Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Guest Post: Jane Risdon

I am so happy to welcome Jane Risdon to my blog today. I've been following her posts for sometime. If you're active on Facebook and the mystery/crime scene, you no doubt have seen her postings, too. She is very visible, with interesting commentary and a wide-range of interests and materials. Please be sure to let her know what you thought of today's post in the comments below! Welcome, Jane!

Writing Only One Woman with Christina Jones (Accent Press) heralded a change of genre for me. I’m a crime/thriller writer and when I came up with the idea for the novel I seriously intended to write a crime story set in the music scene of the late 1960s.
I was looking through some of my musician husband’s memorabilia and diaries – for research – and began to make notes. An idea formed and I began to write, but somewhere along the way I realised I was writing ‘women’s fiction,’ and there wasn’t room for a murder - which was a surprise for me.
Only One Woman is somewhat of a social commentary on the late 1960s in Britain, and how life was changing for those growing up at the time, the way in which world events and the Cultural Revolution shaped their lives; when Britain influenced the world with music and fashion.
At its heart there is a complex love-triangle which takes the reader deep into the world of live music, record making, and the lives of musicians on the road in the grooviest decade of the 20th century. My character, Renza, is a lonely teen who meets and falls in love with lead guitarist, Scott, on the eve of her family’s move overseas soon after he arrives in England for his first tour with his band, Narnia’s Children, and to record his first record.
I soon realised that another character’s point of view would help the story and sent it to Christina to consider, as my co-author. She agreed and added her parts (Stella) into the novel – not easy to do – and once she’d finished we sent it to our publisher who loved it and asked for additional chapters. Considering it ran to 130,000 words already, we were surprised, but managed to bring the final total to 160,000 – 500 pages – which, our readers tell us, is a fast read.
Christina Jones and I go way back. She was fan-club secretary for my then boyfriend’s band and a rock/pop journalist and short story author. We share a love of fashion, music, and most things 1960s, and have always wanted to write together but when I eventually managed to find time to write (crime/thrillers) – I’d been working with my husband in the international music industry and the opportunity hadn’t arisen - she was writing Bucolic Frolics and was an award-winning, best-selling author by then. Never the twain we thought - until Only One Woman.
We didn’t meet to discuss writing; I’d already finished the book from Renza’s POV. Christina had to get inside my characters and plot and write her character, Stella, with everything which had happened in mind. Not easy. In fact the whole book was written in a very 21st century manner – via email, text and Facebook messages.
I’m sure that our shared past, our love of music and fashion helped us no end. We knew how life was back then, the food, the perfumes, the clothes and the music – we’d lived it after-all. We just happened to have been teenagers during the most exciting, intoxicating era of the 20th century, when everything and anything was possible, when the fashions were outrageous and the music innovative.
It was fun to write but we both cried too. It is a work of fiction but we both drew upon our experiences and some events in our book are based ‘lightly’ upon real situations; the venues, the charts and some of the bands at that time, the political events and the Moon Landings are, of course, real.  That’s why guys and musicians love it too.

Jane Risdon writes mostly crime thrillers often set in the music business or with an organised crime or espionage element. With a former career in the international music business managing songwriters, singers, musicians, and record producers, she often draws upon her experiences in Hollywood and SE Asia for her plots.
She is also the author of short stories which have been included in 15 anthologies to date, as well as in magazines and online newsletters. She also contributes articles and writes flash fiction.
In November 2018 Jane publishes her first collection of short stories – Undercover: Crime Shorts – via Plaisted Publishing House.
Jane is married to a musician and with author Christina Jones has co-authored Only One Woman, set in the UK Music Scene of the late 1960s using her experiences married to a musician in the sixties, and her subsequent career in the international music business, as background research. This is Jane’s first outing into writing Women’s Fiction and the paperback was published 24th May 2018. It is also available on most good digital platforms as an e-book and in Waterstones branches.
Iconic rock singer Graham Bonnet has written the foreword to Only One Woman which was written for The Marbles in 1968 by The Bee Gees.
Jane’s Links:
Jane’s Amazon Author Page with all her books: https://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B00I3GJ2Y8
Waterstones Paperback: ISBN: 9781783757329
YouTube Ghostly Writes Anthology 2018: https://youtu.be/4W2t9sLhW0A

Monday, November 5, 2018

Name That Book

I thought you might like to see how I visualize Chief of Police Ari for the United States Colony on Mars. And beside her is Dr. Robb Otts, the doctor, medical examiner, dentist, and surgeon for the U.S. colony. Don’t they make a nice couple?

I’ve been on fire with my writing for NaNoWriMo! In the first four days, I banged out almost 12,000 words, way ahead of schedule. As of this posting, I am sitting at 11,832 words. However, this morning, you can count on me being at the keyboard adding more to the tale. By the time you read this post, I expect to be approaching 15,000 words. That’s only 3168 more words today.

So what? Every year I am so stuffed with ideas that it’s like my head explodes on the keyboard and gets uploaded to my pages. Admittedly, I have hit more words this year than usual by this time, still to lift a phrase from GOT: I know that “winter is coming.”

The dreaded saggy, soggy middle, exacerbated by fatigue, means that a slow down is coming. I know it, expect it, and fear it! Am I creating my own self-fulfilling prophecy by anticipating the slow down. I bank words every year against what I see as inevitable—days when I come nowhere near the daily 1,667 words that, if averaged daily, will result in “winning” National Novel Writing Month. Maybe this year will be different.

But to take my mind off the coming (maybe) slough of despond, I have a job for you to do. Help me out here. I need different title. Murder on Mars  is so BOOORRRING!

Think of this as book one in a trilogy of “Mars Murder Mysteries.” What title would grab science fiction and mystery lovers? What shall I call this book set 100 years in the future on another planet?

Please offer suggestions in the comments below. If I choose your title, I’ll name a character after you in book two. How’s that for an incentive? Put on your thinking caps! And thank you for taking a whack at my dilemma.

Now, back to writing!

Monday, October 29, 2018

Mars Murder Mystery Series

Yep, you got it. During National Novel Writing Month, I’m working on a hard scifi murder mystery set on Mars in 2218, Earth years. Book one is outlined, and book two has a premise and some characters. Book three? Beats me. Maybe none. Right now, I am itching to start writing book one.

I’ve been wanting to do a hard sci fi novel for years, and I’m taking this opportunity to try it on for size. By making it a murder mystery, I’m tapping into a genre I know well so I can bridge to the new-to-me genre.

For the non-sci fi folks out there, there is soft and hard sci fi. Soft is when the science takes a back seat. In hard sci fi, the science is upfront and prominent. For soft sci fi, the author can take a lot of deviations from real science, sometimes it feels like fantasy. Hard sci fi, however, is rooted in the science we know. And though the author can (and indeed should) extrapolate from current science, still there are traceable science elements in hard sci fi.

Think the “Mars trilogy” of Kim Stanley Robinson, Larry K. Collins' McGregor Chronicles, or Andy Weir’s The Martian. Real science was the jumping off point in all these books, and then they extended the science to what could be true in the future. Of course, the story line must be engaging. A novel filled with science-only wouldn’t be a novel.

Striking the balance, addressing real life conundrums posed by the science, and informing the reader about real science makes writing hard sci fi daunting. But, oh, so much fun! (I hope.)

My protag is new-to-Mars Police Chief (Alexandra Rhebekkah, Iskos) who goes by the name Ari. Chief Ari was Executive Assistant Chief of Police in Phoenix before applying (under pressure) for a transfer to the U.S. Mars colony, New Washington. She is escaping some personal issues, and Mars seems like it will be far enough away to resolve them.

She is faced with a death before she even exits the shuttle to the planet’s surface. Her immediate world is populated with no detectives and only two police officers for the territory of the United States colony. Dr. Robb Otts, the colony’s doctor/dentist/surgeon/medical examiner and more becomes a close friend whose mind challenges her to look at alternatives.

What happened to Dr. Anh Nguyen, the colony’s climatologist and acting-geologist? Suicide? Murder? If murder, who in this ultimate closed door mystery setting, could be responsible? The mining executive? A jealous lover? A scientist who disagreed with her findings? The politician aiming to secede from the U.S.A. and  govern the colony? A rogue AI miner? The space jockey who shuttles passengers from space station to the surface? Or is it someone else?

And are the AI miner robots developing sentience? Is that why the mining company erected a force field around the mine sites? Add in the growing unrest with being a colony instead of a recognized separate state, and you have a lot of issues about freedom, independence, and legal rights emerging.

When Chief Ari discovers that another likely-murder happened a month before her arrival, she starts to fear that she won’t be able to handle the investigation. How come nobody told her that collecting forensic evidence on Mars was a whole different ball game? And that there are a lot of ways to murder people on Mars.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

National Novel Writing Month, 2018 Version

Yes, I know. I've been gone a long time. I've been busy, okay?

What, you've been busy, too? Well, then you probably didn't have time to read these musings anyway.

But you knew I'd be back for NaNoWriMo, right?

I'm not going to share much today about it since we begin the madness next week at 12:01 am on November 1. However, let me tease you. At the top is the main setting. Can you figure out where I'll be all month?

Here are two more clues for you. Yes, it is a mystery (but of what?). And the non-culinary mystery shares a genre with one I've not tried to write before.

Hmm! Come back next Monday for an update on the this NaNo mystery. Oh, and if you want to speculate, comment below. I'll be sure to respond to you!

Monday, April 16, 2018

Book Review: IN A JAM by Cindy Dorminy

One of the wonderful and unexpected happenings that resulted from signing with Red Adept Publishing for my culinary mystery series was the introduction to some fabulous new authors so I could fill up my Kindle even more. I will NEVER live long enough to read all the books this baby can hold. But enough about that.

Cindy Dorminy is one such RAP author I encountered. With a title like IN A JAM, how could a foodie-mystery guy like me not pick it up? Well, it’s not a mystery. But that’s okay. What’s not okay is not including the recipe for this fabulous, award-winning strawberry jam that Andie has to figure out. C’mon, Cindy! Give!

But I’m getting ahead of myself. The story premise is one we’ve seen before: the protagonist can only inherit fabulous wealth if certain conditions are met. If not met, xxx inherits, in this case, the small church in small-town Georgia.

But this is not a trite retelling of a trope. Andie is, ahem, shall we say a flawed character. The opening lines of the book hooked me immediately:

“Some might consider waking up in the drunk tank rock bottom. I call it Thursday.”

Andie has all sorts of issues that need sorting, but she is content enough with her life and acquaintances. Her only real friends appear to be the cops who pick her up on Wednesdays and deposit her in the drunk tank and who bring her Dunkin’ Donuts’ dark roast coffee with a double shot of caramel. They like her and worry about her, especially Officer Tinsley, who sees in Andie what she can’t see in herself.

Yes, Andie is content enough until an attorney shows up with the news that her grandmother (whom she hadn’t seen in 20 years or so) died leaving her a coffee shop and her lottery winnings—her considerable lottery winnings.

All Andie has to do is stay sober for six weeks while running the coffee shop, attend church several times a week, fit in with the community, and enter the local fair’s jam contest. Easy peasy, Andie thinks. Breeze into town, put in her time, collect the money, sell the coffee shop, then breeze out of town.

Uh, not so much. That pesky jam recipe, for example, that she just can’t figure out with the clock ticking down to the contest. And “fitting in” is challenging when most of the town wants her to fail so the money goes to the church, the rightful beneficiary, in many minds.

Andie learns a great deal about herself during her six week “sentence” in Smithville, Georgia, and she comes to realize that that was her grandmother’s plan all along. To help and hinder Andie in the plan is a delightful ensemble cast of quirky, supportive, gossipy, toxic, and thoroughly engaging characters. Oh, and the handsome town police officer, directed by Officer Tinsley to monitor Andie, is just the gravy on the biscuit.

Confronting obstacle after obstacle, Andie builds her character pretty much from the ground up. She goes from an anchorless party girl to a caring and thoughtful young woman deserving of the respect she garners.

Cindy Dorminy, I hope there is a sequel and that we learn more about Andie and her renewed life. Oh, and the sequel better have that strawberry jam recipe with the secret ingredient!

Monday, March 19, 2018

Culinary Mystery Writers to Read

It is no surprise that I enjoy reading mysteries. I love puzzles of all sorts. Well-conceived and written mysteries allow me to think along as both true clues and red herrings are strewn in my path. It’s such fun to get a two-fer book: an engaging story with its requisite sub-plots and a puzzle to solve along with the sleuth.

When you add recipes, à la culinary mysteries, I am the most thrilled. Now it’s a three-fer: engaging story with its requisite sub-plots, a puzzle to solve along with the sleuth, and a cookbook! I can never have too many recipes, even though I almost never follow them as written. Weird, huh?

My first culinary mystery author was one that got many of us started on the sub-genre: Diane Mott Davidson. Loved reading about Goldy Bear Schulz and her horrible-then-wonderful life and how she kept tripping over bodies in her small town. My eyes (and brain) flew open.

I was writing other fiction and why it never occurred to me to put my cooking interest into a mystery is beyond me. Let’s just say that “Ah Ha!” experience re-focused my writing.

I tend to read more cozy mysteries these days. I have lost patience with the traditional mystery in which “the great reveal” comes at the end, and in which it is often hard to think along with the sleuth. I’ve read a bunch of traditional mysteries over the years and still read some on occasion, but my interest has shifted. There is something so fun about cozies. They don’t take themselves over seriously. Sure, they want to write well and tell a good tale, but cozies are about entertainment.

Part of my interest is because I’m also a word guy. I love the punny titles that are characteristic of many culinary mysteries. What’s not to love about Assault and Pepper (Budewitz), The Long Quiche Goodbye (Aames), Dying for a Taste (Karst), Scene of the Climb (Dyer-Seeley), and One Foot in the Grape (O’Neil)?

Left Coast Crime panels have introduced me to some new culinary mystery writers, and being on panels with these women (yes, all women) has been fun, enlightening, and engaging. They are smart, funny, and they love food and adult beverages, too! Here are some you may not know, but I urge you to read them if you haven’t.

Avery Aames/Daryl Wood Gerber

Sometimes, when you have more than one series, you write under pen names. This author has three series! Avery writes the Cheese Shop Mysteries. You learn about cheeses and get some recipes, too. Daryl writes the Cookbook Nook Mysteries, the soon-to-be-published French Bistro Mysteries with recipes. She also has written a number of stand-alone suspense books.

Catherine Bruns
Catherine writes the Cookies and Chance Mysteries. Book one gives the recipe for the fortune cookies that connect to the Chance part of her series. There are some weird fortunes that are pertinent to the recipient, advancing character development.
Additionally, Catherine writes the Aloha Lagoon Mysteries (culinary) and the Cindy York Real Estate Mysteries (non-culinary.

Leslie Budewitz
Leslie writes the Spice Shop Mysteries (Seattle setting) and the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries (Montana setting) with delicious recipes! She uses her books to teach us some very interesting stuff! For example, not only do we learn about herbs and spices, but her descriptions of how to use herbs and spices in food sound luscious! Delicious recipes included. She’s a past prez for Sisters in Crime, so you know she knows her way around a mystery!

Kate Dyer-Seeley/Ellie Alexander
Another multi-series author hails from the Northwest. As Kate, she writes writes the “Pacific Northwest Mystery” series and the new “Rose City Mystery” series. As Ellie she writes the “Bakeshop Mystery” series also set in the Northwest. Both series include amazing recipes you’ll enjoy along with the mystery that keeps you guessing.

Leslie Karst
Leslie’s background as an attorney served as the basis for her protag’s previous career also. Then Leslie went to culinary school. Her “Sally Solari Mysteries” are set in Santa Cruz, California. Leaving law to return to the family Italian restaurant business is more of an escape than a life-long dream. Then she inherits a restaurant. Leslie’s recipes are delicious and elegant. Very sophisticated food here.

Kathy Krevat/Kathy Aarons
Here’s another author with more ideas than one series can hold. As Kathy Krevat she writes the “Gourmet Cat” series. Kathy Aarons pens the “Chocolate Covered Mysteries.”  Both have delicious delectations for you to make, too. Kathy Aarons worked with a professional chocolatier to make sure her chocolate candies were perfect.

Nadine Nettmann

Nadine writes the Sommelier Mystery series. She is a certified sommelier and uses that knowledge to teach us about wines while twisting our minds around her engaging mysteries. No recipes, unfortunately, but lots of wine-food pairings are mentioned throughout. Her wine-speak (descriptions of wines) set my tongue a-quiver.

Carlene O’Neil
Carlene’s “Cypress Cove Mysteries” are set along the Northern California coast in wine country. Cypress Cove is a town very like, I mean, very like, Carmel. Her MC comes home to run the family winery she inherited. With an extensive background in alcohol (Carlene is accredited by the Wine and Spirits Education Trust), she teaches us about wine production while spinning a tale for us to unravel.

The culinary mystery field is ripe with authors and their tales of mystery and food beyond these few I’ve highlighted. If you haven’t already bitten into a culinary mystery, take a nibble of these.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Left Coast Crime, 2018

I am headed to the annual Left Coast Crime conference in Reno next week. What does that entail? Part of it is prepping enough food for DH so he is nourished while I’m gone. I know, I know. Don’t go there. This is what I do, okay?

Another part is picking my clothes. You gotta look good at these things, right? I mean, there are famous people there I will interact with. So I went shopping, which I am not wild about. And I ordered stuff online, which I do like to do. And I’ve laid out clothes possibilities in the guest room so I can select the best of the best.

A third conference-prep thing is reading books by authors on my panel. Four panelists and a moderator will share perspectives on writing culinary mysteries. Our title is “Days of Wine and Roses: Culinary Mysteries.” I want to have read at least one book by each woman so I can let them know what I thought. And there are some really great recipes in the novels. I love collecting new recipes!

I went through the program and circled sessions I am interested in attending. The night before, I will select the final ones (where I have more than one highlighted) to attend. I expect, as always, to learn bunches of new stuff. The worst thing is that there’s a session I really want to attend but can’t. It conflicts with my panel. Bummer! In cases like that, I make sure to connect with the panelists to find out what I can about their presentation.

I am also doing some reading about a side trip I am taking prior to the opening of the conference. We’ll be visiting the Donner Party site and museum. I want to bone up on the event (even though I know a good bit already) just so the info from the tour guide has slots to slide into.

Oh, and did I mention I’m on a panel? Yeah, that. In my spare time, I think I should give a bit of thought to what will happen in that hour, don’t you think?