Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Guest Blog: Anything's Possible

In honor of last week's release of A Killing in Retrospect, we're pleased to welcome Barbara Cummings to the keyboard today to tell us a little bit more about her career path and the Sister Agnes series. In her own words:

Books. Books. Books. When I was a child they lined the walls in my closet – a walk-in sort of thing that my dad fixed up with pillows and small shelves and a good reading lamp. It was my pretend place, where I could flee the pains of growing up without a mother and soar into worlds unimaginable until some wonderful writer imagined them.

It has been that way ever since those eerie 1950s days and, yes, nights.

Books were and are my passion; but I never in my wildest dreams thought I’d be able to write one. Then a friend challenged me—and my latest adventure began. Latest, because in my life I’ve been a soda jerk, a secretary, a Mary Kay consultant, a graphic artist, a caterer, an editor, and now my current persona—a professor of literature at our local university. From editing I learned to be terse with words, like Hemingway. From all the other jobs I had I met all kinds of people and stored away all sorts of information about how people tick. That information helps me teach literature and write my books. Both teaching and writing go beneath the surface of what people do to explore why they do it.

This kind of exploration is an enormous help when I’m developing characters for my novels. In mysteries, motivation may be the single most important character attribute for both hero and villain. I spend hours working up a character sketch for each person who people my books.
Thank goodness only a few of my characters are like me. I want to do everything. I want nothing to stand in my way and nobody to tell me that I can’t do something. I’m a Gemini. And no Gemini can settle for one thing and one thing only. So I don’t limit myself to writing in one genre. I write everything—from romance to women’s fiction, from young adult comedy to mystery. Thus far I’ve written 18 novels, 15 of which have already been published. One (Prime Time) was honored with Romantic Times Magazine’s Best Glitz Novel award. And the other three? I’m finishing them to send to Elaine English, my agent.

After viewing that twisted career path, can there be any doubt that I truly believe if you apply yourself and want something more than chocolate, anything is possible?

Currently I’m at work on a series of mysteries for Five Star Publishing. Each is set in my home state of Rhode Island in the 1930s and stars two not-so-typical Roman Catholic nuns. Sister Agnes of the Merciful Sisters of Mary is a horror to her Mother Superior. She is not, and never will be, a “good” nun because a different kind of horror follows Aggie wherever she goes. In the first novel (A Killing on Church Grounds) she discovers a dead body sprawled on top of a carrot heap in the convent’s cold cellar. The search for the killer leads Agnes and her friend Sister Winifred on a chase that includes investigating Rhode Island’s underworld and trying to dig out a well-hidden enemy who doesn’t hesitate to spill blood in the pursuit of evil.

The second book in the series is on the shelves now. A Killing in Retrospect leads Aggie and Winnie on a simple quest from a favorite student: to discover the truth about his mother’s death. It should be simple. The Providence police investigated and deemed the death an automobile accident. But now Sister Agnes is involved. She sees beneath the surface, and discovers that the wife of Rhode Island’s crime boss was murdered!

Publisher’s Weekly called it “gripping,” Harriet Klausner of says it’s a “solid mystery that fans [of the cozy genre] will enjoy,” and Kirkus Reviews deems Sister Agnes an “endearingly disorganized heroine” – exactly what I intended.

It’s safe to say that Sister Agnes is the only nun with a gun you’re likely to meet. And she serves up great mysteries—with fabulous Rhode Island recipes, too.

I love to hear from my friends and fans. Visit me at my website:

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