Welcome Back Guest Grace Topping

Kitty Rodgers is the winner of an ebook from Grace! Kitty watch for an email from her.

Grace and I met through the Chessie Chapter of Sisters in Crime. I read the beginning of an early version of Staging is Murder. Grace is a great example of never giving up on your writing. And I’m so glad she didn’t! Look for a giveaway at the end of the post!

Here’s a bit about her second book Staging Wars:

Laura Bishop’s new home staging business is growing in popularity, though not with her nemesis. Laura has long suspected established interior designer Monica Heller of sabotaging her fledgling company—and having an affair with her late husband.

When the ultra-chic Monica is caught at the scene of a murder, Laura is plenty happy to imagine her languishing in a prison cell with bedsheets far from her normal 600-thread Egyptian cotton. But her delight is short-lived.

When Laura’s friends land on the police’s radar, Laura must overcome her dislike of Monica to help solve the crime. Not an easy task since Laura and Monica have been at war since the second grade.

During the 1980s, TV viewers were enthralled by the program Cheers, noted for its setting in a Boston bar, where based on the theme song for the program, everyone knows your name. It featured a cast of characters who were either employees of the bar or regular customers. Week after week, viewers definitely came to know their names and could identify with them as they talked about their jobs, their woes, their families, and their latest love interest—or lack of.

Viewers seemed to like the idea of a place where people could go where they felt welcome, comfortable, and connected—connected being the key word. It’s what has been called peoples’ third place.

A thirdplace, a term coined by sociologist Ray Oldenburg, refers to places where people spend time between their home (their first place) and work (their second place). Floyd’s Barber Shop in the old Andy Griffith Show served as a third place for the men of Mayberry to gather, even when they weren’t getting a haircut. Another third place was Ivy’s Teashop in the Last of the Summer Wine BBC series, where the aging men of the town gathered when they weren’t getting into trouble.

In the British Isles, the local pub frequently serves as peoples’ thirdplace. When I lived in England, my husband and I would join family members at their localpub on Friday nights. I can’t say that everyone knew our names, but we did feel welcome, comfortable, and somewhat connected. My father-in-law took great delight that when he walked in, the barman would take down his personal mug that hung over the bar with dozens of others and pour him a Guinness. It was definitely his third place.

Many cozy mystery writers use the device of a third place, such as a bookshop, bakery, or craft store, in their books. When I created my Laura Bishop Mystery Series, which is about a home stager, the first scene I wrote was set in a coffee bar, which my characters visit frequently throughout the book.

But why a coffee bar when my main character was a professional home stager and not involved with dispensing coffee? Having a third place like a coffee bar provides my characters with the perfect place to connect and discuss investigations and cross paths with other characters (possible suspects) they might not see otherwise. It enables them to pick up gossip about what is happening in the community. I went one step further and made one of my key characters an employee of the coffee bar. People share information with him that sometimes provides vital clues to solving a murder. He knows more about what is going on in town than the mayor and shares that information with Laura.

I also use a local teashop Laura visits frequently. She doesn’t ply sources with liquor to loosen their lips. Instead, she knows the value of questioning them in a place conducive to sharing secrets—a cozy English-style teashop with lots of regulars. Who wouldn’t open up while enjoying sandwiches, scones with cream and jam, and fruit tarts, all washed down with fragrant tea? It works for Laura, and she’s been able to get good leads that help her unmask murderers.

Next time you want to coerce someone into spilling their secrets, discover where their third place is or take them to an English-style teashop.

Readers: Do you have a favorite third place?

Leave a comment to be entered in a drawing for a digital copy of Staging is Murder (Book 1) or Staging Wars (Book 2). (U.S. commenters only).

Webpage: www.gracetopping.com

Bio: Grace Topping is a recovering technical writer and IT project manager, accustomed to writing lean, boring documents. Let loose to write fiction, she is now creating murder mysteries and killing off characters who remind her of some of the people she dealt with during her career. Fictional revenge is sweet. She’s using her experience helping friends stage their homes for sale as inspiration for her Laura Bishop mystery series. The series is about a woman starting a new career midlife as a home stager. The first book in the series, Staging is Murder, is a 2019 Agatha Award nominee for Best First Novel. Grace is the former vice president of the Chesapeake Chapter of Sisters in Crime, and a member of the SINC Guppies and Mystery Writers of America. She lives with her husband in Northern Virginia.

37 Thoughts

  1. Welcome, Grace! I love the idea of a thirdplace. My country store in the mysteries by that name is definitely that – a community waterhole, the office water cooler, and a place to gather, eat, and learn secrets. Best of luck with the new book!

    1. Thanks, Edith. I think my local library is the closest I get to a third place.

  2. On a photography trip to Maine a couple years ago, I was introduced to Cafe Creme. I remember thinking, “Perfect!” It will definitely be a third place in my new series.

    1. Isn’t it wonderful when something inspires you? I was inspired to make my main character a home stager after watching one too many programs on HGTV.

    1. I don’t have one either–unless you count running into friends and neighbors at the grocery store.

  3. I don’t have a third place that I frequent. Maybe if I were more social. Congrats on your latest book!

    1. Thanks, Marla. Maybe if we had a third place to hang out, we wouldn’t get much writing done. But then, it could be a good source of inspiration for characters and plots.

  4. Honestly I don’t really have a third place except the library which is my second place as well!

    1. Mary, I don’t think you could have a better “second” or “third” place than the library.

  5. Congrats on the release of Staging Wars, Grace! It’s wonderful to have Laura back with us. A perfect escape for these tough times!

    1. Thanks, Jim. Readers need something a bit lighter to read right now. Thankfully we have cozies to turn to.

  6. I love this, Grace and congratulations on the new book. In my Sarah Winston books DiNapoli’s Roast Beef and Pizza is her third place. We’ve moved so much my third places have varied — a bar here, a coffee shop there.

    1. Thank you for hosting me today, Sherry. I thought of DiNapoli’s when I wrote this. The only problem with a third place like DiNapoli’s is that it comes with a lot of calories. I couldn’t resist the desserts.

  7. We lived in Germany while my husband was in the Army, and there in the gasthaus the third place is the Stamtish – the locals table. We now live near Pittsburgh, and in our town there is a local deli (before the virus) that the retired guys in town use for a meeting place. I don’t really have a third place unless you count the grocery store, which is where I seem to run into most people I know!

    1. When my daughter was stationed in Germany in the Army, we used to visit her there and were introduced to the local gathering places. Of course, I ended up drinking far more beer than I would have if I had stayed home. And the grocery store is where I mostly run into people.

  8. My third place is online. This is a wonderful group of people (mostly women, but it is not an exclusive club!). who live all over the country. We get together every day to share our lives, the wonderful and the awful. We have evolved to a support group for everything. We bounce ideas off of each other, we vent our frustrations over events we have no control over, we share births, fears, successes, illnesses, and deaths. We chat about anything. We answer questions about “how to”. Since we span 4 time zones, we drop in and out all day long whenever we have time. In these days of isolation, it is a lifeline to the outside world. I’ve met many of these people in person when traveling. We truly are one big family. What a blessing.

    I look forward to meeting the good folks in your third place.

    1. Ginny, your group sounds wonderful–and you don’t even have to leave home to get together. I am a member of several cozy mystery Facebook groups, and they are wonderful and supportive groups.

  9. Congratulations on the new book Grace!

    I’ve never heard the term “third place” before but it is definitely something I have. It’s not as cool as the Cheers bar, or Pans and Pancakes in Edith’s series but it is a place I spend a lot of time at. Well, at least once a week, sometimes twice.

    It’s the 99 Restaurant and Pub in Fairhaven, MA. I usually go there on Thursday nights for Trivia Night. I’m part of the dominant team that wins all the time. We go for trivia, eat some food, and tick off al the people that can’t beat us. Plus for me, I flirt with the totally out of my league waitress as well. It’s always a good night out and for three hours everybody knows your name…even if they are cursing it as you whip their butts in trivia.

    1. Sounds like a place I would love, Jay. I joined in a lot of trivia competitions while onboard ships. The British competitors were the most knowledgable competitors. You really wanted to have them on your team. I do only okay in most categories, but I’m a real loser when it comes to sports.

  10. The “3rd place” idea was very interesting. I never thought about it before. I don’t really have a 3rd place these days. I’m happy to say I don’t have a 2nd place either, as I am retired. Years ago, I lived very close to a Boarders Bookstore. I would have to say that was my 3rd place at the time. I’m still surprised they went down, I was sure I singlehandedly keep them solvent! If there was a traditional tea shop in my small town, that would definitely be my 3rd place!

    1. You are right, Catherine, about tea shops. My husband is from England, and when we return there to visit family, we spent more time in teashops than in pubs while there. Both come with a fair share of calories.

    1. I know what you mean, Mark. It would be nice to have a third place, especially one that we could just walk to on a nice evening.

  11. Welcome back to the blog, Grace, and congratulations on the book! I love this idea of a third place. These days I move between my desk, the couch and bed, so that isn’t really a third place. You are so right, though. All of my favorite shows have a third place, and I’ve created on in my series as well. Love the clear idea of what that is.

    1. Thank you, Julie. Having a third place would be wonderful, although, I think we are creating our third places on FaceBook and other social media outlets. And thank you for all the wisdom you are sharing through your new venture, Your Ladders. I’m learning a lot.

    1. Even though I don’t have a third place I go to physically, I’ve found that I have one through the various groups I have joined on FaceBook.

  12. My third place would either be church or various restaurants where I used to have lunch with friends. Sure would like to do that again soon. Stay safe.

    1. Church definitely provides a third place, especially if you get involved with the various committees and social groups. I enjoyed being a member of the Women’s Group at my church.

  13. Sadly, no third place for me. Sounds like fun, but I really don’t have anywhere I go to hang out. I guess I am too busy with my everyday life of working with my dad that starts early (normally) and usually ends late trying to catch up on all the household things I need to do.

    1. I agree, Renee. We are all too busy with our everyday lives to be frequenting a third place. But it sounds like fun.

  14. Hi Grace,
    Very nice to read about you and your new book STAGING WARS.
    My Third place would be my front porch. It’s where family, friends, and my love for books always gather! 😁

    1. Hi, Sherry. I grew up in a house with a big front porch. It was our gathering place as well. We have a screened porch on the back of our house, but it isn’t quite the same.

    2. Hi, Sherry. I know what you mean about a front porch being a terrific gathering place. I grew up in a house with a front porch, and it was a gathering place for all the neighborhood. We have a screened porch on the back of our house, and although we really enjoy it, it isn’t the same as a front porch.

  15. The library in town. Congratulations on your new release! Thank you for the chance😊

  16. One difficulty with being retired is not really having a second place. Add in the lock down and a third place is out of the picture for the foreseeable future!

Comments are closed.