featuring guest authors; crafting tips and projects; recipes from food editor and sleuthing sidekick Cloris McWerther; and decorating, travel, fashion, health, beauty, and finance tips from the rest of the American Woman editors.

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Wednesday, May 29, 2024

JUSTIN L. MURPHY ON COMBINING TWO DIFFERENT GENRES

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Justin L. Murphy is a self-published author of fiction and non-fiction. He’s also written 
The Original Night Stalker: Portrait of A Killer, and Joseph James DeAngelo: His Reign of Terror Is Over. Learn more about Justin and his books on his Amazon author page and Facebook.

Combining Two Different Genres

On Amazon Kindle, I recently released my latest book entitled Beyond the Master of Suspense: How True Crime Influenced The Films of Alfred Hitchcock. Many books were written on the legendary filmmaker and his career and often lumped in with either Filmmaking or Classic Film. Yet, according to my research, no one has written a book about him from the perspective of the real-life murders and crimes that inspired many of his movies.

 

Some people know that Ed Gein possibly inspiring the character of Norman Bates in Psycho. But there are others only known to diehard moviegoers and Hitchcock enthusiasts. Such as how the murders committed by Earle Nelson provided the idea for what became Shadow of a Doubt and the Leopold and Loeb case was the impetus for Rope, a Patrick Hamilton stage play which Hitchcock adapted as his first color film 1948.

 

Exploring topics from lesser-known angles is a huge benefit. In this case, it opens the work up to an entirely different genre. Unexpected surprises happen like that when one looks hard enough. Other instances of real-life murders inspiring Hitchcock films include Jack the Ripper providing the basis for his third film and first legit suspense thriller, The Lodger: A Story of The London Fog and The Siege of Sidney Street helping form his original version of The Man Who Knew Much, released in 1934. Both happened on The East End of London where Alfred Hitchcock himself was raised. Jack The Ripper and The Whitechapel Murders took place before he was born while the Siege happened when he attended elementary school. He possibly heard about these events from family, relatives, or neighbors, impacting his adulthood and filmmaking career for years to come.

 

He was also interested in a couple of physicians who committed murder. English native Dr. William Palmer, a nineteenth century surgeon, inspiring the Johnny Aysgarth character in Anthony Berkeley Cox’s novel Before the Fact, which Hitchcock adapted into Suspicion, starring Cary Grant. 

 

Cox also wrote Malice Aforethought, inspired by early twentieth century American Dr. Hawley Harvey Crippen, who immigrated to Great Britain before being found guilty and hanged for his crime. Hitchcock couldn’t make a go of a film adaptation of that book, but the real-life account stuck with him and provided bits of inspiration for Rear WindowVertigo, and Dial M For Murder, as well as an episode of his classic TV Series Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

 

Much has been written about how many of Hitchcocks films were based more directly on short stories, novels, and stage plays. Yet, in turn, these same sources derived their inspiration from the real-life murders. Then there was his father, who sent him to a police station with a note at five years old. Hitchcock then found himself placed in a room for five minutes with the admonishment, “This is what we do to naughty boys.” Also, as a boy, he reported to his mother’s bedside each night to discuss how his day went. However, the true crime influences don’t get enough credit.

 

The Wrong Man, culled almost entirely from an actual account, starred Henry Fonda as real-life musician Manny Balestrero, wrongly accused of robbing an insurance company in the 1950s. Alfred Hitchcock chose to film this movie in many of the actual locations where the events happened. In addition, he filmed in a more realistic documentary style with a subdued musical score.

 

This is why I implore writers to explore well known topics from lesser-known angles. One never knows what they might find, or the genre(s) an author may branch out into. When a path gets tired or stale, the scribe shouldn’t give up. Look at alternate paths to draw from to find new ideas for new works. It may turn out to be one of the best writing decisions a writer makes. After all, you never know, if you don’t try.

 

Beyond the Master of Suspense: How True Crime Influenced the Films of Alfred Hitchcock

Serial Killers/True Crime, Book 3


Many have seen and studied the classic films of Alfred Hitchcock, but how many people are aware that many of these movies were inspired by real life murders? These cases range from his native England in the 1800s to 1950s America. Influencing his work from The Lodger, his third directorial effort and first true suspense thriller, all the way down to Frenzy, his next-to-last film. 

 

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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

AUTHOR JEANNETTE DE BEAUVOIR ON FOOD AND THE MYSTERY PROTAGONIST

Image by Pablo Merchan-Montes for Unsplash

Jeannette de Beauvoir is a novelist specializing in mystery and historical fiction, and a published poet, who lives and works at the tip of Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Learn more about her and her books at her website.

Food and the Mystery Protagonist

I love to eat. I love great food, unusual food, comfort food. I’ve rarely met a mushroom or a cheese I didn’t immediately take to, and cooking is almost always a delight. (And when it’s not, it’s an adventure!)

 

So when I read a novel that refers to food, my ears perk up.

 

As mystery readers, we’ve all had moments of disappointment with certain stories. For some, it’s when a clue doesn’t pan out. For others, when a character isn’t fully defined. For me, disappointment comes when characters have lunch, or go out to dinner, or even fix a snack… and the author doesn’t tell us what they had to eat. Wait, come back! I want to know every juicy culinary detail!

 

As a mystery writer who loves food, I never leave any of those out, to the point where my editor once reminded me that the story wasn’t just about fine dining. (Though to be fair, that’s a story I’d love to write.) Since I situate my books in real places, I almost always use real establishments and their menus for my characters’ meals—which has, of course, an obvious advantage for the writer, who must naturally sample said meals for verisimilitude’s sake!

 

There’s a wonderful story, possibly apocryphal, about the romantic thriller writer Phyllis Whitney. It was said that she would decide where she next wanted to go on vacation… and then set her upcoming novel there. I personally think that’s a terrific idea; and I certainly employ it in terms of food. What Provincetown restaurant would I like to try next? Time to send my protagonist Sydney there to check it out!

 

And I do share every detail… from pan bagnat at the Race Point Inn to pastries at the Portuguese bakery; from sips of her favorite Ch√Ęteauneuf-du-Pape wine to her boyfriend Ali’s usual fruit juices. (He’s Muslim and doesn’t drink alcohol.) Sydney exults in finding the best food around and sharing it with friends and visitors—and readers—alike, and I get to remember the taste of all the meals I describe. It’s a win for both of us.

 

One of Provincetown’s great restaurants, a true institution in town since 1979, and a Sydney favorite is The Lobster Pot. The restaurant published a cookbook back in the 1990s (which I still use today), and on one of the pages I found this: “What makes The Lobster Pot work? Perhaps it can be summed up in the two words that pretty much describe the whole Provincetown experience for so many people every summer: magic and love.”

 

Mystery novels by their very nature take us to dark places, where the context of our stories include envy, greed, and hatred. It’s the nature of the genre, and it performs an important function, that of giving us a space where justice really does exist, where the world can actually be a fair place. But we still need balance to that darkness, and I think those words sum up the extras that mystery novelists add to the darkness. Magic and love. 

 

And for me, both of those have always involved… food!

 

The Honeymoon Homicides: A Provincetown Mystery

Sydney Riley Series, Book 10

 

Sydney Riley and her longtime boyfriend Ali have finally tied the knot—but an uninvited corpse crashes the reception. Undaunted, she and her brand-new husband leave for their honeymoon in the dunes of Cape Cod’s National Seashore. But even in this deserted location, Sydney uncovers clues that might have a bearing on the wedding fiasco—and put Ali’s life in danger. Can she find the murderer(s) before Ali is harmed, or will a week in the dunes be her only memory of their married life? 

 

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Wednesday, May 15, 2024

MYSTERY AUTHOR KASSANDRA LAMB TALKS OPPOSITES ATTRACTING--IN FICTION AND LIFE

In her youth, author Kassandra Lamb had to decide between writing and paying the bills. Partial to electricity and food, she studied psychology. Now retired from a career as a psychotherapist and college professor, she spends most of her time in an alternate universe with her characters. She is the author of the Kate Huntington mystery series, the Marcia Banks and Buddy cozy mysteries, and the Co.P. on the Scene police procedural mysteries. She’s also written a guidebook for novice writers and writes romantic suspense as Jessica Dale. Learn more about her and her books at her website.

Opposites Attract...In Fiction and Real Life

 

I’m sure you’ve heard the two adages: “Birds of a feather flock together” and “Opposites attract.” Both can refer to romantic attraction. But which is true? 

 

As someone who has been an observer of human nature for many decades, I can say that ... it depends.

 

In some areas, it’s good to be similar. Values, goals, at least some interests, and even one’s sense of humor—it’s best to be on the same wavelength with those.

 

But with some personality traits, “opposites attract” applies. This is especially true for two traits: extroversion vs. introversion and intense vs. easygoing. With these two traits, if we are opposites, we tend to complement each other.

 

When I set out to write my newest series of police procedurals, I borrowed the protagonist, Judith Anderson, from another series (in which she was a secondary character.) I didn’t know a lot about her (see my post, How My Muse Revealed my Protagonist’s History with Flashbacks and Dreams.) I only knew that she was a good cop, a bit of a workaholic, and she had few friends.

 

So I wasn’t too surprised, as the series progressed, to discover she was a bit of an introvert. I also wasn’t surprised that she was a pretty intense person, passionate about her job and impatient with “nonsense” such as social niceties.

 

What did surprise me a little was her tendency to get anxious and restless when a case wasn’t going well. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised, since I did thrust her into a new situation, way outside her comfort zone, by making her Chief of Police in a Florida city, hundreds of miles from her home state.

 

Enter stage right, her love interest, the sheriff of the adjoining county. Sheriff Sam Pierson has blue eyes, sandy hair, and an easy smile. And that was all I knew about him when my muse brought him on board.

 

Turns out he’s a bit more of an extrovert than Judith, and he’s very laid back. Which is a good thing. He tolerates her intensity, even taking it in stride most of the time.

 

But his easygoing nature is tested in Felony Murder, my latest book, when Judith informs him she has spotted him around town, when he was actually in his office in Clover County. He says he must have a doppelganger, and, at first, they both laugh it off.

 

But Judith keeps spotting this guy, who looks, and walks, and holds his head just like Sam. And he’s always talking to some woman (different women each time.) Plus, he’s wearing khaki, the color of Sam’s uniform.

 

Judith is not the most trusting person (because of her history,) so this is not a good scenario. Her old demons of distrust are stirred up, big time.

 

When I added this subplot to the story, I wasn’t exactly sure how it would get resolved in the end. Would they break up, at least temporarily?

 

Well, I should’ve trusted Sam. Here’s what this laid-back guy came up with...

 

“Are we good?” I went for a casual tone, but a lump had formed in my throat.

Sam looked at me for a long moment, his eyes soft. “I want us to be.”

I waited without saying anything, my eyes beginning to sting. I refuse to cry!

“Judith, I’m not going anywhere…but I’m disappointed that you don’t trust me more by now.” He paused, stared at the ceiling for a second, then met my gaze again. “I get it that you have trust issues, and I’ve tried to be patient with that. But…it hurts that you could think I’d play games like that, walk around town letting you spot me and then duck into the crowd.”

 

Mr. Easygoing hit just the right note with this speech, and without getting all that angry, as most people would. He is the perfect complement to Judith’s intense personality. 

 

I realized, after the fact, that I had modeled these characters a bit on my husband and me. We certainly prove the “opposites attract” adage when it comes to intensity. I’m the intense one, and he’s definitely quite laid back. That’s a very good thing, and probably the main reason why we’re still married after almost forty-eight years.

 

I once asked him, if he could summarize me in one word, what would it be? He said, “exciting.” How gracious of him!

 

My word for him was “comfortable.” I brought excitement into his introverted, laid-back world, and he has always been my comfortable safe harbor.

 

Do you and your mate have some “opposites attract” traits that complement each other?

 

Felony Murder

A C.o.P. on the Scene Mystery, Book 4

 

All is not as it seems in Starling, Florida

 

A phone call from a desperate teen, awaiting trial for felony murder, spurs Chief of Police Judith Anderson to re-open the case of a drug deal gone wrong. But her investigation finds more questions than answers. How did the white gang members involved end up with sweet plea deals, while the Latino kid with no record is charged with felony murder? Meanwhile, attempts on the mayor’s life and glimpses around town of her lover with various women divide Judith’s attention and trigger her old demons of distrust.

 

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Wednesday, May 8, 2024

MYSTERY AUTHOR BARBARA EMODI ON HOW SEWING A GARMENT IS LIKE WRITING A BOOK

Gasper's Cove
Barbara Emodi writes sewing and craft-related cozy mysteries and sewing how-to books. Often when she sewed, she thought of the people she’s known and the stories she could tell. So now she writes mysteries. Learn more about Barbara and her books at her website and on Substack at How to be an Older Woman for Beginners.

Before I started writing fiction, I published two how-to sewing books, SEW…the garment-making book of knowledge and Stress-Free Sewing Solutions: a no-fail guide for the modern sewist.

 

With such a practical background, some members of my family were surprised at the switch from how to put-in-a-zipper to murder and mystery in the fictional (but extremely real to me) community of Gasper’s Cove, Nova Scotia.

 

It is interesting that not one of my sewing, crafty, or creative friends questioned my new direction. For them, as for me, the worlds of making things and solving crimes use parallel skills. The transition from non-fiction to fiction in my world has been seamless.

 

Let me show you what I mean. Let’s profile a typical sewist or crafter who:


· Could probably buy whatever she needs but prefers to make it herself, despite the cost, effort, and occasional frustration. She can’t help herself.


· Is a non-linear thinker, very good at making connections or at seeing potential in things other folks miss. That old sheet you were going to throw out? It’s really a rug, just rip it into 2” strips and get out the loom I happen to have in the basement …


· Never misses a detail. Did you use a twin-needle on that hem?


· Works best, is most creative, when faced with adversity or restrictions. A Depression era Dresden plate quilt?  I rest my case.


· Likes to solve other people’s problems. Your mother-in-law’s here. Where’s the mending?

 

The real question for me is how does anyone write a mystery, particularly a cozy mystery without crafty characters? Obviously, we are all born investigators and detectives.

 

Writing these stories has also given me a place to locate the many bits of interesting information I have picked up in the sewing classes I have taught for more than thirty years. The student whose pastor was a young seaman in a U-boat off the Nova Scotia coast in WWII? The one who looked up a periscope and thought to himself “What a beautiful place. If I ever get out of here alive, that’s where I am going to go and start a new life?”

 

The real crime would be if that bit of shared information was not allowed to inspire a mystery story. And it did. Book four of my Gasper’s Cove Mysteries, due out later this year is called Crafting a Getaway

 

A lot of my own life is in my books, too. Once I had a job as a press secretary for a senior political leader. (How I got that job is still a mystery to me.) In that position, I had to travel on the campaign bus during several elections. It was a strange experience that I survived only with the help of the sewing machine I kept hidden in my computer bag. The relationship of a crafty woman in that world gave me the material and the humor of my next release, coming out this month, Crafting with Slander. I had such a good time writing that book.

 

Gasper’s Cove is my own getaway, a place where I go to visit and see what the locals are up to. In addition to the four books so far in the Gasper’s Cove Mysteries, I also published four seasonal novellas in 2023. These are Spring – Panic in the Pansies, Summer – Inspection Deception, Fall- Potions and Notions and Holiday – Last Stitch Effort. I wrote them because I was so in love with some of the minor characters in the larger series that I wanted to have a place to tell their stories, too.

 

The theme of everything I write is that there is nothing ordinary about ordinary people. I would love for you to visit Gasper’s Cove with me. If you do, please drop me a line. I write for my readers.

 

Crafting with Slander

A Gasper’s Cove Mystery, Book 3

 

Corruption, chaos, and murder―Valerie Rankin is faced with a killer as crafty as she is.

 

Valerie Rankin is back in Gasper's Cove as a mayoral election brings chaos to the small town. A corrupt political scheme controls the town, and Valerie's cousin, Darlene, an ex-hairdresser, decides to run for mayor. With the help of Valerie and the Gasper's crafters, the group crafts a successful campaign. However, false rumors quickly spread about Darlene. Valerie moves to confront mayoral opponent Mighty Mike Murphy only to find him dead with one of her own stenciled campaign signs next to his body. Afraid that she or Darlene could be framed for his murder, Valerie must hunt down a killer before it's too late.

 

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Wednesday, May 1, 2024

AN INTERVIEW WITH COZY MYSTERY AUTHOR DEBRA SENNEFELDER

Today we sit down for a chat with cozy mystery author Debra Sennefelder. Learn more about her and her books at her website. 

When did you realize you wanted to write novels?

I’ve always wanted to write since childhood, but it wasn’t until my 20s that I attempted to write a book. The first one was never finished but the second one was completed. And it was promptly rejected by every agent I sent it to.

 

How long did it take you to realize your dream of publication?

It was a journey with many stops and starts. I got serious about writing in the late 1990s when I met another author and joined a writing group. During the years between then and when I finally was published in 2018 with my debut novel, The Uninvited Corpse, I worked a full-time job, volunteered in my community, and had a food blog. There was a lot going on, but in 2015 I focused on writing fiction, and a year later I had signed with an agent and then sold the Food Blogger mystery series.

 

Are you traditionally published, indie published, or a hybrid author?

I am traditionally published.

 

Where do you write?

Most of the time I write in my home office. If the weather is nice, I’ll go out on the patio. But I prefer my office and working at a desktop computer.

 

Is silence golden, or do you need music to write by? What kind?

Silence is definitely golden, especially when I’m in the second draft of a book because I’m doing a deep edit of the manuscript and I need to fully concentrate on those words. 

 

How much of your plots and characters are drawn from real life? From your life in particular?

I typically don’t draw my plots from real life, but of course snippets of my real life do find their way into my stories. I rarely create a character based on people that I know. However, some of their habits, traits, or quirks may make it into a character. 

 

Describe your process for naming your character?

I like to find names that seem to fit characters and aren’t too long to type, especially if they are a prominent character in the story and I’ll be typing it a lot.

 

Real settings or fictional towns?

Fictional towns.

 

What’s the quirkiest quirk one of your characters has?

That would be Kip from the Cookie Shop Mystery series. He’s always telling baking jokes.

 

What’s your quirkiest quirk?

I don’t know. I’m sure I have one or two or three. You probably have to ask one of my friends.

 

If you could have written any book (one that someone else has already written,) which one would it be? Why?

Great question. It would be The Secrets We Share by Edwin Hill. I loved his voice, the tone of the book, the mystery, and the twist.

 

Everyone at some point wishes for a do-over. What’s yours?

Another great question. Here’s the thing, if I had the chance for a do-over, then most likely the things that have happened in my life wouldn’t have happened. It would throw everything out of whack. And I’m really happy with how things have turned out, mistakes and all. 

 

What’s your biggest pet peeve?

Whistling. 

 

You’re stranded on a deserted island. What are your three must-haves?

Sunscreen. Mascara. Coffee.

 

What was the worst job you’ve ever held?

Hands down it was working as a secretary for a commercial scale company. I wasn’t there long. 

 

Who’s your all-time favorite literary character (any genre)?

Jessica Fletcher. 

 

Ocean or mountains?

Mountains.

 

City girl/guy or country girl/guy?

I’m a city girl at heart.

 

 

What’s on the horizon for you?

I have another Food Blogger mystery releasing later this year.

 

Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself and/or your books?

I love connecting with readers on social media and through my newsletter. I share photos of our Shih Tzu, Connie, and occasionally my recipes. 

 

A Corpse at the Witching Hour

A Food Blogger Mystery, Book 6

 

Hope Early has to contend with ghosts, a fatal curse, and a decades-old family secret to catch a killer in the new Food Blogger Mystery . . .

 

When her best friend’s Aunt Issy falls ill, food blogger Hope Early agrees to help him hand out Halloween candy at his aunt’s house, which is rumored to be cursed. A murder-suicide took place there a century ago, and legend has it that a woman has died there every twenty years since—on Halloween. Hope doesn’t really believe in curses or ghosts, but when all the trick-or-treaters are gone and she discovers a woman’s dead body on the front lawn, she wonders if the curse might be real after all.

 

Then Hope and her friend discover a cache of love letters linking the dead woman to Aunt Issy’s husband years ago, and Hope is certain they’ve uncovered the motive for murder—and the police are certain Aunt Issy is their main suspect. Determined to prove Issy’s innocence and nab the real culprit, Hope starts shaking other branches of the family tree. But she forgets that Halloween isn’t the only day people hide behind masks, and if she’s not careful, Hope will come face-to-face with a ghoulish fiend who’s not afraid to kill again . . . 

 

Recipes included!

 

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