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: Julieannelindsey.com

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

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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.
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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.

Blurb

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.

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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 http://www.judyalter.com or her two blogs at http://www.judys-stew.blogspot.com or http://potluckwithjudy.blogspot.com. Or look for her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Judy-Alter-Author/366948676705857?fref=ts or on Twitter where she is @judyalter.