Sue Grafton: My Tribute

I discovered Sue Grafton back in the early 90s. Up till then my mystery reading was limited to Nancy Drew and Agatha Christie. The writing leg of my career was a distant dream. I started with E is for Evidence (I never was one for reading series in order) and Sue had an instant fan. To this day when someone asks, “Who’s your favorite mystery writer?” I don’t hesitate: “Sue Grafton!”

I identified with Kinsey Millhone in many ways: I’m a loner, a non-conformist of sorts, and care little about material possessions. But I’m not very neat and I do have pets and houseplants. I love Santa Barbara and enjoyed seeing it through Kinsey’s eyes.

I loved the laugh-out-loud asides. And this from A is for Alibi is a favorite passage:

She was a chatty little thing, full of pep, and I wondered if she wasn’t about perfect for Henry Pitts. Since Charlie Scorsoni was keeping me waiting, I took my revenge by eliciting as much information from Ruth as I could manage without appearing too rude. She told me she had worked for Scorsoni and Powers since the formation of their partnership seven years ago. Her husband had left her for a younger woman (fifty-five) and Ruth, on her own for the first time in years, had despaired of ever finding a job, as she was then sixty-two years old, “though in perfect health,” she said. She was quick, capable, and of course was being aced out at every turn by women one-third her age who were cute instead of competent.

“The only cleavage I got left, I sit on,” she said and then hooted at herself. 

Sue admitted that her inspiration for A is for Alibi came from her fantasies of murdering her husband during their divorce proceedings.

Over the years I eagerly anticipated each installment of the series. There was only one that I didn’t like and one that I didn’t like that much (no, I won’t tell which ones), but 2 out of 25 is a damn good record.

I recently read Y is for Yesterday and loved every word of it. Kinsey resolved some issues and seemed to be settling into a satisfying life with a ragtag adopted family. So, while we won’t get Z, Y ended on a good note for the series.

It’s almost like Ms. Grafton knew her alphabet would end in Y.

I cried when I heard the news on NPR almost two weeks ago. I didn’t even know she was ill.

For a while I’ve been entertaining thoughts of creating a private investigator. Maybe Sue’s given me a sign that there’s no time like the present to put my thoughts to paper.

Godspeed, dear Sue. Thanks for Kinsey, Henry, Rosie, Vera, and all the gang.

Sue Grafton’s website

NPR announcement









What’s Real in My Fiction?

Today I welcome mystery author Heather Weidner. Her latest, The Tulip Shirt Murders, is out and you’ll want to put it at the top of your TBR list. Heather tells us what’s real—and what isn’t—in her fiction. Enough from me. Here’s Heather:

Thank you so much for letting me stop by and chat with your readers about my writing and my new book, The Tulip Shirt Murders. It’s the second in my Delanie Fitzgerald mystery series.

Recently, I was asked, “How much research do you actually do for fiction and how much of your work is true?” There’s quite a bit of research that goes into writing mysteries. I want to make sure that my stories are plausible and as accurate as possible. Readers notice when writers make mistakes.

I mix quite a bit of “real” in my short stories and novels. All of my settings are actual places. I tend to put my works in Virginia cities and counties because I write what I know.  If a crime occurs, I make up that location’s name. I wouldn’t put a horrific or violent event at a real restaurant or store. But if you’ve been to the cities, you’ll recognize landmarks, neighborhoods, and street names.

I get ideas for crimes and capers from real cases, but I usually take liberties with the details. In my short story, “Washed up,” in Virginia is for Mysteries, a beat up suitcase washes up on Chick’s Beach, and it’s filled with some mysterious contents. Back in the ‘80s, there was a real crime where suitcases filled with body parts did appear on beaches along the East Coast. In my story, I thought it would be interesting for beachgoers to find something old and sinister in an unexpected place.

I base some of my characters on combinations of real people. I blend characteristics of several people to make an interesting fictional person. And phrases that family and friends say frequently appear in my stories. I carry a notebook with me wherever I go, and I am always jotting down names, interesting tidbits, and snippets of dialogue that might one day make their way to a story. I have two co-workers who keep asking me to make them villains. I haven’t done that yet, but I do hint from time to time that unruly team members will end up in a dumpster in a future story.

I use friends and family member’s names for minor characters. In The Tulip Shirt Murders and Secret Lives and Private Eyes, my sleuth, Delanie Fitzgerald, gives herself all kinds of aliases in her investigations. These are usually names of friends and family. And every once in a while, you’ll find police, EMTs, or FBI agents named after my favorite authors, rock stars, or actors.

My sleuth is named for one of my favorite American authors, F. Scott Fitzgerald. And she names her company, Falcon Investigations, in honor of Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon.

I am also very fortunate to be a “CK” (Cop’s Kid). My dad, now retired, is one of my best sources of information on crime and law enforcement. He helps me make sure that the crime scenes are described as accurately as possible. I email him all the time with questions like, “Hey, Dad. What’s a meth lab smell like?” or “How much damage would this type of bullet do at close range?” I am also very fortunate to be a part of Sisters in Crime. Our local chapter (Central Virginia) offers a variety of programs with professionals in criminology, law enforcement, and forensics. Over the years, our chapter has had an arson investigator, a CSX railroad investigator, a forensic psychologist, a search dog trainer, and an alcohol beverage and control officer as guests. These speakers are so knowledgeable and willing to share information. I also appreciate that they answer all my weird, author questions without giving me too many funny looks.

Even though my short stories and novel are fiction, they also contain some truth and reality. And research is important, so that the work is interesting, accurate, and close to true life.

The Tulip Shirt Murders 

Private investigator Delanie Fitzgerald, and her computer hacker partner, Duncan Reynolds, are back for more sleuthing in The Tulip Shirt Murders. When a local music producer hires the duo to find out who is bootlegging his artists’ CDs, Delanie uncovers more than just copyright thieves. And if chasing bootleggers isn’t bad enough, local strip club owner and resident sleaze, Chaz Smith, pops back into Delanie’s life with more requests. The police have their man in a gruesome murder, but the loud-mouthed strip club owner thinks there is more to the open and shut case. Delanie and Duncan link a series of killings with no common threads. And they must put the rest of the missing pieces together before someone else is murdered.

The Tulip Shirt Murders is a fast-paced mystery that appeals to readers who like a strong female sleuth with a knack for getting herself in and out of humorous situations such as larping and trading elbow jabs with roller derby queens.

Author Biography

Heather Weidner’s short stories appear in the Virginia is for Mysteries series and 50 Shades of Cabernet. She is a member of Sisters in Crime – Central Virginia, Guppies, and James River Writers. The Tulip Shirt Murders is her second novel in her Delanie Fitzgerald series.

Originally from Virginia Beach, Heather has been a mystery fan since Scooby Doo and Nancy Drew. She lives in Central Virginia with her husband and a pair of Jack Russell terriers.

Heather earned her BA in English from Virginia Wesleyan College and her MA in American literature from the University of Richmond. Through the years, she has been a technical writer, editor, college professor, software tester, and IT manager. She blogs regularly with the Pens, Paws, and Claws authors.

Author Links

Website and Blog:





Book Link:


Book Links



Barnes and Noble:







Author Giveaways for the Mystery Lover on your gift list (that includes you!)

Need the perfect gift for that crime fiction enthusiast on your list? Look no further than the Sisters in Crime Central Virginia chapter. Our members pen tales of mystery and romantic suspense.

GIVEAWAY! A few of us are giving away print and e-book copies of selected works.

Leave a comment below for your chance to win and be sure to include your e-mail address.  This is a grab bag of sorts, with winners and titles picked randomly. GIVEAWAY ends Monday, December 11, at 10pm EST. Good luck everyone!

Frances Aylor, author of the Robbie Bradford financial thrillers. Frances is giving away two print copies of Money Grab, #1 in the series. US only.

Mollie Cox Bryan has 1 print copy of Death Among the Doilies, a Cora Crafts Mystery to give away, along with 1 e-copy of A Crafty Christmas, a Cumberland Creek Mystery. US only.

Mary Burton is a New York Times bestselling author. Mary is giving away a print copy of one of three titles from The Forgotten Files series: The Shark, The Dollmaker, and The Hangman. US only.

USA Today bestselling author Tina Glasneck‘s giveaway is an e-copy of her Spark Before Dying Book 1, Angels Cry. 

I’m giving away 1 print copy of the 50 Shades of Cabernet anthology and 1 e-book of Murder at the Moonshine Inn, #2 in my Hazel Rose Book Group series.

Win a print copy of Tiger Heart: A Chesapeake Bay Mystery by Vivian Lawry. US only

2 lucky winners will get e-copies of Agatha Award-nominated author LynDee Walker‘s Front Page Fatality, the debut title of her Headlines in High Heels series. US only.

Heather Weidner is giving away 1 print copy of The Tulip Shirt Murders, the latest in her Delanie Fitzgerald series, set right here in Central Virginia. US only.

Enjoy! And we love reviews.

Happy Holidays!

Of Discord, Harmony, and Resolution

Author visit and GIVEAWAY!

Katherine Bolger Hyde is my guest today and she talks about discord, harmony, and resolution in music—and in Bloodstains with Brontë, the latest in her Crime with the Classics series. I loved her first book, Arsenic with Austen, so much that I lost no time in scheduling her to appear here. Enjoy!

To win a copy of Bloodstains with Brontë leave a comment below. US only. Giveaway ends at 10pm EST, Dec. 5.

I’m writing this blog post in my study, which is on the second floor of my home. In the room below me, my composer husband is playing piano. The music sounds disjointed, which means he’s probably playing his own composition-in-progress rather than a pre-existing piece. In the bedroom down the hall, my young-adult son is listening to a recording of electronic music that we have affectionately dubbed “the baritone chipmunk,” while playing his own accompaniment here and there on electric guitar. The effect is, shall we say, discombobulating.

The protagonist of the Crime with the Classics series, Emily Cavanaugh, is on a first-name basis with the discombobulating. In the first book of the series, Arsenic with Austen, she was ripped from her familiar environment as a middle-aged, widowed professor of literature at a small liberal arts college and plunked down in a Victorian mansion in a tiny seaside town, where she suddenly had to deal with an access of wealth, inheriting the role of first citizen of the town, re-encountering her lost first love—and murder.

By the end of that book, Emily had risen to the occasion and succeeded in bringing all these discordant elements into a new kind of harmony in her life. But now in Bloodstains with Brontë, the new foundation she’s built for herself is threatened again. Where the Jane-ian theme of Arsenic with Austen lent itself to a lighter tone with romance in the ascendant, the brooding passions of the Brontë sisters’ novels make for a far more turbulent plot this time around. Emily’s composure, her conflicting loves, and even her view of herself are shaken into a jarring dissonance that threatens not to be resolved.

Resolution, however, is—I suspect—what lovers of traditional mysteries read for above all. The good guys win; the bad guys are punished. There’s some gray swirling around amidst the black and white, but not enough to obscure the distinction between them. In this sense, art does not imitate life, for life rarely provides us with such neat solutions. For every mystery that is resolved in the real world, three more crop up that defy solution. For every bad guy that gets punished, another escapes justice, and a good guy suffers in his place.

But if we wanted that sort of thing in our fiction, we’d read noir. The dissonant blue notes of jazz mesh perfectly with noir, while traditional mystery is more suited to a Bach fugue: the separate melodies diverge, weave around and through each other, sometimes clash briefly, but ultimately come together in perfect harmony. The order of the universe, briefly disturbed by crime, is restored. Life returns to normal—until the next book, and the next murder, come along. Bloodstains with Brontë is no exception.

Downstairs, my husband finishes his playing and moves on to some quieter activity. In the next room, my son puts his music away and goes off to spend the evening with friends. In the ensuing stillness, I bring together the last measures of my wandering thoughts into a final resounding chord, and go down to the kitchen to make dinner. Life returns to normal—until the next practice session comes along.

Katherine Bolger Hyde spent her career as an editor before venturing into writing. Bloodstains with Brontë is her second traditional mystery in the Crime with the Classics series. The setting of Crime with the Classics was inspired by her annual writing pilgrimage to Rockaway Beach on the Oregon coast. Katherine makes her home in the redwoods of Santa Cruz County with her husband, the youngest of her four children, and two obstreperous cats.



Buy links:


The Land Down Under: An Encore

A while back I posted about my Australian kick, specifically my vicarious enjoyment of the Land Down Under via books, film and TV. Since that post I’ve discovered more crime dramas, one filmed in Australia and one in New Zealand.

In Janet King, a fast-paced legal thriller/political drama, the title character is a senior crown prosecutor. Is this show ever dramatic! Just when you think the drama reaches its peak, it gets ratcheted up again. And again.

Janet King is filmed in Sydney, but it’s not clear (to me, anyway) if the setting is actually Sydney or Canberra. According to the license plates, they’re in New South Wales, so either city is a possibility for the setting.

Glen and I have watched two series so far (to Australians a series is what Americans call a season) and look forward to the third.

For more information on Janet King, see this Wikipedia article.

Recently, Glen discovered The Brokenwood Mysteries, a New Zealand police procedural series set in one of those seemingly quiet small towns where murders are routine. Filming talks place in the greater Auckland area.

As I explained in my original article, I am woefully ignorant about Australian geography. I’m even more so about the lay of the land in New Zealand.

The characters in The Brokenwood Mysteries are well-drawn and quirky enough to be interesting without being cartoonish. They reveal tidbits about themselves in each episode, but never too much. The stories hold our interest. As for the country music—note to director: a little goes a long way.

The main character is Detective Senior Sergeant Mike Shepherd, played by Neill Rea. He uses the same “Just one more thing” tagline that Peter Falk made famous in Columbo when he never left a suspect or person of interest without a parting question.

As of this writing, we’re in the middle of the second series (season).

Again, Wikipedia is my trusted source. See their article about The Brokenwood Mysteries.

I’m eagerly awaiting Season 4 of the Doctor Blake Mysteries. And I understand that Jack Irish is another great detective series from Australia.