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Monday, August 15, 2016

Guest Author Post - Monica Ferris

Let's welcome bestselling author of the Needlecraft Mystery series, Monica Ferris.  I reviewed her 13th book in the Needlecraft Mystery series - Blackwork (click here), and was honored to have her as a guest before (click here).  Today she shares the ups and downs of book signings.

Book Signings

Are book signings necessary? Publishers love them because they are a way to advertise a book they’re pushing. Bookstores love them because they attract fans. Authors love them because they can feel famous for an hour or two. Or, they hate them, because hardly anyone comes. There’s nothing quite like sitting at a long table at a convention beside a really famous author. The fans gush, the famous author laughs modestly and gets a cramp in his or her hand from autographing book after book, and the not-famous author tries not to look bored or hurt or jealous.

I’ve actually been in both situations, as some of my books do much better than others.

I’m not a mega best-seller, so most of my book signings are scheduled by me rather than my publisher. It’s time consuming but at the same time fun and interesting to talk to shop owners in other cities and states. And when I do make a connection and get a date, I meet great people, have fascinating conversations, and get the hand cramp that means the event was a success.

The negatives? The cost (gas, meals, hotel), the wear and tear on my car (or the increasing aggravation of flying), time away from writing, the exhaustion and letdown that show up at the end of a tour. I’ve had author friends who actually avoid signings because of the downsides, and/or who suffer from shyness and discomfort when among strangers in strange towns. I understand and sympathize, but think it’s important to get out there and show the flag.

I’m getting over a very serious illness and am not quite back to full strength, but I’m going to hit the road in August and September – not going far from home this time – and am looking forward to seeing some smiling faces and signing my name in the books that have my name on the cover, especially the new one, Knit Your Own Murder.

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THANK You Ms. Ferris for sharing the author's side of book signings.  Wishing you renewed health (I've followed your blog) and great book sales! And a tip of the tail to your Snaps and Panzi over the rainbow bridge. 

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Monday, August 8, 2016

Guest Author Post - Julianne Holmes

Please welcome Julianne Holmes to our little spot on the web.  Her Clock Shop Mystery series debuted in October 2015 with Just Killing Time, which was nominated for an Agatha Award for Best First Novel.  Clock and Dagger was released August 2, 2016. As J.A. Hennrikus she has had short stories published in Level Best Books anthologies: “Her Wish” in Dead Calm, “Tag, You’re Dead” in Thin Ice, “The Pendulum Swings, Until It Doesn’t” in Blood Moon. 


Last spring I was on a panel at Malice Domestic, and Margaret Maron was moderating. She was asking questions about Just Killing Time, the first book in this series. She wondered if anyone in my family was a clock maker, since my protagonist Ruth Clagan had such a palatable love for clocks.

No one in my family is a clock maker. But research for this series has made me passionate about them, and I’m happy if that spills onto the page. What has my research taught me?

Being a clockmaker takes years of learning and apprenticeship. Like writing (or acting, or playing a musician), talent is important. But as important, maybe more, is spending time learning your craft. I admire people who dedicate themselves to learning as part of how they make their living. Especially when actually making a living isn’t a given.

Clocks are beautiful on the outside. If you go to the American Clock and Watch Museum in Bristol Connecticut, you will see dozens and dozens of clocks and watches. Some clocks are “just” clocks, but most are also pieces of art unto themselves. Cabinetry, painted faces, choice of clock hands, size, style. Details matter on clocks, and they speak volumes about the owners of the timepieces.

Keeping time is an amazing thing. Think about it—a hundred years ago, clocks were the only way people could tell time. Now, we are all synched to the second with our cell phones, but for a long time there was an “ish” factor about clocks. (“What time is it?” “Twoish.”) Precision wasn’t necessary, but the desire to capture time has been part of us for a long time.

Once the industrial revolution started, two things happened. First, trains started running all over the country. Second, timing of the trains had to be precise. So a standard for railroad watches came into practice, so all conductors would be able to be on the same schedule. I find that amazing—we had to capture time, and made watches that did just that.

As the need to capture time, some of the artistry of timekeeping has been lost. More and more clocks are electric, which puts clockmakers like Ruth Clagan out of business. Except that old timepieces are passed down from generation to generation, and keeping them running isn’t just about keeping time. It is about preserving memories.

I love writing the Clock Shop Mystery series, and learning more about clocks. I used to take them for granted, but no longer. I always stop and look, ask questions, listen to stories. I am passionate about clocks, and glad that spills over onto the page.


I blog with the Wicked Cozy Authors, and a few weeks ago our Wicked Wednesday topic (we do a group post every Wednesday) was about the myths about writing we’ve figured out aren’t true. One of the myths, for me, was the idea that you needed to have a perfectly accurate setting and very detailed character sketches before you could start writing a book.

I have found that layers reveal themselves as you write. I’m finding this especially true about Orchard, Massachusetts, the setting for this series. Orchard isn’t a real place, but it is located in the Berkshires here in Massachusetts. I know the Berkshires, and found a town to use as a model. I decided every building would be different—different eras, different materials, different styles. They would also be stand alone buildings, running along the main street of Orchard, which is Washington Street. The Cog & Sprocket, the clock shop in the series which doubles as Ruth Clagan’s home, it at the end of the street, and she can see all of downtown Orchard from her front porch.

At the end of Just Killing Time, Ruth has decided to make some renovations to the shop, and to upstairs. It is still small, cozy, and cramped. But now it had more of Ruth’s personality in. it. The literary renovation was fun. I kept a lot about the shop the same, but took down a wall and painted the walls. Upstairs, the apartment was restored, going from a storage space into a home. Walls were painted, furniture was moved in. Thanks to the scratch and dent section of the home improvement store, the kitchen was updated and the bathroom now has a separate shower rather than the too short claw foot tub contraption. The kitchen table Ruth uses was one of two pieces of furniture she got in her divorce from her ex husband.

Now, when I started writing this series, did I have the renovated Cog & Sprocket in my mind, with all the details? No, of course not. That’s the myth that needs to be busted. Those details come clear when you need them to.

I recently wrote a scene where Ruth goes running. She goes further than she ever has, and as I wrote the scene a mist was lifted, and details emerged about this next ring around Orchard. This is the fun part of writing. Making it up as you go along, filling in details as needed. The tricky part is keeping track of those details, so you get them right in the future.

I have nieces and nephews, and played Minecraft with them one Christmas. One of my nephews (who was very young at the time) kept destroying the towns the other kids had built, so eventually he had to play on his own. While I did not break down walls and invite sheep to graze in the living room, I elected to play on my own as well. I’m a writer. I build my own towns. I hope you enjoy visiting it in Clock and Dagger.

Julianne Holmes is on Twitter (@JulieHennrikus), Instagram (@jahenn), Pinterest, and Facebook. She blogs with the Wicked Cozy Authors, Live to Write/Write to Live, and is on Killer Characters on the 20th of each month. Julie is a board member of Sisters in Crime and New England Chapter of Sisters in Crime. She is also a member of Mystery Writers of America and the Guppies.

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THANK you Ms. Holmes for that peek into your process.  

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Monday, August 1, 2016

Guest Author Post - Rhys Bowen

Please welcome Rhys Bowen to our blog!  She is the New York Times Bestselling Author of the Royal Spyness Series, Molly Murphy Mysteries, and Constable Evans. She has won the Agatha Best Novel Award and has been nominated for the Edgar Best Novel. Rhys’s titles have received rave reviews around the globe.

Rhys currently writes two mystery series, the atmospheric Molly Murphy novels, about a feisty Irish immigrant in 1900s New York City, and the funny and sexy Royal Spyness mysteries (one of my favorites), about a penniless minor royal in 1930s Britain.

Visiting with Royalty.

I’m always fascinated by the American fascination with royalty. Why did the colonies fight so hard to get rid of a king, only to spend the next two hundred years wishing they had one? Well, maybe the fantasy aura of royalty is better than the reality.

This series came into being because my editor had been urging me to write a big, dark standalone. I kept toying with serial killers, child molesters and terrorists and finally asked myself whether I wanted to spend six months in such company. The answer was a resounding NO. So a silly idea crept into my head. What if my sleuth was a sheltered, upper class British girl in the 1930s—what if she was a member of the royal family, not allowed to work, to go out unchaperoned, and destined to marry to some chinless, spineless, buck-toothed and utter awful European royal. Trying to solve a murder would indeed be a challenge, and fun. I would have a chance to poke fun at the British class system and chuckle to myself as I wrote. And I did have the necessary background to make this authentic: I had had tea with the current queen. I had married into an upper class family who had owned stately homes and had cousins with silly nicknames.

And so HER ROYAL SPYNESS was born. However, the moment I visualized Lady Victoria Georgiana Charlotte Eugenie, I found that this was royal family life turned upside down. She may be cousin to the king of England. She may be destined to make a good marriage, thus cementing ties with a potential enemy, but she is penniless. She is too far from the line of succession to get any public money. Her father gambled away the last of his fortune. Her brother is saddled with horrendous death duties and can barely keep the Scottish estate running. He certainly can’t afford to go on keeping Georgie after she has come out into society.

So in the first book, she bolts to London and tries living on her own. Not an easy task for one who has never done a thing for herself. How does one light a fire and where does milk come from? So she does the only logical thing—she starts a house cleaning service. Little do the owners of the London mansions know that their furniture is being dusted by the 34th in line to the throne, and that their loo is being cleaned with the bath brush!

Then the queen asks her to act as her spy. It seems the Prince of Wales has met a most unsuitable American woman. Georgie takes all this in her stride, until she finds a body in her bathtub and someone is trying to kill her.

I have now written ten books in the series, and in CROWNED AND DANGEROUS, due out on August 2nd, Georgie again has a problem with her royal background. She wants to marry the dark and dashing Darcy O’Mara. However Darcy is a Catholic and Georgie is a member of the line of succession—albeit a distant thirty fifth from the throne. So she is forbidden, under British law, to marry a Catholic. Georgie, of course, is willing to renounce her claim to the throne. After all, it would take a particularly virulent plague to wipe out all of those ahead of her and make her queen. But that has to be approved by the king and parliament. Will Georgie and Darcy circumvent this decision by eloping, or will events stand in their way? You’ll just have to read the book to find out!

Rhys Bowen is the New York Times bestselling author of 2 mystery series and winner of many awards including both Agatha and Anthony. Born and raised in Britain she now divides her time between California and Arizona.

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THANK You Ms. Bowen for sharing how you came up with the idea for the Royal Spyness series.  I love it and love spending time with Georgie.

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Review - Take the Monkey and Run

I was fortunate to discover this series with the debut novel.  I reviewed the first book in this series, Woof at the Door (click here), the second book A Tiger's Tale (click here), the third book Horse of a Different Killer (click here), and got an author interview (click here), and a guest post (click here.)  Today I am reviewing the fourth in the series.  Let's dive back into the Call of the Wilde mystery series.

Author: Laura Morrigan

Copyright: July 2016 (Berkley) 304 pgs

Series: 4th in Call of the Wilde Mystery series

Sensuality: Mild

Mystery Sub-genre:  Cozy with paranormal elements

Main Characters: Grace Wilde, Animal behaviorist who speaks with animals telepathically

Setting: Modern day, New Orleans

Obtained Through: Publisher for honest review

Grace Wilde is excited to head to New Orleans for her first “real” case as an animal telepath. She intends to help a woman find her missing sister, but when she attempts to communicate with her client’s cat, Coco.  But before her meeting with Anya the sister, Logan warns her that her client isn't who she says she is and to not show them what she can really do.  When Grace tries to see what the cat Coco has to share, she find a monkey involved somehow, but even the monkey is elusive.

Grace was nervous about a job using her special skills then finds she is over her head with hidden agendas.  She is still dealing with relationship dynamics with Kai.  Sergeant Kai Duncan, Grace's boyfriend is present and their relationship slowly advances.  Emma, Grace's sister shows up in New Orleans to join Grace, and she brings along Kai and Hugh as well as Grace's half wolf.  Hugh is a fellow Veterinarian and Emma's new sweetie.  Logan is the dark, mysterious and dangerous killer who calls Grace "Sweetness".  He shows up to warn Grace of the dangers and we find out more about his murky story.  Belinda, the 6 foot 6 inch drag queen psychic is the breakout star - hilarious.  Of course the Mystery Monkey, Cornelius, is a surprise and very memorable.

Post Katrina New Orleans with both its eerie and mesmerizing sides are on display, the warehouse where Mardi Gras floats are stored was utilized for maximum effect.  The plot gets a little involved and the importance of Cornelius the Mystery Monkey isn't evident at first, but soon I started to suspect his role and it definitely was important.  I felt the pacing kept me captive in the story. 

The killer confrontation was exciting and tense stretched over a few scenes of action, well worth the build up.  The wrap-up was short and well done.  Another great addition to the this consistently riveting cozy series.

I thoroughly enjoyed this fourth outing and can't think of a thing to make it better.

 Rating: Near Perfect - Buy two copies: one for you and one for a friend.

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Sunday, July 31, 2016

Review - Dressed to Kilt

This is one of my favorite cozy mystery series that I have been following since the first book. Check out my previous reviews:  Off Kilter (click here) , second book Hooked on Ewe (click here), and the author graciously provided a guest post (click here).  It is time for the next installment in this series set in rural Scotland.  FYI, there is a quote from my review of the debut book in the first pages! Yay

Hannah Reed

Copyright: July 2016 (Berkley) 304 pgs

Series: 3rd in Scottish Highlands Mystery series

Sensuality: Mild

Mystery Sub-genre:  Cozy

Main Character:
Eden Elliott, recently divorced and romance author

Setting: Modern day, Glenkillen Scotland

Obtained Through: Publisher for honest opinion

"Winter is leaving the residents of Glenkillen snowbound, but Eden isn’t about to let the weather dampen her spirits. With only a little time left in Scotland, she’s determined to make the most of it—starting with attending a fancy whisky tasting with local looker Leith Cameron. But her classy date turns into a major party foul after a woman is found drowned in one of the vats of alcohol.

Eden immediately steps in as a Special Constable to help solve the case, but her investigation turns sour when she realizes that the killer could be somehow connected to her own Scottish heritage. Now, in order to find the proof she needs to put the murderer behind bars, she’ll have to take a shot at unearthing her family’s past—before she herself winds up buried."

Eden must face a painful part of her Scottish heritage that she has avoided her entire time in the country, besides facing that she doesn't want to leave the country but seems powerless to change it.  She takes in the murder victim's Scottish Fold cat (on the cover) for her last few weeks, and it is touching. Vicki MacBride, her good friend while living there, is up to something and trying to keep it a secret, and Eden has mixed feelings about.  Even her State-side BFF is being uncommunicative, which adds to her struggle to stay upbeat.  Leith Cameron, the epitome of a romance novel highlander also seems a bit stand-offish.  Eden also faces what her true feelings are regarding him.  Detective Inspector Kevin Jamieson seems reluctant to accept she is leaving. Special Constable Sean Stevens is back from training and is a combination of haughty and bumbling.  Bridie Dougal is a clan Chieftain who doesn't let her advanced age slow her down, she is the break-out character - irascible, used to getting her way, and a touch scheming.
The snowbound and icy highlands are so well portrayed that I forgot it was blistering summer out and thought I should grab a coat after reading for a while!  The beautiful rolling hills and vistas are now a frozen landscape with its own dangers.

The climax is a delightful mix of killer showdown with challenges that threaten Eden living to go back to the states.  The wrap up is touching and secures future adventures for Eden (I can't say anymore without spoilers).

This series is a must read for me and it is consistently a fun read with a balance of mystery and characters.  Eden has grown and is a mature-acting woman turning her life around and learning to follow her heart.  The addition of her family story is a bonus.  Not too heavy, but not too breezy either....just the right mix for an outstanding series.

 Near Perfect - Buy two copies: one for you and one for a friend. 

Refreshing Summer Spritzer
 -  4-6 bags Favorite herb tea (mine are Rasberry or Black Berry Zinger).  Brew, remove bags and cool.  Make strong because you will dilute.
-  2 Liter bottle of non-cola soda (7-up or Ginger Ale)

Mix in large pitcher or by-the-glass to taste.  The soda should sweeten the tea, but add slight amount of sweetener if needed - a little will do you in this.  Over ice this is a great summer treat with endless variety of flavors to go with any meal.
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