Monday, August 12, 2013

Judy Nichols and Sportsman's Bet

Judy Nichols lives in Wilmington, North Carolina (lucky gal) although she spent most of her life living in and around Cincinnati, Ohio, living in both small towns and in the city.  She makes her home in the South, but will always be a Midwesterner at heart.  Although two of her books take place in the south, they are written from the point of view of outsiders. In Tree Huggers, the protagonist is from Ohio, and Ian Dodge, the sleuth in Sportsman’s Bet, is a British ex-pat, living in rural North Carolina.

Welcome to the blog, Judy. Take it from here.

Thanks, Susan!

I have three published book. Caviar Dreams, a novel of sex, greed and murder, and Tree Huggers, a novel of greed, murder and helpful household hints, are published by Zumaya Publications. Sportsman’s Bet is available on Amazon as a Kindle download.

Here's a synopsis of Sportsman’s Bet:

Velma Saunders was the meanest woman in Tobias, North Carolina. Everybody was a little afraid of her. Except her boss, Mayor Mike Ellis who was a lot afraid of her.  Still, the whole town is shocked when Velma's body is found in the Municipal Building's old bomb shelter. The only clue to her murderer is a copy of a cryptic message from a Nigerian Email scammer. All the evidence points to Mayor Mike, who's charged with killing Velma.

It's up to Investigator Ian Dodge, a British transplant who's never quite taken root in the Deep South,sets out to find out who else hated Velma enough to kill her.  In the course of his investigation, Ian discovers the dark secrets Velma has been hiding all these years, and exactly why she was so mean.

Ian Dodge is based on my husband Nigel, a British transplant, who has been stubbornly hanging on to every shred of his Britishness ever since he came to the states 30 years ago--there’s not much of me in this book at all.  Now Lisa, the main character in Caviar Dreams. is very much like me. She reacts to terrible events in her life the way I would. She’s not an amateur detective out to solve her best friend’s amurder. She’s a regular person having a hard time coping with bad things happening.

It seems like all my characters surprise me. In Sportsman’s Bet, Velma was supposed to be completely unsympathetic, just a mean old lady that nobody liked and good riddance to her. Then when I started working on what made her that way, she changed.

My favorite character is Jeffrey Helton, from Caviar Dreams. He started off as a plot device, supplying his cousin with the drugs he needed to kill off his blackmailer, but for some reason he got all the good lines. I liked him so much, I started another book with him as the main character. And one of these days, I’m going to dig up the file and finish it.

The challenges I faced writing Sportsman’s Bet were the same ones I have with every book. Finishing it.  Starting a new book is a great adventure, but sitting down and writing i (especially when you write yourself into a corner and you have no idea how to get out) is tedious and frustrating and I often find myself thinking “Gee, I really should be vacuuming the carpet or walking the dogs, right now.”  Also, it’s written in first person from the point of view of a man, which is a stretch for any female author. Fortunately, the character is based on my husband,  the man I know better than anyone and that made it easier.

I’m a “write what you know” kind of author. I don’t do much traveling. Every book I’ve written is based in a place I’m familiar with. The town of Tobias, where Sportsman’s Bet takes place, is fictional, but it’s just like Batavia, Ohio, the town where I grew up. Small towns are amazingly alike. Everybody knows everything about everybody. If you have a baby within a year of getting married, you can bet the old ladies are counting the months. If your kid is up to no good, someone will tell you.  Residents feel safe among their own kind, and yet there’s this desire to go someplace where no one knows you or your family and make your own way on your own terms.

The greatest lesson I’ve learned about writing can be summed up in a quote by E.L. Doctorow, which is by far the best advice I’ve ever had.  “Planning to write is not writing. Outlining…researching…talking to people about what you’re doing, none of that is writing. Writing is writing.  Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”

You have to write every day, and you have to do it with the knowledge that what you’re writing at the moment sounds terrible and no one will ever want to read it, but you need to keep going. You will get better, but the only way to do that is keep going.

It also helps to connect with other writers. I’ve found that instead of being your “competition,” other authors can be your best resources. I especially recommend going to a writers’ conference where you can network with more experienced authors; Like the Cape Fear Crime Festival, in Wilmington, held the first weekend in February.

Yes, I am shamelessly plugging it. Go to for more information.

Yes, you should. It's a great event!

I tend to keep ideas in my head until I start on a book. Then I create what I call a story map, which has a list of the characters and what they’re like, their backgrounds, etc along with a synopsis of the plot. I refer back to it throughout the project. I don’t do outlines. After the agony of outlining chapter after chapter of my fifth grade history book, I swore I’d never do one again once I got out of school. And I haven't.

I am active on Twitter, which I’m finding is a great place to discover new fans. I also have an author’s page on Facebook, where I announce my events, along with my website I love Good Reads, where I have a blog on books and writing, and post reviews.

I also talk to book clubs, both locally and via Skype.

My facebook page is and my twitter ID is @Judy5cents.

And here is the link to my page on Amazon to buy my books

Continued success, Judy! I hope to see you soon. BTW--congrats on winning money on Jeopardy!