@Archaeolibrary, @GoddessFish, @quirkymysteries
What begins as a prank ends in murder.
The campaign for the U.S. Congressional seat was referred to in the press as “Mr. Smith goes to Washington versus the carpetbagger.” The popular local candidate gets the majority of endorsements, but his opponent’s wealthy, out-of-state family is willing to do whatever it takes for him to win.
Penny-wise Investigations, a discount detective agency located in a mall, is hired to find out who is stealing the local candidate’s political signs. Two of their investigators, Cameron Chandler and Yuri Webster, not only catch the thieves in the act, they find a body next to a pile of stolen signs, proving that Campaigning Can Be Deadly.
STAKEOUT - There were no buildings on the smallish piece of land, just tall grass dotted with litter. Signs were scattered everywhere, like bulky cardboard weeds growing out of control, including a dozen or so for Knight. They stood out from the rest because of their color and careful placement on the lot. According to the file, Knight’s signs had been stolen from the lot in the past, and hopefully they would be a tempting target for the opposition this evening. Although I liked having an assignment, I didn’t necessarily look forward to spending too many nights in a car eating junk food and praying that I could last the night without needing a toilet break.
“Want to start with chips or Cheez-its?” Yuri asked.
“I brought a couple of sandwiches,” I said. “Egg salad or vegetarian?”
“What’s in the vegetarian?”
“Eggs,” I said, handing him a sandwich. “I didn’t have time for dinner,” I explained. “I also have a thermos of coffee and some candy bars.”
“I brought Coke and candy bars.”
“Think we’ll have enough?”
“Only if it doesn’t take all night.” Yuri laughed. I like his laugh. And I like him. We work well together. Initially my kids had hoped we would end up romantically involved, but when they realized that wasn’t going to happen, they seemed content to settle for his friendship in our lives.
1. What was your favourite book as a child?
I was an avid reader as a child, so it’s hard to choose just one book. But one I loved was The Secret Garden. It wasn’t the plot so much as the feeling of mystery and having a secret place to go to that appealed to me. Years later, as an adult, a friend and I decided we wanted to see the movie because we had both enjoyed the book as children. We went to a weekend matinee only to realize we were in line with what seemed like hundreds of young girls. It was the one of the few times I’ve felt tall.
2. Have you written a book you love that you have not been able to get published?
YES, thank you for asking. One of the things I’ve learned is that books that don’t fit into a specific genre are difficult to sell. Insured to the Hilt is the story of a nerdy insurance investigator, John Smith, who stumbles his way through solving a mystery. Each chapter begins with a quotation from a book about something happening to a traditional protagonist and is immediately contrasted with what’s happening to John. For example, Margery Allingham’s Albert Campion has a classy card he hands to clients, whereas John hands someone a coupon he had in his pocket by mistake. I’m considering putting one chapter at a time on my website for anyone who wants to read it.
3. Can you tell us about your upcoming book?
It’s the second in my Discount Detective series about a detective agency located in a shopping mall: Vigilance You Can Afford. The main character is a single mom whose PhD wasn’t getting her a job. Then she impulsively responds to a Help Wanted sign and lands a position as an investigator. In this 2nd book, Cameron and her colleague, Yuri, are assigned surveillance on a lot where campaign’s signs are being stolen. They follow the thieves and end up discovering a body next to a pile of stolen signs. After that they get involved in a race to find research damaging to one campaign and become the target of several interested parties who want to suppress the research. It all proves that Campaigning Can Be Deadly.
4. How did you come up with the title?
My first Discount Detective mystery was titled Survival Can Be Deadly. Initially I was calling the 2nd book Campaigning Can Be Murder, but my editor suggested I should make the titles parallel. The 3rd may be harder to come up with.
5. Are there certain characters you would like to go back to, or is there a theme or idea you’d love to work with?
A number of readers have asked whether the soldier of fortune character from Survival Can Be Deadly will show up again. I think they were hoping for a more prolonged romantic connection between him and Cameron. I’m iffy about the romantic aspect, but I would like to bring him back, this time as a client. I would also like to make better use of some of the Penny-wise investigators. I’m particularly fond of Jenny Perry, part-time investigator and free-spirited farmer. And, of course, Cameron’s two children are entering their teen years, so her interaction with them will offer some parental challenges.
6. What has been the toughest criticism you’ve been given as an author?
The first agent I sent a mystery to said my book was “interlarded with extraneous detail.” At the time it hurt, but unfortunately it was true. The comment has since become a guideline for writing.
7. Is there anything that you would like to say to your readers and fans?
On behalf of all writers, please write reviews. They don’t have to be more than a few sentences. But Amazon, in particular, uses the number of reviews to determine placement and promotion. And a lot of readers say they look at reviews before deciding whether to read a book. In addition, I would like to say THANK YOU for reading my mysteries.
8. Do you read your reviews? Yes. I know that many authors say they don’t, and I can understand why. If someone is completely off base about story details and then doesn’t like the book, it can be upsetting. But critics often make good points that can help improve your writing. And sometimes they say things that make you laugh. Like the person who was worried about my characters leaving “used” sheets on a bed after breaking into someone’s cabin and spending the night. I admit, it hadn’t crossed my mind. On the other hand, if it had been MY cabin--.
9. How do you decide if you can trust someone?
My dissertation was on value systems in legal opinions. One of the things I learned when researching values was how my own prioritization of values affects how I view people. Just like a judge’s values impact their rulings. For me, loyalty is important. Not blind loyalty, but being transparent and honest with someone. If I feel like someone is being transparent and honest with me, I’m confident I can trust them. That means you don’t mask what you’re feeling or hold back when you disagree. And I believe in the cliche that trust has to be earned. It takes me a while before I trust someone. At the same time, I can enjoy superficial relationships with people where trust isn’t an issue.
10. When you walk into a room what do you notice first? Second?
I’m assuming there’s no one in the room, otherwise I would be focused on whoever was there. If it’s an empty room I check out the general atmosphere. Does it look lived in? Or is it a showcase? Are there books around? One house I was in for the first time last year impressed me because there was a staircase with piles of book on each step. Personally, I’ve always wanted a wall of bookshelves with a rolling ladder, partly because I like the look, and partly so it’s more convenient to access the books on higher shelves. (Being short had definitely influenced how I see the world!)
11. What is the most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to you?
After falling down on the stage at my high school graduation, I thought that would be the most embarrassing thing that ever happened to me. (You need to know I was all alone on the stage because I had just played a saxophone solo, and I fell like a tree being cut down, protecting my instrument with both arms.) Anyway, I was wrong – I was destined for more embarrassment. It happened on my way to an important interview. I got stuck behind a car that was driving much too slow for my taste. When I finally got the chance to pass, I ceremoniously gave the driver of the other car the finger. (Yes, I was not only young but rude.) Little did I know that the individual in the car was a board member I would be introduced to after my interview. His classy response: “We’ve already met.”
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In a world filled with uncertainty and too little chocolate, Charlotte Stuart has a passion for writing lighthearted mysteries with a pinch of adventure and a dollop of humor. Her first discount detective mystery, Survival Can Be Deadly, was a Foreward INDIES finalist. Why me? Chimeras, Conundrums and Dead Goldfish was a semi-finalist for the Chanticleer Murder and Mayhem contest before it was published. She began her career in academia with a PhD in communications. Then, she and her husband decided to build a commercial boat and go fishing for salmon in Alaska. Currently she is the VP for Puget Sound Sisters in Crime and lives and writes on Vashon Island in Washington State’s Puget Sound. She spends time each day entertained by herons, seals, eagles and other wildlife.
Charlotte Stuart – social media