Posted in Cozy Wednesday Giveaways Guest Posts Reviews 2013 Wisconsin Setting

Cozy Wednesday with Author Laura Alden (Giveaway too!)

cozy wednesday

Welcome to Cozy Wednesday!!
I love that this series is set in Wisconsin!!
Just a hop, skip and jump from my home town!
I am thrilled to have Laura drop by for a visit!!!

laura aldenOne of the things people often ask me is: where do I get the ideas for my books?

The evolution of a book is an odd thing, but most of the time I have an answer for this question. As in, the idea came to me after hearing a news report about something similar. Or the idea popped into my tiny little brain when my husband was talking about a baseball game he’d watched the previous night. Or I was doing some free writing and one thought led to another and then another, and then bingo! the story idea was born.

curse of the ptaFor Curse of the PTA, however, the answer is completely different. Because…well…I honestly have no idea where the idea came from. None whatsoever. I don’t remember getting the idea. I don’t remember figuring out who the victim was going to be and I don’t remember how I figured out the killer’s identity. I don’t remember anything about setting up the murder and I don’t remember learning the why of it all.

Sad, isn’t it? To think that I’ve forgotten the origins of a book that occupied months of my time is more than a little disconcerting.

But there are bits that I do remember. For instance, there’s a crucial subplot that I couldn’t make work for beans. The motivation I’d given the character was weak and, really, just plain didn’t make sense. It took days of free writing and one critical conversation with my husband to have it gel into something sensible. (If you read the book, please note the dedication. He deserves it, without a doubt.)

And the Big Scene at the end was a big muddle until I begged some writer friends for suggestions. One of their suggestions worked like a charm – “How about adding another character to the scene?” – and everything suddenly started working.

Yes, the evolution of a book is an odd thing, and in my experience, no two books take the same path. Of course, there are some common elements to all the books I write. Such as? Well…there’s the First Flush. These are the heady days when I start a manuscript. The whole thing is fresh and new and I haven’t messed anything up. This is when I know, just know, that this will be the book that will sell zillions of copies and will enable me to quit my day job and write full time.


Sadly, the First Flush doesn’t last forever, and somewhere around the middle the Deadly Doldrums set in. These are the days that I know, just know, that this is the book that will end my writing career. This is when I’m sure that everything I’ve written is complete dreck. This is when I know, without a doubt, that the entire book is junk and that my editor will make me toss it out and start all over again.

(This is also when it’s very, very nice to have writer friends who understand about this phase of a book.)

At some point, I write myself out of the Deadly Doldrums and next thing you know, it’s time for the Exciting Endings. These are the scenes the whole book has been aiming toward, the scenes where the Bad Guy (or Bad Girl) is about to get his (or her) just desserts. It’s during the Exciting Endings phase that I forget to eat and sleep, and these are the days when I know, just know, that writing is the best job in the world.

Unfortunately, right on the heels of the Exciting Endings phase is the Wretched Wrap-up. This is the last chapter or two, the chapters where I have to tie everything together, where all the tricky ends of the narrative are knitted together to make a solid and satisfying ending.

This phase makes me extremely nervous. Why? Well, it takes me roughly four months to write a first draft and odds are good that I’ve forgotten all sorts of things that I wrote into the book three months previously.

Not only that, but when I’m done with the Wretched Wrap-up, I’ll be done with the first draft. I’ll be done writing. I’ll be done with those characters and will have to say an odd sort of good-bye. Sure, I’ll see them again during the revisions, but that’s a more distant relationship, one in which I’m merely tweaking at their personalities, not diving down deep into their thoughts and feelings and memories.

So the wrap-up makes me feel a little wretched in a number of ways. Saying good-bye is rarely easy, even to fictional characters.

Then again, when a writer says good-bye to a set of characters, it means only one thing. Another set of characters is just around the bend, patiently waiting their turn to get into a book, waiting for their own evolution.


About This Author
Laura Alden grew up in Michigan and graduated from Eastern Michigan University in the 80’s with a (mostly unused) Bachelor of Science degree in geology. Currently, Laura and her husband share their house with two very strange cats. When Laura isn’t writing, she’s working at her day job, reading, yanking weeds out of her garden, or doing some variety of skiing. Laura’s debut novel, “Murder at the PTA” was an Agatha Award finalist for Best First Novel. Her fourth book, “Curse of the PTA,” was released in April 2013.

To find out more about Laura visit her webpage here.




curse of the pta

Curse of the PTA
3rd in Series
Cozy Mystery
Obsidian (April 2, 2013)
An Imprint of New American Library
Published by The Penguin Group
Mass Market Paperback: 320 pages
ISBN-13: 978-0451415066
E-Book File Size: 711 KB

Curse of the PTA (Beth Kennedy #4)

As the new PTA president, Beth Kennedy wants to make a difference in the lives of the students and faculty at Tarver Elementary. But with a killer on the loose, staying alive is the first order of business…

Beth’s fantastic Story Project, pairing senior citizens from the nursing home with elementary kids, ended up with the PTA publishing a book with the kids retelling the stories they heard from the seniors and it was a huge success. So successful the PTA may want to think about investing some of the money until they can decide how to spend it.  Beth has invited Dennis Halpern, a local financial consultant, to their meeting to inform them about their options.  Before he can even start to give his presentation different members start lobbying for how they think the money should be spent. Beth does her best to regain control of the meeting and calls for a short break.  During the recess Dennis’s ideas are overruled before he even gets to share them. Someone decided to expel him permanently! Right there in the school!

With the doors to the building unlocked, virtually anyone could have done the deed. And they soon discover that Dennis had plenty of secrets. Now locals are whispering that the PTA is cursed, and it’s up to Beth to catch the killer before she gets cashed out.

Dollycas’s Thoughts

Beth has her hands full as president of the PTA. Claudia is doing everything she can to make sure nothing runs smoothly. But Beth is resolved to show she can do this job, even if she has to be on every sub-committee to get things done. And now she has a murderer to catch.

What makes these cozies a success are that we all know someone exactly like these characters. We all have a friend like Marina, a senior we care about like Flossie, and one we have to care about because they are like family like Auntie May. We all know troublemakers like Claudia, and we shop at stores like Beth’s Bookstore. I do wish I had a “problem” like Summer’s. The stories are about small town life with problems like a murder we wouldn’t wish on anyone. Thankfully Beth can fit the clues together to help Gus catch the culprit even though he prefers she would keep her nose out of his police work.

Guns are a hot topic now in the U.S., guns in schools even hotter. I am sure Tarver Elementary will have a whole new set of rules by the next installment of this series.

This one will keep you guessing. The people of Rynwood sure keep more than their share of secrets. Kudos Laura! This is a wonderful story!!
a perfect escape

Your Escape With A Good Book Travel Agent

Thanks to the people at Penguin
I have 2 copies to giveaway!!

You do not have to be a follower to enter but I hope you will find
something you like here and become a follower.

Followers Will Receive 2 Bonus Entries For Each Way They Follow.
Plus 2 Bonus Entries For Liking My Facebook Fan Page.

Leave a comment for Laura for 5 Bonus Entries !

If you publicize the giveaway on Twitter or Facebook or anywhere you will receive
5 Bonus Entries For Each Link.

Contest Will End May 8, 2013 at 11:59 PM CST
Winners Will Be Chosen By
Winners Will Be Notified By Email
and Will Be Posted Here In The Sidebar.


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.”

Posted in Reviews 2012 Wisconsin Setting

Review: Plotting at the PTA by Laura Alden

Plotting at the PTA
(PTA Mystery Series)
3rd in Series
An Obsidian Mystery
Published by New American Library
A Division of the Penguin Group
Published July 3, 2012
310 Pages or 760 KB

Plotting at the PTA

Beth Kennedy has a wonderful money making idea for the P.T.A. A project that matches a Senior Citizen from a local assisted living center with Tarver Elementary students so that the elders can share their stories. The students then write up the information to publish in a book for the group to sell.

Beth gets a little sidetracked when one of regular customers at the bookstore, Amy Jacobson, dies after receiving several bee stings. It seems a little early for bees in Wisconsin and Amy was so very careful whenever she ventured outside.

Beth finds herself buzzing around trying to get the rest of the story. Who may have wanted Amy stung permanently?

Dollycas Thoughts

Beth always finds herself hip deep in a mystery and those mysteries usually involve murder. She is so easy to identify with because her huge heart shines through in everything she does. Even when she is trapped into doing something she doesn’t want to do. I found myself not liking Auntie May here and there but she also reminded me a lot of my mother. 🙂

The story has it’s twists and turns and one very surprising development. This author’s writing continues to get better and better. She is letting her characters evolve so naturally. Beth is getting to know her customers. She knows when they do things that just aren’t normal for them. The dialogue between Marina and Beth is fresh and full of humor. The members are the P.T.A. are unique and real, every school group has a Claudia.

The next installment has been set up. Beth is sure to have some challenges ahead. I can’t wait!!

Your Escape With A Good Book Travel Agent

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.”