Title: Biscuits and Slashed Browns: A Country Store Mystery
Author: Maddie Day
Publisher: Kensington Publishing, 2018. 292 pages
Source: electronic ARC via Great Escapes Book Tours
As Robbie arranges a breakfast-themed cook-off at Pans 'N Pancakes, visitors pour into Brown County for the annual maple extravaganza. Unfortunately, that includes Professor Connolly, a know-it-all academic from Boston who makes enemies everywhere he goes--and this time, bad manners prove deadly. Soon after clashing with several scientists at a maple tree panel, the professor is found dead outside a sugar shack, stabbed to death by a local restaurateur's knife. When an innocent woman gets dragged into the investigation and a biologist mysteriously disappears, Robbie drops her winning maple biscuits to search for answers. But can she help police crack the case before another victim is caught in a sticky situation with a killer?
Guest Post by Author Maddie Day!(My review follows). Maddie Day has kindly agreed to drop by and share some of her secrets for being an amazingly productive writer!
How to Stay ProductiveI write three mystery series, and people often ask me how I manage. So I thought I’d share my top ten tips for staying productive.
Ten - Make lists. Every day I jot down a list of the things I want to accomplish for today. The first thing (every day but Sunday) is always, Write. The long-term-goals list is on my white board: stuff I want to be sure I don’t forget but that I don’t have to do today.
Nine – Sprint. Every morning author and independent editor Ramona DeFelice Long posts a sprint thread on her Facebook page before seven AM. Bunches of us from all over grab our first, or next, cup of coffee and check in, then we all ignore each other, turn off the internet and the phone, and work steadily for an hour. It’s a writing club, a mutual support group, and a fabulous technique for working without interruption. I take a break at eight, and then do another sprint, and often another before I meet my word count goal for the day.
Eight – Work on one series at a time. I try my best to immerse myself in one setting, one set of characters, one story, whether I’m in first draft or revising said draft.
Seven – Finish what’s due first. Except #8 blows up sometimes. I’ll be in first draft mode on the Cape Cod and copyedits will come in from 1888. Or I’ll be revising a Rose Carroll mystery and page proofs will arrive from the country store series. So then I operate on the First Due principle. I knock off the proofs or the copy edits, because they are due in a week or two, so I can get back to the longer work. The problem with doing that, of course, is that I have to reread the whole work in progress up to where I left off so I can re-immerse myself in that world. But that’s a good exercise, anyway.
Six – Take time away from the desk. By about eleven I’m toast for creative work, so I usually go for what I call my plotting walk, especially if I’m writing a first draft. I talk out loud to myself, ask questions about my characters, and soon enough the next scene or the plot problem has become clear. I happily dictate an email to myself and keep walking.
Five – Separate creative time from admin time. I’m most creative in the early morning, so I do my writing then. A corollary is, Keep creative time sacred. I don’t schedule anything else for mornings – not exercise classes, not doctor appointments, nothing. I try to keep writing blog posts, scheduling author events, book-keeping, and all the other businessy stuff for the afternoons.
Four – Work ahead. Per my comment about deadlines colliding: I work ahead. I’m always either in first draft mode or revision mode.
Three – Outsource what I can’t do. I’m miserable with art and graphics, so I barter with a friend who is an artist and has not only Photoshop but an eye for color. She makes my bookmarks, I give her a book. I hire someone to do my taxes. Why waste time on things it would take me forever to do and rob me of the hours I need to do what I’m good at – writing stories? And even though I love growing food, my little organic garden out back is getting smaller and smaller, and we have three fabulous farm stands within a couple of miles.
Two – Stay healthy. I always have a full Amesbury Police Department mug of water on my desk. Fluids in, fluids out makes me get up and move around every hour or even more often. I try to eat lean fresh foods, and I get regular exercise even if it isn’t the hearty gym workout I really need. And the exercise doubles as creative time - see #6!
One – Butt in the chair, fingers on the keyboard. This is really the most important one. If I get distracted, schedule other things, or simply don’t do the writing, then...I’m not doing the writing. And that’s my job. Of all the varied jobs I’ve held (pump jock, teacher, farmer, doula, tech writer), I’m lucky and blessed to have this last one be the one I love the most (well, besides my favorite job – being a mom). And I am staying sane, mostly.
[Note: an earlier version of this post appeared on the Jungle Red Writers blog a couple of years ago.]
My web site, edithmaxwell.com, includes information about all my writing, including my historical Quaker Midwife Mysteries, my other contemporary series, and my award-winning short stories. Please stop by, and sign up for my newsletter, too. You can also find me at the following links:
Facebook: Maddie Day and Edith Maxwell
Twitter: @edithmaxwell and @MaddieDayAuthor
Blog: Wicked Cozy Authors
Goodreads: Edith Maxwell
Edith Maxwell is a 2017 Macavity and Agatha Award nominee and has also had several short stories nominated for an Agatha. She writes the historical Quaker Midwife Mysteries set in Amesbury, and the Local Foods Mysteries. Under the pseudonym Maddie Day she writes the Country Store Mysteries and the Cozy Capers Book Group Mysteries. Her award-winning short crime fiction has appeared in many juried anthologies, and she is honored to serve as President of Sisters in Crime New England.
A fourth-generation Californian and former tech writer, farmer, and doula, Maxwell now writes, cooks, gardens, and wastes time as a Facebook addict north of Boston with her beau and two cats. She blogs at WickedCozyAuthors.com, Killer Characters, and with the Midnight Ink authors.
Thanks for visiting, and for some inspiring comments on how you manage to write so much. I completely agree about needing to put the butt in the chair, and keeping the writing time sacred (I don't do so well, but I completely agree!).
After all that, you still want my review?
I found this book to be an engaging read, with all the cozy elements in good balance. My long-time blog followers will know that I don't like too much obsession over romance issues, and Robbie kept that under control. I liked that even when she couldn't help worrying, she has enough sense and confidence in her sweetheart not to go off the deep end and create unnecessary problem.
Because the book is #4 in the series, I did on a few occasions feel like I was missing some connections between characters, but for the most part I was impressed that it worked well even though I've not read any of the others. Characters are generally well-developed where they need to be, and the setting is pretty clear, though I had a little trouble picturing Robbie's store/restaurant, which does kind of matter.
Finally, the mystery: a satisfactory victim (don't we all love to see the hateful character get the bump!), followed by an abundance of possible perps and red herrings. In the end, I maybe did come down to the right person too soon, just because we seemed to be short of people we'd want to see be guilty (not every cozy mystery spares us the trauma of convicting someone we like, but most do, and I tend to look for someone there's a reason to dislike or distrust). Clues were present but not in your face, and Robbie worked pretty well with the police, though her determination to hunt out the killer for herself is a bit hard to justify at times (at others, like when she's sure the police are wrong, it makes more sense).
The writing is strong, and the story engaging, if sometimes a bit too focused on menus. I was a little slow to get into it, more for reasons having to do with me than with the story, because when I did pick it up I was enjoying it. An extra pleasure is the contemplation of some of the homey Indiana expressions some of the characters use, which are a source of mystification or delight to Robbie, who's from California.
Cozy fans of all sorts should enjoy this. I even thought some of the recipes included looked reasonable, which is not usually the case in books like this.
FTC Disclosure: I received an ARC of Biscuits and Slashed Browns from Great Escapes Free Book Tours, and received nothing further from the writer or publisher in exchange for my honest review. The opinions expressed are my own and those of no one else. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."