Tuesday, February 19, 2013
Today's Mystery Author Guest: Judy Alter
As promised yesterday, fellow mystery author Judy Alter is visiting my blog today. To read her bio and see her photo, please page down to yesterday's post. Also, Judy is running a contest for a free autographed copy of Murder at the Blue Plate Café, and will choose the winner from among those who leave a comment!
The photo above is the cover for Judy's February 10th release, Murder at the Blue Plate Café, the first book in the new Blue Plate Café series. In the book,when twin sisters Kate and Donna inherit their grandmother’s restaurant, the Blue Plate Café, in Wheeler, Texas, there’s immediate conflict. Donna wants to sell and use her money to establish a B&B; Kate wants to keep the cafe. Thirty-two-year-old Kate leaves a Dallas career as a paralegal and a married lover to move back to Wheeler and run the café, while Donna plans her B&B and complicates her life by having an affair with her sole investor.
Kate soon learns that Wheeler is not the idyllic small town she thought it was fourteen years ago. The mayor, a woman, is power-mad and listens to no one, and the chief of the police department, newly come from Dallas, doesn’t understand small-town ways. Worst of all, blunt, outspoken Donna is not well liked by some town folk. The mayor of Wheeler becomes seriously ill after eating food from the café, delivered by Donna’s husband, and the death of another patron makes Kate even more suspicious of her grandmother’s sudden death. When Donna’s investor is shot, all fingers point to Donna and she is arrested. Kate must defend her sister and solve the murders to keep her business open, but even Kate begins to wonder about the sister she has a love-hate relationship with. Gram guides Kate through it all, though Kate’s never quite sure she’s hearing Gram—and sometimes Gram’s guidance is really off the wall.
Sounds like a fun read to me! Below is Judy's guest article on her path to publication. Please leave a comment for her, and if you have a question of your own for her, ask it!
Beth, thanks for inviting me. It’s exciting to get a chance to talk about my long career in writing and my devious path to mysteries. I believe what we always hear: Persistence pays off.
I always knew I would write, starting with short stories when I was ten or twelve, a story submitted to (and rejected immediately by) Seventeen in high school, a career as a medical editor while in graduate school, with quite a few articles on medicine for lay readers: “Tell me, doctor, if I have a pain in my side, is it appendicitis?”
I majored in English because I liked to read. I kept going back for another degree because it was easier than looking for a job. Then one day I had a Ph.D. in English with a special interest in the literature of the American West and no idea what I wanted to be when I grew up. I planned to get married, and some man was going to take care of me—it didn’t quite work out that way, and I raised four children as a single parent, supported by a career in academic publishing.
Academically trained, I didn’t think I could write fiction. I’d been trained to support, defend, document but not give way to my imagination. One day, as if a light bulb went off, I realized I could turn a memoir I’d been given into a novel: I did, and it was sold by a New York agent to a major publisher as a young-adult novel. I was pigeon-holed by that 1978 novel, After Pa Was Shot.
For the next 25 years I wrote fiction and non-fiction, primarily about women in the American West. I won some nice awards, was president of Western Writers of America, and eventually earned their lifetime achievement award. Some of my earlier titles are available as e-books on various platforms. But a series of changes in the publishing world and the death of my agent left me adrift, so I wrote nonfiction for children on assignment from companies that sold to libraries.
All my life, I’d been an avid reader, and I was addicted to mysteries. Finally I thought if others can do this, so can I, and I leapt blindly into the world of mysteries. Oh, my, what I didn’t know! The best advice I ever got was from Susan Wittig Albert: join Sisters in Crime and the sub-organization, Guppies. I kept telling myself if I could get just one mystery in print, I would be content.
It took six long years and some hard lessons about publishing and agents plus lots of rewrites before I decided the small press route was for me. Turquoise Morning Press published Skeleton in a Dead Space in August 2011, and two more Kelly O’Connell Mysteries followed: No Neighborhood for Old Women and Trouble in a Big Box.
This month, we’re launching a new series, Blue Plate Café Mysteries, with Murder at the Blue Plate Café. Another Kelly O’Connell will follow in July, and two books, one in each series, are under contract for 2014. So much for just one mystery! I’m particularly excited about the new series because it’s based on a café in East Texas where my family shared many good times with dear friends. And it’s fun to move my settings from inner-city Fort Worth and a historical district to a small town in East Texas.
I remember the days when I used to sit at my desk and think I’d write if I knew what to write. Now retired, my days are so packed and full I don’t know how I ever worked. But I love my new life and am so grateful to the many, especially Sisters, who have helped me along the way. Quit writing? Never.
Follow me on Facebook or my website. My blog is Judy's Stew and my food blog is Potluck with Judy. Or write me at firstname.lastname@example.org – I’d love to hear from you.
Thanks, Judy! Now, who has a comment or question for her? Good luck in the contest!