Guest Blogger – Sally Carpenter

New Books For Strange Times

I’d like to thank Paty Jager and the ladies of mystery for allowing me a guest post. It’s been a while since I was a regular contributor on this blog, and much has happened in the meantime.

 The pandemic has not affect me as much as others. Fortunately I work an essential job (newspaper), so I’m still commuting to my day job. Many of my fellow employees are working from home, so those of us who are still in the office have plenty of space to move around safely.

As a writer, I’m at home much of the time anyway, and I’ve put the time to good use. I reorganized files and did some rearranging to make my home more comfortable. Little changes, but effective.

And I’ve gone gun ho on the writing.

I hadn’t written a Sandy Fairfax mystery in several years, so I reread the older books to get up to speed on the character. I found grammatical and continuity errors as well as more cuss words than necessary. Ouch! How embarrassing. With permission of my publisher, I took the opportunity to edit the older books. I’m fixing the mistakes, cleaning up the language, and reworking awkward passages for a better read. With Print On Demand technology, all new print and ebooks purchased going forward will have the changes. So far “The Sinister Sitcom Caper” is finalized. “The Cunning Cruise Ship Caper” and “The Quirky Quiz Show Caper” should both be ready in a month or two.

Once all the old books are corrected, I can focus on the next Sandy book. The working title is “The Cryptic Christmas Caper.” Sandy is the emcee of the Miss North Pole Pageant, where the contestants are dropping like snowflakes.

I launched a new book in June, the second in my Psychedelic Spy retro-cozy series set in 1967. “Hippie Haven Homicide” follows the further adventures of actress Noelle McNabb as she works with a super secret spy organization, SIAMESE (Special Intelligence Apparatus for Midwest Enemy Surveillance and Espionage). This time her cat, Ceebee, is part of the action.

In the 1960s, the CIA had a project called Acoustic Kitty. The plan was to implant a cat with a microphone, using its tail to hold a wire for transmission. The cat would wander around parks and embassies where spies met to talk. Nobody would notice a stray cat. The real-life project went nowhere, but the idea was too good to pass up.

So I made Ceebee the acoustic cat. The microphone is inside a metal collar around the cat’s neck. Noelle and agent Destiny King are inside a nearby van, listening in. As you might imagine, felines are a bit unpredictable, even spy cats.

While SIAMESE is chasing an enemy agent, a busload of counterculture hippies invade Noelle’s staid town of Yuletide, Indiana. This plot point was inspired by the International Society of Krishna Consciousness, better known as the Hare Krishnas, the orange-robed devotees who were hung out around airports and large cities to chant and pass out brochures on their beliefs. The 1960s saw an explosion of new spiritual ideas: Vatican II, the Jesus People, contemporary Christian music, Transcendental Meditation, communes and ISCKON.

My sect is SPARK: Spiritually Pure And Radiant Kin. Their guru is the Wise One, an elderly leader who rarely appears in public. First Sage handles the day-to-day operations of the sect. He also rigorously guards the members from “contamination of the material world.” The cult members clash with the police chief and residents of Yuletide. The situation worsens when one of the SPARK members is found dead. The police chief calls it a drug overdose. Noelle has her suspicions and investigates on her own with the help of a newspaper reporter, Trevor Spellman.

Noelle uses her acting skills to go undercover to both find a spy and solve a murder. Meanwhile, she babysits her siblings, works with an anxious bride-to-be who’s buying clothes for the bridal party, and digs out secrets in the McNabb family tree. All in a day’s work for a cozy sleuth.

So happy reads to all. If you want to stay abreast of my writing projects, follow me at facebook.com.Sally.Carpenter.54, or my website at sandyfairfax.com, or email scwriter@earthlink.net.

Sally Carpenter is native Hoosier living in southern California. She has a master’s degree in theater and a creative writing award from Indiana State University.

She also has a Master of Divinity and a black belt in tae kwon do.

She’s written six books for Cozy Cat Press: four in the Sandy Fairfax Teen Idol series (including 2012 Eureka! Award nominee The Baffled Beatlemaniac Caper) and two books in the Psychedelic Spy retro-series.

She’s contributed short stories to three anthologies and penned chapter three of the CCP group mystery Chasing the Codex.

To atone for killing characters on paper, she writes the Roots of Faith column for the Acorn Newspapers (theacornonline.com).

Trying to Combine Two Stories Into One by Heather Haven

When I began writing Casting Call for a Corpse, my latest cozy mystery revolving around the Alvarez Family, I wanted to combine the ongoing characters from the series with a few characters from a play I penned some time ago. I also wanted to add a Scottish character in honor of my heart sister, who was adopted at birth and recently found her Scottish birth family. An homage, doncha know.

Frankly, I wasn’t sure if I could make it work. Some nights I lost sleep over whether or not I could pull this into anything readable. However, I really loved the characters from the play, in particular the internationally acclaimed actress, her loyal assistant, the Hispanic housekeeper, and a has-been writer who burned bright in his youth but had done little since. Putting Lee Alvarez, the protagonist of the Alvarez Family Murder Mysteries, and the actress together was easy. Close in age, I found making them friends from way-back-when in New York City added reality and depth to my tale. Also lots of humor! The other characters were a little tougher to place but ultimately, I managed to do it.

As for the storyline, itself, that was different. I was never too sure if ‘this’ was too much or ‘that’ was enough. So I took the throw-all-the-spaghetti-on-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks approach. Not quite my style. I usually know the first chapter, where I want to go, and how I want the story to end. This time I had no idea of any of it. I was a panster to the nth degree.

Surprisingly, while writing the novel this method was freeing. If I had a thought, it was in. I’d deal with the validity of it later. I wound up with some not-so-nice Russian businessmen, a trendy restaurant, threatening letters, jewel thieves, secret tunnels, and even a Christmas tree farm. I mean, why not? Then I added an inside take on life backstage in the theater, which was a large part of my existence in my salad days. I still had sleepless nights, but at least I had written pages to show for them.

Months later, when I finished the final draft, I went back in and took out extraneous plots, substories, and innuendos that didn’t work or were confusing. By that time, I actually had a story with a beginning, middle, and end. Hallelujah! When I handed the book off to my editors and Beta readers, I waited with the proverbial bated breath to see if the novel worked. It did. In fact, my content editor, one tough cookie, said it was the tightest of all the Alvarez books. Did that mean if I knew a storyline may not work from the very first word on the page to the very last, it made me a better novelist?

I’m thinking no. Each story is unique and different. When I start a new novel it’s almost like writing the first one. So far I’ve written thirteen novels, numerous novellas, and dozens of short stories. Not one of them has been easy or formulaic. True, I’ve developed a few tricks along the way. I believe I know what doesn’t work. But what definitively works? You got me.

In a way, I love that part. It never gets boring, this writing stuff.

On Being a Writer by Heather Haven

Heather cartoon-smallest copyThere are a lot of bonuses to being a writer. Take today. Without leaving my office, I got to go on an early morning car chase on Highway 92, a scenic route over the coastal mountains of California. Highway 92 leads to a lot of nifty places, such as the Pacific Ocean and a darling little town called Half Moon Bay. True, the car chase may have only been in my mind, but it was pretty exciting. And a total relief, especially with what’s going on in the world now.

Following my protagonist and her hubby, I wound up at a Christmas tree farm. There I got to watch among other things, these two charmers sabotage the getaway helicopter of the villains. They were outnumbered and it was a close call, of course, but things were set right in the end.  As I tagged along with them, the sun came up on a glorious day in a glorious part of the world. I said to myself, I said, “Self, this is the joy of writing a cozy. You know what’s going to happen, when it’s going to happen, and there’s going to be a happy ending, because it’s all up to you.” Self was happy.

On top of that, I got to do research. I love doing research. I learned things, such as different fuels for a helicopter (there are two kinds, depending on the engine), if the windshield can be penetrated by a bullet (yes), and how the rotating blades taking the copter up, up, and away actually do it (too detailed to go into). Today my life was in the building, maintenance, and aerodynamics of a helicopter on a Christmas tree farm near Half Moon Bay and little else.

Of course, I would have to come back to reality now and then to feed the cat, hubby, make the bed, disinfect anything that came into the house, go for a brief walk, and make dinner. But still, parts of my day were absolutely marvelous. I may be a crazy writer, but I LOVE what I do for a living. Even when I don’t make much of a living at it. Money comes and goes. Sometimes I sail along, sometimes I’m dashed to the rocks.

But then, I never became a writer because of the moola. It’s the lure of things like car chases over Highway 92, foiling the bad guy, and winning the day at a Christmas tree farm. You just can’t get jobs like that every day, no matter what the pay.

 

Guest Blogger- Ann Charles

Ann on the street in Deadwood

Hi, I’m Ann Charles and I write the USA Today Bestselling Deadwood Mystery series, which has a spicy mixture of mystery, paranormal, humor, and romance.

One of the questions that I am asked periodically by fans of this series is how I came up with my heroine—Violet Parker. They often want to know if I based her off someone I know; or, if I am the real Violet and she’s based on me since we both have two kids, a boy and a girl.

Deadwood haunted hotels

Before I talk about the “how” in relation to Violet, let me tell you a little about her. At the start of this eleven-books-and-growing series, she is in her mid-thirties and a single mother with nine-year-old fraternal twins whose father was basically a sperm donor. She’s semi-recently moved to the small town of Deadwood, South Dakota to live with her Aunt Zoe and is trying her hand at a new career—real estate. Unfortunately, little girls are disappearing in the area and her daughter could be next, so she finds herself trying to hunt down a kidnapper while struggling to make her first sale and keep her little family alive and afloat.

Lucky for me, my experiences with motherhood are nothing like Violet’s. However, she and I do share a sense of humor, parenting exasperations, and a fondness of family and friends. We also are softies for crusty old men who make us laugh at their colorful and often unchecked ways.

Violet Parker came to me one day while I was visiting my mom, who lives in the Deadwood area. I was pregnant with my second child and driving around town when the thought came to me—what would it be like to be a single mom trying to raise two kids here. At the time, the economy was struggling a little and the big gold mine in the area had closed down, so jobs were hard to come by, especially for a thirty-something woman with a family to support. From the start, I knew Violet and I would be good friends because we kept sharing the same jokes about different characters as they came on the page, and we found ourselves wincing at our children’s antics.

I loved creating a character based on so many strong women I knew over the years who were raising kids on their own. They were my heroes, and I wanted Violet to represent them in different ways, so that we could all cheer her on whether it was for her successes in her career, crime solving, or love. Like so many of us regular women, I wanted her to be curvier than most, have wild hair (literally and figuratively), and make mistakes along the way. BUT, she would be funny and charming and full of love for her family and friends.

From this mishmash of thoughts and experiences, Violet Parker was born, and so was the Deadwood Mystery series.

Ann Charles

USA Today Bestselling Author

www.anncharles.com

Ann Charles’s books are available as ebook, print book, and audiobooks for individuals, bookstores, libraries, etc. You can find her books on all of the usual major vendor sites: Amazon, Apple, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Ingram, Audible, and Overdrive, as well as many others. You can also find links to her books on her website: http://www.anncharles.com

Book 11 in the USA Today Bestselling Deadwood Mystery series, DEVIL DAYS IN DEADWOOD, will be available for pre-order at the end of April with a release date near the end of May. (With this crazy virus mucking up the works both online and offline, Ann isn’t giving set dates at this time.)

USA Today Bestselling author, Ann Charles, writes spicy mysteries full of comedy, adventure, suspense, romance, and paranormal mayhem. She currently has five on-going series in the works and is often daydreaming of starting a sixth series, but she needs to master the art of cloning first. When she’s not dabbling in fiction, she’s arm wrestling with her two kids, attempting to seduce her husband, and arguing with her sassy cats.

Social Media Links:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AnnCharlesAuthorPage

Twitter: https://twitter.com/annwcharles

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ann_charles

Snapchat: https://www.snapchat.com/add/annwcharles

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/AnnWCharles

Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/ann-charles

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4605878.Ann_Charles

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Ann-Charles/e/B004JLYPFW

Guest Blogger~Kristine Raymond

THE CHOSEN ONE ~ by Kristine Raymond

I’m a romance author.  Historical western, contemporary, even a little erotic; romance is my genre.  So, imagine my surprise – and frankly, horror – when I awoke one morning with the idea for a mystery rolling around in my brain.  At first, I wasn’t sure of the intricacies of the story.  Would it be a thriller?  A police procedural?  Crime fiction?  I sat down, opened a new Word doc, began typing, and that’s when it became clear – cozy mystery.  The genre had chosen me.

Writing a cozy mystery is worlds apart from penning a romance, but I dove in, repeatedly reminding myself that the focus of the story was not the romantic interaction between my main character and her love interest, but rather the clues and intrigue leading the pair to solve the mystery.  And that’s where the fun began.  As a new-to-me genre, I harbored no preconceived notions about how to write the story; instead, I allowed the words to tumble onto the page at will, each one building on the next to thicken the plot and guide the characters to discover not only the who, but the why, how, and where.

On the subject of characters, their development in my cozy mystery – it’s titled Finn-agled, by the way – came about differently than how I usually create them.  I’d explain it if I could, but even as an author, I don’t know exactly how to put into words the process.  They simply originated in my brain in their own unique way and demanded that I bring them alive on the page.  They’re pesky, that way. 

If interrogated, and under threat of never again being allowed access to my Netflix password, I’d admit that certain aspects of Finn Bartusiak’s personality (she’s the main character and star of the show) mirror my own.  She lives in a seaside town (I grew up three miles from the ocean), she’s quirky, fiercely loyal to those she loves, her hair frizzes in humid weather, and she has more than her share of ‘squirrel’ moments.

What was I saying?

Oh, right; our similarities.  Like Finn, I adore a great pierogi – though I’m only half-Polish and she’s full-blooded – and we both own Basset Hounds who are follicly-challenged.  And, while the most complex mystery I’ve ever solved was locating my keys, I like to think that should one present itself, I’d be up to the challenge.  How hard can it be?

To my faithful readers who love romance, not to worry.  My romantic streak is firmly intact (I have several ideas for future romance stories floating around in my gray matter), but now that cozies have taken hold, it’s safe to say they’re not going anywhere either. 

After all, the genre did choose me.  😊

Finn-agled

A secret message hidden inside of an antique wooden box, an unidentified dead body, and a mother determined to marry her off to the high school crush whom she hasn’t seen since…well…high school.  There’s no doubt about it; Finn Bartusiak’s life in the seaside town of Port New is about to get interesting.

Coming into possession of a 19th-century, bronze and mahogany writing box under somewhat suspicious circumstances, Finn’s accidental discovery of a coded note leads her and Spencer Dane, bestselling novelist and love of her life (though he doesn’t know it yet), on a quest to unravel the mystery behind the jumble of letters.  But they’re not the only ones interested in the cryptic message.  There’s a con man on their trail, and he’ll stop at nothing, including murder, to claim the ‘treasure’ for himself.  

Buy link – https://books2read.com/finnagled

It wasn’t until later in life that Kristine Raymond figured out what she wanted to be when she grew up, an epiphany that occurred in 2013 when she sat down and began writing her first book.  Sixteen books in multiple genres later, she’s added the title of podcasting host to her resume, thus assuring that she will never be idle.

When a spare moment does present itself, she fills it by navigating the publishing and promotional side of the business.  When not doing that, she spends time with her husband and furbabies (not necessarily in that order), reads, or binge-watches Netflix.

Find out more about Kristine on her website at www.kristineraymond.com and follow her on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and BookBub

And for links to podcast episodes, guest posts, and other great stuff, check out Word Play with Kristine Raymond at www.wordplaypodcast.com.

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Guest Blogger- Daisy Pettles

Why I Write a Humorous Cozy Mystery Series for Feisty Older Ladies

Here’s a mystery for you … a study by Sisters in Crime, a professional women writers mystery and crime association, found that the vast majority of mystery readers are women. Moreover, 71% of the genre’s readers are 50 or older. (Source Link:https://cdn.ymaws.com/www.sistersincrime.org/resource/resmgr/imported/ConsumerBuyingBookReport.pdf)

The mystery? Why is it, then, that the leading lady of the cozy mystery today is a baby-faced, early career, 30-something, rather than a mature, perhaps somewhat disgruntled, widowed or divorced, half-retired woman of 50+ years?

I turned 60 this year, and I read like a demon, devouring novels like M&M’s. Why, I wondered, was my feisty generation—all prime readers for Pete’s sake—so invisible in women’s mystery fiction today?

I found myself agreeing with one sister in crime writer, Dianne Harman,  https://www.huffingtonpost.com/dianne-harman/boomer-reads_b_3210208.html, who mused in 2013 that, “[Boomer Lit] is the most overlooked, underwritten genre out there.”

OK, so the term “baby boomer lit” has gotten a bad rap. Much of that is justified. The indie market is awash with badly written “boomer” novels that feature highly forgettable “senior sleuths,” seeking second chances in the confines of gated retirement villages.

Too much of this lit pounds home a “sundowner” theme – think cancer, moving into assisted living, fighting over men with competing ladies in Leisure Village – OR a “second chance” theme. Think “widower dares to date again” or “the search for the one that got away.”

Problem. I don’t see my life as in need of “second chances.” I see it as more of what it always has been: a bit of a hair-raising adventure. Why not, I thought, write about cantankerous, every day women who are aging, but who are also busy having a go at life, every morning, pretty much as they always have?

Oldsters are as varied as youngsters (really, they are). Being of the mind that if there’s a problem it’s my responsibility to engineer a solution – a great notion from the 70’s when I first hit the road out of high school — I began to create a new crime comedy series loaded with oldsters of all varieties.

In my new amateur detective series, The Shady Hoosier Detective Agency, the protagonists are lifelong gal pals, ages 67 and 71, living in small town Indiana. They share a house, a 1960 Chevy, and reluctant custody of grown children who still reside in their basement.

One in particular (Veenie) has been a lifelong snoop. The other (Ruby Jane) has great computer skills. For them, the decision to punch a time clock post-retirement as sleuths with the Harry Shades Detective Agency is as much a way to exercise their curiosity as it is a path to supplementing their social security.

Back in the 90’s the TV drama “Golden Girls,” about older widowed and divorced women sharing a home and laughter, broke through ageism to show that the closing chapters of life can be as varied and exciting as the beginning and middle. I believe that there remains pent up demand for older, feisty women characters in the cozy mystery niche.

My goal in creating the Shady Hoosier Detective Agency, with Book 3, The Chickenlandia Mystery, coming out as this is posted, is to update the cozy to better serve publishing’s core reading demographic by creating books that mirror the more diverse evolving lives of Boomer women like me.

Like all publishing undertakings, it is up to the cosmos to decide if the series will find a readership, but a few stars do seem to be aligning. The Shady Hoosiers’ debut book, Ghost Busting Mystery, has thus far won three Best Indie Humor Book Awards and two Best Indie Cozy Mystery Book Awards,

In the end, I write what I want to read. There has never been a more active, curious, diverse, witty, kick-ass generation of women. Why not gift ourselves leisure reading that reflects this?

Author Daisy Pettles

Daisy Pettles was born in southern Indiana, in a tiny river town. As a child, she was fed a steady diet of books, pies, and Bible stories. Her debut cozy series, the Shady Hoosier Detective Agency, crime comedies set in fictional Pawpaw County, Indiana, won the 2019 Gold Medal as Best Humor Book from the Indie Reader, The Next Generation Indie Book Awards, and the American Fiction Awards. Visit her anytime at https://www.daisypettles.com

CONTACT: Daisy@daisypettles.com

TWITTER: @DaisyPettles

FB: https://www.facebook.com/daisypettles

WEB: https://www.daisypettles.com

Amazon Buy Links:

Ghost Busting Mystery (Book 1)

Baby Daddy Mystery (Book 2)

Chickenlandia Mystery (Book 3)