Jennifer Vido's experience as a Harford County Public Library trustee helped her write the third book in her Social Lite Mystery Series, but she promises that no character in the book is specifically based upon any one of her former colleagues.
"Murder by the Minutes," published this year, is about Piper O'Donnell's search to uncover missing funds from the local library.
"I took my experience of being on the board and made it into a book," Vido, who lives in Bel Air, said recently. "People ask me, 'when you write, is that what happened?' It's not, not at all."
But the experience as a trustee certainly provided the insight for how a library system works.
"I loved it. I loved the experience," Vido, who served two five-year terms from 2003 to 2013, said. "We're big supporters of the library system. It's just phenomenal, the dedication to the community. I'm in awe of what they do."
Her husband, Durbin, who works for SunTrust in Baltimore, was appointed to the library board in 2014.
Vido began writing her series in 2005, when she was a freelance writer doing book reviews and writing a column called "Jen's Jewels." She had the opportunity to interview authors and soon-to-be literary starts and realized something.
"They're just like you and me. Lawyers, teachers, soccer moms. They all had stories to tell and the courage to take a leap of faith," Vido said.
So she decided to do it herself.
"It took me one year to write the first manuscript, four years to sell it," she said.
Unlike years ago, when acceptance letters came in the mail, Vido got an email saying a company would be buying her book.
"The kids were asleep and I saw the email and I yelled 'I did it! I did it!' and woke them all up," she recalled.
Vido, 47, could have self-published, but she wanted to be an author with a publication house, "with all the bells and whistles," as she put it. She didn't care if she got 1 cent or $1,000 or $10,000 for an advance, she just wanted to go through the entire process.
Her books are cozy mysteries, and her publisher is Cozy Cat Press, a perfect fit for her.
Vido described her books as cozy, set in a small town, with recurring characters; there's always a clean kill, like someone getting hit over the head, pushed down the stairs or shot with a gun.
"There's no blood, guts and gore, no explicit or language or sexual scenes. They can be implied, but not described," she said. "It's a PG mystery, that's why it makes a lite mystery."
The first book in the Social Lite Series is "Par for the Course," published in 2010, and it was followed in 2013 by "Country Clubbed."
She describes her series as "beach books," easy reads for escape, to be read by the pool while watching the kids or with a glass of wine and a bubble bath.
"They're meant to be read on the beach when it's sunny and 75 out," Vido said.
And you don't have to have to read them all in order. They stand by themselves, she said.
The main protagonist is Piper O'Donnell, a socialite who wears Lily Pulitzer and whose world is filled with "laugh-out-loud scenes," Vido said.
The Aegis: Top stories
"Murder by the Minutes" is described in a press release: "Never judge a book by its cover unless Piper O'Donnell is prominently on display. Woodlawn, Ohio's newest library board of trustee member is busily securing her social status by organizing the library's premiere event of the season––the Booklovers' Ball. Unfortunately, Piper's dreamy vision of pink panache vanishes into thin air when she stumbles over a dead body in the library director's office. Forget the evites and the party favors. The list of possible suspects could fill a bestseller, and they include Piper's own sister who was spotted at the scene of the crime. There's also a charismatic minister thought to be short on offerings for his ambitious mega church. And rumors are circulating that the library director himself and his ditzy assistant may also be cooking the books. With help from her handsome fiancé Rusty O'Brien, Piper puts her sleuthing skills to work to investigate the complicated crime. The minutes are ticking down for Woodlawn's top party planner. Will Piper be able to uncover the mysterious killer who is intent on ruining her lavish affair––and can she do it before the next board meeting?"
The book is available for $14.50 or $2.50 for an ebook. It's also available at the Harford and Baltimore County public library systems.
Expect more from Vido next year, when she hopes to publish the fourth book in the series, "Dying to Wed."
As a mom who spends a lot of time watching her boys on the lacrosse field, is the book editor for momtrends.com, is on the national board of the Arthritis Foundation and teaches exercise classes through that foundation three times a week, sometimes it's hard to find time to write.
When her boys, Henry, 19, finishing his freshman year at Lafayette College, and Sam, 14, about to finish at St. Margaret School in Bel Air, were younger, Vido would often sit in the car during practice and get some writing done.
But as the boys got older, those practices became drop-offs and more of a social hour, so she had to adjust. She found that writing after 8 p.m. suited her well, when everything was done for the day, the dishes were put away and the house was relatively quiet.
"I get my best work done then," she said.