Early spring you say?

A month ago, a certain rodent up in Punxsutawney predicted an early spring. Many people rejoiced.

Then, it seemed like said rodent might have been right. The sun was shining. The birds were singing. I’ve even seen people post pictures of flowers growing.

And then, this morning, this happened.

From the front porch
Out the back door

I’m not sure about the rest of you, but this doesn’t look like an “early spring” to me. This looks like an April Fool’s joke a month early.

I’m going back to bed.

What about you, readers? What does this so-called “early spring” look like in your part of the world?

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A fireside chat with Lissa Redmond

I first became aware of Lissa Redmond when my dad sent me a text: “Do you know this author? She’s from Buffalo.” Lissa previously worked in the Cold Case unit of the Buffalo Police Department. We connected over social media (I’m originally from Hamburg, a suburb of Buffalo). We met at Bouchercon (I think) last year and hit it off.

But here’s the “wow, it really IS a small world” thing. A few weeks ago, I got a private message from her on Facebook. “I didn’t know you were from Hamburg!” Turns out, we went to the same high school – a few years apart (I think we figured out she was a senior when I was a sophomore), but we did in fact know a couple of the same people.

Buffalo is not a mid-sized city, it is a large room.

I read Lissa’s first book, A Cold Day in Hell, and when her publicist contacted me about an interview, I jumped. So let’s get to know Lissa!

Tell us about your main character.

Lauren Riley, personality wise, is almost the complete opposite of me. Even though we share a couple things in common—daughters, love of coffee, and being a cold case homicide detective—she definitely has a worse track record with men, is much more shy, and a lot tougher than me. She tries to get by without having to depend on anyone, not realizing how much balance her partner, Shane Reese, brings to her life. Now that her daughters are both away at college, she’s throwing herself into her work. Whether she attracts trouble, or working cold cases does, she and Reese always seem to find themselves up to their necks in danger.

Tell us a bit about your new book.

The Murder Book picks up the story about a year after A Cold Day in Hell ends. Lauren and Reese have had a long day at work. It’s late on a Friday night and Reese packs up and leaves while Lauren is finishing up some paperwork. Hearing the door open while she’s typing, Lauren thinks it’s Reese. She’s viciously attacked from behind, stabbed and left for dead. Before passing out she sees a pair of city-issue police boots and the person wearing them carrying out her Murder Book, which is the handwritten log of all the city’s cold cases. Reese returns for his hat just in time to save her life. Together, they have to work backwards to unravel the crime before the would-be killer finishes what he started.

How did you get started writing?

I think a lot of people assume I’m a cop who became a writer, but in reality, I was a writer who became a cop. I can’t remember a time in my life where I didn’t want to become a writer. After I got on the job in 1993, I still managed to squeeze in a page here and a paragraph there. It wasn’t until I retired in 2015 that I was able to devote the time to polish up the manuscript I’d literally been working on for years. I think the key is to never give up on your dreams and never stop trying to hone your craft.

What is your favorite/least favorite thing about the writing process?

I hate editing. Mostly because I have a comma problem. Sometimes I throw in too many, other times I’ll see my page is completely devoid of them. Between you and me, I sneak into my fifteen-year-old daughter’s bedroom and pull out her punctuation and grammar book when no one’s looking.

What’s next for you?

I just finished writing a standalone with new characters and a unique setting, dealing with undercover work. I really like my new protagonist, who is very different from Lauren Riley. She’s younger and still eager about police work, despite the obstacles she’s had to endure in her short career. I could see me wanting to continue her story in future books.

*****

About The Murder Book

Cold case detective Lauren Riley wakes up in the hospital certain of two things: she was stabbed and left for dead . . . and the person who did it was a cop.

After being brutally stabbed at her desk late one night, Lauren Riley works her way backwards through the haze to piece together who attacked her and why. A mysterious phone message forces her to enlist the help of a retired lieutenant to track down a witness who is desperate not to be found. As she digs into the Buffalo Police Department’s hidden past she uncovers a terrible secret, one a fellow officer would kill to protect.

*****

About Lissa

Lissa Marie Redmond was born in Buffalo and grew up in a compact little neighborhood south of the city called Woodlawn, squashed between the massive Bethlehem Steel plant and Ford Stamping plant. Growing up she rode her bike, played on the shores of Lake Erie and never dreamed she’d someday be a cop.

During her days at the University of Buffalo, Redmond took the exam to be a city of Buffalo police officer and got the job. At the age of 22, they gave her a gun, a badge, a bulletproof vest, and put her on patrol. Twenty-two years, a detective’s badge, a fellow detective husband and two kids later, she retired to pursue a “normal” life.

Instead, she decided to become a writer.

Redmond lives in Buffalo with her husband and kids, writing about the things that keep her up at night, staring at the ceiling in the dark and asking herself, “What If?” She is a proud member of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, and Murder on Ice.

‘Tis the season

One of the important facets of setting, or so say readers, is season. How many times have to read a book and felt the steam of the summer, the cool crispness of autumn, the bone-chilling cold of the winter, or the sweet breeze of spring?

The challenge for authors is that we often have to write in opposite seasons. Our schedule may say that winter book is due in the middle of summer. We may have to conjure the suffocating humidity and heat of summer when icicles are hanging off the roof.

With my upcoming Heaven Has No Rage I got lucky.

I write fast. Last winter, I was way ahead of schedule. Revisions were underway on Root of All Evil during February, so I was looking at pictures and trying to remind myself of those October days, where southwestern Pennsylvania can go from seventy to fifty in the span of twelve hours. I looked at pictures of brilliant fall foliage, remembering the rustle and scritch of fall leaves and the dry scents that hang in the air – while snow drifted silently outside my window and the thermometer taunted me with single-digit temperatures.

These are moments when imagination is very, very important.

At the same time, I was drafting Heaven. Here’s where my luck came in. Heaven is set firmly in the winter, right in the middle of those bone-chilling days. I didn’t have to imagine the cold, the way it seeps into your bones, how it looks in headlights, or the delicious warmth of a wood fire. I was living it.

Now in the normal course of events, this would mean I’d be revising in July, while sweat dripped down my back. But my luck is still in play. The manuscript is due to my publisher in February. This means I’m revising right now, while the scene outside my window looks like this:

And this:

Once again, I don’t need to imagine that chill in the air. I’m living it. And hopefully this means when you pick up the book this August, you’ll feel it too. At least, you will if I’ve done my job.

Of course, next year’s book, Broken Trust, will be back in early summer and I’ll be revising in the winter again. Better stock up on those summer photographs for reference.

Readers, do you like reading books set in opposite seasons (for example, winter books in summer)?

A few of my favorite things…

Sally: Hey there, Mysteristas! I’m Sally Castle and this is Jim Duncan. We’re the two main characters from Liz’s Laurel Highlands Mysteries series.

Jim: Uh, hi.

Sally: Liz asked us to cover for her this month. At the end of the year, she ran out of things to say-

Jim: Now there’s a shocker.

Sally: Be nice! She’s nice to us…usually. Anyway, like I said, she ran out of things to say and figured it might be a nice change of pace for the Mysteristas readers to hear from us.

Jim: Isn’t it funny how when there’s work to be done, Liz manages to slough it off on us? This isn’t the first time, you know. I had to do a, what do you call it, “guest blog” once and, wow, awkward.

Sally: That’s only because you don’t like talking about yourself. Liz is really busy. She has that day job, all the writing deadlines, social life, her family…I can see where it gets crazy. And it’s not like she’s leaving us on our own. She did leave questions. So are you ready?

Jim: Might as well get it over with.

Sally: You’re such a wet blanket, sometimes. Okay, first question. What’s your favorite thing about Christmas? I’m going to make you go first because you’re being so difficult.

Jim: Fine. Favorite thing. Actually, this is easy. I don’t have kids, but my sister, Meg, does. Zach is seven, Hannah is five. They live in Seattle, so I don’t get to see them often. However, on Christmas, Meg sets up a Skype call and the kids open their presents on the call “in front” of me, as it were. Because I tend to work the day shifts on Christmas, so family folks can be at home, this often means they have to wait to open their gifts. But they get such a kick out of it, they don’t mind. Or at least that’s what they say.

Sally: Aww, that’s so sweet! Mine is similar. I spend Christmas Day with my sister and her family. She has kids, so I take my gifts over and we have a big “present unwrapping ceremony.” Noreen (I call her Reen, from when I was little) passes out the gifts one at a time and the person unwraps. Everybody else ooo’s and aaah’s appropriately. Very solemn, but fun at the same time.

Okay, next question: favorite Christmas treat. I’ll go first because this is another easy one for me. Sugar cookies. The cut-out kind you decorate. I can always tell the ones the kids made, because they are kind of blobby with lots of frosting and sprinkles, opposed to my sister’s, which are perfectly shaped and decorated. But they all taste the same – yummy!

Jim: Another easy one – eggnog. Preferably with a splash ofTia Maria and a sprinkle of nutmeg. I’ll take one of those cookies, too.

Sally: Why am I not surprised? Okay next question, favorite Christmas song? I’m a traditionalist. I love “Carol of the Bells,” it’s just so haunting.

Jim: I bet I surprise you with this. Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas.”

Sally: You’re joking!

Jim: Nope. You absolutely cannot be in a bad mood listening to that song. I blast it while I’m decorating. Secret confession: I’ve even danced while listening.

Sally: Get out! I can’t even imagine you dancing.

Jim: See? You don’t know everything about me.

Sally: Last question, what do you want most for Christmas this year? You first.

Jim: I can’t skip this one?

Sally: Nope.

Jim: Da…rn. Well, I always want a quiet Christmas shift. It seems so wrong to be responding to domestics and breaking up fights on this day, but I do it every year. But this year, well, it would be really nice to go home to someone other than my dog after said shift. Skype calls are nice and all, but eggnog and Christmas dinner alone is getting old, if you know what I mean.

Sally: Stop looking at me like that. I’m kind of the same as you. It would be so nice not to go to work the day after Christmas to find a new pile of cases on my desk. I wish crime would take a holiday between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. And yeah, as much as I enjoy going to Reen’s, it would be nice to have a cozy meal with a special someone on Christmas Day.

Jim: Now you stop looking at me. Is it warm in here? Are we done?

Sally: With our portion, yes. So Mysteristas, what would you really like this Christmas? And Jim? Quit hogging the eggnogg.

Bookish Gratitude

I’m up in Buffalo, NY visiting family this holiday (side note: I’m writing this the week before Thanksgiving and hopefully it’s not snowing in the future). As I sit down surrounded by family, including a new nephew (whose picture I can’t share, but gosh he’s a cutie), I figure it’s a good time to reflect on things I’m thankful for. And I’m going to keep it to books and writing-related things, otherwise I’ll go on forever.

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So here’s the top 10 bookish/writerly things I’m grateful for this year:

10. A warm house full of books, so I never lack for anything to read.

9. A roaring fire to read in front of.

8. A mug of hot chocolate to enjoy while I read.

7. Wonderful friends, many of whom write wonderful books for me to read.

6. A new, cozy writing nook where I can spin my tales.

5. A fertile imagination that keeps me spinning tales.

4. The folks at Level Best Books – Harriette Sackler, Shawn Reilly Simmons, Verena Rose, and Angel Trapp – who have made my fantasy of being a published author reality by giving Jim and Sally a literary home.

3. A kick-butt critique group (Annette Dashofy, Jeff Boarts, and Tamara Girardi) who help me make the stories the best they can be.

2. The readers who have embraced Jim, Sally, and company and become as invested in their fortunes as I am.

1. A family, especially my husband, who supports my writing dreams and ambitions.

 

Readers, what are you grateful for this Thanksgiving?

Guest Post: Frankie Bailey

From Liz, on her way to Magna Cum Murder: If you are a member of Sisters in Crime, odds are you’ve heard of Frankie Bailey. A past president at the national level, she’s also a fabulous author and writer of Frankie’s List, a list of POC/LGBTQ writers published in the crime fiction world. Looking for a new author? Check the list! She’s visiting today and writing about the pleasures – and perils – authors experience when they step into the lives of their characters.

Other Lives

One of the pleasures of being a writer is that we step into the lives of our characters. We know their thoughts, feel what they feel. This intimate knowledge is also one of the perils of writing crime fiction. Even those of us who work in criminal justice-related fields find some types of crime, some offenders, some victims more than we can handle. We might prefer not to write about child victims or serial killers. We might cringe at the thought of describing domestic violence or sexual assault.

DeathsFavoriteChildcoverWhat we feel comfortable writing about reflects who we are and what we believe. But our perspectives may change over time. I don’t think of myself as a “cozy” writer because I deal with social issues that may make my readers uncomfortable. But, I’m not “hard-boiled” because I’m unlikely to write graphic descriptions of violence.  Or explicit sex (for fear of making readers laugh out loud at my efforts and/or wonder how much research I do). On the other hand, one of my favorite characters appeared in the fourth book in my Lizzie Stuart series (currently being reissued). That character – Lizzie’s long-missing mother Becca – strolled in and stole the show. She’s a femme fatale. More than one reader described her as “the mother from hell”. I knew she was out there – she had been discussed in the first three books — but I was unprepared for my own reaction to Becca. As much as I felt I should disapprove of her, I loved seeing the world from her point of view. She will return.

Now that the series is getting a re-boot, I’m looking forward to catching up with what has been going on in Lizzie’s life. Series time has passed slowly. The year of the last book was 2004. One of the other pleasures of writing other lives is having the ability to time travel.

*****

F BaileyCriminologist Frankie Bailey has five books and two published short stories in a mystery series featuring crime historian Lizzie Stuart. The Red Queen Dies, the first book in a near-future police procedural series featuring Detective Hannah McCabe, came out in September 2013.  The second book in the series, What the Fly Saw came out in March 2015. Frankie is a former executive vice president of Mystery Writers of America and a past president of Sisters in Crime.

Website URL: http://www.frankieybailey.com

Twitter:  @FrankieYBailey

Amazon: Death’s Favorite Child

https://www.amazon.com/Deaths-Favorite-Lizzie-Stuart-Mystery-ebook/dp/B078FQT4XD/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1536271507&sr=8-1&keywords=death%27s+favorite+child

Amazon: What the Fly Saw

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00MLNBJC2?keywords=what%20the%20fly%20saw&qid=1450548269&ref_=sr_1_1&s=digital-text&sr=1-1

 

Guest Post: Annette Dashofy

I am so happy to introduce friend, critique buddy, and frequent travel companion Annette Dashofy to Mysteristas. Annette is celebrating the launch of her seventh book in the three-time Agatha-nominated Zoe Chambers Mysteries sers, Cry Wolf. She’s gotten used to dealing with crowds by now, but she’s also discovered the joys, and potential pitfalls, of a certain type of crowd.

The Joys of a Hometown Crowd

CryWolf cover front REVsmallWith my seventh book now out (how did THAT happen???), I’ve become fairly accustomed to standing in front of a crowd and talking about anything book related. Sometimes the “crowd” consists of two people. Sometimes it’s a hundred or more.

The size of the audience doesn’t bother me. Much. I thought I’d overcome all my public speaking jitters. Then last week, a local restaurant and I hosted a Dinner With the Author event. By “local,” I mean four miles from home in the town where I’ve lived my entire life.

I was petrified.

Maybe “petrified” is too strong a term, but I definitely had a stream of potential disasters playing on a loop inside my head.

For example:

Let’s play Stump the Author.

I’ve done local events before and it never fails that someone from my high school days shows up, all smiles (or smirks…it depends), and expects me to know who they are. I’m really sorry, but I rarely do. We all change over the decades. Facebook has helped with photos, but I still have trouble pulling a name out of my brain when faced with someone I know I should recognize.

And let’s be honest. They have an unfair advantage because my face is on the promotional material!

Waldens dinnerThe worst of these old friends is the one who flat-out refused to tell me who he was and instead offered clues. (If you’re reading this, John, I’m pointing at you.)

It’s not just old high school friends, though. When you’ve lived in the same area for your entire life, you meet a lot of people along the way. I’ve worked on the ambulance, been involved with horses, worked retail, been a professional photographer, and taught yoga. Plus a few other jobs and careers along the way. At this particular Dinner With The Author, I encountered folks who knew me from my EMT days, a woman who had hired me to take monthly photographs of her daughter from birth to one year—a daughter who is now in her thirties, farming neighbors from over the hill who used to lease property from my grandfather, as well as an old friend from high school.

Thankfully, I had a chance to mingle and unscramble all my identity crises during dinner and before my talk.

Which leads me to my other big fear during local appearances.

Let’s play Embarrass the Author.

Also known as history hecklers. Those people who have known me for years or knew me way back when and love to pull out the mortifying little anecdotes. “Remember the time you…?”

These are the kinds of things that don’t happen in appearances farther from home. Thankfully, they don’t happen all that often close to home either. But I still live in fear of these “fun” games every time I step in front of a local crowd.

So, Mysterista friends, have you ever been placed in an embarrassing position in front of a hometown audience? Or have you ever been heckled, even if it’s all in good fun? Feel free to share! Or not.

*****

Rural Pennsylvania’s Vance Township Police Chief Pete Adams is down an officer and has been dealing with extra shifts as well as a pair of bickering neighbors, one of whom owns a machete and isn’t afraid to use it. Golden Oaks Assisted Living is outside Pete’s jurisdiction, but a murder in the facility his Alzheimer’s-afflicted father calls home makes the case personal.

Paramedic and Deputy Coroner Zoe Chambers has been itching for an opportunity to take the lead in a death investigation. She gets her chance when her boss is hospitalized and not only assigns her to the Golden Oaks homicide but puts her in charge of the county coroner’s office. As if she doesn’t have enough to handle, a long-lost, over-protective, older half-brother walks into her life threatening to drive a wedge between her and the man she loves.

A second dead body leads them to realize the case may have dark ties to a distant past…and if Zoe doesn’t untangle the web of lies, Pete will be the one to pay the ultimate price.

*****

USA Today bestselling author Annette Dashofy has spent her entire life in rural Pennsylvania surrounded by cattle and horses. When she wasn’t roaming the family’s farm or playing in the barn, she could be found reading or writing. After high school, she spent five years as an EMT on the local ambulance service, dealing with everything from drunks passing out on the sidewalk to mangled bodies in car accidents. These days, she, her husband, and their spoiled cat, Kensi, live on property that was once part of her grandfather’s dairy. Her Zoe Chambers mysteries have received three nominations for the prestigious Agatha Award. Cry Wolf (September 2018) is the seventh in the series.