Friday, February 3, 2023

What We're Writing--Debs is Blogging

DEBORAH CROMBIE: It's What We're Writing Week and I have been blogging, here, there, and everywhere, because it's almost time for the launch of A KILLING OF INNOCENTS next Tuesday, February 7th (Hank and I share a book birthday, yay!) 

I am so excited! This my first book launch in three years and four months (yes, I know you are all counting!) And today I'm on way to Phoenix for my first live book event, ditto. On Saturday at 2 p.m. MST I'll be at the Poisoned Pen in Scottsdale chatting with our very own Rhys Bowen. (You can join us on the Pen's Facebook page or YouTube channel, and you can order signed books!)

Next week I'll be in Houston on February 9th at Murder by the Book, chatting with my pal Celeste Connolly (a.k.a. S.C. Perkins.) You can order signed copies from MBTB as well.

For Dallas/Fort Worth area readers, I'll be doing a panel at the Dallas Literary Festival March 4th and books will be available. More information soon here

February 27th I'll be in Key West for the Friends of the Key West Library Speaker Series, chatting with the lovely Barb Ross, and I'll get to see Roberta AND Hallie! You can bet much fun will be had. 

For a special Jungle Red preview today, I thought I'd share just a smidgen of illustrator Laura Maestro's wonderful map. I think every map Laura creates is more fun than the last and she's outdone herself with A Killing of Innocents. Just look at the Staffordshire dogs! And Toby, rehearsing in his mouse head for the Nutcracker, and the adorable border terrier, Wallace. And Sid, of course.

And one more treat--here's a link to an audio sample of Gerard Doyle narrating the book. I got goosebumps just hearing the first few seconds.

I hope to see some of you in person or online! Readers and reviewers and my dear Jungle Reds have been so supportive of this book and so patient with me. I appreciate it more than I can say, and I hope to see some of you in person or online. 

Dear readers, are you getting out for live events again, or taking advantage or the virtual ones? Or both?

P.S. The only bad thing about all of this is that I'm missing my darling granddaughter Wren's 7th birthday today! How did time go so fast??

On a rainy November evening, trainee doctor Sasha Johnson hurries through the evening crowd in London's historic Russell Square. Out of the darkness, someone jostles her as they brush past. A moment later, Sasha stumbles, then collapses. When Detective Superintendent Duncan Kincaid and his sergeant, Doug Cullen, are called to the scene, they discover that she's been stabbed.

Kincaid immediately calls in his detective wife, Gemma James, who has recently been assigned to a task force on knife crimes which are on the rise. Along with her partner, detective sergeant Melody Talbot, Gemma aids the investigation. But Sasha Johnson doesn’t fit the profile of the task force’s typical knife crime victim. Single, successful, career-driven, she has no history of abusive relationships or any connection to gangs. Sasha had her secrets, though, and some of them lead the detectives uncomfortably close to home.

As the team unravels the victim's tangled connections, another murder raises the stakes. Kincaid, Gemma, and their colleagues must put even friendships on the line to find the killer stalking the dark streets of Bloomsbury. 

Thursday, February 2, 2023

What We're Writing @LucyBurdette

 LUCY BURDETTE: In spite of the fact that I’m way behind in my schedule for Key West mystery #14, I've spent much of this last month in New Haven rather than Key West--in my mind, that is! The editorial comments on THE INGREDIENTS OF HAPPINESS arrived in my inbox during Christmas week. This book falls into the category of contemporary or women's fiction, and it takes place in New Haven with a little side trip to Madison CT. I've been lucky in my writing life to land amazing editors who help make my books stronger, and this time was no exception. Lots of changes were made to strengthen the character and the story. Soon I'll be able to show you the cover, and provide a pre-order link… But meanwhile, here’s the opening introducing psychologist and so-called happiness expert, Dr. Cooper Hunziker:

Chapter One

Things my mother taught me, part one: chocolate cake makes everything better. 

This thought floated through my mind as I paused, willpower wobbling, preparing to run the gauntlet of glassed-in cakes that greeted each coffee shop visitor as soon as the door closed behind her. Carrot cake, sponge cake, coconut cake, poppyseed pound cake, peach shortcake, chocolate cake with chocolate fudge frosting: not a single one was on my no-white flour, low-carb, low-sugar, low-fat, I’m-in-control-of-my-life diet. 

Except I wasn’t in control, and every cell and synapse in my body recognized that. “Could I get a small-ish piece of the chocolate cake?” I asked the girl behind the counter.

She shrugged and grinned, the piercings around her lips and nose bristling. “Sorry. We’ve already cut it into slices. What if you bought a piece, ate half, and threw the rest out? Or wrapped it up for tomorrow?”

“As if that would ever happen,” I said with a chuckle. “Might as well give me the whole thing. I’ll do my best.”

I paid for the massive hunk of cake and a full-fat latte and carried the soul-soothing loot to a small wooden table near the far door. From here I could watch out the big window and try to picture whether New Haven would ever feel like home. Yale students and worker bees streamed along Chapel Street, headed toward their morning destinations—some chattering and laughing, some expressionless, absorbed in whatever played through their headphones. How many of them were happy? How much did that matter?

My attention caught on a couple sitting at the next table over. I had taken them for lovebirds, with their heads bent toward each other, whispering sweet nothings, sharing a slab of coconut cake. His voice rumbled and I made out the words: “try again, a different therapist, the puppy.” 

Then her hissed voice grew louder. “I don’t want the puppy. I never wanted the damn dog in the first place,” she said. 

She dabbed the tines of her fork over the crumbs on the plate, though most of their cake was intact. She brought the fork halfway to her mouth, but then let it drop to the table. (I would have licked that implement clean.) After wiping her hands on a napkin, she grabbed her purse strap and slung it over her shoulder as she stood. She lowered the volume of her voice a notch.

“You don’t seem to understand, I can’t do that. I need space, lots of it. Right now I feel like I can’t breathe.” She pressed her palm to her neck and then clacked out of the shop on tall heels, model-thin and businesslike, leaving her husband (I assumed) sitting alone.

Awkward as it felt, we were left facing each other and I couldn’t avoid meeting his gaze. His cheeks bloomed pink and he flashed an embarrassed smile. In spite of the sweater and the glasses and the tiny overlap of his front teeth, once he smiled, I could see he was cute. The kind of cute that could make your gut flip a little once you’d noticed.

“That went well,” he said, and crooked another little smile. “Sorry to subject you to my marital dirty laundry. She’ll come around, eventually. Don’t you think? From a cake-loving woman’s perspective, I mean.”

I glanced down at my plate, which was in fact empty. This was the problem with getting distracted and not eating each bite mindfully—I’d powered through the whole slice. As for his wife coming around, I didn’t think so. 

“I don’t know her, so it would be hard to say,” I offered, trying for something noncommittal and diplomatic.

“But supposing,” he said, his face so hopeful, “you were giving your very best advice to a lovesick friend.”

How could I flat-out lie? 

“Things my mother taught me, part two,” I said. “Don’t count on someone else to make you happy because chances are, you’ll end up alone anyway. Except for the dog. You’ve definitely got the dog and that counts for something, right?” 

Instantly I wished I’d gone with my first instinct and not said anything other than sorry. This was none of my business and now I’d made him feel worse. “I’m so sorry, that was a dumb thing to say. I blurt when I’m nervous.”

But he’d started to laugh. “Your mother sounds like a wise woman.” He stood up to leave. He was taller than I would have expected, solid and muscular like an athlete. “Now I’m curious about part one. Have a good day.” He smiled again, gathered their dishes for recycling, and disappeared out the side door. 

I drained the last bit of foam clinging to the bottom of the mug, placed it and my empty plate in the rubber bin marked for dirty dishes, feeling a little sad and definitely regretful. The poor man must have felt bad enough without me clanging him on the head with the bald truth as though I was wielding a cast-iron skillet. How humiliating to be dumped in public. 

So that's coming in July! 

In addition, A CLUE IN THE CRUMBS, #13 in the Key West food critic mystery series, has a gorgeous cover and is now available for preorder. 

If you are a Netgalley reviewer, A CLUE IN THE CRUMBS is available there

(I got a big kick out of this review: I have loved this series since it first came out. But this book is the best yet. It had me completely absorbed into the story and I read it in one setting. Then I got mad at myself because I finished it so quickly.)

Final news: The first seven Key West mysteries will be available as audiobooks soon, in case you or someone you know prefers listening over reading. AN APPETITE FOR MURDER will be out on February 7, and DEATH IN FOUR COURSES on February 21.

Phew! What I need right now is to jumpstart the real writing and skip over the distractions of all the above... Suggestions welcome!

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

What We Are Writing by Rhys Bowen

 RHYS BOWEN: Writing is usually a solitary business. We sit at our computers and think and muse and eventually we write. When it's a linear story that normally goes well. Our sleuth finds a body, he or she does some detecting and at the end of the book he solves it. Simple, right?

However in recent years I have set myself rather more of a challenge. I have written several books in more than one time period. I have jumped back and forward between times, telling several characters' stories. The story in the past has to be just as real and compelling as the one in the present. And they have to mirror each other, if possible, and tie in neatly together.

So I've just started my next stand-alone novel. It's going to be set in WWII (are we surprised) and in 1968. The story is about a missing child, taken from a public garden in 1968 and perhaps linked to several small girls who vanished during the chaos of WWII. And my protagonist is somehow linked to both stories. I can't say more about that because I want the reading to be full of AHA moments.

But at the center of the story is one of the abandoned villages on the coast of England. When the D Day invasion was planned sites were needed for troops to practice invasion drills. And so people were turned out of their homes at short notice so that the army could practice landings and the shelling of targets. The village of Tyneham in Dorset was evacuated for that purpose. The inhabitants were promised they could return after the war but that never happened. 

So I have modeled my village on Tyneham. It can now be visited by the public on weekends. Here is how the book opens (at the moment. I may move chapters around)

There had been no advance warning, apart from an army vehicle that had appeared one blustery afternoon three weeks earlier. This in itself was strange as there was no proper road to the village, only a lane that got rather muddy after rain. And it didn’t go anywhere, apart from down to the tiny harbour where there were currently no fishing boats, the war having made fishing too dangerous in these waters. The jeep had driven down the one street, past the church, the schoolhouse, the pub and the row of cottages, to where the village ended in the overgrown track, steps down to the harbor and the English Channel beyond. An officer, wearing a smart peaked army cap, had got out, looked around, and was heard by Mary Dobson, getting in her washing before it rained , to say,” It will have to do. Luckily there’s nothing of historic value here.”

 She never bothered to pass along this statement or the inhabitants might have been better prepared when the post office van came sloshing through puddles to deposit the post at the village post office cum village shop..
     Mrs. Jenkins, the post mistress/shop owner had looked at the pile of letters bearing no stamp. “More rubbish from the government,” she had said to Fred Hammond, the driver. “I wonder what it will be this time?”
     “Probably cutting our sugar ration again,” he said. “Or the meat ration. But I bet that don’t affect you so much out here with your chickens and pigs.” 
     “We do all right, I suppose,” she said, “Although the rats keep getting at our eggs, bloody nuisances.”          “He don’t have to worry too much, do he?” The post office driver nodded up the street. “Him at the big house. Don’t he still have cows?”
     “No, they’re long gone,” she said. “Government took them. Now he don’t have that much more than we do. A couple of pigs and chickens. But a fine lot of fruit and veggies and I must say he’s good enough to share with us.”
     “Well, he should, seeing as you’re his tenants, right? You pay him every month to live here, don’t you?” 
     “We do, I suppose.” Mrs Jenkins smoothed down her apron. “Now I better get that lazy bones Ned to take these around.” 
 It turned out that the letters were not about the sugar ration. Instead they said: To the inhabitants of Tydeham. This is to inform you that His Majesty’s armed forces have need of your village to further the war effort. It has been requisitioned for invasion drills, starting October 8th, 1943. You have two weeks to remove your belongings and vacate the village.

So that's how the book starts. But there are several main characters whose lives intersect and several intervowen plots. I'm not sure why I always set myself this type of book but it's what I enjoy reading. But trying to come up with motive and back story for so many characters is challenging. This is a good reason to have daughters, folks. Yesterday Clare and I went to for a walk and talked through one important aspect of plot. And came up with the absolutely perfect, apt solution for one story line. Yeah. Although it won't come up for many pages it was blocking the flow of creativity, knowing I'd need to know something in the future. And now I do. Thank you, Clare. I'm so happy to have a brilliant fellow writer now.  Our next book together comes out on March 14.  ALL THAT IS HIDDEN. And we just got a fabulous Kirkus review that said "Bowen and Broyles never disappoint."  (We're thinking of having buttons made with that saying!)

So, dear readers, do you like books that feature multiple story lines and take you between time periods?