Thursday, April 19, 2018

Antique Blues

Antique dealer Josie Prescott is thrilled her friend Mo Shannon has a acquired a beautiful Japanese woodblock print she loved. In Antique Blues by Jane K. Cleland, Josie's friend asks her to appraise her new acquisition.

The print is one of by famed Japanese artist Utagawa Hiroshige and is part of a series called One Hundred Famous Views of Edo. The beautiful, peaceful scene is rendered in shades of white, blue and brown with colors so vibrant and bold it appears to have never been seen in daylight. Original prints from this series are extremely scarce,which leads Josie to doubt the authenticity of this print.

Mo's sister Lydia and her boyfriend Cal try to discourage Mo from getting an appraisal, especially as Cal is the one who sold the print to her. Ever cautious, this also raises concerns for Josie.

When Mo falls to her death a few days later, Jane is glad she had the foresight to bring the print into
her shop and keep it in her possession. Could the print have caused Mo's death? When Cal disappears shortly after Mo's death, Jane continues to search for the provenance of Mo's print.

Josie's business and personal life are as complicated as ever. Mo's father asks her to appraise his blues guitar that he thinks was once owned by blues guitar great Robert Johnson. And Ty wonders when their wedding will take place and encourages Josie to start planning.

The Josie Prescott books are easy to read and offer clear insight into the world of antiques. I always learn something from these books. 

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Inteview with Elizabeth J. Duncan

What is the title of your newest book? How many books have you published?
My latest book is The Marmalade Murders, published April 24 by St. Martin's Press. This is the ninth book in the Penny Brannigan series set in North Wales; I have three books in another series, Shakespeare in the Catskills, published by Crooked Lane Books. So that's 12!

How did you become interested in writing?
I started out as an avid reader and I've worked as a writer my whole life. It's just what I do. I've been a journalist, a public relations practitioner, and now a novelist.

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, etc?
I aim to write 1,000 words a day, but I'm not nearly as disciplined as I should be. I'm easily distracted and before I know it, there's another day gone, and not a child in the house washed, as the Irish say.  I used to write in the evening, but tend now to write in the morning. As for as the writing itself, that accounts for only about 1/3 of an author's time. The other two thirds are marketing and public relations activities (promotion), proof reading and copy edits, and organizing the writing life.

Do you plot the entire book first, then write or plot as you go?
I have to submit an outline of the book I propose to write to the publisher, so I start with that, but it's loose, and the finished book may look quite different. I probably know the main plots to help me navigate through the story, but not always. In my last book (Much Ado About Murder), after I'd submitted the book to my editor, I realized the killer was someone else. Interestingly, I'd already planted a couple of clues that pointed to this person, so re-writing to take the book in a different direction wasn't too difficult. Author Barry Lancet describes his writing process as being like driving from Los Angeles to San Francisco at night -- you know where you started, and you know where you're going, but all you can see is what's in the beam of your headlights. That sums it up nicely for me, too.

Do you use real people and places as models for your books?
Many of the places in the Penny Brannigan series are real, and I incorporate fragments of real people ... but never a whole person.

Who is your favorite author?
Often, it's the person I'm reading at the moment, which happens to be Andrew Hughes, author of The Convictions of John Delahunt. I do like the police procedurals of Peter James. I don't read many books from the same genre that I write.

How do you promote your books?
I use social media -- Facebook and Twitter -- attend conferences, do personal appearances, I send out a newsletter, and participate in blogs, like this one. Thank you for the opportunity!
For a review of The Marmalade Murders, click here. 

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Cake & Punishment

Sophia Cummings returns home to Rumsford, Kentucky, to recover from an embarrassing breakup with her chef boyfriend in Manhattan. In Cake & Punishment by Maymee Bell (Tonya Kappes), Sophia bakes to cheer herself up and her specialty is Red Velvet Crunchies. As a pastry chef in the same restaurant as her ex, she feels she needs a breather.

Her mother and some of her high school friends think she should relocate to Rumsford and open her own bakery. Sophia isn't sure but does agree to bake a wedding cake for friend Charlotte when the original baker cancels.

Before Sophia can crack an egg for the cake, she discovers  Emile, the chef at the Rumsford Country Club, bashed over the head with a skillet - dead in the club. When the long-time manager of the club is suspected of the murder and the police threaten to close the Club forcing the cancellation of Charlotte's wedding, Sophia steps in to calm the bride. Charlotte is used to having her own way, so Sophia knows she needs to calm the storm before it brews.

There was no love lost between Emile and his staff, especially club manager Evelyn, but Sophia is
positive Evelyn is not the killer. As she tries to convince Sheriff Carter to let her continue to bake and cook in the country club, Sophia tries to clear Evelyn from suspicion.

As Sophia investigates, she browses around the downtown of Rumsford and discover the former bakery storefront, now vacant, and begins to feel the pull of the town. Nothing would please her mother more than to have Sophia back in town.

When one of the employees is charged with the murder, Sophia is not sure the real killer has been apprehended and continues to investigate and bake.

Cake & Punishment is a great beginning to a new series. I look forward to seeing how Sophia settles in Rumsford and co-exists with her mother. 

Monday, April 16, 2018

Murder in the Locked Library

When excavation for a luxurious spa at Storyton Hall, Virginia, uncovers a skeleton and a badly damaged book, Jane Steward finds herself in the midst of a centuries-old crime. In Murder in the Locked Library by Ellery Adams, Jane had hoped the visiting book lovers would enjoy the resort without any outside interruptions. But that was not meant to be.

The members of the Rare Book Conference in attendance are eager to inspect the damaged book, but Jane needs to review the book first. She discovers there is barely any type visible on the pages. The cover of the book has a bunch of wheat on it leading some to think it might be a cookbook. After some study, Jane discovers the book writing can be viewed using a special technique and it appears to be a cookbook with some toxic ingredients included in the recipes.

Who was the person buried on the grounds and what is the significance of the book?

Jane and her staff try to piece together the answer when a visiting forensic anthropologist provides
expertise in the quest to discover the origins of both book and body. In the meantime the Robert Harley Society members offer their expertise as to the origin of the book. One member in particular - Bart Baylor - is known as the Book Doctor, and he offers to take a closer look. The book is identified as Mrs. Tanner's Everyday Receipts, but later became known as The Devil's Receipts, especially as toxic ingredients were discovered in the recipes.

Unfortunately after making this discovery, Bart falls dead from cyanide poisoning from the gloves he used to inspect the books. Shocked by this turn of events, Jane goes into superprotective mode; not only for her twin boys, but because she is the Guardian of the countless treasured volumes in the incredible library at Storyton Hall.

Jane soon learns not everyone is who they appear to be. Another excellent mystery by Ellery Adams.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Fire Dancer

Money, murder and inheritance fill the air in Fire Dancer by Susan Slater. Ben Pecos and his fiancee Julie Conlin are invited by a friend to stay at her palatial home in New Mexico.

Connie CdeBaca is the head of a family of successful land developers, but she harbors a deep secret she has never told anyone. She is also terminally ill with leukemia and has made arrangements for her estate that will profoundly impact her three step children. There is no love loss between the adult children and Connie, but because of an error in a survey a hundred years ago, the land she is trying to develop should really be part of the Sandia Pueblo.  She wants to give the land back to them instead of developing it into mega-homes.

Naturally this does not go over well with the step children. Greedy, angry and willing to do anything to stop Connie, they plot to gain control.

Meanwhile in his job as a psychologist at the Indian Health
Services in Albuquerque, Ben has been treating a person with gender identity issues. Em is a young Indian, born male, but trying to identify as a female. His identify issues arose after he was given up for adoption as a baby and raised by a Mormon couple. His adopted mother let him cross dress but his adoptive father was against it. With both of them dead, he from illness and she being murdered, he sets out to find his Indian roots.

When a murder takes place, we learn some of the secrets being hidden. Fire Dancer is a suspenseful, exciting mystery that will keep you guessing until the very end. 

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Marmalade Murders

Who knew baking contests could be so deadly? Penny Brannigan and Victoria Hopkirk, co-owners of the Llanelen Spa, are asked to assist with the entries in the jams, marmalades and cakes categories at the annual agricultural show. In The Marmalade Murders by Elizabeth J. Duncan what could go wrong with this simple task?

On the Friday before the show opens, Penny and Victoria dutifully log in the entries, but realize their friend Florence's entries have not been turned in yet. Penny calls her and Florence races to the tent with her entries. She says someone called her and told her not to bring in the entries until the morning. Stumped by this situation, they decide it must have been a prank. But Penny recalls the whispered words she heard that night about not wanting someone to win. Worrisome.

The next day after the awards have been distributed, Penny discovers Florence's beautiful carrot cake is no where to be seen and her marmalade is missing as well. Although she won for her raspberry jam, Florence is disappointed that her other items are missing.

When they find her carrot cake, they also find the body of Gaynor Lewis tucked under the table. There had always been stiff competition between Gaynor and Elin Spears over their baking skills, but it escalated when Gaynor divorced husband Carwyn Lewis and Elin snatched him up. Another possible suspect is Joyce Devlin, the organizer of the show and sister-in-law to Gaynor and also not a fan.

Penny tries to question the quiet, unassuming assistant Barbara Vickers but she claims not to know anything. When another person dies, Penny is more determined than ever to solve the case.

The Penny Brannigan Mystery series is an excellent adventure in small town living. I always enjoy the descriptions of life in Wales. 

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Interview with Julia Chapman

What is the title of your newest book? How many books have you published? 
Date with Malice is the latest arrival in the Samson and Delilah mysteries, the second in the series to be published in the US. Meanwhile, over here in Britain, the third book has just made its debut. Having previously published novels under the name Julia Stagg, this brings the total number of books I have out in the world to eight – a fact I can hardly believe!

How did you become interested in writing?
It was storytelling that drew me in first. I was raised in an Irish family that told tales around the dinner table, so I grew up knowing how to spin a good yarn. Turning to writing seemed like a natural next step. Even now, it is the telling of the story that fascinates me.

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?
No two days are the same! Yesterday I wrote for the morning and then spent the afternoon giving a talk to a local book group. Today I’m dealing with publicity (taking part in this interview for the lovely readers of Map your Mystery) and hopefully will get some writing done before the day is out. But on the whole, I’m a morning person so I prefer to do my creative work first thing. However, when the plot starts to come together, it’s like riding an out-of-control steam train – the momentum just keeps me going and I tend to work long days towards the end of a novel.

Do you plot the entire book first, then write or plot as you go? 
I like to think I plot well before I start… But then I also like to be open to opportunities that arise as the novel develops, which can lead to some interesting changes. It’s also a real buzz to allow free reign to creativity when inspiration strikes during what is supposed to be a well-plotted scene!

Love the character names. How did you decide to use those names and do you use real people and places as models for your books?
I’ve never used real people as the basis for characters in any of my books – simply because creating them is far more fun! Their names, however, are firmly grounded in the area I write about. For the Samson and Delilah series, set in the Yorkshire Dales, I use old census material for surnames and then cross-reference them with current telephone directories/local newspaper articles to make sure the names haven’t died out. For the first names, I access national data for given names across the decades so that I don’t have a seventy-year-old man carrying the name of a modern teen!

As for places, although Bruncliffe (the community in which the Samson and Delilah novels are set) is fictional, the area around it is entirely real. So if you were suddenly transported to the Yorkshire Dales you could find many of the places I mention. They have such amazing names like Hawes and Horton-in-Ribblesdale and Gargrave that I have no need to embellish them!

Who is your favorite author? 
I get asked this a lot and have yet to give an answer! I was raised on a diet of Ed McBain, Dick Francis, Alistair McLean and Hammond Innes with a lot of the Bronte sisters, Elizabeth Gaskell and Jane Austen on the side! So I have a wide range of reading tastes.

How do you promote your books? 
Over here in Britain, I do a lot of bookshop events – talks, cream teas (always fun!), signings etc. They are a brilliant way to meet fellow readers (because all writers are readers, after all…) and talk about books, not necessarily just my books. I have a Facebook page for the Dales Detective series (www.facebook.com/dalesdetective) which is a wonderful space for readers to be able to get in touch and to see photographs of the area I write about. I also use Twitter (@DalesWriter) but I find that’s more to keep in contact with the world of publishing than to promote. Overall, however, I limit the amount of self-promotion I do on social media as there’s nothing worse than an author who is only trying to sell! I find that engaging in genuine conversations about books is a far better way to interact with the millions of readers out there. And is far more interesting for me too.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Murder with Lemon Tea Cakes

Daisy Swanson is living the dream - operating a lovely tea garden cafe in Amish Country while she and her aunt Iris bake goodies and serve delicious teas. In Murder with Lemon Tea Cakes by Karen Rose Smith, Iris and soon-to-be divorced wealthy businessman Harvey Fitz have been dating for a month. Things seem to be progressing and Iris hopes once his divorce is final, they have a future together. 

Harvey owns an upscale men's clothing store in town, but his soon-to-be ex-wife and children have made his life miserable. At the 25th anniversary celebration for Men's Trends, his wife Monica disrupts the event hurling accusation that Harvey is hiding his assets in the divorce.

When Iris finds Harvey dead in the back garden of Daisy's Tea Shop, the police suspect her. An abrasive detective takes to badgering Iris and Daisy, and Daisy seeks advice from former Philadelphia detective turned woodworker Jonas Groft.

Daisy fears the murder will scare customers away, but Daisy'sTea Shop is busier than ever. But the
investigation is taking its toll on her aunt. When Iris' home is ransacked, Daisy decides she cannot wait for the police to solve the murder.

One the homefront Daisy is stunned when her youngest daughter Jazzi admits she is searching for her birth mother. Jazzi was adopted by Daisy and her late husband Ryan when they could not have another child. Unsure how she feels about this news, Daisy encourages her daughter to keep searching.

Torn between the issue with her daughter and the search for the killer, Daisy has her hands full running the tea shop too until she discovers the shocking truth about the murder.

Murder with Lemon Tea Cakes is the first in a new series. Hopefully there will be other books in the series. I enjoyed this book very much.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Pairing a Deception

With only a week before her Advanced Sommelier exam, Katie Stillwell and her boyfriend police detective John Dean head for a weekend wine festival in the Santa Barbara region of northern California. In Pairing a Deception by Nadine Nettman, Katie hopes to enjoy the wines from the weekend, maybe study a little for the exam and enjoy her first weekend away with Dean, but quirky events disrupt her plans.

Wine festivals bring out all types of people: those who love wine, those who are afraid of wine and those who can't tell a red from a white! This group is no different. Two characters Walt and Ben, great lovers of wine who wisely decide to leave their car at home. Then there's Master Sommelier and festival emcee Hudson Wiley, who gives off the vibe of someone up to something. Next is the young, petulant woman Jocelyn Rivers, who causes a stir when she spills several glasses of wine on herself and people surrounding her in one of the sessions. 

Katie had hoped for a more relaxing weekend, but it seems not to be especially when she finds the body of a woman outside Hudson Wiley's room. It is Jocelyn Rivers, or the woman who claims to be Jocelyn Rivers. As it turns out that is not her real name.

Dean encourages Katie to let the police investigate, but she is drawn into the murder when Hudson Wiley disappears sending the festival organizer into a turmoil.

I always enjoy the chapter headings in this series. They include the name and location of a wine and a line describing what a person will taste when trying them. I can sometimes tell what fruit flavor is in the wine, but there is no way I could tell you location of the vineyard, year it was bottled and anything as exotic as the sommeliers do. Katie's palate is exceptional and I am assuming the author Nadine Nettman can give her a run for her money.

Does Katie pass the Advanced Sommelier exam? We will have to wait until the next book. I'm rooting for her to make it all the way to Master Sommelier as there are so few women in the field.

Friday, April 6, 2018

On Tour With Michelle Cox

Many authors  promote their books through book tours. Author Michelle Cox gives MapYourMystery an idea about how she organizes her book tours.


How did you decide which places to visit?
The first “tour” that I did around the release of A Girl Like You was set up by my publisher, She Writes Press, though the authors did have input into the cities we were assigned. They highly encouraged us to choose places where we might have friends or family to come out and support us, so I chose Chicago (of course!), Boston, Seattle and Los Angeles for that reason.

The other “tours” I’ve done have been organized by myself and/or other authors banding together. Usually the location was simply based on where my collaborative authors were located, such as the little mini-mystery tour I did in San Francisco.

I’ve also spent a lot of time traveling to conferences in different states and even in Canada in the last year or so because I was either receiving an award or because it seemed like a good venue at which to promote my books or network, or both. The first year, especially, I devoted a lot of time to these because, as a newbie, I was trying to meet other authors, editors, readers, agents and just trying to learn more about the industry in general.

Other times, I’ve chosen places because a bookstore or library reached out and invited me or because it was at the special request of friends, family, or fans asking me to come to a particular city. I usually go wherever I’m asked to go, especially book clubs! Hint, hint . . .

How many states have you been to?
Specifically related to the book, I’ve been to: Oregon, Washington, California, Arizona, Minnesota, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Canada. This year I’ll add Florida, Indiana and possibly New York.

Who is your audience at the events? Mystery readers or your fans or both?
My audience is usually a mix of both fans and mystery readers, though sometimes there are other writers in the crowd, too, who’ve come out to add support. And usually, depending on the event, there are people in the crowd who might be there to get advice about writing or publishing.

How did you promote the appearances?
Good question! I’ve tried many different methods as time has gone on. I used to create a Facebook event, but I’ve found that those don’t seem to be as effective. Also they’re a little annoying. I mean, I don’t like getting constant pop-ups on FB reminding me of events, so I assume others might feel the same way. I seem to have a better response by simply boosting a post from my author page and making sure I target people who live in the area I’m going to be traveling to.

I also put it up on the events tab of my website as well as my newsletter and twitter. Also, the bookstore that is hosting me usually does a little PR on their end, too. In some locations, I’ve also added the event to the online or print editions of the local newspaper or journal event calendars, but I’m not sure how effective that really is these days.

I do have a contract with a PR company, Booksparks, out of Arizona that I can turn to if I really need some help. Often times, especially with my first book, they reached out for me to various bookstores that I wanted to go to and made all the arrangements. I’m more than capable of doing that now on my own, but if there’s a bookstore that’s really hard to get into or there’s a special panel spot at a conference I really want, I might ask them to step in for me—they’ve got more clout than I do! Usually, though, I try to save my budget dollars with them for other things.

What is your favorite experience from these trips?
That’s a hard one! I think Bouchercon 2017 in Toronto was definitely a highlight because I got to personally meet and talk with so many of the mystery greats! – Rhys Bowen, Hallie Ephron, Hank Phillipi Ryan, Deborah Crombie, Louise Penny, Karen Robards, Charles Todd, Charles Finch, Simone St. James . . . the list goes on and on. That was a real treat, and I really learned so much.

A close runner up experience, though, was being interviewed on KPFA radio in Berkeley for Women's Magazine. We recorded in a very old art deco building, which was right up my alley, and it was a very fun, relaxed interview to do with Kate Jessica Raphael, who asked some great questions.

How did the tour impact your book sales?
Who knows? Since I don’t have access to my sales data, it’s hard to know what the long reach is for these types of events. I certainly don’t usually sell a lot at the events themselves, but bookstore owners have told me that they have residual sales long after the event. The best events in terms of sales are usually when I speak to a particular group, like the Nineteenth Century Club in Oak Park, Il. or when I did a panel event for the AAUW at the Budlong Woods Library in Chicago. Both of those events were very well attended by women who love to read and who like to buy books! A great combo!

What would you do differently?
I’m trying to get away from solo events. It’s really hard to get people to come out to any event at all these days. I myself have attended several bookstore or library events of some rather big-name mystery authors and was shocked to see such a small crowd even for them. It made me feel better, however, about some of my more lack-luster events. I really try to do panel events now, which can sometimes draw a bigger crowd, either at bookstores, libraries or conferences. Meanwhile my publicist is urging me to do more “live” events on FB and Twitter rather than bookstore appearances. That concept makes me a little nervous, but it might very well be in my future. We have to keep changing, I’m told. So, stay tuned!