Guest Blogger ~ A.M. Reade

THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS

I recently took an online quiz designed to determine whether I am a right-brained or left-brained person. There were probably a thousand other things that might have been a better use of my time, but I was intrigued (Clickbait, you’ve come to the right place). In a nutshell, right-brained people tend to be the more creative types, whereas left-brained people tend to be more analytical.

You may have seen this quiz, or recall one very much like it from 2015. People are shown a photo of a sneaker and asked what they see: is it gray and teal, or is it pink and white? Back in 2015, it was the dress. Did you see a blue and black dress or a white and gold one? If you don’t know what I’m talking about, Google it. You’ll see what I mean.

In a brilliant illustration of what it’s like to be me, the sneaker and dress quizzes indicate that I fall into both right-brained and left-brained camps—or neither, depending on how you look at it.

In all seriousness, though, everyone has both right- and left-brain capabilities, though one side or the other happens to be dominant in most people. I honestly don’t know which is my dominant side.

I used to consider myself a left-brained person: verbal, analytical, and (somewhat) organized. That makes sense—I practiced law before turning to writing fiction, and the law is very logic-based. I know, I can hear you laughing from here, but it really is true, at least in a courtroom setting. Writing a novel requires a certain amount of logic, too. A writer’s job is to come up with a plot and a story arc that make sense to the reader.

The longer I’m away from the law, though, the more I find myself doing things like handicrafts and gardening and artwork and experimental cooking (I like to tweak or make up recipes just to see what will happen) in my spare time. These are typically considered right-brained activities.

This got me thinking: where does that leave the zealous lover of mystery fiction?

And here’s what I’ve decided: writers and readers of mysteries get to experience the best of both worlds (both sides of the brain) simultaneously.

The act of writing satisfies and exercises both analytical and creative muscles, as does the act of reading. Is there anything better than finding yourself immersed in a story, following along as if you’re part of the action? Whether you’re writing that story or reading it, you’re using both sides of your brain. You’re walking the logical path of the plot from beginning to end, puzzling out the clues, and you’re using your imagination to experience the sights, sounds, scents, and tactile sensations of the setting.

If you’re a writer, you’ve done your job if a reader comes away with a feeling of satisfaction. If you’re a writer of historical mysteries, as I am, you’ve done your job if the reader also learns a little something in addition to enjoying the mystery.

If you’re a reader, you’ve done your job if you’ve simply paid attention to the story. You’ve very likely used your imagination without even realizing it. This is left- and right-brain exercise at its best.

It turned out to be a good thing for me to take that sneaker quiz because it led me down the rabbit hole of research into how people use different parts of their brains. It got me thinking of the ways in which I use my own brain.

If you’re reading this post, you probably love mysteries. You use your whole brain when you read. So where do you see yourself on the left-brain/right-brain spectrum? What do you do in addition to reading? Are you a stock analyst? Are you a painter? Does (or did) your day job exercise a different part of the brain than the part you use when you read? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Thanks to the Ladies of Mystery for hosting me here today. It’s been a fun post to write and I hope it got you thinking.

CAPE MENACE

The year is 1714. Two years have passed since Ruth Hanover vanished into the wilderness of the New Jersey colony without a trace, leaving behind her husband, William, and their daughter, Sarah.

Though William and Sarah have never stopped hoping Ruth will return, as time goes by it becomes less and less likely they will ever see her again.

Now William is acting strangely. He won’t tell Sarah why he’s conducting business with a mysterious stranger in the middle of the night, he won’t explain the sudden increase in his income, and he won’t share with her what people in town are saying about her mother’s disappearance.

When the time comes for Sarah to face her father’s secrets and figure out why her mother never came home that December day in 1712, what she learns will shock her tiny community on the New Jersey cape and leave her fighting for her life.

KINDLE: https://www.amazon.com/Cape-Menace-Historical-Mystery-Collection-ebook/dp/B087PJWX7Y

APPLE IBOOK: https://books.apple.com/us/book/cape-menace-a-cape-may-historical-mystery/id1511409624

KOBO: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/cape-menace-a-cape-may-historical-mystery

BARNES & NOBLE NOOK: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/cape-menace-amy-m-reade/1136964165

GOOGLE PLAY: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Amy_M_Reade_Cape_Menace?id=P3zkDwAAQBAJ

PAPERBACK: https://www.amazon.com/Cape-Menace-Historical-Mystery-Collection/dp/1732690782

Amy M. Reade is the USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of cozy, historical, and Gothic mysteries.

A former practicing attorney, Amy discovered a passion for fiction writing and has never looked back. She has so far penned three standalone Gothic mysteries, the Malice series of Gothic novels, the Juniper Junction Holiday Cozy Mystery series, the Libraries of the World Mystery Series, and the Cape May Historical Mystery Collection. In addition to writing, she loves to read, cook and travel. Amy lives in New Jersey and is a member of Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime.

You can find out more on her website at www.amymreade.com.

BLOG: https://amreade.wordpress.com/

FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/amreadeauthor

AMAZON: https://www.amazon.com/stores/Amy-M.-Reade/author/B00LX6ASF2

GOODREADS: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8189243.Amy_M_Reade

BOOKBUB: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/amy-m-reade

TWITTER: https://twitter.com/readeandwrite

INSTAGRAM: https://www.instagram.com/amymreade PINTEREST: https://www.pinterest.com/amreade/

Guest Blogger ~ Robin Henry

Great mystery/thriller books writers should read… by Robin Henry

It is time for year end lists!  Here’s my list of favorite mysteries and thrillers I read in 2022.  NOTE—I read these in 2022, some of them were published earlier…

Each of these are a great mini-masterclass for mystery writers, too. Each does a wonderful job of keeping the reader curious, building suspense, but without frustrating the reader.  Several of them are also playing with form, like epistolary or traditional historical.  If you want to write a great mystery or just get lost in one for a while, these are all excellent choices.

The Appeal by Janice Hallett

An excellent use of the epistolary form, and just a fun mystery with a load of crazy characters who will keep you guessing.  Definitely recommended for Cozy fans…

Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty

Domestic Thriller by the current Queen of the Genre in my opinion.  So many family secrets…but somehow all loose ends are explained and tied up at the end.

The Paris Apartment by Lucy Foley

Need a book that will make you stay up until 2 AM?  Look no further.  This apartment building is creepy and so are the people who live there…

The Bullet That Missed by Richard Osman

You’ll laugh, you’ll tear up, you’ll love every moment you spend with the gang. One of the most fun things about Osman is the observations he makes about the world through the eyes of his characters.  Surrender to it and you won’t be sorry.

Apothecary Melchior and the Mystery of St. Olaf’s Church by Indrek Hargla

English translation by Adam Cullen, English version published by Peter Owen

A finely plotted traditional medieval whodunit.  If you’ve been wishing for a new Father Cædful, try Apothecary Melchior…

Fatherland by Robert Harris

Gritty, alternative history mystery set in the Berlin of a partially victorious Third Reich.  The Cold War looks a little different and the Americans under President Joe Kennedy (mobster father of John, Ted, and Robert) is cozying up to the fascists. The book is simply fantastic and also a little frightening because of the way Harris understands human nature.

See more book reviews along with free writing tools at http://readerly.net

Robin Henry is a librarian and independent scholar turned book coach who loves history and mysteries along with her hot beverage.  You can find out more at http://readerly.net or contact her at readerlybooks@gmail.com 

Guest Blogger ~ Erica Miner

BRINGING MURDER AND MUSIC TOGETHER

Opera can kill you.

That’s what young violin prodigy Julia Kogan discovers on the night of her debut in the orchestra at the Metropolitan Opera.

Julia is the protagonist in my Opera Mystery novel series. I know her very well. She is my alter ego, my clone: myself at that age, when I first started out as a newbie in the Met Orchestra.

How did a Met Opera violinist morph into a writer of mysteries? The answer lies in a sad story with a happy outcome.

When I was in my twenties, I had the good fortune to be playing in the pit at the Met, where I was privileged to watch and learn from some of the most glittering celebrities ever to grace the opera stage. Rehearsing and performing with the likes of Luciano Pavarotti and Plácido Domingo was an almost daily occurrence, and dreamlike in its splendor. Night after night I watched the dazzling Austrian crystal chandeliers rise to the ceiling, heralding another first act curtain about to rise at the world’s most prestigious opera house. It was hard work but rewarding.

Alas, after 21 years of opera spectacles from Mozart to Verdi to Wagner, injuries suffered in a car accident forced me to give up my Met career. What new creative outlet could I replace it with? It was writing that saved me.

I had always written, since I was a kid in grade school and was placed in an after-school program for Creative Writing. That was when I discovered my love for the art: inventing characters and plot lines and weaving them together to tell stories. Even when I was at the Met, I took writing classes whenever I could fit them into my schedule. That passion for telling stories has not faltered. I never expected it would one day become the key to my artistic survival. Nor did I anticipate that the Met itself would be a source of inspiration for future novels.

While I was at the Met, I had learned something surprising about the venerable institution. When I observed the backstage intrigues that went on behind that famous “Golden Curtain,” I found that in every department of the company, from the biggest onstage stars to the orchestra musicians to the stagehands and more, egos and rivalries ruled the day. These people were always at odds with each other. The place was a musical Tower of Babel.

Take the orchestra, for instance. 100 neurotic musicians thrown together in a hole in the ground, with no light and no air, 7 days a week. You see more of these people than your own families. Sooner or later, someone’s going to want to kill someone. And there were some nefarious goings-on as well. True events that would curl your ears.

How could I not write about this place? I let my wicked imagination take over, and before I knew it, I had created my Julia Kogan Opera Mystery series. Book One, Aria for Murder, takes place at the Met, where neophyte Julia becomes entangled in a murder investigation. When she realizes her probing has placed her in danger of becoming the killer’s next victim, she must use every shred of her inner strength to save her own life.

I could never be as brave or as plucky as Julia. But I have gotten limitless vicarious thrills from concocting jeopardy for her as she survives the Met and, in upcoming sequels, finds danger lurking in the dark corners and hidden hallways of other opera houses. The violinist in me continues to provide the background for my novels. But I consider myself doubly blessed to be a violinist who writes.

Erica Miner, the Agatha Christie of the opera world, continues the genre with a wickedly wonderful, brand-new thriller, Aria for Murder. Mystery and opera lovers alike will be fascinated to move beyond the famous “Golden Curtain” and glam atmosphere of the world’s most prestigious opera house to the dark hallways and hidden stairways of a theatre rife with danger and intrigue.

Excitement mounts as the moment arrives for brilliant young violinist Julia Kogan’s debut in the orchestra of the world-renowned Metropolitan Opera. But the high-stakes milieu of this musical mecca is rocked to its core when, during an onstage murder scene, Julia’s mentor, a famous conductor, is assassinated on the podium.

Julia is paralyzed with grief, but when her closest colleague in the orchestra is named chief suspect, Julia is thrown into high gear and teams up with opera-loving NYPD detective Larry Somers to solve the murder. As the investigation escalates, Julia and Larry are shocked to discover that the venerable opera house is rife with a web of secrets, intrigue, and lethal rivalries.

But when Julia finds threatening notes attached to her music and barely misses being crushed by falling scenery, she suddenly realizes she may be the real killer’s next victim. Then she is forced to act to save her own life—before it’s too late.

Buy links: https://www.amazon.com/Aria-Murder-Julia-Kogan-Mystery/dp/1685121985/

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/aria-for-murder-erica-miner/1142495216?ean=9781685121983

Erica Miner is the award-winning author of the Julia Kogan Opera Mystery series. Aria for Murder, her recent release from Level Best Books, has garnered 5-star reviews on Amazon and Goodreads.

https://www.ericaminer.com

https://www.facebook.com/erica.miner1/

https://twitter.com/EmwrtrErica

https://www.instagram.com/emwriter3/

Guest Blogger ~ Darcie Wilde

            IDEAS & INSPIRATIONS

            I am a Jane Austen fangirl.  

            I admit, I was not always.  But then, like a whole lot of people I saw the 1995 Pride & Prejudice with Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy, and I was gone.  Lost.   Yourcallisveryimportanttouspleaseleaveamessage.  Gone.

            Since then, I have read Pride & Prejudice multiple times, along with the other Jane Austen novels.  I’ve also read a lot of Austen’s contemporaries, who were between them busy inventing the modern novel and several literary genres, including Romance and Historical Fiction.  A lot of these books are really bad, but some of them a absolutely fascinating, if you’re a history nerd, which I also am.

            For all I credit Austen and her novels as one of the inspirations for the Useful Woman mysteries, I’d never really leaned into the plots and characters of what has become the most famous of her books.

            But, as we all know,  it is a truth, universally acknowledged that the writer of a series set in England in 1820 must be in want of a plot.  And sooner or later, that writer needs to look to the Great Jane.

            But in 2021, was there another version, or vision, left to write?  Pride & Prejudice has been adapted for every genre, and every character seems to already have their book.

            So, what was I going to do?

            Step One: reread the original.  If you haven’t read Pride & Prejudice, I recommend it.  It’s easy to follow and accessible.  Even better, it’s funny.  It’s sharp.  It’s suspenseful and engaging, even after two hundred years and countless adaptations. 

            Step Two: Get mad at Mr. Bennet.  Mr. Bennet is our Heroine’s father.  This is the guy who failed to save any money for dowries, or do much of anything else, like insist the girls get educated, so they could manage for themselves, or contact his relatives to help them get started in society so they actually had a chance of making decent marriages.  

            Step Three: Develop a sympathy for the three younger Bennet sisters.  These are Mary, Kitty and tragic Lydia.  Realize it must have been hard to be a younger Bennet.  Mom’s a hypochondriac.  Dad’s emotionally unavailable.  You’re constantly being compared to your two oldest sisters, and you know you’re never going to measure up because you’re not that pretty and not that witty and you’ve got no money.  So what are you going to do?

            Step Four:  Hear those oh-so-dangerous words in the back of your head What if…

            What if we had a similar situation, where a ne’re-do-well insinuates himself into a family, and tries to seduce one of the sisters?  What if the sister isn’t just a silly little thing with no idea of what she’s getting into?  What if she’s got a plan?  What if she sees this rogue as rout to getting some money of her own and away from her smothering family and perfect older sister? And what if she had help from a sister…?

            What if this situation landed in my sleuth Rosalind’s lap just before the London social season of 1820?

Darcie Wilde is the bestselling, award-winning, multi-genre author of the Useful Woman mysteries.  Her latest title The Secret of the Lost Pearls is an Editor’s Pick on Amazon and a “Must Read” book for 2022 from USA Today.

This captivating Regency-era mystery inspired by the novels of Jane Austen is perfect for fans of Andrea Penrose, Lauren Willig, and Deanna Raybourn, as readers venture beyond the glittering ballrooms and elegant parties of Regency London to the dark side of the city and its unexpected dangers.

Rosalind Thorne may not have a grand fortune of her own, but she possesses virtues almost as prized by the haut ton: discretion, and a web of connections that enable her to discover just about anything about anyone. Known as a “most useful woman,” Rosalind helps society ladies in need—for a modest fee, of course—and her client roster is steadily increasing.
 
Mrs. Gerald Douglas, née Bethany Hodgeson, presents Rosalind with a particularly delicate predicament. A valuable pearl necklace has gone missing, and Bethany’s husband believes the thief is Nora, Bethany’s disgraced sister. Nora made a scandalous elopement at age sixteen and returned three years later, telling the family that her husband was dead.
 
But as Rosalind begins her investigations, under cover of helping the daughters of the house prepare for their first London season, she realizes that the family harbors even more secrets than scandals. The intrigue swirling around the Douglases includes fraud, forgery, blackmail, and soon, murder. And it will fall to Rosalind, aided by charming Bow Street officer Adam Harkness, to untangle the shocking truth and discover who is a thief—and who is a killer.

Buy Links:

https://www.indiebound.org/search/book?keys=secret+of+the+lost+pearls

https://www.amazon.com/Secret-Pearls-Useful-Woman-Mystery-ebook/dp/B09YLRTWFX

Darcie Wilde is the bestselling, award-winning, multi-genre author of the Useful Woman mysteries.  Her latest title The Secret of the Lost Pearls is an Editor’s Pick on Amazon and a “Must Read” book for 2022 from USA Today.

www.darciewildeauthor.com

Guest Blogger ~ Skye Alexander

A Good Place To Die

The real estate agent’s axiom about the importance of “location, location, location” holds true for me, too, as a mystery writer––usually the setting is the first thing I establish in a novel. The place where a story occurs provides a backdrop for the action and creates ambiance. It also grounds the tale in a time/space framework with a history, culture, and physical features that dictate what can or cannot happen there. A crime that transpires in a seventeenth-century French chateau, for instance, will be different from one that takes place on the mean streets of Al Capone’s Chicago or in a California mining town during the Gold Rush.

Sometimes the setting assumes a life of its own and becomes a character in the story, such as the marsh in Delia Owens’s Where the Crawdads Sing and the Four Corners in Tony Hillerman’s novels. In some cases, the setting serves as an antagonist, like the Dust Bowl in John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath and the Parisian flood in Sarah Smith’s Knowledge of Water. The environment challenges the protagonist and either helps or hinders her efforts to solve the crime––or to stay alive.

Much as I enjoy reading about Louise Penny’s fictitious town of Three Pines, Quebec, and Susan Oleksiw’s Hotel Delite in Kovalam, South India, I didn’t want to limit my series to only one setting. Consequently, I created a cast of New York Jazz Age musicians whom wealthy people hire to perform at special events. Each stint takes the entertainers to a different location where they’re presented with a unique set of obstacles and opportunities.

The most recent novel in my Lizzie Crane mystery series, What the Walls Know, is set in a spooky castle in October of 1925. When the musicians accept an invitation to perform at a Halloween party there, they have no idea they’ll be trapped on an isolated peninsula with real-life wizards, witches, ghosts, fortune-tellers––and a murderer. The actual neo-Gothic Hammond Castle in Gloucester, Massachusetts inspired me, and I incorporated its magnificent pipe organ and some other notable features into the story. The oceanside estate of the plumbing magnate Richard Crane prompted the first book in my series, Never Try to Catch a Falling Knife. Two future novels in the series, The Goddess of Shipwrecked Sailors and Running in the Shadows, take place in Salem, Massachusetts. This city’s colorful history offered up intriguing plot elements, including the clipper ship trade and the notorious smuggling tunnels that once ran beneath the old town.

For the sake of authenticity, I physically visit each place mentioned in my novels––every house, store, hotel, restaurant, church, library, museum, park, railway station, and cemetery. If it ever existed and still does, I’ve been there. In Never Try to Catch a Falling Knife, my characters eat lunch at a resort that unfortunately burned down in the 1950s, dashing my hopes for a site visit. Luckily, though, I located an elderly gentleman whose family owned the resort when he was young and he kindly spent an evening recounting the “good old days” with me.

What are some of your favorite story locations? How do you feel they contribute to the tale? Does reading about a particular setting make you want to go there?

What The Walls Know

Halloween 1925, Gloucester, Massachusetts: Jazz singer Lizzie Crane thinks ghosts in a creepy castle are her only worry, until a woman dies of a suspicious heroin overdose and Lizzie becomes a murder suspect––or maybe the next victim.

Buy Links:

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/what-the-walls-know-skye-alexander/1142463455

Skye Alexander is the author of nearly 50 fiction and nonfiction books. Her stories have appeared in anthologies internationally, and her work has been published in more than a dozen languages. In 2003, she cofounded Level Best Books with fellow authors Kate Flora and Susan Oleksiw. The first novel in her Lizzie Crane mystery series, Never Try to Catch a Falling Knife, set in 1925, was published in 2021; the second, What the Walls Know, was released in November 2022. Skye lives in Texas with her black Manx cat Zoe.

Website: www.skyealexander.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/skye.alexander.92