A Holiday Mystery Anthology

Last January, my author co-op, Windtree Press, had a quarterly meeting and it was decided we’d put out a mystery anthology, since we had 8 authors in the group who wrote mystery/suspense/thriller books. We chose to make it have a holiday theme and every story had to have or mention a dead body. That and the length were the guidelines.

We set dates by when the short stories had to be sent to the person editing (me) and when I had to have all the stories ready for the person formatting, and when they had to have it ready to publish. It was fun reading each authors stories and helping them where they needed to beef up the mystery or flesh out a character. Once the author and I were happy with the story, I then sent it on to another author in the group to proofread.

In the end we have 10 completely different, yet entertaining mystery stories.

CRIME NEVER TAKES A HOLIDAY

A cornucopia of ten cozy mystery stories that are perpetrated during holidays from New Years to Christmas. This collection explores unexplained disturbances, college pranks gone wrong, and almost always one or more murders around a holiday. Solve these spooky crimes that lurk beneath celebratory parties and help search for the murderers. Kick off your shoes, grab a warm drink and snuggle into a blanket before you get lured onto the sparkling snow for the next crime spree.

A Body on the 13th Floor by Paty Jager
Dead Ladies Don’t Dance by Robin Weaver
Took Nothing Left Nothing by Pamela Cowan
Busted for Bones by Dari LaRoche
Yuletide Firebug by Kathy Coatney
Starry Night Murder by Mary Vine
The Twelfth Night Murder by Ann Chaney
Blue Christmas by Melissa Yi
Two Turtle Doves by Maggie Lynch
Five Golden Rings by Kimila Kay

https://books2read.com/u/b6zYgp

A Body on the 13th Floor by Paty Jager

Dela Alvaro, head of security for the Spotted Pony Casino, has a dead body in an elevator on New Year’s Eve. The unfortunate soul was stuck between the 12th and 14th floors when he met his demise.

This short story pulls together a good number of the cast from my Spotted Pony Casino Mysteries series. I had a fun time coming up with the plot and making it as interesting as I could in a short amount of time. I think all writers should not only write novel length stories but also write short stories to help hone their skills and learn to tell a story in few words but ones that can make an impact.

If you grab a copy, I hope you enjoy the mysteries!

Guest Blogger~Christine DeSmet

From the Land of 11 Lighthouses

The question always comes up when I do a book talk:  What part of your background is in your character of Ava Oosterling?

I was raised on a 160-acre dairy farm in southern Wisconsin near Barneveld. I feel nostalgic when driving by fragrant, new-mown alfalfa fields. I remember bringing up cows from our far-flung pastures while I was going barefoot in the soft, dusty cow paths that had seen thousands of hooves over the years.  

Being a farm girl is also the background for Ava Oosterling—star of my Fudge Shop Mystery Series, including the new holiday novel, Holly Jolly Fudge Folly.

My character of Ava Oosterling is far more adventurous than I am. She’s been nearly burned alive and drowned by bad guys. But I’m not exactly a wallflower. I have climbed ancient oak trees and ridden cows—and never fallen

I started my writing career years ago as an adult. I entered a national manuscript contest sponsored by Romance Writers of America. I won the “Golden Heart”! But I didn’t get published because I didn’t know enough yet to revise properly. In the years to come, I eventually became what I am today—a writing coach and instructor, author of several published novels, and an optioned screenwriter.

These days I write using “plot points” and “scene design” and “hooks” and other technical writerly tools. When I plan a novel or short story, I start with the Central Question. It must start with the word “Will” and stick to one topic. “Will Ava accomplish/solve WHAT by the end?” Of course she’ll solve the mystery, but I try to build in an adjacent concern that must be solved.

My first published novel, Spirit Lake, a romantic suspense, came out around the year 2000 when electronic books were small disks you read on a computer. I was a pioneer, part of the publishing revolution. Back then, such authors were discriminated against for not publishing “real” books. Hard to believe now!

 As years went by, I wrote “cozy” romantic mystery novellas—short novels—in my Mischief in Moonstone series, set near Superior, Wisconsin.

Those are now re-issued for Kindle and paperback by Writers Exchange E-Publishing, a new Australian publisher. The books include the Halloween novella, When the Dead People Brought a Dish-to-Pass, and the Christmas novella, When Rudolph Was Kidnapped. I’ve written a screenplay based on the latter.

My Fudge Shop Mystery series came about when a literary agent was looking for somebody to write about chocolate in Door County, Wisconsin—known as the Cape Cod of the Midwest. The peninsular county jutting into Lake Michigan has the most lighthouses of any county in the United States—11. A lighthouse indeed entered into a murder plot in one of my books. I’ve now written six novels in that cozy series, including this season’s Holly Jolly Fudge Folly.

A “cozy mystery” always focuses on a small community. Violence, sex, and politics are kept off the page. Cozies focus on humor, adventure, respect, family and friends, and often pets and good food. My key characters include a trouble-making but lovable grandpa who has to have his coffee strong and laced with Belgian chocolate, and an American Water Spaniel named Lucky Harbor who loves cheese crackers. That breed of dog was developed in Wisconsin.

 My protagonist, Ava Oosterling, is Belgian—like me. She was also raised on a farm, hers in Door County—part of a region with the biggest rural population of Belgian immigrants in the United States.

My books contain recipes for Belgian items such as Belgian booyah—a harvest soup made outdoors in big barrels over wood fires in autumn. My recipe is in Hot Fudge Frame-Up.

In Holly Jolly Fudge Folly the quest is on for a new recipe to please Santa and his elves. In the story, Ava Oosterlings’ best friend is getting married, but not before Ava’s grandpa gets accused of murder. That jeopardizes his prized role as Santa in the holiday parade and his ability to walk Ava’s friend down the aisle. The new novel contains my recipe for Holly Jolly Fudge.

Thank you for letting me introduce myself and my writing life. I love hearing from readers and fellow writers through my website, or Facebook, or through the Blackbird Writers group where I also blog. Best wishes for your holiday season!

Christine DeSmet’s books are available in paperback and ebook formats through her publisher (Writers Exchange E-Publishing), through Amazon, or through Christine’s website at this link: https://christinedesmet.com/books/how-to-buy/

Because Christine doesn’t have the cover or buy link yet for Holly Jolly Fudge Folly, here is another Holiday mystery from Christine: From her Mischief in Moonstone Series:

When Rudolph was Kidnapped

A cozy holiday mystery with a stocking full of tender romance! When her pet reindeer, Rudolph, is stolen from the live animal holiday display, first-grade teacher Crystal Hagan has a big problem:  Her students fear Christmas will be canceled. The prime suspect is a man who lives in the mansion known as the “North Pole.” And to her shock, Peter LeBarron admits to kidnapping Rudolph and won’t give him back without some romantic negotiations. Book 1 of the Mischief in Moonstone Mystery Series

Buy link: https://www.amazon.com/Mischief-Moonstone-Novella-Rudolph-Kidnapped/dp/B08WJP893S

Christine DeSmet writes the Fudge Shop Mystery Series including the Fall 2022 release called Holly Jolly Fudge Folly. She’s also authored the Mischief in Moonstone Series (novellas). She is an award-winning, optioned screenwriter. Her new book projects include children’s picture books. Christine is a long-time writing coach and developmental editor—skills honed while creating and leading programs as a Distinguished Faculty Associate at University of Wisconsin-Madison Continuing Studies. Her memberships: Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrations. Christine was raised on a dairy-and-hog farm in southwestern Wisconsin. She loves any art that includes cows. https://christinedesmet.com/  and Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/christine.desmet.357

It’s November Again

by Janis Patterson


Yes, the dreaded month of November has stomped onto our calendars again, darn it. No, I’m not talking about the approaching gluttony of Thanksgiving or the terrifyingly few weekends left until Christmas, though both are swiftly oncoming realities.


I’m talking about the annual National Novel Writing Month, commonly known as NaNoWriMo or even NaNo, where for years now people have been encouraged to write a 50,000 word novel in the 30 days of November. It is called an exercise in accountability, or a time of group encouragement, or any number of other pleasant and positive euphemisms. While I can see that both the former can be regarded as sort of desirable for writers, what disturbs me is the number of absolute tyros who will regard this as their ticket to literary fame and fortune.


Perhaps a few of them will learn what plain old hard work it is to string 50,000 +/- words into a cohesive story and there is a lot more to creating salable stories than just writing down the requisite number of words… but most of them won’t. They’ll pound out the words in a blaze of literary fervor, many truly believing that their prose is both deathless and special. Most of it will not be.


And to this point that’s fine. It’s supposed to be a learning experience. What bugs me is that most of the tyros won’t learn from it. Many of them will take their ‘masterpieces’ and send them off to agents and publishers and wait impatiently for large contracts. Many of those manuscripts will not be edited or, on some sad occasions, not even be read through. Then, when the inevitable rejections occur, said novices will declare that the publishing world does not recognize their genius and will self-publish.


I do wish that there were some sort of law forbidding any non-professional writer to submit a manuscript done for NaNo. It would be so much kinder to everyone involved. Writing is just about the only profession where someone with no training or education in the field and no discernable skills in grammar, punctuation or story structure wakes up one morning and decides he is going to write a novel, then is surprised when the rest of the world does not acclaim the genius of his work. But hey – he wanted to write a novel so he did. I guess we should all be grateful he didn’t wake up, decide he wanted to be a brain surgeon or aerospace engineer and act in the same way.
And that’s my opinion of those who have a skewed and unreasonable view of NaNo. What about the working professional writer?


Properly used, NaNo can be a marvelous tool of discipline and accountability. I’ve worked under various writing contracts for the majority of my adult life, but as I get older I have noticed that I am not only slowing down, I am becoming much more easily distracted. For example, while in Egypt a couple of weeks ago – after vowing I wouldn’t do another book set in Egypt – I got the idea for a wonderful mystery and began writing it. Normally a couple of years ago I would have had the first draft already finished. It isn’t.


I’ve never done NaNo, so this year – since I have no overhanging contracts or deadlines at the moment – I decided to try it. It’s a wonderful thing. Every day I have to post to a certain site (this NaNo is being facilitated by one of my writers’ groups) how many words I have done that day. Sometimes it is embarrassing. Sometimes – when I exceed my allotted number by a respectable amount – it is a source of pride. I like it. Accountability is a good, positive thing.
Some say that NaNo is at its heart a learning experience. I can agree with that, and can also agree that we should never stop learning.

REFRIGERATOR UPDATE – I told you about my woes of buying a new refrigerator. All we want is a very simple refrigerator – French door, bottom freezer and ice/water on the outside of the door. And white. White was the problem; white is not standard any more, nor even available on most models. It has to be special ordered.


So we ordered it the day after we returned from Egypt and were told we could have it some three weeks later on 23 October. On 22 October I called Lowe’s and asked for a time frame for delivery; between 8-12 on the 24th, I was told. Well, October 24th came and went with no refrigerator, so I called and after being routed through two idiots who knew nothing finally got a hold of a manager, who after some investigation told me the refrigerator was not only not in Dallas, it was still at the factory and had not even been finished.


WHAT IS SO DIFFICULT ABOUT PUTTING A PLAIN WHITE FINISH ON A VERY STANDARD MODEL?


With admirable self-restraint I asked why Lowe’s had not told me the truth and had not told me a real date for delivery instead of giving me a big chunk of blue sky. I also asked why no one had had the courtesy to call and say the refrigerator was not even in Dallas yet. (Needless to say, the refrigerator was fully paid for on the day we ordered it.) The man had the good grace to be embarrassed and said he didn’t know. Then he gave me the delivery date of 25 November. I asked him if that was any more true than the first date had been. He didn’t answer.


So – heed my sad little tale and be very careful where you buy a refrigerator or any other appliance unless you will let the store dictate what you will receive.

Soup Weather

November. Sunrise comes later and sunset comes sooner. Though I live in California, the nights are chilly. I bundle up on the sofa, a fleece throw over me, book in hand, and a cat or two jockeying for position on my lap. What’s for dinner? This time of year, it’s usually soup.

I start with the basics. Onion and garlic sauteed in olive oil. Add lots of veggies, whatever is to hand. Carrots for color, mushrooms, a handful of fresh spinach. Toss in that leftover cauliflower or broccoli. Add cans of tomatoes and pinto beans. I like pinto beans in my soup.

I add homemade broth made from leftover chicken or turkey bones. Perhaps I’ll add a splash of Worcestershire, soy sauce or even rice vinegar.

Then it’s herbs and spices, going beyond salt and pepper. Toss in oregano, or maybe a pinch of tarragon. With so many spices to hand, I’m experimenting with smoky paprika, cumin and coriander. Cayenne and chili, curry and sometimes even cinnamon or nutmeg for something different.

Soon there’s a fragrant pot of delicious homemade soup simmering on the stovetop.

And what does that have to do with writing? Plenty.

When I’m writing a novel I start with the basics. Instead of onions and garlic, it’s plot, characters and setting. Decisions must be made. Will it be first person, or third, or a combination of both? That depends on what kind of novel I’m simmering.

The plot thickens—sorry, couldn’t resist that, as long as I’m going with the cooking analogy. Suffice to say I want my soup to have plenty of variety and flavor. And my novel to have a story full of twists, turns and surprises.

The Jeri Howard novel I’m finishing up, The Things We Keep, is one such pot of soup. This is the 14th book I’ve written with Jeri as protagonist, so I’m well acquainted with my fictional Oakland private eye and the world she inhabits. On that basic framework I build my story, and I think this one has its share of plot twists.

As for the setting, this time Jeri is sleuthing in familiar Bay Area territory. In other books I’ve taken her farther afield, though for the most part in California, though she goes to New Orleans in The Devil Close Behind. In Witness to Evil, I sent her to Paris, though she eventually wound up in Bakersfield.

As for characters, I do have a list of staples. Jeri’s father Tim, now retired, who at the start of the series was a history professor and a major player in Till The Old Men Die. Her fiancé Dan, who has his first appearance in Bit Player. Longtime attorney friend Cassie Taylor, who has appeared in several books since the first, Kindred Crimes. I enjoy adding new characters to the mix and if I like them well enough, they get return appearances. For example, New Orleans private eye Antoine Lasalle, who appears in The Devil Close Behind, has a walk-on in The Things We Keep.

It’s soup weather, a comforting bowl on a chilly night. Or several nights. Because soup melds flavors when it sits in the fridge overnight. I can put it on the stove again and add new herbs and spices. Basil this time or lemongrass for something different.

Novels, like soup, can always be revised.

Guest Blogger ~ Terri Benson

I’ve written two historical romances, and read a lot of them growing up, but I also enjoyed mysteries. Somewhere along the line, I picked up a Clive Cussler novel with Dirk Pitt and his classic cars. While the Dirk Pitts stories themselves generally didn’t focus on the cars, there was one mentioned in every book and photos were usually on the back cover. Those books rekindled my interest in the beautiful old cars. I generally go for the pre-1950s cars, not the later muscle cars – a fact that causes some discussion between myself and my husband.

There are quite a few car shows around the Four Corners region where I live, and some of the larger auction houses like Barrett-Jackson and Mecum hold events in Denver, Las Vegas, and Scottsdale – all within a reasonable weekend trip for me. I get my ideas for the cars in my books at these shows, as well as perusing online catalogues, websites, and blogs. Once I have a car in mind, the story seems to come from that.

I’m a bit odd in when I’m starting a book, I almost always come up with the title first, based on the car, or in the case of Pickup Artist, a Marmon-Herrington pickup I saw in Vegas several years ago. If you read the book (and I hope you do!) you’ll find the title has more than one meaning, which is always my goal.

My main character, Renni Delacroix, is a young, pretty, female classic car restorer, who has had to fight her way into the industry for those specific reasons. Her unusual background growing up with a widowed great uncle and his middle-aged son, both of whom were involved in circle track and stock car racing, gave her far more experience with car bodies and engines than most men twice her age. That experience has allowed her to become a top-ten restorer, but it’s left her with a hefty chip on her shoulder after spending years proving herself over and over. She has another, more unusual skill, which gives her even more grief – when she touches a car, she starts to see its history in her dreams. It can be helpful in her chosen career, but has been hard on past relationships, not to mention making her the butt of jokes during her college years and beyond.

Her gift (or curse as she sees it) exposes an old mystery in each book, but doesn’t help much in solving said mystery, or contemporary mysteries she’s involved in. Often, as in The Pickup Artist, those past and present mysteries, separated by decades, end up being related. An eclectic cast of characters (and I mean that literally), both help and hinder Renni with their meddling and advice.

The Pickup Artist

Classic car restorer Renni Delacroix has a unique gift, one kept carefully hidden: when she touches a car, she sees its history. Focused on building her business in the small town of Rampart, Colorado, she hides the truth of her psychic ability.

But when a Marmon pickup is delivered, visions of terrified women jolt her clean off the old truck. She has no choice but to come forward, especially since one the of the women was her best friend, murdered six months earlier. Rennie explains what she sees to Detective Matt Brody. Skeptical, he’s surprised to find evidence the Marmon belonged to a serial killer known as the Rocky Mountain High Killer.

While battling Brody’s suspicions, and her growing attraction to him, Renni uses skills honed hunting down classic parts to unearth the killer. But will she be able to give their identity to Brody before she loses everything,– her job, her home…even her life?

Buy links

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-pickup-artist-terri-benson/1140930664

https://www.audible.com/pd/The-Pickup-Artist-Audiobook/B09XHSYFBC

A life-long writer, Terri is traditionally and self-published in novel length, plus nearly a hundred articles and short stories published – many award winning. She’s a member of Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, Sisters in Crime, and Rocky Mountain Mystery Writers, presents workshops at writer’s conferences, and teaches night classes at Western Colorado Community College.  Terri spends her non-writing time working at a non-profit, camping, jeeping, and dirt biking with her junior-high-school sweetheart/husband of 40+ years and a succession of Brittany spaniels. You can find more information on her at https://www.terribensonwriter.com/

Social Media Links

https://www.facebook.com/Terri-Benson-Writer-105857887430017/

https://www.facebook.com/terri.benson.104