Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Please Welcome Mystery Author Carolyn Mulford

Omnimystery News: Guest Post by Carolyn Mulford
with Carolyn Mulford

We are delighted to welcome author Carolyn Mulford to Omnimystery News.

Carolyn's third mystery in her "Show Me" series is Show Me the Gold (Five Star; December 2014 hardcover and ebook formats), and we asked her if she would tell us more about her recurring characters. She titles her guest post for us today, "Choosing On-Going Characters for a Series".

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Carolyn Mulford
Photo provided courtesy of
Carolyn Mulford

I spend more time with the three women featured in my "Show Me" mystery/suspense series than I do with anyone else. When you anticipate living with someone for years, you put thought into your choices.

Like my off-the-page friends, my ongoing characters attract me with their compassion, intellect, charm, courage, and idiosyncrasies. These qualities compel my characters — a former CIA covert operative, a small-town civic leader, and a singer/music teacher — to become involved and succeed in solving murders.

The three women squabble, misread clues, and refuse to do the expected, but they never bore me. Their personalities and skills drive the plots. The plots, however, spring from the setting, the rural Missouri county where the women grew up and have reunited as each deals with a personal crisis.

The protagonist, wounded ex-spy Phoenix Smith, introduced herself about two years before I decided to base a series on her. The spark came from news stories about the Bush administration's outing to the press of a CIA covert operative. The professional and personal ramifications of the outing for her, her family, and everyone she'd ever known abroad appalled me. Experiences I'd had while working in Vienna during the Cold War flooded back. I'd found out that a good friend led a double life as a graduate student and a CIA operative and worried what would happen to him, and possibly to me, if he got caught.

As I empathized with the outed spy, I planned to move from Washington, D.C., to Missouri, my home state, and change my focus from writing short nonfiction to writing novels. Why not force Phoenix to leave her exciting life and retreat to the kind of small town where I grew up? The question of how a daring, brilliant, duplicitous operative living in Vienna would readjust to life in a rural community intrigued me.

Phoenix began to take form. Severely wounded during a post-retirement mission, she can't return to her high-paying job in Vienna or to the CIA. She goes back to Laycock to recover, reshape her future, and relax with her childhood neighbor and lifelong friend, Annalynn Carr Keyser. She, of course, must be a direct contrast to Phoenix.

Annalynn grew up as the town's golden girl. Rather than pursuing her goal of becoming a senator, she married a jock, raised a son and daughter, and ran local charity drives and the school board. Conventional and reserved, she has just come from the funeral of her husband, the sheriff. Everyone but the widow believes he went to a motel room with a young woman and shot her and then himself. Naturally Annalynn enlists the help of skeptical Phoenix in proving the husband didn't kill anyone. That situation propelled the plot of the first book, Show Me the Murder.

I needed a third person to provide a less extreme point of view and a few laughs amid the darkness. At high school reunions I'd observed the interplay of people who had remained in the hometown and who had fled. From those and other observations around the world, I created Connie Diamante, the soprano in Phoenix and Annalynn's high school trio.

An optimistic extrovert, Connie had expected to become a musical comedy star. Instead she moved from city to city with her husband and worked in community theaters. After a divorce, she returned to her hometown to care for her dying mother. Trapped in the small town by financial constraints, Connie has become Annalynn's good friend again. As in high school, Connie considers Phoenix arrogant and resents her closeness to Annalynn.

Part of the arc of the character-driven series is how the old friends' relationships change. I began the first book pleased with how the women played off each other and used their particular skills to investigate.

Then I unwittingly introduced a fourth ongoing character, the only witness to the murders. He's a wounded Belgian Malinois, a K-9 dropout named Achilles. Like the stray dogs that used to show up at our farm, Achilles soon won a permanent home. In the second book, Show Me the Deadly Deer, he establishes himself as Phoenix's sidekick. In Show Me the Gold, a Gumshoe reviewer noted, Achilles earned his spot on the cover.

By now, writing the fifth book, I know the three women and the dog quite well, yet they still surprise me. I enjoy spending time with them.

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Carolyn Mulford decided to become a writer in grade school. After earning degrees in English and journalism, she received a different kind of education as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ethiopia. She worked as a magazine editor in Vienna, Austria, and Washington, D.C., and then became a freelance writer and editor. She changed her focus to fiction with her return to Missouri.

For more information about the author, please visit her website at and her author page on Goodreads, or find her on Facebook and Twitter.

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Show Me the Gold by Carolyn Mulford

Show Me the Gold
Carolyn Mulford
A "Show Me" Mystery (3rd in series)

Staking out a country graveyard against vandals on an August night, former CIA covert operative Phoenix Smith and Acting Sheriff Annalynn Carr Keyser receive an urgent call from a neighboring county. They respond and guard the road from an abandoned farmhouse where four bank robbers were spotted. The women engage the robbers in a fatal shootout, but two gang members escape. Achilles, Phoenix's K-9 dropout, can't sniff out their trail, but he smells a trap set to kill pursuers.

With the FBI on the way, the women think the case has ended for them. They return to Vandiver County, Missouri, and their personal problems. The shootout's aftermath soon overshadows Annalynn's grieving for her late husband and Phoenix's ambiguity about old and new romances. The FBI fails to find the fugitives or the gold coins they stole. Agents suspect Phoenix found and hid the gold. More alarming, so do the elusive, vengeful robbers. Phoenix adapts her tradecraft to protect herself and others and to trace old and new threads leading to the gang and the gold. Print/Kindle Format(s) Print/Nook Format(s)

1 comment:

  1. As a reader, I've enjoyed spending time with your characters too, Carolyn.


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