Author: Susan Breen

Author of the Maggie Dove mystery series.

How to Deal with Change

So, after spending a week thrashing around with the new Miss Demeanor site, I think I’ve conquered it, although I notice one of my posts has a red dot that means, “Needs Improvement.” Even the computer is a critic. So I survived, but as I embarked on this week-long journey, I asked my fellow Miss Demeanors how they dealt with change. This is what they said: Paula: The book business has changed more in the past 15 years than it has since Gutenberg. And the sands are still shifting beneath our feet. This is true of publishing in particular and retail in general. That said, it’s never been easy to be an artist. Our best defense remains flexibility, creativity, and adaptability.  Sounds like yoga! Paula: Ha! Alison: This is me grinning. Just got off the mat from my home practice. Yep. Every day is different.  Robin: The only constant is change, right? I actually crave change, sometimes. It’s a big part of what led me in the direction of computers. It’s a fast-changing landscape so I’m always learning and rarely bored. It’s probably also why I love living by an ocean. The beach is the “same” beach but no two waves […]

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Awards Season

This is Awards season in the mystery world and several writers close to the Miss Demeanors have been nominated for fabulous awards. First of all, our own Miss Demeanor, D.A. Bartley, has been nominated for a 2018 Reading the West Book Award for her debut novel, Blessed be the Wicked. Then, agent to the Miss Demeanors, Paula Munier, has been nominated for the THE SIMON & SCHUSTER MARY HIGGINS CLARK AWARD for her debut novel, A Borrowing of Bones. Then, two dear friends of the Miss Demeanors have been nominated for Agatha Awards for Best Contemporary Novel: Bruce Robert Coffin for Beyond the Truth, and Hank Phillippi Ryan for Trust Me. Congratulations all! Proud to know you.

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3 things I’ve learned from Michael Connelly

I can’t say I immediately fell in love with HBO’s Harry Bosch. The man looked like a bullet and it took me time to warm up to him. And then one day Bosch was talking to someone, possibly his daughter, and he said, “Closure is a myth,” and from that moment I was hooked. I thought, this is a man of some good sense. Then I went and started reading the Bosch books from the beginning, and now I’m hooked. Here are three things I’ve learned. Flaws make a character interesting. Harry Bosch is a mess of flaws. He has issues with authority. He has trouble with intimacy. He’s a violent man. But what I like about him is that he is trying to come to grips with it all. He understands he’s flawed. He wants to resolve it. Some of my favorite scenes in The Last Coyote are when he talks to a psychiatrist. That poor woman has to work so hard to earn his trust, but you can see why she comes to like him. He’s earned his flaws, if that makes sense. 2. Connelly isn’t afraid to throw obstacles in Bosch’s path. Such as the fact that […]

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3 things I’ve learned from Louise Penny

I’ve always been a fan of Louise Penny, but for the past few months I’ve been reading her work in an intentional way, trying to understand what she does and how she does it and how I might do it too. There are probably 100 things I’ve learned from her, but to focus on 3. First, food is important. Reading Louise Penny is like being invited to a feast. The smells and tastes of delicious food fill the pages, as in The Cruelest Month: “Gamache’s coq au vin filled the table with a rich, earthy aroma and an unexpected hint of maple. Delicate young beans and glazed baby carrots sat in their own white serving dish. A massive charbroiled steak smothered in panfried onions was placed in front of Beauvoir….” And so on. 2. Her characters are fun to spend time with, even the evil ones. They’re funny, insightful, honest. Of course at the heart of this all is the great Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, and she never misses an opportunity to show you how great he is. For example, there’s a brief scene in The Cruelest Month when Gamache is playing with his dog, Henri. The dog, unable to […]

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This is my first post on the new, improved, faster, fabulous Miss Demeanor site. It’s much easier to do than I anticipated. But that did not stop me from lying awake for about five hours last night worrying about it. It’s fine. It’s fine. I just really don’t like change. Sometimes I visualize myself clinging to a cliff, hanging on by my fingertips while wolves circle below. And those are the good days. It just feels like every time I figure out what I’m doing, I have to learn something new. The new minister at my church is an interim minister, which means her specific job is to help churches deal with change. In this case, the fact that our beloved minister of 26 years retired. One of the things I like so much about her is that she keeps acknowledging change is hard. All change is a form of loss, even if it’s good change. I don’t know anyone in the publishing business who has not had to deal with change. Editors leave, publishing houses fold, agents disappear, or occasionally are nominated for fabulous awards. (Congratulations, Paula!) I’ll report back as soon as I figure out how to deal […]

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My Protagonist Hereby Resolves…

 The Missdemeanors hope 2019 is a kinder, better year than 2018. We believe that in a world where you can be anything, you should be kind. We also believe our characters should resolve to make some changes in the new year:MicheleSabrina Salter resolves to find her mother whether she is dead or alive. TraceeAgnes Luthi is going to finally learn how to play mah jong RobinEmma Quinn resolves not to swear so damn much. (Resolutions are made to be broken, right?) CateLiza Cole resolves to take her medicine regularly. SusanMaggie Dove resolves to be a better aunt, lose two pounds, and be more ferocious. Or ferocious at all. AlisonAbish Taylor resolves to get some sleep (preferably daily!) and to forgive her father. AlexiaGethsemane Brown resolves to switch to a whiskey that’s less expensive than Bushmills 21, win the All-County Orchestra competition again, not lose her temper when someone calls her “Sissy,” and improve her brogue. 

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The Best Laid Plans…

 Happy New Year’s!How are you celebrating the start of 2019? By sleeping off the fun you had on New Year’s Eve? Or did you get up early to greet the start of a new year filled with possibility and opportunity?I slept in. I spent the last week of the old year traveling so I ended 2018 exhausted and cranky from sleep deprivation. I decided I owed it to myself to start 2019 well-rested and refreshed.So, getting more sleep must be one of my New Year’s resolutions, right? Nope. I don’t make New Year’s resolutions. I used to but, as happens to so many others, by the third week of January—or, with luck, maybe the first week of February—I’d given up on most of them. I tried re-conceptualizing my resolutions as goals but that didn’t work, either. Goal or resolution, it went by the wayside before Spring.I’m not at the point where I’ve decided to wing it and see what happens for the next 365 days. I need more structure in my life than that. I’ve decided this year to make plans. Plans don’t seem as lofty and daunting as goals and resolutions. We make plans every day—dinners, work projects, trips, […]

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What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?

 Happy almost-new year. 2018 comes to an end in less than 24 hours. Are you ready for 2019? Are you taking this time to reflect on the year that was? Or plan for the year ahead? Will you attend a fabulous party with music and sparkle and maybe a kiss for good luck? Or spend a cozy evening at home with family, human or otherwise? Maybe you’ll spend a contented evening alone with your favorite beverage and a good book. Or maybe you’re working in a hospital or police station or air traffic control tower or airport security line or military base, or for a taxi company or rideshare service, to keep the rest of us safe as we begin 2019. (Thank you.) Or maybe 2018 left you so run down you’re going to turn in early and wake up on January 1 full of hope that the new year will bring peace and joy. Whatever you’re doing and wherever you’re doing it, I send you best wishes for a happy, healthy, successful new year. 

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Writing Promptly

 NaNoWriMo starts November 1. To encourage writers to start thinking about their upcoming writing odyssey they ran a month-long Instagram challenge featuring daily prompts. Writers were encouraged to post ideas for cover art, describe what their main character had in their pockets, and choose their main character’s theme song, among other ideas. The Career Authors blog posts a writing prompt every Sunday. Last week’s was about replacing unnecessary dialogue with a gesture or action that conveyed the same message.I don’t use writing prompts to help me with my work in progress. But sometimes I’ll use a random writing prompt as a creative warmup, a way to get the ideas, and the words, flowing if I’m in a dry spell. Sometimes, like with the NaNoWriMo Instachallenge, I’ll join in for fun. I asked my fellow Missdemeanors their opinions about writing prompts. SusanI use a lot of writing exercises in my teaching. So often when my students are working on them, I work on them, and it’s very helpful. But mainly I love filling out character dossiers. I love those little details that crop up about characters and find I have to go hunting for them and the dossiers really help. The […]

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