Tag Archive for: female amateur sleuth

Strong, Smart and Not Ordinary

Here’s to strong smart women. Especially those who fly
under the radar.

Amateur sleuths, particularly women amateur sleuths, often
don’t seem all that strong or all that smart at first blush. But they are,
aren’t they? Whether they have ordinary jobs like small-town librarian, preschool
teachers, haunted bed and breakfast owner or for that matter they may be like, pet
therapist, Caro Lamont and pet boutique owner, Melinda Langston, in our
Pampered Pets mystery series.

Whatever their regular, everyday job…these women are
strong. They are smart.
They may seem ordinary, but they’re definitely not.

We love writing (and reading) these seemingly ordinary women
because they’re often underestimated, and even at times, overlooked. These
ladies can take care of themselves and anyone else who needs it.

Writing a strong heroine can be tricky. It’s a balancing
act. You see, a strong woman isn’t just a guy named Lance who’s been given some
curves and renamed Linda.  A strong
heroine is a multi-faceted person with feelings and flaws. She understands her
weaknesses, learns from her mistakes and draws on her strengths to face what
she needs to face. She’s loyal and fierce and believes in fighting the good
fight, not only for herself but for others who can’t fight. She may get
knocked down, but she always gets up, ready to try again.
, of Buffy the Vampire Slayer fame, says he writes strong
women because of his mother was a cool, sexy, funny, woman. And because of his
father and step-father prized wit and resolve above all things.

We believe part of the fascination with strong, smart women
who fly under the radar is that they are going along, leading ordinary lives,
and suddenly they must rise to the occasion when faced with extraordinary
circumstances. In our books, it’s almost always a murder. But the murder isn’t
really the call to action for Caro and Mel. It’s the injustice. Someone is
falsely accused. Someone is in danger. Someone has been wronged or someone bad
will get away doing something bad.

And don’t we all hope that if we were placed in a situation
that called for it, that we’d put on our big girl capes and perform
extraordinary feats.

So here’s to us – the daughters, mothers, grandmothers,
sisters, and friends who fight the good fight. Even if, sometimes, we have to
save the world between grocery shopping, special events, and nonstop meetings.

Here’s to you – may your battles be small and your
superpowers sufficient to the challenge before you.

makes a great strong female character for you?

Abbey is actually two people, Mary Lee Woods aka Mary Lee Ashford and Anita
Carter, who write the national best-selling Pampered Pets cozy mystery series.
They are friends as well as neighbors so they often get together and plot ways
to commit murder. (But don’t tell the neighbors.) They love to hear from
readers and can be found on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, their favorite
social media sites.
most recent book is The Dogfather, the tenth book in the Pampered Pets series.
if you want to make sure you get updates, sign up for their newsletter via the
SparkleAbbey.com website.

For the Love of Librarians…

By Lynn McPherson


I was lucky enough to participate at a library panel in
Toronto last week. The panel was made up of five authors including me. We were
invited to come in and talk about crime fiction and writing. The sub-genres
ranged from thriller to cozy, and between us, there was a lot to talk about. The
library set up a nice long table for the panellists with a wireless microphone
for each, and a numbers of chairs for the audience to sit comfortably. The
evening went well and the audience seemed engaged. Afterwards, the librarian
thanked us for our time and efforts.
Since then I’ve been thinking about the role of librarians
in our culture. Librarians are unsung heroes of learning, education, and
literacy. Ever adapting to a changing world and the technological advancements
introduced almost daily, librarians are fearless. Plus, these real-life
superheroes are there to help writers succeed—they champion authors and books
and imagination.
For a writer, there is no better friend than a librarian.
They can introduce readers to your books. They can include your books in clubs,
conversations, or displays. They can help you succeed with encouragement,
support, and enthusiasm.
I’d like to send out a big thank you to all the librarians
whose efforts do not get recognized or celebrated enough. My favourite librarian
worked at the small elementary school in Edmonton, Alberta I attended in the
1980’s named Sweet Grass. She taught us the history of fine art, dared us to
push ourselves, and gave us the freedom to explore and enjoy the library and
everything in it. There was no better place to be.

Lynn McPherson has worked for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, ran a small business, and taught English across the globe. She has travelled the world solo where her daring spirit has led her to jump out of airplanes, dive with sharks, and learn she would never master a surfboard. She now channels her lifelong love of adventure and history into her writing, where she is free to go anywhere, anytime. Her cozy series has two books out: The Girls' Weekend Murder and The Girls Whispered Murder.  

Location, Location, Location


By Lynn McPherson

The setting of a book is a critical part of a story. Location
can determine the mood before opening the first page. A big city will feel
different than a coastal village, or a domestic setting versus one abroad. As a
cozy writer, my location is pre-determined since the majority of cozy mysteries
take place in small, idyllic towns. But even within these parameters, there are
several options.

In my Izzy Walsh
Mystery Series,
I chose a fictional small town in New England, not far from
New York City. It was an easy decision. Every time I’ve been there, the warmth
and beauty of New England captivated me. In addition, when I started writing
the series, I was a new mom. Writing was a great escape for me, and part of
that was going on a vacation to one of my favourite places every time I looked
at my screen.
With the end of February approaching, I’ve been thinking of
warm weather and beach escapes. It’s fair to say the springtime always makes me
feel like it’s time for a quick jaunt. March break and the slow end of winter
stirs up a desire to run away from the dreary end of the cold days and long
nights here in my own small town, not far from Toronto, Canada. However,
instead of physically leaving, this year I will be planning an escape on paper.
I’m considering a short story, or possibly even a new series, that incorporates
a beach or, at the very least, short-sleeve weather. I’m ready to soak in the
warmth and bask in the rays of an imaginary sunshine.
Do you have any place, real or imagined that you like to
escape to when you need a break? Do you have a favourite location or setting in
books that you gravitate toward? I’m always happy to discuss beautiful vacation
spots and let my mind take me there, even just for a few minutes.

Lynn McPherson has worked for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, ran a small business, and taught English across the globe. She has travelled the world solo where her daring spirit has led her to jump out of airplanes, dive with sharks, and learn she would never master a surfboard. She now channels her lifelong love of adventure and history into her writing, where she is free to go anywhere, anytime. Her cozy series has two books out: The Girls' Weekend Murder and The Girls Whispered Murder.  

The Spirit of the Season

By Lynn McPherson
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! Today is a great day for everyone to take time and reflect on what is important in life. Regardless of whether or not one believes in the religious origins of Christmas, we are all given the opportunity on this day to slow down. With almost every store and service closed, it is a perfect time to focus on family and friends. It is easy to get caught up in the day-to-day responsibilities of a busy life. Luckily, we have this special day to take pause and look around to appreciate what we have.
Some of my favorite things to do on Christmas are activities I rarely seem to have time for these days. Board games like Monopoly or Risk—those that can take hours to play—suddenly seem appealing. And who can resist a classic game of family charades? With turkey in the oven, it is the perfect time to challenge your favourite family members to a game.
Then there is the big meal. Will there be enough gravy? Can we manage to make it thick enough to please everyone? Inevitably, each cook in the kitchen will have advice on every aspect of the complicated meal. Last but not least, who is going to carve the turkey? How much butter can those potatoes withstand?
Each family seems to have traditions that they follow. My wee ones have taken to the idea that Santa should be given some healthy snack options along with his cookies. We have left out guacamole with whole grain tortilla chips now for three years running. They are proud to tell their aunts and uncles that they are helping to keep Santa healthy and happy. Do you have any family traditions that you would like to share?
Please take the day to enjoy whatever makes you happy. Quiet or loud, busy or relaxed, I hope you have a wonderful and memorable holiday season with those you love.
Cheers to all,

Lynn McPherson has worked for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, ran a small business, and taught English across the globe. She has travelled the world solo where her daring spirit has led her to jump out of airplanes, dive with sharks, and learn she would never master a surfboard. She now channels her lifelong love of adventure and history into her writing, where she is free to go anywhere, anytime. Her cozy series has two books out: The Girls’ Weekend Murder and The Girls Whispered Murder.  


Mystery Writers Who Inspired Me—Part 1

By Kay Kendall

Jacqueline Winspear is a marvelous author whose books have been
inspiring me for more than a decade. Most of the stories in her Maisie Dobbs
mystery series are set in England, and the series begins after the War to End
All Wars, which is alas now called World War One. The eleventh book in the
series came out this year.

Maisie Dobbs was a young nurse at the front, and her fiancé was
wounded in the fighting. In the first book, he is a hopeless invalid, unable to
speak and suffering from the gas attacks that occurred during the infamous
trench warfare. The initial offering—simply titled Maisie Dobbs—won many prizes for first novel and wide spread praise
from both reviewers and readers alike.

Author Jacqueline Winspear
What drew me into this mystery series was the depiction of
the ravages of war on those who did not fight. Winspear describes long-lasting
horrors that saddled a whole society after the war was won by the British and
their allies, the Americans, French and Russians. Calamitous events arose from
that disastrous war—the Russian Revolution, the Great Depression, and Hitler’s

Maisie becomes a private investigator and is taught how to
approach her cases from a psychological perspective by a wise, older male
mentor. The first books are set in the late 1920s and then carry into  the 1930s. We readers know that Europe is crawling
steadily toward another world war, and we see how Maisie adapts to changing
conditions and threats. Although several young men wish to wed her, she shies
away from commitment and maintains her independence steadfastly.  She helps others find happiness but doesn’t
seem able to do that for herself, at least in the area of romance.

I began reading these fine, unique mysteries by Jacqueline
Winspear before I began writing my own mysteries, and the more I read, the more
they inspired me. I wanted to develop my own tales to show another young woman
challenged by her own era’s battles—of war, politics, and changing values. It
is no exaggeration to say that without reading about Maisie Dobbs, I might
never have written about my own female amateur sleuth, Austin Starr.

Over the years I’ve been fortunate to hear Jacqueline
Winspear speak several times about the genesis of her series, how her own
grandfather survived his participation in World War One and how his military
service deeply affected her family. Plus, one of her grandmothers worked in a munitions
arsenal during the war and was partially blinded in an explosion.
To commemorate the hundredth anniversary of the beginning of
the war, Winspear published a standalone novel last year set during the cataclysm.
Her historical research is personal and impeccable.

Recently, a funny thing happened. I believed that I had read
all the volumes in order and that I was totally up to date with Maisie’s doings—with
the exception of the eleventh escapade. I bought it and added it to my
to-be-read pile—the enormous stack at my bedside. Yet, one thing had always
puzzled me. There was a jump in Winspear’s storytelling. A squabble between
Maisie and her mentor was referenced, and I didn’t know what to make of it or
where it came from. There was also the introduction in the middle books of a
character treated as continuing but one I had not been introduced to before. I double-checked
to ensure I had read all the books in order and kept on reading them.

And then last week, a sale grabbed me. The audiobook version
of the third mystery, Pardonable Lies,
was offered at a deep discount. Since it had been about a decade since I first
read that book—or so I believed—I bought the CD and popped it into my car’s
audio disc player. Imagine my surprise—no, my shock!—when the plot was new. I
had never read Pardonable Lies. In it
Maisie and her mentor quarrel over national security matters and she reconnects
with an old friend from college. No wonder I didn’t know about those threads in
Maisie’s story. I had missed them entirely.

This is delightful serendipity, stumbling upon a lost
treasure that I didn’t even know I had misplaced. Now when I get into the car
and face Houston’s clogged traffic, I enjoy the ride. Perhaps I will reread all
the books, or listen to them in traffic.   

I heartily recommend this series to you. Find Maisie’s
stories listed in order here: http://www.jacquelinewinspear.com/novels.php
Kay Kendall is a long-time fan of
historical novels and writes atmospheric mysteries that capture the spirit
and turbulence of the sixties. She is a reformed PR executive who lives in
Texas with her husband, three house rabbits, and spaniel Wills. Terribly allergic
to her bunnies, she loves them anyway! Her book titles show she’s a Bob Dylan
buff too. RAINY DAY WOMEN published in July. It is the second
in her Austin Starr Mystery series. The audiobook debuts soon.