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Monday, April 25, 2016

Guest Post: Dawn Eastman

 Please welcome Dawn Eastman, bestselling author of the Family Fortune cozy mystery series.  I am tickled to have her visit.  My review of her recent book, An Unhappy Medium, will be following shortly.  Hard to believe that I had not gotten to this series until now.

Writers are Thieves

Writers are thieves. We steal a facial feature here, a personality quirk there, and maybe an insecurity or two just to liven things up. By the time we are finished with the Dr. Frankenstein method of creating a character, the original source is obliterated. Clytemnestra (Clyde) Fortune, the protagonist in my Family Fortune series, is an ex-police officer and reluctant psychic. I am an ex-physician and would not be reluctant if I had any psychic ability. But, every character has a piece of their author somewhere inside.

In An Unhappy Medium, book four in the series, there are a few things we do share. The story opens with Clyde running to train for a charity fun run. That’s not the part we share – I have never and will never train for a charity run, fun or not. The part we share is that she hates it. Over the years I have tried to be a runner. I have close friends who are running fanatics. They train for marathons and iron man events - for fun! Walking and yoga are more my speed.

Clyde spends a lot of time with a bossy Shih Tzu named Tuffy. She and Tuffy have a difficult relationship. She doesn't think he likes her very much and resents feeling manipulated by him. I spend a lot of time with a bossy Shih Tzu-Bichon mix. And while I am sure he likes me, I suspect it's only because I'm the keeper of the fridge and pantry - he's smart enough to know where the food comes from. Any moment when Clyde feels that she is an unwilling staff member to a megalomaniacal tiny dog, that's my own life leaking through.

Finally, one of Clyde's strongest psychic talents is her ability to find things. She puts herself into a trance-like state and concentrates on the lost item. She describes a tug or push toward the location. It's like a psychic game of hot and cold. I, on the other hand, boast a talent for knowing where everything in my house is located. Several family members begin their search for items by saying "where's the ____?" As if this were the magic finding phrase. While I often despair of these people ever learning to keep track of their stuff, I admit that I have trained them to rely on me just like the dog relies on me to feed him. I really can find things.

I hope you will find time to visit Clyde and the rest of the Family Fortune crew in their new adventure. This one includes zombies, pirates, and missing diamonds. Clyde's sister, Grace, complicates matters when she returns to town with a dangerous secret plan. The gang must work together to solve a murder, find the lost treasure, and protect Grace from her past. 

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 THANK You Ms. Eastman.  I don't have the dog situation, but I often feel like I am only a tall can opener for my cat.  :-)

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Monday, April 18, 2016

Guest Post - Duffy Brown

Welcome the main character of the Cycle Path Mysteries to our little slice of the internet.  She will be discussing the dilemna of hiding a body she was faced with in the recently published book Braking for Bodies (review-click here).

Thoughts on Hiding a Body from Tourists

Duffy Brown

Evie Bloomfield here and it’s been a great summer on Mackinac Island...if you don’t mind a dead body or two. None of us especially my BFF Fiona liked this particular dead person so that’s not the problem. What is a big issue is what to do with the body so that it doesn’t scare off the tourists. We can’t just leave it there in front of the Grand Hotel, that will scare the bajeebers out of the guests and they’ll leave!

If there’s one thing all of here on the island do not want to happen is that! Our little chunk of land that’s a time warp back to the 1800s really relies on the tourists who we affectionately...or maybe not so much... call fudgies.

So our problem is where can Fiona and I get rid of that pesky old body so the tourists don’t know there’s a murderer afoot? I have a few suggestions and you can tell me which one appeals to you. Keep in mind all of these suggestions require strapping the body to a bike or renting a horse and buggy as Mackinac is without cars!

My first suggestion is to hide the body in Arch Rock. There’re enough bushes there to conceal the corpse and if anyone goes snooping they’ll have to snoop really hard.

Or I could shove the body back in Skull Cave. That place sounds a lot scarier then it is and the cave is actually too small for much stuffing. And there’s the likelihood that the fudgies will think it’s an island attraction, they think everything around here’s an attraction.

Then there’s Fort Mackinac. I saw a pit up at the fort where they put the bad soldier guys back in the day when such things were done. Maybe I should dump the body in there...till it started to stink and I don’t think that will take long.

Saint Ann’s Cemetery is a good choice for body dumping. Another body just fits right in. What’s one dead guy more or less?

Then again, Grand Hotel might work as a place to stash a body. I can just prop it up in one of those rocking chairs on that really looooong front porch they have. I can put a drink in his hand and he’ll look like a guy fallen asleep.

Or maybe I should just push the body off the East Bluff and into Lake Huron. I can weight it down with some rocks. Glug, glug, glug.

Or maybe I can push the body off Shepler’s dock or off the ferry on the ride back to the mainland?

Where should I get rid of the body? Mackinac Island is a great place for more than eating fudge. Some people have a drop-dead good time here and wait till you see where I actually do hide the body. You’ll loooove it!

Hugs, Duffy Brown

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THANK You Ms. Brown for that thought provoking topic!  Where indeed to hide a body.

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Saturday, April 16, 2016

Review - Braking for Bodies

This is the second installment in the Cycle Path Mystery Series.  I didn't read the first book, so I am jumping in with this one.  I can say I had to trouble picking up the story-line without reading the first.  Check out the rest of my thoughts below.

Author: Duffy Brown

Copyright: April 2016 (Berkley) 304 pgs

Series: 2nd in Cycle Path Mystery series

Sensuality: Mild

Mystery Sub-genre: Cozy

Main Characters: Evie Bloomfield, 

Setting: Modern day, Mackinac Island Michigan- summer resort town

Obtained Through: Publisher for honest review

Mackinac Island is a summer destination and with the Lilac Festival gearing up it is the height of tourist season.  Evie's best friend Fiona is very upset that her old boss -the editor of LA gossip newspaper Inside Scoop, Peephole Perry (Peepster), arrives on the island with his girlfriend Zo.  Peepster is in his toned down persona... wearing turquoise pants, 3 gold chains, and a gold Rolex. On the very next ferry, Peepster's wife Madonna arrives and within hours he is dead. Evie runs into the body with her bicycle. 

Looks like he was shoved over a patio railing and then savagely clobbered with a bottle of olive oil.  Which incriminates Fiona who had met Perry at the ferry with that very bottle of olive oil. As hotel guests watch, Evie convinces Chief Nate Sutter to preserve the vital summer tourist season by going along with the story that it is a big Murder Mystery Weekend the hotel is sponsoring.  Soon the guests are divided into teams to gather clues and win a prize.  Hilarity ensues. 

Idle Summers is the singing entertainment and is involved with Peep and Fiona somehow from their days in LA together.  Turns out Peepster liked to blackmail folks, and his phone carries all his dirt - but it's missing.  Fiona is hiding from Chief of Police Nate Summers while Evie tries to clear her name.  In the meantime, Rudy and Irma's wedding day is approaching - but everything is failing apart and needs saving.  Evie's Mother is back in town and seeing Angelo, the retired Italian mobster.  Angelo's son Luka is also in town and quickly starts romancing the police lady Molly. To top it off, Evie's prior nightmare boss from Chicago, Abigail, shows up for the wedding heart broken and decides a fling with Chief Sutter will make her feel better.

Evie (aka "Chicago") and her reputed black cloud hanging over her, is a klutz and can't lie worth beans.  Fiona grew up on the island, but her time in LA is haunting her with Peepster's arrival.  We may never know what she did, since she is adamantly keeping quiet on what Peepster has on her. But, Evie is a devoted friend throughout.  Chief of police Nate Sutter is the prerequisite cop-romantic interest, hard nosed and no-nonsense. The saving grace for his character is the reveal of his wedding planning abilities.  Mother Anna Louise Bloomfield aka Carmen is a great character, I would go so far as to say she is the breakout character.  Rudy and Irma are the subplot with their falling apart wedding adding extra tension to the story.

Mackinac Island, with its steep streets and no motorized transport, bad cell phone and WiFi service, where residents bet on anything:  which guy has the hottest butt on the island, when will Evie and Sutter get it on - is idyllic and makes a perfect place for the funny antics.  The Grand hotel and the Lilac Festival add to the local color and the island's character.

The basic plot of Peepster's murder is brilliantly augmented with the Mystery Weekend cover-up to ratchet up the humor factor. There is more-than-usual suspension of disbelief to enjoy the story, though.  There is so much going on in this story that the pacing is faster than many cozies and I found myself breezing through the pages.

The killer reveal was satisfying, if a bit too quickly over.  The brief wrap-up is tantalizing and leaves the reader wanting more of the zany Evie and island.

I thoroughly enjoyed the book and Ms Duffy Brown's distinctive writing style.  This is a fun, quirky, humorous, and fanciful mystery that hit my funny bone but also gave me a twist and kept the killer under wraps.  Excellent job.

Rating: Near Perfect - Couldn't Put it down. Buy two copies, one for you and one for a friend. 

Enjoy this short video about the actual Mackinac Island and the real Grand Hotel.

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Thursday, April 14, 2016

Review - A Curious Beginning

New York Times bestselling author of the Lady Julia Grey mysteries, Deanna Raybourn, has a new series.  I can't wait to share it with you.

Author: Deanna Raybourn

Copyright: Sept 2015 (NAL) 352 pgs

Series: 1st in Veronica Speedwell Mystery series

Sensuality: Adult topics discussed, occasional swear word

Mystery Sub-genre: Historical Amateur Sleuth

Main Characters: Veronica Speedwell, an amatuer entomologist raised by aunts - now alone in the world

Setting: 1887 London

Obtained Through: Library 

After burying her spinster aunt, the orphaned Veronica is free to resume her world travels in pursuit of scientific inquiry—and the occasional romantic dalliance. As familiar with hunting butterflies as she is fending off admirers, Veronica wields her butterfly net and a sharpened hatpin with equal aplomb, and with her last connection to England now gone, she intends to embark upon the journey of a lifetime.

But fate has other plans, as Veronica discovers when she thwarts her own abduction with the help of an enigmatic German baron with ties to her mysterious past. Promising to reveal in time what he knows of the plot against her, the baron offers her temporary sanctuary in the care of his friend Stoker—a reclusive natural historian as intriguing as he is bad-tempered. But before the baron can deliver on his tantalizing vow to reveal the secrets he has concealed for decades, he is found murdered. Suddenly Veronica and Stoker are forced to go on the run from an elusive assailant, wary partners in search of the villainous truth. 

Veronica is larger-than-life and there aren't many female characters you can say that about.  Incredibly ahead of her time, stuborn, brainy with a sharp tongue and wit.  Undoubtedly, she won't be everyone's cup-of-tea.  Stoker (Mr. Ravelstoke Templeton-Vane) is cranky and reclusive who must face Veronica thrown into his life.  He has scars on his face from a disastrous expedition in the Amazon. He now makes a living as a taxidermist.  The chemistry between them culminates in stellar dialog as they bicker.  There are some side characters from the traveling circus they hide in for a few weeks and then friends of Stokers in London society. Mornaday starts in the Circus but ends up with a larger role as the story develops.  The little street urchin Badger is the best of the minor characters.

The Circus and even the London house are well utilized.  The plot is running from an unknown danger to Veronica, which her significance and the reason why she is in danger is revealed by the end.  The pacing is bolstered when they aren't in peril with the slowly developing relationship between them.  

The climax was quite suspenseful, even harrowing.  The wrapup left the door open for more adventures with Veronica and Stoker.

I could easily rave about this novel since I was thoroughly entertained.  I realize Veronica isn't strictly a character conforming to the norms of women's role in that era, and she may even be a little over-the-top.  But I found myself chuckling through the book.  Give her a try.

Rating: Near Perfect - Couldn't Put it down. Buy two copies, one for you and one for a friend. 

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Monday, April 11, 2016

Review - Crime and Poetry

Amanda Flower, an Agatha Award-nominated author and writer of Amish Quilt Shop Mysteries, has a new mystery series out, the Magical Bookshop Mysteries. Check out her guest post (click here). I loved the blurb on the book so I had to read it.  Take a little trip with me to the Niagara Falls area on New York for a little Crime and Poetry.

Author: Amanda Flower

Copyright:  April 2016 (NAL) 368 pgs

Series: 1st in Magical Bookshop Mystery series

Sensuality: Mild

Mystery Sub-genre: Cozy, mildly paranormal

Main Characters:  Violet Waverly, graduate student in American Literature PhD program

Setting: Modern day, Cascade Springs - New York

Obtained Through: Publisher for honest review

Violet left Cascade Springs (near Niagara Falls) twelve years ago and swore she would never return.  Until a phone call from her beloved grandmother, on her death bed, had her racing from Chicago.  After dropping everything in her life to be with her grandmother in her dire hour, she finds grandma healthy and running her bookstore.  Seems Grandma Daisy had decided it was time for Violet to come home and assume her responsibilities in the enchanted (literally) bookstore, Charmed Books.   It’s where the perfect book tends to fly off the shelf and pick you.

Violet plans on leaving in the morning since she is in no condition to drive back immediately, no matter how tempted she is.  But, in the morning Grandma Daisy's boyfriend, Benedict Raisin, is found strangled outside the Grandma Daisy's house in his carriage.  He was  a carriage driver.  He was strangled with one of Daisy's scarves and the first officer on the scene immediately believes Daisy is the prime suspect.  

Violet must stay and ensure her grandmother is cleared.  She has to contend with her teenage boyfriend who is now mayor, the attractive Chief David Rainwater, Benedict's orphaned tuxedo cat Emerson, the resident bookshop black bird that talks, and the memories of her teenage best friend who died suddenly twelve years ago.

Wonderful characters populate this book.  Violet is easy to like and her grandmother is a rascal.  I don't think I would have let the "on death's door" ploy be dismissed so easily, though.  The old rivalry between her high school boyfriend Nathan and his brother Grant was a good added touch.  Of course both Nathan and Chief Rainwater show interest in Violet keeps the interest high.   

A great job on the setting and incorporating Niagara Falls and local historical tidbits.  The plot was interesting and the enchantment of the bookshop plus what being the official caretaker of the shop and the tree that grows inside the shop kept the pacing steady.  The killer confrontation was handled with a dose of danger and tension.  The resolution had me routing for one of the two guys maneuvering for her attention and I wanted the next book immediately.

I hadn't read the author's other series (Amish Quilt Shop) so this was a delightful discovery for me.  Everything comes together for a captivating book that hooked me.

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

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Guest Post - Amanda Flower

Please welcome Amanda Flower, a three time Agatha-nominated mystery author, started her writing career in elementary school when she read a story she wrote to her sixth grade class and had the class in stitches with her description of being stuck on the top of a Ferris wheel. She knew at that moment she’d found her calling of making people laugh with her words. Amanda is a librarian in Northeast Ohio. She also writes as USA Today Bestselling Author Isabella Alan.

On Location

If I am going to write a mystery novel, it’s very important to me to know the setting inside and out. I think it’s because I’m a librarian, and I think a well research novel has so much more flavor and depth. Also it helps me to understand the characters better to know their regional identity. Because of that, every novel I’ve ever written has been set in Ohio, my home state where I have always lived, but after sixteen novels set in the Buckeye State I finally felt ready to venture out and try a new location.

In Crime and Poetry, the first Magical Bookshop Mystery, I put my characters in a small village just outside of Niagara Falls in Western New York State. My picturesque village is actually based on the adorable town of Niagara-on-the-Lake, which is located in Ontario, Canada just on the other side of the border.

I knew if I was going to write about this adorable place, I was going to have to go there, and what better way to go than to make it a girls’ trip with two of my closest friends, Suzy and Sarah. The three of us packed up my car and hit the road for a long weekend of adventure.

We had a tight agenda because I wanted to do as much of what my characters would be doing in the novel, as well as the rest of the series, as possible. The Niagara region is wine country and especially known for ice wines, so a wine tour was a must, and because my main character, Violet Waverly, gets around her fictional village, Cascade Springs, on a bike, we had to make the tour on bikes. After the last stop, we were a little wobbly on our wheels, but it was one of the most fun tours I have ever been on and something I will definitely incorporate in a future book. The bike tour also gave me an up close and personal view of the town and the surrounding countryside, which I made a point of infusing in my descriptions of the area.

Next on the agenda was the world famous Niagara Falls. In Crime and Poetry, Violet goes to the Niagara Falls to sniff out some clues about her suspects. Of course, we had to go there too and see one of the natural wonders of the world. While Violet’s there, she pauses for a moment to take in the majesty of the falls and the crushing crowds of tourists from all over the world; I did the same.

However, the highlight of our trip was the carriage ride through Niagara-on-the-Lake. This was a must for me because the victim in Crime and Poetry is a carriage driver. I needed to see the village from his perspective, and what better way to do that go on a horse-drawn carriage ride through the village? The rattle of the carriage, the ongoing chatter of the driver, and smell of the horse are all tiny details which made it into the novel.

I’m so glad that we took that trip, and I know that it added so much more to the story and gave it sense of place of which I’m incredibly proud. I can’t wait for you to join Violet and me in Cascade Springs. You might never want to leave; I know I don’t.

As for my next location? Only time will tell, but my friends are already asking where it will be so we can go on another girls’ trip. I don’t think that next trip it too far away because there is always a new book idea and adventure around the corner. I’m ready to go!

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Her current release is CRIME AND POETRY coming April 5, 2016.

THANK YOU Ms. Flowers for that "behind the scenes" look at researching your book.  

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Monday, April 4, 2016

Guest Post - Connie Archer

Welcome Connie Archer, the author of the Soup Lover's Mysteries.  Connie Archer was born and grew up in New England, ice skating on neighborhood ponds, clamming on the beach at Cape Cod and skiing in Vermont.  After majoring in biology in college, she did an about face and earned a degree in English literature. Since then she’s worked at many different jobs — laboratory technician, cocktail waitress, medical secretary, and dinner theatre actress, to name just a few.

Connie currently lives in Los Angeles with her family and a constantly talking cat named Basil.

Doin’ the Time Warp

Remember Tim Curry in The Rocky Horror Picture Show singing that song? He, in his wig, bustier and boots, is the image that comes to mind when I think about TIME -- that annoying dimension that trips me up and causes me to tear out my hair. Most of all when I’m writing!

I personally believe (and please don’t laugh) that we humans actually bend time and space, like those creatures in Dune, even when we’re not aware we’re doing it. Haven’t you noticed there are times when TIME lags, and other times, when TIME speeds up? I like to think I can warp it, like when I’m running late for an appointment, I can rush like a maniac, and mentally crunch and slow TIME itself. I used to have a watch with a melting Dali-like face. I liked it a lot because that’s exactly how I perceive TIME.

I am one of those people who really struggles to be on time. For some, it’s automatic, they start paying attention hours before they’re supposed to be somewhere. I do too, but I never seem to get it right. It’s not something I’m proud of, it’s just a fact. And it’s not that I want to make my friends/doctors/dentists wait for me. Not at all, I like them very much, but for whatever reason, my natural tendency is to leave for a place when I should be arriving. I don’t like it. I fight it – all the TIME!

I so look forward to the invention of the teleportation machine. How wonderful it will be when we can pop into a little booth a few seconds before we’re supposed to arrive and voilĂ , our atoms and molecules are rearranged in another spot. Perfect! That should solve my problem . . . maybe.

If you’re one of those people who is never late, always on time, would never dream of not allowing enough TIME to arrive somewhere, you’re thinking, what an idiot she must be. All she has to do is look at a damn clock. It couldn’t be easier. I wish it were that simple.

Did you know that Albert Einstein was working on time travel before his death? He had some very interesting theories about TIME. One was his Swiss cheese thought model. He theorized that TIME is like the hole inside a hunk of Swiss cheese. We perceive TIME in a linear fashion as we cut slices through the cheese and the hole expands, but TIME was there inside the cheese all the time. We just can’t perceive it because we’re programmed to view it as a linear reality. Seven days ago, I cut my hair and tomorrow I’ll feed the cat. See?

And what about those times when TIME bends upon itself. When an old memory arises as fresh and alive as the day it happened, and brings colors and words and smells back to us, more vividly than a recent event?

Hang with me here. There’s a point to my ramblings.

I’ve been reminded of my trouble with TIME in several areas of life, but nowhere more forcefully than when plotting a story. I get lost – a lot! But how can I be expected to keep track of that invisible nothingness inside the Swiss cheese as I mentally flit through a fictional universe? How can I be expected to remember my character just climbed out of bed two chapters ago and now she’s creeping through the woods at night? Uh oh. How did that happen? I got lost again. And I can foresee my editor’s comment box: “DIDN’T SHE JUST WAKE UP? HOW CAN IT BE MIDNIGHT SO SOON? WHAT HAPPENED?” I cringe, knowing my editor’s right. I goofed. Then there are the questions like, “DIDN’T THIS HAPPEN ON SUNDAY? WOULD THE OFFICE BE OPEN ON A SUNDAY?” Uh oh, goofed again!

So now, in an effort not to embarrass myself, I am very diligent. I make charts and outlines to keep focused in this linear physical reality, even though my mind is wandering through a fictional town. It’s day three of my story and it’s ten o’clock in the morning and so on. And I have to discipline myself to keep my chart up because I know if I don’t I’ll be in big trouble. And I’ll have to answer (make excuses for) those bloopers to my editor again.

Now if only my protagonist would do the same and not go creeping through the woods two chapters after she got out of bed. Einstein isn’t around to help me out anymore. Just where did I put that Dali melting face watch? I’ll have to find it. Not sure I’m enjoying this linear physical reality right now.

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Thank YOU Ms. Archer.  I can definitely relate!  Most days I just keep wishing for Hermoine's Time Turner because I always need more time in the day.  But to keep track of fictional time - oh boy.


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