Wednesday, October 17, 2012

A Dash of Murder: An Interview with Author Teresa Trent and a Book Giveaway!

A Mystery for Ghost Hunters!


Today we welcome cozy-mystery author Teresa Trent from Texas! Teresa is the author of the Pecan Bayou Series and weaver of ghost tales. Welcome Teresa!

The Book
A Mystery for Ghost Hunters!

When Betsy's Aunt Maggie wants to drag her along on a ghost hunting excursion at the local abandoned tuberculosis hospital she isn't sure if she quite believes in ghosts. When she comes upon a fresh spirit in the form of a body, she starts to rethink about what really is haunting the hospital.

Betsy must solve the murder in spite of her father, who is a lieutenant on the Pecan Bayou Police Force, town citizens worried about the effect of the occult on their children, and handsome stranger from Dallas. How do you get blood out of a silk blouse? Betsy Livingston can tell you in her newspaper column, "The Happy Hinter". When she's not writing, or taking care of her young son, she's busy solving mysteries in the tiny Texas town of Pecan Bayou.

Get your copy today! 

There's a Giveaway!
Comment for a chance to win an eBook copy of A Dash of Murder!

From the Author . . .

Please, tell us a little about yourself.

I am an indie author and a preschool teacher.  I have lived in Texas for the last 17 years and aside from a hurricane here and there, have really enjoyed it.  I also write picture book curriculums for preschoolers-a very different writing job!

Did you plan to be a writer or did it just happen?

I think it just happened. I started writing in my twenties and it was one of many hobbies I would pick up and go back to year after year.  Sometimes I wrote for fun and sometimes I wrote to work through something going on in my life.  All of the writing, while sometimes exhausting, created a peace in me.

When did you decide to take that step that made you a published author?
 
I had a birthday and decided if I was ever going to write that book now was the time.  I had never been able to finish a book and had my share of rejection slips on the writing I had finished.  I decided to go about writing in a different way and started trying to read something every day that would help me improve my craft.  Once I committed to writing daily and learning about writing daily every thing became much easier for me.

What has been your greatest challenge as a writer? Have you been able to overcome it?

My writing was typical in that I would have a story to tell and be excited about telling it and then get to the middle of that story and find I had nowhere to go.  I  lost the flow of the story and with that the excitement of telling it.  I did overcome this by finding out a couple of things about myself.  First of all, of the two types of writers (outliners and seats-of-the-pants writers) I am an outliner.  That being said, I am a flexible outliner.  Just because I  decide a certain thing has to happen at a certain part of the story doesn't mean it can't be moved elsewhere.  Once I allowed myself the freedom to “pants” a little in an organized way I could keep my momentum and my joy in telling a story.

Is writing a full-time career for you? If not, how else do you spend your work day?

I wish it was, but no, I don't write full time.  I have a child with a disability and found working full-time outside my home was tough on both of us, so I have worked part-time teaching as well as keeping up with my writing.

What inspired the idea behind your book?

When my daughter was in middle school we would set aside every Wednesday night and watch all of those ghost hunting shows on cable.  We loved it when they used the gadgets and walked around in the dark. Funny, but most of the time the ghost hunters really didn't find too much.  From that I thought about what it would be like to actually be on a ghost hunting paranormal investigation and all of the murderous things that could happen.

What is your favorite scene?

Going down the “dead tunnel” of course.

What kind of research was involved for the book?

I read up on several abandoned tuberculosis hospitals.   I was hoping I was accurate and felt pretty good about it when one of my aunts told me she went to a hospital as a child back in the thirties that was like the one I described. A woman jumped out and grabbed her and my grandmother had to pull her away.  When my aunt read my book she said my description was correct on and it really gave her the creeps. 

What kind of research was involved for the series? Did you find it became easier with each book? 

This series takes place in the small town of Pecan Bayou TX.  Before you go looking for it on a map you will find a Pecan Bayou but it is just that, a bayou.  My husband and I enjoyed visiting small towns in Texas.  From these experiences, I started building the characters and even the individual streets in the town.  I also am a very visual writer so when I write a scene, I will often find a picture of characters, props, buildings and anything else I want to focus on for a scene.  It was much easier writing the second book in the series because I didn't have to stop and invent so much. 

Do you have plans for a new book?

Yes!  A Dash of Murder was my first book and I am promoting it during October because it takes place on Halloween.  Since then, I have written Overdue for Murder , a story that centers around writers doing a book talk and features lots and lots of cupcakes.  At this time I am working on my third book that will take place over the Fourth of July.  I can't say much about it yet, but Betsy and all the characters come back and take a “slice” out of the incredibly high crime rate in this tiny town. 

What do you have in store next for your readers?

I would like to continue writing about Pecan Bayou and finish the series at six books.  There are some story arcs that are slowly developing from book to book that I plan to finish.  

What has been your greatest pleasure or personal success as an author?
          
Anytime someone comes back to me and tells me they liked a certain scene or a character or they enjoyed trying to figure out “who dunnit” I'm so pleased!   

What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve received?

Write every day.  For many years I would write for a while and then put it down.  I would go back weeks or months later and have no idea what I was trying to accomplish.  Writing is a lot like teaching.  You have to establish a flow of thought for it to work.

Which authors and books have most influenced your writing style?

Probably Dianne Mott Davidson and a little Stephen King.  I guess from both authors I loved their gifts of creating characters.  These are people you know, but not really.  I have tried to create characters like that and am still learning.  I was pleased the other day when a friend and reader asked me if one of my villains was really somebody we knew.   It wasn't!

Laptop, desktop or notebook and pen for writing?

I use a laptop, a comfortable chair and a small dog for my feet.  I also have to be no more than twenty feet from the refrigerator.
Enjoy an Excerpt!

“Watch out, Betsy, some of these old floorboards may be treacherous.” I followed Aunt Maggie through the rooms full of cracked plaster, floor debris and the ever-present graffiti sprayed on the walls of the former tuberculosis hospital.
     Aunt Maggie was a tiny woman at four-foot-eight, and the world often towered above her. Her height was the only part of her that was small. She had the strongest will and the biggest heart in Texas.
     “This is going to be great when we film here on Halloween, the scariest night of the year. I’m so glad you decided to help us out and took a few hours away from your tip-writin’ column. The Pecan Bayou Texas Paranormal Society thanks you, and if we find a ghost – boy howdy – I thank you.”
     “Well, I can spare a few hours here and there.”
     “So, what are you writin’ about now? “
     “Um, I’m working on my pre-Thanksgiving columns. Hey, I have a question for you. What would you say is the best way to get red wine out of a tablecloth?”


     “You know, Aunt Ida had an unusual way of doing that.”
     “You mean the one that used to bring the chocolate pecan pie when she came to Thanksgiving?” I had not seen Great Aunt Ida much since she moved to the retirement center near Austin.
     “That’s the one. She used to put her tablecloth over a bowl with the wine stain in the
middle of it. Then she would pour salt on the stain, and then pour boiling water over into the bowl. Darnedest thing. Took it right out.” Maggie said.
     For our other-worldly walk-through today, Aunt Maggie dressed for the occasion with a black cap on her head adorned with glow-in-the-dark letters that read “Paranormal Investigator.”
     “You like it?” she asked, noticing my gaze. “I ordered one for everyone on the crew and a few extras. I thought we ought to look official, bein’ on TV and all.” My aunt’s honey-colored bouffant hairdo was all crammed up in the cap with sprayed curls poking out in places.
     “Can’t wait to wear mine.” I was not someone who looked terrific in a ball cap. At least that was what Barry had said. Funny how after all these years I still felt rejected by him.
     Maggie crunched around on the fallen trash in the main hallway. As we came to the end of the hallway, her voice lowered slightly. “This up here was what they called the ‘dead tunnel.’ I saw it in the blueprints Howard had.” Howard was the head of Aunt Maggie’s paranormal group. Even though sometimes he looked like a person mental health officials might be interested in observing, he was extremely intelligent and had a doctorate in paranormal psychology. I didn’t even know a person could get a degree in ghost hunting, but Howard had achieved this greatness.
     Maggie continued her story. “It was the tunnel they used to wheel the bodies to the morgue. That way the patients wouldn’t see someone had died.” I never was one to get too frightened by horror movies, but coming into this part of the hospital certainly had me qualifying for an official case of the heebie-jeebies. The dead tunnel was windowless and grimy, and I felt as if we were walking into a mineshaft, not a morgue.
     “So here we are.” Aunt Maggie’s voice took on a softer tone as if we had just entered a funeral home. “Looks a little longer than it did in the blueprints.”
     We stepped gingerly through the open door with a sign hanging askew that read, “Hospital Personnel Only: No One Beyond This Point.”
     Unless you’re dead, I thought. Then you are welcome to come on in and sit a spell.
     “Aunt Maggie, we can still go get Howard. He’s roaming around somewhere here.”
     “What are we? Chickens? We can do this, Betsy.” With that, she shined her red plastic heavy-duty flashlight down the tunnel. The tunnel seemed to go on and on, leading into absolute darkness. A million things could be down that hall. They could have stuffed it all with furniture or antiquated medical equipment that we would banging into at any moment, and that was my rational expectation. I wasn’t even acknowledging my irrational side. My aunt’s calling me a chicken did not quite raise my confidence and charge me up about getting down the dead tunnel.
     I nodded my head dully in agreement as my eyes tried to lock onto anything solid in the dark.
     “You’re making fun of me, I know, but it is true, Betsy. I sense something here. I just hope we can get this on tape when we have a thermal energy camera pointed at it.” According to Howard, a thermal energy camera would capture cold and hot spots that the human eye couldn’t see. We stepped forward, our footfalls now echoing against the chilled stone.
     As Maggie spoke, I felt a cold breeze hit me. I clenched my bare arms as I felt goose bumps raise up on my skin. It seemed as if we had phantom air conditioning in this part of the hospital. Down at the end of the blackness I could hear a faint, high, chirping, clicking sound. Somehow I hadn’t imagined a ghost clicking at me. Maybe there were some tap-dancing spirits floating around.
     “It has arrived,” Maggie whispered.
     “No,” I said trying to squelch the shake that had come into my voice. “A … draft has arrived, that’s all.”
     “Think what you want, my dear.”
     She angled the wavering beam of light into the black recesses of the tunnel. From the other end of the tunnel, I could hear a distinct rustling sound as something headed our way.
     “The apparition is coming near us,” Maggie sounded delighted.
     “What should we do, Aunt Maggie?” I asked, the volume of my voice rising as the rustling became an increasing cacophony of noise.
     Maggie looked down the passage and then yelled, “HOLD YOUR GROUND!” She stood with her hands placed firmly on her rounded hips as the wind started blowing her hat off, releasing the many stuffed strands of hair that had been under it. She looked like Medusa as the glow of her flashlight highlighted the snakes of hair surrounding her face.



The Author
Teresa Trent wasn't born in Texas but after a few glasses of sweet tea and some exceptional barbecue she decided to stay. With a father in the Army, she found herself moved all over the world, settling down for a while in her teens in the state of Colorado. Her writing was influenced by all of the interesting people she found in small towns and the sense of family that seemed to be woven through them all. Teresa is a former high school teacher and received her degree from The University of Northern Colorado.  Teresa is presently working on the third book in her Pecan Bayou Series.  Her second book, Overdue For Murder, came out in June of 2012. 

Twitter:@ttrent_cozymys


6 comments:

  1. Teresa, this book sounds like just my cup of tea (sorry for the pun) and my daughter would also enjoy it. I'll gift her a copy and hope I win one. If not, I'll buy it for sure. Best luck with your writing. I also have a disabled daughter, and my other is in education.

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  2. It does sound like a fun book! Thank you for joining us today Teresa--I like that you showed us a bit of your personality during the interview. :)

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  3. Thanks for your kind words Caroline. I always love running into another mom like me. I hope you enjoy the book!

    ...and thanks for a great visit MK!

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  4. Based on the excerpt I know I will like the book

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  5. Sounds great. Look forward to reading it. jtretin at aol dot com

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