My Writing Process (A Blog Hop)

Susan Holmes Author Photo 300dpi

I’ve been tagged!  Tagged, that is, to participate in a blog hop for writers. My thanks to C. A. Newsome and Corrie Fischer for inviting me to play along!

Every Monday authors blog about their own writing process, using a standard format and answering the same questions.  This is definitely a multi-genre hop; I’ve seen mystery, paranormal, young adult, and romance. Follow the links to “meet” more writers.

What am I working on?

I’m writing Death Tracks, the second in the Waterside Kennels mystery series. This one picks up soon after the events of the summer chronicled in Deadly Ties. After the trouble she had over the summer, all Maggie Porter wants to do is run her boarding kennel and training business. And she wants to spend time with her own dogs—an aging Cocker Spaniel, a champion Labrador Retriever and a Beagle retired from federal service.

Alas, a quiet life is not to be. First, an abrasive community member launches a campaign to enact a “dangerous dog” ordinance which could force Maggie out of business—or into jail. When he’s found dead near the kennel, some in the community have their own reasons for wanting to pin the murder on Maggie herself. Under a cloud of suspicion and with her home and business at risk, she sets out to clear her name and finds herself caught in a murderous land feud that could tear the mountain community apart.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

You’ll find elements of the traditional cozy mystery in my work: an amateur sleuth, a small community, connections to local law enforcement, and a mystery my sleuth is motivated to solve. There’s an eclectic group of characters, a hint of romance, and plenty of plot twists to keep you guessing.

You won’t find vulgar language or graphic violence in my books. I do push the traditional definition of a cozy, though, by introducing a bit more suspense, a bit more trouble than you might see in a typical light-hearted, whimsical romp. My characters—including the dogs!—are good, bad, and sometimes both. That might be why my work has been called “a cozy with an edge.”  Still, they’re the sort you finish with a sense of satisfaction. Mystery solved, justice served, the villains get their comeuppance, and you’re not left with violent images to disturb your sleep!

Why do I write what I do?

I like puzzles. I like writing about ordinary people in challenging situations. If my sleuth gets into trouble, she’s smart enough to figure a way out. She’s loyal and willing to stand up for what she thinks is right.

I write about the Ozarks because I love the region. I want readers to see beyond the stereotype and appreciate the beauty of the place and its people. I’m fascinated by Ozark myths and legends, and by the family stories handed down from one generation to the next.

How does my writing process work?

I start with a “What if …?” and tinker until I can see how the pieces fit together. Then it’s time for research. I won’t start writing until I know the end of the story. From there I work backward to identify key plot points, character actions, and major scenes. I’ve tried various software programs but eventually go back to what works best for me—sticky notes I can move around on a board.

For many years I wrote with my beloved spaniel, Alix, at my feet. Now I have a rescue kitty, Buddy, who keeps me company. He prefers to supervise me in my office, where he’ll watch my progress from the comfort of a window seat. When he thinks I’ve worked long enough, he strolls across the desk and stands on my keyboard.

Somewhere around the third or fourth draft (I’m a serial reviser), I’ll send bits to my beta readers. I work with three or four beta readers, each with a specific focus. One, for example, is an expert dog trainer. If she says something won’t work, out it goes and I’ll revise until she’s satisfied.  Another is a mystery writer, who is wonderful at spotting plot issues and talking through scenes. A third is an English professor and avid reader who understands the writing process, has a keen eye, and is a wonderful listener. And so it goes, until the book is the best it can be.

Keep on Hopping!

Thanks for reading. Be sure to check out author Corrie Fischer’s post from last week. And on March 10th, look for new blog hop posts by authors Rae DaviesGeorge Jackson, and L. A. Remenicky.

Saturday Signing: Books & Brunch

Food, books, and friends—what could be better on a winter’s day?

Books and Brunch invitation

The owners of Victoria’s Cafe & Bistro and the Trolley Line Bookshop have teamed up to host the “Saturday Signing: Books & Brunch” series in historic downtown Rogers, Arkansas. I’m honored to announce they’re kicking off the series on January 18th with my book, Deadly Ties (A Waterside Kennels mystery).  My thanks to Victoria Christie and Myra Moran for this special event.

If you’re in the area, I hope you’ll come by and join in the fun!

Celebrating a Terrific New Author!

murder-strikes-a-pose

It’s official: Tracy Weber‘s delightful book, MURDER STRIKES A POSE, is now available!

Tracy and I are both members of the national organization Sisters in Crime, and it’s a pleasure to support her as her debut novel hits the stores.

As Tracy says on her website: “Yoga, dogs, and murder…what could be more fun?”  Here’s a snippet from the back of the book:

When George and Bella—a homeless alcoholic and his intimidating German shepherd—disturb the peace outside her studio, yoga instructor Kate Davidson’s Zen-like calm is stretched to the breaking point. Kate tries to get rid of them before Bella scares the yoga pants off her students. Instead, the three form an unlikely friendship.

One night Kate finds George’s body behind her studio. The police dismiss his murder as a drug-related street crime, but she knows George wasn’t a dealer. So Kate starts digging into George’s past while also looking for someone to adopt Bella before she’s sent to the big dog park in the sky. With the murderer nipping at her heels, Kate has to work fast or her next Corpse Pose may be for real.

This is the first book in her Downward Dog mystery series, and I hear book #2 will soon be on its way to the publisher. We can look forward to another Downward Dog mystery soon!

Congratulations, Tracy!

In the Spirit of Giving…

DEADLY TIES 

I’m sharing a free excerpt of Deadly Ties!

If winter weather has you shivering,  visit Eagle Cove where it’s sizzling hot and mystery awaits!

Come meet Maggie Porter and her dogs—a champion Labrador Retriever, an aging Cocker Spaniel, and a Beagle retired from federal service. Maggie’s returned home to reopen the family dog kennel business, where she’s plagued by problems from the start. Serious trouble arises when a gossip-loving employee turns up dead holding an heirloom locket belonging to Maggie’s mother. Anonymous threats and break-ins occur as the violence escalates, and Maggie becomes a target when she searches for answers. With her loyal dogs at her side, she must dig for the truth. Along the way, she learns that everyone has something to hide—and some secrets are worth killing for.

 Deadly Ties FREE EXCERPT

Holidays & Pets

Here in the Ozarks, we’re already trudging through snow and listening to the ice-coated trees creaking in the wind.  It’s a good time to stay inside and enjoy a good book!  If you’re looking for a mystery that’s fun and filled with dogs, start with Laurien Berenson’s Melanie Travis mystery series.  Jingle Bell Bark is a perfect choice for this time of year.

The book is actually the 11th in the series but it’s a great read as a stand-alone cozy mystery, too.  Ms. Berenson is a great writer, and a four-time winner of the Maxwell Award, presented by the Dog Writers Association of America.   You can find her online  and get the latest news about this engaging series!

Books (both traditional and digital editions) are a great way to stretch your holiday shopping budget.  You can shop online at the big retailers like Amazon or Barnes & Noble, or you can keep your money closer to home by shopping at a local  Independent Bookseller.  According to IndieBound: “Spend $100 at a local and $68 of that stays in your community. Spend the same $100 at a national chain, and your community only sees $43.”

And as much as authors would love to see books on your gift list, there’s something else we hope we don’t see on that list–pets!  As exciting as it might sound, bringing a dog or cat into your household during the holiday season creates a lot of stress and that isn’t a good way to begin a long and loving relationship.  As the American Kennel Club reminds us, puppies are not stocking stuffers!  Check this article for the AKC’s suggestions for a safe holiday season with all your beloved pets. And while you’re at it, be sure to read the ASPCA’s tips for watching your pet’s waistline during the holidays!