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 j.alter@tcu.edu – I’d love to hear from you.

Thanks, Judy! Now, who has a comment or question for her? Good luck in the contest!   

33 comments:

cmgren said...

Would love to win a copy of your book 0 sound like my kind of read.

Amanda Ray said...

Looking forward to another wonderful cozy series (since they are my fav genre). Great interview- my husband keeps telling me as much and as fast as I read books, I should start telling them (writing)- I personally am still a little hesitant about the writing part. Congrats on the new series- definitely adding it to my TBR list.
luvs2read4fun(at)gmail(dot)com

Jennie said...

Sounds like a great story! Thanks so much for sharing your story. What a great inspiration to us fellow writers! :)

Nancy said...

This sounds like a book that I will love.

nlb1050@yahoo.com

Claire said...

Sounds like my kind of reading! I'm eager to read it.

Good luck with finishing the epilogue on the second in the series (I read your blog page, too).

claire

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

YAy, Judy! What a wonderful story...and hurray! xoo

Beth Groundwater said...

Here's a comment from a fan of Judy's that had trouble posting:

That's a great interview. And fun to learn so much about you.

Janie

Terry Shames said...

Judy, as the song says, "What a long, strange trip it's been." Like you, I think persistence is the key. But what you didn't mention is that you also paid attention the details and grew as a writer as you persisted. I can't wait to read "Blue Plate".

My debut novel, A KILLING AT COTTON HILL (July 2013) is also set in small town Texas, a little farther south than yours. I'll be interested to see our parallels!

Cindy Sample said...

Hi Judy. I've been following your journey since your first book release in 2011. You are really on a roll and I'm so thrilled for you. I love the concept of this new series. Keep those great books coming!

Beth Groundwater said...

Sherry Johns said:
I love the cover - the colors are magical!

Judy Alter said...

Thanks all. I hope Blue Plate lives up to your expectation. Yes, Terry, it has been a strange journey. I'll add A Killing at Cotton Hill to my TBR list. Cindy, thanks for our kind words--I am on a roll or at least that's how i feel. Amanda, thanks for liking my FB page, and as for the writing part--you can do it. Just jump it, join Sisters in crime.

Beth Groundwater said...

From Shelby Bagby:
This sounds like my kind of book. I'd have to wait for a print copy though.


Shelby,
As I understand it, a print version is coming VERY soon, and that's what Judy will be mailing to the contest winner.

Judy,
Can you confirm a release date for the print version yet?

Julie Weston said...

Good post and information, Judy and Beth. I am a mystery writer, so far unpublished. My published work is nonfiction, plus stories and essays in journals and an anthology. The closest Sisters in Crime chapter is 2-1/2 hours away driving. I kind of doubt it has a Guppies sub-organization, but I can check. Thanks for good advice! I'll look forward to reading your book--sounds fascinating.

Willow Stick said...

Indeed sounds like a great book I would like to get my hands on a copy as well.

Shel said...

I grew up in the Texas Panhandle. My high school played Wheeler in football a few times - so I was thrilled to see the setting of this book.

Gloria Alden said...

It sounds like a very good read, Judy. Isn't retired life great?! But like you, I don't know how I ever found time to work.

Kelly said...

I love reading books in which I am familiar with the setting. My dad is from Wichita Falls, and both of my parents were born and raised in Texas. Would love to add this book to my collection! Sounds like a fun read.

Susan J Tweit said...

Beth, Thanks for introducing us to Judy and her new mystery series. And Judy, thanks for mentioning Sisters in Crime's "guppies"! Will have to see if there's a group in Colorado. I hope you'll enter Blue Plate Cafe in Women Writing the West's WILLA Awards. It would be a strong contender.

Judy Alter said...

Wow! Thanks for all the comments. I hope Murder at the Blue Plate lives up to your expectations. Shel, this Wheeler is fictional and is in East Texas--oops! I didn't know there was a real Wheeler.
Yes, print is coming in about four weeks. If you'd like me to add you to my mailing list I'll notify you when it comes. Just email me at j.alter@tcu.edu with your email.
Susan and Julie, Guppies doesn't have physical chapters like SinC--it's all online. Check out the home page at http://sinc-guppies.org/. Great and helpful group.
You might also check my other Texas series,Kelly o'Connell Mysteries--Skeleton in a Dead Space, No Neighborhood for Old Women, and Trouble in a Big Box. Urban cozies set in Fort Worth.

Kaye Killgore said...

The book sounds like a fun read, I would love to win a copy.

Diane S. said...

Fabulous story, Judy! I got the first degree and only took classes for many years after because that man who was going to support me didn't turn up either! Not that my mother ever intended I would be supported that way, it just seemed like what would happen until my fiance and I broke up. Then what to do with a liberal arts degree and a younger brother in college? Join the Navy! Well, not exactly. I hope I win your book. I love the ideas and conflicts you put in it. chava812(at)yahoo(dot)com

Ricky Bush said...

Day late and a dollar short with my comment, but I was born in East Texas (Crockett) and have tons of family in Palestine. Lovely part of Texas. Yeah, I thought that once I retired with all the kids were grown and on their own that I'd have oodles of free time. Then, grand kids came along.

Judy Alter said...

Yeah, Ricky, but aren't grandkids and retirement fun? They were meant to go together. Thanks, Kaye and Diane. It's going to be hard to choose a winnder!

Joanne Guidoccio said...

Inspiring interview! You are a role model for all boomer writers. Second acts can be so wonderful and fulfilling.

Unknown said...

Loved reading about your writing career. Surely is amazing all the steps we take to get "there!"

Marilyn Levinson said...

Judy,
I loved reading about your life, and how you got to finally write mysteries. We writers never retire! Your new book sounds wonderful!

Beth Groundwater said...

Thanks for your comments, everyone, and for making Judy feel so welcome here. Keep them coming, and she'll draw a winner's name in the book contest this evening.

Judy Dee said...

I'm probably too late for the contest but not for lack of trying to keep up with writer blogs! I'll add my thought that this is my kind of read and interview. All the best from one Judy to another.

Kerry said...

Love your books. Have read many of them and have enjoyed them all.I know it easy for us non-writers to say keep the stories coming as I know it is a very daunting task,thinking up characters and plots. But keep on writing,as I will never get tired of your books:)

Angela Holland said...

This looks like a fun new book to me. I look forward to it. Thank you for the chance to win.

griperang at embarqmail dot com

Norma Huss said...

I may be too late for the drawing too, but would love to win Judy's book. Love the cover, and the teaser.

Wendy Newcomb said...

This looks like a fun series. Thank you for the chance to win.

wfnren at aol dot com

Beth Groundwater said...

Sorry this is late, folks, but Judy was under the mistaken impression that I would draw the name of the winner, and I was off in Mexico at the Puerto Vallarta Writers Conference. The winner is Marilyn Levinson. Congratulations, Marilyn!