From the Land of 11 Lighthouses
The question always comes up when I do a book talk: What part of your background is in your character of Ava Oosterling?
I was raised on a 160-acre dairy farm in southern Wisconsin near Barneveld. I feel nostalgic when driving by fragrant, new-mown alfalfa fields. I remember bringing up cows from our far-flung pastures while I was going barefoot in the soft, dusty cow paths that had seen thousands of hooves over the years.
Being a farm girl is also the background for Ava Oosterling—star of my Fudge Shop Mystery Series, including the new holiday novel, Holly Jolly Fudge Folly.
My character of Ava Oosterling is far more adventurous than I am. She’s been nearly burned alive and drowned by bad guys. But I’m not exactly a wallflower. I have climbed ancient oak trees and ridden cows—and never fallen
I started my writing career years ago as an adult. I entered a national manuscript contest sponsored by Romance Writers of America. I won the “Golden Heart”! But I didn’t get published because I didn’t know enough yet to revise properly. In the years to come, I eventually became what I am today—a writing coach and instructor, author of several published novels, and an optioned screenwriter.
These days I write using “plot points” and “scene design” and “hooks” and other technical writerly tools. When I plan a novel or short story, I start with the Central Question. It must start with the word “Will” and stick to one topic. “Will Ava accomplish/solve WHAT by the end?” Of course she’ll solve the mystery, but I try to build in an adjacent concern that must be solved.
My first published novel, Spirit Lake, a romantic suspense, came out around the year 2000 when electronic books were small disks you read on a computer. I was a pioneer, part of the publishing revolution. Back then, such authors were discriminated against for not publishing “real” books. Hard to believe now!
As years went by, I wrote “cozy” romantic mystery novellas—short novels—in my Mischief in Moonstone series, set near Superior, Wisconsin.
Those are now re-issued for Kindle and paperback by Writers Exchange E-Publishing, a new Australian publisher. The books include the Halloween novella, When the Dead People Brought a Dish-to-Pass, and the Christmas novella, When Rudolph Was Kidnapped. I’ve written a screenplay based on the latter.
My Fudge Shop Mystery series came about when a literary agent was looking for somebody to write about chocolate in Door County, Wisconsin—known as the Cape Cod of the Midwest. The peninsular county jutting into Lake Michigan has the most lighthouses of any county in the United States—11. A lighthouse indeed entered into a murder plot in one of my books. I’ve now written six novels in that cozy series, including this season’s Holly Jolly Fudge Folly.
A “cozy mystery” always focuses on a small community. Violence, sex, and politics are kept off the page. Cozies focus on humor, adventure, respect, family and friends, and often pets and good food. My key characters include a trouble-making but lovable grandpa who has to have his coffee strong and laced with Belgian chocolate, and an American Water Spaniel named Lucky Harbor who loves cheese crackers. That breed of dog was developed in Wisconsin.
My protagonist, Ava Oosterling, is Belgian—like me. She was also raised on a farm, hers in Door County—part of a region with the biggest rural population of Belgian immigrants in the United States.
My books contain recipes for Belgian items such as Belgian booyah—a harvest soup made outdoors in big barrels over wood fires in autumn. My recipe is in Hot Fudge Frame-Up.
In Holly Jolly Fudge Folly the quest is on for a new recipe to please Santa and his elves. In the story, Ava Oosterlings’ best friend is getting married, but not before Ava’s grandpa gets accused of murder. That jeopardizes his prized role as Santa in the holiday parade and his ability to walk Ava’s friend down the aisle. The new novel contains my recipe for Holly Jolly Fudge.
Thank you for letting me introduce myself and my writing life. I love hearing from readers and fellow writers through my website, or Facebook, or through the Blackbird Writers group where I also blog. Best wishes for your holiday season!
Christine DeSmet’s books are available in paperback and ebook formats through her publisher (Writers Exchange E-Publishing), through Amazon, or through Christine’s website at this link: https://christinedesmet.com/books/how-to-buy/
Because Christine doesn’t have the cover or buy link yet for Holly Jolly Fudge Folly, here is another Holiday mystery from Christine: From her Mischief in Moonstone Series:
When Rudolph was Kidnapped
A cozy holiday mystery with a stocking full of tender romance! When her pet reindeer, Rudolph, is stolen from the live animal holiday display, first-grade teacher Crystal Hagan has a big problem: Her students fear Christmas will be canceled. The prime suspect is a man who lives in the mansion known as the “North Pole.” And to her shock, Peter LeBarron admits to kidnapping Rudolph and won’t give him back without some romantic negotiations. Book 1 of the Mischief in Moonstone Mystery Series
Christine DeSmet writes the Fudge Shop Mystery Series including the Fall 2022 release called Holly Jolly Fudge Folly. She’s also authored the Mischief in Moonstone Series (novellas). She is an award-winning, optioned screenwriter. Her new book projects include children’s picture books. Christine is a long-time writing coach and developmental editor—skills honed while creating and leading programs as a Distinguished Faculty Associate at University of Wisconsin-Madison Continuing Studies. Her memberships: Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrations. Christine was raised on a dairy-and-hog farm in southwestern Wisconsin. She loves any art that includes cows. https://christinedesmet.com/ and Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/christine.desmet.357.