sell our books. Though I can’t speak for ever author, I know that I’d much rather be spending my time writing.

tangled web front cover jpeg

Because I have a new book out, Tangled Webs, I’ve been working hard on promotion. The first thing I did was plan a blog tour which takes a lot of time: finding hosts and setting up the calendar, writing a new post for each place I’m visiting, and sending it off along with a photo of the cover and one of me. The tour begins on October 26th here: https://jlgregerblog.blogspot.com and the topic is “Character Development.”

I’ve been doing several in-person events with more to come: book festivals and craft fairs, mystery panels, and speaking engagements. (I actually enjoy doing these.)

Me at Caruthers Library

In an effort to interest readers in the series, the publisher has made the first book, Final Respects, free on Kindle from November 5-7. In order for this to work, of course it has to be promoted heavily and I found many sites who do this, some for free, some for a fee. https://www.amazon.com/Final-Respects-Rocky-Police-Department-ebook/dp/B078KFKPJX/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1539027654&sr=1-1&keywords=final+respect+by+f.m.+meredith

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Of course I’ve promoted on Facebook, Twitter and my own blog. How much good any of this does, I won’t know until I hear something from the publisher. And speaking of the publisher, I’d like to share what he printed in the front pages of Tangled Webs.

Tangled Webs is the 15th book in the F. M. Meredith’s  Rocky Bluff Police Department series, and—as you can see on the copyright page—had a publication date of 2018. Final Respects, the first book in the series, was published in 2002, and we at Aakenbaaken & Kent were working on a second edition of that first book just a few months ago. So, we have in effect, been reading this series from both ends. And what stands out are the characters—how real they seem, how they grow and change as real people do, and how—after many books, we realize they are like friends.

In addition to engaging characters, Meredith also delivers unerring pacing, plotting and dialogue. It is no wonder this series has continued for so long and has so many devoted fans.”

Needless to say, I was thrilled.  And with such praise, I will continue to promote as much as I can.

Marilyn, who is also known as F.M.

 

 

 

 

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