Decatur Book Festival – Fun and Dogs

When thousands of people stream by a tent on a breezy, sun-kissed day – and when every single one of those people is a book-lover, what’s not to enjoy?

Yesterday at the Decatur Book Festival, I worked at the Sisters in Crime/Mystery Writers of America tent, handing out information about these two fine organizations, talking about my books, patting dogs, and laughing a lot. Most everybody I spoke with was in a good mood. Surrounded by books!

The Decatur (Georgia) Book Festival is always held on Labor Day weekend, and it’s grown into one of the largest book festivals in the nation. I had a few breaks throughout the day, of course. I ate my lunch sitting on a park bench near the historic courthouse, along with a woman who is thinking of getting a service dog as her eyesight gradually fails. Naturally, every dog that walked by came over to sniff our hands and say hello. And several of the dogs were therapy dogs who visit hospitals and libraries on a regular basis.

When I lived in Vermont a lifetime or two ago, I edited a monthly newsletter for Therapy Dogs of Vermont, an incredible organization that has grown exponentially over the years, so I always have a soft spot in my heart for service dogs of any sort.

In A WEE HOMICIDE IN THE HOTEL, Drew (the twin brother of Peggy Winn, my main character) has a service dog named Tessa, who has figured prominently in each of my ScotShop Mysteries. Tessa learns early on not to try to lick Dirk (the 14th century Scottish ghost), but she is always aware of him.

There are Scottie dogs — of course — in each of my ScotShop books. Unfortunately, I didn’t see a single Scottie at the Book Festival (other than the ones of the covers of my books).

Holly Sullivan McClure, Fran Stewart, and Maggie Toussaint at DBF 2017. Photo Credit: Mikki Root Dillon

Holly Sullivan McClure, Maggie Toussaint, and I spoke on a panel called “Spirited Sleuthing: Paranormal Mysteries.” Not a dog in sight at that moment – but we had a great time anyway.

Tales of Alice Town – and Braselton

My friend Steven Macon started a project called Tales of Alice Town, for which he invited a wide range of writers to submit stories about a fictional county in Virginia (one for which Steven set up basic parameters such as the names of towns, their population, and some key characters who live in those towns).

One of the rules was that if we added a character, other writers in the group could include that character in their own stories, but they had to remain true to the personality of that character as put forth by the original writer.

Great! So today, my story Ekkal Rorrim was posted as the second in the series. You might want to scroll down and read the first story (October 1st) just to get a feel for what a magical place Davis County is.

I have a few more stories floating around in my brain. Just need to get them written down. Maybe I’ll even be inspired to post some more here on my website (I know, I know; I’ve been way too lax about that).

In the meantime, I’ll be headed to Braselton Gallery tomorrow from 1:00 to 3:00 to join seven other authors in a Local Authors Extravaganza. If you’re in the area, stop by and pick up some great books. You’ll be able to spot me easily — I’ll be the one in the Scottish arisaidh, talking about A WEE MURDER IN MY SHOP.

authevent.pdf

Hank and I

Hank Phillippi Ryan was teaching at the Mystery Writers of America University in Atlanta last week, and she stopped by Eagle Eye Books in Decatur to sign copies of her newest thriller TRUTH BE TOLD. Naturally, I was there (as were other members of the Atlanta Chapter of Sisters in Crime) to buy a hardcover copy and get it signed.

at Eagle Eye Books, Decatur GA
at Eagle Eye Books, Decatur GA

Besides telling us where the name Hank came from (nickname from her college years), Hank talked about how her work as an investigative reporter is a fantastic source of leads for story ideas.

“Where do you get your ideas?” That’s one of the most frequently-asked questions a writer hears. And it’s a great question, because where we get our ideas feeds directly into the stories we create from those ideas.

A hundred people can see one event – but it’s usually only the writer who will ask “what if…”

What if this happened? What if that happened? What if a man walked down this street instead of that one? What if a woman chose to leave for work earlier than usual (or later)?What if the fire had started in the garage rather than the bedroom? What if someone buying a new car found a body in the trunk?

Hank made me think about how I generate my story ideas.

Just as Hank asked what if there’s a dead body in that house where the eviction is happening, I had to ask, years ago, what if there’s a dead body in the library?

With that question in mind, I began to write ORANGE AS MARMALADE.

Why did I create Martinsville GA as the scene of my Biscuit McKee mysteries? And why will Hamelin VT appear as the scene of my new ScotShop series next March? Those two small towns come directly from the fact that I grew up as an Air Force brat. Four different schools in 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th grades.

Still, there was one constant, in every place we lived – Germany, Ohio, Illinois, Colorado, South Carolina, Tennessee . . . a library. I must admit, I never did find a body behind the stacks, but Martinsville is the home town I always wanted, but never had – a feeling shared by many service families.

So, where does Hamelin come in? Well, there’s another question I had to think about: what if somebody bought a shawl in Scotland, and it had a ghost attached to it?

Now there’s a question to start off a book right!