Millicent Eidson is the author of the alphabetical Maya Maguire microbial mystery series. The MayaVerse at https://drmayamaguire.com includes prequels, “El Chinche” in Danse Macabre and “What’s Within” in Fiction on the Web, and a side story, “Pérdida” in El Portal Literary Journal. Author awards include Best Play in Synkroniciti and Honorable Mention from the Arizona Mystery Writers.
Dr. Eidson’s work as a public health veterinarian and epidemiologist began with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and continued at the New Mexico and New York state health departments. She is a public health faculty member at the University at Albany and the University of Vermont.
Book title? “Anthracis: A Microbial Mystery” was published wide October 2021 in e-book, paperback, hardcover, and large print formats ANTHRACIS (drmayamaguire.com)
Book blurb? In the hottest summer on record, the spectacular southwestern desert is alive with Bacillus anthracis spores. Maya Maguire, the new veterinarian with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, battles the largest anthrax outbreak in U.S. history. Anthracis takes us to the front lines with scientists betting their lives on the investigation outcome.
How long did it take you to write your first book? After being encouraged to turn a short story into a novel by a college professor, the first draft of “Anthracis” was written in just a month. I was obsessed with getting my story into the computer, sometimes writing for twenty-hour stretches.
How long to get it published? I workshopped “Anthracis” and edited it for two years before independent publication. I queried agents for a year of that time period and received positive feedback on my writing style. But there were elements they wanted changed to fit the current market, which I wasn’t willing to compromise on.
Do you write in more than one genre? Medical Thriller, Mystery, Romantic Suspense, Women’s Fiction – My novels are a genre mashup—a cross between Tony Hillerman and Tess Gerritsen. My medical detective solves disease outbreak mysteries with microbes as the criminals. Over the timeline of the alphabetical series, readers will share Dr. Maya Maguire’s life journey, worldwide travel, romances, and warm friendships. Short stories, a play, and a poem also allow me to stretch writing styles and points of view. Although not a requirement for mysteries, my novels all end with Maya achieving a Happy for Now (HFN) conclusion, hinting at the mystery to come in the next one.
What are you currently working on? I’m immersed in the series author challenge of letting potential readers know about “Anthracis,” editing “Borrelia,” and writing the first draft of “Corona.”
We hear of strong-willed characters. Do yours behave, or do they run the show? Although the science is fact-based, I’m a “pantser,” and the characters have minds of their own. I sit down at the computer with them and see what they passionately want to achieve and what obstacles are standing in their way. Some secondary characters performing a function in the mystery investigation come to life and demand equal time on the stage.
Do you have subplots? If so, how do you weave them into the novel’s arc? I believe subplots are essential for an entertaining, educational, and enlightening read. The world is complex, and our fictional characters should face tough challenges like we do. They should interact with diverse, rounded secondary characters when possible. I like to have at least one subplot or theme beyond the microbial mystery in each novel. Climate change will interweave the stories when appropriate depending on its influence on the microbes and animals. For “Anthracis,” Maya’s sense of being an outcast as a rare Asian in the Southwest resonates with anthrax threats to those crossing the international border.
What is the most challenging part of your writing process? My mysteries are science-based. I incorporate real details about the diseases and investigation process into the novels, applying them to fictional settings and characters. Making the science clear and emotionally compelling is challenging. The third novel is particularly difficult because I focus on the connection of coronaviruses in animals and people during past and current outbreaks. The timeline for my fictional characters is even more tightly woven into real life because we’re living through COVID, but the novel shares mysteries not commonly known.
Has an association membership helped you or your writing? I can’t imagine improving my writing skill or being brave enough to publish without the months workshopping my short stories and novel chapters with Burlington Writers Workshop, Green Mountain Writers, and Sisters in Crime. For publishing, the Alliance of Independent Authors and the Authors Guild offer invaluable information.
How do you use social media to communicate with readers? FaceBook offers incredibly supportive groups like Wide for the Win. I’m also on Twitter as @EidsonMillicent and Instagram as @drmayamaguire. My Readers who sign up at HOME (drmayamaguire.com) for my newsletter are a core source of support, and I periodically reward them with writing not available elsewhere. Currently, Readers will be emailed a free e-book and pdf copy of my award-winning short play “Monuments” about a pivotal night in the Santa Fe Plaza during summer 2020 and the movement to re-examine how we honor our heroes.
Looking to the future, what’s in store for you? I continue to hone my writing craft and share the MayaVerse with readers. I hope to publish two of the microbial mysteries each year. My ability needs to expand in reaching readers drawn to vivid characters in vibrant settings who want to make the world a better place with their work and relationships.
Do you have any advice for new writers? Strive to perfect your writing skills. Seek out university and other courses to optimize it. Develop a thick skin and seek feedback on drafts. Do everything possible to create a polished book that reflects your very best effort before starting the query process for traditional publishing or the steps for independent publishing. But you can still honor your unique vision. Ask yourself—what does this story bring to the world that’s not already in it?
Millicent discusses her first novel “Anthracis: A Microbial Mystery” at Microbial Mystery Author Dr. Millicent Eidson on Big Blend Radio – YouTube.
She can be found on Twitter, @EidsonMillicent, and Instagram, @drmayamaguire.
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)
Margaret Mizushima writes the award-winning and internationally published Timber Creek K-9 Mysteries. She serves as president of the Rocky Mountain Chapter of Mystery Writers of America and was elected the 2019 Writer of the Year by Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. She lives in Colorado on a small ranch with her veterinarian husband, where they raised two daughters and a multitude of animals.
Margaret’s the Timber Creek K-9 Mysteries, are police procedurals set in a small town in the Colorado high country. Married forty years to a veterinarian, Margaret enjoys setting up puzzling crimes for her protagonists to investigate—Deputy Mattie Cobb, her K-9 partner Robo, and veterinarian Cole Walker. Together these three heroes battle murder and mayhem in the fictional town of Timber Creek, Colorado.
Margaret’s seventh book in the series is now available. In Striking Range, the past and present collide when Deputy Mattie Cobb and her K-9 partner Robo are torn between investigating her father’s cold case and the death of a young mother whose body is found near Timber Creek. As a deadly storm batters the area, taking its toll on the investigative team, Mattie and Robo search for the woman’s missing infant, hoping to find the baby before it’s too late. But Mattie soon realizes that a killer, who may be the mastermind behind it all, is within their midst, ready to strike again.
What brought you to writing? It seems like I wanted to write and publish a book for most of my life, but I needed to help my husband earn a living and raise our two daughters first. As soon as I retired from my first career as a speech pathologist, I began studying the art and craft of novel writing. I wrote several books before trying my hand at mystery writing. My first book in the series, Killing Trail, was picked up by Crooked Lane Books (New York) and released in 2015. We’ve been launching a new book together every year since.
Where do you write? Tell us about your writing process. After my daughters moved away from home, I converted an upstairs bedroom into my office. I’m a great believer in having one’s own writing space. When I’m writing the first draft of a new book, I try to go upstairs and get started by 8:00 a.m. each morning. I scan my email, answer any that need immediate attention, and then switch from business mode to creative.
I usually light a candle and set a timer for forty-five minutes. During that time, I let nothing interrupt me. (Distractions in the form of social media and phone calls are all around, but unless from family, I do my best to ignore them.) After forty-five minutes, I take a break for fifteen, get up and stretch, answer any messages I need to, and then sit back down for another forty-five-minute stretch. Called the Pomodora Method, these short sprints of giving full concentration to a task help hold my attention best. Unless I have an appointment or something scheduled, I keep up these cycles until I’ve reached 1000 words. Using this method, I can usually write the first draft of a book in about four months. Then I revise several times before sending it to my editor.
What is the most challenging part of your writing process? Figuring out the plot. In every episode, I need to weave in my character arcs, a homicide or two, a social issue that I want to spotlight, work that my veterinarian character has to do that helps solve the crime, work that my K-9 character Robo has to do to turn up clues and work that my K-9 handler Mattie has to do. I love developing the premise of each book, choosing the theme, and working out the series arcs for my characters. It’s the nitty-gritty details of the puzzle, the clues, and the red herrings that are hard to wrestle into submission.
We hear about strong-willed characters. Do yours behave, or do they run the show? I think having characters strike off on their own is part of the challenge, but it’s also part of the fun. When one of my characters takes off in a direction I didn’t plan, I have to pause and ask if this direction will serve my overall plot or is it going to lead me to a dead end. Sometimes I’m surprised when a character finds a clue I didn’t know was there. For example, in the second episode in the series, Stalking Ground, the detective and Mattie find the victim’s diary under the passenger seat of her car. I had no plan for that and was as surprised as they were. But what a happy turn it took in the story, and what a wonderful vehicle for giving my investigative team more evidence to work with!
How do you come up with character names? I give my series a western flavor, and so I tried to come up with names that are more common here in the west. I actually listen to the names of participants in rodeos and keep a running list. Cole Walker, the veterinarian in the book, has a name that resonates with the west. Mattie, my K-9 handler, was the name of one of my classmates. (We attended school in a small town in Colorado.) And the dog’s name, Robo? His was inspired by an actual K-9 partner that one of my consultants had when she worked in law enforcement in Bellingham, WA. Her Robo was a wonder dog, just like the Robo in my books. He could do it all, from tracking a fugitive or a missing person to finding narcotics or gunpowder to finding evidence after a crime. The stories I heard about the real Robo inspired the skillset that my fictional Robo demonstrates in every book.
What are you working on next? I’m working on the eighth book in the series, as yet unnamed. It will launch in the spring of 2023. I invite readers to get to know Mattie, Robo, and Cole—each mystery stands alone, but if you want the full effect of the character’s stories, start with Killing Trail.
Thank you for hosting me on your blog today, George. I appreciate the opportunity to talk about my writing process and the Timber Creek K-9 Mysteries.
You can find Margaret at: