Wednesday, September 30, 2015

An Interview with Sandra Parshall

By Pamela James

MM2: Sandra, give us the backstory on how and why you became an author?

I’ve always written stories, from the time I was able to form words in pencil on lined pulp paper. I became a newspaper reporter as an adult, but I continued writing fiction with no success in getting published. It wasn’t until I switched from mainstream fiction to mystery/suspense that I started publishing. It’s my favorite genre and I have no desire to write anything else.

MM2: Where is your favorite place to write? 

I prefer to write at my desk on my desktop computer, with as few distractions as possible (except for our cats Emma and Gabriel, who are built-in distractions).

MM2: Take us thru a typical writing day?

I like to write in the morning, then for a bit after lunch. I’m mentally tired by afternoon and can’t get much done after that.

MM2: How many books and genres have you written?

I’ve published six mystery/suspense novels (the Rachel Goddard series), but I wrote a number of mainstream novels that have never been published.

MM2: Let's talk about your latest book, your current work-in-progress?

I’m writing about a new character, a wildlife photographer named Wren Morrow, who gets caught up in suspicious activities in her own neighborhood while also going through a frightening personal crisis. I don’t want to say too much, but I love Wren and hope to see her in print. 

MM2: Do you re-read some of your favorite books?
I re-read passages for inspiration — and to remind me what great writing is!

MM2: What writing advice do you have for series authors?

It’s smart to make a few decisions when you’re writing the first book. Be sure your protagonist has the depth and personality and beliefs to carry a series. Be careful about the background and family you give him/her. Don’t do anything in the first book that will tie your hands later on. Make sure the protagonist develops in some way as the series goes on and she/he doesn’t remain static.

MM2: What comes first the plot, the setting or the characters?

I can’t separate plot and character. I don’t dream up a great character, then devise a plot for her. The two inspire each other. Setting is a lesser concern, and never comes first for me. I choose the setting that will best let me tell the story.

MM2: What is your version of the perfect weather?

About 80 degrees, low humidity, and sunny!

MM2: Dead or alive what three authors would you like to sit down and have meal with? What would you ask the three and talk with them about? Would you invite any of them to your family reunion?

Eudora Welty, Truman Capote, and Carson McCullers. I would be far too intimidated, I suspect, to ask them anything. I’d sit and listen in awe. I don’t think any of them would enjoy a gathering with my family.

MM2: Do you belong to a writer's group?

Not at the moment, although I’ve been in several critique groups in the past. Right now I rely on my husband, Jerry, and my very good friend Carol Baier for feedback. When I finish my work in progress, I’ll ask Barb Goffman, a terrific independent mystery editor, to help me edit it.

MM2: Is there an author/s that you credit for making you into a reader?

As with writing, I think I was born a reader. I grew up in a family of non-readers, and we couldn’t afford to buy books anyway, but I haunted the library from a very young age. I discovered books on my own and read a wide variety. I was reading adult novels, especially by the classic Russian authors and southern American writers, when I was quite young.

MM2: Growing up did you have favorite teacher?

I remember one teacher who made English class fun. Unfortunately, I had too many teachers who made classic novels and plays utterly dreary with inept teaching methods. (Only much later, for example, did I discover that Edith Wharton was actually a brilliant author.) One high school teacher had everybody in the class memorize the “Friends, Romans, and countryman” speech and stand up and recite it in class. To what end, I still don’t know. Wouldn’t it have been more enlightening to explore what the words meant? I don’t mean to disparage teachers, who have a hard job to do, but I’m afraid I didn’t have many that inspired me.

MM2: Tell us about where you live? Be our tour guide?

I live in Northern Virginia, just across the Potomac from Washington, DC. I love this area and don’t want to live anywhere else. It’s breathtakingly beautiful in spring and autumn, it has world-class museums and art galleries, a wealth of natural wildlife refuges — and the National Zoo has pandas! 

MM2: Now for some fun question. What is your favorite meal, desert, movies, television series, a couple of your favorite people or friends? If they were going to turn your books into a movies or television series. Who can you see playing your characters?

Meal: ordinary cheese pizza
Dessert: The warm apple cobbler with vanilla ice cream at the Hard Rock Café
Movies: The Usual Suspects, The Miracle Worker, To Kill a Mockingbird
Television: Always changing, but lately I’ve been addicted to House of Cards and Bloodline on Netflix
Favorite people: Writers and animal lovers, especially panda fans
Playing my characters: I can see Rachel McAdams playing Rachel Goddard, although a lot of people say they see Rachel as Clare Danes. I’ve never come across an actor I thought would be good as Tom Bridger.

MM2: Finally, tell us about winning the Daphne Award

I was surprised by the nomination and delighted by the win. I’m grateful to the judges and the RWA Kiss of Chapter for honoring my work. I treasure the award.

MM2: In your career what comes next for you?

I hope to finish my work in progress soon and get it published. That’s about as far ahead as most writers can think, unless they’re in the elite brigade for whom six-book contracts are common.

MM2: Lastly, what do your characters want us to know about you? Leave us with a quote from one of your characters?

I’m not at all sure what my characters would say about me, after everything I’ve put them through. I hope they would be forgiving. Tom and Rachel, despite their different backgrounds, have the same view: Live your life to the fullest, be happy with the good things you have, and do your best to be a decent person who contributes to the world. But stay on guard against suspicious characters!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

My Library Trip

This weeks library trip:

GRACE TAKES OFF (A Manor House Mystery) by JULIE HYZY




I also have some reviews due and my library doesn't have some of the newer mysteries I want to try but one thing at a time. I really want to read March Madness, The latest Tourist Trap Mysteries and many more.
Also some being released that I want to read.

Okay how is your reading list and to-do list shaping up?


Monday, September 28, 2015

An Interview with Gigi Pandian

By Pamela James

MM2: Gigi, give us some backstory on why and how you became an author?
Gigi: Like most mystery writers, I’ve loved reading mysteries since I was a kid. I’ve also written them since I was a kid, beginning with writing my own Scooby Doo stories. I didn’t become serious about my writing until I discovered National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). The challenge to write a draft of a 50,000-word novel in 30 days was the push I needed to finish a full draft. Before that, I always thought it would be fun to write a full-length novel like those of my favorite mystery novelist, Elizabeth Peters, but I never reached “the end.”

MM2: How many books have you written?
Gigi: Seven novels. Four are published and out in the world (three books in the Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mystery Series and one in my new Accidental Alchemist Mystery Series), two more are coming out next year, and one deserves to stay in my drawer!

MM2: Take us thru your typical writing day?
Gigi: I tried to be a full-time author for three months, after I signed two three-book deals within a few months, but I failed miserably. With all the time in the world, I’m not very disciplined! I wasn’t any more productive than I had been with a full-time job.
I like my schedule much better now. I’ve got a day job that I love, and it gives me three mornings a week to write. On those three mornings, I’m up at 6am and have sacred writing time until noon. I get a lot done during that time.
I can’t write at home. Too many distractions! Instead, I meet up with other writers at cafes, and over many cups of coffee we keep each other inspired to keep going. We’ll chat for 15 minutes at the beginning and end of each writing session, but otherwise we’re writing. And the internet is OFF.

MM2: What life lesson has writing taught you?
Gigi: I’m going to flip this question and answer a writing lesson that life taught me. Four years ago, right after my 36th birthday, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. It’s an experience that clarifies the important things in life. That’s when I took charge of my writing.
It’s also an experience that has made me not care about reviews. Book reviews are for readers, not for authors, so I don’t worry that my books aren’t for everyone. I’m having a blast writing and connecting with readers who enjoy my work, and that’s what matters.

MM2: Why do love living where you live? Give us the guided tour?
Gigi: I live in the San Francisco Bay Area. I’m not from here, but I fell in love with it the first time I lived here one summer during college, and everything fell into place in my life when I moved back here in my mid-20s. The foggy weather is perfect for me, it’s easy to be whoever you want to be here, and the food is superb. I cook most of my food from scratch ever since my cancer diagnosis, but it’s easy to walk down to the farmers market and get anything I need. 

MM2: Where is your favorite place to write?
Gigi: I write best when I get out of the house and write at a café. I’ve got a few magical cafés with the perfect atmosphere where I love to write.

MM2: What is the best writing advice you can share with us?
Gigi: Don’t worry about writing something good when you’re starting to write. Just get a draft finished. The rest will follow.

MM2: What is your favorite movie, song, place to vacation, meal and dessert?
Gigi: American Dreamer, a 1980s film that’s a romantic comedy adventure mystery.
Song depends on my mood. Today I’ll say “Seasons of Love” from RENT.
Vacation destination also depends on mood. I like to alternate my vacations between comforting locations that are always fun (e.g. Edinburgh, Scotland, a place I’ve been visiting since I was 10), and exciting new destinations.
My favorite meal and dessert are the same thing: chocolate oatmeal. (So good. You should try it: )

MM2: What would you like to say to your readers?
Gigi: With all the entertainment options available in the world today, thank you for taking a chance on a new author! I’m having a lot of fun with these books, so I hope readers have even half as much fun reading them.

MM2: For you what comes first, character, setting or plot?
Gigi: I can’t separate them. Without a particular character, a plot won’t make sense. Without a complex plot, a character can’t develop. And without a setting, the story isn’t genuine.
For example, history professor Jaya Jones is the central character in my treasure hunt mystery series. Her expertise, family history, and personality drive the treasure hunts she goes on, which take her from San Francisco to destinations across the world. I’ve traveled to the places where I set the books – so far San Francisco, England, Scotland, France, and India – because it makes the stories come more alive for me.

MM2: do you belong to a writing group?
Gigi: I’ve got several groups that I consider my writing group. My local writers group is a group of eight women writing in different genres, and we trade work with individual members sometimes, but mostly we get together to write and be a support group for each other. I’ve got virtual friends who are some of my best critique readers, and I’m a member of the online Guppies Chapter of Sisters in Crime.
MM2: Lastly, what was the best author day of your life?
Gigi: There are several, so I’ll pick one to share here. Aaron Elkins is one of my all-time favorite authors. He blurbed my first novel, which made me feel like I’d made it as a writer before my first book came out.  We’d never met, but he knew I was a huge fan of his, so when he needed someone to fill in at the last minute to conduct his Lifetime Achievement Award interview at Malice Domestic in 2013, he asked me.

MM2: Tell us about your latest book and what you are currently writing?
Gigi: My latest novel is the third Jaya Jones treasure hunt mystery, QUICKSAND. The books are all present-day mysteries involving historical treasures related to India’s colonial history. In QUICKSAND:
Historian Jaya Jones finds herself on the wrong side of the law during an art heist at the Louvre. To redeem herself, she follows clues from an illuminated manuscript that lead from the cobblestone streets of Paris to the quicksand-surrounded fortress of Mont Saint-Michel. With the help of enigmatic Lane Peters and a 90-year-old stage magician, Jaya delves into France’s colonial past in India to clear her name and catch a killer.
The next book I’ve got coming out (in January 2016) is THE MASQUERADING MAGICIAN, the second book in my new Accidental Alchemist series. It’s a paranormal mystery series about a centuries-old female alchemist and a gargoyle who was accidentally brought to life by a French stage magician.
To keep up to date, readers can sign up for my email newsletter: Email newsletter:

Thanks so much for having me today!
USA Today bestselling author Gigi Pandian is the child of cultural anthropologists from New Mexico and the southern Tip of India. After spending her childhood being dragged around the world, she now lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and writes the Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt mystery series and the Accidental Alchemist mysteries. Gigi’s debut novel, Artifact, was awarded a Malice Domestic Grant and named a “Best of 2012” debut by Suspense Magazine. The second book in the series, Pirate Vishnu, was recently awarded the Left Coast Crime Rose Award, and her locked-room mystery short stories have been short-listed for Agatha and Macavity awards. 

Keep in touch online:

Review-The Last Coincidence by Robert Goldsborough

Reviewed By: Pamela James

Sparky Linville doesn't know what a mess and dangerous situation he has created. Nobody messes with Lily Rowan and especially not when it comes to her niece Noreen James.
Archie Goodwin, Nero Wolfe's right hand man and Lily's special friend is so upset she asks Archie to look into it.
Archie more than looks into the situation and even though Sparky doesn't take him seriously it didn't surprise Archie when Sparky turns up dead in his car garage.
Sparky had his followers, others were not a fan of the playboy who took advantage of women to the point he was the only one having a good time.
Archie gets an up close and personal look at Lily's family. He thinks that Noreen is a younger version of Lily and this he likes. He doesn't care much for Noreen's mother but that's alright nobody else does either.
One by one nobody has an alibi, one by few most of them might have a large motive to commit murder.
The case is presented to Nero and begrudgingly Nero takes the case. Nero will not leave the brownstone so Archie must run down every clue, suspect and follow the last footsteps of Sparky Linville without getting killed.
It doesn't matter two people confessed to the crime what matters is that on Archie and on Nero's watch the right person must be brought to justice.
THE LAST COINCIDENCE is wonderfully vintage Rex Stout and Robert Goldsborough is a genius at keeping the era, flavor and character of the books.
If you like vintage crime, you will love this book in the series. One of the series that never gets old.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Review: Thread End by Amanda Lee


(An Embroidery Mystery)

The SEVEN YEAR STITCH is Marcy Singer's hand stitching shop. She even has a sit an stitch group who comes in once a week to sit and stitch. This week Marcy is more excited than

The Tallulah Falls Museum is exhibiting antique tapestries and textiles. She goes and they are all beautiful but as always there is one or two that catches everyone's eye. A cut above the rest.
By the next morning Marcy is no longer enthralled with the exhibition as behind her store she finds a body rolled up in one of the outstanding rugs.
Marcy's boyfriend is Detective Ted Nash and he arrives along other investigators, soon the FBI becomes involved.
The deceased man was a professor but more to the point he was also someone the FBI was looking very closely because he was a thief.
Soon other strange things happen and not even Jill her mannequin that looks a lot like Marilyn Monroe can cheer her up.
Ten a surprise visitor arrives at The Seven-Year Stitch, then another one, and another one and soon there are more suspects.
Let's hope Marcy can sort thru the threads of lies, secrets and suspect to find her killer before she makes a fatal mistake and ends up on the short list of murder victims.

THREAD END is wonderful AMANDA LEE has a talent for murder.
At least in-between the pages of this wonderful series. it's a must-read for anyone who hand stitches. You do not have to be a stitch person to enjoy the plot, characters, setting and Reggie her dog is a bonus. I couldn't help but fall in love with him.
Amanda Lee gets an Att.
Pamela James

Friday, September 25, 2015

An Interview with Cross Stitch Designer - Jo Gatenby from Xs and Ohs Design

Crafty Fridays

By Pamela James                          

         X's and Oh's Designs

MM: Give us some backstory on how you became a cross stitch designer?

I always say it was my husband's fault, LOL.  I would need a
wedding sampler for friends, so I'd take some flowers from this design, a hummingbird from that one and lettering from a third design, and put them together to make my sampler.  He kept saying "why don't you just design your own?".  So I sat down to make a list of design ideas (to prove I couldn't do it)... but when the list got to about 3 pages long I decided maybe he was right, and I began working on my own designs.  Funnily enough, hardly any of those first 3 pages of ideas have ever been turned into designs - and after 20+ years, we now have well over 300 published designs!

When we started there weren't all the wonderful design programs for the computer that we have now - we drew our charts by hand on huge sheets of graph paper (large enough to read easily) then copied and reduced them to put them into charts!  It might take 6 months to create a small 8x10 design... now I'm releasing at MINIMUM of 24 designs a year, not including the work I do with magazines!

MM: How did you become a designer for X's and Oh's?

X's and Oh's is my own company, so I started out as the sole designer.  I now work with several designers (who publish under X's & Oh's), and I also work with a number of artists, licensing their work and converting it to cross-stitch!  We came up with the name by saying "you make the X's and wait for the OHHHH's".  I also designed my logo... I scribbled a drawing on a piece of paper and gave it to Bill and asked him to google something like that.  He looked at the paper and handed it back to me and said "What about this?", LOL.  I cleaned it up a bit, and our little girl stitching an x's & oh's game has been with us ever since.

The only problem we have is in England, as they say "knot's and crosses", so they don't get it, LOL. 

MM: What is the most complicated piece you have designed?
Until recently I would have said it was the first conversion I did for James Lorimer Keirstead (Keirstead Mill)... 

but I am now working with Catherine Simpson, and her artwork is soooo detailed, it takes longer to convert than it does to stitch!  So my new 'most complicated' is "BEST FRIENDS", .  

MM: What is the easiest design you have done?
Hmmmm, that might be harder to decide... I like sayings - I collect them, and they often find their way in to designs.  Since the saying itself often inspires the rest of the design, they are usually pretty easy to create... Of course size and detail make a difference as well... I guess I would say a little shamrock design I did as a Little Leaflet (the design fits inside a 5x7 frame).  It only has 4-5 colors, so worked up very quickly...  

MM: If you could sit down with three other designers. Who would they be and what would you ask them?

I have been lucky enough to meet some wonderful designers at different needlework events I've attended in the past.  I still remember meeting Teresa Wentzler for the first time, when I hadn't been designing very long.  She said "Oh, I like your stuff!", and I went around for the next week saying "TW knows who I am!", ROFLOL.  Jeanette Douglas is another designer friend whose work I admire, as I don't do much in the way of samplers myself, but her's are gorgeous and would tempt me to stitch one

Of designers I haven't had a chance to sit down with, I think someone outside my own field, like Alyssa Anda, whose needlepoint deers I recently saw on a website - she takes taxidermy molds and covers them with needlepoint, then finishes them with actual antlers, so they're life sized!  I would want to ask her what gave her such an outside-the-box idea, I love it, LOL.

#2 would be a designer whose work I have always admired for it's grace and beauty, and that is Marilyn Leavitt Imblum.  Her lovely ladies have been around for years, and I never got a chance to meet her before she passed away.  I would ask if I could see her artwork for the pieces!

#3 Finally Sue Hillis, who I have actually 'spoken to' on-line, but never met in person... I love Sue's designs, they are usually bright and funny, and I just think it would a blast to sit and swap ideas.  I can honestly say Sue is one of the few designer's who makes me say "oh, I wish I'd thought of that!" .

MM: Is there a family member who has passed on that you wish could see your designs?

My mom was raised by a great aunt and uncle, who have always been like my grandparents.  My uncle died just before our second daughter was born, so he was gone before I ever decided to start my own company.  I think he would have enjoyed seeing the work I do... and I'm also sorry he never got to meet our youngest DD.

MM: Who would you like to thank for their help and always being there for you?

Huge kudos to my DH, Bill, who has been soooo supportive over the years.  After many years of working my business evenings and weekends, taking the plunge into designing full-time was a risky move... and not something that would ever have supported the family (very few needlework designers do this full-time, most have a 'day job' to pay the bills) ... but when I was laid off from a job I didn't really like anyway, he told me "you wouldn't quit to do this, but you're free now, so try", and so I did, and have been ever since ... I told you it was all his fault, right?

MM: What are you looking forward to in 2016?

Sooo many new designs to work on!  I have some stunning artwork sitting on my desk calling my name... and I recently became intrigued with designing some miniatures, so we'll so how that goes! And we're also hoping to get in a trip to Alaska...

MM: Do you have a favorite quote?

I LOVE quotes!  I do 2 newsletters every month (one for shops and one for stitchers), and as part of that I pick a theme and share a handful of quotes - usually funny, but not always.  Not sure I could pick just one... but if anyone wants some people to search for quotes you'll love, you can't fail with Eleanor Roosevelt, Mark Twain, Albert Enstein, and Maxine, LOL. 

OK, my new favorite for this month is a Maxine... "I'm learning Spanish... I started with burrito, and I'm up to Tequila, OLE!", ROFLOL.

MM: Now for some fun get-to-know-you questions.

What is your favorite song, oh, another hard choice... but ONE of my favorite's is "What if God's blessings come thru raindrops" by Laura Story.
movie, OK, I also LOVE BAD movies, LOL.  But my favorite is actually pretty good - my DH made me a CD of really bad zombie movies as a joke gift, but one of them was so good we've watched it several times - it's an absolute hoot, called COCKNEY'S VS ZOMBIES.  Second favorite would be a little known comedy called NOISES OFF, which has sooo many stars in it, you'll wonder why you never heard of it!  The first time we watched it my DH fell off the couch laughing, .  Of course, a bottle of wine while watching is a big help too .
shows to binge watch, Actually, we just watched a whole season of ONCE UPON A TIME, getting ready for the new season to start, LOL.  I also love WALKING DEAD, though Bill DN care for that type of show, so that one is my private vice!
meal, mmmm... homemade lasagna - I make my own noodles, sooo good!
dessert, I have a weakness for butter tarts (shhh, even talking about them makes my hips swell)...
place to vacation We head for Florida a couple times a year, as we have a timeshare down there... but our favorite vacation was one of our trips to Spain... I have an aunt who lives there, and the first night we arrived she took us in to Alicante, and we walked along the beach boardwalk until we found a little cafe they like, and we were sitting outside about 9 at night, drinking wine and eating little snacks, watching the full moon on the mediterranean beside us, and I said "OK, that's it, I'm staying here!"  Unfortunately I did have to come home eventually, LOL.
and way to unwind? I am an avid reader (Bill built me a 2-storey library that is stunning - did I mention he's definitely a keeper?) ... and I also like to write, though I haven't done as much of that lately as I would like. 

When our girls were younger there weren't all the wonderful fantasy books for teens that there are now, so I wrote them a series of books with a girl as the hero (also not a big thing back then), who had to rescue her brother from a wicked sorcerer.  The girls loaned them to all their friends, and I had all of them write reviews, LOL, so the front of the books now have real reviews and everything.  My DH is always after me to send them to a publisher, but somehow I just never got around to doing that... though you can read the first chapters and purchase a PDF copy on my website.  Maybe writing will become my 'retirement' job, as I'm not getting any younger .

Lastly, tell us why X's and Oh's is special to you?

Well, I am X's & Oh's, and X's & Oh's is me... it has allowed me share my creativity with the world, and I am lucky enough to have a following of stitcher's who enjoy my vision of life and the world around me.  I love to hear how one of my designs has touched someone, and hope to continue to share my talents with stitchers for many more years.

Thank you very much.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

An Interview with Leslie Budewitz

By Pamela James

MM2: Leslie, give us the backstory on why and how your writing career began?

I started writing at 4, on my father’s desk. Literally -- I did not yet grasp the concept of paper. Fortunately, my parents were understanding and kept me well supplied in paper, pencils, and pens. My mother, who just turned 90, still gives me pens and notebooks for Christmas. The difference is that now I have to drive her to the shop to buy them for me.

I started writing seriously about 20 years ago, and garnered lovely agents and stacks of rave rejections. I wrote 4 unsold novels, and sold half a dozen short stories to Ellery Queen, Alfred Hitchcock, and other magazines. I also consulted with writers who had questions about the law – lawyer by day, for 30+ years – and eventually wrote BOOKS, CROOKS & COUNSELORS: How to Write Accurately About Criminal Law and Courtroom
Procedure (Linden/Quill Driver 2011), winner of the 2011 Agatha Award for Best Nonfiction. In the process, I realized that as much as I love helping other writers, I was not through writing mystery. The lighter side beckoned, so I wrote a proposal for the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries, which sold to Berkley Prime Crime. DEATH AL DENTE, or murder not quite well done, came out in August 2013 and won the Agatha Award for Best First Novel. The Spice Shop Mysteries, set in Seattle, debuted this past March.

MM2: Where is your favorite place to write?

Oh, I have a lovely home office, with a guard cat.

MM2: Give us the guided tour on where you and why you love living there?

Mr. Right, Ruff the Cat, and I live on 8 wooded acres in NW Montana, outside the village that is the model for Jewel Bay, the titular Food Lovers’ Village. It’s a true community in a stunning landscape, , with lakes, rivers, mountains, and wilderness. Of course, it has its characters and its conflicts---which makes it the perfect setting for story. It’s probably my favorite of any place I’ve lived, although my college days in Seattle in the late 70s and early 80s are a close second!

MM2: Tell us about your latest book? Let's talk about your series and what comes first the setting, character or the plot?

BUTTER OFF DEAD is the third in my Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries, set in Jewel Bay, Montana, a lakeside resort community on the road to Glacier National Park, where Erin Murphy runs a local foods market in her family’s hundred-year-old grocery. It’s February, and the merchants try to heat up their chilly winter business---and create a little fun for the locals---with a new film festival. But their plans are sent reeling when a dangerous killer dims the lights on a local mover and shaker … As well, the continuing mystery of Erin’s father’s death fifteen years ago is finally solved.

I also write the Spice Shop Mysteries, set in Seattle’s famed Pike Place Market.

For both my series, the setting and the main character came first, pretty much at the same time. The plots then emerge from the characters. Plot develops when a character with a goal confronts an obstacle, multiplied by all the other characters with their goals and obstacles. What will this character do when she doesn’t get what she wants? What response do her actions trigger? And then I follow along behind them and try to write it all down!

It’s also hugely important to me that everything I write be about something, so theme is part of the story as well. Typically, the theme emerges from the protagonist, and the themes of the subplots echo that of the main plot. My first mystery writing class was with Elizabeth George, back when she taught a week-long intensive workshop at Book Passage in Corte Madera, California. I still remember the eye-opener of realizing that she did that in every book, and the fire that lit in me.

MM2: What advice do you have for writers want to write a series?

Series are so much fun to write! You can really explore relationships and themes, and develop your characters over time---much the way we get to know people off the page. Since many publishers buy the first two or three books, it’s nice to build in a story arc that will span the first two or three books; if the series continues, that arc is done, but the implications continue. You can also create a two or three book arc later, as Louise Penny has done. Plant interesting characters who can step to the fore in the future books. Create a setting that can evolve over time. And most of all, choose a protagonist who can grow emotionally and whom you like, because you’ll be spending a lot of time with her or him!

MM2: Do you re-read your favorite books?

Rarely do I re-read a complete book, but I often turn to passages for inspiration, especially when I’m stuck. Next to my desk is a shelf crammed with cozies – several dozen, at a guess, with more mysteries of all genres downstairs – and when I’m stuck, I’ll pull one down and read a few paragraphs. Something about that process triggers my brain and sends me skedaddling back to the page, even though what emerges usually has nothing to do with what I just read. It’s as though my characters say “hey, we’re at least as interesting as they are – watch us!”

I also keep a reading journal with summaries of books I’ve read and comments on what I liked and didn’t. These days, I’m focused on emotion: showing the characters’ emotional conflict and growth on the page, and with any luck, evoking similar emotions---or at the least, an understanding of them---in the readers.

MM2: Tell us about awards you have won?

I’m thrilled to be the first author to win Agatha Awards for both fiction and nonfiction – and to now share that honor with one of my idols, Hank Phillippi Ryan. The nonfiction award was a surprise, but tremendously gratifying, because it told me that I’d hit the mark and given my readers what they needed to know in a way that they could use---and enjoy. And of course, after years of writing fiction, there could be little better than the consensus of readers devoted to the traditional mystery that mine was worth celebrating.

MM2: What would your characters share about you?

She’s a bit bossy, but she lets us eat great food.

MM2: Take us thru a typical writing day?

Oh, my. I wish there were a typical day! I work hard to keep a schedule, but it’s something I still struggle with – oh, look, a piece of chocolate! I wrote my first several manuscripts on Fridays and the occasional Saturday, because I was practicing law full time and that was all the time I had. Now it’s reversed—I practice part-time and write every day, except Sundays – and even then, when I’m on a deadline. It’s a little crazy, and totally wonderful.

MM2: What has writing taught you about life? What has life taught you about writing?

I’m a happier, healthier person because I spend a good chunk of my life with people who only exist because I made them up. Make of that what you will!

MM2: Do you have a character who is difficult?

They wouldn’t dare be difficult. They know I kill people for a living.

MM2: What do you want the reader to walk away with when they finish reading your book/s?

First, they’re mysteries, so I want the reader to say “I never saw the resolution coming, but I should have.” Then I want them to wonder when the next book will be out! Seriously, I hope my readers feel the time spent with me was well worth it---that they were drawn into the story and into the characters’ lives. I hope they feel like they’ve been to Montana or Seattle with me, and that the underlying themes of the story satisfied them – a good story needs to be about something. And it’s nice if they want to try a recipe or two---Mr. Right and I work hard on those!

MM2: As an author...what do you want to be remembered for? As a person what do you want to be remembered for?

Joseph Campbell said “Never underestimate the value to the Universe of the fully realized life.” I hope it can be said of me that I lived a fully realized life, pursuing my passions and fulfilling my potential, while treating people kindly and enjoying the wonder of the world around us.

MM2: Okay for fun questions. What is your favorite meal, dessert, vacation spot, movie/s, song, childhood memory, television series and is there someplace you have always wanted to vacation?

Depends when you ask! I adore breakfast, especially big fluffy omelets filled with veggies and a side of potatoes, and served with too much coffee. And I love dessert! The cinnamon-orange crème brulee in my next Spice Shop Mystery, GUILTY AS CINNAMON,
is a favorite, as are the simple classic French chocolate mousse – the recipe is in CRIME RIB, my second Food Lovers’ Village Mystery, and
nearly any kind of cheesecake. Lately, I’ve been gorging on Oregon Hazelnut & Salted Caramel ice cream with the chocolate-Cabernet sauce from BUTTER OFF DEAD.

Mr. Right and I spent a month in France a few years ago, and we’re itching to go back. I’d also like to ride a barge or a small cruise ship up Alaska’s Inside Passage.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

An Interview with Kari Lee Townsend


By Pamela James

MM2: Kari Lee, let's begin with your backstory on how you became an author?

I wrote for 16 years before I got published. It took forever to find an agent, but once I did (Christine Witthohn of Book Cents Literary Agency aka the only agent I will ever have), even then it took 4 years for her to sell me. Once she did, she landed me two 3-book deals within 6 months of each other. That was one of the happiest years of my life ;)

MM2: Take us thru a typical writing day?

I am a mom of 4 (3 boys and 1 darling diva), so there is nothing typical about my days, haha. But seriously, now that they are older, I get them off to school and sit down to write (although 1 is in college, except in the summer which is crazy, and 1 is headed there next year). Usually I write from 9 to 11, take a break for lunch, and then write from 12 to 2. I check email and social media before and after, then it's all mom/wife mode in the evenings and on the weekends. Taxi, maid, cook, accountant, get the picture. I've been with my husband since I was 18 and married for 26 years now, so something's working ;)

MM2: What comes first, plot, setting or character?

Usually for me I think of a plot and then come up with great characters and vivid, unique settings. But I also write a lot of series, so then the characters and settings are all set, and I just have to come up with a new plot. I also write in several genres: teen superheroes, romance, women's fiction, and mysteries.

MM2: Of all the books you have written. What secondary character has the most character?

Gotta be Granny Gert from my Fortune Teller Mysteries (now the Sunny Meadows Mysteries)! My grandmother Gertrude passed away years ago but she was such a character, I just had to immortalize her. The snow white hair from Scarlet fever, the snappy brown eyes, the ancient apron made out of flour sacks, the pumpkin cookie jar with foil covered plate for a lid, and the hoarding money were all hers. I think the more "real" a character is, the better they come across. And it's just plain fun to do that to a friend or family member you care about. Maybe someday someone will immortalize me.

MM2: Do you reread you favorite books? Is there an up and coming author you think we ought to watch for their book?

I have always loved Janet Evanovich for mysteries, but lately I have been reading Jojo Moyes and Kristin Hannah for women's fiction. Love their work.

MM2: What advice from either book, author or other person has helped you the most in your career?

Nora Roberts! She once said she was working on her POS instead of her WIP. It means pile of s**t instead of her work in progress. She doesn't believe in writer's block. Just keep writing even if it's nothing but s**t. You have to have something down to revise and eventually something good will come out. I agree with that completely. Authors don't have time for writer's block with deadlines looming. We just have to keep plugging away. I find that if I'm stuck, I get up and do something else like dishes or laundry or whatever. It distracts the brain, and before I know it, I think of the perfect solution to my problem and race back to my laptop.

MM2: Let's talk about your series and your new book?

My series was called the Fortune Teller Mysteries but is now called the Sunny Meadows Mysteries. My newest book is called Perish in the Palm and is book number 4. The series is about a psychic fortune teller who leaves the Big Apple to start over in a small, old-fashioned, central New York town called Divinity. The chief of police and the mayor love her and ask her to be a consultant in solving their crimes, but the head detective is a non-believer and not a fan, until sparks fly between them and turn both their lives upside down. Throw in an ancient Victorian house, an immortal cat, a crazy granny, and interfering parents for a series that's a whole lot of fun.

MM2: Give us a little insight into your personal life?

Mom of 4, married for 26 years, been with husband since 18, masters in English education, lover of country music yet likes rock and roll, biker babe, likes tattoos but has none (yet), critique partner is best friend of 20 years and has the same agent, terrified of mice, adrenaline junkie, is the first to try any crazy extreme sport, super competitive, and shockingly shy until she gets to know someone.

MM2: What do you want your readers to take away from your books?

No matter what genre I write, you will always get my sense of humor, a few surprises along the way, some great sexual tension, and a bit of emotion. As authors we grow and develop and get better (hopefully), but I have learned to accept that every book I have ever written was the best book I could write at that time. I am very proud of everything I have ever written and only hope to entertain my readers along the way.

MM2: Now for some nosey-fun questions? What are your favorite movies, meals, place to vacation, book groups, places to visit, tell us about your favorite reasons for where you live and some of your favorite authors who have passed on?

I love romantic comedies, I love Italian and Mexican food, I love Hawaii and Alaska to visit, mystery and women's fiction book clubs are awesome, and I love where I live (central NY) because we get the four seasons and pretty much anything you would want to do entertainment wise. As far as visiting someplace, I truly think the ocean (no matter where you go but the outer banks rock, just sayin') and there are too many authors who have passed away to try to pay tribute to. Reading in general rocks, and I couldn't imagine a world where books weren't available. I love a book I can hold in my hand, but I also know I need to grow with the times and I have embraced my e reader like there's no tomorrow. And...I never thought I would admit this, but reading on a phone or iPod is much easier than I would have ever thought. I just pick up where I leave off on my tablet when I'm stuck somewhere and have nothing but my phone. You would be amazed at how quickly you adapt. Scary but true!

MM2: What would your characters tell us about you?

That I am funny and sweet and do way too much for people and can't say no to anything. I love to laugh and live for my hubby and kids. I am also shy at first, but then all bets are off once I get to know you. I am outgoing and probably talk way too much, but you will never see me without a smile on my face.
MM2: If you have pets what would they tell us about you?

I don't have pets probably because I have 4 kids (aka animals) at home. I write about a cat in one series but love dogs too. I really love horses but admit I'm a bit afraid of them. 

MM2: In your own series what comes next in your career?

I will write one short and two more fulls in the Fortune Teller/Sunny Meadows Mystery Series. And then I might write more in my Peril for your Thoughts (A Mind Reader Mystery) series. Or more in the Kicking the Habit (A Sister Mary Sleuth Mystery) series. And I have my women's fiction and romance and teen superhero series as well. Too many story ideas and not enough time. I have big plans. Just have to find the time to finish them all.

MM2: What would you like us to know about the relationship between author and reader?

My books are pretty much me. My personality shines through plain as day, so if you like my books, you're gonna love me. I also am a huge people pleaser. I love to hear from my readers and really take what they say to heart, so please email me and let me know what you think.

MM2: Do you attend conventions and give us a humorous story from a book signing, convention or just about adding humor to your books?

I attend all sorts of conferences and conventions. There are too many stories to tell. Let me just say there hasn't been a single event I've attended where something funny hasn't happened to me or to someone close to me. I like to have fun and let loose and network, so never be afraid to introduce yourself to me. You never know, we just might be having a drink at the bar by the end of the night ;)

Lastly, leave us with a writing quote made by you?
Kari Lee, thank you for the interview.

You're very welcome. Thank you for having me. All I have to say is Never give up and always have another idea ready in case they say, 'I love her voice, but what else does she have?' You always want to have something else ready to go.

Review - A Deceptive Homecoming

(A Hattie Davish Mystery) Series mystery
Large print -library book

Hattie Davish is a traveling secretary. She works for celebrities and has helped the police solve a murder or two but when she gets the message that her friend Virginia Hayward's father has passed away. She returns to her hometown because she thinks her friend needs her to be there.
Hattie travels halfway across the country to be there. When Virginia sees Hattie she is the ice queen and will not open up to Hattie, what's more she doesn't want anything to do with her.
Soon other matters develop as Mrs. Chaplin's School for Women not only would like her to give a talk but she finds out that not only secrets abound, but theft, murder much more.

Hattie is fighting her own demons as she discovers that the body in the casket may or may not be Frank Hayward, and indeed Hattie finds that a woman is looking for her husband. When shown the photo the man looks amazingly like Frank Hayward.
The plot thickens so do Hattie's demons as they visit the state Lunatic Asylum. This is where Hattie's own father died years ago and as time goes by it is apparent that someone wants Hattie to go home.
Trying to find out the truth behind the secrets and cover up Hattie has to deal with the letters that arrive each with no name but the message is clear.
Then her boss wants her to do a writing assignment before she can return home. Nothing is what it seems and in St. Joseph, Missouri Hattie will do her best to help the school, the widow of a dead man, Mrs. Chaplin, to find out what really happened to her father, who is the real body in the coffin. All while trying to save her sanity and her life.

I must say that this December/ Jan will be very hard to narrow down what top authors and their books I have enjoyed this year.
ANNA LOAN-WILSEY, is an author whose books I will devour and enjoy every crumb of the page turners she writes. Truly a great historical crime writer.
Pamela James

Review: Deadly Solution by Keenan Powell

Maeve Malloy is a lawyer who has had struggles with drinking, done a stint in rehab and trying to prove herself again as a lawyer.  She is...