Saturday Creativity Quote

Tulip Festival, Roozengarde, LaConnor, Washington

A few weeks ago, I had to replace the wireless mouse and keyboard I use (liquids were involved but Mr. Kitten is blameless), and in the process, cleaned out the lap drawer tray on my desk where the keyboard lives. I had all kinds of notes and quotes taped inside it. (Plus some fur, for which Mr. K is entirely to blame.) This one is worth sharing:

“You never get it done and you cannot get it wrong. Life is supposed to be fun: you are creators; you are a focusing mechanism, and you are here in an environment that is very conducive to that. When you get hold of an idea, play it out for the pleasure in it. If you are doing it for any other reason, then you are not connecting to your Source Energy.”

– Abraham, via Esther Hicks

(So maybe you aren’t keen on spiritual entities channeled via humans. Not sure I am, either, but let’s forget that and focus on the substance. A reminder, regardless.)

Pike Place Market: Magic in the Heart of the City

An edited version of this essay appeared in the program for Left Coast Crime 2024: Seattle Shakedown, held April 11-14 in Bellevue, Washington. There wasn’t time for me to take readers to the Market and show them some of the places I love, so I’m grateful to have been asked to contribute this piece. (All the photos are mine.)

Pike Place Market: Magic in the Heart of the City, by Leslie Budewitz

“This market is yours. It is here to stay and there is no influence, no power, no combination and no set of either political or commercial grafters that will destroy it.”
—Seattle City Councilman Thomas Revelle, dedicating Pike Place Market on November 30, 1907

I fell in love with Seattle’s Pike Place Market as a wide-eyed college freshman just a few years after residents voted to save the Market from “urban removal.” It was funky and vibrant, and I adored every inch of it. I made it my mission to eat my way through the place, and since it’s constantly changing, I’ll never be finished.

In the late 1970s, not every corner was clean; not every pillar and post stood upright. The Market is an amalgam of buildings erected over the decades bearing history-laden names like the Economy Market, the Sanitary Market (no horses allowed!), and the Soames/Dunne Building. Suburban growth and the economic downturn that hit the city hard had taken their toll. Many farm stalls and shop fronts stood empty. Some days, it’s said, pigeons outnumbered potatoes.

Will the last person leaving Seattle turn out the lights?
—1970s billboard

After a years-long public campaign, voters approved the creation of the Pike Place Market Historical District in 1971, later the first mixed residential and commercial use project named to the National Historic Register. The mission was clear: Preserve Seattle’s history. Foster the direct link between the region’s farmers and food producers to the community they fed. Provide public services and low income housing. And do it with Northwest style!

And while the Market was coming back to life, a few ghost stories emerged as well: The early Market Master who wore a top hat and loved to dance and who, some say, can still be seen dancing past upper story windows. The orphaned stable boys who slept in the hallways and now occasionally toy with shop merchandise at night. The ghosts of men murdered for bounty money who haunt the old mortuary, but are appeased by a pitcher of beer left out at night.

When I was a college kid trekking down the hill from Seattle University to prowl the cobbled streets, behind-the-scenes renovations were upgrading the structures and utilities. The Preservation and Development Authority was busy ensuring that farmers could sell their produce, fishermen their catch, bakers their breads and rolls. The PDA helped stabilize and grow existing businesses and incubate new ones. They created the network of arts and crafts vendors who fill the daystalls in the Main Arcade, and established funding sources for the community foundation that provides social services.

Later, as a young lawyer working downtown, I developed a simple routine: Twice a week, I walked to the Market. Bought a slice of pizza at DeLaurenti’s on the corner of First and Pike. Stood at the newsstand browsing newspapers and magazines from around the world with my eyes—hands off until my pizza was gone. Strolled down to Market Spice for a sample cup of tea redolent with orange and cloves. Watched salmon fly at Pike Place Fish, where men (and later women) in rubber boots and aprons sang, joked, and tossed the catch threw the air. (“Crab for Montana!” they called back and forth when my visiting mother made a purchase. She was mortified and delighted.) I tasted food and flavors I had never known.

Then I went in search of a cookie, nibbling while listening to street-corner musicians, marveling at the man who rolled his painted piano along the sidewalks. I bought books and scarves from merchants in the lower levels known as “Down Under” and earrings and a Hmong quilted pillow from Market artists. I bought fruit and vegetables, bread and cheese and coffee, and occasionally, flowers.

The Market is home to more than seventy-five farmers, two hundred shops and restaurants, two hundred craftspeople known as daystallers, a score or more of buskers ranging from musical trios to balloon artists, and nearly five hundred residents, all on nine acres. Not to mention ten million visitors a year.
Between a Wok and a Dead Place, by Leslie Budewitz

As Seattle has changed, so has the Market. Neighborhood groceries offer more variety than in years past. Weekend farmers’ markets dot the city. But Pike Place—which is both the main street and the name locals use—continues to thrive. The focus remains a direct-to-consumer farm connection, served up alongside a dizzying array of shops and restaurants. Artistic delight has become a bigger part of the experience. Light fixtures take the shape of cast aluminum figures who climb the walls, globes in hand. Tile walls celebrate flora and fauna. No one knows the point of the disgusting bit of psychogrunge that is the Gum Wall, but it adds color and story nonetheless.

My Spice Shop mysteries are an example of the urban or city-based cozy, a subgenre built around a community within a community. The Market embodies that perfectly. My goal has always been to convey the literal and figurative flavor of the place. To create a world where the reader can taste the food, meet the people, and smell the salt air tinged with coffee and salmon, all while absorbed in a mystery that means something, in a story that could be set nowhere else.

“It’s the Market. Anything can happen here.”
—Pepper Reece, in Assault and Pepper, by Leslie Budewitz

After more than a century, Pike Place Market remains the heart and soul of Seattle—and its stomach. I hope you’ll make a visit while you’re here, on foot or on the page, to experience the magic for yourself.

Leslie Budewitz lives and writes in NW Montana, but a piece of her heart will always walk beside the ghosts along the cobbles of Pike Place.

Saturday Creativity Quote — on community

In April, I went to both Left Coast Crime, the mystery fan convention held in late winter or spring somewhere in the West, and Malice Domestic, the fan convention celebrating the traditional mystery held in Bethesda, Maryland the last weekend in April. Two weeks apart — remind me not to do that again. But it was great fun. (More photos below.)

Nominees for the Agatha Award for Best Contemporary Novel (clockwise from lower left: Korina Moss, Tara Laskowski (winner), Annette Dashofy, Ellen Byron, Leslie Budewitz (moderator), and Gigi Pandian)

I love meeting readers in person, and both cons are great opportunities for that. It’s also wonderful to hear authors, readers, booksellers, and editors speak on panels about various aspects of the writing craft, bookselling, and publishing. The conversations over coffee or dinner and in the hallways are priceless, especially for a writer like me who is happier and healthier because I spend most of my time alone with people who only exist because I made them up.

I always come home exhausted, but inspired. Inspired to read more, write better, connect with more readers and writers. No doubt that’s why I reached for a notebook during Nina Simon’s remarks on accepting the Lefty for Best Debut for Mother-Daughter Murder Night, when she said “Creativity comes from the community.”

It does, doesn’t it? From our brains and hearts, but in communication with all we experience and all those we connect with.

On this writing journey of yours, don’t go it alone. Create a community, online or in person, with others who care about books and creative work just as you do. Nurture it. You — and your readers — will be happy you did.

Join the fun next year! Registration is open for both Malice and LCC.

Three Sisters in Crime presidents! Past President Lori Rader-Day (2019-20), me (2015-16), and current president Kelly Oliver

Ten Favorite Novels About the Law

With courtroom drama taking up a lot of ink and news time lately, I thought I’d reprise an article I originally wrote for The Writer in September 2013. The Writer published my list of common mistakes mistakes writers make about the law, as a follow-up to my nonfiction guide for writers, Books, Crooks, and Counselors: How to Write Accurately About Criminal Law and Courtroom Procedure (Linden/Quill Driver, 2011). The editors asked me for a list of favorite novels about the law, published in a sidebar. And you know what? Though I’ve read hundreds of novels since then, I don’t know that I’d change a single one.

Herewith, one lawyer-writer’s list:

To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee (1960) – None of us will ever be Atticus Finch, but we’re better for trying.

Snow Falling on Cedars, David Guterson (1995) – Trial and prejudice, with brilliant courtroom dialogue.

The Firm, John Grisham (1991) – A newbie with a dog named Hearsay outwits his wily bosses—what’s not to love?

Rumpole of the Bailey series, John Mortimer (1978-2009) – Taught me everything I know about the British legal system.

Presumed Innocent, Scott Turow (1987) – The epitome of the legal thriller.

Anatomy of a Murder, Robert Traver (1958) – A classic by a Michigan judge, basis of the fine and fiery movie.

Every Secret Thing, Laura Lippman (2003) – A castoff Barbie, a missing baby, and two young girls—a heart-breaking look at juvenile justice.

If I’d Killed Him When I Met Him, Sharyn McCrumb (1995) – Domestic violence is nothing new.

The Trial, Franz Kafka (1925) – Still gives me the chills.

The Indian Lawyer, James Welch (1990) – A tale of anger and revenge, beautifully told.

Got a favorite book or movie touching on the law?

Saturday Creativity Quote — reaching through the veil

Trees in the Mist, photo by Leslie Budewitz

I’m a big fan of the group blog Writer Unboxed, where more than 30 authors share advice on the craft and business of writing, and on motivation and inspiration. On the surface, this quote seems to speak mainly to authors of fantasy or magical novels, but I think it says more than that. It touches on a point I’ve often made here, that our work should say something true, something not immediately visible. Something you have to quiet your own mind and listen to the world to grasp, and to figure out how to express.

“Where do writers get their ideas? Sure, we might just be making it all up. But what if a writer is the only point of contact with an urgently real-in-its-way world that’s hidden from all others? We rub the membrane thin, and story leaks out. Or maybe we raise our lightning rods, and story flashes down our arms and onto the page. Or we open a door, and the ideas rush in. Choose your metaphor, but in every case, it is your role as a writer to document those moments of connection. Without your books, other worlds remain obscured. Without you, we will never be transported to the time and place that you alone can find.”
— Kristen Hacken South, “Thin Places,” on Writer Unboxed

Carried to the Grave is out in audio today!

Delighted to say that after a long wait, Carried to the Grave and Other Stories: A Food Lovers’ Village Mystery, is out in audiobook today, in all audio formats. It’s the last book in the Village series, a collection of five contemporary short stories featuring Erin and the Villagers, and a novella, “An Unholy Death,” a historical prequel set in 1910, the year Erin’s great-grandparents, Paddy and Kate Murphy, married and started the Merc in Jewel Bay, Montana. Turns out Erin may have inherited her sleuthing skills.

There is one more Village short story, “The Picture of Guilt,” originally published in Murder in the Mountains, a collection of short stories by 9 authors. It’s also available free to newsletter subscribers — sign up here. Erin and Adam are on the trail of the wily huckleberry, and an equally wily killer.

And who knows, maybe Erin or Kate will return for another story or two! Meanwhile, enjoy the trip to Montana — via audio.

Saturday Creativity Quote — listening to your own voice

“Poetry is often the art of overhearing yourself say things you didn’t know you knew. It is a learned skill to force yourself to articulate your life, your present world or your possibilities for the future. We need that same skill as an art of survival. We need to overhear the tiny but very consequential things we say that reveal ourselves to ourselves.”
– Irish poet David Whyte

Novelist Paul Lynch said something similar in his PBS interview, which I quoted a few weeks ago, about the difficulty of listening to ourselves in the modern world, shaped by the noise of technology. I think the Irish writers are on to something!

How can you make time in your day to quiet yourself enough to hear your own voice?

(Painting: In the Clearwater Valley, by Leslie Budewitz; pastel on suedeboard)

BITTERROOT LAKE is a Kindle Daily Deal for Wed, April 10

My first standalone suspense novel, BITTERROOT LAKE, written as Alicia Beckman, is a 1.99 Kindle Daily Deal today only, Wednesday, April 10.


From the cover:

When four women separated by tragedy reunite at a lakeside Montana lodge, murder forces them to confront everything they thought they knew about the terrifying accident that tore them apart, in Agatha Award-winning author Alicia Beckman’s suspense debut.

Twenty-five years ago, during a celebratory weekend at historic Whitetail Lodge, Sarah McCaskill had a vision. A dream. A nightmare. When a young man was killed, Sarah’s guilt over having ignored the warning in her dreams devastated her. Her friendships with her closest friends, and her sister, fell apart as she worked to build a new life in a new city. But she never stopped loving Whitetail Lodge on the shores of Bitterroot Lake.

Now that she’s a young widow, her mother urges her to return to the lodge for healing. But when she arrives, she’s greeted by an old friend–and by news of a murder that’s clearly tied to that tragic day she’ll never forget.

And the dreams are back, too. What dangers are they warning of this time? As Sarah and her friends dig into the history of the lodge and the McCaskill family, they uncover a legacy of secrets and make a discovery that gives a chilling new meaning to the dreams. Now, they can no longer ignore the ominous portents from the past that point to a danger more present than any of them could know.

Saturday Creativity Quote — on twists and villains

Black question mark on white background

Writers working on a mystery or thriller typically focus on the protagonist, the main character, who is often also the narrator, and sometimes a stand-in for the writer. The writer is most interested in that person, the problems they face, how they unmask the villain and save the world or their community. And too often, not enough thought goes into the villain or antagonist –– they are a foil the writer moves around the page, coming up with their motivation (if at all) as an afterthought. It’s hard, I know. Believe me, I know! So I liked this perspective:

The protagonist’s journey in both thrillers and mysteries is effectively the unveiling of the villain’s plan, as experienced by the protagonist. The protagonist is our (the reader’s) ‘guide’ through the story, because the protagonist is the character leading the reader along as they uncover what the villain was/is ultimately up to. As such, I like to define twists as follows: Twists are the reveal of the villain’s truth. This truth feels “twisty,” because the reveal of the truth is unexpected to the protagonist.

— Samantha Skal, in a blog post, Designing Thriller and Mystery Twists That Work

What is your villain’s truth? What is she really after? What will she do to get it? How will she respond to anyone in her way?