Author Archives: Gilian Baker

An “Off” Week Freebie: Finally Start That Book!

by Gilian Baker

Free Writing CircleIn my humble opinion, creativity is the spice of life.

In 2014, I was a new online entrepreneur working 70 hour weeks trying to earn something close to a livable wage. On top of that, I was still teaching college literature and writing classes to pay the bills.

My life was full of projects but nothing was bringing me joy.

Enter a creative outlet!

My daughter talked me into participating in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) with her. I tried all the usual excuses, including being too busy–which I truly was. But if you have a daughter, you know they can be relentless. I gave in and it changed my life!

As NaNo draws near again, I decided it was the perfect time to give something back to the community who has helped me turn my dream of becoming a writer into a reality.

A safe place to start their first draft with no pressure, just support.

A free writing circle!

Free Writing Circle

The NaNoWriMo Companion Writing Circle is totally free and meets online.

I want to break down some of the barriers I encountered to help you write your story.

I’ll be recording weekly Facebook Live videos and posting on topics such as:

  • What if you don’t know how to write?
  • How to decide what genre to write in.
  • How to come up with a viable story idea.
  • Practical ways to find time & confidence to write.
  • Are you a “pantser” or plotter?
  • Writing advice based on my own experience

I’ll also provide you with a list of resources I couldn’t write without and answer your questions.

You have nothing to lose and everything to gain by joining me! The NaNoWriMo Companion Writing Circle is free and only lasts through November.

Jade and I will both be writing a book this November right along with you and can’t wait to meet you!

To get more details and to register, just follow this link.

Gilian Baker is a former English professor who went on to forge a life outside of academia by adding blogger, ghostwriter and cozy mystery author to her C.V. She currently uses her geeky superpowers only for good to entertain murder mystery readers the world over. When she’s not plotting murder for her Jade Blackwell cozy mystery series, you can find her puttering in her vegetable garden, knitting in front of the fire, snuggling with her husband watching British TV or discussing literary theory with her daughter. She lives in Ohio with her family and their three pampered felines. In her next life, she fervently hopes to come back as a cat, though she understands that would be going down the karmic ladder. Learn more about Gilian and her books here.

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 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. ? )

House Guests High Jinks

by Gilian Baker

Ever had a house guest you thought would never leave?  You may have just experienced this over the recent holiday season.

Even the most patient among us would agree that having house guests can be taxing.  According to Psychology Today, it’s normal to feel stressed when you put someone up. Even someone you love dearly!

This is due to the shift in control from us to our guests. They are essentially in charge, and we do anything and everything we can to please them.

This lack of control in a place that is usually our domain (home) can cause tension. And that doesn’t include the strain that naturally occurs when you throw another personality (or two or three) into the mix.

Then there are the changes to our routine. Even if you say you hate routine, there is a contentment found in having things the way they always are. When normal is out of whack for long enough, you guessed it–stress.

My protagonist, Jade Blackwell, experiences more than her fair share of house guest high jinks in her latest adventure, Murder Over Medium. Jade, who dearly loves her routine, is at her wit’s end within hours of her old friend and colleague, Gwendolyn Hexby arriving.

Gwendolyn hasn’t been straightforward about her visit. For example, Jade doesn’t know until Gwendolyn shows up that she’s no longer a religious studies prof…now she’s a psychic medium.

Tension? You bet!

And guess what?

The visit that is only supposed to last two days goes on and on…thanks to a murder in the village. A murder Gwendolyn prophecies during a seance held at Jade’s dining room table. By the time it’s all said and done, Jade is ready to kill someone herself.

If only Gwendolyn would have read these etiquette tips from Emily Post about being a good house guest before she came to visit!

  • Do clean up after yourself. Put your dishes in the dishwasher, make your bed and put dirty linen in the hamper.
  • Do help out with chores, especially in the kitchen, unless the host absolutely doesn’t want your help.
  • Do inform your host of any dietary restrictions and food allergies before arriving.
  • Do pitch in for groceries if you are staying more than a couple of nights.
  • Don’t bring your pet. In fact, don’t even ask to bring it along.
  • Don’t make plans with other people without checking in with your host first. They may have plans already.
  • Don’t use the host’s phone, computer, or other electronics without asking first.
  • Don’t eavesdrop or snoop while you’re there.

Murder Over MediumWant to find out how Jade deals with this intrusion while still managing to solve a murder? Grab your digital copy of Murder Over Medium today! 

Former English professor turned blogger, Jade Blackwell, is enjoying her predictable routine when trouble comes knocking in the form of an old friend and colleague. Unbeknownst to Jade, Gwendolyn Hexby is no longer the successful academic she once knew and trusted—she is now following a new calling as a psychic medium, a contentious career that flies in the face of the logic and deductive reasoning Jade values.

At first, Jade welcomes the visit, but things soon turn bizarre as Gwendolyn brings only disorder, danger and disruption. When a murder is prophesied, and a beloved pillar of the Aspen Falls’ community winds up dead, Gwendolyn becomes Sheriff Ross Lawson’s prime suspect.

To get Gwendolyn out of hot water, and more importantly, out of her house, Jade attempts to prove her friend’s innocence. Jade believes she’s finally discovered the truth, but is soon brought back to reality when she learns all is not as it seems in the realm of the metaphysical. Not even murder.

Return to the Jade Blackwell Cozy Mystery Series in Murder Over Medium, as Jade jumps into the fray of a territory not governed by logic or reason—in either this world or the next.

Posted by Gilian Baker. Gilian is a former writing and literature professor who now uses her geeky superpowers only for good to entertain cozy mystery readers the world over. When she’s not plotting murder, you can find her puttering in her vegetable garden, snuggled up with her husband watching British mysteries or discussing literary theory with her daughter. She lives in Flagstaff, Arizona with her family and their three pampered felines. Gilian is the author of the Jade Blackwell cozy mysteries.

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. 🙂 )

Séances, Spirits and Murder, Oh My! (and a New Cozy Mystery for You)

by Gilian Baker

Murder Over Medium

Each society mourns and honors their dead differently, and yet one thing remains a constant—humans have been attempting to reconnect with their lost loved ones since the dawn of time.

Séances and mediums first became all the rage during the Victorian era. So it may make you scratch your head that, in our modern age, we’re witnessing a resurgence of interest in the occult.

But all you need do to observe this revival in action is look at the bookshelves in your local shop or channel surf. Witches, hauntings, and all things paranormal are back in fashion.

In the latest Jade Blackwell Mystery, this fascination is explored, tongue in cheek, when Jade welcomes an old colleague, Gwendolyn Hexby, into her home. Unbeknownst to her, her friend is no longer a professor of religious studies, but has found a “higher calling” as a medium. Jade spends the entire book trying to reconcile Gwendolyn’s new beliefs with the woman who demanded empirical evidence years before.

One of the first things Gwendolyn does once she’s darkened Jade’s door is hold a séance.

Séances aren’t only for preteen girls’ slumber parties. Many people visit mediums each year all around the globe, in hopes of reconnecting with a loved one who has left this world. Séances are typically held by a medium, a person who has developed a talent for communicating with those who have passed over. With their help, the dead are able to give messages to those they love who are still living.

Here are some fun facts you may not know about séances and Spiritualism:

  • Famous people who attended séances include Harry Houdini, poet W.B. Yeats andMurder Over Medium Sherlock Holmes’ creator, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
  • Nancy Reagan wasn’t the first First Lady to practice the occult in the White House by consulting astrologists. Both First Lady Jane Pierce, wife of Franklin Pierce, and Mary Todd Lincoln, wife of Abraham Lincoln hired mediums to hold séance in the White House to contact their dead sons.
  • In 1840, the world’s first recorded séance was performed by the Fox sisters, Kate and Margaret. They had their séances recorded in text to prove they were the real deal. The two sisters had a huge influence in the world of spiritualism and became highly sought-after mediums. Many years later, they announced their performances had all been faked, though they later recanted that statement.
  • Both First Ladies hired the same famous mediums, the Fox sisters.
  • Harry Houdini was a great believer in Spiritualism and attended séances frequently, until he was unsuccessful at connecting with his departed mother. After that, he put a great deal of energy into proving séances were hoaxes.
  • So obsessed was Houdini with verifying séances were hoaxes, before he died in 1926, he told his wife he would come back to speak with her. They even came up with a code word so she would know it was him. For ten years after his death, she held a séance, but he never did show up. Magicians and fans of Houdini continue the tradition by holding séances each year on his birthday.
  • In 2003, two British mediums, Craig and Jane Hamilton-Parker, held a pay-per-view séance to contact Princess Diana. They claimed they connected with her—she told them she was having fun in the afterlife, hanging out with Mother Teresa.
  • The Victorians who brought us the Spiritualist movement are the ones we can thank for the popularity of tarot cards and the Ouija board.
  • Tarot cards had been around since the 1400s, but they started out as a card game to be Murder Over Mediumplayed alone. During the Victorian era, tarot cards became a very common way for mediums and spiritualists to receive messages from the dead.
  • The Ouija board was first manufactured during the Victoria era, in 1891, by a game company. It claimed the power to “provided a link between the living world and the one inhabited by the dead.”

You can enjoy more metaphysical mischief in Book 3 of the Jade Blackwell Mystery Series, Murder Over Medium, which is now available for pre-order here.

Murder over Medium book coverFormer English professor turned blogger, Jade Blackwell, is enjoying her predictable routine when trouble comes knocking in the form of an old friend and colleague. Unbeknownst to Jade, Gwendolyn Hexby is no longer the successful academic she once knew and trusted—she is now following a new calling as a psychic medium, a contentious career that flies in the face of the logic and deductive reasoning Jade values.

At first, Jade welcomes the visit, but things soon turn bizarre as Gwendolyn brings only disorder, danger and disruption. When a murder is prophesied, and a beloved pillar of the Aspen Falls’ community winds up dead, Gwendolyn becomes Sheriff Ross Lawson’s prime suspect.

To get Gwendolyn out of hot water, and more importantly, out of her house, Jade attempts to prove her friend’s innocence. Jade believes she’s finally discovered the truth, but is soon brought back to reality when she learns all is not as it seems in the realm of the metaphysical. Not even murder.

Return to the Jade Blackwell Cozy Mystery Series in Murder Over Medium, as Jade jumps into the fray of a territory not governed by logic or reason—in either this world or the next.

 

Posted by Gilian Baker. Gilian is a former writing and literature professor who now uses her geeky superpowers only for good to entertain cozy mystery readers the world over. When she’s not plotting murder, you can find her puttering in her vegetable garden, snuggled up with her husband watching British mysteries or discussing literary theory with her daughter. She lives in Flagstaff, Arizona with her family and their three pampered felines. Gilian is the author of the Jade Blackwell cozy mysteries.

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. 🙂 )

Life Lessons from the Pottery Studio (Plus a New Release)

by Gilian Baker

Though I haven’t thrown pottery for many years, it was once my creative passion. And while it’s not the typical hobby you’re likely to find highlighted in a cozy mystery, it was ideal for my protagonist, Jade and mA Time to Kilne.

Why?

Well, because I’d planned the murder in my new book, A Time to Kiln, many moons ago when I spent all my free time in a dusty pottery studio.

Taking a pottery class seemed like a natural pursuit. I loved playing in the mud as a kid growing up on a farm and as an adult, I loved getting my hands dirty while growing organic vegetables. What started out as a chance to have some “me time,” away from the responsibilities of having a small child, soon grew into an obsession. For the next 7 years, I pored over pottery magazines and tested different types of glaze recipes.

I still use many of the items I created back then, as do my family and friends. Even though I’m now too busy writing cozy mysteries to throw pots, I still enjoy the ones I literally created with my bare hands years ago.

Although I had many successes in the studio, there were many failures too. I would study pictures in pottery magazines thinking, “Heck, I can make that.” This was around the time I learned that nothing ever turns out like the picture. The times when a friend or family member requested a certain item was when I experienced the biggest failures. I’d want it to be so perfect. The harder I tried, the worse it got.

I better understand that concept now—the more “work” you make of something, the harder it’s going to be. When I let myself enjoy the simple pleasure of creating, I ended up with sometA Time to Kilnhing lovely. When I didn’t, well, I didn’t. During my time as a potter, I learned the best way to do anything was to let go of how the final product turned out and just enjoy the process. Same goes for writing fiction.

Frustrations can easily overshadow the pleasure found in the pottery studio—there are many steps in the process to finish a single piece. The clay must be thrown, dried, trimmed, glazed and fired, and at any point in the process, it can be ruined. But oh, when you create something beautiful, you forget all about the frustrations and can’t wait to do it all over again. Throwing pottery is a great metaphor for life. If you are as malleable as the clay, you can learn patience and mindfulness. If you don’t…you probably won’t stick with it for long.

Sadly, Jade will not have the pleasure of drinking from a mug she threw on a pottery wheel herself, a fact that she bemoans. Before she can become proficient “behind the wheel,” her teacher is murdered.

A Time to KilnA Time to Kiln: A Jade Blackwell Cozy Mystery (Book 2)

Disenchanted with life after solving her first real case, Jade Blackwell, successful blogger and amateur sleuth, throws herself into a new hobby…until murder rears its ugly head.

But when Jade attempts to ferret out the killer of local pottery teacher, Paula Hexby, she comes up short and suspicion begins to descend on her daughter’s former boyfriend. Evidence and bodies are stacking up, as Jade finds herself caught between an untrustworthy client and her beloved community.

Now at a personal and professional crossroads, Jade must once again jump into the breech, along with partner Gabrielle Langdon, to uncover the truth behind this string of horrific murders. Is she really cut out for this life of sleuthing and danger? Has Jade been defending the real murderer all along? Or is there something much more sinister afoot?

Follow Jade in her next adventure in A Time to Kiln, now available on Amazon.

Gilian Baker is a former English professor who’s gone on to forge a life outside of academia by adding blogger, ghostwriter and cozy mystery author to her C.V. Gilian lives in Flagstaff, Arizona with her family and their three pampered felines. In her next life, she fervently hopes to come back as a cat, though she understands that would be going down the karmic ladder. She’s the author of Blogging is Murder and A Time to Kiln.

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Where The Research Takes Us: How To Kill Your Characters

Kass here to tell you about today’s guest blogger, cozy mystery writer Gilian Baker, who is about to release her debut novel, Blogging Is Murder (which I review below).

She will entertain us with a fun little post on how to kill one’s characters (I swear, the FBI is going to come knocking any day now).

First, let’s get to know Gilian a bit…

Gilian BakerGilian Baker is a former writing and literature professor who finally threw in the towel and decided to just show ‘em how it’s done. She has gone on to forge a life outside of academia by adding blogger & ghostwriter to her CV. She currently uses her geeky superpowers only for good to entertain cozy mystery readers the world over. When she’s not plotting murder, you can find her puttering in her vegetable garden, knitting in front of the fire, snuggled up with her husband watching British mysteries or discussing literary theory with her daughter.

In her next life, she fervently hopes to come back as a cat, though she understands that would be going down the karmic ladder. She lives in Flagstaff, Arizona with her family and their three pampered felines.

Disclaimer:  Do NOT try this at home, folks! This post is for entertainment purposes only.

Researching How To Kill Your Characters

by Gilian Baker

I love to plot murder! Yeah, that’s not a sentence you read every day, but it’s true. In my first cozy mystery, Blogging is Murder, the murder victim is poisoned with hemlock.

Why hemlock when there are so many new, man-made chemicals available?

I’ve just always wanted to kill someone off with an old-fashioned plant. And when I started researching the properties of hemlock, I knew I had the perfect murder weapon for my first mystery with my protagonist, Jade Blackwell, amateur sleuth.

Here are a few of the questions I had to research to determine if hemlock was a viable murder weapon for the story:

  •  Does it grow wild in Wyoming? (The setting of the series)
  •  Where is it found there?
  •  What parts of the plant are poisonous?
  •  Why would Jade’s friend, Liz write about hemlock on her blog, The Wise Housewife? Is it still used in herbal remedies? What ailments was it historically used for and what is it used for now?
  •  How does it kill? What are the symptoms of the poisoning?
  •  Is it still poisonous when dried?
  •  When does it grow?
  •  Is it frost hearty? Or is it killed off easily by a heavy frost?

I researched some of these questions before I wrote much of the story. But other questions didn’t occur to me until the plot developed, and I needed to know. For example, I was considering adding a freak snowstorm to add tension to the last third of the book. It’s not uncommon to get snow in Wyoming eight months out of the year, so that could work.

I’d written a couple of chapters that included light frosts overnight, which worried Jade since her spring bulbs had already come up in her garden. But wait! Would even a light frost, let alone a big snowstorm kill hemlock that was growing in the wild? If so, how would the murderer get fresh hemlock to kill their victim? Did I want to change the plot so the killer used dried hemlock?

You see how plot twists and new ideas for where to take the story impact the research that needs to be done. In this case, I had to go back and change the entire setting to a later time in spring to avoid overnight frosts. That meant rewriting those scenes where Jade worried about her spring bulbs.

detail from The Death of Socrates by Jacques-Louis David

Detail from The Death of Socrates by Jacques-Louis David (public domain)

I bet you want to know the answers I found in my research, right? After all, who doesn’t want to know more about hemlock? Okay, to satisfy your curiosity, here are the answers.

  • Does it grow wild in Wyoming?
    Yes, in fact it grows wild in most states in the U.S. There are many types of hemlock and most regions have the right conditions for several types to grow.
  • Where is it found there?
    It’s found most anywhere, but it likes a damp climate. During a wet spring, ranchers have to keep an eye out for the plant in their pastures. It’s one of the most poisonous plants to humans, but also to cows, horses and other animals.
  • What parts of the plant are poisonous?
    All of it.
  • Why would Liz write about it on her blog, The Wise Housewife?
    It is still used in herbal remedies, but only in minute doses and only in the hands of a skilled alternative therapist or homeopath. It was historically used for a wide range of ailments, including bronchitis, mania, anxiety, epilepsy and asthma. The Greeks also used it to put criminals to death.
  • How does it kill? What are the symptoms of poisoning?
    Hemlock affects the central nervous system so that the brain continues to function, but the person can’t move. They are paralyzed, but aware of what’s happening to them. It eventually stops their heart.
  • Is it poisonous after it’s dried?
    Yes, for up to three years.
  • When does it grow?
    In the spring.
  • Is it frost hearty?
    No, it’s not. That’s why I had to change the setting of the book and forgo my inspired idea of a freak snowstorm.

But I’m sure I’ll be able to find another way to use that idea in later books. 🙂

If you want to find out who exactly gets knocked off with hemlock and whodunit, well I’m afraid you will have to read the story.

book coverBlogging Is Murder, A Jade Blackwell Mystery

Former English professor Jade Blackwell’s promising new career as a blogger falters when she learns of a hacker who is controlling her friend and fellow blogger Liz Collin’s business remotely. Then the hacker is found dead, and Liz is thrown in jail.

Determined to help her friend regain her life and livelihood, Jade teams up with Liz’s reluctant lawyer to get Liz off the hook and out of jail. What she learns will break the case wide open, while unraveling her faith in humanity and the safety she has felt living in the quaint Rocky Mountain hamlet of Aspen Falls.

Available on AMAZON

Posted by Gilian Baker. You can connect with Gilian on Goodreads, Facebook and Twitter or at her website. Blogging Is Murder is the first book in her Jade Blackwell series.

Kassandra Lamb’s review of Blogging is Murder:

This is a very good debut cozy mystery. The pace is lively and the characters likeable. (I particularly enjoyed the quirky elderly neighbor of the murder victim.) The twist at the end was unexpected but plausible.

I also enjoyed the glimpses into the life of a professional blogger. I had no idea how much work was involved in that business. I’m looking forward to reading more of Jade’s adventures and getting to know the residents of Aspen Falls, Wyoming. Four out of five fingerprints!

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We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week, 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. 🙂 )