M.S. Spencer, Author of Artful Dodging: The Torpedo Factory Murders, Talks Writing & Offers #Giveaway

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 Washington, D.C. 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.

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 Torpedo Factory Art Center 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.

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 date.

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 bartender.

“Jack Daniels?”


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 crushes.

“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?

M. S. Spencer – On my blogFacebookTwitter, Amazon and GoodReads

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!

Readers, to ensure you receive every Muriel Reeves Mysteries blog post, author interview, update, book giveaway and more, why not become a follower? It’s as easy as a click of the mouse. (Thanks in advance.) Until next time, happy reading!

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msspencerauthor said...

Anne, thanks so much for having me! I had a great time--I love interview questions that make one think. Oh, and I love Frank and Muriel. M. S. Spencer

M.M. Gornell said...

Wonderful meeting you M.S. and hearing about your delightful life adventures! Artful Dodging is definitely on my list.

Erin OQuinn said...

Dear M.S. Spencer,

Every time I read anything you've written, I grin (first) and turn green (second)...I'm always amused, and always jealous of your prose that hooks like a talon.

Having read ARTFUL DODGING, I feel qualified to recommend it highly to any reader who doesn't mind being mystified by a good suspense story and titillated by a potent romance.

I loved your article this morning, especially learning a little of your background. (I grew up in Nevada and remember being terrified by Hoover Dam too.)

I wish you fantastic success, Erin O'Quinn

Anne K. Albert said...

Thanks, M.S. for allowing me to interrogate you! Seriously, I enjoy the interview process because I meet so many wonderful people online, plus I always finds great books to add to my TBR list. It's a win/win in my mind!

hotcha12 said...



msspencerauthor said...

M. M. Thanks for reading! Erin, back atcha great writer! Talons--maybe I'd better cut those nails.Hoover D was scary, but flying a small plane down the C River was an incredible experience.Thanks for reading! M. S.

Anne K. Albert said...

Hi Linda, then you've come to the "write" place! ;-)

msspencerauthor said...

Thanks for the kind words, Linda. M. S.

Anonymous said...

Enjoyed the blurb and your interview.
Strangest job--I worked in an agranomy lab washing lab dishes while I was in college. At the same time I worked as a waitress, housekeeper, bartender and was a professional bellydancer.
panthers.ravens@yahoo dot com

Rick Bylina said...

The spice in your career certainly can lead to a lot of interesting characters. It's what I always tell aspiring writers: never turn down the opportunity to do something new. Such as when a friend asked me to take his place as a night watchman in an old New England cemetery. I should have checked the calendar: All Hallows Eve--cold, windy, damp and more witch coven meetings than I could scare, that is, chase away. anilyb@earthlink.net

laura thomas said...

I had such a great time reading this interview. Thanks so much! Strangest job. I detail cars. I clean the inside of them from top to bottom, and twice I have had to clean one where someone died in it. One was a murder and one was a suicide. Can't begin to describe how horrible it was and so sad.
Thanks so much for sharing and for the giveaway. Your book sounds delightful and fun.

msspencerauthor said...

Oh, my such a cornucopia of odd jobs! Tune in July 24 for the winner--and keep 'em coming! M. S. Spencer

Anne K. Albert said...

This comment is from Jake B - "Most junky job was working for Humpty Dumpty Photographers; went to homes & schools to photo children then returned to immerse self in chemicals with return visit to parents trying to sell. Kids were usually unruly & sales were dismal so became a dog walker & cat sitter. Cleaning up animals was easier than dealing with kids."

msspencerauthor said...

I'd like to announce the winner of a pdf of 1 of my romantic suspense novels: Rick Bylina--Step forward! What a fantastically odd job--working in a cemetery (in New England, no less). I'll email you separately, but please check my website for information on all five of my books to decide which you'd like. Thanks Everyone for commenting and thank you Anne for hosting me. M. S. Spencer