by Doward Wilson
This week we have a review of Murder at the Bus Depot by Judy Alter, and an interesting interview with Judy. Details at the end of this post on how to win a copy of Murder at the Bus Depot, either ebook or print. We also have a link to order Murder at the Bus Depot from Amazon.
Murder at the Bus Depot: Blue Plate Cafe Mystery by Judy Alter
Review by Doward Wilson
The old bus station stands in silent rebuke to an unsolved thirty-year-old murder! Sallie Thurgood was working alone in her T-Shirt shop in the bus depot, when she was brutally murdered! Was it her husband, her supposed boyfriend, a stranger, or someone else? The alibis for the husband and boyfriend held up. No other suspects came to light, so the case is still unsolved. Silas Fletcher plans to change all that by capitalizing on the cold case murder and turning the abandoned bus depot into a tourist attraction!
Wheeler, Texas, is a few miles outside Dallas and is everything that a small town should be, and Kate Chambers likes her town, just the way it is. She is totally opposed to everything Silas envisions for “growing” the town and bringing in tourists. Kate, along with the mayor, her brother-in-law Tom, starts exploring other ideas to bring in tourists. Kate and Tom are exploring a yearly festival to bring in the tourist trade because Big box and chain stores are not what the small town needs! When Sallie’s father dies under suspicious circumstances, Kate knows that Sallie’s killer is still alive and still killing! Can Kate and her lawyer boyfriend, David, solve the two murders and keep Silas from ruining their town with his development plans? What has Silas stirred up with his greedy plans? Can Kate solve the murders without becoming a third victim?
I found the characters to be very realistic, and the murder plots extremely well done. The writing flowed in such a way that it pulled you into the story and kept you there. I am going to read the other books in this series as I found this to be a very entertaining adventure. Cozy and traditional mystery fans will both enjoy this book!
King’s River Life interview with Judy Alter:
KRL: How long have you been writing?
Judy: Since I was 10 years old and wrote short stories about an old-fashioned spinster named Miss Shufflebaum and her blonde Cocker Spaniel, Taffy. I desperately wanted a blonde Cocker.
KRL: When did your first novel come out? What was it called? Can you tell us a little about it?
Judy: Published in 1978 by Wm. Morrow, After Pa Was Shot was based on the true story of a young girl in East Texas whose father, a deputy sheriff, was shot and killed in the line of duty in 1904. I changed the girl’s age from four to 14, so she could process what was happening to [her] family. At the time I didn’t know I was writing a juvenile, but that’s how it was marketed. That pigeon-holed me for years as a y/a author.
KRL: Have you always written mysteries/suspense? If not what else have you written?
Judy: I only turned to mystery in the last 10 years, though I am a lifelong reader of them. For many years I wrote both adult and young-adult fiction about women in the 19th century American West. I also wrote a lot of books on assignment for companies that sold to school libraries. Much of the western fiction is available in digital form today.
KRL: What brought you to choose the setting and characters in your latest book/series? Please tell us a little about the setting and main character for your most recent book.
Judy: My most recent book, Murder at the Bus Depot, is set in the fictional East Texas town of Wheeler. The café and the town are based on places I visited frequently with my family for many years. The main character, Kate Chambers, who inherited the café when her grandmother was murdered, is purely fictional. I have no idea who owned The Shed in Edom, Texas.
KRL: Do you write to entertain or is there something more you want the readers to take away from your work?
Judy: With the western work, I wrote to explore the lives and marriages of some prominent historical figures like Libbie Custer and Jessie Benton Frémont and specifically to look at the lives of strong women. At first, I wrote mysteries to prove to myself I could do it, but more and more themes creep in—gun control, historic preservation, racism.
KRL: Do you have a schedule for your writing or just write whenever you can?
Judy: I’m retired, single, and my children are grown, so my times is my own. I write when I can, but I have a busy life outside my writing. Ideally, I work at my computer in the mornings.
KRL: Do you outline? If not, do you have some other interesting way that you keep track of what’s going on, or what needs to happen in your book when you are writing it?
Judy: I am a pantser. I get a rough idea, make some notes—no more than a page—and when I have a first line, I’m off and going. I do keep a character list for each book because I’ve been known to accidentally re-name a character halfway through a book. I also have to edit carefully to be sure an incident or person doesn’t change dramatically. Recently I noticed a man became a woman halfway through the manuscript.
KRL: If you had your ideal, what time of day would you prefer to write?
Judy: Mornings. My mind is much sharper. I like to do marketing work, my neighborhood newsletter, what I call “busy work,” in the afternoon, and read in the evening.
KRL: Did you find it difficult to get published in the beginning?
Judy: Not in the western field but very much so with mysteries where there are simply more manuscripts competing for attention. I had so much to learn about the business of writing. Out of ignorance I stalled my career by signing a year-long contract with an agent who proved unsatisfactory; then I let a small press keep putting me off with promises to decide soon (after almost a year they decided no). I did not want to do the traditional search for “the” agent because I felt, at my age (then in my late sixties) I didn’t have time for 200 rejections. I published first with a small press—seven books—and then became an indie author.
KRL: Do you have a great rejection/critique or acceptance story you’d like to share?
Judy: I consider this an object lesson for writers new to the field. I submitted to a well-respected but small house (I had been included in anthologies they did before but that apparently did me no good). They liked my manuscript (“Skeleton in a Dead Space”) but could I give them another two months? This went on almost a year, but I was new and green enough [that] I was ever hopeful. When they finally said thanks, but no thanks, I submitted to a small publisher who specialized in romance but wanted to venture into mystery. They asked for three months, responded in one month, published in six.
KRL: Most interesting book signing story-in a bookstore or other venue?
Judy: The best signings I’ve had have been in a neighborhood café just down the street from my house. Guests can linger over a glass of wine (they buy their own), stay to order dinner, or just buy a book and leave. I’ve had good-to-great turnouts with a real sense of camaraderie. I also did one signing in a wine bar which was a big success.
KRL: Future writing goals?
Judy: I’m not certain about my future goals. I’m well aware that it’s a rare series that goes on indefinitely, and I am not Sue Grafton, so at eight books in my Kelly O’Connell series (by next fall) I may quit. People seem to like Oak Grove Mysteries set in a small university town in West Texas. There are only two of those, and I’ll probably do more. But I also want to explore memoir and even a cookbook about life with a hot plate.
KRL: Writing heroes?
Judy: Some of my writing heroes are from my days in Western Writers of America: Wallace Stegner is high on the list, and Elmer Kelton is probably at the top, especially for characters and narrative voice. In mystery, Deborah Crombie is a favorite. And several cozy authors: Julie Hyzy, Susan Wittig Albert (also for her more ambitious fictional biographies), Nancy Martin for the Blackbird sisters series, the Aurora Teagarden books by Charlaine Harris, Ellery Adams’ Books by the Bay series, Jenn McKinley’s Hat Shoppe Mysteries. I hate to make such lists for fear of leaving people out, but I have to add I love a good Dick Francis mystery, bloody though they are and in spite of my dislike of horse racing.
KRL: What kind of research do you do?
Judy: For the mysteries, since I choose locales I already know, the research is minimum. I do like to get the basics of the overall themes, but I do much of that online. Other mysteries dealing with a subject like mine are also a help.
KRL: What do you read?
KRL: Favorite TV or movies?
Judy: I never go to the movies, and only watch the news on TV. I’d rather be reading.
KRL: Any advice for aspiring or beginning writers?
Judy: For mystery writers, join Sisters in Crime and the Guppies sub-group. I learned to much from those helpful groups about the business. It’s like a cafeteria—take what you want and discard the rest. I am not interested, for example, in Scrivener (too steep a learning curve), but I soak up plotting advice and procedural information.
KRL: Anything you would like to add?
Judy: Not really
KRL: What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
Judy: I am the single parent of four adopted children (one biracial) and the grandparent of seven. I live in a 600-square-foot cottage with a Bordoodle (deliberate cross of a miniature poodle and a border collie), and I’m a happy camper.
KRL: Website? Twitter? Facebook?
Judy: Website: www.judyalter.com
To enter to win an ebook or print copy of Murder at the Bus Depot, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “bus,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen May, 2018. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address, and if via comment please include your email address. BE SURE TO STATE WHETHER YOU WANT EBOOK OR PRINT.
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