In her youth, Kassandra Lamb had two great passions—psychology and writing. Advised that writers need day jobs—and being partial to eating—she studied psychology. Her career as a psychotherapist and college professor taught her much about the dark side of human nature but also much about resilience, perseverance, and the healing power of laughter. Now retired, she spends most of her time in an alternate universe populated by her fictional characters. The portal to this universe (aka her computer) is located in North Central Florida, where her husband and dog catch occasional glimpses of her.
Should auld acquaintance be forgot…
The last year has been eventful for Marcia and her husband, Will. They’ve successfully launched their private investigation agency and completed their family with an adorable but creatively energetic baby girl. They’re about to ring in the New Year with friends and neighbors, but there’s something more than champagne bubbling in Mayfair, Florida.
The octogenarian matriarch of the town is always looking for ways to boost the community’s economy. Her latest scheme is the addition of a row of shops along Main Street. But a few of her new tenants have something more nefarious in mind than simply selling their wares.
When old hostilities set off New Year’s fireworks, a shopkeeper ends up dead, and two friends of Marcia’s are prime suspects. Determined to clear them, Marcia and Will—with Buddy’s help, of course—set out to uncover the real Grim Reaper.
I’m ending a mystery series this month for the second time in my writing career. And letting go of old friends, i.e., the series’ characters, is not any easier this time around.
There are lots of good reasons for ending a series, one of them being that the main character(s) have reached the culmination of their character arc. They start out with flaws, issues, neuroses to overcome, and over the course of the series, they mature and grow.
When it gets to the point where those issues are mostly resolved, their arc is complete, and it’s time to let go.
I’m happy for my main characters, Marcia and her husband. Their lives are going well, and they have an adorable baby girl now. I’m happy they will get to enjoy the fruits of their labor. (And I’m excited about the new series I’m starting.)
But on the other hand, it feels like good friends—or maybe grown children would be a better analogy—are moving to the other side of the world. It’s not just that they are going away, but I won’t be keeping in touch with them. I won’t know what’s happening in their lives. No phone calls, no emails, no texts!
And it’s not just the main characters I will miss. These stories were set in a small fictitional Florida town called Mayfair, a town I have grown to love as much as Marcia does.
I’m going to miss all the quirky neighbors—the octogenarian town matriarch who wears brightly colored muumuus and flip-flops, and the regal Black woman, a retired schoolteacher, who lives next door and who always has a pitcher of iced tea in her fridge and some sound advice to offer.
And even more secondary characters—the matriarch’s niece, sweet Susanna Mayfair, who shares Marcia’s love of horses, and her son Dexter, not the brightest bulb in the package but a truly loveable guy. And Marcia’s friends, the Mayfair diner’s owner Jess, and Marcia’s fellow service dog trainer, Carla, and her best friend, Becky. Oh, and Marcia’s mom and her new stepfather.
Most of these characters have also grown and changed over the course of the 13-book series. And I feel like they are my friends and neighbors too.
But I’m leaving them and Mayfair behind. I won’t be able to stroll down its streets again—the fictitious Black Lab Buddy on his leash—waving at folks or stopping to gossip.
Yes, it’s time to let Marcia and her crew have some peace and quiet. No more murderers or other culprits will be coming their way, making life scary and difficult in their little town. I’m happy for them.
But I’m sure gonna miss all those good folks!
SOCIAL MEDIA LINKS:
BOOKBUB PROFILE: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/kassandra-lamb
AMAZON AUTHOR PAGE: http://www.amazon.com/Kassandra-Lamb/e/B006NB5WAI/
A hybrid author, Donna writes squeaky-clean historical and contemporary suspense. She has been published more than 50 times in books; is a member of several writer’s groups; facilitates a critique group; teaches writing classes; ghostwrites; edits; and judges in writing contests. She loves history and research, traveling extensively for both, and is an avid oil painter.
A Mommy By Christmas: – A community care center, a calico cat, and Christmas—can a single middle-aged woman bring a town together in time to celebrate the King’s birthday? Can a widowed father find a reason to join in? And can the pair see God at work in their lives?
Do you write in more than one genre? I write both contemporary and historical mysteries, usually sprinkled with romance.
Where do you write? What, if any, distractions do you allow? I usually write at my desk in my basement office, but at least two days a week, I write away from home. Distractions are many when you work from home: cats, laundry, meals, and my hubby across the desk from me.
Tell us about your writing process: I usually start with a short synopsis. Sometimes I write this by hand rather than on the computer. Then I schedule out the chapters to write and what day that will be. I try not to write on the weekends, but if I get behind…well, suffice it to say, the entire household knows when I fall behind.
What are you currently working on? I am working on a historical mystery, the second in my Mail-Order Romance series, released on December 31st. You can find the preorder here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0BLZMWNTD
Do you base any of your characters on real people? I love to base my characters on people I know. I’ve learned that folks love to see themselves in print. Sometimes I use their real names—after asking their permission, of course. A Mommy By Christmas has several examples of real people: the veterinarian is named after a friend; the couple that helps my heroine with the dinner are real names of a dear couple; and the veterinarian’s last name is the surname of dear friends whose son died tragically last year.
Do you have any advice for new writers? Never quit. Let the stories flow. Trust God to get them into the hands of those who need to read them.
Groups I’m connected with:
American Christian Fiction Writers
Writers on the Rock,
Pikes Peak Writers,
Christian Women Writers,
Faith, Hope, and Love Christian Writers,
Christian Authors Network
How do our readers contact you?
www.DonnaSchlachter.com Stay connected so you learn about new releases, preorders, and presales, and check out featured authors, book reviews, and a little corner of peace. Plus: Receive a free ebook simply for signing up for our free newsletter!
B. Lynn Goodwin wrote two award-winning books, a YA called Talent, and a memoir titled Never Too Late: From Wannabe to Wife at 62, plus author interviews, and book reviews, for WriterAdvice, www.writeradvice.com and Story Circle Network. She writes flash pieces, is an editor and blogger for the San Francisco Writers Conference, and loves helping writers improve.
Some people say that writing restores sanity—not that I’ve ever been insane—but when life’s detritus makes me think crazy thoughts, I use journaling to figure out what’s bothering me. Combine that with fictitious people, made up from bits and pieces of my life, and some high stakes and seemingly insurmountable issues, and I have stories to play with.
I’ve had the privilege of being connected with several groups, from the California Writers Club to Story Circle Network, to Amherst Writers and Artists, to the International Women’s Writing Group (IWWG). In 1997 I wanted to learn from “real” writers, who I defined as published writers. I wanted to ask them questions and give them a reason to share their work, so I published their interviews in a new e-zine I invented before blogs existed. It still exists today, is called Writer Advice, www.writeradvice.com, and it has expanded a great deal over the years.
In addition to keeping Writer Advice going and offering a Manuscript Consultation Service there, I’ve published three books, won some awards, have a fourth book coming out in 2023, and am drafting a fifth one.
My writing process keeps evolving. Most of my stories are character-based. Characters face obstacles, and as soon as they’re resolved, new ones appear. They change as their stories evolve. They also change as I edit over and over, striving for perfection, even though I’ll never achieve it.
My writing process for Writer Advice involves a lot of reading, reviewing, interviewing, researching, and sharing materials so readers have many resources in one place. Being an editor for others helps me find additional flaws to look for in my own work. I usually tell authors what I love and what trips me up. I often suggest edits to make sentences flow better. Because I was raised by an English teacher and taught English and drama in high school and college, correcting grammar and word choice are second nature to me. Of course, the final decision on every suggestion rests with the author.
Disrupted, the YA that will be out in 2023 has subplots. We deal with the impact of an earthquake, a best friend leaving town, a new boy who’s alternately evasive and flirty, a missing father, and the narrator’s need to find a new place to perform the show she’s stage managing. The plots and relationships intensify as opening night gets closer. For this book, the demands of the rehearsal schedule and life weave the elements together.
The future will be whatever it is supposed to be. I plan to keep writing, reading, reviewing, editing, and looking for the right publishers. The future may also include some Op-Eds, and I hope there’ll be more and more Flash Fiction and Flash Memoir in it.
I just completed an interview with a flash writer named Francine Witte, who said it takes a writer a long time to find her voice. I agree. Journalists do it quicker than fiction writers. So do certain non-fiction writers who spend as much time researching as they do writing. Of course, their voice is heavily influenced by the facts and their point of view. There’s nothing wrong with that. Sometimes I think it would be easier. So maybe my future will involve more writing where the story comes from life as I see it. My crystal ball is being repaired, so I just can’t be sure.
Having said that, here’s my advice to new writers:
- Find your voice or voices.
- Write daily—at least five days a week.
- Edit freely.
- If you break grammar rules, have a reason for it.
- Write what you want to write.
- Share what you write with supportive fellow authors.
- Be aware that there is a difference between advice and judging.
- Keep looking at the world and the people in it with fresh ideas.
- Fill your life with light and love.
- When you need new topics, go to Writer Advice’s Writing Advice page and scroll down to find new prompts. Pick one and see where it takes you. Always remember that no one can tell your story but you.
Thank you, George, for the opportunity to share my experience and ideas with your readers. I appreciate it.
MARISA FIFE holds a BS in Pre-Veterinary & Animal Science from the University of Massachusetts and a BSN in Nursing from Johns Hopkins University. Her work experiences have led her from monitoring songbirds for biological surveys to rehabilitating wildlife to caring for Oncology patients on bone marrow transplant floors.
Her first fiction short story, The Woman in Brown, was published in 2022.
The Woman in Brown is a historical suspense short story set in America in the 1930s about two damaged people on the run trying to escape the clutches of a cold-blooded killer.
Do you write in more than one genre? I like exploring many genres, my favorites being mystery, suspense, fantasy, romance, and westerns. I also love a good horror-comedy. I also enjoy writing for different audiences, such as adults and children. Everything’s fun to explore, really.
What are you currently working on? A quirky contemporary fantasy/mystery novel and a historical mystery novella. Then revisions, revisions, revisions on my 2022 writing projects.
Who’s your favorite author? Laurie R. King, author of the Mary Russell series, the first of which is The Beekeeper’s Apprentice. I’ve been hooked on this series since I was a teen and can’t recommend it enough.
Do you outline, or are you a pantser? I do a little of both as needed. When I first start writing a story, the planning stage involves a lot of brainstorming and organic free writing. I add in structure with an outline, but I’m not afraid to switch up that outline as needed, depending on how the story is proceeding. This allows me freedom while also keeping my feet on the ground.
What kind of research do you do? If I’m writing about a real-world place, I try to go there and take in how it is and what perceptions I have while I’m in it. Then most of my research moves online. I review newspapers and magazines and try to keep to verified historical sources when seeking facts about a particular time or place. If it’s a story set in contemporary times, I’ll watch news clips from the last few years to see what’s going on in that area or read first-hand accounts from people who live in that location if they are available.
If it’s not a real-world place, I base my fantasy settings on a mashup of actual places in the world or someplace made up that pops into my mind based on my experiences. Movies are also a fun place to find possible fantasy settings, characters, and storylines. Lastly, I read a few current books in whatever genre that I’m writing in to get a feel for what’s trending out there and why it trends.
What is the best book you have ever read? Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. I think it holds a warning to humankind that is still relevant today in our age of ground-breaking scientific and technological innovation.
Groups I belong to:
Mystery Writers of America
Sisters in Crime
Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.
How do our readers contact you?
Readers may contact me at www.marisafife.com.
My short story, The Woman in Brown, is available on Amazon as an ebook, audiobook, and paperback here.
Barbara Emodi writes sewing and craft-related cozy mysteries based in Nova Scotia, Canada, where she lives. She travels frequently and writes in the winter in Austin, Texas, and Berkeley, California.
For many years Barbara led a double life. Publicly she was a journalist, radio commentator, government strategist, and public relations professor. In her private life, she wrote and sewed for herself and her family, immediate and extended. She has published two books about garment construction.
Often when Barbara sewed, she thought of the people she’d met and the stories she could tell and of the things she knew and the things she suspected. As a result, she now writes mysteries for people who make things on the premise that those who create can investigate. A sewing pattern, a knitting stitch, a missing person, a dead body––to her mind, understanding them all requires the same skill set. Crafting for Murder is the first in a series.
Crafting for Murder – Seamstress, crafter, and empty-nester Valerie Rankin has plans to open a crafter’s co-op that will put Gasper’s Cove, Nova Scotia, on the tourist guide map. But one month before the opening day photo shoot, she still has to pin down a venue, patch up the family business, iron out corruption in town council, and unravel why anyone who tries to help her ends up dead. It’s a lot, even for a woman who’s used to making something out of nothing. But with the help of her Golden Retriever, an ex-con who loves cats, and a community of first, second, and third cousins, she just might pull it off.
Crafting for Murder will be released on February 25, 2023, and will be available through all the usual outlets and on pre-order here.
My responses to some interesting questions:
What brought you to writing? I’ve written for a living, journalism, and things like that, my whole life. But that’s calling-a-cab-writing. You know you have a job and a word count. You write it, and you file it. But then I ended up working for a public figure who needed a column written for the newspaper at home. He asked me to write it. I remember one afternoon typing out, “My father was a coal miner…” with tears on my face, and then I thought, “Hang on, Barbara, your father was a pharmacist.” This gave me the idea I could write fiction.
Do you have subplots? If so, how do you weave them into the novel’s arc? I write cozy mysteries. I chose this genre because I feel completely unqualified to write about sex or violence. In a cozy mystery, characters are extremely important. The readers tend to be folks who are interested in people they can identify with. It seems to me as a writer that if you get too linear with crime-clues-solving the mystery, the story can get very procedural and factual—hard to slip in character development in a steady way. So, I use subplots as little side stories that give space to show who the characters are. Also, let’s face it, even cozies involve bad stuff like death and betrayal, etc. I think that can get tiring for someone sitting down with a cup of tea looking for a diversion, so I also like to use subplots to build platforms, generally using humor as a resting place for the reader every now from the action. The subplots involve secondary characters, and these are percolating alongside stories that surface about every 4-7 chapters. I also like two subplots, one that is funny and one that has the main character struggling, and we hope, eventually, overcoming a weakness or vulnerability.
Do you base any of your characters on real people? I don’t think I could write if I didn’t. In fact, to get into the story, I generally have someone in mind when I develop a character. I keep myself from being sued by using the traits of several people mixed up into one. My siblings like to read what I write because they can pick up mannerisms and expressions and know where I got them. I did describe one living room, however, as “decorated in the style of furniture from dead relatives combined with impeccable housekeeping …” Remind me not to give my across-the-street neighbor a copy of the book.
Do you outline, or are you a pantser? Ha, ha, ha. By disposition, I have a mind like a squirrel cage, so I make multiple cards with what I think are great details or ideas and then try to fit them into some kind of plot line. I work hard at it, and it wears me out to plot, and I hate it. But I try because I know it’s not easy to get somewhere if you don’t know where you’re going. So, I have an elaborate plot all written out before I start. I never look at it or refer to it again. At halfway, I realize I am writing a totally unrelated story, so I stop and make a whole new plot to fit. I guess I am a pantser who creates a workable plot in the middle of the book. It’s a system that wastes the maximum amount of time.
Where do you place your settings—real or fictional locations? Real, completely real; only the names have been changed. I write about small communities in Nova Scotia, which are by definition stranger than fiction anyway, so they are the perfect setting for my writing. Interestingly, the most accurate parts are the ones people not from here might query. I had one editor tell me that she couldn’t stand the fact that everyone in my book was related, “and yet another cousin appears….” I read her email on the way out the door to the wedding of my niece to my son-in-law’s nephew. I had no idea what she was talking about.
Looking to the future, what’s in store for you? I started late in the game but couldn’t have written fiction earlier as I consider my life up to now just gathering material. That said, all I want to do now is get it into as many books as I can.
Do you have any advice for new writers? Although fiction is pretend, it must come from an authentic place. Be as authentic as possible; don’t try to be, or sound, like someone else. You might think the real you isn’t all that interesting, but the real always is. When you can access that, you are in the zone. Trust your subconscious. Sometimes stuff is thrown up from somewhere onto the page when you are in the zone you hardly recognize, except for the fact it just sounds right, and like you. Don’t try too hard or labor too much. Go for the glide.
Groups I belong to:
Sisters in Crime
Sisters in Crime Heart of Texas Chapter
Readers can learn more about me at my website https://babsemodi.com and sign up for my newsletter there too.
I love to hear from readers, and they can contact me directly at email@example.com
After a long career as a professional dancer and dance educator, Lynn Slaughter earned her MFA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University. She writes coming-of-age romantic mysteries and is the author of the newly released Deadly Setup, a 2022 Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards silver medalist. She is also the author of Leisha’s Song, a 2022 Imadjinn Award winner, a Moonbeam bronze medalist, Agatha nominee, and Silver Falchion Award winner; While I Danced, an EPIC finalist; and It Should Have Been You, a Silver Falchion finalist. Her first mystery for adults, Missed Cue, comes out from Melange Books in the summer of 2023. She lives in Louisville, Kentucky, where she’s at work on her next novel. She currently serves as president of Derby Rotten Scoundrels, the Ohio River Valley chapter of Sisters in Crime.
DEADLY SETUP Seventeen-year-old Sam’s life implodes when her heiress mother’s fiancé turns up dead, and Sam is accused of his murder and goes on trial. She fights to prove her innocence with the help of her boyfriend’s father, an ex-homicide cop. Just when things are looking especially bleak, Sam makes a startling discovery.
What brought you to writing? I spent much of my career as a professional modern dancer and dance educator. But I’d always enjoyed nonfiction writing and research. While still dancing, I moonlighted as a freelance magazine journalist specializing in writing about the challenges of adolescence and parenting teens. In all honesty, I didn’t think I had the fiction gene!
However, when age and injury led to my retirement from dance, I got an idea for a story about a young aspiring dancer with lots of family and friendship issues. That became my first young adult novel, WHILE I DANCED. I got hooked on fiction writing and returned to school, earning my MFA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University. It was a wonderful program, and I’ve kept writing ever since!
Tell us about your writing process. I tend to get a general idea for the premise of a novel. For example, DEADLY SETUP began as the kernel of an idea: What if a teenager was accused of murdering her mother’s fiancé?
Before trying to develop a plot, I spend a lot of time developing my characters and their backstories. Out of that work, I get a very good idea about my characters’ internal issues and how they will intersect and conflict with one another. It never ceases to amaze me how many plot ideas and complications grow out of starting with character development! I owe this insight to Elizabeth George. I’ve found her books on craft, WRITE AWAY! and MASTERING THE PLOT, to be so helpful.
What are you currently working on? I’m working on three projects which are at different stages of development:
Missed Cue, my first adult mystery, is coming out this summer from Melange Books, so I’m about to receive editorial notes.
I’ve also been working on a middle-grade fantasy about Varney, a kid vampire who hates the taste of blood and is convinced he’s landed in the wrong body. Thanks to a friendly witch, he gets a chance to switch with a human boy who is very unhappy in his life and longs to be a vampire.
Finally, I’m working on a young adult novel about a teen whose mother goes missing. The evidence indicates suicide, but my teenage protagonist doesn’t believe her mother would have killed herself and is determined to find out what really transpired.
How do you come up with character names? I have a book of baby names that gives a bit about where each name came from and what it means. I love going through it and finding names that seem to fit with the personalities and backgrounds of my characters.
Do you have subplots? If so, how do you weave them into the novel’s arc? I do! I find they often emerge organically from the relationships of the major characters. For example, in DEADLY SETUP, the protagonist has a close gay friend who’s involved in a romance with the closeted son of parents who think homosexuality is a sin. When his parents discover his romance, they forbid him to see his boyfriend. He becomes severely depressed, and after his failed suicide attempt, he eventually moves in with more supportive relatives.
This subplot actually reinforces a major theme of the novel, which is that sometimes when your family of origin is unable or unwilling to be unconditionally loving and accepting, it is sometimes necessary to create an intentional family.
Do you have any advice for new writers? Read voraciously and put yourself on a writing schedule that works for you and that you can stick to!
Join writers’ associations, such as Sisters in Crime and its subgroup, the Guppies, and make use of their resources.
Study craft books and analyze your favorite books in your chosen genre to see what makes them work so well.
Find a supportive writing community and a helpful, constructive critique group. If more than one person points to a problem in your manuscript, pay attention!
Above all, persevere!
Groups I belong to:
Mid-South Region of The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators
Guppies and my local chapter of Sisters in Crime, the Derby Rotten Scoundrels
I love hearing from readers and can be contacted through my website: https://lynnslaughter.com/
Amazon: Deadly Setup – Kindle edition by Slaughter, Lynn.
Print book: https://www.amazon.com/Deadly-Setup-Lynn-Slaughter/dp/B0B5KV5424/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1664994693&sr=1-1
Barnes and Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/deadly-setup-lynn-slaughter/1141674720?ean=9798886530087
Books-a-Million: Deadly Setup by Lynn Slaughter (booksamillion.com)