by Cynthia Chow
This week we have a review of a fun new mystery by Meg Macy aka Meg Mims, Bearly Departed. We also have an interesting interview with Meg. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of Bearly Departed, and a link to purchase it from Amazon, and an indie bookstore where a portion of the sale goes to help support KRL.
Bearly Departed: A Shamelessly Adorable Teddy Bear Mystery by Meg Macy
Review by Cynthia Chow
Ever since her father retired seven years ago, Sasha Silverman has been managing the family’s Silver Bear Shop & Factory in Silver Hollow, Michigan. It’s not the future the thirty-one-year-old divorcé had envisioned for herself, but Flynn Hanson’s womanizing tendencies ensured her single status within a year of their marriage. At least Sasha retained custody of their Bichon-Lhasa Apso mix Rosie, if not the approval of her parents. They are uncharacteristically incommunicado now that Sasha is desperate to contact them in order to gain support in battling their salesman Will Taylor’s efforts to outsource labor, eliminate jobs, and even sell out teddy bear patterns. Sasha and her sister Madeline pride themselves on the quality of their teddy bears, not to mention their unique, teddy bear-specific designs. The standards set by Sasha’s father are jeopardized by Will’s ruthless cost-cutting proposals, with Sasha’s Uncle Ross having the most combative reaction. In the ultimate twist of ironic fate, a final statement is certainly made when Will is literally stuffed to death next to the teddy bear stuffing machine.
One might say that anyone with a personalized license plate that reads “1MRIGHT” deserves to be killed, but with Sasha’s Uncle Ross in police headlights, she can’t allow the real culprit to go free. It might be a cute and fuzzy business, but the secrets being uncovered within their Teddy Bear shop is proving to be alarmingly criminal and costing them the majority of their staff. When Maddie is called out of town as a result of their parents’ absence, it is up to Sasha to follow-up on alibis, provide every child a teddy bear for their Labor Day Parade of Bears, and ensure that production meets the needs for upcoming holiday Teddy Bear events.
Despite the subtitle, this is not just a shamelessly adorable mystery series. Yes, there are ample descriptions of teddy bear events, teddy bear lore, and even teddy pastries to delight any toy aficionado. However, it also blends together very real, well-developed characters with the very topical challenges that face small businesses. There is a surprisingly dark thread of crime running through Silver Hollow, and Sasha solving the crime will mean learning as much about her town as her family. Even as Sasha takes it upon herself to track down social media-backed alibis and motives, the mystery remains unsolvable until the very end. Romance is mostly off the plate considering how much Sasha’s ex burned her with his infidelity, allowing the focus to fall on her friendships, close family, and the delightful Teddy Bear business.
Interview with Meg Macy aka Meg Mims:
KRL: How long have you been writing?
Meg: Since I was a child, probably writing what they call “FanFic” now, with my own plots to favorite books and TV shows. I’ve been a voracious reader since first grade, and reading is one way for future writers to discover plotting, characterization, etc.
KRL: When did your first novel come out, and what was it called? Can you tell us a little about it?
Meg: My first novel, a western historical mystery, came out in 2011. Double Crossing (under Meg Mims) won the Western Writers of America Spur Award for Best First Novel in 2012. I was thrilled to receive the award at the convention from the actor Wes Studi, one of my favorites, along with the WWA President Sherry Monahan. I call it my version of Charles Portis’s True Grit – “girl’s father is killed, she seeks justice” but on the transcontinental railroad of 1869. I also wrote a sequel, Double or Nothing.
KRL: Have you always written mysteries/suspense? If not what else have you written?
Meg: I started writing romance, but dead bodies kept dropping! NY editors picked my manuscripts to read out of the slush pile and loved my writing style, but… and after earning a Masters at Seton Hill University’s Writing Popular Fiction program, I realized I’d have more success in mystery. I have written several romance novellas, however, with a hint of mystery, and used the setting in them to develop into Silver Hollow for my Shamelessly Adorable Teddy Bear cozy series.
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.
Meg: I’d already developed the coffee shop Fresh Grounds in Santa Paws and Santa Claws, plus the Pretty in Pink bakery, along with several characters. I decided to call it Silver Hollow and used the Chelsea Teddy Bear Factory (which relocated from Michigan to Missouri) as my inspiration for the Silver Bear Shop & Factory. That led me to Sasha Silverman and her family, plus other friends. With each book, changes will come and that will keep things fresh.
KRL: Do you write to entertain or is there something more you want the readers to take away from your work?
Meg: Both. Mysteries are entertaining because justice is served in the end. In reality, many cases are never solved, and the killer may go free. So that’s the satisfaction of reading cozies. But I try to impart some theme, such as self-reliance, or that one can survive big changes, or discovering something important about self, since readers identify with protagonists.
KRL: Do you have a schedule for your writing or just write whenever you can?
Meg: I write every day, starting around 8:30 or 9 a.m. I also squeeze writing in whenever I can if I’m busy with other things. I’ve had to adapt, but also find it difficult to write with a lot of noise around so I could never go to a coffee shop. Not even a library. Too many people!
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?
Meg: Absolutely. I have never been a pantser or fly by the seat of the pants writer. I use Michael Hauge’s 5-point plot arc, plus add in other points as necessary. Even so, my outline changes in the process – some characters have their own minds about things! I try to keep on track but also enjoy how little things “pop up” and then become important points later on.
KRL: If you had your ideal, what time of day would you prefer to write?
Meg: Morning! I prefer revising any time else, but for a fresh page, mornings are best for me.
KRL: Did you find it difficult to get published in the beginning?
Meg: A while ago, getting “over the transom” meant getting your manuscript past the slush pile readers and I did get to that point, but wrote in the wrong genre, as I explained before. After 9-11-2001, NYC shut down, so I took a long break for a decade. Things are much different now, with self-publishing options, but I wanted a traditional publisher for name recognition, distribution, and bigger sales. I’m blessed to have gotten this far!
KRL: Do you have a great rejection/critique or acceptance story you’d like to share?
Meg: My writing partner and I came up with the Eliza Doolittle & Henry Higgins mystery series based on G.B. Shaw’s characters in Pygmalion. We’d written Wouldn’t It Be Deadly and sent a proposal to an agent one Monday. He called within three hours with an offer to represent! That was amazing, and he sold it within three weeks. We write that series under the pseudonym D.E. Ireland, and two of them have been finalists in Best Historical for the Agatha Award.
KRL: Most interesting book signing story-in a bookstore or other venue?
Meg: I don’t have a story, but it’s always great to see readers from book clubs coming to a signing and meeting fans at conventions like Malice Domestic in Bethesda, MD, or Bouchercon.
KRL: Future writing goals?
Meg: I’m finishing Bear Witness to Murder now, will be starting on With a Little Bit of Blood (D.E. Ireland’s next book), and then working on a short story for an anthology. I’d also like to write another western mystery.
KRL: Writing heroes?
Meg: Lots! Agatha Christie, of course! J.R.R. Tolkien, J.K. Rowling, Sharon Kay Penman, Judith Merkle Riley, plus many others.
KRL: What kind of research do you do?
Meg: I spend a month at least for a new series, with character sketches, setting details (photos, maps, etc.), and the plot, of course!
KRL: What do you read?
Meg: Mystery, historical, biography, sci/fi/fantasy- whatever catches my fancy. I have a huge TBR pile!
KRL: Favorite TV or movies?
Meg: Absolute fave TV series: Remington Steele. I love Cary Grant movies, plus many of Audrey Hepburn’s as well, and westerns!
KRL: Any advice for aspiring or beginning writers?
Meg: Be persistent. Write every day, learn to edit, and polish your writing and never publish a first draft if you’re going Indie.
KRL: Anything you would like to add?
Meg: I don’t think I’ve missed anything!
KRL: What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
Meg: I love cartoons, from Peanuts and Pickles to Calvin and Hobbes and The Far Side.
KRL: Website? Twitter? Facebook?
To enter to win a copy of Bearly Departed, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “bearly,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen July 8, 2017. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address, and if via comment please include your email address.
Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & mystery short stories in our mystery section.
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