Normally Theodosia wouldn’t attend a black tie affair for all the tea in China. But she can hardly say no to her hunky, handsome boyfriend, Max, who directs public relations for the Gibbes Museum in Charleston. Max has organized an amazing gala opening for an exhibit of a genuine eighteenth century Chinese teahouse, and the crème de la crème of Charleston society is invited.
In the exotic garden staged in the museum’s rotunda, a Chinese dragon dances to the beat of drums as it weaves through the crowd. The guests are serenaded by a Chinese violin as they sample an assortment of tempting bites. And to give them a memento of the occasion, there’s even a photo booth. But Theodosia makes a grim discovery behind the booth’s curtains: the body of museum donor Edgar Webster.
While Theodosia prefers tea service over the service of justice, this case is difficult to ignore—especially after Max becomes a suspect. Now she must examine the life of the fallen philanthropist and find out who really wanted him to pay up…
INCLUDES DELICIOUS RECIPES AND TEA TIME TIPS!
How do I do it? How do I go about starting a book? What are the rules of mystery writing?
Well, there aren’t any rules per se. I think any time you color outside the lines, you end up with a piece that’s far more interesting. But there are a few guidelines that I subscribe to – writing techniques that seem to work well for me. For one thing, I always begin with a title. If I don’t have a title nailed down, I can’t seem to get any traction on the book. So I brainstorm title ideas – trying to come up with at least twenty or so good ones. For some reason, when I see the right title, it just clicks. That title then gives me the germ of an idea on how the plot might unfold. So that’s a biggie right there.
Next I work on characters and character names. As I line up my cast, I start figuring out what roles they might play. From there I come up with a major, problematic event. That is, what happens to kick off my murder mystery? Is there a fire, an explosion, or a horrible accident? Or is it something more subtle? I’ve had poisonings at a tea party, stabbings during a cemetery crawl, exploding antique guns, and pirate skull robberies. Whatever I come up with, it becomes the catalyst that sets the entire story in motion.
At this point, I’m sketching an outline on a very large piece of paper. Trying to fill in major events, walk-on roles for all my suspects, and a few more big problems (explosions, a second murder, etc.). These are all thing that I hope will kick the stuffing out of where you thought the story was going.
To keep everything straight on my outline (which is also set up as a timeline), I color code my suspects. That way I’m reminded to constantly keep my suspects rubbing shoulders with my protagonist instead of just bringing the killer in (ah ha!) at the end.
When my outline feels good, I transfer it to my computer and start fleshing it out. When it gets to a fairly substantial eighty pages, I go back to chapter one and write the whole thing straight through. I try to write ten to twelve pages a day and always feel completely mentally engaged with the book until it’s finally finished.
For my grand finale I like a good chase scene (cars, horses, food trucks, you name it – I’ve done it all.) And then a final-final scene where the killer is brought to justice, red herrings are explained, and all is right with the world. Until, of course, the next book comes along.
If you’d like to see how I make like a literary magician and pull all this random stuff out of a hat, just pick up Ming Tea Murder, my newest Tea Shop Mystery. All the ingredients I’ve mentioned are in there, but I hope they’re woven together so seamlessly that you never really spot them. Enjoy!
Thank you and blessings to all.
Laura Childs is the author of the Tea Shop Mysteries, Scrapbooking Mysteries, and Cackleberry Club Mysteries. Her books have been named to the USA Today and New York Times bestseller lists and been featured selections of the Mystery Guild’s Mystery Book Club. Ming Tea Murder is her most recent book.
I thoroughly enjoyed this offering of the series. It was a nice change of pace from the way that the series had been going, and it solidified for me that Ms. Childs was more than capable of keeping an old reliable series feeling fresh and new. How exciting!
On top of a great story, the mystery is fun, and there's always the extensive facts and knowledge of all things tea - which makes the book all the more worth reading, in my opinion. Overall, it's something you'll definitely want to read. Maybe even while you're having your own home brewed cup of to die for tea.
Rating: 5 stars
I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All conclusions reached are my own.
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