I am happy to welcome Linda Joffe Hull today as my guest!
On the Journey with Mrs. Frugalicious
Hi, it’s Linda Joffe Hull here, author of ETERNALLY 21 and the newly released BLACK THURSDAY, the first two titles in the Mrs. Frugalicious mystery series. I’m delighted to have been asked to contribute to Cozy Wednesdays at Escape with Dollycas!
We all know that mystery readers are a clever group. By definition, the whole experience of reading crime fiction revolves around looking for clues planted by the author to figure out whodunit, hopefully before the end of the book. As a writer, it’s my job to make sure that’s not an easy task. When I came up with the idea for my series, my more seasoned mystery writer friends warned me to be sure I plotted out not only the details for each murder, but the overarching story for the series as a whole. Otherwise, I would hear about plot holes and errors from, and I quote, “a bunch of really smart readers who get your story better than you do.”
And then I chanced upon the Venn diagram below:
Daunted to say the least, I did tons of research to make sure my story would be as accurate as possible. I plotted, planned, outlined, and voilá (eventually that is) ETERNALLY 21, the first book in my series, was born.
Maddie Michaels, my protagonist, is a formerly well-heeled housewife, whose husband, TV financial guru, Frank “Finance” Michaels, has lost all of their money in a Ponzi scheme. To make ends meet, she not only becomes a coupon clipper, but starts a blog called Mrsfrugalicious.com to share her tips with others who love to bargain shop. The blog goes viral, but Maddie can’t let anyone know she is Mrs. Frugalicious or Frank will lose his job. While shopping at her local mall, Maddie witnesses the death of an unpleasant store manager and finds herself in the midst of a murder investigation where the suspects range from the food court servers to a husband-and wife team with a wandering monkey, to the prime suspect– Maddie herself. She has to take matters into her own hands in order to clear her name and solve the murder.
Seeing as my contract was for three books, I decided that Maddie, along with couponing, crime solving, and dealing with the daily dilemmas of raising teenagers, needed a bigger overarching problem that could stretch through the series. Specifically, she suspects that her husband, Frank, is a philanderer.
I won’t give things away entirely, but in book two, BLACK THURSDAY Maddie has been revealed as Mrs. Frugalicious. That’s the least of her issues, though. It’s Thanksgiving, and Frank has invited his entire family to spend the holidays trying to talk Maddie out of divorcing him after his exploits in book one. Anxious to get out of the house, Maddie accepts an offer to bargain shop on camera during the Black Thursday shopping frenzy. In the midst of the commotion, a pallet of toasters falls on one unlucky shopper and kills her. Maddie soon discovers that the victim was none other than CC, her online heckler, and that the ‘accident’ was, in fact, murder.
ETERNALLY 21 came out to positive reviews and a notable lack of emails criticizing my methods of murder, sleuthing techniques, or other possible freshman mistakes. The good comments gave me a boost that helped me finish BLACK THURSDAY and turn the manuscript into my publisher.
I was well into book three, tentatively titled SWEETHEART DEAL, when the advance reviews for BLACK THURSDAY began to appear. The story is actually an ideal fit for this blog as Maddie, who has transitioned from a popular blogger into the reality TV star of “The Family Frugalicious” finds herself down in Mexico at a fabulous resort investigating the vexing world of timeshares and, of course, murder.
The feedback for BLACK THURSDAY was positive and encouraging once again. This time, however, two separate reviewers leveled a similar observation. One of them said, “I really liked this book, even if I didn’t agree with some of the things going on. For one thing, I personally don’t believe every man cheats.”
My first and second thought were WHAT???
As the author, I’ve never, ever thought such a thing. In fact, the message I was trying to convey over the course of the series was that Maddie, as a loyal wife and mother, when faced with personal lemons makes lemonade. More important, Maddie, as a character, evolves from a plucky housewife into a strong empowered lady. The confusion, I believed, came from Maddie’s over-the-top, wacky mother-in-law who makes the comment while admitting her son has acted like a dog. She also encourages Maddie to make him pay, literally, for the rest of the marriage in the form of apology gifts.
So, here I am halfway done with book three. Maddie still has a secret–she and Frank are married in name only and only for the sake of their TV show. Never mind I’ve gone and killed off a handsome, sweet-talking, south-of-the border lothario, who, is, in fact, a married man.
Really? Did I really do that again?
While my motivation for making him married was to provide a very likely suspect (his wife), I couldn’t exactly continue to weave such a plot point in the book. Not without more well-placed and legitimate comments, that is…
So, I owe a debt of gratitude to modern technology and a thank you to some astute early readers for helping me clarify the overarching story in the Mrs. Frugalicious series. The inadvertent message I never, ever meant to convey has now been edited out of book three.
Writing in the modern age truly is a group effort!
(A Mrs. Frugalicious Shopping Mystery)
2nd in Series
Published by MIDNIGHT INK (October 8, 2014)
Trade Paperback: 336 pages
E-Book File Size: 2286 KB
A bad deal for Mrs. Frugalicious
When Maddie Michaels, AKA Mrs. Frugalicious, is invited to take a local news crew with her on a Black Friday shopping expedition, she’s excited to show viewers at home how to score the season’s best savings. Despite a negative comment from Contrary Claire— the sole naysayer in her growing Frugarmy—Maddie is hopeful her first TV appearance will be a bargain-savvy success.
But Black Friday eve takes a bleak turn when a shopper is crushed beneath a pallet of toasters. After learning that the victim could be Contrary Claire, it becomes clear that Claire has made more than one enemy. Maddie finds herself dealing once again with a murder investigation. Will she catch the killer before someone else is slashed like a sale price?
Includes couponing tips!
I fell for Maddie in Eternally 21. A wife and mother trying to clean up a huge mess her husband is responsible for in a very creative way, blogging as Mrs. Frugalicious. What a wonderful protagonist!
Frank is trying to make amends but I don’t think Maddie is buying what he is selling. Her teenage sons are fantastic. Now that their mother’s secret is out they are super supportive even trying to help her with her site and helping her find her cyber enemy Contrary Clare.
On the other hand I hated most of Frank’s family, just as the author intended. I wouldn’t put murder past a couple of them. Yes, they say they are trying to support her but descending upon her house at the busiest time of the year for a shopping expert is just not cool, but again Maddie handles it all. She is even trying to clip the culprit that set that pallet of toasters in motion but let’s face it she would have done anything to get away from those people. But I think the search ended up much more than she bargained for…
I really enjoyed this story. Linda Joffe Hull has let these characters continue to grow and brought back some very special characters from the first story for a very surprising event.
She has also written quite a mystery. It may have you thinking twice as you head out for the holiday sales this year and looking up much more often as you shop those big box stores.
I also love and appreciate all the tips she provides about sales, shopping and coupons throughout the book.
My only complaint is with the e-copy formatting which is not the author’s fault and since I am reviewing from an uncorrected proof I am sure the problem was fixed in the final edition. Tips like this are easy to put at the top or bottom of a printed page but when you take it digital wonky things can happen, like these tips landing in the middle of a paragraph, which messes with the rhythm of the story.
A marvelous mystery to pick up and enjoy now so you are ready to shop and save this holiday season!
Thanks to the people at Midnight Ink I have 1 copy to give away!
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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of this book. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”