I received a message on Facebook the other day from an author who wanted to know if I would review his book. I had to chuckle over the title. As any of you who read my blog or been to my website know (look over at the sidebar and scroll down), my third book is going to be called Dying Over Spilled Milk and his book is called Don’t Cry Over Killed Milk. Of course I was interested. Stephen Kaminski is the author of the Damon Lassard Dabbling Detective series published by Cozy Cat Press. He is a graduate of Johns Hopkins University and Harvard Law School and has practiced law for over a decade. Stephen currently serves as General Counsel to a national non-profit organization. He is a lifelong lover of all types of mysteries and lives with his wife and daughter in Arlington, Virginia. Welcome to the blog, Stephen.
The obvious first question, for me, is how did you come up with the title?
I created my victim’s name (Jeremiah Milk) early on while writing this book. I wanted to have the title be a play on words and Milk was an obvious choice to use. Plus, while most readers will initially sympathize with the victim, they’ll learn as the book proceeds that he’s not so innocent (and hence, the need to “cry” is significantly diminished).
Based on many of the authors I have met, there seems to be a very high number of lawyers and real estate agents in the mystery writing field. Do you have any opinions on why that is?
I don’t know about real estate agent but as for attorneys, I have a few ideas. First, most lawyers write fairly well and enjoy writing but are limited in their professional endeavors to drafting relatively mundane documents. The other thing that many people may not realize is that to succeed in the legal field, an attorney must be quite creative – law is rarely cut-and-dry. Writing fiction provides a great outlet for that creativity. As for mysteries in particular? I’m not sure — I’ve never practiced criminal law; perhaps deep down the prosecutor in me is longing to get out.
My protagonist is an amputee who was born with multiple congenital anomalies known as Vater Syndrome. Because my daughter was born with it. Your victim in this book has Amniotic Band Syndrome. Why did you decide to do that?
I was born with Amniotic Band Syndrome (ABS) affecting all of my fingers and toes. I never allowed it to slow me down but I had to overcome countless challenges (teasing, staring, dating, etc.). As an adult, I regularly participate on several sites/chat rooms designed to help new parents of children born with ABS (by providing positive encouragement and practical advice) but my ABS is never anything I’ve discussed in the public sphere. I felt that through a book, I could focus on the condition in a public way.
Why didn’t you have a protagonist with the syndrome to show how capable he could be?
ABS doesn’t define who I am. When writing my first mystery (It Takes Two to Strangle) I wanted my readers to read my writing solely for the mystery content, so I never considered making my protagonist have ABS (though he has a few character flaws to make him “real”). In addition, I didn’t want my ABS-afflicted character to be someone who is pitied. While I am very positive in my outlook when it comes to ABS in terms of capabilities (you can do anything!), most writers focus solely on the positives of those with malformities (and I applaud them for that). But I wanted to take the opposite approach, and because I am affected by it, I’m in the unique position of not having to be as PC as others. So I decided to make my ABS-affected character act in a manner that ultimately leads to his demise.
Without putting out any spoilers… gee, it is hard to even ask the question without a spoiler… Where did you get the idea for what Jeremiah Milk did that brought about his death? Was it based on a case you were involved in or that you read about? Or did you just make it up? And readers, to find out what he did, you will just have to read the book!
I just made it up! I spend a lot of time plotting before I start writing and like to make my motives complex yet easy to follow. When I read a mystery (and I read a lot of them), there’s nothing I like better than twists and turns and complex motives so that’s how I write.
How do you manage to juggle a career in law, a family, and writing?
It’s quite difficult. My full-time position is fairly demanding and I always make time for my family. So my writing time is limited to two hours every night after work and after my daughter goes to bed.
If you could have dinner with any writer, living or dead, who would it be and why?
I’ll select someone living so there’s still hope for a dinner – and dine with Ken Follett, closely followed by Lawrence Block and P.D. James.
Now three things I ask everyone that have nothing to do with writing:
- What is your favorite food?
Swiss cheese, blueberries, and black licorice.
- What is your favorite TV show?
The Amazing Race. Plus, I’m currently re-watching Lost and Twin Peaks.
- What is your favorite music?
The intersection of folk and country (think Brandi Carlile, Kacey Musgraves, Cowboy Junkies). And 80s music!
Readers, you will find my review and Stephen’s links below. I want to thank you so much for being here today, Stephen, and continued good luck with the book. I can’t wait for the next one – I want you back here with it. Before you go, is there anything else you would like to tell your readers or have them know about you?
I hope you enjoy my books!
- Print Length: 242 pages
- Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1939816181
- Publisher: Cozy Cat Press (August 28, 2013)
- Language: English
- ASIN: B00EV45NAS
Jeremiah Milk lived a life filled with emotional extremes. Amniotic band syndrome—a congenital condition—left his fingers and toes malformed. Ridiculed as a child, he became an adolescent hermit. As an adult, Jeremiah’s wounds healed when he landed a position as a park ranger and married a woman who loved him despite his physical appearance. But fate ripped his life to shreds when his wife and infant son died on the same night in separate calamities. Shortly thereafter, the tides turned once more as an act of Jeremiah’s ostensible benevolence translates into a financial boon. The book on Jeremiah’s life closes without mercy when he’s found murdered at Tripping Falls State Park.
Damon Lassard—Hollydale’s loveable civic leader, amateur sleuth, and Jeremiah’s neighbor—springs into action. He’s obstructed by a prickly lieutenant, but wriggles information unknown to the police from a colorful bevy of suspects. Aided by his best friend Rebecca and his reluctant ally Detective Gerry Sloman, Damon engineers a deep dive into Jeremiah’s past to solve the crime. Along the way, Damon strengthens his relationship with the breathtaking Bethany Krims, cracks a local horticultural mystery, and tries in vain to tame his wickedly sarcastic mother.
Stephen Kaminski — the author of Don’t Cry Over Killed Milk — is the winner of the 2012 Reader Views Literary Award for the Mid-Atlantic Region.
There were several other books I was supposed to read before I read DON’T CRY OVER KILLED MILK but I was amused by the coincidence of the title plus I wanted to see if it was worth reading, to be honest. It hadn’t come to me by way of a tour operator, it was a direct request from an author and sometimes I have to turn some of them down. So I decided to read a few pages while some other books were downloading. I didn’t put it down until I finished it. It is well written. The characters are well drawn. The plot is… well put it this way, as Damon starts to unravel the why of the murder, it is positively diabolical. Damon is described in the story as having a rampant curiosity and at 31 has no obligations such as job or family to keep him from pursing that which he is curious about. And he goes about it in such a slow easy going way. Picking up a fact here, making a supposition there, how might it fit together? And he has a way about him that makes people willing to talk to him. There is also a hint of romance. And there is humor – while solving the murder, Damon also solves the mystery of the insect infestation affecting the local homeowners’ crepe myrtle shrubs. In other words, a perfect cozy. I am going to get the first book in the series, IT TAKES TWO TO STRANGLE, and I will be sure to read the next and all the future books in the Damon Lassard Dabbling Detective series. I do need to have a chat with Attorney Kaminski about titles, however. We seem to have the same idea about those and we don’t want any more to be so close! You DO want to read this book. ♥♥♥♥♥