MISS DEMEANORS

Get Away From it All

The Missdemeanors discuss finding places and times to focus on writing. If you had the chance to escape from your every day, where would you go? Join the discussion.

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Art Imitates Life: The Detective and the Serial Killer

I read a fascinating account about a police detective in New Jersey who solved a number of cases involving the same serial killer. The article about Robert Anzilotti written by Michael Wilson in the New York Times (https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/13/nyregion/new-jersey-serial-killer-cottingham-anzilotti.html) gave a chilling account about Detective Anzilotti, who, days before his retirement, finally solved the last of the serial murders committed by Richard Cottingham. The story about Cottingham, who has been in prison since 1981when Detective Anzilotti was still a teenager, chronicles the brutal murders of young girls and women and is in its own right a riveting story. But, as a crime writer, I was equally fascinated by Detective Anzilotti as a character in his own story. He was more compelling than any cop in the many police procedurals I’ve read, and I have read many excellent ones.             Writing a credible character is integral to telling a story. The writer likes to think she’s telling the story, but it’s the characters she creates who actually reveal it. The character must be displayed in full human dimension, never as a cardboard cutout.             Within a one-page newspaper story, Anzilotti jumped off the page. I wanted to understand how he felt so […]

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Should we be writing about the pandemic? Now?

A few nights ago I attended a virtual reading at Neo-Noir at the Bar. Got to hear a number of exciting authors, among them Kellye Garrett, Lori Rader-Day and Ivy Pochoda. At one point, Pochoda mentioned that her new work was set during the pandemic. She’d gone to a panel where a number of writers were saying that they didn’t intend to write about the pandemic, and as soon as she heard them she thought, then I will. (She also read the opening pages of her new work, which started with someone looking at a tree, so you can imagine that I was on-board immediately.) She did get me thinking, however, about whether I intend to write about the pandemic. I’ve not been tempted, though not because I don’t find the subject intriguing. It’s the timing I can’t figure out. I’ve written a bit about 9/11, but years after the event. My concern is that I’ll be overtaken by events. By the time a book comes out, it will probably be in 2023. By then we might have forgotten all about it. Or we might be fighting off something worse. Coincidentally, I’ve been reading Alone in Berlin, which was written […]

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Silver Linings

Yesterday evening at 8pm, just as the sun in central Ohio was sinking below the horizon and the cicadas were considering the merits of silence at last, I logged onto Poisoned Pen Bookstore Facebook Live for a conversation with well-known bookstore owner Barbara Peters and the amazing writer and teacher Jane K. Cleland. What a privilege for a relative newcomer like me to be talking about writing mysteries with such kind and generous women. Barbara, editor-in-chief of Poisoned Pen Press and owner of The Poisoned Pen Bookstore in Scottsdale, Arizona, is a well-known advocate for writers. Her store has a worldwide clientele. She reads more books in a year than most people read in a lifetime and still finds time to host an incredible number of interviews and events. She does it all, as it turns out, not for profit but for the love of good books. Both Jane and I write stories about American antiques dealers who solve crimes on the side. I’m a relative newcomer. My protagonist, Kate Hamilton, owns an antiques shop in Jackson Falls, Ohio, but has been spending most of her time recently in a small Suffolk village called Long Barston. The third in the […]

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Happy Solstice!

Solstice is coming up on June 21. It’s is a big deal in Alaska. Everything is blooming. The fish are running. And we have lots of sun. In Utqiagvik, the northern most city in Alaska, the sun rises on May 10 or 11 and sets on August 1 or 2. That’s 83 days of daylight. In Anchorage, where I live, 722 miles south of Utqiagvik, the sun rises on June 21st at 4:21 a.m. and sets at 11:42 p.m. That’s 19 hours and 21 minutes of daylight. But to tell the truth, the “night” isn’t dark – it’s more like dusk for a while. Most years we have a street fair in Anchorage. The cops and the fireman compete in feats of strength – very entertaining. There are carnival rides, fair food, face painting, and lots of booths. One year, they blocked off an entire street and filled it with sand for little kids to play in. This year, no fair. But I’m certain everyone will be celebrating in their own way. Lots of fisher people on the rivers. Lots of campers in the woods. Lots of hikers on the trails. I’ll probably work in an extra long bike ride […]

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Brothers and Sisters

The sibling relationship (or lack thereof) is one of the most significant in our lives. I was curious to see if any of the Miss Demeanors would be willing to share some of their “origin” stories, and OH BOY. Strap in. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.

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Where’s the dog?

I never set out to write a dog into my books, but I can’t help it. I can’t imagine life without my own Jack Russell terriers and can’t imagine my characters without their dogs.

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The Art of Betrayal

Launching a book feels a little like sending a child off to school for the first time.

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Can we talk about shoes?

A few years ago, I went to the Boucheron World Mystery Convention, when it was in Toronto. One thing led to another and I wound up at a John Fluevog shoe store with fellow Miss Demeanor, Alexia Gordon. (We were on our way to a haunted walking tour, but that’s another story.) Never had I seen such amazing shoes, in so many colors, with such fabulous heels. I am strictly an Easy Spirit person, but I couldn’t resist. I splurged on this pair of shoes, and even though I don’t wear them a lot, or not at all in the last year or so, I get pleasure out of looking at them. They are works of art. Plus they have this cute engraving on the bottom. Nothing like looking at the bottom of your shoes and feeling inspired. Iwas thinking about shoes because tomorrow, author Christina Chiu, is coming to my book club to discuss her novel, Beauty. In real life, Christina is a shoe designer, and when she writes about shoes, you see them in a whole new way. “Black boots. There in the window. Could they really be lace? Wow. Floral and paisley-drops. Open-toed, trimmed with leather, knee […]

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Time To Dream

Last Monday, after a three-month-long writing marathon, I completed the draft of my fourth Kate Hamilton mystery and sent it off to my editor. The book actually took eleven months to write, but the final three months were intense. Yes, there will be editing ahead, but suddenly I have free time again. Time to dream. Time to make decisions. What shall I work on next? The fifth in the series or something entirely new? Or both? Beginning a new book feels something like moving to a new house in a new town. When my husband and I were first married and in the Air Force, we did that frequently. Within the space of four years, three months, and nine days, we lived in ten different apartments. In one of those moves, to Bangor, Maine, our furniture was delayed, and because my husband had to report for duty, I spent two days in an empty townhouse with a bottle of Windex, a roll of paper towels, and my old coffee percolator. That old percolator was always the touchstone for me. In a new place, when I first heard the burbling of the pot and smelled the coffee, I felt like I […]

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