Barbara Howard is an author of mystery stories featuring a female amateur sleuth, diverse characters, and a dash of romance. Books include the Finding Home Mystery Series, Final Harvest, Charlotte’s Revenge, and Milo’s Journey. She is a first-generation tech geek turned master gardener. Ms. Howard returned to her Midwestern hometown after an extensive career as a Department of Defense Project Manager at the Pentagon and KPMG Finance and Accounting, Eastern Region. She spends most of her time treasure hunting, spoiling her fur babies, growing veggies, and plotting whodunits.
Please share your elevator pitch with us: The Taste of Rain – College student and part-time health aide Amira Connors wants nothing more than to graduate and successfully launch a non-profit with her latest crush, Attorney Darius Browne. But when a nursing home patient (Claire Stewart) shares shocking details surrounding her husband’s death, Amira pieces together the fractured memories and helps law enforcement identify the actual killer. But is he? Or have Claire’s ramblings entangled Amira into becoming the next target?
Has an association membership helped you with your writing? I belong to several associations, and each relationship is beneficial. I consider Sisters in Crime a shining star above them all. The networking, publishing, and educational resources are top-notch. I’ve built many friendships through my affiliation with SinC.
How do you come up with character names? If you’ve ever contacted me through a direct message (DM) with the classic line “Hello beautiful” or to interest me in cryptocurrency, chances are your name has been added to my list of character profiles. Most often, the murder victim.
What’s the most challenging thing about writing characters from the opposite sex? Making sure that they don’t sound like my ex-husband. Just kidding, sort of. I spent the majority of my career in the Pentagon, tech, and financial firms, all predominantly male environments. I have plenty of voices in my head (I’ve dubbed them the Ghosts of Briefings-Past) that feed my stories.
Do you base any of your characters on real people? Each character is my personal Frankenstein—a patchwork of several people I’ve known. I determine the character’s backstory, internal struggle, goals, and passions. Then, I go shopping for traits and behaviors that match the people I’ve met throughout my life. I’m a quilter, and piecing the fabric is my favorite part of that process. I suppose that has translated into my writing process and makes it fun for me.
Do you outline, or are you a pantser? I am a flexible plotter. I map out everything and try to stick to it. I need a clear path and goal for each scene. However, I allow room for the characters to breathe and grow. If that causes the plot to take unexpected twists and turns, I go with the flow. PS: That always happens, and it’s another part of the fun.
Where do you place your settings—real or fictional locations? Each setting has components from different places where I’ve lived, worked, or visited. Once I decide what the setting should look and feel like, I pull from my experiences in similar places to create it. That way, every time I walk through a scene with a character, it feels very real to me. And I hope that authenticity conveys over to the reader as well.
Do you have any advice for new writers? Try not to compare yourself to other authors. Find your own voice. Continue perfecting your craft. Learn something new every day. And trust the process.
Recent projects: Contributing author to the wedding-themed cozy mystery anthology Malice, Matrimony, and Murder.
Sisters in Crime,
Great Lakes Fiction Writers,
Crime Writers of Color,
Mystery Writers of America,
Gamma Xi Phi
Building Relationships Around Books,
Cozy Crime Collective,
World of Black Writers,
Gamma Xi Phi,
Women Reading Great Books,
Tattered Page Book Club
Contact – http://www.authorbarbarahoward.com
Buy – https://linktr.ee/BarbaraHoward
Nancy Lynn Jarvis wore many hats before she started writing cozy mysteries. After earning a BA in behavioral science from San Jose State University, she worked in the advertising department of the San Jose Mercury News, as a librarian, as the business manager for Shakespeare/Santa Cruz, and as a realtor.
Nancy’s work history reflects her philosophy: people should try something radically different every few years, which she applies to her writing and life. She has just started growing hops commercially.
Elevator pitch for Santa Cruz Ghost Stories – If you want to be entertained or, in some cases, made to shiverꟷ by the creative minds of writers telling you their Santa Cruz ghost stories, this is the book for you. There’s even an AI-generated ghost story so you can see what future ghosts may look like.
I belong to Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and Santa Cruz Women of Mystery. I’m on too many writer-related Facebook groups to list.
Do you write in more than one genre? Does editing count if I contributed a story to the book? Mostly, I write cozy-style mysteries, where I began and am currently working, but I keep getting sidetracked. After the fourth book in my Regan McHenry Real Estate Mysteries series, I swerved into a stand-alone novel titled Mags and the AARP Gang.
A little later, I thought my book covers needed refreshing, and while searching online for ideas, I found a graphic that I thought would make a perfect cookbook cover… not that I ever intended to do a cookbook. I bought it and showed it to some writers I knew, instructing them to talk me down from an increasingly growing and intruding idea that I should ask other cozy mystery writers to contribute recipes from their books and create a cookbook. They failed miserably. Over one hundred of them submitted recipes and delightful autobiographies, and the result was Cozy Food: 128 Cozy Mystery Writers Share Their Favorite Recipes.
I was asked to write a short story for a proposed anthology titled Santa Cruz Noir. I thought that was the wrong vibe for my community and convinced seventeen other writers to contribute stories about our weird hometown. The result was Santa Cruz Weird.
After that, I finished the Regan McHenry Real Estate Mysteries series and began another one, PIP Inc. Mysteries, about a downsized law librarian who turns to private investigation to support herself. Things were going well. I was four books and six thousand words into book five in the series when I sold a ghost story for an anthology.
I was not bragging—okay, maybe I was a bit—to friends who suggested I do another anthology, this time one full of ghost stories. Santa Cruz Ghost Stories is in the final throes before publication and hopefully will be ready for preorder on December 1st.
What brought you to writing? I started writing as a game because I was bored. I was a realtor in 2008 when the real estate market collapsed. My husband and I had our own small real estate company, and we decided to take a time-out until things settled down. Within three weeks, I was going crazy with too much time on my hands.
I had just finished reading everything Tony Hillerman had written and thought it might be entertaining to see if I could take what I thought was a great beginning and terrific book ending and somehow connect the two of them. Instead of Navajo police officers on the Big Reservation, I decided to set my story in the world of real estate in Santa Cruz. I wrote about what I knew and what I saw. The result was The Death Contingency. I’ve never stopped because it only took one book to get hooked on writing.
We hear of strong-willed characters. Do yours behave or run wild? I start each book by writing a short psychological profile (behavioral science was my college major) about each character. Still, they typically start out with me using the name and persona of someone I know. They quickly get renamed because the first time I want them to do something they wouldn’t do, they have to be changed into a character who will do what I want them to do.
It usually works well, but in the PIP Inc. Mysteries series I’m doing now, the protagonist continues to be based on a person I know. Like my character, she was a law librarian turned private investigator. My Pat character is half her age and has green eyes because the real Pat said she always wanted green eyes, but other than that, she is pretty much herself. (And yes, she is a markswoman with a magnum 357 in her briefcase.)
I have had some problems with the primary characters in this series, though. Pat was supposed to be interested in two men: Tim, the deputy sheriff she met on her first case, and Mark, an attorney she’s had a crush on for some time, for several books. But the chemistry between Pat and one of the men was so strong that it only took one book for her to choose her love.
Supposedly, having characters wed is the kiss of death in cozy mysteries, but Pat and her guy made me break the rules. In Dearly Beloved Departed, there’s a wedding scene.
Do you ever kill a popular character? If so, what happens to your story? I’ve only killed one character I loved, and readers probably did, too. It broke my heart to do it, so much so that I spent time curled up on a sofa in my office sobbing and shaking after writing the murder scene. It had to happen, though, for the story to work properly.
What kind of research do you do? You’d think there wouldn’t need to be much research done to write contemporary mysteries, but you’d be mistaken…wildly so. I’ve delved into everything from bone spurs on primitive human heels, redwood trees, the evolution of cat litter, and the history of sin eaters, to name a few topics I’ve researched. I now have more useless facts crammed into my brain than most people. For me, it’s imperative to get small details right to make the stories believable so I may spend considerable time researching something only a few paragraphs long in the books.
How do our readers contact you?
They can contact me from my website http://www.nancylynnjarvis.com. They can also find me on Facebook, where I am Nancy Lynn Jarvis, or on Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2918242.Nancy_Lynn_Jarvis
Buy books at https://www.amazon.com/s?k=nancy+lynn+jarvis&i=stripbooks&sprefix=Nancy+Lynn+Jarvis%2Caps%2C450&ref=nb_sb_ss_c_0_17
Jamie fell in love with books at an early age. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott opened her imagination and sparked a dream to be a writer. She wrote her first book as a school project in 6th grade. Living in the Ozarks with her husband, twin daughters, and a herd of cats, she spends most of her free time writing, reading, or learning more about the craft dear to her heart.
Homicide at High Noon – Money is missing from the gold mine, and Lily is a suspect! The company auditor is determined to prove her guilty, but turns up dead, making Lily a murder suspect. Will Lily find the missing money and the killer before they set their sights on her?
Do you write in more than one genre? Yes, I do, but not at the same time. This past year, I’ve been working on cozy mysteries, which are fun to write. I’ve self-published several historical romances. I grew up watching old westerns with my dad and have a passion for that era. There are several genres I enjoy reading, and I can’t help but want to try them as a writer. I’ve been working on a time travel story for several years, off and on. It has been so much fun to work on.
What is the most challenging part of your writing process? A year ago, I would have said plotting was the more challenging part of my writing process. But after having some help from my amazing publisher, I’ve learned to look forward to plotting before I write. My stories used to be very character-driven, but plotting has given the book more balance. Today, the most challenging part of the process is finding time to write.
What are you currently working on? I’m midway through the Ghost Town Mysteries series. It is a new genre for me, and I wrote all my other books in the third person. After reading several cozy mysteries, I discovered it’s almost a 50/50 split between telling the story in first person and third person. I’d always thought writing in the first person would be too difficult. But wanting to challenge myself, I tried it and found the story developed so much easier when written in first person.
What are you currently working on? As I write this, I’m working on book four of the series. Still untitled, the story continues with my main character, Lily, and her sisters living in a small town with a popular ghost town attraction. In Grady, California, everyone knows everyone. The tight community has a few skeletons in the closet, and one not so secret is a family feud, giving the book a Hatfield’s and the Mcoy’s kind of feel with a twist. The death of one participant reveals more family secrets, one of which puts a target on Lily’s back.
What kind of research do you do? Research is one of the best parts of writing a book. I love to read and learn new things, so while it’s necessary to do research, it can easily distract me from the primary goal. Digging deep to make the story authentic was entertaining for my historical romances. Cozy mystery writing has led me in different directions that have had me looking over my shoulder. I used the internet to gather most of the information I needed. For book number three of my current series, I had to research how to hire a hitman. One of these days, men in black wearing dark glasses may show up at my door.
Where do you place your settings—real or fictional locations? So far, they have all been fictional. Sometimes, I use a familiar area like the woods around our house and our long gravel road when describing details, but the setting itself has always been fictional. I sketch a rough-looking map to keep buildings and locations in order.
I love to hear from my readers. You can learn more about me and my books at:
Book two of The Ghost Town Mysteries, Homicide at High Noon, is now available in digital and print: https://www.gemmahallidaypublishing.com/jamie-adams
Syrl, a retired teacher, lives in upstate New York with her husband and two lively dachshunds. She writes the Samantha Davies Mystery series featuring Samantha Davies and her loveable dachshund, Porkchop. When not writing, she is busy hooking, rug hooking, and enjoying her family. Her newest book, number four in the series, Pups, Pumpkins, and Murder, will be released on September 19th.
What brought you to writing? While I’ve always been an avid reader, I’m not one of those writers who was born with a pen in their hands. I was an editor for my high school’s newspaper and enjoyed writing for it, but I wasn’t into becoming an author yet. That would come many years down the road.
Where do you write? What, if any, distractions do you allow? I write in a small bedroom on my laptop at a small desk. The operative word here is small. I try not to stop until I have accomplished my self-imposed daily word limit, which I’ve set at 1,000 words. My only distraction is my dachshund when he barks to be fed. There’s no ignoring that. Oh, yes, and the Spam calls that inevitably come when I’m writing.
What are you currently working on? Right now, I’m working on Chilled to the Dog Bone, book 5, in my Samantha Davies Mystery series. It involves a Fireman’s Ball, a skillet toss, outhouse races, and of course, a corpse. All set during the winter in beautiful upstate New York.
How do you come up with your characters’ names? Many of the names are from people I know in real life. I have a friend who wanted to be the murderer in one of my books; hence I named the perp after her. I now have to keep a running list of all the names I’ve used in order not to repeat any.
We hear of strong-willed characters. Do yours behave or run wild? I’d like to think mine are well-behaved, but my main character, Samantha’s side-kick, her Southern Belle cousin, Candie, is known to be a wild card. Candie has been engaged eleven times and tells it like it is. Then there’s Sam’s octogenarian neighbor, Gladys, who dyes her gray curls to suit the occasion, red for Valentine’s Day, green for Saint Pat’s. She is a force to behold.
Do you base your characters on real people? Absolutely! Beware, or you might wind up in one of my books. People love that they are an inspiration for a character. Candie is modeled after a good friend from a writer’s group. Hank was inspired by my husband, who also was a police officer. I love dachshunds, and Porkchop, Sam’s dog, was named after my Porkchop.
Do you outline, or are you a pantser? Oh, my. I had a sketchy outline for the first 4 books in the series, but with Chilled to the Dog Bone, that has gone completely by the wayside. I’ve pansted the whole thing. I don’t know why, but it just flowed that way.
Where do you place your settings—real or fictional locations? I live in a beautiful area of upstate New York near the Adirondacks and Lake George. My settings are a conglomeration of this area, small towns, and lovely people with lots to do and places to go. These are close-knit communities where almost everyone knows you, which is the same in my books.
Mavens of Mayhem – Sisters In Crime: www.upperhudsonsinc.com
Erica Wynters is the author of Marigolds, Mischief, and Murder, the first book of the Camelot Flowers Mystery series. She’s also written four novellas making up the series Alexandra Briggs Mysteries. She may have lived most of her life in the frigid Midwest, but now she spends her time in the warmth and sunshine of Arizona. She loves hiking, hunting down waterfalls in the desert, reading (of course), and napping. Can napping be considered a hobby? When not weaving tales of mystery with plenty of quirky characters, laughs, and a dash of romance, Erica works as a Marriage and Family Therapist, helping others find their Happily Ever Afters.
Marigolds, Mischief, and Murder: Gwen Stevens will do just about anything to prove she’s ready to take the reins of the family business Camelot Flowers. But when Gwen stumbles on the dead body of a high school friend, everything else in her life suddenly takes a backseat. Between a corpse, an attraction to two different inconvenient men, and a slew of suspects, can Gwen find the killer…before they have her pushing up daisies?
Do you write in more than one genre? I write cozy mysteries and romantic suspense, but all of my books share some common themes. There is always a love story, there is always some crime committed that must be solved, and there is always a happy ending. I love the combination of romance and mystery or suspense together. I wouldn’t want to write one without the other.
What are you currently working on? I’m writing the second book in my Camelot Flowers Mystery series. It was an exciting day when my publisher contacted my agent to ask if I’d be interested in writing a second book in the series. I immediately said yes. Without giving too much away, this book has all the charm and fun of the first book, Marigolds, Mischief, and Murder. There’s development in the love triangle between Gwen, Finn, and Chris. There’s a murder to be solved, and as always, someone Gwen cares about is the main suspect, which drives her to become involved in the investigation.
Has an association membership helped you with your writing? A month after finishing my first novel, I discovered the Romance Writers of America. I was so new to writing that I hadn’t even realized I’d just written a romance novel. So many of my preconceived notions were around historical romances with bare-chested men on the cover. At the time, I had no idea so many wonderful subgenres of romance existed. Joining my local chapter of Romance Writers of America was a game-changer. I met many generous authors who shared their wisdom, gave me advice, and cheered me along on this journey. It’s also where I met my first critique partner. I always tell new writers how important it is to find a writing community. I believe it’s hard to grow as a writer without feedback, and it is discouraging to walk the journey of being a writer alone. We need critique partners and cheerleaders; if those two roles can be combined, then even better.
How long did it take you to write your first book? I wrote my first book in just three weeks! I hadn’t even intended to write a book. The night before, I’d had a dream that I couldn’t get out of my head. By that night, I was still thinking about it. So, with my husband and my kids in bed, I sat down with my computer and told myself that I was going to write out the dream. It seemed like a good idea for a book, but I had no intention of doing anything more than getting that dream out of my head. Three weeks later, I had a finished novel. I spent every free moment I had writing, including too many late nights. It’s impractical to write a book that fast all the time. It takes me about three months now, but it was a fun experience and got me hooked on the excitement of watching a story unfold on the page.
Looking to the future, what’s in store for you? The second book in my Camelot Flowers Mystery series will come out next spring. I also have a romantic suspense set in New York City with a publisher, and it will hopefully come out in 2024. I’m also working to get a four-book series published soon. The series is romantic suspense and follows four best friends living in Chicago. Each friend has her own book, love story, and dangerous situation she has to overcome.
Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself and your books? Besides being an author, I am a licensed marriage and family therapist specializing in codependency and trauma. Because of that, all the romances in my books are healthy representations of relationships. It doesn’t mean couples never have problems, but those problems are never dealt with in a toxic way. Sometimes romance novels can romanticize, for lack of a better word, behavior that is fundamentally unhealthy or toxic. I don’t believe that’s necessary for a compelling romance. I want my books to show a healthier path to love.
Book Link: http://bit.ly/43yWzEe
Leslie Budewitz is a three-time Agatha Award winner and the best-selling author of the Spice Shop mysteries, set in Seattle, and Food Lovers’ Village mysteries, set in NW Montana, where she lives. As Alicia Beckman, she writes moody stand-alone suspense set in the Northwest, including Bitterroot Lake and Blind Faith. Leslie is a past president of Sisters in Crime and former board member of Mystery Writers of America.
It’s a delight to be here, George, and to chat with you and your readers about my books. My newest cozy mystery, Between a Wok and a Dead Place, the seventh Spice Shop Mystery, will be out July 18. When her life fell apart at age 40, Pepper Reece never expected to find solace in bay leaves. But her impulsive purchase of the Spice Shop in Seattle’s famed Pike Place Market turned out to be one of the best decisions she ever made. Between selling spice and juggling her personal life, she also discovers another unexpected talent—for solving murder.
Pepper loves a good festival, especially one serving up tasty treats. So what could be more fun than a food walk in the city’s Chinatown–International District, celebrating the Year of the Rabbit? But when her friend Roxanne stumbles across a man’s body in the Gold Rush, a long-closed residential hotel, questions leap out. Who was he? What was he doing in the dust-encrusted herbal pharmacy in the hotel’s basement? Why was the pharmacy closed up—and why are the owners so reluctant to talk? As the clues pile up, it’s clear that someone’s fortunes are about to take a deadly change.
Do you write in more than one genre? Like a lot of authors, I have many stories to tell. My cozies—whether the classic small-town setting of my Food Lovers’ Village mysteries or the city life of my Spice Shop mysteries—focus on an amateur sleuth who uses her skills, resources, and connections to solve a crime that affects her community. While the cozy is the lighter side of mystery, often seasoned as mine with food and humor, the focus is always the impact of a crime on the community. It’s a flexible kind of story, with plenty of room for exploring social issues. Murder is a social issue, after all, and people are social creatures, with a full range of problems. I hope that when readers finish a Spice Shop book, they feel they’ve learned something about Seattle, food, and the experiences of other people—and had a fun, entertaining read.
As Alicia Beckman, I write moody suspense, what I think of as “women’s lives, plus crime.” I’ve also published more than two dozen short mysteries—six are collected in Carried to the Grave and Other Stories, the wrap-up to the Food Lovers’ Village series. Some of my shorts are cozy, some are historical, and a few verge on noir. The short story allows a writer to explore specific ideas, take a quick detour, or try a new style, without the commitment of a full book.
What brought you to writing? I’d always been interested, but it didn’t seem like a career path! During a personal crisis in my late 30s, my creative instincts became both my way through a difficult time and the way forward. Turns out that’s not uncommon: When we are broken open, an essential part of us emerges.
Tell us about your writing process. I call myself a planner. Story emerges from the characters: these people in this place confronting these challenges and obstacles. I get to know them in a very organic way, asking who they are and how they would behave in a particular situation, and taking lots of notes. Then I organize those snippets of dialogue, setting, and action, filling in as much as I can before beginning to commit to actual sentences and scenes. For me, outlining is a highly kinetic, right-brain process of discovery—not the arbitrary decision making some pantsers seem to think it is—and if I try to short-circuit it, I run into trouble.
These days, I write full-time, after practicing law while writing my first several books. I try to keep office hours, writing in the morning and tackling business and promotion in the afternoon.
What are you currently working on? My desk is a mess write—er, right—now, as I revise the 8th Spice Shop mystery, To Err is Cumin, coming in July 2024. When Pepper spots a ratty wingback chair put on the curb for the taking and snaps it up, she bites off more trouble than she can chew.
Has an association membership helped you with your writing? Like many members of Sisters in Crime, especially the Guppies, I would not be published without those organizations, or without Authors of the Flathead, a multi-genre group here in NW Montana. Virtually every opportunity I have had in this business has come from being part of those groups. I am the last original Guppy, and so pleased with how the chapter has evolved. Serving as president of Sisters in Crime (2015-16) was both challenging and joyful, and without a doubt, one of the great privileges of my professional life.
Do your protagonists ever disappoint you? No, but they often surprise me. They are human, with their own experiences and perspectives. I love when they force me to dig deeper into my own heart, assumptions, and understanding of human interaction.
This was especially true in The Solace of Bay Leaves, where Pepper confronts her misconceptions about an old friend—who turns out to have her own flawed view of their relationship. And in Blind Faith, my second stand-alone written as Alicia Beckman, I took a deep dive into the community where I was raised. In the process, each of my main characters reassesses some of their own decisions and beliefs.
Do you have any advice for new writers? Read, write, repeat. Learn to read like a writer. Connect with other writers. Find what you love about the work and commit to it. Write the stories only you can write.
How do our readers contact you?
Website: www.LeslieBudewitz.com – Newsletter subscribers receive a free short story.
Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen: http://www.MysteryLoversKitchen.com – 12 cozy authors cook up crime and recipes.