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Monday, September 26, 2016

Guest Author Post - Delia James

Please welcome author Delia James of the delightful Witch's Cat Mystery series.  Delia has been a writer almost as long as she’s been anything.  She started putting stories on paper by drawing stick figures comics based on Maurice Sendak cartoons and never stopped.  These days, she writes her magical mysteries from her home near Ann Arbor, Michigan, assisted by her loving husband, Tim, her magnificent son, Alex, and her vocal cat, Buffy the Vermin Slayer.


When you’re a writer, the most popular topic for people to talk to you about is, well, writing. 
What do you write, how do you write and where and when and where do you get your ideas, all of that. 

The second most popular topic, however, is what do you read. Which is fine by me. Every writer was a reader first, and every writer remains an enthusiastic reader throughout their lives, or, pretty soon, they cease to be a writer. I’d rather talk about books than anything else, except maybe my son. And obviously, as a mystery writer, I get asked about the kinds of mysteries I like to read.

Usually, I talk about my earliest influences; Dorothy L. Sayers and Josephine Tey, Daphanie DuMaurier and, of course, Agatha Christie and Arthur Conan Doyle.

But today, considering the renewed and necessary discussion of diversity in publishing, I thought I might talk about some of more recent writers I’ve been reading, a number of whom are African American women.

Now, I write cozies and historicals, but I read all kinds of mysteries, and I admit a love for a touch of the gothic, and the classic. When I opened OF BLOOD AND SORROW by Valerie Wilson Wesley, I was immediately catapulted into a classic hard-boiled detective novel, complete with the down at the heels office, the scrabbling, emotionally scarred sleuth, and the mysterious,slightly unsavory female client who is hiding at least as much as she’s telling. The difference is, Tamara Hayle is an African American woman with a teenage son, struggling to make a living as much as she 
is to come to grips with her past, and the case that has just landed on her desk.

An author in the cozy realm is Charlotte Neely, and BLANCHE ON THE LAM. This is the first in a series about Blanche White, an African American housekeeper, who, like Tamara, is struggling with parenting issues (she’s helping raise her sister’s kids) and to make her way in the world. For Blanche, both are an uphill climb. When the story opens, Blanche is quite literally on the run when

she starts. Stiffed by her employer, enough of Blanche’s checks bounced that she was at risk of being sent to jail for check fraud, and she does skip out from the court house. The stakes for her in this mystery are real and immediate from page one. The suspense and the characters were both excellent, and I found myself constantly asking “how is she going to get out of this?”

Of course, if we’re going to talk mysteries, we have to talk cop stories. I particularly like Eleanore Taylor Bland, and the Marti MacAllister mysteries. Marti is tough and practical and has a great working relationship with her partner Vic. The one that hooked me was from later in the series, A DARK AND DEADLY DECEPTION, but even though I was starting in the middle, I caught up fast, and was glad I did. I enjoyed the read and it kept me reading, and guessing all the 
way along.

Now, here’s where I make a confession. I’m an absolute sucker for suspense, and yes, I went head over heels for GONE GIRL and GIRL ON A TRAIN. If you are also that kind of reader, you need to check out Dorothy Koomson’s THE WOMAN HE LOVED BEFORE. This one had me from the first lines:

Are you her? Are you the one he’s with now? Is that why you came looking for me?

If you aren’t reading this letter fifty or sixty years from now, then it’s likely that I’m dead. Probably murdered.

Please don’t be upset by that…

Now, THAT’S an opening.

But, for me, even better than straight suspense, is suspense with that touch of the gothic. This is the territory Attica Locke lays claim to in THE CUTTING SEASON. Set on a former plantation that has been turned into a tourist attraction, and told from the point of view of Caren Gray, who works as the manager of the plantation where her mother worked as a cook, and where her ancestors were enslaved. This is a complicated, wonderfully written book, rich with contradiction, mystery and the struggle to reconcile the past and the present, both in terms of family and the sweep of history. She doesn’t drop a stitch in this story, and she doesn’t miss a beat or shy away from questions of class as well as race. THE CUTTING SEASON has turned out to be one of my favorite read of the summer.

So, Writer, what are you reading? There’s really only one answer to that:

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THANK You Ms. James.  I am with you, I love suspense with gothic touches!  I am reading Whispers Beyond the Veil at the moment, but your newest (BY FAMILIAR MEANS) is next up!!

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Monday, September 19, 2016

Margaret Coel Q&A

Fans of the Wind River series by Margaret Coel will definitely want to read this Q&A.  Hard to believe the newest book released, Winter's Child, is the twentieth in the series.  Find out big news about the series. 

Q&A with Margaret Coel about Winter’s Child
Q. Is it true? Winter’s Child is the final novel in the long-running Wind River series?

A. Yes, it is true. Winter’s Child is the twentieth novel, and I knew while I was writing that it was a good place to let Vicky and Father John finish their stories.

Q. Just like that?

A. Well, not exactly. I thought about it a lot. It was a tough decision, but everything has a natural lifespan, even a mystery series. Vicky and Father John have been through a lot of adventures together. They've solved dozens of crimes and faced down and outwitted a whole range of murderers. Sometimes I was surprised they were still alive! But there they were, always ready for the next crime to solve, the next criminal to bring to justice. And I was always ready to see what they would do.

Q. So you didn’t get bored writing about them?

A. Bored is not a word I understand. I loved every minute of writing about them. Still, I thought it was time to let them go.

Q. So what’s next?

A. For me? I may be retiring the Wind River series, but I am not retiring. I am a writer, and as Garrison Keillor has said, writers just keep writing. I am looking forward to meeting new character-~ people, getting to know them, sharing their lives in different kinds of adventures. Who they might be, I have no idea, but I trust they will come to me in their own good time, just as Vicky and Father John once did.

Q. How about Vicky and Father John? We have seen the deep and ongoing affection they have for each other grow with each novel. We’ve been waiting to see what will happen. Are we going to find out?

A. As I was writing the ending, I realized that what I wanted to do was leave them in a good place, with the future open and stretching ahead. It is how I wanted to remember them—going about their lives and heading into the future. What will that future be? Well, you’ll have to read Winter’s Child and fill in the rest of the story. 

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THANK You Ms. Coel for sharing about the series with us.  I know I haven't read all of them, and I certainly want to even more so now!

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Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Guest Author Post - Jessica Estevao

Please welcome author Jessica Estevao, who writes the Change of Fortune Mysteries. The first in the series, Whispers Beyond the Veil, released this month.  As Jessie Crockett she’s the author of the nationally bestselling Sugar Grove Mysteries and the Daphne du Maurier Award winner, Live Free or Die.

Don’t you just love serendipity?

Several years ago my husband and I were looking for a summer place near the water. I had no idea that our search would lead to a new series and a love of historical mystery writing. After looking at places all over the state of Maine we found the perfect spot in Old Orchard Beach. We spent that first summer renovating the house and basking on the beach.  By the end of the first month we were utterly charmed.

After all, what’s not to love about seven miles of sandy beach and the last remaining seaside amusement park in New England? But while the kids were building sand castles and perfecting their body surfing technique, I found myself visiting the Harmon Historical Museum and buying antique post cards at Cottage Decor. Slowly, but surely, the history of  Old Orchard worked its way into my affections and on my imagination.

I was intrigued to discover our property used to be part of a Methodist campground. While it now has different owners, the natural amphitheater they used for sermons and speakers is still in operation just up the street from our house.

I learned about the different incarnations the town had experienced. In the Victorian era it hosted wealthy families for the entire season at the grand hotels like The Hotel Velvet as well as day-tripping mill girls from neighboring Biddeford.

By the early 1900s Grand Beach was popular with early auto racers as well as pioneering pilots attempting the first trans-continental flights. A few years later the big band era and dance marathons drew the crowds. Soldiers returning from WWII brought their families in droves throughout the middle of the twentieth century.

It was inevitable, I suppose, that all that information would work its magic on the story-telling part of my brain.  Before I knew it, I started imagining the buildings and vehicles and amusements from the past still lining the streets.  Then, of course, the buildings filled with imaginary people with all their intrigues and peculiarities.

Before long, the influence of Old Orchard had concocted Ruby Proulx, the protagonist for my latest book, Whispers Beyond the Veil. The Gilded Age hotel where she lives and works, her friends and family all invented themselves as I walked along the sand or imagined a trolley car trundling down the street beside me as I strolled to the shops. Reasons for murder and mayhem swooped into my brain like marauding seagulls making a play for picnic lunches.

Just like that, an historical mystery had snuck up on me. I had never intended to turn my hand to historical writing but thanks to a little serendipity it had.
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THANK YOU Ms. Estevao for that lovely post with insights into your newest book.

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Thursday, September 8, 2016

Review - As Death Draws Near

I have been slower in my reading than usual, so I am late in finishing and posting this review. My apologies. 

This is another series that I have followed since the very first book:  The Anatomist's Wife (click here) .  I have also reviewed #2 Mortal Arts (click here) , #3 A Grave Matter (click here), #4 A Study in Death (click here), and was honored to interview the author (click here), and have a guest post (click here).  Now for the next book in this riveting historical mystery series. 

Author:  Anna Lee Huber

Copyright: July 2016 (Berkley) 352 pgs

Series: 5th in Lady Darby Mystery series

Sensuality: Mild

Mystery Sub-genre:  Amateur Sleuth

Main Characters: Lady Kiera Darby, an accomplished artist,widow, and social outcast

Setting: 1831 Rathfarnham Ireland amidst tensions between Catholics and Protestants

Obtained Through: Publisher for honest review

July 1831. In the midst of their idyllic honeymoon in England’s Lake District, Kiera and Gage’s seclusion is soon interrupted by a missive from her new father-in-law. A deadly incident involving a distant relative of the Duke of Wellington has taken place at an abbey south of Dublin, Ireland, and he insists that Kiera and Gage look into the matter.

Intent on discovering what kind of monster could murder a woman of the cloth, the couple travel to Rathfarnham Abbey school. Soon a second nun is slain in broad daylight near a classroom full of young girls. With the sinful killer growing bolder, the mother superior would like to send the students home, but the growing civil unrest in Ireland would make the journey treacherous.

Before long, Kiera starts to suspect that some of the girls may be hiding a sinister secret. With the killer poised to strike yet again, Kiera and Gage must make haste and unmask the fiend, before their matrimonial bliss comes to an untimely end.

Lady Kiera Darby may have changed her marital status, but she still has baggage to work through. Some of that comes up in the course of this story.  Sebastian Gage struggles with keeping Kiera safe and yet assisting with this inquiry since they are surrounded by hostility on many fronts. Bree, Kiera's personal maid is Catholic and Irish and seems to be facing her own ghosts in town.  Anderley, Gage's rough spoken valet is a key player as well.  Mother Mary Fidelis of the Abbey proves to be a sage and gentle woman.

The shadowy Rathfarnham Abbey provides some gothic touches combined with Ireland's volatile religious-political environment creates a stormy and moody setting.  This takes place at the beginning of Ireland's Tithe War (1830 and 1836) that saw flairs of brutal violence in response to farmer's having a mandatory "tithe" to the state Protestant church for its upkeep irregardless of many being Catholic.  

The plot is, as always, based in history and plausible.  Thus adding to the tension in this case.  The pacing had its slower moments, but like Agatha Christie, these scenes have relevant clues.  The climax and killer reveal is handled deftly and provides chills.  The wrap-up has touching and bittersweet intermingled.  

I liked this outing as much for Kiera facing her fears in marriage as the hunt to unveil who murdered a nun.  Kiera continues to be a stellar character.

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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As a special treat, and since the pumpkin spice craze is starting up...this recipe is for you!

Swirls of chocolate make these soft Pumpkin Nutella Muffins a delicious way to start out any fall day. 
They disappear every time we make…


1 cup Pumpkin puree
2 Eggs
1/2 cup Nutella spread
2 tsp Baking powder
1 tsp Cinnamon
2 1/4 cups Flour
1/2 tsp Salt
1 cup Sugar
1/2 cup Oil
1 cup Milk


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a muffin tin with non-stick baking spray.

Add the pumpkin, eggs, oil, and sugar to a large bowl and mix together.

Stir together the flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Alternately add the flour mixture and milk to the pumpkin mixture until everything is mixed in. Spoon the muffin batter into 18 muffin cavities.

Place the Nutella in a microwave safe bowl and heat for 20-30 seconds. Stir until creamy. Drop the warm Nutella in the center of each muffin. Use a toothpick to swirl the chocolate gently on top.

Bake the muffins for 20-22 minutes. Remove and cool in the pan for 2 minutes, and then remove to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in a sealed container.

Recipe from The BruCrew Life Blog

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Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Author Guest Post - Cleo Coyle

Please welcome the bestselling writing duo known as CLEO COYLE, which is a pseudonym for Alice Alfonsi, writing in collaboration with her husband, Marc Cerasini.  Both are New York Times bestselling authors of the Coffeehouse Mysteries, now celebrating over ten years in print.  Alice has worked as a journalist in Washington, D.C., and New York City, and has written popular fiction, young adult and children’s books. A former magazine editor, Marc has authored espionage thrillers and nonfiction for adults and children. 

Alice and Marc are also bestselling media tie-in writers who have penned properties for Lucasfilm, NBC, Fox, Disney, Imagine, and MGM.  They live and work in New York City, where they write independently and together, including the national bestselling Haunted Bookshop Mysteries.

On the Run in Washington 

What would you do if a handsome federal agent burst into your shop, offered you his hand, and told you:  “Your life is in danger, and you must come away with me now, no questions asked.”

If you’re coffeehouse manager Clare Cosi, and the agent is decorated Detective Mike Quinn, on special assignment with the US Justice Department, you would take his hand and go.

A divorced, single mom in her forties, Clare Cosi is a coffeehouse manager by day, a relentless snoop by night.  In Dead to the Last Drop, now available in its new paperback edition, Clare sets out to caffeinate our nation’s capital and becomes embroiled in a capital crime—one that involves the disappearance of the President’s college-age daughter.

Is this troubled young woman a runaway bride? Or is she in grave danger?

To answer that question, Clare takes readers on a suspense-filled ride through Washington, DC; and 
although this murder mystery has plenty of thrills and page-turning twists, it’s also laced with humor, heart, and hearty good food. Because you can’t save the world on an empty stomach—at least Clare and Detective Quinn can’t. 

And as food lovers ourselves, neither can my husband and I!

If you are new to our Coffeehouse Mystery series, don’t let that discourage you from picking up Dead to the Last Drop.   You can certainly read it as a stand-alone story, and if you like the ride, you have fourteen more books to enjoy.

But don’t miss this Washington entry. It’s embedded with hidden secrets about our nation’s capital that were inspired by my own experiences while living, studying, and working in DC.

And as you enjoy the book, be sure to drop by our new Jazz Space,, a virtual extension of the relaxed jazz supper club featured in Dead to the Last Drop. Listen to some of the music mentioned in the book, visit the locations, sample some recipes, and even listen to free live jazz, any night of the week.

Dead to the Last Drop is also a culinary mystery, with an appendix of more than 25 delicious recipes, including Double-Chocolate Espresso Cupcakes, Easy “Cake Pan” Cheesecake, the best Oatmeal Cookie Recipe you may ever bake, and a fantastic version of Black Magic Cake with a “secret ingredient” chocolate frosting.  Get your recipe guide, click here.  

Read the prologue and first chapter (click here.)

CLEO’S NEWSLETTER: Contests, recipes, news, fun facts, and videos. To sign up, simply write an e-mail that says “sign me up” and send it to CoffeehouseMystery@gmail(dot)com. You will receive a reply with links to past newsletters that include free recipes.

TITLE CHECKLIST: Get a free title checklist with mini summaries of all 15 Coffeehouse Mysteries. To download the list as a PDF document, click here.

THANK You Alice and Marc for this delightful post.  I am looking forward to that recipe guide!  You are very generous. 

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