Guest Author – Susan Elia MacNeal

My series’ heroine, Maggie Hope, has been through a lot in the eight novels of the series—most recently falsely imprisoned on a Scottish island. Before that she was held by the Gestapo in Paris, and before that she went up against a serial killer in London. And then of course there’s the war itself. Which is why for her ninth outing, THE KING’S JUSTICE, I wanted to not only write a new thriller/mystery—but also show the toll Maggie’s experiences have taken on her.

PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) is the modern name for what in Maggie’s time was called “shell shock.” And although I sometimes describe Maggie as “Nancy Drew meets James Bond,” one thing that makes Maggie different is that all of her experiences, both good and bad, have changed her as a person. (As opposed to Nancy and James, who, while wonderful, remain static characters, regardless of how much danger they’ve be in and trauma they’ve survived.) In this novel, she tries to ignore her psychic damage by quitting the secret agent game, smoking non-stop, drinking too much, and riding much too fast on a motorcycle. But eventually she has to come to terms with her past, her trauma, her fears, and her vulnerabilities.

THE KING’S JUSTICE takes place during March of 1943, in London. The Blitz is over, but the war continues—and unexploded bombs can be found all over the city—just waiting for something to set them off. I have Maggie working as a bomb defuser, a job desperately needed in London at the time, —and also because Maggie’s a bit of an unexploded bomb, too. To defuse herself, she needs to work through her past traumas, some brought to light by a stolen violin and a new serial killer.

This killer is dropping suitcases full of bones in the Thames, and they’re washing up on the banks, sometimes half-buried in sand and silt. Some of the “mudlarkers” of London—those who dig on the riverbanks for lost historic treasures like Roman coins, medieval pottery shards, and Elizabethan rings—find the suitcases with the bones, and report them to Scotland Yard. Maggie’s beau, DCI James Durgin takes the case, and Maggie is ultimately recruited to help, because of a connection to someone from her past.

Like unexploded bombs, I really loved working in the metaphor of mudlarking—sifting through trash to find treasure. I think Maggie’s coming to grips with the traumas of her past was a lot like mudlarking—she has to excavate a lot of “dirt,” before she can find her “treasure”—a return to, well, not her old self, of course—but someone who’s experienced trauma, processed it, and come through the other side.

Without giving anything away, in the novel’s first scene, we meet Maggie as she’s in a deep pit, defusing a bomb. By the last scene, she’s looking down on London from the observation deck of the Monument to the Great Fire of London. Like the city itself, Maggie has gone through disaster and rebuilt, now stronger, smarter, and more compassionate. I hope readers will find her journey inspiring.

In THE KING’S JUSTICE, the ninth book in the acclaimed Maggie Hope mystery seriesby Susan Elia MacNeal (Bantam Hardcover; On Sale 2/25/2020),our heroine is on edge. Maggie has returned to London after being imprisoned on a remote island for knowing confidential SOE information, but she is traumatized by her experience. As Maggie takes a break from spying, she starts to behave more and more recklessly. She drinks too much, speeds through the streets on her motorcycle, and joins a squad tasked with defusing unexploded bombs left in London from the Blitz.

When conscientious objectors to the war start disappearing, Maggie is determined to stay out of it. But as human bones start washing up on the shores of the Thames inside of suitcases, it becomes clear that a serial killer is afoot, and Maggie must put aside her hesitations and get to work. Little does Maggie know that this investigation will force her to conquer her demons and face her past in order to solve the case.

Susan Elia MacNeal is the New York Times bestselling author of the Maggie Hope mysteries. MacNeal won the Barry Award and has been nominated for the Edgar, Macavity, Agatha, Left Coast Crime, Dilys, and ITW Thriller awards. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her husband and son.

susaneliamacneal.com • Facebook.com/MrChurchillsSecretary

Twitter: @SusanMacNeal • Instagram: susaneliamacneal

Wrapping Up a Murder by Paty Jager

I just finished the 14th Shandra Higheagle Mystery book. This book is set in Kauai, Hawaii. Yes, I had to write off the trip I took to Kauai last October. LOL Actually, it took me 40 years to get my husband to go to Hawaii with me and I happened to like the idea of setting a book there.

I enjoyed revisiting the places we went to add spice and authenticity to the book. My photos, some I took with the intention of using for the cover, and others so I could remember what I’d seen, helped me bring the island to life in the book.

While the writing, bringing in the island flavor, and discovering an actual event that brought my amateur sleuth potter to the island in a real way, it was the intricacy of the plot that kept me spellbound as I wrote the book.

Artwork from the exhibition in my book.

As usual, I started out with my suspect chart, all part of the art world on Kauai. But as I researched and discovered more about the island, the art world became more dark and convoluted. This on an island that boasts very low crime rates. But I couldn’t help myself. The island is warm, inviting, and overpopulated with tourists.

Because of the tourists, I have my characters catering to the masses. I’m not saying what I wrote about isn’t happening on the island, but it isn’t in the statistics that I read. However, I did read about the influx of drugs back about 5 years and taking creative license, I used that information to sway the direction of the story.

I take pride in so many readers saying they didn’t know who the murderer was until it was unveiled in most of my mysteries. And so, I go at each book with the intent to drop clues but keep the reader wondering until the end. I hope I’ve done that with this book as well. We’ll see when I get my critique partners’ notes on it.

Here is the cover for Abstract Casualty, set on Kauai, Hawaii.

New Year, Fresh Perspective by Paty Jager

I wasn’t a child who thought too much about the future. At least not beyond my own desires. There was a time when I wrote a story about being a writer and living on the Oregon Coast in a renovated barn. I would have two tigers as my pets. If you’ve ever read the “Cat Who” books by Lillian Jackson Braun, you know that the protagonist, Qwilleran, made walkways for his cats in his home. This was how I saw my barn, only the funny thing is, I’d never read one of the “Cat Who” books until later. When I did, it was deja vue and my mind went right back to that story I’d written in Jr. High

While I had dreams of being a writer as a teenager, it wasn’t until I had children that I decided to fulfill that dream. I started writing mystery. It was the genre I loved to read. But after two books and a bad start with finding help to make my books better, I segued into romance.

Three years ago, I decided to write what I had always wanted to write. I am a better writer, I’ve had enough classes on craft, and still read murder mystery books. I could do this. And I did.

The best part about how much I enjoy writing the mysteries, are the reader/fan emails I receive. All the years I wrote romance, I think I had a half dozen readers comment on how they enjoyed reading my books. With mystery, I receive something every week!

And a friend who has been with me on my road to becoming published, says my true voice comes out in my mysteries. It took me nearly 30 years to get back to the genre I love best, but I am here and I plan to stay writing murder mystery until my hands are so gnarled I can’t type anymore. 😉

As a writer, did you start with mystery or did you start in another genre? As a reader, have you always read mystery or did you discover it recently?

Oh, and the fresh perspective in the new year? I am only writing mystery. I’ve put writing romance books aside, so the mysteries can come faster!

Guest Author- Lisa Lieberman

Cruising for Fun and Profit

by Lisa Lieberman

King Mongkut’s Palace in Siam

Historical mysteries are travel literature with a kick. You get to visit a different locale, exploring a distant place AND era. New vistas, new sensations: you want to experience it all and, to paraphrase Humphrey Bogart in The Maltese Falcon, you don’t mind a reasonable amount of trouble.

I’m the kind of writer who needs to immerse myself in a setting. The third book in my noir series takes place in Saigon, circa 1957, and builds off my favorite Graham Greene novel: Banished from the set of The Quiet American, actress Cara Walden stumbles onto a communist insurgency—and discovers her brother’s young Vietnamese lover right in the thick of it. How could I get myself to Asia?

Lecturing on the ship.

It turns out that luxury cruise lines are always looking for guest lecturers. I put together a a film and lecture series for Silversea entitled “Asia Through Hollywood’s Eyes,” a romp through classic movies featuring Asian characters and stories. From Fu Manchu and Charlie Chan through Cato in the Pink Panther series, pre-Code gems like Shanghai Express starring Marlene Dietrich (“It took more than one man to change my name to Shanghai Lily”) and the ever-fascinating Anna May Wong, beloved epics including The Good Earth and Bridge on the River Kwai, musicals including The King and I along with the best-forgotten Road to Singapore not to mention masterpieces based on Somerset Maugham stories and featuring the best leading ladies out there: The Painted Veil (Garbo), Rain (Joan Crawford), The Letter (Bette Davis).

Tai Chi with William

Okay, it took me the better part of a summer to research and write the lectures. I had to watch all the films (poor me . . .) and learn how to rip DVDs to make clips to embed in my presentations. I had to upgrade my wardrobe and get my bridge game back up to snuff. But October 17, 2015 found me at the five-star InterContinental Hotel in Hong Kong, doing Tai Chi by the pool with William to get the kinks out of my body after the nineteen-hour flight. Then I boarded the ship for the eleven-day all-expenses-paid cruise to Ho Chi Minh City, Bangkok, Singapore and ports in-between. The highlights of my trip included tagging along as a chaperone on a tour of Hue, retracing Graham Greene’s footsteps through Saigon, and visiting the palace and temple grounds of the King of Siam, followed by a very expensive mojito in Somerset Maugham’s favorite watering hole, Bangkok’s Mandarin Oriental.

What an adventure!

The Glass Forest

A Cara Welden Mystery

Saigon, 1957: Banished from the set of The Quiet American, actress Cara Walden stumbles onto a communist insurgency-and discovers her brother’s young Vietnamese lover right in the thick of it. A bittersweet story of love and betrayal set in the early years of American involvement in the country, Lisa Lieberman’s tribute to Graham Greene shows us a Vietnam already simmering with discontent.

Universal buy link:https://books2read.com/liebermanglassforest

Lisa Lieberman writes the Cara Walden series of historical mysteries based on old movies and featuring blacklisted Hollywood people on the lam in dangerous international locales. Her books hit the sweet spot between Casablanca and John le Carré. Trained as a modern European cultural and intellectual historian, Lieberman abandoned a perfectly respectable academic career for the life of a vicarious adventurer through perilous times. She has written extensively on postwar Europe and lectures locally on efforts to come to terms with the trauma of the Holocaust in film and literature. She is Vice President of the New England chapter of Sisters in Crime and a member of Mystery Writers of America.

Website: https://deathlessprose.com/
Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/LisaLiebermanAuthor/
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/deathlessprose1/

Discovering the World as I Write by Paty Jager

Happy Holidays, Everyone! If you are American, I hope you enjoyed a happy Thanksgiving. Whether it was with, family, friends, or time to yourself.  And now we are approaching another holiday. I’m not sure how many cultures have a holiday in December, but for my family it is Christmas.

I enjoy learning about other cultures. If you are celebrating something besides Christmas, I’d love to know a bit about it. Please comment below.

If I had the money and the time, I would love to be a world traveler. In High School I loved World Geography. Our teacher had been to a lot of places so he could give us information that you don’t get from text books. He made learning about other people and cultures exciting. I think that, and my infatuation with the Nez Perce band that lived in the county where I grew up, is why I like to have Native American characters in my mystery books. I can show people a past they may not know about and a culture they have only seen stereotyped.

I’m excited about the book I’m writing now and the one that I will be writing after this one. They are both set in the places I visited this year. I’ll get to add in the cultures I experienced and have my characters see similarities with their lives.

Right now, I’m pleased to say that the 4th Gabriel Hawke book has released. It is available in ebook and print.

Chattering Blue Jay

Killer on the loose.

Tracking Rivalry.

Revenge could get them killed.

Fish and Wildlife Oregon State Trooper Gabriel Hawke is set to teach a class at a Search and Rescue conference in Idaho when a dangerous inmate breaks out of prison. It is believed the man is headed to Hells Canyon.

Hawke is enlisted to find the escapee. He’s paired with a boastful tracker who doesn’t follow directions, making them both targets.

Before the dust settles, the other tracker is dead and Hawke is twisting in the wind for letting the possible killer get away.

https://books2read.com/u/4NQJ2o

The first book in this series, Murder of Ravens, is also available in audiobook.

Book 1 of Gabriel Hawke series

The ancient Indian art of tracking is his greatest strength…

And his biggest weakness.

Fish and Wildlife State Trooper Gabriel Hawke believes he’s chasing poachers.

However, he comes upon a wildlife biologist standing over a body that is wearing a wolf tracking collar.

He uses master tracker skills taught to him by his Nez Perce grandfather to follow clues on the mountain. Paper trails and the whisper of rumors in the rural community where he works, draws Hawke to a conclusion that he finds bitter.

Arresting his brother-in-law ended his marriage, could solving this murder ruin a friendship?

Audible – https://www.amazon.com/Murder-Ravens-Gabriel-Hawke-Novel/dp/B0811SH9HC

iTunes – https://books.apple.com/us/audiobook/murder-of-ravens-gabriel-hawke-novel-a-gabriel-hawke-novel/id1479613781?mt=11

Google Play – https://play.google.com/store/audiobooks/details/Paty_Jager_Murder_of_Ravens_Gabriel_Hawke_Novel?id=AQAAAECsTCoMlM

Kobo – https://www.kobo.com/us/en/audiobook/murder-of-ravens-gabriel-hawke-novel

Scribd –https://www.scribd.com/audiobook/424661656/Murder-of-Ravens-Gabriel-Hawke-Novel-A-Gabriel-Hawke-Novel

Beek – https://www.beek.io/libros/murder-of-ravens

Nook Audio –

eStories – https://www.estories.com/audiobook/316004/Paty-Jager/Murder-of-Ravens-Gabriel-Hawke-Novel

Audiobooks.com – https://www.audiobooks.com/audiobook/murder-of-ravens-gabriel-hawke-novel-a-gabriel-hawke-novel/397345

Enjoy what is left of 2019!

Paty

Guest Blogger~Kristine Raymond

THE CHOSEN ONE ~ by Kristine Raymond

I’m a romance author.  Historical western, contemporary, even a little erotic; romance is my genre.  So, imagine my surprise – and frankly, horror – when I awoke one morning with the idea for a mystery rolling around in my brain.  At first, I wasn’t sure of the intricacies of the story.  Would it be a thriller?  A police procedural?  Crime fiction?  I sat down, opened a new Word doc, began typing, and that’s when it became clear – cozy mystery.  The genre had chosen me.

Writing a cozy mystery is worlds apart from penning a romance, but I dove in, repeatedly reminding myself that the focus of the story was not the romantic interaction between my main character and her love interest, but rather the clues and intrigue leading the pair to solve the mystery.  And that’s where the fun began.  As a new-to-me genre, I harbored no preconceived notions about how to write the story; instead, I allowed the words to tumble onto the page at will, each one building on the next to thicken the plot and guide the characters to discover not only the who, but the why, how, and where.

On the subject of characters, their development in my cozy mystery – it’s titled Finn-agled, by the way – came about differently than how I usually create them.  I’d explain it if I could, but even as an author, I don’t know exactly how to put into words the process.  They simply originated in my brain in their own unique way and demanded that I bring them alive on the page.  They’re pesky, that way. 

If interrogated, and under threat of never again being allowed access to my Netflix password, I’d admit that certain aspects of Finn Bartusiak’s personality (she’s the main character and star of the show) mirror my own.  She lives in a seaside town (I grew up three miles from the ocean), she’s quirky, fiercely loyal to those she loves, her hair frizzes in humid weather, and she has more than her share of ‘squirrel’ moments.

What was I saying?

Oh, right; our similarities.  Like Finn, I adore a great pierogi – though I’m only half-Polish and she’s full-blooded – and we both own Basset Hounds who are follicly-challenged.  And, while the most complex mystery I’ve ever solved was locating my keys, I like to think that should one present itself, I’d be up to the challenge.  How hard can it be?

To my faithful readers who love romance, not to worry.  My romantic streak is firmly intact (I have several ideas for future romance stories floating around in my gray matter), but now that cozies have taken hold, it’s safe to say they’re not going anywhere either. 

After all, the genre did choose me.  😊

Finn-agled

A secret message hidden inside of an antique wooden box, an unidentified dead body, and a mother determined to marry her off to the high school crush whom she hasn’t seen since…well…high school.  There’s no doubt about it; Finn Bartusiak’s life in the seaside town of Port New is about to get interesting.

Coming into possession of a 19th-century, bronze and mahogany writing box under somewhat suspicious circumstances, Finn’s accidental discovery of a coded note leads her and Spencer Dane, bestselling novelist and love of her life (though he doesn’t know it yet), on a quest to unravel the mystery behind the jumble of letters.  But they’re not the only ones interested in the cryptic message.  There’s a con man on their trail, and he’ll stop at nothing, including murder, to claim the ‘treasure’ for himself.  

Buy link – https://books2read.com/finnagled

It wasn’t until later in life that Kristine Raymond figured out what she wanted to be when she grew up, an epiphany that occurred in 2013 when she sat down and began writing her first book.  Sixteen books in multiple genres later, she’s added the title of podcasting host to her resume, thus assuring that she will never be idle.

When a spare moment does present itself, she fills it by navigating the publishing and promotional side of the business.  When not doing that, she spends time with her husband and furbabies (not necessarily in that order), reads, or binge-watches Netflix.

Find out more about Kristine on her website at www.kristineraymond.com and follow her on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and BookBub

And for links to podcast episodes, guest posts, and other great stuff, check out Word Play with Kristine Raymond at www.wordplaypodcast.com.

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Guest Blogger: Lois Winston

Putting a Humorous Spin on Murder

By Lois Winston

I write the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries about a magazine crafts editor who is forced to become a reluctant amateur sleuth. However, I began my writing career penning dark romantic suspense. The first, after quite a few years and countless revisions, became the second book I ever sold. However, somewhere along the way I discovered my funny bone. Or maybe I should say funny bones because rather than being situated in my elbow, they reside in my ten fingers.

No one was more shocked than I. I’m one of those people who can never remember a joke’s punch line. When it comes to scintillating repartee, I always come up with a brilliant retort hours after the moment has passed. So years ago when my agent suggested I try to write a chick lit novel because Bridget Jones’s Diary had taken the publishing world by storm, and editors were clamoring for similar works, I laughed.

But she was serious. Apparently, she saw something buried deep inside me and knew it needed to be released. Turns out, she was right. On paper I’m quite funny, and the book I wrote, Talk Gertie to Me, became my debut novel.

Then one day my agent asked me to try my hand at writing a cozy mystery. She had been speaking with an editor who was looking for a series featuring a crafter. Since I designed needlework for craft kit manufacturers and craft book publishers in my day job, my agent thought I was the perfect person to write such a series. She also requested I use the humorous writing voice I had developed in Talk Gertie to Me. The woman was obviously clairvoyant because even though I hadn’t read a mystery since I devoured the Cherry Ames books as a kid, the moment I sat down at the computer to attempt writing a cozy mystery, I found my true literary calling.

I had always enjoyed reading books that make me laugh. There really is something to that old adage about laughter being the best medicine. Laughing releases endorphins in the brain, and the more endorphins, the happier we are. Given all the problems in the world, not only do I need to laugh more, I also realized I’d much rather make people laugh than have them sleep with one eye open at night.

So when Assault With a Deadly Glue Gun, the first book in the series was released in 2011, I was thrilled that critics embraced it. Publishers Weekly and Booklist both gave it starred reviews, comparing my writing to that of Tina Fey and Janet Evanovich. Kirkus described Anastasia as “North Jersey’s more mature answer to Stephanie Plum.” With praise like that, why would I ever go back to writing gritty romantic suspense?

Of course, Anastasia doesn’t see anything funny about the dead bodies I leave lying around for her to discover, the trouble I get her into with gangsters and psychopaths, or the communist mother-in-law I gave her. Luckily, she has no say in the matter. Besides, I’m not a total sadist when it comes to my reluctant amateur sleuth. I have given her a Shakespeare-quoting parrot and a drop-dead hunk of a boyfriend. Although, on second thought, maybe I am a bit sadistic because when it comes to photojournalist Zack Barnes, he may or may not also be a spy.

Handmade Ho-Ho Homicide

An Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery, Book 8

Two and a half weeks ago magazine crafts editor Anastasia Pollack arrived home to find Ira Pollack, her half-brother-in-law, had blinged out her home with enough Christmas lights to rival Rockefeller Center. Now he’s crammed her small yard with enormous cavorting inflatable characters. She and photojournalist boyfriend and possible spy Zack Barnes pack up the unwanted lawn decorations to return to Ira. They arrive to find his yard the scene of an over-the-top Christmas extravaganza. His neighbors are not happy with the animatronics, laser light show, and blaring music creating traffic jams on their normally quiet street. One of them expresses his displeasure with his fists before running off.

In the excitement, the deflated lawn ornaments are never returned to Ira. The next morning Anastasia once again heads to his house before work to drop them off. When she arrives, she discovers Ira’s attacker dead in Santa’s sleigh. Ira becomes the prime suspect in the man’s murder and begs Anastasia to help clear his name. But Anastasia has promised her sons she’ll keep her nose out of police business. What’s a reluctant amateur sleuth to do?

Buy Links

Amazon https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07VG2QZXV/

Kobo https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/handmade-ho-ho-homicide

Barnes & Noble https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/handmade-ho-ho-homicide-lois-winston/1132607263

iTunes https://books.apple.com/us/book/handmade-ho-ho-homicide/id1473711082

Bio:

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

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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