Snoop, Student, Writer

I’ve had friends ask, after read­ing one of my books, “Where do you get your ideas?” My hus­band asks, “How do you think all that up?” I’m quite sure every writer gets the same ques­tions. And, like me, the answer might be some­thing like, “I’m not exact­ly sure,” or pos­si­bly, “Or, here and there.”

writing SnoopyThe true answer is com­pli­cat­ed. It’s a bit like the way I fol­low a recipe when I’m cook­ing. Love the pic­ture that goes with it. Beau­ti­ful. The ingre­di­ents? Oh, sure. Except, I don’t have all of them. In fact, even if I do have an item, I real­ly pre­fer anoth­er. I’ll trade off Worster­shire sauce for soy sauce every time. Let’s see, unsalt­ed but­ter? Heck, I have salt­ed. No prob­lem. Broc­coli is just as green as green beans. Recipe calls for veal, but I hap­pen to have pork. Oops, that item is one hus­band does­n’t like—I’ll skip that. I think I’ll serve the dish with noo­dles instead of rice.

You get the idea, right?

Now, how about the title of this piece. Yes, it also explains at least one writer’s sys­tem (mine). Maybe snoop is a bit extreme. Let’s say, I dis­cov­er some­thing that appeals to me. For instance, my YA Cher­ish, began with a road sign. “Sandy Bot­tom Road.” That book def­i­nite­ly used my recipe-fol­low­ing sys­tem. I’d dis­card­ed the man­u­script years before, but I start­ed with that and sub­sti­tut­ed. A skele­ton became a ghost. The girls switched boyfriends. I changed names, dipped into a vari­ety of view­points. I added real his­to­ry to alter the sto­ry. And, I def­i­nite­ly updat­ed my teens into twen­ty-first cen­tu­ry kids. Those last two required the stu­dent mode with infor­ma­tion and assis­tance from the inter­net and advice from teens.

Okay, maybe that’s not illus­trat­ing the snoop-stu­dent mode of a writer. Snoop: Scan news­pa­pers for some­thing new I can incor­po­rate into a mys­tery. How about the item about a sev­en-year-old girl who takes fan­tas­tic pho­tographs? Check. Now, here’s an item about Workam­pers, or peo­ple who live in their RV campers but trav­el around tak­ing short term jobs to sup­port them­selves. They stop to work for a sea­son at theme parks or a few weeks at local cel­e­bra­tions. Check. How about those books I’ve gath­ered dur­ing our sail­ing years at small Chesa­peake Bay towns—books about local his­to­ry, many men­tion­ing the War of 1812? Check. Okay, now for the study. Read and com­pare those local his­to­ries. Check it out on the inter­net. Study reen­act­ments, his­toric fig­ures’ lives, maps for place­ment of my fic­tion­al town. That’s the tem­plate for my upcom­ing mys­tery, For­got­ten Body, now await­ing one final run-through, for­mat­ting, and cover.

But I do have a still bet­ter exam­ple of the stu­dent mode for an author. I’m now work­ing on a short sto­ry that may turn into a novel­la. I’m plan­ning to make it per­mafree to inter­est peo­ple in my mys­ter­ies. It’s got­ta be good for that. And, I’m strug­gling. But, I’ve found help by read­ing the writ­ing blogs, newslet­ters, books, and mag­a­zines I’ll nev­er aban­don. That’s because, invari­ably, a phrase or sen­tence will spark an idea. Most recent­ly it was part of a sen­tence in R.A. McCormick­’s arti­cle in the Sis­ters in Crime Gup­py chap­ter newslet­ter, First Draft. Quote, “sur­prise as the sto­ry goes in a direc­tion that read­ers don’t expect.” It’s not new infor­ma­tion to me, but those words remind­ed me—“Hey, that’s what I need!” The oth­er man­u­script help was a guest appear­ance by anoth­er Gup­py, Kaye George, on B.K. Stevens’ blog, The First Two Pages. Yep, after read­ing Kaye’s clear show and tell of the way she added each ele­ment, I knew what I had to do. Ramp up my begin­ning as well as sur­prise the reader.

So, next time some­one asks me where I get my ideas, what will I answer? “You see, there’s a talk­ing bird—not a par­rot, I’ll have to look that up, and one of those mini-hous­es I’ve read about that is cramped with one per­son, but I’m putting two in there. And there’s this guy who faked his death and will come back to upset the lady who thought she was a wid­ow about the time she’s get­ting seri­ous about some­one else.” Will that be my answer?

More like­ly, I’ll reply, “Oh, here and there.”

As a read­er, I’d prob­a­bly love to hear more. But, as a writer, do I want to rat­tle on and bore my read­er even before the book is out? Hope. How about you?

A New Review For YESTERDAY’S BODY

Okay, I got­ta crow!

It’s mighty rare when one’s work is rec­og­nized so beau­ti­ful­ly, and on the same day when I want to remind read­ers that my Goodreads give­away is wind­ing down.

Here’s the full review:

Yesterday's BodyTitle: Yes­ter­day’s Body
Author: Nor­ma Huss
Pub­lish­er: Sun­set Cloud Mystery
ISBN: 13: 978–1466449350
Genre: Mystery

The next time you see an old­er woman who looks like she lives on the streets, remem­ber to be nice, she might just be more than she seems. She could be ama­teur sleuth, Jo Durbin, and, if you’ve done any­thing bad, she might be look­ing for you.

Tal­ent­ed author Nor­ma Huss has craft­ed a fun read that offers a dif­fer­ent kind of sleuth with a very dif­fer­ent back­ground. Life on the streets is a hard way to live and any read­er will def­i­nite­ly won­der how such a per­son, par­tic­u­lar­ly a woman, could have the ener­gy and ambi­tion to inves­ti­gate mur­ders or oth­er crimes.

Join Jo, and her some­time side­kick Sylvie who is also her sis­ter, in track­ing down a killer after she dis­cov­ers a body in a clos­et with the help of her cat, Clyde, who isn’t all there.

I’m pleased to rec­om­mend Yes­ter­day’s Body as a sto­ry any mys­tery fan will enjoy. The char­ac­ters’ var­ied back­grounds blend into a sto­ry you won’t want to put down until you find out who the killer is and why they kill. You’ll enjoy meet­ing the real­is­tic char­ac­ters as they cross paths with Jo and your­self. You’ll find you’ve joined Jo in her inves­ti­ga­tion with Clyde and Sylvie and their three­some has become a four­some intent on solv­ing the crimes.

Enjoy the adven­ture. I sure did.

Anne K. Edwards

Now for the Goodreads give­away information—ends April 9, 2015. Giv­ing away ten copies. Sign up here.

Next Mon­day, my five-star review (of oth­er’s books) will be back. And this Thurs­day I’ll have some­thing for both read­ers and writers.

Agatha Short Story Nominees

Agatha awards, so named for Agatha Christie of mys­tery writ­ing fame, are giv­en every year at the Mal­ice Domes­tic con­fer­ence. One award is giv­en for the top short sto­ry pub­lished the pre­vi­ous year. This year’s nom­i­nees are all win­ners, even though only one will receive the tea pot that is the cov­et­ed prize. Nom­i­nat­ed for Best Short Sto­ry are:

The Odds are Against Us” by Art Tay­lor, Ellery Queen Mys­tery Mag­a­zine, Nov. 2014
“Pre­mo­ni­tion” by Art Tay­lor, Chesa­peake Crimes Homi­ci­dal Hol­i­days (Wild­side Press)
“The Shad­ow Knows” by Barb Goff­man, Chesa­peake Crimes Homi­ci­dal Hol­i­days (Wild­side Press)
“Just Desserts for John­ny” by Edith Maxwell (Kings Riv­er Life Mag­a­zine)
“The Bless­ing Witch” by Kathy Lynn Emer­son, Best New Eng­land Crime Sto­ries 2015: Rogue Wave (Lev­el Best Books)

Those who attend Mal­ice Domes­tic this year are in for a dilem­ma. Which of these excel­lent sto­ries will they vote for? What idea sparked the sto­ry? Find that answer on the Wicked Cozy Author blog, Best Short Agatha Nom­i­nees on Ideas. The Writ­ers Who Kill blog asked each writer oth­er ques­tions. How many char­ac­ters? How should they be devel­oped? What comes first, sto­ry or theme? Their post is: An Inter­view with the 2014 Agatha Best Short Sto­ry Nom­i­nee Authors. They also have links to each story.

Wish I were going to Mal­ice Domes­tic, except, then I’d have to decide which sto­ry was best. Quite an impossibility.

(Oth­er links of inter­est are the Mal­ice Domes­tic list of ear­li­er short sto­ry win­ners and all more recent win­ners.)

 

Five Stars For LITTLE BLACK BOOK OF MURDER

Nancy Martin cover1I’ve read and thor­ough­ly enjoyed the Black­bird Sis­ters mys­ter­ies by Nan­cy Mar­tin, but this is my lat­est. (Not hers, but I’m a bit behind.) The three sis­ters make do with­out the mon­ey they grew up with (and their par­ents mis­spent before they desert­ed the crum­bling fam­i­ly home). Nora tries to keep body and soul togeth­er, save the fam­i­ly estate, and, oh, yes, not mar­ry the man she loves who just hap­pens to be a semi-reformed mob­ster. You see, there’s this thing about any man who mar­ries one of the sis­ters (there have been sev­er­al) dying a sud­den and usu­al­ly dread­ful death.

That is some­thing that runs through all the books. But the sis­ters have a lot more going on. Babies, for one. That’s one sis­ter’s specialty—she’s had many hus­bands. Mys­tery for anoth­er. A mys­tery that involves Nora more than any­one. In this book, Nora is sent by the new boss at her news­pa­per to write a pro­file on a bil­lion­aire fash­ion design­er at his new high-tech organ­ic farm. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, he is mur­dered before she can com­plete the interview.

To quote from the Goodreads descrip­tion, “If any­thing can bring the blue-blood­ed Black­bird sis­ters togeth­er, it’s a mur­der inves­ti­ga­tion involv­ing high-soci­ety events, glam­orous peo­ple, and the dis­ap­pear­ance of a genet­i­cal­ly per­fect pig that may or may not be bask­ing in the sun at Black­bird Farm. They’ll all have to pull togeth­er this time, because if Nora can’t bring home the bacon, she might have to exchange her bucol­ic estate for a cramped walk-up.”

The Black­bird Sis­ters mys­ter­ies are always great reads. I espe­cial­ly liked this one. Lots of fun and fash­ion, mys­tery and dan­ger. Nora and her sis­ters keep me enthralled!

Goodreads Giveaway-YESTERDAY’S BODY

I’m sub­sti­tut­ing a bit of news for my usu­al five-star review today. I’m run­ning a Goodreads give­away with Yes­ter­day’s Body, my first pub­lished mys­tery. The event runs from March 17, through April 9, and I’m giv­ing away ten copies. Goodreads give­away link here.

For a brief descrip­tion: Jo Durbin isn’t under 40 or anorex­ic slim. Her face would­n’t launch a thou­sand ships or even a row­boat. She won­ders, how did she get the job with those beau­ti­ful peo­ple? And, will the police find her fin­ger­prints on the mur­der weapon? Did one of those beau­ti­ful peo­ple she works with kill Francine? Or, will they point to Jo?

Hard to explain that she’s only try­ing to revi­tal­ize a career gone south. Her plan—write a best-sell­er as a bag lady liv­ing on the street. Invent an imag­i­nary cat to fur­ther her image. Col­lect keys that let her into unused stor­age and vacant homes. Get accept­ed by the street peo­ple. Befriend the guy who wants to “save” them all. It seems pos­si­ble. Ignore the carp­ing sis­ter who “knows bet­ter”? That one’s tricky. Elude the killer long enough to solve the crime? You know that’s the killer question.
“I very much like your voice. You project just the tone and atti­tude I love to read.” Chris Roer­den, Author of Agatha Award-win­ning DON’T MURDER YOUR MYSTERY.
The first edi­tion e‑book was a 2011 EPIC final­ist for mystery/suspense.
The sequel, For­got­ten Body, will be pub­lished lat­er this year.

Five Star Read — EVANS ABOVE

This is the first of the series, and the first of Rhys Bowen’s three series. I dis­cov­ered her third series first, then the sec­ond, and now while I’m try­ing to col­lect all the books in the sec­ond, I decid­ed to try the first. Did not know what to expect with a male pro­tag­o­nist, a vil­lage con­sta­ble in Wales. I must say, from my read­ing of the first book, that this series is just as delight­ful (not a term usu­al­ly asso­ci­at­ed with male cops) as the oth­er two. In this book read­ers are right there in Wales, along with all the frus­tra­tions, the odd goings on, and the vari­ety of char­ac­ters. Add to that a puz­zling plot and a wind-up that pulls an amaz­ing host of events together.

Evans aboveI’d like to quote from the pub­lish­er’s descrip­tion — Evan Evans, a young police con­sta­ble, has trad­ed city life for that of Llan­fair — an idyl­lic Welsh vil­lage. Nestling in the Snow­do­nia moun­tain range, Llan­fair looks to Evans like a town for­got­ten by time, but he quick­ly learns that even the bucol­ic coun­try­side has its share of eccen­tric — and dead­ly — char­ac­ters. Evan­s’s new neigh­bors include two com­pet­i­tive min­is­ters vying for the souls of their flock, one las­civ­i­ous bar­maid, and three oth­er Evans­es: Evans-the-Meat; Evans-the-Milk and Evans-the-Post (whose favorite hob­by is to read the mail before he deliv­ers it).

Before Evans has time to sort through the com­pli­cat­ed rela­tion­ships and rival­ries of his new home, he’s called to the scene of a crime as bru­tal and fear­some as any he encoun­tered in the big city. Two hik­ers have been mur­dered on the trails of the local moun­tain, and Evans must hunt down a vicious killer — who may or may not be linked to the mys­te­ri­ous destruc­tion of Mrs. Pow­ell-Jones’ prize-win­ning tomatoes.

Most of this series is avail­able as e‑books only. I’ve got­ten them as used books through the resellers on Ama­zon since my hus­band enjoys them too, and he has­n’t con­vert­ed to e‑book read­ing. I do wish they were more wide­ly available.

Since I men­tioned the rar­i­ty of books pub­lished even as late as 2005, I won­der, do you have a favorite series that is out of print?

 

Craft Blog Visit

I’m vis­it­ing Killer Crafts and Crafty Killers blog today with a repeat post 3-2-15 786px-Quilt_barn_stock_tp_harrison_co_Ohioabout barn quilts. How do you like the new barn pic­ture she found to show? See the whole sto­ry here.

My ebook, A Knuck­le­head in 1920s Alas­ka is still free through March 2, 2015. It is avail­able for Kin­dle at Amazon.

Fol­low the dai­ly posts at Killer Crafts and Crafty Killers. Thurs­day, on my blog, look for a writ­ing hint I dis­cov­ered a cou­ple of days ago, quite dis­prov­ing that say­ing, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”

Free e‑book—A KNUCKLEHEAD IN 1920s ALASKA

A Knucklehead in 1920s AlaskaEvery Thurs­day I post some­thing I find inter­est­ing, hop­ing you will too. So, today’s inter­est­ing bit is about tomorrow—which is when one of my e‑books goes free for five days.

File it under both his­to­ry and mys­tery. The his­to­ry part is easy. The book is one I wrote with my father from audio tapes he gave me quite a few years ago about going to Alas­ka to earn col­lege mon­ey.  He was nine­teen, a hot-head­ed kid who did­n’t want to take any guff. Of course, guff is often what one gets from an employ­er, so he had a lot of dif­fer­ent jobs. He failed to blow him­self up car­ry­ing dyna­mite. He failed to drown when he and a horse end­ed up under the ice in a near-freez­ing riv­er. He even man­aged to sur­vive danc­ing with what they referred to as “a woman on the line” when her boyfriend showed up. In fact, after I heard my father’s adven­tures, I real­ized that it’s a mar­vel I was ever born. That’s the his­to­ry part.

The mys­tery part is at the tail end of this book, sort of a Thank You for reading—a reprint of my first short mys­tery, “Yes­ter­day’s News” pub­lished in Future’s Mys­te­ri­ous Mys­tery Mag­a­zine sev­er­al years ago.

A Knuck­le­head in 1920s Alas­ka e‑book is avail­able for Kin­dle. The free dates are Feb­ru­ary 27 through March 3, 2015. Do read and enjoy!

Mon­day, I’ll be back here, but I’ll be vis­it­ing Killer Crafts and Crafty Killers too.

Agatha Nominee-WRITES OF PASSAGE

WRITES OF PASSAGE frontMy five-star pick this week was nom­i­nat­ed in the non-fic­tion cat­e­go­ry and includes essays from 59 Sis­ters in Crime mem­bers (I’m one of them). Hank Phillip­pi Ryan edit­ed Writes of Pas­sage and is the author of a mys­tery also up for an Agatha. Pub­lish­er. Hen­ery Press, is a hot-bed of Agatha win­ners and nom­i­nees. With a line-up like that, how can this book miss?

Read­ers agree. This is one review on Ama­zon. 

“I pur­chased this book to sup­port Sis­ters in Crime. What the heck, I thought. I can read a sto­ry a day with my tea in the morn­ing. Then I can read my “oth­er book” lat­er in the day. Except I did­n’t. I found myself read­ing four or five sto­ries in the morn­ing (each one is about 2 pages), and then pick­ing it back up lat­er in the day. So much for my “oth­er book!”
“If you’re a begin­ning, estab­lished or emerg­ing writer, or sim­ply inter­est­ed in the writ­ing jour­ney, there’s some­thing in Writes of Pas­sage for you. Many some­things. Encour­age­ment, pas­sion, truth, advice, humor and angst resolved.
“I won’t pick my favorite sto­ries here — could­n’t if I tried. But I will give a major kudos call­out to Hank Phillip­pi Ryan’s exem­plary job of edit­ing. This could have been just a bunch of sto­ries. Instead it’s a cohe­sive blend of many voic­es, com­ing togeth­er as one.”
For two months, Sis­ters in Crime post­ed a clip from each author. This one was from my con­tri­bu­tion called: The Gup­py Con­nec­tion. “I’m a Gup­py who is still learn­ing, but also offer­ing any help I can to my favorite group.” (That’s the Gup­py chapter—originally named for the Great UnPub­lished, but now, many con­sid­er them­selves the Great Under Pub­lished, as many have gone on to pub­lish­ing even mul­ti­ple mys­tery series.)

Five Stars for MAIDS OF MISFORTUNE

My five-star pick this week com­bines two of my loves—mystery and his­toric fic­tion. Maids of Mis­for­tune takes place in 1879 San Fran­cis­co. A young wid­ow sup­ports her­self as board­ing house own­er Annie Fuller, and, in dis­guise, as psy­chic Sibyl who gives per­son­al and finan­cial advice to clients. As a woman, she knows that no one would ever accept such advice from her, but they will accept it as com­ing from the stars. When one of her clients dies, sup­pos­ed­ly by sui­cide, she knows his finances weren’t in the sham­bles the police claim. When the police real­ize it was mur­der, they look to his fam­i­ly. Annie pos­es as a serv­ing girl for the fam­i­ly to find the truth.

The author, M. Louisa Locke, seam­less­ly puts the read­er square­ly in that time and place. While we are engrossed in the plot we notice the work involved to keep up a house, the atti­tudes of every­one toward a Chi­nese cook, Annie’s belat­ed real­iza­tion of what her laun­dry girl does, and the prob­lems of trav­el and com­mu­ni­ca­tion in an ear­li­er age.

Maids of Mis­for­tune is the first of a series (the ebook is now free). There are sev­er­al short sto­ries as well. The fourth full-length mys­tery in the series will be out this month.

Of inter­est to the writ­ers among my read­ers, M. Louisa Locke’s blog shares her ongo­ing mar­ket­ing plans for an inde­pen­dent writer. (Next week I’ll revis­it the upcom­ing Agatha awards with anoth­er good read.)