Saturday, April 19, 2014

When Murder’s On Your Mind

by Patricia Smith Wood                                                                                                                                  

Solving murder does not normally occupy the thoughts of teen-age girls. But when I became enthralled with Margaret Sutton's Judy Bolton mystery series at age 14, I decided that's what I wanted to do. I didn't know if I wanted to do it as a real-life detective, or as a mystery writers.

About that same time I first heard about the unsolved murder of Cricket Coogler in Las Cruces, New Mexico in 1949. She was an eighteen-year old waitress, in that small town where illegal gambling was rampant. Politicians at the state level as well as local players were involved, and soon, so was Cricket. It would be many years before it occurred to me to use this unfortunate girl’s death to write my own mystery novel.

When you are introduced to a concept at least three times, it usually means you should take notice. That’s what happened with the case of Cricket Coogler. My father, an FBI agent assigned to the Albuquerque office, was the first person to share the story with me. He was interested in the mystery of her murder, and told me the bare facts of the case. Over the years, it came up often in conversations.

The second person to ply me with tales of the case, and supply information about the players involved, was a friend I met in the 70s. He was a newspaper reporter for the local Las Cruces paper shortly after the murder. As a writer and an actor, he believed the case was worthy of developing into a book or a play.

The third person was a dear friend who grew up in Las Cruces, and knew Cricket Coogler. She supplied a sense of who the girl was and how she ended up dying at such a tender age. By now, it was beginning to penetrate my brain that I should use this true event to create a fictional version and solve the mystery.

Thankfully, I had the presence of mind to interview each of these people and record them.  Later I transferred the tapes to CDs and they remain in my research files. All three people have since passed away, but their words live on.

The final piece of the puzzle came when I discovered The Silence of Cricket Coogler, a documentary about the murder. It contained an interview with mystery writer and former New Mexico newspaper reporter Tony Hillerman. I drove to Santa Fe to see the film and bought a copy of it afterward.  The Hillerman interview revealed more details and confirmation of the individuals that many people suspected had been involved in the murder.

At last I had enough to begin writing, and I spent the next few years creating the characters and the framework to tell the story. I thought I was finished in 2008, but it wasn’t long before I realized that editing would be my next challenge. It took 21 edits before it was really ready to shop around. Then in September 2012, the magic happened. I had submitted The Easter Egg Murder to publisher Aakenbaaken & Kent, and they emailed to say if the manuscript was still available, they wanted to offer me a contract.

If it was still available? Of COURSE it was still available. I almost broke a finger in my haste typing back: “YES!”

Another edit came from the publisher, but the story was at last in print on February 14, 2013. The book was named a Finalist in the 2013 NM/AZ Book Awards in two categories. I think my three dear sources would be very proud.

The Easter Egg Murder features Harrie McKinsey and her best friend and business partner Ginger Vaughn. They discover that some secrets are best left buried when retired Senator Philip Lawrence hires their editing firm to assist him with a book about the famous unsolved 1950 murder of a cocktail waitress that led to the end of illegal gambling clubs in New Mexico half a century earlier. When the Albuquerque newspaper announces that Senator Lawrence is writing the book, one person with a connection to the case is murdered and another narrowly escapes death. Despite the best efforts of Ginger’s husband and an FBI agent Harrie finds infuriatingly attractive, the energetic pair cannot resist trying to discover who is so anxious to destroy the book, the Senator, and his big secret. But will their proficiency and ill-conceived bravado be up to the challenge when they land in a dark house, with a cold, calculating killer who has nothing else to lose?

I’m offering a free copy of the book to someone who comments on this post. My web site is at:, and my blog is at: .


My father, first as a police officer, and later as a career FBI agent, sparked my own interest in law, solving crime, and mystery.
After retiring from a varied and successful business career (including eighteen months working at the FBI, being a security officer at a savings & loan, and owning my own computer business) I attended writing seminars, conferences, and in 2009 graduated from the FBI Citizens’ Academy. Aakenbaaken &; Kent published my first mystery, The Easter Egg Murder, on February 14, 2013. Murder for Breakfast, the second in the series, is underway. 

Saturday, April 12, 2014

The Impersonator by Mary Miley

After thirty-five years writing nonfiction books and magazine articles, most on history, travel, and business topics, I decided to step across the aisle into the world of fiction. It had to be historical fiction, because as a historian, I find the past pulls me far more than the present or the future. And the mystery genre has long been my favorite to read. So I wrote a mystery, got an agent, and . . . it didn't sell. So I wrote another, learned that agents can fire authors (she didn't care for my second attempt), got another agent, submitted the manuscript to the national Mystery Writers of America contest for Best First Crime Novel, and won. Winning meant St. Martin's Minotaur would publish THE IMPERSONATOR--a thrill for me because, in my opinion, St. Martin's is the nation's premiere mystery publishing house. They liked my series proposal and contracted for the second book, SILENT MURDERS, which comes out in September. I'm putting the finishing touches on the third and am nearly finished with the fourth--there's a long pipeline in publishing, and I hate crowding up against deadlines.

Having spent most of my teaching and writing career in the colonial period, I was delighted to break into the Roaring Twenties, easily the most fascinating decade in American history. I love digging into the details, doing the research that will make the reader feel as if he or she truly has stepped back into those times. No other decade offers a mystery writer such an array of violence, mayhem, and truly weird characters--remember, this is the start of organized crime and the height of the Ku Klux Klan. Prohibition defined the era, turning most Americans into lawbreakers. Women's lives changed more during the Twenties than any other time. Young women, known as flappers, shocked the male establishment when they cast off their corsets, flattened their chests, raised their hems, bobbed their hair, put on makeup, and went unchaperoned to illegal speakeasies where they could slurp bathtub gin, smoke cigarettes, and dance the Charleston to that shocking new music called jazz. It was also the height of vaudeville--the setting for THE IMPERSONATOR--and the height of silent movies--the setting for SILENT MURDERS. 

One feature that pulled me into the Twenties was the vaudeville culture. This was a virulently racist and sexist time, when discrimination against Jews, Catholics, gays, African-Americans, Irish, Asians, women, and all immigrants was taken for granted. Because vaudeville was disproportionately made up of those groups, it was perhaps the only place in America where people were generally judged on their abilities. Giving Jessie, my main character, a vaudeville background was a way to make her realistically unprejudiced and independent.

THE IMPERSONATOR is the story of a young vaudeville performer who occasionally finds herself on the wrong side of the law. One night after the show, a stranger makes her a proposition, and not the sort she was expecting. But desperation drives her to accept his offer: a major role in his inheritance scam, impersonating a long- lost heiress for a cut of the fortune. The charade convinces everyone容xcept the one person who knows what really happened to the heiress and now must kill the impostor. With help from a handsome bootlegger, a mysterious Chinese herbalist, and a Small Time comedian, Jessie deduces the identity of the murderer. But it's a stand-off exposure of either destroys them both. 

I'm an Army brat who has lived in Virginia most of my adult life. I received my BA and MA in history from the College of William and Mary, worked at Colonial Williamsburg, and taught American history and museum studies at Virginia Commonwealth University. I am the author of 200 magazine articles and of ten nonfiction books. When I'm not writing or researching my next book, I'm reading, traveling, or playing the pipe organ with all the stops out. 

Saturday, April 5, 2014

The Intricacies of Publishing by Marianna Heusler

I’ve been writing for twenty years and during that time publishing has changed dramatically.

The old way to get published was to somehow entice an agent to love your manuscript and then hope that the agent would entice a publisher to like your manuscript and then pray that the publisher could entice a reader to buy your manuscript.

And, while all of this was happening, the writer held her breath and waited.

Thankfully, independent presses began to crop up, which gave writers another vehicle. They were easier to deal with, some of them eliminated the extra step of finding an agent, and they were able to release your book and even help you a bit with promotion.

But alas, my first independent publishing company went bankrupt at the same time my book was nominated for an Edgar. And even now, the independent publishing houses who are left are struggling to make ends meet as self-publishing is knocking down the doors.

And here is the thing – there are self-published writers who swear that they are making more money now then they could ever make writing for a traditional publisher. Writers brag that they clear several thousand dollars a month as readers happily download their books and the author, who sets the price, can keep up to seventy-five percent of the profits.

Publishing on Amazon is not hard to do, not really. And if you’re smart you’ll hire an editor to catch all those typos, then someone to draw an eye-catching cover, and lastly someone to do the formatting for you, which can be tricky. So be prepared to spend money, although there are authors who feel they will make up the difference soon enough.

The problem is that there is so much product out there, it’s hard to tell a great book from a mediocre one from a really, really bad one.  I once asked my third grade class what they thought the hardest part of being a writer was. I got the usual answers, thinking of a story, making it interesting, getting it published, when one bright girl merely said, “No one knows that your book exists.”

This was so apparent when J.K. Rowling wrote her mystery, The Cuckoo’s Calling and published it under an alias. While the reviews were excellent, the sales were dismal. Until the news broke, and identified the real author, and then, of course, it sold.

But the question is – what is the best way to reach your target audience? Social media helps, of course, Facebook, Pinterest, - personal blogs, etc. I can’t help but think, though, of something Mark Cuban (the billionaire on Shark Tank) once said, “If 10,000 people are doing the same thing, why would you want to be 10,001? There is just no good reason.”

He also discussed the importance of going where your audience is, instead of trying to think of ways for your audience to find you.

This worked well when I was writing young adult novels. I would line up school visits and then do a mini-mystery writing workshops, donating a copy of my book to the school library. I remember one day when I walked into an auditorium and the entire seventh grade (about fifty kids) had a copy of my book.  (The teacher made the classes read it.) I was ecstatic. Where else can you sell fifty books in an hour?

Of course, kids are always in one place at one time, and that is school, so that makes them easy to find. Not so true of adults.

I’ve read many articles on what doesn’t sell books, but no one is quite sure what does.

What I know for sure is: 

If you want to do well as a writer (whatever that means for you) you need to figure out what you do best and stick to it. If you’re great at writing mysteries, don’t switch to romances because you think they will sell better. You won’t be able to compete with those authors who have been reading romances for years. If you write adult horror, don’t decide to write for the YA market, when you know nothing about it, and have no experience with that age group.

Your book not only has to be well written, it has to be better than what is already out there and in some ways different. (So you really have to spend time scouting out your competition. You won’t have any way to know if what you do is good, if you don’t know what is best.)

Then use what is different and unique about your book. We’re creative people, that’s what we do. So use that creativity to go where interested readers may lurk.

There is saying I am quite fond of:  “For every locked door there is a key that will open it.”

I challenge you to find that key.


Marianna Heusler has published eight novels and a hundred short stories. Her novels have been nominated for an Edgar and a Claymore Award. She lives in New York City where she teaches at a private girls' school.

You can learn more about the author at the following sites:

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Musical Inspiration

by Julie Anne Lindsey

As a writer, my imagination is always in overdrive. I people-watch and eavesdrop and ask stranger questions in line at the checkout. I can’t help myself. People are so interesting. Why do we do the things we do? I want to know! I got a degree in psychology hoping to find out. It didn’t help. Instead I learned people are strange. We’re each unique and our perspectives skew our behavior. What makes me cry makes a psychopath laugh and a sociopath feel nothing. That’s crazy-interesting, right?

When I set out to write my first cozy mystery a few years ago, I was surprised at my source of inspiration. A love song. By Katy Perry. How a love song inspired a mystery is as strange as anything else that motivates us. I’ll never understand it, but I am thankful. The song titled The One That Got Away changed my writer-life. If you aren’t familiar, the lyrics follows the lament of a girl who lost the man of her dreams, her soul mate, because she let him get away. Given the chance, she’d have held on tighter, but she didn’t and he’s gone. Typical. Yes, but something about the music, her voice, the tone…got my mental wheels turning.

My brain twisted the love song into questions: What if he broke her heart when he left her and they met again ten years later? Would she hold a grudge or run back into his arms? What if he’s on the lam for murder and she’s in a position to help him? What about then? What if she holds a grudge? Suddenly the story was taking shape in my head. I empathized with the grudge-holding and the heart-breaking. Who hasn’t had their heart broken? I certainly have. I’m more passive then my heroine, so it was fun to watch her struggle with the choices and emotions. The history she shared with her ex made her want to help clear his name. The fact he broke her teenage-heart made her want to smash an ice cream in his nose. Ah, what’s a girl to do?

The questions were so much fun I had to complicate it further. What if her current crush and FBI Special Agent came to help out with her investigation? What if she’s harboring a fugitive ex-boyfriend and hiding a romantic interest in the agent. *wrings hands* Her ex would surely see right through her. What would he think of her new love interest? Jealousy? Relief? A combination, I think. So, he waffles between tempting her and taunting her. Given the heroine’s high-strung Type-A personality, she’s stressed to the max and in desperate need of solving the case before she kills her ex or her agent crush finds him. See? Interesting! What would I do? What would you do? I bet all that pressure makes her impetuous and that’s not good when you’re searching for a killer. Needless to say, she gets herself into some sticky situations. That are hilarious.

I can’t thank Kay Perry enough for writing the song that started my series. I’ve never enjoyed writing anything as much as writing this series. I wish the stories could go on forever, but I guess I need to focus on the now. And right now, I’m celebrating the release of book two in my series.
If you’re looking for a fun new mystery series, I hope you’ll consider Murder Comes Ashore. You’ll find mystery, chemistry and fun. Plus, who doesn’t need an island get away?

Murder Comes Ashore

Patience Price is just settling into her new life as resident counselor on Chincoteague Island when things take a sudden turn for the worse. A collection of body parts have washed up on shore and suddenly nothing feels safe on the quaint island.

Patience instinctively turns to current crush and FBI special agent Sebastian for help, but former flame Adrian is also on the case, hoping that solving the grisly crime will land him a win in the upcoming mayoral election.
When the body count rises and Patience's parents are brought in as suspects, Patience is spurred to begin her own investigation. It's not long before she starts receiving terrifying threats from the killer, and though she's determined to clear her family's name, it seems the closer Patience gets to finding answers, the closer she comes to being the killer's next victim.

The book is available at Amazon  and  Barnes and Noble      

About Julie:

Julie Anne Lindsey is a multi-genre author who writes the stories that keep her up at night. She’s a self-proclaimed nerd with a penchant for words and proclivity for fun. Julie lives in rural Ohio with her husband and three small children. Today, she hopes to make someone smile. One day she plans to change the world.
Murder Comes Ashore is a sequel in her new mystery series, Patience Price, Counselor at Large, from Carina Press.  

Learn About Julie at:

Saturday, March 22, 2014

A Burning Desire

by J. R. Lindermuth

Though murders sometimes occur without apparent motivation in real life, readers of mysteries seem to prefer a motive for the crime.

The murders in previous books in my Sticks Hetrick series have resulted from the characters participation in other crimes. These have included the stealing of rare books, an insurance scheme involving race horses, theft of antiques from the Amish, identity theft and embezzlement.

This time I’ve chosen arson as the trigger, though the actual murder is only indirectly connected to that crime and the killer has his own motivation.

Ideas for novels come to writers from a variety of sources. In this particular case I’d been reading newspaper reports about some volunteer firemen who began torching properties to augment the number of fires to which they were called out. It sounds perverse but, based on my experience as a newspaper reporter, I can assure you this wasn’t a unique case. This has happened more than once.

But what initially sparked my interest in this case was a report of one of the firebugs having a play list of music to inspire his activities. I began inventing a pyromaniac who emulated this behavior. I had my son (more of a pop music fan than me) assist me in compiling a list of fire-related songs to motivate my character.

FBI statistics reveal arson increased 3.2 percent over the previous year in the first six months of 2012. That figure showed little or no change in 2013. This was a higher percentage than recorded for other serious crimes such as robbery, aggravated assault and larceny-theft.

The Internet makes researching for background on such a topic comparatively easy. I also had sources from my newspaper background, including police and fire marshals.

Daniel ‘Sticks’ Hetrick, my protagonist, is a retired small-town police chief who has also served with the Pennsylvania State Police. In the previous novels, he served as an unofficial consultant to his less experienced successor as police chief. I’ve now given him a new job as a county detective. This allows him to move back and forth in two jurisdictions.

Though Sticks is the main character, I’ve built an ensemble cast in the previous books and they’ve become popular with readers. These include Chief Aaron Brubaker, Hetrick’s protégés Officer Flora Vastine and her beau, Cpl. Harry Minnich, other members of the police department, the owner and wait-staff of a local diner and even a (somewhat) reformed thief and pool-shark.

The stories generally take place in the vicinity of Swatara Creek, a fictional rural community near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

The plot of A Burning Desire opens with residents shaken by an outbreak of arson. At first the minor fires seem to be pranks, perhaps the work of juveniles. But when a murder occurs at the scene of a fire, the situation becomes more serious. As they investigate, troubling, dangerous people from their pasts put both Hetrick and Flora in increasing jeopardy. The author of 13 novels and a non-fiction history, J. R. Lindermuth is a retired newspaper editor and currently serves as librarian of his county historical society where he assists patrons with genealogy and research. His short stories and articles have been published in a variety of magazines. He is a member of International Thriller Writers, EPIC and the Short Mystery Society. His two children and four grandsons do their best to keep him busy and out of trouble. When not writing, reading or occupied with family he likes to walk, draw, listen to music and learn something new everyday.

Though Sticks is the main character, I’ve built an ensemble cast in the previous books and they’ve become popular with readers. These include Chief Aaron Brubaker, Hetrick’s protégés Officer Flora Vastine and her beau, Cpl. Harry Minnich, other members of the police department, the owner and wait-staff of a local diner and even a (somewhat) reformed thief and pool-shark.

The stories generally take place in the vicinity of Swatara Creek, a fictional rural community near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

The plot of A Burning Desire opens with residents shaken by an outbreak of arson. At first the minor fires seem to be pranks, perhaps the work of juveniles. But when a murder occurs at the scene of a fire, the situation becomes more serious. As they investigate, troubling, dangerous people from their pasts put both Hetrick and Flora in increasing jeopardy


The author of 13 novels and a non-fiction history, J. R. Lindermuth is a retired newspaper editor and currently serves as librarian of his county historical society where he assists patrons with genealogy and research. His short stories and articles have been published in a variety of magazines. He is a member of International Thriller Writers, EPIC and the Short Mystery Society. His two children and four grandsons do their best to keep him busy and out of trouble. When not writing, reading or occupied with family he likes to walk, draw, listen to music and learn something new everyday.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Gray Ghost Lives Again . . .

by C.L. Swinney

Well, I’m super excited to announce the re-release of Gray Ghost.  It originally came out in July of 2013 and eventually landed on the Amazon best sellers lists for Mystery and Crime fiction in paperback and Kindle.  Sounds great doesn’t it?  Well, it almost was.  Right about the time I was sitting on cloud nine and finishing up book two in the series, Collectors, I logged onto Amazon and noticed my book had been pulled from publication…ouch.

This was unexpected, and obviously caused me some serious grief.  Later I was informed the contract for Gray Ghost with my original publisher was terminated, and the second book contract that had been previously offered was also taken away.  So, that was weird.  But, instead of being a glass half empty guy, I chose to go the half full route.  I’ve got plenty to talk about for my situation, but I’m professional enough NOT to do it here or anywhere else.  Friends and family know what happened, and that’s as far as it needs to go.

So, let’s focus on the re-release of Gray Ghost.  I was able to take all the input of readers, fans, and critics, and re-shape the book.  I did this very carefully, however, because I didn’t want to make changes that would affect how previous readers interpreted the original version (almost 50 five star reviews so I didn’t want to ruin the “mojo”).  I added more scenes, answered a few questions, and threw in a couple more twists.  I was also able to fix four grammar and spelling errors that were missed in the first release.  One of the coolest things we did was change the cover, which your blog will be the first reveal of, and the book will come out in hard cover.  Yeah!!

The characters I create are based on people I’ve worked with, interviewed, arrested, or investigated over the last fourteen years in law enforcement.  I’m a narcotics and homicide detective, so I’ve seen quite a bit of interesting things in my career.  I bring these stories to my novels, while infusing exotic locations and the outdoors.  My style is crisp and short.  I write in a format known as inverted, which means the reader learns fairly quickly who the bad guy is, but the characters do not.  As an added feature, I force the characters to ask the bad guy for help.  It forces the reader to be uncomfortable, worried, and nervous at the same time.  The two main protagonists, Detective Bill Dix and Steve Petersen, are experienced and quirky with certain mannerisms readers find irresistible. 

The inspiration for Gray Ghost came from two significant events in my life, fly fishing on Andros Island in the Bahamas, and the passing of my mentor and fellow detective, Koti Fakava.  In a nutshell, as I made the approach to Andros I noticed several downed planes and began asking the locals about them.  Before I knew it, they were describing the entire narcotics pipeline throughout the Bahamas and East Coast.  From there, I interviewed folks, researched narco-trafficking along the East Coast, and drew on my own experiences as an investigator to write Gray Ghost.  I sat on the book for awhile until I was further inspired to do something for Koti’s family after he unexpectedly passed away.  He left his wonderful wife and five amazing kids behind.  I decided I would try to get published and eventually write a second novel that would feature Koti as a character.  Then, I decided to donate the proceeds from book sales to his family.  I’m happy to say I finished the second novel, Collectors, and it should be out mid-2014.  It’s certainly a dream of mine to provide excellent reading to the readers of mystery and crime fiction, as well as hopefully donate to the Fakava Family.  If nothing else, Koti will be memorialized in a novel, and that’s pretty cool too.

Gray Ghost plot summary:

While on a fly fishing vacation to Andros Island in the Bahamas, narcotics detectives Dix and Petersen learn their fishing guides were killed when a sudden blast of gunfire fractured their speedboat, Gray Ghost.  Local gossip has it that Gray Ghost went to the ocean floor with a hundred million dollars worth of cocaine neatly tucked in the hull.  Against their better judgment, Dix and Petersen are drawn into helping their island friends.  Leads are chased down in Miami and the Bahamas while a carefully planned trap is set for a man known only as, “The Caller.”  The Caller stays one step ahead of the struggling detectives, while Dix and Petersen learn local law enforcement may be working for the Caller.  Dix and Petersen get back to their investigative roots and unearth a mole...then the trouble really starts.

Chris Swinney was born in 1975 and graduated college and began career in law enforcement. Today he's a homicide and narcotics detective in the San Francisco Bay Area.He's recognized as an expert in several fields and is invited to give presentations throughout the United States on topics such as cell phone forensics, clandestine labs, and complex narcotics
investigations. His first writing was published in Fly Fisherman Magazine. His first novel, Gray Ghost, was published in July of 2013. The second in the Bill Dix series, Collectors, will come out sometime mid 2014.  Chris is a big time supporter of Teachers, American Troops, and Juvenile Diabetes Research.

You can learn more about Chris Swimney at the following sites:

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Tearooms, B&Bs—An Escape Through Writing

by Judy Alter

I’ve stayed in a few B&Bs where I was downright uncomfortable—shared bathroom, no place to sit in the bedroom, not enough lighting to read in bed at night. But I’ve also stayed in ones I really liked—a series of them across Scotland, and several in Texas. I remember one where we ate a sumptuous breakfast in a solarium and another in Scotland where I got brave and tried blood pudding.

But probably my favorite B&B was Arc Ridge Ranch in East Texas where good friends had three two-bedroom cottages with fully equipped kitchens and all the comforts of home. The hostess stocked the refrigerator with coffee and the necessary accoutrements, along with a loaf of her famous prune bread (no, you can’t have the recipe!). After that, you were on your own for groceries. We used to go with the owners for Saturday night supper at a café in a nearby town.

That café became the setting for Murder at the Blue Plate Café, and I’m sure the ranch is one reason I worked a B&B into the books. When twins Kate and Donna inherit their grandmother’s café, Kate elects to run the small restaurant but Donna is determined to have an upscale B&B. She buys a house her husband assures her they can’t afford and decorates it lavishly. The B&B is pivotal in the second mystery in the series—Murder at the Tremont House.

First Donna decides to serve gourmet suppers to her guests, instead of letting them slip away to Kate’s Blue Plate Café. Her attempt at Coquille St. Jacques (better known to us as scallops in a rich cream sauce) is a disaster—Kate has to save the dish, and when Donna announces Tom, her husband, doesn’t eat fish, Kate takes it home and serves it to a beau. The gourmet dinners are replaced by a cooking school which, of course, Kate is expected to teach. Her recipes for chicken enchiladas with tomatillo sauce, chicken piccata, quail with dirty rice, Beef Wellington made easy, and other delicacies are a hit, and Kate even finds herself enjoying the classes. But then murder interrupts the cooking school and it finishes with a whimper and not a bang. And a second murder almost forces Kate into seclusion for her own safety.

But there was another reason I wrote a B&B into the series. Just as I’ve always wanted to run a small tearoom lunch place, I’ve been lured by the idea of a B&B. Oh, not here in Fort Worth but someplace scenic—maybe parts of East Texas or the Hill Country or, my favorite city, Santa Fe. In my zeal to run a small café with tuna-stuffed avocados and crab-and-avocado-salad, and soup with finger sandwiches, I overlooked the failure rate of new restaurants. A stint of several years working one night a week in friends’ restaurant also convinced me what hard work a restaurant is.

Similarly I overlooked the hard work of running a B&B. I loved the part about welcoming guests, getting to know new people (my friends met people from all over the world), and serving lovely gourmet meals, but I swept aside the fresh bed linens every day (me, who hates making beds more than any other household chore), the enormous amount of laundry, the constant battle to keep the house spic and span, the need for bookkeeping and marketing, and all the business details. I’m afraid I was like Donna—seeing only the parts I wanted to see, while Kate saw the whole picture clearly.

So, no, I won’t be opening that tearoom (though I’ll make you some terrific tuna salad) and I won’t be running that B&B. I’ll keep on writing novels as a way to work out my dreams in fantasy.


When free-lance journalist Sara Jo Cavanaugh comes to Wheeler to do an in-depth study of Kate’s town for a feature on small-town America, Kate senses she will be trouble. Sara Jo stays at the B&B, Tremont House, run by Kate’s sister, Donna, and unwittingly drives a further wedge into Donna’s troubled marriage to Wheeler’s mayor Tom Bryson. And soon she’s spending way too much time interviewing high school students, one young athlete in particular. Police chief Rick Samuels ignores Kate’s instinct, but lawyer David Clinkscales, her former boss from Dallas, takes it more seriously.

Sara Jo arouses animosity in Wheeler with the personal, intrusive questions she asks, and when she is found murdered, the list of suspects is long. But Kate heads the list, and she must clear her name, with the help of David and Rick. A second murder confirms that someone is desperate, and now Rick is convinced Kate is in danger.

There’s a love triangle, a cooking school, a kidnapping, a broken marriage, and a lot of adventure before the threads of this mystery are untangled, and Wheeler can go back to being a peaceful small town. If it ever does.

Recipes included.


Murder at Tremont House is the second Blue Plate Mystery from award-winning novelist Judy Alter, following the successful Murder at the Blue Plate Café. Judy is also the author of four books in the Kelly O’Connell Mysteries series: Skeleton in a Dead Space, No Neighborhood for Old Women, Trouble in a Big Box, and Danger Comes Home. With the Blue Plate Murder series, she moves from inner city Fort Worth to small-town East Texas to create a new set of characters in a setting modeled after a restaurant that was for years one of her family’s favorites.

Follow Judy at or her two blogs at or Or look for her on Facebook at!/pages/Judy-Alter-Author/366948676705857?fref=ts or on Twitter where she is @judyalter.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Duffy Brown's Consignment Murder Series

Duffy Brown loves anything with a mystery. While others girls dreamed of dating Brad Pitt, Duffy longed to take Sherlock Holmes to the prom. She has two cats, Spooky and Dr. Watson, her license plate is Sherlock and she conjures up who-done-it stories of her very own for Berkley Prime Crime. Duffy’s national bestselling Consignment Shop Mystery series is set in Savannah and the Cyclepath Mysteries are set on Mackinac Island. Duffy writes romance as Dianne Castell and is a USA Today bestselling author.

Murder and Mayhem for Fun and Profit! I always wanted this as my tag line but then got published in romance and it just didn’t work. Then after ten years in romance I took the plunge into mystery and get to live my dream.

     So what do Iced Chiffon, Killer in Crinolines, and Pearls in Poison have in common? A consignment shop set in Savannah. I followed the old adage of write what you know as I adore Savannah and I work in a consignment shop! Yep, that’s me behind the counter oohing and aawing over your latest find and wishing I’d seen it first. When I took the leap into the mystery world I did it with a series titled Consignment: Murder.

     Consignment shopping is the fun of wearing designer clothes on the cheap. I could never afford a Coach handbag or an Armani jacket but I do love the expensive look and the feel of quality. Most of all I love bragging to my friends how much I paid for them. The conversation goes something like, “Oh, I just love your Kate Spade purse.” And my reply is, “I got it at the Snoot for forty bucks!” instead of the usual three-hundred and fifty!

     For years I shopped consignment stores than decided I needed to work at the Snooty Fox since I was there all the time looking for deals. My kids were some of the best-dressed on campus and I did it for K-Mart prices. I swear my husband got his last raise because he always looked nice.

     Don’t you love the name Snooty Fox! The Snoot is an upscale consignment shop meaning we are not Goodwill or St. Vincent DePaul. Not that there is one thing wrong with shopping these places but the Snoot only takes clothes within a two year style period and they must be cleaned and pressed.

     How many times have you bought something, wore it once, decided it wasn’t your color or didn’t fit the way you liked and you were stuck with it? Well, that’s where the Snoot comes in. You can sell your green plaid jacket that you just had to have but then decided you hated at the Snoot because there is a customer out there who will love that jacket. You won’t get what you paid for the jacket but it beats hanging in the back of your closet taking up space.

     The best part of the Snoot—even more than the great selection of clothes—is the people I work with. Being a writer I spend a lot of time behind a computer and working at the Snoot gets me into the real world. The customers and gals I work with are the best. Let me tell you, you can’t get a knockoff bag past them and they know a real fur from faux in a blink of an eye.

     Consignment shopping is a lot like solving a mystery. It’s all about the hunt for the perfect scarf, skirt or shoes. I think that’s why mystery and the Consignment: Murder series seemed like a perfect fit. Putting two of the things I like most together in a mystery series is a blast. I get to write about murder and mayhem for fun and profit and I get to find great deals on clothes and look good for next to nothing. Come visit me at the Snooty Fox and I’ll show you around. I know there’s a cute little Louis Vuitton bag out there with your name on it!


Duffy Brown loves anything with a mystery. While others girls dreamed of dating Brad Pitt, Duffy longed to take Sherlock Holmes to the prom. She has two cats, Spooky and Dr. Watson, her license plate is Sherlock and she conjures up who-done-it stories of her very own for Berkley Prime Crime. Duffy’s national bestselling Consignment Shop Mystery series is set in Savannah and the Cyclepath Mysteries are set on Mackinac Island. Duffy writes romance as Dianne Castell and is a USA Today bestselling author.

You can learn more about Duffy Brown at

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Friday, February 21, 2014

A Look at the Creation of A Ton of Gold

by James R. Callan

For some time, I had wanted to include in a novel something on information retrieval. I had done some research in that area while working on my dissertation. I thought it could be interesting to have that play a role in a mystery. Then, I read an old Texas folk tale about a wagon load of precious metal being pushed into a lake to hide it from the pursuing Mexican army.  It was never recovered.

These two ideas wandered around in my mind for months. Ultimately they collided, and the germ for A Ton of Gold was formed.  How could a long forgotten folk tale affect the lives of people today? 

I chose a heroine, Crystal Moore, who lost both her parents when she was seven years old and was raised by her grandparents. With her grandfather now dead, her only living relative was the grandmother, Eula Moore, who raised her.  When Eula is attacked, Crystal must come to her defense.

To complicate matters, Crystal had been emotionally brutalized in graduate school and, though brilliant in information retrieval, she has no self-confidence. Just the mention of the man’s name causes Crystal to crumble.

I gave Crystal a housemate, Brandi, who barely made it out of high school. Clearly these two are opposites. But Brandi is very streetwise, and often it is Brandi who teaches Crystal about life. 

Eula is a feisty, seventy-four year old who is not intimidated by anyone or anything. For a slight romantic interest, I introduced a former bull rider, who is now president of the information retrieval company in Dallas where Crystal works.  And of course, the powerful man who had damaged Crystal in the past is coming back.  This time, he can destroy her career.

With this basic cast, the story took shape and these characters led the way.  Eula’s role increased. Brandi demanded more space and ultimately became a favorite with many readers.

The plot evolves as the old folk tale is discovered at the information retrieval company where Crystal works. Through a series of events, the story gets into the hands of the thugs.  Since it came from a computer, they believe it must be true. The treasure is waiting for them.  Through threats, they force a staff member to use the company’s powerful programs to narrow down the possible location of the lake which hides the precious metal, now believed to be a ton of gold.

As attempts are made on the Eula’s life, Crystal has no clue who or why anybody would attack an old woman who lives alone in the middle of 320 acres of forest – with a lake. Even when the motive eventually comes out, there is no clue who the thugs are. The criminals resort to murder, arson, and kidnapping in their quest for the treasure.
The former bull rider and Eula herself are instrumental in helping Crystal deal with the attacks. But when the man from Crystal’s past enters the picture, it is Brandi who can provide the help Crystal needs.

Set between Dallas and east Texas, A Ton of Gold shows the growth of Crystal as she slowly regains her self-confidence, deals with criminals who would destroy her only living relative, and with the help of Brandi, learns how to stand up to the powerful man who would destroy her.

After a successful career in mathematics and computer science, receiving grants from the National Science Foundation and NASA, and being listed in Who’s Who in Computer Science and Two Thousand Notable Americans, James R. Callan turned to his first love—writing.  He wrote a monthly column for a national magazine for two years, and published several non-fiction books.  He now concentrates on his favorite genre, mystery/suspense, with his sixth book releasing in Spring, 2014.

You can learn more about Jim Callan at the following sites:

Amazon Author page:
Twitter:  @jamesrcallan

A Ton of Gold is available at Amazon in paperback and Kindle editions:

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Too Quiet In Brooklyn by Susan Russo Anderson

A Look Into One Mystery Writer’s Haunted Mind:

My path to the writing of Too Quiet In Brooklyn is a complicated one. I’m going to make it as straightforward as possible by saying that although I’d been writing historical mysteries for many years, one day a character and her core issue entered my head. As I got to know her, I realized she lives in the now, specifically in today’s Brooklyn.

The result was the Fina Fitzgibbons mystery series beginning with Too Quiet In Brooklyn published in December 2013. Currently the second book, Missing Brandy, is undergoing edits, and I’m writing the third book in the series, Whiskey’s Gone.

For me, writing begins with characters and their issues. It begins with characters who enter my mind and who must tell their story and in the process, I hope, intrigue and please readers.

Protagonists and antagonists alike take hold of my head for some unfathomable reason. And I think there are core issues of our time that we grapple with and they create conflict and story. A person’s privacy is one of the biggest issues we face, along with the age-old search for love and belonging.

The ragged state of some people’s lives and what they do is another issue of our time. We try to understand people who are irredeemably lost, maybe because of crimes committed against them, or maybe not. We don’t comprehend why they hurt and maim uncontrollably and for no apparent reason. Ralph, for instance, is an assassin who never questions his orders. He plays a big part in the main storyline of Too Quiet In Brooklyn and although he commits great crimes and I’d never want a child of mine to meet up with him, still, there’s a big part of me trying to understand him, perhaps even grieving for him.

But the main character of this mystery series is Fina Fitzgibbons, a twenty-two year-old detective who lives with her boyfriend, Denny, in the Vinegar Hill neighborhood of Brooklyn. She mourns the loss of her mother, sometimes with an overwhelming ache. She hasn’t forgiven her father for leaving. She fears loving and losing. She’s wary of trampling on the privacy of others. She’s not perfect, not by a long shot. Sometimes she takes Denny for granted; sometimes she’s jealous of Detective First Grade Jane Templeton; sometimes she makes snap judgments. But she’s smart and she’s got that wizard thing going on. And something else about Fina—she never, ever gives up.

In Too Quiet In Brooklyn, Fina finds a throttled woman in the heart of Brooklyn Heights. She discovers that the dead woman’s young grandson, Charlie, is also missing and begins a hunt for the strangler-kidnapper, Ralph. During the chase, she resists falling in love with her boyfriend, Denny, steps on the toes of Detective First Grade Jane Templeton, and uncovers secrets about her own past. In the end, Ralph has a deadly surprise for Fina.

Susan Russo Anderson is a writer, a mother, a grandmother, a widow, a graduate of Marquette University, a member of Sisters In Crime, a member of the Historical Novel Society. She has taught language arts and creative writing, worked for a publisher, an airline, an opera company. She lived in Brooklyn for fourteen years and misses it. Like Faulkner’s Dilsey, she’s seen the best and the worst, the first and the last. Through it all, and to understand it somewhat, she writes. You can read more about her books and read her blog at You can find her books on Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Smashwords, Sony.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Like Grandmother, like Granddaughter

By Lesley A. Diehl

To say I love buying secondhand is the reason I developed the Eve Appel mystery series doesn’t tell the whole story of how I got to be a fanatic for a bargain.  Oh sure, I grew up without a lot of money and making do with used items was part of my childhood, but I believe living on the cheap is in my genes.  I inherited my passion for secondhand items from my paternal grandmother who reused bathwater to wash down the floors, re-sewed her daughter’s size 14 dresses to fit her tiny size 5 body and tied grosgrain ribbons on my aunt’s large shoes to keep them on her itty bitty size 6 feet. 

Saturdays are special in our house.  We get up early to go to yard sales.  Ah, the challenge of the hunt.  I have furnished my creek side cottage in upstate New York almost entirely with items bought at garage and yard sales or from consignment shops, so why would I not write a cozy mystery with a protagonist who runs such a shop?  And because I owe this all to my grandmother’s guidance as well as her reuse and repurpose,  shouldn’t I put her in the book too?  Well, of course I did.

Eve Appel, protagonist of the first of the Eve Appel mysteries, A Secondhand Murder, moves to rural Florida to open a high end consignment shop with her best friend Madeleine Boudreau.  The gals have a clever idea for their shop; they’ll take in designer fashions from the wealthy matrons of West Palm, those ladies whose husbands lost millions to Bernie Madoff, and sell back to other matrons at a fraction of the cost. That way the ladies will have a source of their own money as well as have the opportunity to purchase designer clothes for pennies.  Because the shop is located in the small rural community of Sabal Bay (somewhere near Lake Okeechobee), patrons save face by only running into others who have faced a similar money issue.  Everybody is happy.  Until, of course, as in all murder mysteries, a customer is found stabbed to death on the fitting room floor.

To help Eve find the killer and clear her name, her grandmother, the woman responsible for raising her from age nine when she lost her parents, enters the story bringing with her a husband who looks like Ernest Hemingway.  The two of them run a fishing charter out of Key Largo.  Grandy is a woman with taste, and she knows quality when she sees it, but she’s no blue blood from up north.  When she was younger she worked for them. Grandy knows them intimately and what she knows of the dead woman’s family is unpleasant.

Grandy and Eve will back down from nothing, not killers, not creatures crawling out of swamps, not family prestige and money threatening to ruin them.  Two peas in a pod in personality, they are a study in physical contrast.  Grandy is short, round; a sensible dresser with white fuzzy hair while Eve is tall, thin and has her dyed blonde hair punked with gel.  She favors four to five inch heels in her footwear.  No kitten heels for her.

It’s clear where Eve gets her sass and spunk.  Like me she has inherited much of it from her grandmother and the rest she learned at Grandy’s knee. Grandy hides a secret from those days working in the homes of the wealthy, one she’s willing to defend even in the face of being threatened by thugs.  Donning a black velvet warm-up suit from Eve’s shop (Grandy too loves a bargain), she finds breaking and entering provides just the excitement she loves especially when it results in a clue to the killer’s identity.  Grandy and Eve both embrace the help of a mob boss from up north in their somewhat illegal capers to track down clues to the murder.

The only thing that Grandy and Eve have disagreed about is Eve’s choice of Jerry as her husband.  Too wise to forbid Eve from marrying him, now that they’re divorcing, Grandy is quick to distrust him even when the mob boss hires him.  But like Eve, Grandy cannot simply toss Jerry away.  He’s too pathetic to operate on his own, so both Eve and Grandy find themselves helping Jerry out of jams.  This is a woman who understands how weak humans can be, so she accepts Jerry as the man he is, but never as a husband for Eve. 

Grandy, Eve, the mob boss, Jerry (a hunky PI) and a collection of cowboys are on one side and a lot of money and a killer on the other. A Secondhand Murder gives a whole new meaning to “family”.

Lesley Diehl retired from her life as a professor of psychology and reclaimed her country roots by moving to a small cottage in the Butternut River Valley in upstate New York.  In the winter she migrates to old Florida—cowboys, scrub palmetto, and open fields of grazing cattle, a place where spurs still jingle in the post office, and gators make golf a contact sport.  Back north, the shy ghost inhabiting the cottage serves as her literary muse. When not writing, she gardens, cooks and renovates the 1874 cottage with the help of her husband, two cats and, of course, Fred the ghost, who gives artistic direction to their work. She is the author of several short stories and a number of mystery series including the microbrewing series (A Deadly Draught; Poisoned Pairings), a rural Florida mystery series (Dumpster Dying; Grilled, Chilled and Killed),and her most recent, A Secondhand Murder, the first in The Eve Appel mystery series.