Behind Closed Doors

            I have a fascination with doors. I take lots of photos of doors wherever I go. Recently I found no shortage of doors that interested me in Mexico, but the same has been true no matter where I go.  I love the rich colors some people paint doors, while others shine natural wood to a sheen you can almost see your reflection in. Doors with windows are particularly fun because sometimes you can actually see what is behind the door, although door windows have curtains over them. My favorite is when they are covered with lace. Others are boldly bare daring you to look right in.            Doors can be Spartan, a statement in their own right. But many doors are flanked with flowering bushes or containers filled with seasonal flowers. The can be ornate, simple, artistic, or boring.            What is about doors and me? Other people have commented they share the same obsession. I’ve decided that writers are particularly drawn to doors for a logical reason. It’s not so much the door, but the story that lies behind the door that grabs us. We’re a curious lot, not satisfied to simply look at an entrance and say, “Nice door.” No, we want to know more. Who lives behind the dilapidated door where the paint peeled off decades ago and the only thing growing in the cracked planter next to it are a couple of old cigarette butts and an empty nip or two?              The door can be a clue to what is actually happening behind it or it can unleash the imagination allowing a writer to guess what goes on inside. What is with the guy who lives behind the ornate red door with the brass kick plate and elaborate handle? Is he just confident or is he flamboyant?              And that lady with the periwinkle door? Matching flags, twin black pots with identical plants, lanterns, even her gnomes come in sets. Is she a perfectionist or does she just have too much time on her hands? Maybe she should take a lesson from her free-spirited neighbor with the yellow door, who seems content with a whimsical pot of unmatched plants.            The person behind the crimson door with yellow trimmed panels must be an artist. Who else would dare to combine those colors? But his untrimmed shrubs suggest he has a lazy streak. I wonder if he should visit the woman behind the rounded midnight blue door with the welcoming two red Adirondack chairs next to it waiting for a chat and a glass of ice tea.             The ornate white door must belong to a European aristocrat who never gives a thought about his door as long as someone opens it and has a G & T waiting for him after his long day at the embassy where he is consorting with spies from a foreign country long at odds with his own.             A writer can do well during a dry spell to turn off the laptop and lace up her walking shoes. Take to the streets, study those doors you are passing by, and ask yourself, “What’s going on in there?”            Just don’t get me started about windows. What do you think about when you pass by a door? Share in the comments or join the discussion on Facebook.  

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Homicide, Life in the Classroom

 Took a break from writing to attend a session of my local police department’s Citizens’ Police Academy. I enrolled in the Academy this past Fall but I missed a couple of sessions so I came back to the Spring Academy for a make up class. The night’s topics were investigations and motor vehicle crashes. First, we learned about accident investigations, everything from who investigates (a multi-community team of specially trained investigators), to the prerequisites required to become a crash investigator (certification as a lead homicide investigator, an evidence technician, an accident reconstructor, a drone pilot, and more), to how to determine how fast a vehicle had been moving right before it wrapped itself around a tree (it involves measuring skid marks and knowing the road’s coefficient of friction). Then we learned what it takes to be a detective (as opposed to a patrol officer) in this town. Short answer: training and experience. (Police in this town train a lot.) We learned when patrol officers call in detectives and the types of cases detectives usually handle. We learned the best way to get your luxury vehicle stolen (leave it parked in your driveway with the key fob in it and the doors unlocked) and the best way to get your house burglarized (leave the door unlocked). We learned what crimes gangs find prefer to selling drugs on street corners (stealing unlocked cars and breaking into unlocked houses). We learned why detectives don’t work hard on car theft cases (they’re almost impossible to prosecute—juvenile defendants not caught in the act who create reasonable doubt by claiming their buddy gave them a ride and they didn’t know the car was stolen). Then the detective walked us through a few of his cases. Yes, I took notes for future reference. The Citizens’ Police Academy is a great resource for writers in addition to being a great way to get to know your local law enforcement professionals. Best of all, it’s free. If your community offers one, I recommend you enroll. But be warned, if you attend, you’ll never be able to watch another cop show without saying, “That’s not how police really work.” And stop leaving your key fob in your unlocked car. Seriously.

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I Have a Question

Book clubs seem more popular than ever. Focused on a variety of themes and genres, there are as many different types of clubs as there are different books. One thing common to all clubs, members talk about. Plots, characters, broader issues raised by the story—all serve as fuel for discussion. Authors may connect with readers by visiting clubs in person or virtually and sometimes facilitate discussion by providing discussion questions. Today, some of the Missdemeanors offer questions for book clubs.  Tracee1. Agnes lost her husband and changed jobs, taking on what many would consider a higher pressure position. What do you think about her decisions and her manner of dealing with loss and family and search for personal identity? 2. Julien Vallotton is clearly romantically interested in Agnes, yet she resists. Do you think there is such a thing as an ‘appropriate’ or ‘necessary’ time to mourn the loss of a spouse or partner before taking the next romantic steps? Have you witnessed a situation where the threat of external judgment prevented the bereaved from enjoying the next years of their life?     Susan1. Maggie Dove’s new client believes her sister is evil. Have you ever met anyone you believed to be evil? 2. As Maggie Dove begins investigating, she has to go through old high school year books and she’s surprised to see how some of the people she knows have changed. How have you changed since high school (beyond the wrinkles)?        Alison1. Abish has returned home to a state, and religion, she left thinking she’d never return. Now, she’s trying to reconnect with her family and navigate as an outsider in an insider community. How well do you think she gets along with a dominant outlook that differs from her own? 2. The first murder Abish encounters has hallmarks of a deadly ritual supported–in theory–by Brigham Young and other early LDS Church leaders. It has long been forgotten by most, but offers an interesting example of how communities handle dark parts of their own history. Do you think there are any societies that have dealt particularly well or particularly badly with this universal problem of processing ugliness in their own shared past (whether it be slavery, racism, sexism, violence, antisemitism, ethnic cleansing, pogroms . . .)? Is there a good template for handling these issues?  Michele1. Sabrina Salter’s gut told her that she and Henry should not take on an eleventh villa, but Henry was insistent and Sabrina relented. How do you know when to follow your gut instinct and not yield to the judgment of others or when to back down?. 2.Sabrina tells Henry at the end of the book, “I’m going back to Boston to meet the grandmother I’ve never seen before it’s too late.” What advice would you offer Sabrina about meeting a grandmother who has chosen to ignore her existence?    Alexia1.In Killing in C Sharp, Gethsemane has to work with someone she despises, someone who once libeled a friend of hers, in order to save people she cares about. How would you handle having to work with someone you disliked? 2. Maja’s relatives got away with her murder. She dealt with the injustice by coming back as a ghost and taking vengeance on not just her relatives, but anyone who reminded her of them. How would you deal with being a victim of injustice?      What questions have you discussed in your book club? Or what questions would you like to discuss if you belonged to a book club? What questions would you offer to readers of your books? Share in the comments or join the discussion on Facebook.   

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My Well Runneth Dry

 More than 300,000. That’s how many new titles were published in the U.S. in 2013, according to UNESCO figures reported in Wikipedia. Add in all titles published in a year and the number doubles or triples. That’s a lot of books competing for readers’ attention. Authors have to create ways to gain notice. In this modern, social media-connected world blogs, newsletters, and Facebook pages have become standard ways to build a platform to attract readers. Posts and newsletters, brief pieces offering readers writerly advice, funny or poignant stories about the writing life, and insights into how one’s work speaks to the human condition, come out more frequently than novels or short stories. They require frequent trips to the creative well. Once in a while, the well runs dry. An idea for a blog post hits you then you remember you used the idea six months ago. You stare at the blank newsletter template and realize you have no news. You’ve already described your writing process, your inspirations, your journey to publication, your tips for completing a first draft. You’ve got nothing but a deadline. What do you do? The blog has to be posted, the newsletter mailed. A goats in sweaters video or cute cat photos won’t cut it. You pick up your pen or pull your laptop closer and borrow a page from Seinfeld; you write about nothing. Or you find an idea you’ve used in the past and rewrite it until you’ve said something new. You keep going, writing about nothing or reworking old news, until you’ve got a few hundred (possibly rambling) words that you didn’t have before. If you’re lucky, you’ll figure out how to tie what you’ve written to a picture of a goat in a sweater. How do you overcome a shortage of new ideas when confronted with a looming deadline?

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Rules Were Made to be…Followed

I did a bad thing today. I liked a Tweet that was part of a contest without first reading the contest rules. In my defense, the rules Tweet showed up in my Twitter feed several Tweets after the one I liked and the one I liked was a commentary, not an actual contest entry, but still… Contests have rules for reasons. Prizes are awarded for specific things. No participation trophies are handed out, so there’s no point entering your love poem in a horror screenplay contest. It will be rejected without consideration and the contest judges will send bad vibes your way. Those judges are another reason to follow the rules. Judges for many contests are volunteers with lots of other, non-contest related, responsibilities: day jobs, children’s soccer tournaments, dinner with the in-laws, manuscript revisions. They’re donating precious time so don’t waste it. 70,000 words take a long time to read. Don’t annoy the judges by trying to force them to read 90,000. They won’t. They’ll consign your tome to the “not worth a glance” pile and they’ll jinx you by wishing all your pens run out of ink in the middle of climactic scenes and your laptop’s caps lock key gets stuck in the “on” position. Finally, following the rules gives the people who might represent you or publish you or invite you to give a speech at a dinner in your honor some idea of how easy (or how nightmarish) you might be to work with. No one likes an arrogant jerk who thinks the rules don’t apply to them or that exceptions should be made for them because they’re that special. (Really. We don’t like you.) And someone who can’t (won’t) comprehend even basic rules? Let’s be honest. Don’t we wonder how some people manage to cross the street without someone holding their hand? Don’t we groan and wonder if poking olive forks into our eyes would be less painful than explaining things to them “one more time”? Read the rules, understand them (they’re less complicated than the new tax law), follow them. Don’t submit your 100,000 word, free-verse rom-com screenplay to a contest seeking a 60,000-80,000 word mystery novel. Submit what’s being asked for and give yourself a fair shot at the contract/cash prize/trophy. Have you ever judged a contest where entrants ignored the rules? How’d you deal with the non-compliant entries? 

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Storage disaster day. And a few solutions.

 TRACEE: Let’s get the facts out there first. It shouldn’t be difficult: You write or type words on paper. There they are! Ready to be manipulated, changed, read aloud, or published. At least that’s what I used to think. When I was in junior high school I had a long obsession with James Michener’s books. I won’t claim to have read them all, but I made my way through quite a few. Some more than once. I then read in an interview that Michener had a near final manuscript on a book set in Russia. For an adolescent Russophile, this was pure joy for me. Then…. the bad news. The manuscript was lost in a suitcase and he simply couldn’t imagine trying to re-create it. This may have been when we parted ways. Was he lazy? It was written! Flash-forward years later and not only do I empathize but I can’t imagine how he ever wrote anything again. Needless to say, now I fully understand that the re-creation of a sentence or phrase is difficult enough. The re-creation of an entire chapter is impossible. The rewriting of an entire book…. What’s the word beyond impossible? I’m going to create a new word for this level of depression, despair, and inability. Which brings my modern writing self to the all-important question. How do you make sure you don’t have a James Michener moment? How do you store your work, both in the moment (not to lose the changes of the last hour) and long term? I used to rely on backups to an external drive. More recently I’ve taken to emailing a daily copy to myself and keeping every printed copy ever made (and these are legion). What say the rest of you? And let’s hear from our resident computer expert last. That’s you Robin. We should probably all do what you do. ALEXIA: I use cloud storage and paper. I have an Office 365 subscription which includes Word. I turn on auto save and Word periodically saves whatever I’m writing. I also keep all of my handwritten notes and drafts and I print out a hard copy of my manuscript at various stages in the editing process. And, yes, I keep the paper versions indefinitely. I love paper. SUSAN:  I save things on my flash drive every half hour or so. Then every day I change the flash drive so that if something’s wrong with it I won’t lose anything. Then every so often I print out a complete draft. I also put the date of the draft in the header so I can figure it when it’s from. Amazing all the things you can forget. Susan TRACEE: The date in the header is so key!  CATE: I email the story to myself at the end of every day and I save on my hard drive.  MICHELE: I have auto save, Carbonite, and use flash drives. I email myself and husband (he is a saint) drafts as I go along. When I have a first draft, I print it because I am a very visual person and viewing my work on screen doesn’t work well for me. I put it in a three ring binder so I remember it is a book, not a plight. Like Alexia, I love paper. I finished my WIP while traveling and couldn’t get it printed. It made editing a nightmare and resulted in a few glitches.  TRACEE: I used to rely mainly on the hard drive and the external drive, then we were burglarized and the hard drive and external drive were stolen. Thank goodness for printed copies and email! PAULA: No power now thanks to nor’easter so reminded that pen and paper work as long as the dog doesn’t eat it! MICHELE: Well, there was that time when I was just about done writing a brief for the Appeals Court and a powerful thunderstorm blew through, taking every word I had written with it. Of course, it was due the next day. There’s a good reason I am neurotic! ALISON: Like the rest of you, I’ve had my brushes with terror. I back up to both iCloud and a backup folder every few pages. When I’m done for the day, I email myself. Once I’m at the revising and editing stage, I print out everything and use a good old-fashioned pen (purple not red) for making changes. TRACEE: We need a separate discussion on pen color. I LOVE red ink. If you ever mark up one of my manuscripts I’ll send you a good and bloody red pen.   ROBIN: I save WIPs on my laptop every few minutes while I’m working (keyboard shortcuts for the win). Years ago I lost a report at my day job when my computer crashed and I’ve been a compulsive saver ever since. Every couple of days I save both the Pages and exports in Word formats onto a USB thumb drive. If I’ve created or added to any notes files, those get copied, too. Each book gets its own folder and in each folder I stash all versions, notes, and research. Every few weeks I save the folder (and any new ones) to another thumb drive and a desktop computer. All of it is local. You can see my feelings on cloud storage here: TRACEE: I was waiting for this Robin! And admit to editing out that I use Cloud storage for my files. I’ll read your post again and perhaps change my ways…. Perhaps. ROBIN: (after a long sigh and possibly some muttering)During the first draft, I do a significant amount of writing in a notebook. I keep all of my notebooks in boxes (some dating back to high school) in my home office closet. While revising, I print out 3 chapters at a time to edit in pen and paper. For whatever reason, I see errors or omissions, leaps of logic, and such on paper that I overlook on a screen. Plus, I just like writing with a pen. Every night, I transcribe either the first draft from the notebook or the edits I made on paper to the “soft copy” on my laptop, saving every few minutes. Lather, rinse, repeat. CATE: Reading how compulsively everyone saves and in how many formats I have realized that thriller writers must all have anxiety disorders. Myself included TRACEE: Thanks everyone! Now I’m going to spend a few moments backing up everything I’m working on. Any other storage solutions out there? Any horror stories?    

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What a Bunch of Characters

 Meet the nominees for the 2018 Best First Novel Agatha Award.  Ever wonder which character they most enjoy writing? Join the conversation to find out! Who is your favorite character to write and why? Micki Browning:This is a bit like asking a parent to choose a favorite child. I certainly like spending time with my protagonist, Mer Cavallo. She’s wicked smart, which means I have to stretch to keep up with her. She’s someone I’d like to have as a friend—and dive buddy. But sometimes I want a little more levity than Mer provides, and that means it’s time for Captain Leroy Penninichols. I love his Southernisms. If he had to describe someone as small, he’d bust out with “Well, she ain’t bigger than a bar of soap after a hard day’s washing.”  His gruff exterior hides a tender heart and he dotes on his wife. He always cheers for the underdog, and took Mer under his wing when she first arrived in the Keys. They constantly banter, and one day Mer asked how his wife put up with him. In typical Leroy fashion, he responded, “There’s a lid to fit every skillet.”  Leroy reminds Mer (and me) that there’s always another way to look at life. V.M. Burns:I love writing about my protagonist’s grandmother, Nana Jo and the sleuthing seniors. Nana Jo and ‘the girls’ are older and less inhibited than Samantha. They take martial arts classes, hang out at the bar, and enjoy spending time at the casino. They are honest, funny, and courageous. Each one has a zest for life which I find refreshing. Samantha is cautious and reserved, but Nana Jo and the girls are helping her see that life can be exciting and unpredictable, which is something I often have to remind myself. Kellye Garrett:I love writing all my characters for different reasons. One because she talks only using acronyms. Another because he never uses apostrophes. My main character, Dayna, because she has the exact same sense of humor as I have. However, my favorite character to write is Dayna’s best friend/roomie Sienna. Sienna is determined to set a Guinness World Record for only wearing red and says whatever she wants, whenever she wants. My fave exchange is from when Dayna and Sienna are trying to tail a suspect:“We should take turns following her so she’s not suspicious. Whatever we do, we don’t want to get burned,” Sienna said.“What the fudge does that mean?” I asked.“No idea, but it can’t be good. STDs. Forest fires. Freshly baked cookies. Burning is never a good thing.” Laura Oles:While my protagonist, Jamie Rush, has been wonderful to write, I have to say that her partner, Cookie Hinojosa, has been the most fun.  His charisma and sense of humor play so well off her deadpan demeanor. His love for Hawaiian shirts is second only to his loyalty to Jamie and their crew. I tend to hear his voice first in my head, and his words come easily.  Cookie seems to be a reader favorite, and if I’m being honest, he’s at the top of my list with Jamie.  Kathleen Valenti:I have a feeling that the answer to “Who is your favorite character to write” is supposed to be my protagonist. After all, Maggie O’Malley is the hero of not only my debut novel, Protocol, but the entire series from Henery Press. But if I’m honest, the answer has to be Constantine, Maggie’s best friend.A goofy cutup with a fondness for Lucky Charms and Star Trek memorabilia, Constantine does more than act as a sidekick or play comic relief to Maggie’s straight-man routine. He’s a complex character who brings his own story and his own personality, with all of its attendant strengths and foibles, to the page. Like Maggie, Constantine is smart, loyal, and funny. However, Constantine’s funniness, his predilection for gallows humor, and his knee-jerk reaction to cover discomfort with wit, is at the very core of his personality. He’s fun to write, and because he’s handsome and sweet, he’s fun to imagine as the perfect BFF or life partner. I’ll always love Maggie, but when it comes to writing dialogue, Constantine has my heart. And my pen.  Surprised? Which of their characters do you most love to read? Let us know in the comments or over on Facebook.  Bios:  A retired police captain, Micki Browning writes the Mer Cavallo Mystery series set in the Florida Keys. In addition to the Agatha nomination for Best First Novel, Adrift has won both the Daphne du Maurier and the Royal Palm Literary Awards. Beached, her second novel, launched January 2018. Micki’s work has appeared in dive magazines, anthologies, mystery magazines, and textbooks. She lives in South Florida with her partner in crime and a vast array of scuba equipment she uses for “research.” Learn more about Micki at  V.M. (Valerie) Burns was born in Northwestern Indiana and spent many years in Southwestern Michigan on the Lake Michigan shoreline. She is a lover of dogs, British historic cozies, and scones with clotted cream. After many years in the Midwest she went in search of milder winters and currently lives in Eastern Tennessee with her poodles. Receiving the Agatha nomination for Best First Novel has been a dream come true. Valerie is a member of Mystery Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, and a lifetime member of Sisters in Crime. Readers can learn more by visiting her website at  Kellye Garrett writes the Detective by Day mysteries about a semi-famous, mega-broke black actress who takes on the deadliest role of her life: Homicide Detective. The first, Hollywood Homicide, was recently nominated for Agatha, Lefty, and Barry awards. The second, Hollywood Ending, will be released on August 8, 2018 from Midnight Ink. Prior to writing novels, Kellye spent eight years working in Hollywood, including a stint writing for the TV drama Cold Case. The New Jersey native now works for a leading media company in New York City and serves on the national Board of Directors for Sisters in Crime. You can learn more about her at and  Laura Oles is a photo industry journalist who spent twenty years covering tech and trends before turning to crime fiction. She served as a columnist for numerous photography magazines and publications. Laura’s short stories have appeared in several anthologies, including Murder on Wheels, which won the Silver Falchion Award in 2016. Her debut mystery, Daughters of Bad Men, is a Claymore Award Finalist and an Agatha nominee for Best First Novel. She is also a Writers’ League of Texas Award Finalist. Laura is a member of Austin Mystery Writers, Sisters in Crime and Writers’ League of Texas. Laura lives on the edge of the Texas Hill Country with her husband, daughter and twin sons. Visit her online at  Kathleen Valenti is the author of the Maggie O’Malley mystery series. The series’ first book, Agatha- and Lefty-nominated Protocol, introduces us to Maggie, a pharmaceutical researcher with a new job, a used phone, and a deadly problem. The series’ second book, 39 Winks, releases May 22. When Kathleen isn’t writing page-turning mysteries that combine humor and suspense, she works as a nationally award-winning advertising copywriter. She lives in Oregon with her family where she pretends to enjoy running. Learn more at  

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Author Newsletters. Just another part of writing.

These days, authors don’t merely write books, they also have newsletters. Do you need one? If you are scrambling to finish a manuscript, edit another one, and promote yet a third, you may think, NO. Not another obligation. But a newsletter can be both useful and fun. It goes directly to ‘your people’. Your top readers. They want to hear from you! So stop procrastinating and write one. DON’T think of it as an email. Think of it as communicating. A few basics: Use a mail service such as Mail Chimp. This will keep your list clean, and perform the due-diligence required by law for unsubscribe options. Don’t get hung up on the term Newsletter. Think of it as a personal message. This will also inform the content. Prepare for writer’s block when the cursor hits the page. This isn’t fiction. Your heroine isn’t going to speak and take over the story and get you to the end of the newsletter, ahem, personal message. It’s all YOU! Take a moment and think about what’s on YOUR mind right now. Are you preparing to launch the next book, recovering from a launch, starting the next installment in a series? Have you read a bunch of great books, attended a conference where you met hundreds of readers, taken a trip to research your work? What’s going on in your life that informs your work? Are you cooking recipes from a 100-year-old cookbook because you’re thinking about an Edwardian mystery, or digging holes for trees because you are trying to take a mental break from writing? Tell your readers about it! What would you write to a best friend who lives too far away to see in person? Now take out the really personal bits (you know which ones they are) and leave the tone and remainder of the content in. A handy formula: Why are you writing in the first place? What does your audience need? That equals your ideal content. (Hint: you are likely targeting readers, not writers. Even writers are opening Lee Child or Louise Penny’s newsletters as readers.) Frequency? No easy answer here. Too much and you are spammable even to people who want to like you. Too infrequently, they forget who you are and the email scrolls by unread. We are back to the formula. Why are you writing in the first place? What does your audience need? That equals your ideal frequency. Give it a try. You can always adjust, improve and if necessary pause and start all over! Either way, stay in touch with readers. They are your tribe. Stay connected. 

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Killing in C Sharp, a Gethsemane Brown mystery

  KILLING IN C SHARP She saved Carraigfaire—but can she save her friends? Gethsemane Brown fought off an attack by a sleazy hotel developer who wanted to turn her Irish cottage into a tourist trap. Now she must face a vengeful ghost determined to exact revenge for her murder centuries ago. This ghost’s wrath spares no one—not Gethsemane’s students, Inspector Niall O’Reilly, fellow teacher Frankie Grennan, or a group of ghost hunters descended on Dunmullach to capture proof ghosts exist. Proof Gethsemane has to quash to keep Eamon, her resident ghost and friend, from becoming an internet sensation. As if a spiteful specter wasn’t bad enough, a crooked music reviewer turns up dead in the opera house orchestra pit, a famous composer is arrested for the crime, and Gethsemane must team up with a notorious true-crime author to clear his name. If she doesn’t, friends will die, a ghost she cares about will never know peace, and she’ll star in a final act gruesome enough for any opera.       TRACEE: Alexia thanks for going us today. LAUNCH DAY for Killing in C Sharp!  ROBIN: First, since we’re celebrating, a toast! To Book 3! TRACEE: Does everyone have an “Alexia favorite”? I follow her on Instagram and know exactly what she likes. (Whiskey anyone?) SUSAN: I will also toast your success, and I’ll ask if you have a signature drink for this celebration. ALEXIA: No, but I should have. Thanks for the suggestion. TRACEE: Before we get too far “into our cups” – do people still know what this means? – any real book questions? ROBIN: I’ve been really curious, maybe because setting has been on my mind so much this week – why Ireland?ALEXIA: I love Ireland and all things Irish. (Hibernophile is a real word.) I needed a setting where my main character would be out of place and I needed a place where a ghost wouldn’t seem unusual. Ireland fit the bill. ALISON: I’m still looking forward to the launch of my first book. Does this feel different from the launch of your first two?ALEXIA: Launch day #3 is less nerve-wracking than the first two. Between my day job and working on book 4, March 6 snuck up on me. I also didn’t buy the amount of swag for book 3 that I bought for the first two books. Just pens this time, and bookmarks. No mugs and posters and stickers and t-shirts, and… TRACEE: Can you give us a peek into your creative process for Gethsemane Brown’s third adventure? (Is it possible you had a very bad experience with a music critic? Care to name names?)ALEXIA: No bad experiences with music critics (not that I’d admit it if there had been, I know better than that.) Since this is a series, I already had my characters. I decided on the murder first, who and why, then I chose a topic that interested me (a legend I’d heard about a princess being walled into a castle to save her kingdom–I always wondered what the princess thought about being sacrificed against her will. Why couldn’t she have her revenge?), then I chose music to tie everything together. TRACEE: As an aside, in India there is a legend about a man being walled up in a fort as part of a ritual sacrifice to safe the people from an invading army. Then I saw the marker and realized it wasn’t a ‘legend.’ The fort did stand, and the people were saved…. Still. Now I have to look into the revenge aspect. MICHELE: I’d love to know how you plans to age Gethsemane over the life of the series. In real time or pokey a la Kinsey Millhone?    ALEXIA: I think I’m going ageless, a la Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin. TRACEE: What about the ghosts! Tell us more! Is there research involved?ALEXIA: Does watching Ghost Adventures count as research? I love ghost stories. M.R. James is one of my favorite authors and The Ghost and Mrs. Muir is one of my favorite movies. I like the idea of the living continuing to interact with the dead (at least in fiction where I can control the outcome). TRACEE: How are you spending launch week?ALEXIA: Working at the day job. On launch night, I’m attending the first lecture in a series called “Drinking Through the Decades with North Shore Distillery,” on the history of cocktails sponsored by our local community center. Research with samples. CATE: We knew it. There will be a special cocktail after all! TRACEE: Congratulations Alexia, and enjoy launch week. Fans can find links to learn more about Alexia and the Gethsemane Brown series here.    Killing in C Sharp available at:Amazon: Alexia Gordon BIO:A writer since childhood, I put literary endeavors on hold to finish medical school and Family Medicine residency training. Medical career established, I returned to writing fiction. I completed SMU’s Writer’s Path program in Dallas, Texas. Henery Press published my first novel, Murder in G Major, book one of the Gethsemane Brown mysteries, in September 2016. Book two, Death in D Minor, released July 11, 2017. Book three, Killing in C Sharp, comes out March 6, 2018. Murder in G Major won the Lefty Award for Best Debut Novel, was nominated for an Agatha Award for Best New Novel, and was selected one of Suspense Magazine’s Best Debuts. I listen to classical music, drink whiskey, and blog at, voted one of Writers’ Digest magazine’s 101 best websites for writers, and              

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Chatting with Bruce Robert Coffin about his John Byron series

  TRACEE: Bruce, thanks for joining us on Miss Demeanors today, particularly since I know you are deep into edits for your next book. I promise we’ll get to that later. First, the question that has been on my mind since we first met. As a homicide detective, your professional life was deeply rooted in murder. What made you decide to write about a closely related setting? BRUCE: I’m not sure this was a conscious decision on my part. I hadn’t written fiction for nearly thirty years when the writing bug bit again. One day I sat down and started banging away on my iPad and a crime novel began to spill out. It really was that simple. I guess John Byron was trying to get out into the world. TRACEE: Did you first conceive of your protagonist, or did the series evolve from a particular issue you wanted to confront? BRUCE: John was really my way of projecting many of the qualities, both good and bad, that I observed in the men and women I worked alongside throughout my career. I wanted my protagonist to be representative of what it is like to be a homicide detective while trying to hold together a personal life outside the job. As for the series, I had hoped to insert as much reality as I could into a murder/mystery series while still taking the reader on a thrill ride. TRACEE: Did you have a ‘line in the sand’ in your mind when you began writing the John Byron mysteries? Meaning subject matter either in the lives of the officers, or in terms of the crimes you would portray that you wouldn’t touch? BRUCE: Not really. I think my rule at the beginning was if I was comfortable writing it then the readers would be accepting of the subject matter. But as writers we tend to develop and reach for more. I think the longer a series runs the more risks in subject matter we are willing to take. My goal continues to be to write this series honestly without becoming preachy. I guess my only steadfast rule has been to avoid writing about actual cases. I figure if I wanted to do that I’d be writing true crime. And after nearly three decades on the job, I’ve had enough true crime. TRACEE: You’re known for using your know-how in creating characters, dialogue and the scenarios in your books. It seems to me that ‘civilians’ have a fixed view of some professions. When you write about police situations do you write with an eye and ear toward presenting reality of policing within a story or do you consciously or unconsciously adapt the reality of police work for a broader audience? BRUCE: I think we all tend to stereotype professions based on what we see representing them. My goal is to try and allow the reader a look behind the veil of policing. Police officers and detectives are real people. They work crazy hours and are expected to solve all of societies ills while remaining impartial and incorruptible. I want to show the struggles each character faces on a daily basis, and the feelings that they are forced to suppress, or confront. While I strive to give the reader a realistic portrayal of the stresses, horrors, and occasionally the humor of the job, I try and avoid writing scenes that are overly graphic. I’d rather set a situation up for the reader and let them imagine the rest. My goal is to pen novels that put the reader in the middle of the action, and keep them there. Striking the right balance for the broadest possible audience is always the hardest part. TRACEE: Before I ask about John Byron’s next case, I have to mention that you are also a very talented artist. I have a host of questions about this, but since we’re here today to talk about your books I’ll stick to how do you choose your subject matter? BRUCE: As for subject matter: My subject matter generally evolves from an idea. Having attended hundreds of death scenes I have a vast collection of memories from which to draw detail and feeling. Thinking about those scenes in combination with the “what if” ideas all authors use allows me to go almost anywhere with a story. In Among the Shadows the overarching theme of the story was Byron’s own past combined with a murder that might not be what it seems. I like the idea that both the reader and the protagonist might misdirect themselves by jumping to conclusions. In Beneath the Depths I wanted to explore the homicide investigator’s struggle when dealing with a victim who they despised. That idea that no life is worth less than another is sometimes a difficult thing for people to wrap their heads around. The thing detectives are forced to keep in mind when investigating the murder of a despicable person is that there is the possibility of somebody worse out there. The killer. TRACEE: Finally, and perhaps most importantly, what’s next for John Byron? BRUCE: I am currently finishing up revisions on Byron #3, tentatively titled Beyond the Truth. Without giving too much away, I can tell you that this case will test John like no other. His ongoing relationship with Diane Joyner will be tested, as will his faith. TRACEE: Thanks so much Bruce. Fans can link to more about you and the books below!   Bio:Bruce Robert Coffin is the bestselling author of the Detective Byron Mysteries and former detective sergeant with more than twenty-seven years in law enforcement. At the time of his retirement, from the Portland, Maine police department, he supervised all homicide and violent crime investigations for Maine’s largest city. Following the terror attacks of September 11th, Bruce spent four years working counter-terrorism with the FBI, earning the Director’s Award, the highest honor a non-agent can receive.

Among the Shadows and Beneath the Depths, the first two novels in the Detective John Byron mystery series, have been well-received by fans and critics alike.

New York Times Bestselling Author Gayle Lynds called Among the Shadows “A first rate novel. Suspenseful and highly entertaining.”

Award-winning author Hank Phillippi Ryan had this to say about Beneath the Depths “Terrific! Fast-talking, smart, and cinematic, this entertaining page-turner is so knowingly authentic only a genuine cop turned storyteller could have written it.” His short fiction appears in several anthologies, including The Best American Mystery Stories 2016. Bruce is a member of International Thriller Writers, Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance. He is a regular blog contributor to the Maine Crime Writers and Murder Books blogs.

He lives and writes in Maine.  You can learn more about Bruce at: brucerobertcoffin.comTwitter: @coffin_bruceFacebook: @brucerobertcoffinLinkedIn: Bruce Robert Coffin   

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