Thursday, July 19, 2018

Widows of Malabar Hill

An excellent book with a insider’s look at India in the 1920s. Perveen Mistry wants to study law but law schools did not admit women. In The Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey, she persuades the law school to let her take classes without being admitted but the men in the class force her to quit.

In an act of defiance, she falls in love with a man who her parents do not know and suffers through a terrible marriage before she returns home. On her return, her parents send her to England where graduates from Oxford. She returns to Bombay several years later to work for her father’s firm. Because she is a woman and can meet with the cloistered widows, she is assigned a case that deals with three Muslim widows married to the same man.

When Perveen examines the will, she notices that all three widows have signed over their entire inheritance to a charity. Positive the women are being swindled, especially as one is obviously illiterate as
she signed with an X, she tries to determine who is trying to steal from them. Is it the male guardian or someone else?

When there is a murder in the secluded house, Perveen finds herself in the middle of the investigation. Because of her own personal history, she is dedicated to assisting women.

A beautifully written book and an intriguing look at the sheltered life of these women and the murder that threatens them.

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Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Interview with Victoria Gilbert

What is the title of your newest book? How many books have you published?

My most recent book is Shelved Under Murder  (July 10). It is the second book in my Blue Ridge Library Mystery series. The first book, A Murder for the Books, was published in Dec. 2017 and the third book (which I have already written), Past Due for Murder, will be released in Feb., 2019. This series is published by Crooked Lane Books.

That means I have published two mysteries (as of July). However, I also published a few other books in another genre (and under a different author name) so overall, I’ve had seven books published, small press and indie releases included.

How did you develop your character and choose your location?
My characters tend to develop as I’m writing the books. I have a general sense of who they are before I begin, and I do map out their life histories prior to writing, but the true essence of their personalities doesn’t become clear until I write about them. Sometimes they surprise me by turning out a little (or a lot) different than I’d originally planned!

My setting for the Blue Ridge Library Mystery series is based on the area where I grew up—in a small, historic, town in the Blue Ridge Mountains of northern Virginia. I chose this location because it was not only something I knew well; it also lent itself to incorporating historical elements into my contemporary stories.

What is a day in the life of an author like? Do you write a certain number of words, do you write in the morning or evening? 
For me it varies, depending upon where I am in the writing process. If I am planning a book, or doing initial drafting, I may only work on any particular book for a few hours a day. Since I’ve retired from my previous full-time career as a librarian, I spend the rest of the day doing regular chores, like cooking, gardening, and cleaning, as well as working on writing-related things such as my social media outreach, general book promotion, critiquing for my author friends, and so on.

However, once I am deep into writing the book, and especially if a deadline looms ominously, I tend to concentrate only on the writing. At that point I may be writing and/or revising eight hours a day or more. (So not much else gets done!)

I don’t write a certain number of words a day. I find that I do better when I set page or chapter goals rather than word goals. I try to write at least half a chapter a day when I am drafting, which translates into around five to seven pages. At that rate, and including time for edits and revisions, I can complete a manuscript in approximately five to six months.

Do you belong to a writers group or are you in touch with other writers? How does that help your writing?
Yes, I belong to my local chapter of Sisters-in-Crime and attend their meetings once a month. I also attended Malice Domestic back in April—that’s a big conference focused on cozy and light mysteries—and will be attending the Bouchercon World Mystery Convention in September. I meet numerous authors through these events. I find it’s always helpful to talk about the writing process with other professionals, as I’m continually learning more from their unique skill-sets and experiences.

I also belong to Mystery Writers of America and International Thriller Writers, but so far have only connected with my fellow members in those organizations online.

I have two wonderful critique partners, Richard Taylor Pearson and Lindsey Duga. We’ve worked together for several years now reading and critiquing each other’s’ works, as well as providing support throughout our writing journeys. Although we all write in different genres, I learn a lot from just critiquing their (wonderful) books.

Do you model your character after yourself or any one you know?
No, I actually try very hard NOT to do this. Of course, I draw on my background and experiences to portray certain things, such as library work and small-town settings, but I deliberately make my characters their own unique selves. I do incorporate traits and characteristics from people I’ve known, as well as my own knowledge on certain topics, but no character is exactly modeled after a specific person.

If your books were made into a movie, who would you want to play the lead character?
I really can’t answer that question, for a good reason—Sony Pictures Television has optioned A Murder for the Books and Shelved Under Murder and, if a production goes forward based on my books, I’d rather not go on record with my own personal picks. I prefer to allow the production team to decide who would be best actor/actress for any of the roles.

Who is your favorite author?
This is an impossible question! I love so many different authors, for different reasons. So I’ll just list a few (in no particular order): John Crowley, Dorothy Dunnett, Anne Tyler, all the Brontes, C.S. Lewis, Josephine Tey, Ruth Rendell/Barbara Vine, R.A. MacAvoy, John le Carre, and Mary Stewart.

How do you keep track of character details from book to book so they are consistent?
Files and notebooks! I create and maintain a lot of information on the characters, such as ages, family trees, relationship connections, and so on. Because my books include references to historical elements as well as contemporary events, I have to be particularly diligent about keeping the age charts and “relationship trees” accurate.

If you could not be an author, what would like to do as a career?
I just retired from a thirty-year career as a professional librarian, so… Animal rescuer, maybe? I’d love to have a set-up where I could take-in rescued animals and find them new homes. Or professional traveler? Of course, if I had the money, I would do both!

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

A New Place, Another Murder

When Sheridan Hendley left Cold Creek College and married Brett and moved closer to Appomatox, Virginia where he worked, she thought life would be pretty dull. She hadn't counted on the drama surrounding a teenaged girl. In A New Place, Another Murder by Christa Nardi, Sheridan finds herself thrown into another investigation.

Teenaged Maddie is attending a summer camp with her friend Alex. When she comes home highly disturbed and reports Alex has been arrested for stealing money, Sheridan is worried about Maddie as well. When Alex, then Maddie are implicated in the thefts and a murder, Sheridan dives right in to solve the case.

As she investigates, Sheridan discovers the teens were implicated by a pair of locally well-connected teenagers. The Buchanan family is powerfully connected not only to municipal government but to law enforcement as well. Without wanting to jeopardize Brett's job, she plunges into the investigation.

As the investigation unfolds, Sheridan learns Luke Buchanan has been sexually harassing Maddie during the school year. Nothing riles a police officer more than this type of behavior, especially to his own daughter, but Brett knows he is stymied by the family's clout.

In the midst of her investigation, Sheridan also is trying to find a job at a new university. Worried about her involvement in previous murder investigations at Cold Creek College, she tries to keep that aspect of her career quiet. Unfortunately it doesn't stay quiet.

I'm so happy to have Sheridan back on the scene.

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Monday, July 16, 2018

Rituals of the Dead

Another excellent adventure for Zelda Richardson. In Rituals of the Dead by Jennifer S. Alderson, Zelda is working for Amsterdam's Tropenmuseum as an intern in the Ethnology department and is assisting in the preparation of a large Asmat bis pole exhibition.

The bis poles were discovered warehoused in the Wereldmuseum's building and had remained unopened since they were shipped from Dutch New Guinea in 1963. The Asmat region of Papua is also where a famous American anthropologist disappeared in 1962.

When Nicholas Mayfield's journal is found inside one of the bis poles, the museum is eager to transcribe it and discover what possibly happened to him. Museum director Albert Schenk is adamant that the journal cannot be included in the exhibit. He calls Mayfield a second-rate anthropologist.

Zelda wonders why there is such animosity toward Mayfield as Schenk worked as a translator with him during his time in New Guinea. More conflict arises as Victor Nalong, the official representative for the government of Papua, has been breathing down the necks of the staff at the museum for repatriation of the artifacts and bones also discovered mixed into the crates. 
The scene switches from current day to the 1960s when Nick Mayfield and his colleagues were working in New Guinea. Murder and intrigue make this an exciting peek into the world of museums and the artifacts they contain.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Custom Baked Murder

When a murder occurs at her mother’s engagement party, Kristan "Stan" Connor already has her hands full trying to open her organic pet bakery. In Custom Baked Murder by Liz Mugavero, Stan needs to figure out who killed an old work rival.

First, Stan is surprised to see so many of her former co-workers at the engagement party and second, her ex-boyfriend Richard and his new girlfriend are in attendance. When Stan's sister Caitlyn finds the body of her former co-worker Eleanor in the master bedroom, she is shocked to see her mother's gigantic engagement ring in her mouth. 

Caught in the midst of this emotional turmoil is Eleanor's young adult daughter Monica who appears to be either drunk or on drugs. 
The person who is not present is her mother’s fiancĂ©, the mayor of Frogs Ledge. When he does turn up, he isn’t very forthcoming and cannot explain why he was late to his own engagement party. 

Eleanor has been hired to be a PR coordinator for Mayor Tony Falco, but why would a newly-elected local mayor need a campaign coordinator? Stan has always felt there was something secretive about Tony, but now she needs to dig into his past. 

Stan's life is complicated enough with trying to open the bakery, but her mother wants her to investigate and micro manage the design of the bakery. Jake, her boyfriend, takes it all in stride and tries to keep thing sunder control on the home front. When Richard is arrested for the murder, Stan knows, even though they parted on acrimonious terms, he is not a killer. 

Through it all, Stan is trying to design her bakery and keep her mother from driving her crazy. The opening day is inching nearer and there are so many details to complete, but first she needs to clear Richard and find the killer.  

A fun mystery with some dog great recipes I might have to try for my buddy Beau.

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Thursday, July 12, 2018

Baking Dog Treats with Beau

Beau, his Mom and I baked dog treats from Custom Baked Murder by Liz Mugavero. As you can see Beau was a big help. Making the Parmesan cheese bones (left) and rolling the blueberry biscuits.

Enter to win Liz Mugavero's Custom Baked Murder and the cookie cutters you need to make the bones .


Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Interview with V.M. Burns

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What is the title of your newest book? How many books have you published?
I write three mystery series. There are two books out in the Mystery Bookshop Mystery Series. The Plot is Murder and Read Herring Hunt. The third book in this series, The Novel Art of Murder will release in November. On July 1st the first book in my RJ Franklin Mystery series, Travellin’ Shoes will release. I also have an eBook only Dog Club Mystery series. The first book in that series, In the Dog House, will release on August 21st.

How did you develop your character and choose your location?
The character and the location for this series came from my own life. At the time that I started writing the Mystery Bookshop Mystery series I was living on the shores of Lake Michigan in Southwestern Michigan. The protagonist in this series, Samantha Washington, dreams of one day owning a mystery bookstore and writing British historic cozy mysteries. That is also my dream. I don’t own a mystery bookstore (yet), but I can live out both of those dreams through my characters.

What is a day in the life of an author like? Do you write a certain number of words, do you write in the morning or evening?
I don’t know if my day is typical of most authors, because I still work a full-time job. Although I’ve heard most authors have a full-time job or a spouse to provide a steady income and insurance. I’m not a morning person so I don’t write in the mornings (even when I don’t have to go to work). My writing begins when I get home from work. I try to look at writing like a second job, because it is my second job. I set a weekly goal of writing 7,500-10,000 words per week. I’ve found looking at my word count from a weekly rather than daily view helps me not stress too much if I have a slow day or if I miss a day during the week. I know I can always make up missed days on the weekend. The weekly goal equates to 1,000-1,500 words per day so that’s the target. I write the first draft quickly and then go back and fix plot holes, add clues and red herrings during the revision process. When I write, I don’t worry about making it perfect. My goal is to get the words on the page. Everything can be fixed during edits and revisions, but you can’t edit a blank page. So I focus on getting the words onto the page and telling the story.

Do you belong to a writers group or are you in touch with other writers? How does that help your writing?
I got my MFA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University in Greensburg, PA. One of the best things about that program was the fantastic community of writers I had the pleasure to meet. Through the wonders of social media I can have as much or as little contact as I want or need. Whether it’s participating in daily writing sprints or critique groups, I can choose the level of interaction I need at the time. Most times, my interactions are limited to posting or responding to questions. There are doctors, lawyers, police officers, martial arts gurus as well as military and FBI agents in the program. It’s wonderful to have access to experts who can help answer questions and provide information as needed. One of the alums from the program lives nearby, and we often get together for writing sessions. I’ve also been fortunate to have connected with other writers that I chat with on a regular basis.

Do you model your character after yourself or any one you know?
My characters share a lot of my same dreams, fears and aspirations. Samantha Washington dreamed of owning a mystery bookstore and writing British historic cozies. That’s also my dream. She has one older sister and her sister has two children. We share all of those things in common. RJ Franklin from my RJ Franklin Mystery series was born and raised in the church in northwestern Indiana, which is the same as my own background. Both, Samantha Washington from the Mystery Bookshop series and the protagonist from my Dog Club Mystery series, Lillie Echosby, own dogs, poodles to be specific. I own two poodles. So, there’s a lot of me in all of my protagonists.

If your books were made into a movie, who would you want to play the lead character?
I would love to see Tyler Perry or Will Smith as RJ Franklin. I would cast Halle Barry as Lillie Echosby because…well, its Halle Berry. Samantha Washington is harder for me to cast. I never describe her race because I want readers to imagine her however they want. However, Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, is the right age. Although, I’m guessing she’s a bit busy right now,

Who is your favorite author?
I have a lot of favorite authors, but if I had to limit to one, I’d say Agatha Christie. She is the reason that I fell in love with cozy mysteries in the first place and I have a great deal of respect for her books. If I can include more than one, I would include Rex Stout, Victoria Thompson, Patricia Wentworth, Dorothy Gilman and Jane Austen.

How do you keep track of character details from book to book so they are consistent?
One of the things my agent requires is a character list and a timeline. This has been invaluable and I keep a character list for each book which includes details about the characters.

If you could not be an author, what would like to do as a career?
If I couldn’t be an author, my dream job would be to work at a bookstore so I could be surrounded by books and hopefully get a discount.

Watch for a review of Read Herring Hunt on Thursday, July 12 on

Monday, July 9, 2018

Death Over Easy

Whenever I read the Country Store Mysteries by Maddie Day (aka Edith Maxwell) I know I'd better have eaten breakfast. Robbie's country store and cafe, Pans ‘N Pancakes, in South Lick, Indiana, delivers mouthwatering meals. In Death Over Easy the annual Bill Monroe Bluegrass Festival in neighboring Beanblossom is always a hit for Robbie’s cafĂ©. (Death Over Easy will be published on July 31.)

This year Robbie has converted the three bedrooms above her store to B&B rooms hoping to add another revenue stream to her business. Little does she know how many problems that will create. Her first guests include some of the performers and her father Roberto and his wife Maria, visiting from Italy. 

Robbie's boyfriend, Abe, plays in a band with a woman named Pia who has stirred up trouble right from the start. She gets into a very visible argument with Abe as well as an altercation with Sue, the festival organizer. It seems Pia, although and excellent musician. is not that popular.

When Pia is found strangled in the small covered bridge in an unincorporated area outside town, the
sheriff's department handles the case. Although Robbie's police officer friend Buck has been asked to be part of the investigation, she isn't really included, but that doesn't necessarily stop her.

Robbine finds Pia was not that nice a person and she also discovers her stepmother knew Pia in Italy. That puts her father and his wife into the frame. Robbie diligently seeks to keep them safe and find the killer.

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The Corpse at the Crystal Palace

A day at the famed London Crystal Palace turns into a nightmare for Daisy Dalrymple and her children's nanny in The Corpse at the Crystal Palace by Carola Dunn. With teen cousins visiting, Daisy decides to take her step-daughter Belinda and her twins for an outing. Of course, Nanny Gilpin comes along to mind the twins.

When Nanny leaves the twins with her assistant and mysteriously starts following another Nanny, the teens follow along. They briefly lose sight of her as they track her on the grounds of the Crystal Palace. But when they spot her again, Nanny Gilpin is floating in a fountain and they pull her out to save her life.

In the meantime Daisy heads to the ladies room and stumbles across a body, also dressed as a Nanny. Fortunately for her, ex-detective sergeant Tom Tring is with them on the excursion and immediately notifies the police.

When the police discover the Nanny found dead was a man, Daisy
is determined to investigate, but is stymied by her husband Detective Inspector Alec Fletcher. To complicate matters, Nanny Gilpin doesn't remember anything about her wanderings or the dip into the fountain, and could possibly not ever remember what happened.

Frustrated Daisy enlists the aid of her friend Sakari Prasad to pursue their own investigation. Daisy has a vague feeling she knows the victim, but can't place how she knows him. Enlisting her aristocratic contacts she starts to track down an unsavory story about the victim.

Another excellent adventure for Daisy and friends.

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