Going Short

by Vinnie Hansen

Circa 1979? Golden Gate Park.

Way back, when I was in the graduate writing program at San Francisco State, I had short stories published in the campus literary magazines every semester. This instilled confidence in my writing, but also inflated my ego. I launched into the world thinking I might set the literary world on fire. Instead, after a few years, I realized I needed to eat and went back to school for a teaching credential.

While I still aspired to write books, short stories buoyed me during my teaching career. I could squeeze these manageable bits into my holidays and summers. The manuscripts found homes, won contests, and kept my writing dream alive.

short story nail polish

Short stories even have their own OPI nail polish. This color is called Short Story. 🙂

But I didn’t stop longing to write books and eventually hit on my Carol Sabala mystery series.

This year, after writing seven books in the series, as well as a stand-alone novel, I find myself back, full circle, concentrating on shorter works. I enjoy being able to envision the whole arc of the story from the get-go, certainly not something that happens for me with a 300-page manuscript. I like the time to fuss at the sentence level, weighing each word.

Last August, I added a novella prequel to my Carol Sabala series, which became one of the works in SLEUTHING WOMEN II: 10 MYSTERY NOVELLAS. It may have been at this point that I began seriously to contemplate the other advantages of going short.

While short fiction may mean fewer readers, it means more cohorts. In SLEUTHING WOMEN II, I rubbed shoulders with 10 other authors (one of the authors being a team)—meaning ten others to help market the product. We pooled our resources to buy advertising and took turns posting on blog tours. We amplified one another’s voices. Our e-anthology sells for only $.99, but I’ve been making money, and remember, that’s splitting the profit with 10 others.

Working collaboratively also creates connections and friendships. This year I headed off to Left Coast Crime in Reno armed with the cell number of the Guest of Honor, Naomi Hirahara. This only came about because we are both in Akashic Books’ SANTA CRUZ NOIR.

Clowning with Peggy Townsend and Naomi Hirahara. We all have stories in SANTA CRUZ NOIR.

Because Akashic Books’ Noir Series is world famous, encompassing over 80 titles from BALTIMORE NOIR to ZAGREB NOIR, their $200 payment for my story “Miscalculation,” qualified me to become an active member of Mystery Writers of America as did the earnings on the Sleuthing Women e-anthologies. This is not a benchmark I’d reached with my individual book-length works. To consider the financial reward of short fiction, for one flash-fiction piece (200 words), I garnered the Golden Donut Award, which came with free registration to the Writers’ Police Academy. The registration is currently a $425 value. That’s over $2.00 a word remuneration. Think about that in terms of a full-length book of 60,000 to 80,000 words!

As part of a well-established brand, SANTA CRUZ NOIR

received reviews in Publishers’ Weekly and Kirkus. In Kirkus Review, I received my own little paragraph: Though many of these stories are more interested in evoking a voice or mood than pursuing a plot to its conclusion, Vinnie Hansen’s “Miscalculation” provides a textbook example of how many twists can fit into the simple tale of a bank teller’s adventures with the Guitar Case Bandit.

Short stories also seem like the most probable way for me to be considered for an award. Edgars, for example, are awarded for short stories. Stories in collections like SANTA CRUZ NOIR, or the upcoming Sisters in Crime Guppies’ anthology, FISHY BUSINESS, (to which I’ve had my story “Room and Board” accepted), can be put before the Edgar Committee. Once an author wins an Edgar, he/she does not have to qualify that the award was for short story. One’s info can simply say, “Edgar Award winning author.”

Finally, short works are a way to keep my name in front of readers. I’m an incredibly slow writer. It takes me a couple of years to turn out a book-length manuscript. But between books I can announce other publications. My last book, my novel LOSTART STREET, was published in May, 2017, and I don’t see another book release until summer 2019. However, in the meantime, my novella SMOKED MEAT came out in August, 2017, my story in SANTA CRUZ NOIR released in June, 2018. Another story will come out in a local anthology titled SANTA CRUZ WEIRD in August, 2018. FISHY BUSINESS will reach the copy-editing stage about October, 2018, and I just learned that my story “Last Word” will be in FAULT LINES, the NorCal Sisters in Crime anthology. These stories fill the breech until my next book-length work.

Going short assists my going long.

How do you feel, as a reader and/or writer, about short stories and novellas?

Vinnie Hansen fled the howling winds of South Dakota and headed for the California coast the day after high school graduation. She’s now the author of numerous short stories, the Carol Sabala mystery series, and LOSTART STREET, a cross-genre novel of mystery, murder, and moonbeams. Still sane(ish) after 27 years of teaching high school English, Vinnie has retired. She plays keyboards with ukulele bands in Santa Cruz, California, where she lives with her husband and the requisite cat.

We blog here at misterio press about twice a month, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

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The Murky Middle

On our “off” week, something interesting for the writers among our followers…

But readers, you may be curious about this too. Do you ever feel like a book slooows down some in the middle and gets a bit draggy.

It’s not your imagination. The middle of a story is the hardest part to write. The writer has to give all the details that will allow the story to unfold and make sense as it moves toward the climax, but also keep the pace consistent with the rest of the book.

Not an easy task. Indeed, the murky middle is the bane of our existence. Here are some tips for writers from Joanne Guidoccio on ways to deal with it.

On Navigating the Murky Middle by Joanne Guidoccio

Joanne Guidoccio

(Note: when you click the link above, you have to scroll down some to see the post)

I love beginnings—in life and on the page. Anything and everything is possible whenever a blank slate appears before me. That momentum can last for days, weeks, months, and sometimes even longer.

At least, that’s what I like to think whenever I begin a new writing project.

A linear pantser, I write brief character sketches, plot the first three chapters and the last, and then let the words flow. At some point, usually around Page 80, I encounter the murky middle, that nebulous place where I find it difficult to continue or sustain the tension of the novel. In short, I’m lost with no clear trail or direction in sight.

In the early days of my writing career, I struggled to regain my motivation, wondering if I should abandon the novel. Thankfully, I have discovered three strategies that have lifted me out of the abyss.  READ MORE…

(Note: when you click the link above, you have to scroll down some to see the post)

We blog here at misterio press about twice a month, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

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A Crime Writers Interview: The Fascinating Peggy Townsend

Crime Writers logo

We are pleased to bring you another crime writers interview, this time with the fascinating Peggy Townsend, who has just released her very first mystery novel.

Why do I say fascinating? Read on!

An award-winning newspaper journalist, Peggy Townsend has reported stories that ranged from the trial of a murdering mortician to an Auschwitz survivor’s fight to get back the portraits she’d painted in the death camp. When Peggy isn’t writing, she loves to run and ski and she has rafted wild rivers, twice lived for seven weeks in her van, and has come face-to-face with both a mountain lion and a grizzly bear, which proves she probably spends a little too much time outdoors. Her first mystery novel, SEE HER RUN, published by Thomas & Mercer, just released on June 1.

Kass Lamb (on behalf of misterio press) To start things off, tell us one or two interesting things that will help folks understand who you are?

Peggy Townsend

Peggy in her running shoes!

Peggy Townsend:  I guess the first thing you might want to know about me is that, one dark October night, I chased an escaped serial killer through the woods. I was working the crime beat for my newspaper at the time and just happened to be riding along with this tough, street-smart cop when his radio squawked awake. A serial killer named Billy Mansfield had escaped from County Jail and a witness had seen a man in an orange jail jumpsuit headed downtown.

Most of the searchers went that way. But the officer I was with turned his patrol car in the opposite direction, almost as if he knew exactly where Mansfield would be.

We parked outside a cemetery that bordered a river east of the jail and hurried through the graveyard, flashlights sweeping over headstones and places a prisoner might hide. Then, we plunged into the brush and woods along the river following a faint trail for about a mile until a search dog arrived. The disheveled killer, later found guilty of murdering five women, was found a few hours later hiding on the same trail the officer and I had been following

All of which leads to the second thing you should know about me, which is that, in my regular life, I would have run in the opposite direction of an escaped serial killer.

Also, because I’m a reporter, I’m really, really good at deadlines.

Why crime fiction? What is the appeal of mysteries for you, rather than say romance or science fiction?

I’ve spent a lot of time in courtrooms and in the investigation bureau as a newspaper reporter. I covered the trial of a mortician and casket salesman who tried to disguise his murder of a young male prostitute by refrigerating the body and then dumping it later so it appeared the boy had died when the guy had an alibi. The mortician was foiled, however, by a small blotch of decomposition on the boy’s body, which was spotted by a sharp-eyed medical examiner.

I wrote stories about rapes, gang shootings and about the investigation and arrest of David Carpenter, the so-called Trailside Killer. I attended parole hearings for serial killers John Linley Frazier and Herbert Mullins and got to see the inner workings of the justice system from both the prosecution and defense sides.

So, when I decided I wanted to write a novel, I turned to crime fiction because not only did I know it best, but I loved the whole cat-and-mouse idea of how you catch a killer or a rapist. Plus, as a writer, putting myself in the minds of both the criminal and detective, figuring out plot twists, and dropping clues that may or may not be important, is not only challenging but super fun and creative.

Kass:  Wow, you have had a really exciting career as a journalist. So where are you with your fiction writing now? Tell us a little about your stories.

book coverPeggy:  After spending decades writing non-fiction, I decided to give fiction a try and, let me tell you, it’s a lot harder than it looks. But thanks to my smart writing groups, a talented developmental editor named Heather Lazare, and my wise and wonderful agent, Heather Jackson, I got my first two-book deal last year with Thomas & Mercer publishing. I have an amazing editor at T&M, along with a super-talented team of publicists, road-smoothers, artists and editors so when SEE HER RUN was given an early release in the U.K. and Australia, it hit the bestseller list: No. 4 overall in paid Kindle sales, which made me realize that I can actually call myself an author. I’m finishing up my second novel as we speak.

Kass:  What’s the oddest and/or most difficult thing you ever had to research?

Peggy:  I spent an entire day researching chemical castration (I know, I know) which led me to the discovery that a widely used pesticide not only chemically castrates three-quarters of male frogs exposed to it but also turns one in ten male frogs into females. Scary and weird stuff.

On the lighter side, I now know how to make really good French-press coffee after researching it for my book.

Kass:  In your story, what changed the most from the first draft to the last?

Peggy:  I had to cut a character I loved because my very wise and talented agent said he was a distraction. I protested. I argued. But, deep down, I knew she was right. The character (and his dog) now resides on a lonely Word doc titled simply, “Noah.” Maybe he’ll come back some day, but probably not.

Kass:  Aww, Now I want to meet Noah. I hope you get to write him into a future story. Last of all, what question do you wish interviewers would ask you that they usually don’t? What is your answer to that question?

Peggy:  This is funny because this is often the last question I ask when I’m writing a profile about someone. So, I would like an interviewer to ask me: What is my hidden talent?

The answer would be that I am a whiz at mirror writing, which is writing backward so the message can only be read in a mirror.

I learned to mirror write in fifth-grade after I read a story about Leonardo da Vinci and how he hid all his discoveries and thoughts in his journal using mirror writing.  Because I was a weird kid, I’d do my homework every night and then turn the paper over and trace the backward sentences until I got the hang of it. Now, I’m a master mirror writer. Unfortunately, my penmanship still looks like a fifth-grader’s.

Kass:  And there you have it, folks, an award-winning journalist with lots of real-life stories under her belt and some new make-believe ones she’s eager to tell, and she can mirror-write them for you if you wish…LOL

Thanks so much for joining us today, Peggy, and please stick around for a bit in case our readers have any questions for you in the comments.

You can connect with Peggy on Facebook and Twitter @peggytownsend, and here is her new release:

SEE HER RUN, An Aloa Snow Mystery

book cover

A former reporter for the Los Angeles Times, Aloa Snow knows what it means to be down and out. Once highly respected, she’s now blackballed, in debt, and dealing with the echoes of an eating disorder. Until she gets one more shot to prove that she has what it takes—with a story some would die for…

After the body of a promising young athlete, Hayley Poole, is recovered in the Nevada desert, authorities rule it a suicide. But when Aloa discovers that the girl’s boyfriend died in a similar accident only months before, her investigative instincts are on high alert. It turns out the girl was on the run from secrets that could kill.

This case is murder for Aloa, and Hayley won’t be the last one to suffer. Someone very powerful forced Hayley to run for her life. Now Aloa must do the same.

Available now on AMAZON

We blog here at misterio press about twice a month, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

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How One White Cop Changed Thousands of Black Kids’ Lives

by Kassandra Lamb

female soldier saluting

(public domain, Wikimedia Commons)

Memorial Day is about honoring the men and women in our armed services, especially those who have made the ultimate sacrifice. We at misterio press, despite being wordsmiths by trade, find that words are not always sufficient to express how much we appreciate all members of the military for all that they do and all that they have given up in order to keep our country safe!!

This Memorial Day I’d also like to honor another type of hero who serves his/her community every day to keep it safe. The good cops out there!

Do you ever feel like we only hear about the bad news? I sure do. Certainly there are lots of bad things for the media to zero in on, but sometimes people get it right. And it seems like we don’t hear nearly enough about those times.

For example, I didn’t know until recently about something wonderful that is happening in my own town. Oh, I’d heard about the original “good deed” when it happened, but I hadn’t heard about what came after.

Here’s what happened first:

At 5:31 p.m. on January 15th in 2016, a noise complaint call in a neighborhood near my house was answered by Officer Bobby White. Some kids were playing basketball in the street.

Officer White used it as an opportunity to connect with these kids. Instead of scolding them, he shot a few hoops with them, before telling them to “try not to be too loud” and to “have fun.”

The video from his dash cam went viral and guess who saw it, Shaquil O’Neal. So the Shaq shows up at the police department to surprise Bobby White, and then they all went to the neighborhood and surprised the kids.

Awesome, right?  Well here’s the rest of the story.

To show their support, people started sending basketballs and hoops to GPD. Folks were calling Bobby White the “basketball cop” and media outlets were hounding him for interviews.

And that gave him an idea. He’s kind of a humble guy and really wasn’t into all the attention, but he decided to use it to help kids even more.

So he started The Basketball Cop Foundation.

Here is part of their mission statement:

The Basketball Cop Foundation’s mission is to connect Law Enforcement agencies across the country with the kids in their communities. This will be accomplished primarily by supplying the agencies with sports equipment. The recipient agency will then in turn donate the equipment to groups of kids in their community through their Patrol Officers. Not only does the initial donation of the equipment open the door to new relationships, but it gives the Patrol Officers in those areas a place where they know they can interact with kids on a regular basis and continue to build on those relationships.

Beyond supplying sports equipment, the foundation would also fund Police/Youth community events, Police/Youth sports tournaments, and fund the renovation and building of basketball courts in apartment complexes, parks, churches, etc.

In their first year, they sent out balls and hoops to 28 police agencies around the country and built 3 basketball courts in our town, including one in the backyard of Tyree, one of the boys in that original group of kids. And a Harlem Globetrotter came to town to help christen the court!

If you watch the video through to about the midway point, you’ll see #HoopsNotCrime stenciled on the goal post. For some reason, that gave me goosebumps!

Way to go, Officer Bobby White! So proud of you and Happy Memorial Day!!

Do you have any home-grown heroes like Bobby in your town? Feel free to brag on them in the comments.

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kass is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She is the author of the Kate Huntington psychological mysteries, set in her native Maryland, and the Marcia Banks and Buddy cozy mysteries, set in Central Florida.

We blog here at misterio press about twice a month, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

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A Belated Happy Mother’s Day! (and an “off” week contest)

by Kassandra Lamb

Happy Mother's Day card

image by Urbanphase, CC-0, public domain)

And in case you didn’t see this elsewhere, I’ve got a contest going for all these goodies below. If you’re interested, pop on over to my website page to enter. The page is password-protected because this contest is just for our true readers.

Click HERE and the Password is KATE

Contest runs until 5/21/18. Winner will be announced on my website and via my newsletter on 5/25/18.

Note:  We will be doing two “off “weeks in a row (today and 5/22) because I will be traveling. But we will have a really cool Memorial Day post for you on the 29th! So please stop back then.

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kass is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She is the author of the Kate Huntington psychological mysteries, set in her native Maryland, and the Marcia Banks and Buddy cozy mysteries, set in Central Florida.

We blog here at misterio press about twice a month, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

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6 Reasons Why a Little Free Library is a Wonderful Idea

by Kassandra Lamb

a little free library in my neighborhood

Have you heard of the little free library movement? Here’s the one that sprang up in my neighborhood recently. The idea is that anyone can take a book or leave a book.

The first Little Free Library was built by Todd H. Bol in honor of his mother, a schoolteacher who loved books. Todd then went on to establish a not-for-profit organization to spread these little libraries everywhere.

So here are 6 reasons why having one in your neighborhood is a great idea.

1st little free library

First Little Free Library (photo by Lisa Colon DeLay CC-BY-SA 3.0 Wikimedia Commons)

1.  Free Books: The most obvious reason is people get free books. This is particularly important for kids in poorer households. Two out of three of them have no books in their home, according to the little free library website.

But for all of us, what a treat! Take the family for an evening walk and get the kiddos each a new(ish) book (and one or two for yourself). You get to watch their little faces light up and you don’t have to spend a dime.

Then read those stories, take them back, and get some more.

2.  Community: In addition to “inspiring reading,” one of the goals listed on the little free library website is to “build community.”

That has certainly worked with the one my neighbor set up. I’d never really paid much attention to who lived in that house, even though I’d often admired the house itself. It’s a beautiful example of a Florida “Cracker” house.

But now I wave every time I walk by. And they smile and wave back, especially if I stop and check out what new books have appeared in their library. Indeed, whenever you pass someone in that particular stretch of sidewalk, they’re likely to have a friendly smile on their face and give you an extra enthusiastic nod as you go by.

little free library with dogs painted on it

Little Free Library in Bennett Park, Manhattan (photo by Beyond My Ken CC-BY-SA 4.0 International)

How could one look at that cute little library and NOT smile?

3.  Creativity: Another goal listed on the site is “sparking creativity.” Some people stick to a rather plain library.

But others get quite creative, expressing their particular passions and/or decorating their library to express the place it is located.

There are even quite a few themed libraries such as those honoring Harry Potter.

4.  A Place to Take Used Books: There was a time when you could put a box of books out at a yard sale, with a sign: “Paperbacks–25 cents; Hardcover–50 cents,” and the box would be mostly empty by the end of the day.

Now many avid readers prefer ebooks, and not even my church’s youth group will take “tree” books anymore for their annual fundraiser.

little free library in Albuquerque

Here’s one in Albuquerque NM (photo by Anthony Inswasty CC-BY-SA 4.0 International)

If you are a true book lover, this creates a very real dilemma. One simply cannot just throw out a book!  I also read mostly ebooks, but now the occasional paperback that I buy or is given to me has a place to go once I’ve read it.

5. Exposure for Local Authors: Of course, I put a copy of my To Kill A Labrador in there, with the cute pic of the Black Lab star of the book showing. It was gone in a day. I’m thinking I’ll put the next book in the series in there soon. And maybe the first book in my other series…

6. LittleFreeLibrary.org makes it easy: They have detailed instructions on their user-friendly site that cover everything from choosing the right spot, building your little library, and installing it. They tell you exactly how to erect the pole and platform for it, but you can also put it on a table or a wall…

On a wall in London

On a wall in London (photo by Philafrenzy CC-BY-SA 4.0 International)

Or they even suggest “planting” it in big flower pot with stones or dirt and flowers around it. That way, it is “portable” (I put this in quotes because I think you’d need at least two burly neighbors to help you move it.)

And a bonus reason…have you noticed that these are all over the world? If you set up your own little free library (or even if you just have one nearby), you get to feel like you are part of a global community!

Have you spotted a Little Free Library near you? Have you ever considered setting one up?

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kass is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She is the author of the Kate Huntington psychological mysteries, set in her native Maryland, and the Marcia Banks and Buddy cozy mysteries, set in Central Florida.

We blog here at misterio press about twice a month, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

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“Off” Week Treat: What’s Your Favorite 1st Line of a Novel?

by Kassandra Lamb

One of my favorite blogs for writers is Anne R. Allen’s Blog…with Ruth Harris. Their post (by Ruth) last Sunday was particularly fun. It talks about first sentences in novels, and gives a lot of awesome examples.

Some are quite simple, and yet they inspire curiosity and encourage the reader to read on.

Now, if you’re not a writer, you might want to skip on down to the examples in her post, after reading the opening, which is itself an excellent example of how to hook someone’s interest.

The post got me thinking about my own favorite first lines, and what your favorites might be. (It also has me rethinking the first line of the novel I’m currently writing.)

Here’s one of my faves below. Feel free to share yours in the comments. And hop on over to enjoy the post, whether you’re a writer or reader (or both).

audio book of classic Frency short stories

If you’re interested, here’s an audio book of short stories that includes The Guest, on amazon.com.

From Camus’s The Guest (actually L’Hote in French which can mean either guest or host):

The schoolmaster was watching the two men climb toward him.

One of those simple ones, but leaves you wondering about so much. Who are the men? Why are they coming toward him? Why is a schoolteacher so interested in these two men?

And here’s Ruth’s post:

How to Write a Great First Sentence—with 22 Inspiring Examples

by Ruth Harris

No matter what genre you write, your first sentence is a seduction. It can be in the form of an invitation. A declaration. A tease. A promise. A jolt. A shockREAD MORE

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kass is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She is the author of the Kate Huntington psychological mysteries, set in her native Maryland, and the Marcia Banks and Buddy cozy mysteries, set in Central Florida.

We blog here at misterio press about twice a month, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

A Crime Writers Interview: Leslie Karst

Crime Writers Intro image

Prepare to have your appetite whetted, for both Leslie Karst’s books and for a good meal.

leslie karst

The daughter of a law professor and a potter, Leslie learned early, during family dinner conversations, the value of both careful analysis and the arts—ideal ingredients for a mystery story. She now writes the Sally Solari Mysteries (Dying for a Taste, A Measure of Murder, Death al Fresco), a culinary series set in Santa Cruz, California. An ex-lawyer like her sleuth, Leslie also has degrees in English literature and the culinary arts.

Please help us welcome Leslie Karst!

Kass Lamb (on behalf of misterio press):  We like to start with a “tell us about yourself” question. What two or three things do people need to know in order to understand who you are?

Leslie Karst:  First, that I’ve been in Santa Cruz, where my mysteries are set, since 1974. I moved here to attend college and, after one look at the towering redwoods marching down to the spectacular seaside cliffs, I knew it was where I wanted to live long term. I think of the Sally Solari series as a sort of love letter to the place.

Ziggy at the Beach

     My dog Ziggy at the beach.

Second, yes, I do have quite a bit in common with my protagonist: we’re both ex-lawyers who are obsessed with food, and we both share a love of dogs, cycling, the Giants baseball team, and opera.

But Sally is far braver than I am—perhaps even too risky. I’d never have the nerve to investigate an actual murder. (Then again, I’d make for a pretty uninteresting sleuth, as well.) And I’d never dream of running a real-life restaurant; the work is far too exhausting and takes up too much of your life. But make-believe-running one in my books is loads of fun.

Kass:  What type of mysteries do you write—cozies, traditional whodunnits, historical, etc.—and why does that subgenre appeal to you as a writer? Do you also prefer it as a reader?

Dying for a Taste Cover

First book in Leslie’s series. Ebook only $1.99 on Amazon.

Leslie Karst:  My Sally Solari culinary mysteries are categorized by my publisher, Crooked Lane Books, as “cozies,” and the covers and marketing for the books reflect this. But to my mind, the series actually falls somewhere on the spectrum between cozies and what are now referred to as “traditional” mysteries. Sally can tend toward the sarcastic and has a fondness for bourbon and the occasional swear word—things not generally found in your typical cozy mystery. As a result, I like to refer to my series as “snarky cozies.”

Since I, like Sally, can also tend towards the snarky, I do love to read this subgenre (the name of which I believe I am the first to employ), and dearly wish there were more of them being published!

Kass:  Why crime fiction? What is the appeal of mysteries for you?

Leslie Karst:  Having worked as a research and appellate attorney for twenty years, I’d say my brain must be wired for tasks that require an attention to detail. Any good mystery story requires the careful and painstaking placing of clues and red herrings, as well as a set of characters who would make for plausible suspects—a process that requires organization and the same sort of attention to detail that my legal career required. So when I decided to try my hand at writing fiction, a mystery novel seemed the obvious choice.

But I also love how crime novels tend to incorporate subplots that are woven into the mystery and which give the reader a glimpse into some new culture or way of life. (Think of Dorothy L. Sayers’ peeks into the worlds of London advertising, bell ringing, and academia.)

Solari's Linguine with Clam Sauce karst

Solari’s Linguine with Clam Sauce

And since I’m an unabashed gourmet, I was of course drawn to the culinary mystery subgenre, where I’m able to indulge in my passion for food and cooking—the more delectably described the better.

What was your favorite book/author as a child? Why was it your favorite?

Leslie Karst:  Okay, this may be super predictable but—like countless other girls who grew up in the 1960s—as a child, I was obsessed with all things horse. So the Black Stallion books by Walter Farley were my favorites, especially the first one, which gave its name to the series. I imagine most kids, at one time or another, have a Robinson Crusoe fantasy of being stranded on a desert island with no adults around, so what could be better than doing so with a gorgeous Arabian stallion as your helpmeet and companion?

Kass:  I loved the Black Stallion books as well, and I’m still a little horse-crazy. Let’s talk a bit about your writing process. What do you find to be the most difficult part—first draft, editing, researching?

Leslie Karst:  As a writer, I’m an absolute plotter (as opposed to a “pantser”). I first come up with a basic idea, next a group of three to five suspects (one of whom will be my eventual murderer), and then a series of plot points and events that will occur during the book. But the last step of organizing these plot points into an effective story arc is by far the most difficult part of the process for me.

With A Measure of Murder, the second in the Sally Solari series, I had compiled a multiple-page list of events and occurrences that I knew I wanted in the book, but which were in a completely random order. Unable to wrap my brain around how to transform them into a workable story line, I eventually printed out the list and cut the events apart with scissors, then spread them out across the dining room table. Over a period of several days I arranged and rearranged the order of events until I had a rough outline I was happy with. I then glued them back together onto new sheets of paper. A literal cut-and-paste job!

Kass:  *smiling* Sometimes old-fashioned scissors and paste work best! In your latest story, what was your favorite (or hardest to write) scene?

Leslie Karst:  There’s a dinner party that takes place midway through my latest book, Death al Fresco. It’s hosted by Sally at her home and her best friends—recurring characters in the series—are all there. I love this scene because it incorporates two of my favorite things to write—snappy dialogue and descriptions of food and cooking.

Sally and her pals are discussing the possible suspects in the case at the heart of the story, but as they exchange comments and jokes—each trying to outdo the others with their witticisms—they savor the luscious Black Cod with Miso and Sake that Sally has prepared (recipe in the book!), washed down by a citrusy Gewürztraminer.

The only problem is that I always find myself heading to the kitchen for a snack when I write these food scenes.

Kass:  And now I want to do exactly that!  Thanks so much for joining us today, Leslie.

And there you have it, folks, a delectable series of “snarky cozies” for your reading pleasure. Feel free to ask Leslie any questions you may have in the “comments” below.

You can visit Leslie on Facebook and you can go to her author website to sign up for her newsletter—full of recipes and fun Italian facts!—and to purchase all of her books.

And here’s her newest release:

Death al Fresco, book 3 in the Sally Solari mystery series:

Death al Fresco book cover

It’s early autumn in Santa Cruz and restaurateur Sally Solari, inspired by the eye-popping canvases of Paul Gauguin, the artist for whom her restaurant is named, enrolls in a plein air painting class. But the beauty of the Monterey Bay coastline is shattered during one of their outings when Sally’s dog sniffs out a corpse entangled in a pile of kelp.

The body is identified as Gino, a local fisherman and a regular at Sally’s father’s restaurant, Solari’s, until he disappeared after dining there a few nights before. But after witnesses claim he left reeling drunk, fingers begin to point at Sally’s dad for negligently allowing the old man to walk home alone at night. From a long menu of suspects, including a cast of colorful characters who frequent the historic Santa Cruz fisherman’s wharf, Sally must serve up a tall order in order to clear her father’s name.

Available on  Amazon,   Barnes & Noble  and  Bookshop Santa Cruz

We blog here at misterio press about twice a month, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

The Magic is in the Process

Magic writing processHey, all! Gilian here. We don’t always publish something here on our “off” weeks, but this week, you got lucky. 😉

The most common question I get as an author is “How in the world do you come up with the stories for your Jade Blackwell Mysteries series?”

I’m happy to answer the question, but I must admit that much of it is magical, and I don’t fully comprehend it myself. Cool, huh? And scary sometimes. And frustrating on occasion. And it’s always messy.

Who knew messy could be magical? Magical Writing Process

To learn about my writing process and the reason I call it magical, follow this link to my blog. You can read all about it here.

 

Stop back next week for a great post!

We blog here at misterio press about twice a month, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

Have You Ever Been Haunted by a Goddess?

by S.O. Esposito

Have you ever been haunted by a goddess?

Over the past few years, a character named Alice has haunted me. She made her debut in a piece of flash fiction I wrote in 2011 called Mario’s Goddess. She now officially has her very own full-length story in my new psychological suspense, THE BURNING.

The Valkries' Vigil

This book came to me differently than my cozy mysteries, and it’s a much darker tale. In the flash fiction story, Alice is the goddess of war and is locked up in a mental institution. Over the past couple years, her character wouldn’t leave me alone, but I didn’t know what she wanted. What were the opposing forces in her life? What was her story?

Some of her life came to me in pieces, scenes actually, that I dutifully wrote down over the years. She was a mother with two small children. She was orphaned at birth, spent her life in and out of a children’s home. She couldn’t remember anything before her thirteenth birthday.

I have to say, she confused me. Was she a goddess of war? Was she a human mother? Was this a fantasy story? Magical realism? Paranormal? And then it hit me. She was both a human mother and the goddess of war, and this was a psychological suspense.

They don’t call it multiple personalities anymore, now it’s called dissociative identity disorder, and this is what Alice has. Or does she? (I’ll let the reader decide.) One of her personalities is Kali, the goddess of war, and she insists she’s a goddess having a human experience. She’s also the one who gets Alice into serious trouble. Arrested for arson and murder, in fact.

As more of the scenes came to me, I knew Alice/Kali needed an antagonist, but what kind?…READ MORE

I just finished the most compelling book I’ve ever read! The Burning is so amazing, riveting, spellbinding engrossing novel that every woman should read & take to heart!! -Bonnie O. (Reviewer)

The Burning book coverTHE BURNING, by S.O. Esposito

Now Available on AMAZONNOOKiBOOKS and KOBO

Alice Leininger seems to have the perfect life. She’s happily married, has two beautiful children, a close-knit group of friends, and a cause she cares deeply about. But beneath the surface, her world of safety and comfort is unraveling.

The periods of lost time she’s kept secret—even from her husband—are happening more frequently. She certainly doesn’t remember leaving her Sarasota home at three-thirty in the morning to burn someone alive. Now she sits in a Florida state mental institution, awaiting judgment on whether she’s fit to stand trial on charges of murder and arson.

While a psychologist works to help Alice face her past, her future depends on the answer to one question: How far did she go for justice?

*This book is recommended for mature audiences. While there are no explicit scenes of graphic violence, it does touch on mature themes.

How about you? Have you ever felt like you were haunted by a god or goddess? Do you believe in the Goddess of War?

S.O. Esposito began her writing career as a cozy mystery author under her full name, Shannon Esposito. She has four books in the PET PSYCHIC SERIES (misterio press) & two books in the PAWS & POSE SERIES (Severn House). But to keep her muse happy, she’s ventured into darker territory with her suspense debut THE BURNING. She lives in the sunny state of Florida with her husband, twin boys and two mastiffs, where she is an avid reader, beach-goer and lizard wrangler.

We blog here at misterio press about twice a month, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )