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
FOUR CUTS TOO MANY – Sarah Blair, who finds kitchens more frightening than murder, gets an education in slicing and dicing when someone in the culinary school where her friend teaches serves up a main corpse. Sarah soon discovers that there’s no time to mince words when it comes to finding the real killer.
Judge Debra H. Goldstein writes Kensington’s Sarah Blair mystery series (Four Cuts Too Many, Three Treats Too Many, Two Bites Too Many, and One Taste Too Many). Her short stories, which have been named Agatha, Anthony, and Derringer finalists, have appeared in numerous periodicals and anthologies, including Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, Black Cat Mystery Magazine, Mystery Weekly, Malice Domestic Murder Most Edible, Masthead, and Jukes & Tonks. Debra is on the national board of Mystery Writers of America and president of SEMWA. She previously served on Sisters in Crime’s national board and was the Guppy Chapter president.
Do you write in more than one genre? Although my six novels are all traditional or cozy mysteries, my published short stories range from non-mystery literary works to different mystery genres. During my time as a judge and a litigator, almost all of my writings were non-fiction legal articles and book chapters.
What is your writing process, and what is most challenging about it? My true nature is to be a pantser who listens to the voices of my characters but only writes when the muse strikes me. I repeatedly tell myself I need to get up and write every day, but I constantly fail to do so. This was the exact style I used when I wrote the first Sarah Blair book, One Taste Too Many; however, after Kensington contracted the first three books, I faced several challenges. First, each book now had a deadline for submission, which meant I had to produce on time. That was a challenge I could easily meet. What was more difficult was that for each book, my New York editor wanted a detailed synopsis. It was emphasized to me that it needed to be detailed. Consequently, I spent weeks working out the plot of Two Bites Too Many and finally submitted an eighteen-page synopsis. My editor had only one comment: “Next time, double space.”
Although I wouldn’t say I like thinking the books out in advance, and I often must send my editor an email with a little change – like I discovered there needed to be a new character added to the cast in Three Treats Too Many. I have learned to write and appreciate having shorter, double-spaced treatments for each book.
Has any association membership helped you or your writing? When I announced that I was going to write mysteries, I was told to join Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America. These two organizations provided classes and mentoring guidance that helped me develop my skills and understanding of the craft and business aspects of writing. They also have proven invaluable in helping me make friends at all levels of writing and who generously share their expertise and encouragement.
Do you have subplots? If so, how do you weave them into the novel’s arc? The basic premise of the Sarah Blair books is that Sarah, who was married at eighteen, divorced at twenty-eight, with the only thing she got out of the marriage being RahRah, her Siamese cat, is starting over with no skills and a lack of confidence. As the series proceeds, Sarah evolves. She acquires new skills, including those needed to solve murders, and she grows in terms of her confidence level. Sarah’s interaction with the people around her set up several personal interaction sub-plots in each book. Whether the sub-plot revolves around family, friends, community groups, or her pets varies based upon the main plotline. I also work in social issue subplots, including economic development, mental abuse, ageism, and animal rescue. The key to these subplots is to make my point without banging the reader over the head with it. My goal is to have readers enjoy a carefully crafted whodunit but walk away with subconscious thoughts raised by the subplots.
What kind of research do you do? When Maze in Blue and Should Have Played Poker were orphaned, I knew I had to write something new and that I wanted it to be a cozy mystery. Having spent a great deal of time in small southern towns when I was litigating for the Department of Labor, I knew I could capture their essence in any book I wrote. I also had no problem making my sleuth an amateur. A problem arose when I thought about the fact that most cozy mysteries include crafts or cooking, and I hate both. Once I decided there had to be readers out there who hate the kitchen as much as I do, I had a hook for my series – a woman more frightened of the kitchen than murder. Despite Sarah’s unfamiliarity with the kitchen, I had to learn about it in order to write the kitchen scenes realistically.
Consequently, I approached several restaurant owners, chefs, and waiters in Birmingham, Alabama, which has become a foodie town. They graciously told me their stories and took me through their kitchens. From each person I interviewed, I learned something new that appears in the various books. For Three Treats Too Many, I wanted to write about a community motorcycle group and a veterinarian’s office. To get these things right, I interviewed a few individuals who collect motorcycles, and I shadowed a veterinarian for a day. I believe the more hands-on research I do, the more realistic and enjoyable my books are.
Website – www.DebraHGoldstein.com
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/DebraHGoldsteinAuthor/
Twitter – @DebraHGoldstein
Instagram – debrahgoldstein
Bookbub – https://www.bookbub.com/profile/debra-h-goldstein
Four Cuts Too Many and the other Sarah Blair books are available from indie and big-box bookstores but can also be purchased online.
Four Cuts Too Many by Debra H. Goldstein, Paperback | Barnes & Noble® (barnesandnoble.com)
DAVALYNN SPENCER is a Publisher’s Weekly and ECPA bestselling author with novellas in three Barbour collections, The 12 Brides of Christmas, The 12 Brides of Summer, and The Cowboy’s Bride.
Davalynn won the Will Rogers Gold Medallion for Inspirational Western Fiction and is the author of ten additional titles, both contemporary and historical. She blogs monthly for Christian Authors Network, Heroes, Heroines & History, contributes to the American Christian Fiction blog, and writes her own weekly inspirational blog. She appears on an area radio broadcast, Write Time Radio, and teaches writing workshops when not wrangling Blue the Cowdog and mouse detectors Annie and Oakley.
As the last author to join the Always a Wedding Planner collection, I had the advantage of coming into a story world that had already been created – a four-member team of friends who ran Weddings By Design in Loveland, Colorado. With the overall theme and setting established, I was free to concentrate on partner number four. I established a life, a personal story world, and a threatening challenge for my character, Saffron Fare, whom I made the chef for the business.
Each story is complete unto itself. In the writing of this collection, we four authors were in constant communication with each other, asking questions, double-checking on personalities, confirming the names and locations of key elements in a town like the business’s office. We’d often send emails to each other containing dialogue, followed by, “Would your character say it like this or not?” It was great fun reading excerpts from another author’s use of my character in a scene or two from her story.
I have contributed to several Barbour novella collections. Still, this one was unique in that all four stories focused on the same business yet were told from the point of view of a different business partner. We worked together to create the collection the same way our characters worked together in their wedding-planning business.
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LEEANN BETTS writes contemporary romantic suspense. Her real-life persona, Donna Schlachter, pens historical romantic suspense.
She has released nine titles in her cozy mystery series. Together, she and Donna have published more than 25 novellas and full-length novels. They ghostwrite, judge writing contests, edit, facilitate a critique group, and are members of American Christian Fiction Writers, Writers on the Rock, and Sisters in Crime. Leeann travels extensively to research her stories and is proud to be represented by Terrie Wolf of AKA Literary LLC.
When the idea first surfaced about writing an interconnected contemporary novella collection featuring the same characters with different main character roles in each story, several potential writers turned us down, believing we couldn’t be able to carry off the premise.
However, a dear writing friend, Darlene Franklin, who helped with the original idea, had recently published a similar collection featuring four friends who worked at different businesses but were involved in solving mysteries.
Our story was only a tad bit more difficult in that all four of our heroines worked for the same partnership and were not only co-workers but best friends.
Finding the perfect set of authors was probably the most difficult part of the process. We knew the stories would be a little tongue-in-cheek, so that was the number two requirement for each author. Number one was that they are followers of Jesus, strong in their faith and that their writing should reflect that.
Once we had the four in place, the process worked like a dream.
My approach to writing is to start with a one-sentence blurb – if I can’t encapsulate the story in twenty words or less, I don’t know what it’s about. Then I do the “back cover copy” or two to three paragraphs, and then I begin with the synopsis. I usually write all that by hand then transcribe it to the computer.
But before I write one word, I pray that the Lord would help me faithfully transcribe the story He wants told.
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R.L. ASHLY is a master seamstress with a Master of Arts degree in Literature.
R.L. hopes to pursue a Ph.D. in Literature in the near future. A mother and grandmother, she is active in her local writing community, never says never to a home improvement task, and strives to one day write the Great American Novel.
RL Ashly writes on the run, enjoys a good mystery with a complicated plot, and iced tea is her beverage of choice. Hemmed In is her first traditionally published novel.
The nice thing about working on Always a Wedding Planner was the collaboration with the other writers. I enjoyed working with them and would do so again in a heartbeat. Leeann Betts and I share a mutual character, Camilla Parsons. We collaborated on Camilla’s characterization and how we were going to incorporate her into our stories. Leeann has a great sense of humor and when I read The Worst Kept Secret, I chuckle at how Leeann integrated Camilla into her tale. She did such a good job.
Since I am a seamstress by day, it was easy to give my lead character that career. The well-used saying, “write what you know,” works. It helps with planning the plot and adding flavor to the story. My approach to writing is different from other writers. I keep a notebook and my tablet in a bag and write on the go. I even write using my phone. Between work and chasing grandbabies, this system works best for me. In fact, I am writing this blog post on my phone while I sit in a waiting room for an appointment. Then I will finish it in my car before I run to my next stop on my errands.
One positive thing about living in this era—we have access to such wonderful technology. There is a learning curve, especially for us older folks, but it is so worth discovering how to use it. I can write while I’m taking a walk. Peddling on my exercise bike and writing is another option. I tied a shelf onto my exercise bike, and it holds my tablet. There’s something relaxing about writing and pedaling.
I have learned that it is important to write almost every day. It is easy to get out of the habit of writing and let life get in the way. There are days when getting any writing done is impossible. But I have found that even writing a few sentences keeps me in tune with my story and thinking about it. Then the next writing session will go faster because I processed the next scene or chapter in the story.
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Buy the book~Paperback link on Amazon: https://amzn.to/3qNivJ8
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