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Monday, July 25, 2016

Author Guest Post - Betty Hechtman

Please welcome author Betty Hechtman to the blog today.  Betty writes two national best selling series for Berkley. GONE WITH THE WOOL is the fourth Yarn Retreat mystery. SEAMS LIKE MURDER is the tenth Crochet mystery. In addition, she is the author of STOLEN TREASURE, A Blue Schwartz Mystery. She has a B.A. in Fine Arts has written newspaper, magazine pieces, short stories and several scripts. She splits her time between Tarzana and Chicago with yarn stashes in both places.

Meet Casey Feldstein

I thought it might be fun to interview Casey Feldstein, the amateur Sleuth in the Yarn Retreat series. It’s a little bit like being two people, though, since I get to ask the questions and then answer them.

Me: You probably get asked this all the time, but what is a Yarn Retreat?

Casey: You’re right. I do get that a lot. Yarn – well, that refers to the yarn craft activities we have. In my latest adventure GONE WITH THE WOOL, the group learns how to knit with a loom and crochet a Monarch butterfly. And retreat – it means to get away from it all. Vista Del Mar, the hotel and conference center where I put on the retreats is a perfect place for that. It’s located on the tip of the Monterey peninsula and the weather is moody with lots of fog. The place has gone totally unplugged, so there is no cell phone reception, no Wifi, or even television to bring in all the troubles of the outside world. There is a message board and some old fashioned phone booths with landlines so we’re not totally cut off.

Me: Speaking of troubles – there seem to be a lot of murders in Cadbury by the Sea since you moved there.

Casey: Oh, you noticed. My ex boss Frank – he runs a P.I. agency in Chicago where I used to live – says the same thing all the time. Working for him was my favorite job. I was either an assistant detective or a detective’s assistant, depending on who you talk to. We’re still in touch, though. He is my go to for advice since I seem to get involved with investigating all those murders you mentioned. He complains about it, but I know he likes helping.

Me: So what about your latest investigation.

Casey: Go figure. The whole town was wrapped up in the return of the Monacrch Butterflies – In case you don’t know, every October thousands of Monarchs come to Cadbury to overwinter. They have a sanctuary in a stand of trees. The whole town goes crazy with a week long festival to welcome them back. There’s a Butterfly Ball, a street fair, a parade and even a Butterfly Queen. And in the midst of it this woman with a lot of enemies turns up dead. I had to get involved because of who the main suspect was.

Me: I understand a lot of you amateur sleuths have a ghost. You know, something hanging over your head that worries you. What’s yours.

Casey: You had to bring that up. Okay, I’m in my mid thirties and so far have a history of not sticking with things. I’m hoping that maybe I’ve changed. But who knows....

Me: Do you want to talk about the two men in your life?”

Casey: They’re not exactly in my life. Dr. Sammy Glickner is my ex and insists that he’s staying in Cadbury because he can pursue his magic career while still working as a urologist. Of course, our paths keep crossing and I do have a soft spot for him, but its just friendship. Really. And Dane Mangano is the cop who lives down the street. There might be some chemistry between us, but I’m fighting getting involved.

Me: What would you like readers to know about you?

Casey: You didn’t mention my other job. I think it’s important that it be known that I am a dessert chef and muffin baker. I make the desserts for the Blue Door restaurant and bake muffins for all the coffee spots in town. Everything I make sells out. It could be why the people of Cadbury look the other way about the dead bodies that keep showing up. They like my baking too much. By the way, I share recipes and patterns. I hope that’s all, because I got a group of retreaters waiting for me. Bye.

Website: Facebook: Betty Hechtman (author) Twitter: @BettyHechtman

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Thank you Ms. Hechtman for that fun introduction to Casey Feldstein from the Yarn Retreat mysteries.  

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Monday, July 18, 2016

Guest Author Post - Terrie Farley Moran

Terrie Farley Moran, author of the Read ‘Em and Eat mystery series and an Agatha Award Best First Novel winner joins us today.  Please welcome her as she provides a taste of her newest release.


If you loved the recipe for Miss Marple’s Orange Iced Scones that Karen Owen (https://acupofteaandacozymystery. ) created for Caught Read-Handed, the second book in the Read ’Em and Eat cozy series, just wait until you try the recipe for Drunken Raisin Scones that Karen developed for Read to Death. The scones are delicious and a great match for the Old Man and the Sea Chowder recipe that I concocted.

Just ask Pastor John. He had guest coming and needed a quick lunch. Of course his wife Jocelyn, she of the straw textured hair and sour personality, was nowhere to be found. Sassy Cabot, book maven of the Read ’Em and Eat, came to the rescue with scones and chowder. And I must say, it is a delicious combination. You can find both recipes in the back of Read to Death.

But of course Pastor John’s lunch problem happened several days after Sassy’s BFF and business partner Bridgy Mayfield discovered a dead body in the Read ’Em and Eat parking lot and became the prime witness and (maybe) suspect.

What’s a girl to do when she’s under suspicion of murder? Why call her mom, that’s what. And Bridgy’s mom does what any mother would do—she jumped on a plane and headed to Fort Myers Beach to support her little girl. Of course there is a catch. Bridgy’s mom, Emelia, is Aunt Ophie’s sister and trust me when I tell you that the sisters don’t always see eye to eye. Actually you’d be on target if you said they never see eye to eye. So, happy as Bridgy is to have the comfort of her mom nearby, we witness lots of clash and bang anytime Ophelia and Emelia are in the same room.

There is so much going on what with snowbirds packing to head back north, book club meetings, family drama, tasty food and handsome young men, be they sheriff’s deputies, lawyers or newspaper reporters, that Bridgy and Sassy have quite the time fitting it all in while they try to throw suspicion off Bridgy’s shoulders and toss it to the real killer, whoever that may be. Sounds impossible but turns out to be highly doable for the spunky duo in Read to Death.
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THANK You Ms Moran for that fun run down of your most recent release.  

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Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Review - Veiled Magic

I have reviewed Deborah Blake's paranormal amateur sleuth Baba Yaga series, Wickedly Dangerous (click here).  But this is a different series that is more along the lines of Urban Fantasy with a complex witch/cop as the main character.

Author: Deborah Blake

Copyright: November 2015 (Intermix) 280 pgs

Series: 1st in Donata Santori Mystery series

Sensuality:  Adult situations mentioned, sprinkled cursing

Mystery Sub-genre: Paranormal Police Procedural

Main Character: Policewoman Donata Santori is a witch who talks to the dead.

Setting: modern day, large city (never named)

Obtained Through: Publisher for honest opinion

"Police officer and Witch Donata Santori spends her days interrogating dead witnesses by summoning their spectral forms. Normally the job (Witness Retrieval Specialist) is little more than taking statements and filing reports. But when she’s called in on the case of a murdered art restorer, she finds herself suddenly in possession of a mystical portrait that both the human and paranormal communities would kill to get their hands on.

Unable to take on the forces hunting her alone, Donata seeks help from two unlikely and attractive allies: a reluctant shape-changer and a half-dragon art forger. But as the three of them hurry to uncover the truth about the powerful painting, Donata realizes that she’s caught in the middle of not one but two wars—one for possession of the painting’s secrets and one for possession of her heart."

Donata, the black sheep of her powerful witch family, gets in over her head trying to handle investigating the murder outside her official duties because the world doesn't know about the rest of the paranormal entities even though witches out now out-of-the-broom-closet.  She faces a lot and risks even more.  

Peter Casaventi, the half-dragon art forger, has to deal with finding out he is half dragon plus learn about the paranormal world.  I liked this character a lot and really want to see more of him in the next novel. Donata compares him to Cary Grant as John Robie the sophisticated cat burglar in To Catch a Thief and I had already made that comparison before it came up in the book.  

Magnus Torvald is Donata's prior boyfriend, a bear shapeshifter from a Viking tradition that glorifies fighting - but he is a pacifist.  Magnus helps Donata and Peter even though it is clear he would like to rekindle the flame with Donata.  Yeah, it's the old love triangle.  

Donata's mother and two sisters and difficult - like so many families are.  I liked Ricky, the Kobold Earth Spirit with the temper, but a loyal friend.  He was a great sidekick.

The plot and subplots were engaging and kept my interest.  The pages turned quickly as the story flowed easily.  The climax was action packed, although it sneaked up on me fast.  The wrap-up sets the stage perfectly for a continuation of Donata's adventures.

I loved this debut novel.  It is a great urban fantasy without being too dark, has developed characters, an interesting sidekick, plenty of action, some romance, and a sprinkling of humor.  The writing flows easily and draws you into this world.  I am loving this new series.

Rating:  Excellent - Loved it! Buy it now and put this author on your watch list

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Monday, July 11, 2016

Save Our Cozies Readathon

Save Our Cozies Readathon

 Saturday – July 16th, 2016

Hosted by Franz Chapman and Bree Herron

I am reposting, but I originally found this on "Escape With Dollycas Into A Good Book" Blog.  There are several of my favorite cozy mysteries on the cancellation list, and no doubt some of yours.  This readathon is our way of influencing the publishers and showing our support to the authors.
Purpose of the Readathon: 
Due to mergers among publishing companies, several beloved cozy mystery series have either been cancelled or are in danger of being cancelled.  Depending upon an individual author’s contract, he or she may not even be able to self-publish or take the series to a new publisher.  The Save Our Cozies Readathon seeks to:
  • Raise the reading public’s awareness of this issue across a range of social media platforms.
  • Introduce the reading public to these series.
  • Encourage publishers to rethink their decision to cancel cozy mystery series.
  • Create and support a community of readers and authors.
  • Read lots of quality, fun cozy mystery books!

Series canceled (verified list)

Penguin Random House
Avery Aames – Cheese Shop mysteries
Beverly Allen – Bridal Bouquet Shop Mysteries (not renewed) Now writing Vintage Toyshop Mysteries for Crooked Lane as Barbara Early.
Janet Bolin – Threadville Mysteries
Melissa Bourbon –Magical Dressmaking Mysteries. Is thinking of self publishing but not anytime soon. Source: Author’s FB page.
Jacklyn Brady – Piece of Cake mysteries
Lucy Burdette – Key West Food Critic series
Maia Chance – Fairy Tale Fatal Mysteries
Erika Chase – Ashton Corners Mysteries
Peg Cochran – Gourmet DeLite Mysteries
Laura DiSilverio – Mall Cop Mysteries
Monica Ferris – Betsy Devonshire Needlework series. Is shopping for new publisher and has plans for future books.
Christy Fifield – Haunted Souvenir Mysteries. Owns rights, plans to self-publish.
Shelley Freydont – Celebration Bay Mysteries
Rosie Genova – Italian Kitchen Mysteries
Victoria Hamilton – Vintage Kitchen Mysteries (she is continuing the series with another publisher, ebook only.)
Mary Ellen Hughes – Pickled and Preserved Mysteries
Annie Knox – Pet Boutique Mysteries
Elizabeth Lee (Elizabeth Kane Buzzelli) Nut Shop Mystery Series
Molly MacRae — Haunted Yarn Shop Mysteries (plans to continue the series)
Leigh Perry – Family Skeleton Mysteries –  Shopping for a new publisher.
Cate Price – Deadly Notions Mysteries
Christine Wenger – Comfort Foods Mysteries (NAL, which was merged into Berkley); is considering self-publishing.
FIVE STAR (Gale Cengage)
Five Star has dropped their entire mystery lineup.
Nancy Cohen – Bad Hair Day Mysteries
Maggie Toussaint – Dreamwalker Mysteries
Susan Van Kirk- Endurance Mysteries
Limitless Publishing
A E H Veenman – Marjorie Gardens Mysteries
Anna Loan-Wilsey – Hattie Davish Mysteries
Macmillan / St. Martin’s Press
D.E. Ireland – Eliza Doolittle and Henry Higgins Mysteries (switching publishers)

Start Times

We will be starting at Midnight Friday July 15th and run through Midnight Saturday July 16th EDT.   For the sake of challenges and hourly activites, we will all start at the same time.   Therefore, when it is Midnight July 15th in EDT, it will be 9:00 PM July 15th in Los Angeles, California.
Go here to find your time zone start time:


What is a cozy?
A sub-genre of mystery or crime fiction in which the violence is downplayed or happens “off screen”.  The books tend to focus on non-professional crime solvers and contain little or no sex or foul language.  For a complete definition visit the excellent at
What is an online cozy readathon?
An online readathon is an online 24 hour event that brings together a community of readers and authors to participate in all things cozy.  This includes reading, posting frequently on social media, visiting author’s websites, posting reviews, visiting book blogger’s websites, and/or participating in fun challenges/activities.  The amount and type of participation is up to the individual.
How do I participate?
The Cozy fans can participate through any or all of the following:
  1. Sign up to participate on this Wordpress website  using your online social media home – be it FacebookTumblr,Twitter,Goodreads, etc.  and your role, author, reader, cheerleader, admin. (you are not limited to using just one social media account, I just want a main one where I can find you).
  2. The starting time of the readathon will be  midnight on  July 15th EST or 12:01 AM on July 16th as the time zone calculator is set up. Everyone will start at the same time.  Use the time zone page to determine when to start for you time zone.  This is so everyone will be at the same point at the same time.   Participants can join in for any amount of time from 1 hour to all 24.
  3. Every hour there will be an activity of the hour that you can choose to participate in.
  4. When not reading or participating in activities, you can visit participating author’s and/or book blogger’s websites.  The lists of participants will appear on the signup page as people join.
  5. Respond to other participants’ posts on social media to encourage them.
  6. Check in with the Save Our Cozies Readathon web page and/or Facebook group.
  7. Post your reading progress/ activity on your social media of choice, if hashtags are applicable use #saveourcozies #readathon
  8. Post cozy reviews on your medium of choice. I believe authors’  prefer Amazon and/or Goodreads
  9. Donating prizes for challenges/activities – (can be as simple as bookmarks)
  10. Work admin duties – I hope for us to have a presence on several social media platforms, we already have a Facebook groupthanks to Shelly Toler Franz. I will open a WordPress  webpage for handling all sign up and linking needed for the readathon.  I will link the web page to a Twitter account.  I can also form a Goodreads group. I don’t personally use Tumblr,Booklikes,Librarything,  or many others, so if someone uses those platforms I’d appreciate it if they would volunteer to admin there.  There will be closing down duties as well.  Books or pages read by everyone and participants will need to be tallied.  Thank yous will need to go out, etc.
Authors can participate by:
  1. See 1 – 9 above (Authors are fans, too. Right?)
  2. Posting on his or her own webpage.
  3. Hosting challenges or activities.
  4. Setting up interviews with book bloggers to be posted during the challenge
  5. Setting up a Q&A session on Twitter during the readathon. (usually this is done by collecting questions from readers over the couple weeks leading up to the readathon and then tweeting them with answers during the event.)

Donated Prizes

Each hourly event will have a winner and if we have enough prizes there will be other categories to win in as well (most pages read, most books listened to, most activities participated in, etc.)

Participant Signups – Over 200 people have already signed up!

You can sign up in a couple different ways.
In the comment box, tell me:
  • Name – What you would like to be known as during the readathon
  • Reader and/or Author
  • Blog address (Optional)
  • Online home – any social media site(s) that you want to use for the readathon (facebook, tumblr, twitter, Goodreads, etc.)  Please provide a link so we can find your posts/activity during the readathon
2 – Email the above information to  Please enter Readathon in the subject line.
3 – Message Fanficfan44  on

Once you are done you can see other participants here.

Whether you can join for the whole day or even just an hour this is a great way to support cozy authors.

If you have questions you can contact the organizers at or post on the Save Our Cozies Facebook Page.

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Guest Author Post - Julia Buckley

Julia Buckley is a Chicago mystery author whose career started in 2006 with the publication of THE DARK BACKWARD. She is currently writing two series for Berkley Prime Crime, the first of which launched with THE BIG CHILI (Undercover Dish Mysteries) and the new A DARK AND STORMY MURDER (A Writer's Apprentice Mystery).

Julia has taught high school English for twenty-seven years; she lives near Chicago with her husband, two sons, three cats, and a mischievous Lab puppy named Digby.  Please welcome Ms. Julia Buckley to our little corner of the blogosphere. 

When I Discovered Mary Stewart

I remember when I first fell in love with Mary Stewart. It was somewhere between the late seventies and the early eighties; my mother, a volunteer librarian at my school and eventually at our local library, was always bringing home interesting books. We were huge library supporters: my dad was on the board, and we invited the local librarian, a bachelor, to our house for dinner and games of Password.

My mother had long been a Mary Stewart fan, and I can’t recall if she pressed one into my hand, assuring me that I’d like it, or if I picked one up on my own. Stewart’s covers and titles were compelling, with a Gothic flair and a sense of menace.

In any case, I read the first book. In those days we children who were still in school tended to come home in the afternoon and lie on the furniture like giant sloths, reading the books we had been forced to leave behind. I remember hearing a lot of “Why don’t you go get some fresh air?” while I lay there, devouring chapter after chapter.

The first way that Stewart lured her reader was with an Epigraph at the beginning of each chapter, always literary, referring the reader to a passage from Shakespeare, or Milton, or Bronte. This carefully-selected quotation always had relevance to the story she was telling. After this came the one-two punch of a fascinating setting and a gripping plot, introduced by an irresistible first line.

In her first suspense novel, Madam, Will You Talk?, Stewart begins by setting the tone: 

"The whole affair began so very quietly. When I wrote, that summer, and asked my friend Louise if she would come with me on a car trip to Provence, I had no idea that I might be issuing an invitation to danger" (Stewart 1).

Every Mary Stewart fan knows the quiet satisfaction of this sort of beginning. One can be assured of an exciting ride with a highly literate driver.

In my own book, A DARK AND STORMY MURDER, Camilla Graham is a Mary Stewart-type suspense novelist, and Lena London is as star-struck as I would be, had I ever been given the chance to meet Lady Stewart in person. I suppose the book is a kind of wish fulfillment. In an homage to Stewart’s books, I begin each chapter with an epigraph, but I am quoting Camilla Graham’s book, THE SALZBURG TRAIN.

After that the resemblance to a Stewart novel ends, but it is still my love letter to the best writer of romantic suspense.


A DARK AND STORMY MURDER (Berkley Prime Crime) will be on sale on July 5, and is available for pre-order on Amazon).

Work Cited

Stewart, Mary. Madam, Will You Talk? London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1954.

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THANK You Ms. Buckley.  I am a huge Mary Stewart fan as well.  I have a hardcopy of The Moonspinners and still remember the haunting story of Airs Above the Ground.  Of course the Crystal Cave trilogy is phenomenal.   Playing games of Password, Yes!

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