Guest Blogger ~ Dianne Freeman

An Inspirational Feud

My Countess of Harleigh series takes place among the aristocracy of late Victorian London. That era and group of people provide an endless supply of situations on which to hang a murder mystery. The inspiration for my latest book was an unusual feud between two millionaires of the Gilded Age—John MacKay and Charles Bonynge.

The men had quite a bit in common. John MacKay came to the US from Ireland. In 1851, at the age of twenty, he made his way to California where he worked as a miner for eight years. Tired of mining, he began a mine-servicing business. As mining expanded, his business boomed. He continued to maintain ownership in a few mines as he was sure there was more silver to be found. He was right. One of his mines hit the Big Bonanza, the greatest mining strike in the history of the American West, and made him a millionaire many times over. He and his wife relocated to San Francisco.

Meanwhile, Charles Bonynge immigrated to the US and headed west. He worked in San Francisco in a livery stable while speculating on the stock market. In the 1860s he too moved to Nevada, where he worked in the mines and traded in mining shares. After a while, he quit mining to set himself up as a stockbroker and met with great success. Bonynge, along with his wife and step daughter, moved to San Francisco, where Mackay became one of his clients.

Bonynge and MacKay had a business relationship that appeared to be cordial and lasted for several years. Then Bonynge retired, but not before he made some public comments about MacKay’s unethical business practices.

So began the feud.

Both families had homes in London and they all showed up for the social season of 1886. On the same day, Mrs. MacKay and the Bonynge family were meant to be presented to Queen Victoria at one of her Drawing Room afternoons. Unfortunately for Mrs. Bonynge, a newspaper ran a story revealing that she had been divorced, which made her ineligible to meet the queen. Mr. Bonynge and their daughter attended without her. Only the MacKays could have provided that tidbit to the papers. If this was the opening salvo in the feud, they were happy to fire back. They revealed to a reporter that when MacKay met his wife, Louise, she was working as a washer woman in mining camp.

Despite their wealth and class, the feud, which carried on for four years, was every bit as dirty as the Hatfields and McCoys and far more public. Enough so, that I had to wonder what would happen if one of these men was murdered? Wouldn’t the police immediately suspect the other party in the feud? And if someone else wanted to murder one of these men, what better time than when he was involved in an openly hostile feud with someone else? It was the perfect time. And that’s where A Bride’s Guide to Marriage and Murder begins.


On the eve of her marriage to George Hazelton, Frances has a great deal more on her mind than flowers and seating arrangements. The Connors and the Bainbridges, two families of American robber barons, have taken up residence in London, and their bitter rivalry is spilling over into the highest social circles. At the request of her brother, Alonzo, who is quite taken with Miss Madeline Connor, Frances has invited the Connor family to her wedding. Meanwhile, Frances’s mother has invited Mr. Bainbridge, and Frances fears the wedding may end up being newspaper-worthy for all the wrong reasons.

On the day itself, Frances is relieved to note that Madeline’s father is not among the guests assembled at the church. The reason for his absence, however, turns out to be most unfortunate: Mr. Connor is found murdered in his home. More shocking still, Alonzo is caught at the scene, holding the murder weapon.

Powerful and ruthless, Connor appears to have amassed a wealth of enemies alongside his fortune. Frances and George agree to put their wedding trip on hold to try and clear Alonzo’s name. But there are secrets to sift through, not just in the Bainbridge and Connor families, but also in their own. And with a killer determined to evade discovery at any cost—even if it means taking another life—Frances’s first days as a newlywed will be perilous indeed.

You can find links to all Dianne’s books here: Dianne Freeman | Historical Mystery Writer (

Goodreads: Dianne Freeman (Author of A Lady’s Guide to Etiquette and Murder) | Goodreads

Dianne Freeman is the acclaimed author of the Countess of Harleigh Mystery series. She is an Agatha Award and Lefty Award winner, as well as a finalist for the prestigious Mary Higgins Clark Award and the Sue Feder Historical Mystery Award. After thirty years of working in corporate accounting and finance, she now writes full-time. Born and raised in Michigan, she and her husband split their time between Michigan and Arizona. Visit her at

Social media links:

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Titles- where do they come from?

Ask any writer and they will each give you a different answer to where they get the title for a story, book, or article. Most will even say they come up with the title differently for each story, book, or article.

So how does that tell you where titles come from…it doesn’t. From talking to other writers and reading the struggles they go through to find titles, I can tell you there is no set way a writer comes up with the words that are on the front of their book or draws a reader to their story or article.

If the writer is published with a traditional publisher, they have no say over the title. The publishing company decides what title will go on the book based on past book sales. Not sales by that author but by all the authors in their house and what titles readers were drawn to.

A self-published author can give their book a title and it will stay with the book. We don’t have the algorithms that the traditional publishing houses have. But we can google the title, see if there are any others like it. Then we can see if the words in the titles are used in top selling books. And so on. If you are a writer who tries to piggyback off the top selling books.

For me, the title either comes as I am “stewing and brewing” the story –this is where I’ve come up with a premise, or the means of murder, or a unique idea I plan to incorporate into the story. If that doesn’t bring about a catchy title that matches other titles in the series, then I start writing. Adn at a point while I’m putting the story down in words, a few will string together and a lightbulb comes on and I realize that is the title of the book. This has happened to me, mostly with the first book of a series. Then after that the rest of the series has to have similar titles.

As for my Shandra Higheagle mystery series, the titles all come from either the way someone was killed or how they came to be killed.

With the Gabriel Hawke series, since he is a Fish and Wildlife officer (game warden) I wanted to have animals in the titles of the books and on the covers.

The Spotted Pony Casino mystery series, I chose to use gambling terms for the titles of the books. I found a dozen terms that I liked and have been slowly incorporating which ever title I pick into the murder mystery that I write. This has actually been the easiest way to come up with a title. I have the list and just have to decide which term works with the premise I come up with for the book.

Currently, I have started book 10 in the Gabriel Hawke series. When I first came up with the idea for the story and formulated the premise of the murder, I had called the book Fleeing Swan. But after researching the area and getting a great photo of a bear while traversing the wilderness where one of the characters will be hiding, I decided I wanted that photo on the cover and have changed the title to Bear Stalker. While the character who I was referring to as swan in the original title swims away from a threat, I decided to give her the Cayuse name of Small Bear (kskɨ́s yáka). Since she is being stalked by the killer- I came up with the title Bear Stalker. And now that I have my title and my story, my fingers are flying across the keyboard telling Small Bear’s story.

I haven’t decided what the next title will be in the Spotted Pony Casino series. I have an inkling of what the story will be about, at least the secondary plot since I left it hanging in the last book, but I want the title to reflect the main plot of murder in the book and not the secondary plot that will be left hanging in the next few books. I don’t want that little time bomb to go off just yet. 😉 But until I get a clear picture of what the next book will be about, I’m not sure what the title will be other than one from my list of gambling terms. 😉

Does a title of a book draw you to discover more about the book or is it the cover image that draws you to the book? Especially if it is an author you have never read before.

Guest Blogger ~ Peggy Rothschild


Until our home burned down during the Thomas Fire in 2017, I had focused on writing both traditional and coming-of-age mysteries. Sometime during the aftermath of the fire, my agent suggested I try writing a cozy. Having never written one, I wasn’t sure if I could, but decided I might as well try. I read dozens of books to study the genre (and made a list of “acceptable” oaths along the way!).

The next important piece of the puzzle came when I watched a friend compete at an agility trial. I met handlers and their dogs and had a wonderful day—all the while scribbling away in my notebook. Once the idea for a mystery began to take shape, I contacted my agent. I told her I’d been reading to better familiarize myself with the genre and had an idea for a story but was worried there were already a lot of cozies featuring dogs. Her answer: You can never have too many dogs! So I began to write.

It was a lot of fun. Diving into the cozy genre was just what I needed—something light, but still involved, featuring interesting characters, and someone hiding a motive for murder. And, as an added bonus: The research was fascinating. Those middle-of-the-night periods where I pondered “what happens next?” still occurred, but the various directions the story beckoned were exciting to grapple with.

A DEADLY BONE TO PICK straddles the line between cozy and traditional mystery and features two wonderful dogs, Harlow and Noodle—as well as my heroine, Molly Madison. Molly’s dog, Harlow, was easy to “cast” and is based on the dog my husband had when we first met. A sunny, smart, lovable golden retriever, she greeted (almost) everyone with enthusiasm. Casting Noodle took a bit more research. I wanted the story to feature a dog who wasn’t necessarily easy but was smart and had a terrific tracking nose. After much research, I landed on a Saint Berdoodle. They combine the amazing noses of poodles and Saint Bernards and—in Noodle’s case—added in a prodigious drool factor. Weighing in at 180 pounds, training him becomes a necessity for Molly soon after they meet.

When writing Molly, I wanted her to have law enforcement experience so she would be a credible protagonist who understands how an investigation works. I gave her a slightly murky past because life isn’t always simple and straightforward. And I gave her a sense of humor because that’s what helps people handle the twists and turns life can hand out.

Here’s a brief blurb about the story from Penguin Random House:


When Molly Madison, dog-wrangler extraordinaire, stumbles upon a murder in her new hometown, she must track down a killer to save the day.

Ex-police officer and former P.I. Molly Madison is starting over. After the death of her husband, she and her golden retriever, Harlow, move cross-country to California. But as charming and peaceful as the beachside town seems, she soon learns its tranquil tides hold dark secrets.

On her first day in the new house, a large, slobbering Saint Berdoodle wanders in. Molly winds up taking on the responsibility of training Noodle since his owner is too busy to do the job. On one of their daily beachside walks, Noodle digs up a severed hand. Once Molly alerts the police and they run a background check on her, an incident from her past makes her an immediate suspect—after all, Noddle’s testimony to clear her name won’t hold much water in court.

To prove her innocence, Molly must rely on instincts keener than a canine’s to sniff out the real killer. But when Molly’s life is put in danger, will her two very loyal pups be able to rescue her?

A Deadly Bone to Pick by Peggy Rothschild: 9780593437087 | Books A Deadly Bone to Pick: 9780593437087: Rothschild, Peggy: Books

A Deadly Bone to Pick by Peggy Rothschild, Hardcover | Barnes & Noble® (

A Deadly Bone to Pick by Peggy Rothschild (

A Deadly Bone to Pick a book by Peggy Rothschild (

A Deadly Bone to Pick |

A Deadly Bone to Pick: Peggy Rothschild: Hardcover: 9780593437087: Powell’s Books (

9780593437087 –


Peggy Rothschild and her husband now live in the beach community of Los Osos—where there are enough trails to keep her out of trouble for years. Peggy’s coming-of-age mystery/adventure, PUNISHMENT SUMMER, was published by Evernight Teen in 2015 and her short stories have been included in The Best Laid Plans, Heartbreaks and Half-Truths, and Avenging Angelenos anthologies. She also illustrated the children’s book Angie’s Great Big Beautiful Life: Tales of a Rescue Cat.
Peggy is a member of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, the SLONight Writers, and the Short Mystery Fiction Society. Her newly released mystery, A DEADLY BONE TO PICK, is the first book in the Molly Madison Dog Wrangler series. Book two, PLAYING DEAD, will be out in February 2023.

You can connect with her at:


Guest Blogger ~ Nancy Lynn Jarvis

Writing PIP Inc. Mysteries is my way of keeping a friend who has moved to another state close and letting pets who have crossed the rainbow bridge live on as more than memories.

When I began writing mysteries in 2008, my protagonist was a realtor like I was. I used my experiences to enhance the story lines and told readers that as far-fetched as the real estate references were, they were all true and based on things that happened to me or my associates during my twenty-five-year career. It was easy to write authentically because I knew the business so well. But after seven books in the Regan McHenry Real Estate Mysteries series, it was time for a change.

I have a dear friend, also named Pat like my PIP Inc. protagonist, who is the most fascinating person I know. She gave me many ideas for murders and was especially helpful with bank robbery insider information she knew for my stand-alone novel, Mags and the AARP Gang, because she was on the board of the credit union where I set the robbery.

As I started formulating the PIP Inc. Mysteries series, I asked if I could use her and her background―like my Pat, she was the county law librarian and is a private investigator―as my protagonist and if she would be a consultant for the books because I knew nothing about being a private investigator and would need her help. She agreed under one condition: private investigator Pat had to have green eyes because she always wished her eyes were green.

 I made my Pat half her age, unmarried, and with an enviable figure, something the real Pat loved. When she saw the cover for the first book in the series she exclaimed that Pat had the hips she always wished she had.

I also gave Pat two pets, a Dalmatian named Dot and a ginger tabby named Lord Peter Wimsey. Dot is based on my beloved Freckles―whose real-life antics often find their way into the books―and my husband’s cat, Wimsey. 

Having Pat as a consultant has worked out better than I hoped. She advises me on how to conduct investigations so details ring true, and she comes to Santa Cruz at least twice a year for an in-person consult. You should have seen us spying on a neighbor when she was here recently. Pat suggested we climb his security fence to see if we were right about him and what was happening on his property. When I told her that could be dangerous, she said, “Don’t worry, I always carry my Magnum 357, just like private investigator Pat does.”

You can read about the adventures of Pat, Dot, and Wimsey in the PIP Inc. Mysteries series. Book 3, The Corpse’s Secret Life was released earlier this year. The series is intended to be read in order so you might want to start with The Glass House and then The Funeral Murder before you take on the sin-eaters and undercover agents of The Corpse’s Secret Life. (And if you want to find out what that neighbor was up to, there’s always the barely fictionalized A Neighborly Killing from the Regan McHenry Real Estate Mysteries series.)

Pat’s fledgling private investigation company, PIP Inc., has a promising new case.

Pat is still wearing a wrist cast after breaking her arm in a confrontation with a killer, so when she’s hired by the City of Watsonville to unearth the identity of an older woman who died in her bed, she’s delighted that her next job promises to be a simple computer-based research project.

Why is it that things are never as simple as she thinks they will be? Pat soon discovers nothing is as it seems, beginning with a corpse who had secret identities, murder, and a post-death ritual thought to have last been performed decades ago.

 “I love this series, and this particular mystery is very entertaining.”

        Janice J. Richardson author of The Spencer Funeral Home series

“Captivating from the start! The Corpse’s Secret Life transports you into a realm of page-turning mystery… a must read”

          Maryanne Porter, author of Haunted Santa Cruz, California.

You can find her all her books here:

Nancy Lynn Jarvis left the real estate profession after she started having so much fun writing the Regan McHenry Real Estate Mysteries series that she let her license lapse. But after seven books, she was ready for a new adventure and is currently working on the fourth book in her PIP Inc. series which features protagonist not-quite-licensed private investigator, downsized law librarian Pat Pirard. She has also edited crowd pleasers Cozy Food: 128 Cozy Mystery Writers Share Their Favorite Recipes and Santa Cruz Weird. Read first chapters of her books at



Guest Blogger ~ Kaye George

Where Did Enga Dancing Flower Come From?

I ask myself that sometimes! Her original name, in my mind, was Enga Yellow Flower. Her twin was Ung…some other color of flower. They were either abandoned by their own Neanderthal tribe, or the sole survivors of a catastrophe. However, as soon as I inserted Enga into the tribe who rescued them, in the very first book, DEATH IN THE TIME OF ICE, it became clear she was a dancer. The best dancer in the tribe. She wanted to keep the Flower in her name, hence, Enga Dancing Flower.

Maybe I should answer the larger question. Where did the Neanderthal tribe, who call themselves the Hamapa, come from? It is totally my fault that they find themselves in what is now North America. My life-long fascination with all things ancient compelled me to use that setting so I could include the wondrous mega-fauna from that time, about 35,000 years ago. I couldn’t resist the giant sloths, giant beavers, dire wolves, glyptodonts, saber tooth cats, mammoths of course, and many more. (The book, ICE AGE MAMMALS OF NORTH AMERICA: A Guide to the Big, the Hairy, and the Bizarre, helped to make them irresistible.)

Aside from residing where it’s probable that they never did (but it’s also possible, just barely!), this tribe and the others are drawn as faithfully to modern research as I can. It’s hard to keep up, though, because new discoveries are constantly being made, and new theories being posited. Just the other day, a baby wooly mammoth emerged from the permafrost in the Canadian Yukon, almost perfectly preserved!

Enga’s twin eventually became Ung Strong Arm when she turned out to be one of the best spear throwers. The Hamapa are matriarchal and the woman are the spear throwers since they are patient and accurate. The strong males are charged with hauling back the large pieces of the kills. Seems fair to me.

How about the names Enga and Ung? Believe me, everything had to be thought out for these books. I studied linguistics to learn what the easiest sounds are, the least complicated. It was thought, for some time, that Neanderthals had no speech capabilities, but that has been shot down for theories that they probably did. I took the middle ground. They can speak, but rarely do. And when they do, they use the sounds that young children and people with speech problems find easy to make.

That’s where Enga Dancing Flower came from. Where is she going? When the leader of the tribe is murdered in the first book, Enga is clever enough, with the help of a juvenile male named Jeek, to figure out who the murderer is. The tribe values her dancing as well as her problem-solving skills. You know, if you read mysteries, that more people will be murdered, and Enga and Jeek will have to uncover more clues, facts, and culprits.

The second book is DEATH ON THE TREK, and DEATH IN THE NEW LAND is the latest.

Enga Dancing Flower and her tribe have reached a place they can stay in safety. Or have they?

It’s clear the groups of other settlers in the area do not want more neighbors, and this is made even more evident when a male of Enga’s tribe is murdered, and a baby is kidnapped.

The future of the tribe is immediately put into question. Can Enga and her people find the killer and rescue the baby? Or will the security and bright future the tribe has dreamed of fall to pieces?

Buy links

Paperback from Untreed Reads (discounted here)

Ebook from Untreed Reads (discounted here, too)


Barnes & Noble

Also available through Ingram

Kaye George, award-winning novelist and short-story writer, writes cozy and traditional mysteries and a prehistory series, which are both traditionally and self-published: two cozy series, Fat Cat and Vintage Sweets; two traditionals featuring Cressa Carraway and Imogene Duckworthy; and the People of the Wind prehistory Neanderthal mysteries,  Over 50 short stories have also appeared, mostly in anthologies and magazines. She reviews for Suspense Magazine and writes a column for Mysterical-E. She lives in Knoxville TN.

Social media links: (feel free to pick and choose)


Here’s where you can connect with me if you haven’t already:

Emails: and

My Facebook page:

Goodreads page:



My Amazon page:

Book Bub:

Authors Guild of Tennessee:

My blog:


Nose for Trouble Facebook group:

Prehistory Writers and Readers Campfire:

Cozy Town Sleuths (on the 4th of the month)

Smoking Guns E TN chapter of Sisters in Crime: