Friday, May 1, 2015

Featured Author: Susan M. Boyer

About the book

Where is Kent Heyward? The twenty-three-year-old heiress from one of Charleston’s oldest families vanished a month ago. When her father hires private investigator Liz Talbot, Liz suspects the most difficult part of her job will be convincing the patriarch his daughter tired of his overbearing nature and left town. That’s what the Charleston Police Department believes.
But behind the garden walls South of Broad, family secrets pop up like weeds in the azaleas. The neighbors recollect violent arguments between Kent and her parents. Eccentric twin uncles and a gaggle of cousins covet the family fortune. And the lingering spirit of a Civil-War-era debutante may know something if Colleen, Liz’s dead best friend, can get her to talk.
Liz juggles her case, the partner she’s in love with, and the family she adores. But the closer she gets to what has become of Kent, the closer Liz dances to her own grave.

Guest Post by Susan M. Boyer

It All Comes Down to Family

My extended family clan has more members than some towns. My people have gone forth and multiplied, is what I’m saying. I should add, right up front, that while I explore family dynamics in my writing, I don’t write about my family. The exception is an occasional blog, and when I tell one of them I’ve used them in a blog, they stand up straight and grin. If they were peacocks, their feathers would no doubt fan.

Because the relationship between sisters is complex, it’s one of my favorite themes in fiction. My sister and I joke that we were once a single egg which subdivided and we were separated before birth. Mamma calls us her twins born ten years apart. We’re exactly alike, except in the ways we are not. I’m what folks politely call “big-boned,” while my sister is petite, bless her heart. We’re both OCD control freaks. We finish each other’s sentences and have our own, secret texting shorthand. When I think of her, the phone rings and she’s on the line.

We agree on virtually everything. But in the space between “virtually everything” and “absolutely everything,” unfortunate altercations occasionally erupt.

When we disagree, we do it in spectacular fashion. It infuriates her that I could possibly hold a differing position on anything. I feel the same way. If the conversation drifts towards treacherous waters while we’re in our mother’s house, Mamma throws up her hands, says, “I’m leaving,” and walks out the back door. She always comes back — well, she always has so far. Daddy instigates these dramas for entertainment. He knows our points of dissension well. Our brother — the middle child — eggs it on just to keep things interesting. I’m absolutely convinced any one of us would take a bullet for any of the others.

But I’m here to tell you, it’s true what they say about Southern families — we are neither ashamed of nor scared by eccentricity. By way of example, I offer Aunt Avalee, who is convinced her neighbor is throwing birdseed on her roof so the birds will peck holes in it, and Aunt Clarene, whose house has been repeatedly broken into by someone who vacuums and leaves without taking or disturbing anything. I have many more examples. So many more.

When I married Sugar, I left the small town where I grew up. At the time, it never entered my mind this would be a permanent thing. My sister moved away as well, and we frequently lament not living close enough to inhabit each other’s daily lives. My brother lives fifteen minutes from Mamma’s backdoor. I envy him that. In my fantasy life, we all live back in that small town, a block or two away from each other, and we all go to Mamma and Daddy’s on Sunday for supper. We pop in and out of each other’s homes several times a week. My dreams are made of simple things. But these simple things are simply out of reach.

Sugar’s job requires him to live near an airport. Two of our four children have put down roots in Greenville, South Carolina, where we’ve lived for many years and where they grew up. The other two are relatively close-by. We have friends whose lives have become intertwined with ours through shared joys and heartaches who we would be hard pressed to leave behind. And, much of Sugar’s side of our family resides in Greenville. Going home is not an option for me.

So, I write about what I long for—family, small towns, and pristine beaches — and of course, solving murders and taking down the bad guy.

Tell me about your family, whether by birth or one with members you’ve chosen. If you’re a writer, do your family relationships sometimes influence the themes you write about?

About the author

Susan M. Boyer is the author of the USA TODAY bestselling Liz Talbot mystery series. Her debut novel, Lowcountry Boil, won the 2012 Agatha Award for Best First Novel, the Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense, and garnered several other award nominations. Susan loves beaches, Southern food, and small towns where everyone knows everyone, and everyone has crazy relatives.  You’ll find all of the above in her novels.
Susan lives in Greenville, SC, with her husband and an inordinate number of houseplants.

Connect with Susan:Website  |  Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Pinterest  | Goodreads

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Featured Author: Jo-Ann Lamon Reccoppa

About the book

For this Jersey girl, big hair means big trouble!

Newspaper reporter Colleen Caruso just wants her unruly curls tamed into smooth, sleek locks. Instead, she finds her stylist dead, face down in a shampoo sink. Faster than you can say Aqua Net, Colleen starts investigating. The case gets even hairier when the owner of a local fitness studio seems to have jumped from a plane … without a parachute.

Meanwhile, her suave editor, Ken Rhodes, steps in to help. And he may be looking for more than just a good story from Colleen.

Add in a missing bracelet, some suspicious husbands, and a little breaking and entering — and this Jersey girl is heading for a real blowout!

Can Colleen tie up these split ends? Or does she have an appointment with disaster?

Guest Post by Jo-Ann Lamon Reccoppa

Cozy Character Quirks and Small, Quiet Settings

When I first started writing cozy mysteries, New Math is Murder and my latest, Hide nor Hair, I did it because I thought it was a clever way to introduce unusual characters and off-the-wall crimes. Reading them was always satisfying, and I fell in love with the basic structure of the cozy mystery. What I didn’t realize was the amount of work involved to get the story just so. I have always enjoyed them, without fully understanding the reason why. After so many years, it finally dawned on me.

Cozy mysteries are fun! Without any in-depth, scientific explanation, I think most readers love them because they all have a bunch of quirky characters, and the action tends to take place in quiet communities that represent thousands of towns across the country. Crimes that occur in these microcosms of larger towns and communities are shocking and disproportionate to a cozy’s setting. You can expect plenty of murders, suicides and burglaries in the big city, but in small, more gently civilized areas these crimes are appalling and are more apt to traumatize the locals. What it amounts to is a small group of people who are nervous and anxious about whatever crime has taken place – with the added joy of the group coming under suspicion for committing the crime.

The characters in a cozy investigate or have a stake in the crime itself. These people tend to have lots of eccentricities that become endearing to readers. Take Stephanie Plum for instance, in Janet Evanovich’s series. She’s a regular gal with an odd profession. She also has a highly aggressive personality and a thing for looking good (so relatable because, after all, most women do). Her parents, though not necessarily living in a small town, are part of a small Trenton neighborhood – which is Stephanie’s childhood home. We can all identify with this scenario (okay, maybe we’re not all as aggressive as Ms. Plum simply because we’re all not lucky enough to be from New Jersey!), and that familiarity makes for a fun read. The setting, the character, and the crime are all ingredients that are combined in meticulous proportions to produce a delightful cozy mystery.

Though not as precisely adhering to the small, quiet cozy setting, you have to love Agatha Christie’s Belgian sleuth Hercule Poirot. Talk about personality quirks! He’s fastidious almost to the point of anal retentiveness, so self-confident that he borders on obnoxiousness, and, best of all, Poirot has the ability to be both quaint and endearing. 

As for the settings, three of Christie’s works come to mind that at first seem to fly in the face of small town crime. In Death on the Nile, the subdued action takes place on a paddle steamer in Egypt – not exactly a small town setting. Considering that all the suspects are temporary residents on that paddle steamer though, it does become a small community. It’s the same with Murder on the Orient Express. There is Poirot, of course, who is the perfect character to build a novel around, and the travelers as part of the train’s small enclave. The passengers, as well as the railway’s employees, are all suspects in Ratchett’s murder – and they’re all quirky too. And Then There Were None, another famous Christie novel, had the wonderful setting of Indian Island and a house filled with odd “guests” who were being eliminated one by one – perfect for a cozy.

You can probably come up with dozens of examples of cozy mysteries that fit the bill. I hope my series and the characters I have created in my Jersey Girl Cozy Mystery series can be even half as entertaining as these very famous novels. If nothing else, they were so much fun to write. And with a cozy, it’s all about fun.

About the author

Jo-Ann Lamon Reccoppa lives in Old Bridge, New Jersey, and uses her experience as a freelance correspondent as the basis of her protagonist’s career. Several of the incidents within these pages are actual occurrences. They have been shamelessly embellished and are not a blow-by-blow account of a few really bad days on the job. Hide Nor Hair is her second novel.

Connect with Jo-Ann:
Website  |  tour page 

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Terrible Ten with Amy Reade

Amy"s second novel, The Ghosts of Peppernell Manor, is out today and she's here braving the Terrible Ten.

1.    What’s one thing that drives you crazy?

It drives me crazy when someone in my house doesn’t put something where it belongs. I spend waaayyy too much time looking for things that should have been put away.

2.    What is your guiltiest guilty pleasure?
Napping. I don’t do it that often, but when I do, I always feel like I should have been doing something else.

3.    What is your most embarrassing moment?
This happened about ten years ago. My two-year-old son had escaped, naked, onto our front yard and was running for the hills. I ran out after him as my neighbor (whom I’ve always considered absolutely perfect and who is, by the way, a wonderful person) watched the scene unfold in a mixture of dismay and pity. I had been cleaning, so I was barefoot, dressed in old baggy leggings and one of my husband’s shirts, and had my hair in a do-rag. I tripped over my own feet and landed on the ground like a felled tree. That would never happen to her. If she fell, she would land in a rabbit hole and emerge as a Disney princess.

4.    What is the stupidest thing you’ve ever done?
Once I was playing tag and I ran through a fire pit that hadn’t been doused. I spent a week in the hospital and never did catch the person who was “it.”

5.    What’s the most daring thing you’ve ever done?
I left my home in New York State to go to law school in Indiana, where I didn’t know a single soul.

6.    On what life choices would you like to have a re-do?
That’s a tough one because I believe there’s a reason for everything we do. If I had a re-do on something, I’d be missing part of me. That being said, I worked at a law firm in New York that managed to suck every bit of joy out of me. I might take a re-do on that. On the other hand, how else would I know what it feels like to absolutely hate my job?

7.    What makes you nervous?
Driving in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania makes me nervous. I’ve driven in New York City a hundred times and I find that much easier than venturing into the City of Brotherly Love. For some reason I just can’t make sense of the street layout.

8.    What makes you scared?

Flying. Not a good fear to have for someone who loves to travel!

9.    When was the last time you did something for the first time?

I celebrated my eldest child’s seventeenth birthday two days ago. Time flies!

10.    One of your main characters has to die. Which one would you kill off?
I’d have to kill off Macy Stoddard, the main character in Secrets of Hallstead House. I love Macy, but Carleigh Warner, the main character in my second book, The Ghosts of Peppernell Manor, is mother to a three-year-old and I can’t bring myself to kill her off. 

About the book:

"Do you know what stories Sarah could tell you about the things that happened in these little cabins? They’d curl that pretty red hair of yours."

Outside of Charleston, South Carolina, beyond hanging curtains of Spanish moss, at the end of a shaded tunnel of overarching oaks, stands the antebellum mansion of Peppernell Manor in all its faded grandeur. At the request of her friend Evie Peppernell, recently divorced Carleigh Warner and her young daughter Lucy have come to the plantation house to refurbish the interior. But the tall white columns and black shutters hide a dark history of slavery, violence, and greed. The ghost of a former slave is said to haunt the home, and Carleigh is told she disapproves of her restoration efforts. And beneath the polite hospitality of the Peppernell family lie simmering resentments and poisonous secrets that culminate in murder — and place Carleigh and her child in grave danger . . .

About the author:

After deciding that the practice of law was not as thrilling as she thought it would be, Amy found her passion in writing. Her first novel, Secrets of Hallstead House, was published in 2014. It tells the story of Macy Stoddard, a nurse who goes to work for a private client among the Thousand Islands in northern New York only to find that there are secrets reaching into both her past and her future. In the face of violence and threats, Macy must search for the identity of the person who will stop at nothing to keep those secrets buried.

Her second novel, The Ghosts of Peppernell Manor, will be released on April 28, 2015. Here’s a brief synopsis: Peppernell Manor, an antebellum plantation near Charleston, has seen better days. But when its owner hires restoration specialist Carleigh Warner to oversee its return to grandeur, disagreements over the property’s future threaten to tear the Peppernell family apart. Carleigh is swept unwittingly into a whorl of secrets that she must face to protect her future and her daughter’s life.

Amy lives in New Jersey with her husband, three children, one fantastic dog, two cats who refuse to speak to her, and one tiny fish named Poseidon. She loves reading, traveling, and anything to do with Hawaii.

Amy loves to connect with readers online and in person. Connect with her at:
Website  |  Blog  |  Facebook  |  Twitter 

Monday, April 27, 2015

Featured Author: Marie Moore

About the book: 

Sidney Marsh’s job as a New York travel agent is on the line. On her last two tours, she and her colleague Jay ended up smack in the middle of murder and mayhem. Their sleuthing sideline did not endear them to their employer, Itchy Feet Travel, so naturally they are relieved when their wealthy friend Brooke requests their presence on a no expense spared tour of India and Nepal. Another agency has made the arrangements, so all they need do is sit back and enjoy the ride. Well, not quite all. Brooke has enlisted them to keep a sharp eye on their fellow travelers, all “friends” who have grown rich from the demise of others. After surviving an attempt on her life, Brooke is certain the culprit must be one of the five: a handsome Scotsman, a Bollywood actress, an investment banker, a Parisian filmmaker, or a twice widowed blonde. Many of the tour accommodations prove to be as dodgy as the reputations of the travelers themselves. After one of the members of the moving house party dies of an apparent heart attack, everyone’s nerves are on edge. Sidney can hardly be blamed for assuming a deadly game is afoot … or for falling for Adam, the doting Scotsman. Now, if only she can unmask the killer before the killer beats her to the punch. Side Trip to Kathmandu is the third book in the Sidney Marsh Mystery series, which began with Shore Excursion.

Interview with Marie Moore

What’s the story behind the title Side Trip to Kathmandu?
All of the titles of my books in the Sidney Marsh Murder Mystery Series, Shore Excursion (2012), Game Drive (2013) and Side Trip to Kathmandu (2015), are travel terms, because Sidney Marsh, the protagonist, is a young, Mississippi-born, New York-based travel agent who travels the world with her best friend and colleague, the irrepressible Jay Wilson.

Tell us about your series. Is this book a standalone, or do readers need to read the series in order?

Sidney and Jay work for Itchy Feet Travel, a New York retail travel agency, and as part of their jobs, they escort groups of tourists around the world to exotic destinations.  The trips are great, but unfortunately, some of the clients don’t make it back home alive.  Then it is up to Sidney to try to discover the killer is without getting murdered herself.
The books in this series are written to stand-alone so that the reader does not have to read them in order to enjoy them, but many prefer to do so.

Where’s home for you?

I’m a Mississippi girl, bound by kudzu to a tiny town in the South. I split my time between my hometown of Holly Springs, Mississippi and Memphis, Tennessee, but have also lived in New York City, Florida, and Virginia.

Do you have another job outside of writing?
No, but prior to becoming an author I owned a retail travel agency for fifteen years, so I was able to travel all over the world. That experience is invaluable in writing this travel mystery series, for I was able to personally visit the countries I write about in the Sidney Marsh books. On those trips, I took good notes and photos, and that really helps in conveying the feel of a place to my readers. Before the travel agency, I worked for a newspaper, and right out of college I taught school (junior high science), and raised a family. 

Who are you? 
That’s a tough question, and I’m not entirely sure I can answer it! But I can tell you who I am not, and that is Sidney Marsh. She may live in my head, but she is not me, and I am not her. I am often asked by readers if Sidney is me, or my daughters, and the answer is emphatically no. This series is not autobiographical.

What’s your favorite line from a book?

One of my favorites is actually from a play, from George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion:
“The great secret, Eliza, is not having bad manners or good manners or any other particular sort of manners, but having the same manner for all human souls: in short, behaving as if you were in Heaven, where there are no third-class carriages, and one soul is as good as another.”

Are any of your characters inspired by real people?
No, because I think that in doing so you limit your imagination, plus, it is not entirely fair to those close to you. If I base a character on a friend, I am influenced by the likes, dislikes, appearance and personality of that friend. Pure imagination is far easier to manipulate. That said, I will sometimes use a detail from the appearance or demeanor of a stranger I observe on the street, or in a restaurant. I think that’s fair. But I really don’t think it’s fair to exploit your friends and family.

Is your book based on real events?

No, except in a larger sense. For example, the systematic decimation for profit of the elephant and rhino in Africa that I present in Game Drive is very real, and very sad.

Who are your favorite authors?
I have many, in many genres, for I have always loved to read. Some of my favorite mystery and thriller authors are Lawrence Block, Carolyn Hart, Michael Connolly, Annamaria Alfieri, Maddy Hunter, Sarah Wissemann, Michael Stanley, Randy Wayne White, and the late great authors Agatha Christie, Rex Stout, Elizabeth Peters, John D. McDonald and Tony Hillerman.

What book are you currently reading and in what format (e-book/paperback/hardcover)?
I just finished Every Day by the Sun: A Memoir of the Faulkners of Mississippi by Dean Faulkner Wells. She was William Faulkner’s niece, raised in his home after the death of her father, and her personal recollection of the great author is fascinating. I read it in paperback. I am a great admirer of the work of William Faulkner and also Eudora Welty.  Those Mississippi authors were utterly brilliant and so is their work. I can in no way compare my little writing with theirs. We all share in the time-honored Mississippi tradition of storytelling; however, the similarities between us stop right there.  My books are brain-candy — certainly not brilliant, but they are lots of fun! I enjoy writing them. I enjoy discovering what Sidney is going to do next.

What’s one pet peeve you have when you read?

I hate falling asleep with the light on, which often happens when I read late at night.

Where and when do you prefer to do your writing?
I mostly write really early in the morning, before anyone else is awake, before dawn, before phones start ringing. If I’m on a roll, I may keep it up until noon, but usually I’m done for the day by nine o’clock. I have to be in a zone to write, so I really can’t do it with a lot of interruptions.

What’s the best compliment you’ve ever received about your writing?
Midwest Book Review Bookwatch said, in the February 2015 issue, “Side Trip to Kathmandu" is the third book in the Sidney Marsh Murder Mystery series by Marie Moore, who has now clearly established herself as a master of the mystery/suspense genre. Simply stated, Marie Moore is an exceptionally gifted author who never fails to satisfy her readers and leave them eagerly looking toward her next novel."

Now that may be a bit over the top, but I loved it!

Another reviewer once said that “Sidney Marsh is what would happen if Nancy Drew were a travel agent.”

I liked that too, for I grew up as a big fan of Nancy Drew!

How did you find your publisher and how long did your query process take?
I was fortunate enough to sign with Jane Gelfman of The Gelfman Schneider Literary Agency/ICM Partners in New York. My fabulous, hard-working agent there, Victoria Marini, sold the series to Camel Press in a three-book deal. There was no query process on my part, for Victoria handled it all.

What are you working on now?

Sidney’s fourth adventure! And I really can’t wait to find out what will happen to her next. Sidney is beginning to take over my life! Do you think I should be worried?

About the author

Shore Excursion is Marie Moore's first novel, but not her first writing experience, and like Sidney Marsh, she is a native Mississippian. She graduated from Ole Miss, married a lawyer in her hometown, taught junior high science, raised a family, and worked for a small weekly newspaper, first as a writer and later as Managing Editor. She wrote hard news, features and a weekly column, sold ads, did interviews, took photos, and won a couple of MS Press Association awards for some of her stories.

In 1985, Marie left the newspaper to open a retail travel agency. She completed agency and computer training with Airlines Reporting Corporation, Delta Airlines and TWA, earned her CTC (Certified Travel Counselor) designation, and joined the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA), International Air Transport Association (IATA), and Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA). For the next 15 years, she managed her agency, sold travel, escorted group tours, sailed on 19 cruises, and visited over 60 countries. Much of the background of her first book, Shore Excursion, comes from that experience.

Marie also did location scouting and worked as the local contact for several feature films, including Heart of Dixie, The Gun in Betty Lou's Handbag, and Robert Altman's Cookie's Fortune.

In mid-1999, because of her husband's work, Marie sold the travel agency and moved to Jackson, Mississippi, then New York City, Anna Maria Island, Florida, and Arlington, Virginia. She and her husband now live in Memphis, Tennessee and Holly Springs, Mississippi.

Marie and her mystery novels have been featured in Click! Magazine, At Home Memphis and MidSouth Magazine, Portico Magazine, and Southern Writer's Magazine, She has been a featured guest on WREG's Live at 9, BookTalk, and The Earle Farrell Show. She has given 30 minute presentations: "Whodunnit? Crafting the Mystery Novel" and "Finding A New Career in Mid-life" to numerous civic groups, senior citizens groups, writer’s groups, libraries, and from The Balancing Act Stage as part of the program of The Southern Women's Show. She has served as a panelist on the programs of Malice Domestic Mystery Conference (Bethesda, Maryland, 2012, 2013, 2015) and Killer Nashville Mystery Conference (2013). 

Game Drive
, the second book in The Sidney Marsh Murder Mystery Series, was named Finalist for ForeWord Review's 2013 Book of the Year Award in the Mystery category. On March 15, 2015, the third novel in the series, Side Trip to Kathmandu, set in Northern India and Nepal, was released by Camel Press. 

Marie is an active member of Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime.

Connect with Marie:

Website  |  Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Camel Press  

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Featured Author: Paty Lager

About the book

On the eve of the biggest art event at Huckleberry Mountain Resort, potter Shandra Higheagle finds herself in the middle of a murder investigation. She’s ruled out as a suspect, but now it’s up to her to prove the friend she witnessed fleeing the scene was just as innocent. With help from her recently deceased Nez Perce grandmother, Shandra becomes more confused than ever but just as determined to discover the truth.

Detective Ryan Greer prides himself on solving crimes and refuses to ignore a single clue, including Shandra Higheagle’s visions. While Shandra is hesitant to trust her dreams, Ryan believes in them and believes in her.

Can the pair uncover enough clues for Ryan to make an arrest before one of them becomes the next victim?

Interview with Paty Lager

Paty, what’s the story behind the title of your book?
If I tell you the story behind the title it gives away part of the mystery. ;) But I can tell you the story behind the Shandra Higheagle Mystery series. I’ve wanted to write a mystery series for many years. When my brother, a bronze sculptor, told me a fascinating fact about a 300 pound bronze statue that would make a great weapon in a mystery novel, I started “stewing and brewing” to come up with the right protagonist and story. I needed something to do with the art world—an artist. I needed something to stay true to my tagline: Tales of romance and intrigue starring cowboys and Indians—Shandra Higheagle with a Native American background, and the crime that uses the 300 pound statue. That is how this book and the series came to me.

Tell us about your series. Is this book a standalone, or do readers need to read the series in order?
Double Duplicity is the first book of the Shandra Higheagle mystery series. I try to write the books so they could be standalone but there are relationships and events that run through several books in the series that, while they don’t distract, would be better understood if the books are read in order.

Where’s home for you?
My home is in eastern Oregon on 280 acres. My husband and I raise alfalfa hay and enjoy the wide open spaces of the high desert. We just moved here permanently and recently finished building our house. We are believers in doing things ourselves.

Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Wallowa County. It is a sparsely populated county in the northeast corner of Oregon. It is the area where the Nez Perce band led by Chief Joseph wintered and summered before they were banned from the area.

If you had an extra $100 a week to spend on yourself, what would you buy?
I’d save it up for a nice pair of Lucchese cowboy boots.  Like my character Shandra Higheagle, I love fancy cowboy boots.

What’s the dumbest purchase you’ve ever made?
The money went to a good cause because it was an online auction for Juvenile Diabetes, but I spent $75 on a ¾ inch by ¾ inch Zuni pig. I collect interesting pigs.

What is the most daring thing you've done?

I drove in a powder puff demolition derby, and I’ve skinny-dipped.

What makes you bored?

I am never bored. That’s the good thing about being a writer. There is never any time to be bored. If I’m sitting in the pickup waiting for my hubby, I can always run the next scenes for a book over in my head.

What choices in life would you like to have a redo on?
While I’ve always been miffed that my dad wouldn’t let me go to college for an arts degree, I’m happy with where my life has taken me.

Do you have another job outside of writing?
My job outside of writing is helping my husband farm. I drive the swather (hay cutting machine), back hoe/loader, and semi-truck when it’s hay season. The off season, I help with repairs.

How did you meet your spouse? Was it love at first site?
I don’t think it was love, but it was strong attraction. I was talked into going to an under-21 club with a co-worker. I was nineteen. All the guys there were pimply-faced sixteen-year-olds. I was feeling out of place when a guy who looked my age walked in. I studied him a few minutes then boldly walked over and asked him to dance. I’d never been that forward before, but I wanted someone to talk with who was my age. We ended up dancing and talking all evening. We discovered we had several things in common. He drove me home in an old battered pickup truck that smelled like cow. When he got too handsie, I asked him to leave. I figured he wouldn’t be back. Two nights later there was a knock on my door and there he stood. He told me if I had let him go farther that night he wouldn’t have been back. I was the kind of girl he wanted for a wife. We married two years later and have been married for 36 years.

That's awesome. Are any of your characters inspired by real people?
There is a bit of someone I’ve met in my life in my main and secondary characters. It’s the only way characters can be written is by using facsimiles of people a writer has seen or knows in their life. It’s how the characters become real.

What book are you currently reading and in what format (e-book/paperback/hardcover)?
I’m reading The Handless Maiden by Dorothy Black Crow. It’s in paperback format.

Do you have a routine for writing?
On a routine day (no haying - staying home), I sit down at the computer by no later than 8 o’clock in the morning. I try to get all my emails and business done by ten. Then I write until noon. Have lunch, come back, and write until four.  A good day is 4-5,000 words.

Where and when do you prefer to do your writing?
I can write anywhere. With or without noise. At home I usually have music playing. Depending on the genre I’m writing, I have certain playlists I use. I prefer to write during the day. By nighttime I’m too tired to think straight.

What’s the best compliment you’ve ever received about your writing?
The best compliment I’ve received is: “Your books keep me up all night.”

Why did you decide to self-publish?

I started my writing career with a small press. It was very hands-on and taught me a lot about putting a quality book out.  When other authors who had gone self-published suggested I should do it, I decided I could take on the challenge. I liked the idea of being able to hand select my covers, make my own deadlines and publishing dates.

Are you happy with your decision to self-publish? 
Yes. I write stories that can’t be categorized easily which makes agents and editors scratch their heads and say, I don’t know where we’d place this book in a book store. By self-publishing I can get my stories out to the readers without the keepers of the gates holding me back.

If you self-published, what steps to publication did you personally do, and what did you hire someone to do? Is there anyone you’d recommend for a particular service?
I have critique partners I believe in. When they say a story needs this or that, I dissect the story more and make the changes. I have a cover artist who does a great job. And I have an grammar editor and proof-reader. I do all the formatting for the ebooks and print books.

What are you working on now?
Right now I’m working on final edits for the third Shandra Higheagle mystery book, Deadly Aim: The dead body of an illicit neighbor and an old necklace send potter Shandra Higheagle on a chase to find a murderer. Visions from her dead grandmother reveals Shandra is on the right path, but the woods are full of obstacles — deadly ones.

Detective Ryan Greer believes Shandra’s dreams will help solve the mystery, but he also knows the curious potter could get herself killed. He’s determined that won’t happen.

Until he’s blind-sided. Are Shandra’s powers strong enough to save them both, or will the murderer strike again?

About the author

Award-winning author Paty Jager and her husband raise alfalfa hay in rural eastern Oregon. On her road to publication she wrote freelance articles for two local newspapers and enjoyed her job with the County Extension service as a 4-H Program Assistant. Raising hay and cattle, riding horses, and battling rattlesnakes, she not only writes the western lifestyle, she lives it.

All her work has Western or Native American elements in them along with hints of humor and engaging characters. Her penchant for research takes her on side trips that eventually turn into yet another story.

Connect with Paty:

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Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Featured Author: Jerold Last

About the book

The sixth book in the popular Roger and Suzanne mystery series finds Roger and Bruce hired to go undercover impersonating the owner and handler of a Champion German Shorthaired Pointer named Juliet to investigate certain irregularities that might be occurring at dog shows in California. To complicate this case the bodies of dead judges start popping up and Suzanne picks up a mysterious stalker sending her most unwelcome gifts. Throw in drug cartels and corrupt cops and it sounds like a typical job for our detective couple.

The Deadly Dog Show can be read as a stand-alone novel.

Guest Post by Jerold Last


My first novel in the Roger and Suzanne South American mystery series, The Ambivalent Corpse, is set mainly in Montevideo, Uruguay. The premise is that our heroes find parts of a dismembered corpse on a rocky stretch of beach in Montevideo, apportioned equally between the Memorial to a German cruiser sunk in World War II and the Memorial to Jews killed in the Holocaust. Because of the murder victim’s strategic location shared between two antithetical monuments, the Uruguayan press names her “The Ambivalent Corpse.”

I got the original idea for this book’s title and the basic premise for the beginning of the plot in Montevideo in 1999 when my wife and I took a walk along the Ramblas, a walking path along the beaches and parks that line the edge of the city along the Rio de la Plata River, the border between Uruguay and Argentina. When we saw that strange juxtaposition of the two monuments it immediately got me thinking something like “one day, when I write a book, this has to go in it!”  As you can tell from the dates, it took a while for me to find the time to sit down and start writing the book, which was eventually completed and published in the autumn of 2011. I remembered the Graf Spee Memorial, which was a favorite spot for snapshot taking among the university students I knew from my first stretch of living in Montevideo in 1982, but I didn't remember the Holocaust Memorial from my earlier visit. Perhaps this shouldn't be too surprising since the Holocaust Memorial was first dedicated in 1995.

The novel's story sort of took over and wrote itself after the third chapter in the first draft became the first chapter in subsequent versions. Because of this change, the action began immediately in the new Chapter 1 thanks to the suggestion of my youngest son Michael, who I asked for comments. After I recovered from his criticisms, it was clear that he was correct. Much of the back-story and details came later, during editing of the book and after some friends read the later drafts and gave me helpful feedback. Those original first two chapters haven’t totally gone to waste. Part of one of those first two chapters, with a bit of revision, found its way into a subsequent book in the series; see if you can guess which one.  As we say in California, recycle, reuse, revise, and repeat.

Thus far the settings for four of my novels and two of the novellas in the Roger and Suzanne series have been in South America, especially Uruguay and Argentina, both places my wife and I lived during a sabbatical I took several years ago. I’ve been back to Montevideo and Salta, Argentina, site of my novella, The Empanada Affair (available in the anthology entitled Five Quickies for Roger and Suzanne), several times since then for collaborative research and teaching programs there, so I know the locales, the food, and the people I use for the books very well. My second novel in the series, The Surreal Killer is set in Chile and Peru. The third novel, The Matador Murders, is set in Montevideo and Santiago, Chile, all places I have spent time in since we lived in Montevideo and Salta in 1999 thanks to the various scientific collaborations that began during that sabbatical leave. Another novella, The Body in the Bed, set in Montevideo was also published at about this point in the sequence. We return to South America for my fifth novel, The Origin of Murder, which takes the reader on a murderous cruise through Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands. Between Montevideo and The Galapagos, Roger and Suzanne got to stay home in California for The Deadly Dog Show.

I try to write books that are fast moving and entertain the reader while introducing them to an exotic region that is a long way from home for most English speakers. Montevideo, Salta, Machu Picchu, the Galapagos Islands, and Iguazu Falls are characters in these books, and the books will have succeeded for me if readers say that they’d like to visit these places because they seem so vivid and real. I believe my strengths as an author are in inventing interesting plots, paying attention to story details, and trying to entertain the reader.  None of these books are true cozies. I call them “tweeners.” My characters are tougher and live in a darker world than most cozy novels feature, and there are scenes of violence in the books. But, I adhere to the cozy conventions of no cussing and no gratuitous sex scenes.

I’d love to see you pick up a copy of one (or more!) of my novels, read and enjoy it, recommend it to your friends, and write a good honest review that you publish on the Amazon book page where you purchased the book. 

About the author

The author is a Professor of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at the University of California’s Medical School at Davis, near Sacramento in Northern California. Jerry writes mystery stories that follow the cozy conventions of no graphic sex and no cussing but feature tougher protagonists and darker worlds than most cozies. Jerry knows the real world of dog shows from his own experience and that of his wife, Elaine, who breeds and shows prize-winning German Shorthair Pointer dogs. The cover photo is the author’s own dog Jolie (Grand Champion V. D. Nacht’s Classic Beaujolais, SH). Elaine provided technical advice for The Deadly Dog Show and editing for all of his books.

Connect with Jerold
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Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Featured Author: Victoria Klahr

About the book:

Seth is back. 

When he walked back into my life, it almost felt like the pieces of my broken heart could be fixed. I thought we could go back to being best friends, but then I started to feel what I had been blocking out for years. I tried. Boy, did I try! But once I started to let him in, I wanted nothing more than to cross that line from friendship into something more . . . 

Just when I think I can move on and let myself be happy, an ugly reminder from my past comes storming in and threatens to destroy the sliver of hope that’s been growing since Seth came back.

Do I even deserve to be loved? 

“I’m not asking to fix your heart. I’m not asking to mend you. I love each and every shattered piece of you. I’m asking that you let me love you. Let me love each piece of your broken heart, and I swear to you I will make up for every heartache you have ever experienced.”

I came back for Josie. 

I knew I’d have to fight for her, but with the loss of her dad and the truth about what happened with her and Blake, I quickly realized that making her mine was going to be a lot harder than I first thought. The problem is, I can’t pretend like she’s just my best friend. I can’t pretend I don’t want more. 

I’m willing to do anything to get her to admit she has the same passionate feelings for me, because I know once she opens up and stops lying to herself, I can show her what it really means to be loved. It’s a battle of wills, but my love for her is stronger than her will to stop me.

So I fight for her. I fight because I know she deserves it.

Excerpt from That's a Lie

I was instantly distracted as I walked into the space. Seth. Shirtless. I don't think I need to explain my lack of focus. Or the drool. 

"You lied to me," he said gruffly, sitting on the barstool at my counter. His blond hair flopped in front of his eyes, and my hands itched to push it back. Touching him again the way I wanted to would satisfy only a millimeter of the need I have, but it would relieve some of the pain. I turned around to hide my thoughts.

"Ugh . . . I need coffee," I said vacantly, reaching for my coffee maker. I didn't even hear Seth move, but his hand grabbed mine and he turned me around, placing his hands beside me on the countertop to trap me. My breath caught, and I was positive he could hear my heart pounding in my chest.

His blue-green eyes screamed hurt and anger, but I didn't even care about him being mad. All that mattered was the charge that thumped between us. I was very aware of him.
"You lied, Josie. You're not supposed to lie to me."

"Seth . . . Come on," I said, turning my face away, unable to look at the raw emotion in his expression. His hand dashed out and grabbed my chin.

"How long, Josie?" he asked. I closed my eyes, not wanting to admit anything. "Open your damn eyes, Jos. Stop fu*#ing hiding." His voice was hard, but it was also full of desperation. I opened my eyes and narrowed them at him.

He didn’t understand that I needed to keep him away from me. My life is tainted by darkness, and he doesn't need that. Yes, I lied to the one person who I said I wouldn't deceive again, but it was for his own good!

"It doesn't matter, Seth. I'm fine."

"Like fu*#ing hell it doesn't matter. I haven't heard you scream like that since your nightmares after you were raped!"

The haunting reminder brought back vivid memories of that time. He or one of my dads would come lay with me to help me fall asleep. Every day that Seth wasn't in school, he was there with me, trying to make the nightmares go away.

"Since the engagement party," I whispered, looking down. I don't know why I admitted it, but I think part of me realized I couldn't hold on to all this pain anymore.

That's when my resolve started to break. How long could I go on fighting the feelings that I have for Seth? How long could I act like nothing hurts me?

"Fu*#, Jos . . . ," he whispered back, placing his forehead against mine. His signature smell of hay and apple pie drifted around me, and I almost lost my footing from wanting him so bad. "You should have told me."

"I didn't want you to worry."

"I worry about you every second you're not with me, Pussycat. Every second that you hide behind that wall you've built, I wonder when you're going to crack." His hand reached up to caress my face, and I leaned into his touch. It was only an infinitesimal movement, but I still heard Seth's breath hitch. My lapse in self-control made him bold. He brought his mouth to the side of mine, and kissed me. I couldn't stop the whimper before it escaped my mouth.

"There you are," he whispered hoarsely against my lips, always seeing me, even when I didn’t want him to. I wanted to bask in the moment, but I had already opened up to him too much. I pushed through his barricade and ran back to my room.

"I've got to help Dad at the garage today," I threw out as an explanation, and then I went to hide in my shower.

About the author:

Victoria Klahr (pronounced “Claire”) lives in Elizabeth City, North Carolina with her husband and daughter, Stephen and Alexis. She loves her chug (Pug/Chihuahua), Bandit, and daughter to pieces. She is a huge and proud book nerd who looks at her bookshelf in admiration daily. When she’s not daydreaming about book boyfriends and fantasizing about being a badass heroine like Rose Hathaway, she’s busy doing schoolwork for her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and writing the stories that speak to her in her head. She loves peanut butter with Oreos, good friends, amazing gossip, driving in the middle of merge lanes, comedies, crude humor, pretending like she can dance, pretending like she can kick major ass, and a really, really good laugh.

Connect with Victoria:
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