Chicks Book Club: Puzzling Ink by Becky Clark

Welcome to Chicks Book Club!  Please feel free to ask any questions you have about the book, the series, the characters, the writing process, the research, or anything you’re curious about. 


Puzzling Ink (Crossword Puzzle Mystery #1) 

1 DOWN: DEATH BY HOMICIDE
 
Quinn Carr wishes her life could be more like a crossword puzzle: neat, orderly, and perfectly arranged. At least her passion for puzzles, flair for words—and mild case of OCD—have landed her a gig creating crosswords for the local paper. But if she ever hopes to move out of her parents’ house, she can’t give up her day job as a waitress. She needs the tips. But when a customer ends up dead at her table—face down in biscuits and gravy—Quinn needs to get a clue to find whodunit . . .
 
6 LETTERS, STARTS WITH “M”
 
It turns out that solving a murder is a lot harder than a creating a crossword. Quinn has plenty of suspects—up, down, and across.  One of them is her boss, the owner of the diner who shares a culinary past with the victim. Two of them are ex-wives, her boss’s and the victim’s. A third complication is the Chief of Police who refuses to allow much investigation, preferring the pretense their town has no crime. To solve this mystery, Quinn has to think outside the boxes—before the killer gets the last word . . .
 
I love the Mystery Writer’s Mystery series from this writer, and this series is starting off a winner just like that series. It was so funny, and I did find myself laughing out loud in parts. There’s just something so fun about her writing style! ~ Amazon reviewer
 
In a year full of heaviness, I think cozy mysteries are a great escape. Puzzling Ink is a fun escape for a few hours, and I’m looking forward to seeing what Quinn is up to in her next crossword puzzle adventure. ~ Amazon reviewer
 
The book was well written, the plot laid out with all the clues we need to figure out who did it, but I must admit I didn’t guess correctly. I highly recommend this book. ~ Amazon reviewer
 
Includes original crossword puzzles, also downloadable from BeckyClarkBooks.com!

 


Thanks for joining us–please drop your questions in the comments below. 🙂

36 thoughts on “Chicks Book Club: Puzzling Ink by Becky Clark

    1. Thanks Marla! It seeeems like it took longer to create the puzzles—and if you count mastering the software and fiddling with all the rules and such, then it definitely did—but I guess, technically, the writing took longer. The thing about the puzzle construction is that it takes forever (for me, anyway) to wrangle those silly black squares where they belong, and then MORE forever to get the theme words in there and shift them around for optimal crossing-word potential. But when that’s done, filling the rest of the grid comes pretty easy, and then you get to do the fun part … writing the clues!

      Liked by 4 people

    2. Thanks, Cynthia! And thanks for the response, Becky! I have to say, I’m impressed with your crossword abilities. It takes me long enough to fill in a crossword. I can’t imagine trying to create one from scratch.

      Liked by 2 people

  1. I so loved this book, Becky–and not only because I, too, am a fan of crossword puzzles! It’s funny, witty, and has a great, twisty plot! So yay, you!!

    The fact that Quinn has OCD is woven very delicately–and well!–into the story, and it’s wonderful to see such a character in a cozy mystery. Can you talk a little about why you chose to to have her OCD and how you went about researching the issue and the character?

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thanks so much, Leslie! In this series the crossword part came first. I was looking for that unusual hook. I don’t do kitchen stuff, like you. I don’t know the behind-the-scenes academic stuff like Cynthia. I didn’t have a place I love like Ellen. But I loves me my crosswords! Once I settled on that, I started thinking about who would really excel at creating crossword puzzles and it occurred to me that somebody with organizational OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder) would. I had already started to teach myself how to make them, so I was familiar with the mind-set that goes along with it. I’m not OCD, but I have always liked organizational stuff—my spices are alphabetical, I color-code stuff, I loooooved long division as a kid. So I definitely understood that part of it. But OCD is more than that. I read a lot of books and articles, and stumbled on a website of first-person accounts from people diagnosed with OCD. I know a couple of people with OCD, and was introduced to a couple more. None of them are afflicted in quite the same way as Quinn is, but they all described to me what it felt like when their OCD monster reared its head. There are a zillion ways to have OCD, but the way it makes someone feel is fairly universal so that’s what I tapped into.

      I write a lot of reluctant heroes in my books. What makes them interesting to me is how they react to a ridiculous situation that drops in their lap. Eventually they sleuth, but they bring to the table everything that makes them … them. Good stuff and bad stuff, just like our characters, we are all complete packages of our foibles, skills, background, upbringing—everything. So I didn’t want Quinn’s OCD to define her anymore than it would if she was in a wheelchair, or didn’t know how to read, or had lupus. It’s just another part of her that can help or hinder her in her investigation and in her life.

      I’m so grateful to all the people who let me into their lives and trusted me with what sometimes can be a very stigmatizing diagnosis. Perhaps I’ve done a teensy bit to help it be not so stigmatizing.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. It makes me very happy for you to say that, Leslie! You know what it’s like … we try to do something and hope with all our might we succeeded. But because we work in a vacuum, we’re never quite sure until readers start reading! It’s so gratifying when readers “get” what we’re trying to do … and such a relief!

        Liked by 3 people

  2. Leslie took one of my questions, but luckily I have two more! Quinn’s background was fascinating. First of all, congratulations! It’s a wonderful book. Was there something specific about her experience with the Denver police dept.
    that triggered her background? Also, do you see Jake as a potential love interest? I really enjoyed her relationship with his ex-wife, which I thought was quirky and unique.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thanks, Ellen! When Quinn was a kid, all through school and college, her organizational OCD served her very well. She was an excellent student—knew the rules, played the game. She did so well, in fact, that nobody ever considered she had a problem. But out in the real world—in this case, her interview for the police academy—she didn’t know the rules, couldn’t play the game. And that’s when her disconnect came and she just went round and round like the end of a record on a turntable. She had no way to cope when her OCD turned against her. All she could do was disassociate and count the holes in the ceiling tiles until her dad came and took her to the ER where they diagnosed her OCD.

      As far as any love interest, I’ll never say never, but from a fictional POV, getting involved with her boss couldn’t possibly end well. And from a writerly POV, I’m not the most romantic person on earth, so the idea of writing too much romance kinda makes my palms sweaty!

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Happy book club day, Becky! Some great questions (that I was also interested in) were asked before, but here are a few new ones:

    1. How did you create your fictional small town? (Also, I love those author cameos in it!)
    2. Talk about those very unique recipes that Quinn’s mother makes.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks, Jen! So far, most of my books are set in Colorado (write what you know, eh?), so I knew where I wanted this one. There’s a real town called Limon, about where I wanted Chestnut Station to be. It’s a free-standing town out on the plains with an interstate running right next to it. I put it a little bit closer to Denver, so they could come and go easier, then dummied up a map of Limon to suit my purposes, renaming streets and putting things where I envisioned them.

      The recipes just kind of came up organically. Georgeanne’s canvas is her cooking, and over the years she became more and more … creative. But as a joke to amuse my editor, I submitted the manuscript with the goofy recipes like you would with a culinary cozy. She thought it was so funny, she kept them and wants recipes in every book! So my joke totally backfired on me, because now I have to think of things for Georgeanne to cook that are weird and wacky, but still edible. My poor husband has to test everything for me!

      Liked by 3 people

      1. That’ll teach me not to be a weisenheimer! Aw, who am I kidding … no, it won’t!

        I have a note to write a short story about the chestnut statues.

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  4. Hi Becky! I just wanted to say I really enjoyed this book and Quinn’s character. My question is, will there be any more books about Quinn?

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thanks, Vickie! And it’s funny you should ask that, because when I first start thinking about a character, I almost always begin with a photo of a celebrity or a friend…just something that’s a visual representative of what I have in mind. It kind of helps set up the character in my mind. When I started thinking about Quinn, she was a cross between Vanessa Bayer and Renee Zellweger in the Bridget Jones years. Of course, by the time she went through my character grinder, not much but the struggle bun remained! But I could see Vanessa Bayer in the part, no prob!

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Congratulations on your new series! I loved meeting Quinn and the other characters and enjoyed the mystery so so much. Your wonderful humor infuses the whole story, and I can’t wait for book two.

    My question is how did you learn the diner lingo…or did you make those all up?

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Aw, thanks so much, Cynthia! I didn’t make any of the lingo up. There are entire websites devoted to diner lingo. When I started, I barely knew any, just stuff from old movies. My favorite has always been “put shoes on it cuz it’s going for a walk” for a to-go order, but they don’t do much take-out at the diner, so I had to find some more. It’s fun, though, isn’t it? When I get half a minute, I’m going to make a diner lingo crossword puzzle.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Congrats again on PUZZLING INK–and the launch of such a cool new series! I have fond memories of doing crossword puzzles during summers at the lake with my grandfather. We walked to the store to get the paper each morning–and a secret, pre-lunch ice cream to boot, so the pages always got a little messy. He always read the clues aloud to me and used a magnifying glass. When I was old enough I got to pencil in the words. (I usually went Across first instead of Down, and vice versa!) Here’s my question: Would you or Quinn ever be interested in entering an in-person tournament? Also, when puzzlers look up answers, or consult another person, is that considered “cheating”?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Lisa! I would LOVE to enter a tournament. I’m sure it would knock me down a peg if I got too self-satisfied with my skillz! I almost went to one last year but decided to wait, in case I could use it for research. If I do, you can be darn sure Quinn will end up at one!

      I don’t care how anyone decides to work a puzzle, but I would never in a million years work one with another person. A lot of people enjoy the teamwork, but to me, a crossword is a solitary pursuit. I do think, though, that people are much too quick to look up an answer or ask a friend. One of the reasons they say crosswords are good for the brain is because they cause you to think of words in ways you don’t normally. If you let a puzzle rest for a day or so, the next time you pick it up, I guarantee you’ll see some of those stumpers from yesterday are quite obvious to you today. Without you even knowing it, your brain worked that puzzle for you, but if you immediately look up an answer, then you’ll never make that new connection … and it’s all those new synapses in your brain that keep it young and nimble.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I noticed that some crossword tournaments have moved online recently, for the duration–though I bet the in-person ones are a lot more fun! (Imagining continuing competition in the bar afterward.)

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      2. Exactly. I’d want to be able to hang around and pick their brains. Like writer’s conferences … you can get info online, but everyone knows that’s only a small piece of the event.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Congrats, Becky, on this fantastic book and the debut of such a great new series!!

    As someone who avoided ice cream after years of working at Baskin-Robbins, I have to know: has crossword creation, research and writing deepened your love of them, or do you now have to take crossword breaks?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Oooh, great question! Solving crosswords is part of my daily routine—and now I’m wishing eating ice cream was too. I usually do one while I eat breakfast and one at lunch. I can’t imagine not doing at least one every day. But I think now I have a greater appreciation for the clever clues or themes, and have created a little “swipe file” of cool stuff. Not that I’d ever be able to swipe it, exactly, since puzzles are so unique, but just as a springboard to think more … sorry … out of the box about constructing.

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  9. Kathy, that’s so funny — my sister worked at B&R in high school and went off ice cream for a while, as well! I missed it when she stopped working there because she always gave me extra maraschino cherries!

    Liked by 2 people

      1. I remember applying at BR for my very first job and they offered it to me at the whopping salary of 35c/hour! Even I knew that was ridiculous—even allowing for tips, which would be nonexistent, if I knew anything about myself—so I took a job at a fabric store for the princely sum of $2.30/hour. No ice cream binges, but a discount on fabric and patterns, which was my catnip.

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