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!

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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 www.DuffyBrown.com

Win a Pearls and Poison tote bag by leaving a comment here.

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.
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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:  http://amzn.to/1eeykvG
Twitter:  @jamesrcallan

A Ton of Gold is available at Amazon in paperback and Kindle editions:   http://amzn.to/UQrqsZ

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.
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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 susanrussoanderson.com. 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”.
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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.