VICTORIA KAZARIAN – How I Went from Baking in Real Life to Baking in Books

Victoria Kazarian writes The Laughing Loaf Bakery Mysteries, a culinary cozy mystery series set in the redwoods of the Santa Cruz Mountains in Northern California. For two years, she owned a bakery of her own called The Laughing Loaf, baking homestyle, artisanal, and French levain breads. Based in Silicon Valley, she also writes a police procedural series, Silicon Valley Murder.

What got you into baking? For years, I wrote for the high tech world—first as a tech writer, producing user manuals for a software company, then I moved on to writing marketing and advertising for software and high-tech companies. What eventually drove me crazy was the fact that I was writing about something that was not tangible. You can tap away on a computer and see what software does on a screen, but you can’t hold, touch, taste, or smell software.

When I was growing up, my father baked bread for fun. I loved watching him–seeing the bread go from a lump of dough to the beautifully domed browned loaf you pull out of the oven. Bread smells like happiness. After I left high tech, I started baking at home. I dreamed of doing it as a job.

Why did you quit your bakery business? Before I first started The Laughing Loaf in 2013, I went to a great organization in Santa Clara County called SCORE, which advises new business owners. I was assigned a couple of retired businessmen who asked me detailed questions and wanted to see my business plan. They quickly pinpointed my downfall—distribution. I had no cost-effective way to get bread into people’s hands. I delivered most of my orders myself. This personal delivery fed my soul but not my bank account. I loved connecting with people. Some of my regular customers became friends. But I ended up working a grueling schedule for no profit. Eventually, I closed down the business. As if I needed another reason to stop, my husband was diagnosed with gluten intolerance around the same time.

How did you end up writing your bakery cozy series? In 2021, I published my first book, Swift Horses Racing, in my Silicon Valley Murder police procedural series. Even as I continued writing police procedurals, I wanted to use my bakery experience to write a culinary cozy mystery.

The character of Gracie Markley began to form in my head. Gracie works in tech in Seattle, but when she finds out her husband is selling defense tech secrets to foreign governments, she turns him in. Witness Protection relocates Gracie, her professor father, and her little dog Biga to a small town in the Northern California redwoods.

Burnt out by her life in tech, Gracie opens a bakery, using bread recipes she baked with her father growing up. The Laughing Loaf Bakery becomes a gathering place in the small town of River Grove, bringing people together over bread, baked goods, and coffee. She uses her tech problem-solving skills as she investigates murders that pop up in town.

I published Drop Dead Bread, the first in The Laughing Loaf Bakery Mysteries, in 2022. Each of the books includes recipes from the original Laughing Loaf Bakery. I’ve just released Sourdough and Cyanide, which includes instructions for making your own sourdough starter and sourdough loaf and recipes for using all that discard you end up with.

Will you continue with cozies? My cozy series is doing better than my police procedurals, so I’m sticking with them. I read a lot of cozies to prepare for writing this series, and I let go of some misconceptions. Cozies can have humor, but they don’t have to be silly. And the people in them don’t have to be caricatures; they can be real human beings. One value I love in cozies is community—a safe place where people support and accept each other. That, and freshly baked bread, is something everybody wants.

To contact Victoria, drop her a line at TheLaughingLoaf@gmail.com
To buy The Laughing Loaf Mysteries go to: https://a.co/d/cdSskRg
You can find out more about The Laughing Loaf Mysteries at https://a.co/d/cdSskRg and see what Victoria is up to at https://victoriakazarian.com/ She’s on Instagram at vkazarian1 and on Facebook at Victoria Kazarian, Author

4 Comments

  1. Pam

    As someone who has read all of the Laughing Loaf stories, I have wondered about your life as a baker. I’m sorry that your “soul-feeding” career didn’t work out, but glad that you turned your focus to writing. I regularly bake one of the bread recipes from your series, and can attest to your wizardry with a “lump of dough!”

    Lovely interview and fun pictures!

    Reply
  2. Robin Somers

    That’s hilarious, in a sad way—your husband’s gluten intolerance. One door closes, another opens. In your case, the oven to the book cover. Terrific interview and I love the image of your dad and your discussion of what a cozy can be.

    Reply
  3. Victoria Kazarian

    Thank you, Michael. I like that—offing someone with a baguette. Then slice it and make brushetta to get rid of the evidence…

    Reply
  4. Michael A. Black

    Nicely done, Victoria. Good luck with your writing. While I don’t bake myself, I always thought that a long loaf of French bread might make an interesting weapon in a story.

    Reply

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MARY SEIFERT – Mixes Math & Logic into Fiction

A former math teacher, Mary ties numbers and logic to her Katie and Maverick Mysteries, peppered with intricate puzzles, a bit of history, a geocache, and a tasty cocktail recipe. When she’s not writing, she’s making incredible memories with family and friends, walking her dog, whose only speed is faster, carefully deleting reference to murder from her web browser, and pretending to cook. You can find her nibbling chocolate and sipping wine, both of which sometimes occur while she is writing and reading.

RECENT RELEASE-CREEPS, CACHE & CORPSES – March 7, 2024

ELEVATOR PITCH: When Katie’s spring break plans for a romantic getaway with her beau fall apart, and she skips the chance to go skiing with her dad and the sister she’s very recently met, she and Maverick accompany a group of friends attending the memorial service for a student’s mother. However, it is spring break, so there will also be salon treatments, shopping, and sightseeing. But, from the moment they arrive, tension fills the air as the oddball innkeeper and her nephew appear to be harboring secrets.

Katie and her friends are in town less than 24 hours when, during a geocache outing, Katie and her students discover a dead body concealed in a remote area of a county park. Unfortunately, the victim just happens to be one of the few people in town they’ve already met, and Katie’s group is getting the side-eye from the local cops.

The suspects are numerous, and the motives tricky, but Katie and those close to her are shocked when the sheriff leaps ahead to arrest one of their own. How can Katie find enough evidence to convince him otherwise, especially when she’s been warned to leave it to the professionals—many times?

NEW PROJECT FOR EARLY SUMMER RELEASE: Katie Wilk tries to reconcile her definition of family with her new reality, a half-sister she never knew she had. Caught in the frenzy of end-of-the-school-year activities, it’s easy to avoid her half-sister until she’s accused of murder, and Katie knows she can’t let anything get in the way of their future relationship, whatever that may look like.

Where do you write? What, if any, distractions do you allow? I write in our sunroom with my dog cuddled at my feet, a cup of black tea at my right hand, the laptop in front of me, and lots of room to pace. I’ve learned I work best in quiet, so I’ve settled on early morning when silence is golden in my house. Later in the day, everything breaks loose.

Who’s your favorite author? My favorite author changes every time I finish a new book. However, I am and will forever be a fan of Agatha Christie, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Isaac Asimov, Charles Dickens, Nancy Drew, and Ellery Queen. Of course, then there are the children’s authors….

How long did it take you to write your first book? It wasn’t the writing of the first book that took so long but the rewriting. And it took seven more years to get my great publisher.

How do you come up with character names? I have used familiar names for ALL the good guys–the names of my children, my husband, my friends, and my extended family. I take more time with the antagonists because I don’t want anyone to say, “What do you have in for….?” but sometimes I reread the mug my friend gave me and chuckle. “Please do not annoy the writer. She may put you in a book and kill you.”

Do you have subplots? If so, how do you weave them into the novel’s arc? I hope all my books contain two complete stories. There is the crime itself that needs to be solved, but because Katie is a high school teacher and club adviser, there are difficulties she helps her students survive as well.

How do you raise the stakes for your protagonist—for the antagonist? Posing problems–math, geocache, social, puzzles–to Katie Wilk is one way I raise the stakes for her. Katie was trained in encryption as a Mathematical Cryptanalyst, and all of my stories include a code of sorts, the solution of which adds an unexpected hurdle to the path of my egotistical (I am so bright, no one can catch on to my clues) antagonist. Of course, so far, my crimes have included a corpse and someone close to Katie accused of the crime, so there’s always that at stake for Katie.

What kind of research do you do? I love research and can get lost down the rabbit hole for days. I talk to professionals in the areas of expertise that might show up in my story now or later. I’ve taken a class with a gun instructor and a fabric artist, talked to pharmacists, a church curator, realtors, surgeons, lawyers, a police officer, a pathologist, an ER doctor, ice fisherpeople, a dog trainer (essentially a dog-whisperer who can make a dog do almost anything), therapy dog volunteers, and Search-and-Rescue evaluators. We finesse the cocktail recipes at the back of my books with multiple taste tests and — ooops. I’m spiraling out of control.

Where do you place your settings—real or fictional locations? My stories take place in outstate Minnesota. I love history and attend seminars in our local area. At one such event, I learned that in 1872, the governmental powers decided they couldn’t afford to build and support all the county seats WAY OUTWEST, so they merged Monongalia with Kandiyohi Counties. Monongalia’s county seat would have been Columbia. Plaque markers still exist. Most of my stories take place in a NOW fictional Columbia, MN, the county seat of Monongalia County. Still, I can use my local landmarks and familiar geography to color my stories. However, one of my stories has taken place in my real hometown – another location I know and love. Therefore, the answer to the question is a resounding YES – real and fictional.

Looking to the future, what’s in store for you? With Book 8, which will be released in early summer, Katie and Maverick are destined to discover more bodies and solve more crimes.

Do you have any advice for new writers? My advice is to never give up doing what you love to do.

How do our readers contact you? maryseifertauthor@gmail.com
LINK to AMAZON: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0B2N876FZ
LINK to Barnes and Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/Mary%20seifert
LINK to KOBO: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/search?query=mary+seifert&fclanguages=en.
GROUPS
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Mystery Writers of America
LINKS
Webpage: www.maryseifertauthor.com
Facebook: Katie and Maverick Cozy Mysteries
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TikTok: maryseifertauthor
LinkedIn: Mary KG Seifert
X: @mary_seifert
Email: maryseifertcozies@gmail.com

6 Comments

  1. Pamela Ruth Meyer

    This was an inspirational post, George and Mary. Once again, it is proof that a few good ideas, hard work, and determination are the best ingredients for getting us where we want to go.

    Reply
    • Mary

      Thanks so much and it was such fun. We do what we love with the daily grind – light roast for me.

      Reply
      • George Cramer

        Mary,

        Thanks for your unforgettable post and advice. I agree with all except light roast. It’s medium or nothing for me.

        Reply
        • Mary

          🙂
          (sometimes I wish I drank coffee!)

          Reply
  2. Michael A. Black

    It sounds like you’ve got a winning formula: Interesting Ideas + Mary Seifert = X. Since I was never that good at math, I’ll solve it for you by saying that X = Great Writing. Best of luck to you.

    Reply
    • Mary

      Michael, that was ingenious. Thank you most sincerely! Obviously your math skills are much better than you give yourself credit for.
      Best always,
      Mary

      Reply

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DEB RICHARDSON-MOORE – From Journalist to Minister to Author of Twisty Murder Mysteries

Deb Richardson-Moore is a former journalist who had a second career as pastor of a church that included homeless parishioners. Now a full-time author, she writes murder mysteries that fall somewhere between cozies and gritty psychological thrillers.

Her six titles include the three-volume Branigan Powers series, the stand-alones Murder, Forgotten and Through Any Window, and a memoir about her early years as a pastor, The Weight of Mercy.

Deb and her husband live in Greenville, South Carolina, and are the parents of three adult children.

In Deb’s newest release, Through Any Window, 25-year-old Riley flees to her cousin’s upscale home in a gentrifying Southern neighborhood where ritzy houses rise beside crumbling boarding houses and homeless people live in nearby woods. When a double murder explodes, detectives are left wondering: Are the deaths personal or the result of the neighborhood’s simmering economic tensions? And is Riley to blame, as someone has so meticulously planned?

 

Do you write in more than one genre? Not anymore. After my memoir about my harrowing early years as a pastor to street dwellers, my publisher in England asked if I’d write a sequel. But that didn’t interest me. I wanted to write a murder mystery like those I’d read all my life. He encouraged me, and I combined things I’d learned about homelessness with the mystery genre. In The Cantaloupe Thief, The Cover Story, and Death of a Jester, a homeless man helps a news reporter solve crimes by seeing and hearing things most of their townspeople don’t.

What brought you to writing? Voracious reading. As far back as second grade, teachers challenged me to write stories for extra credit. I veered into journalism early, editing my high school and college newspapers, then wrote for The Greenville (SC) News for 27 years.

Where do you write? What, if any, distractions do you allow? I write in a bright sunroom with five uncovered windows overlooking my backyard. My latest purchase is a metal riser that lifts my laptop so I don’t hunch over to read the screen. It’s a back saver! As far as distractions, I allow them all – coffee with friends, yard work, televised thrillers. I’m not writing for money at this stage, so I can take my time and enjoy the process.

Tell us about your writing process. Well, it’s inefficient, I’ll tell you that. I just jump in and start a scene or a book. As the characters and setting gain clarity, things occur to me. So, I go back frequently to add necessary scenes and plant clues. In Through Any Window, I was more than halfway through before I realized that I wanted the relationship between two sisters to be fleshed out. It meant moving some chapters around and adding flashbacks, but I think the novel became stronger.

What are you currently working on? I’m working on a book set on a fictional South Carolina barrier island. In The Last Beach Town, a prickly young woman inherits her family’s seaside home but arrives to find that her aunt’s murder is complicating the bequest.

Do you ever kill a popular character? If so, what happens to your story? I did this once, and it opened up an entirely new line of action. I loved the freedom it gave the manuscript. However, I had to defend the decision – vigorously – to my writers’ group. One member complained that I’d broken a contract with the reader. I was gratified that she cared enough about the character to object so vociferously!

Do you have subplots? If so, how do you weave them into the novel’s arc? You have to have subplots, I think. There’s only so much tension and “fear gripping her” that can be sustained within the main plot. The trick is to weave subplots in without losing sight or veering too far from the central storyline. My subplots crop up as I flesh out characters, and I try to be open to them. But in the book I’m writing, I have a subplot that I’m having trouble resolving. It may not survive the rewrite.

How do you raise the stakes for your protagonist—for the antagonist? Ah, the $64,000 question. I grow weary of books where the protagonist is forever being chased or stalked, but you do need her in a certain amount of fear and trepidation. Maybe you can plant worry about several things simultaneously. Perhaps you can hint at danger from a character she trusts. Or, my personal favorite, maybe you can have her pet behave oddly. (See Murder, Forgotten.)

Where do you place your settings—real or fictional locations? I use a mix of real and fictional locations but sometimes change the names of the real ones. That way, I have something in my head to describe, but I don’t have to worry about getting everything exactly right. In Murder, Forgotten, I used two real seacoasts I was familiar with – Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina, and the fishing village of Crail in Scotland. In Through Any Window, I use an urban park in my hometown but call it by a different name.

What is the best book you have ever read? Oh, my, what a difficult question. But certainly among the top five is We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver. I finished it as my husband was driving me to guest preach in another city. I was so shell-shocked by the ending that I could hardly get out of the car.

Do you have any advice for new writers? Write what interests you, not what others tell you is hot or marketable. I think it’s impossible to predict what agents or publishers will be looking for 18 months from now. And writing a book is so laborious that you want to enjoy the world and characters you create. Also, know that your inner critic will raise her ugly head from time to time. Her presence is part of the process. Ignore her.

How do our readers contact you?

Email richardsonmoored@gmail.com
Web site www.debrichardsonmoore.com
Facebook https://www.facebook.com/deb.richardsonmoore/
Instagram https://www.instagram.com/debrichardsonmoore/
Publisher https://redadeptpublishing.com/
Just for fun https://booklisti.com/booklist/5-mysteries-twisted-me-into-knots-deb-richardson-moore/lx3x96y
Books are available
Amazon https://www.amazon.com/stores/Deb-Richardson-Moore/author/B008ALE12Y?
Fiction Addiction https://www.fiction-addiction.com/
M. Judson Booksellers https://mjudsonbooks.com/local-authors/
Facebook groups:
Upstate Sisters in  Crime: https://www.facebook.com/groups/upstatescsistersincrime
South Carolina Writers Association: https://www.facebook.com/groups/51934904087
Southern Authors and Readers: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1284419714917352
Partners in Crime Writing: https://www.facebook.com/groups/226018664078743
Friends and Fiction: https://www.facebook.com/groups/FriendsandFiction
Bookish Bibliophiles: https://www.facebook.com/groups/aliterarycoven

4 Comments

  1. John Schembra

    Interesting blog post. I share some of te same writing techniques with you, Good luck with your writing.

    Reply
  2. Michael A. Black

    It sounds like you’ve got a lot of great ideas for books, Reverend, and God bless you for the work you do with the homeless. That’s got to be very hard. Best of luck to you with your writing.

    Reply
    • George Cramer

      Thank you for posting with us. AND, thanks for the kind words.

      Reply

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JENNIFER J. CHOW – Cozies and Fortune Cookies

Jennifer J. Chow writes cozies filled with hope and heritage. She is an Agatha, Anthony, and Lefty Award-nominated author. Her newest series is the Magical Fortune Cookie mysteries; the first book is Ill-Fated Fortune (February 2024). Jennifer’s previous series is the L.A. Night Market Mysteries. Death by Bubble Tea was reviewed by the New York Times, featured in Woman’s World, and hit the SoCal Indie Bestseller List.

Jennifer currently serves as Immediate Past President on the board of Sisters in Crime and blogs at chicksonthecase.com. She is an active member of Crime Writers of Color and Mystery Writers of America

Felicity Jin and her mother run a magical bakery in the quaint town of Pixie, California. Their life is charmed—until a prediction from one of Felicity’s handmade fortune cookies comes true in an unlucky, murderous way.

Researching the Fortune Cookie  – Book research takes you down unexpected paths. When I first thought up my new series, I figured fortune cookies would be an excellent treat for my baker protagonist to make. I mean, what’s more Chinese American than a fortune cookie?

Turns out there’s a lot of interesting history (and some drama) behind the humble cookie. I’d grown up eating and serving a lot of fortune cookies. My family, after all, owned a Chinese restaurant. At the end of every meal, I’d be sure to bring a customer their check along with a free fortune cookie.

Little did I know then that in uncovering the convoluted history of the fortune cookie, I’d find Japanese roots. After online research and a thorough reading of Jennifer 8. Lee’s The Fortune Cookie Chronicles, I traced the cookie’s origin to tsujiura senbei. This wafer-like cookie from the Kyoto region of Japan also has an enclosed fortune, although it has a more savory flavor than the modern fortune cookie.

In America, California is definitely the birthplace of the fortune cookie, with entrepreneurs from San Francisco and Los Angeles claiming to be the original makers of the cookie. And around World War II, both Japanese and Chinese restaurants appeared to serve the treat. With the incarceration of Japanese Americans during that tumultuous period, though, the manufacturers of the cookies shifted. Chinese bakeries started making fortune cookies—and eventually developed a mechanized process to mass-produce them.

So, through my research, I learned that fortune cookies aren’t tied to my Chinese roots like I’d expected. I hint at this fact in Ill-Fated Fortune, the first in my Magical Fortune Cookie mysteries. However, they could be considered American—at least the sweet vanilla version. In the end, I guess that factoid accurately reflects my main character: Felicity Jin, the third generation in her family to live in the U.S.

Connect with Jennifer online and sign up for her newsletter at JenniferJChow.com

Ill-Fated Fortune released 2/20/24

Here’s a buy link: https://read.macmillan.com/lp/ill-fated-fortune/

FACEBOOK GROUPS (though I’m not really that active anymore):
https://www.facebook.com/groups/DialCforCozy
https://www.facebook.com/groups/726103940858234/

8 Comments

  1. Carl Vonderau

    I didn’t know that fascinating history about fortune cookies. Sounds like a great series.

    Reply
  2. Michael A. Black

    Jennifer, I just broke open my fortune cookie and it says: Ms. Chow will have much good fortune and success. It sounds like you’re riding the crest of the wave. Best of luck to you.

    Reply
    • Jennifer J. Chow

      Ha, Michael! That’d be an amazing fortune. Thank you!

      Reply
  3. Margaret Mizushima

    How cool, Jennifer! I’ll have to tell my husband about this. Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
    • Jennifer J. Chow

      Hurrah, Margaret! And, yes, let your husband know.

      Reply

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G.M. MALLIET – Mystery and Cozy Mystery

G.M. Malliet is an American award-winning author of mystery and cozy mystery novels. She is best known for writing the Agatha Award-winning Death of a Cozy Writer (2008), the first installment of the St. Just Mystery Series, named among the Best Books of 2008 by Kirkus Reviews.

 

The holder of degrees from Oxford University and the University of Cambridge, G.M. Malliet has wide experience in journalism and copywriting. Before switching to fiction writing, she wrote for national and international news publications (Thomson Reuters) and public broadcasters (PBS). She currently resides in the U.S.

Elevator Pitch: Max Tudor thought he’d left the world of deceit when he resigned from MI5 to become an Anglican priest. Then his bishop asks him to return to his Oxford college, St Luke’s, to investigate the death of its chaplain, and Max realizes there’s no leaving the past behind.

What brought you to writing? Writing was always just there. It’s the kind of thing you are compelled to do rather than take up idly on a whim. The longer I live, the more I wish I could cut back on the writing, but that compulsion is still there.

Where do you write? What, if any, distractions do you allow? My office is right in the middle of a several-story house, so it’s Grand Central Station. I think that might just be what I’m comfortable with. If I have too much quiet, I can’t really work.

Tell us about your writing process: The early stages of writing are always the fun part when you’re not committed to anything. That’s where the joy comes in.

What is the most challenging part of your writing process? What are you currently working on? Book 6 in the St. Just series. It is called Death and the Old Master.

Has an association membership helped you with your writing? Both SinC and MWA have provided friendships with seasoned experts willing to share their expertise.

How do you come up with character names? Like most authors, I use a baby naming site or the Census records.

Do you ever kill a popular character? I wanted to kill an early Max Tudor character. St. Martin’s wouldn’t allow it. I still regret caving.

G.M. Malliet is a member of:
Crime Writers’ Association (U.K.),
International Thriller Writers,
Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance,
Mystery Writers of America,
Sisters in Crime (former National Board member).

Contact me:
Website: Gmmalliet.com
Email me at gm at gmmalliet dot com.
I can’t always answer, but I love fan mail 😉

 

14 Comments

  1. Glenda Carroll

    “It’s fun but … it’s not.” Glad to hear someone else say that. I think that’s my motto. Get interview.

    Reply
    • G.M. Malliet

      There’s a meme or whatever going around FB that says, “We don’t do this because it’s easy. We do it because we thought it would be easy.” That sums it up perfectly, doesn’t it?

      Reply
  2. Joseph Bryce HAGGERTY Sr

    I’m sorry I don’t understand not being committed to anything when you start writing. I am always committed the story I have in my head. I’ll grant you the story doesn’t always go the way I intended, but I don’t think I was would have started writing if I wasn’t committed to the story.

    Reply
    • G.M. Malliet

      I’m committed (probably) to the place or theme or characters. but at the beginning, wide open!

      Reply
  3. Michal Strutin

    “…the fun part” indeed! On the reader end, just starting a new mystery is also fun. It so happens that the one I’m starting this evening is The Washing Away of Wrongs.

    Reply
    • G.M. Malliet

      Thank you Michal! I hope you like it!

      Reply
  4. Vinnie Hansen

    I enjoyed learning more about you, G.M.

    Reply
    • G.M. Malliet

      Thank you. So glad George gave me the opening!

      Reply
  5. Karen A Phillips

    Thanks for sharing “I wanted to kill an early Max Tudor character. St. Martin’s wouldn’t allow it. I still regret caving.” It is always interesting for me to hear what it’s like to be an author with a traditional publisher.

    Reply
    • G.M. Malliet

      Publishers tend to want to keep doing what worked in the past for them. But that means they miss a chance to break out into new areas.

      Reply
  6. Michael A. Black

    Ms. Malliet, I loved your comment abut your favorite part of writing is the early stages when you’re not committed to anything. So true. Best of luck to you.

    Reply
    • G.M. Malliet

      So true, yes. Right now I’m editing a short story and fixing the “Little Problems” that crop up as I go along. It’s fun but … it’s not.

      Reply

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BARBARA HOWARD – Pentagon Veteran, Treasure Hunter, Author

 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 RainCollege 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.

Memberships:
Sisters in Crime,
Great Lakes Fiction Writers,
Crime Writers of Color,
Mystery Writers of America,
Gamma Xi Phi

Facebook groups:
Building Relationships Around Books,
Cozy Crime Collective,
World of Black Writers,
Gamma Xi Phi,
Women Reading Great Books,
Tattered Page Book Club

Links:
Contact – http://www.authorbarbarahoward.com
Buy – https://linktr.ee/BarbaraHoward

7 Comments

  1. Michael A. Black

    Nice to meet you, Barbara. You really gave some excellent advice. I especially liked the term “flexible plotter.” I’m going to have to steal that one. 😉 Also, I’m going to have to stop saying, “Hello beautiful” so I don’t accidentally end up as one of your murder victims. Best of luck to you.

    Reply
    • Barbara Howard

      Hi Michael, I certainly don’t want to discourage you from sharing those lovely greetings through DM. Perhaps I should frame it as I would honor the next person with the important role of murder victim in my next mystery. Because we all know that in crime fiction, the action doesn’t start until the body drops. 🙂

      Reply
  2. Marla Bradeen

    Love this interview, Barbara! I bet all of those spammers never expected to be featured in your books. Thanks for sharing Malice, Matrimony, and Murder, and congrats on your new series!

    Reply
    • Barbara Howard

      Thanks, Marla! The anthology is a wonderful collection and you get to meet new authors and fall in love with their books. What could be more fun than that?

      Reply
  3. Barbara Howard

    Thank you for welcoming me into your community and allowing me to share about my journey and anthology, Malice, Matrimony, and Murder.

    Reply
    • Kathleen Kalb

      Great interview — and I’m “borrowing” that idea for naming victims!

      Reply
      • Barbara Howard

        Hi Kathleen, you never know where inspiration comes from, right? Sometimes they “slide into your DMs” 🙂

        Reply

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