Wednesday, March 25, 2020

A chat with Finn Bartusiak, from Port New






Finn Bartusiak is a character created by Kristine Raymond

Good day, everyone! Tonight we're interviewing Finn Bartusiak, who brings us an awesome mystery. Tell us, Finn, did you choose to become a detective? Or didn’t you have a choice?
First, I’d just like to say, welcome to my home.  It’s an honor having you here.  You remind me a little of my Grandma Lena.  Do you like to cook?  Grandma Lena loves to cook, to which my figure can attest.  I think there’s some leftover pierogi in the fridge.  It won’t take a minute for me to heat it up.  No?  Well, if you change your mind, let me know.  Her pierogi is to die for!
What’s that? Someone told you I’m a detective?  I’m afraid you’ve been misled.  I’m just a simple antique store owner.  As a matter of fact, that Tiffany lamp you’re eyeing is my latest acquisition.  Don’t you love the way the colors catch the light? One of the perks of my job is having first dibs on the inventory.  And I…
What?  Oh, sorry.  I tend to ramble when talking about antiques.  To answer your question, no, I don’t consider myself a detective, per se, although I did decipher that secret code awhile back which led me to… Garfunkel, stop begging.  You ate an hour ago.
My apologies.  He’s always ready for his next meal.  Yes, he is a Basset hound.  What’s that?  Oh, his baldness.  It’s a congenital condition, but he pulls it off, don’t you think?
So much information! I'm glad I remind you of your granny, though I'm not that great of a
cook myself. Tell us, Finn, what’s your daytime occupation? How does it relate to your investigations?
Right, my occupation.  Well, as I was saying, I’m the owner of Finn’s Finds, that cute, little antique store near the beach.  Yes, that’s the one.  A couple of doors down from Dough Knots.  Have you ever visited?  I’d like to think I’d remember all of my customers but the sad fact is, I don’t.  When we’re finished up here maybe you’d like to pop in and take a look around.  Something might catch your eye.  The shop is normally closed on Wednesdays, but I could ope-
Oh, right, sorry.  I'm rambling.  You’re on a schedule, aren’t you?
Well, when a new item comes into the shop, I do a little digging and trace its ownership back as far as I can.  Most of my customers appreciate the effort and enjoy learning the history of the piece they purchase, so I guess, in that sense, I am a detective.  Huh.  Who woulda’ thought?
I see being a detective more as a state of mind than a profession. Would you consider opening one and going pro?
I’m not sure that solving one case qualifies me as a gumshoe though the idea does hold a certain appeal.  On the other hand, after what happened in the cemetery that night, I’m not sure my heart – or any of my other organs and appendages – could handle the danger.  I mean, two hospital stays in the span of two weeks might be a great way to meet my deductible, but the fashions leave a lot to be desired, you know?
How do you deal with the authorities while doing your investigation?
Sorry for laughing.  You see, Port New’s head detective, Zara O’Hara, just happens to be my best friend, and her partner, Duley Beaudry considers me the sister he never had, even though he has two.  So, I tend to get the ‘inside scoop’ on the criminal happenings in town.  Though, come to think of it, they’ve both been kinda tight-lipped around me lately, ever since the secret code fiasco.  In fact, I had to find out about the break-in at Darby’s in the crime beat section of The Port New News. 
Why, those two have been holding out on me!  Just wait until girls’ night!  Zara’s gonna get an earful!
Do you have anyone helping you in your investigations? Tell us more about them.
To give credit where credit is due, I wouldn’t be sitting here talking with you today if it hadn’t been for Garfunkel.  He surprised the heck out of everyone who knows him when he… no, it’s not time for a Fido Bar.  Go take a nap while I visit with Grandma Bertha.  And, stop slobbering on me!
Sorry about that.  He gets enthusiastic when he hears his name.
Back to your question.  Besides Garfunkel, Spencer also lent a hand.  He helped crack the code and he called Zara when…would you like to see a picture?  Why, thank you, I agree; he is quite attractive.  Are you a reader?  The reason I ask is you may recognize him from one of his book jackets.  Yes, that’s right; Spencer Dane.  How many people can say their boyfriend is a best-selling author?

Oh, gosh, I love Spencer Dane! I would never imagine he was your boyfriend. But this is that crucial time in our interview. Tell me one thing about yourself you wouldn't want others to know.
Is our time up already?  Boy, that hour flew!
Hmmm…something about me no one else knows.
When I was seven, I wanted to play with the class gerbil so I let it out of its cage while everyone was at recess.  It slipped under the door and disappeared behind the lockers – hmmm…so, that’s why the exterminator showed up at school the following day.  Anyway, I blamed Gerber’s escape on Monty Halloran and he had to stay after school every afternoon for the rest of the month.  In my defense, he was a bully back then, always pulling my hair and calling me names.
You’re not going to print this in the article, are you?
I make no promises!
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It wasn’t until later in life that Kristine Raymond figured out what she wanted to be when she grew up, an epiphany that occurred in 2013 when she sat down and began writing her first novel.  Sixteen books in multiple genres later, she’s added the title of podcasting host to her resume, thus assuring that she will never be idle.

When a spare moment does present itself, she fills it by navigating the publishing and promotional side of the business.  When not doing that, she spends time with her husband and furbabies (not necessarily in that order) at their home in south-central Kentucky, reads, or binge-watches Netflix. 

To find out more about Kristine, please visit her website at www.kristineraymond.com and follow her on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and BookBub. 

And for links to podcast episodes, guest posts, and other great stuff, check out Word Play with Kristine Raymond at www.wordplaypodcast.com.
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Thursday, March 19, 2020

Thoughts on Murder #3: A Love Letter to the Cozy Community

Thoughts on Murder is Matt Ferraz's column on Grandma Bertha Interviews

Image result for love letter


Dear cozy people,

I love you because you are gentle and kind to each other and to everyone else...

I love you because you're nice to newcomers and don't make fun of people who don't know as much as you do...

I love you because you're quirky and spunky and funny, just like the characters you read and write about...

I love the writers who hold their own characters in their hearts, and put all their love and dedication into them...

I love the readers who follow series and are always keen to help authors improve their work...

I love readers who give a chance to authors they never heard about...

I love the way you adore your pets, and won't stand for animal cruelty...

I love it when you knit and bake, sew and paint, prepare coffee and sweets, all while reading a good murder mystery...

I love your crazy titles, your colourful covers, your funny names and funny surnames...

I love your tea houses, your B&Bs, your bakeries and your bookshops...

Thank you for making this crazy world a little cozier!

Yours,

Matt

Thursday, March 5, 2020

A chat with Toby, the Spellbound Hound !




Toby, the Spellbound Hound is a character created by Jeannie Wycherley

What a delight! You all know how much I love doggies, and today we are going to interview a talking whippetty-Schnauzer-terrier-thingie named Toby. It's not every day that you get to talk to a talking dog! How are you, Toby? 

Hello Grandma Bertha *wags tail politely* I brought you some treats in case you’re hungry. They’re cheesy ones. Cheesy treats are my favourite favourite. It would be nice if we could share.

Oh, that's so sweet of you! Tell me, Toby, what was the first investigation you ever did? What was the

last? Do you expect to do more investigations in the future?

To be honest, as intrepid as I am, I’ve only been involved in one investigation. It was long and involved and incredibly complicated, and I had to draft in reinforcements in the shape of a human called Clarissa (she’s a witch but don’t let that put you off) and some squizzels. I think you might know them as squirrels, but they call themselves squizzels. Honest. I speak squizzel.

I also made friends with a Chaos Wizard. Clarissa calls him ‘an original’. I think she means he’s crazy, but that’s just impolite. I like him a lot!

You see what happened was that The Pointy Woman came to my little house in Devon in England and killed my owner. His name was Old Joe and I loved him so much. And before I could say ‘who’ll feed me my din-dins now?’ she had given me a voice. “Speak to none but me,” she said. And then, horror of horrors, she sent me to the kennels.

I had to escape, which is when I bumped into Clarissa. Together we started to track The Pointy Woman down and find out why she’d killed Old Joe.

I have a feeling there is another adventure in my future. I’ve been seeing someone hanging around my house. I have a feeling she needs my help.



That's very courageous of you, Toby. That's one of the things I love the most about doggies, you're always willing to do good. Now tell me, what’s your major weakness while investigating a murder?

I get side-tracked by snacks, or smells, or other dogs, or interesting people. Or itches.

What can you do that the police can't?

Besides having an amazing sense of smell and incredible hearing, I can scratch behind my ear with my back foot. I bet DC Plum can’t do that. I can also squish myself into a tiny ball and sleep anywhere. I’ve also been known to polish off more than one dinner.

It must be tough doing all that by yourself. Do you have anyone helping you in your investigations? Tell us more about them.

Clarissa is my new human. She’s actually Old Joe’s granddaughter and can you believe she had never been owned by a dog before? The first thing she did was give me a barf. Yuck! She’s a journalist and a witch, but to be honest my magick is better than hers. Don’t tell her I said that, but it is true.

She’s never got any money. I blame The Pointy Woman for that. But she is a good journalist. She’s good at research. I’ve been learning to read but I don’t really like screens so I leave all the google-goggling to her. Also, she can drive, and because I’m quite short, I struggle to reach the pedals. I like to stick my face out of the window and smell the cow manure and foxes when we’re driving down the lanes. I’m not sure Clarissa is that good a driver. I have to cover my ears sometimes because she gets a bit shouty about other road users.



What was the most difficult period in your investigation, and how did you deal with it?

There have been a few difficult periods in my investigations.  Being incarcerated in Sun Valley Pet Sanctuary and on death row, that wasn’t pleasant. Being hurt by The Pointy Woman made me very sad (but I was a brave soldier, Clarissa said). Through it all, I’ve been able to rely on my friends; Clarissa, Dom the Chaos Wizard and his dog, Star, and the dogs at the kennel. They kept me going.

Together we are stronger!

That's what friends are for, am I right? Tell me one thing about yourself you wouldn't want others to know.

I hide my borlies under the Abelia bush in the back garden, but if you tell anyone I will have to magick you into a bee. Okay?

I need to repopulate the bushes in my local vicinity because I nearly caused bee-mageddon when I practised a disappearing spell last summer. Oopsie.

I apologised but, regrettably, I don’t think I’m seen as a friend to bees.

This makes me sad because I love all creatures!

Do you have a favourite quote?

When referring to sandwich fillings, because I like them all: “That’s my favourite favourite.”

Thank you, Toby, this was a great pleasure. Who's a good boy? Who's a good boy? You're a good boy! See you all soon!

__________________________________________________________

Jeannie Wycherley has always been blessed with a wildly overactive imagination. Her formative years were spent inhabiting the glorious worlds that other writers had created, and even now she finds it a wrench to leave Narnia and Alderley Edge behind. As a child she loved history, and visited many sites of interest, with her family, in the UK and around Europe, and was a keen – and sorrowful – observer of the evil man perpetrates. No surprise therefore that she went on to study history at University, and left – or was eventually politely turfed out – with a PhD in modern and contemporary social history.






Monday, March 2, 2020

Thoughts on Murder #2 - Get a Clue (Board)!

Image result for clue board


Thoughts on Murder is Matt Ferraz's column on Grandma Bertha Interviews

I had a Clue board when I was a kid. Who didn't? The game was called Detetive in Brazil, and the names of the characters were a little different, but all in all, the game was the same. As a crime author, I'm always looking for inspiration, and, to me, the Clue board is an amazing tool to develop my writing skills. I'd go as far as to say that Clue is much more interesting for a writer than it is for a reader. Why is that?

A murder has happened, and there are six suspects: Miss Scarlett, Mr Green, Professor Plum, Mrs Peacock, Mrs White and, of course, the infamous Colonel Mustard. The murder weapon could be a number of things, from a dagger to a pipe, and the body had to be found somewhere around a mansion. Each player had a pin that represented a character. They wandered the place trying to find the murderer, the weapon and the scene of the crime.

One of the most fascinating things about Clue is the fact that any player can be the murderer, even you. The game can be played for at least three players, but it's most fun when there are six participants, each representing one character.

The structure of the game isn't like any crime novel you find in a bookshop. Not only do you have to find out the killer's identity, but also the cause of death and the room in which the body lay. These are all things you know as soon as the crime is discovered in a novel or short story. Which such a strange premise, why is this game so popular? 

Playing Clue has much more to do with the process of outlining and writing a crime novel than
reading one. When you're writing a murder mystery, you first find figure all the details and solve the crime in your head. Then you sit down and put it on paper, adding twists and leads that will engage your reader. Outlining is like walking into a labyrinth leaving a thread behind you. Writing the novel is like following that thread all the way back. At some point, the thread can get broke, and it helps if you have the path in your mind. Clue is a great way of training your mind on that.

Some versions of the Clue come with a description of the suspects, which I never liked. In the classic game, you don't know much about these people and their relationship with Mr Boddy, the victim. Like an author who creates a character, you can give them personalities in your head (I know I never trusted Professor Plum). They are not going to be the same personalities your friends created, and that's great! It's part of the fun.

So, the next time you get writer's block, get the dust out of that Clue board and invite some friends for a game night. It becomes even more interesting if they're also mystery writers. You can all get some inspiration, all while having good laughs.

Cheers,

Matt Ferraz

PS: Grandma Bertha's next interview will be published by the end of the week

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Thoughts on Murder #1: The Knives Out money issue

Thoughts on Murder is Matt Ferraz's column on Grandma Bertha Interviews

This is a spoiler-free essay about the movie Knives Out (2019). Please keep the comments spoiler-free as well


Written and directed by Rian Johnson, the movie Knives Out was a pleasant surprise for mystery fans. The script for subverts the whodunit genre in many interesting ways and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. The plot deals with the murder of crime writer Harlan Thrombey (played by Christopher Plummer) and the investigation that ensues. With a great cast and clever twists, the movie is a treat and will keep you guessing till the end.

However, our goal here today isn't to discuss the mystery per se. Watching the movie for the first time, I was intrigued by Harlan Thrombey's career as a crime writer. Specifically, I was intrigued by the fact that he made such a big fortune by managing his books the way he does.

Harlan lives in a huge mansion and supports many of his younger relatives. His fortune is estimated at 60 million dollars at the time of his death. It's unlikely that a book author would make so much money. Unlikely, but not impossible. Remember the case of J.K. Rowling, who became richer than Queen Elizabeth through her Harry Potter books.

There lies the rub, though. The movie is very specific about Harlan's arguments with his son's Walt (Michael Shannon) who manages his publishing house. It's made clear that Harlan releases two books a year in the publisher that, apparently, only prints his own work. Meaning he's self-published and has been so since the beginning of his career, far before the advent of on-demand printing and ebooks. Speaking of ebooks, Harlan doesn't like them, neither does he allow any of his novels to be adapted into film or television.

By trying to make Harlan an old school author, Rian Johnson creates an uneven situation. It's established that the character is 86 years old at the time of his death and that the movie takes place in the year of its release, 2019.  One could argue Harlan started at a big publisher and then migrated to his own company, but that's pure speculation since it's never stated anywhere in the movie. If one considers the amount of resources it would take to make it that big as a self-published author around the time Harlan started releasing his work, it makes it hard to believe he would have done so without selling rights to film or TV or releasing other authors under his imprint. 

At a certain point, Harlan's son Walt complains about that attitude, saying that it's on movies and TV that the real money is. He also tries to convince his father to release his work on digital platforms. But Harlan remains adamant. He hates movies and is a brick and mortar author.



It's clear that Johnson wants to create an old fashioned crime author, who lives in a big mansion that resembles a Clue board and wants to do everything his own way. A mix of J.D. Salinger and Agatha Christie which, interesting as he may be as a character, doesn't make much sense for anyone who's familiar with the publishing business.

That doesn't spoil the movie, though. Not even Daniel Craig's attempt at a Southern American accent does. Knives Out remains an amazing movie that you should check out right now. Let me know your thoughts on the comments, and don't forget to check out Grandma Bertha's interviews! 

Yours,

Matt Ferraz

Monday, February 24, 2020

A chat with Pippa Parker after such a long time!





Pippa Parker was created by Liz Hedgecock

Greetings, my dear readers! It's been a while, I know. Last Christmas was crazy! I had to take a break after solving the murder of the girl with the missing toe (all about that here) and put my blog aside.

But now we are back, and better than ever! Apart from the usual interviews, we'll also have weekly posts from Matt talking about his craft. But now, let's have a chat with the lovely Pippa Parker, one of my favorite amateur detectives of all time. 

It's great having you here, Pippa. Tell us: what’s your major strength while investigating a murder?

Multitasking. I have to fit my investigations around the school run, nursery, making lunch for the kids, and doing my actual job. What is my actual job again?

Did you choose to become a detective? Or didn’t you have a choice? 

Becoming a detective was the last thing on my mind. As far as I was concerned I was just trying to fit into the weird village that I’d moved to against my will, and make some friends. It was only when the woman who runs our local playgroup got bashed on the back of the head that I had no choice but to get involved!

It happens more than you think. And what’s your daytime occupation? How does it relate to your investigations? 

By day I run events and manage bookings for Lady Higginbotham, owner of Higginbotham Hall, and Serendipity Jones, crafter extraordinaire. I also act as a brake on some of Lady H's wilder ideas. I combine this with being a director of operations, head cook and bottle washer, expert negotiator, activities coordinator and chauffeur. In other words, I’m a mum.
 
What do you like least about investigating a case? 

Generally I back away from a case until I get dragged into it. Then I complain about it to anyone who will listen (unless I’m undercover), and eventually I get so pulled into the case that I forget to do things like sleep.

And what do you know about investigating? How did you acquire that knowledge? 

I’ve probably learnt all that I know about investigating from reading Agatha Christie books. I’m a complete amateur, and I think that means that I pick up on the little things that intrigue me, which the police might miss. I’ve definitely got the nosiness and curiosity to make a good detective. Even if it gets me into trouble the rest of the time.

Who do you see yourself closest to: Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot, Miss Marple or Sam Spade? 

I’d like to think that I am an intuitive genius and master of disguise like Sherlock Holmes. I'd certainly like to have a housekeeper to look after me, and a faithful companion to write all my adventures. However, I’m probably more like Miss Marple, poking my nose in where it often isn’t wanted, and relating things to my everyday life. I’m not sure I’d want to wear as much wool as she does though. Itchy.

How do you deal with the authorities while doing your investigation? 

If I can work with them, I do. Otherwise I pretend they’re not there and ignore them. I generally find that it’s easier to beg forgiveness than it is to ask for permission. Although again, sometimes that gets me into hot water. Can you see a pattern emerging here?

Tell me one thing about yourself you wouldn't want others to know.

I can actually cook quite well, but mostly I can't be bothered. 

Great having you here, Pippa. I'm a big fan of your work! And thank you to all my good readers. Remember: if you are a cozy mystery author, contact me using the form on the right side of this blog, and we'll arrange an interview. See you all later!


Books in the Pippa Parker Mysteries series:

Murder at the Playgroup
Murder in the Choir
A Fete Worse Than Death
Murder in the Meadow
The QWERTY Murders (just released!)




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Liz Hedgecock grew up in London, England, did an English degree, and then took forever to start writing. After several years working in the National Health Service, some short stories crept into the world. A few even won prizes. Then the stories started to grow longer... 

Now Liz travels between the nineteenth and twenty-first centuries, murdering people. To be fair, she does usually clean up after herself. 

Liz’s reimaginings of Sherlock Holmes, her Pippa Parker cozy mystery series, and the Caster & Fleet Victorian mystery series (with Paula Harmon) are available in ebook and paperback.

Liz lives in Cheshire with her husband and two sons, and when she’s not writing or child-wrangling you can usually find her reading, messing about on Twitter, or cooing over stuff in museums and art galleries. That's her story, anyway, and she's sticking to it. 

Amazon book page: http://Author.to/LizH
Facebook author page: www.facebook.com/lizhedgecockwrites