Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Guess Blogger - Kate Grilley - In Praise of Magic


by Kate Grilley

I believe in magic. I believe in shooting stars, magic wands, fireflies that wink in the night, things that glow in the dark, wishing on the first star. I believe that magic is the essence of mysteries that widen our eyes, quicken our breath and make us exclaim in wonder and delight, "oh, wow." Magic is all around us.

Most of all I believe in the magic of the written word.

Words can transport us. When I open an Agatha Christie Miss Marple mystery, I'm immediately taken to St. Mary Mead; reading a Sue Henry book I'm in Alaska, or on the road with Maxie and Stretch; Carolyn Hart lets me wallow in Annie Darling's charming bookstore Death on Demand; Charlaine Harris has taught me about the habits of vampires and added new phrases to my vocabulary like "fang banger."

Creating a fictional universe requires a special magic. I believe in the magic of visualization. If I can't close my eyes and see a place, I can't write about it. I need to be able to walk the streets, smell the air, look at the buildings, listen to the residents talk. In my mind I teleport myself into the lives of my characters, a fly on the wall taking notes on everything they do.

In the Kelly Ryan/St. Chris series, I was on home ground. I've lived in the Caribbean for many years and worked at a radio station when I first moved to the tropics. I changed names and places to protect the innocent and keep the local visitor's bureau from gunning for me when I walked down the street. Another reason for using a fictional Caribbean island setting was that in the real world things change...shops come and go, restaurants open and close or change names. By using a fictional setting, I was able to keep things just the way I wanted them and as long as I was consistent, no one could say I got it wrong. Kelly Ryan is a disc jockey on an island radio station, she's divorced, no kids, has a background in theatre, loves cats and kayaking.

I began writing the Peggy Jean Turner/Cobb's Landing series (as Kate Borden) to prove to myself that I could write something different, that I wasn't a "one trick pony" with only one story to tell. At the beginning of the series, Cobb's Landing is a little town in New England that has seen better days. As I described it in "Death of a Tart"..."Cobb’s Landing was the place where most of the residents had been born, grown up and married, but a town their children would be anxious to leave." But, all that changes when Max, the new owner of the Citizen's Bank, arrives with plans to turn Cobb's Landing into Colonial Village, a themed tourist attraction. Peggy Jean (PJ) Turner is a widowed single mother of an eleven year old son Nicky, the mayor of Cobb's Landing (she succeeded her late husband as mayor, and kept getting reelected because no one else wanted the job) and owner of Tom's Tools and Hardware. Peggy embodies the New England virtues of thrift and hard work. Cobb's Landing is a fictional town in a nameless state, but it was inspired by research I'd done on plans for New England colonial settlements. In college I spent a semester reading Henry David Thoreau's "Walden," so when it came to creating Cobb's Landing I felt in a sense that I was going home although I've never lived in New England.

I like writing about strong women and the friendships that sustain and nurture women. Although Kelly has more choices in her life than Peggy, both women are independent, self-reliant and have great women friends.

I hope that readers get out of my books entertainment and a sense of well-being. The cozy mysteries that I write are like little morality plays. Wrongs are righted, the villain is always caught and at the end of each book, once again, all is right in the world. Cozy - or traditional mysteries - are often described as mysteries of manners. Primarily, I write to entertain my readers. I want them to feel that their investment has been time well, and enjoyably, spent. If a little of the magic that enabled me to write the book has been rubbed off on the reader, that's a definite plus.

Magic has power when you believe in it. If you believe in magic, it will enchant your life.

P.S. While writing this blog, I watched one of my favorite movies, "Practical Magic" -- based on one of my favorite books by Alice Hoffman. The book and the movie are pure magic.


Kate Grilley is the author of the Kelly Ryan/St. Chris Caribbean mysteries "Death Dances to a Reggae Beat," "Death Rides an Ill Wind," and "Death Lurks in the Bush." As Kate Borden, she wrote the Peggy Jean Turner/Cobb's Landing New England mysteries "Death of a Tart," "Death of a Trickster," and "Death of a Turkey." Email:

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Customer Service - NOT!


Today I'm blogging about the way customer service has changed. In my parents days of customer service. You
called a repairman and he fixed your washer and you paid the bill if it the appliance was not still under warrenty.

Well I have spent the past month in hell not because of my washer breaking down but my internet and phone lines.
I'm now ready to talk about my expierence. It all started Father's Day Weekend when we returned from Kansas City.
I couldn't get on the internet and at first I thought I was having internet problems. Soon I figured out it was a connection
problem. So after calling the phone company every other day for the next two weeks they decided to take us seriously.
The past two weeks went something like this ...
"Let me do some testing and I'll call you back." They call back and say.."Try this, now try this..what does it
say on your screen." We reply with...."It's blank it doesn't say anything." ...she says...."Oh this isn't good but we'll try
this..." and so the story went for a week.

Now the past week they tell us after more endless conversations. "It's your modem, go buy a new modem because
if you buy one through the phone company it will take forever. This person works for the phone company (But never
mind about that), so Frank searches high and low for a modem it has to be an AT&T DSL one. This past Sunday he
finds one by calling the Chanute Wal-mart and he goes out of town to pick it up. Installs the modem it worked until
11:00 Sunday then nothing. Okay he calls during his lunch hour on Monday (By this time he's in meltdown mode)
they tell him to go get new inside lines and phone jacks and install all of that. He does and by Tuesday at lunch
NOTHING so he calls again by his cordless phone and they say "It's got to be the line to the house OR you need
new phones. He says a few things and they get the hint he's not amused by their if,and's or but's. They tell him
they'll be sending a repairman out on Wednesday.
Wednesday: The repairman comes and says it's our new modem, I call Frank and the repairman talks to him. They
come to an understanding and the repairman is packing up to leave after checking all the dianogstics etc when he
pushes a button and we lose everything. He goes back outside and said he finally found the problem one of our lines
was carroided and the only thing holding together was the rusted etc...ends. Then he says because of the way cables
are set up in our area that he must go uptown and flip a switch testing to see if it's the computer line or the phone wires.
He comes up parks up the street and takes a ladder down off the top of the truck. Then he sets up the ladder climbs the
poll across the street this poll hosts the street light and of course a lot main wires etc.. after this he dives up in front of
our house and tells me I need to keep our dog busy while he sets up his ladder. The dog is overly friendly but I manage
to keep her busy and he works on the back pole and lines for a long time. Then he comes in and checks the computer.
VIOLA we now have everything working. This man was professional, focused and even though it took him three hours
and some change it was worth it to have someone who wasn't giving up until the job was done.
HOWEVER I still say there is a murder mystery plot in here somewhere. Now why am I writing this blog today? Because
I want to hear your stories on when appliances, cars, computer, phones, etc.....breakdown. Good or bad let's blog about
your stories.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Guest Blogger - Susan McBride on Making Magic

Making Magic

by Susan McBride

Oh, oh, oh, it’s magic, you knoooow, never believe it’s not so.

Um, no, I don’t particularly like that old tune. I don’t even remember who sang it. But I like what it says; because I’m one of those odd people who believes that writing is magic.

It’s not that I sit around waiting for “the muse” to drop in and sprinkle fairy dust like a modern-day Tinkerbell. When I work on a book, I write everyday. Deadlines wait for no one, not even muses. Besides, I like writing. It feeds me in some deep, dark, mysterious way. Maybe it’s trite to say, but it’s like breathing. I don’t want to try living without it, no matter how much I bitch and moan during the process.

I avoid outlining at all costs (unless an editor demands it). I don’t take copious notes. I don’t even scribble out a synopsis before I sit down at the keyboard and let her rip. I always have a story in my head, if only the bare bones. I’m not always sure where it’s going or exactly how it ends. But I know enough to get started.

That’s when the magic kicks in. Something whirs in my brain, the gears start turning and clicking and won’t stop until I’m done. I think about the story and the characters when I’m waking and sleeping. I often rise in the morning with the solution to a sticking point in a chapter or scene. “Eureka, I’ve got it!” I’ll shout (well, mentally, at least), and I’ll dash to my desk to jot the idea down.

Yes, I keep a notebook, and I write down snatches of dialogue when characters start yapping in my head, or I’ll scribble a line about what needs to happen in the next chapter. But that’s about as far ahead of myself as I get. Somehow, the story unfolds as I sit down each day to work. (And it is work, magic or not.) I get deeper into the characters, into the situation, into motivations, and the tale spills out of my mind and onto the pages.

I don’t know where it comes from, but it never fails me. I hope it never will. (Knock on wood.) Writing is something very instinctual with me, very “from the gut,” and I don’t question it. I don’t dissect it and try to figure it out. If I did, I might ruin it. It’s just there, somewhere inside me.

I’ve heard authors who pooh-pooh those of us who believe in the magic, who say it’s a bunch of bunk; that writing is like plumbing and anyone can be proficient at it if they just proceed in a workmanlike fashion and plot and plan a story, chapter by chapter, detail by detail. That might be how it is for some, but it doesn’t fit us all.

Writing is a craft, yes, and a skill, for sure, and practice definitely makes one better at it. When you’re unpublished, tackling one manuscript and then another (and sometimes another after that) helps you to find your voice, see what you do best, cut out what’s extraneous, learn to tighten your prose and improve with every effort. You can hone your storytelling skills
over time, no question. But writing is also an art, a talent, a passion, a gift. For me, it’s magic.

For those of you laughing and shaking your head, let’s agree to disagree, shall we? Let’s just say we each approach the process differently. We have different strengths, different methods. There is no one blanket statement that defines how a writer should tell his or her story, is there?

The best writers are those who make their own paths and don’t pay attention to someone else’s rules. That’s when stories come out of the blue that are like nothing else, despite everyone grumbling that every plot’s been done a million times before.

The only “rule” that matters is formatting. You can’t use Wingdings and jelly bean paper and expect to be taken seriously. But when it comes to how you write—whether you outline or not—that’s a choice you make (although, forced upon some of us, at times, by terms of our contracts, ugh).

If you find yourself writing to the tune in your head without a single note on paper, rejoice! And know that you’re not alone. You’re not the only oddball out there who delights in the unknowing, who relishes seeing where the words will take them without a map to guide you.

Susan McBride is the author of the award-winning Debutante Dropout Mysteries, as well as The Debs young adult series including the just-released LOVES, LIES, AND TEXAS DIPS and the forthcoming GLOVES OFF. Her first stand-alone novel, THE COUGAR CLUB, will be out in January of 2010. Visit her web site at for more scoop!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Guest Blogger - Juliet Blackwell

First off, thanks for inviting me to contribute to Mayhem and Magic! It does seem an appropriate blog to be writing for, since I try to bring a lot of both mayhem AND magic to most situations…oh, and to my books, too ;-)

Vampires and werewolves are crazy popular right now, of course, but I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of witches and witchcraft. Bewitched was one of my favorite shows as a child, but then so was Dark Shadows (anyone remember that one?) and pretty much anything spooky and scary…I always adored the idea of alternate worlds and other dimensions, particularly when they came into our “normal” world and mucked things up. And though vampires and werewolves and other creatures in fiction these days are often the targets of amorous interest, I liked the idea of having my protagonist be the one with the magic, the one set apart. In my new book Secondhand Spirits, Lily Ivory’s not to be trifled with; she’s the one with the powers, and the regular humans have to learn to deal with her one way or the other.

As I was scrolling through earlier contributions to this blog, I happened upon Jennifer Lyon’s post about creating “witch worthy” heroes– specifically, Lyon mentioned that the Darrin character from Bewitched wasn’t nearly good enough for Samantha. I couldn’t agree more: Darrin was never worthy of such a powerful, interesting witch (though I have to mention that I also hated how accommodating Samantha was – I wanted her to stand up for herself and tell Darrin exactly where to go – and maybe change him into a garden slug, while she was at it!)

When I set out to write a book featuring a witch with a vintage clothing store in San Francisco’s quirky Haight Ashbury neighborhood, I decided I wanted to be “witch worthy,” myself. And though I loved Bewitched when I was a kid, the last thing I wanted to do was to lean toward what I think of as the “fluffy” or “silly side” of witchcraft. Yes, I like to have fun with the theme, and keep things light and easy to read. But there’s no denying that witchcraft is a serious business, and has been throughout history and across the globe.

I love research, and I did a lot of it as I developed the characters and story of Secondhand Spirits. I looked things up on the web and in the library, of course, reading about the history of witch hunts in Europe, the current problems in parts of Africa and Asia today, and the traditions of botanical study amongst those labeled “brujos” in Latin America. But I also attended various coven meetings, and interviewed people who call themselves “witches” – from Wiccans to so-called “traditional witches”. I peppered them with a million questions, and then sat back and listened and watched.

So although Secondhand Spirits is considered an urban fantasy sort of mystery, it is grounded in true history and strong belief. And I do hope that I’ve managed to create a fictional world that is witch-worthy. Lily Ivory, and all those witches out there, deserve nothing less.

Author Biography

Juliet Blackwell, aka Hailey Lind, is the pseudonym for a mystery author who, together with her sister, wrote the Art Lover’s Mystery Series--including the Agatha-nominated Feint of Art and the IMBA bestsellers Shooting Gallery and Brush with Death. The fourth in the series, Arsenic and Old Paint, will be released in fall, 2010.
Juliet’s new paranormal Witchcraft Mystery series begins with Secondhand Spirits (July, 2009), about a witch with a vintage clothing store in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood of San Francisco. A Cast-off Coven will be the second in the series.
If These Walls Could Talk, to be released in 2010, is the first in the Sophie Tanner Historic Home Renovation series about a failed anthropologist running her father’s high-end construction company.
A former anthropologist and social worker, Juliet has worked in Mexico, Spain, Cuba, Italy, the Philippines, and France. She currently resides in a happily haunted house in Oakland, California, where she is a muralist, portrait painter, and recipient of the overly zealous attentions of her neighbor’s black cat, who seems to imagine himself her new familiar. Juliet/Hailey is two-term president of Northern California Sisters in Crime. Visit

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

An interview with Charlotte LaRue

Hi, my name is Charlotte LaRue. I’m a sixty-something year old maid who was created by author Barbara Colley and who works in the New Orleans Garden District. But, I’m not just a maid. I own my own maid service—Maid-for-a-Day. Oh, and one other thing, I also, on occasion, solve murders and generally get into loads of trouble. So far, Barbara has written eight books about me. Number eight is titled DUSTED TO DEATH and will be available in January 2010.

I truly appreciate Terri and Pamela inviting me to be on their blog, and I appreciate the opportunity to finally express myself without Barbara looking over my shoulder and telling me what to say. You will keep my answers to the questions confidential, won’t you? I mean, really, I can be a bit outspoken, and I’d hate for Barbara to get mad at me.

Speaking of Barbara, I suppose I should mention that she’s a best selling, award winning author whose books have been published in at least seventeen foreign languages. Oh, yeah, and she has a web site that tells all about herself and her books. You can even read the first chapters of all of the books she’s written about me. Just go to:

This first set of questions are from someone who calls themselves “Anonymous.” Ha! Don’t let that fool you. You and I both know that these so-called “anonymous” questions are from Barbara. Call me paranoid, but this is just her way of testing me to see what I’ll say. You have to watch her. She’s sneaky that way.

Q. "What is your political persuasion?"

A. “I'd tell you, but then Barbara might kill me off. Though we argue all the time about it, Barbara tries to steer clear of politics. She claims some of her readers wouldn't like it, but I say, for Pete's sake, after all, this is fiction."

Q. "Can you give us any insider hints about Barbara's next book, DUSTED TO DEATH?"

A. "There you go again, trying to get me killed again. One thing I can tell you, though, it involves the movie industry and I get to meet one of my all-time favorite movie stars. Another thing I can tell you is that Barbara has a huge surprise for all of her fans in DUSTED TO DEATH. You won’t want to miss this one. It comes out in January 2010. Yes, I know, January seems like a long way off, but I promise you, the wait will be worth it."

Questions from Pamela James:

Q. Do you have social injustice that really makes you angry?

A. Don’t get me started. There are many social injustices that make me want to chew nails, but the one that gets to me most is abused children. Barbara’s father, rest his soul, always said, there’s a special place in hell for people who abuse children, and I tend to agree with him whole-heartedly.

Q. What is the one thing about Barbara that you would change?

A. Now, Pamela, I don’t know how on earth I can answer that. I don’t want to offend Barbara. After all, she could reign down all kinds of evil on me, but I do wish she wouldn’t worry so much about readers liking my books. I’d also like for her to write faster.

Q. Where would you like to see Barbara take you on a cruise to and will you
find a body?

A. Hmm, a cruise would be nice. Barbara hardly ever takes me anywhere except in and around New Orleans. Of course I do take a short trip to Mississippi in her next book, but I digress. Back to your question. Maybe we could go on a cruise to somewhere really exotic. I’ve never been out of the good old U.S.A., so almost anywhere would be exotic for me. Then again, maybe not. With Barbara’s imagination, we’d probably end up abandoned in the middle of some ocean on a desert island with nothing to eat but coconuts. As for finding a body, pu-lease, only if he’s breathing and good looking. Notice I said, “he.” Besides I see more dead bodies than I want in Barbara’s books. On the other hand, if we did take a cruise and Barbara got an idea for another book, then she could write it off on her taxes as research. Hmm, I’ll have to think some more about this.

Q. What does Barbara really do in her spare time?

A. According to Barbara, there’s no such thing as “spare time.” But, between you and me, I happen to know that she reads every chance she gets, plus her grandchildren are always dropping by for a visit, especially now that it’s summer. She also tends to be a couch potato at times. She has her favorite TV shows. What she really should do, though, is clean her house, or at least hire me to clean her house. She’s always complaining that it needs cleaning, but I guess she’s too stingy to hire it done. Oops, don’t you dare tell her that I said that or I could get into a heap of trouble.

Questions from Terri:

Q. What are your favorite and least favorite cleaning activities?

A. My favorite is cleaning the wood floors in those old Garden District homes. It gives me so much pleasure to see them all polished and shining. Of course, I have to get down on my hands and knees to do it right, and my poor old knees suffer for it. But don’t even get me started about my aches and pains. I’ve been thinking about buying some kneepads, though. You know, the kind that skate boarders use? My least favorite cleaning activity is the bathroom. You wouldn’t believe how yucky those can be, especially—gag—the toilets.

Q. Pet Peeves?

A. Finding cat hair on the kitchen counter tops. Yuck! Uh oh, I bet I just offended a whole bunch of cat lovers. Sorry about that, and to set the record straight, I like cats just fine. I just don’t like them roaming over the counter tops in the kitchen where the food is prepared. And of course there’s Sweety Boy to consider. He’s my little parakeet, you know.

Q. What are your favorite sports?

A. Oooh, I’m so glad you asked. Both Barbara and I are Tennis fans and big LSU fans. Of course, Barbara hogs the TV, and she got to watch all of the baseball games this summer when LSU won the College World Series. That’s okay though, I watched the Wimbledon Finals.

Q. Any words of wisdom?

A. Actually, quite a few. “Do right and you’ll feel right.” “What goes round comes round.” And one of my all-time favorites: “People do get paid back for what they do in this life, whether good or bad.” And before you ask, except for the second quote, which is in the Bible, I’m not sure where those other quotes come from.

Q. What is your favorite of Barbara’s books?

A. Hmm, that’s a hard one. After all, she’s had sixteen published books. . . so far. Of course, only eight of them are about me, but out of those eight, I think MAID FOR MURDER, the very first one in the series, is my personal favorite. Of course, I also really like WASH AND DIE too. Then, there’s DUSTED TO DEATH, the most recent one that’s coming out in January 2010. Did I mention that there’s going to be a big surprise for all of Barbara’s (and my) fans in that one?

Q. What is your favorite thing about Barbara?

A. Big gulp. Now, Terri, you know that’s not a fair question. I like a lot of things about Barbara, but if I gush too much, everyone will accuse me of kissing up to her. There is one thing, though. She does try her best to play fair, whether in real life or in my books. Oh, and another thing. She does like to “keep it clean.” (snicker) That’s a pun, you know, since I’m a maid—our little joke. But it also applies to her books.

Q. What are some of your all-time favorite books?

A. Sigh. My all-time favorite is the Holy Bible. Recently, Barbara has been going through some medical difficulties, and without the comforting words in the Bible, I don’t know what I’d do. As for other types of books, Barbara has so many writer friends that I’m probably going to get into trouble if I single out one and not the rest. Tell you what, how about I name a few by some authors that aren’t exactly her friends, just her and my favorite authors? I do like Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series. Jack is my kind of man—kind of reminds me of a younger Louis Thibodeaux, my tenant and sometimes “friend.” I also like the Twilight Series. Can’t wait for the second movie coming out this fall. Then, of course, I like most any of Iris Johansen or Catherine Coulter’s books. Oh, and I also keep up with Charlaine Harris’s Southern Vampire series. Right now, I’m having a lot of fun reading James Patterson’s Maximum Ride young adult series.

Q. What is your opinion on Health Care Reform and other current events?

A. Right up front, let me say that, like Barbara, I am a patriot and fiercely love my country. I do think there needs to be some health reform so that those who truly, and I emphasize the word truly, can’t afford insurance can afford to get care. But--and let me make this perfectly clear--I do not want the government running my health plan or taxing it. This smacks of socialism, and I DO NOT WANT socialism, no way, no how. For Pete’s sake, this is the United States of America, not Russia or Cuba. First comes socialism, then communism, and before you know it, all of our freedoms have gone down the toilet . . . Oh, no (groan)! Now see what you’ve gone and done--got me all fired up and on my soapbox.

Being a staunch conservative, I have a lot of opinions about current events, but I can’t afford to alienate any of Barbara’s readers who might be a bit more liberal. She’s already gotten into trouble once because of my views about abortion. You do know that if readers don’t buy her books, then I cease to exist? Yeah, not fair at all, but whoever said life was fair? Everything is political nowadays. Whew! Enough about that. I’d better quit while I’m ahead.

Q. What is your favorite NOLA place to go eat?

A. That’s the easiest question you’ve asked. Commander’s Palace in the Garden District is my all-time favorite. Of course being a maid, I can’t always afford to go there as often as I’d like, but the food and the service are wonderful.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Guest Blogger - Laura Childs - An Element of Shiver....

Guest Blog from Laura Childs, author of the Tea Shop Mysteries, Scrapbooking Mysteries, and Cackleberry Club Mysteries

Since Mayhem and Magic is the subject this month, I’m delighted to be writing this guest blog. The thing of it is, I always try to include a generous dollop of mayhem and magic in all my mysteries. And one of the most basic ways to inject a little extra element of “shiver” is by creating a strong sense of place. For example, my Scrapbook Mysteries are set in New Orleans, which is one of those cities that’s eccentric and fanciful and just naturally has a dark side. You've got the French Quarter with its grand architecture and bad behavior, above-ground cemeteries, wild Mardi Gras celebrations, and lots of old families with skeletons in the closet. New Orleans is also highly atmospheric - deteriorating mansions, live oaks dripping with Spanish moss, and fog-shrouded bayous.

My Tea Shop Mysteries are set in Charleston, SC, which also happens to be one of America’s most haunted cities. It, too, has ancient graveyards, headless Civil War soldier-ghosts marching around, haunted mansions, narrow cobblestone streets with gaslights flickering overhead, and dark, low-country bayous that stretch for miles.

As a counterpoint to the basically spooky aura I try to create, my main characters tend to be optimistic, strong women who are also pretty darned smart. Take, for instance, Carmela Bertrand, the main character in my soon-to-be-released mystery, Tragic Magic. Carmela is a smart, savvy entrepreneur who’s been through Hurricane Katrina and lived to tell about it. Although her scrapbook shop, Memory Mine, is still recovering, Carmela proves to be an intelligent, focused, amateur sleuth who doesn’t rely on “coincidences” or inept police work to solve crimes. She jumps right into New Orleans society, rubs elbows with the right (and wrong) people, and digs for information. In Tragic Magic, Carmela is tapped to design set d├ęcor for a haunted house, tours an abandoned insane asylum, learns a few facts about cremation jewelry, and gets stalked in a Garden District cemetery.

Tragic Magic isn’t exactly your traditional cozy – in fact, it’s more of a thrillzy, but without the sex or really tough language. There are also a shameless amount of Southern recipes included, such as sausage gumbo, Southern coffee cookies, cocoa loco pie, and deep fried strawberries.

But just when you’ve settled back and assumed everything is safe in Carmela’s world, footsteps sound behind you and the lonely toot of a tugboat whistle floats in from the Mississippi.

Gosh, I picked a fun career!

All my best,

Laura Childs

Laura Childs is a New York Times Bestselling Author who has written ten Tea Shop Mysteries, six Scrapbooking Mysteries, and one (so far) Cackleberry Club Mystery. Due out this fall are two more mysteries – TRAGIC MAGIC and EGGS BENEDICT ARNOLD.

Monday, July 6, 2009

An Interview with Dana Cameron

1. Dana, tell us about what you are currently writing and your writing schedule?
At the moment, I'm working on a short story and an archaeological thriller. I going in the morning and keep a regular schedule, trying to write five or six pages a day.

2. Okay now we want to know about the Malice Award and your future writing plans?
Winning the Agatha for "The Night Things Changed" was an absolutely wonderful surprise. I'm so grateful Charlaine Harris and Toni L. P. Kelner invited me to contribute to WOLFSBANE AND MISTLETOE. The Agatha for the short story got me working on a novel based on the characters, which I've finished. Writing urban fantasy wasn't something I'd tried before, and I've been having a blast with it. It's not as different from my other work as you might imagine and I really love the world.

3. Tell us about your short stories and your awards?
In 2007, when I won the Anthony for Best Paperback Original for my Emma Fielding mystery, ASHES AND BONES, I was also nominated for an Anthony for Best Short Story for a historical mystery, "The Lords of Misrule." "The Night Things Changed," in addition to winning the Agatha, has been nominated for an Anthony and a Macavity, and I'm hugely excited-and honored-by those nominations. I have a short story called "Femme Sole," which will appear in BOSTON NOIR later this year, and another short urban fantasy story that will come out next year. I've been able to learn a lot from writing short stories, and have been able to try my hand at a lot of different subgenres: historical, romance, urban fantasy, noir. They're a super opportunity to learn and stretch yourself as a writer.

4. How many books have you written?
I've written six Emma Fielding mysteries, which were published by Avon. I have two more completed books-an espionage thriller and an urban fantasy that I'm polishing now.

5. What advice do you have for the novice mystery writer?
Finish your book (or short story), then worry about things like promotion, finding an agent, etc. Writing is the most important thing. Find folks who will give you respectful and helpful criticism. And try new things, when you have the opportunity to do so.

6. Now for the fun questions....what is your favorite meal, dessert, and place to travel?
Favorite meal? It's hard to say, but usually, I'm most happy with really beautifully cooked fish. Isn't that boring? For dessert, I love apple pie with cheese or a hot fudge sundae and I adore any kind of cheese served with fruit and nuts, savory mixed with sweet.

When I can, I like to alternate traveling to places with loads of museums and restaurants and (of course) ruins, and then make the next trip a very quiet one, sitting on a beach some place. This year, we hope to go to Turkey and explore the history and archaeology there.

7. How do you plot your books and stories?
With the Emma books, because I knew the archaeology so well, I'd start with location. That would tell me who was there, what the crime might be, and what the motives might be. For the other novels and stories, I get to know a character first, and then by paying attention to what the character says, and how she says it, I figure out what the rest of the story is. I don't outline, and I usually try to write scenes as they come to me, even if it's not in order. Then I organize them in what I hope is an exciting, logical way, and that tells me more about the story, too.

8. Do you have some favorite minor characters?
If you mean from my books, I really like Michael Glasscock, Dora Sarkes-Robinson, and Derek Temple from the Emma books. And there's something about Officer Weems, in "The Night Things Changed," that I need to learn more about. Usually the secondary characters I like most, from any book, are the ones who are interesting on the surface and also hint that there's something else, just beneath.

9. After a writing session how do you relax? By reading, taking a walk or some other way?
I try to do something totally rote after I write, just to reenter the real world. Folding laundry, doing dishes, picking up, going to the gym, or going for a walk. Anything that doesn't require a lot of thought or planning. It's a way to put some distance between the mayhem I'm writing about and the order I want in my non-writing life.

10. What would you like to say to your readers?
Thank you! Everyone has been so enthusiastic and supportive of all my efforts, and that means the world to me!

11. Tell us about your book covers and if you have any favorite book covers?
I've been very, very happy with my book covers all along, and I think they're striking. I like the atmosphere they suggest, and I love the way the covers have changed, slightly, as the books have changed, getting a little darker. I've always felt the cold, looking at the icy cover of MORE BITTER THAN DEATH, and I've always felt loneliness, looking at the cover of ASHES AND BONES. They nailed the idea of those books.

12. What is your website addy?My website is I also blog with the seven fantastic writers of the Femmes Fatales:

13. What writing organizations do you belong to and where are you signing books this summer?
I belong to Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and the American Crime Writers League. Getting involved with SinC or MWA is such a terrific way to get to know the community and the business. And I've mentioned the Femmes Fatales.

This summer will be pretty quiet for me, but things will get crackling in the fall! I'll be attending Bouchercon in Indianapolis, the launch of BOSTON NOIR at the Boston Book Festival, and then the New England Crime Bake in Dedham, Massachusetts.

14. Lastly give us a glimpse into your personal life and leave us with a quote or writing wisdom that you try to live and write by?
There are three quotes that I try to keep in mind when I'm working (and I'm paraphrasing these):
1. You need to turn over an entire library to write a single book. (Dr. Johnson)
2. Writing hard and reading hard go together. (Stephen King)
3. You need a little bit of "uh-huh" and a lot of "oh, yeah!" (Peter Buck, R.E.M.)
In other words, do your homework, learn the craft, and then make it something YOU'D want to read!

Dana, Thank you for the interview.

My pleasure! Thank you for having me, Pamela and Terri!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Guest Blogger - Jennifer Lyon (aka Jennifer Apodaca) -- Witch Worthy

Witch Worthy
By Jennifer Lyon

I have a segment on my blog ( called Wing Slayer Worthy. Once a week, I try to put up a picture of a man and ask the readers if he’s Wing Slayer Worthy. That refers to my Wing Slayer Hunters Series. It’s a fun segment!

But when I’m writing my books, I always ask myself, is the hero Witch Worthy? This comes from when I was little and cut my teeth watching the TV show BEWITCHED. I loved that show and developed a love witches from it! But I could never figure out what Samantha saw in Darrin. The guy was a wimp and afraid of his mother. And he hated/feared Samantha’s witchcraft, the very thing that made her so special. He went so far as to “forbid” her to use it, (yeah, you’re going to forbid a witch who can turn you into a toad!). So not hero material in my book! I never thought he was a Witch Worthy hero.

It’s amazing how something like a simple TV show stays in your mind. I always wanted to change the dynamics of Samantha and Darrin. Before I published in mystery, I wrote a couple witch projects that never sold. The projects just weren’t right. Then years later, I was sitting at my computer and e-mailing a friend when man walked into my head. It’s the only time I’ve ever had this happen where the character just showed up. I knew nothing him except that he was Axel Locke, a seriously tormented alpha hero. I didn’t know what to do with him, he was too much for any heroine I could think of, until it popped into my head; a witch could handle him! I finally had a Witch Worthy hero!

I was in love in an instant. I knew it was something I had to write. I had contracted projects that I worked on, while stealing time to work on Axel and his witch. It quickly grew into a massive project, with a tremendous amount of world-building. I wrote, rewrote and revised again.

But there’s something I never forgot each time I sat down with these characters—these men had to be worthy of the very special witches that would become their heroines. No matter what I threw at the men—demonic curses, soul destroying cravings or gut wrenching betrayals—they had to remain strong and just. And unlike Darrin in the old TV show, these men not only love and respect their witch’s magic, but they become an intricate part of it.
That’s a real Witch Worthy Hero to me! What about you? What makes a hero worthy to you? Leave a comment and I’ll draw a random name to win an autographed copy of BLOOD MAGIC!

Jennifer Lyon always wanted to be a witch. When her witch-powers didn't materialize, she turned to creating magic in her books. BLOOD MAGIC is the first book in an enchanting, passionate and supernatural series. The second book, SOUL MAGIC, will be out September 30, 2009. Visit Jennifer Lyon at

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