I wasn’t a child who thought too much about the future. At least not beyond my own desires. There was a time when I wrote a story about being a writer and living on the Oregon Coast in a renovated barn. I would have two tigers as my pets. If you’ve ever read the “Cat Who” books by Lillian Jackson Braun, you know that the protagonist, Qwilleran, made walkways for his cats in his home. This was how I saw my barn, only the funny thing is, I’d never read one of the “Cat Who” books until later. When I did, it was deja vue and my mind went right back to that story I’d written in Jr. High
While I had dreams of being a writer as a teenager, it wasn’t until I had children that I decided to fulfill that dream. I started writing mystery. It was the genre I loved to read. But after two books and a bad start with finding help to make my books better, I segued into romance.
Three years ago, I decided to write what I had always wanted to write. I am a better writer, I’ve had enough classes on craft, and still read murder mystery books. I could do this. And I did.
The best part about how much I enjoy writing the mysteries, are the reader/fan emails I receive. All the years I wrote romance, I think I had a half dozen readers comment on how they enjoyed reading my books. With mystery, I receive something every week!
And a friend who has been with me on my road to becoming published, says my true voice comes out in my mysteries. It took me nearly 30 years to get back to the genre I love best, but I am here and I plan to stay writing murder mystery until my hands are so gnarled I can’t type anymore. 😉
As a writer, did you start with mystery or did you start in another genre? As a reader, have you always read mystery or did you discover it recently?
Oh, and the fresh perspective in the new year? I am only writing mystery. I’ve put writing romance books aside, so the mysteries can come faster!
Historical mysteries are travel literature with a kick. You get to visit a different locale, exploring a distant place AND era. New vistas, new sensations: you want to experience it all and, to paraphrase Humphrey Bogart in The Maltese Falcon, you don’t mind a reasonable amount of trouble.
I’m the kind of writer who needs to immerse myself in a setting. The third book in my noir series takes place in Saigon, circa 1957, and builds off my favorite Graham Greene novel: Banished from the set of The Quiet American, actress Cara Walden stumbles onto a communist insurgency—and discovers her brother’s young Vietnamese lover right in the thick of it. How could I get myself to Asia?
It turns out that luxury cruise lines are always looking for guest lecturers. I put together a a film and lecture series for Silversea entitled “Asia Through Hollywood’s Eyes,” a romp through classic movies featuring Asian characters and stories. From Fu Manchu and Charlie Chan through Cato in the Pink Panther series, pre-Code gems like Shanghai Express starring Marlene Dietrich (“It took more than one man to change my name to Shanghai Lily”) and the ever-fascinating Anna May Wong, beloved epics including The Good Earth and Bridge on the River Kwai, musicals including The King and I along with the best-forgotten Road to Singapore not to mention masterpieces based on Somerset Maugham stories and featuring the best leading ladies out there: The Painted Veil (Garbo), Rain (Joan Crawford), The Letter (Bette Davis).
Okay, it took me the better part of a summer to research and write the lectures. I had to watch all the films (poor me . . .) and learn how to rip DVDs to make clips to embed in my presentations. I had to upgrade my wardrobe and get my bridge game back up to snuff. But October 17, 2015 found me at the five-star InterContinental Hotel in Hong Kong, doing Tai Chi by the pool with William to get the kinks out of my body after the nineteen-hour flight. Then I boarded the ship for the eleven-day all-expenses-paid cruise to Ho Chi Minh City, Bangkok, Singapore and ports in-between. The highlights of my trip included tagging along as a chaperone on a tour of Hue, retracing Graham Greene’s footsteps through Saigon, and visiting the palace and temple grounds of the King of Siam, followed by a very expensive mojito in Somerset Maugham’s favorite watering hole, Bangkok’s Mandarin Oriental.
What an adventure!
The Glass Forest
A Cara Welden Mystery
Saigon, 1957: Banished from the set of The Quiet American, actress Cara Walden stumbles onto a communist insurgency-and discovers her brother’s young Vietnamese lover right in the thick of it. A bittersweet story of love and betrayal set in the early years of American involvement in the country, Lisa Lieberman’s tribute to Graham Greene shows us a Vietnam already simmering with discontent.
Lisa Lieberman writes the Cara Walden series of historical mysteries based on old movies and featuring blacklisted Hollywood people on the lam in dangerous international locales. Her books hit the sweet spot between Casablanca and John le Carré. Trained as a modern European cultural and intellectual historian, Lieberman abandoned a perfectly respectable academic career for the life of a vicarious adventurer through perilous times. She has written extensively on postwar Europe and lectures locally on efforts to come to terms with the trauma of the Holocaust in film and literature. She is Vice President of the New England chapter of Sisters in Crime and a member of Mystery Writers of America.
Happy Holidays, Everyone! If you are American, I hope you enjoyed a happy Thanksgiving. Whether it was with, family, friends, or time to yourself. And now we are approaching another holiday. I’m not sure how many cultures have a holiday in December, but for my family it is Christmas.
I enjoy learning about other cultures. If you are celebrating something besides Christmas, I’d love to know a bit about it. Please comment below.
If I had the money and the time, I would love to be a world traveler. In High School I loved World Geography. Our teacher had been to a lot of places so he could give us information that you don’t get from text books. He made learning about other people and cultures exciting. I think that, and my infatuation with the Nez Perce band that lived in the county where I grew up, is why I like to have Native American characters in my mystery books. I can show people a past they may not know about and a culture they have only seen stereotyped.
I’m excited about the book I’m writing now and the one that I will be writing after this one. They are both set in the places I visited this year. I’ll get to add in the cultures I experienced and have my characters see similarities with their lives.
Right now, I’m pleased to say that the 4th Gabriel Hawke book has released. It is available in ebook and print.
Chattering Blue Jay
Killer on the loose.
Revenge could get them killed.
Fish and Wildlife Oregon State Trooper Gabriel Hawke is set to teach a class at a Search and Rescue conference in Idaho when a dangerous inmate breaks out of prison. It is believed the man is headed to Hells Canyon.
Hawke is enlisted to find the escapee. He’s paired with a boastful tracker who doesn’t follow directions, making them both targets.
Before the dust settles, the other tracker is dead and Hawke is twisting in the wind for letting the possible killer get away.
The first book in this series, Murder of Ravens, is also available in audiobook.
Book 1 of Gabriel Hawke series
The ancient Indian art of tracking is his greatest strength…
And his biggest weakness.
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?
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. 😊
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.
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.
I write the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries about a magazine crafts editor who is forced
to become a reluctant amateur sleuth. However, I began my writing career
penning dark romantic suspense. The first, after quite a few years and
countless revisions, became the second book I ever sold. However, somewhere
along the way I discovered my funny bone. Or maybe I should say funny bones because rather than being situated
in my elbow, they reside in my ten fingers.
No one was more shocked than I. I’m one of
those people who can never remember a joke’s punch line. When it comes to
scintillating repartee, I always come up with a brilliant retort hours after
the moment has passed. So years ago when my agent suggested I try to write a chick
lit novel because Bridget Jones’s Diary
had taken the publishing world by storm, and editors were clamoring for similar
works, I laughed.
But she was serious. Apparently, she saw
something buried deep inside me and knew it needed to be released. Turns out,
she was right. On paper I’m quite funny, and the book I wrote, Talk Gertie to Me, became my debut novel.
Then one day my agent asked me to try my hand at
writing a cozy mystery. She had been speaking with an editor who was looking
for a series featuring a crafter. Since I designed needlework for craft kit
manufacturers and craft book publishers in my day job, my agent thought I was
the perfect person to write such a series. She also requested I use the humorous
writing voice I had developed in Talk
Gertie to Me. The woman was obviously clairvoyant because even though I hadn’t
read a mystery since I devoured the Cherry Ames books as a kid, the moment I sat
down at the computer to attempt writing a cozy mystery, I found my true
I had always enjoyed reading books that make me
laugh. There really is something to that old adage about laughter being the
best medicine. Laughing releases endorphins in the brain, and the more
endorphins, the happier we are. Given all the problems in the world, not only
do I need to laugh more, I also realized I’d much rather make people laugh than
have them sleep with one eye open at night.
So when Assault
With a Deadly Glue Gun, the first book in the series was released in 2011,
I was thrilled that critics embraced it. Publishers
Weekly and Booklist both gave it
starred reviews, comparing my writing to that of Tina Fey and Janet Evanovich.
Kirkus described Anastasia as “North Jersey’s more mature answer to Stephanie
Plum.” With praise like that, why would I ever go back to writing gritty
Of course, Anastasia doesn’t see anything funny
about the dead bodies I leave lying around for her to discover, the trouble I
get her into with gangsters and psychopaths, or the communist mother-in-law I
gave her. Luckily, she has no say in the matter. Besides, I’m not a total
sadist when it comes to my reluctant amateur sleuth. I have given her a
Shakespeare-quoting parrot and a drop-dead hunk of a boyfriend. Although, on
second thought, maybe I am a bit sadistic because when it comes to
photojournalist Zack Barnes, he may or may not also be a spy.
Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery, Book 8
Two and a half weeks ago magazine crafts editor
Anastasia Pollack arrived home to find Ira Pollack, her half-brother-in-law,
had blinged out her home with enough Christmas lights to rival Rockefeller
Center. Now he’s crammed her small yard with enormous cavorting inflatable
characters. She and photojournalist boyfriend and possible spy Zack Barnes pack
up the unwanted lawn decorations to return to Ira. They arrive to find his yard
the scene of an over-the-top Christmas extravaganza. His neighbors are not happy
with the animatronics, laser light show, and blaring music creating traffic
jams on their normally quiet street. One of them expresses his displeasure with
his fists before running off.
In the excitement, the deflated lawn ornaments
are never returned to Ira. The next morning Anastasia once again heads to his
house before work to drop them off. When she arrives, she discovers Ira’s
attacker dead in Santa’s sleigh. Ira becomes the prime suspect in the man’s
murder and begs Anastasia to help clear his name. But Anastasia has promised
her sons she’ll keep her nose out of police business. What’s a reluctant
amateur sleuth to do?
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.
I don’t know about all writers, but for me, the best part of writing a book is the “stewing and brewing” process. It’s the time between, “Bing!” I have an idea and when I start writing the actual story.
What I call the “Stewing and Brewing” process is where I come up with the story idea or setting and then start researching and filling out my suspect chart.
I get to scan websites and look through baby name books to come up with character names and then give the attributes and reasons they are part of the story. Suspects, officials, friends, the whole bit.
And even better! Figuring out how the victim dies. I love putting a twist on the cause of murder. My newest Shandra Higheagle release, Toxic Trigger-point the death is caused by an acute allergic reaction to bees. The book I’m “stewing and brewing” right now I’m thinking the death appears accidental at first. Then… as things get investigated further it was murder.
There are times my devious mind astounds me! LOL However, coming up with the out-of-the-box scenarios is so much fun. Taking the reader on the trip of; this person did it, no, that person did it, is almost as much fun as coming up with the characters, motive, and cause of death.
I pinch myself all the time wondering how I can have so much fun writing when other writers are always complaining how hard it is. I do agree, the editing, revisions, and making the story shine are hard, but it’s like child birth. I forget about those things when I’m in the throes of “stewing and brewing”. 😉
Here is my latest Shandra Higheagle release:
Adultery… Jealousy… Murder
Shandra Higheagle Greer is minding her own business when she
walks into a room for a massage and it is already occupied—by a dead body.
Always the champion for someone she knows, when her favorite
masseuse looks like the murderer, Shandra listens to her gut and dreams choreographed
by her deceased grandmother.
Detective Ryan Greer can’t believe his wife has walked into
another homicide. He’s learned no matter how he tries to keep her out of the
investigation he can’t. But this time the consequences could be deadly for Shandra—she
heard the murder happen.
I get an online ezine called the Crimereads. It has great articles about mystery books, authors, and the genre. The latest one had a topic on what makes a good protagonist and in the article the writer talked about how some protagonists age through the lifetime of their series and others don’t.
Because I am a writer who likes to keep my stories as real as possible, I tend to age my characters and keep track of the time/years for each book. If I write three books in one year, they are set in that year. So the next year, my characters are a year older and things, like secondary characters getting pregnant are part of my secondary plots. I remember reading books with characters that didn’t seem to age. Like Kinsey Milhone (the character who was the impetus for me to try my hand at writing mysteries), Miss Marple, Stephanie Plum, Mrs. Pollifax, and even James Qwilleran, and his two Siamese cats, Koko and Yum Yum
It will be interesting to see how long I can keep my character Gabriel Hawke traipsing about the Eagle Cap Wilderness solving murders when I started him out at 53 years old. But I have a feeling he will be going strong for a good long time. People around him will age, as will he, but we’ll see if his aging makes him think harder about family, his own presumably.
As for Shandra Higheagle, she has married since becoming a mystery character and while her friends are all becoming pregnant, I haven’t decided if she’s going to become pregnant, if she and Ryan will be a childless family, or if they will bring an older child into their family. It’s all up in the air at this time. It all winds around in my head as I ponder the future for these two.
One thing I know for certain. My characters will age, their lives will have ups and downs, and I hope they continue to be characters readers want to read about.
What are some of your favorite characters and have they aged over the course of their series or stayed the same?