As Janie and Betsy Ann go for their morning jog, the city sanitation vehicle follows its normal five-mile Tuesday morning route through their retirement community of Sunset Acres. The two Bunco-playing biddies spot a leg dangling out of the dumpster when the truck lifts the trash container high in the air. Someone diced up one of their newest residents — a grouchy loner named Edwin Newman. Did he unpack too much of his dicey past when he moved in last weekend?
Death, intrigue and murder in an unsuspecting retirement community. Julie B. Cosgrove and I have picked up our magnifying glasses and turned them towards the case of the day, today’s tale of ‘Dumpster Dicing’. Julie, thanks for playing detective with me today while we examine your tale of murder.
Were you familiar with the primary topics of murder and aged living that you play with in this book, or were they something that you found you needed to turn your own detective eye towards?
Yes, for the prison conditions, I read articles and news reports on line. I also had a book signing at one of these graduated retirement communities and interviewed caregivers that worked there.
Once you had laid your research foundations, how did you start constructing the lives and experiences of your characters? Did you pick out events from your own life for inspiration?
My mother had a group of friends she’d know for almost fifty years. Their rich friendship inspired me. All were very active and spry up into their eighties.
The bonds of friendship built over fifty years would be fantastic inspiration. Were you tempted to take large parts from the personalities of these women to use directly in the book, or are the ladies in your tale more of amalgamations?
They’re composites of active senior citizens I know. Perhaps there is a little of me in each of Betsy Ann, Ethel and Janie. I hope so.
Well, why not! They sound like quite interesting people! What did you feel was the most rewarding aspect of this tale?
Bringing out the notion that 70 is the new 40, and that just because you live in retirement doesn’t mean you are “out to pasture”.
Retirement sure isn’t what it used to be! Now, if you were lucky enough to have your story converted to the silver screen, can you see some current actors who would easily slip into the shoes of your characters?
Unknowns. I’d want to give active senior actors a chance to shine.
Ooooh, that’s a great idea. A whole new range of faces to enjoy. Speaking of a range of faces, if your characters could come to life, would you have a big cast party with them?
Absolutely. They make great desserts and play Bunco, as do I.
Now that’s something that you don’t want to overlook – dessert! Other than dessert, what is the main point of your tale that you hope the audience doesn’t overlook?
I hope the novel surprised them, kept them reading and made them laugh.
Are you working on anything new to keep the readers reading and laughing?
I have books 3 & 4 in the works for the Bunco Biddies with one publishing house. Book two, Babay Bunco released in Jan 2017. I am also under a three-book contract for a prequel series- The Case Files of Jack Manson, set in the early 1970s. I am also a writer and editor for Power to Change, a division of Campus Crusades for Christ.
Wow, that’s alot of writing that you’ve currently got on the go! What about the writing lifestyle keeps drawing you back in?
It fulfils me, and I hope entertains and enhances people’s lives in a positive way, even if just for a few hours.
When you’re at the beginning of a new project do you deliberately sit down and decide how it will be positively enhancing, or do you just start writing and see where your positive vibes take you?
A little of both. I know point a and b, but the path between the two is the fun, creative process.
How does the creative process work for you?
I carve out writing time. Since I write for my profession, I need to compartmentalize my fiction and nonfiction writing time. I spend a pj weekend in the zone and schedule them regularly so I meet my publisher’s deadlines.
Can you tell us a little about your professional writing? And how does that writing differ from your personal projects?
I am an Internet missionary. I write devotionals and articles for the web that lead people all over the world to mentors to help them with life issues. Power to Change’s Life Project averages 20,000 readers a day. It is a powerful ministry. People love stories. We recall them, we learn from them, we pass them along. Whether writing fiction or nonfiction, I include a story, and example or an idea people can relate to drive home the message.
Do you find that music helps you centre yourself on that message you want to share?
I write in silence – but editing requires Chamber music to softly play in the background.
As you write so much, do you ever run into writer’s block?
I really haven’t experienced that too much. But then I am only on my 15th novel, so it may come!
With 15th novels under your belt, if it hasn’t come up by now I think you might be safe! Has editing also been a fairly straightforward process for you? With such a large volume of work being written, how do you make editing efficient?
I put it through a program called Autocrit, then I put it away for two to three weeks to let my brain detox. Finally, I reread it again in double spaced and downloaded on my ereader. You’d be amazed the things you pick up.
What kinds of things do you find when you’re re-reading? Do any stubborn words keep popping up despite your best efforts?
Autocrit provides that for me – that, then, feel, saw… I also try to write without redundant tags such as he said, she asked. It hiccups the reader out of the story. If there is a question mark at the end it is rather obvious someone asked.
Do you have any tips for authors wanting to improve their craft and stop the reader hiccupping out of the story?
Keep writing, then edit, edit, edit. If you must self-publish, hire both a content editor and a line editor/proofer. There are a lot of badly written works out there with tons of typos. Don’t let yours be one of them.
Before I let you return to one of your many various writing projects today I’m hoping that you might be able to share some additional wisdom with our audience today through our quick fire question round. Let’s kick it off with: do you have any philosophies that you live by?
The Golden Rule – that about covers it.
You know it really does cover it quite well. What is your favourite quote?
Life without God is like a dull pencil, it has no point.
Are you a valuable asset on a quiz team?
Yes, because I have a varied general knowledge, but no if it is on celebrity lives or current TV shows.
You generally find that it’s fairly easy to find someone who is well versed in the lives of celebrities that can back you up in those areas. What is your zodiac sign?
What is your favourite ocean?
I am a river rat. Prefer not to have sand in my toes or salt in my eyes.
I can understand that reluctance towards sand. What a mess! If you invented a monster what would it look like and what would you call it?
I don’t think you can improve on the Marshmallow man in Ghost Busters.
He is pretty awesome! Are you introvert or extrovert?
An introvert, with spurts of controlled extroversion in safe crowds.
If you ruled your own country, who would you get to write the national anthem?
Mercy Me or David Crowder
Nice picks! Are you left or right handed?
How are the colours in rainbows made?
God knows- he did it.
If you could breed two animals together to defy the laws of nature what new animal would you create?
I think we have enough fascinating critters on our planet now. But I have always been fond of the Push Me-Pull You llama in Dr. Doolittle. Maybe because I am a Gemini and often in dichotomy, I relate to it.
I think we could also use that llama in the world. What is your favourite word?
What color socks are you wearing?
I prefer going barefoot, even in winter.
Something about that answer tells me that you’re not living anywhere with snow, which means you must have solid experience with ice-cream. What is your favourite flavor?
Salted Caramel, no wait. Jamoca Almond Fudge, no wait…Rocky Road.
I’ll let you mix them all together and make a super flavor if that helps! What’s the most unusual name you’ve ever come across?
Urethra. Yep, a woman actually heard the nurses say it and decided to name her baby that.
Right, well that was unexpected. And one would hope that someone lets her know what it means before it gets out of hand! Have you ever danced in the rain?
Yes – especially during the drought we have a tendency to experience here in Texas.
I hope that your droughts don’t last too long. Now to round out our little tête-à-tête do you have a favourite quote from ‘Dumpster Dicing’ that you can use to entice readers to pick up a copy of these silver haired adventurers?
“Newman. Edwin Newman. He chewed out Mildred Fletcher because her Yorkie barked at him. Threw a coffee mug at the poor animal. Whack! Right on the nose. It left a raw, sore spot.” “He did?” Janie gave her a quick nod. “Mildred must apply a special salve on him three times a day. Says it cost her $22.95.” “On Mr. Newman?” Janie scoffed into her velour v-neck. “No, the Yorkie.”
*Laughs* Poor Yorkie! I hope that the Yorkie recovers in time for the next adventures of Janie and Betsy Ann. Julie, thanks for chatting with me today and I hope you find new readers to take on these cozy mystery adventures!
Want to find out more about Julie B. Cosgrove? Connect here!