The Saturday Writing Quote — on professional envy

We all go through it, those moments when you read a book by another author and wonder why you couldn’t have written that, or hear about a deal made or a sales threshold met, and feel something you’d really rather not feel: envy. Not that you don’t want the other person to succeed; not at all. You just want a similar experience. Often, I will use those experiences to identify some element in my work that I can improve. I set the intention, make a plan, study, practice, go. It works. But I think it works best combined with an internal approach, much like that novelist Kathryn Craft describes in a recent post on Writer Unboxed titled Authenticity Builds a Satisfying Author Career. This advice particularly struck me:

“The next time author envy delivers its sucker punch, try this: instead of asking why you can’t have what that other author has, ask, “How can my author life better reflect who I am, so that I’m happier?” Do that, and you’ll build a career that will both fuel you for the long haul and replenish that fuel along the way.”

Writing Wednesday — dressing your characters, part 2

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about using the way your characters dress to convey their work, their hobbies, and their personality, and how that differs with age and locale. But you can also use a piece of personal style for deeper purposes.

In Chai Another Day, my fourth Spice Shop mystery, Pepper encounters a woman who always dresses in black and wears beautiful cinnabar pendants. Turns out the woman, Melissa Kwan, began buying them for good luck after her young son became ill. The boy’s illness, and its effects on the family, twist her judgment and lead her to attack another woman, who Melissa sees as the beneficiary of her own misfortunes. When Melissa later comes after Pepper, the cord breaks and the pendant slides across the floor, catching just enough light for Pepper to see it and identify her attacker. It’s a symbol of all Melissa had hoped for and all she’s lost, in one shiny red object. But it’s good luck for Pepper, who then knows how she can get the upper hand and hope to survive.

Pack the objects that matter to your characters with meaning, and we’ll all be able to identify with them.

Book launch news — Carried to the Grave is out today!

It’s a treat to take you back to the village with this collection of short mysteries.  

Today, May 25, my beloved Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries return with CARRIED TO THE GRAVE AND OTHER STORIES, a collection of five short mysteries featuring Erin and the Villagers, and a historical novella set in 1910, the year Erin’s great-grandmother Kate arrived in Jewel Bay as a new bride. Turns out that Erin’s sleuthing skills may be hereditary! 

From the cover:
In her Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries, Agatha Award-winning author Leslie Budewitz introduces us to Jewel Bay, a tight-knit Montana community that thrives on tourism and farm-to-table fare. Featuring Erin Murphy, beloved proprietor of the Merc—a century-old general store converted into a local foods market—each book brings us closer to the folks who call Jewel Bay home, and the cunning culprits in their midst.

In this delicious new collection of five short stories and one novella, she takes us further into the heart of Jewel Bay—from the playhouse to the Merc, from funerals to food festivals—with equal parts humor, suspense, and compassion, and no shortage of murder to spice up the menu . . .

In “Carried to the Grave,” a long-hidden family secret refuses to be put to rest.

Jewel Bay’s community food festival serves up the perfect opportunity for a devious killer with an appetite for murder in “Pot Luck.”

In “The Christmas Stranger,” a small gesture by a mysterious man turns out to change lives . . . and much more.

A romantic getaway to a secluded beach town in Mexico provides a deadly remedy for a couple’s trouble at home in “A Death in Yelapa.”

As the local playhouse opens for the season, it’s curtains for a stage manager with a secret in “Put on a Dying Face.”

And in “An Unholy Death,” when Kate and Paddy Murphy open Murphy’s Mercantile in 1910, they know making a go of it in rough-and-tumble Montana will be hard work, but for a local preacher, it’s murder.”

I hope you enjoy the trip back to Jewel Bay as much as I’ve enjoyed taking you there. And remember, if you’ve enjoyed my books, please tell your friends, library staff, booksellers—even your dog, if he reads. And leave a review online, if you’re so inclined.     

My thanks, as always, for joining me on this writing journey. 

From my heart,

Beyond the Page Publishing
May 25, 2021
Food Lovers’ Village #6
Available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and your local bookseller.

Writing Wednesday — getting out of your characters’ way

My friend Donnell Bell found this quote from me, in a long-ago online discussion, in her files and made this fun graphic. I honestly don’t remember the context or the conversation, but I know what I meant — or what it means to me now. To create a well-rounded character, you need to give them deep backstory. Give them baggage — experiences, emotions, biases, misconceptions they don’t see or don’t want to change, flaws they don’t want to acknowledge or fix. Aches, joys, jealousies, regrets, and fantasies. When you give them a full suitcase and you know what’s in it, you can unpack it at just the right time. You can pull out an experience that gives your character a particular way of seeing events and responding to them, you can hear that amazing bit of wisdom or that horrible misjudgment come out of their mouths. When they act from their own mixed bag of life, they’ll come alive on the page.

And what do I mean by keeping your own baggage to a minimum? Simply that you need to stay out of your characters’ way. When they horrify you, let them. When they say something that makes you cringe, write it down. Reserve judgment. Let that first draft be all theirs. Only when you have a complete draft is it time to exercise some judgment. Maybe the character showed a side of himself that’s exactly right and you didn’t plan it or expect it, but you unlatched the bag and out it came. In revision, you can decide if it’s too much or needs to be played up. Your writing voice, your subconscious, may have seen opportunities your conscious mind would have been blind to. Get it all out, see what you have, and then edit, sharpen, and polish.

That’s the best way to take your readers on a real trip.

Bitterroot Lake — the celebration continues!

Bitterroot Lake

So happy to hear from so many of you about your trip to Bitterroot Lake. This venture into darker waters has been surprising in many ways, and I’m delighted to have shared it with you.

If you’re in the Flathead, the Bigfork Art & Cultural Center and Roma’s Kitchen Shop in Bigfork have signed copies. Bookworks in Whitefish sold out of the signed copies the first day — yay! — but has unsigned copies now. If you’ve got a copy and would like a signed bookplate and bookmarks, drop me a line. And if you’ve already read the book, I do hope you’ll post a review online, tell a friend, or otherwise spread the word.

Just one event next week to share with you and it will be terrific! On Thursday, May 13, at 7 pm Pacific/ 8 pm Mtn, Northwest authors Ellie Alexander, Emmeline Duncan, Angela Sanders, Alexis Morgan, and I will be joining forces for a conversation about cozy mysteries, why the Northwest is such a great setting, how we write, how we drink our coffee when we write, and much more! Join us via Zoom and this link.

Blogger and reviewer Marshal Zeringue conducts the most interesting interviews! This week, I’m featured on his blog, talking about the origins of the title, Bitterroot Lake, how the names of three major characters led to a critical story insight, and more.

And stay tuned, because next week I’ll be telling you about a completely different project! Hint: While we’ve been reading, and writing, other things, Erin and the Villagers have been busy!