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Guest Blogger Maggie King – A Detecting Book Group (click for comments)

murder-at-the-moonshine-inn-cover-lowA Detecting Book Group by Maggie King

Hazel Rose is back in a new adventure, Murder at the Moonshine Inn. After that harrowing confrontation with the killer in Murder at the Book Group, she vowed to leave investigating to the pros.

And for eight years she kept her word. Easy because people didn’t clamor for the services of amateur detectives—except in the pages of cozy mysteries.

So when Hazel is asked to find out who killed Roxanne Howard in the parking lot of the Moonshine Inn, Richmond, Virginia’s most notorious redneck bar, Hazel says, “No. Absolutely not. I’m a romance writer, not a detective.”

There was a sticking point: Brad Jones, the victim’s husband, is the prime suspect. He’s also Hazel’s cousin, and Hazel believes in doing anything to help family. Never mind that Brad won’t give her the time of day—he’s still family.

But the Richmond, Virginia Police Department were capable of finding the killer. Okay, the investigation was stalled, but Hazel figures they’ll get the killer eventually, and she refuses to feel bad about standing by her “no.” In fact, she’s quite smug as she pats herself on the back (saying “no” has long been an elusive skill for her).

Not so fast,” say the Murder on Tour book group. They’re quite keen on the idea of investigating. As much as they love reading mysteries, and talking about mysteries, the prospect of solving one fires them up.

In Murder at the Book Group, the book group members were all suspects. Hazel could trust very few of them and she had to be cagey and subtle in hunting down the killer. She had no idea what she was doing and had to “wing it” a lot—and Hazel isn’t a “winging it” sort of person.

But eight years later, the book group is congenial, trustworthy, and eager to find Roxanne Howard’s killer. The women are well-connected in the community—Trudy and Eileen are librarians, Hazel’s cousin Lucy is a successful business professional, and Sarah an active volunteer. Between them they manage to know or have a lead in to every suspect, witness, and information source they need to question. They are all personable (at least when they need to be) and know how to work their contacts.

With this group to support her, how could Hazel refuse? They agree to either travel in pairs or conduct the investigation in public places. But Hazel runs the show. And she’s probably the best-connected of all of them. She’s now a successful romance author and people love to talk to her. The book group members play their parts well. They research, pump people for information, unearth interesting documents, and move the plot along at a brisk pace. When Hazel gets booted out of a funeral where she’d hoped to narrow down the search for the killer(s), the book group takes up the slack.

A supporting cast helps as well. Kat Berenger (remember her from Murder at the Book Group?) has her own contacts. And Hazel’s husband Vince, a retired homicide detective, accompanies her to the Moonshine Inn, where they play very convincing rednecks. He also funnels information from the official investigators at the Richmond Police Department.

In her heart, Hazel knew all along that she’d cave and say “yes.”

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Maggie King is the author of the Hazel Rose Book Group mysteries, including the recently-released Murder at the Moonshine Inn. She contributed the stories A Not So Genteel Murder and Reunion at Shockoe Slip to the Virginia is for Mysteries anthologies.
Maggie is a member of Sisters in Crime, James River Writers, and the American Association of University Women. She has worked as a software developer, retail sales manager, and customer service supervisor. Maggie graduated from Elizabeth Seton College and earned a B.S. degree in Business Administration from Rochester Institute of Technology. She has called New Jersey, Massachusetts, and California home. These days she lives in Richmond, Virginia with her husband, Glen, and cats, Morris and Olive. She enjoys reading, walking, movies, traveling, theatre, and museums.
Website: http://www.maggieking.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MaggieKingAuthor
Twitter: https://twitter.com/MaggieKingAuthr
Buy link: http://amzn.to/2dtozWa

Guest Blogger: Vicki Batman – It’s all about Me! No, it’s about me! (click for comments)

temporarilyinsane_w10205_300-cover-6It’s all about Me! No, it’s about me! by Vicki Batman

In a book, secondary characters support the main characters, sometimes, as a best friend, a sidekick, a grandparent, or even as a bad dude. These characters can be fun to write, but when they take over a book–that’s a runaway train. Writers have to tame their creations and remember whose story they are crafting. Our plot focus is on the hero and heroine. Maybe the intruders can have their own book later on. Or maybe not.

In Temporarily Insane, I wrote a geek secondary character. But I wondered if I was on the right track about describing a geek. So I found this definition in Wikipedia: The word geek is a slang term originally used to describe eccentric or non-mainstream people. It is derived from the German word geck which means fool or fop. The term has evolved over time to mean something similar to nerd.

So what’s a nerd? Again, I returned to Wikipedia: Nerd is a descriptive term, often used pejoratively, indicating a person that is overly intellectual, obsessive, or lacking social skills.


Those definitions perfectly describe character Stuart Steems, an auditor. After he interviewed Hattie Cooks, my heroine, he manipulated her to take him to her birthday party. Not far from her own days in geekdom, Hattie had a dilemma. She had felt like a geek in high school (like most of us) because she wore glasses and didn’t have the favored blonde hair and blue eyes. And zits. Then her mother’s lecture on being nice played in her head. So she said yes and…

“We need to cover the ground rules.”

“Ground rules?” His brow vee-ed. “Is this normal?”

“Absolutely.” I nodded. “The ground rules are: No kissing. No hugging. No whispering lovey-dovey stuff in my ear. No nothing. Understand?”

“I understand, but I thought people in love do this.”

“Let’s set the record straight right now—we are not in love. And here’s another rule: don’t speak to anyone.”

“Don’t talk to anyone—why not?”

Noticing the bizarre look on his face, I relented. “Okay, you can talk. Just say one sentence.”

“Is this a weird family thing?”

“Nope. It’s a Hattie-who-is-being-nice thing.”

Stuart and his dating ineptness provided humor in my book, a definite element when writing romantic comedy. And he popped up with more fun bits throughout, bits that were important to the story. However, Stuart ‘s story was not Hattie’s story. I had to remember to dribble his pieces in the appropriate spots, to keep my focus on her.

But Stuart wasn’t the only geek.

Allan Wellborn, our detective hero and love interest, adored Hattie all his life. When younger, he wore Buddy Holly type of glasses, hadn’t grown, had zits, too. A math wiz, he wore white button-down shirts sporting a pocket protector with mechanical pencils, a highlighter, and a pocket level. He played the trombone in the band and served as the Treasurer in the Accounting Club.

Poor Hattie was surrounded by the type. Most of us grew out of geekdom. The zits and hair were tamed, we were praised for our work, and spend moola on cool clothes. Fortunately, Allan improved for the better. In fact, she described him as might-ee fine.

What is the Number One rule about geeks? They rule! In this technology driven world, lots of geeks and nerds abound. It’s cool to be a geek! Look at the number one comedy show on television: The Big Bang Theory. And one of them has the hot girl.

BTW, I married an auditor. He’s never been geeky.

Truth or dare – were you a geek or cool cat?

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03-26-15-vlmb-head-on-hand-in-pink-sweater-2Award-winning and Amazon bestselling author, Vicki Batman, has sold many romantic comedy works to the True magazines, several publishers, and most recently, two romantic comedy mysteries to The Wild Rose Press. She is a member of Romance Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and several writing groups. An avid Jazzerciser. Handbag lover. Mahjong player. Yoga practitioner. Movie fan. Book devourer. Cat fancier. Best Mom ever. And adores Handsome Hubby. Most days begin with her hands set to the keyboard and thinking “What if??


Website: http://vickibatman.blogspot.com/p/more-about-me.html

Facebook: http://bit.ly/293iZIz

Twitter: https://twitter.com/VickiBatman/

Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/vickibatman/

Email: vlmbatman@hotmail.com

Amazon ebook: https://www.amazon.com/Temporarily-Insane-Hattie-Cooks-Mystery-ebook/dp/B01JBSHE0K/

Amazon paperback: https://www.amazon.com/Temporarily-Insane-Vicki-Batman/dp/1509209158/

Defining Perfection by Debra H. Goldstein (click for comments)

traveling-womanThank goodness my local cleaner offers one day service!  Since the May release of Should Have Played Poker, I’ve been traveling so much I often have to lie in bed for a moment to remember which direction the bathroom is in.  So far, I’ve been successful in having clean clothing and proper orientation.

Signings and conferences have kept me on the road to Nashville, Ann Arbor, Jackson, Green Bay, Atlanta, Huntsville, Anniston, New Orleans, and other places.  I’ve experienced flight delays that included the famous Delta shutdown, as well as mechanical problems that afforded me an extra night in Green Bay. I’ve been uniformly treated like a queen in bookstores that either ordered my books in advance so all I had to do was put out my swag and uncap my pen and funny stories or asked me to lug my books in on consignment.  Book talks have taken me from Carnegie to modernistic style libraries.  Different conferences have provided me with panel assignments that range from discussing cozy writing to whether writers have an obligation to include social issues. Other panelists have been New York Times bestsellers like Anne Perry or neophytes like me. 

Before I know it, this whirlwind will end. Hopefully, it will happen again in the future for another book, but even if it doesn’t, every aspect has been perfection.  I’m having a ball meeting new people, sharing ideas, and knowing that the written word still has an impact in this world. Thank you, the readers and my friends for making this possible. What more could I ask?

Guest Blogger: Terrie Farley Moran – Setting a Story in the Real World (Click for Comments)

Setting a Story in the Real World by Terrie Farley Moran

Hi Debra, thanks so much for inviting me. It is always great fun when you and I get a chance to hang out together.

Happy Labor Day everyone! Today is the day we celebrate the history of workers in America. I found this picture online some years ago. It was taken in 1909 and shows a float of the ladies auxiliary of the typographical union—one of the first unions to admit female members—as early as the 1860s.

labordaywomen (1)

I like to think that those hardworking women were the predecessors of Sassy Cabot and Bridgy Mayfield who are the proprietors of a café and bookstore known as the Read ’Em and Eat—breakfast, lunch and all you can read. They are also the protagonists of the Read ’Em and Eat cozy mystery series,moran books (1) including Well Read, Then Dead, Caught Read-Handed and Read to Death.

The series is set in the very real town of Fort Myers Beach which is made up of two barrier islands in the Gulf Coast of South Florida. I can tell you right off the bat that one of the reasons I picked Fort Myers Beach as the location is because it is extremely picturesque but the more compelling reason is that the subplot in the first book of the series, Well Read, Then Dead, involved the history of the Gulf Coast and most especially the Ten Thousand Islands, one the final lawless American communities in the late 1800s and early 1900s.The history is so captivating, I didn’t want to betray it by using a fictitious community anywhere on the Gulf coast.

I suppose there are real advantages to setting a story in a real place. A lot of my short fiction is set in New York City, where I’ve lived my entire life. Still, for accuracy sake, I occasionally have to look stuff up. At which Broadway crossing is the famous statue of Father Duffy, hero of WW I? Does traffic on Third Avenue run uptown or downtown? What is the address of the Waldorf Astoria?

And there are disadvantages when writing about a community that is not as familiar as the back of my hand. I had never been to Fort Myers Beach before I chose it as the location for the Read ’Em and Eat Café and Bookstore. I also knew that thousands of tourists visit the beach twelve months a year. So once again accuracy would be paramount, because the odds were that a goodly number of my readers would have spent far more time at Fort Myers beach than I ever had.

I was fortunate enough to visit the community a couple of times. (My daughter lives a few miles away.) I took pictures and memorized where popular sites were located in relation to other popular sites. One thing that really tickles my fancy is that Fort Myers Beach has its own Times Square. Complete with entertainers and fireworks displays, it is a wide shopping area built around a four sided “square” clock. Times Square leads to The Pier, which stretches far out into the Gulf of Mexico.

Now here is a caveat about describing a real place in your books. I had a scene set in Times Square. (I often do, they sell ice cream there. YUM!) For some reason, I was writing a much longer description of the clock than I needed to. So I was looking at pictures and searching my memory and I couldn’t decide how tall the clock is, other than it is a lot taller than I am. I called the Chamber of Commerce but no one there could help me. Then I called the local newspaper, The Island Sandpaper, and the editor, Missy Layfield drove from down island to Times Square to measure the clock for me. I seem to recall it came in at around fifteen feet.

So the moral of my story is that if you are going to set a story in a real location, either be very familiar with it or have some nice person like Missy Layfield willing to help you out.

Since today is a holiday, we may as well have a giveaway. This notepaper is designed by Florida artist Leoma Lovegrove, who lives a stone’s throw from Fort Myers Beach in the artsy community of Matlacha. (As an aside, Sassy and Bridgy visit Matlacha in Read to Death.) For a chance to win the box of notepaper, please leave a comment saying anything at all about Florida. To be entered, you should include your email in this format: yourname (at) yourserver (dot) com so the spambots can’t pick it up.

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Terrie Farley Moran is the author of the Read ‘Em and Eat cozy mysteries series, including the Agatha Award winner Well Read, Then Dead, Caught Read-Handed and Read to Death.

Terrie’s short mystery fiction has been published in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine and numerous anthologies. Her short story, “A Killing at the Beausoleil” was an Agatha Award Best Short Story nominee.

She also co-writes Laura Childs’ Scrapbooking Mystery series. Together they have written Parchment and Old Lace and Crepe Factor.

Website: www.terriefarleymoran.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/terriefarleymoran/

Guest Interview with Julianne Holmes (Click for Comments)

Julianne Holmes aka J.A. Hennrikus and I decided to try something different – an exchange interview.  Not only is she my guest today, but I will be visiting her tomorrow on the Wicked Cozy Authors blog. http://wickedcozyauthors.com/2016/08/09/a-wicked-wecolme-to-debra-goldstein. To learn more about both of us, leave a message or a question on both blogsites.

DSC_30831) You have had a career in arts management which has included establishing physical box offices, program operations, and running a non-profit that promotes and supports the arts.   Most of this work translates to the performing arts and yet, today, we are talking about you and the written word.   What made you chase wanting to be a writer when you obviously are already so well established in the theater related world?

I love working in arts administration—I’ve been doing it for over 30 years. But I’ve never been a creator in that field. I was always too afraid to try and go on stage. I found my passion, my work, in helping creators get their work seen. For me, writing taps into my own creativity. I’m not sure when I decided I wanted to write—fifth grade maybe—but I’ve been trying to get published for the past ten years, and finally had my dream come true last October.

2) You write another a different name – is there a reason for that? How did the premise for your books come to be and how did you get selected to write them?

There are two lessons in this story. First, when I started on this journey, I didn’t understand all the ways you could get published. I’m sure you didn’t either. One route is being a work for hire. An editor at Berkley had an idea for a series, and had created an outline and a wonderful premise. Second, I’ve been part of the mystery writing community for a long time, and met a group of women who had all recently gotten contracts. We decided to blog together, on the Wicked Cozy Authors blog. Via their agent, this opportunity was opened up, and I was connected to it. I had to write a proposal, and some sample chapters, and got the job.

Regarding the name, since it is a work for hire, I needed to find a penname. My parents were going to name me Julianne Holmes Hennrikus, but my grandmother told them it was too long, so I am Julie AnneClockandDagger Hennrikus. When I had to find another name, there wasn’t far to look.

3) Tell us about your books, especially their themes and your protagonist.

The Clock Shop Mystery series takes place in Orchard, Massachusetts, which is out in the Berkshires. Ruth Clagan inherits her grandfather’s clock shop, the Cog & Sprocket. She is also a clockmaker, but had a rift with him, so she is trying to heal that in JUST KILLING TIME. In the second book, CLOCK AND DAGGER, it is a few days before the New Year, and Ruth is trying to get the shop ready to be reopened.

I love writing this series. CLOCK AND DAGGER is about second chances, and throughout the series I try and show how Ruth not only fixes clocks, she fixes life in Orchard. Orchard also gives Ruth a chance to rethink her life path after a bad marriage. A handsome barber works next door, so there’s a little romance as well.

4) Clocks are not often a focal point in books, but you work knowledge about them in so well that one often doesn’t know something has just been taught.   Do you do a lot of research? How? And how do you decide what to leave out?

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESAs it turns out, I have a friend whose husband is a clock maker. I didn’t know that before the series, but I’m thrilled to have him helping me with research. I also went to visit the American Clock and Watch Museum, and spent hours wandering around. I do learn more than I use in the books. What I want people to feel is how beautiful timepieces are, and how much of an art it is to fix them. I will say that ever since I’ve been working on the series, I notice them in people’s houses, and always ask about them. There’s always a story attached to a clock. It’s almost like they keep memories as well as time. I love that.

5) You have been active in Sisters in Crime – how has that influenced you?

I would not have this series if it weren’t for Sisters in Crime. I wouldn’t have a group of wonderful friends, who’ve made this journey so much better by being part of my life. Sisters in Crime is an amazing organization, and resource. Becoming a member was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

6) Shamelessly plug your new book. Tell us how we can get it and what you are working on now.

LOL! CLOCK AND DAGGER is book #2 of the series, and came out August 2. It is available wherever folks get books. I’m finishing book #3 now, tentatively called CHIME AND PUNISHMENT. It will be out next year. I’m so grateful to be on this journey. Thanks so much for having me on the blog!

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The Clock Shop Mystery series debuted in October 2015 with Just Killing Time, which was nominated for an Agatha Award for Best First Novel. Clock and Dagger was released August 2, 2016. As J.A. Hennrikus she has had short stories published in Level Best Books anthologies: Her Wish in Dead Calm, Tag, You’re Dead in Thin Ice, The Pendulum Swings, Until It Doesn’t in Blood Moon. As Julie Hennrikus she runs StageSource, the service organization for the New England theater community. She is on Twitter (@JulieHennrikus), Instagram (@jahenn), Pinterest, and Facebook. She blogs with the Wicked Cozy Authors, Live to Write/Write to Live, and is on Killer Characters on the 20th of each month. Julie is a board member of Sisters in Crime and the New England Chapter of Sisters in Crime. She is also a member of Mystery Writers of America and the Guppies. JulianneHolmes.com

Guest Blogger: Bill Crider – How to Write a Novel (Click for Comments)

survivors will be shot again finalHow to Write a Novel by Bill Crider

I’m sure you’re read Somerset Maugham’s wise words about novel writing before, but they bear repeating, mainly because I’m going to elaborate on them for a bit.  Here they are: “There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.”

My first novel was published the year I turned forty.  You could say I was a late bloomer, and I guess that’s true.  I’d always wanted to write, but I hadn’t known how to go about it.  I thought there was some arcane secret method that everyone knew but me.  So naturally I set out to learn what it was.

Having been a reader all my life, I assumed that the secret method would be found in a book, and I set out to read as many books about writing as I could get my hands on.  I read Writers Digest and The Writer.  I listened to writers talk about their habits.

You probably know where this is going, so I’ll keep it short.  I never did find out the secret.  What I did between the living and the dead (2)find out was that there was no secret.  Just as Maugham said, there are rules, but nobody knows what they are, least of all me.  Even after having written fifty or sixty books (but who’s counting?), I still don’t know.  Every time I sit down and see the words “Chapter One,” I feel as if I’ll never get any further.  But somehow I do.

How do I do it?  Well, I’ve adopted what I like to call the Alice in Wonderland approach.  When the White Rabbit asks the King where he (the Rabbit, not the King) should begin, the King answers, “Begin at the beginning and go on till you come to the end: then stop.”

So the answer (for me) turned out to be in a book, after all, even though it wasn’t a book where I expected to find an answer.  It happens that for me, there was only one rule for writing a novel, not three, and it worked out unexpectedly well when I finally put it into practice.  And now that I’ve come to the end of this little commentary, I’m going to stop.

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50 075BILL CRIDER is a former college English teacher and is the author of more than fifty published novels and an equal number of short stories. He’s won two Anthony awards and a Derringer Award, and he’s been nominated for the Shamus and the Edgar awards.  His latest novel in the Sheriff Dan Rhodes series is Between the Living and the Dead. His new one, Survivors Will Be Shot Again, will be out in August from St. Martin’s Press.  Check out his homepage at www.billcrider.com, or take a look at his peculiar blog at http://billcrider.blogspot.com.

Fourth of July Thoughts by Debra H. Goldstein (click for comments)

fourth of july cakeFourth of July has become synonymous with flag waving, excitement and best of all hamburgers, hotdogs, ribs, cole slaw, potato salad, watermelon and banana pudding. People also claim it commemorates the signing of the Declaration of Independence and America’s birth as a new nation.  Most have the food element down pat, but not the historical facts. 

Independence was declared on July 2, 1776. That was the day the final draft was presented for edits and comments.  It was not until July 4, 1776 that the Continental Congress approved the modified document. From that point on, both the agreed compromise declaration and the ornamental version signed in August carried the July 4th date.

Each word of the Declaration of Independence is important but I can’t help focusing on the signatures affixed to it.  john hancockWhether one looks at John Hancock’s bold signature or the other less flamboyant ones, there is a message of bravery in each name.  Those who signed knew they were rebelling against the mother country in a treasonous manner. There would be no going back, but they had accepted any potential consequences because they were signing their personal names in the name of a greater concept: freedom.

I am a student of history.  War, peace, societal changes and even the mudslinging of today’s political climate will all one day be part of history. Perhaps though, we should step back for a moment and embrace the unity of today.  I’m going to by taking a moment to thank those who signed the Declaration of Independence for this country I love. Then, I’m going to get in line for a hotdog.

Guest Blogger: Elaine Viets – The Art of Living (Click to Leave a Comment)

ArtofMurder_revised(2) (1)The Art of Living by Elaine Viets

I’m not a fan of most house museum tours – I don’t want to pay twenty bucks to look at rich people’s art and old furniture. There’s one exception:

Fort Lauderdale’s Bonnet House Museum & Gardens.

I can’t wait for you to read The Art of Murder, my new Dead-End Job mystery. The Art of Murder opens at Bonnet House, where I worked as a volunteer greeter.

Bonnet House, built in 1920, was the colorful home of artists Evelyn andbonnet-house_0 Frederic Clay Bartlett. Evelyn took up collecting miniature orchids at age 101, and lived to be 109. Their house was filled with light, life and color.

Bonnet House was Frederic’s idea of a Caribbean plantation house. It’s built around a courtyard sheltered by feathery palms and bright with flowers. The house has whimsical touches: gilded baroque columns swirl around the drawing room doors, balconies are frosted with New Orleans wrought iron, and Evelyn’s collection of brightly painted wooden animals, including giraffes and ostriches, are everywhere.

Brazilian squirrel monkeyEvelyn loved animals, and Bonnet House still has swans and a troupe of adorable Brazilian squirrel monkeys living on the grounds. The monkeys, the last of Evelyn’s pets, escaped from a bar. Hey, it’s Florida.

Frederic built Evelyn the charming Bamboo Bar and Shell Museum as a birthday present. Most men won’t even fetch their wives a drink, but Evelyn had a custom-built bar. Evelyn drank exotic Rangpur lime cocktails, madeBonnet House Bamboo Bar from maple syrup, rum, and Rangpur limes she grew in the gardens. Considering how long she lived, her Rangpur lime cocktails were health drinks.

Bonnet2Vibrant Bonnet House seemed the perfect place to start Helen’s fifteenth adventure. Helen and Margery are touring the mansion-turned-museum when they see Annabel Lee Griffin, a young, talented artist, at a museum painting class. Later, they also see Annabel’s deadly end. Helen is hired to investigate her death. Was Annabel killed by her jealous husband? Her best friend? A lover from her bohemian past? Helen has her own brush with death as she searches for this artful killer.bonnet_house3

Next time you’re in Fort Lauderdale, visit the Bonnet House museum at bonnethouse.org. It’s even prettier than these Website photos. See how Frederic and Evelyn mastered the art of living.


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Elaine Viets is the author of 29 mysteries in three series, both hard-boiled and cozy: the Dead-Endelaine headshot Job mysteries, the Josie Marcus Mystery Shopper mysteries, and the Francesca Vierling mysteries. She has won the Anthony, Agatha and Lefty Awards.

Follow her at www.elaineviets.com, ElaineVietsMysteryWriter on Facebook and @evmysterywriter. 



Guest Blogger Lois Winston – Jersey and Mystery, Perfect Together (click for comments)

Jersey and Mystery, Perfect Together by Lois Winston sleuthing women 3-D.2

I’m a Jersey Girl, but for many years I denied my heritage. When asked where I was from, I would say New York. Technically, I hail from what’s called the New York Metro area, but I would conveniently omit the “Metro” part. Why? Because of all the put-downs and jokes New Jersey endures from the other forty-nine states. Ever hear anyone joke about Wyoming? Hawaii? Maryland? No, Only New Jersey has the distinction of being known as the armpit of the nation.

I left New Jersey when I was seventeen and didn’t return for nearly thirty years. That’s when I began to appreciate my home state. In less than an hour I can be in the mountains, down the shore, or in Manhattan, depending upon my mood. New Jersey has culture, sports, and cow pastures. Horse farms and high-rises. We’re home to many famous people and a few infamous ones.

It wasn’t until I was an adult that I learned New Jersey is actually the legal owner of the Statue of Liberty, but try telling that to New York. However, since New York usurped our national landmark, we took their beloved football teams. That’s right, folks, for those of you who live in other parts of the country, both the New York Giants and the New York Jets play in New Jersey.

We’re also not at all like we’ve been portrayed on The Sopranos, Jersey Shore, The Real Housewives of New Jersey, or Jerseylicious. Well, at least not a good 95% of us.

Anyway, with my new appreciation for my home state, I decided to set many of my books here, including my Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series. Not only do I use my state, but I also use actual New Jersey towns as my settings. When I read a book, I love to connect with the location. Part of the fun for me in reading the Stephanie Plum books is recognizing the places where Janet Evanovich sets her scenes. I’ve been to the Macy’s in Quaker Bridge Mall and spent many an hour stuck in traffic on Route 1.

For me, setting my stories in places I know is a no-brainer. Not only is it easier than making up a place or setting a book somewhere I’ve never been, it’s also a way of letting people know that there’s more to New Jersey than they’ve been led to believe.

Setting a book in New Jersey also gives me the opportunity to place my protagonist in diverse locations while still keeping her in or near her hometown. Many cozy mysteries take place in or around a small town in the Midwest, down South, or in New England. If the author wants to place her protagonist in a different environment, it involves the protagonist taking a trip. With a series set in New Jersey, I can have Anastasia shopping at Ikea in the morning, antiquing in Lambertville in the afternoon and at a casino in Atlantic City in the evening. At least, I could if she ever again has two nickels to rub together.

Assault With a Deadly Glue Gun is the first book in my Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series. It’s also one of the books featured in Sleuthing Women: 10 First-in-Series Mysteries, a collection of full-length mysteries featuring murder and assorted mayhem by ten critically acclaimed, award-winning, and bestselling authors. Each novel in the set is the first book in an established multi-book series—a total of over 3,000 pages of reading pleasure for lovers of amateur sleuth, caper, and cozy mysteries, with a combined total of over 1700 reviews on Amazon, averaging 4 stars. Titles include:

Assault With a Deadly Glue Gun, an Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery by Lois Winston—Working mom Anastasia is clueless about her husband’s gambling addiction until he permanently cashes in his chips and her comfortable middle-class life craps out. He leaves her with staggering debt, his communist mother, and a loan shark demanding $50,000. Then she’s accused of murder…

Murder Among Neighbors, a Kate Austen Suburban Mystery by Jonnie Jacobs — When Kate Austen’s socialite neighbor, Pepper Livingston, is murdered, Kate becomes involved in a sea of steamy secrets that bring her face to face with shocking truths—and handsome detective Michael Stone.

Skeleton in a Dead Space, a Kelly O’Connell Mystery by Judy Alter—Real estate isn’t a dangerous profession until Kelly O’Connell stumbles over a skeleton and runs into serial killers and cold-blooded murderers in a home being renovated in Fort Worth. Kelly barges through life trying to keep from angering her policeman boyfriend Mike and protect her two young daughters.

In for a Penny, a Cleopatra Jones Mystery by Maggie Toussaint—Accountant Cleo faces an unwanted hazard when her golf ball lands on a dead banker. The cops think her BFF shot him, so Cleo sets out to prove them wrong. She ventures into the dating world, wrangles her teens, adopts the victim’s dog, and tries to rein in her mom…until the killer puts a target on Cleo’s back.

The Hydrogen Murder, a Periodic Table Mystery by Camille Minichino—A retired physicist returns to her hometown of Revere, Massachusetts and moves into an apartment above her friends’ funeral home. When she signs on to help the Police Department with a science-related homicide, she doesn’t realize she may have hundreds of cases ahead of her.

Retirement Can Be Murder, A Baby Boomer Mystery by Susan Santangelo—Carol Andrews dreads her husband Jim’s upcoming retirement more than a root canal without Novocain. She can’t imagine anything worse than having an at-home husband with time on his hands and nothing to fill it—until Jim is suspected of murdering his retirement coach.

Dead Air, A Talk Radio Mystery by Mary Kennedy—Psychologist Maggie Walsh moves from NY to Florida to become the host of WYME’s On the Couch with Maggie Walsh. When her guest, New Age prophet Guru Sanjay Gingii, turns up dead, her new roommate Lark becomes the prime suspect. Maggie must prove Lark innocent while dealing with a killer who needs more than just therapy.

A Dead Red Cadillac, A Dead Red Mystery by RP Dahlke—When her vintage Cadillac is found tail-fins up in a nearby lake, the police ask aero-ag pilot Lalla Bains why an elderly widowed piano teacher is found strapped in the driver’s seat. Lalla confronts suspects, informants, cross-dressers, drug-running crop dusters, and a crazy Chihuahua on her quest to find the killer.

Murder is a Family Business, an Alvarez Family Murder Mystery by Heather Haven—Just because a man cheats on his wife and makes Danny DeVito look tall, dark and handsome, is that any reason to kill him? The reluctant and quirky PI, Lee Alvarez, has her work cut out for her when the man is murdered on her watch. Of all the nerve.

Murder, Honey, a Carol Sabala Mystery by Vinnie Hansen—When the head chef collapses into baker Carol Sabala’s cookie dough, she is thrust into her first murder investigation. Suspects abound at Archibald’s, the swanky Santa Cruz restaurant where Carol works. The head chef cut a swath of people who wanted him dead from ex-lovers to bitter rivals to greedy relatives.

Buy Links
Kindle– https://www.amazon.com/Sleuthing-Women-First-Mysteries-ebook/dp/B01E7EEJLA/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&ref_=as_li_ss_tl&ref_=nav_ya_signin&ref_=pe_2427780_160035660&linkCode=ll1&tag=loiswins-20&linkId=7012336080a0b797be8d95851657c50c
Nook– http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/sleuthing-women-lois-winston/1123663544?ean=2940153179940
Kobo– https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/sleuthing-women-10-first-in-series-mysteries
iTunes– https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/sleuthing-women-10-first-in/id1103428642?mt=11

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Lois Winston
Lois Winston

USA Today bestselling and award-winning author Lois Winston writes mystery, romance, romantic
suspense, chick lit, women’s fiction, children’s chapter books, and nonfiction under her own name and her Emma Carlyle pen name. Kirkus Reviews dubbed her critically acclaimed Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series, “North Jersey’s more mature answer to Stephanie Plum.” In addition, Lois is an award-winning craft and needlework designer who often draws much of her source material for both her characters and plots from her experiences in the crafts industry. Visit Lois/Emma at http://www.loiswinston.com and Anastasia at the Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers blog, www.anastasiapollack.blogspot.com. Follow her on Pinterest at www.pinterest.com/anasleuth, and onTwitter at https://twitter.com/Anasleuth. Sign up for her newsletter at https://www.MyAuthorBiz.com/ENewsletter.php?acct=LW2467152513

Guest Blogger Heather Weidner: How Much of Your Fiction is True?

HeatherHow Much of Your Fiction is True? by Heather Weidner

Recently, I was asked if any of my mysteries are based on real events or contained real people. I do mix in some real life in my short stories and novels. All of my city settings are actual places. I tend to set my works in Virginia locales. If a crime occurs, I make up that location’s name. I wouldn’t put a horrific event at a real restaurant or store. But if you’ve been to the cities, you’ll recognize landmarks and street names.

Sometimes, I get ideas for crimes and capers from real cases, but I usually take liberties with the details. In my short story, “Washed up,” (Virginia is for Mysteries 2014) a beat up suitcase washes up on Chick’s Beach, and it’s filled with some mysterious contents. Back in the ‘80s, there was a real case where suitcases filled with body parts did wash up on beaches along the East Coast. In my story, I thought it would be interesting for beachgoers to find something old and sinister in an unexpected place.

For some of my characters, I blend characteristics of several real people to make a fictional person. And phrases that family and friends say frequently appear in my stories. I have two co-workers who keep asking me to make them villains. I haven’t done that yet, but I do hint from time to time that unruly team members will end up in a dumpster in a future story.

I carry a notebook with me wherever I go and always jot down names and interestingsecret lives private eyes cover tidbits that might one day make their way to a story. I use friends and family member’s names for minor characters. In Secret Lives and Private Eyes (June 2016), my sleuth, Delanie Fitzgerald, gives herself all kinds of aliases during her investigations. These are usually names of friends and family. And every once in a while, you’ll find police, EMTs, or FBI agents named after my favorite authors, rock stars, or actors. Delanie Fitzgerald is named for F. Scott Fitzgerald, and her company, Falcon Investigations, is in honor of Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon.

I did have an odd author moment when a woman with the same name as one of my main characters followed me on Twitter. It was a fun surprise.

Even though mysteries are fiction, a great deal of research goes into the project to get the details right and to make it plausible. And surprisingly, there can be quite a lot of truth in fiction.

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Heather Weidner’s short stories appear in Virginia is for Mysteries and Virginia is for Mysteries Volume II. Currently, she is President of Sisters in Crime – Central Virginia, and a member of Guppies and Lethal Ladies Write. Secret Lives and Private Eyes is her debut novel.

Originally from Virginia Beach, Heather has been a mystery fan since Scooby Doo and Nancy Drew. She lives in Central Virginia with her husband and a pair of Jack Russell terriers.

Follow Heather at www.heatherweidner.com and on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Goodreads.

Secret Lives and Private Eyes Synopsis
Business has been slow for Private Investigator, Delanie Fitzgerald, but her luck seems to change when a tell-all author hires her to find rock star, Johnny Velvet. Could the singer whose career purportedly ended in a fiery crash almost thirty years ago, still be alive?
And as though sifting through dead ends in a cold case isn’t bad enough, Chaz Wellington Smith, III, a loud-mouthed, strip club owner, also hires Delanie to uncover information about the mayor’s secret life. When the mayor is murdered, Chaz, is the key suspect. Now Delanie must clear his name and figure out why landscaper Tripp Payne, keeps popping up in her other investigation. Can the private investigator find the connection between the two cases before another murder – possibly her own – takes place?
Secret Lives and Private Eyes (June 2016) is a fast-paced mystery that will appeal to readers who like a strong, female sleuth with a knack for getting herself in and out of humorous situations.