“It is ourselves we see, ourselves lifted from a parochial setting. We see what we have not heretofore realized, ourselves made worthy in our anonymity. What the artist does applies to everything, every day, everywhere to quicken and elucidate, to fortify and enlarge the life about him and make it eloquent—to make it scream, as Evans does.”
– William Carlos Williams, in a review of Walker Evans’ photographs, quoted by Leslie Jamison in “Make It Scream, Make It Burn,” in Oxford American, 10/16/13
Since last week was the launch of my tenth novel, The Solace of Bay Leaves, the 5th Spice Shop mystery, I figured it might be good, in talking about favorite references, to mention my first book, Books, Crooks and Counselors: How to Write Accurately About Criminal Law and Courtroom Procedure (Linden/Quill Driver, 2011). When I first joined authors’ groups, other writers asked me questions about the law—how would my detective get a search warrant, can this character inherit from that one, who is Miranda and why are we always warning her? Like DP Lyle’s Murder and Mayhem which I highlighted a couple of weeks ago, it’s aimed at mystery writers, but it’s equally useful for nonfiction writers, including journalists. 160 questions and answers in a dozen topics, illustrated with examples from real-life cases, including some of my own, and books and movies.
And yes, I still pull my own copy off the shelf now and then to remind myself of the facts about the law. Because even though it’s fiction, we owe our readers the truth.
By the way, Books and Crooks, as it’s known in my house, won the 2011 Agatha Award for Best Nonfiction. Such a special moment, because it told me I’d correctly identified a need and filled it. Though it’s been out several years, it is still largely accurate, though there have been quite a few developments in the law of the death penalty since then. Use this blog’s search function for some updates.
Cheers for the paperback of THE SOLACE OF BAY LEAVES!
I promise, it’s true. There’s a BIG box of them in my upstairs hallway!
In this strange year, ebook and audio lovers got their copies early, last July. Though I hated that some of you had to wait for the paperback, I am enormously grateful that my publisher was able to get those versions out as scheduled, and that it made the right call to wait so the paperback could get to you safely and smoothly.
Pepper is celebrating her second anniversary at the Spice Shop, but her friend Laurel is honoring a more somber anniversary, the still-unsolved murder of her husband, three years ago. When evidence links the murder to a friend’s shooting, Pepper’s own regrets surface. Can she uncover the truth and protect those she loves, before the deadly danger boils over?
I love this book. I know, I say that every time—and it’s always true—but SOLACE is special. It’s all about women’s friendships—how they lift us up and evolve over time, how they bounce back from jealousies and misunderstandings. It’s about new love after forty, about home and the importance of our neighborhoods and communities. About identity. About solace and comfort, and soup.
All the things we’ve learned to value even more these last few months.
There’s a saying that each book teaches you how to write it, and that’s never been more true for me than with this one. (Well, okay, maybe with BITTERROOT LAKE, out next April, too.) I was so sure I knew what this one was about. Boy, was I wrong. I thought Maddie was a minor character—when you meet her, you’ll see how impossible that was! I can still see myself walking into a gathering of my lovely women’s group in July 2019, mid book, completely freaked out. They talked me down, and the very next day, I discovered what the book was really about.
That’s why SOLACE is dedicated to those eight brave, creative, inspiring women.
No book travel this fall—we’ll make up for lost time next year. But I will be celebrating safely at the Bigfork Art & Cultural Center this Saturday at 3:00 pm for a socially-distanced book talk and signing. If you’re in the area, do join us.
I’ll also be visiting several blogs to talk about how audio books influenced my writing, the urban cozy, writing a series, ghost signs, and more. (I’ll share links on my Facebook Author page.) Swing by for a virtual chat.
And when you finish reading, I hope you’ll want to tell your friends about the book. My website includes discussion questions for all my novels.
I’ll confess, I stay away from Pinterest as much as possible because it’s so darned addictive. If you love the visual as much as I do, take a look at my Spice Shop board–-I’ve updated it with some of the images that inspired SOLACE.
My thanks, as always, for joining me on this writing journey. I literally could not do it without you!
From my heart, Leslie
In Western Montana, my books are available in Whitefish at Bookworks, in Kalispell at The Bookshelf and Montana Art & Gift (at the airport), in Bigfork at Roma’s Kitchen Shop and Bigfork Art & Cultural Center (Bigfork ), and in Missoula at Fact & Fiction, Shakespeare & Co., and Barnes & Noble. And of course, they’re available online and at independent bookstores across the US and Canada.
Praise for SOLACE and the Spice Shop Mysteries:
A “complex, well-developed mystery. … VERDICT The character-driven mystery by the award-winning author of Death al Dente is darker than many cozies. Readers attracted to unusual settings and mature, introspective amateur sleuths will appreciate this intricately plotted story depicting the impact of murder on the family and community.” — Library Journal, in a starred review
Publishers’ Weekly called SOLACE “savory.” Isn’t that delish? “Budewitz’s affection for Seattle is apparent on every page. Foodie mystery aficionados will love the mouthwatering recipes at the end.”
“Budewitz continues to whet the appetites of her readers while also highlighting the many unique characteristics of Seattle. … Full of humor and delicious descriptions of local cuisine, ASSAULT AND PEPPER isn’t afraid to tackle timely social topics and the complexities of family, responsibilities, and learning to let go.” —Kings River Life
“[C]lassic “Golden Age” … set in contemporary Seattle.” — PJ Coldren
One of my own carrots is to buy myself an “art prize” when I finish the edits of a book. This lovely little oil by our friend, Columbia Falls, MT painter Rachel Warner, was my prize for Treble at the Jam Fest, the 4th Food Lovers’ Village mystery
How I first found The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi (2012), I have no idea, but you can see that both the cat and I find it enormously useful, if for slightly different reasons.
The ability to identify and describe body language and facial expressions is critical in conveying emotion on the page. The authors list dozens of emotions, from adoration to worry, briefly define them, then set out physical signals, internal sensations, mental responses, and other key indicators. They also include a section on avoiding common problems, such as too much telling and cliches, and tips such as finding the root emotion, using the setting, and using visceral or instinctive reactions.
I use the lists as a starting point, thinking about a particular character, their personality, gender, how they use their body, how controlled or demonstrative they are, the intensity of the situation. You are the ultimate authority on your characters, but the authors’ lists will get the ideas moving. I’ve annotated my copy, listing additional emotions, adding observations of my own, and interleafing other resources. The authors have also written books on character traits, setting, and more. I see from their website, Writers Helping Writers, that they’ve put out a new edition of the Emotion Thesaurus. Maybe the cat will get me a copy for Christmas.
We’ve all got a collection of books we pull off the shelves over and over, references we rely on to help us find the right word, get the legal or medical details right, or figure out how to ramp up the emotional content of a scene. (“I said emotional content. Not anger,” as Bruce Lee said in Enter the Dragon.) Over the next few weeks, I’m going to highlight a few of mine. If you’ve got a favorite to recommend, please chime in in the comments.
Murder and Mayhem: A Doctor Answers Medical and Forensic Questions for Mystery Writers by D.P. Lyle (Thomas Dunne Books, 2003). A medical doctor who writes thrillers, TV tie-in novels with a medical theme, and books on forensics, Lyle also writes the “Forensic Files” column for the Mystery Writers of America answering questions for writers of both contemporary and historical crime novels. His blog, The Crime Fiction Writer’s Blog, is another terrific resource, often featuring fascinating guest bloggers from the worlds of medicine and science.
My copy of Murder and Mayhem barely fits in its slot on the shelf anymore, stuffed with articles and emails from Doug that I’ve printed out. When you need to know what drugs might cause cardiac arrest or what happens to body and brain when one character pushes another down the stairs or off a cliff, this is THE book.
And columns, book, and author were a big inspiration for me in writing my first book, Books, Crooks and Counselors: How to Write Accurately About Criminal Law and Courtroom Procedure (Linden/Quill Driver, 2011), a book that should be on YOUR shelves!