Monday, February 29, 2016

An Interview with Kathi Daley

INTERVIEW WITH KATHI DALEY: By Pamela James

MM: Kathi, give us the backstory about how you became an author?
It was really sort of a fluke. My husband and I had sold our business and were ‘semi-retired’ but we both knew we wanted to do something part time. He got a Real Estate License and I decided to try my hand at writing. I figured I could write whenever and from wherever which was a must since at the time we planned to do a lot of traveling. I do not have a background in English or literature or creative writing or really anything that would qualify me to be a writer, so although I jotted down some ideas I was far from publishing anything. Then one day I was on Facebook and I had the idea to share a Facebook page with my dog. I jotted down the following paragraph:
     My name is Zoe Donovan. I’m a third-generation Ashtonite (our unofficial name for the citizens of our little community). The by-product of my wealthy mother’s single act of teenage rebellion, and my locally beloved but financially lacking, blue-collar father’s tender act of love, I’ve overcome my scandalous entry into the world and carved out a satisfying and peaceful existence. While some of the crustier old geezers in town would say I have a tendency toward the absurd, I like to think that I’m actually a normal and well-rounded twenty-four-year-old with a few adorable quirks that make me, me.
     According to my Facebook page, which I share with Charlie, my half terrier/ half mystery dog, we’re in a relationship with our two cats, a huge orange tabby named Marlow (after detective Phillip Marlow) and a petite black beauty named Spade (named for Sam Spade and not the playing card suit.) We are avid joggers and mystery buffs who work for the Ashton Falls branch of the Timberland County Animal Shelter. When we aren’t rescuing animals and placing them in homes around the community, I volunteer at the senior center, where I horn in on their book club, and Charlie volunteers at the hospital, where he’s a therapy dog. I like to wakeboard in the summer and snowboard in the winter, while Charlie prefers chasing a Frisbee on the beach or hiking the miles of unmarred forest around the lake. We both like to relax by curling up in front of the fire with a good book in the converted boathouse we call home.
I just kept writing and in about a week I had a book (Halloween Hijinks). It was really an impulse that caused me to whip together a cover and upload it to Amazon but I did and I sold a bunch of copies and the rest is history.

MM: Where is your favorite place to write? The beach. I live in Lake Tahoe so it is not all that hard to pack up my laptop, find a deserted picnic table, and write until my battery runs out. I also enjoy writing on the lanai of the condo we like to spend time at in Maui. It overlooks the water and is so peaceful.

MM: Tell what genres of books you write? Mystery and Romance with a little YA thrown in.

MM: What comes first, the plot, the characters, setting or something else? It depends. With the Zoe Donovan series the character of Zoe and her dog came first. With my Whales and Tails series the setting came first – I knew I wanted to write a series set in the San Juan Islands. With my Paradise Lake Series, I think the setting came first as well since it is set in a ‘Tahoe-like’ location and with my Seacliff High Series I guess it was mostly the plot of the first book in the series that made me want to write it.

MM: Do you have a certain word count or amount of pages you write everyday? As many as I need to in order to meet my deadlines. This usually falls around 5,000.

MM: If you were going to invite some authors to have dinner with you, who would they be and what would you ask them? Oh and the authors can be dead or alive? Yes I have a wicked sense of humor. Wow, I really don’t know the answer to this question. I have made a lot of friends in the writing community most who I have never met in person so ten or fifteen names come to mind right off the bat. Then of course there are the authors whose books I grew up reading. Hum, this will take some thought.

MM: Are there some television shows you binge watch? Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I own the DVD’s and watch them over and over again.

MM: Be our tour guide and tell us about where you live and where you love to spend your time? I am lucky enough to live in beautiful Lake Tahoe. We have sunshine and beaches in the summer and snow and skiing in the winter. I love to take my dogs hiking or snowshoeing in the forest. We have a boat that I enjoy cruising around on during the summer. And of course there is the beach. I love the beach. It really is an awesome place to live.

MM: Let's talk about your latest book/s? What would you like readers to have as a take away after they finish reading your book? My books are cozy mysteries with plenty of romance, family, friends, animals, and food, but they are really about relationships. My fans tell me that the reason they look forward to my books is because the characters are like friends they have grown to love and they are anxious to return time and time again so that they can share the lives of these characters who seem very real to them.

MM: What would your characters tell us about you? Probably that I am a crazy lady when I am driving the development of a book who veers off all willy-nilly as the mood strikes. I never plot my books so at times they can be pretty unpredictable but it all works out in the end.

MM: What is your favorite place to vacation, your favorite song, meal, dessert, movie/, books you like to reread, snack and favorite artist?

Favorite vacation is a road trip. I love to just get in a car with my husband and drive with no particular route in mind and no sort of timeline. My husband and I have driven back and forth across the United States many times. We just pick a direction, drive until we are tired, find a hotel, and the get up the next morning and decide which direction to head that day. I have been to all 50 states although I didn’t drive to Hawaii.

My favorite song is It’s My Life by Jon Bon Jovi, who by the way is my favorite artist.

My favorite meal is champagne and pizza – cheese or pepperoni

My favorite move is Twister – I don’t know why except that I love weather and road trips.

My favorite dessert is cheesecake

I like to read books that create a mood so I like to read books set at the beach in the summer and holiday books during the holidays.

Favorite snack is potato chips

MM: What are you looking forward to in 2016?
I’m doing some reader events for the first time. I will be attending Romancing the Smokies in Knoxville with the amazing Tonya Kappes in March. I am also one of four authors, along with Tonya Kappes, Laura Bradford, and Duffy Brown, doing a mystery train in Jackson MO in October. I also plan to attend Boucheron and Left Coast Crime. Beyond that????

MM: What would you like to say to your readers, teachers, mentors, any groups you are a member, the village that helped you along the way?
Wow, you are all so awesome and I love each and every one of you so very much. I really do have the very best fans. You not only buy my books, but you support and encourage me, you send me emails and whimsical cards, you offer advice or suggestions when I need it, and you give me a reason to get up each day and do what I do. I also want to thank my author community. Your support and encouragement truly has made all the difference.

MM: Lastly, what is your favorite conventions, retreats, bookstores and libraries?
This will be my first year going to conventions so I don’t have a favorite, yet. I absolutely LOVE the library on Lopez Island in the San Juan Islands. It is a converted firehouse with a fireplace in the center, an awesome children’s area, an enclosed reading room for adults who want some peace and quiet, and tons and tons of books. All of this on an island that only has a couple thousand residents. It is really awesome.

Kathi,
Thank you so much for the interview.


Wednesday, February 24, 2016

An Interview with Shawn Reilly Simmons

MM: Shawn, give us the backstory on your writing career?


When I was young, I won the Best Creative Writing award my senior year of high school, which was totally unexpected. When I went to college the next year, I majored in English and took some creative writing classes. One day a professor pulled me aside and said I should really pursue writing, that I had a gift for storytelling. She was a published author, and I really took to heart what she said. At the time I didn’t have confidence that I could pursue writing as a career, and make a decent living at it, although I really wanted to! After college I moved to New York City and started working in sales and marketing, always keeping writing as my “dream career” for when I hit the lottery or had some other financial windfall that would support my passion.  

I was always a fan of mysteries and crime fiction. Eventually I became an editor, and was asked to join the Board of Malice Domestic. After my son was born, I decided to leave my job at the local paper (a division of the Washington Post) and stay home with him. That’s when I really sat down and decided to write a whole book, whether it would be published or not, just to say that I did it. That book ended up being my debut novel, Murder on a Silver Platter.

MM: What is your current writing project?

I am finishing up revisions and final edits on the third book in my series, Murder on a Designer Diet, which will be published by Henery Press in June 2016.

MM: Tell us about being a published author?

For me, it’s a dream come true, because I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was eight years old. Writing requires a lot of commitment, patience, and hard work. And sometimes you have to produce words even when you’re not particularly inspired to, because you have a deadline to make, and others are counting on you. It’s wonderful to be a published author, but that doesn’t minimize the amount of time and effort it takes to produce a book (or three). 

MM: 2016 what is in store for your readers?


2016 is a busy year! My first two books, Murder on a Silver Platter and Murder on the Half Shell, will be published in February by Henery Press. And then the third, Murder on a Designer Diet, will be published in June. I also have a short story in the upcoming Malice Domestic Anthology: Murder Most Conventional titled “A Gathering of Great Detectives,” which comes out in May in time for the convention.


MM: Is your personal life as exciting or more exciting than your fictional life?

Ha good question! My books are about an on-set movie caterer based out of New Jersey, which is a job I’ve done, so I can say my life was once almost as exciting as Penelope Sutherland’s (my protagonist). Luckily I didn’t run into as many dead bodies as she does when I was catering, bartending and working dinner parties. When I was in my 20s & early 30s, I lived in New York, and did my fair share of traveling and enjoying all the city has to offer. These days I’m a work-from-home mom with a five year old and a busy social schedule, which is its own kind of excitement.

MM: What would your characters tell us about their creator?

That she knows exactly how hard it is to cook for fifteen hours straight, because she’s done it. And she never asks them to do anything that she wouldn’t do herself.

MM: What author would you like to interview?

There are so many…I’m very fortunate as a board member of Malice Domestic to have had the opportunity to moderate many wonderful panels through the years. If I could interview a current author, it would be Sue Grafton and Stephen King (I had to pick 2). If it could be anyone from the past, I’d pick Agatha Christie (of course).  

MM: What advice do you have for novice writers?

The most important thing is to have confidence, and move forward with your story every day, either in writing or plotting. If you think about writing an entire book the first day you sit down, it can be overwhelming. But if you take one step at a time, you’ll finish eventually. Start with a goal (20 minutes in the chair or 100 words a day, for example) that doesn’t overwhelm you and build from there.

MM: What do you desire most in this world?

The life I have right now. And lots of red wine. 

MM: Besides books what are you other interests?

I am a runner, and I do yoga and lift weights every week. I cook every day, and love trying new things in the kitchen (even if my picky 5 year old doesn’t always appreciate it). And I’m a big movie fan—my favorite thing to do is make a big bowl of popcorn, open a bottle of wine and have movie night at home.

MM: They say it takes a village to write and publish. Who is in your village?

That’s the truth! The whole team at HeneryPress, who couldn’t be more encouraging and supportive, my family, who indulge my odd job, which requires I stare at the computer for hours at a time. And my mom and mother-in-law who are always willing to pitch in with babysitting, getting my son off the school bus, or whatever else I may need when I have to do something work-related.

MM: Okay for a few fun questions. Do you like to binge watch movies or television shows? Your favorite meal, place to vacation and song?

Yes! When I have the time. I am mostly able to binge watch shows on the treadmill, because I have to be on there anyway…and it’s a good way to take your mind off the fact you’re running for so long. I watched all of Breaking Bad, every season, while running on the treadmill, no exaggeration.

My favorite meal…that’s a hard one because I love everything. When I’m going out I love getting tappas with my friends. My go-to cuisines are Greek, Spanish, Italian or Sushi. I let whoever I’m going out to eat with pick where we go and what to share because I literally love everything.

Vacation: I’m a beach girl, so give me some sun and sand and an frosty drink and I’m very happy. I grew up in Ft. Lauderdale on the beach, so it’s part of my DNA. I’m never more relaxed than when I’m swimming in the ocean or lounging in the sand with a good book. 

MM: In closing what was your "best" moment of 2015?
That’s a hard one…I’m a pretty fortunate person in all areas of life. As far as my writing goes, the best moment last year was when I got the call from Henery Press that they loved my work, and wanted to be my publisher. That was a pretty awesome day.


Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Review: Birthday Party Murder by Leslie Meier

Lucy and friends decide to throw Miss Tilley a birthday party for her 90th birthday.  At the same time, a local attorney appears to have committed suicide, but his business party doesn't believe it and asks Lucy to investigate it.  Meanwhile, she is struggling with life and getting older as well as her daughter wanting co-ed slumber parties and her son struggling in college.  Lucy never can say no - a habit that has made me want to shake her many times throughout this series.  Yet she is very likeable and the stories always interesting.  I also love Miss Tilley and I loved much of the story being about her and her past.

Another thing I really like is when cozies tackle serious issues (this was actually a fascinating panel discussion at Malice Domestic several years ago).  In this case, elder abuse.  I actually wish there could have been more dialogue about it in the story since Lucy was writing about a police program to address the issue. 

Terri

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Blog : The Weekend

I hope everyone has found a good book or two to read this weekend? I know I am having a wonderful time reading:
 Lea Wait's THREAD and GONE, I love hobby mysteries. Especially cross stitch, needlepoint, quilting, sewing and much more. You could I am in heaven and other passions on my reading list.

Jenn McKinlay does pen a bad book or series. Currently I'm enthralled with her library lover's Mystery series. (Full disclosure I love books set in a library and I go way back to Miss. Zukas Library Mysteries. I digress A LIKELY STORY is wonderful. I would have been exhausted after writing this mystery.

Ellen Byron is another author who knows a character or two PLANTATION SHUDDERS is an impressive cozy Cajun country mystery series.
As you can read I have been happily amused, excited, plot twisted and enjoying all of my books.

I also finished coloring three pictures. Two were started a while back and the other one I stayed with until I finished it this weekend.

Home: Laundry was done, I shopped for diabetic socks, Frank needs to see his doctor about a blood pressure script. He also never made it out to give them a blood test so he has THAT to do...that really left a void in my weekend. Well even our weekend as he didn't do too good last night and explains a lot about our weekend.

What I watched: I watched The new season of CROSSING LINES now this is great and I am happy to say that it's worth your time to find it on nextflix.

Watched a rerun of Doc Martin because I wanted some humor this weekend.

Saturday Morning I watched my quilting shows and cross stitched while I watched them. I had to re-watch the first one which is Quilting Arts as I had a few family snafus etc...what I cross stitched on this time is : Little House Needleworks the title of mine is "The Bookshelf" add to this is the fact that I was going to stitch on the scarecrow but I lost my thread number 309 I still can't find it. LOL the chart number is Seventeen. I only have about half of it to go and until I get out of town to buy floss I think I will continue to stitch this one. I mean the other thread might turn up right? LOL
In full disclosure I must confess that I lost two pair of scissors. I know it's probably all together somewhere.

Our weather is beautiful here so we have been walking Pepper, I have to say we saw a dandelion today. My outdoor plants have died but that will wait a while. I did in the past few days put up Easter Cling On to the door and windows. I also have windows open.
Slow but improving more all the time is that Pepper is doing better. She has more sense than her human dad.
Meals: Fish plenty of fish no matter how hard I tried for it not to be a whole weekend of fish. However tonight NO fish not sure just what yet but probably something with hamburger. Like maybe ghoulosh.

Library Trip: Saturday I did drive to the library. I checked out Jacqueline Winspear's, AMONG THE MAD this is an audio book. I also checked out because I was already there to turn books and audio in so I browsed the new book paperback, large type and audio shelves. I found in paperback Victoria Hamilton's NO MALLETS INTENDED.
Another author who doesn't write a bad series. I tell you I have manna from heaven with the books I am able to find.
Oh and speaking of humor I loved BIG BANG THEORY on Thursday Night.
Speaking of murder: In the past few days I watched A PERFECT MURDER. This had Michael Douglas in it. Have seen it several times.
We are also working our way thru WENTWORTH and this is another series that is worth the watch.

I am sure glad today is my day of rest. Although I must add with Frank's blood pressure issues it sure seems like nothing has went according to plan. This will mean a Monday Morning Shuffle of priorities for me.

Here's to hoping your weekend was more productive than mine.
Happy reads,
Pamela



Thursday, February 18, 2016

Review: Thus was Adonis Murdered by Sarah Caudwell

A young woman goes to Venice and is accused of murdering a young man in her tour group.  Her co-workers back home read her letter and try to puzzle it together in a very irreverent way.  I don't know what I was expecting but I had trouble with this book.  I can certainly see the humor that is very British and over the top.  The story is told through a series of letters from the woman to them amidst much commentary and speculation from the co-worker group.  The language was hard for me to get into.  It seemed very pompous and annoying for a book set in the 1980s and I kept thinking I was in the wrong era.  Their commentary and speculation was an interesting way to tell the story but also fell flat at the same time (mostly I think because of the language and run on sentences).  

A lot of people really love this book and I will say it was different from a lot of detective fiction out there.  I just felt like it was more of a chore than a pleasure to get through.  As for the mystery itself -- it was interesting and certainly had a dramatic reveal.

Terri

Review: Thinning the Herd by Adrian Phoenix

"A dangerous life, this hero's life, but one he'd ever refuse."  Hal is a cocky animal control warden who armed with his trusty catch pole, combats the shifters and lycans in Eugene.  Only lately there have been a lot of missing hippies and fortunetellers as well.  As he and his trusty companions (including witches, cat shifters, lycans, a Goth girl) investigate, they find a dangerous person who wants to summon ancient gods and destroy the world as he knows it - and that will not happen on his watch!

Hal's arrogance seems a bit over the top but in a way it has to be in order for him to fulfill his role as hero.  Action, explosions and mayhem galore.

An extremely fun adventure with wonderfully engrossing descriptions and imagery.

Terri

Review: Orange as Marmalade by Fran Stewart

Martinsville Georgia, is home to Biscuit McKee who has returned home and is the new librarian at the local library. Wait there is more perfect news, she is about to marry Bob Sheffield who is the local police chief.
Normally this news would be enough but it's been years since Biscuit has seen her sister Glaze, however Glaze is coming early to help preparing for not only the wedding but to visit her sister.
Marmalade is the library cat and is he first to find the body. The body of Harlan Schneider, Marmalade wasn't thrilled to find the body on his watch. The only body should have been the mouse but while Marmalade was busy moving in for the kill someone had killed a human.
Biscuit came to the library and found Harlan's body. Apparent that he was murdered did dampen an otherwise perfect day. To Biscuit the murder seemed personal because of the knife through Harlan's heart.
Everyone in Martinsville has their theories as to why the nature photographer was in the library after closing hours. How did he get in and if he had a key who gave the key to him and why would they do that especially since not many keys are given out to anyone.

As time goes on and Glaze arrives Biscuit is happy to have something besides murder to think about and there is a lot to do to keep her mind off of the murder. Not before  few people in law enforcement who seem to be relentless with their questions to Biscuit and other staff, friends and every time Biscuit thinks she can put thoughts of murder aside there is always a knock on the door to remind her that murder is on everyone's mind.

Biscuit show Glaze what has changed since she last lived there. Not to mention there are no secret in Martinsville so everyone Glaze meets already knew she was coming, that she is Biscuits sister and they greet her with open arms.
At first Glaze is a little taken aback but soon warms to the small town residents. Little does everyone know there is a secret about Glaze nobody know and soon the reason why she is a bit of a nomad becomes evident.

Marmalade is busy loving Biscuit and Glaze. Glaze he has given the nickname Wide Lap needs lots of Marmalade strokes she works through her secret and the horror that becomes clear to Marmalade he must protect his small family. He knows Human Bob will do his part but Marmalade is on the prowl.

Marmalade tries to let the sisters know who is outside, where some of the clues are but Marmalade is a little frustrated he can't get his point across to the sisters.

Little by little we learn the past might have a lot to do with the present and why the murder might have happened. The past also is part of what haunts Glaze and why she must stay moving along every few months or years.
As the women sew curtains and discuss the wedding plans,  they also fill their tummies with a part of their past that is cozy for their stomachs and their souls. Biscuit always and I mean always has soup. if not once a day then twice a day. Soup hold the key to her happiness.
Glaze loves milkshakes and must have milkshakes to comfort her soul. They have been like this since their childhood. Other foods might be great for gathering with others but the women rarely defer from their meal traditions.

ORANGE as MARMALADE is such a feline feel good mystery and Fran Stewart knows what the reader wants in their mysteries. They want real characters, setting, pets who are family and plots that unravel slowly like a pot of soup left to simmer but the excitement of that page turning milkshake of is meant to satisfy to the last sip.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

An Interview with Anna Loan-Wilsey

MM: Give us the backstory on your writing career?
ALW:  I didn’t have a writing career until recently. I have degrees in biology and library science. (I’ve even worked with sea lions and monkeys.)  Although I dabbled at writing short stories when I was a kid and had a few poems published in my college literary magazine, I made my first attempt to write a novel only when my job was cut from full-time to part-time a few years ago. That attempt was published as the first book in the Hattie Davish Mystery Series, A Lack of Temperance.  I’ve been writing full time ever since.
 

MM: Where do you like to write?
ALW: Years ago, we converted an extra bedroom in our house into a library with floor to ceiling bookshelves and Bradbury & Bradbury wallpaper on the ceiling. We furnished it with an antique card table, an overstuffed leather chair and a bust of Louis Agassiz.  We call it my office now!

MM: Give us details on how you write your books. Plot, setting, character, keep track of series. Tell us your writing schedule?
ALW: Each book in the series is set in a different historic town. I choose the locations based on my personal interest, geographic location, size, and, most importantly, historic significance.  Then, having chosen a location, I often draw the plots and the characters from the history of the town itself.  For example, A Lack of Temperance, the first book in the series, features a hatchet-wielding temperance fanatic who goes missing.  I drew both character and plot from the fact that the setting, Eureka Springs, Arkansas, was once the residence of Carrie Nation, the famous temperance leader.  As to my writing schedule, I write whenever my young daughter is in school.

MM: Is there an author whose books that maybe you like to or used to like to binge read?
ALW: I don’t tend to binge read except when I discover a new-to-me series that I love. After picking up the first of Ellis Peters’ Brother Cadfael mysteries, I read all twenty books in a row.

MM: 2016 is here, tell us what is in store for you over the next year. I mean both personally and professionally?
ALW: I am currently working on several proposals for new series and trying to figure out how to write more than one book a year. I’m also looking forward to attending the Malice DomesticConvention in April. 

MM: Authors who have passed away always leave their book impressions, leave their personality and mark on our own work. With this in mind and suspend disbelief give us five authors you would like to sit down with over meal and what would you ask them?
ALW: Only five? Wow-that’s tough. There are so many authors I’d love to visit with. But if I had to choose only five, I would love to sit down to a meal with Agatha Christie, Mark Twain, George Eliot, James Michener and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. If there were room at the table, I’d definitely invite Theodore Geisel as well. If I had to ask anything it would be about plot development and research techniques. But truly I’d love to just listen to these amazing people converse.

IF the authors predate the internet. Tell us how you would explain cell phones and internet to them?
ALW: I wouldn’t try.  I love to write (and read) historical mysteries because the sleuth has to rely on her own ingenuity, not on technology.

MM: Now for fun get to know you questions. What is your favorite place to vacation, fruit, dessert, movies, shows to binge watch, favorite writing moment?
ALW: I couldn’t possibly pick a favorite place to vacation- I simply love to travel- anywhere! I like most fruits but I’d have to say the berries are my favorite. Cookies are definitely my favorite type of dessert. For movies, I love watching period dramas in general- Somewhere in Time is definitely an all-time favorite.  I love to binge watch mystery shows of all kinds-particularly anything from the BBC from Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries and Midsomer Murders to Inspector Morse and Broadchurch

MM: Is there someone you want to thank for their help along the way of your publishing career? Maybe a mentor, teacher an author?
ALW: Actually if I were to thank anyone, it would be my husband.  He encouraged me to pursue my dream of writing and has been my first and best beta-reader. I wouldn’t have a publishing career if it weren’t for his support.

MM: Tell us about your latest book?

ALW: My latest book is A Deceptive Homecoming, the 4th in my Hattie Davish Mystery series. My amateur sleuth, Miss Hattie Davish, is a traveling private secretary in 1890’s America who solves crimes in each historic town she visits. In the latest book, she returns to her hometown of St. Joseph, Mo. (known as the birthplace of the Pony Express and where the assassination of Jesse James took place) for a funeral but when she arrives the body in the casket is not who she expected.  

MM: If your book was made into a television series or movie who do you see playing your main character?
ALW: I’ve always envisioned Keri Russell as Hattie.  Although she is about ten years old than Hattie, she’d still be perfect.

MM: Do you have a favorite artist, person in history and song who really speaks to your soul?
ALW: No.  I take inspiration from a wide range of people, places, books, art, music, food, architecture, etc., both historically and in the present.  It is one reason why I love to travel.

MM: Last but never least what would your characters tell us about you? Also what is your secret passion? 
ALW: Hopefully my characters reveal my attention to detail, my desire to entertain, my love of a good puzzle, and my sense of justice.  As to a secret passion, like Hattie who has never met a cake she didn’t like, I haven’t met a form of dark chocolate I didn’t like.  I’ve loved it since I was a child (when it wasn’t as readily available as it is now) and can’t remember the last time I ate any other type of chocolate.


Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Review: The Marsh Madness by Victoria Abbott

Jordan Bingham is beyond excited when Chadwick Kauffman extends an invitation to Jordan's employer Vera Van Alst, to see and buy his Ngaio Marsh Collection.
Jordon has always wanted a peek inside Summerlea Estate. Lisa Troy, Chadwick's assistant has reported back to Jordan that all three of them are invited for dinner.
 The only problem is that Vera insists on taking Uncle Kevin and where Uncle Kevin goes so does trouble. He is a Kelley and the other two Uncles always said that Kevin used up all of the Kelley good luck. The other two have to rely on skill and charm.

Upon arriving at the Summerlea Estate, Jordon has a feeling of elation and dread. There is a butler to greet them, there is the woman whom Jordan spoke with Miss. Lisa Troy. Jordan likes Lisa but is less than thrilled when she meets Chadwick, he is nothing like what she  she imagined the heir to Summerlea to be and what is worse she finds herself wishing she could shake the feeling of dread.
Vera is impressed with the collection. Uncle Kevin is taking in all the antiques Jordan is almost certain Uncle Kevin has a not so nice motive. The meal was perfect and uncle Kevin ate with restrained gusto.

They leave with the books that Vera paid a lot of money but she wasn't taken in because they might have cost her more elsewhere.
They leave Summerlea, and the next morning comes. The shock is that Chadwick has died from a fall on the grand staircase.
The fall happened shortly after Jordan, Vera and Uncle Kevin left the house. What is more interesting is the picture shown in the paper is nothing like Chadwick Kauffman, there are more surprises.

The visit by the police left Vera more than upset, Jordan finds she had a lot to deal with all at once. First Uncle Kevin is in the wind since he is not fond of the police and they are usually less than fond of him. Mostly any crime he commits is a mere infraction.
Tyler Dekker works for the police department and is Jordan's boyfriend, he has overlooked a lot due to Jordan's family.
However the day becomes much worse when Tyler breaks up with Jordan by text. Claiming that their worlds are too different.  It never bothered him that much before.

The day becomes worse as Vera and Jordan are assigned a police car outside the Van Alst estate. Also when Jordan leaves the house there are unmarked police cars following her everywhere.
It's clear that help isn't exactly knocking on the door. One uncle is on his honeymoon, the other is out of town. However she still has the Kelley antique shop and their apartment above the shop which means she has access to cars, disguises, this includes wigs. It also means she can return to her childhood room to think an regroup.

The police detectives search Vera's home including Jordan's room. Long story short someone is trying to frame them for murder. Because that is exactly what has happened to Chadwick Kauffman and what is more apparent is the police detectives are only interested in Vera, finding Kevin and Jordan.
Then there is the fact that Charles the butler isn't a butler, Miss. Lisa Troy isn't who she claimed to be and the more Jordan researches the more she knows she needs investigative help.
The clues are many...pictures, murder weapon, does it all lead back to Summerlea? Is there someone who is making it personal for one of them
The Marsh Madness by Victoria Abbott, is absolutely another gem in this series. I have  to say this is my type of story to lose sleep over and I can't wait for the next book in the series.
if you are stressed keep calm and read The Marsh Madness, it will be sure to make your bad day brighten. Plan to lose sleep and settle in with a cozy drink.

I have left out a lot of excitement but this is because there is happily many more characters and plot that will amaze, amuse and I couldn't fit every page into this review.

Definitely a real page turner.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

An Interview with Colleen Shogan

MM: Give is the backstory on your writing career?

As a political scientist, I’ve previously written for an academic and congressional audience.  One day, I took a walk in my neighborhood and contrived the plot of STABBING IN THE SENATE. I had never written fiction before, so one day I simply sat down and started to write the novel. I’ve been reading mysteries since I was a little. In my early days of fiction writing, I tried to imitate the various writing styles I’ve enjoyed over the years.

MM: Where is your favorite place to write?

In the summer, I love writing outside on our backyard deck with my dog.

MM: What is your writing schedule?

Since I work full-time at the Library of Congress, I write in the evenings and on the weekends, usually for about an hour at a time. If done consistently, it works.

MM: Dead or alive what five authors would you like to interview? What would you ask them? What meal or desert would you have?

Walter Isaacson, Dan Brown, JK Rowling, Deborah Harkness, and Mildred Wirt Benson (aka Carolyn Keene). Quite an eclectic group! I’d ask them about how they come up with the creative ideas for their books.  I’d probably like to chat with them over a nice cup of coffee.

MM: Tell us about your latest book?

The second book in the series, after STABBING IN THE SENATE, is HOMICIDE IN THE HOUSE. I finished it a few months ago and sent it to my publisher. I think it’s even better than STABBING because there are several subplots, and almost a mystery within a mystery. The same characters make an appearance – Kit, Doug, Meg, and even Trevor. Congress is still the backdrop, but there’s even more intrigue and political maneuvering!

MM: What comes first, your character, plot, setting or backstory of the situation?

The setting really helps dictate my plot. After I work on the action, then I develop the supporting characters, creating their strengths, weaknesses, and foibles. That’s always a lot of fun because you can be as creative as your mind allows.

MM: Be our tour guide. Tell us about where you live and what you love about living there?

I live in a beautiful neighborhood in Arlington, Virginia, which is approximately four miles from Washington, D.C. I love living in my house. It’s not particularly large, but for almost 20 years, I lived in apartments, condos, and dorms. Finally, we bought a house, and it’s very enjoyable, particularly our backyard.

MM: I loved STABBING IN THE SENATE, where did you get your idea? Tell us about the fabulous cover and title?

I worked in the United States Senate for almost three years so the backstory comes from my experience as a staffer. Personally, I like alliterations. Once I decided upon the Senate as the setting, then of course it had to be a stabbing! My publisher designed the cover. We went through several versions, and I took many of the drafts into work at the Library of Congress and showed them to colleagues, who weighed in. They helped drastically with the cover’s evolution. But the best part of the cover is my dog, the inspiration for the beagle mutt “Clarence” character in the series. HOMICIDE IN THE HOUSE features Clarence prominently so don’t miss it.

MM: What would your characters tell us about you?

That I like writing dialogue a lot more than writing anything else! That’s why the dialogue is snappy. I think it’s my sharpest writing.

MM: Now for fun questions. What show/s do you binge watch? What is your favorite meal, place to vacation, movie/s, song and way to spend your spare time?

I have a guilty pleasure: “Grey’s Anatomy.” I also like “NCIS: Los Angeles” (I overlapped with Chris O’Donnell at Boston College), “Madame Secretary” and “Veep.”

My favorite meal is definitely pizza. I love vacationing in Duck, North Carolina, a town in the Outer Banks. One of my favorite movies is “This Is The End” starring James Franco and Seth Rogen. Those guys make me laugh out loud. I can’t get enough of them. I like the song “I’m Happy” because I try to stay optimistic. Between my regular job, writing, and teaching a course annually at Georgetown, I have very little spare time. When I do have time, I like to head out to Virginia wineries with my husband and dog, go to the movies, and of course, read.

MM: Lastly, what are you looking forward to in 2016?

I’m a political junkie so I am looking forward to the 2016 presidential election. The cast of characters thus far have proven especially entertaining.


Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Blog: My last two library trips.

Time before last I went to the library and I picked up in paperback "Marsh Madness by Victoria Abbott, I love this book and should finish it today. I can't wait to review it for you. I also hit the jackpot because I found in hardback Plantation Shudders by Ellen Byron.
I am in heaven with these two books. Wait it gets better because I also picked up books on tape. I have the Fifth Witness by Michael Connelly, this is art of the Lincoln Lawyer Series. I have to say I am happily cross stitching and I love this idea. I finished the first scarecrow this way and I am on the second scarecrow.
Another plus is that my husband who doesn't read fiction (not even my books), is listing along with me. However, since he doesn't stitch sooner or later he falls asleep.
It's just nice not to have the television blaring because that is his thing he watches television all the time. Currently the offices are a mess. Another story for another day.

I also picked up V is for Vengeance by Sue Grafton for the audio in the car. Now that was  great trip but I did have to return the Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith which is also J.K. Rawlings.
Anyway this has become humorous because twice now I have had to return it before I finished the book because someone else wants to read it. The front desk person can't understand why I haven't finished it yet because she couldn't put it down.

Anyway this brings me to last night's visit. I got a call yesterday from one of the ladies and Career of Evil is in so I went to pick it up and of course once again the conversation flowed to the fact if someone else wants to read it I must return it and not recheck the book out. I said well I probably won't finish it and will have to recheck. Again we rehashed that she couldn't put it down. I told her I ha four books going, one on the kindle, one in the bathroom, one in the bedroom and one in the living room. She told me that was crazy. I understand as she reads one book at a time.
I told her that I review books and so I must do it this way. That it's not a problem because most are in different genres. She thinks I am crazy. LOL
Either way the book will be rechecked out and I am very happy she found that she loves this series. I love the series but I do have obligations. One of which is that I must also return the audio books on time and the other books. Plus authors expect their books read and so as you can see this is very humorous.
Anyway I use my library a lot and love all the ladies who work there. I really love to read and I love cross stitch.
I couldn't afford to buy all the books I want to read. Of course we all try to buy the books and our grocery Country Mart always seems to have several cozy authors. Some of which I do not read but it's nice to support a store that does this, I love winning books,
I love books that authors send to me and I love buying books. I will be using audio library at the local library more and more as that actually takes care two of my loves.
I do need to try to make he coloring class this week while the sun is going to be out and shine.
Okay now maybe I will post a review today.
Hugs,
Pam

An Interview with Nancy Herriman

MM: Nancy give us the backstory on your career?
           
            I began writing when my kids were little (since they’re               nearly 19 and 21, you get an idea  how long ago that                   was), jotting down as many words as possible during                 naps and distracted playtime. I took writing classes,                   attended conferences, and joined a hardy band of fellow             writers who were my greatest supporters and are still                 my friends. I began writing romance novels, winning                 RWA’s Daphne award for a historical romantic
            suspense that landed me my first agent, but                                  unfortunately not a contract. It would take
            several more years, manuscripts and a new, utterly                     marvelous agent to finally get ‘The Call’. When my                   publisher closed their fiction line, however, I was left                 adrift. My agent knew about my historical romantic                   suspense and suggested I try writing a mystery. Which I             did and which became ‘No Comfort for the Lost.’

MM: What type of schedule do you have?
           
            When I’m working full tilt on a book, my day usually starts around 8 in the morning, when
            I catch up on my e-mail and social media. I start writing sometime around 10,
            working until about 4 (or later, if I’m nearing deadline), and will spend a few more hours
            catching up on mail and posts and doing a little promo after that. I work 6 days a week,
            including holidays, but even when I’m on deadline, I take Sundays off. I simply have to
            recharge at some point.

MM: Tell us about your latest work?

            I’ve just handed in the edits on the 2nd book in my ‘A Mystery of Old San Francisco’
            series, which is titled ‘No Pity for the Dead.’  My books take place in the 1860s after the
            Civil War, and feature an English nurse, Celia Davies, and a handsome (of course!)
            Police Detective, Nick Greaves, along with a host of colorful characters. Here’s a mini-
        
    blurb that rather summarizes the premise of my books: ‘In 1860s San Francisco, gold buys the best life has to offer. Without it, not even justice is guaranteed.’ I’m also very pleased to say that Library Journal chose ‘No Comfort for the Lost’ as their August Pick of the Month. Quite an honor.

MM: If you could sit down to dinner with five people. Who would they be? What would you ask them?

            Given the time period for my books, I’d like to meet some             of the famous folks from 1860s San Francisco. People like             Mark Twain and Bret Harte; Emperor Norton, who wasn’t
            really an emperor, but did become an extremely popular                 tourist attraction; Levi Strauss;  or the intriguing Jesse                   Benton Fremont, whose house overlooking the Golden                   Gate in the early 1860s became a salon for the San                         Francisco intellectual elite.

MM: What is your favorite place to vacation, dessert, song, movie and book to re-read?
           
            Vacation: I have to choose? Any place with interesting history, lovely buildings and good
            food! England is a favorite (no, honestly, there is good food there) as is New York City.
            Dessert: Hm. It’s a toss-up between my mother’s blueberry pie and key lime pie, I think.
            Song: Tough one. As a vocalist, there are songs I love to sing (Bach/Gounod’s ‘Ave
            Maria’ or Darlene Zschech’s ‘Shout to the Lord’ or Wilson Picket’s ‘Mustang Sally’!). As a
            listener, it depends on my mood. I love Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Never Going Back Again’, ‘Wild
            Horses’ by the Stones, and ‘Tonight, Tonight’ by Smashing Pumpkins, to just name a few.
            Movie: I watch ‘A Christmas Story’ every year, but I adore old classics, especially
            Hitchcock’s ‘Rear Window’. Appeals to the mystery author in me, I suppose!
            Book: I can’t recall the last time I reread a book. But I’m a huge fan of Elizabeth Peters’
            Amelia Peabody series (so sad she’s gone) and Lindsey Davis’ work.
           
MM: What would you like to say to your readers?

            I hope that you find my tales of the folks who populated San Francisco in the 1860s, a
            city filled with immigrants from all over the world, interesting and that you come to love
            Celia and Nick and their family and friends, with all their quirks.

MM: What would your characters tell us about you?

            That I keep putting them into perilous situations they’d rather not have to deal with!

MM: Tell us about where you live? Be our tour guide>

            I live in a fairly normal central Ohio suburb, but am happy that we’re very close to
            countryside and have lots of parks to take advantage of (as well as lots of great
            restaurants with good food and some very lovely buildings)

MM: In closing leave us with a character quote?

            ‘Danger finds her like a bloodhound tracks a scent.’ Nicholas Greaves thinking about
            Celia Davies


Review: Gone and Done It by Maggie Toussaint

Baxley is working as a landscaper when she finds bones in the hole she is digging.  This unleashes a lot of problems for her, from being tased by deputies thinking she is is interfering with the scene, to being fired by her employer for bringing unwanted attention.  Baxley has other skills though - she can dreamwalk and see and talk to the deceased and learn things that can help the sheriff in the investigation.  She is a single mother struggling with making ends meet and she thinks if she can help the sherriff, she can add to her income.  She struggles to balance all of the overwhelming things happening in her life to help solve the murder and help the dead woman who haunts her dreams.

It is actually hard to do justice in my summary to all of the interesting elements in this story and the complexity of Baxley's life.  I really enjoyed this book and its characters.  Best one so far this year!

Terri

Friday, February 5, 2016

Review: Thaddeus Whiskers and the Dragon by HL Burke

Thaddeus is the companion of the Princess and lives a lovely life that makes him happy.  When the court Magician decides to make him fluffier as a 'gift', it has the unintended consequence of triggering violent sneezing in most of the court including the king.  So he is taken away until a new spell can be found to fix it. 

Only he is being kept away and no one seems too anxious to fix it and get him back home. Missing the Princess, he tries to find his own way back, making friends with a dragon and rat along the way.  If he doesn't find his way back, a sorceress will make sure she weds the king and he will never be back and the Princess will be sent away.  Only to fight the sorceress, Ambrosia, he needs the help of the friends he has made.

A light, fun tale.

Terri

Thursday, February 4, 2016

An Interview with Mary Ellen Hughes

MAHEM AND MAGIC
Mary Ellen Hughes

MM: Mary Ellen, please tell us the backstory on your how and when you became an author?
I crept towards becoming an author, inch by inch. My first byline was for a humorous 12-line poem in the Saturday Evening Post. It paid only $15, but it encouraged me enough to try short stories. Before long, two were published with one winning a local award! After that I stepped up to writing full-length novels, and two were accepted by a small publisher, which eventually led to my getting an agent and a contract with Berkley Prime Crime. Berkley published my Craft Corner Series, then followed that with my Pickled and Preserved series.

MM: When do you have your most productive writing time?
Mornings, definitely. I might do a little editing later in the day, but I think the most creatively in the morning.

MM: How many books have you written and what genres have you written?
SCENE OF THE BRINE is my eighth book. They’ve all been cozy/traditional mysteries. You can see the full list at Mary Ellen Hughes Author Page

MM: In 2016 what do readers have to look forward to and what are you personally looking forward to doing or taking the time to do?
SCENE OF THE BRINE was released February 2. I’m also working on a  proposal for a new series but can’t say too much about it yet. I’d love to take a trip to somewhere new, perhaps something a little exotic.

MM: Without it being a convention. If you were going to have nine authors to lunch. Who would they be and what would you discuss? Of course we want to know what season and what meal you would serve?
Nine authors? I’m not sure I could handle that many, LOL. Since you didn’t say they’d have to be alive, my dream guest authors would be Agatha Christie and Jane Austin. I’d pick Agatha’s brain to learn how she came up with all her clever plots, then Jane Austin’s about creating memorable characters.
The meal would be a cream tea (they’re British, you know) and I’d serve lovely crust-trimmed sandwiches outdoors in the garden, where we could enjoy my summer blooms. I’d also offer a variety of tasty pickles to go with the sandwiches and homemade strawberry jam and clotted cream for their scones.

MM: What advice do you have for novice mystery writers who want to write a mystery series?
Read  as much as you can of what’s out there to get a good feel for the genre. Then write, write, write. A good critique group is always a plus for immediate feedback on your writing.

MM: What do you love about writing mysteries?
Since I write cozies, I love creating characters, whether victims or murderers. I feel a little like a sculptor as the person slowly takes shape on the page. It’s hard work, but it can be so satisfying.

MM: Some fun questions for you. Where is your favorite place to vacation?
I like to see new places, so I don’t have a favorite place to go to more than once, other than visiting those family members who live away from us.

 Do you ever binge watch television shows or movies? If so which ones?
No, I’ve never binge-watched. It’s not my thing.

 Do you have a favorite meal?
Again, I like variety. My husband could eat the same meal for days, but not me. I don’t like to eat a certain meal more than once a month, and my “favorites” change often.

 Be our tour guide and tell why you love living where you live?
I live in Maryland, where I moved after college. I love being close to so many great places. D.C. is minutes away, with its great museums and entertainment. Baltimore and Annapolis have their historic places and wonderful restaurants. Then, the beach at Ocean City is reachable in only three hours, with many quaint Eastern Shore towns to drive through or visit on the way. Did I mention mountains? Not that far away, either, in the other direction. I could go on for hours…

MM: Do you ever reread your favorite books?
I do! I’ve reread Jane Austin’s books and love them. But I put a few years between rereading.

MM: They say it takes a village to be a published author. Who is in your village?
I was lucky to join a terrific critique group early on, and I learned—and still learn—a lot about writing and publishing from them. My local Sisters in Crime chapter was another wonderful resource, filled with lovely people.

MM: Are you a member of any writers group?
Besides Sisters in Crime, I’m also a member of MysteryWriters of America.

MM: Who has encouraged you the most in your life?
My husband has always been wonderfully supportive, in so many ways.

MM: Tell us about your latest book. Are you a person who outlines their books/series? Do take it as the words come and then rewrite if you need be?
Here’s the blurb that appears on the back cover of SCENE OF THE BRINE:
Business is booming at Piper’s Picklings in Cloverdale, New York. But not all is sweet in the life of Piper’s number one customer and friend, local caterer Sugar Heywood. Sugar is dating wealthy realtor Jeremy Porter, but his family doesn’t approve. After their unscrupulous accountant finds some dirt on Sugar, the family quickly urges Jeremy to throw her out like rotten fruit. 
 Things are further spoiled after the accountant is found poisoned, and all evidence points to Sugar’s son, Zach. With the Porter family determined to avoid scandal, it won’t be easy for Piper to preserve Zach’s innocence. And after someone falls victim to a poisoned jar of some of her brandied cherries, Piper’s got a peck of trouble to deal with herself…

I don’t outline but have a pretty good idea of my plot, suspects, and solution before I start. I like being surprised as new ideas appear while I’m writing. I’ll edit the previous day’s pages as I go along, but also do editing at the end, if needed. It usually is, LOL.

MM: I imagine that when a book is released there is a lot of stress. How do you combat your stress?
Stress, yes, but the good kind that comes from excitement. Exercise relaxes me, and I love to play tennis if I have the time. That game takes my mind off things very well.

MM: Leave us with either a quote by your protagonist or leave us with your favorite quote?
Someone gave me a collectible bookmark, once, with a quote of Winston Churchill’s that I love: “Never, never, never quit.”


Guest Blogger - Alice Duncan

Spirits United! I apologize for last month’s blog. I was so down in the dumps, I just couldn’t bear to be funny. Losing a best friend...