The Saturday Creativity Quote — on theme

Mountain view, through trees

When you’re thinking about a new story — whether you discover your story in the form of a plan or outline or in the form of sentences and scenes, whether you decide on a theme or watch it emerge — this is wise advice.

“What do you care about the most, right now, as you plan a new story? What hurts? What makes you really angry? There will be something in your life, or in the life of a friend, or in the news, that sparks an idea in your mind. Maybe it ties in with another idea, and so a third, new one is born?”

– Anne Perry, The Writer, November 2011

The Saturday Creativity Quote — Anthony Doerr on the subconscious

photo of welded sculpture of a heron, with a mountain lake in the background

When I’m working on a project, which is pretty much all the time, and I have to be away from my desk, whether for an afternoon of errands or a weekend at a convention, I play a little game with myself. What three things from my own experience—what I think, feel, eat, hear, notice, worry about—can I give one of my characters? It’s a way of consciously keeping the subconscious engaged. Play it often enough and you’ll just do it, without thinking about it. So I like what Anthony Doerr has to say about creating the opportunities for story questions and insights.

“If you’re working lots every day, suddenly the world starts glowing and crackling with little gifts you can harvest and plug into your projects. You see a woman in a gown get into a Pontiac and start to cry and you think: What is the story there? What if my protagonist sees a similar thing? Or you read a description of how the sea sounds in rocks, and you realize, I could use that same word – “sounds” – when my character goes to the sea and hears it gurgling through the pebbles. Or you see light bounding down through the leaves of an oak, or a nun slip on ice, or a row of dead mosquitoes on a windowsill. And your mind starts translating these things into language. . . .
“The more hours a project is part of your day, the more it will be in your subconscious during the rest of the hours when you’re not working.”

– Anthony Doerr, The Writer, Oct 2014

Between a Wok and a Dead Place is out today!

It’s the Lunar New Year, and fortunes are about to change.

Between a Wok and a Dead Place -- book cover, showing shop interior decorated for the Lunar New Year, and an Airedale terrier
Book cover for Between a Wok and a Dead Place

Pepper Reece, owner of the Spice Shop in Seattle’s Pike Place Market, loves a good festival, especially one serving up tasty treats. So what could be more fun than a food walk in the city’s Chinatown–International District, celebrating the Year of the Rabbit?

But when her friend Roxanne stumbles across a man’s body in the Gold Rush, a long-closed residential hotel, questions leap out. Who was he? What was he doing in the dust-encrusted herbal pharmacy in the hotel’s basement? Why was the pharmacy closed up—and why are the owners so reluctant to talk?

With each new discovery, Pepper find herself asking new questions and facing more brick walls.

Then questions arise about Roxanne and her relationship to Pepper’s boyfriend Nate, away fishing in Alaska. Between her worries and her struggle to hire staff at the Spice Shop, Pepper has her hands and her heart full. Still, she can’t resist the lure of the Gold Rush and its tangled history of secrets and lies stretching back nearly a century.

But the killer is on her tail, driven by hidden demons and desires. As Pepper begins to expose the long-concealed truth, a bigger question emerges: Can she uncover the secrets of the Gold Rush Hotel without being pushed from the wok into the fire?

Out today in paperback, ebook, and audio. Links here.

Sending a new book into the world is always exciting — and a little scary!

I’m sure you understand. We work for something, look forward to it, and then all of a sudden — after what seems like ages — it’s here!

Between a Wok and a Dead Place is the 7th Spice Shop mystery. I love giving readers a tour of Pike Place Market, a place I fell hard for on my first visit as a college freshman. But I love taking readers to other parts of Seattle, too. The Chinatown-International District has a long history, and its residential hotels — some dating back to the 1880s — played a vital role in the city’s economic and cultural development. When Mr. Right and I toured one several years ago, I was struck by their rich history. What secrets did they hold? I could only imagine . . .

And so I spent months imagining. Reading. Poring over pictures and maps and more. All so I could bring my fictional Gold Rush Hotel to life, for me and you.
I hope you enjoy another visit to Seattle with me.

And if you would, friends, please spread the word, in person, on social media, any way you can. Publicity, interviews, events are very effective, but nothing is more powerful than passionate word-of-mouth.

LB Author

My thanks, always,


If you’re in Western Montana, here’s where I’ll be the rest of the summer. Let’s get together!

The Saturday Creativity Quote — the role of self-doubt

Rushing water between two large sedimentary rocks

A book out next Tuesday — Between a Wok and a Dead Place — and another spread out on the desk. Of course the little gremlins of doubt are nattering at me. I have learned that they can be useful at times, when they spur us to improve our work, to go deeper into character and motivation, to reach for a better phrase or keener observation, to sharpen the dialogue, but when they tell me I’m not any good, I tell them to go read a book in the corner or nap with the cat and we’ll talk later. And then I get to work and trust we’ll all be in a better place next time.

“Accept that your work will never feel satisfactory, because without that self-critical element, we’d never try to improve. Our yearning to accomplish more is what makes it possible to endure a learning process that for quite some time may offer little promise of external reward.
. . .
[I]t isn’t up to us to believe in ourselves, it’s up to us to do the work.”
– Kathryn Craft, “The Hidden—but Crucial—Mad Skill,” Writer Unboxed, 12/9/21

BLIND FAITH is a Kindle Daily Deal — July 12

Today only (July 12), my Blind Faith (written as Alicia Beckman), is a Kindle Daily Deal — only 2.99! Heck, the cover alone is worth that.

From the cover:

Long-buried secrets come back with a vengeance in a cold case gone red-hot in Agatha Award-winning author Alicia Beckman’s second novel, perfect for fans of Laura Lippman and Greer Hendricks.

For decades, the unsolved murder of Father Michael Leary has haunted Billings, Montana, the community he served. Who summoned the priest late one autumn night, then left his body in a sandstone gully for the ravens and other wild scavengers?

And it’s haunted no one more than Lindsay Keller, who admired and confided in him as a teenager. Compelled by his example to work for justice, she became a prosecutor. But after a devastating case left her shattered, she fled the rough-and-tumble for the safety of a desk, handling real estate deals and historic preservation projects. Good work, but not what she’d dreamed of.

Now Lindsay finds herself in possession of the priest’s wallet, the photo of a young girl tucked inside. She’s sure she knows the girl, and that it’s tied to his death. But how?

Detective Brian Donovan, a hot-shot Boston transplant, would like nothing more than to solve the county’s coldest case. Probing the life and death of Father Leary takes Lindsay and Donovan deep into long-simmering tensions in this seemingly-peaceful place.

Then another woman far away digs up unexpected clues about her own family’s past—a history rooted in a shocking truth—and her questions bring her to Lindsay and the detective. But the dangerous answers could rock the community to its very core.


The Saturday Creativity Quote

I’ve got a new mystery coming in just 10 days — Between a Wok and a Dead Place, out July 18 — so no surprise that when I scanned my collection of quotes about art, writing, and creativity, this one jumped out at me.

“The detective isn’t your main character, and neither is your villain. The main character is the corpse. The detective’s job is to seek justice for the corpse. It’s the corpse’s story, first and foremost.”

— Ross Macdonald, a pen name for the Canadian-American mystery writer Kenneth Millar (1915-83, creator of Lew Archer, one of my favorite detectives

Saturday Creativity Quote — on the pain of truth

photo of welded sculpture of a heron, with a mountain lake in the background

“As a child I was taught that to tell the truth was often painful. As an adult I have learned that not to tell the truth is more painful, and that the fear of telling the truth — whatever the truth may be — that fear is the most painful sensation of a moral life.”

June Jordan, American poet and activist (1936-2002), in Some of Us Did Not Die: New and Selected Essays (quoted by James Clear in his newsletter)

(Welded sculpture of heron at Flathead Lake; author photo)