Spicing it up with a short story!

We all love a party, right? Join me for a party taking place over the next few weeks on my FB Author page, with fun posts, spice trivia, prizes — and you, I hope! It’s all in celebration of the upcoming launch of Between a Wok and a Dead Place, the 7th Spice Shop mystery. Each week until mid July, I’ll be talking about the origins of one book in the series, starting this week with my contribution to the newly-launched Murder at Sea: A Destination Murders anthology. In “Seafood Rub,” Pepper and Nate take a long weekend getaway, only to find that trouble boarded the same ferry, and that killer whales are not the only mammals who circle their prey.

Although I’ve written seven Spice Shop mysteries, this is Pepper’s first appearance in a short story. I enjoyed writing short — about 12K, compared to the novels at 75-80K — for several reasons. It’s always risky to take a series character with a strong tie to a particular place away from it, without losing part of what readers love. In a short story, I could take Pepper away from her shop, Pike Place Market, and Seattle, making references to it, but because of the compressed time and word count, readers know we’ll be back. I had an idea I wanted to explore — the not-uncommon experience of seeing a stranger repeatedly while traveling and wondering if there’s a reason — that I didn’t think would support a full novel. Only one recurring character, Pepper’s boyfriend Nate, is along for the weekend, so I was able to focus on a new cast — a tour group visiting the same island and making some of the same excursions as Pepper and Nate — without having to work in the usual cast of recurring characters.

I’m one of eight contributors, and of course, we’re all hoping that readers who pick up the book because they know and enjoy one author’s work will discover new-to-them authors and pick up our books.

Earlier Destination Murders volumes are Murder at the Beach (I’m not in it) and Murder in the Mountains, which includes my story “The Picture of Guilt,” featuring characters from my Food Lovers’ Village mysteries.

I hope you’ll take a little vacation on the page — and join me on Facebook as we celebrate the Spice Shop mysteries!

The Saturday Creativity Quote

tulips

“Only when the brain is confronted with stimuli that it has not encountered before does it start to reorganize perception. The surest way to provoke the imagination, then, is to seek out environments you have no experience with. They may have nothing to do with your area of expertise. It doesn’t matter. Because the same systems in the brain carry out both perception and imagination, there will be cross talk.”

— neuroscientist Gregory Berns, MD, PhD, in a 2008 article, Neuroscience Sheds New Light on Creativity

Law and Fiction — circumstantial evidence

desk

In my posts and presentations on the common mistakes writers make about the law, I often talk about the difference between direct and circumstantial evidence. This article on homicide charges recently filed against a Utah woman for her husband’s murder lays out a good case of circumstantial evidence: evidence of facts that lead to an inference of guilt.

Turns out the man had told others if something happened to him, look at her. Changes in wills and insurance policies, drugged drinks, fentanyl purchases, and more. But one of the most eye-popping threads in this story? After her husband’s death, she published a book for children on dealing with the loss of a parent.

Good grief.

The Saturday Creativity Quote: What is yours to do?

daffodils blooming between the cracks in a rock

Last weekend, I attended the Pikes Peak Writers Conference in Colorado Springs, giving presentations on building character, setting, and common mistakes writers make about the law. Barbara O’Neal, the keynote speaker at lunch on Sunday, gave a powerful talk focused on a topic for all creators: What is yours to do? What is the work only you can do? She’s reprised those themes in this essay, drawn from the talk, on Writer Unboxed.

daffodils blooming between the cracks in a rock

Lean into that, I say. Into the stories, the paintings, the songs, only you can tell, paint, or sing. The gardens only you can plant. The joys only you can give, the sorrows only you can ease.

What is yours to do?

Law & Fiction — death penalty update

Brass desk lamp with green shade, desk, binder open to a printed manuscript
Leslie’s desk

After a 2014 gubernatorial moratorium and a 2018 state Supreme Court decision invalidating the death penalty, the Washington State legislature has now passed and Governor Inslee has signed a bill officially abolishing the death penalty in Washington State. Here’s more from the Seattle Times, including the role of racial bias in the decision. Twenty-three states have now abolished the death penalty; Oregon has a moratorium.

Books, Crooks, and Councelors

Several states, including Idaho, have reinstituted the firing squad, in response to the increasing difficulty getting the drugs used for lethal injection.

More on the death penalty, its history, and the factors used in imposing it in Books, Crooks & Counselors: How to Write Accurately About Criminal Law and Courtroom Procedure.

The Saturday Creativity Quote — provoking the imagination

Word "Fresh" stenciled on a background of greens and yellows, acrylic paint on canvas
FRESH, acrylic on canvas by Christine Vandeberg

“Only when the brain is confronted with stimuli that it has not encountered before does it start to reorganize perception. The surest way to provoke the imagination, then, is to seek out environments you have no experience with. They may have nothing to do with your area of expertise. It doesn’t matter. Because the same systems in the brain carry out both perception and imagination, there will be cross talk.”

–neuroscientist Gregory Berns, MD, PhD, in a 2008 article titled Neuroscience Sheds New Light on Creativity

So when you’re stuck, do something new, something different. Big or small, change creates new paths for thinking.

Saturday Creativity Quote — on art and politics

oil painting, green and yellow trees reflected in blue water

“I do fundamentally believe that you can change somebody’s mind, you can influence their opinion, you can alter their thought if you do it through art and culture. I think that this is how we develop tolerance, we develop understanding. … Artists are extremely smart. We find ways.”

—Myrna Ayad, Lebanese cultural strategist and art consultant, based in Dubai, discussing an increasing willingness of the Saudi government to allow a greater variety of stories and perspectives in the arts, particularly exhibitions (NPR 3/3/23)

(Tranquility, by Tabby Ivy, oil on canvas; collection of the author)

Saturday Creativity Quote — more from Lamott

cover of book, Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott

“Becoming a writer is about becoming conscious. When you’re conscious and writing from a place of insight and simplicity and real caring about the truth, you have the ability to throw the lights on for your reader. He or she will recognize his or her life and truth in what you say, in the pictures you have painted, and this decreases the terrible sense of isolation that we have all had too much of.”

– Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

Her comments on writing apply equally to any creative endeavor — writing a song, making a painting or a quilt or a gorgeous birthday cake. Art matters. Remember that.