I am so happy to welcome J.J. Chow to Escape With Dollycas today!
Seniors Sleuth, the first Winston Wong Cozy Mystery was released on May 9.
Behind the Crime (Writing) Scene
There is always an escape waiting for you—even in the most urban of places. For example, my Winston Wong mystery series takes place in San Jose, the heart of the tech-savvy Silicon Valley. Yet there is a stretch of beautiful Victorian houses in the city. Some of these elegant buildings have been converted into businesses, which is the case with the senior home featured in Winston’s first mystery, SENIORS SLEUTH.
I worked and lived in San Jose for years, but have now relocated to an even more urban area: Los Angeles. Besides the beaches, where’s a mystery writer to go to relax? Answer: The California Crime Writers Conference. Sponsored by Sisters in Crime Los Angeles and SoCal Mystery Writers of America, the exciting CCWC happens only every other year.
Let me give you a look into what a crime writing convention is like. Along with workshops, there is an agents and editors cocktail party, a noir movie night, and a silent auction with raffle.
Besides the formal events, mingling occurs during session breaks (or sometimes while waiting in line for the ladies’ room—you know how it is).
At lunchtime, I found myself seated next to mystery writers whom I really respect. Meeting USA Today bestselling author Gigi Pandian especially touched my heart. She published the first book in her Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Series as a celebration for wrapping up a year’s worth of breast cancer treatments. My own cozy mystery is dedicated to my mom, who struggled against a very aggressive type of cancer.
Besides the personal connections, I also enjoyed the professional insight from excellent workshops, which covered the following categories:
Craft: tips for specific genres and advice for the writing life
Forensics: talks about crime scenes and unique information from specialists
Industry: information about the book industry, including various traditional and self-publishing options
Marketing: advice on selling books
Here are a few interesting tidbits I gleaned from those sessions:
• There are micro-genres for everything, so you can find things like a nice cozy mystery with a female sleuth happening in outer space
• On the Amazon author page, you can “follow” your favorite writer and stay in touch with their latest activities
Bookstores and Libraries
• There are dedicated book buyers in stores, ready to scout out new releases
• A recent book only has a small window of opportunity (4-6 weeks) to make a splash; indie bookstores, though, are often more lenient in promoting works they enjoy beyond that specific period
• Librarians listen to patron requests, so feel free to suggest books to your local branches
• Vendors charge libraries more for ebooks than print copies because of the multiple use involved in electronic versions
• Even small guns are quite heavy and intimidating to hold!
• The Secret Service started out as an agency to combat counterfeit money (this session could not be recorded because it was too top-secret)
• Bugs can be used to determine a range of time for a victim’s death
• Agatha Christie once compared the mystery to a “medieval morality play”
• At the core of the traditional and cozy mystery is the puzzle and its deduction
• Current mysteries have moved away from armchair detectives, and now involve a lot of excitement with diverse characters in varied settings
Finally, the major highlight of a crime writing convention is hearing well-known authors speak.
This year, the keynote speakers were Anne Perry and Charlaine Harris. They spoke separately over the two days, and then came together on the last day for a moderated discussion on Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing. Both authors agreed with most of Leonard’s rules, except for rule number nine, which involved using detailed descriptions. The writers would include more information if the plot needed something to be fully described (e.g. the layout of a room), and for things like clothes (which speak volumes about a person). There was also resounding support for Leonard’s tenth rule: “Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.”
At the conference, I found that even the most famous individuals (like the speakers above) were so down-to-earth. I mean, I was rubbing shoulders with folks who had been nominated or had won the Agatha, Anthony, Edgar, Shamus…the list of awards go on. Every author I met was super sweet. I wonder if it’s because we write all the animosity out of ourselves. It’s like free therapy when you’re a writer. Or perhaps it’s what Charlaine Harris said—we don’t need to get revenge on people in real life because we can do it on the page.
Anyway, I hope you enjoyed a peek behind the scenes of a mystery writing convention!
About J.J. Chow
Jennifer J. Chow, an Asian-American writer, holds a Bachelor’s degree from Cornell University and a Master’s in Social Welfare from UCLA. Her geriatric work experience influences her stories. She lives in Los Angeles, California.
Her short fiction has appeared in Yay! LA Magazine, Foliate Oak Literary Magazine, Mouse Tales Press, and IdeaGems. Her debut novel, The 228 Legacy, won Honorable Mention in the 2015 San Francisco Book Festival and was a 2013 Finalist for Foreword Reviews’ Book of the Year Award. She also writes the Winston Wong mysteries under the name of J.J. Chow. The first in the series, Seniors Sleuth, won Runner-Up in the 2015 Beach Book Festival.
•Runner-Up in the 2015 Beach Book Festival for Seniors Sleuth
•Honorable Mention in the 2015 San Francisco Book Festival for The 228 Legacy
•Finalist for the 2013 IndieFab/Foreword Reviews’ Book of the Year Award for The 228 Legacy
•Second round of the 2013 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award for The 228 Legacy
•Second place in The Sacrifice Anthology Contest
•Honorable mention in the Project Keepsake Contest
•Finalist standing in Writer Advice’s 7th Annual Flash Prose Contest
•Honorable mention in the 2012 Whispering Prairie Press Writers ContestLike her on Facebook and Follow her on GoodReads and Twitter.
(Winston Wong Cozy Mystery) (Volume 1)
1st in Series
Setting – California
Self Published (May 9, 2015)
Paperback: 224 pages
E-Book ASIN: B00X4PAISW
Winston Wong used to test video games but has left his downward spiraling career to follow in the footsteps of Encyclopedia Brown, his favorite childhood detective. When the Pennysaver misprints his new job title, adding an extra “s” to his listing, Winston becomes a “Seniors Sleuth.” He gets an easy first case, confirming the natural death of a ninety-year-old man. However, under the surface of the bingo-loving senior home is a seedier world where a genuine homicide actually occurred. Winston finds himself surrounded by suspects on all sides: a slacker administrator, a kind-hearted nurse, and a motley crew of eccentric residents. To validate his new career choice (and maybe win the girl), he must unravel the truth from a tangle of lies.
J.J. Chow introduces us to Winston Wong, a man trying to start over after his investments dry up and his sister bails him out by buying him a house to live in. He decides to become a sleuth like his favorite childhood detective. He is not licensed but takes out an ad in the Pennysaver to get his new business off the ground. A typo in the ad changes his plan just a bit. Instead of a Senior Sleuth he becomes a Seniors Sleuth and his first case has him investigating a death at an assisted living center.
The author gave us the requisite quirky characters for a cozy mystery. The residents of the Sweet Breeze are certainly unique, from the bejeweled Anastasia Templeton, to the dapper gent who plays the piano, Jazzman, and the curmudgeonly amputee Pete Russell. Nurse Kristen Blake seems to be the only staff outside of the manager of the place who spends more time playing video games than spending time with the residents. This part of the story didn’t ring true for me. A place like this would be required to have more staff. The meals are delivered by Meals on Wheels and that was odd to me too. Maybe things are different in California.
Winston’s first case starts out being just a small matter of easing someone’s mind but snowballs when he learns the man that died did not die of natural causes. Yet he kept stays on the case to find the killer. This was quite a mystery for his first case.
This is a very light mystery with all the cozy elements. A really good first effort to start this series. I enjoyed it but some of the details held me back from loving it. I am interested to see where the author takes her Senior Sleuth next.
The author is giving away a copy of the book and I am giving away my review copy.
There is also a SPECIAL GIVEAWAY for this beautiful necklace!
Contest is open to anyone over 18 years old
with a US mailing address.
My review copy can go to Canada 🙂
Duplicate entries will be deleted. Void where prohibited.
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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.”