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Monday, April 23, 2018

Author Guest Post - Paty Jager

Please welcome Paty Jager to the blog.  She is an award-winning author of 32 novels, 6 novellas, and numerous anthologies of murder mystery and western romance. All her work has Western or Native American elements in them along with hints of humor and engaging characters. This is what Mysteries Etc says about her Shandra Higheagle mystery series: “Mystery, romance, small town, and Native American heritage combine to make a compelling read.”  
Dreams, Clues, and Murder
Avery, thank you for having me on your blog. 

For those who don’t know me, I’m Paty Jager. I write murder mysteries and western romance. I grew up in the NE corner of Oregon where the Chief Joseph band of the Nez Perce wintered and summered before they were driven to Montana, and ultimately, surrendered to the Army. Growing up in the area I was frustrated that the history of the county wasn’t taught in the schools. Especially, how the Nez Perce tried to hang onto the land they loved. And then to only see them in the county once a year during the Chief Joseph Day’s Rodeo and Parade, seemed insulting to me. I’m not sure how they felt.

Because the non-treaty Nez Perce (the ones who refused to go on the reservation and fled to Montana) were thought to be a bad influence on the treaty Nez Perce, they weren’t allowed to set foot in the Wallowa country. In fact, after their surrender, they were taken clear to Oklahoma where they became ill and many died. Those that survived the 7 years of incarceration in Oklahoma were allowed to return to the Pacific Northwest but not to the Lapwai Idaho Reservation where the treaty Nez Perce resided. They were sent to the Umatilla and Colville reservations to live with tribes they had battled with before and who had scouted for the army to find them. 

I’m happy to say these days, there is a powwow held every July in Wallowa and the Nez Perce have purchased land in the county where they have fish naturalizing ponds and hatcheries. 

The reason I write about the Nez Perce is because of the injustice I feel they endured. And the vision of a Nez Perce warrior I saw on the mountain behind my family’s home one summer day as I rode my horse through the trees. 

My main character in my mystery series is Shandra Higheagle. I made her half Nez Perce and half White. Her Nez Perce father died when she was four. Her mother remarried a man who didn’t care for Native Americans and forbid her to talk of her father’s family or visit them. While the stepfather didn’t adopt her, he made her use his last name in school. 
When Shandra went on to college, she used her legal name of Higheagle and studied art, becoming a potter. She hadn’t thought much about it being a part of her heritage until she is called to the reservation where her grandmother and the rest of her family lives for her grandmother’s funeral. During the funeral and the Seven Drums Ceremony, Shandra discovers her family is interested in bringing her back into their lives. 

After the funeral, when Shandra returns to Huckleberry, she becomes a suspect in a murder. Her grandmother begins showing up in Shandra’s dreams, giving her clues that could help her solve the murder. 

All amateur sleuths need a sidekick who is in law enforcement. That is where Weippe County Detective Ryan Greer comes in. In book one, Double Duplicity, he realizes she isn’t the murderer even though she is found with the body. And when he catches her where she shouldn’t
be, looking for a clue, she tells him about her dreams. To her surprise, he believes in them more than she does. 

Their relationship builds throughout the series with a wedding on the horizon. 

While most of the books are set in and around Huckleberry Ski Resort and Shandra’s ranch on Huckleberry Mountain, there are also trips to the Colville Reservation in Washington where Shandra helps her family discover the truth when there are murders there. 

Shandra not only has Detective Greer on her side, but she has a big, furry, cowardly lion of a dog, a cantankerous woman who came with the ranch like a stray cat, and a slew of unique and quirky friends who live in Huckleberry. 

I use Shandra’s grandmother coming to her in dreams as the mysticism in my series. Everyone knows of dream catchers. The are many different versions of how this web within a hoop works. Some say it catches the good dreams and they slide down the feathers to the person sleeping under it and lets the bad dreams escape through the hole in the middle. Others say it captures the good ideas that make a person or people stronger and allows the bad ideas to pass on through. I used this concept along with that of the visions or vision quests, which are important to all tribes as well, and the fact the Nez Perce have long believed in the Seven Drums and Dreamer religion. It is a following that Chief Joseph and many in his band believed in. 

Putting all this information I’d gathered about the Native American cultures, dreams, and visions, I came up with the premise of the deceased grandmother coming to my character in dreams to help her solve murders. You can get the first book of the Shandra Higheagle Mystery series, Double Duplicity, free as an ebook at all ebook vendors. Books 1-5 are available in ebook, print, and audio. My narrator is working on book 6. My current book, book 10, Artful Murder, is available in ebook and print. 

Artful Murder by Paty Jager

Book ten in the Shandra Higheagle Mystery Series 

Secrets… Scandal… Murder…
An autistic boy and his brother need potter Shandra Higheagle’s help when a teacher’s body is found after a confrontation with the older brother. Shandra knows the boy is innocent. Digging into the teacher’s life, she and Ryan turn up scandal. 

Detective Ryan Greer has believed in Shandra’s dreams in the past, but she can’t always be right.  When his investigation uncovers a principal on the take, females being harassed, and parents kept in the dark, he discovers more suspects than the brothers.  Shandra’s time at the school is coming to an end, and the killer has struck again. 

Universal book link (purchase here)
 blog / website / Facebook / Paty's Posse / Goodreads / Twitter / Pinterest / Bookbub

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THANK You Ms Jager for the insight into your series.

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Sunday, April 22, 2018

Attention Book Bloggers

You can get the second book in my Resort to Murder mystery series, NAILED, on Netgalley (click here).  I would be delighted and honored if any book bloggers in the audience would read and review the book.  Please contact me as well if you would like to do a giveaway on your blog.  
 Julienne is snow bound in the middle of the Rocky Mountains with a killer striking at will.  This wasn't covered in Resort Management training.

Julienne LaMere gets to attend a Resort Management conference at a prestigious ski resort in the Colorado Mountains.  What should be an enjoyable getaway attending workshops by day and shopping and enjoying the resort by night comes to a screeching halt when a loud-mouthed guest is murdered plus the roads and town shut down for an epic blizzard.

In addition to attending the conference, dodging a smitten teen boy, and seeking clues among the gossiping - and increasingly tense - guests, her best friend’s heart has warmed to an unlikely man and may get broken.  As if her mind isn’t already fully occupied, Julienne and her new boyfriend Mason are skiing down troubled slopes in their relationship.  Will Julienne put the scant clues together and unveil the culprit before a murderer gets away?

 NAILED review in King's River Life!

I am so excited and grateful for the wonderful review of NAILED in King's River Life Magazine (click here.)  The article also contains a chance to win a copy of my book, so head on over there.  

Since I am so excited about the review, I am including a snippet here:  "The essence of a “page turner” with a plethora of rich characters to support her amateur investigation, not-so-smooth romantic entanglements, and some perilous moments. Julienne is proving to be a favorite cozy character: vulnerable, but strong..."

Thank you so much King's River Life and reviewer Kathleen Costa.
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Monday, April 16, 2018

Author Guest Post - Christina Hoag

Please welcome fellow author Christina Hoag.  She is a former journalist who has had her laptop searched by Colombian guerrillas, phone tapped in Venezuela, was suspected of drug trafficking in Guyana, hid under a car to evade Guatemalan soldiers, and posed as a nun to get inside a Caracas jail. She has interviewed gang members, bank robbers, thieves and thugs in prisons, shantytowns and slums, not to forget billionaires and presidents, some of whom fall into the previous categories. Now she writes about such characters in her fiction.

Christina’s noir crime novel Skin of Tattoos was a finalist for

the 2017 Killer Nashville Silver Falchion Award for suspense, while her YA thriller Girl on the Brink was named one of Suspense Magazine’s Best of 2016 for young adults. She also co-authored Peace in the Hood: Working with Gang Members to End the Violence, which is being used in several universities.

She's a former staff writer for the Miami Herald and Associated Press, and wrote from Latin America for Time, Business Week, New York Times, Financial Times, Times of London, Houston Chronicle and other news outlets.

Why I Write Dark 
Yes, I write dark stuff and always have. It’s simply what
comes out when I sit down at the computer. Gangs and dating violence are the topics of my two novels. I’ve written short stories about homelessness, prostitutes and assorted other gritty topics.

People have occasionally asked me why I’m drawn to the seamy side of life. I think it’s mainly attributable to my career in journalism, which has exposed me to many things that middle-class people never get to witness or experience within the normal realms of their lives. My fiction is an attempt to process those things, to take them a step further than the facts to explore the whys behind them or to simply expose different realities than the one I am used to because I find them intensely interesting.

So while I’m not afraid of venturing beyond the confines of my comfort zone, I admit it can be at times dangerous territory. I have to push myself. Violence and inhumanity are ever easy to write, but they are an inherent part of human nature. And what are writers if not chroniclers and interpreters of the human condition? I think it helps having written about acts of violence for many years as a newspaper reporter. I’m just used to writing about such stuff. Still, at times it gets to me.

My YA novel “Girl on the Brink” is about a girl who gets involved with the wrong guy, and it’s loosely based on my own experience. I had to amp up the conflict by including overt, dramatic acts of abuse. I wrote that book fairly quickly, especially those sections. I just wanted to get through it. My novel “Skin of Tattoos,” about a gang member who attempts to go straight but gets wrapped up in a rival conflict with a fellow homie, I probably downplayed the amount of violence that is normally in that type of lifestyle because I wanted my protagonist to be somewhat sympathetic.

I may have limits though. Having lived in Latin America for ten years, I am interested in narcoviolence in Mexico and other countries. It’s a topic I’d like to tackle and I think it’s an important one, but I know I’m going to have to steel myself to write about it with the level of detail required in a novel. The nature of that world is exceptionally grisly. Do I really want to go there? I haven’t decided yet. It may be too dark, even for me.

 For more about Christina, check out 

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Thank you Ms. Hoag for joining me today and sharing about your two novels.

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Saturday, April 14, 2018

Review-Of Books and Bagpipes

I'm making my way through my TBR pile.  From the author of multiple mystery series, Country Cooking School, Farmer's Market, Dangerous Type series comes the second in a new series comes The Scottish Bookshop Mystery Series.  I reviewed the debut book in the series, The Cracked Spine (click here).   Now let's look at the critical second book.

Author: Paige Shelton

Copyright: April 2017 (Minotaur) 317 pgs

Series: 2nd in Scottish Bookshop Mystery series

Sensuality: Mild

Mystery Sub-genre: Cozy Mystery

Main Character: Delaney Nichols, Expat and new employee at The Cracked Spine

Setting: Modern, Edinburgh Scotland

Obtained Through: Personal Purchase

Cover blurb:  "Delaney Nichols has settled so comfortably into her new life in Edinburgh that she truly feels it’s become more home than her once beloved Kansas. Her job at the Cracked Spine, a bookshop that specializes in rare manuscripts as well as other sundry valuable historical objects, is everything she had dreamed, with her new boss, Edwin MacAlister, entrusting her more and more with bigger jobs. Her latest task includes a trip to Castle Doune, a castle not far out of Edinburgh, to retrieve a hard-to-find edition of an old Scottish comic, an “Oor Wullie,” in a cloak and dagger transaction that Edwin has orchestrated.

While taking in the sights of the distant Highlands from the castle’s ramparts, Delaney is startled when she spots a sandal-clad foot at the other end of the roof. Unfortunately, the foot’s owner is very much dead and, based on the William Wallace costume he’s wearing, perfectly matches the description of the man who was supposed to bring the Oor Wullie. As Delaney rushes to call off some approaching tourists and find the police, she comes across the Oor Wullie, its pages torn and fluttering around a side wall of the castle. Instinct tells her to take the pages and hide them under her jacket. It’s not until she returns to the Cracked Spine that she realizes just how complicated this story is and endeavors to untangle the tricky plot of why someone wanted this man dead, all before getting herself booked for murder."

Delaney Nichols is a few months into her transatlantic relocation.  She has made new friends and settled into her job - feeling her co-workers are members of her new family including:  her boss, Edwin MacAlister, who is still just as secretive as before, Rosie and 19-year old Hamlet.  Tom is the bartender from across the street and the romantic interest.  Elias is a cab-driver who is also Delaney's landlord.

Castle Doune is a great atmospheric location to find a body.  All of the locations in and around Edinburgh are used to great effect.  The plot is murky throughout with no clear motive and thus suspects are pure guesswork which allows for twists as the reader is along for the ride.  The only semi-clear aspect is that it all has to do with Delaney's boss and his college days with two close friends.  The pacing was maintained with ongoing clues dribbled out.  The killer reveal was tense, my favorite.  The wrapup goes through the many twists and explains the nuances. 

I enjoy this series and its basic premise.  Delaney is a fun main character and this book had many twists.  The motive was a surprise for me.  This is probably not a mystery you can figure out ahead since the final pieces about the motive only surface at the killer reveal.  Elias and his over-protectiveness is getting a little too much since he and his wife are just friends and landlords.  The subplot of the romance with bartender Tom is so lukewarm and without chemistry that I barely remember their interactions.  Some may appreciate the romance taking such a backseat.  I appreciate how I feel so immersed in Scotland throughout the story.

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

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Monday, April 9, 2018

Author Guest Post - Marni Graff

Please welcome Marni Graff, the award-winning author of The Nora Tierney English Mysteries and The Trudy Genova Manhattan Mysteries. I always enjoy learning more about the settings and how they are used in the story and this one has a well known location.

Setting Inspiration

Although I’ve lived in rural North Carolina for the past 21 years, I’m a native New Yorker. The allure and glitz of Manhattan is never far from my memories of my favorite nursing position years ago as a medical consultant for a movie studio, which inspired my second series, The Trudy Genova Manhattan Mysteries.

Trudy now has that job and the first book in the series, Death Unscripted, took place on the set of soap opera filmed for the internet in the studio where I worked with the cast and crew of One Life to Live. When I decided the next mystery would revolve around Trudy’s work on a television movie, I needed a gothic building for the setting that would evoke that sense of mystery just by its very presence.

What better building to choose for Death of an Heiress than

the famed Dakota, the late 19th-century Victorian-Gothic apartment building, rumored to have its own ghost, that was the brainchild of Singer Sewing Machine magnate Edward Clark. On West 72nd and Central Park West, most people think of the Upper West Side luxury apartment building as the place where John Lennon lived and died, and in fact, Yoko Ono still lives there. With its 15-foot ceilings, elaborately carved mahogany woodwork and mantels, parquet flooring, and iron and marble staircases, there is always a waiting list for tenants. A special storage room exists for storing the original doors and fireplaces if a modern tenant wants to renovate to a contemporary design.

The Dakota’s luxurious apartments have never been empty. Lauren Bacall lived there for 53 years until her death, and it has been the home to many of the rich and famous, who include Rudolf Nureyev, the Steinway family, Rosemary Clooney, Boris Karloff, Gilda Radner, Judy Garland and Carson McCullers. Its cooperative board is even more famous for those it would not allow to live at The Dakota, such as Billy Joel, Madonna, Carly Simon, Alex Rodriquez and Cher. No reasons are given, just a rejection on those applications.

Small wonder then, that when the floor plan of what used to be the home of Leonard Bernstein came into my possession, I decided this would be the perfect setting for where Trudy’s movie would be filmed. Trudy’s assignment is ostensibly first aid for the cast and crew, but the producers want her to watch over their star, in the early stages of a difficult pregnancy. When the actress disappears near the end of shooting and the male lead is found dead in the gorgeous paneled dining room, Trudy finds herself involved in the investigations.

The Dakota was used in the filming of Rosemary’s Baby, but only the exteriors were shot there in the large courtyard and coach entrance. A sound stage had to be built that mocked up the interior of the apartment where Rosemary lived, because in reality, The Dakota won’t allow any inside filming. Of course, in Trudy’s world, they will.

Ms. Graff also writes a crime review blog at Her books can be found at and on Amazon, in trade paperback, Kindle and Audible.

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 THANK You Ms. Graff for that writeup about the famous Dakota featured in your novel.

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Thursday, April 5, 2018

Review - Flowers and Foul Play

Amanda Flower's is the bestselling author of the Amish Quilt Shop Mysteries, Living History Museum Mysteries, India Hayes Mysteries, Magical Bookshop Mysteries (Crime and Poetry-click here, second book Prose and Cons-click here), and the new Magic Garden Mysteries.  It is the debut book of the new Magic Garden Series I'm reviewing here.

Author: Amanda Flowers

Copyright: May 2018 (Crooked Lane Books) 320 pgs

Series: 1st in Magic Garden Mystery series

Sensuality: Mild

Mystery Sub-genre: Cozy Mystery with magical touches

Main Character: Fiona Knox, recently single and jobless American in Scotland.

Setting: Modern, Duncreigan Scotland

Obtained Through: Publisher for honest opinion - Netgalley

From the cover: "Florist Fiona Knox’s life isn’t smelling so sweet these days. Her fiancĂ© left her for their cake decorator. Then, her flower shop wilted after a chain florist opened next door. So when her godfather, Ian MacCallister, leaves her a cottage in Scotland, Fiona jumps on the next plane to Edinburgh. Ian, after all, is the one who taught her to love flowers. But when Ian’s elderly caretaker Hamish MacGregor shows her to the cottage upon her arrival, she finds the once resplendent grounds of Duncreigan in a dreadful shambles―with a dead body in the garden.

Minutes into her arrival, Fiona is already being questioned by the handsome Chief Inspector Neil Craig and getting her passport seized. But it’s Craig’s fixation on Uncle Ian’s loyal caretaker, Hamish, as a prime suspect, that really makes her worried. As Fiona strolls the town, she quickly realizes there are a whole bouquet of suspects much more likely to have killed Alastair Croft, the dead lawyer who seems to have had more enemies than friends.

Now it’s up to Fiona to clear Hamish’s name before it’s too late."

Fiona Knox, still hurting from her unfaithful fiance and the closing of her florist shop, is confused and trying to do right by the memory of her Uncle Ian's legacy.  To her credit, she doesn't run from the situation before her when so many things challenge and test her.  Hamish, the rustic and down-to-earth caretaker of the property is a great character I enjoyed getting to know.  Chief Inspector Neil Craig, is the standard police love interest - but neither he nor Fiona are quick trust one another.  I like Inspector Craig's character.  There are several townspeople to  fill out the cast.  There are a few charming animal characters including a mischievous blue-eyed fox, a cat who adopts Fiona named Ivanhoe, and Hamish's companion red squirrel, Duncan, who add delightful magical touches.

Duncreigan, the property Fiona inherited is a great setting and key to the story.  The magical garden reminded me of The Secret Garden in the classic novel. The closest town and its people plus with the imposing cliffs complete the half magical and half secretive atmosphere.

The plot is wonderfully layered and kept my interest.  The killer reveal is my favorite - nice and tense.  The wrapup was complete and leaves it open for the next adventure.  The story telling is smooth and light. I enjoyed Fiona, who comes across as genuine and vulnerable yet strong.  I love the magical touches.  I appreciate that the potential romance may be a slow burn from early indications. 
Rating: Near Perfect - Buy two copies: one for you and one for a friend. 

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Monday, April 2, 2018

Author Guest Post - Sandra Cody

Please welcome Sandra Cody, the author of Jennie Connors series.  The Peace Morrow books are set in a picture-perfect small town just north of Philadelphia. The town, Doylestown, is real, but the the stories are totally fictitious. Much of the action takes place in a museum of antique tools and folk art. The stories center around family and examine the ways in which destiny is shaped by secrets. Peace is a young woman searching for her identity - and a history she may be better off not knowing. 

The Birth Of A New Series?
It’s funny how books come to be written. An Uncertain Path took me by surprise. In a previous book, Love and Not Destroy, I introduced Peace Morrow, a young woman who had been abandoned as an infant. Her quest to learn her history was a subplot to the main mystery in that book. By the end of the book, she knows who her biological parents are. So ... that question was answered, that goal achieved. End of story. Not quite.

Deep into my next book (part of my Jennie Connors series and totally unrelated to Peace Morrow’s story), I found myself wondering how Peace was dealing with this information. Was she happy with her discovery? Disappointed? If I didn’t write a sequel, Peace would never get to know her newly-discovered family. I felt like I was abandoning her again. I couldn’t do that. Long story short, what I thought was the end was actually a beginning. Problem was, I had no idea what was coming next. So I began what was An Uncertain Path - for both me and my protagonist.

The book is set in a real town, the town where I’ve lived for more than half my life. Part of the fun of releasing the first book was the reaction of friends and neighbors who live here. They loved reading about a fictional character walking along their streets, stopping in their favorite bookstore, or having dinner in a restaurant they know well. More to the point, I discovered they were also curious about what happened next in Peace’s life. She was real to them! There aren’t many things that make a writer as happy as that.

I also discovered that people who’d never seen my town

loved it too. They wanted to know more about it. I kept that in mind as I wrote An Uncertain Path. In fact, the name was inspired by one of our landmarks. A few yards from our library, there’s a labyrinth with a story deserving of its own novel.  Its construction was inspired by a woman grieving the loss of her beloved adopted daughter. It’s not really like the story of Peace Morrow, but certain elements of the two resonate. Yes, the labyrinth and an abbreviated version of its origin are included in the book. 

And, again, the people who live here love seeing part of their real-life history portrayed in fiction and people who live elsewhere are curious about it. My setting had become a character - in this case, a setting/character that was ready-made for me. All I had to do was pay attention to the streets I walk every day, the stores where I shop, the restaurants where I eat. These things, while not part of the plot, give texture to a story and help a reader suspend disbelief so they believe in your plot.

In case you’re curious, I’m now deep into another Jennie Connors book and wonder what’s next in Peace Morrow’s life.  Has another series been born?  AN UNCERTAIN PATH -  

Thank You Ms. Cody for that peek into Peace Morrow's creation and evolution.  It is a compliment that a character grabs the reader's interest so much.  

Sandra's links:

Amazon Author Page:

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Monday, March 26, 2018

Author Guest Post - Leeann Betts

Welcome author Leeann Betts to the blog.  Leeann Betts writes contemporary suspense, while her real-life persona, Donna Schlachter, pens historical suspense. She has released seven titles in her cozy mystery series, By the Numbers. In addition, Leeann has written a devotional for accountants, bookkeepers, and financial folk, Counting the Days, and, with her real-life persona, Donna Schlachter, has published two books on writing, Nuggets of Writing Gold and More Nuggets of Writing Gold, a compilation of essays, articles, and exercises on the craft. She publishes a free quarterly newsletter that includes a book review and articles on writing and books of interest to readers and writers.

Why Forensic Accounting Makes for Good Mystery

When I sat down 15 years ago to see if I had one book in me, I had no clue where to start.

And now, all this time and more than 30 books later, every time I face the blank page, it’s the same. Where to start?

I’m an avid reader of mysteries, particularly what is now known as cozy mysteries, but at the time were simply called Agatha Christie-like mysteries. If you mentioned the name “Jessica Fletcher”, and said your books were like that TV show, everybody knew exactly what you meant. Amateur sleuth, small town settings that eventually expanded into New York City and major locations around the world, and a personal reason to solve the crime—usually a friend or relative was the victim or the suspect.

That was my basis. But I wanted a main character more like—well, like me. I didn’t have any idea how a teacher thought—Jessica. Or an older woman in a hamlet in England—Miss Marple. Or a retired detective from Belgium—Hercule Poirot.

I needed someone I could relate to. That hadn’t been done to death. No pun intended.

So I went to the library, and started strolling through the children’s section on occupation. And the word Forensic jumped out at me. CSI and NCIS were hot shows at the time, so I picked it up. And that’s where I learned about Forensic Accounting. In the days when I was in college and in the business workforce, we called those guys the Auditors or the Inspectors. They came in and went through all our work to make certain we were doing it correctly. To make certain nobody was embezzling funds. To ascertain clients’ trust funds were secure.

Which opened a whole new world of possibilities for me.

Situations involving money are all over the news. Hardly a day goes by but we hear of someone stealing from a church, a business, a Girl Scout troop. And if you’re anything like me, I wonder how they managed it. How did they go undetected for so many years? What did they use the money for? Was it a one-time thing, they put it back, and hoped nobody would notice? (No Accounting for Murder). Or was it an ongoing theft to line their pockets? (There Was A Crooked Man). Perhaps gambling or other bad choices were involved. (Unbalanced) Maybe organized crime is behind the problem? (Five and Twenty Blackbirds) Identity theft? (Broke, Busted, and Disgusted) Maybe a divorce? (Hidden Assets) Or even counterfeiting? (Petty Cash)

Being a forensic accountant requires specialized training, and involves ferreting out financial information, understanding its implications, and applying that understanding to the situation. It also means preparing reports, spilling the beans on somebody, and testifying in court.

And while a lot of people think accountants are boring, Carly Turnquist is out to prove them wrong.

Just in case you think forensic accounting can’t be an exciting or important job, just remember: Al Capone was imprisoned for tax evasion by the 1930’s equivalent of a forensic accountant.

Connect with Leeann:
Website: Receive a free ebook just for signing up for our quarterly newsletter.
Books: Amazon 


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Monday, March 19, 2018

Author Guest Post - Helen Starbuck

Today we have a guest post from Helen Starbuck, a fellow Coloradan and author.  She recently published her first medical mystery novel, The Mad Hatter's Son, An Annie Collins Mystery.  Please welcome her to M&MM.

The Origins of The Mad Hatter’s Son 

Copyright © 2018 Helen Starbuck, All rights reserved

The Idea for The Mad Hatter’s Son came to me years ago when I worked in the OR. We sporadically cared for a teenage girl for things like inserting a gastrostomy tube to feed her with and a central line for IV fluids (back in the days when they did that in the OR).  Her neurological symptoms were very puzzling and had increased over time until she was comatose. The ICU docs and the anesthesiologists talked about it a lot and were puzzled as to what had caused them. She had no tumor, nothing physical that they could identify for quite some time.

If I tell you what they discovered, you’ll know the plot to the book, so no spoilers here.  Needless to say the diagnosis, when it came, shocked us all. I thought at the time that it was a great plot for a novel and actually wrote several chapters, then life got in the way and I shelved it. I found it again in 2015 and still liked it so I began writing the story.

I started with the central cause for the plot, Libby’s illness and its baffling presentation, the difficulty knowing whether her illness was real or an attempt to get attention from those around her. The idea for Annie’s friendship with Libby, their estrangement, and then Libby pulling Annie back into her life to help solve what was wrong seemed ideal for the story. They are no longer close, there are hard feelings on both sides, and Annie is a very reluctant participant in Libby’s drama. It seemed key to have Annie be an OR nurse, because she is off kilter with Libby both because of the friendship issue and because doing private duty nursing and investigating what Libby’s problem is isn’t something Annie is comfortable with or has any experience with. He’s an OR nurse, that’s what she knows.

What’s funny to me is how characters and plot lines change. Originally I had Angel as a peripheral character, a neighbor, a friend, someone to bounce things off of but not a major character. Ian is the love interest. Angel, however, morphed almost immediately into someone who was in love with Annie, but she had kept him at arms length because of his history with women. He has chosen to remain friends so he doesn’t lose her by pushing the issue of his feelings toward her. The tension between his concerns for Annie and Ian’s jealously about him helped fuel the plot. The villain turned out to be someone unexpected and Libby morphed into a less sympathetic character until her death.

In the next book, I explore Annie’s journey back to normality. One of my frustrations with literature, especially mysteries, is that the hero or heroine can get seriously injured and pop back up almost immediately to save the day. I wanted Annie to be human and experience the PTSD that would accompany an experience like she had. As the series progresses, her relationship with Angel changes and their attempts to adjust to these changes and deal with each other’s failings are part of the plot.

Bonus: Interview with Helen Starbuck the Mad Hatter’s Son

Why do you write? Do you love it or love having done it? What motivates you?
I love writing and have been writing since I was in junior high school. What happens around me is a motivator and the urge to tell a story. This particular story idea came as the result of helping to care for a teenage girl with very puzzling neurological symptoms that increased in severity and which took docs a long time to figure out. I thought it would make a great mystery story. It just took me a while to get it written, and I love having done that and gotten it published.

What is your routine when you're facing your next novel?  Do you start your next mystery with the killer, the victim or a plot idea?
I have a general plot idea and I admit to just writing and seeing where it goes, which means I often have to go back and re-write stuff and sometimes if I’m stuck create a murder board to figure out where the story is going. It’s weird, as I’m writing the current story, scenes come to me, not sure from where, and I write them and file them and it’s surprising how they just fit with the book I’m writing at a later point in the story or in the next book or even the following one. I realized that The Mad Hatter’s Son wasn’t finished when the book ended, which I thought it would be. The characters of Annie and Angel had become very real for me and had more to say, so I have just continued to write their story.

Do you outline the plot or some variation of that (a little/a lot of detail, a strict 3 act structure etc.) before sitting down and writing?
No I’m not an outliner, which my editor would probably say is my one failing as I sometimes get off in the weeds and she has to pull me back. The story sort of spins itself and then I have to go back and reconsider things. I am getting better at planning ahead.

What do you and your character have in common? How are you different? 
Many people who know me have said Annie is me and she is in many ways, like her being an OR nurse, her humor, cynicism, and bad luck with men. She’s just braver and more persistent and bullheaded.

What is your process for developing a character? Do you use pictures, a worksheet or just let the character(s) tell you about him/herself as you write?  How do you handle minor characters?
I can see my characters in my imagination, sometimes photos help and sometimes not. It’s odd that I
cannot find a photo of Annie that looks like I see her. Names just come to me and they seem to fit. The basic personalities of the characters are right there from the start, but they grow and develop as time passes, and they do tell me about themselves often in the middle of the night for some reason.
Characters who I imagined to be minor have asserted themselves and become long-term ones, like Frost, for example. I thought he’d just be a homicide detective get the case solved then disappear, but he didn’t like that idea, so he will continue through the series.

Do you have anything special you do before writing, particular music or a special room/location that helps you get in the zone and write?
I write in my office or at the kitchen table. I spend probably far too much time thinking about these characters and their story and when the urge hits I sit down and often write for hours. Some days I don’t write at all.  

I have found music inspires a lot for me. Whenever I hear Santana’s Samba Pa’ Ti, I think of Angel, it just fits him, smooth, seductive, and Latino. P!nk’s Try sort of describes Annie’s relationship with men.  And Enrique Iglesias’ I Wish I Was Your Lover hits Angel’s feelings for Annie on the head, she just refuses to acknowledge it. You and I Collide by the Time Keepers makes me think of Annie’s relationship with Ian.

In literature (not your own) who is your favorite mystery/suspense character?
Boy I can’t name just one. I love Tana French’s Rob Ryan in the book In The Woods, and the character of Rebus in Ian Rankin’s series and Jimmy Perez in Anne Cleves’ series, and I like Eve Dallas in JD Robb’s In Death Series.

Which author has influenced or inspired you the most?
Tana French and Daphne DuMaurier.  French’s series about the Dublin murder squad is brilliant. I’d give my right arm to write like she does.  DuMaurier’s Rebecca and Don’t Look Now are haunting and after all these years still amazing books.

What's the one thing a reader has said that you've never forgotten and perhaps found startling? 
She said she was touched on so many levels by the book and that parts of it made her cry. I was blown away. She also recently told me she’s reading it again.

If your mysteries were to be made into a movie, who would you cast in your top character's roles?
Jay or Ivan Hernandez from the show Scandal. Both come close to how I see Angel. And Annie? Boy that’s a tough one because I haven’t found any photos of her yet. Maybe Stana Katic (Kate Becket on Castle) but she’d have to be less overtly sexy. Annie is sexy, but it’s pretty low key.  Katic has the right eye and hair color.


Tell us about your next book in the series - or next project? What is your biggest challenge with it?
It picks up Annie’s (and Angel’s) story post Ian. She’s struggling with what happened and trying to get back to some semblance of normal. He’s struggling with not knowing how to help her. The story line is her friend comes to her wanting to talk about a rash of patient deaths, not unexpected in the population of people he’s describing, but more than you’d expect. Then Frost asks her to review charts for him because the hospital has asked the police to see if there is reason to be concerned about the deaths. The investigation helps Annie in her recovery. The biggest challenge was trying not to bore the reader with the medical stuff and come up with a villain that wasn’t too obvious.

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Thank you Ms. Starbuck for the great post and bonus interview.  

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Friday, March 16, 2018

You Are Invited

On Facebook.  Go to the event page for information - show up on the event page for the launch party.

Share with a mystery-loving friend or two!

Friday MAR 30
Book Launch Party for Nailed

4:40 Pm - 6:30 PM Pacific
5:30 PM - 7:30 PM Mountain
7:30 PM - 9:30 PM Eastern

Book Launch for Nailed: Resort to Murder Mystery II. Join us for games, party favors, Q&A with the author, and general fun.  Held on the Facebook Event page

I am looking forward to seeing you all there!

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Thursday, March 15, 2018

Review - Rumor of Bones

Today I review the first in an older series.  I have reviewed books by the Beverly Connor for her Diane Fallon Forensics series before:  One Grave Less #9 (click here) and The Night Killer #8 (click here).  But this was my introduction to the Lindsay Chamberlain series that Ms. Connor also pens.  Let's join an archaeology dig in Georgia that turns deadly.

Author: Beverly Connor

Copyright: March 2001 (Cumberland House) 320 pgs

Series: 1st in Lindsay Chamberlain Mystery series

Sensuality: Mild - clinical descriptions of death, serial killer of children

Mystery Sub-genre: Amateur Sleuth

Main Character: Lindsay Chamberlain, Forensic anthropologist 

Setting: Modern day, Georgia

Obtained Through: Personal purchase

From book cover: "Lindsay Chamberlain has a problem. People keep finding bodies in shallow graves and bringing the bones to her. It's not that she doesn't know what to do with the remains. An anthropologist who specializes in archaeology, she is an expert in the forensic analysis of bones.

It's the bones of missing children, however, that disturb her, and lately she's had more than her share of them. Someone has been abducting young girls in the area for several years, and their remains have recently been found in shallow graves in a nearby wooded area. And Lindsay is asked to identify them.

A lot of strange things have happened since Lindsay and her colleagues from the Anthropology Department at the University of Georgia first began excavating the Indian settlement at Jasper Creek. First came the grave robbers and pot hunters, then the mysterious opposition that jeopardizes their work. After the shady lawyer who has orchestrated some of the trouble is murdered and someone attempts to abduct a nine-year-old girl, Lindsay finds herself in the middle of a crime that took place sixty years earlier. Because so much time has passed, it looks as if the murderer will get away with the crime. Can Lindsay provide the proof needed to bring the killer to justice?"

Lindsay Chamberlain, a forensic anthropology expert, flawed and extremely independent who has trouble asking for help.  I enjoyed her character and look forward to reading more of her.  Derrick is an old friend from college and colleege on the dig. He and Lindsay also partner for dance competitions.  I loved the dance aspect.  Frank is the director of the dig and he seems conflicted in his desire for Lindsay or Marsha from the nearby town.  Sheriff Duggan relies on Lindsay to identify the bones of children, victims of an apparent serial killer.  He is a great character, layered, tough as nails, but reasonable.

The dig site, among trees and near a river, is used to create an atmospheric setting.  I felt like I was camped out and part of the dig crew.  The plot begins simply and gets progressively more complicated.  The unfolding picture of a small town hiding a terrible secret is punctuated with the drama on the dig itself and sub plots of the character interactions.  

There are several scenes that are tense or gripping, the climax was more a police search and confrontation with the killer.  Although I tend to like exciting killer reveals, this fit the tone of the story and worked well.  The wrap up answers the final pieces to the puzzle and offers more closure. 

I like how Lindsay "time trips" and sees what the areas must have been like in the past in her mind's eye. This ability is useful in the investigation too.  The correlation of archaeology and criminal forensics is explained and demonstrated.  Characters are finely fleshed out with emotional depth.  The overall story remains as a memory you lived for a few hours.  I appreciate Ms. Connor's writing style and skill.  

Rating:  Excellent - Loved it, it had a good grip on me! Buy it now and put this author on your watch list.

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Monday, March 12, 2018

Author Guest Post - Pamela Beason

Please welcome the author of the exciting Sam Westin Mystery series that I have reviewed each and every book thus far (click here.)  Pamela Beason is sharing her YA thriller trilogy, Run For Your Life with us today.  So grab a drink (coffee, wine, or water), sit back, and enjoy this brief introduction to this young adult series.  I think you'll want to buy the first book right away like I do.

Finding Inspiration in Gutsy Young Women

Did you like The Hunger Games trilogy? I absolutely fell in love with Katniss Everdeen, the amazing young heroine, and I think Jennifer Lawrence played her character perfectly in the movies. Katniss is athletic and skillful, selfless, smart and brave, everything we all want to be. But she’s not fearless, and that’s what makes her so courageous, because the definition of courage is not to fear nothing, but to do the right thing when you’re absolutely terrified. I am also inspired by all the bold young female athletes that compete in every sport nowadays. Did you see Chloe Kim in the Olympics? OMG! Talk about giving it your all! So when I set out to write my young adult Run for Your Life series, I wanted to create a character as wonderful as Katniss, and as inspirational as all those real female athletes.

I created Tanzania Grey, a champion runner who competes in ultramarathons around the world. These incredible contests do exist, and many of them are multi-day events where competitors must cross deserts, climb mountains, slog through jungles, swim rivers, pick off leeches, you name it. A few are team events, so all teammates have to cross the finish line. What better way to add a lot of adventure to a novel than to have your characters race through exotic locales? So I made Tanzania an amazing cross- country running athlete.

But, like Katniss, Tanzania (Tana for short) needed to be independent and she needed a dramatic backstory. She was born Amelia Robinson, but while she was out breaking her curfew one evening at the age of 14, her parents were murdered. She arrived back at her house just in time to see the masked killers drag her 9-year- old brother out of his bedroom. The murderers saw Amelia and gave chase, but she managed to elude them. When she returned the next day, she found that her home had been emptied, and everyone was told the Robinsons moved to Zimbabwe, the birthplace of Amelia’s brilliant biochemist mother. Amelia’s whole past had been erased. She was on her own at 14, with killers searching for her. She had to reinvent herself and find a way to live under the radar. So, with the assistance of a kind Hispanic family, she became Tanzania Grey, got her GED, gained some sponsors, and made a name for herself in the world of extreme sports.

I’ve had a lot of fun living vicariously in this world of extreme sports. Anything can happen when you’re running through the jungle and sliding down volcanoes (Race with Danger), doing multiple sports in one race (Race to Truth, which contains an extreme version of a race dear to my heart, the Ski to Sea Relay in Bellingham, WA, where I live, and running across Zimbabwe, where the wildlife includes a lot of dangerous humans (Race for Justice). In each book, Tana is plagued by spy drones and scary strangers trying to figure out just who she really is, and in each book she gets a few more clues about who murdered her parents. And they get a few more clues about her. It was a fun, scary trilogy to write. And it’s my salute to all those gutsy young women out there. May they ever be strong and outspoken and brave!

Each book of the The Run for Your Life trilogy is available in both print and ebook form, and the Run for Your Life trilogy is available in ebook form in a box set at a reduced price (click here.)

My website is (you can always find out what I’m up to there) plus Goodreads page and Facebook.

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THANK You Pamela.
I am getting my copy pronto.  It sounds like a great trilogy and an exciting run!

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