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Archive for the ‘Mystery authors’ Category


computer cat

A top organization for mystery writers, SISTERS IN CRIME, tossed us an array of topics for their September SinC-Up blog hop. One captured me: “What’s the best part of writing for you?”

I’m tempted to reply, “Typing THE END.”
Or receiving the check.  (Not frequent enough)

Yet, the most fun & exciting part is when the seed of an idea begins to blossom into a story. Characters & storytlines burst forth, sometimes in rapidfire.

dog writer

It’s thrilling as characters pop out to demand their roles and the story spills in spurts, trickles or a flood.  The questions entice me.   Who? What happened? Where? Why?

It’s fun to weave threads in the tapestry of a mystery.  Playing with action/reaction, suspects and motives, red herrings and foreshadowing, artful confusion with a touch of slight of hand.  We are the masters– the creators, yet the story takes on a life of its own.

rainbow lightning

Midbook complications, hidden clues revealed, who gets knocked off next?  Challenges just keep rolling.

Causing trouble, playing havoc with our characters and allowing good to triumph over evil at the end is satisfying.  In our books we can do that — real life, not so much.

one g

Yay, it’s done!

owl & kitty

MY link:
cat reading
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Mystery Most Cozy Interviews Sherry Lewis/Jacklyn Brady

by Karen E. Rigley

Welcome, Sherry.  You and I go way back to before your first mystery, so it’s such a treat to interview you on behalf of  Mystery Most Cozy. 

Mystery Most Cozy is celebrating their tenth anniversary.  What is your favorite thing about the group: reader interaction, fan support, being able to connect with fellow authors or what and why?

I think my favorite thing about the group is the reader interaction. I like hearing how other readers react to the books I read, what they liked that I didn’t, what they didn’t like that I did. As part of that, I also learn about authors and books I may not have heard about from any other source.

 When and how did you discover the Mystery Most Cozy group?

 Oh, goodness! I joined about a year after Jenny started the group, and I’m pretty sure I heard about this group on some other mystery-related yahoo group or on DOROTHYL. It’s been nearly 10 years, though, and the details have escaped me.

How did you know you were meant to write?

I always knew I was meant to write. I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t thinking about writing – and it was always books. I never wanted to write short stories or magazine articles. I just wanted to write books. I devoured the Bobbsey Twins books, tore through Nancy Drew, and then moved on to Victoria Holt when I was very young. I have a clear memory of saying to my mother, “Someday, when I’m a world-famous novelist…” while standing in the sandbox in the backyard of our Billings, Montana home. I moved from there when I was 11, so I must have known what I wanted to do well before then.

What fascinates you about mysteries?

I love the variety of books available in the mystery genre. I love pitting myself against the author and trying to puzzle out the mystery before s/he reveals the answers to me. I love the way a gifted author can put all the clues in plain sight and still misdirect my attention and send me racing off in the wrong direction.

What inspired you to write your mysteries?

Well, like I said before, I loved mysteries when I was young, and at one point in my life I wanted to be Carolyn Keene. Then for a while, the romance genre and family sagas claimed my attention. When I started writing seriously, the only writing group I could find in my local area was a chapter of Romance Writers of America. I joined, just wanting the interaction with other writers and tried to write a romance, but soon discovered that if I put a man and a woman in the same room, one of them would kill the other, and I was right back to my original love of the cozy mystery genre. I later wrote romances, too, but I started with mysteries.

What intrigues you about writing a series?

When I sold my first mystery novel 20 years ago, I had no intention of making it into a series. I loved reading other writers’ series but I didn’t think I was smart enough to write one of my own. I submitted that first mystery and got a 3-book contract offer from Berkley Prime Crime and freaked out. I wasn’t about to say no but I didn’t know what to do after I said yes.

At about the same time, my book club was reading Bootlegger’s Daughter by Margaret Maron. I was supposed to lead the discussion, so I got very bold and wrote to ask about her experience of writing the book. She was very gracious and wrote about character arcs and other terms I understood instinctively after many years of nursing a reading addiction, but didn’t understand from a writer’s perspective. Her letter prompted me to think about things I hadn’t even considered before then, and now it’s the character arc for the entire series that fascinates me most when I work on a mystery series.

What is the most challenging facet of writing for you?

Oh, goodness! What isn’t challenging? I’ve had many jobs in my lifetime, but this is hands’ down the hardest of them all. It’s also the most rewarding. I think the most challenging facet is overcoming self-doubt. Even after 30-something published books, I’m still convinced that this book is the one that will expose me as a fraud.

What do you enjoy reading?

Just about anything and everything. There are some genres I like better than others, but if a book is well-written, I’ll bury myself in it and keep turning the pages. I love cozy mysteries, of course. I love hard-boiled mysteries. I love spy thrillers. I love a good romance novel. I love romantic suspense. I love family sagas. I love historical novels. I still have a dream of writing The Great American Novel set around the American Revolution. One of these days …

Which authors have influenced you?

How much time do you have??? Of course Margaret Maron was a huge influence, as was every person who ever put on the Carolyn Keene hat. Victoria Holt and Phyllis A. Whitney were very strong early influences. I can still recall images I created in my head as I read some of their books. I loved Dorothy Cannell’s Ellie Haskell series and Marcia Muller’s Sharon McCone books. I think that Susan Howatch is brilliant, and I’ve been itching to read Rosamunde Pilcher’s The Shell Seekers again. Anne Rivers Siddons’ Colony is an all-time favorite book. Lawrence Block’s Bernie Rhodenbarr series were a great influence on me, as were Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch series.

How much of a story do you have in mind when you begin a new book?

That depends on the book. Very often, I have what I think is a big chunk of an idea, only to find out that my protagonist has absolutely no interest in the perfectly good mystery I’ve thought up for him or her. There are a few books on my backlist (including my current work-in-progress) that I’ve started over at least half a dozen times trying to find something my protagonist will actually care about. 

Other times, I have one tiny thing – the sound of a gunshot, perhaps, or a character I see standing on the side of the road – and then I write to find out what or who it is. 

Part of the magic of writing is creating memorable characters. Who are your favorite characters, why, and which of your mysteries feature them?

I still have a soft spot for the characters in my very first mystery series, especially Fred Vickery, my 70-something protagonist. He appeared on page one of my very first serious work-in-progress, and at that time I thought he was going to be a walk-on character who found a dead body and then got shot later in the book. But Fred came to life and demanded a starring role, and I’ve never regretted giving it to him.

What would you like to say to your readers & fans?

Thank you, thank you, thank you! I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your reactions to my books and your support of my career.

What advice would you offer a beginning writer?

Learn discipline. Don’t wait for the muse to strike, just write. Write when you want to write. Write when you don’t want to write. Write when the words are flowing and write when the voices in your head are silent. Write when life is going well, and write when it’s not. This is much easier said than done, but there will be times in years to come when the ability to write in spite of it all will save your career.

What do you enjoy most about being an author & what drives you crazy?

I enjoy being my own boss, for the most part, and the incredible freedom that comes from doing what I love to do most and getting paid for it. What drives me crazy? Probably the number of people who, when they find out what I do for a living, say, “You ought to write about my life. It would be a bestseller for sure, and we could split the money.”

Do you like a touch of romance woven into your mysteries?  Do you add it into your own stories?

I don’t mind a touch of romance in my mysteries, but seriously just a touch. That might sound strange coming from someone who has also written romance novels for a living, but there you have it. I do add a touch to my own stories, but only just a touch.

What are your favorite “writing” clothes?

My pajamas. Unfortunately, I’m not nearly as productive if I spend all day in my PJs, so I have to make myself get dressed, usually in jeans and a T-shirt, and go to work.

Why did you choose cozy rather than thrillers, intrigue or true crime?

Mostly because I’m not a spy or a police officer, so I think that I can probably write an amateur sleuth with more authority than I could a police detective or an FBI agent. I find that I’m quite uncomfortable with true crime thanks to several brushes with violence in my own life. Cozy mysteries offer me the fun of the puzzle without the gore and graphic violence. 

Can you read cozies while writing? Or do they influence your own too much? (tone, voice, etc.)

Yes, I can and I do. In fact, what I find I have to avoid reading is romance since the language and rhythm that makes a good romance is so different from what I need in my head when I’m writing a mystery.

Do you enjoy “stand alone” cozies that are not part of a series if written well?


What are you writing now?

I’m currently working on the fourth book in the Piece of Cake Mystery series which I write as Jacklyn Brady.  

Tell us about your newest mystery:

Business is going stale at Zydeco Cakes and Rita Lucero has plenty to worry about. But when the blind trumpet player Old Dog Leg Magee asks for a favor, she can’t say no. His brother Monroe disappeared forty years ago, and now someone has shown up claiming to be him. Old Dog Leg needs Rita to be his eyes—and see if it’s really his brother. Old Dog Leg asks Rita and the sexy Cajun bartender, Gabriel Broussard, to check into the Love Nest Bed and Breakfast and pose as newlyweds to check out the man who calls himself Monroe. Then another guest at the Love Nest turns up dead and it seems that the mystery man might also be a mysteryer…

Arsenic and Old Cake will be released on November 6.

Where can we find out more about you and your books?

If you’re looking for Sherry Lewis:



Twitter: @SherryLewis

If you’re looking for Jacklyn Brady:



Facebook Fan Page:

Twitter: @jacklynbrady

Visit Mystery Most Cozy to find out how to enter the drawing for one of her mysteries.

Mystery Most Cozy links:


My links:

Mystery Most Cozy Interviews Carolyn Hart

by Karen E. Rigley

Carolyn and Loki

Welcome, Carolyn Hart.  We’re so delighted that you are our first author interview to launch the Mystery Most Cozy 10th Anniversary celebration. I admit that I have long been a fan of yours and it’s an honor and thrill to interview you.

How did you know you were meant to write?

I was a child during WWII. Headlines brought the war to us and very soon I realized the importance of information. I wanted to be a reporter. I wrote for my junior and senior high papers, majored in journalism in college, worked briefly as a reporter. It was only after I married and had a family that I turned to fiction, but I always knew I had to write.

What fascinates you about mysteries?

The exploration if what goes wrong in ordinary lives. Mysteries help us understand how good people and bad make decisions that warp not only their lives but the lives of those around them.

What do you enjoy reading?

Mysteries and history.

Which authors have influenced you?

Agatha Christie, Mary Roberts Rinehart, and Phoebe Atwood Taylor. For sheer beauty of writing style, Edith Hamilton’s prose and Edna St. Vincent Millay’s poetry.

Tell us about your newest mystery:

WHAT THE CAT SAW, Berkley Prime Crime. After the death of her fiance in Afghanistan, Nela Farley feels an eerie connection when she looks into the eyes of a cat. She dismisses the thoughts as irrational, her mind’s way of avoiding painful memories, until the night she looks into the eyes of a cat and sees more than is safe to know.

How much of a story do you have in mind when you begin a new book?

I am a what if . . . writer. Some occurrence suggests an idea for a book. The people involved slowly take shape in my mind. I know the protagonist, the victim (or in suspense the goal), the reason for the crime and who committed it. Those who surrounded the victim in life will be the ones involved in the death. When I start on Page 1, I have no idea how I will get to page 300.

Part of the magic of writing is creating memorable characters. Who are your favorite characters, why, and which of your mysteries feature them?

My own favorite characters would be Annie and Max Darling in the Death on Demand series, Henrietta O’Dwyer Collins in the Henrie O series, the late Bailey Ruth Raeburn in the Bailey Ruth series, Nela Farley in WHAT THE CAT SAW, and Linda Rossier in ESCAPE FROM PARIS.

What would you like to say to your readers & fans?

Thank you for making it possible for me to be a writer.

What advice would you offer a beginning writer?

Care passionately about what you write. If you care, someday somewhere an editor will care.

What inspired you to write mysteries?

I have loved mysteries since my first Nancy Drew. It wasn’t until many years after I started writing mysteries that I understood why I adore them. Mysteries celebrate goodness and reaffirm a commitment to goodness.

When & how did you discover the Mystery Most Cozy group?

I met Jenny Hanahan at a writing event and ever since I have been a huge fan of MMC.

What intrigues you about writing a series?

The pleasure of returning to characters that intrigue me.

What is the most challenging facet of writing for you?

Trusting in the process. As a what if . . . writer I am always terrified that a story won’t be there even though I know that if I keep on writing I will find out what happened.

Mystery Most Cozy is celebrating their tenth anniversary. What is your favorite thing about the group: reader interaction, fan support, being able to connect with fellow authors or what & why?

Mystery Most Cozy makes me feel welcome. I have the same feeling of belonging and contentment when I pick up one of Susan Wittig Albert’s Darling Dahlias series.

What do you enjoy most about being an author & what drives you crazy?

Having written is an exquisite pleasure. Electronic copyedits literally drive me crazy. I loathe and despise the new format and believe it is simply one more obstacle in the path of creating the best book possible.

If you could meet three people (living or dead) and chat mysteries with them, who would you select? What would you discuss?

Agatha Christie – Her adventurous spirit and her incredible gift for misleading readers. Mary Roberts Rinehart – Her wonderful creation of Tish Carberry and her delight in humor. Edith Hamilton – Did you read mysteries?

Do you like a touch of romance woven into your mysteries? Do you add it into your own stories?

Definitely. There is always either romance, thwarted love, or hope for love in my books. Love or its lack are the mainspring of every life. When I wrote DEATH ON DEMAND, most mysteries featured women with no relationahip or a fractured relationship with a man. I believe in love and I chose to create a woman and man who love deeply, honorably, and forever.

What are your favorite “writing” clothes?

I never gave that a thought. In summer a blouse and shorts, in winter a blouse and slacks, whatever I would wear that day.

As author you create magic offering readers an escape into your story. As you write how deeply do you submerge into your own characters, setting and plot? Do you dream any of your scenes?

They are with me constantly and I often work out scenes in my sleep. And as my husband observed, I spend a great deal of time physically present but staring into space, thinking.

Why did you choose cozy rather than thrillers, intrigue or true crime?

My 50th novel will be out next spring., I have written primarily traditional mysteries for the last 30 years but earlier I wrote a number of suspense novels and WWI novels. SKULDUGGERY, an early suspense novel set in San Francisco’s Chinatown, will be published Nov. 13. Coming out in June will be a reissue of my WWII novel set in Occupied Paris, ESCAPE FROM PARIS. They are, again quoting my husband, a Carolyn Hart you’ve never known.

Can you read cozies while writing? Or do they influence your own?

We all write different kinds of book with our own style. That isn’t a problem.

Do you feel you must write your cozies in a series? If so, why?

I think that depends upon the interest of the publisher. I enjoy writing series but I have never felt that I was precluded from standalones. My most recent standalone was LETTER FROM HOME, which meant a lot to me as it recalled the WWII of my childhood.

What are you writing now?

I am halfway through FATAL CHOICE, which Berkley will publish in May 2014. DEAD,WHITE AND BLUE, also a Death on Demand mystery, will be out in May 2013. In FATAL CHOICE, a doctor looks across a room and recognizes evil. He makes a fatal choice. His sister calls on Annie and Max Darling because she believes her brother’s death was murder, not suicide.

Where can we find out more about you & your books?

and please sign up for my newsletter

Here’s a sample of Carolyn Hart’s NL:

Today marks the return of The Hart Beat, a newsletter for readers. Many years ago, I sent out a newsletter on paper. What a difference 30 years makes! I am excited to once again be in contact with readers and I hope you will enjoy keeping up-to-date with me via the newsletter, on Facebook, and through blogs. My thanks to each and every one of you for the wonderful welcome you have given my books through the years.
And yes, there is a new book! In fact three of them: an ebook publication only, a traditional hardcover release, and a reprint of an early suspense novel.

I hope readers will be be intrigued by this trio. Please come to say hello, see a blog, or (an author’s dream) buy a book.
All best wishes,
Carolyn Hart

Coming October 2, 2012

Berkley Prime Crime
After the death of her fiance in Afghanistan, Nela Farley feels an eerie connection when she looks into the eyes of a cat. She dismisses the thoughts as irrational, her mind’s way of avoiding painful memories, until the night she looks into the eyes of a cat and sees more than is safe to know.
Available from your favorite booksellerWhat the Cat Saw by Carolyn Hart


Here’s a piece that originally appeared at Jungle Red Writers. I’m sure all of you cat-lovers will understand just what I’m talking about….

A funny thing happened when I started to write a book where the heroine knows what a cat is thinking. I had – famous last words – a great idea for a cute, fun, lighthearted series set in a cat hotel. Our three felines live the live of Riley when we travel. They stay at Aristocats Feline Suites and Spa, individual rooms (no cages for these tabbies), water fountains, heated cushions, window views, fake tree perches. Now we may be at a down-at-heels motel with rowdy kids in the next room, tepid air conditioning, and a mysterious clanking in the air vents, but hey–we aren’t cats.

My book would feature a young woman who had always hidden from everyone, including her family, the fact that when she looked at a cat, she knew what the cat was thinking. However, the imps of fate being what they are, her sister owned a feline hotel and had surgery and needed help while recuperating so the heroine was forced to deal with cats of all sorts, shapes, sizes, and thoughts. I foresaw possibly an imperious Persian boarding and the heroine learning that the owner was last seen on a misty morning after someone knocked at the door.
Fellow writers will understand what happened next. When I sat down to start – always a by-guess-and-by-God process with me – cute cats and a lively heroine refused to respond to my plaintive calls.
Instead, a young reporter who has lost her job on a small SoCal daily and is grieving the death of the fiancé in Afghanistan finds herself looking into cats’ eyes and seeing their thoughts. Nela Farley refuses to believe this is actually happening. She is a rational, smart, serious woman struggling with sorrow. She sees the transference of thoughts to the eyes of cats as a way of avoiding hard memories. Unsuccessful in her job search, Nela welcomes her sister Chloe’s request that she come to Oklahoma and take Chloe’s place at work for a couple of weeks. And therein lies a tale of suspense, danger, and possibly the ease of heartbreak.
Nothing funny. Nothing cute. No talking cats.

I think I turned away from my initial idea because I have such enormous respect for cats. They are – to me – God’s most elegant creatures, intelligent, perceptive, independent and incredibly attuned to their surroundings and the people in their lives.

It may rather be on the order of a proud young mother who thinks her kid is always the brightest one in the room, but I have no doubt that my brown tabby Sister always knows how I feel and whether there is safety or danger in our immediate surroundings. We don’t really need the tornado sirens. Sister will tell us. And yes, cats care for their very own people. If I get up to leave the room, Sister escorts me down the hall and back again to the sofa where she decrees that we sit while we watch baseball.
Sister knows if I’m happy or sad or upset. Sister knows if danger threatens.
And so does the cat in WHAT THE CAT SAW.

Cry in the Night

September 12, 2012

Never before published, this suspense novel was released as an ebook only by Berkley.

Sheila Ramsay, a young museum curator, comes to Mexico City in 1982 on a romantic whim and soon finds herself involved in a life-and-death hunt for missing gold.

Available from and Barnes &

Skulduggery by Carolyn Hart
November 13, 2012
Seventh Street Books has reprinted an early suspense novel set in Chinatown.
A desperate search for the missing Peking Man bones brings danger, death, and difficult choices for anthropologist Ellen Christie.
Available from your favorite bookseller


My links:

Next week we feature Sherry Lewis.


As most of you know blogging is not really my thing and I tend to neglect my own more than occasionally. 😉 So I’m delighted with the opportunity to help a wonderful group of readers & writers toast MURDER MOST COZY as they celebrate their 10 year anniversary. I get to interview mystery writers who I enjoy and admire, while mystery fans learn more about some of their favorite authors.

Today I’ll launch the tribute with a rerun of three of my poems to capture the spirit of the remarkable authors who sweep readers away with the power of words.


The secret to writing a mystery book

requires more than a beginning hook.

It takes more than an intriguing clue

discovered by an exploring gumshoe.

Don’t depend upon poison or knife

or a dangerous shadow threatening life.

Creating an intriguing story

entails more than killing gory,

inventing more than a detective wise

or exploring all three suspects lies.

An author needs more to make a good read

than motives of love, betrayal and greed.

Here lies the real secret my friend,

plan it backward from the end.


Tales modern or woven in history,

I always love a good mystery.

Using clues to unravel a bit,

it’s amusing to guess who done it,

where and how and why;

who’ll be next to die.

Determined authors can rarely fool

this armchair detective keeping cool.

My favorite tales to be direct,

reveal my guesses are incorrect.


Fly me away on the wings of dreams
Weave me sounds of laughter or screams

Scorch me with fire of dragon breath
Haunt me with tales of impending death

Introduce me to people I’ll never meet
Transport me to a distant or imaginary street

Thrill me with legends of brave young souls
Frighten me by evil spells, witches and ghouls

Entice me with magic of a lover’s kiss
Excite me with blaze from a laser gun miss

Enchant me with myths of lost jewels, genies and gold
Challenge me by ancient mysteries; puzzles of old

Tease me with shadows flickering in candleglow
Intoxicate me with joy, passion or woe

Whirl me toward heaven in a tornado high
Blow me like stardust across violet sky

Whisk me away to worlds, future or past
‘til my eyelids drift closed and I sleep at last.

                    Karen Elizabeth Rigley

Murder Most Cozy: