A Look at EM’s Words

As you may know, I am re-releasing the Neil Marshall mystery series that Ballantine marketed as cozy, culinary amateur sleuth mysteries. I ran across EM Kaplan and her husband JD last year on Twitter and we all hit it off. She joined in on some story hops and I was hooked on her quirky character, Josie Tucker, the food critique. With the release of my mysteries. I wanted to do an interview with some fellow mystery writers and immediately thought of EM Kaplan since hers books fall somewhat into a similar category as mine.

So, let’s get to know her  little better.

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  1. You describe yourself as a former wannabe spy, trombonist, toilet-cleaner, beginner ninja, and subversive marketer. Tell me about your writing process. How much of your former selves make their way into your writing?

“In a perfect world, I’d be using words like “heuristic,” “organic,” and “ecosystem” to describe the way I try to blend my real-world experiences into my fiction. Instead my writing process is more like absolute chaos, punctuated by brief interruptions of “CAN YOU HOLD MY BURRITO” and “THESE AREN’T MY SHORTS.” I don’t suffer from ADHD, but my life does. I have a 9-to-5 job and a family, and I teach a couple of classes at the local gym. I’d actually love to see what happens to my writing when I simplify some of that.”

  1. Your husband JD is a writer, and he’s produced some of your trailers, which are quite good I might add. As you know, Valerie also writes, and I’m frequently asking her if she knows how much I hate her (usually right after she’s handed back a manuscript bleeding with red ink). In all fairness, she makes my work stronger. What is it like for you living in a literary family? Where do you find commonalities? Dissonance?

“The biggest problem JD and I have as writers is that neither of us wants to keep a day job. We both need patrons. Or a grant. Or private funding. Because that lottery retirement plan hasn’t panned out yet, if you know what I mean.

“A few people have asked if JD and I are planning on writing a book together someday. I think we’re too different, too creatively strong-willed to make it work. Neither of us is confrontational, so it would probably turn into a battle of confused squints and furrowed eyebrows of disbelief.”

  1. Nearly all my books take place in or around Houston, where I’ve lived for thirty-five years. How much does the place or places where you live play into your books?

“Each of the main locations in the Josie Tucker books has been a place where I’ve lived. Arizona, California, Massachusetts—and even the next one, which will be near Austin, TX. I recently went back to Tucson for the first time in about twenty years. Holy nuts, that place has changed. While my memories are strong and vivid, that old saying about not being able to go home again is so, so true. In a weird way, I’ve fictionalized these places just as much as if I’d completely made them up.”

  1. You were an English major and a technical writer. I recently read one of your blogs dedicated to hating the word “moist” and some other interesting words as well. Besides those particular words, what literary topics bore or offend you?

“I don’t actually hate the word “moist,” but a lot of people do. I used to have synesthesia—it’s a bit different for everyone, but, I used to see words as colors. Like the word “thought” is the color brown for me. The number two is blue. The tendency mostly faded over time. Maybe it was a memorization technique when I was little—but I don’t hate words because they’re tools for building things. I do, however, avoid talking about politics, which is tough this year. Everything else is fair game.”

  1. We met on Twitter, and two of your posts are about Twitter (“Freaky Tweets” had me falling on the floor laughing). You have a delightfully dry and quirky sense of humor. It also seems to flow naturally, which is a rare gift. How does humor play into your work? Do you ever find yourself holding back because it’s just not the right time for a quip?

“I don’t intentionally set out to be funny, but I do like making people laugh. It’s kind of a weird distinction. I don’t want to make people roll on the floor in a Robin Williams frenetic way, but I do, like a dinner party hostess, want to see everyone having a good time. Noshing on the cheeseball appetizers, so to speak.”

  1. You also did a very insightful blog on marketing. I hate marketing, but you have a great handle on it. What is your favorite marketing tool? The most effective? And what do you just plain hate?

“I seriously have no idea what I’m doing. No. Idea. I mean, I listen to advice from other people who seem to have a handle on it, but I make mistakes like other people. The thing that works the best in my favor is actually my desk job. Because I’m sitting at work all day long, I can have my other computer next to me so I can see what’s going on and monitor my accounts and promo attempts. Any time devoted to marketing is time taken away from writing, though, so it’s a balancing act. It’s so easy to do too much of one or the other.

“Facebook is the easiest for me to use. I had to create an account for my day job a few years ago, so I’ve been on it a while. My newsletter has been the most effective method of communicating with readers so far.”

  1. Finally, a big congratulation is in order. You just released the 3rd book in your Josie Tucker Mysteries, which you describe as “un-cozy and un-culinary.” I love that characterization and it’s what first drew me to your work. (In part because I thought you were the opposite of me, but now I’m not so sure. . . .) What prompted you to describe a food critic and amateur sleuth as un-cozy and un-culinary?

“Thanks! Yes, Dead Man on Campus is the 3rd Josie Tucker book. Between the mysteries, I wrote two books of an epic fantasy trilogy called Unmasked and Unbroken. Some of my readers who have read both my fantasy and mystery books have been surprised at the contrast—completely different writing styles although I think some humor sneaks through the fantasy in places.

“I call the Josie books un-culinary and un-cozy because those are real categories in bookstore mystery shelves—well, culinary and cozy are. If you’re not familiar with them, culinary mysteries involve food, cooking, restaurants, or bakeries. While Josie is a food critic, her testy stomach often keeps her from eating. She has a love/hate relationship with food sometimes. Cozy mysteries are more like the old Miss Marple Agatha Christie stories—no sex, no gore, no violence. They’re more focused on the puzzle and the clues of the whodunit. Josie Tucker mysteries—especially The Bride Wore Dead—are a bit grittier than those. Not a lot, but enough to straddle the line, I think.”

I like it EM! I think I’ll categorize my books as un-cozy and semi-culinary, too! Thank you very much for taking the time to chat with me!

Since Dim Sum, Dead Sum is on sale-only .99 until October 2nd-let’s look at her awesome trailer—Just click on the image:

dimsum-trailer

Click on any of the images to see the Josie Tucker Mysteries on Amazon ~

brideworedeaddimsumdeadsumdeadmanoncampus

 

 

 

 

 

 

Or buy all three in one great package:

josietuckeromnibus

Keep abreast of all of EM’s promotions, sales and new releases by checking out her newsletter

Connect with EM on social media on her Website/blog, Facebook, TwitterAmazon, Goodreads, and by Email.

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Let The Christmas Story Hop Begin

HolidayStoryHop

Funny how the best laid schemes of mice and men often go awry. After rounding the corner at Thanksgiving to head into the Christmas season, my plans did a complete one-eighty and nothing has gone as I thought it would. This unexpected turn of events in the form of a family emergency did two things. First, I have a half-written Christmas story that remains half-written. I’d intended to share it in the blog. Maybe next year. And second, like most people during this season, I grow pensive, reflecting not only on my current circumstances but also how I arrived at them. Perhaps this year I’ve been a bit more contemplative than usual.

What better time to ponder life’s persistent problems than while running? Well, for me anyway. Today while logging my five and mulling over this blog it struck me how many young families have moved into the area. I saw toy and diaper boxes set out for Saturday morning recycling, and I wondered what Christmas morning was going to be like at that house or that one. Tired parents from staying up late to finish wrapping gifts and stuffing stockings? Wide-eyed, over-anxious kids ready for the day to begin at 5AM? Yes, that’s the way it was for Valerie and me when our children were young.

I also thought today about my own childhood, and one particular Christmas came to mind. To set the scene, I grew up in a small New England town where we didn’t lock the doors at night. The milkman still made deliveries, and if we weren’t home he would open the kitchen door, walk in, and put the milk in the refrigerator. So it sounded perfectly reasonable to me that Santa used our front door, since we didn’t have a fireplace.

On this Christmas Eve I was about five or six. My brother and I were in the habit of following my father around when he finished work, keeping him company when he changed from his work clothes. This night was no different, as he encouraged us to go upstairs with him, except that lo and behold when we came back downstairs, the front door was wide open to the frosty winter night. My mother came in from the kitchen where she’d been making dinner and asked what all the commotion had been. Wouldn’t you know, Santa had already visited us. My brother and I were flabbergasted. Santa came to us first? Wow!

When I was older I learned that my father’s family celebrated on Christmas Eve, and while my mother was a traditional Christmas Day person, he’d talked her into having stockings, gifts, and a big dinner on Christmas Eve that year. A small thing, but isn’t it the small things that make the big events special? And this year, despite all the unpreparedness, will be special too.

Merry Christmas, y’all. Now go read some good stories!

Terry West ~ Cecil and Bubba Meet Santa

Denice Garreau ~ Solstice Moon Spell

K.K. Allen ~ Arctic Winter Masquerade Ball (an excerpt from The Descendants, a Summer Solstice Novel by K.K. Allen)

John TM Herres ~ The Slaying Song

Ann Swann ~ Winter

JMD Reid – The Grotesque’s Favorite Season

EM Kaplan ~ Slay bells Ring, A Josie Tucker Story

Lizabeth Scott ~ Christmas Dreams

Lynette Creswell ~ Skullduggery in Elftown

Chess Desalls ~ Yellow Snow Cones

Merritt Kelly ~ Dani’s Prayer

JV Carr ~ Everyday Miracles