Monday, November 9, 2015

C. A. Newsome, Sneak Thief: A Dog Park Mystery

AUTHOR: C. A. Newsome
BOOK TITLE: Sneak Thief: A Dog Park Mystery
GENRE: Semi-Cozy Mystery
PUBLISHER: Two Pup Press

Please tell us about yourself. I spent many years as an artist with a day job before I fell into writing by accident, when a head injury derailed my plans. I paint the dog portraits on my covers.

Are you a full-time writer or part-time, and how do you organize your writing time? Half-time. The rest of the time, I live with a head injury. My symptoms dictate when I can write. I’m horrible at following schedules. I make commitments instead. I’ll set a launch date, then aim to meet it.

When and why did you begin writing? I’m an avid reader of crime fiction, but I’d gotten to the point where I wanted something more than what was available. In 2010, I set out to write A Shot in the Bark, just to see if I could. My mother encouraged me to find a publisher, and I put it up on Amazon instead. It started selling and I haven’t looked back.

What inspired you to write your first book? A co-worker asked me to help him edit his book. After two months of having my advice rejected, I had to prove to myself that I knew what I was talking about.  The first thing I did was invent a character based on my co-worker, then kill him off.

What do you do when you’re not writing/editing or thinking about writing/editing? Hang out at the dog park with my dogs, Shadda and Chewy, ride my bike up at Mount Airy Forest or Spring Grove Cemetery, experiment in the kitchen. I lead a quiet life.

What are your thoughts about promotion? Done right, it’s fun. It’s also necessary if you want anyone to find your book.

What was the toughest criticism given to you? The biggest complaint I’ve received is the lack of resolution in my first book. People either loved it or they hated it.

What was the biggest compliment? My favorite compliment is being told my book kept someone up all night reading it.

Did those change how or what you did in your next novel? I resolved never to leave readers hanging again. Partly due to reader complaints, but also because I discovered I didn’t like writing when the plot was limited by the previous book. There is a long story arc about Lia and Peter’s relationship, but each book can be read as a stand-alone after the first two.

Do you ever have writer’s block? If so, how do you get through it? Writer’s block is one of two things: either not knowing what happens next, or being so concerned about crafting a good sentence that you can’t get started. If I don’t know what happens next, I dig into my characters and think about how each would react to the situation. If that doesn’t work, I bounce ideas around with my sister or my friend, Pat. I never stress about craft in my first draft. I just get down what I know is happening however I can. Either the words start flowing or else I can come back later and fix it when I have more insight into the scene.

Who is your publisher and how did you connect with them? Two Pup Press is my own imprint.

What are your current projects? What do you plan for the future? Right now, I’m working on Muddy, Mouth, Book 5 in my Lia Anderson Dog Park Mysteries. For 2016, I plan two books. Fur Boys features an extortionate music professor and (tentatively titled) Fat Boy is about a rehabbing couple in their own personal War of the Roses.

How can we find you? Website, Facebook, Twitter, blog, etc.?
Through my website is the best bet:
I’ve recently started experimenting with Periscope. You can follow me @C_A_Newsome
I’m on Facebook,, though I don’t spend much time there. I always respond to email,

What genre do you write in and why? I call it “Semi-Cozy Mystery with Dogs.” I like a book that has humor along with thrills, some romance, and a puzzle. I write what I know, and what I know best are life as a struggling artist (the basis for my main character, Lia Anderson) and the regulars at my local dog park.

What comes first: the plot or characters? Long before I ever thought I would write a book, I thought it would be fun to have a series with amateur sleuths who connected at their dog park, and I based my first book on my dog park friends.

Which of your characters do you love the most and why? Peter Dourson is my fantasy guy. Tall and lean, laid back, and the kind of guy that grew up working with his hands. He’s solid, a nice guy and former boy scout with still waters that run deep.  He loves Lia, though he doesn’t entirely understand her. He’s willing to take some bumps in the road for the sake of the relationship.

How did you decide how your characters should look? Most of my characters are based on real people (with their permission) so I start there. I have been known to shave off a few pounds.

Did your book require a lot of research? If so, what kind? I want everything that happens in my books to be possible, no matter how outrageous. I research anything  I don’t know for a fact. I can do most of this on the Internet. I’ve consulted an assistant funeral director about burial mishaps, and a pair of firemen I know about gas leaks. I have a couple of former cops I can go to for issues with police scenarios. I attend the Writers’ Police Academy, which is a real blast.

Do writing violent or highly sexual scenes bother you? Why or why not? I prefer writing romance to sex, and I will do a tasteful fade to black instead of showing sex acts. They don’t bother me, but I think they would bore me. I’m more interested in the seduction. As for violence, I won’t do violence against animals. I once wrote two sentences where a killer remembers drowning a kitten. That continues to bother me years later, even though it was essential to the development of that character. I’m okay with writing violence against people because it’s more of a fair fight. I try to stay on that line where the violence is thrilling and believable, but not gratuitous or gory.

What was the hardest part of writing your book? Figuring out how to catch the bad guy.

How long does it take to write a book, and what is your process? Right now it takes about a year. I hope to cut that down so I can put out 2 books a year. I maintain a mental inventory of scenes and premises that I’d like to see in a book. At some point, two or three of these will gravitate together and I’ll start building a story around them. Muddy Mouth is based on a local knitting club full of cat ladies, the Northside Fourth of July Parade, and fellow author Russell Blake. Then I ask how my characters would logically react to the situation.

What advice would you give a new writer starting out? Know your genre inside out. You’re playing to an audience with certain expectations. Whether you are going to follow the prevailing tropes or explode them, you need to know what you’re doing and why.

What, if anything, bugs you when you read a novel? I read a lot of series, and I hate it when they gel into an aggregate of series-specific cliches. I’ll often stop reading when that happens. I lose interest when the author goes so far overboard creating an interesting character, that the final result is unsympathetic. I  also dislike the current mantra that the author’s job is to torture their character, then torture them more, with no relief. Huge body counts bug me too. I was reading one book where someone died, then everyone the protagonist talked to died. When the body count got up to six, I stopped reading. Lots of things bug me in books, so it’s a good thing I can write my own. 

Starving artist Lia Anderson’s new job at Scholastic Scoring Systems would be a bore if it weren’t for her scoring partner. Lia embraces Desiree, a sassy man-killer, and draws her and her equally sassy Beagle, Julia, into the dog park circle. When hand-crafted foil dolls from a secret admirer start appearing, Desiree enjoys the tiny tributes while Lia worries that the phantom beau is dangerous. Desiree winds up dead, and the detectives assigned to the case ignore Lia's concerns about her stalker. When Lia finds her own foil gifts, she must take matters into her own hands, with the help of her friends.


Lia leaned over to peer at the odd squiggle on Desiree’s monitor. “Is that supposed to be a bicycle?”

Desiree sighed. In the vast array of computers that was Scholastic Scoring Systems, it was an insignificant gesture.

“I guess so. A bicycle in a wreck with a tree. I think he’s trying to say, if he were riding the bike at the speed they said in the question, he wouldn’t have been able to stop. Proficiency testing is whack. Fourth-graders think they’re so cute. After grading the same question 5,000 times, they’re a freaking riot.” She rolled her eyes.

Lia tilted her head sideways to get a better look. “I don’t know, I like the added touch of the body on the ground. The broken arm really makes it. What’s that blob?”

Desiree squinted. “Blood, maybe? But I can’t give him any credit for this, can I?”

Lia shrugged. “You’re asking the wrong person.” She shot her hand up in the air to grab their Team Leader’s attention. She already knew what the answer was, but Eric liked to feel needed. And he’d get a kick out of the little sketch.

Eric bopped over to their row—he was much too energetic to merely walk—and stood behind the women. He stroked a trim red beard and raised his eyebrows as he examined Desiree’s screen.

“What should I do with this?” Desiree asked. “This kid clearly knows the answer.”

“He doesn’t state it directly, and he doesn’t show his work. We can’t give points for artwork. No matter how creative it is.” Eric folded his arms and gave her a mock-stern look over his glasses. “You know the rules.”

Desiree slumped back in her chair and twisted her mouth. “I guess. You’re no fun, Eric.”

“I’m not supposed to be fun. Just consistent.”

“You’re fun on Fridays, when you bring us chocolate.” Lia toasted him with her half-eaten Nestle’s Crunch bar. “Do you get an allowance for all the treats you give us?”

“What? No, of course not.”

Eric’s head popped up, his attention caught by a waving hand two rows up in the expanse of monitors.

Lia watched as Eric bounced off to settle another question. “You know, he’s kinda cute for a short guy.”

“I’m so over that whole shaved head thing,” Desiree said. “I ran into it a lot at The Comet. I thought you had a boyfriend?”

“I was thinking for you.”

“You think so?” Desiree made a moue. “I don’t know . . . I usually go for bad boy types. Eric is just so . . . chipper. And I usually like them taller.”

The two women considered Eric Flynn as he bent over a retiree’s monitor. He was actually taller than he looked, since he tended to lead with his head, leaning forward as if he couldn’t wait to get where he was going. Lia pegged him in his late twenties. Blue eyes, the shade of the sky on a crisp autumn day, hid behind heavy, black-framed glasses.

Lia wondered if his shaved head was due to early male pattern baldness, style or politics. Perhaps inspired by a bout with cancer? She thought his Batman hoodie showed just the right amount of humor. Desiree’s coppery hair with its blue-green tips would look cute next to Eric’s Buddy Holly glasses and baggy—not saggy—jeans.

What guy wouldn’t go for Desiree? Lia always caught men staring at the shorter woman’s packed, curvy figure. She looked up to see Avery, the room supervisor, watching them from the corner of his eye as he strolled down the center aisle separating the computers like Moses parting the Red Sea. His eyes flicked away when Lia caught him ogling her scoring partner. Case in point.

Desiree seemed oblivious. Or maybe she was just used to it. Though it was probably self-defense. Still, Lia couldn’t imagine any woman wanting to encourage Avery. The guy was a prissy tyrant in Ralph Lauren his mother bought at a factory outlet. Ugh.

She nudged Desiree. “Back to work. Avery is looking over here.”
Lia and Desiree were hunched over their monitors when Eric came back. They looked up at him with wide, owl eyes.

“Why do I think you girls—excuse me, women—are plotting something?”

“Who, us?” Desiree blinked, a suspiciously blank expression on her face. “We’re just scoring away here. Was there something you wanted, Bwana?”

Eric’s lips twitched. He leaned over and tapped a little figure made of crumpled aluminum foil that was sitting on top of Desiree’s monitor. “Who’s this funny little guy?”

“I found him clinging to my car antenna yesterday. Cute, isn’t he?”

“I think Desiree has an admirer,” Lia said.

Desiree rolled her eyes and huffed. “Whatever.”

“Just be sure to take him with you when you leave tonight,” Eric said. “First shift gets wiggy if the work stations aren’t pristine when they show up.”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah. Some people have no sense of humor.”

“First shift sure doesn’t,” Eric agreed. “Back to work. We’ve got the best stats in the room. You don’t want to ruin that for us, do you?”

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