My guest today is author M. S. Spencer. Although she has lived or traveled in five continents, the last 30 years have been spent mostly in
as “a librarian,
Congressional staff assistant, speechwriter, editor, birdwatcher, kayaker,
policy wonk, chair of a large volunteer program, and non-profit director”. She is also “blessed with two fabulous grown
children, and the company of Iggy Pop the cat.” M. S. has published five
romantic suspense novels. Washington, D.C.
Anne – Welcome to the Muriel Reeves Mysteries. Do you have a fear, phobia, or habit you’d rather no one knew about?
M. S. Spencer - My claustrophobia is no secret--you can ask the manager of Hoover Dam who led me out of its bowels after I panicked in the elevator (did you know that the 760 tons of concrete in that dam are still curing?). Or the tour guide in Luray Caverns. Or the people jammed on the DC Metro who’d been forced to let me and my children on, only to be faced with a hysterical woman demanding to be let off. So that’s moot. I do have one bad habit that’s too too politically incorrect—I eat beef probably five out of seven days.
Anne – Ah! I love a woman who lives and eats dangerously! Tell us about Artful Dodging: The Torpedo Factory Murders.
M. S. Spencer - I’d like to introduce you to Milo Everhart and her merry band of artists.
Milo makes beautiful needlepoint and her friend Tekla
Spirikova makes large metal cones. Together they fight City Hall (literally)
when it wants to give their beloved away. Things get
complicated when their greatest adversary turns out to be the man Milo loves,
and even more complicated when too many murder victims turn up. Torpedo Factory Art Center
Anne – Would you share an excerpt of Artful Dodging: The Torpedo Factory Murders with us?
M. S. Spencer – Certainly! This is
Milo’s and Tristram’s first
The sleet had tapered off, and the moon began its stroll across the cumulus highway as
Milo entered the
restaurant. She passed through the dining room to the cozy bar in the back.
Tristram sat in one of the overstuffed club chairs. He saw her and waved to the
He ordered drinks and a plate of assorted cheeses.
Three hours, four more rounds, and two more cheese plates later,
Milo figured she’d better
start asking Tristram some questions. But she didn’t really feel like it. She
felt like she knew enough already, so she settled for gazing into his deep
green eyes and smiling inanely. Which was okay because apparently that’s what
Tristram had settled for too. Milo realized with a jolt
that no one had said anything for at least five minutes. Come on, Milo. You’re too old for
“I really must be going. It’s been very…”
He reached across the table, put a gentle hand on her neck, and brought her into blissful contact with his lips. “Nice.”
She realigned her jaw and her heart and rose a little shakily. “Um.”
He jumped up. “I’ll walk you to your car.”
They walked stiffly out of the bar, stumbling only once on the threshold. Tristram steadied her. A few minutes later they broke apart to take a breath. The sidewalk had cleared during the evening, and they were alone. He took her back into his arms and kissed her, moving his tongue around the inside of her lips and making slurping noises as though she tasted like a chocolate milkshake.
He pulled away but held onto her hand. “Let’s go home.”
She let him lead her down
King Street to a black Jaguar, and
they drove in silence the few blocks to Lee Street. The moon rode high
over a little terraced park. They watched it float a minute, then Tristram took
her hand again and they went inside.
Anne – Thank you! What is the most surprising thing you’ve learned about yourself from writing?
M. S. Spencer - I have had a rather eclectic career--with degrees in Anthropology and Library Science, study of languages ranging from French to Ge’ez, travel to five continents, work on Capitol Hill and the Dept. of the Interior in energy and natural resources, museum work, running a huge volunteer operation, and--the most diverse experience of all--raising two children. So I had come to believe that I’d never stick with anything very long. Imagine my surprise when I started writing a full-length novel…and finished it! Not only that, I persevered through at least ten edits, three readers, and two rejections, never losing sight of the goal.
Anne – Kudos! Tell us the defining moment when you felt as if you’d finally made it as an author.
M. S. Spencer - I felt justified in responding to the question, “So, what do you do?” with “I’m a writer,” after my second book was accepted. The first one could have been a fluke after all--the publisher had had a particularly good day; she mixed my manuscript up with someone else’s; that bribe went through--any number of reasons. But when she wanted to publish the second one, then I was cooking with gas.
Anne - How many rejections have you received? Was one more memorable than others?
M. S. Spencer - Lost in His Arms, my first novel, suffered two rejections before landing in its home at Red Rose Publishing. However, the second rejection was accompanied by a very thorough critique and request to resubmit. Dealing with a really professional editor who saw promise in my work taught me so much and I am forever grateful to that editor.
Anne - Any words of advice for struggling, unpublished writers?
M. S. Spencer - First, get any friends who write or edit--at least 2 or 3--and ask them to read and critique your nearly perfect manuscript. What sounds cute or funny or really original in your little study cave may not stand the test of third-party scrutiny. Remember, you want people to read your book; otherwise you might as well shove it in a drawer.
Second, at the point when you’ve gone through the entire manuscript and only made three changes, SUBMIT IT. Just do it. And don’t forget to write down the date you sent the manuscript. Even more important, make sure your submission has all the information in the required order and the formatting requested by the publisher. Otherwise you’re wasting your time--they sure as heck won’t waste theirs.
Anne – Well said. Where can readers find you online?
Anne - You’re offering a giveaway copy to one lucky reader. What question would you like them to address in a comment to be eligible for the draw?
M. S. Spencer - I am offering a pdf of one of my five books, the winner’s choice. I’ll need their email address IN the comment. I’d like hear about the commenter’s strangest job.
Anne – Great question and I can’t wait to read the gamut of responses. FYI, the winner will be announced here on July 24. Good luck!
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