5 Minute Fiction

Hallmark Publishing’s Tracy Gardner ~ Author Interview

Please welcome author Tracy Gardner, to the blog. Her first book with Hallmark Publishing, Out of the Picture releases September 3rd!! This is Hallmark Publishing’s first-ever cozy mystery release.

Tell us why you decided to write Out of the Picture?

I’ve always loved mysteries. As a kid, I read every Nancy Drew book I could get my hands on. When I began writing several years ago, I found that the intrigue and suspense that hooks me when I’m reading holds the same appeal when I’m creating a story. So when my agent (the truly wonderful Fran Black of Literary Counsel) mentioned pitching an idea to Hallmark Publishing, I immediately started thinking of a storyline and setting that might be a good fit. Main character Savanna Shepherd popped into my head, followed shortly by her two sisters, Sydney and Skylar. Characters tend to drive the story for me, so then it was just a matter of figuring out what sorts of interesting situations former art authenticator Savanna might find herself involved in, having just returned to her small Lake Michigan hometown after a painful break-up.

As an author, what was the most surprising thing about the publishing world (that you can safely share)?

Honestly, I think the most surprising thing was learning that the writing is the easy part. I grew up writing short stories and poems, and began writing my first novel after my second child was born in 2002. In between working and being a mom, I began querying agents in 2009, was picked up several years later by Literary Counsel, and am now, in 2019, I’m finally fortunate enough to have my debut cozy mystery coming out with Hallmark Publishing. I’m not saying my experience is the norm, but I think the road to publishing is long and twisty and filled with potholes. There were many times I was ready to take the nearest exit, get off the road, and attempt to turn off the writer part of my brain for good. I actually did that in earnest once, about a year and a half ago. Or at least I tried. But my agent wouldn’t let me quit, and she probably saved my sanity by pushing me to stay the course and keep going.


Your first book, The Fall of our Secrets, was published back in 2014, how has this process (working with Hallmark Publishing) been different?

I published The Fall of Our Secrets with a small start-up publisher, but things didn’t work out very well and the book reverted to being published in my own name. The publisher was very helpful and provided a gorgeous cover, great editing and lots of support, but I think the company was just too new and too small. That book is available online, but I’m focusing attention on my current project with Hallmark and a couple other stories in the works.

Publishing with Hallmark has been a dream come true. Editor Stacey Donovan is an amazing, talented person and has been a valuable resource for me throughout this process. For cover design, she made sure she understood my vision when it came to the small town of Carson and the mansion where much of the mystery events take place. She has been very involved every step of the way, and I also couldn’t be happier with my editor Rhonda Merwarth. Stacey, Rhonda, and Fran were instrumental in bringing out the best in Out of the Picture. The support, information, and patience I receive from the Hallmark team and my agent makes this process pretty seamless.

Can you tell us how many more books you plan to write for the Out of the Picture series?

I’m currently working on book two in the Shepherd Sisters Mystery series, Behind the Frame.  Savanna’s ties to the art world and the smart, fun team of Savanna and her sisters, paired with Detective Nick Jordan and handsome town doctor Aidan Gallager, make it a breeze to dream up new scenarios and potential trouble in and around the small town of Carson, Michigan. I have exciting futures planned for the Shepherd sisters. I think the possibilities are endless for more escapades!

What types of music do you enjoy listening to and is the music different when you’re writing?

I love almost everything. I have different playlists on Spotify depending on which book, scene and character I’m writing. The words don’t flow as easily if I try to write without music. Right now, I have a lot of Twenty-One Pilots, One Republic, Lumineers, Vampire Weekend and Jon Bellion on constant shuffle, but there are definitely scenes that call for Panic at the Disco, My Chemical Romance, Green Day, The Fratellis, All-American Rejects, and my local favorite musician, Dan Tillery. And in the middle of all that are occasional tunes from some of my favorite musicals (a trait I share with Savanna), including Michael in the Bathroom from Be More Chill, Cecily Smith from Fly By Night, and anything from Hamilton.

Who are some of your favorite authors or books at the moment?

My taste in books is pretty eclectic. Stephen King is probably my all-time favorite author. His characters seem real to me, and when I’m reading his books, I forget I’m reading at all. He has a way of just drawing you into the story. If I had to name a favorite, it would probably be 11/22/63 or The Gunslinger in the Dark Tower series.

Aside from King, one of my favorite books is Garth Stein’s The Art of Racing in the Rain. And I absolutely loved the movie adaptation, though it did cost me a lot of tissues. Other favorites are Jo-Ann Mapson’s The Owl & Moon Café, Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones, Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor and Park, and Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief. John Steinbeck’s East of Eden is an all-time classic favorite just for the complex relationship dynamics. I also love anything John Green or Jennifer Weiner. So … as I said, eclectic!

How much time a day do you spending writing?

I always envy those authors who have set blocks of writing time every day. The truthful answer for me is, sometimes not at all. And sometimes two hours, or seven hours. It depends on life, on my family, on my job, and sometimes, even though I try not to let it, it also depends on my mood. Sometimes I can’t wait to sit down and get ideas and characters out of my head and into the story, and sometimes I am lazy, and choose to watch Sherlock on Netflix when I know I should be writing. I write best under deadline, which is a brand new thing I’ve learned about myself with Out of the Picture.

What do you hope readers take away from Out of the Picture?

 

I hope readers fall in love with Savanna Shepherd and her sisters. My goal was to create a compelling, clean cozy mystery with relatable characters, enough suspense to keep the reader guessing, and the hint of a blossoming romance. Savanna’s personal journey in the book mirrors her quest to solve the mystery, as she works toward closure and resolving feelings about her past in order to move forward toward a bright future.

I hope the end of the book leaves readers feeling fulfilled but wanting more!

Visit Tracy at her website, or on Twitter and Facebook
Purchase Out of the Picture on Amazon and Barnes and Noble
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5 Minute Fiction, Life, better known as blah, blah, blah

The Thing About Hallmark (not the cards)

I said it a while back, Hallmark’s new movie Saturday takes me back to Sunday’s Wonderful World of Disney. Hallmark takes me away from where I am, like a memory from childhood.

Hallmark movies are fireflies to a first-timer.

Hallmark television is a best friend’s favorite story.

Hallmark movies are a cozy cup of hot chocolate on a winter’s night.

Hallmark television is a relaxing breath.

Hallmark movies are a glass of lemonade on a smoldering summer day.

Hallmark mysteries are a pondering question you can share with the dark.

Hallmark movies are a reminder of love.

Hallmark is what we need, and what we want.

5 Minute Fiction

The Library – 5 Minute Fiction

Six months and four days ago, I followed him into the library for the first time. He never noticed me. His walk alluded confidence and pride as his shoulders arched up and back. As he made his way to the hold section, I couldn’t help but follow. Something drew me to him. What would he check out? Fiction, mystery, mechanics? Maybe college research books? He appeared in his mid-twenties with a thick part down the middle of his crow black hair.

Soon, I fell into his schedule. He never browsed books, only went to the hold shelf, removed his items, checked them out, and drove off in his blue Nissan. I didn’t need to wait for the library to open, but I wanted to be courteous. Once inside, I’d scan the hold shelf searching his name. If it was missing, I’d leave and come back the next day. If his name appeared on a scrap of paper, rubber-banded to a book, I’d jot down the title. I read every book he requested after he did. At first, the books were from the New York Times bestseller list. Then they grew darker and to less popular titles.

With each new visit, his stride shortened, his shoulders hung lower. Stories about true crime and brutal nonfiction occupied his list. In the last month, self-help books and poetry became his new norm. As I followed in his reading path, I felt his life shift. I knew something was wrong, as it had been with me. Some time ago, the self-help books didn’t work.

On a Saturday morning, I noted he placed another self-help book on hold. With trembling hands, I took a scrap of library paper, a miniature pencil, and wrote a name and number down. I placed it in the book and slid it back on the shelf. As always, he entered the library, went to the holds, and checked out the book. I hoped he would call the number if he needed it. I never did. And today, I’m just as invisible as when I was alive.

*National Suicide Prevention Line (1-800-273-8255)

 

5 Minute Fiction

The Book ~ flash fiction

Photo by John-Mark Smith on Unsplash

THE BOOK by Savannah Hendricks

She gripped the weathered pages. Years of fingerprints touching pages had caused a wrinkled cluster of papers. Glue yellowed, and without much hold left. The cover’s aged leather, velvet against her palm.

She carried it with her as one would a Coach purse. Held close in crowds, in her lap on the bus, and covered it when the sky threatened rain.

Today, they went to the ocean. The salt air ruffled the edges of them both. Waves of thoughts crashed through pondering of conscientiousness.

The unique one-edition story filled her soul with imagination and hope. The dream of something more, guarded, but without a reading by others, it becomes lost in the history of one. She knew it deserved to be read by many more, needed to be. Until the words were no longer pressed with ink into the pages, but recited from memory.

How the arrangement of words on paper were as beautiful as the colors of a setting sun on water.

With time coming for her, she couldn’t allow the book to be buried too. Through her weakened eyes, she noticed the blue roof and the pine frame. Upon closer discovery, inside rested other stories that had seen as much love as the one she held to her heart.

Today, she left the story for another reader. Yet, kept the memory of every word.