Ink and Magic

I’m delighted to introduce my friend Leslie Budewitz, whose novel, Crime Rib, has just been released. It’s the second in her mystery series set in an almost-familiar small town on an almost-familiar lake near Kalispell, Montana, where I lived for a few years. First in the series is the award-winning Death al Dente. Here’s Leslie to tell you more about “Ink and Magic.”

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by Leslie Budewitz

Once upon a time, in the magical land of Nod…

Oh, wait. Wrong story.

Once upon a time, six women gathered in the small conference room of a law office in Kalispell, Montana. They brought pages of novels in progress. They brought pencils and red pens, coffee and cookies. They brought decades of experience as readers and writers, and their understanding of setting, plot, imagery, dialogue, and characterization.

They brought their trials and tribulations, compassion, and enthusiasm.

In short, they brought their lives.

I can no longer tell you how long Janet Fisher, Debbie Burke, Deborah Epperson, Shirley Rorvik, Rena Desmond, and I met weekly to share our stories. Two years, a little more? I can tell you it was magical, an experience each of us holds dear in our writing lives. We began our critique group with some of us good friends, others new acquaintances, but all connected through the Authors of the Flathead, a multi-genre writing group that has nurtured hundreds of writers since its founding more than twenty-five years ago. We came from very different backgrounds and regions, with very different personal and professional lives. All but one of us had completed a novel, but although we’d published short stories and magazine and newspaper articles—Janet had even worked as a journalist—none of us had published a full-length book, fiction or nonfiction.

A synergy arises when compatible people gather for a shared purpose, as we did. The very best critique groups have it—usually from the start, although it may take some time and effort to develop workable ground rules that serve members’ goals and fit their personalities. Each member wants to learn and be inspired, to improve her own work, but also to prompt and support the others. To share honestly, to dig deeply into problem passages and identify what’s working and what isn’t. To brainstorm plot directions and character backgrounds. To help each other see a path through the word weeds, to cultivate a regular writing schedule and a rising word count.

In truth, I learned as much from delving into the others’ work—carefully, because an artist’s belief in her self and her work can be fragile—as from their review of mine. We all seemed to recognize that. Misunderstandings were rare, and worked out in the group. We left each meeting energized and more determined.

That’s what happens in the midst of what another friend, not a writer but a committed, passionate creator, calls “intentional creativity.”

That’s another term for magic.

My second novel—my third book—is just out this week. Janet’s new book fills a gap in western history. Deborah and Shirley have each published a novel, and Debbie and Rena continue to write extensively for regional magazines. We meet occasionally to catch up—without Janet, who returned to Oregon a few years ago.

But the magic lives on, on the page, and in the glow of friendship forged in ink.

About Crime Rib:

CrimeRib_CV.indd“Gourmet food market owner Erin Murphy is determined to get Jewel Bay, Montana’s scrumptious local fare some national attention. But her scheme for culinary celebrity goes up in flames when the town’s big break is interrupted by murder…

Food Preneurs, one of the hottest cooking shows on TV, has decided to feature Jewel Bay in an upcoming episode, and everyone in town is preparing for their close-ups, including the crew at the Glacier Mercantile, aka the Merc. Not only is Erin busy remodeling her courtyard into a relaxing dining area, she’s organizing a steak-cooking competition between three of Jewel Bay’s hottest chefs to be featured on the program.

But Erin’s plans get scorched when one of the contending cooks is found dead. With all the drama going on behind the scenes, it’s hard to figure out who didn’t have a motive to off the saucy contestant. Now, to keep the town’s rep from crashing and burning on national television, Erin will have to grill some suspects to smoke out the killer…”

About Leslie:

Leslie Budewitz is the national best-selling author of Death al Dente, first in the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries set in northwest Montana, and winner of the 2013 Agatha Award for Best First Novel. Crime Rib, the second in the series, will be published by Berkley Prime Crime on July 1, 2014. Her Seattle Spice Shop Mysteries will debut in March 2015.

Also a lawyer, Leslie won the 2011 Agatha Award for Best Nonfiction for Books, Crooks & Counselors: How to Write Accurately About Criminal Law & Courtroom Procedure (Quill Driver Books), making her the first author to win Agatha Awards for both fiction and nonfiction.

For more tales of life in the wilds of northwest Montana, and bonus recipes, visit her website and subscribe to her newsletter. Website:   Find her on Facebook: LeslieBudewitzAuthor


18 thoughts on “Ink and Magic

  1. Janet Fisher July 2, 2014 / 8:11 am

    Good morning. First, I want to thank Leslie for that beautiful story of our wonderful critique group. Leslie, you put into words what I think each of us in the group feels. What a boost this was to our writing careers. Such happy memories.

  2. Leslie BudewitzL July 2, 2014 / 9:00 am

    So glad to be here with you, Janet — since we can’t be together in person! I’ve seen several of our critique partners recently, and they all use the same word: magic!

  3. Janet Fisher July 2, 2014 / 9:18 am

    Welcome, Leslie. Glad to have you here. Those were wonderful days, weren’t they?

  4. Debbie Burke July 2, 2014 / 10:05 am

    It’s fun to see the fruits of our various labors appearing in print. Our paths have forked in varying directions since those productive evenings at your office, Leslie. The dreams we had back then have not necessarily come true the way we expected, but that doesn’t mean the results are less wonderful, just not what we expected. Yes, we knew Leslie would be writing mysteries, just didn’t know they’d be cozies. Yes, we knew Janet would be writing historical stories, but we figured fictional ones, not ones rooted in real people and events. But as I’ve always said, good writing is good writing, no matter what the subject, genre, or format. And I feel fortunate to have been in the company of these good writers who seized opportunities as they arose and ran with them.

    • Janet Fisher July 2, 2014 / 10:20 am

      Well said, Debbie. Thank you.

    • Leslie BudewitzL July 2, 2014 / 1:24 pm

      Thanks, Deb! You are such a great cheerleader!

  5. heidiwriter July 2, 2014 / 1:00 pm

    I’ve been a part of some wonderful critique groups and made lasting friendships there. I also credit my critique partners for helping me to achieve my publishing goals. Leslie, your book sounds great–I’m looking forward to reading it!

    • Janet Fisher July 2, 2014 / 1:20 pm

      Me too, Heidi. I finished the first one, Death al Dente, feeling I needed to know more about Erin, the protagonist. A series kind of carries you along that way. And Leslie does a great job with the writing.

    • Leslie BudewitzL July 2, 2014 / 1:25 pm

      Thanks, Heidi! You make a good point about the ability of a writing group to help keep us on track. Needing to report your progress every week is a great motivator!

      And I do hope you enjoy the mysteries — I’m sure having fun writing them!

      • Janet Fisher July 2, 2014 / 2:21 pm

        I can see you’re having fun, Leslie. It shows in your pictures at your events. And it shows in the writing.

  6. Rena Desmond July 2, 2014 / 4:50 pm

    Even though I wasn’t ready for the level of experience presented when the critique group met I learned a lot. It was so much fun to read your first novel and do some critiquing. By the way I think you did a great job, building your characters, ending your chapters with a need for the writer to find out what was going to happen next. I was so sad that I was unable to attend your recent book signing in Bigfork but I hope to be at the next one. Whenever someone makes a negative comment I’m able to come back with a positive comment due to all the writing skills we discussed during critique group gatherings and being a member of Authors of the Flathead. I can’t wait to read “Crime Rib.” I take full advantage of my bragging rights when the opportunity arises for me to say I was in a critique group with you and Janet, Debbie, Deborah, and Shirley.

    • Janet Fisher July 2, 2014 / 5:18 pm

      Rena, so good to hear from you. You were one of the first people I met in Authors of the Flathead and you made me feel very welcome. Thanks so much for commenting.

    • Leslie BudewitzL July 3, 2014 / 9:43 am

      Thanks, Rena! Love seeing your pieces in the local magazines!

  7. Janet Fisher July 2, 2014 / 9:54 pm

    As I call it a night, I want to thank everyone who came by today, whether you commented or not. Hope you enjoyed your visit. Again, thank you, Leslie, for being my guest. Love your post, and I wish you the very best with your newest book launch. Keep having fun. 🙂

    • Rena Desmond July 3, 2014 / 9:26 am

      Janet, so good to hear from you as well. I often wonder what you are doing and how your writing is coming along. Good to see you are published will look forward to reading your book. I think it is great that you are following the pioneering footsteps of your great great grandmother.

  8. Leslie BudewitzL July 3, 2014 / 9:45 am

    I stepped out yesterday for a gathering at Fact & Fiction Books in Missoula, and missed my chance to say thanks to Janet for giving me the chance to reflect a bit on a magical time that I think we all agree still influences us as writers, and as women.

    Thanks to you all — and happy reading!

    • Janet Fisher July 3, 2014 / 10:11 am

      Yes, that magical time still touches our lives, I’m sure. I know it does mine. Thank you, Leslie, for being here.

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