Book Groups

Remember that I LOVE coming to book clubs, and I always bring presents! If I can’t be there in person, I can appear via Skype.

Here's my giant head creepily coming into someone's house via their big screen television.
Here’s my giant head creepily coming into someone’s house via their big screen television.

Need some inspiration for book group questions? Look no further:

A Murder in Mount Moriah

  1. Before you read the book, what did you think of the idea of having a young, female hospital chaplain as the main character? How did her religious views come through in the book? How did her beliefs match up with yours?
  2. What did you think of Lindsay as a person? Would you want her to visit if you or a loved one was in the hospital?
  3. There are lots of complicated family dynamics at play in the book. Which were the most interesting to you? Could you identify with any of the relationships?
  4. What scene was the most pivotal in the story? How did it change the story or the characters’ trajectory?
  5. What scenes or characters resonated most with you personally in either a positive or negative way? Why?
  6. The inclusion of a gay chaplain in the story has generated a lot of criticism and some very negative reviews. What did you think of Rob? And what do you make of the controversy?
  7. Were there any particular quotes that stood out to you? Why?

A Death in Duck

  1. One theme of the book is the way the past continues to influence the present. What past influences shape the actions of the characters in the story?
  2. Did your family have any secrets that have been exposed? Do believe that some secrets are best kept hidden?
  3. If you could smack any of the characters upside the head, who would it be and why?
  4. Did your opinion of Lindsay change as you read the book? How?
  5. What do you think of Lindsay and Warren’s relationship? How about Anna and Drew’s?
  6. Leander Swoopes is a pretty evil guy. Do you think anyone is so evil that they’re unsalvageable? Who are the other “bad guys” in this book?
  7. What do you think will happen next to the main characters?

The Burnt Island Burial Ground

  1. Were you surprised by the way Lindsay’s and Warren’s relationship turned out?
  2. Whose version of the Lowrie story do you believe? Did your ideas about what really happened change as you read?
  3. What did you think of the character of Jess?
  4. Lindsay suffers from low self-esteem and depression. Are you surprised that someone in her line of work would suffer from mental illness? How does her mental illness affect her relationships?
  5. Lindsay’s relationship with her father seems to be gradually improving throughout the series. Do you think it’s possible to change the way you relate to your parents once you’re in your thirties or forties? Or are some patterns too deeply entrenched?
  6. The Lumbee Indians have a fascinating history and heritage. Did you Google the true stories behind any of the incidents in the book? If so, how did it change your perception of what you read? Do you like knowing the true stories behind fictional depictions, or would you rather just let the story stand as-is?

All Creatures Great and Not So Great

Because I really, really love animals (and because the big Hollywood movie deal on the Lindsay Harding books has yet to materialize), I continue to work my part-time day job as Clinical Trials Coordinator at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine. Yesterday, things in the office got a little bit weird. Luckily, one of the Communications Office reporters was on hand to document events as they unfolded. Does this remind anybody else of the squirrel scene in A Murder in Mount Moriah? That, too, was based on a true story from when I worked at Duke University, and one of our graduate students had a close encounter at a urinal. Truth really is stranger than fiction.

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Of Fish and Bicycles

“A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle.” – quote attributed to Gloria Steinem

To find out why I, a writer of light-hearted cozy mysteries, would begin a blog post using a quote from Gloria Steinem, a hard-hitting feminist intellectual and writer of much-lauded essays, pop over to the Jane Reads blog

Cozy mystery connoisseur and all-around great person, Jane, and her cat, Maxie, recently reviewed The Burnt Island Burial Ground on her blog. I’m pretty chuffed about being awarded a “five kitty” review, their highest honor. This is especially exciting since it’s the first time I’ve been reviewed by a non-human! This could open up a whole new readership for me, because I have yet to really break into the anthropomorphic cat market. 🙂

And speaking of fish, bicycles, and anthropomorphism, here’s a whimsically delightful video clip I found when I was trying to research who actually said the fish/bicycle quote for the first time:

Murder is better with a spoon full of sugar (or a cookie)

Book3-updatedI recently paid a virtual visit to Brooke Blogs, a website curated by a small-town Ohio librarian. She was kind enough to feature my newest release, The Burnt Island Burial Ground, which is the latest installment of the Reverend Lindsay Harding mystery series.

Pop on over to bookish Brooke’s blog to find out why, if I’m going to write about something as dark and sinister as murder, I need to do it with a spoon full of sugar (or a gigantic cookie) firmly in my grasp.


Oh, and if you’ve managed to read all three books in the series, I’d love to know which Lindsay Harding book was your favorite!

Hatred isn’t pretend.

Since I published my first novel almost two years ago, I’ve received a lot of feedback in the form of online reviews. For the most part, these have been positive and encouraging. I realize that my soft-boiled Southern mysteries aren’t going to be everyone’s cup of sweet tea though, so I’ve come to accept that I’ll inevitably receive the occasional one or two-star review. Every time I do, my skin just grows a little thicker. (At least that’s how I’m explaining the weight I’ve gained over that period of time). Everyone’s entitled to an an opinion, right? It’s only a novel after all.

Or is it? One kind of bad review that’s cropped up a few times which my superthickened skin (which, incidentally, must weigh at least four pounds based on the weight I’ve gained) still can’t ward off comes in the form of a diatribe from anti-gay Christians. These are the folks who don’t like my books because they feature a homosexual character who works as a Christian hospital chaplain. At first, I was tempted to shrug off the comments of these apoplectic reviewers, who, by the way, often seem to have defective keyboards that are permanently stuck on ALL CAPS. After all, my books aren’t romances, and this character’s sexuality is, in the main, peripheral to the plot. But a Zen level of shrug-offery isn’t so easy to achieve. Some of these reviewers hated, or were disgusted by, my book just because it contained a gay Christian character, whose monogamous relationship is portrayed in a positive light. If just the idea of such a person could elicit such a strong reaction, what must life be like for actual LGBT Christians? And does that vitriol get handed out in double measure to LGBT ministers?

My first experience with the intersection of homosexuality and religion came in the form of a young man who attended the Baptist church where I passed my Sundays (and Wednesday nights, and some Saturdays. We were big on church.) as a child. This young man was active in the youth group, volunteered to help with the Sunday school program, and was generally thought of as a great guy. However, after he left his parents’ home, he came out as gay. He was never seen at church again. In fact, the church leaders went so far as to make it clear to him that he wasn’t welcome–performing whatever bureaucratic ritual comprises the Baptist version of excommunication. A mighty fortress is our God indeed–with gays and lesbians firmly on the outside the fortress walls.

That was more than twenty years ago, but things haven’t moved on as much as the #lovewins hashtag and the recent Supreme Court victory might indicate. In more recent years, I’ve heard of a hospital chaplain being spit on and another being tossed out of a room. I’ve heard of an Episcopalian minister being asked to be discreet about the existence of her wife in certain situations or among certain constituents.

Look, I’m not claiming that because some meanies said they didn’t like my books, I know what it feels like to be discriminated against or suffer under the yoke of oppression. And by no means do I wish to rain on the (pride) parade of those who are justifiably elated by the expansion of the definition of marriage. I also know that there are many, many people of faith who welcome their LGBT brothers and sisters with compassion and openness. I guess I’m just saying that I wish prejudice and hatred were things that could be contained within the pages of a novel. Then we could easily close the book on them once and for all.

Malice Domestic 27

Devilish dessert at Malice Domestic

Great post from Nancy J. Cohen on Malice Domestic 27. Note that Nancy also has a couple of giveaways running this month, which are listed at the bottom of her page.

It really is a fantastically fun conference, and I highly recommend it for fans of traditional mysteries. Where else can you hang out with fellow fans and big names like Sara Paretsky and Hank Phillipi Ryan, all at the same table? A wide variety of panels, a lovely venues, and best of all, there are book stalls with all the latest bestsellers and some rarer finds from shops like Scene of the Crime and Mystery Loves Company. It is book nerd paradise.

Vacations–virtual and otherwise

I’m going on an epic vacation this summer–a month traveling around England, Scotland, Wales, and Iceland. I know that conventional wisdom says you shouldn’t put things like this on social media, but since our house will be occupied by some strapping graduate students and a ferocious miniature Schnauzer, I’m confident that all the criminal types who follow my blog won’t easily be able to break into my house and steal my TV. Also, our TV is a piece of junk, so good luck when it shorts out in the middle of your favorite episode of Hillbilly Handfishin’. Anyway, much of this travel involves visits to family and friends, and some of it is research for a new series. Pubs! Castles! Volcanoes! Whatever people see in Wales! I can’t wait.

But before I depart, I wanted to let you know about a virtual vacation I’ll be taking in early June. Starting on June 8th, I’ll be doing an Escape with Dollycas blog tour for The Burnt Island Burial Ground. Hope you can join me for a stop or two!

June 8Brooke Blogs – Guest Post

June 9Shelley’s Book Case – Review

June 10Babs Book Bistro – Spotlight

June 11readalot – Review

June 12Back Porchervations – Review

June 13 LibriAmoriMiei – Review

June 14Frankie Bow – Guest Post

June 15Jane Reads – Review, Guest Post

June 16Cozy Up With Kathy – Interview

June 17Author Michele Lynn Seigfried’s Blog – Review

June 173 Partners in Shopping, Nana, Mommy,&, Sissy, Too ! – Spotlight

Exclusive sample of The Burnt Island Burial Ground

Book3-updatedThe Burnt Island Burial Ground, book three in the Mount Moriah mystery series, is available for pre-order on Amazon! For the eReader-less among you, the paperback will go on sale in June.

I’ve posted an exclusive sample Use the password “burntisland” for a sneak preview of the first two chapters.

Audiobook raffle. Enter before April 27th!

A Murder in Mount Moriah is now an audiobook! Folks, if you chuckled when you read this book, I’ll guarantee that you’ll chortle and Mindy-Quigley-A-Murder-In-Mount-Moriah-Audiomaybe even guffaw at actress Holly Adams’s colorful performance. Until April 27th, you can enter the giveaway raffle for a chance to win one of three free audiobook downloads. Or, if you’re not the bettin’ kind, buy the book right now on iTunes,Amazon, or Audible. Oh, and Holly and I would be grateful if you’d leave a review!

Speaking of reviews, A Murder in Mount Moriah is up to 98 reviews on Amazon! I’d love to see  it push past the 100 review mark. If you can spare a few moments to rate the book, I’d be ever so grateful.

Birthing books, birthing babies, and cuddling with all kinds of feedback

Writer, reviewer, and book blogger Judy Nickles featured an interview with me on her blog yesterday. Check out an excerpt here:

If you’ve written more than one book, what have you learned between the first one and the new release? I’ve learned to greet critiques from my beta readers with wide open arms. The prospect of doing major rewrites (or even minor ones!) can be daunting, but it’s a necessary part of improving the final product. I owe it to my readers to put polished, entertaining work out there for them. Odds are high that anyone’s first draft is going to suck. The more comprehensive the feedback you receive and incorporate, the more you diminish those odds in subsequent drafts!

I’ve also learned that there’s a reason most writers don’t achieve success at a young age. Writing well, for me, involves a deepening of wisdom, a broadening of life experience, a honing of the skills of observation and concision, and a hell of a lot of practice. A few very gifted, very lucky individuals write fantastic first books at an early age, but obviously those people are freaks of nature who should be isolated from society to keep the rest of us from looking bad.

Read the entire interview on The Word Place blog.