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Mystery Most Cozy Interviews Cathy Ace

Cathy, I’m so pleased we could squeeze you into our interview schedule before the celebration ends next week.

2cathy

Hello there Fellow MMC-ers…it’s great to have this chance to talk to you all, but I have to admit it’s a bit scary too. Here goes anyway!

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’ve really enjoyed reading the comments and input that folks take the time to put up on the FB page: I like finding out what it is that readers take to and, sometimes, what they don’t care for so much. For example, it’s nice to know that I’m not alone in being bugged by un-resolved red-herrings!

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

I’m a newbie! I only discovered MMC last year, but I’m so glad I did. I found it on one of my wanders through the online universe…somehow!

How did you know you were meant to write?

To be honest, I think I was born to talk…but writing allows me to chat with others in a different way, even if the people I’m talking to, or through, are those I’ve created myself! That said (you see?!), I was always a child who enjoyed journeying in the worlds made real for me by writers. I suppose I wanted to try to do what they had done. I was fortunate enough to have the chance to study English at University, and did so for a year, but then decided that instead of studying how others had described the human condition, I’d rather gain a better understanding of it for myself, so I switched my studies to psychology.

What fascinates you about mysteries?

I’m naturally very solution-orientated: give me a problem or a puzzle and my instinct is to come up with the answer. Whatever the sub-genre, all mysteries are about puzzles…solving them is what draws me in.

What is the most challenging facet of writing for you?

I wish I could type as fast as the words come into my head. I’m the classic three-fingered typist: I never had lessons, I just hammered away at the keyboard and got faster as time passed. I can’t touch-type: I have to look at the keys as I go, so the screen isn’t a part of my writing experience, until I look up to see the typing mistakes I’ve made. Maybe that’s a good thing: it means I have to read what I’ve written straight away, put the punctuation right as I go along, and I have the chance to reflect on sentences as I build them.

What do you enjoy reading?

I’m a very mood-driven reader: I read widely, but often have two or three books on the go at once, so I can pick up something light or dark, factual or fiction, as the mood takes me. I have a room full of books, which is where I write, and every other room in the house also has a bookshelf, or three! If you looked at what’s on my shelves you’d find pretty much every subject and genre covered, but what would really stand out would be my dozens of red and gold, leather-bound volumes of Agatha Christie’s complete works, into which I enjoy dipping – whatever my mood.

Which authors have influenced you?

Agatha Christie’s works have been a part of my life since I was ten years old, so her structure and plots, as well as her ability to mould our expectations of what a traditional murder mystery should be, are engrained in my psyche. I admire the way she made the rules, then went on to give us what we expected, in unexpected ways. I try to do the same. In my chosen genre, amongst living authors, I would say that PD James inspires me the most, and I always look forward to a new Val McDermid, Ian Rankin, Peter Robinson, Tamar Myers or Louise Penny. I’m especially sad that there won’t be any new books from Reginald Hill, Robert B Parker or Tony Hillerman, but am glad I can re-read their work at will.

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

I’m not just one of life’s problem-solvers, I’m also highly goal-oriented and process driven (okay then, I’m a bit of a control freak!), so I know pretty much all my story before I begin writing.

I prepare very detailed notes about my characters – their entire life-history, my chosen, or imagined, locations, and about the method/s and means of murder I have chosen. Even though Cait isn’t a forensics person, and I certainly don’t write about forensics, I need to know how a body would present under certain circumstances, or how the means of murder work/s in minute detail. I’ll spend time talking to medical specialists, coroners or cops, amongst others, to make sure I get this right.

I also have the outline of what needs to happen within each chapter. Quite often a character will say or do something I’m not expecting – yes, I know that sounds nuts but, honestly, it’s how it happens. So, sometimes, I achieve what I need to happen in a chapter, but in an unexpected way.

When I’m writing, so long as I feel the characters are acting in a way that would be right for them, and the book, I let it play out. That means I update my outline notes as I go along, so that I remember all the clues and red-herrings I have to tie up!

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

My protagonist, criminology professor Cait Morgan, is very much like me: she’s my height, my weight (or thereabouts – there are some things you really don’t need to know about me!) is Welsh-Canadian, had the education I had, where I had it, and, up to a point, she followed a similar career path to myself. Do I like her? Absolutely. Is she perfect? Oh, good heavens, no! But that’s why I like her. Brilliant, judgmental, sharp-tongued and over-indulgent, she’s still quite insecure. In other words, she’s very human. Bearing in mind that the series is called the “Cait Morgan Mysteries” you can bet she’ll be in each one. Truthfully, I enjoy all my characters, however small their role, or rotten they might be. But as for “memorable”? Well, that’s something that only those who’ve read my books can comment upon.

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

“Thank You for choosing to include my books, and Cait Morgan, in your life. I hope you enjoy her company as much as I do!”

What advice would you offer a beginning writer?

This is a tough one. Other than the general advice that, in order to be a writer you have to actually write, rather than just thinking or talking about writing, I’m not sure I’m well placed to give much advice. I’ve had a bizarre path to being published, and I’ve been fortunate, I know.

There are lots of platitudes about “The harder you work, the luckier you get”, but I honestly believe that, with the work under your belt, there is a certain amount of luck involved in things. Maybe it’s about being prepared to step up and take a risk, which then becomes an opportunity. If you’re working on your writing skills, reading as widely as possible (and I don’t just mean reading books about writing, but books that challenge you and help you understand the way that words work well on the page) then you are better prepared when the opportunities come along.

So: write lots, read even more, and good luck!

I’m sorry if that’s not very constructive or original, but I suspect it’s the best advice I’ve got.

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

I’m delighted to say that I haven’t (yet) found anything about being an author that drives me crazy, in fact, just saying or writing the words “I’m an author” makes me glow with joy. There – I’m glowing right now!

As for what I enjoy the most? When I’ve been weeding or planting in the garden all day, aided and abetted by the dogs of course, and I’ve been plotting: multi-tasking at its best!

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

1)   Agatha Christie – I’m not sure I’d have the guts to discuss mysteries with her, but I’d enjoy listening to her talking about her time with her second husband, Max Mallowan, on his archeological digs. I enjoy ancient cultures, history, art, gardening and family, as did she, so I might find something I could contribute to the conversation.

2)   Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – again, it’s a bit of an alarming prospect to discuss plotting and deductive reasoning with the man who made these elements his byword, but I’d take a chance! I’d be fascinated to get his take on the technology that now surrounds us in our daily lives.

3)   PD James – I adore her books: the places and people she creates are real to me, and will live with me forever. That’s magic! Over the years she’s generously given many interviews and written a great deal about her writing process, so I think I’d take the chance to talk to her about what she’s read and how it’s touched her, find out what her private passions might be, walk through London with her discussing art and architecture, and find out more about what makes her the person she is, which, of course, is what makes her the writer she is.

What are your favorite “writing” clothes?

Oh dear, this is a bit weird, but I’ll confess all: I wrote my first novel wearing a silk dressing gown that’s heavily embroidered with dragons. I know. How pretentious, right!? But it was fun! I also had a chocolate Labrador on each foot – puppy slippers. That was “winter writing”. For “summer writing” I tend to wear light, comfy clothes, and the dogs lay on the tile in the hallway outside my study to keep cool.

As an 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?

When writing, I am each of my characters in turn, in situ. Total immersion. I move, turn, “look” about at my surroundings, make gestures…the lot. I dare say that, if anyone could see me, they’d think it a bit peculiar. Before I start writing I’ve “seen” the entire movie of the book. When I’m writing, I’m in that movie, trying my best to get onto paper everything that Cait sees, feels, hears, touches, smells, says, thinks and, yes, senses or suspects. The Cait Morgan Mysteries are written from Cait’s point of view, so that’s who I am when I write. I haven’t dreamed any scenes yet, but, in that fog between sleeping and wakefulness, I’ll often be visualizing the movie in my head and something will shift or come into focus…a detail, a clue or an extra complication will present itself to me: that’s when I have to get up and write it down. So long as I don’t disturb the dog on the bed when I get up, I can creep back when I’m done and get off to sleep. If the dog wakes up, then that’s quite a different matter!

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

I can’t read any books at all when I’m writing. Even if I’m watching TV, I know that what’s on the screen is pretty much just washing over me. I’m totally zoned out – or zoned in, depending on your point of view.

What are you writing now?

I’m on the cusp between finished style sheets and outlines, and starting to write my third novel. It will be published in Spring 2014. It’s set in Mexico. I’m not allowed to say more than that right now, but I can tell you that it will pick up where my second novel finishes…oh, and I’ve really enjoyed the research!

Tell us about your newest mystery:

My second Cait Morgan Mystery, “The Corpse with the Golden Nose”, will be launched in March 2013. It picks up Cait’s life a few months after the end of my first novel, “The Corpse with the Silver Tongue”. Here are the jacket notes for the book:

“A world-famous vintner is dead. And when a heartfelt plea to look into the matter is paired with an exclusive gourmet event in British Columbia’s stunning wine country, overindulgent foodie and criminologist Cait Morgan cannot resist. Cait is sure the owner of a family-run vineyard was murdered. Bud Anderson, Cait’s companion for the weekend, is convinced the woman took her own life. That is, until death strikes once again, between the neat rows of grapevines on the banks of magnificent Lake Okanagan. Uncovering obsessions and murderous thoughts among the victim’s wacky neighbors is a start. But, Cait soon realizes that more lives are at stake. Can she think, and act, quickly enough to prevent another death?

The second book in the Cait Morgan Mysteries, The Corpse with the Golden Nose is a classic whodunit featuring the eccentric Professor Cait Morgan.

Praise for The Corpse with the Silver Tongue

 

“[A] smooth debut . . . Cait’s enjoyable first outing should earn

her a well-deserved encore.” —Publishers Weekly

“In the finest tradition of Agatha Christie, debut author Ace

brings us the closed-room drama, with a dollop of romantic

suspense and historical intrigue.” —Library Journal

“[Ace is] a writer to watch.” —The Globe and Mail

“A sharply paced cozy.” —The Hamilton Spectator”

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

You can find out more about my books, click-through to read from/buy them, read some interviews I’ve given in the past, learn about events I’ll be attending, and find my e-mail address, at: www.cathyace.com

The Cait Morgan Mysteries are available in paperback through your local bookstore or library, and are offered in every major e-reader format.

Please consider being my Friend on Facebook? You’ll find me here: Cathy Ace (Cait Morgan Mysteries)

Alternatively, you could Follow me on Twitter: @AceCathy

cathy cover 1

cathy cover 2

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

MYSTERY MOST COZY links:

http://www.facebook.com/groups/188620978695/?fref=ts

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/MysteryMostCozy/?yguid=482689562

My links:

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Mystery Most Cozy Interviews Clea Simon

by Karen E. Rigley

Welcome, Clea, and thank you for joining our MMC interviews.  Cats and mysteries certainly go well together as your entertaining books prove.

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?

 Do I have to choose? I love hearing what everyone is reading, what they love, and why. I find this is very helpful to me as I write my own feline-centered cozies.

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

 I don’t remember. It was way before Facebook, I know that!

How did you know you were meant to write?

I have always made up stories to amuse my friends and family, from as early an age as I can remember. My mother kept some of my first stories from when I was learning to write. It was only a question of learning that I could do it professionally – which I dared to try after close to 20 years of being a journalist (which is telling other people’s stories, kind of).

What fascinates you about mysteries?

 I love the puzzle aspect and also the ability to bring order to the world. Maybe not the real world, but my own little universe. I shake things up, like in a snow globe, and then I get to set them right.

What inspired you to write your mysteries?

I have always read them. I had written a nonfiction book about women and cats (“The Feline Mystique: On The Mysterious Connection Between Women and Cats,” St. Martin’s Press, 2002), and, Kate, the owner of a local mystery bookstore (the aptly named Kate’s Mystery Books) invited me to sign at her annual holiday party. I said, “But I don’t write mysteries.” She said, “Clea, believe it or not, there’s a huge overlap between women who love cats and mystery readers.” So I came and signed books with about 20 other authors and a few hundred readers and had a blast. And at the end of the night, Kate said to me, “You should write a mystery.” So the next day I started what became, with many revisions, my first mystery, “Mew is for Murder” (Poisoned Pen Pres).

What intrigues you about writing a series?

 I love getting to develop the characters. I hate ending a book, but with series I know I’ll see them all again – and I get to watch them grow.

What is the most challenging facet of writing for you?

 Making myself revise is hard, hard, hard. I love the inspiration. The perspiration part not so much – but it is soooo necessary.

What do you enjoy reading?

 Everything! I am now in a John Lawton World War II mystery (“Bluffing Mr. Churchill”) and have a Stuart Nevile up next. I guess I read darker than I write.

Which authors have influenced you?

My childhood faves were C.S. Lewis’s Narnia books, and it has been pointed out to me that my Mr Grey owes a lot to Aslan from those books. Also, Tolkein and Ursula LeGuin.

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

I usually have the central puzzle or dilemma in mind, but not necessarily how it will resolve.

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

Well, I adore my cats – Mr Grey in the Dulcie Schwartz books and Musetta in the Theda Krakow books. And, of course, Wallis the tabby from my Pru books. She’s got so much attitude!!

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

Thank you!! I am always hoping that readers will take my books as they are – not look for them to be like anyone else’s books. If they try them and they enjoy them, I so deeply appreciate that! Oh, and if they do, they could spread the word!

What advice would you offer a beginning writer?

Write every day, even if you don’t feel inspired. Oh, and when you’re done with a chapter or a story, put it aside for at least a few weeks and then read it through. You’ll be surprised – so much stuff you thought was in there never made it out of your head and onto the page! Revising is so important. Also, read read read constantly. Writers have to be readers first (and always)!

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

 I love getting to create little worlds, with people and characters of whom I grow quite fond. What I don’t like is realizing that I’ve been sitting at my desk for 10 hours and I have missed daylight… this happens all too often.

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

Agatha Christie, of course, Jane Austen, and Hilary Mantel. Mantel is still alive and writing, for which I’m so grateful! But I think of these women as just the masters at creating memorable characters. And that, really, is key to creating a story – and a mystery is a story first.

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

I do and I do. I want my characters to be real and have lives – and that includes pets and families and love lives.

What are your favorite “writing” clothes?

ANYTHING COMFY!! I bought these “velour lounging pants” on sale, so I wear them all through the winter (with a big, soft top). In warm weather, I go the opposite direction – cutoff sweatpant shorts and a T-shirt.

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?

I have dreamt scenes, when I’m deep into a book. I always try to feel my way through my characters – I can’t make them do anything I don’t understand or, really, wouldn’t do myself. Even my killers have to have motives I believe in. I have to see how I could be pushed almost that far.

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

I don’t know. I read darker than I write – but I can’t write a scene where someone is tortured or anything like that. I like my characters and their happy endings too much!

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

I usually don’t read mysteries when I’m writing – too close to home! Its funny but I just don’t WANT to when I’m writing. I read a lot of Victorian fiction: Anthony Trolloppe and the like while writing.

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

I do. Publishers want series – and I do like staying with my characters!

What are you writing now?

I just sent in the edits for “Grey Dawn,” which will be the sixth Dulcie Schwartz feline mystery (for Severn House). So I should start the fourth Pru Marlowe pet noir, but I haven’t yet.

Tell us about your newest mystery:

That would probably be “True Grey,” the fifth Dulcie mystery – my heroine is working on her thesis, but when she goes to meet a visiting scholar, she finds her lying dead, knocked out by a piece of statuary. And since she was the one who found her, she immediately becomes a suspect…. luckily, her ghost cat, Mr Grey, knows she is innocent.

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

You can read excerpts and find out news at my home site at

http://www.cleasimon.com – you can also “friend” me on Facebook and follow me on Twitter @Clea_Simon  – thanks so much!

http://www.facebook.com/l.php?u=http%3A%2F%2F

http://www.amazon.com/Clea-Simon/e/B000APUNRK/

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

Mystery Most Cozy links:

http://www.facebook.com/groups/188620978695/?

fref=tshttp://groups.yahoo.com/group/MysteryMostCozy/?yguid=482689562

My links:

 

SUMMER ZOOM

by Karen E. Rigley

Summer ends today. It zoomed by in a whirl of family, friends, weddings, funerals, babies, endless writing projects, trips up the canyon, to the lake, in the mountains, sizzling sunshine, hot summer nights, thunderstorms and birdsongs.

It feels as if summer barely dawned and now it’s setting, touching leaves with gold and scarlet as nights cool and days mellow. I already miss it. Now guess I’d better clean up fallen apples off the back lawn, deadhead the roses and tame some weeds.

DESERT NIGHT

Stars sparkle like sequins spilled across
black velvet skies
above
flatlands stretching forever
Desolation broken only by scattered
silhouettes of cactus, greasewood and sagebrush
harsh reminders of
survival
as a hawk swoops
down toward
an adventurous prairie dog scampering
back home.

KITTEN

Nature’s young
uncuddly
soft fur
golden splotched
patches
on creamy white
fiercely battles a
grasshopper

 

VALLEY EVE

A silver line of lake shimmers

deceptively in the distance

West

violet mountains guard the far horizon

East

giant mountains of timber and rock

tower nearly to the stars

rising in the sapphire evening sky

Sagebrush foothills slope into meadows

alive with fragrant wildflowers

Trees with heavy-leafed branches

cast flowing shadows

to the music of canyon winds.

 
 

Mother’s Day Tribute: SHIMMERING SPIRIT

by Karen Elizabeth Rigley

For those of you who still have your mother – cherish her, appreciate her and enjoy her.  Some things are too close to your heart to write about. That’s how I feel about my mom. Even though it’s been over a decade since her passing, it’s still so hard. I miss her every day. Sometimes it a tiny thing – ice skating on TV, a snapshot of her or a sudden memory of her soft voice and warm hugs.

 Such an amazing woman, she possessed unbelievable inner strength throughout all her earthly struggles. Yet, she shimmered with a sweet compassionate spirit, never hurting another soul. She taught by example. She always put others first. No matter her personal hardships, her concern was the well-being of others. She believed in us, expecting the best of all, yet offering forgiveness when we faltered. Never judging or preaching. She lived by an unshakable quiet faith.

Oh, how I admired her. It tears my heart that I sometimes disappointed her. She endured so much, weathering storms of life that would shipwreck most. Yet, even during her darkest times, she’d reach out during the depths to care for others and make sure they were okay. They say that good deeds we do in life stockpile rewards in heaven. Mom earned a lifetime of them just by being herself.

Even toward the end, after a valiant seventeen-year battle with Parkinson’s Disease, Mom hung on as long as humanly possible despite her agony, knowing we still needed her. How I still miss her!

I’m forever grateful for the wisdom she taught me. She lived the Three Cs: Courage, caring and compassion. She knew the secret of life is how we treat others. There’s no one I admire more and it stirs my heart each time I see Mom’s kind, loving spirit living on in my daughter.

REBEL BODY

Even as she sleeps

her legs

tremble, tremble

Lilies

buffeted

 by

wind

She awakens aching,

body weak

shaking

quaking

Kitten

stranded

in the

snow

Kind, arthritic hands

rebellious

quiver

shiver

Tornado

trapped

within

Constant battle of

mind with limbs

Ceaseless,

ceaseless

Wave

beleaguered

shore

Courageous spirit

endures

Memories call

Still

deep

pool

by

waterfall.

FIRST FRIDAY ART SHOW & STROLL

by Karen E. Rigley

It’s an event I look forward to the first Friday of every month. The evening highlight is more than dinner at the Grill. Usually several artists are featured, the displays mixing media. Generally, one or two artist collections of paintings or photographs, punctuated by three dimensional pieces such as sculpture or pottery in two different gallery shows.

It’s a treat to attend the new art shows, plus if time and weather allow to stroll along the renovated heart of town wandering into art galleries and antique shops.

Unfortunately, this month I’m sitting it out. Broken bones midwinter can do that. Knowing my disappointment, my sweet daughter brought me a take-out order of chicken carbonara and a yummy soup that tastes like Italian wedding soup minus meatballs.

This evening, I miss the art, the artists, as well as the delightful dinner company First Friday usually supplies, but next month I intend to attend the event and to appreciate it more than ever.

This is the just the first Friday of 2012, so the year will produce many more. As we flip the calendar to this new year to share New Year wishes, count our blessings and muse about the future, melancholy blends with anticipation. It’s a good time to reaffirm our faith, goals and dreams.

Time to celebrate the blessings in our lives and those we love as we step forward into a new year with hope and determination. This poem of mine fits a new year as well as a new day:

TODAY

New day

dawns

a

fresh sheet of paper

waiting

to

document

a

bit of history

in

the book

of

life.