Friday, March 29, 2019

Read on Arrival

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Librarian Cleo Watkins has been hard at work driving the library's bookmobile Words on Wheels to patrons in Catalpa Springs, Georgia while the library building is being repaired and redecorated. In Read on Arrival by Nora Page, Cleo and the bookmobile are about to get a rude awakening. (Read on Arrival will be published by Crooked Lane Books on May 7.)

Board president Mercer Whitty introduces Cleo to his new flamboyant "Inno-brarian" Belle Beauchamp. Belle's ideas for the library include removing old books, painting the rooms shocking colors and replacing Cleo's trusty bookmobile with Belle's flashier one with fewer books. Cleo is incensed and tries to appeal to the good sense of the board.  

In the meantime her nemesis Dixie Huddleston has teased Cleo about an overdue book for nearly 40 years. It seems Dixie has been holding on to a book entitled Luck and Lore, but now, Dixie claims the signs are pointing to an unlucky ending to her life and she wants to make amends. Cleo, unsure this isn't another trick, drives to Dixie's house and finds Dixie locked in her pantry and dead from bee stings. The epi pen she'd tried to use had been filled with sugar water instead of epinephrine.

Also on the scene is Dixie's eccentric son Jefferson and his wife Jacquelyn who hope to open a mime school in Dixie's backyard cottage. At the same time, Dixie's long-estranged daughter Amy-Ray appears claiming she is the rightful heir to the main house. Suddenly people around town are receiving paper coffins threatening their demise.

When Chief Culpepper accuses Cleo of killing Dixie, she knows she has to prove she didn't murder her because of an overdue book or for any reason, especially since the overdue book was not found during the police search of Dixie's house. 

There are plenty of suspects as Dixie was not the most loved person in town and Cleo needs to clear her name before murder strikes again. 

The first in an engaging new series. 

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Murder with Collard Greens and Hot Sauce

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Mahalia Watkins is a woman after my own heart. She wears her hair short and in a wash and wear style. In Murder with Collard Greens and Hot Sauce by A.L. Herbert, Halia operates Mahalia's Sweet Tea in Prince George's County, Maryland, and she serves the best soul food around.

While having her hair done with her cousin Wavonne at Illusions, the local salon, they hear that Monique Dupree will be in town in two days. Halia has never heard of Monique, but all the other women and the salon owner are ecstatic about her appearance. Monique is in town for the Unique Chic Hair Convection and is kicking off a cross-country tour with a special appearance at Illusions.

She is known as the biggest thing to happen to African American hair in ages, so naturally everyone is clamoring to meet her. When Monique arrives at Illusions she has a camera crew in tow. Also on hand are her stylist Maurice and her rude, arrogant husband Nathan. Halia and her mother are roped into an interview about the hair products with Wavonne making a guest appearance.

Monique is charming, gracious and has an electrifying presence. Happily Halia invites Monique and
her entourage which includes her personal chef Alex, her frenemy Odessa, Maurice and Nathan, to dinner at Sweet Tea. Monique returns the favor by inviting Halia and Wavonne to an elegant party at her home. She even offers to have her stylist take them shopping for something white to wear to the white party.

While they are enjoying the party, Halia hears some not too pleasant arguments between Monique and Odessa and Monique and Alex, but she figures it is none of her business and she moves away. She also discovers that Nathan beats Monique, but of course Monique downplays it. The next morning, Monique is found dead in her home from a gunshot wound.

Halia's investigating instincts kick in and she decides to assist the police in solving the crime. They however, aren't that interested in her assistance as they have arrested Nathan for the murder. Halia's investigation leads her into all sorts of places including a drag queen hangout and with her outspoken cousin Wavonne, the scene is hilarious.

Halia discovers jealousies, bitter rivalries, backstabbers and schemers in her quest to find the killer. Murder with Collard Greens and Hot Sauce is a delicious mystery with brassy, bold women as characters. Gotta love the sistas, as Wavonne would say.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Elle Alexander on Video

How long does it take to shoot the weekly video?
Most of my weekly videos run about ten to fifteen minutes in length but it takes at least an hour to
actually film each video. Sometimes even longer if I mess up a bunch or if we need a lot of b-roll to add into the final cut. The videos need lighting and sound as well as trying to figure out the best place to shoot based on the time of day and topic, so set-up is probably another thirty minutes to an hour.

Click here for the latest Five Things Friday - Five Favorite Cookbooks video

Do you work from a script or just wing it?
I always start with a script and rough idea of what I want to talk about each week, and then from there I usually end up winging it once we start filming. I have basic talking points sketched out, but one of the things that I enjoy most about filming the videos is feeling like I get to have a conversation with readers. Sure, technically it’s a one-sided conversation when I’m filming but I want readers to feel like we’re chatting on my living room couch with a latte and pastry. I want to give readers a sense of who I really am.

Who films and edits the footage?
My husband does all of the set-up, filming, editing, sound, etc. He’s a dream! I would never be able to tackle something like this without his help. I’m technically challenged. Fortunately his background is in advertising and he recently launched his freelancing career. I’m his first official “client”.

Why did you decide to use this Five Things format?
Good question. I don’t know if it was a conscious choice initially. We were brainstorming ideas about what would be fun to share with readers to give them a glimpse into what goes into writing. I get a ton of email from readers (which I love BTW) with questions not only about specific books and characters but also about sort of the “mystique” of writing for a living. I wanted to share interesting content and I said to my husband, “It’s hardly like my life is glamorous”. We laughed and then we were both like, “Oh, hey what if we share that?” The idea evolved from there.

Have things changed from when you first started doing the videos?
For sure! I feel like I’ve gotten more comfortable in front of the camera. At first I felt stiff and weird, but then I had an ah-ha moment, where I imagined that the camera was a reader. I told myself to talk to the camera like I would to a reader at a book event and that really helped. Now when I sit down to shoot a video, I’m excited to get to have a conversation and share so much more than I could in any other medium online.

What have you learned from shooting videos?
I’ve learned so much and have so much more to learn. It’s a lot like writing in that way. In addition to the 5 Things Friday videos I did a pie project last December where I baked a pie every day for a month, filmed it, and shared the videos and recipes. It was a huge challenge. I had no idea how different it is to film a baking video. We had to rig up special cameras to shoot from above so that readers would be able to see what I was adding to a mixing bowl. I’ve learned to slow way down when I’m baking for the camera, versus how I would bake in normal everyday life. Otherwise viewers would be dizzy watching my mixer whirling and my hands rolling dough at lightening speed. I enjoy the challenge of learning from some of my early filming mistakes, and hopefully improving over time.

What has your response been to the videos?
The response has been wonderful. I love interacting with readers who have viewed the videos. I’ve received so many suggestions and ideas for other topics and content, too. It’s great to be able to incorporate reader ideas and questions into the videos. I’m getting ready to roll out two new series. The Torte Test Kitchen will be a series where I bake and share recipes from already published books and upcoming books. I’m also going to start a series specifically for writers about the world of publishing and writing tips and techniques.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Movie Mogul Mama

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Some people are unable to resist the lure of movie making and being associated with it. In the latest installment of The Heist Ladies - Movie Mogul Mama by Connie Shelton, the ladies are out to catch a con man. The chase leads them to Newport, Rhode Island; California; back to Phoenix and lastly to Mexico.

Gracie Nelson discovers her mother has invested in a movie making scheme and now without seeing any of the profits from her investment, she is about to lose her home. Not wanting her mother, sister and two nieces to move into their already tight home, Gracie calls on her friends to help her mother get the money back. Naturally her mother cannot find a contract or anything that talks about her investment, making the job more difficult.

Using their special skills, Amber, Sandy, Mary and Penelope dig into the scheme and find Rob Williams has been promising huge returns on investments for his latest Hollywood action movie. Penelope and Amber decide to participate in an investor event in Rhode Island the following weekend.

To dazzle investors even more, the event is held in The Breakers, the famous mansion, in Newport.
The audience is filled with excited investors and even some who have invested in the past. Penelope zeroes in on one in particular. Maisie Brown talks about being invited to a premier and rubbing elbows with the stars, but Pen is suspicious of her enthusiasm. The presentation by Rob Williams is filled with excitement and energy and afterwards, people are escorted into a small room to hand over their checks. Pen and Amber follow along.

Pen pretends to be interested in investing. but tells Rob she needs to have her bank send him a check the next day. As they continue to investigate they build a case for fraud, present it to the police in California and wait for Rob's court date. Unfortunately the case doesn't turn out the way they want and Rob is set free.

That sets the Heist Ladies into motion for their own scam. It's incredible to me how gullible a conman becomes as they ensnare him their own con. Another enterprising adventure for the Heist Ladies. 

Monday, March 25, 2019

Designs on Murder

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Amanda Tucker finds the perfect spot for a design studio - the Shops on Main in Abingdon, Virginia. The only problem is the shop comes with ghost. In Designs on Murder by Gayle Leeson, budding fashionista Amanda is super excited to begin work. Unfortunately the day she decides to sign the lease, one of the other tenants is found murdered in his shop upstairs.

That doesn't stop her and she enlists her grandfather to help with shelves and other improvements. When she discovers the ghost of Maxine Englebright inhabiting her space, she's happy for the company. Max tells her she died from a fall down the stairs in the Shops of Main, which at that time was a private house. She has been in the house since she fell to her death in 1930.

As for the murder, there's concern at the Shops on Main about why web designer Mark Tinsley was murdered. It was rumored he was having money problems and it's thought that something in his past might have lead to his death.

Trying not to worry about the investigation and concentrate on
building her business, Amanda begins designing one-of-a-kind dresses and some ready-to-wear samples for her shop. With the help of handsome photographer Jason Logan and her neighbor Connie, Amanda begins seeing customers and starts working on prom dresses for two teenage girls and a bridal party.

But Max decides they need to investigate Mark's murder and despite her better judgment, Amanda agrees. Using her detecting skills gained from reading Nancy Drew books, Amanda begins her investigation with some scary results.

Designs on Murder is a quirky, witty mystery with a fashionable ghost and a creative designer. Looking forward to others in the Ghostly Fashionista Mysteries.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Murder and Mayhem in Chicago

Sisters in Crime Chicagoland hosted Murder and Mayhem in Chicago yesterday. With several panels and dozens of authors, it was a terrific day. Keynote speaker was Sophia Hannah, author of the new Hercule Poirot books. She delighted us with her account of how that came about.
Sophie Hannah interviewed
by Susanna Calkins
Panelists Sherry Harris, Cheryl Read, Edith Maxwell,
Carlene O'Connor and Susanna Calkins

Sisters in Chicago Chicagoland president
 Patricia Skalka and Sophie Hannah
MapYourMystery Christine Gentes with
Edith Maxwell and Michelle Cox

MapYourMystery Christine Gentes
and Sophie Hannah

Friday, March 22, 2019

The Hidden Corpse

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After her appearance on a reality baking show ruined her marriage, Hope Early returns to her hometown of Jefferson, Connecticut. Concentrating on her blog, Hope at Home, she decides to take a photography workshop taught by famous photographer Cal Barnhart.

In The Hidden Corpse by Debra Sennefelder, Hope worries about Cal's missing wife Lily and wonders how it will impact the workshop. With three other food bloggers at the workshop, Hope knows she has to stay on her toes. Blogging is a cutthroat business.

As if this isn't enough to clog her mind with worry, as she returns home, she sees smoke coming from her elderly neighbor's home. She rushes in to find a pot of burning vegetables on the stove and her neighbor unaware of what is happening around her. Thinking she needs to tell Mrs. Olson's daughter about the incident, Hope gets sidetracked and forgets about telling her.

The next day, Hope returns home to find the neighbor's house
totally engulfed in flames. As she is held back by the fire department, Hope is remorseful and wishes she had let the daughter know something was wrong. But before long the fire department discovers a second body in the charred remains and they discover it is the missing Lily Barnhart, and that the fire was deliberately set.

While investigating Lily's background, Hope discovers she was on the Planning and Zoning Commission and had been opposed to unrestricted growth. With another big vote coming up shortly, did Lily get on the wrong side of someone or was her husband involved in her death?

The Hidden Corpse is the second book in The Food Blogger Mystery series and I look forward to many more, especially if they include some other delicious recipes from Hope's blog.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

The Drowning

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Eight-year-old Joey Proctor is heading to summer camp, but not happily. He doesn't want to be away from his parents, but off he goes. To make matters worse, his swim instructor wants him to jump in the deep water and learn to swim.

In The Drowning by J.P. Smith, Joey knows he is terrified of the deep water and refuses to jump in. Alex, the instructor, wants everyone to jump in from the dock and swim to the raft. When Joey doesn't move, Alex picks up him up and throws him into the water. Thrashing around and frightened he might drown, Joey is paralyzed with fear. Alex realizes what is happening jumps in and grabs Joey. But instead of bringing him to shore, he swims with him to the raft, hoists him onto it and
swims away, telling Joey if he wants to go back to his cabin, he needs to swim ashore.

Hours later Alex checks the raft and doesn't see Joey so he believes he swam back to shore. The next morning the entire camp is in an uproar because Joey is missing, never to be seen again. An old scary legend about John Otis stealing boys from the camp rears its head. Everyone is afraid.

Fast forward 20 years and Alex Mason is a wealthy, respected real estate businessman in New York. Everything he touches turns to gold. He seems to be living a charmed life until strange occurrences begin. First someone dyes his swimming pool water red and carves the words "Remember me" on the floor of the pool. When the police ask about enemies, Alex is perplexed. He doesn't think he has enemies who would do something like this.

When the events escalate and begin to point to Joey Proctor, Alex remembers the experience from camp and believes maybe Joey is alive and seeking revenge. With his life spiraling out of control and his family threatened, Alex decides to find Joey Proctor and stop the harassment.

The Drowning is not just another camper goes missing book. It is a diabolically written mystery.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Interview with Ellen Crosby

What is the title of your newest book? How many books have you published?
Ellen Crosby photo by
Jackie Briggs
My most recent book, which was released in November 2018, is called Harvest of Secrets—the 9th book in the Virginia wine country mystery series. The tenth book, The Angels’ Share, will be out this November. In all, I have published 13 books—two series and a standalone.

How did you develop your character and choose your location?
Lucie Montgomery, who is the main character in the Virginia wine country mystery series, was only supposed to be around for one book: The Merlot Murders. I wanted a character with a strong personality; someone young and spunky. Now nearly twenty years and ten books later, I rely on the advice of my daughters-in-law, who are (much) nearer Lucie’s age than I am!

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As for choosing the location—Virginia wine country—that story starts in London where we lived for five years in the mid-1990s. One summer when we returned to the US for a visit, a colleague of my husband’s decided we needed to see the Virginia vineyards after years of living in Europe and traveling through the wine regions of France, Switzerland, and Italy.

We spent a glorious summer day visiting several vineyards, which was when I fell in love with the scenery and beauty of Virginia. Back in London, I mentioned the trip to my British literary agent who thought it was a fabulous setting for a book, specifically a book that I needed to write. I finally let her talk me into writing it—I knew nothing about growing grapes or making wine—though I told her, “Okay, but I’m only writing one book.”

For a review of Harvest of Secrets, 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?
As any serious author will tell you, if you’re a writer you write. It’s not about waiting for the muse to strike or the fairy dust to settle on your shoulders and inspire you. The longer I am in this business, the more I try to guard my writing time like it is a precious jewel so I make sure I get my books written and turned in on time to my editor. It’s too easy to get lost in social networking, marketing, or even to accept every invitation you receive to give a book talk—all of which are also necessary components of a writing career.

These days—and now that my husband has retired—I spend my mornings taking care of personal and family matters, writing business obligations, a trip to the gym, and anything else that is on my calendar. I write in the afternoons—closer to the book deadline I’ll write 7 days a week—and don’t quit until I’ve written at least 1,000 words.

Do you model your character after yourself or any one you know?
Since I thought Lucie was only going to be around for one book, I didn’t really create her based on anyone I knew. I knew I wanted The Merlot Murders to begin in France and have an international “hook” so I made Lucie half-French and introduced her when she was living in the south of France and recovering from an automobile accident that left her with a limp and requiring a cane to get around.

If your books were made into a movie, who would you want to play the lead character?
Someone young and spunky like Emma Watson or Lily James.

Who is your favorite author?
Not a fair question! Too many to name.

If you could invite five people – living or dead – to a dinner party, who would they be?
Actually, I’d want to invite 6 people: my husband, three sons, and two daughters-in-law. (Soon there will be a seventh, a new grandchild!) With one son and daughter-in-law living in Germany and another living in Utah (thank goodness our youngest son lives nearby), getting together—all of us—is so rare. We stay in touch regularly and are a close-knit family but nothing beats having everyone at home together, especially around the dinner table. Besides, we are also a family of cooks, so the meal would be special, too.

If you could not be an author, what would like to do as a career?
Being an author came late in life for me, after my older sons left for college. Previously I worked as a journalist in the US and the former Soviet Union, which I loved, and before that I was the economic advisor to a United States Senator for five years until my husband’s job took us to Switzerland in the 1980s. I loved both my pre-author careers—they were fascinating and fast-paced.

Have you had your own DNA tested?
As a former journalist, I always do my homework! So, since DNA testing was part of the story in Harvest of Secrets, of course I had my DNA tested. Unlike Lucie, though, there were no surprises

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Murder Lo Mein

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Lana Lee is finally the full-time manager of the Ho-Lee Noodle House and she's happy to be in charge. In Murder Lo Mein by Vivien Chien, Lana enters the restaurant in the second annual Best Noodle Contest, knowing last year's winner wasn't really as good as Ho-Lee. (Murder Lo Mein will be released on March 26 by St. Martin's Paperbacks.)

Last year's winner, Ray Jin, is now a judge for this year's competition along with noted food critic and professional crouch Norman Pan and Stella Chung, hometown girl who made it big in Chicago. The competition is really between the Ho-Lee Noodle house and the House of Shen, but a few others restaurants have been allowed to compete.

Peter, Lana's chef is anxious because he knows how much is at stake for Asia Village, especially after the events of the last few months. Lana knows Peter's noddles are truly the best and she is confident they will win. The contest consists of three rounds before the winner is declared.

The first round finds Peter as the winner and Norman Pan receiving a threatening fortune cookie. It said If you do not seek out allies and helpers, then you will be isolated and weak. Ian discovers it is from Sun Tzu's The Art of War. Why would Norman receive it and what could it mean?

Later at the celebration party at Penny's Bamboo Lounge, everyone is relieved the first round is over. Suddenly there is a scream from inside the party room. and one of the judges is found dead. As much as she promises her detective boyfriend Adam Trudeau she will stay out of the investigation, Lana and her pal Megan cannot help themselves.

When another judge dies, it appears someone doesn't like the judges and is trying to ruin the contest. Lana wants nothing to stop her restaurant from winning this year, so she plunges headlong into the investigation.

Lana is a terrific character, but with her mother occupied by her visiting grandmother, we don't have as much of Mrs. Lee in this book. Too bad because she is every woman's mother and is so funny. Ho-Lee Noodle House sounds like a terrific restaurant and add the new doughnut shop next door and you have a great place for lunch. Stop by some time, if you dare.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Staging is Murder

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When Laura Bishop's fledgling decorating company beats out well known rival Monica Heller for the Denton mansion project, Laura is thrilled to have to work. That is until she spends some time with Victoria Denton. In Staging is Murder by Grace Topping, Laura has her work cut out for her with the Denton House in the Allegheny Mountains of Pennsylvania. Not only is the house huge it is severely outdated, cluttered with figurines and lorded over by angry, rude Victoria Denton. (Staging is Murder will be released by Henery Press on April 30.)

Working with her assistant Tyrone, Laura butts heads with Victoria on a regular basis. Not that she is singled out; Victoria argues with everyone - her former catering business partner Cora Ridley, her ex-husband Skip Denton and even Laura's mild mannered assistant Tyrone Webster.

After working on the house and making some headway, Laura is relieved to have fewer encounters with Victoria. Early one evening while Laura is locking up to go home, she hears a door slam and goes to investigate.  Laura finds Victoria dead at her feet after tumbling down the laundry chute. Was it an accident or something more?

The police arrest Tyrone because he was the last person heard arguing with her and he was seen around the house in the early evening. While Tyrone heads to jail, Laura must keep working on the house to have it ready for the upcoming sale, but Tyrone's grandmother needs her help. Mrs. Webster urges Laura to clear her grandson. Laura pleads she is a designer, not a detective, but Mrs. Webster refuses to take not for an answer.

Using knowledge gleaned from Nancy Drew books, Laura begins her investigation, but it's not as easy as it seems in books.

Laura is an endearing character and I look forward to more of her adventures. 

Friday, March 15, 2019

A Dream of Death

After her husband tragic drowning, Kate Hamilton thought she would never have to return to the remote Scottish Island of Glenroth again. In A Dream of Death by Connie Berry, Kate returns to Glenroth, her late husband's home, at the urgent request of his sister. She is frightened by events happening around her and asks Kate to come and help her through this difficult time.

Unsure how she can leave her antiques business in Ohio, she feels obligated to assist her sister-in-law Elenor, although they have never been close. Elenor has turned the family home into a deluxe country house hotel and locals are gathering for the end of season Tartan Ball at the house. Elenor announces that she has sold the hotel to a Swiss company to the amazement of the partisan Scottish crowd. Then she announces her engagement to local author Hugh Guthrie, the author of The Dairy of Flora Arnott. 

Both announcements leave the audience in stunned silent. The local economy is based on the Scottish atmosphere of the hotel and a Swiss owner might make dramatic changes. As for a marriage to Hugh, his mother Margaret might have something different to say about that. 

The 200-year-old legend around Glenroth is that Flora Arnott, a young bride and soon to be a mother
was murdered by her husband Captain Arnott. She was shot through the neck with an arrow and her maid was also murdered. When someone is murdered after the Tartan Ball by an arrow in an eerily similar manner as Flora Arnott, Kate thinks some of the incidents that have been happening around the hotel might be connected.

The quirky twin sisters Penny and Cilla Arnott take their heritage seriously and any threat to the Arnott name, especially the Captain, is an affront to them. Not only does suspicion fall on them, but on Bo Duff, a likable but challenged handyman. 

Kate soon learns the truth and puts herself in jeopardy, but manages to solve the mystery. An excellent story and I look forward to more Kate Hamilton mysteries. 

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Pinot Red or Dead?

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It's nearing the holiday time and the wineries around Seneca Lake, New York, are preparing for "Deck the Halls around the Lake", a wine tasting festival. In Pinot Red or Dead? by J.C. Eaton, Two Witches Winery owner Norrie Ellington jumps right in to assist her staff in what sounds like a fantastic event. (Pinot Red or Dead? will be published by Kensington Publishing on March 26.)

Everyone is in an uproar when they learn a shipment of Pinot Noir from the wineries on the east side of the lake has been  hijacked from the distributor's truck. The hijackers made off with 40 cases of wine from four different wineries. This news on top of the distributor's decision to lower their compensation schedule has everyone upset.

When the west side of the lake sees vandalism on some of their Pinot Noir barrels, spoiling the wine inside, Norrie knows it is time to put down her screenplays and figure out the read mystery.

When she stumbles across the body of Arnold Mowen, owner of
Lake-To-Lake Distributors between Two Witches Winery and neighboring Grey Egret Winery, everyone becomes a suspect. To everyone's shock and surprise, Arnold's attorney announces that Arnold wanted his will read 29 days after his death at midnight in the Two Witches Winery.

When a wide range of people claim to be the heir to Lake-to-Lake Distributors, including Arnold's girlfriend Lavettia; Miller Holtz, sales rep; Clayton Levine, the secretary; and three nuns from local convent.

An entertaining mystery with a splash of red wine for impact.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Interview with Becky Clark

What is the title of your newest book? How many books have you published?
The newest book — Foul Play on Words — is so new it's not even out until April 2019! (But it's available for pre-order, hint, hint.) It's the second one in
the Mystery Writers Mystery series. The first being Fiction Can Be Murder, out in 2018. Before that, I wrote two humorous mysteries with a friend of mine, Ted Hardwick. One character is Cassidy Dunne, the other is Dan Diehl so we called them the Dunne Diehl novels, which made me laugh. Banana Bamboozle is the first and came out in 2014. Marshmallow Mayhem came out in 2015. In between the mysteries I wrote some low-calorie cookbooks, compiled into The Lazy Low Cal Lifestyle Complete Cookbook. 
(Foul Play on Words will be released on April 8 by Midnight Ink.)

How did you develop your character and choose your location?
When I have a rough idea of what the story is about, I make a list of all the characters I need who will be playing a role. I almost always have a celebrity or friend in mind for them right away, at least as far as how they look. I print out the photo and start writing the character traits on it. Then those photos go in the 3-ring binder I keep for each book. If it's been a while since I wrote scenes with them, I go back and refresh my memory with their photo page. I don't want to change an ankle butterfly tattoo into a forearm anchor, or switch a left leg limp to the right side. Of course, after they go through the character grinder they don't necessarily resemble the person in the photo. Using celebrities and people I know helps me keep everyone straight in the drafting stage. It's easy to get confused when you don't have a firm handle on who everyone will turn out to be.

My settings tend to be places I'm familiar with. Foul Play on Words is set at a writer's conference in
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Portland, Oregon, where my daughter lives and where I've attended conferences. Fiction Can Be Murder is set in the Denver, Colorado, area, where I live. Bamboozle is set in a fictional town near where I lived in California way back when. And Mayhem starts out in California, but they end up taking a winter road trip in an RV to the Colorado mountains. 
(Click here for a review of Foul Play on Words)

I worry too much about getting details wrong if I try to write about a place I'm unfamiliar with. Like, for me to write a book set at the beach, I'd have to live in a seaside villa for several months to feel like I wouldn't screw it up. Note to self: set a book at the beach some time soon. Very soon.

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 like schedules. I write for at least three hours Monday, Thursday, and most Friday mornings, especially when I'm in the middle of a draft. And I set aside all day Tuesday for writing. I set a timer for every hour and keep track of how many words I write. I like to know how long each book takes me. I'm an outliner so the writing itself goes pretty fast for me. I never stare at a blank screen; I always know what scene I need to write. And I write in a linear fashion, no jumping around in the story for me.

Afternoons are spent with emails, writing blogs, organizing publicity and marketing campaigns, creating and practicing workshops to teach ... at writer's conferences, like Charlee.

Do you model your character after yourself or any one you know?
In Bamboozle and Mayhem, the two main characters were pretty closely us as the authors and friends for 30+ years, so that was fun and easy. In the Mystery Writers Mysteries, I knew she was going to be a mystery writer in her 30s, so I just had to roll back my personal clock a couple of decades and try to figure out what it would be like to find Charlee's kind of publishing success at a young age. I tend to write stories where a perfectly normal person is going about their perfectly normal business when — BLAMMO — something weird happens to them. Then I try to figure out what I'd do. After I was done cowering under the covers, of course.

If your books were made into a movie, who would you want to play the lead character?
Anybody who would be besties with me and let me hang out on the set.

Who is your favorite author?
No fair! You might as well ask me who my favorite kid is or which is my favorite internal organ! (Both of which I have, but I'm not telling you. Plus, they tend to change from day to day.)

If you could invite five people – living or dead – to a dinner party, who would they be?
First, I'd want them all to be living, because gross. If it was a weeknight party, I'd invite Joe R. Lansdale because he is a storyteller extraordinaire. If you haven't read him, remedy that situation immediately. Carl Hiaasen would get an invitation because I find him absolutely hilarious and he makes his books look perfectly effortless. I'd ask for advice, tons of advice. I'd invite Amy Poehler and Tina Fey because they inspire me with everything they've accomplished but they also seem completely bemused and untouched by their fame. I'm sure they'd come because I'd promise them fancy cheese. And then I'd invite Ina Garten because someone needs to cook.

But on the weekend, it would be grand to have my three kids and my husband all around the table with me at the same time again. I mostly like my empty nest, but it would be fab to corral them from their far-off lands and busy lives for a while. It would have to be on the weekend because I'd make them spend the night. Could Ina Garten come too? Again, we'd need food.

If you could not be an author, what would like to do as a career?
The more I write and attend gruesome and fascinating Sisters in Crime meetings with forensic experts, I'd love to be able to do that. I think I'd be good at it, too, because I have great attention to detail and I'm very methodical. I would trip up those bad guys with their own strand of hair or fabric fiber or obscure mountain flora found only in one place in the world. I'd put them squarely at the scene of the crime and they would not be able to wiggle out of the noose I'd tightened around them with my beautiful, beautiful science.

I also love maps, but I'm not sure cartographer is an actual job any more.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Where in the World . . .

Many people are having their DNA tested, so MapYourMystery decided to have it done as well. Here's what we found

Monday, March 11, 2019

With a Kiss I Die

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When former cop turned theater manager Edwina "Sully" Sullivan learns a production of Romeo and Juliet, directed by her close friend Dimitri, is in trouble, she rushes to Boston to provide her expertise. In With A Kiss I Die by J.A. Hennrikus, Sully learns the previous director had some weird thoughts about the production and she hopes she can help. (With a Kiss I Die will be published on April 8 by Midnight Ink.)

While she is in Boston, she hopes to nudge along the grant proposal for her local theater. At an event in Boston she meets  Jerry and Mimi Cunningham, executives for the Century Foundation, the grantor organization. The brief introduction goes well and Sully is invited to a more formal meeting, possibly soon to discuss her grant proposal.

As the evening progresses a very loud argument erupts first between Babs Allyn and her husband Hal Maxwell, then between Babs, the Boston theater director, and Mimi Cunningham, culminating with Mimi tossing a drink into Babs' face. It's downhill from there as Mimi is found dead in an nearby alley the next day and Babs has disappeared. Hal insists Babs has gone to their house on the Cape and he has been in touch with her via phone.

As much as she would like to stay out of this case, she is drawn in when she learns her ex-husband is a suspect. Gus Knight had been reviewing the books at the Cunningham Foundation and there appeared to be some discrepancies.

I enjoyed this book, but I wish I had read the first in the series because there was a good bit of back story I missed. I still enjoyed the character and the mystery. Hope to read more in this series.

Friday, March 8, 2019


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A contemporary retelling of Pride and Prejudice with a Pakistani twist.  In Unmarriageable by Soniah Kamal the five Binat daughters are making their mother crazy. Mrs. Binat is desperate to marry her daughters off, but because of rumors and innuendo about the family, they have had to move away from Lahore.

Alys, the second daughter, is not interested in getting married. She teaches English Literature at a British School for Pakistani teenage girls. Many of the girls will marry before they even finish high school and this depresses Alys. Her eldest sister, the lovely Jena also teaches there.

When the family is invited to the wedding of the year, Mrs. Binat is beside herself with plans to have all of her girls engaged by the end of the wedding ceremony. At the wedding Alys overhears Mr. Darsee and his friends mocking Mrs. Binat and saying how happy they are not to have her as a mother-in-law.

Stung by this criticism, Alys decides to ignore Mr. Darsee and his friends the Binglas. Unfortunately, Jena falls madly in love with "Bungles" Bingla and believes
her mother's prediction that he will propose to her after the wedding. When days go by and Bungles doesn't propose and, in fact, goes back home, Jena and Mrs. Binat are devastated.

Meanwhile Farhat Kaleen, a widower, comes calling on Alys with hopes of making her his bride. Mrs. Binat is ecstatic but Alys does everything she can to turn him against her. Worse yet, he decides to marry her friend Sherry instead.

More hilarity ensues as the younger sisters find themselves in one predicament after another.

If you love Pride and Prejudice, you will love Unmarriageable.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

The Tulip Shirt Murders

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Private Investigator Delanie Fitzgerald and her computer hacker partner Duncan Reynolds are working on some of their more mundane cases in The Tulip Shirt Murders by Heather Weidner. When strip club owner Chaz Smith hires them to prove his friend's son is not a murderer, things begin to move quickly.

Hired by a local music producer to find the people bootlegging his CDs, Delanie finds her bootleggers at a local flea market and decides to follow one of them to see where the copying is taking place. When she stakes out the farm where he lives, she notices many different people heading in and out and wonders what else is going on.

After several visits to the farm, she finds herself involved in more than copyright thieves, especially when she comes head to head with a multi-jurisdictional investigation and the FBI. With that case cleared, Delanie and Duncan focus on the murder.

Even though the three other murders took place in three different locations and the victims have no
discernible link, Duncan keeps plugging away to find a pattern. When Delanie's friend Robin is attacked in a frighteningly similar way to the other victims, Delanie hears her whisper "Tulip Shirt" before she loses consciousness.

With this sliver of a lead, she and Duncan continue to search to discover the link. When they discover the connection, Delanie infiltrates the company to find proof of who the killer is.

A fast-paced mystery, packed with lots of action and two quirky lead characters.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Interview with J.A. Hennrikus

I know you are woman of many hats, so tell me about your three series. What is the title of your newest book? How many books have you published?
My first published series is the Clock Shop series, which I wrote as Julianne Holmes. There are three books in that series, which is about Ruth Clagan, who is a horologist who lives in the Berkshires and runs her grandfather’s clock shop. My next two series happened around the same time, and each needed their own author name since they were with different publishers, so I decided to choose more JH names. The Theater Cop series is actually the first series I ever tried to sell, and I decided to use my name, J.A. Hennrikus. My new Garden Squad series is for Kensington, and it debuted this year with Pruning the Dead. I write that series as Julia Henry.

My tag line for JH Authors is one woman, three names, many books. All of the names sound like Julie, so I can keep track. And the JH means they are all near each other on shelves. Pruning the Dead was my fifth published novel. In 2019 I have two more books coming out. With a Kiss I Die is the second in the Theater Cop series, and will be out in April. Tilling the Truth is the second in the Garden Squad series and will be out in August. 
(Click here for a review of Pruning the Dead.)

How did you develop your character and choose your location?
I set all of my series in Massachusetts, where I live. I make up towns, but they are based on places I
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visit, though I have been changing the coastline of Massachusetts a bit in the Garden Squad series. When I’m creating a series, I usually visit a place to inspire me, or find one if I need ideas. Characters start rattling around in my brain, and I let my imagination pull them together.

For my new series, I had the prompt “gardener”. I decided to base the town, Goosebush, on the town I grew up in, Duxbury. We moved from Duxbury when I was going into high school, so I was driving around with my writer brain, and noticed a house set back on a double lot. I decided to use that house, and all of a sudden Lilly Jayne, who’s in her mid-sixties, entered the picture for me. Though she’s at the center of the series, she has friends who garden with her, and they all came into the story fully formed as well.

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?
Let me tell you what I’d like a day in the life of an author to be. Waking up, doing author work (emails, blog posts, answering questions), then I sit down and write a couple of scenes. I’m a plotter, so I do have a sense of what I am going to write. Then I would turn off the computer at six, put my feet up, have the cats sit on my lap while I read.

Now, the reality for me is this. I do try and write for an hour a day at least. I’d love to add to that, but I’m opening an online business school for artists, Your Ladders, and my days are full. And, because I got in the habit of writing around a job, I find inspiration hits at around 8 o’clock or 9 o’clock at night. I’ve stopped trying to fight that, but do hope I can train the muse to visit me in the afternoon soon.

The other part of the author life is dealing with the publishing pipeline. Right now copy edits of Tilling the Truth are being done, I’m launching Pruning the Dead, all while the plotting of Book #3 is getting solidified. There are a lot of steps to writing.

Do you model your character after yourself or any one you know?
Sully Sullivan, in the Theater Cop series, is the most like me. I do use inspiration from how someone looks, or a character affect they may have, but I don’t really base my characters on people. That would limit what the characters would do, and characters take on a life of their own.

I will name a character after someone. For instance, my friend Steve asked me to name a character in my Garden Squad series for his mother, so Portia Asher became a character who is part of the series. I told him I wouldn’t promise she’d be like his mother, or that I wouldn’t make her the victim or the guilty party.

Creating characters is a fun, interesting thing to do. They do take on their own personalities, and as a writer, I need to let that happen. I know that sounds a little odd, but the nice thing about being a writer is that you’re never alone.

If your books were made into a movie, who would you want to play the lead character?
What a great question! For the Garden Squad series, Meryl Streep would make a great Lilly, and Angela Basset would be a great Tamara. But other actors could certainly play the roles, and I know that readers cast the characters themselves.

Who is your favorite author?
I can’t pick one! Certainly, in the mystery realm, Agatha Christie has had an enormous impact on me. There are so many, too many, modern mystery authors I read to choose one. I’m also a Jane Austen fan, and have been thinking about how her books could influence a story line for a mystery. Reading is one of my favorite things to do, and I am grateful to the many authors who have given me hours of pleasure.

If you could invite five people – living or dead – to a dinner party, who would they be?
Agatha Christie. Jane Austen. Ida B. Wells. Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Michelle Obama. All women who’ve inspired me one way or the other.

If you could not be an author, what would like to do as a career?
What is interesting about this path is that, like other folks I know, I have a portfolio career to make my life work. I have worked as an arts administrator for over 30 years, mostly in the performing arts. As I mentioned, I am working on opening Your Ladders, an online business school for performing artists. I also teach arts administration as an adjunct professor at different colleges. I know so many artists and writers who have to work several jobs to make it all work. I’m grateful that I have equal passion for all of my careers, though long term I see my writing life follow me into retirement and beyond.

Thanks so much for some thoughtful questions!

Julie blogs with the Wicked Authors. She can be found at, on Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Death of a New American

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It seems even in 1912 there's a group of immigrants being discriminated against similarly to today's times. In New York, it is the Italians who are looked on as gang members. In Death of a New American by Mariah Fredericks, ladies maid Jane Prescott travels to a Long Island estate with her employers, The Benchleys. (Death of a New American will be published by Minotaur Books on April 2.)

They are planning a wedding between their daughter Louise and William Tyler, the nephew of one of New York's leading law enforcement officials. Charles Tyler is well known for his crusade against the Black Hand, a notorious Italian Mafia. In a recent kidnapping, Tyler was able to rescue the child victim and has been hailed as a hero.

Fearing for his own family's safety, he moves them out to Long Island. But all is not well in the house. There's some hostility between the Italian chauffeur and the Italian nanny and Jane is puzzled by their animosity.

Secondly Louise, the prospective bride, is nervous and rattled by the entire concept of the wedding
and what her role as a wife will be. She is vacillating between calling off the wedding and going through with it. Jane tries to soothe the bride, but she senses an undercurrent in the house.

When someone is attacked and killed in the middle of the night, even Charles Tyler is afraid he cannot protect his family. Is it the long reach of the Black Hand or is there something more sinister going on? Jane is determined to find out.

A excellent period piece with lots of atmosphere especially surrounding the events of 1912 - the sinking of the Titanic, the Suffragette Movement and the drumbeat for a World War.

Monday, March 4, 2019

The Egyptian Antiquities Murder

Aristocrats in England have long been fans of Egyptian antiquities, but with the discovery of King Tut's tomb in 1922, collecting artifacts has increased. When Lord Mulvern, an avid collector, dies suddenly in The Egyptian Antiquities Murder by Sara Rosett, his niece calls upon Olive Belgrave to help quell the rumors. (The Egyptian Antiquities Murder will be released on March 15.)

When Olive arrives to meet Lady Agnes, she discovers Lord Mulvern's death is being attributed to a malevolent mummy in his collection. It seems her uncle was in the final stages of preparing for an exhibit of his Egyptian antiquities when he died. Because of a note found with the body, the media believes Lord Mulvern was driven to suicide by the mummy from his collection called Zozar.

Lady Agnes knows this is tabloid nonsense, but believes her uncle was murdered. She wants Olive to
prove he wasn't and in the meantime try to damp down the rumors about her brother Gilbert as well. Gilbert, it appears, was only too anxious to inherit and his greedy wife wants to pin the murder on Lord Mulvern's valet. The police, on the other hand, are only to happy to rule Lord Mulvern's death a suicide.

When Olive discovers the current butler is related to someone who deals in antiquities, possibly stolen ones, she turns her focus towards him, although she hasn't been able to clear Gilbert or Nora. Their stories don't seem to match up and Olive knows if she wrongly accuses either of them, that will be the end of the high society detective.

An insightful view on how the other half live with Olive on the fringe of aristocratic society and Lady Agnes in full swing. A lighthearted mystery with an excellent protagonist.

Friday, March 1, 2019

Mystery Most Edible

Malice Domestic 14: Mystery Most Edible

The 14th anthology in the Malice Domestic series will be published by Wildside Press and released during Malice 31 in May. Mystery Most Edible is presented by Parnell Hall and includes the following stories:
Brown Recluse by Marcia Adair
A Slice of Heaven by Laura Brennan
A Death in Yelapa by Leslie Budewitz
Pie Sisters by Richard Cass
Too Many Cooks Spoil the Murder by Lynne Ewing
Pig Lickin' Good by Debra H Goldstein
Quiche Alain by Marni Graff
Snowbirding by Kristin Kisska
The Blue Ribbon by Cynthia Kuhn
Up Day Down Day Deadly Day by Ellen Larson
The Extra Ingredient by Joan Long
Carne Diem by Sharon Lynn
Sticky Fingers by L.D. Masterson
Sushi Lessons by Edith Maxwell
Killer Chocolate Chips by Ruth McCarty
Dining Out by Rosemary McCracken
Bad Ju-Ju by M.A. Monnin
The Cremains of the Day by Josh Pachter
The Missing Ingredient for Murderous Intent by Elizabeth Perona
Canning Season by Adele Polomski
Diet of Death by Ang Pompano
Gutbombs 'N' Guinness by Lisa Preston
Turn the Sage by Stephen Rogers
Death at the Willard Hotel by Verena Rose
Deadly In-Flight Dining by Sara Rosett
Honor Thy Father by Harriette Sackler
Bring It by Terry Shames
The Gourmand by Nancy Cole Silverman
The Last Word by Shawn Reilly Simmons
Bull Dog Gravy by Mark Thielman
Morsels of the Gods by Victoria Thompson
Mrs. Beeton's Sausage Stuffing by Christine Trent
First Day of the Year by Gabriel Valjan
Murder Takes the Cupcake by Kate Willett
The Secret Blend by Stacy Woodson