June 16th, 2014

A Writer’s Process – Blog Hop

For all you that have asked about process – this one’s for you : ) Cindy Sample, the very talented mystery author of the Laurel McKay mysteries, asked me to participate in a blog hop devoted to how writers go through their process of writing.

What am I working on/writing?
I am working on the second book in my Reality TV series to be published by Berkley Prime Crime. The first book in the series; A FIRST DATE WITH DEATH: A Love or Money Mystery will be released in the spring next year. Here’s the awesome blurb that those wickedly talented copywriters at Berkley came up with:

When broken-hearted Georgia Thornton goes looking for romance on reality TV, she has nothing to lose. Apart from a good man, a cash prize, and maybe her life.

What was Georgia thinking? Sure, some cad ditched her at the altar, but can she really find love on TV? Her best friend—and producer of the reality show Love or Money—thinks so. Ten men. Ten adventure-filled dates. What can go wrong? For starters, a faulty bungee cord that hurls Georgia’s first date into a tragic spiral off the Golden Gate Bridge.

Just as unexpected: he’s replaced by Paul Sanders, Georgia’s former fiancé. But the cop isn’t looking for a TV gig. Suspecting that the lover’s leap was no accident, Paul’s going undercover. When another bachelor gets a fatal kiss-off, the reality is that someone has killer new plans for the show—and for Georgia herself. Now, under the threat of permanent cancellation, Georgia fears that the only man on the set she can trust is the one man she just can’t count on…

How does my writing/work differ from others in its genre?
I have a M.F.A in playwriting and one of my favorite professors used to say, “No laughter for the playwright, no laughter for the audience. No tears for the playwright, no tears for the audience.” What I took that to mean was that the journey on the page had to be real for me with real emotions otherwise, there’s no way that an audience (or reader) will get that emotional journey. That’s what writing is all about for me. A way to share myself on the page with others. Growing up, my dad would always say that a good book was like a good friend. I want my books/stories to be a friend for my readers.

Why do I write what I do?
Growing up I devoured Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, Agatha Christie and Mary Higgins Clark – I love a great whodunit and if you add a little suspense in there all the better. The tagline for writing is “Come in the for cozy- stay for the thrill of it!

How does my writing process work?
I do every process imaginable. When one isn’t working I move to the next. Right now I’m on a long-hand writing kick. I LOVE filing my notebook with my characters – it flows so easily – the tricky part is converting it into text, but for the wonders of technology- I hear the iPad has a great app for that. Sometimes I use voice dictation (especially when I get tired of typing up my hand written notes). But usually, mostly I sit (or stand – I have one of the those convertible desks) and power through my first draft on the keyboard. I like to write all the way through the draft before editing, but sometimes, I have to go and fix things before I move forward.

I’d love to know more about your writing process, or any other creative endeavor – especially if you have any tech tips – leave them below in the comments!
—————-

Next week’s Blog Hop, Monday, June 23rd – Meet three awesome writers who will answer the same questions I did: Camille Minichino, Kristen Weiss, and Gigi Pandian. Click on the links and visit them!

Gigi Pandian:Gigi-14-BW-CROP-favorite-crop2-240x300

USA Today bestselling author Gigi Pandian is the child of cultural anthropologists from New Mexico and the southern tip of India. After being dragged around the world during her childhood, she tried to escape her fate when she left a PhD program for art school. But adventurous academics wouldn’t stay out of her head. Thus was born the Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mystery Series.

Gigi’s debut mystery novel, Artifact, was awarded a Malice Domestic Grant and named a “Best of 2012″ Debut Novel by Suspense Magazine. The follow-up is Pirate Vishnu.

Gigi’s locked-room mystery short story “The Hindi Houdini” was short-listed for an Agatha Award. Her next novel, The Accidental Alchemist, comes out in January 2015.

Visit her at http://gigipandian.blogspot.com/

weissKirsten Weiss:

Kirsten Weiss is the author of the proto-Steampunk novel, Steam and Sensibility, and the Riga Hayworth series of paranormal mysteries: the urban fantasy, The Metaphysical Detective, The Alchemical Detective, The Shamanic Detective, The Infernal Detective and The Elemental Detective.

Kirsten worked overseas for nearly fourteen years, in the fringes of the former USSR and deep in the Afghan war zone.  Her experiences abroad not only gave her glimpses into the darker side of human nature, but also sparked an interest in the effects of mysticism and mythology, and how both are woven into our daily lives.

Now based in San Mateo, CA, she writes paranormal mysteries, blending her experiences and imagination to create a vivid world of magic and mayhem.

Kirsten’s Website: http://kirstenweiss.com

Camille Minichino:sliderule

Camille has published over 20 novels and many short stories and nonfiction articles.

As Camille Minichino, she’s published 8 Periodic Table Mysteries, featuring retired physicist GLORIA LAMERINO. The latest is a re-issue of THE HELIUM MURDER on Kindle.
As Margaret Grace, she’s published 7 novels in the Miniature Mysteries series, featuring miniaturist GERALDINE PORTER and her 11-year-old granddaughter, Maddie. The latest is MADNESS IN MINIATURE from Perseverance Press.
As Ada Madison, she’s published 4 novels in the Professor Sophie Knowles Mysteries, featuring college professor SOPHIE KNOWLES. The latest is
THE QUOTIENT OF MURDER from Berkley Prime Crime.

http://www.minichino.com/

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March 25th, 2014

Destruction: A Vicente Domingo Intrigue

A NEW SHORT STORY, from the visiting PI in NURSING A GRUDGE

destruction-web-copyFor Anjie Thrasher what should have been a perfect night…rain, a hot new Spanish lover, news that she is finally free of her prenuptial arrange…ends in disaster.
It was a risky case to begin with – Private Investigator, Vicente Domingo, knew Howard Thrasher had the money and power to crush him – worse – now he has the proof.
Vicente’s must risk losing everything…before he loses his life.

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April 21st, 2013

News Flash

New Series coming soon!

I just signed a deal with Penguin USA for a new REALITY TV series, to be published soon. The fist in the series is FOR LOVE OR MONEY in which one of the contestants on a new Reality TV show plunges to his death while bungee jumping and an ex-cop may become a fan favorite by solving the crime…or die trying.

And, as many of you may already know I have a new book coming out that I co-authored with NY Times Bestselling author Laura Childs. It’s the next installment of  the Scrapbooking Mystery Series. GILT TRIP will be released in October 2013.

Gilt Trip

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January 8th, 2013

Guest post by Ada Madison (Camille Minichino)

Function of Murder300Thanks to my good friend, Diana Orgain, for allowing me to enter her blogosphere!

Full disclosure: when I visited here in March, I had just killed a librarian (in THE PROBABILITY OF MURDER, by my aka Ada Madison) and I got some well-deserved grief from blog visitors. I hope in the end, readers could see that Charlotte would still be alive if she had been ONLY a good librarian, but she had many dark secrets that contributed to her demise.

Now the next book in the Professor Knowles series has been released. In A FUNCTION OF MURDER, I’ve killed the mayor of the town. Shall I wear body armor while you pummel me with hardcover books? It’s time to see who’s more popular, librarians or mayors. Will it be close?

Here’s a snippet of A FUNCTION OF MURDER. All the graduation speeches and parties are over, and Sophie is happy to be meeting her boyfriend Bruce, a medevac pilot, for a late night stroll on campus. You can read the full first chapter on my website.

Make a comment for a chance to win a copy of the book.

From A FUNCTION OF MURDER

Bruce assumed his ritual hunky stance as I approached the parking lot near Franklin Hall. He leaned against the front fender of his new black muscle car, his arms folded across his chest, his dark hair rustling in the slight breeze. All he needed to complete the picture were pointy leather boots and a cowboy hat, but instead he wore his usual off-duty khakis and a black polo shirt. I couldn’t see his grin, but I knew it was there and I loved it.

Ten minutes later, we were next in line at Jimmie’s “Not Just Ice Cream,” across from the east side of campus. I almost chose a red velvet cupcake, to go along with the new dessert craze in Henley, but in the end walked out with my usual chocolate-chocolate milk shake.

“No dinner at the Inn?” Bruce asked. He who had dined on granola bars and orange-colored chips all day was satisfied with a waffle cone of butter brickle.

“The classier the restaurant, the smaller the portions,” I explained.

We strolled the campus, now minus the ugly temporary graduation stage, taking the long way to my office and Bruce’s car, both on the west side. Most of the buildings were dark, with only a smattering of students in each of the three dorms.

I was surprised to see lights on anywhere in the Administration Building, but especially on the ground floor of the faculty offices wing. The humanities profs weren’t lucky enough to have their own building as we in the math and science community did, so their offices were jammed together at the back of Admin. Some dedicated English or history teachers were working late tonight. I doubted they were poring over the fall syllabus. More likely, cramming to get grades done so they could take off and not show up again until Labor Day.

Bruce and I drifted toward the fountain, enjoying Jimmie’s ice cream, ready to take turns sharing “how was your day” stories that didn’t fit into text messages.

“The Bat Phone was quiet until about four,” Bruce said. “Then this semi on I-495 by Hopedale runs into an SUV coming back from the Cape.” He used his hands, tipping his butter brickle cone precariously, to mimic a collision that I knew couldn’t have had a happy ending. “This little kid, maybe six years old, was asleep on the backseat. No seat belt.” Bruce uttered a sad grunt. “We flew the boy and his mother to County General. An ambulance took the dad and the semi driver, but . . . ” He shook his head and drew a long breath.

We sat down on one of the curved concrete benches surrounding the fountain. I put my head on his shoulder and rubbed his back for a few quiet minutes.

“Did anyone make it?” I asked.

Bruce shook his head. “The little boy, Ricky, is gone. So’s his dad. It looks like the mother, who was driving, is going to be okay. And the semi driver doesn’t have a scratch on him.” He turned and brushed the concern from my face with his hand and a slight, resigned smile. “How about you?” he asked. “How was all the pomp and circumstance?”

“Really?” I asked Bruce, our shorthand for “do you want me to tell you silly, distracting commencement day stories?”

Outbursts from students, disputes over petty politics and whatever else was going on in the schools or at the mayor’s campaign headquarters, paled in the light of Bruce’s Bat Phone duties.

“Really,” Bruce said. “Tell me some campus gossip.”

My most upsetting moments today, besides our aborted parties, had come from a student who was unhappy with her final exam grade and wanted me to reconsider.

I launched into the reasons for my annoyance with Elysse—she’d disputed points I’d taken off her exam for not following instructions on a statistics problem. She’d blasted me in an email after I explained my reasoning for the grade and declined to change it.

“She’s a transfer student and I’ve given her special attention all semester,” I said. I remembered all the times I’d sat in front of the whiteboard with the thin, pixie-haired blonde, reviewing math methods long after office hours were over. “I’ve gone out of my way to make up for any gaps caused by the transfer.”

“I’m sure you have,” Bruce said, trying hard to pay attention, but not fully engaged.

I switched topics and brought up the tension over the performance of charter schools and the way they’re funded. “Some of the families were accusing Mayor Graves of neglecting the charters,” I reported.

“The charter setup is made for disaster,” Bruce said, coming to life again. “You know what I mean from working at Zeeman, but the problem is system-wide. I remember when my niece was in a charter school in Boston. My sister was on the board and went nuts trying to keep it together, with more reporting and paperwork than teaching going on, and no one seemed to care about discipline or standards. It was always a question of, ‘Who’s in charge?’ You’ve got a school that is and isn’t under supervision of the district and the Superintendent of Schools.”

“I wouldn’t want Pat Collins’s job,” I said, remembering the superintendent’s glowering visage on the stage today.

“He goes home to a cushy residence on the Cape, remember. During my pilot-to-the-stars days, I picked him up now and then to take him to a meeting here, but I guess now he has a home in Henley, also.”

“It’s hard to say who’s right in all this. It’s probably not all the superintendent’s fault. Not the principals’ either,” I said.

“Nothing works if there’s no clear line of authority.”

Thus spoke a retired Air Force man.

By ten fifteen, according to the old chimes from Franklin Hall, we decided it was time to leave. We stood and brushed off particles of dust and leaves deposited by the breeze, ready for the walk to Bruce’s car, marveling at how still and lovely the campus was. The graduation hubbub and the squealing from one of the last all-female graduating classes were over. Who knew what kind of celebratory sounds the new male grads would make in a couple of years? Perhaps they’d simply say, “Good job, Bro,” and knock knuckles.

Seemingly out of nowhere, we heard clumping noises—dragging sounds on the lawn and then shuffled footsteps on the pathway, coming from the direction of the dorms and the east end of the Administration Building.

“Help!” a low, pained voice cried. “Help me!”

We turned and saw a man in a light business suit staggering toward us, as if he would topple over on the next step. He looked a lot like the mayor, with auburn highlights showing up under the campus security lamps.

On closer inspection—it was the mayor.

I could hardly believe it. He teetered and swayed till he got to the edge of the fountain, where we’d been sitting, then fell in, head first. His commencement speech wasn’t that bad, I thought, that he had to get himself wasted. How embarrassing. What was he thinking? He should be grateful that it was Bruce and I who were here and not someone from his opponent’s campaign or parents with a decidedly negative opinion of him to begin with.

Bruce didn’t stop to judge or make a guess about what had happened or why. He snapped to it, on full alert, as if he were back in the Air Force in Saudi Arabia, or at the MAstar helipad rushing to get to an accident scene. He made it to the fountain in three long steps and lifted the mayor out by the shoulders. He laid him face down on the grass.

I was confused—why didn’t he put him on his back? That’s what television emergency crews did when they gave CPR. Face up.

Then I saw the blade sticking up in the air.

BIO: Camille Minichino, a retired physicist turned writer, has published 18 mysteries in three series: slideruleThe Periodic Table Mysteries, The Miniature Mysteries (as Margaret Grace) and the Professor Sophie Knowles Mysteries (as Ada Madison). She’s written articles for popular magazines and teaches writing in the San Francisco Bay Area. She works at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and teaches science at Golden Gate U., San Francisco.

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May 3rd, 2012

Guest Post by Bodie Parkhurst

Good morning. I’m a stranger in these here parts. I feel like I should be wearing chaps, boots, six-guns, and a very large, very dirty hat. And maybe a shirt. Definitely a shirt. And I should have just pushed my way through wooden saloon doors, strode across the floor (thumping my heels down firmly, as one must do in cowboy boots) bellied up to the bar, and asked for a drink. Probably a Diet Coke, or an Arnold Palmer.

And there you are, on the stool next to me, with your own Diet Coke, or Arnold Palmer, and we know it’s just a matter of time before somebody over at the card table growls, “You callin’ me a cheater?”

And somebody else says, “Yup, I’m a’callin’ you a low-down dirty dog of a cheater.”

And the first guy says, “Smile when you say that.” And then all heck breaks loose.

But in the meantime here we are, our whistles adequately wetted with our beverage of choice, and we have decided conversation is desirable. And, since I’m the stranger in town as well as a closet narcissist, it’s gonna be all about me, me, me.

The funny thing about this post so far is that it actually reflects a true thing about me, as well as my three sisters. We grew up on a ranch, to a father who probably needed sons but loved us anyway, and figured we could be just as useful if we developed our brains, since our biceps were letting us down. I spent a significant part of my life in trucks and tractors, and a fair amount doing things to and for cattle. Cattle are my people. Horses have me pretty much buffaloed, but cows and I get along just fine.

So how does all that translate into a career in marketing communications, with regular scenic routes into novels, short stories, and paintings? Not easily. Not at first, anyhow.

I went to college because I couldn’t bear to think of spending the rest of my life nursemaiding trucks through various growing and harvest seasons, then I went to graduate school because I finished college without yet having a clear plan for what I wanted to do (except that I didn’t want it to involve trucks).

I graduated with a Master’s Degree in English (I was getting A’s in college and figured heck, I’d go with my strengths), and no real career plan. I taught high school. I taught college writing and remedial writing. I got a job as an editor at a medical center, discovered computer graphics back in the days when you could bootstrap your way into a career, and did exactly that. I veered away from writing and into computer design, and then, at 36 years old, I had a baby.

People say that having a baby changes your life. People are so right.  I discovered that I could make decisions for my son that I should have been making for myself. And, against all of my own plans and expectations, I found myself back living in a tiny town less than 100 miles from the hospital where I was born, and the ranch where I grew up.

It didn’t happen all at once, but it happened–and now I live in a place where the roads acquire a scattering of corn and grain at the end of every summer, and trucks haul potatoes, onions, peas, apples, peaches, corn and tomatoes down Main Street and out onto the highway to markets all across the United States.

And my writing? I’ve discovered that I write best about what I know best–small towns, ranches, cattle, fields that roll on forever to the mountains, and the people who live there. Sometimes they’re nice people. Sometimes they’re not. Mostly they’re some of both.bodie

Mostly I’ve discovered that, after spending most of my youth pining to leave the land I knew best, after spending years learning how to write, but having nothing to really write about, I have come home, and discovered that at long last, I have something to say, and the skills to say it.

What do I say? Mostly that for me, life is lived in a million tiny moments, and some of them shine like jewels. That’s the underlying message of Benchmarks, my latest book. It’s a collection of essays documenting my life as a single mother. It’s a way of honoring and sharing the great and unexpected happiness that I have found in raising my son alone. Mostly, it’s just a record of some of our brightest moments–the moments when I sucked in my breath and said to myself, “This, right here, is what life is supposed to be. This is a moment worth holding onto forever. And then I grabbed a pencil and paper, and did exactly that–and now I’m sharing them with anyone who cares to read them. It’s a book about coloring outside the lines, breaking the rules, and discovering true love in a place and at a time when I thought I would never know it.

For more information you can visit Bodie at her website. She’s also got a fabulous little web-store too.

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March 6th, 2012

A conversation and GIVEAWAY with Camille Minichino

My friend, the fabulous Camille Minichino, joins us today for the launch of her latest book. For a chance to win a copy leave a comment for Camille. One lucky winner (in US only, please) will win.

Camille, your second book in the wildly successful Professor Sophie Knowles Series is being released today. Congratulations! Give us the elevator pitch.probability of murder (2)200

Thanks for this great opportunity, Diana. It’s always fun to visit your blog!

The pitch:   In “The Probability of Murder,” Sophie Knowles, college math professor and puzzle-maker, is stunned when her friend, Charlotte, the college librarian, is found murdered in the limited access stacks. It takes Sophie’s sharp sleuthing to unearth the secret, stretching back two decades, that led to her friend’s murder. My website, www.minichino.com has a full synopsis.

Tell us a little about how you came to write the Professor Sophie Knowles Series.

I’m turning every phase of my life into a mystery series. I’ve done my physicist era, my miniatures hobby; it was time to do the college math teacher career. There are still six more phases, so be ready.

They say to write what you know and I KNOW you like math – LOL. Tell us about Sophie Knowles. Share three things that you and Sophie have in common, and three ways in which you’re absolutely different.

And I know YOU like math, Diana, and you’re going to pass that on especially to your daughter!

Sophie and I love to teach. Often I’ve learned something just so I could teach it—from miniatures to making muffins to physics.

Sophie and I both love doing and making up puzzles. My husband and I often make up puzzles for each other.

One of Sophie’s contributions to her department is based on my early days teaching undergraduate physics, when I hosted monthly birthday parties for famous mathematicians and scientists. I’d put the students in charge of preparing a bio of the person and a demonstration of her or his work. And there’d be cake.

But Sophie’s personal background is very different from mine. Sophie is ethnically neutral and fondly remembers her parents, whereas I grew up in a very Italian neighborhood and . . . well, that’s another story! Also, Sophie’s dress size is in the single digits.

Does Sophie get into any trouble in the book that you’ve been in yourself? Does she do something you wouldn’t do in a million years, no matter the benefits?

Yes to both! I’ve managed to turn every upset in my life into fiction. I’ve been called into college presidents’ and deans’ offices more than once for exactly the reasons Sophie has—well, except for the investigating a murder bit (that’s the “not in a million years” part). For example, in “The Square Root of Murder,” the dean reprimands Sophie for wearing sandals to class; I was once chided for wearing what we then called slacks to class. In each case, I try to make the point that college administrators should be focusing on more important matters.

What was the hardest part of writing Professor Sophie Knowles Series? Is that always the hardest part for you, or does it change from book to book? What about the easiest or most fun part?

The hardest part for me in any novel is unrolling the plot so that everything comes together in a satisfying way: laying out clues that are obvious-but-not-obvious, leading the sleuth to the “aha” moment in a believable way, avoiding too-stupid-to-live and the big confession dump by the killer at the end.  After 16 books, plus 3 in the pipeline, I’m considering making an outline first for the next one, but—nah—it’s more fun to wing it and stress out near the end.

I love building the characters. And it’s easy for Sophie and her crew, since I’ve been hanging around college campuses on the East and West Coasts for decades. At the moment I’m on the faculty of Golden Gate U. in San Francisco, and I want to say that absolutely NO character or plot thread is based on a student, faculty member, administrator, janitor, mailroom clerk, living or dead, on that campus.

Similarly for the other two series. For Gloria Lamerino—my research was working in a science lab environment for many years, and we share the same ethnicity and roots in Revere, Mass. For Geraldine—easy because I have been and still am a miniaturist, playing with dollhouses and tiny furniture in secret.

What has most surprised you about being a writer?

The camaraderie among writers and readers. I thought only physics and math were people-oriented fields where everyone worked together, shared knowledge, and joked a lot.

slideruleIf you could give one piece of advice to the pre-published writers reading this, what would it be, and why?

Be patient with the process, with both the writing and the publishing business. If I could give two pieces of advice, the second would be: Get a degree in marketing.

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January 9th, 2012

Guest Post by J.J. Murphy

Dorothy Parker Didn’t Go Bowling
By J.J. Murphy, author of the Algonquin Round Table Mysteries

MYD cover_low“Write what you know”—that’s the advice people give you when you say you want to write a book.
Bad advice (for me, anyway).
To keep my sanity, I had to write about something far, far different from what I knew. Why, you ask? Because all I knew about when I started writing was baby stuff—Cheerios, The Wiggles, Pampers and peepee.
You see, I was (and am) the parent of young identical twins. (We sometimes went through 16 Pampers a day, if my memory serves—though it rarely does anymore.) I loved my little identical blond babies (still do, of course), but I had to get away!
So, I checked out. I didn’t have the time to write, but I couldn’t help myself. I went on vacation…I left for New York City in the Roaring 20s. How? I started writing a mystery series featuring Dorothy Parker and the members of the Algonquin Round Table. These people and their daily lives—their witty banter over long lunches and sparkling cocktails—were about as far removed as possible from my long days full of Teletubbies and temper tantrums.
Dorothy Parker, as you may know, was a Jazz Age writer and poet who was as well known for her clever wisecracks as for her writing. (Even if you don’t know her, you’ve probably heard something she said or wrote, such as “Men seldom make passes at girls who wear glasses,” or “Brevity is the soul of lingerie.”) She was a charter member of the Algonquin Round Table, which was a group of like-minded writers, editors and critics who met daily for lunch, seated at a round table at the Algonquin Hotel.
By day, they spoke and wrote about art, politics and Broadway performances. By night, they smoke and drank and laughed till the wee hours of the morning, rubbing elbows with celebrities, gangsters and flappers alike, only to wake up late and do it all over again. The only way I could possibly make these real-life characters more exciting was to throw them into a murder mystery. (The first of these, MURDER YOUR DARLINGS, was published in January 2011. The second, YOU MIGHT AS WELL DIE, is just released.)
My babies aren’t babies any more. Yesterday I took them bowling, and YMAWD_final_lowone of them bowled her first strike. By contrast, Dorothy Parker may have taken the New York subway to back-alley speakeasies, but I can’t imagine her driving a minivan to a suburban bowling alley.
So, I guess I’m living in the best of both worlds now. Soccer games, chicken nuggets and cartoons by day—and murder, mayhem and Manhattans by night.
But, boy, it’s a lot of work! I think I may need another vacation…

Please visit J.J. Murphy at http://www.roundtablemysteries.com/ and www.facebook.com/RoundTableMysteries.
Mystery Scene magazine called MURDER YOUR DARLINGS “A brilliant first novel … Murphy has courageously ventured into [Dorothy] Parker’s world, and does quite a creditable job … And the mystery ain’t bad either.”

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November 8th, 2011

Guest Post and Giveaway – Ann Parker

AnnParkerLeadvilleMapI Kid You Not: Children in the Silver Rush mysteries – by Ann Parker

Years ago, when I was started writing my Silver Rush historical mystery series, I pondered about the maternal standing of Inez Stannert.

Should she have a child? Or not?

You see, Inez leads a hard and complicated life. She lives at the ten-thousand-foot mark in the Rocky Mountains, in Leadville, Colorado, in the 1880s. Leadville is a silver boomtown—chaotic, bursting at the snowy seams with men and women driven by greed, desperate to get rich by any means including murder.

Not an ideal time or place to raise a child.

In addition, Inez’s husband, Mark Stannert, has disappeared without a trace before the first book even opens. Inez has given up hope of finding him alive, although a part of her wonders if her smooth-talking, good-looking gambler husband might have skipped out with a “pretty-waiter girl” or one of the actresses passing through town. In Mark’s absence, Inez manages the Silver Queen Saloon and runs a high-stakes poker game on Saturday nights. And then, “stuff happens.” The mysterious (but incredibly attractive) Reverend Sands comes to town. People close to Inez start to die under unusual circumstances (after all, this is a mystery). Inez investigates (after all, she is the sleuth).

I wanted to make Inez a mother, even though I wasn’t sensing a lot of maternal attributesMercurysRiseCoverin this poker-playing, whiskey-drinking, pocket-pistol-toting woman of the West. But I thought that Inez would make a fiercely protective, passionate parent. She would do whatever it took to protect her children, if I were to bequeath them to her. I believed she “had it in her,” so to speak, to be a mother.

But how was she going to handle everything (run a saloon, conduct a dance of seduction with Reverend Sands, solve murders, etc., etc.) with children in tow? Even if I were to throw in a nurse or governess, I couldn’t see this working.

After careful deliberation, I hit upon a plan. I gave Inez a baby: William. But William has weak lungs and cannot remain at Leadville’s altitude. In fact, shortly before Mark disappeared, the Stannerts had decided to move to a lower elevation, for William’s sake. With Mark gone, Inez was torn: should she stay, where she could search for her husband, or should she go, to protect William’s health? Enter (conveniently) Inez’s sister Harmony, who becomes William’s guardian so Inez can remain in Leadville. Harmony takes William back East and the sisters write regularly so Inez can keep abreast of her son’s development. This way, Inez can continue to investigate those mysteries that keep cropping up in Leadville.

I was satisfied with this arrangement. But readers weren’t.

As the series progressed, readers became “invested in” William (or maybe the term is “obsessed with”). Why wasn’t Inez making plans to get him back? Why wasn’t she visiting him? How could she stand to give him up, and for so long? What kind of mother was she?

I finally threw up my virtual hands in surrender. Toward the end of the third book, Leaden Skies, Inez makes plans to see William and Harmony. In the fourth book, Mercury’s Rise, mother and child at last reunite in the spa resort town of Manitou Springs, Colorado.

However, William has not seen his mother for over a year, and he is now almost two years old. Do you have a two year old, or do you recall what they are like? How they respond to strangers? (Answer: Not well.) How about their favorite two-letter word? (Hint: N-O.)

Needless to say, the reunion does not go as Inez expects. Too, there’s an additional complication: Mark Stannert has returned, with all his considerable charm focused on Inez. He has a plausible (?) explanation for his long absence. He wants to see his son, and for the three of them to become a family again.

Even as Inez struggles to sort out her feelings toward Mark and the suspicious little naysayer who is her son, strange unexplained deaths are occurring in Manitou Springs.

And guess who must investigate….

Ann Parker is a California-based science/corporate writer by day and an historical mystery writer by night. Her award-winning Silver Rush series, featuring saloon-owner Inez Stannert, is set in 1880s Colorado, primarily in the silver-mining boomtown of Leadville. The latest in her series, MERCURY’S RISE, was released November 1. Publishers Weekly says, “Parker smoothly mixes the personal dramas and the detection in an installment that’s an easy jumping-on point for newcomers.” Library Journal adds, “Parker’s depth of knowledge coupled with an all-too-human cast leaves us eager to see what Inez will do next. Encore!” Learn more about Ann and her books at http://www.annparker.net

MERCURY’S RISE and the other Silver Rush mysteries are available from independent booksellers, amazon.com, and Barnes and Noble.

Leave a comment on this post to be eligible to win a Silver Rush mystery prize! Winner will be announced later this week. To see the rest of Ann’s virtual tour, check out her Appearances page on her website.

Mother_child

Inez, is that you? Probably not…

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July 7th, 2011

Guest post by Camille Minichino

“I Child-Proofed My House  . . . but they get in anyway.”

It’s a well-known fact that I’m not a kid-person. I’m not into them. They’re not my thing. I don’t do kids.

Don’t introduce me to your children until they’re ready to discuss quantum mechanics with me. (Diana’s kids are there already!)

So how did Maddie Porter get born and invade six of my books (the sixth miniature mystery, “Mix-Up in Miniature,” will be out next spring)? Maddie is now 11, well below the age I can relate to, the discussable age, and she’s also a skinny redhead, the likes of which I never saw growing up in my Italian neighborhood.

I’ve always resisted the “characters want to be heard” myth. Creating a character and moving her around 350 pages in a believable way takes a lot of work.

I was on a panel once with the great Reginald Hill. Someone asked him, “Do your characters ever take over and write the story?”

“If only they would,” he answered. “I’d go and have a spot of tea.”

I’m with Sir Reginald on that, but there’s no doubt that Maddie the Kid crept onto my screen before I could think about whether I wanted to deal with a preteen.

Maddie is precocious and loves sweets, which helps, because I can imagine manipulating her to talk about string theory, and her computer skills make her a good little sidekick sleuth, but I’ve warned her, she’d better not start acting up like some of the kids I see at the mall. I have ways of eliminating characters I no longer have use for.

My newest series, an academic mystery, features Sophie Knowles, college math teacher in a small New England town. What a relief. Sophie hangs around with only adults and college kids (my favorite segment of the population) all day.

Sophie has no children, but her boyfriend has a 10-yr old niece. Oh, no! What if Melanie demands her own story?

Not that I believe in characters taking over.

For each book, I create characters whose lives and professions are unfamiliar to me. I love doing the research, talking to willing subjects to get the inside scoop. Among the people I’ve observed and interviewed are cops, funeral directors, ice climbers, veterinarians, EMT workers and medivac pilots. And now, kids.

To develop Maddie I had to actually deal with kids, to capture their behavior, speech patterns, buzz words.

What do you know? They’re not as bad as thought. I even grew to like a couple of them. Still, no theme birthday party invitations, please.

Square Root of MurderSMALLsliderule

 

 

Photos: CM with slide rule; Square Root of Murder cover

Camille Minichino is a retired physicist turned writer, who minimized her chances of having children of her own by spending her childbearing years in a convent. Her akas are Margaret Grace (The Miniature Mysteries) and Ada Madison (The Professor Sophie Knowles Mysteries, debuting July 5). She’s at http://www.minichino.com

 

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June 20th, 2011

Type-A-Parent

This week I’m off to speak at Type-A-Parent conference. I’m looking forward to meeting some excellent bloggers and mommies! It will be my first visit to North Carolina which I hear is wonderful! I’ll also be stopping by Dallas to be on Conversations Cafe hosted by Cheryl Nash. If I can get my hands on the video link, I’ll post it upon my return.
In the meantime, summer is finally in full swing here in San Francisco. The weather is beautiful and the kids are having a ball. Our kitchen remodel is almost complete…waiting with baited breath – I’ll post the pictures here perhaps after our vacation to Montana – oh, yes. There’s that too – an extended camping trip with the family to Big Sky – can’t wait.

What are your summer plans?

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March 1st, 2011

FORMULA FOR MURDER – Release Day Contest

In the third installment of the Maternal Instincts Mystery Series: untitled

Sleuth and first-time mom Kate Connolly and her baby are the victims of a hit-and-run, but escape unharmed. A witness identifies the car’s French diplomatic license plates, yet when Kate and her hubby try to get some answers, they get le cold shoulder. But there’s something going on at the French consulate that’s dirtier-and far deadlier-than any diaper.

Order your copy today – available where books are sold:
Amazon
Barnes & Noble

To celebrate the release of Formula for Murder, we’ve teamed up with San Francisco baby apparel company Libraknits to give away a FREE luxurious handmade baby hat to one lucky winner!!!  Just enter our contest and spread the word to win the LibraKnits luxurious handmade baby hat of your choice!!!

Contest Details Here

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December 23rd, 2010

Time Management meets Bob

IMG_3705(Blogging over at the The Ladykillers today: but I’ve copied the post here too for your convienance)

 

Meet Bob. He is 22 months old. According to some child-rearing books children between the ages of 18 to 24 months are “Developmentally at a level similar to Neanderthals two million years ago.”

 

Seriously? I’m living with a Neanderthal? Oh, don’t worry, the book goes on to explain that Neanderthals were smarter, more verbal, and more agile than ape-men (what a relief) but also more aggressive and stubborn.

 

Well, you got that part right.

 

So what does Bob have to do with Time Management?

 

First off, there is a lot to learn from Bob – he’s stubborn and tenacious – which may be qualities all writers need to possess.

 

Secondly, he does what he wants. I laugh as I write this – but it’s pretty much true.  If he wants to sleep- he does, if he wants to eat- he does, if he wants to play in the garden but it’s raining he pounds on the window with his little fists – you get my drift. He either does what he wants or fights for it.

 

So how does all this relate to “Time Management”? I think we all make time to do what we like to do. The question I get asked more often than anything else is, “With three small kids, where do you find the time to write?” My answer is, “I make the time.”

 

It’s about priorities.

 

Here are my tips about making the time:

  1. We’re all busy, when you can make out a little time to write, even if it’s ten minutes – have an idea about what you’ll be writing (i.e. the scene where she finds the body or the confrontation between characters x and y)this way, you are making the most of the precious few minutes you’ve set aside.
  2. Therefore, think about your story before you sit down to write. I love to do this when I’m working out. It’s the part of me that loves to multi task. Asking yourself the “what if” question while you’re doing a repetitive action like on the treadmill is great to get ideas flowing. If you don’t like working out – doing household chores like dishes or laundry can get pretty repetitive too.
  3. Working on a novel? Then rinse and repeat step 1 and 2. Seriously, all it takes is thinking about your story (planning) and writing (executing).

Want to kick it into high-gear for 2011? Here are your bonus tips:

a. The more frequently you do step 1 and 2 the easier they get.

b. See yourself doing steps 1 and 2. Writing a to-do list with “write 1000 words” on it, is not enough to actually get yourself to do it – trust me – I’m a consummate list maker. What will actually get you doing your to-do list is seeing yourself accomplishing your tasks (sounds a bit new-agey – sorry- but it’s true). You need to engage your frontal lobe (this is a part of the brain that our Neanderthal friend in the beginning of the story, Bob, has not developed yet.) So, before bedtime take a few minutes (and I do mean few minutes – this takes about 2 to 3 minutes – YOU HAVE THE TIME TO DO THIS) and use your mind to see yourself writing.  What time is it? Where are you? Who is watching the kids? What are you writing? Work through any road block you may have, to complete the task of writing, in your mind at that moment. Don’t wait for the next day to work through these potential blocks because then your time will be spent on that instead of writing.

 

So that’s it – now go do it! Remember you are NOT a Neanderthal -you have evolved past that.

 

(Disclaimer – I don’t actually think Bob is a Neanderthal either – I love my little guy with all my heart.)

 

Bookmark this page and check back in 2011 and let me know how my tips are working out for you!

 

In the meantime – Merry Christmas to you and yours and have a very blessed 2011!

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November 11th, 2010

Shoes!

I’m blogging over at the Ladykillers today. Our topic was shoes and I interviewed 3 yr. old Tommy on his new rainboots, but we had a little situation that needed big sister, Carmen’s, help. The situation could have led to many secrets revealed – which is just the thing mysterys are made of! Check out the post at the Ladykillers to see my little cuties in action!

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October 26th, 2010

FORMULA FOR MURDER

Just received the copyedits from my editor for FORMULA FOR MURDER. The third in the Maternal Instinct Mystery series to be released in March 2011. Am fast at working polishing and am surprised that the munchins are letting me concentrate! Now, back to work – oh -and below is the cover.

untitled

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August 19th, 2010

Crime TV…or Not

Posting over at the LadyKillers group blog today – our topic is TV Crime Shows…only I really don’t watch them – so I’ve broken out of the mold and talk about Reality TV instead! hehehe

http://theladykillers.typepad.com/the_lady_killers/2010/08/crime-showor-not.html

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