All posts by Patricia Smith Wood

About Patricia Smith Wood

Patricia Smith Wood became interested in crime solving and mysteries through her father, a former policeman, and career FBI agent. She became a fan of the Judy Bolton mystery series by Margaret Sutton, and vowed one day to try her hand at crafting her own mysteries. After a long and varied work career (including working for the FBI and owning her own computer business) she retired to work on her writing career. She's published two mysteries in the Harrie McKinsey series, and is working on the third.

Amber Foxx Interview With Patricia Smith Wood

A New Mexico Mystery Author Interview: Patricia Smith Wood

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Patricia Smith Wood’s father, first as a police officer, and later as a career FBI agent, sparked her own interest in law, solving crime, and mystery. After retiring from a varied and successful business career (including eighteen months working at the FBI, being a security officer at a savings & loan, and owning her own computer business) she attended writing seminars, conferences, and in 2009 graduated from the FBI Citizens’ Academy. Aakenbaaken & Kent published her first mystery, The Easter Egg Murder, on February 14, 2013. Murder on Sagebrush Lane, the second in the series, is finished and awaiting publication.

Last week I reviewed her book and this week she’s here to talk with me about it.

AF: The Easter Egg Murder has one of the most complicated plots I’ve ever read. How did you keep track of it as you wrote? (I picture you with a wall-sized chart covered with color-coded diagrams, or moving some sort of double-layered chess-board of characters around.)

PSW: It really wasn’t a problem for me. I’m a “pantster” and I didn’t map it out. The story simply developed as I wrote. Sometimes I’d start a chapter with a vague idea of it going one way, but it ended up completely different. I would finish and think, “Well, now what?” Then the next idea would just be there, and I’d go with it. I routinely found myself surprised at the twists that came out.

AF: Was there a historical event similar to the murder of Chipper Finn that inspired this book? Are any of the characters from that 1950 part of the plot based, even loosely, on actual people in New Mexico history?

PSW: Definitely! The actual murder of Cricket Coogler happened in Las Cruces, NM in 1949. But her body wasn’t discovered in the desert until sixteen days after she disappeared. Four young men (17-18) found her partially buried body in the desert on the Saturday before Easter when they went rabbit hunting. I used the basics, but changed the details to suit my version. Many of the actual people make an appearance (usually in disguise) in my version. And of course, Cricket’s murder was never solved.

AF: 21st century Albuquerque is the main setting in your book, and easily recognizable. Tell me about Los Huevos. I looked it up and found a rock-climbing site of some apparent difficulty, but no town. Is it based on a real place? Do you have any connection with a little town like that?

PSW: Los Huevos is a completely made up town, located conveniently at the foot of Los Huevos Peak (also fictional). Since the body in my story is discovered on Easter Sunday morning at the foot of Los Huevos Peak, that would be a natural reason to call it The Easter Egg Murder. I had been told I should have a title that stood out, and that seemed to me to fit the bill. I have no connection with such a town, but I suppose the small town of Los Lunas (which is actually southwest of Albuquerque about 20 miles) might have given me the idea.

AF: The story of the murder in 1950 and all the events around it, all the characters involved, could have been a book by itself. Did you ever consider writing it that way? How did you decide to make it a story within the story?

PSW: The story of the actual murder (in 1949) has already been written. In fact, I read everything I could get my hands on about Cricket Coogler’s murder. An excellent book by Paula Moore, titled Cricket in The Web, came out in 2008, right about the time I finished my first draft. I wanted to use some actual things, but ended up fictionalizing most of it. No one in New Mexico who knows about this murder wants to say, on the record, who they think was responsible. It was much more fun (and safer) to make it up.

AF: Harrie has precognitive dreams which add a sense of foreboding to the early part of the story. Was there any additional reason behind your decision to integrate this into the plot? I have this kind of dream myself so I liked that you treat it as only a little unusual. Also, it seemed true to “the woo” of New Mexico to have it in there but not make big deal of it.

PSW: I know several people who have some form of precognition, or “knowing”, about events. It’s always fascinated me and seemed like an interesting story-telling tool to use in fiction. I hoped to convey the mystical atmosphere that weaves its way through New Mexico’s history and culture, from the Anasazi and Chaco Canyon ruins to present day native practices.

AF: Tell me about your research. The illegal gambling and the political corruption in New Mexico back in the fifties were things I really hadn’t heard that much about, and I found them fascinating.

PSW: My father was an FBI agent who was transferred to the Albuquerque Office in 1951, two years after the murder. Events were still transpiring when he arrived here, and he later told me what he knew about the case. I also interviewed many people who lived through that era in New Mexico politics during the period 1949-1950. That included former FBI agents, former residents of Las Cruces, a couple of newspaper men who were around at the time, and even the former governor of New Mexico, who was elected mostly because of the Cricket Coogler murder. I also read books, and watched a film made on the subject: The Silence of Cricket Coogler. The book Cricket in The Web goes into the gambling issue in great detail, but I had also heard a lot about that from the people I interviewed.

AF: I know you have a good background in law enforcement, but you chose to give major roles in solving the mysteries to the two amateur sleuths, though you do include police and FBI. I’d love to know how you made that choice, and how you came around to casting two editors in the role of sleuths.

PSW: I have been a fan of the “cozy” mystery genre since I was a teenager. The cozy requires the sleuth (or sleuths) to be amateur, so it was always my intention to follow that basic rule. My favorite series at that age was the Judy Bolton mystery series by Margaret Sutton. In the early books, she was a teenager like me, and her boyfriend, Peter, helped her solve the mysteries. When they grew up, Peter became an FBI agent. Since my dad was an FBI agent, I thought that was a cool thing to do. Toward the end of the series, Judy and Peter eventually married, and she still managed to help him solve crimes.

As for making my sleuths editors, it seemed the best way to get them involved in a half-century old murder. By editing Senator Lawrence’s book about the murder, it gave them an excuse to become embroiled in digging out the answers. I didn’t stop to think how that might play out over a series, but in the beginning, I didn’t know it would be a series!

AF: Just for fun, I have to include this “outtake.” I made the mistake of asking Pat a question about some other books, and here’s the answer.

PSW: If you “Googled” my name, you might have run across a different Patricia Wood (which is why I insert my maiden name into the mix: Patricia Smith Wood) who has written at least one book (The Lottery) and perhaps more by now. She lives on a boat in Hawaii (which I obviously don’t). But that didn’t stop a local magazine from running a small piece about The Easter Egg Murder in which they stated that the author, Patricia Wood, lives on a boat in Hawaii!

It turns out Patricia Wood is a pretty common name. One day in 2012 I received a phone call from a local television station asking if I was Patricia Wood. I agreed that was me, and they then asked if I was the Patricia Wood who had stolen jewels from luggage at American Airlines and was I headed for federal prison in two weeks. Once I recovered my senses I assured them I was not that particular Patricia Wood, they thanked me and hung up.

AF: Tell me about your newest project.

PSW: My newly finished second book in the series is Murder on Sagebrush Lane. In the first chapter, Harrie McKinsey goes out to retrieve her newspaper at 5 a.m. on a summer morning and finds a small girl playing in her flower beds. She notices a dark stain on the child’s pajamas and teddy bear, and when she realizes it’s blood, her journey to find the child’s parents gets her involved in another murder. Of course, Harrie’s life is never that simple, and before it’s over there’s another murder, a race to uncover a plot to steal top secret data, an attempted kidnapping, and a desperate killer who intends to make Harrie his final victim.

AF: It sounds exciting. I’m glad to know there will be more of Harrie in the future. Let me know when the book comes out. Thanks so much for being my guest.

Pat’s web site:

Welcome – Glad You’re Here

Reblogged Review by Amber Foxx of The Easter Egg Murder.

A New Mexico Mystery Review: The Easter Egg Murder
This entry was posted on November 25, 2014 and tagged New Mexico Mystery, Patricia Smith Wood
front cover  Easter Egg

The best analogy I can think of for this book is a Rubik’s Cube. As I read it, I knew all the pieces of the puzzle could fit together, but I never did figure out how until the end. It’s the kind of mystery that engages the mind, with intricately constructed interlocking pieces and multiple layers of relationships, motives and history. It has a whodunit within a whodunit, as the team of amateur sleuths, police and FBI in 2000 work out who is behind the unsolved “Easter Egg murder” from 1950, as well as a murder and an attempted murder in their own time. In spite of this complexity there are no loose ends, no holes, and even its surprise ending is set up so the closure comes from the prior events, not out of the blue.

The cascade of events in this story is triggered when Senator Philip Lawrence starts writing two books—his memoir of his life in politics, and a book about a fifty-year-old murder that took place in the small New Mexico town of Los Huevos on Easter Sunday. The second book becomes more important to him than the first, and when word gets out that he’s working on it, the project stirs up some serious trouble. The retired senator’s editors find themselves in the middle of that trouble. I liked the way the two editors’ involvement in solving a mystery was handled. The amateurs don’t outsmart the professionals, but cooperate and communicate with them in a realistic way, as well as occasionally striking out on their own.

The characters are deft sketches, the pace brisk. The pieces of the puzzle keep moving. For those who like their books spare and fast, this will fit the bill. The tension is seldom at a life-threatening level, but it builds steadily to that point. There isn’t a dull moment or a single extra word that could have been cut.

I actually would have liked a few more words. The historical part of the mystery was so interesting I wanted to explore that time and place in more depth. I had a good sense of Harrie—one of the editors who is the primary point of view character—as a whole person, but I didn’t get to know the other major players as well as I would have liked. Almost like a radio play, a good portion of the story is told in dialog. I’m never in a hurry to have a good book end and I wouldn’t have minded if this slender 212 page novel had a little more meat on its bones.

*****

Next week I’ll have an interview with the author, in which she shares some fascinating background on this book.

Ode To My Computer

I am NOT a poet. However, one evening, in a fit of despair, I created this little diddy.

 Ode To My Computer

101_0687I love you . . .

And I hate you . . .

 

You are my communication tool . . .

You are my encyclopedia . . .

You are my creative companion.

 

You are my nemesis . . .

You are my frustration . . .

You are my enemy.

 

You help me seek out knowledge . . .

You keep me in touch with friends and family . . .

You give me a canvas to paint my words.

 

You give me headaches . . .

You hurt my wrists . . .

You make me groan with despair.

 

You are a genius of engineering . . .

You are an invention of monumental importance . . .

You constantly grow and improve.

 

You defeat me at every turn . . .

You mock me in my ignorance . . .

You withhold results for no apparent reason.

 

Why do I put up with you?

Am I truly such a masochist?

Are you really so impossible to replace?

 

Yes.

A Bountiful August

Now that August 2014 is history, I spent time this week reviewing and discovered what a great month it was for me!

As most writers are painfully aware, marketing your work is not as fun as writing is. In today’s world, even those published by big name houses, backed by PR teams, and marketing specialists, find themselves going out into the world, selling their books. For those of us with smaller houses, the marketing becomes even more focused on the writer.

I discovered last year when The Easter Egg Murder was released that I had a built-in following I had never realized. Among other activities I pursue, I’ve been an amateur radio operator for almost ten years. At least that’s how long I’ve had my license. Back in high school (and I’m not saying how far back that goes!) I was secretary of the Highland High School Amateur Radio Club. I wasn’t licensed then, and I didn’t need to be. The only reason for my membership and participation in that group was my boyfriend at the time. He was president of the club and spent most lunch hours during the week at the club’s radio shack, tinkering with the ham equipment. I wanted to spend my lunch hour with him, ergo I became a member of the club.

Many, many years later, I married that boyfriend, and he was still a ham. Eventually I succumbed to his pleas that I get my license, too, and in August 2005, I passed my Technician’s exam and became a licensed amateur radio operator. Little did I know, some of my biggest fans for The Easter Egg Murder would come from the ranks of other ham radio operators.

In August 2014, the annual Duke City Hamfest came to Albuquerque. I brought along my books, and before I knew it had sold 16 over that weekend.photoThen two weeks later I got a last-minute chance to have a table at the ABQ Home Expo that periodically appears at the NM State Fairgrounds. During that two-day period, I sold 36 books. The next weekend we were off to Continue reading A Bountiful August

The Writing Process Blog Hop

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Happy Monday to all, and here I go with my challenge this week: The Writing Process Blog Hop.

I think back to the days I dreamed about being a writer (as opposed to actually writing.) Questions swirled in my head about the process, but I didn’t know any real writers to ask. This was long before the Internet and the wealth of information and connections that are possible now.

Today, of course, we have so much information at our fingertips that it often becomes overwhelming. Still we are blessed with having virtual access to many writers and getting a window into their writing lives. That’s what this blog hop is all about. Whether you are currently writing, or still in the dreaming stage, we hope what we have to share here offers insight, instruction, information, or maybe even entertainment. So give us some feedback, if you will. Leave comments here and on the blogs of the writers before and after my post today.

I give thanks to B.C. Stone for tagging me to do this challenge. I met Bryan at a meeting of Croak & Dagger, our Albuquerque chapter of Sisters in Crime. He had a book signing scheduled in the next few days, and I went to see what his books were all about. Much to my delight, he’s taken a glamorous movie star from the 1930s and turned her into the detective protagonist of his series. Kay Francis might not be as well known as Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, and Carol Lombard. But her films were as entertaining as she was beautiful. I love that Bryan chose her to put into his books, along with a cast of other famous stars from that era. Check out Bryan’s blog The Vagrant Mood.

At the end of this post, I’ll tell you all about the two fine authors who will follow me and do their blogs on this subject next week on Monday, July 28. But for now, here are the traveling questions and my responses:

What am I working on? 

On Monday, June 30, 2014, I finished the last chapter of my next book, Murder on Sagebrush Lane (at least that’s the title at this moment!) This is another book featuring my characters from The Easter Egg Murder. I immediately started the editing process and have taken two, almost three, passes at it. My editing partner will return from three weeks of travel this week, and we plan to do an extremely thorough joint editing project for the next two weeks. After that, I have the germ of an idea for the next book in the series.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I write cozy mysteries, in the tradition of—sort of—Agatha Christie. So how could I be different from all those other writers doing the same thing? Easy. We are all such different people, with so many different experiences in life and ways of living those lives. In my case, one thing that’s different is that I set the stories in Albuquerque, New Mexico, which greatly pleases my friends living here, and perhaps befuddles readers from other places. The other thing is I draw on the experiences of my family members, many of whom have spent time in law enforcement. Then I drop in a few of the strange and wonderful people I’ve met over my lifetime, and Voila! My mystery is not the same as another writer of the same genre. How could it be?

Why do I write what I do?

Because I LOVE mysteries! Really, that has been my pleasure reading most of my life. Even the early books I read had some sort of mystery going on. I spent part of my early childhood in a home that included, among others, my grandmother, and my great-grandmother. The radio was always on, and at night, the mysteries dominated the airwaves. The inevitability of becoming a fan of that genre was set back then. We had The Thin Man, The Fat Man, Lux Mystery Theater, Inner Sanctum Mystery, The Shadow, The FBI in Peace and War, Dragnet, and the ever popular Johnny Dollar. I sat on my own little bench every night, chin propped in my hands, enthralled with the pictures in my head that accompanied the actors performing the story on radio.

They say do what you love, and for me, that’s mystery!

How does my writing process work?

First I get an idea. Maybe it’s an incident I’ve heard about, or a story on the news. Sometimes it’s just an inciting incident—the thing that starts the story. I think on that over time until I know how to begin. After that, I start seeing the story unfold like a screenplay. I see the people, moving through life, talking, laughing, whatever they are doing. I write down what they say and what they’re doing. Things happen to them, and I am the scribe.

At some point, I have to stop and take inventory of how many subplots are out there, and whether they can stay or if a few should be dumped. Occasionally I go back and insert a plot point earlier to make things work better. That’s one thing that’s so satisfying about fiction: if you don’t like how the story is going, change it!

Okay, those are the questions, and that’s enough about me. Here are the two writers who graciously accepted my invitation to take these same questions and run with them.

Charlene Bell DietzCharleneI’ve known Charlene most of my life. We’ve been friends since seventh grade at Jefferson Junior High. She moved away before high school, and I lost track of her. Imagine my surprise when I discovered she’d been back in Albuquerque for years!

I invited her to attend my writers critique group back in 2005 and we reestablished our earlier friendship. Not only is she an outstanding writer, she’s a very talented artist, too! Here’s Charlene’s bio and info about her book:

 Born and lived in the mountains of Colorado, then New Mexico and Wyoming, and now back in New Mexico where she still resides, Charlene Dietz attended both the University of Wyoming and the University of New Mexico. She received her Bachelor and Masters degrees from UNM focusing on art, science, and education. She later received her administrative certification. She taught and work at all levels, kindergarten through high school and even college. After she retired she traveled across many states doing presentations for Houghton Mifflin Publishing and conducting staff development and school district in-services. Her writing includes published articles, children’s stories, award winning short stories, and Cuba Libre Conspiracies, a commercial fiction mystery that’s looking for a home. Her second book in this series Illusive Inheritance is in progress.

Charlene’s first book, Cuba Libre Conspiracies, is told from the protagonist’s point of view. Beth, a Denver scientist, finds her marriage failing and her research sabotaged when an estranged aunt, Kathleen, slams into her life and, to Beth’s exasperation, institutes a nightly cocktail hour complete with roaring 20’s stories. With their conflicting opinions and personalities ping-ponging off each other, Beth’s perception of her carefully planned life changes. She carelessly plunges herself into danger to unravel her corporate espionage mystery. In the process she discovers a disturbing family secret.

Go here to read some of Charlene’s wonderful blog posts: http://www.inkydancestudios.wordpress.com

Joseph BadalJoeBadalphoto

Joe is, in addition to being a talented thriller writer, one of the kindest and most generous people I’ve met on this journey. He has a long string of books published over the last eleven years. I first met him at a Southwest Writers meeting where he was the featured speaker. He helped me with editing my book and offered some really good suggestions. Then he came through for me again by agreeing to be one of the writers I tagged for the Writing Process Blog Hop. Here is Joe’s bio and information:

Joseph Badal worked for 38 years in the financial services industry, retiring in 2007 after 6 years as a director and senior executive of a New York Stock Exchange-listed company.

Before he began his finance career, Joe was a decorated military officer, having served in the U.S. army for 6 years, including tours of duty in Vietnam and Greece.

He also served in the New Mexico House of Representatives.

He has had seven suspense novels published: The Pythagorean Solution, Evil Deeds, Terror Cell, The Nostradamus Secret, Shell Game, The Lone Wolf Agenda (which was awarded first prize in the fiction category in the NM/AZ Book Awards in 2013), and Ultimate Betrayal which was released on April 22, 2014. His short story, Fire & Ice, was included in the anthology Uncommon Assassins in 2012, and his short story, Ultimate Betrayal, was included in the anthology Someone Wicked in 2013. He is a member of International Thriller Writers and Southwest Writers Workshop, and was recently named one of the 50 best authors you should be reading.

Joe has written dozens of published articles about various business topics and is a frequent speaker at writers and business conferences and at civic organization meetings. He has extensive experience as an interviewee on radio and television.

Check out Joe’s blog at www.jospehbadal.wordpress.com.

 

 

 

 

I’m Glad You Asked – Guest Blog Appearance

MAY 15, 2014

I’m Glad You Asked. http://cncbooksblog.wordpress.com/2014/05/16/im-glad-you-asked/

This is the latest Guest Blog appearance I’ve done since The Easter Egg Murder was published last year.

I would appreciate having as many people as possible read it and comment on it. A Guest Blogger needs to “deliver the goods” by bringing people to the blog site and getting them to express interest. When a post is well received, people ask you back to post another day. That’s what I hope happens for me.

So please check it out and leave a comment there.

Talk to you later!

And Now, The Tucson Festival of Books!

The weekend is almost here, and I’m almost ready.

The Tucson Festival of Books is a huge event, held each year in Tucson, Arizona. I’ve heard about it for years and have wanted to attend. But the stars never seemed to be aligned properly to permit it.

Last year about this same time, two of my writing buddies and I drove north to Colorado Springs for the 2013 Left Coast Crime gathering. The Tucson Festival was going on about that same time, so once again I wouldn’t make it. Left Coast Crime is also a really big event and we had a fabulous time. It was my debut as a newly published writer, Continue reading And Now, The Tucson Festival of Books!

Other Than That, Mrs. Lincoln, Did You Enjoy The Play?

MONKEY
Pat’s Unhappy Face

I am, for the most part, an upbeat person. I don’t get hysterical–well maybe just a little when I see a spider or a creepy, crawly, bug–but I’m pretty even-tempered. Sure I have some down days, but usually I’m a happy camper. If you’ll refer to one of my past posts, Sometimes Dreams Come True you’ll see I was a VERY happy camper back in September 2012 when I received the official offer Continue reading Other Than That, Mrs. Lincoln, Did You Enjoy The Play?

Saying Goodbye

1968 Sweet Adelines Convention
1969 Sweet Adelines Convention

 

I said, “Goodbye” to a friend today. I’m planning to go back after the weekend, but you never know.

She’s had a rough life: full of physical illness, childhood trauma, loss of a child shortly after birth, divorce, and the ravages of age. She’s less than three months away from her 87th birthday. Her current state of health is dismal and the family’s been told it’s only a matter of three or four weeks. She agreed to enter hospice the day before yesterday. For the moment she’s still in her own home, with a nurse checking on her daily, and her son and daughter taking turns staying with her.

She’s had more surgeries than I can remember. What I do recall Continue reading Saying Goodbye

Monday Observations

This morning was a fairly typical beginning of the week. I’m looking to get organized for the next seven days, and I’m brimming with insights.

DSCF22331.  I’ve Become My Father – No lie, I remember when I was much younger, I saw my father entering into “old fogeyness” (if that’s not a word it should be!) It seemed to me he railed against everything new and, in my opinion, exciting. Whereas all my life we’d enjoyed the same music, now he thought Elvis Presley was too loud and vulgar. Not only that, but his conversations were peppered with phrases like, “Well when I was young . . .”; “In my day we were more . . . ” and similar observations. I think he would love being here now to see Continue reading Monday Observations