Saturday, July 27, 2013

Sisters Writing Mysteries Together

Vickie Britton and Loretta Jackson
Sisters, Loretta Jackson and Vickie Britton, have written more than forty books together, including the Sheriff McQuede mystery series and Ardis Cole mysteries. They've also published over a hundred magazine articles.

 Loretta, tell us about your Sheriff Jeff McQuede series. How did it come about?

Our High Country Mystery Series with Jeff McQuede features a very human sheriff, who is adept at solving crimes.  The series grew from setting.  We often travel to Wyoming where we find intriguing stories and legends. Our second book in the series, Whispers of the Stones sprang from our interest and research concerning the Pedro Mountain Mummy found in the Shirley Basin.  We had just finished our western Luck of the Draw series and wanted to change to contemporary, Wyoming mysteries. 

How do you research police procedures?

We find answers to police questions in various reference books and on websites and by talking to local law enforcement.  In addition, Vickie has taken many courses in Police Science, including forensics and crime scene management.

When did you and your sister Vickie Britton decide to collaborate?

We were both published at the time, but didn’t think of working together until we took a trip to the Yucatan and both were set on writing the same story.  We decided to try working together, and the result was Path of the Jaguar.

What happens when you disagree on which path the book should take?

Because we work from an outline and have the same goal in mind, we have little difficulty.  When we do disagree, there are lots of phone calls and e-mails until we work out the problem.

How does the writing process work? Does one of you write the first draft and the other edit?

Vickie writes one chapter and I write the next, then she edits mine and I edit hers.  When the book ends, it needs only minimum changes.

You’ve traveled extensively for research. Which country would you like to revisit and why?

We would both enjoy going back to Scotland, the site of our mystery novel, Unmarked Grave.  Scotland is a beautiful, haunting country with abundant mysteries and legends.

You also write an archaeology series. How did that come about?

In our eight-book Ardis Cole mysteries, archaeologist Ardis Cole travels the world and in each location encounters a crime she must solve.  Our trips have taken us to Egypt, the Mayan ruins, and other important sites of great interest to us.  As a result, we have written twelve books concerning archaeology and plan to do another one soon.  

Your former publisher Avalon was bought by Amazon. Was the transition difficult and did it present any problems?

Avalon Books, who published our first co-authored novel, assisted with our switch to Amazon imprints, Thomas Mercer and Encore.  Amazon, too, was equally helpful, so the transition was problem-free.

Advice for fledgling western writers.

As with advice for all fiction, start with a clear-cut outline complete with character descriptions and theme.  You must be able to see the end result even though you are free to make changes as you go along.  Writing westerns also calls for a sincere love for your setting and for the rugged character of the western settlers.

You can learn more about the sisters at their social media sites:



Friday, July 19, 2013

Susan Santangelo's Class Reunions Can Be Murder

It’s been said that the secret to a long life is to go to bed early, eat healthy, and drink in moderation. Now, I ask you, what kind of fun is that?

 More than you’d think. No kidding.

 My fourth Baby Boomer mystery, a July 2013 release, is Class Reunions Can Be Murder. Here’s the back cover blurb: Baby Boomer Carol Andrews has no interest in her upcoming fortieth high school reunion. Her memories of days at Mount Saint Francis Academy are mixed, to put it mildly. But BFF Nancy convinces her to join the reunion planning committee, so she’ll have some say in how the event is organized. All is going smoothly until the dead body of one of their classmates is found the night before the reunion – in Carol and Nancy’s room.

Since this is the class’s fortieth reunion, committee chairman Nancy insists on calling the event the Ruby Reunion, since ruby is the stone which represents a 40-year anniversary. And also because Nancy doesn’t want to admit how old they all really are. (Any resemblance between Nancy’s vanity and the author’s is purely coincidental.)

 Of course, the Ruby Reunion in this mystery is a lunch (none of these chicks drive at night if they can help it), and the food is served buffet style. I wanted to include recipes in the back of the book, and since I’m not that familiar with my kitchen any more (just ask my family), I turned to chef Paulette DiAngi, whose television show,  Love On A Plate, airs weekly on Cape Cod Community Media.

 Paulette came up with an ingenious idea. She prepared a menu for the book two ways –first, the way the dish would have been prepared back in the 70s, and then the way the dish would be prepared today – low fat and healthy.       

 Here’s an example:

 Veal and Mascarpone Stuffed Mushrooms (The Old Way)

 Serving of two stuffed mushrooms

Chicken Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms (Healthier Version)

Two mushroom caps

There’s quite a difference in fat content, cholesterol, and calories between the two versions. And both are delicious. Trust me, I know what I’m talking about. I never lie when it comes to food.

There’s also a recipe for a Pink Squirrel cocktail that plays a key role in Class Reunions Can Be Murder, but I’ve been sworn to secrecy so I can’t tell you any more than that. Suffice it to say that squirrels can pack quite a punch in their cute little pink claws. Who knew? Everyone can find out the secret by buying the book from indie booksellers, or in e-book format, in just a few more weeks.

 And, yes, I tested that recipe, too.      

 Thanks for letting me blog today. Hope you had as much fun reading this as I did writing it.

Susan Santangelo


Saturday, July 13, 2013

Jinx Schwartz's book is Just the Pits

Welcome back to Mysterious Writers, Jinx. Tell us about Hetta Coffey and your latest release in the series.
Thanks, Jean for inviting me today to share two new releases in the Hetta Coffey series:  Book 5 in the award-winning Hetta Coffey series, JUST THE PITS, and a boxed set collection of the first four book in the series.

 Hetta Coffey is a sassy Texan with a snazzy yacht, and she's not afraid to use it!

 Hetta was inspired by my own experiences when, in my mid-forties and still single, I decided I needed a lifestyle change. And like Hetta, I was in the engineering/construction field and had traveled widely throughout my life for both work and pleasure.

Selling my lovingly restored, three-story 1906 home in the Oakland hills, I bought a forty-two foot motor yacht—even though I'd never even owned so much as a row boat—and moved aboard. My friends and family thought I'd finally gone round the bend, and I'd been on a curve for quite some time.

 Okay, this was probably not the smartest (but in truth, not the dumbest) move I'd ever made, but that boat changed my life.

 Like the protagonist in my mystery series, Hetta Coffey, I was a woman with a yacht—and not afraid to use it—when I met my husband, Mad Dog Schwartz, at a Bay Area yacht club. After tying the knot, we opted to become cash-poor cruisers rather than continue chasing the rat. We sailed under the Golden Gate Bridge, hooked a left, and headed for Mexico. Again, our friends and relatives thought we were nuts to give up lucrative careers to follow a dream, but we would not trade those years in the Sea of Cortez for all the BMW's in California. We still spend several months a year aboard High Jinx in the Sea.

As for my writing career, it began with a bunch of family documents about my family in Texas. I knew I was a ninth-generation Texan, but not that some of the people in the history books I'd had in school were actually my ancestors. That research culminated in the writing of my first book, The Texicans, and the rest, as they say is history. I just finished my eighth novel and have zeroed in on the series. And yes, I do plan to write another. Someone, please stop me!

Just the Pits, 5th in the series, finds Hetta Coffey in the Baja, living aboard her boat and working on a project where people and pesos are disappearing faster than you can say, "Hetta's at it again." But Hetta Coffey as sleuth?  Goodness knows she's nosy enough, but her detective skills leave a lot to be desired. Lucky for her she gets help from her best friend, Jan, and a mysterious Velveeta thief.  

In anticipation of this new release, I made the first four books available in a boxed set so readers can easily pack their e-readers with the entire series and take Hetta on vacation with them. The Hetta Coffey collection, books 1-5 and all other books can be found at

You can learn more about Jinx Schwartz at the following sites: 

Twitter handle @jinxschwartz
Twitter page  @jinxschwartz

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Duffy Brown and Killer in Crinolines

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.

Duffy, how did you know you were meant to write?
One day I asked my lovely husband of many years, “So, husband, what kind of stories do you think about?”
His intelligent blue eyes peered at me over the top of his newspaper. “Huh?”
"You know, stories you make up while waiting in line at the grocery or bank about the people around you. Do you think up mysteries, romances, adventure, self-help?”
“I think that I’m in the wrong line ‘cause it’s moving so darn slow.”
“No, seriously.”
“Yes, seriously.”
I was stunned. He didn’t think of stories? What the heck did the man think about? I mean the slow-line thing took a split second so then what?

Up until then I thought everyone thought in stories. My first clue.  

What fascinates you about mysteries? 


Love the mystery part…takes a lot of thought to pull off a mystery and have all the clues, characters, red herrings etc fall together and make it fun and make the readers laugh.  

Love the small town setting, not that it has to be a small town but a setting in a town or city. Like in Stephanie Plum books the setting is the burg…a small setting in New Jersey. 

I love the characters and that they can be off the wall and help solve the mystery. I write/read for the humor. Life is serious enough. I want escape! Fun!  

What inspired you to write mysteries? 

I wrote romance for twenty years and they always had a mystery element. When I realized I liked writing the mystery more than  the romance I decided to switch genres. Not there there’s not romance in the series…there is! Walker Boone is a hung to die for. A badboy and who doesn’t love reading and falling for the badboys.  But the mystery is the focus and that’s the most fun of all 

What intrigues you about writing a series? 

Series are great because people get invested in the town and the characters’ lives and not ready to give that up after one book. Too much fun finding out what they’re up to next, the new characters they meet, new situations that come their way and new trouble brewing. Also you get to see the characters grow and change. Having a love interest is neat because they grow together while solving the mystery. And you get to explore more of the setting, in this case Savannah.  

What is the most challenging facet of writing for you? 

Writing is a challenge. If it were easy to get published everyone would be. LOL This is a job, much more than a 9 to 5 job. It never ends. But I love it. Cannot imagine doing anything else.  And the best part of all is meeting the wonderful readers along the way. I cannot tell you how many readers have become good friends. Tons! Love this job!

What do you enjoy reading?
I read cozies.One for the Money.Stephanie Plum book one. I think it is pure genius. Best cozy ever! Truly Madly by Heather Webber.  Heather makes me laugh and fall in love. An amazing author

Dead Air by Mary Kennedy   Great characters and setting.

Which authors have influenced you?

 Mary Kennedy gave met confidence to try cozies and Heather Webber is a true inspiration. Both these gals are true friends and helped me enormously.   

I’ve read One for the Money so many times the pages are falling out of the book. All the Plum books are good but the first there are magic. I love the humor and the characters and when I read One for the Money I knew that’s what I wanted to write. I was hooked!

You can learn more about Duffy Brown by visiting her website:

Leave a comment to be eligible to win one of two tote bags Duffy Brown will be giving away to vistors who leave a comment here.