Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Mid-Month Mysteries: Asian-American Authors

May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. As the wife of a Filipino-American and mother of a biracial child, I want to be a good ally. That's part of the reason I write books with diverse characters. (Another way to be an ally is to stop AAPI hate; learn more here.) My forthcoming cozy mystery, Murder at Magic Lake, will feature a heroine with a Filipino mother and white father. However, even though I've been with my husband for over thirty years, I'm no expert on Filipino culture. So for this month's cozy mystery blog post, I'd like to feature a few cozy mysteries written by Asian Americans.
If you'd like to read a mystery that does a good job of incorporating Filipino food and culture, I recommend Mia P. Manansala's Arsenic and Adobo. Lila works in a Filipino restaurant run by her aunt and grandmother. They serve plenty of traditional dishes but also adapt their cuisine as needed (for example, the aunt creates vegetarian versions for Lila's best friend). This book just came out, and a second one, Homicide and Halo-Halo, is forthcoming. (Adobo refers to a cooking method for meat and vegetables that involves marinating them with vinegar, soy sauce, and other seasonings before browning them. Halo-halo is a Filipino dessert made of shaved ice, milk, and various fruits.)

Another cozy mystery series featuring Asian characters and written by an Asian author is the Noodle Shop Mystery series by Vivien Chien. What I particularly like about this series is that Chien has set the eponymous noodle shop in an Asian mall in Cincinnati. This gives her an intimate setting within a larger city. Seven books are currently available, from Death by Dumpling to the latest, Fatal Fried Rice, which I have on hold at my local library.

Finally, there are the Raina Sun Mysteries written by Anne R. Tan. I've only read the first book in this series, so I can't say much about it. It's set on a college campus, and the heroine, Raina Sun, has to deal with not just mysteries but her grandmother. The series is up to ten books already, so I have a lot of catching up to do.
Have you read any of these books? Do you know of any other mysteries featuring Asian American or Pacific Islander characters? Feel free to share them in the comments.


Wednesday, May 05, 2021

IWSG: Readers' Responses and Status Update

Welcome to the merry month of May! I hope it's a pleasant one. Today is not just the Revenge of the Fifth (Star Wars reference), but also blogging day for the Insecure Writers' Support Group. Learn more about them on their website, Facebook page, or Twitter feed.

 Our hosts for this month are Erika Beebe, PJ Colando, Tonja Drecker, Sadira Stone, and Cathrina Constantine. 

Here's our question for the month: Have any of your readers ever responded to your writing in a way that you didn't expect? If so, did it surprise you?

The only thing that's coming to mind happened a long time ago in response to my novella Lyon's Legacy. The reader was a co-worker who knew me in real life and was surprised by how much my characters swore in that story, since I seldom swear. That must be a sign I can write characters who are different from me.

Since I don't have much to say regarding the IWSG question, I'll provide a brief status update on my works in progress. Murder at Magic Lake is with beta readers. The sequel, Restaurants and Revenge, is well over 30,000 words. It might turn out longer than the first book. I'm focusing on that story for now and have temporarily set aside a novellette/novella called, "Jenna's Journey," showing Jenna from my Season Avatars series traveling to another country. (Most Avatars stay in their own countries, so it's a significant step for her.) I plan to publish a collection of short stories about my Season Avatars before I work on the sequel series. 

How do readers respond to your work? Feel free to share your stories in the comments.

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Blurb for Murder at Magic Lake

 I've finally started sending out my cozy mystery to beta readers. Here's the blurb for Murder at Magic Lake:

After losing her job, twenty-nine-year-old Abigail Ritter isn’t looking forward to returning to her hometown of Magic Lake, Wisconsin, for her grandmother’s birthday party. All she has to offer her family is her own special fruit juice and tea blend. But when Grandma suffers a fatal accident in her apartment building, The Grand, Abigail’s cousin is blamed. Abigail will have to step up and investigate with the help of her best friend, an intriguing detective, and a magical stuffed fox named Sherlock. Abigail’s got a plan for the Grand and its abandoned restaurant, but will she solve the case or drown in a sea of suspects?

 Please let me know if you have any suggestions for improving it. 

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

A Shot of Hope

 Last week, I finally got my first Covid-19 vaccine dose. Although I had some initial difficulty getting an appointment, I was able to get one at a mass vaccination site close to my house. To celebrate, I wore a "Girls in Science" mask and my t-shirt from the March for Science. Once I arrived at the site, it was a very efficient process. It took less than fifteen minutes from the time I entered the building to the moment I received the injection. While I was waiting to make sure I didn't have a reaction, the appointment for my second dose was automatically scheduled exactly three weeks from my first one.

I did have some side effects from the first dose, mostly headaches. The first day was the worst, but I had some slight headaches the next day. I was pretty much back to normal by the second day. Of course, the side effects are supposed to be worse after the second shot, but fortunately my workplace is giving us time off to get the vaccine and recover.

I'm looking forward to being fully vaccinated in a little more than a month. My husband is an essential worker, so he's already fully vaccinated. Hopefully soon at least one of the vaccines will be approved for use in my son's age group. I'll feel more secure once we're all protected, though it will still take me a while before I resume my normal activities.

 Are you planning to get vaccinated, or have you already fully or partially protected? Are you having problems finding an appointment? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Mid-Month Mysteries: Libraries

Since anyone who loves to read mysteries
probably also loves libraries, it's not surprising that there are many series that feature libraries. Here are a few series that I've started along with some more that I'd like to check out (pun intended).\
 Death Overdue is the first book in Allison Brook's Haunted Library series. The main character is a librarian who solves mysteries with the aid of a ghost that haunts the library. There are currently four books in the series.

A Murder for the Books is the first book in Victoria Gilbert's Blue Ridge Library series. I think I accidentally skipped ahead and read the fourth book in this series, which is called Bound for Murder. I need to go back and read the other books in order. This series currently has five books.

The Bodies in the Library is set in England. The library here is a private one made of first editions from a noblewoman's library. I've read the first book, but there are two more in the series by Elizabeth Spann Craig.

A new series coming out this summer starts with Murder at the Lakeside Library, by Holly Danvers. The library here is an informal one that's part of a lakeside cabin in Wisconsin. I'll have to keep this one in mind.

There are a lot of other series I could list, but I'll keep this post short for now. Have you read any of these series? Are there others that you'd recommend? Feel free to share them in the comments.


Wednesday, April 07, 2021

IWSG: Taking Risks

Welcome to the month of April--and another Insecure Writer's Support Group post! You can learn more about them on their website, Facebook page, and Twitter feed.  

Our hosts this month are PK Hrezo, Pat Garcia, SE White, Lisa Buie Collard, and Diane Burton.

Our question for this month is Are you a risk-taker when writing? Do you try something radically different in style/POV/etc. or add controversial topics to your work?

I don't think it's possible to grow as an artist or as a person without taking some risks. Writing short stories can be a good way to try new writing techniques. For example, the climate fiction short story I'm revising follows one person over the course of her life, with scenes at pivotal moments. I wouldn't say it's radically different from my normal style, but it's different from the other types of short stories I've written before, which are normally focused on a single problem and take place within a short amount of time. 

Another way to take risks is to try writing in new genres, such as the cozy mystery series I'm working on. My heroine is biracial, so she'll encounter causal racism and sexism at various points in the series. I'm not sure how many incidents I can include before the "cozy" feeling readers are looking for disappears, but I think it's important to show them. We'll see what the beta readers think. 

I also think it's harder to take risks as an author once you become known for a certain genre or style. Traditionally published authors sometimes get around this by writing under a pseudonym, and I know of a couple of indie authors who do the same thing with some of their work. While I considered publishing my mysteries under a pseudonym, I plan to use my real name. These will be paranormal cozy mysteries, so hopefully some of my readers will cross over to my fantasy work.

How do you feel about risk-taking? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.


Wednesday, March 31, 2021

The Catalyst Chronicles Series

 After discussing all the projects I had in various stages of writing, revising, or submitting, I couldn't help thinking of one project that's been on the back burner for a long time: the science fiction Catalyst Chronicles series. Currently published are the novella Lyon's Legacy, a short story called "The Mommy Clone," the novel Twinned Universes, and a pair of short stories published under the title "Seasonal Stories from the Sagan.

I had planned to write another short story set after Twinned Universes. This short story is tentatively titled "The Unnumbered World" and would focus on a secondary character adapting to events. Coming after that story would be a novel I tentatively call Catalyst in the Crucible, which would be set a few years after "The Unnumbered World" and be a followup to Twinned Universes. 

Although I have partial drafts of both stories, I've been stuck on how to complete them (or how to get through the middle to reach the end). Also, although Lyon's Legacy and Twinned Universes involved time travel, Catalyst in the Crucible won't. A traditional publisher would have a fit if I switched subgenres in the middle of a series, and I'm not sure how marketing this series myself would work. I'd have to hope my readers like the characters as much as I do.

It would be a shame to abandon the Catalyst Chronicles characters completely, but it is difficult juggling multiple projects. Fortunately, I finished the rough draft of a short story last week, and I have to submit to a contest by April 12th. Once that's done, I want to focus on my Season Avatars short story collection and my new cozy mystery series for a while. However, if I get stuck on them, it might be time to revisit some older projects. Ultimately, I need to focus on spending more time on my current and past project before chasing new ones.

Do you have stories that you don't want to trunk but you don't know how to finish? Feel free to discuss them in the comments.

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