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Wouldn't it be cool to give a gift that is both precious and free this holiday season? How about the gift of attention? Thanksgiving was hard enough for people who are isolated by this pandemic, but Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa -- those celebrations are likely to be even more difficult. This year, when you ask people how they are, ask sincerely and listen intensely. Encourage answers beyond "I'm fine." Let them vent and lend them support. You don't have to fix anything. Just listen. Your time and attention might make all the difference in the world. Sometime, people simply need to know that others care.

We are joined this month by mystery writers Kellye Garrett and Edith Maxwell. Kellye, a former Hollywood screen writer, answers questions about her writing journey, her plans for the future and some her favorite hobbies. Edith, who also publishes as Maddie Day, has written 30 (Yes, That's 30!) novels. So pay close attention to the advice she offers on writing. As always, you will also find updates on my own writing journey and a few photos from the Foster homestead in North Central Pennsylvania. 

I hope you enjoy it.

Happy holiday!

Congratulations to Jenny Milchman and Michele Cross, winners of the November drawing! 

Jenny won a copy of The Art of Falling by Kathryn Craft and Michele won Threshold of Deceit by Carol Pouliot.

Meet Kellye Garrett

Kellye Garrett’s first novel, Hollywood Homicide, won the Agatha, Anthony, Lefty and Independent Publisher “IPPY” awards for best first novel. It is also among BookBub’s Top 100 Crime Novels of All Time. The second novel in her Detective by Day Mysteries Series, Hollywood Ending, was featured on the Today show’s Best Summer Reads of 2019 and was nominated for both Anthony and Lefty awards. Prior to writing books, Kellye spent eight years working in Hollywood, including a stint writing for the CBS drama Cold Case. She currently serves on the Board of Directors for Sisters in Crime and co-founded Crime Writers of Color.

About her books

Hollywood Homicide: Dayna Anderson doesn’t set out to solve a murder. All the semifamous, mega-broke actress wants is to help her parents keep their house. So after witnessing a deadly hit-and-run, she pursues the fifteen grand reward. But Dayna soon finds herself doing a full-on investigation, wanting more than just money—she wants justice for the victim. She chases down leads at paparazzi hot spots, celeb homes, and movie premieres, loving every second of it—until someone tries to kill her. And there are no second takes in real life.

Hollywood Ending: Tinseltown’s awards season is in full swing, and everyone is obsessed with dressing up, scoring free swag, and getting invited to the biggest awards shows of the year. But when popular Silver Sphere Awards publicist Lyla Davis is killed during a botched ATM robbery, the celebratory mood comes to an abrupt halt.

Dayna Anderson—an actress turned apprentice private investigator—uncovers the killer almost immediately. Unfortunately, what starts as an open-and-shut case turns out to be anything but. Lyla’s murder was no robbery-gone-wrong. Someone hired the gunman to kill her. Diving back into the investigation, Dayna gets a backstage look at the worlds of gossip blogging, Hollywood royalty, and one of entertainment’s most respected awards shows—all while trying to avoid her own Hollywood ending.

A Conversation with Kellye

Q: You started your career in magazine, and then became a Hollywood screenwriter. What made you trade LA for your current communications job in New York City and your career as a novelist? Was there any particular or memorable turning point when you said, “It’s time to write that novel?”

Kellye: I’ve been wanting to write books since I was five, but I was always scared. That’s why I did pretty much every other type of writing except attempting a book. It took me being at a career crossroads to decide to finally just go for it. I was out of work for a couple years and had just turned 30. TV writing pays great but isn’t known for job security. So, I decided to move back home to New Jersey and look for a more stable career while I finally wrote a book.

Q: As a Black woman writing in a genre dominated by white men and woman, were there unique obstacles you faced on the road to publication? How about marketing and promotions?

Kellye: Yes, though there are definitely some straight, cis white men in crime fiction who will swear up and down that they don’t have it easier than the rest of us. :-p When I finished my traditional mystery with a Black woman main character in 2014, there weren’t any being published in the genre. I foolishly assumed it was because no one wrote them. I was wrong. It’s only been in the last year or so that publishing has made a concerted effort to publish #ownvoices mysteries, especially cozies and traditional mysteries.

One thing I do find frustrating is when people (whether it’s reviewers or readers) only make a concerted effort to read Black authors during Black History Month. Don’t get me wrong; I appreciate anyone who reads my book (Their time is precious!), but hopefully you’ll enjoy them the other 11 months of the year too!

Q: Many writers try novel-length humor and fail, but you succeed in the Detective by Day mysteries. Any advice for writers who struggle to sustain humor in their novels?

Kellye: First, thank you. Second, humor definitely is tricky. For me, I try to respect what my character is feeling at the time. If she’s genuinely scared for her life, she’s not going to be making jokes. So, I treat that seriously. I try to treat the actual murder seriously as well. I reserve the humor for lighter moments and just in my characters’ outlooks on life.

Q: Do you have a favorite character or scene in your novels? Can you share?

Kellye: SPOILER ALERT. My favorite scene in Hollywood Homicide comes later in the book, so stop reading if you hate spoilers. (I personally love them.) There’s a scene where Dayna and her crew try to trick the bad guy into admitting they did it. They hatch an entire scheme. Of course, it goes completely wrong and ends with Dayna’s best friend and her twin sister (who are cute and each like a size 0) beating the bad guy up. Imagine like the Olsen twins jumping someone.

Q: Your publisher folded, keeping the rights to the Day mysteries and preventing you from writing another in the series for now, but I understand you are working on something new. Can you tell us about it?

Kellye: Yes, but the good thing about them having the rights is that the books are still available! As much as I enjoyed writing a series, I decided to shift to writing a more serious standalone. It still has humor but think along the lines of Megan Miranda or Lori Rader-Day.

I describe Like A Sister, as an #ownvoices domestic suspense novel about a woman looking into the overdose death of a one-time reality star found within blocks of her house—her own estranged younger sister.

Q: What do you like to do when you are not working in Manhattan or writing?

Kellye: So many things: Sleep; mentor emerging authors through the Pitch Wars program; sleep; volunteer with Sisters In Crime organization; sleep; expand the Crime Writers of Color group I started with Walter Mosley and Gigi Pandian; sleep; obsess over what candles to buy. (Bath and Body Works Candle Day is coming up y’all. Anyone who follows me on social media knows that I prepare all year for this.)

On writing and reading ...

Each month, I ask an author for thoughts about writing, reading or the writing life. This month's featured author is Agatha Award-winner and Macavity finalist Edith Maxwell. Edith writes the historical Quaker Midwife Mysteries and short crime fiction. As Maddie Day she pens the Country Store Mysteries and the Cozy Capers Book Group Mysteries. A lifetime Sisters in Crime member who blogs with the Wicked Authors and at Mystery Lovers' Kitchen, Edith lives with her beau and their energizer kitten north of Boston. 

Edith offers this advice:

"Thanks so much for having me a guest on your newsletter, Lori!

I'm often asked what advice I might give to aspiring authors, to writers early on their path to publication, which is a place where I was not very long ago.

One: So much of writing is work. Hard work, fun work, it's still work. Even if you're living your dream, as I feel I am, it requires time and devotion and study. And if you want to write a book you will.

Two: Write the best book you can. You can't fix what you haven't written, and you can't sell what you haven't revised, polished, had edited, and polished some more.

Three: Find your tribe. If you write crime fiction, join Sisters in Crime, including your local chapter, and Mystery Writers of America. If you write in other genres, find your people. I have long said that I wouldn't have twenty-three (or any) books in print if it weren't for what I've learned from SINC, the networking I've done, the courses I've taken. So much - no, everything - is online now. You can make connections and improve your craft from the comfort of wherever you use your preferred digital device.

Good luck - and be in touch!


Happenings on the Foster homestead

A full moon rose over purple skies in our part of the world on the last days of November. Inside, we trimmed the tree with bellies full of Thanksgiving turkey and pie.

What's up with my books?

The ARCs are coming!
The ARCs are coming!
The first round of edits for my debut novel, A Dead Man's Eyes, is complete. Now I am anxiously awaiting round two of edits and a box full of advance reader copies (ARCs), which should arrive within the next week.
ARCs are copies of books that are distributed to book stores and reviewers three to six months before publication with the understanding that there is more editing and a polished cover to come.
I will mail a few of the ARCs to authors I admire in hopes that they will contribute "blurbs" for the final cover. Blurbs are those quotes on a book cover that help readers decide whether a book is worth purchasing.
Fingers crossed!
I will also receive electronic ARCs that I can distribute to bloggers and reviewers. My publisher, Level Best Books, will do some of that for me to help with pre-publication promotion.
It's starting to get real!

What's up at home?

What a strange and wonderful time.
Our Thanksgiving celebration usually includes twenty-five to thirty relatives and friends. This year, there were eight people at our table: My husband and I; our four kids; my stepdaughter; and my mother-in-law.
We missed the others, but we knew they were celebrating with their smaller clans as well. No one was alone and everyone was healthy. That was what mattered most.
It was kind of relaxing, cooking for fewer people and not caring whether dinner made it to the table on time. Our daughter had just finished her third semester at NC State. Our oldest son still had a week of classes at Penn State and finals to go. The twins had no school for a few days.
It was nice.
I am thankful that our kids are young during this pandemic. This is their home base, the place they come to stay safe when they are not in school. They don't have to decide between our family and a spouse's family or whether it's worth coming home if they have to quarantine before returning to work.
This is where they belong right now and I am looking forward to a cozy family Christmas more than ever.

Book recommendations from readers to readers

(Email me at with your recommendations for next month's newsletter or message me on Facebook.)

The Lions of Fifth Avenue (Fiction) by Fiona Davis

- Karoline B.

The Doll House (Fiction) by Fiona Davis

-Karoline B.

The Dead are Arising: The Life of Malcolm X

(Biography) by Les and Tamara Payne

- Laura S.

The Boy From the Woods (Mystery/Thriller) by Harlan Coben

- Laura S.

Robert B Parker’s Angel Eyes (Mystery/Suspense) by Ace Atkins

- David F.

Long Road to Mercy (Mystery/Thriller) by David Baldacci

- David F.

Open Season (Mystery) by CJ Box

- Deanna G.

The Cold Dish (Mystery/Western Fiction) by Craig Johnson

- Deanna G.

Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents  (Nonfiction) by Isabel Wilkerson

- Jill P.

Desolation Run (Mystery/Romantic Suspense) By Larry Lovan

- Laura S..

That Old Ace in the Hole (Fiction) by Annie Proulx

- Tim B.

This is a journal entry from my nonfiction book, Raising Identical Twins: The Unique Challenges and Joys of the Early Years: The title is "Surviving Christmas." Matt and Jon were eleven months old and insanely active:

"We were proud of ourselves.

We had pulled out a pack-n-play Christmas Eve and set it up near the television. We had a Wiggles DVD ready to go. We figured the boys could tear through their stockings in the pack-n-play the next morning. When the novelty wore off, they could watch Greg, Murray, Jeff and Anthony do "The Flap." Hopefully, that would keep them entertained and keep everyone else's gifts intact until breakfast. After breakfast, we could try naps.

I never thought it could be simpler than that.

Jonathan and Matthew awoke around six a.m. to a tree surrounded by gifts for them, their grandparents, their older brother, their sister, my husband and me. It was a sea of clashing colors, glitter and patterns. It was the ultimate temptation. It was irresistible even for me.

The older kids were not up yet, so we decided to put the babies down for a bit to see how they reacted. They were off as soon as they touched the floor. On hands and knees, they flew past the gifts, past the tree and over to the opening in the gate that divides the living room from the kitchen.

They left it all behind for the dog door, the air vents and chairs that can be slid back and forth across the tile and the hardwood. And there they stayed most of the morning, happy just to be free."

Happy writing and reading, and happy holidays!
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Lori Duffy Foster Author

2399 Austinburg Road, Westfield
PA 16950 United States

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