Friday, August 31, 2018

Vera Stanhope

At last April's Malice Domestic, the attendees were treated to a preview of the eighth season of Ann Cleeves' adapted series Vera.

Vera Stanhope, a Detective Chief Inspector in Northumberland, is played by acclaimed British actress Brenda Blethyn. Ms. Blethyn was a guest at Malice and she discussed the series and its relationship to the books. Author Ann Cleeves was also a guest.

DCI Stanhope is the irascible, sometimes grumpy leader of a police team, who despite her abrupt barking of orders, respect her and follow her faithfully. The current season is Season 8 and there are usually four episodes per season.

I just starting watching Season 1 and will have to power watch to catch up. I enjoyed the episode we saw at Malice, but until recently I hadn't been able to find the earlier episodes. Ready to power watch to catch up!
And then I aim to read the books by Ann Cleeves.

If you haven't started watching Vera, you should. She is a strong character and TV can always use positive portrayals of older women.

Purchase link for DVD Seasons 1-5

Purchase link for seven book series

Thursday, August 30, 2018

A Catered Cat Wedding

There are cat people and then there are CAT PEOPLE. Suzie Katz (naturally) falls into the second category. She contacts Libby and Bernie to cater the wedding between her two Russian blue cats - Boris and Natasha. Suzie is very rich, very mean and very eccentric and has had numerous battles with her neighbors. (A Catered Cat Wedding will be released on September 25 by Kensington Books.)

As they plan the wedding in Longely, New York, Libby and Bernie feel as if they are planning a wedding for people. Suzie loves her cats and believes their lineage traces back to the Russian czars so the wedding will include sapphire-studded collars and a veil for the "bride".

The food will have a Russian flavor, naturally and includes caviar, plus raw, smoked and poached salmon and a variety pates, a wedding planner with the exotic name of Mrs. Gertrude Van Trumpet. Assisting with cat maintenance are Suzie's niece Grace and her hapless nephew Ralph.

Under the gigantic tent set up for the wedding, Libby and Bernie
begin putting together the foods. Invited guests include three women who have had nothing but trouble with Suzie. Little do they know that she plans to buy their houses and then demolish them. Not a nice person, our Suzie.

When one of the wedding gifts includes a box of mice, chaos ensues with cats and mice scurrying into several directions. While everyone is out chasing cats and mice, someone decides to murder Suzie by stabbing her in the throat with a letter opener.

Not ones to shy away fro a murder investigation, Libby and Bernie dive right in especially as the current police chief Lucy keeps threatening to lock them up. Even their father, the former police chief, decides to investigate.

Another zany investigation including Libby's mortician boyfriend Marvin, and Bernie's boyfriend Brandon.

Purchase link

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Interview with Colleen Gleason

What is the title of your newest book? How many books have you published?
MapYourMystery (left) had the
chance to meet Colleen Gleason recently

My upcoming release, Murder in the Oval Library: A Lincoln’s White House Mystery, will be released in early September.
The paperback version of the first Lincoln mystery, Murder in the Lincoln White House, will be out on July 31.

I also write the Stoker & Holmes Books series for teens, and the latest release in that series is book 4: The Carnelian Crow. Book 5, the final book in the series, is due to be released in 2019.
(Editor's note: the Stoker & Holmes books are fun for every reader, not just teens.)

How did you develop your character and choose your location?
When I began to formulate the idea of the Stoker & Holmes books, I knew I wanted to have a female Sherlock Holmes type of character. When the first book in the series came out in 2012, there weren’t any (or many) female Holmesian characters (that I knew of)—but since then, and even around the time my first book was released, there have been several other ones. But for me, when I was first thinking about this idea back in 2010, I knew I wanted a female detective with the abilities of Sherlock Holmes, as well as some of his presumed social clumsiness. And so I created Mina Holmes, who is Sherlock’s niece.

Since the Stoker & Holmes series is about two young women who work together, I also wanted a good foil for this female Holmesian character and I set about creating someone who, though seemingly different on the surface, actually has a lot in common with Mina. In real life, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was good friends with Bram Stoker, and so I thought it would be fun to have the other half of my crime-fighting duo be related to Bram—his sister, actually—and to have her fight vampires. Since, of course, Bram Stoker would have been writing Dracula at the time these books are set.

With those two characters in mind, the London setting seemed obvious, and so I was off to the races, so to speak.

What is steam punk and how did you become interested in it?
Steampunk is a sort of historical science fiction genre—a mash-up of history, science fiction, sometimes fantasy, and very often a conglomeration of both real historical characters as well as literary characters. The “inventor” of steampunk was Alan Moore, who wrote the graphic novel The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. That is what most people consider the root of what we think of as steampunk today.

Steampunk is usually set in a historical time period, and often boasts the same look and feel of that time period in relation to fashion and machinery—but there is a lot of technology that didn’t exist at that time; in most cases that technology (ostensibly) is run on steam. Hence the term steampunk.

My world is set in what I consider to be traditional steampunk—Victorian London. There are many other examples of steampunk in other time periods, including the Will Smith movie Wild, Wild West and the Cherie Priest books.

I became interested in steampunk when the editor of my first published series (the Gardella Vampire Hunters) mentioned it to me and said, “You might consider writing steampunk some day, because you do a great job of mashing up historical settings with fantasy and supernatural elements.” I had to go home and look up steampunk because, back in 2007, I had no idea what it was!

(For a review of The Chess Queen Enigma, click here.)

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?
My days are usually somewhat flexible, though I prefer it when they follow a certain schedule: get up, do a morning journal that I try to write every day, maybe a few yoga stretches, make breakfast and/or a cup of tea…check my email…post on social media…attend to administrative work…then I read over what I’d written the day before, tweak it a little, then think about what I want to write next. (Because I don’t usually know what comes next till it happens!)

Then I’ll often break for lunch and maybe do some research if necessary. I usually do most of my “heavy” writing in the afternoon and evening—particularly the evening. That’s because before my first book was published, I worked full time and had young children, so the only time I could write was in the evening after they were in bed and my husband was settled in front of the television. :-) So I sort of trained my brain to work that way, which is kind of a bummer because now that my children are pretty much gone (I have a high school senior left at home), I have the whole day to be as productive as I like.

I generally like to write a certain number of words a day; when I do that, it keeps me on track to get the project done on time. That only happens (that I write my word quota) about on average 3-4 days a week—unless I’m near deadline. Then I write more and faster. :-)

Do you belong to a writers group or are you in touch with other writers? How does that help your writing?
I have a lot of friends who are writers, and while I don’t belong to a group that meets in person, I have a lot of contacts in the business and see them at conferences and other events. I have a small group of three friends with whom I do a writers get-away every spring. But most of my writer friends I speak to and interact with online.

If your books were made into a movie, who would you want to play the lead character?
I’ve had many thoughts about this, and I haven’t actually come up with great characters for Mina and Evaline! I don’t know enough of the younger up and coming actresses to be able to create a wishlist of who I’d like to have play them.

Who is your favorite author?
Elizabeth Peters, who also wrote as Barbara Michaels, JK Rowling, and Nora Roberts/JD Robb. I also love JK Rowling for her incredible world building.

How do you keep track of character details from book to book so they are consistent?
It’s not too much of a challenge, to be honest. They are who they are, and the characters don’t change in my mind. They’re already formed. I mean, it’s like I’ve met them and they are my friends—so I know who they are and what they’re like. Sure, in each book, I reveal (or discover!) something new about each character—as one does as we get to know friends better—but it’s all part of the same, whole person.

If you could not be an author, what would like to do as a career?
I’d probably be a travel writer or food critic. Or a sommelier. :-)

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Stabbed in the Baklava

Returning to the Jersey shore after leaving the law, Lucy Berberian finds herself managing her parents Mediterranean restaurant - the Kebab Kitchen. In Stabbed in the Baklava by Tina Kashian, Lucy unexpectedly finds herself catering the wedding of the year. (Stabbed in the Baklava is published today by Kensington Publishing.) 

Socialite and buddy start Scarlet Westwood and her obnoxious wedding planner Victoria Redding order Lucy to keep the news of the upcoming nuptials a secret. The catch is the wedding is in two weeks. Lucy knows a successful event like this will be huge publicity for the restaurant, but an enormous amount of prep work is required.

Lucy's ex-boyfriend Azad Zakarian is the new head chef and they have some uneasiness with each other. It seems Azad regrets their break up and would like to get back together, but Lucy thinks that might not work out in their current employment situation.

When the night of the wedding rolls around, the staff is ready go and the vans are loaded. There is a mix of delicious Armenian, Greek and Lebanese foods including, of course, lamb and chicken kebabs with vegetables, a variety of hummus flavors and baklava. 

Stumbling into the kitchen during the reception is a very drunk best man Henry Sims, a local banker. When an argument ensues between Henry and Azad, Lucy tries to calm things down, but the implied threat from Azad worries her. He says "one of these days that banker is going to get his due."

Later as she heads back to the van to get another pan of baklava, she hears another heated argument with Henry, this time with wedding planner Victoria. At the end of the evening as they a loading up to leave, Azad discovers Henry's body in the van with a skewer in his neck - dead.

Naturally Azad is a suspect, but Lucy and her pal Katie decide to investigate even though Katie's police officer husband says they shouldn't. What they discover surprises even them.

Stabbed in the Baklava is a mouthwatering experience, especially with all the food described. There are recipes at the back of the book, too.

Purchase link

Monday, August 27, 2018

In Want of a Knife

A befuddling title until you reach the end. With one teen girl dead, found in a bizarre outfit, and another one missing, Zoe Zola and Jenny Wilson are prepared to assist the police. In Want of a Knife by Elizabeth Kane Buzzelli is a chilling tale and the third book in this series located in Bear Falls, Michigan.

Janice Root, the daughter of an orchard owner, was found dead and wrapped in material at the side of the road. A shy teen who worked at her father's farm stand, there seems to be no reason she would wind up dead. When the autopsy shows she died of asphyxiation, police chief Ed Warner is stumped. He asks Zoe, Jenny and ex-police officer Tony Ralenti.

A few days later Cammy Otis, a special girl, is discovered missing and Zoe and Jenny are determined to find her alive. Jenny is having an employment crisis and is debating leaving her home town, her mother Dora and her special guy Tony and moving back to Chicago. Zoe is in the midst of a writer's crisis with regard to her Jane Austen book; both are looking for distractions.

In the meantime the town of Bear Falls has welcomed some very influential new residents, one who promises to donate two million dollar to the town if residents will come to his housewarming party. Everyone has ideas on how to spend the money, but when little person Zoe meets little, but obnoxious Fitzwilliam Dillon, and his entourage, the two million might be in jeopardy.

The search for Cammy is racing on as the days pass. Following clue after clue, Zoe and Jenny finally figure out where she is and rush to save her.

An excellent mystery and yes the "knife" title does figure in.

Purchase link

Friday, August 24, 2018

Queen Anne's Lace

A beautifully woven tale from two eras in the life of Pecan Springs.  In Queen Anne's Lace by Susan Wittig Albert, China Bayles discovers here shop Thyme and Seasons was the home to the Duncan Family in the late 1880s. Without any advance warning, odd things begin to happen around the shop and China thinks she sees a ghost.

Usually it is her partner Ruby who is in touch with the spirits, but it seems this ghost wants China to discover something that might impact someone today. The bell over the door rings occasionally, photos appear on the bulletin board and China dreams about the woman.

Looking through old photos she found in the attic, China tries to piece together the relationship of the people in them. The house was called the Duncan Family home, and she learns a young woman named Annie Laura lived in the house with her husband. When her husband was killed in a train accident, Annie went into premature labor and lost her baby that same day.

The story goes back in time to tell Annie's tale, how she made lace and sold it to the fine dress shops in Austin, then branched out to San Antonio. She hired local women to help her with the work. Annie lives as a widow for three years when her next door neighbor Adam, himself a married man, seems to take an interest in her. His wife Delia is away frequently and he soon discovers she has been using Queen Anne's Lace seeds to prevent pregnancy.

A lovely book, beautifully written.

Purchase link

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Bad Time to Be In It

A little gritty than my usual cozy, but suspenseful. Bad Time to Be in It by David Burnsworth is the second book in the Blu Carraway series. Blu is back in South Carolina after a successfully completed bodyguard job in Belize.

Now he'd like to rest and recharge and maybe try to win back his lady love. Abby's more difficult to bring around. When his partner Mick Crome appears to be going off the rails hanging out with women half his age, Blu worries their partnership might be going down the drain.

But a more critical event occurs soon. Mick's long-time girlfriend and local bartender Maureen has been kidnapped. Mick, it seems, received a desperate phone call from Maureen saying she is in trouble. When the phone is yanked away from her, a male voice says "Listen Crome, it's payback time. You took from me so I'm taking from you. I'll be in touch." The text message shows her in a room with white walls, scared with a gun to her head.

Blu and Mick know they have made many enemies over their years in business, but they try to dig
deep to find some clues about who has Maureen. When another case comes along, Blu takes it. Ron Jansen believes someone is following him and it probably has to do with the affair he is having with a local woman, one he would not name.

When a masked man hides out in the back of Blu's truck and announces that Jansen and the woman are not really having an affair, they want to bring big cruise ships to the port of Charleston. Blu is confused especially when the masked man says he has powerful friends who will stop the plan.

With the help of two young independent news correspondents, Blu and Mick follow the trail to its local conclusion. Suspenseful with plenty of action.

Purchase link

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Interview with Wendy Tyson

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

My latest book is titled Rooted in Deceit: A Greenhouse Mystery. It's the fourth book in the series. In addition to the Greenhouse Series, I’ve also had four books in the Allison Campbell Mystery Series (beginning with Killer Image) published by Henery Press, and my mystery A Dark Homage is being released by Down & Out Books in January 2020.

For a review of Rooted in Deceit, click here.

How did you develop your character and choose your location?
A few years ago, my husband and I started our own small vegetable farm with the intention of developing it into an organic CSA (community supported agriculture). Unfortunately, things fell through with the land we were leasing and the farm never made it past its first season. During a book signing in a small town in North Carolina about a year later, I was moved by the interactions I witnessed between the shop owners, their children, and the townspeople. It dawned on me that a version of our small farm could live on in a fictional small town. Thereafter, Washington Acres Farm and the fictional town of Winsome, Pennsylvania were born.

In terms of the characters, I wanted to showcase smart, strong women. Megan Sawyer, my main character, is an environmental lawyer who left her law career to try her hand at organic farming on the family’s historic homestead. She’s joined by her grandmother, Bonnie “Bibi” Birch, and a host of eccentric townspeople. Growing up, I was blessed to have many intelligent, independent women in my life. My characters are inspired by their strength and creativity.

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 try to write every morning for at least an hour. I created the habit of writing first thing when I wrote my first novel, more than a decade ago. I work full-time, so writing time—and creative thinking time, frankly—is precious. As my writing commitments have increased, I’ve needed to expand that time, and now I take vacation days to write and/or I write on weekends. I prefer to write during long stretches of time, when possible (I call myself a binge writer!), so vacation time works well.

Do you belong to a writers group or are you in touch with other writers? How does that help your writing?
I don’t belong to any official writers’ groups, but I do have a strong network of authors. I write for International Thriller Writers’ two online magazines, The Thrill Begins and The Big Thrill, and I’ve developed friendships with many of my fellow columnists. In fact, we’ve even worked on an anthology together (The Night of the Flood from Down & Out Books) and have a second in the works. There is a strong sense of community amongst crime writers, and I’ve met and kept in touch with many through trade groups like Sisters in Crime and conferences like Malice Domestic and Bouchercon.

When I first started writing, I didn’t have a network. I basically wrote in a vacuum. It wasn’t until after my first novel came out that I really entered the crime writing community and realized how important fellowship is for everything from beta readers to emotional and marketing assistance. The friendship of other authors, bloggers, and readers has been invaluable.

Do you model your character after yourself or any one you know?
I think a little bit of me—good and bad—exists in every one of my characters. With Megan, there are the obvious things. We both garden, we’re both attorneys—she’s an environmental lawyer and I’m an ERISA attorney. We both have a deep love for animals and a strong belief in sustainable agriculture and real food. Both of us can become annoyingly single-minded when focused on something important to us. Megan is very organized and measured—much more so than I. She’s more reserved, too. I tend to wear my heart on my sleeve. You have to work a bit harder to gain Megan’s trust and friendship.

If your books were made into a movie, who would you want to play the lead character?
I think Emma Stone would make an excellent Megan. And for Megan’s love interest, Dr. Denver Finn? Sam Heughan (of Outlander fame). (If you’re reading this, Sam, I wrote the part just for you!)

Who is your favorite author?
My favorite authors include Elizabeth George, Tess Gerritsen, Jonathan Kellerman, and so many other crime writers. Many other writers have influenced me as well, from Stephen King to Margaret Atwood to James Herriot.

How do you keep track of character details from book to book so they are consistent?
Great question! They live mostly in my head. I generally don’t have an issue keeping everyone straight. They are real people to me, and I have a clear image of their traits, likes and dislikes, habits, etc. Occasionally I need to double check something, and when that happens I refer to the earlier books.

If you could not be an author, what would like to do as a career?
My other job is an attorney, but growing up I wanted to become a veterinarian, a dolphin trainer, or an archaeologist. I love animals and would probably do something with a rescue or environmental group, I suppose. The one constant in my life has been being a writer—I always knew I would write.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Deadly Dram

Who knew distilling whisky would be deadly. Abi, Grant and Patrick attend an awards weekend for whisky distillers from around the world. In Deadly Dram by Melinda Mullet, a streak of nativism hits the “Barley Boys” as Abi calls them and suddenly two judges are dead. Is someone trying to kill the judges to keep the non-Scots out of the running? (Deadly Dram will be released on September 4.)

Spending three days at a five-star resort was supposed to be a dream come true for photojournalist, now whisky distiller Abi Logan. Also attending is her partner and handsome, but aloof distiller Grant MacEwen. Complicating matters is the stunningly gorgeous "old friend" of Grant's Brenna Quinn. Abi keeps reminder herself she doesn't want to get involved with Grant, but that doesn't seem to be working for her. 

Also along is her friend Patrick who is editor of The Whisky Journal and a sponsor of the eventThere are whisky distillers from as far away as Japan and India.
When the first judge Sir Richard Simpson dies from drinking from a bottle of whisky left in the room by Hinatu Harukawa, the Japanese distiller, all the bottles are confiscated, although none but Sir Richard's contained anything but whisky. His contained liquid nicotine.

Because of a vocal fight with his younger brother, Trevor becomes the number one suspect. No one but the maid and Sir Richard had entered his room the night of the murder. When the second judge Archie MacInnes is poisoned with truffles donated by Patrick's company, Abi begins to worry that someone is trying to influence the judging by killing the most liberal judges. 

Abi struggles to find the killer endangering Grant’s life as she tries to make the connection between the two dead judges.

Another excellent adventure in whisky distilling.

Purchase link 

Monday, August 20, 2018

The Island of the Mad

When an old friend asks Mary Russell to find her aunt who disappeared from Bethlem Royal Hospital, know Bedlam, Mary knows this will not be an easy task. In Island of the Mad by Laurie R. King, Mary gets herself voluntarily committed to Bedlam so she can investigate the disappearance.

Hoping not to be in Bedlam any longer than a few days, she tells her husband Sherlock Holmes to also let Mycroft know where she is. Fortunately she is able to escape with some new information. Lady Vivian Beaconsfield had been in and out of Bedlam , voluntarily committed several times. She always said she felt "safe" there. What was she afraid of outside?

Evidence points Mary to Lady Vivian in Venice with her nurse. Also missing is expensive jewelry inherited from her mother and some money from her account, partially controlled by her brother the Marquess of Selwick.

Italy is in the midst of a takeover by Il Duce, Benito Mussolini and his Black-shirted Fascists, making
it dangerous for the outspoken Mary. Sherlock, encouraged by his brother, decides to join Mary in Venice. Being the small town it is, Mary is positive she will have no trouble finding Vivian.

While Sherlock spends his time getting to know American composer Cole Porter and reaching Venice for Vivian, Mary drifts over to the more flamboyant Lido. On one of her trips across the Lagoon, she thinks she sees the Marquess of Selwick with the Black Shirts looking for Lady Vivian, too. Mary doesn't think his association with the Fascists is a good sign, and she doubles her efforts to find Vivian.

Another entertaining adventure for Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes.

Purchase link

Friday, August 17, 2018

Goodbye Cruller World

Emily Westhill and Deputy Donuts are busily preparing two types of donuts for the donut wall at her friend Jenn's upcoming wedding. But it appears not everything is sugar and spice as the wedding approaches in Fallingbrook, Wisconsin. In Goodbye Cruller World by Ginger Bolton Jenn's fiance Roger is a bully and she is having second thoughts about marrying him. (Goodbye Cruller World will be released August 28 by Kensington Books.)

Her sister Suzanne is also a bully and keeps pushing Jenn to cancel. When the night of the wedding arrives, Emily and her partner and father-in-law Tom set up the donut wall, carefully labeling the side which holds Roger's favorite donuts and the side that holds Jenn. When Roger winds up dead during the reception with donuts crammed in his mouth and pockets, Emily fears for her business and hopes Jenn isn't the killer.

There are plenty of suspects including Jenn's former boyfriend, a guest at the wedding; a strange security guard and two women looking for the Happy Hopers Convention.

While trying to discover who killed Roger, Emily is also busy trying to match make for her EMT friend Samantha, her police officer friend Misty and fire chief Scott, completely missing the signals from her friend Brent. As Roger was not well liked (even his groomsmen were hired high schoolers raising money for their team), it appears the police think his bride makes a good suspect. Newly widowed and about to inherit a large sum of money, Jenn makes the ideal candidate.

But Emily is sure her sweet friend could not have committed the crime and she sets out to find the real killer. Even though she promises Brent she will not get involved, Emily finds herself face-to-face with the killer.

Trust me on this, don't read this book if you are on a diet. You will be craving donuts after you finish, I know from experience.

Purchase link.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

If you haven't read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows, it is a must read, especially now that the movie has been released by Netflix.

It is 1946 and the world has emerged slowly from the devastation of World War II when writer Juliet Ashton receives a letter from someone she has never met. The man lives on Guernsey, a British island located in the English Channel near France. During the war, Guernsey was occupied by the Germans in hopes of using it as a jumping off point to invade England. They never did, but they occupied the island for most of the war.

Juliet begins a correspondence with Dawsey Adams, a pig farmer on the island. He tells her about the hardships they endured during the occupation and Juliet is captivated by the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.

Dawsey explains how the name came about and tells her about his
friends on the island. Juliet, a successful author, is searching for her next book and is intrigued by his story.  After many letters, she decides to head to Guernsey unannounced to meet the people and tell their story.

Unsure of her reception, Juliet is startled to learn the islanders don't want their story told. She promises them she will not write the story, but spends much time with them reading aloud at their Society meetings. Slowly she unravels the story of their life and is more certain than ever that she wants to write about it.

The book is beautifully written and is a touching study in friendship and loyalty during times of severe crisis. Sadly, the main author Mary Ann Shaffer died before the book was completed and her niece Annie Barrows completed it.

The Netflix movie stars many of your favorite Downton Abbey actors including Elizabeth McKnna (Lady Sybil Crawley), Lily James (cousin Rose), Penelope Wilton (Mrs Crawley and several others you will recognize. Dawsey Adams is played by the very handsome Michiel Huisman.

I loved the book and I enjoyed the movie. Read the book first, then watch the movie.

Purchase link

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Interview with Ginger Bolton

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

Survival of the Fritters came out in February, 2018. Goodbye Cruller World will be on store shelves August 28, 2018. In addition to those two, I’m working on the third Deputy Donut Mystery. As Janet Bolin, I wrote five books in the Threadville Mystery Series. That makes six books published so far and two more on the way. I have to admit that I still find it all amazing and exciting.

How did you develop your character and choose your location?
I wanted a character with a complex, mostly happy and helpful emotional life who would have access to first responders. Emily co-owns her donut shop, Deputy Donut, with her father-in-law, a retired police chief. Deputy Donut caters to, among others, cops, and is a great place to hear rumors and pick up clues. In addition, Emily is a former 911 officer and has friends who are a police officer, an Emergency Medical Technician, the fire chief, and a detective. Although not quite thirty when the series starts, Emily is a widow, and not ready to date again. There might be a couple of men who would like her to reconsider that. Her late husband was a detective. From all of these people, she knows what to do and what not to do as an amateur sleuth. She doesn’t mean to interfere in investigations, but . . .

When I was writing the proposal for the series, I had been vacationing in northern Wisconsin, a beautiful area with lots of forests and waterfalls, and I wanted Emily to live there, in the cocoon-like security of a town surrounded by wilderness,. That town can, at times, seem slightly less secure. And then there are the forests and waterfalls . . .

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 write most days, starting in the morning and working until late afternoon with breaks for lunch, chores, laundry, Free Cell (oops, did I say that???) I quit when it’s time to make dinner or I can’t write another word. I sometimes take several days (or weeks) off to travel, visit family, etc., and then I hope that I can return to the current manuscript with fresh(er) eyes. I often go back to the beginning and revise before I’ve written the entire first draft. I revise and edit a lot as I go along, and do several polishing drafts before I submit the manuscript to my publisher. If I didn’t have deadlines, I might tweak one manuscript forever.

Do you belong to a writers group or are you in touch with other writers? How does that help your writing?
My original Internet critique group included two writers who are now close friends. They were not only good at critiquing, they recommended me to their agent and I ended up being offered my first book contract.

Now I belong to an Internet group of seven published authors who mostly give each other moral support, although we do some critiquing and helping with plot. We’ve been together since 2007.

Because of time spent commuting, I resisted joining an in-person critiquing group. But when the critiquing is combined with lunch, well . . . suffice it to say that although the commute is long, I look forward to our meetings. Plus I take turns driving with another member of the group, and we chatter and laugh all the way there and back.

These groups have been very helpful, with critiquing, publishing advice, and moral support. I’ve learned a lot from them.

For someone, male or female, just starting out writing crime fiction, I highly recommend joining Sisters of Crime and their Guppies chapter. Before I joined, back about 2000, I didn’t know what pieces might be missing in my writing and publishing knowledge. I don’t know if I would be published if I were still trying to figure it out on my own. I met the people in my two Internet groups through the Guppies.

Do you model your character after yourself or any one you know?
No. My characters are their own people. I spend a lot of time thinking about them. Villains, for instance, often write me letters telling me why and how they did it.

Who is your favorite author?
I frequently reread the late Mary Stewart’s suspense books. She was great at all of it—tension, description, pace, plot, and characterization.

How do you keep track of character details from book to book so they are consistent?
I have an ever-growing style sheet that I submit with my manuscript. For the first two Deputy Donut Mysteries, I have had an amazingly thorough copy editor who adds to the style sheet and uses it herself to find and point out discrepancies. Mostly, my characters are so real to me that I remember their character traits. But I might forget their birthdays . . .

If you could not be an author, what would like to do as a career?
I don’t have enough skills, so this is a total fantasy: I would sew in the costume department of a large theater company.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Rooted in Deceit

Washington Acres Farm has a new addition - a wood-fired oven set in a renovated barn. All ingredients for the pizza are from locally-sourced farms including her own, and Megan is excited about the opening. In Rooted in Deceit by Wendy Tyson, Megan's excitement is dimmed by the arrival of her estranged father and Sylvia, his Italian, high-maintenance wife. (Rooted in Deceit will be released on September 4. It is published by Henery Press.)

Megan's grandmother Bibi is saddened to learn her only son Eddie and his wife are not staying on the farm, but in the new high-end yoga retreat center in the next town. Part owners of the center are  former friends of Megan's, now an up-and-coming artist Thana Moore and Ray Cruise, the boyfriend Thana stole from Megan in high school.

When Thana winds up dead on the grounds surrounding the retreat, police want to question  Eddie's wife Sylvia. She had been heard arguing with Thana earlier in the day and cannot account for her whereabouts the afternoon of the crime.

The yoga retreat is a gorgeous place and expensively decorated leading Megan to wonder who
financed the place. It appears Thana's artwork, though not critically acclaimed, was extremely popular in Europe and gaining in popularity n the U.S.

When Eddie asks her to try and clear Sylvia, Megan decides to investigate. She learns that Sylvia was trying to purchase some of Thana's work to take back to her boutique in Milan, but Thana was resisting.

Before long the police discover the long-ago estrangement of Megan, Thana and Ray and suddenly Megan is in the spotlight. Feeling vulnerable because her beau Denver has flown off to Scotland to care for an elderly aunt for several weeks, struggles to clear her name.

This series is farm fresh and I wish there was a farm like this near where I live.

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Monday, August 13, 2018

The Death of Mrs. Westaway

The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware is a deadly, dark mystery. The reading of her will leads to a dangerous deluge that cannot be stopped. When Hal receives a letter from an attorney telling her she is mentioned in the will of Mrs. Westaway, Hal knows there has been a mistake. But threatened by a loan shark and with her tarot business facing the winter doldrums, she decides she can use her skills to claim some of the money promised.

When she arrives at the funeral and meets the family, she discovers there may be a link with her after all, but her appearance opens up some long held deadly secrets. The three sons of Mrs. Westaway - Harding, Ezra and Abel - appear to have a tenuous relationship with each other and speak of their mother's non-maternal form of raising them.

Hal soon discovers there was a sister who disappeared 20 years before and tries to figure out what has happened to her. The Mrs. Danvers-like housekeeper Mrs. Warren hisses at Hal to leave while she still can. She chills Hal, but doesn't scare her. Trudging up to the freezing attic bedroom, Hal becomes worried when she discovers two locks on the door - on the outside of the room.

As the will is read and Hal discovers she will inherit the house and the money, she can't continue the charade of being Mrs. Westaway's granddaughter, but how can she tell the family about her deception?

A excellent, twisty, tangled mystery. It will keep you guessing until the end

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Saturday, August 11, 2018

Friday, August 10, 2018

River City Dead

The San Antonio Riverwalk has been a special places to visit and it is also the setting for one of my all-time favorite movies - Miss Congeniality. In River City Dead by Nancy G. West advice columnist Aggie Mundeen is hoping to spend some quality time with her San Antonio Police Department detective boyfriend Sam Vanderhoven.

Unfortunately the penthouse suite reserved for them is occupied - by a dead body. As Aggie is heading toward the hotel, Sam calls and tells her she urgently needs to get downtown. This sends Aggie into a tizzy of self doubt.

Sam begins the preliminary investigation and discovers no trauma or bleeding on the woman who appears to be in her late twenties. Indentations on the carpet show drag marks. The hotel manager identifies the woman as Monica Peters, a guest of the hotel every year during Fiesta Week.

Aggie and Sam both know finding another room nearby would be next to impossible, and Sam urges
Aggie to go home, but the manager offers them two "utility-closet sized rooms" and Aggie decides to stay. How else could she investigate, to Sam's consternation.

The best place for Aggie to begin her investigation is with some of her friends in The Fabulous Femmes, a group of women who participate in philanthropic activities in the city and like to party. They are hosting a convention during Fiesta Week and are staying at the hotel.

Aggie soon learns there's lots of friction between the various  subgroups of The Fabulous Femmes leading to many suspects. When another person is found dead, Aggie doubles her efforts, much to Sam's displeasure.

Risking her own life and her future relationship with Sam, Aggie disguises herself and joins the Femmes in their dance at Arneson River Theater. When everything goes haywire, Aggie is right in the midst of it, solving the mystery.

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Thursday, August 9, 2018

Dim Sum of All Fears

Lana Lee yearns for a job outside of her parents' Chinese restaurant and, in fact, has a job interview for an office manager position. In Dim Sum of All Fears by Vivien Chien, her mother upends those plans by announcing she and her husband have to return to Taiwan to care for Lana's grandmother. Guess who ends up managing the restaurant, and to her on surprise, she is quite good at it. (Dim Sum of All Fears will be released on August 28.)

Newlyweds Isabelle and Brandon own the souvenir shop next door and Lana has become friends with Isabelle. But an apparent murder-suicide next door to the restaurant sets Lana off on another investigation. Of course her sort-of boyfriend Detective Adam Trudeau discourages her involvement.

The more Lana learns about the husband of her murdered friend, the more she wants to solve the crime. There are several ex-wives in the picture and Brandon's long absences from the store make Lana suspicious of him.

When the police discover it wasn't a murder-suicide, but two murders, Lana and her roommate Megan decide to put their newly acquired investigating skills to the test. When Brandon's ex-wives begin to show up demanding possession of the souvenir store, Lana doubles down on investigating.

Lana discovers Brandon spent a lot of time at the local casino and when one of the wives decides she wants to liquidate everything from the store and return to New York, something doesn't sound right with Lana. The other ex-wife is an aggressive bully and she wants to take control of the store immediately so she can turn it into a high end purse store.

Surprising information from a loan shark appears to point in another direction and confuses Lana even more. With Detective Trudeau on the case, Lana quietly tries to solve it without getting herself in trouble with him

Another smart, sassy mystery for Lana. Even though her mother is thousands of miles away, her presence is felt in this book in her usual quirky fashion.

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Wednesday, August 8, 2018

A Visit from Lucy Burdette

Big news Lucy Burdette's latest Key West mystery Death on the Menu is out today. My husband and I were lucky enough to meet her in Key West last winter to discuss the new book.

Tell me about the book. How did you make the Cuban connection for your next book? 
Death on the Menu takes place in Key West, but the main event is a joint conference between the city of Key West and Havana, Cuba. Much of the action takes place at the Harry S. Truman Little White House, and Hayley‘s mother Janet has been tapped as the caterer. So naturally Hayley is pressed into service along with fan favorite, Miss Gloria. Things get off to a bad start when Hemingway’s Nobel prize gold medal (which belongs to Cuba and is on display for this weekend only) disappears. And they only get worse when a murderer strikes.

Does some of the action take place in Cuba? I didn’t think I could pull off setting a book in Cuba. For one thing I don’t know the country that well. And I certainly don’t know how the police would operate – I was afraid to tumble into a black plot hole that I would never climb out of! I am happy with the compromise, because I was able to talk about Cuba and have Cuban accents in the food and the politics, without running into insurmountable plot problems.

How does the Cuban Coffee Queen coffee shop/restaurant figure in the story?
As you know, Hayley’s favorite coffee shop is the Cuban Coffee Queen. (Actually there are two of them now in town. And it’s my favorite too!) But in addition to visiting for her caffeine fix, in this book, one of the workers at the CCQ is also on the catering crew for the conference. And it turns out her family has deep Cuban roots, and gets deeply involved in the murder.

Have you been to Cuba?
My husband and I were lucky enough to make the trip to Cuba in 2014, right before President Obama opened up relations between the two countries. Since Key West is only ninety miles from Havana, we hear a lot about the island and many Key Westers have an intense curiosity about Cuba and what life might be like for its inhabitants. In fact, frequently we heard news stories about Cubans who attempted to reach the US in a variety of homemade, unseaworthy vessels— even windsurfers—with some disastrous results. I wove some of that backstory and conflict into Death on the Menu.

Christine, thanks so much for hosting me here—it was such a pleasure to meet you and your husband last winter!

Enter to win Death on the Menu.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Death on the Menu

Enter to win Death on the Menu.

Havana and Key West have had a long association with writer Ernest Hemingway. If you have been to either location, there are very visible signs of his life in both places with houses in each. In Death on the Menu by Lucy Burdette, food critic Hayley Snow is excited to be participating in a three-day conference at Harry Truman's Little White House, even if it is a a staff person for her mother's fledgling catering company. On sale today.

The event brings together dignitaries from Havana and Key West in a rare moment of friendship. But there are protesters planning demonstrations with hints of a major disruption, and Hayley's police detective boyfriend Nathan Bransford asks her to step aside from catering the event. Of course, Hayley doesn't take that advice and neither does her mother.  On display is Hemingway's Nobel prize gold medal for The Old Man and the Sea, which has been in Cuba and is on loan to the Key West event.

At the very beginning of the event, the medal is discovered
missing, creating a major political catastrophe. The curator of the Little White House tries to convince everyone the medal was misplaced or overlooked in the unpacking and the search is on. When Gabriel, a family friend and a server at the event goes missing, suspicion naturally falls on him. His family left Cuba when he as young and he has expressed anti-Cuban government sentiments.

When Gabriel is found stabbed to death in a storeroom and the medal is still missing, his family begs Hayley to help them prove he didn't do anything wrong. Conflicting interests among the Key West delegation causes Hayley to look in their direction.

Another excellent contribution to the Key West Food Critic series. Check out Lucy Burdette's interview on Wednesday, August 8.

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Monday, August 6, 2018

Enter the Key West Death on the Menu Giveaway

Here's your chance to win a copy of Lucy Burdette's latest Key West Food Critic mystery - Death on the Menu.

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Friday, August 3, 2018

Map Your Mystery on Vacation in Colorado

Giveaway for Death on the Menu starts Monday, August 6

My husband and I took a short break to visit Colorado. We spent time in Colorado Springs and Denver and drove up the 14,115 feet to the top of Pike's Peak. A twisty, turny ride up and a scary ride down.

Sorry for the staggered photos. Someday this software will let me place photos where I want them. Grrr

First stop Garden of the Gods
Inside the Chapel at the U.S. Air Force Academy.

Replica of George Washington's Mt. Vernon garden (staying on my Hamilton kick)

Needing oxygen on the way up to Pike's Peak.
And at the summit

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Read and Gone

It takes a share of a $20 million jewel heist into get Jim Singleton back in his daughter Carrie's life. In Read and Gone by Allison Brook, that's not exactly the reunion she had in mind.  When she catches him breaking into her cottage after her housewarming /birthday party, she's as stunned to lay eyes on him as he is to see her. (Read and Gone will be released on September 11.)

Years before, although he continues to deny it, Jim was involved in a multi-million dollar jewel heist in town and he is back to reclaim his half of the money. It seems he and local jeweler Benton Parr robbed the store and Benton decided to hid the jewels until things cooled down.

Benton is the model of propriety; he even serves on the library board, but no one thinksmost people think he had nothing to do with the jewel theft. Jim knows better. And rumors persist that he stole his mother-in-law's emerald and diamond necklace, but his wife hushed things up and got her mother's gems back.

Before long it becomes apparent that Jim needs Carrie's help finding the jewels. She is none-to-keen
to help, but thinks if she does, she can keep Jim out of trouble. When Benton is found dead in his store, the day after his library presentation and Jim is arrested for the murder, Carrie is quick to jump in.

Complicating matters is Carrie's boyfriend Dylan, an insurance investigator, who might in fact be investigating her father. Torn by her attraction to her boyfriend and her loyalty to her father, Carrie quietly tries to solve the case with the help of library's resident ghost Evelyn Havers.

Can Carrie and her cat Smokey Joe solve the case before Dylan finds evidence of Jim's part in the heist? An entertaining mystery with a ghost, a library cat and an absent father complicating Carrie's life.

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Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Interview with Liz Mugavero

What is the title of your newest book? How many books have you published?
First, thanks so much for having me! My newest book is written by my alter ego, Cate Conte, and it's called Purrder She Wrote. As Liz Mugavero, my latest book is Purring Around the Christmas Tree, which came out last winter. With both series, I've published eight books, with my ninth coming out in January and two more due next year.

How did you develop your character and choose your location?
For my Pawsitively Organic series, I came up with the idea for the series based on a location. I used to live near a fabulous town green where I'd take my dogs to walk, and one day it occurred to me that it would be the perfect setting for a cozy. My fictional town, Frog Ledge, has elements of a few different towns in that area in Connecticut.

I got the idea for Stan, my main character, because of my job at the time. I worked with a woman who had shortened her name to Stan, and when I met her in person I was expecting a middle-aged man smoking a cigar! It struck me that it was a great name for a woman who felt like she needed to have that element of surprise in her working environment. And I gave Stan a corporate media relations background, which is something else I had some familiarity with.

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 work a day job as well, so I try to write some of my word count in the morning. That way, if I get back to it at night, it's all a bonus. My word count or goal varies depending on which part of the process I'm in. Writing a first draft like I'm doing now means I try to do 1000 - 1500 words per day.

Do you belong to a writers group or are you in touch with other writers? How does that help your writing?
I don't belong to an official writers group, but I'm a member of the Wicked Cozy Authors blog. We are all friends, we help each other plot and brainstorm, and we're an awesome support system for one another. We all try to help each other as much as we can, from bouncing ideas off each other, to editing and offering feedback, to talking each other off various ledges. I am very lucky to be part of this group!

Do you model your character after yourself or any one you know?
I think writers always end up infusing elements of themselves or people they know or have met into their characters - it's an occupational hazard. But I would never model a character solely after a specific person. I like to start with an idea of someone, and then flesh that character out by spending time with them - both before I start writing, and then once I'm in the midst of the series. The more time I spend with a character, the more that character continues to develop and grow and reveal him or herself to me.

If your books were made into a movie, who would you want to play the lead character?
I always pictured Stan as a bit like Blake Lively, at least in the looks department!

Who is your favorite author?
I love reading Dennis Lehane, Harlan Coben, Tana French, Lee Child...really, just one?

How do you keep track of character details from book to book so they are consistent? 
I would love to say I'm so organized that I have a detailed character bible that I update after every book - but I'm not. Luckily, my publishers provide a style sheet for each series that has most pertinent details. Otherwise, I can be found combing through past books looking for the details!

If you could not be an author, what would like to do as a career?
I always thought I might want to be a cop or an FBI agent if I wasn't a writer... but writing seemed the safer way to go!