Guest Author ~ Sharon Dean

A male English professor once asked me, why do all you women trade these mystery novels? By “all you women” he meant people like me, female English professors of a certain age. I used to trade with someone during final exams and escape into a mystery between reading student papers. My favorites were by Amanda Cross. How could I resist something called Death in a Tenured Position?

            Amanda Cross was the pseudonym for Carolyn Heilbrun, a faculty member at Columbia. She escaped the stress of being a woman in what was then a male dominated profession by writing novels about a female professor stumbling upon and solving crimes.

            What my female colleagues and I all had in common were preteen years reading Nancy Drew, Trixie Belden, the Dana girls, any of a huge number of mysteries put out by the Stratemeyer Syndicate. Bobbee Anne Mason, who wrote her Ph.D. dissertation on Vladimir Nabokov, studied these novels in a book called The Girl Sleuth (1975) before she turned to writing fiction of her own. In a line that captures how these books led so many of us to become English professors, Mason writes that after all “A scholar is a version of a sleuth.”

            My last scholarly book was an edition of letters by the nineteenth century writer Constance Fenimore Woolson. I had to be a sleuth to edit these letters. I had to find them, to puzzle together how they fit chronologically, to search for many of the names now lost to us. When I gave up writing books that required footnotes and turned to writing fiction, mysteries were a logical place for me to begin.

            My first amateur sleuth, Susan Warner, is what you would expect from me––a retired English professor. My new one, Deborah Strong, is not far removed. She’s a librarian in a town adjacent to the one I imagined for Susan. Both these amateur sleuths listen, watch, put clues together. Both allow me to draw on my life as an academic, especially the second in both series. My Susan Warner novel Death of the Keynote Speaker is set on New England’s Isles of Shoals. It weaves together the real history of Celia Thaxter’s literary salon on Appledore Island and a notorious murder on Smuttynose Island, with a fictional nineteenth-century writer I named Abigail Brewster. Writing it, I drew on many of those letters by Constance Woolson that I edited. In my forthcoming novel, The Wicked Bible (scheduled for Octorber 2021), Deborah Strong encounters a letter to the imagined Brewster when she’s at a conference on the history of libraries.

            I’ve let go of the academic life and learned to edit out the scholarly voice that used to intrude into my drafts. But I can’t let go of the connections to the scholarly research that creep into my fiction. Mine is a life that a good sleuth might have predicted. Reader of girl sleuth mysteries becomes analyzer of literature, and scholarly sleuth becomes writer of whodunits. I’m enjoying the journey.

The Barn

In 1990, Deborah Madison and Rachel Cummings, both seventeen, are enjoying a bicycle ride on a beautiful September day in New Hampshire. They stop at a local barn that no longer houses cows but still displays a wooden cow’s head that peeks out from a window in the rafters. Sliding open the door, they find Rachel’s boyfriend, Joseph Wheeler, dead on the barn’s floor.

            The case lies as cold as Joseph for nearly thirty years until Rachel returns to New Hampshire to attend the funeral of Joseph’s mother. The girls, now women, reopen the cold case and uncover secrets that have festered, as they often do, in small towns. Against a backdrop of cold and snow and freezing rain, Deborah and Rachel rekindle their friendship and confess the guilt each of them has felt about things that happened in the past.

The Barn is a story of friendship lost and recovered, secrets buried and unburied, and the power of forgiveness.

Buy links: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08BZWKTMB

publisher’s link: https://encirclepub.com/product/thebarn/

Sharon L. Dean grew up in Massachusetts where she was immersed in the literature of New England. She earned undergraduate and graduate degrees at the University of New Hampshire, a state she lived and taught in before moving to Oregon. After giving up writing scholarly books that required footnotes, she reinvented herself as a fiction writer. She is the author of three Susan Warner mysteries and of a literary novel titled Leaving Freedom. The Barn, the first novel in a new mystery series, features librarian and reluctant sleuth Deborah Strong as she and her friend solve a thirty-year-old cold case. Set in the depth of New Hampshire’s January, The Barn is a story of friendship lost and recovered, secrets buried and unburied, and the power of forgiveness.

website: https://wordpress.com/page/sharonldean.com/31
publisher’s link: https://encirclepub.com/product/thebarn/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/267389.Sharon_L_Dean

Guest Author ~ Zaida Alfaro

Since I can remember, I was always writing.  I would write poems to my family and to my imaginary best friends.  Then as I got older, my poems progressed into song lyrics, and those song lyrics progressed into my two music albums. Then, many years ago, I became an avid reader of cozy mysteries, because of my sister. She gifted me a book because of its cover.  I ended up reading the entire series of the author.  I didn’t know the cozy genre existed before then. The story lines were intriguing, engaging, and funny at the same time. I was so inspired by the authors, that I then decided to take my musical experiences, and put it on paper. I began writing and completing this first novel, in between my full-time job, my weekend gigs, and my personal life. The phobia’s, the dream sequences, and the quirkiness of the main characters, are all based on facts. I also wanted to bring the love I have for Miami, the Cuban culture, my family, and music, to the readers of my novel, and to the series to come. The ironic thing is the main character is not my favorite character in my book.  My favorite character is Alexia.  At first, Alexia was not going to have such a big role in my book, but the more I wrote her, the more that I fell in love with her character.  The character is based off my older sister, and a lot of the bantering, communication, and the closeness that Vy and Alexia have in the book, portrays my actual relationship with my older sister.

If you are currently writing a novel, the best advice I can give you is to not give up.  I received so many rejection letters, that I was on the verge of not sending out any more query letters.  Then I attended a book signing for one of my favorite authors.  Fortunately for me, and unfortunately for her, I was the only person that attended the signing.  I was able to sit with her for an hour and talk about my novel and the hardships.  She said to me, “give yourself a deadline of a year before you resort to self-publishing. Do not give up just yet.”  So, when I left that signing, I calendared a year from that date.  In six months, my book was picked up!  So, do not give up.  Give yourself a deadline and send out as many query letters as you can.  There will be one publisher that will believe in your work, but make sure that you believe in your work first.

I just want to say, thank you readers and to Paty for taking the time to read my book and also blog about it.  I hope that you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.  Welcome to my crazy world!

THE LAST NOTE: A Miami Music Mystery

Killer songs and a killer voice, but a killer at her gig?  Vy has always found herself at the center of attention as the lead singer for one of Miami’s top cover bands, but when she finds herself at the center of a murder investigation, while performing at the Steel Horse Bar, that changes the tune of the night.

Someone believes that Vy knows the truth behind the murder of the bar owner Ricky, and now that person is after her. Vy better figure out quickly who wanted Ricky dead, who is threatening her with her favorite band’s song lyrics, and why she’s falling for the handsome Detective Houston, before she too sings her last note.

With a mixture of mystery, mayhem and comedy, you will find yourself immersed in Vy’s musical and murderous world.

buy link:
https://www.amazon.com/Last-Note-Miami-Music-Mystery/dp/1946063487

The novel’s main backdrop, the amazing city of Miami, Florida, is beloved and well-known to me. I was born and raised in Miami, and like the novel’s main character Vy, I am a singer/songwriter, as well as the lead singer to a self-proclaimed cover band. All things relating to music or literature are my passion. I keep a journal, and I am constantly writing poems, stories, and any thought that comes to mind. I have a fascination for black and white films, that have the element of mystery. As I have been told by many, I have a very creative imagination.  Many years ago, I became an avid reader of cozy mysteries. The story lines were intriguing, engaging, and funny at the same time. I was so inspired by the authors, that I then decided to take my musical experiences, and put it on paper, hence the outcome of The Last Note: A Miami Music Mystery.

Guest Author – Kathy Manos Penn

I’m a Cozy Mystery Writer because . . .

Would you believe me if I said it was an instance of serendipity? Or several instances? As an English major, I did a brief stint as a high school English teacher and then moved on to a banking career where I became the go-to person for writing—no matter my actual job title. Trust me, they never let me near the money!  Maybe that was the first instance of serendipity.

While I was still ensconced in that career, the next serendipitous moment occurred. I was inspired to write a guest column for a local weekly paper and before I knew it I was producing “The Ink Penn” every week. 

I knew I enjoyed my corporate writing, but this was different. I’d found my passion, so I started a weekly blog. When I retired, I published a collection of my columns and then a book that grew out of the blogs written by my dog. Don’t ask how.  It just happened.

I was seeking help in marketing a second dog book when a consultant uttered the words, “You know, I think you should write a cozy mystery.” My reaction? “Who me? What do I know about plots or mysteries?” Except it turns out I know quite a bit.  After all, I’ve read two-three books a week my whole life, mostly mysteries. 

How did I happen to talk to the one person who would see that potential in me? Once again, I’d call it a stroke of serendipity. Together, we ticked off a list of ingredients for my cozy—a list that represented my personality, my sense of humor, my writing style, and my likes.

  1. Be set in England to suit my Anglophile tastes
  2. Include a cat and a dog—Better yet, the main character can converse with her pets
  3. Have a more mature main character—not someone in their twenties or thirties.

From there, I followed the adage to write what you know. Like me, Leta Petkas Parker is Greek. She’s a retired banker, an avid reader, a word nerd, and a good cook. Unlike me, she’s a widow.  My husband hasn’t yet forgiven me for that detail and keeps wanting to know when I’m going to bring him back to life. I keep telling him he is NOT Henry Parker, but he’s not buying it.

And there you have it. Leta, Dickens the dog, and Christie the cat move from Atlanta to the fictional village of Astonbury in the Cotswolds to start a new life. They make new friends, have new adventures, and—of course—find a dead body. Whiskers, Wreaths & Murder, Book Three in the Dickens & Christie mystery series is sure to put you in the mood for shifting into the holiday season. Enjoy!

Whiskers, Wreaths & Murder

Christmas in the Cotswolds. Three wise women. Two furry friends. One dead body. Will they unwrap the killer?  Or become the latest victims?

Leta and her friends are busy preparing for the Tree Lighting on the Village Green. The children hang ornaments, the choir sings, and the Earl of Stow flips the switch to set the tree ablaze with lights.

What could go wrong?

Plenty when there’s a new Earl in town. The beloved elderly Earl passed away months ago, and his American grandson has arrived to claim his title and inheritance. And he has plans—big plans.

The village is rife with rumors about the goings-on at Astonbury Manor.

Add a tragic accident and a grieving family—and the season is off to a rocky start. Can the village pull together to chase away the dark mood? Only if the mystery surrounding the accident can be solved.

Leave it to the Little Old Ladies’ Detective Agency and their four-legged sidekicks Dickens & Christie. Fresh off investigating a murder at the Fall Fête, they’re once again on the case.

Amazon Link for Whiskers, Wreaths & Murder https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08FRTQP7F

Amazon Series Link https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B085FSHQYW?ref_=dbs_p_mng_rwt_ser_shvlr&storeType=ebooks

AUTHOR BIO

Picture Kathy Manos Penn sitting serenely at her desk surrounded by her four-legged office assistants. Happily retired from corporate America, she’d never considered being an author until a friend suggested she write a cozy mystery.

As a child, she took a book everywhere—to family dinners, to doctors’ offices, and of course to bed. Years later, a newspaper article inspired her to put pen to paper and submit her thoughts to the editor. Before she knew it, she was writing weekly columns and blogs—in addition to her demanding day job. Then came a book co-written with her dog. As she says, “Doesn’t everyone do that?”

Now, she’s writing cozy animal mysteries featuring a dog and cat who converse with their owner. If a dog can write a book, surely animals can communicate. Naturally, her office assistants help with the dialogue. And, yes, they’re angling to be listed as co-authors.

Find Kathy on these social media sites:

Website:https://kathymanospenn.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KathyManosPennAuthor/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/kathymanospennauthor/

Guest Blogger – Lois Winston

Killing Two Birds with One Stone

By Lois Winston

When I began writing A Sew Deadly Cruise, the ninth book in my Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery Series, I set myself two separate tasks. First, I thought it was high time I gave readers some additional background about Zachary Barnes, Anastasia’s love interest. Zack is introduced in Assault with a Deadly Glue Gun, the first book in the series, as Anastasia’s new tenant. A photojournalist, he’s looking to move from Manhattan to a quieter location in the suburbs where he can work in his darkroom without crazy neighbors suspecting he’s running a meth lab out of his apartment. The apartment above Anastasia’s garage provides the perfect location for him.

Almost immediately Anastasia suspects Zack’s career as a photojournalist is cover for a more covert government gig with one of the alphabet agencies. After all, when he’s not traveling back and forth to Washington, D.C., he’s flying off to questionable locations full of political and social unrest. Not to mention, he’s got a badass gun! Was he really photographing lemurs and pochards in Madagascar, or is he there for other reasons?

Of course, Zack denies he’s a spy, but wouldn’t any spy deny he’s a spy? So, is he, or isn’t he? Neither Anastasia nor my readers know at this point. Other than mentioning Zack’s brief marriage twenty years earlier, I’ve never delved further into his background. This all changes in A Sew Deadly Cruise when I finally reveal more about Zack’s history—or at least a substantial part of it.

In addition, for some time now I’ve been itching to write a locked-room mystery. A year ago, while on a cruise up to Canada with my husband—pre-pandemic—I began plotting a murder on a cruise ship, an ideal location for a locked-room mystery. However, to write a truly locked-room mystery, I needed to find a reason to keep the ship’s passengers from disembarking at any scheduled ports of call. Covid-19 hit as I was writing the book, but I certainly wasn’t going to use a pandemic or even an outbreak of norovirus, no matter how common they are on cruise ships.

How would Anastasia investigate a murder if passengers were all confined to their rooms due to illness? And really, who wants to read a humorous cozy mystery with characters suffering from gastrointestinal issues? Where’s the humor in that? Any reader with a weak stomach would be running for the porcelain throne!

I was at a point in my plot where I had to make a major decision about the story. Since I really, really wanted to keep my passengers stuck on the ship, I started hunting around the Internet for stories about stranded cruise liners, searching for a plausible excuse to keep the ship from being allowed to dock at any of its scheduled ports. Of course, I’m going to keep you in suspense, but I did find the perfect solution for keeping everyone onboard the ship but not confined to their cabins due to illness.

A Sew Deadly Cruise

An Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery, Book 9

Life is looking up for magazine crafts editor Anastasia Pollack. Newly engaged, she and photojournalist fiancé Zack Barnes are on a winter cruise with her family, compliments of a Christmas gift from her half-brother-in-law. Son Alex’s girlfriend and her father have also joined them. Shortly after boarding the ship, Anastasia is approached by a man with an unusual interest in her engagement ring. When she tells Zack of her encounter, he suggests the man might be a jewel thief scouting for his next mark. But before Anastasia can point the man out to Zack, the would-be thief approaches him, revealing his true motivation. Long-buried secrets now threaten the well-being of everyone Anastasia holds dear. And that’s before the first dead body turns up.

Craft projects included.

Buy Links

Amazon: https://amzn.to/3fwHR7X

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/a-sew-deadly-cruise

Nook: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/a-sew-deadly-cruise-lois-winston/1137427499?ean=2940162697930

Apple iBooks: https://books.apple.com/us/book/a-sew-deadly-cruise/id1526052822

USA Today bestselling and award-winning author Lois Winston writes mystery, romance, romantic suspense, chick lit, women’s fiction, children’s chapter books, and nonfiction under her own name and her Emma Carlyle pen name. Kirkus Reviews dubbed her critically acclaimed Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series, “North Jersey’s more mature answer to Stephanie Plum.” In addition, Lois is a former literary agent and an award-winning craft and needlework designer who often draws much of her source material for both her characters and plots from her experiences in the crafts industry.

Website: www.loiswinston.com

Newsletter sign-up: https://app.mailerlite.com/webforms/landing/z1z1u5

Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers blog: www.anastasiapollack.blogspot.com

Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/anasleuth

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Anasleuth

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/722763.Lois_Winston

Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/lois-winston

Guest Author – Jacqueline Seewald

I’ve been asked how I came up with the main character in my mystery series.  I originally got my inspiration to write a mystery novel with an academic librarian as amateur sleuth during the time of my library studies at Rutgers University. Completing my MLS degree, I was required to attend symposiums. One speaker was a Princeton University librarian who spoke on the subject of inferno collections. His lecture was so fascinating and vivid that I was inspired to do further research. I became convinced the concept of inferno collections would be an excellent frame for a mystery novel and that no one else had written anything similar. (Briefly, inferno collections are banned books considered inappropriate for general public display and reading. Often these were books deemed salacious and kept separate or hidden in libraries under lock and key).

My novel THE INFERNO COLLECTION was the first in the Kim Reynolds series.

It was published in hardcover by Five Star/Gale, who published two more of the novels in the days when they did mystery fiction. All three of the books received fine reviews. They were also picked up by Harlequin Worldwide Mystery for paperback editions and distribution.

Kim Reynolds isn’t me. She’s a creation of my imagination, as are the other characters in the series. There are now five mystery novels with Kim as the main protagonist. The fifth novel, BLOOD FAMILY, was recently released by Encircle and has also garnered excellent reviews.

Blood Family

A Kim Reynolds Mystery

Blood Family is Jacqueline Seewald’s fifth Kim Reynolds Mystery. Kim, an academic  librarian, is intent on finding her biological father. Unfortunately after locating him, James Shaw dies unexpectedly. It is up to Kim to connect with the family she has never known. In doing so, she discovers a half-sister who is in need of her emotional support. Kim is concerned that Claire Shaw is being exploited and wants to help her. Kim also learns that Claire’s stepmother died under mysterious circumstances and her stepbrother disappeared. When Kim becomes involved, her life is placed in danger. Kim’s fiancé, Lieutenant Mike Gardner, Wilson Township homicide detective, investigates along with Sergeant Bert St. Croix.

Amzon but link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1645990435

Encircled buy link: http://encirclepub.com/product/bloodfamily/

Multiple award-winning author, Jacqueline Seewald, has taught creative, expository and technical writing at Rutgers University as well as high school English. She also worked as both an academic librarian and an educational media specialist. Twenty of her books of fiction have been published to critical praise including books for adults, teens and children. Her most recent mystery novels are DEATH PROMISE and BLOOD FAMILY. Her short stories, poems, essays, reviews and articles have appeared in hundreds of diverse publications and numerous anthologies such as: THE WRITER, L.A. TIMES, READER’S DIGEST, PEDESTAL, SHERLOCK HOLMES MYSTERY MAGAZINE, OVER MY DEAD BODY!, GUMSHOE REVIEW, LIBRARY JOURNAL, PUBLISHERS WEEKLY and THE CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR. She enjoys painting landscapes and singing along to all kinds of music. Her writer’s blog can be found at: http://jacquelineseewald.blogspot.com

Guest Author – Tara Lush

Write What You Know (And always listen to your best friend)

By Tara Lush

When I first started writing fiction six years ago, I turned to romance. It was a genre that I’d read and loved — along with mystery and true crime, of course. When I told my oldest friend about my plan to write a steamy novel, she scrunched up her face.

“Why aren’t you writing crime fiction?”

It was an excellent question. I’ve been a newspaper and wire service journalist in Florida for two decades, with many of those years devoted to the weird, the horrific, and the criminal. I’ve covered many of the state’s biggest crime stories. High-profile ones such as Casey Anthony and Trayvon Martin. Lesser-known murderers who had abducted children and those who attacked fellow citizens in a drug-induced haze. I’ve also covered eleven mass shootings (including Parkland and Pulse) and witnessed thirteen executions in Florida’s death chamber.

“Pfft. Why would I write crime fiction?” I asked my friend. “It’s too depressing. Too much like my day job. I want to do something different. My muse is telling me to write about sex.”

And yet, my muse told me to write a romantic suspense for my first novel. I moved on from there, writing contemporary romance and erotic romance. And while I had some measure of success — a RITA finalist book in 2018 — it never felt a hundred percent right, either.

In 2019, I was on a trip to Vermont and sitting around my best friend’s house. I was musing aloud about my next steps for my fiction career. Self-publishing contemporary romance was increasingly difficult and competitive, I told her, and writing the happy-ever-after between the couple wasn’t as satisfying as it had been in previous years. I wanted to tell a story about justice, but with humor and nuance.

I’d recently finished a series about couples in a quirky Florida town, and let’s just say the eccentricities of the characters weren’t resonating with romance readers. I was frustrated.

“What about a mystery novel?” my friend asked.

I mulled this over for the entire month of August while I was on a monthlong vacation. I’d been reading Kathy Reichs’ Deja Dead, and although I loved it, I couldn’t imagine myself writing something so dark. There was the matter of the day job trauma, after all. But what if I could write something softer, something with a little romance and a twisty murder… something gentle.

A cozy mystery, perhaps?

While sitting in a café in Quebec City and drinking the best espresso I’d ever had, I sketched an outline for my cozy. I used my experience as a crime reporter to plot the murder. First I chose a victim. Then I chose a murderer. I worked backwards with the details and clues, thinking about all the police reports I’d read over the years, all the news conferences I’d been to, and all the cops I’d chatted up. Suddenly everything made sense.

You know those wooden puzzle boxes, the ones that seem so hard to open? That’s what my brain felt like. Each clue, each detail, unlocked something inside my creative soul in a way that romance didn’t. I was able to blend my quirky characters and my love of a Florida setting with a murder and a romantic subplot. Justice as an HEA was more alluring than a fictional marriage proposal.

What was this sorcery?

That fall, I wrote my cozy mystery and in March of this year, sold it to Crooked Lane Books.

The lesson here is to always listen to your best friend. And perhaps, listen to what your muse is whispering.

Barista Lana Lewis’s sleuthing may land her in a latte trouble as Tara Lush launches her debut mystery series.

When Lana Lewis’ best — and most difficult — employee abruptly quits and goes to work for the competition just days before the Sunshine State Barista Championship, her café’s chances of winning the contest are creamed. In front of a gossipy crowd in the small Florida town of Devil’s Beach, Lana’s normally calm demeanor heats to a boil when she runs into the arrogant java slinger. Of course, Fabrizio “Fab” Bellucci has a slick explanation for jumping ship. But when he’s found dead the next morning under a palm tree in the alley behind Lana’s café, she becomes the prime suspect.

Even the island’s handsome police chief isn’t quite certain of her innocence. But Lana isn’t the only one in town who was angry with Fabrizio. Jilted lovers, a shrimp boat captain, and a surfer with ties to the mob are all suspects as trouble brews on the beach.

With her stoned, hippie dad, a Shih Tzu named Stanley, and a new, curious barista sporting a punk rock aesthetic at her side, Lana’s prepared to turn up the heat to catch the real killer. After all, she is a former award-winning reporter. As scandal hangs over her beachside café, can Lana clear her name and win the championship — or will she come to a bitter end?

Preorder here: https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/667052/grounds-for-murder-by-tara-lush/9781643856186/

Tara Lush is a journalist with The Associated Press. Her debut cozy mystery, GROUNDS FOR MURDER, will be published Dec. 8. learn more about her and her books here:

Guest Blogger – Daniella Bernett

How Do I Kill Thee?

Murder is a shocking and terrifying taboo. The very word sends an icy frisson slithering down one’s spine. And yet, it is an occupational hazard for a crime writer. On a cerebral level, the taking of a human life is fascinating. It is a serious business, requiring cunning and sangfroid mingled with passion, anger or fear. A certain degree of luck is necessary to pull off a murder without getting caught. The faint of heart would be riddled with remorse and horror at this deadly transgression.  

Setting aside the moral considerations, I find it deliciously thrilling to plot a murder. The omnipotent power to kill is a dizzying prospect. Murder is an art form, if one thinks about it. The killer must be creative. But how does an author choose from the plethora of methods available? Your character is the key to unlocking this mystery. Therefore, an author must first delve into the murderer’s psyche to thoroughly understand why he or she came to make the fatal decision. Is he or she an assassin, a spurned lover, a business partner who has been swindled, or an average individual pushed to the brink in an extraordinary situation? Once the author has sketched this character profile, the pieces will fall into place and the story will begin to flow. The author must have absolute trust in the murderer. He or she will guide you down the evil path and determine if the victim expires quickly or suffers a slow, lingering death.

In most cases, murder stems from a rupture in an intimate relationship. This personal animus is likely fueled by emotion and an overwhelming thirst for revenge. Consequently, this means inflicting pain. The thrust of a knife into the heart, stomach or between the ribs would do the job nicely. With stabbing, the murderer and victim must be at close range. Generally, stabbing ensures that the killer’s face is the last thing the victim sees in this world, satisfying a desire to mete out punishment. For this reason, the murderer in one of the books in my series featuring journalist Emmeline Kirby and jewel thief/insurance investigator Gregory Longdon slashed the throat of an unscrupulous man, who had derived malicious glee from ruining other people’s lives.

Meanwhile, shooting also would induce pain. With this method, the author has the option of killing someone instantly, forcing the culprit to hastily cover his or her tracks. This provides an opportunity to sprinkle red herrings through the story. Conversely, the dark deed can rattle the murderer to the point that he or she is no longer thinking clearly and makes mistakes. Another possibility is that the gunshot does not kill the victim outright. It may cause a grave wound, presenting the murderer with a chance to finish off the victim another way. Let’s say by poison, for example.

Ah, poison. To me, it’s so sinister and tantalizing. I believe I share this view with my hero Agatha Christie, who masterfully eliminated dozens with a soupçon of poison. Some poisons are tasteless and odorless. Then there is cyanide, which smells like bitter almonds, while arsenic, when heated, gives off an odor resembling garlic. Depending on what your story dictates, poison can work instantaneously or the victim can waste away little by little. Russian spies, and Putin in particular as a former head of the KGB, have a penchant for using poison to dispatch enemies, defectors and anyone who dares to oppose them. As a result, poison was my weapon of choice in another novel. The story dealt with a defector who recklessly pitted Putin against Russian mafia boss Igor Bronowski. At the same time, both had unsavory entanglements with a ruthless British entrepreneur. All were obsessed with a flawless blue diamond. I will confess that two victims succumbed to poison in the book. However, poison is not the exclusive domain of the assassin. An author can wield it perfectly well among those who have a personal score to settle. On this point of the professional versus the amateur (for want of a better word) killer, an assassin can employ stabbing or shooting in a pinch for expediency’s sake.

A lethal arsenal would not be complete without strangulation, drowning and smothering. But all three may prove troublesome because they require a degree of strength and the victim will most certainly put up a struggle. A murderer wants death to come swiftly with a minimum of fuss to have time to disappear before the body is discovered. On the same token, bludgeoning someone to death with a heavy object could prove messy, since several blows would likely be needed thus causing a good deal of blood to be shed. Of course, an author may want to employ bludgeoning for precisely this reason to set the stage for the murderer’s ultimate undoing. For in the haste to flee, he or she may miss a trace of blood.

Allow these diabolical musings to steep in your mind. After a while, you’ll come to realize that it’s criminally good fun to acquire a literary taste for murder.

OLD SINS NEVER DIE

Never look back…Treason is deadly

While in the Lake District, journalist Emmeline Kirby and jewel thief/insurance investigator Gregory Longdon overhear a man attempting to hire international assassin Hugh Carstairs, a MI5 agent who went rogue. They race back to London to warn Philip Acheson of the Foreign Office and Superintendent Oliver Burnell. But it’s a devil of problem to prevent a vicious killing, if the target is a mystery.

More trouble brews as Emmeline pursues a story about shipping magnate Noel Rallis, who is on trial for murder. Rallis is desperate to keep the negative publicity from exposing his illicit schemes, especially something sinister called Poseidon. Lord Desmond Starrett, whose dark past made him easy prey for blackmail, is getting cold feet about their dubious partnership. Hovering in the shadows of this ugly secret world is a Russian mole buried inside MI5. Scorned prima ballerina Anastasia Tarasova makes the fatal mistake of threatening to reveal all she knows. The hunt for the answers takes Emmeline and Gregory up to Scotland, where they learn that the truth has lethal consequences.

Buy Links:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Old-Sins-Never-Die-Emmeline/dp/1644372762

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/old+sins+never+die+daniella+bernett/

Daniella Bernett is a member of the Mystery Writers of America NY Chapter and the International Thriller Writers. She graduated summa cum laude with a B.S. in Journalism from St. John’s University. Lead Me Into Danger, Deadly Legacy, From Beyond The Grave, A Checkered Past and When Blood Runs Cold are the books in the Emmeline Kirby-Gregory Longdon mystery series. She also is the author of two poetry collections, Timeless Allure and Silken Reflections. In her professional life, she is the research manager for a nationally prominent engineering, architectural and construction management firm. Daniella is currently working on Emmeline and Gregory’s next adventure. Visit www.daniellabernett.com or follow her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100008802318282 or on Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/40690254-daniella-bernett. Old Sins Never Die, the sixth book in her series, was released today.

Social Media:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100008802318282

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/40690254-daniella-bernett

BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/daniella-bernett

Guest Blogger – Kimila Kay

The story idea for Peril in Paradise came after a news story featuring a Portland mother whose daughter had gone missing on her way to school. The mother’s anguish, and hope, as she pleaded for her daughter to be found, moved me. Unfortunately, as the story unfolded, the young girl’s body was found a few houses from her home, tucked into some bushes. I found myself wondering how this mother was coping with the death, and rape, of her daughter? What kind of monster had the young girl encountered, in less than a mile from her home, in a neighborhood where she felt safe?

The mother didn’t make another news appearance, heartbroken beyond words I imagined. The man responsible for the girl’s death was apprehended and eventually sent to prison. Closure for the girl’s mother, and the rest of her family. Possibly.

I couldn’t let go of the idea that sending the murderous rapist to prison actually brought closure. Questions such as: What would I have done if it was my child? Would I have been comforted by the man’s conviction? Or would I have wanted a more permanent type justice.

Justice versus revenge? What would bring me comfort? I knew I couldn’t kill someone, which triggered the thought: Maybe I could hire someone? Of course, I watch enough crime shows to know hiring someone to do the deed doesn’t ensure you won’t get caught. The young girl’s rape and murder, coupled with her mother’s helplessness, continued to torment my thoughts.

And then I had a dream . . . I love when my writer’s brain takes a thought and creates a fictional scenario that can be woven into an intriguing story. Hence, Peril in Paradise was born!

In my dream, I could clearly see my villain. I had been trying to come up with a story idea for my Mexico Mayhem series but hadn’t been able to find a plausible storyline that began in the United States and ended in Mexico. Viola ~ Damian Garza provided the crossover opportunity I needed.

I could also visualize my hero. A man tortured by Damian’s previous villainous acts. A man who I could imagine carrying out a murder for hire scenario. Jackson Brady had his own need for justice . . . or revenge.

What I couldn’t see in my dream was my heroine. I knew she existed because I felt her pain and anger over losing her daughter. But I couldn’t see her. But not being able to picture Clara Marsh wasn’t a problem for me. As a mother, I could truly imagine her suffering. Her grief. Her guilt. Her need for justice. Her desire for revenge. I knew Clara Marsh would be a little like me.

Peril in Paradise

Mexico Mayhem Book 1

Imagine—A brutal rape. A vicious murder. Now—what would you seek if it involved your daughter? If the monster is her stepfather. Justice or revenge? In Peril in Paradise, Clara Garza is faced with this dilemma while trying to stay one step ahead of her deranged ex-husband, Damian Garza. As she embarks on her voyage for justice, Clara meets Jackson Brady, a man also seeking his own revenge—a man trying to capture her heart. The two find themselves resolving one issue only to face another sinister challenge. Readers will want to join Clara and Jackson as they navigate a journey of justice, revenge . . . and survival.

Buy Links- https://www.amazon.com/Peril-Paradise-unspeakable-unimaginable-unrelenting-ebook/dp/B07MQSB16Y

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/peril-in-paradise-kimila-kay/1130316947?ean=9781794052451

Kimila Kay lives in Donald, Oregon with her husband, Randy, adorable Boston Terrier, Maggie, and feisty black cat, Halle.

Her professional accomplishments include three anthologized essays in the CUP OF COMFORT series. In three separate contests, PERIL IN PARADISE, has won two first place awards, and a third-place award in the romantic suspense category. Kimila is currently a member of a writing critique group, Northwest Independent Writers Association (NIWA), Windtree Press, and Willamette Writers.

PERIL IN PARADISE is the first novel in a planned cross-cultural series, Mexico Mayhem, which will include Malice in Mazatlan (January 2021), Chaos in Cabo, Vanished in Vallarta, and Lost in Loreto.

REDNECK RANCH will be the first novel in a planned mystery series, The Stoneybrook Series, set in a fictional Oregon town. REDNECK RANCH is slated for publication in 2022.

https://www.facebook.com/MexicoMayhemPIP 

https://www.facebook.com/MexicoMayhemMIM

 https://www.facebook.com/OregonNovels

Guest Blogger – Sally Carpenter

New Books For Strange Times

I’d like to thank Paty Jager and the ladies of mystery for allowing me a guest post. It’s been a while since I was a regular contributor on this blog, and much has happened in the meantime.

 The pandemic has not affect me as much as others. Fortunately I work an essential job (newspaper), so I’m still commuting to my day job. Many of my fellow employees are working from home, so those of us who are still in the office have plenty of space to move around safely.

As a writer, I’m at home much of the time anyway, and I’ve put the time to good use. I reorganized files and did some rearranging to make my home more comfortable. Little changes, but effective.

And I’ve gone gun ho on the writing.

I hadn’t written a Sandy Fairfax mystery in several years, so I reread the older books to get up to speed on the character. I found grammatical and continuity errors as well as more cuss words than necessary. Ouch! How embarrassing. With permission of my publisher, I took the opportunity to edit the older books. I’m fixing the mistakes, cleaning up the language, and reworking awkward passages for a better read. With Print On Demand technology, all new print and ebooks purchased going forward will have the changes. So far “The Sinister Sitcom Caper” is finalized. “The Cunning Cruise Ship Caper” and “The Quirky Quiz Show Caper” should both be ready in a month or two.

Once all the old books are corrected, I can focus on the next Sandy book. The working title is “The Cryptic Christmas Caper.” Sandy is the emcee of the Miss North Pole Pageant, where the contestants are dropping like snowflakes.

I launched a new book in June, the second in my Psychedelic Spy retro-cozy series set in 1967. “Hippie Haven Homicide” follows the further adventures of actress Noelle McNabb as she works with a super secret spy organization, SIAMESE (Special Intelligence Apparatus for Midwest Enemy Surveillance and Espionage). This time her cat, Ceebee, is part of the action.

In the 1960s, the CIA had a project called Acoustic Kitty. The plan was to implant a cat with a microphone, using its tail to hold a wire for transmission. The cat would wander around parks and embassies where spies met to talk. Nobody would notice a stray cat. The real-life project went nowhere, but the idea was too good to pass up.

So I made Ceebee the acoustic cat. The microphone is inside a metal collar around the cat’s neck. Noelle and agent Destiny King are inside a nearby van, listening in. As you might imagine, felines are a bit unpredictable, even spy cats.

While SIAMESE is chasing an enemy agent, a busload of counterculture hippies invade Noelle’s staid town of Yuletide, Indiana. This plot point was inspired by the International Society of Krishna Consciousness, better known as the Hare Krishnas, the orange-robed devotees who were hung out around airports and large cities to chant and pass out brochures on their beliefs. The 1960s saw an explosion of new spiritual ideas: Vatican II, the Jesus People, contemporary Christian music, Transcendental Meditation, communes and ISCKON.

My sect is SPARK: Spiritually Pure And Radiant Kin. Their guru is the Wise One, an elderly leader who rarely appears in public. First Sage handles the day-to-day operations of the sect. He also rigorously guards the members from “contamination of the material world.” The cult members clash with the police chief and residents of Yuletide. The situation worsens when one of the SPARK members is found dead. The police chief calls it a drug overdose. Noelle has her suspicions and investigates on her own with the help of a newspaper reporter, Trevor Spellman.

Noelle uses her acting skills to go undercover to both find a spy and solve a murder. Meanwhile, she babysits her siblings, works with an anxious bride-to-be who’s buying clothes for the bridal party, and digs out secrets in the McNabb family tree. All in a day’s work for a cozy sleuth.

So happy reads to all. If you want to stay abreast of my writing projects, follow me at facebook.com.Sally.Carpenter.54, or my website at sandyfairfax.com, or email scwriter@earthlink.net.

Sally Carpenter is native Hoosier living in southern California. She has a master’s degree in theater and a creative writing award from Indiana State University.

She also has a Master of Divinity and a black belt in tae kwon do.

She’s written six books for Cozy Cat Press: four in the Sandy Fairfax Teen Idol series (including 2012 Eureka! Award nominee The Baffled Beatlemaniac Caper) and two books in the Psychedelic Spy retro-series.

She’s contributed short stories to three anthologies and penned chapter three of the CCP group mystery Chasing the Codex.

To atone for killing characters on paper, she writes the Roots of Faith column for the Acorn Newspapers (theacornonline.com).

Guest Author- Leslie Wheeler

An Unexpected Encounter with Wildlife Becomes a Magical Moment in Fiction

By Leslie Wheeler

One of the pleasures of having a house in rural Western Massachusetts is the opportunity to see wildlife at close range. I’ve observed deer, bear, bobcats, foxes, beavers and otters on my property, and every time this happens, I feel like I’ve been given a gift. But there is one species of wildlife I didn’t think I’d ever see–a moose.

Then one Friday in September, a few years ago, I went to my house in the Berkshires, and discovered that a cow moose, about a year old, had taken up residence, drawn by the pond on the property, the old apple trees laden with fruit, and also perhaps by the hope of finding a mate. She followed a track that took her out of the woods, onto the back field, across it, around the pond, and down the front field to the driveway, which she crossed to return to the woods and begin another circuit.

Around dusk on Saturday, I’d gone into my fenced-in vegetable garden when I looked up and saw her standing a few yards away, watching me. She was so quiet I hadn’t heard her approach. I froze, fearful that a sudden movement or sound would frighten her away. After a few moments, I slipped carefully from the garden, and stood stock still, returning her curious and unafraid gaze. Although not a bull moose with antlers or a cow with a calf to protect, she was still a very large animal. Finally, breaking eye contact, she continued on her leisurely circuit around the property.

Sunday morning, I watched from indoors as she made yet another circuit. She even ventured onto the patio, the closest she’d come to the house. And there I was without my camera, knowing full well that this might be my last chance to get a shot of her before I returned to town. Then, as I began to pack up, she made a second circuit, and armed with my camera I followed her along the patio to the front of house, where she stopped and regarded me with the same unafraid eyes. I took two pictures before she finally hoofed it away.

I returned to Boston, never to see that moose again, but the experience inspired me to write a scene in my new mystery, Shuntoll Road.  In it, the main character, Kathryn Stinson, wakes up at dawn the day after a fire has raged in the woods around the house she’s renting. She goes outside to see if it’s still burning and spots a big animal on the far side of the pond. It’s not a moose, but a white stag, a legendary creature, which does exist in real life. To her surprise, the stag approaches her, stopping a few yards short of the patio, where she’s standing. Then it turns around and bounds back to the pond, where it stops and looks back at her. The white stag does, this enough times for her to think it wants her to follow it—into the burnt woods where she makes an important discovery. Later when Kathryn expresses her wonder at why the white stag appeared to her of all people, her boyfriend says, “It’s a mystery. And a gift.”

Readers: Have you have had encounters with wildlife that you’ve used in your fiction?

Shuntoll Road

Boston library curator Kathryn Stinson returns to the Berkshires, hoping to rebuild her romance with Earl Barker, but ends up battling a New York developer, determined to turn the property she’s been renting into an upscale development. The fight pits her against Earl, who has been offered the job of clearing the land. When a fire breaks out in the woods, the burned body of another opponent is discovered. Did he die attempting to escape a fire he set, or was the fire set to cover up his murder? Kathryn’s search for answers leads her to other questions about the developer’s connection to a friend of hers who fled New York years ago for mysterious reasons. The information she uncovers puts her in grave danger.

Paperback

Amazon – Note they do not show this as a pre-sale, but if people order from Amazon it will still get to them at a reasonable time not what they show on their site.

https://www.amazon.com/Shuntoll-Road-Leslie-Wheeler/dp/1645990346

Barnes and Noble

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/shuntoll-road-leslie-wheeler/1136500170?ean=9781645990345

E-books

Amazon

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08DCZYR3M

Apple

https://books.apple.com/us/book/id1524348304

Kobo

https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/shuntoll-road

Barnes & Noble

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/shuntoll-road-leslie-wheeler/1136500170

An award-winning author of nonfiction, Leslie Wheeler writes the Miranda Lewis Living History Mysteries which began with Murder at Plimoth Plantation, recently re-released for the first time as a trade paperback, and the Berkshire Hilltown Mysteries which began with Rattlesnake Hill and continue with Shuntoll Road.

Check out my books at my website: http://www.lesliewheeler.com

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