Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Death Stalks Door County On Tour {+ Giveaway}

Death Stalks Door County coverIt’s a pleasure to welcome author Patricia Skalka here today as she makes a stop on her BreakThrough Promotions Virtual Blog Tour for her new release, DEATH STALKS DOOR COUNTY, the first book in her new mystery series.

This is an intriguing murder mystery published by Terrace Books/Trade imprint of University of Wisconsin Press. 

Patricia will be joining us to talk about her writing life. Thanks to Patricia and the lovely PJ at BreakThrough Promotions, I have a copy of DEATH STALKS DOOR COUNTY to giveaway in celebration of the release. Please see the end of the post for details.

Here’s a brief look at DEATH STALKS DOOR COUNTY

            Six deaths mar the holiday mood as summer vacationers enjoy Wisconsin’s beautiful Door County peninsula. Murders, or bizarre accidents? Newly hired park ranger Dave Cubiak, a former Chicago homicide detective, assumes the worst but refuses to get involved. Grief-stricken and guilt-ridden over the loss of his wife and daughter, he’s had enough of death.
            Forced to confront the past, the morose Cubiak moves beyond his own heartache and starts investigating, even as a popular festival draws more people into possible danger. In a desperate search for clues, Cubiak uncovers a tangled web of greed, betrayal, bitter rivalries, and lost love beneath the peninsula’s travel-brochure veneer. Befriended by several locals but unsure whom to trust or to suspect of murder, the one-time cop tracks a clever killer.
            In a setting of stunning natural beauty and picturesque waterfront villages, Death Stalks Door County introduces a new detective series, “The Dave Cubiak Door County Mysteries.”

“Who would have guessed that so many dark secrets and sinister deeds lurk beneath the surface of Door County’s idyllic communities? A very satisfying read, and the arrival of a fresh, talented voice.” — Patrick Somerville, author of This Bright River

Now please join me in welcoming Patricia to Thoughts in Progress as she talks about ‘My Writing Life.’

Books were a luxury my working class family could not afford. We had a dictionary, a Bible, a couple of old readers from my father's elementary school days and the occasional tattered, hand-me-down Golden Books. I learned to associate words with stories from the nursery rhymes my mother recited and the comic section my father read to me from the Sunday newspaper. When my older brother came home from school with Dick and Jane, I was hooked.

At seven or eight, I started writing my own stories. Equipped with nothing more than a limited vocabulary, a large imagination, a sharp pencil and a tablet of lined paper, I sat at the kitchen table and neatly put down my thoughts. To me, writing was like magic; the intangible-- thoughts, memories, ideas -- made concrete and real. 

Before writing DEATH STALKS DOOR COUNTY, my debut mystery, all of my work was nonfiction. I wrote and ghosted books and magazine articles. I was a Staff Writer for the Reader's Digest for a number of years and though there's a huge difference between writing for a magazine like the Digest and writing fiction, I learned many useful skills. Like listening to people, what they said and what they were trying to say. Like searching for the exact word I needed to convey a thought or emotion. Like organizing my thoughts and knowing what I wanted to say before I started to write. Like discipline, because a missed deadline meant a late paycheck.

When I'm working on a book, I write daily for a minimum of four hours, five to six days a week. Sometimes I'll write for six hours a day but that's pretty much the upper limit. Although the writing time varies, it's always in a chunk. Early morning to noon or mid-afternoon to evening. I set a daily goal. Number of words or specific scene to be completed. If I reach the goal, I give myself a pat on the back; if not, I analyze why -- was I distracted, had I been overly ambitious, did the scene require more thought and detail than I'd realized.  

If I run into a wall of genuine writer's block, I move to a different scene or chapter to keep the words flowing and to stay connected to the story. While I'm writing, I don't have much trouble avoiding Facebook and email but find that phone calls are most distracting. So I screen them and only answer if I recognize the caller and suspect the call is important.     

I don't really have a favorite author. I read different writers for different reasons. Jean le Carre for complexity, Donna Tartt for the sheer joy of her way with words, Kate Atkinson and Martin Cruz Smith because I adore their protagonists, Joyce Carol Oates for inspiration, Russell Banks for the raw power he brings to the page, Patricia Ann McNair for the rarified beauty of her short stories, Francine Prose for her wit and intelligence, Jane Hamilton for the unadulterated honesty of her work, Mary Oliver for the simplicity of her vision. 

There's no question that writing is hard work but now that  DEATH STALKS DOOR COUNTY  has been published, I look back and remember only the joy that went with the process. The pain, the doubts, the revising all fade into the shadow. The magic that I experienced as a child at the kitchen table endures.

At the moment, I'm between books. I've completed the final draft of book two in the Dave Cubiak Door County mystery series and am taking a bit of break before jumping into book three. I have one page synopses for four more but need to decide which makes the most sense in terms of Cubiak's growth as a character. In the meantime, I have a stacks of books to read and flowers to plant on the deck. 

Patricia, thanks for joining us today. It’s always a treat to learn more about an author’s writing life.

A lifelong Chicagoan, Patricia Skalka is a former Reader’s Digest Staff Writer and award-winning freelancer, as well as one-time magazine editor, ghost writer and writing instructor. Her nonfiction book credits include ON OUR OWN, the true story of two pioneering, local nurse practitioners.

More on Patricia and her writing, visit her website and her blog, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.


This giveaway is for one print copy of DEATH STALKS DOOR COUNTY. The giveaway is open to U.S. residents only and will end Wednesday, July 3.

To enter, just click on the Rafflecopter widget below and following the instructions. The widget may take a few seconds to load, so please be patient. The winner from this giveaway will have 72 hours to respond after being contacted or another winner will be selected. The email will have ‘Thoughts in Progress Patricia Skalka’s Tour’ in the subject line, just so you know what to watch for (in case it goes into your spam folder).

Thanks so much for stopping by and joining Patricia for her visit. Do you enjoy mysteries where the officer in charge has his/her own personal issues they are dealing with?

*This post contains affiliate links. a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. I think that's a really important part of any story. I have to care about the main character and if they're perfect it's much harder to like them. Thanks for the chance to win a copy of Death Stalks Door County.

  2. Worked for Reader's Digest - impressive!
    You didn't have many books so you wrote your own. What could've been a negative you turned into a positive.
    I write like you - big chunks of time for several weeks in a row.
    Congratulations, Patricia, and enjoy writing the third book!

  3. To me, it's always more interesting when the main character is flawed or damaged in some way—it tends to make the story more realistic and complex!

    skkorman AT bellsouth DOT net

  4. Patricia, thanks again for visiting with us and sharing this look at your writing life. Wishing you much success.

    Hi all, thanks for stopping by.

  5. Mason - Thanks for hosting Patricia.

    Patricia - That small-town feel in a story can really add to the suspense. And I think it's great that you developed yourself as a writer even without a lot of books at home. That takes diligence and perseverance. I wish you success.

  6. Thanks for this fascinating feature and giveaway. A main character who is realistic and has endured and coped with life is interesting and captivating. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

  7. Yes, if the officer in charge has their own problems or demons, it makes them more relatable in my opinion. Thanks for the giveaway!! =)

  8. I have not ever had any thoughts on the subject. It doesn't really matter to me.

  9. I do enjoy stories where the main characters also have personal issues since it adds another aspect to the story.

  10. Yes, I do enjoy that type of mystery. It makes the character seem more real.

  11. Yes I do enjoy that type of mystery. After all, no one is truly perfect.

  12. yes, the more character interest there is, the better the mystery


I'd love to hear your thoughts on today's post. Thanks for dropping by.