Today I interviewed debut cozy mystery author, Vivien Chien

  • Today, help me welcome a brand, new cozy author, Vivien Chien, with book one of the Noodle Shop Mysteries, Death by Dumpling. 

    Here’s a little bit about Death by Dumpling: The last place Lana Lee thought she would ever end up is back at her family’s restaurant. But after a brutal break-up and a dramatic workplace walk-out, she figures that helping wait tables is her best option for putting her life back together. Even if that means having to put up with her mother, who is dead-set on finding her a husband. Lana’s love life soon becomes yesterday’s news once the restaurant’s property manager, Mr. Feng, turns up dead―after a delivery of shrimp dumplings from Ho-Lee. But how could this have happened when everyone on staff knew about Mr. Feng’s severe, life-threatening shellfish allergy? Now, with the whole restaurant under suspicion for murder and the local media in a feeding frenzy―to say nothing of the gorgeous police detective who keeps turning up for take-out―it’s up to Lana to find out who is behind Feng’s killer order. . . before her own number is up.

    ME: If you had to describe yourself in one sentence, what would you say?
    VC: I am a lover of words, a gal who likes to laugh and be silly, a huge fan of doughnuts, and too long-winded to answer this question properly in just one sentence.
    ME: What do you do when you’re not writing? Any interesting hobbies?
    VC: In my spare time, if I’m not at the bookstore buying all the books I can fit in my arms, I’m playing video games. I love any game that has an intricate storyline and a good amount of action. I’m no stranger to third-person shooters or a good RPG (role-playing game). I’ve found them to be one of the most effective ways to decompress from writing and/or regular daily life. I’ve also recently found myself wildly enthralled with decorative planning. (If you have no idea what that is, have fun spiraling down that rabbit hole.) Becoming a published author definitely requires you to become organized and anyone that knows me can tell you that is most certainly not me. Decorative planning gives me a way to keep my life together and have some fun while doing it.
    ME: What was your favorite book as a teen or child?
    VC: Any time anyone asks me this question, I struggle with the answer because I have so many that I consider my “favorite.” But here are my top three that often compete for first place:
    1.      Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaretby Judy Blume – This book was such an influential piece of work to me growing up. It stuck with me and I still reference it today.
    2.      Charlie and the Chocolate Factoryby Roald Dahl – I LOVED this book and wished so many times that Willy Wonka was a real person.
    3.      Claudia and Mean Janine(The Babysitters Club) by Ann M. Martin – This was the first time as a child that I read a book featuring an Asian-American character and I remember thinking I’d struck gold when I found it.
    ME: What genre did you start out writing? Have you changed course? Why or why not?
    VC: The first book I ever wrote was modeled after Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles. I started constructing it when I was in my teens and I had no idea what I was doing. I kept attempting to finish it, but I still had much to learn about the writing process. Later, I attempted to write a chick-lit book that fell insanely flat and I pitched it without so much as a second thought. When I discovered my love for mystery, I knew I’d found my true path. There was no turning back at that point.
    (However, that original vampire story still exists in a binder and has transformed many times. It’s now a paranormal mystery and I hope one day it will grace a bookstore shelf somewhere.)
    ME: What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?
    VC: The tough criticism I’ve received so far was from someone who said the humor in my first book felt both flat and forced. I think I took this comment to heart more than any others because I pride myself on the ability to relay my snarky humor through my writing. But like any criticism, you take it and use it to your advantage in the hopes it will make your writing better in the future.
    On the flip side, the best compliment I’ve received was from a few Asian-American women who thanked me for writing the Noodle Shop series and creating an ethnic character they could relate to in the mystery genre. There are only a few us who have stories featuring Asian-American characters and I had no idea how little the number actually was. I’m proud to be one of the people to contribute to the demographic. My main goal when beginningDeath by Dumpling was to write an enjoyable story with likable characters. I had no idea that Lana Lee would be someone people were searching for. That makes this series all the more special to me.
    ME: Any other genres you’d like to try? If yes, what and why?
    VC: If I ever got the chance, I would love to write a historical. I have such an interest in two periods of history: 1920s America and any period of China’s Imperial dynasty timeline, with a specific interest in the Tang dynasty. Random, I know, but I find both of these times extremely fascinating and would love to explore them further through writing.
    ME: If you could go back in time and do something differently at the start of your career, what would it be?
    VC: Even though I’ve been writing for several years, this is the start of my career. If I could go back, I would have started sooner. I spent a lot of time doubting my ability to write a readable book or the plausibility of becoming a published author. Putting yourself (and your creativity) out there for everyone to see is one of the hardest things to do.
    ME: What is the most important piece of advice you’d like to give to unpublished authors?
    VC: This kind of falls in line with my answer to the question above. Believe in yourself, keep pushing. At times you may not feel like you’re good enough, but keep moving forward until you get where you want to be. I was told many times that this was not an achievable dream, but trust me when I say that is a false statement.
    Here’s a little about the author: Vivien Chien first started writing simple stories about adventures with her classmates when she was in elementary school. As she grew up, her love of books and the written word increased, leading to the attempt of her first novel at age 16. After many struggled beginnings and several different genres, she found her passion in the mystery world. When she’s not writing, she can be found frolicking in the bookstore or searching for her next bowl of noodles. She has a soft spot for doughnuts, a healthy love for coffee, and an extreme need to participate in random acts of crafting. She currently lives in Cleveland where she is hard at work on the next book in her Noodle Shop series and writes side-by-side with her toy fox terrier.
    Death by Dumpling is available on AmazonB&N
    And watch for Dim Sum of All Fears coming August 28th: AmazonB&N,
    Have a good week of reading!  Mary Ellis

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My Thoughts on Being Adopted

Turn on a made-for-TV movie or one of those “reality” shows about adoption and you’ll find adult children in serious angst over being given up. Everyone seems to be frantically searching for natural mothers and birth siblings. Invariably during the program’s second segment, after the commercial break, the viewer meets the long-suffering mother. Apparently she never stopped loving, worrying about, and searching for the baby taken from her or surrendered during a momentary lapse of judgment. These stories have always rung false for me, or at least overly “Hollywood” dramatic.
Do I believe such situations exist in real life? Yes, indeed. But are they the norm as the producers would have us believe? Not by a long shot, in my opinion. I’ve known too many adopted friends and siblings who suffered disappointments or faced disaster after discovering their “roots.” Personally, I hold no grudge or latent hostility for the woman who gave me up, but I also possess no buried affection either. She is a stranger. Throughout my life I’ve been offended by the predictable question: Don’t you want to know who your real mom is? I’ve always replied, “No, because I know who my real mother is—she’s the one who wiped my runny nose, fixed my peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and put up with my sassy mouth as a teenager.
As a writer who was adopted from Children’s Services as an infant, I chose to explore this issue from a different viewpoint…as the woman who gave up her child. In Always in my Heart, my novella from An Amish Miracle, Hope Bowman believes God punished her for giving up her firstborn son and because she hid this secret from her husband. Although Hope is thankful for three daughters, she still prays for a son. But instead of a new baby, God sends her the fifteen-year-old boy she had abandoned.
Writing that novella several years ago turned out to be therapeutic for me. But in my upcoming release, Hiding in Plain Sight, I chose to tackle this sensitive issue from a different viewpoint, as a biological sibling in need of an organ transplant. I thank God that I haven’t needed a transplant thus far, but this situation happens every day. Although my adoptive parents were the only ones I ever knew and as “real” as birth parents to me, other adoptees might choose a different path. I hope you’ll enjoy my Amish novella or my next book, Hiding in Plain Sight, about two young women brought together to save one life.
The award-winning Always in My Heart (novella) is available in Kindle from Amazon, or in the paperback anthology, An Amish Miracle from Harper Collins Christian Publishing.

New a New Direction?

Write what you know…is a quote usually attributed to Mark Twain. Twain might have been a great American novelist, but his advice better suits authors of the 19th century. What are authors supposed to do in the 21stcentury when expected to produce two or three novels a year? As books become shorter and faster-paced, some writers are releasing books faster than that. If as a full-time professional writer you only write about subjects you’re familiar or experienced with, won’t you run out of story fodder? On a personal level, how many stories about a schoolteacher, living on the edge of Amish country, who loves gardening, animals and American history will readers tolerate? Perhaps more practical advice for this day and age would be: Write about what fascinates you, or perhaps the person you hope to one day become.
I have reached an age when retirement isn’t a distant pipedream. As much as I love Ohio, winters have grown intolerable. My husband and I are determined to live three or four months of the year in the warmer and sunnier South. Recently we’ve combined our quest for inexpensive spots to “snowbird” with my mystery series. The setting for my first story was easy…New Orleans, a city we visited while family lived in the area and many times since. After several stays in Cajun country I was playing the washboard with spoons and cooking gumbo from a roux. My second mystery allowed me to indulge my love of the blues while researching Memphis and the Mississippi delta where rice and cotton fields stretch to the horizon. Next I prowled the streets of Natchez, a charming town overlooking the mighty Mississippi, where the police captain turned out to be the nicest person I’ve ever interviewed. Then we went to beautiful, age-old Savannah for my last book in that series. Recently, (as in three days ago) we returned from our fourth trip to Charleston, South Carolina, the setting for the first of my Marked for Retribution Mysteries.  What a delightful town! I’ll be sharing details as the release date for Hiding in Plain Sight draws near. (August 1st)
As we investigate places to live during the winter, I’m also discovering new spots for dead bodies to wash ashore or characters to go missing. If you’re looking for new story ideas, why not consider places you’ve always wanted to visit? Start with research at your local library and on the internet. Then create the characters of your dreams. Maybe you can give them the talents you always longed to have. Your enthusiasm will turn your story into a page-turner readers can’t put down. And just think…when you visit the area to tweak the details, your trip becomes a tax deductible expense. Sounds like a win-win situation, no?

Check out my interview with suspense author, Sharee Stover

Introducing a debut suspense author is always a pleasure on Suspense Sisters. Here’s a bit of bio about Sharee Stover and her brand new book, Secret Past, from Love Inspired.
 
Colorado native Sharee Stover lives in Nebraska with her real-life-hero husband, three too-good-to-be-true children, and two ridiculously spoiled dogs. A self-proclaimed word nerd, she loves the power of the written word to ignite, transform, and restore. Her Christian romantic suspense stories combine heart-racing, nail-biting suspense and the delight of falling in love all in one. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Romance Writers of America and Nebraska Writer’s Guild. Sharee is a two-time Daphne du Maurier finalist and the winner of the 2017 Wisconsin Fabulous Five Silver Quill Award. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys reading, crocheting and long walks with her obnoxiously lovable German Shepherd.
 
If you had to describe yourself in one sentence, what would you say?  
I’m a devoted wife and mother passionate about Jesus with a serious writing obsession.
What do you do when you’re not writing? Any interesting hobbies?
I love to crochet but have to stick to things that are flat and don’t require any assembly since I can rarely make two things the same size. Granny square anything doesn’t work for me. Therefore, I stick to blankets. I love to read anything from historical to thriller and when I have time, enjoy paper crafts like cardmaking and scrapbooking.
What was your favorite book as a teen or child?
Island of the Blue Dolphinsand The Secret Garden. But I can distinctly remember devouring everything written by Judy Blume and Beverly Cleary.
Tell us three things about yourself that might surprise your readers.
I love Christian hard rock bands like Disciple, Thousand Foot Krutch and Skillet and enjoy attending their live concerts with my family.
I am a two-time cornea transplant recipient and grateful every single day for my sight.
I love Korean food, especially kimchi.
What genre did you start out writing? Have you changed course? Why or why not?
I started out writing suspense and it morphed into romantic suspense. I never thought I’d write romance and some days, it still surprises me. I also wanted to write historical, but that book is collecting dust. Maybe I’ll go back to it sometime in the future.
What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?
The toughest criticism was being told an agent hated my heroine. I had to completely revamp the character. The best compliment was having a reader say she felt like she was watching TV because she could “see” the scenes in my book.
Any other genres you’d like to try? If yes, what and why?
I’d love to try writing mysteries too. I think it’s especially challenging to keep the book going with the who-done-it to be seen.
If you could go back in time and do something differently at the start of your career, what would it be?
I would have read every book on writing right away. I’ve learned a ton through conferences and reading craft books but much of it came after the fact.
What is the most important piece of advice you’d like to give to unpublished authors?
Don’t give up. There are days when I’d think I was the biggest fraud pretending to be a writer. If you’re writing, you are a writer with or without a published book.
Thanks, Sharee, for the awesome interview. I know readers will love it!.  ~ Mary Ellis

My Favorite Valentine’s Day Memory

Similar to people who were born on Christmas Day, my birthday is two days before Valentine’s Day. In addition, I used to work for the largest candy manufacturer in the country, with unlimited access to chocolate. So who would ever buy me a heart-shaped box of confections? I realized early in life that this romantic holiday would never generate more than a greeting card, whether from my parents or my sweetheart. Imagine my shock when I walked into the house after a long day at work and found candles lit, supper made and a stack of wrapped gifts in the center of the table. Okay, maybe just a stack of two….but I was thrilled. Not just for new pink nightgown and peach-scented candles, but for the fact my husband accomplished my least favorite chore of the day—cooking dinner. I am here to testify take-out rotisserie chicken, bagged salad, and Stove-Top stuffing has never tasted so good. That Valentine’s Day, I fell asleep knowing I was still cherished by my college sweetheart. Ever since that day, a greeting card now works magic for me…even if he uses the same card year after year.
Happy Valentine’s Day ~ Mary Ellis
And coming in August……

Favorite Christmas Memory and Favorite Cookie Recipe

When I think back to Christmas as a child, I remember gathering at the home of one of my aunts on Christmas Eve. We would enjoy a potluck dinner and catch up on family news—coming babies, recent graduations and other milestones. Before the families separated to attend church services, the children anxiously awaited the arrival of one special guest—Santa Claus. My uncle would dress up in full costume and arrive with great fanfare down the staircase. He carried a velvet sack filled with gifts for good girls and boys from infants through college-aged. Since I was the youngest of my generation, I was the last child who still believed in Santa Claus. When I finally discovered the truth about the man-in-red, I played along with the subterfuge for years. I didn’t want to spoil the fun for my mother and aunts. Finally when I was in the sixth grade and Santa passed out his gifts, I said, “Hi, Uncle Louie. Thanks for the gift.” My mother and aunts looked broken-hearted, but all good things must come to an end.

Looking back, I’m grateful for the joy they preserved for me because of their love. And because of God’s unending love and the gift of His son…once again I have something to believe in. Merry Christmas! May God’s blessings rain down on your family during this special season.
Snickerdoodles
1 cup butter, softened (do not use margarine)
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
¼ cup milk
1 tsp. vanilla
3 ¾ cups flour
¾ tsp. baking powder
cinnamon sugar
Cream together the butter and sugar. To this mixture add the eggs, milk, and vanilla, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Sift together the flour and baking powder; then add the creamed mixture. Roll dough into little balls and then roll in a mixture of cinnamon and sugar. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet and flatten slightly. Bake at 375 degrees for 10-12 minutes.
   Need a Christmas novella to get you in the Christmas spirit? Sarah’s Christmas Miracle is available in all electronic formats for $2.99.
And don’t forget to enter the Suspense Sisters fabulous Christmas giveaway! One winner will walk away with a gorgeous quilt, plus books, candy, Christmas items and gift cards.  Winner will be drawn on Dec. 22nd. Scroll down to Dec. 1st to enter. Enter the contest by clicking this link an scrolling down at:  SUSPENSE SISTERS

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Will you have house guests this Thanksgiving? Here’s an easy recipe!

Happy November Readers!

Will you be having house guests for Thanksgiving this year? It’s not too early to think about a simple breakfast to enjoy while the turkey bakes.

Orange Pecan French Toast

Cover and refrigerate the following overnight –

  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup butter, melted
  • 2 Tbs light corn syrup
  • 1/3 cup chopped pecans
  • 12 slices French bread
  • 1 tsp orange zest
  • 1 cup orange juise
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 3 Tbs white sugar
  • 1tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 egg whites
  • 2 eggs

In a small bowl, mix brown sugar, butter and corn syrup. Pour into a greased 9×13 dish and spread evenly. Sprinkle pecans over the mixture and arrange the bread slices on top of it – in a snug single layer.

In a medium bowl, whisk the orange zest, orange juice, milk, sugar, cinnamon, vanilla, egg whites and eggs. Pour over the bread, pressing to make sure the liquid is absorbed. Cover and refrigerate.

In the morning, preheat the oven to 350. Remove the cover and stand for 20 minutes.

Top with a sprinkling of pecans, and bake for 35 minutes. Mix the 1 Tbs confectioners sugar and 3 Tbs orange juice and drizzle over the toast before serving.

Hope you enjoy!!!

 

Mary Ellis