It’s A Mystery: Quickstep to Murder

Meet the Author

I met Laura DiSilverio, aka Ella Barrick, at the Left Coast Crime conference in March. She had been so impressive on the panel discussions that I thought she would be too busy to talk with a total stranger for more than a second. But I was wrong.  We met in the hall between sessions and I had the feeling no one else mattered to her during the time we chatted.

Laura lives in Colorado and writes four mystery series. Four!

  • Ballroom Dance Mysteries
  • Charlie Swift Mysteries
  • Mall Cop Mysteries
  • Southern Beauty Shop Mysteries

My goodness, this person is organized and impressive.  I asked her about her mystery series on ballroom dancing because I enjoy dancing with Colorado DanceSport so much.  Perhaps she dances?

She smiled and said no, but yes, she does write under the name Ella Barrick with a ballroom dance series that has dance instructor Stacy Graysin double as an amateur sleuth.  I asked where I could buy a copy, and Laura generously said she’d send me a couple of these books, as they weren’t carried in the conference bookstore.

I never thought this would happen.  If you’ve ever been at a trade show or conference, you know that cards and contact information are lost more than found at the end, and all the best intentions of following up are forgotten in the shuffle of getting back to work when the event is over.

Imagine my delight then, when a few days after the conference, I received a bulky envelope from Laura and inside was not one, but two novels!  I dove right in to the first, Quickstep to Murder.

Quickstep to Murder.phpQuickstep to Murder

Stacy Graysin, co-owner of Graysin Motion dance studio is furious with her ex-fiance and other half of the Graysin Motion ownership team.  Not only did Rafe Acosta sleep with another dancer, but now the slime ball wants to add hip-hop and children’s lessons to the studio curriculum. Horrors! Stacy is angry enough to declare that these changes will occur over her dead body.  Only it is Rafe who is found with his skull mashed in on the studio dance floor, and the police are convinced that Stacy is the prime suspect in the case.

Soon Rafe’s half-brother from Argentina shows up and things get even more complicated.  Apparently, Rafe had changed his will in the weeks before his death, and Stacy no longer inherits his half of the studio.  But Octavio (Tav) Acosta, Rafe’s half-brother and inheritor has no interest in ballroom dance and so he will be selling his portion of the studio, with or without Stacy’s interest in mind.

Now, you should know that this story takes place in Washington D.C. where intrigue and rumor abounds, so you can only imagine the tangles that Stacy finds herself snared in going forward.

If you’re a mystery lover, this is a story to go for, definitely.

Writing Plus Points

What I liked about this novel was the way Ella kept the murder forefront of the story, even while delving into the world of ballroom dance.  I was also impressed with the accuracy with which she portrayed that world–dress costs and materials, dance steps, major competitions, and how studios tend to be funded, how dancers behave.

Lastly, Ella took her time as a writer, in describing the murder scene itself.  This is something a lot of newer writers miss.  When the tension of the action rises, you add in the visceral experience of the point-of-view character, and the reader jumps deeply into the story.  New writers will add a lot of details, but miss that physical reaction the POV character experiences, and will bog down the story as a result.  Ella balanced between detail and story progress very well.

Writing Challenges

I think the story worked very well for me as a reader.  Stacy’s main physical experience of her world seemed to be in the scents she experienced, which drew me out of the story occasionally, but not enough to detract from the plot itself.

In short, you go and enjoy Quickstep to Murder.  I’m going to dive into Dead Man Waltzing. Have a fun reading day.

Title: Quickstep to Murder
Author: Ella Barrick
Publisher: Obsidian Mysteries (an imprint of Penguin Books)

Writer’s Obligation: To Write From the Heart

This blog is supposed to be about writing cozy little murder mysteries, or maybe about pets and life in Littleton. But doggone it, I am first and foremost a writer. And the moral obligation of every writer is to tell our current human story with passion and concern.

I know several of my readers are authors and aspiring authors, or family members, so I’m writing today, not as Daisy’s creator, but as Liesa, a writer of passion and voice.

In my family I was raised to take action if action needed doing. If someone was cleaning, it was everyone’s job to help out. If someone was crying, we came together to hug, cry, and share the pain.  We shared our lives and the joys and sorrows within them because we knew that together, we could survive any craziness, challenge, or overwhelming situation.

Writer’s share these same human experiences with our words. We bring people close and encourage action.  We change the world with our words. This, to me, is a very high calling.

The Obligation Ignored

I forgot that obligation when the Columbine shooting happened less than a mile from my home fourteen years ago. My voice was not to be heard when the shootings occurred in West Nickel Mines School and five little Amish girls were killed. For Newtown, I made a Facebook comment and little more. And now, perhaps because I have not acted, I have not voiced my own disapproval of the violence that permeates our society, I am the silent good person. I am the good person who has not stood up, and more evil has prevailed.

Because this blog is supposed to focus on the happy world of fiction writing I don’t tend to write about my politics. Wouldn’t want to turn off potential novel readers. But as a writer, I need to express my repulsion of the evil that has been attacking our country with a steady increase of unbelievable violence.

The Boston Bombing

You can get the facts of the Boston Marathon Bombing across the Internet right now. The horror of thousands as hundreds were maimed and killed. We are all part of that community. We are all Bostonians in waiting . . . Until we as a community come together and demand that this violence stops.

It won’t happen solely at the hands of our government, as if our government is some far away entity that only touches our lives with its laws of inconvenience and inept efforts to come to terms with warring political parties.  We need to remember that government, at least in this country, is of, by, and for the people.  That’s us.

Change won’t happen with the soul-searching reverie of our political pundits, who will examine and debate to death what happened, until it can be neatly packaged into a drive-through-window of political slogans. Or empty gestures of flag flying that leave us donating more dollars to some good cause that doesn’t really solve our problem, THE problem.

As Writers We Write To Make A Difference

At the bottom of what we do as writers, is to give voice to the society of our age. We were blessed to be born into or to adopt this country as our own, where the freedom of speech is guaranteed, guaranteed in our Constitution.

But with every right, comes a certain amount of obligation. If, as writers, we don’t write about the hard stuff, the shootings and the bombings, and the lives gone awry, who will? Who will tell people that something is broken and needs attention? Who will generate or record ideas that may help solve the problem of violence in the United States of America?

All it takes for evil to prevail is for good people to sit aside and do nothing. We are good people. We need to act in good ways. The solution to our community’s apathy is for each of us to meet someone new today. Not necessarily through the Internet, but to reach out and care about the stranger on our street. Who is crying today? Who is happy? Facebook will not replace the warmth of a real hug, the salve of a willing ear, the power of the small person’s tale told by writers like us.

Let’s start today. Let’s reach out with love and concern for both the marathoners and our neighbors. Let’s make our voices of peace be heard. Let’s write with the pride, honor, and truthful passions of our profession.

We are writers. Let’s do our job and tell whomever bombed Boston that they are not going to get away with this.  Let’s tell Bostonians that we are with them in our hearts.  Let’s write how we can make good changes happen. Then make those good ideas so.

Daisy Update: Publishers Weekly Review, New Cover Art & More …

Publishing is such an exciting adventure! I’m thrilled to update you on Daisy’s progress.  After some of your feedback, Faith on the Rocks has an updated cover, Publishers Weekly has weighed in on the content, and Writer’s Digest has indicated they’ll be doing an article on yours truly. Wow! Can you tell I’m ecstatic?  Here are the details:

Publishers Weekly

PW is one of the “big four” in the book review business, according to Slate Magazine.  “It plays Coke to Kirkus’ Pepsi” said author Adelle Waldman in an article about the book review business.  To get a good review from PW is a big step in promoting your book.  Here is the quote I received via my publisher yesterday:

Publishers Weekly Review 4/5/13
This title publishes JUNE 2013
. . . entertaining first novel . . . Gabe, the single father of one of Daisy’s special-needs students, lends some romantic interest . . . cozy fans will look forward to seeing more of Daisy.
If you’d like to see the whole write-up please visit this portion of the Publishers Weekly site.

Another Review – Joan Johnston

For those of you familiar with Joan Johnston, New York Times best-selling author of such books as Wyoming Bride, A Stranger’s Game, and Outcast, this prolific and generous writer agreed to read my book.  Here is her review statement:
“Malik shows great promise as a debut novelist.    Her characters are fun and quirky, and I kept chuckling right through to the end.  A great read!”

Edited Faith on the Rocks Cover

I think the final straw was when a religious zealot thought I was “one of them” and handed me a save-the-world kind of flyer.  I’ve passed on your cover comments about Faith on the Rocks not conveying the mystery portion of the story, and my publishers at Five Star Publishing, bless their hearts, responded.  Hope you like the edits:

Writer’s Digest Mention

I’ve subscribed to Writer’s Digest since 1979 or so. When I was younger I read about how subscribing to WD had helped many an aspiring author get into print.  Today, WD has a section called “Breaking In” for first novelists.  My picture and book will be a part of this section in the July/August issue, thanks to editor Chuck Sambuchino.  Whoo Hoo! I think this fulfills a huge dream I’ve had since I bought my first WD book, “Magazine Writing Today” by Jerome E. Kelley.  I can still see that book sitting on the shelf at The University of Michigan’s bookstore, “The Cellar.”  It took a few paychecks to save enough extra funds to invest the $9.95 for my dream to take really off.  Even before that, I’d bought WD magazines off and on for years, and submitted children’s stories (without success) while I lived in England.
Today, fame and fortune may not quite yet be mine, but there is a big part of the “dream-fulfilled” feeling to my life.  And thanks to you, your feedback, and your support, the dream lives on. I’m on chapter 24 of Sliced Vegetarian and plan to finish the first draft of this book in June.

What I’ve Learned

For those of you who aspire to writing, keep going.  I’ve been dabbling with this craft since I wrote the Weed Tree Camp Newsletter and edited Vaughn Elementary’s monthly “newspaper” in the mid 1960’s.  If I can do this, so can you.
Writing is a craft worth learning, a voice worth letting out to the world, a dream worth pursuing. and a hope for tomorrow. As human beings, we have been given the gift of story, and it is up to each of us to tell our own portion of that story.
Have a great writing day.