Today I’ve invited Linda Norlander to my website to talk about her mystery writing. All writing careers are not alike, and Linda’s is pretty funny! Take it away, Linda…

 Back when I was in my mid-thirties, I created a character I named Elizabeth Catherine or Liza-Cat for short. I wanted someone with a sense of humor who could comment on the state of the world and also solve mysteries. Elizabeth Catherine was an elementary school teacher in her early thirties. It was written on an Epson QX-10 computer with floppy disks that failed if there was too much static electricity in the air. The computer along with the floppies are now gone but Liza the character has survived—unpublished and unheralded.

Over the years, she’s had numerous iterations. My husband and first editor disliked the name Liza-Cat so she became simply Liza. She once had a boyfriend who disappeared and came back to her as a ghost. She had a brother who was in trouble for growing marijuana. Then she found a body on a cross country ski trail. None of those attempts worked for me. The boyfriend, the brother and the skiing have gone the way of the Epson QX-10.

A few years ago, Liza, long stuffed away in that closet of dusty manuscripts, called to me once again. This time, with more writing experience under my belt I realized she needed help to tell the story and solve the mystery. To my surprise Mrs. Wilkens, her elderly upstairs neighbor popped in to fill the role. Instead of the ghost of her disappeared boyfriend, Liza acquired a voice in her head belonging to her long-dead twin sister. (I confess that Liza didn’t ask for the voice, but I’ve always been fascinated by a touch of paranormal.) And, of course, what is a mystery without a cat? Goldie belonged to the victim and Liza unwittingly ends up with her. It hasn’t been the happiest of human-cat alliances but they do mostly tolerate each other.

Through the years with Liza, I’ve learned a few lessons about writing and plotting. The first Liza-Cat book had a confusing variety of subplots mainly because I’d read an article on writing that praised the value of subplots. If I could ever dig up that old manuscript, I’m guessing I would read it exclaiming, “But where is the body?” I’ve learned that a full mystery manuscript should be longer than the 35,000 words I first wrote. (Standard is between 75,000 and 90,000). If I could dig up that first manuscript, I’m sure I’d wonder how I thought the book was complete.

I’ve aged, but Liza had not. She’s still in her early thirties and still teaches school. Her students have become more diverse, and unlike thirty years ago she has to contend with cellphones in the classroom. Meanwhile I’ve graduated from the old QX-10 with the cranky floppy disks to a laptop. Little did I know when I first put her name on paper that she would be so insistent on being in my life. The Death of Goldie’s Mistress is her debut.

Linda Norlander is the author of A Cabin by the Lake mystery series set in Northern Minnesota. Death of a Dream Catcher, the fifth in the series, will be published in May 2024. The first book in her new series, Liza and Mrs. Wilkens Mysteries, Death of Goldie’s Mistress will be published in March. She is the author of award-winning short humor, short stories, and several books on end-of-life care. When not writing, she enjoys golfing (badly), gardening (even worse) and watching baseball. Norlander lives in Tacoma, Washington with her spouse.

 

 

 

 

The Death of Goldie’s Mistress

Liza Johnson, at loose ends on summer break from teaching fifth grade is drawn into intrigue when her 84-year-old neighbor Mrs. Wilkens insists that Ramona, Liza’s former GED student has been murdered. Everyone assumes Ramona, a recovering addict, died of an accidental or intentional overdose, but Mrs. Wilkens is out to prove them wrong. Liza is urged to act when the voice in her head of her twin sister Charlee who died at age four tells her, Help Mrs. Wilkens. Spurred by the irrepressible Mrs. Wilkens and Charlee, Liza finds herself embroiled in an investigation involving a failing church, a very ill pastor’s wife and a secret within the walls of the parish house. Adding to the intrigue, she becomes the begrudging caretaker of Goldie, Ramona’s cat—the only witness to her death.

 

 

 

To Find Linda and/or her book, check out these spots!

Her Amazon Buy link for The Death of Goldie’s Mistress is here.

Her newsletter sign-up is here.

Her Website is at https://lindanorlander.com

Her Facebook site is here.

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