Monday, June 29, 2015



When image consultant Allison Campbell attends an award ceremony to honor a designer friend, she’s thrust into a murder investigation. Only this time, it’s personal.

A former boyfriend is dead, slain on the streets of Philadelphia. His widow claims he was meeting with Allison, yet Allison hadn’t spoken to him in years. Nothing about his death—or life—makes sense. When compromising photos from their past arrive at Allison’s office, they raise more questions than they answer.

Driven to find justice, Allison deconstructs the image her ex had created for himself, looking for clues about the man he’d become. As her hunt for the truth unveils secrets, Allison’s past and present collide—with deadly results.


Wendy, how long have you been writing, and how did you start?
I’ve been writing most of my life. I penned my first short story when I was in elementary school — it was about a ghost dog, and I think my mother still has it in a drawer somewhere — and that was the start of my love affair with the written word. Despite years of learning and practicing craft, my journey to publication was long and winding. I had a number of short stories published after college, but I didn’t write my first novel (which remains unpublished!) until I was in my thirties.

Do you have another job outside of writing?
I’m an ERISA attorney.  I work full-time for a mutual fund company — quite a contrast to writing mysteries!

How did you create the plot for this book?
The book started with an idea for an opening scene. I had a vision of Allison receiving an upsetting phone call from someone in her past while attending an award celebration for a designer friend. I based the novel on that concept, working through the details and adjusting the plot as the idea developed.

How do you get to know your characters?
Great question. While in college, I took an advanced fiction writing class. As a class assignment, I had written a short story about a woman whose life unraveled when her husband left her for his mistress. In one of the scenes, I had my character make instant coffee. My classmates nailed me for that during the critique session. They said my character was the kind of particular individual who would take the time to brew coffee — she would never serve instant. I realized they were right, but back then, all I made was instant coffee. I had to go outside my own experiences to portray my character in an authentic way. It was a lesson I’ve never forgotten. 

Now, I live with my characters for a long time before I write a single word of a manuscript. I do a lot of freewriting about them, old-fashioned pen to paper, and once I have a firm sense of who they are, I play little games, quizzing myself about their preferences, likes and dislikes, etc. Details are critical.

Who are your favorite authors?
I’m an eclectic reader — I love everything from science fiction and horror to literary fiction and historical romance. My favorite authors, however, write mysteries and thrillers. Elizabeth George, Jonathan Kellerman, Agatha Christie, Harlan Coben, Donna Leon, P.D. James . . . just to name a few. 

What book are you currently reading and in what format?
The Girl on a Train, by Paula Hawkins, in hardcover. I just started it, and I can’t put it down.

Where and when do you prefer to do your writing?
Anywhere with a view! I especially like ski lodges. I enjoy having people around me — the background noise helps me focus — and I love the views. Big Sky in Montana is a favorite spot. My husband and boys ski and I write.

If you could only keep one book, what would it be?

Stephen King’s The Stand. I have read it at least a dozen times, and I learn something new about craft each time I open it.

Let's pretend you’re leaving your country for a year. What’s the last meal (or food) you would want to have before leaving?
My mother’s eggplant parmigiana! It’s long been a favorite, and if I’m leaving the country for a year and I can can’t convince her to join me, that’s what I’d choose.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I love to travel with my family, and garden/cook. Last year, my husband, kids, and I drove from our home in Pennsylvania to Montana, where we stayed for two weeks before driving home again. The time in Montana was wonderful, but the process of getting there — visiting points along the way in Wisconsin, South Dakota, and Wyoming — was pretty amazing. This year we’re heading to Europe and plan to spend time visiting (by car) several countries.
Gardening is another passion. We’re avid organic gardeners. Years ago, affected by the market downturn and concerned about the price of organic produce, we decided to grow our own vegetables. Our small garden plot now takes up most of our third of an acre yard and we enjoy our own vegetables year-round. 

What are you working on now?

I’m finishing up the first book in a new series. The novel is called A Muddied Murder, and it’s the debut in The Greenhouse Mystery Series, which will be published by Henery Press beginning in the spring of 2016. The series centers on a young, widowed environmental lawyer who returns home to rural Pennsylvania to care for her spirited, aging grandmother and launch the family’s organic farm and café. In the first book, she and the town’s hunky veterinarian find the body of the local zoning commissioner in her barn — and she, of course, is compelled to find the killer. 

I’m also writing the next Allison Campbell novel, Fatal Facade, which is due out next summer. I’m thrilled to announce that I have a contract with Henery Press for three more books in that series. In Fatal Facade, Allison and friends head to Italy where Allison becomes entangled in the murder investigation of a beautiful, mysterious ex pat.


Wendy Tyson is an author, lawyer and former therapist whose background has inspired her mysteries and thrillers. Wendy has written four published crime novels, including Dying Brand,the third novel in the Allison Campbell Mystery Series, released on May 5, 2015.  The first in the Campbell series, Killer Image, was named a best mystery for book clubs in 2014 by Wendy is also the author of the Greenhouse Mystery Series, the first of which, A Muddied Murder, is due to be released just in time for spring 2016. Wendy is a member of Sisters in Crime and International Thriller Writers, and she is a contributing editor for The Big Thrill, International Thriller Writers’ online magazine.  Wendy lives near Philadelphia with her husband, three sons and two dogs. Visit Wendy at

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Featured Author: Rich Zahradnik

Drop Dead Punk

by Rich Zahradnik

on Tour July 2015

About the book

Coleridge Taylor is searching for his next scoop on the police beat. The Messenger-Telegram reporter has a lot to choose from on the crime-ridden streets of New York City in 1975. One story outside his beat is grabbing all the front page glory: New York teeters on the brink of bankruptcy, and President Ford just told the city, as the Daily News so aptly puts it, "Drop Dead." Taylor's situation is nearly as desperate. His home is a borrowed dry-docked houseboat, his newspaper may also be on the way out, and his drunk father keeps getting arrested.

A source sends Taylor down to Alphabet City, hang-out of the punks who gravitate to the rock club CBGB. There he finds the bloody fallout from a mugging. Two dead bodies: a punk named Johnny Mort and a cop named Robert Dodd. Each looks too messed up to have killed the other. Taylor starts asking around. The punk was a good kid, the peace-loving guardian angel of the neighborhood's stray dogs. What led him to mug a woman at gunpoint? And why is Officer Samantha Callahan being accused of leaving her partner to die, even though she insists the police radio misled her? It's hard enough being a female in the NYPD only five years after women were assigned to patrol. Now the department wants to throw her to the wolves. That's not going to happen, not if Taylor can help it. As he falls for Samantha--a beautiful, dedicated second-generation cop--he realizes he's too close to his story. Officer Callahan is a target, and Taylor's standing between her and some mighty big guns.

Drop Dead Punk is book 2 in the Coleridge Taylor Mystery series.

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery
Series: Book 2 in the Coleridge Taylor Mystery series.
Published by: Camel Press,
Publication Date: ~ Aug. 15, 2015
Number of Pages: 254
ISBN: 978-1603812092
Purchase Links: Amazon Barnes & Noble Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

The great headlines of other newspapers were always to be despised. Not today.
The three ancient copy editors were on their feet, with Copydesk Chief Milt Corman in the middle. Taylor stopped his walk through the newsroom to find out why. If someone had made a mistake, it must be a colossal one to get those fat asses out of their seats. He looked over Corman’s shoulder. The copy chief held the Daily News. It was that day’s edition, Oct. 30, 1975. The 144-point front-page headline screamed up from the page.


Corman rattled the paper violently. “That’s a work of art. Tells the whole story in five words. He gave the city the finger yesterday.”

Jack Miller, one of the other old farts, moved back to his seat. You could only expect him to stand for so long. He settled into his chair for another day of slashing copy. “What do you expect from our unelected president? Veepee to Nixon. Goddamned pardoned Robert E. Lee two months ago.”

“Didn’t pardon him. Gave him back his citizenship.”

“Same thing. The barbarians are running the country and now they’re at our gates. We’re the biggest, most important city on the planet, and he’s going to leave us hanging to get himself actually elected to the job.”

Corman flipped open the paper to the Ford speech story across pages four and five. “Just listen to this bullshit. ‘I am prepared to veto any bill that has as its purpose a Federal bailout of New York City to prevent a default.’ He blathers on about using the uniform bankruptcy laws. On and on and on. How do you police the streets and pick up garbage under the uniform bankruptcy laws? A Federal judge trying to run the whole damn city? Chaos.”

“Ford’s from Grand Rapids.” Miller shook his big round head. “He doesn’t know from anything about this place. He’s talking to all the flatlanders—a nation that hates us.”

“Will you listen to this at the end? ‘If we go on spending more than we have, providing more benefits and more services than we can pay for, then a day of reckoning will come to Washington and the whole country just as it has to New York City. When that day of reckoning comes, who will bail out the United States of America?’ He’ll kill this city to keep his job.” Corman looked from the paper to Taylor. “You’re the crime reporter. Why don’t you go after this? Write the story about the man who murdered New York.”

Taylor laughed. “You can’t kill New York.”

“Rome fell.”

“Rome wasn’t New York. You know this is the same political bullshit. Made up numbers and budget magic and threats from Washington. New York will still be here long after. It’s a great headline, though. You guys should try writing ’em like that.”

He left the horseshoe copy desk before they could protest that wasn’t the style of the New York Messenger-Telegram. He knew all too well the three of them would kill to be headline writers at the Daily News. That paper wasn’t perpetually on the verge of failing like the MT.

Taylor gave New York’s financial crisis about thirty seconds more thought as he wound his way around the maze of the newsroom. To him, the crisis was background noise. The city had become a dark place since the Sixties decided to end early, round about 1968. Crime lurked in the darkness, and he covered crime. He was too busy with New York’s growth industry to pay attention to the mayor’s budget problems.

Heroin everywhere.

Corruption in the police department.

Buildings in the South Bronx torched by the block.

Those were the stories he went after, not failed bond sales and blabbering politicos. Problem was the damn financial story had pushed everything else off the MT’s front page. Taylor hadn’t had a decent story out there in three weeks. He needed the quick hit of a page one byline, needed it particularly bad this morning. The cops had called him at home last night. Not about a story this time. They’d arrested his father, reeling drunk in his underwear outside his apartment building. Taylor had been up until three a.m. dealing with that mess. A good story—a good story that actually got decent play—and a few beers after to celebrate. Now that would pick him up. For a day or two at least.

Make the calls. Someone’s got to have something. Now that Ford’s had his say, there must be room on page one.

He’d almost slipped past the city desk when Worth called out his name. Taylor tried to pretend he hadn’t heard and kept going, but Worth raised his high-pitched voice and just about yelled. Taylor turned and went back to the pristine maple-topped desk of City Editor Bradford J. Worth, Jr.

“I’ve got an assignment for you.”

That was always bad news. “Haven’t made my calls yet.”

“Doesn’t matter. Need you down at City Hall.”

Taylor brightened. Crime at City Hall. A murder? That would be big.

“What’s the story?” He sounded enthusiastic. He shouldn’t have.

“You’re to go to the pressroom and wait for announcements. Glockman called in sick.”

“C’mon, Worth. Not babysitting. You’ve got three other City Hall reporters.” Who’ve owned the front page for weeks.

“They’re all very busy pursuing the most important story in this city’s history. Your job is to sit at our desk in the pressroom and wait for the mayor to issue a statement on Ford’s speech. Or the deputy mayor. Or a sanitation worker. Or a cleaning lady. Anybody says anything, you phone it in. Rumor is they’re working on using city pension funds.”

Worth’s phone rang, and he picked up. “Yeah, I’m sending Taylor down. No, he’ll do for now.” He set the receiver lightly on its hook. “You’ve been down in the dumps since your friend Laura left us. Was it her going or the fact she got a job at the New York Times? Because you’ll never get there, not with the way you dodge the biggest stories.”

“Hey, you and I are both still here.”

Worth frowned. Ambition rose off the man like an odor as strong as the cologne he wore. He’d made city editor at thirty without ever working as a reporter. Everyone knew he wanted more, and to him, more meant the New York Times. He’d almost been as upset as Taylor when Laura Wheeler announced she had the gig, and Worth wasn’t the one in love with Laura. He had been sure he was leaving next.

“Both here, but I’m the one doing his job. Now get to City Hall.”

“You have to be able to find someone else.” Exasperation through grit teeth. “Crime is big for this paper.”

“I decide what’s big.” He picked up the phone, dialed an inside extension, and showed Taylor his back.

Sitting at City Hall waiting for a press release was the perfect way to ruin Taylor’s day, something the city editor liked doing so much it had become a bad habit.

Taylor arrived at his own desk to find the other police reporters gone, probably making their rounds.

The desk that had been Laura’s reminded him of her—of her dark brown eyes, her black hair, her beautiful face. She’d left an aching emptiness inside him. They’d lasted a month after she’d moved to the New York Times, and then she’d broken it off. She said she realized the only thing they had in common was the MT. She hadn’t been mean about it. And she wasn’t wrong. The paper had been their life during the day and their conversation at night. He wondered if it also had to do with his age, 34, and where he was—or wasn’t—in life. He pushed his hand through his short brown hair. He’d even found himself considering his thin, angular face, something he’d never done before. Was that it? Laura was beautiful. Taylor couldn’t think of a word for what he was.

He recently heard she’d started dating a guy on the foreign staff, Derek something. He wondered how old Derek was. Late twenties and optimistic, he guessed, unbowed by life. From a good family too, probably. It was always going to end. So why did it hurt like this?

Truth was Taylor had been living with emptiness for years before he met her. Over that time, he’d gotten used to it, let the job fill his life. Only, having her and losing her made him understand how much he disliked this lonely hole inside.

Really should leave right away.

The black phone in front of him was too much temptation. Worth couldn’t see Taylor from the city desk. He picked up the receiver, pushed the clear plastic button for an outside line, and dialed the number for Sidney Greene at 1 Police Plaza. Greene was perhaps the most discontented, dyspeptic minor civil servant Taylor had ever encountered. He leaked stories not to expose injustice or right a wrong, but to screw his bosses. He simply loved watching them deal with the chaos he created by tipping off Taylor.

“Anything up?”

“Oh, a real shit show. Officer down.”

Taylor flipped open a notebook. Even in the midst of this dark age of drugs, muggings, and homicides, a police officer murdered was still a big story. A page one story. “Where and when?”

“Avenue B and East Eighth, just in from Tompkins Square Park.”

“What happened?”

“That’s all I can do for you. They’re doing the headless chicken dance down here. You’ll be ahead of the others if you get to the scene quick. Not by much, though.”

Taylor left the newsroom for the Lower Eastside. He’d check for press releases at City Hall after visiting the scene of the cop’s murder. Worthless would have his head if he missed even one minor announcement. Screw it. Taylor couldn’t ignore a big story. A real story.

He hustled from the subway across the blocks to the crime scene. The day offered near perfect New York fall weather, with the air crisp and clear, tingling with energy. He unwrapped a stick of Teaberry gum and stuck it in his mouth. The temperature had dropped from yesterday’s high of 70 and would only make it into the mid-fifties today. Jacket weather—Taylor’s favorite. Not so hot he broke into a sweat on a good walk, and cool but not cold—he wasn’t fighting the brutal winds of winter that blasted down the avenues. Easy weather put New Yorkers at ease. He could sense it as he walked. More smiles. Sidewalk trees even showed off muted reds and gold. Taylor knew it was nothing like the color upstate but it would do.

Taylor’s press pass got him inside the cluster of patrol cars guarding the ambulance. A couple of fire engines had also rolled to the scene, which was a dilapidated brownstone with half its windows boarded, a missing door, and a huge hole in the roof. The place was a true Lower Eastside wreck in a neighborhood where hard luck meant you were doing pretty well for yourself.

Taylor climbed the cracked front steps. A “Condemned Building” sign was nailed to the open door. The first floor had few interior walls, only piles of rubble from when the roof had come down, bringing chunks of the next three floors with it. The smell of must mingled with the stink of garbage. Two uniformed and four plainclothes police stood around a uniformed body sprawled across a pile of plaster chunks and wood slats in the middle of what was once probably a living room. Off to the right in the front corner was a second body, guarded by no one.

Seeing an opportunity, Taylor moved closer to the body in the corner. The man, young and apparently startled by death, had taken one shot to the chest and one in the leg. Blood soaked a black T-shirt printed with big white letters Taylor couldn’t read unless he adjusted the man’s leather jacket, which was also covered in blood. The man’s heart must have pumped his life’s blood out in minutes. Faster maybe. His right hand was on his stomach and clutched a green leather purse with a gold chain strap. Taylor knew better than to touch anything. Instead, he leaned in and was met by the iron and musk odor of blood. The top of the man’s hand was tattooed with a spiral pattern, an eye at its center. The fingers were inked with the bones of a skeleton, like an X-ray of what lay beneath the dead man’s skin.

The face was young—twenties, probably early twenties— bony and pale, with a tattoo of a spider web that started below the shirt line and crept up his neck to his chin and right ear. His hair was short and spiky, in the punk style—as was his whole look. Many of them had recently moved into this neighborhood to be near the punk rock club CBGB and the other bars that were the heart of the punk rock scene. Many were squatters.

“Don’t touch nothin’.” A short chunky cop with a gold badge in his belt walked over.

“I’d never do that, Detective.” Taylor rose from his crouch.

“I’m very sorry about the loss of an officer.”

“Yeah, thanks. And who the fuck are you?”

“Taylor with the Messenger-Telegram.” Taylor tapped the laminated pass.

“The Empty, huh? Read it sometimes. At least you’re not the fucking Times. I hate those pricks.”

Five years since the New York Times interviewed Serpico and broke the story of massive corruption in the NYPD, and the paper was still on every cop’s s#*t list. At the time, Taylor had gone crazy trying to follow the Times’ scoops. He’d admired what the Times had done and hated being behind on such a big story. He didn’t need to tell the detective that, though. It was fine with him if the man liked the Messenger-Telegram. Taylor himself liked cops, the honest kind at least. When he’d started at the paper, police reporters were almost cops themselves. Or adjuncts, at least. They helped the police, publicizing successes, ignoring failures and drinking in the same places. Not anymore. Trust had been lost, and it wasn’t going to be won back anytime soon.

"What happened?”

“This jamoke holds up a woman for her purse when she comes up from the subway at Astor Place. Officer Robert Dodd and his partner give chase. The mugger runs across St. Mark’s Place, through the park and into this hole. They exchange shots. Both are killed. At least that’s what we can figure so far.”

“Dodd’s partner?”

“Couldn’t keep up. Poor Dodd was stuck with a meter maid. When little Samantha Callahan gets here, they’re both dead. What’s the point of having broads patrolling if they can’t back you up?” Lights flashed across the detective’s jowly face. He looked out the glassless window at the car pulling up. “Assistant chief. I’ve got to make sense of this for him.”

Taylor jotted down the name on the detective’s plate, R. Trunk. He dug out a business card and handed it to the detective. “Anything more comes up, call me. We take care of cops at the MT.” Laying it on thick never hurt. “Dodd’s a hero. His story should be told right.”

“Yeah, we’ll see. Your paper may not be awful. Doesn’t mean I trust you. Now get out of here. We got work to do.”

Trunk turned as another plainclothesman walked up. “Still haven’t got the kid’s gun.”

"Well, find the f#^*ing thing. Assistant chief ’s going to be on us like stink on s#*t.”

That was odd. If Dodd took out the mugger, the man’s gun would be right here somewhere. It couldn’t have walked away on its own. Taylor put that detail in his notebook. Anything odd always went in the notebook. He walked a wide arc toward the door to get a quick view of the dead officer. Dodd was a complete mess. He had to have been shot in the face. Taylor couldn’t make out the nose, the eyes, anything in the gore and blood. That meant he had to have shot the mugger first.

About the author

authorRich Zahradnik is the author of the Coleridge Taylor Mystery series from Camel Press. Last Words is the first novel in the series and was published Oct. 1, 2014. Drop Dead Punk will come out August 15. He was a journalist for 30-plus years, working as a reporter and editor in all major news media, including online, newspaper, broadcast, magazine and wire services. He held editorial positions at CNN, Bloomberg News, Fox Business Network, AOL and The Hollywood Reporter, often writing news stories and analysis about the journalism business, broadcasting, film production, publishing and the online industry. In January 2012, he was one of 20 writers selected for the inaugural class of the Crime Fiction Academy, a first-of-its-kind program run by New York's Center for Fiction. He has been a media entrepreneur throughout his career. He was the founding executive producer of, a leading financial news website and a Webby winner; managing editor of, and a partner in the soccer-news website company Goal Networks. Zahradnik also co-founded the weekly newspaper The Peekskill Herald at the age of 25, leading it to seven state press association awards in its first three years. Zahradnik was born in Poughkeepsie, New York, and received his B.A. in journalism and political science from George Washington University. He lives with his wife Sheri and son Patrick in Pelham, New York, where he writes fiction and teaches elementary school kids how to publish the online and print newspaper the Colonial Times.

Connect with Rich:
author's website author's twitter author's facebook


Get More Great Reads at Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours

Thursday, June 25, 2015



Liz Lucas, a 52-year-old widow, is beginning to think she’s been given a second chance at life by owning a successful spa located in a beautiful forest area on the coast north of San Francisco.

What could possibly go wrong? Well, for starters, discovering that a guest staying in cottage #6 at the spa has been murdered.

In order to save the spa’s reputation, Liz, along with her two dogs, Brandy Boy and Winston, sets out to find the killer. The cast of characters includes a handyman, spa employees, the bumbling police chief, the owner of Gertie’s Diner, the dead woman’s husband (the mayor), his girlfriend, and a Tiffany glass collector. One of them probably committed the crime, but it’s up to Liz to quickly find the culprit.

I'm happy to have fellow cozy mystery writer Dianne Harman here today. I asked her to tell us how she got started writing, and here's what she had to say . . .


My daughter-in-law and I were at a spa in British Columbia for a few days. We both had the same facialist. She looked fabulous. I looked like a purple plum. My skin flaked off. I looked so bad when I got on the plane the stewardess asked what had happened to me. I began to concoct a story in my mind about how a facialist hated older women. The book came from that experience.

Murder in Cottage #6 is the first in the Liz Lucas Cozy Mystery Series. My Cedar Bay Cozy Mystery Series had done very well, and I wondered what would happen if I wrote another series. The book was an April and May Amazon All-Star, so it obviously worked. The second book in the series, Murder and Brandy Boy is also doing very well, and I’m editing the third in the series which goes by a working title of Murder and the Tarot Card Reader.
I live in Huntington Beach, California. Lots to love here with the exception of traffic! Fortunately we live near the beach in a pretty inaccessible area, so we can escape the crowds and the traffic.

I’m very fortunate to be able to make writing my full time career, albeit a career that began when I was in my late ‘60’s. Never would have thought I’d be doing this, but I absolutely love it. Most fun I’ve ever had.

My first book, Blue Coyote Motel, just happened. My husband and I were staying at a boutique motel for a wedding our son was in. It was October in Palm Springs, California, normally a beautiful time, but it was 107 degrees. For a reason I’ll never know, I turned to my husband and said, “Wouldn’t it be interesting if someone put a feel good drug in the air-conditioning and everyone felt good all the time?” He looked at me and said, “There’s your book.” I wrote the whole thing on my iPad and that was the beginning, really just a couple of years ago.

I started writing cozy mysteries because it was a genre in which I could combine my love of dogs and food. Lots of recipes and puppies and dogs in these books.

If authors write about contemporary life, I think parts of them are bound to seep in. I suppose if you’re writing science fiction or dystopian, that wouldn’t be as true, but I can’t help but put some of my experiences in my books. For example, I went trekking in Nepal and although I’m not the character in that book, one of the characters in Blue Coyote Motel does that. We took a motor home trip us the California coast and stopped at a place I think was called Jade Beach many years ago when our children were small. Murder at Jade Cove came from that experience. I would have to say parts of me are probably in all of my books, I’m just not in a book.

I decided to self-publish because a man whom I respect a great deal as an author sat down with me and told me what steps I should take to publish a book. He was adamant about self-publishing for several reasons. His publisher had declared bankruptcy and he lost quite a bit of money. He also felt I would have far more control over my projects and make more money. I’ve never been sorry I’ve done that.


Dianne Harman draws her stories and characters from a diverse business and personal background. She owned a national antique and art appraisal business for many years, left that industry, and opened two yoga centers where she taught yoga and certified yoga instructors. She's traveled extensively throughout the world, most recently dividing her time between Huntington Beach, California and Sacramento, California, where her husband was a senator. An avid reader, Dianne brings the richness of her life experiences to her three series, Cedar Bay Cozy Mystery Series, Liz Lucas Cozy Mystery Series, and the Coyote Series.

Connect with Dianne:
Website  |  Blog  |  Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Pinterest  |  Google+

Tuesday, June 23, 2015



Hours before the opening of her career counseling practice, Gilda Greco discovers the body of golden girl, Carrie Ann Godfrey, neatly arranged in the dumpster outside Gilda’s office. Gilda’s life and budding career are stalled as Detective Carlo Fantin, her former high school crush, conducts the investigation. When three more dead blondes turn up, all brutally strangled and deposited near Gilda’s favorite haunts, she is pegged as a prime suspect for the murders.

Frustrated by Carlo’s chilly detective persona and the mean girl antics of Carrie Ann’s meddling relatives, Gilda decides to launch her own investigation. She discovers a gaggle of suspects, among them a yoga instructor in need of anger management training, a lecherous photographer, and fourteen ex-boyfriends.

As the puzzle pieces fall into place, shocking revelations emerge, forcing Gilda to confront the envy and deceit she has long overlooked.


Joanne, what’s the story behind the title A Season for Killing Blondes?

While undergoing cancer treatments, I gravitated toward cozy mysteries. After devouring over fifty books in that genre, I imagined the following scenarios: What if a brunette lottery winner moves back to her hometown and finds herself involved in a murder investigation? And what if all the victims are blondes? Since I had plotted the story during the most challenging season of my life, I decided to use A Season for Killing Blondes as the title.

Tell us about your series.

A Season for Killing Blondes is the first book in the Gilda Greco Mystery Series. Based in Northern Ontario, these books feature a fifty-something Italian woman, her relatives, deserving and undeserving men, and food. Several ideas are percolating for Books 2 and 3 – Too Many Women in the Room and A Different Kind of Reunion. 

Where did you grow up?

I was born and raised in Sudbury, Ontario, also known as the Nickel Capital of the World and Slagtown. Growing up, I would sneak in to see the big coin, and while walking in the evenings, I take in a spectacular view of the slag dumping. Not exactly what most children would enjoy, but I was fascinated by the contrast between the darkening sky and the fiery colors.

What’s one of your favorite quotes?

"Life begins at the end of your comfort zone." -Neale Donald Walsch

Are you like any of your characters?
I identify strongly with Gilda Greco, the protagonist of the novel. So much so, that I used the first-person POV. Our similarities...Italian Canadian, born and raised in Sudbury, relocated to Southern Ontario, mathematics teachers, career development practitioners, yoga enthusiasts, non-foodies.
 One major difference – Gilda won a $19 million lottery. I’m still hoping.

Are any of your characters inspired by real people?

Having lived and taught in different cities throughout the province of Ontario, I felt free to “borrow” characteristics from former colleagues and students to create composite characters. While Gilda is approximately 70% me, the same can’t be said of the other characters. I would be very surprised if anyone recognized himself/herself in the novel.

Who are your favorite authors?

I have eclectic tastes and enjoy reading contemporary women’s fiction, cozy mysteries, thrillers, historical fiction, self-help, and memoirs. Some of my favorite authors include Ann Patchett, Ann Lamott, Ken Follett, Jane Green, Maeve Binchy, Gail Bowen, Louise Penny, Adriana Trigiani, Louise Hay, and Dr. Christiane Northrup.

What book are you currently reading and in what format?

I’m reading Lisa Genova’s latest release – Inside the O’Briens. Format – hardcover.

Do you have a routine for writing?

When I retired and started writing full-time, I expected to be inspired each day. Everything was in place—business cards, new computer, dreams of a runaway best-seller — but my underdeveloped writing muscles refused to budge. 
After some experimentation, I came up with a daily regimen. Nothing too dramatic, but it works for me. I like to sleep in each day and enjoy a leisurely breakfast. But after my second cup of coffee, I start writing. My goal – 1000 words a day. After I reach that quota, I’m free to meet with friends for lunch or coffee and plan other outings.

What’s the best compliment you’ve ever received about your writing?

I am grateful for the wonderful reviews I received for my debut novel, Between Land and Sea.

 My favorite comes from Colleen McConnell: 

“The novel is a classic wisdom tale with a twist and is reminiscent of Jane Austen.”


In high school, Joanne dabbled in poetry, but it would be over three decades before she entertained the idea of writing as a career. She listened to her practical Italian side and earned degrees in mathematics and education. She experienced many fulfilling moments as she watched her students develop an appreciation (and sometimes, love) of mathematics. Later, she obtained a post-graduate diploma as a career development practitioner and put that skill set to use in the co-operative education classroom. She welcomed this opportunity to help her students experience personal growth and acquire career direction through their placements.

In 2008, she took advantage of early retirement and decided to launch a second career that would tap into her creative side and utilize her well-honed organizational skills. Slowly, a writing practice emerged. Her articles and book reviews were published in newspapers, magazines, and online. When she tried her hand at fiction, she made reinvention a recurring theme in her novels and short stories. A member of Sisters in Crime, Crime Writers of Canada, and Romance Writers of America, Joanne writes paranormal romance, cozy mysteries, and inspirational literature from her home base of Guelph, Ontario.

Connect with Joanne:
Website  |  Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Goodreads   

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Featured Author: Kevin Doyle


They kept to the shadows so no one would know they existed, and preyed on the nameless who no one would miss. Where did they come from, and who was protecting them? In a city that had seen every kind of savagery, they were something new, something more than murderous. And one woman, who had thought she had lost everything there was to lose in life, would soon find that nothing could possibly prepare her for what would come when she entered their world.


Kevin, what’s the story behind the title The Litter?

It kind of seemed obvious. Once I had the main plot premise, along with the age of some of the participants, the word “Litter” just kind of popped into my head.

Where’s home for you?

I’m a lifelong Midwesterner. Born and lived most of my life in Wichita, Kansas. But for over a decade Columbia, Missouri, has been home.

What’s the most valuable thing you’ve learned?
That nobody owes anyone anything. It all has to be earned.

What do you love about where you live?
Columbia is a city of about 100,000 people, and it has a vibrant, engaged citizenry. There’s a ton of little hole-in-the-wall eateries, theatres and music venues. But at the same time, a short drive in any direction presents all sorts of outdoors opportunities.  It’s equidistant between Kansas City, St. Louis and the Ozarks, so you never lack for stuff to do.

What is the most daring thing you've done?

Considering that I’m terrified of heights, zip lining ranks right up there.

Do you have another job outside of writing?
Not even sure you could call writing a job, seeing as how it brings in very little money, especially when compared to the amount of work. My main career is as a high school teacher, English and public speaking.

What choices in life would you like to have a redo on?
If I had some way known that I would end up teaching (it was totally unplanned on my part), I probably would have gone into either social studies or foreign language. Fewer papers to grade.

What’s one of your favorite quotes?
I’m not sure who originally said it, but I saw it reprinted in Small Town, by Lawrence Block: "Witing is an occupation at which you can earn a fortune, but you can’t earn a living." 

If you could live anywhere in the world, where in the world would it be?
The Gulf Coast, probably Mississippi or Alabama. Already making plans to head down that way when I retire in about nine years.

My dad lives down there — in Alabama — and loves it. How did you create the plot for this book?
It sounds like a cliche, but I woke up one morning with a scene imprinted on my mind. It’s actually the final scene in part II of the book. Once I had that scene jotted down, I just had to go backward and forward to finish it up. I wrote about the first three or four chapters, then I flashed ahead and wrote the final chapter. Then I wrote the fifth, then the next to last, and went back and forth like that until I had it basically in shape.

Are any of your characters inspired by real people?
To the best of my knowledge, no. Though one of my students claims I owe him royalties because I used his last name for the name of a street in the book.

Who are your favorite authors?
Lawrence Block and Robert B. Parker are among my most recent favorites. Although Parker really began phoning it in around the halfway point. I’ve recently experienced a lot of Robert Crais and have just started reading Michael Connelly. I also have a huge soft spot for Arthur C. Clarke.

What book are you currently reading and in what format?

I do almost all my reading in paperback and hardcover. A few months back, I lucked out. Walking through one of our local used bookstores, I came across several copies of the Doc Savage Omnibus volumes. Doc Savage reprints were my absolute favorite reading as a kid, and right there were six volumes containing around thirty stories that I’d heard of but never read. I snatched them all up and for the last few months have been reliving my youth. Once I’m finished, I plan on re-reading Block’s When the Sacred Ginmill Closes. Then probably get back to Connelly.

Do you have a routine for writing?
No real routine. During the school year, I work it in when and where I can, usually trying to do at least a couple of pages a night.

What’s the best compliment you’ve ever received about your writing?
A review that showed up on Goodreads for The Litter. Paraphrased a bit, the reviewer said “This book scared the hell out of me.” Also, several people who read The Litter have commented that they had trouble sleeping for a while afterwards. The average seems to be two nights.

Yikes! Now that's scary. If you could be a ghostwriter for any famous author, whom would you pick?
Block, hands down. I would say Parker, but I doubt I could even come close to the job that Ace Atkins has done.

What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever had to write?
A short story of mine called “The Old Dogs.” It’s another one that came to me from a snippet of a dream. I woke up in a literal cold sweat (honestly) with my heart racing. I jotted down this one image I managed to retain, and the next afternoon started playing around with it. But the basic plot line was so disturbing that I could only write about half a page a day, and this was during the summer break, because I couldn’t stand any more than that. I managed to sell it right off the bat, but when it came out in magazine form it took me two or three attempts to sit down and read it because I knew where it was going and didn’t want to get there. It’s since been reprinted by another ‘zine, so it must have been halfway decent.

What’s the worst thing someone has said about your writing? How did you deal with it
An editor of a local lifestyle magazine, back when I was twenty and first trying my hand at all this, looked over an article I’d written and told me he couldn’t use it because “You’re not a very good writer.” In retrospect, it doesn’t sound that harsh, but at the time it sucker punched me. After a couple of days, I shook myself off and decided to learn the craft as well as I could.

How did you find your publisher and how long did your query process take?
This is probably going to tick some people off, but I really don’t get the whole self-publishing thing. I know things are changing, but to me it doesn’t really feel legitimate. Besides the fact of how expensive it could get. So for me, and I’m not one to dictate to others, traditional publishing was the only way to go.

That being said, so far I’ve dealt exclusively with small presses, just as I do with small magazines. As for finding them, I basically use Duotrope, which, for me, is well worth the yearly fee. 

One nice thing about the small presses is that there usually isn’t that long of a wait to hear back. When I sent One Helluva Gig to Vagabondage Press, it took them only a few months to send me an acceptance.

Once Gig came out, I was putting the finishing touches on The Group and felt a lot more confident that maybe something would happen. What I wasn’t prepared for, though, was that three weeks after I began submitting it, I received an offer from Barbarian Books. My first full-length mystery novel, and three weeks after sending it out I had an offer in hand.

My newest work, The Litter, took a bit longer, but not all that much. I finished it at the end of June of last year and began sending it out in July. It racked up several rejections before Night to Dawn made an offer a couple of days after Labor Day.

Bottom line, when it comes to sending books out and having them accepted, I’ve been very, very lucky.

I'll say. But I would respectfully disagree with you on self-publishing. My book is doing much better now, as a self-published author, than when a small press published it. I think there's room in the market for both. What are you working on now?
Currently, I’m working on a sequel to The Group. It focuses on the cops who were secondary characters in the first book, and doesn’t really include the original protagonist at all.  I had hoped to have a first draft finished before school broke for the year, but that didn’t happen, so right now I’m way behind.


A high school teacher and fiction writer living in central Missouri, Kevin R. Doyle’s  short stories of horror and suspense have appeared in over twenty-five small press magazines. In 2012 his first e-book, a mainstream novelette titled One Helluva Gig, was released by Vagabondage Press. In January of 2014, Barbarian Books released his first full-length mystery novel, The Group, and in February of 2015, Night to Dawn Magazine and Books released his horror novel, The Litter.

Connect with Kevin:
Website  |  Facebook  |  Goodreads  

Friday, June 19, 2015



Welcome back to A Blue Million Books, Dennis. Sand Key is the second book in a series, and while I would recommend reading the series in order, do you consider it a standalone, or do you think readers need to read the series in order?
Sand Key is the sequel to my first published novel, Gulf Boulevard. You can read Sand Key as a stand-alone or start the adventure with Gulf Boulevard.

Who would you pick to write your biography?

Me. Been there, done that. The title is Life Minus 3½.

Well, Life Minus 3½ is a fantastic book, and I highly recommend it, as it’s on my top ten favorite books of all time list, but it was only about a portion of your life. There are tons of things readers would still like to know about Dennis Hart. For instance, have you ever been in any natural disasters?
Does my first marriage qualify?

Facepalm. I should have known. Technically, it doesn’t count, but since I’ve read Life Minus 3½, I do take your point. Besides marrying your first wife, what is the most daring thing you've done?
Mountain climb without ropes.

I don’t believe you. You’re too smart for that. What is the stupidest thing you've ever done?  Besides marrying your first wife, of course.
See above.

I walked right into that one. What makes you bored?
Boring things.

Of course. What choices in life would you like to have a redo on?
There are too many to list here.

If someone gave you $5,000 and said you must solve a problem, what would you do with the money?
Give it back.

I don’t think you’re quite getting the concept of interviewing an author so others can find out more about him, although I do think you’re giving readers a taste of your humorous side. But let’s try again . . . What makes you nervous?

Public speaking and turbulence.

Now we’re getting somewhere. What makes you happy?

Not speaking in public and landing safely.

My mean teacher look is about to be unleashed. What makes you scared?
Crazy people.

Define crazy. I might be one of them.

Crazy people are wide-eyed, disheveled, nose-pickin' turds who have to get in my face to make a point. These folks are often seen in vehicles covered in bumper stickers or walking like zombies down the aisles of WalMart.

Whew. By your definition, I’m not crazy. Sounds like a yankee thing. What makes you excited?
Too personal.

Not that kind of excited. Oh brother. Just who do you think you are? I mean, seriously, who is Dennis Hart?
I'm not sure. Hopefully someone will explain it on my tombstone. 

Ahem . . . I see you weaseled out of another one. If you could only save one thing from your house, what would it be?
My dog, because he advises me on content. 

He is a beaut, and he looks very smart. What brings you sheer delight? Besides your dog. And my work.
Vegetables from my garden that the varmints didn't eat.

Would you rather be a lonely genius, or a sociable idiot?
Lonely idiot?

You’re being difficult again. What’s one of your favorite quotes?
"Get busy living, or get busy dying." Morgan Freeman - Shawshank Redemption

Finally! An honest answer. If you could live anywhere in the world, where in the world would it be?
Any English speaking island where the sun shines, the sand is soft, the breeze tropical, and the salt water turquoise and calm. 

What would your main character, Jason, say about you?
That dope can't write!

Psshaw. How did you create the plot for Sand Key?

I spent many hours arguing with the characters.

Who won?
The characters always win. It's like a union; if they don't get their way, they walk.

Are any of them inspired by real people? 

Yes...they know who they are.

Tell the truth: do you rake your sand like your main character Jason does?
Yes, I rake, and I'm proud of it.

Is your book based on real events?
No. Well, kinda...sometimes.

You write about mobsters a lot. Have you ever whacked anybody?

Like I'm gonna answer that.

Who are your favorite authors?

Nelson DeMille, John Grisham, Carl Hiaasen, and for my southern fix, Amy Metz.

Awww . . . aren’t you sweet. You’re not just sucking up, are you? Never mind, I'll take what I can get. What book are you currently reading and in what format?
Gray Mountain - Grisham, hardcovers only. 

It’s no secret. I love your work. There are so many times when I read your books and think ‘I wish I’d written that.’ What’s the best compliment you’ve ever received about your writing?
I was compared to Tim Dorsy, and Carl Hiaasen. But more importantly the reviewer laughed and loved my work.

Well, speaking from experience, I think a person would have to be dead not to laugh at your work. I actually like it much better than Carl Hiaasen’s. I’ve never read Tim Dorsy’s work. I’ll get right on that and get back to you. Why did you decide to self-publish Sand Key?

The owner of The Permanent Press was in a drunken stupor when he reached out to me to publish Gulf Boulevard. He has since regretted that decision.

I enjoy self-publishing. It allows me the freedom of cover design and content. But the stigma is certainly a speed bump when trying to reach the masses.

And distribution is nearly impossible unless you're lucky enough to enjoy a wildfire of word-of-mouth accolades. 

True. What are you working on now?
World peace.
Of course you are. Good luck with that. And good luck with Sand Key.


Dennis Hart is the owner of an environmental equipment rental company in Massachusetts. He was an active member of a writer’s forum since 2010 called “The Next Big Writer,” and his work has been well received and critiqued by other authors. His self-published memoir, Life Minus 3½, was ranked number one for several weeks out of hundreds of submissions. In a separate writing contest judged by published authors, the memoir was selected third best out of 427 entries. It has also received a recommended review by KIRKUS.

His first published novel titled Gulf Boulevard, (The Permanent Press-March 2014) received numerous accolades from prominent reviewers. Sand Key is the sequel to Gulf Boulevard.

His other novels in progress include Pictures of Children, Flight of the Owl, and his short stories include "Storms," "Bandits," and "Heat Wave."

Connect with Dennis:
Website  |  Facebook  |  Goodreads 

Wednesday, June 17, 2015



The complete story of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League – from its origins during WWII, through its 12 hard-fought seasons, to its resurrection thanks to the 1992 film A League of Their Own, to its current cult status among fans of baseball and Americana. Interviews, rare photos, behind-the-scenes stories from the movie, and great historical detail make this an entertaining and informative read.


Diana, what’s the story behind the title of your book?

Belles of the Ballpark was the title for my first published book. I thought it was a beautiful play on words. But the title didn’t work the way I hoped it would. Belles was one of the first books ever published about the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. At the time I was writing, about 1990, most of America had never heard of the AAGPBL.

However, about the same time my book was published, the film A League of Their Own was released. I hoped that people would learn about the League through the film, then want to read more about it. But my original publisher was a small school/library publisher that had trouble deciding how to market such a “new” topic. Some folks later suggested that the book’s title should have been more “obvious,” something like “Rosie the Riveter Plays Baseball.”
    When I had the opportunity to reissue, with a publisher whose audience includes baseball fans, I wanted to give both the book and its title another chance.  A good subtitle helps!

What do you love about where you live?

I love the assertiveness of the four seasons in central Iowa. Amazing life forms, trees and weeds and squirrels and bugs are attracted to the natural cycles. And baseball is one of those constant, comforting wonders.

What’s one thing that you wish you knew as a teenager that you know now?

That “grown-ups” are still very young themselves. They give you the best advice they can, and they mean well. But we are all so young.

Very true. What’s one of your favorite lines from a book?

 “My life is the poem I would have writ
 But I could not both live and utter it.” -Henry David Thoreau

Is your book based on real events?Absolutely. And though the film, A League of Their Own, is popular, not everyone who sees it knows that it is based on a true story. And those that know may not realize how very, very fictionalized the film is.

Are you like any of your characters?
I like to think I have been like the players in some small ways. Being a young woman in America was often a tricky row to hoe in the Twentieth Century. But the job of being female would not be made easier by anger or resentments. The Girls just tried to do their best, given the situation. I’ve valued that attitude in my life.

What’s one of your favorite quotes?

I love the exchange in Belles between an umpire and an All-American player, where he yelled, “Youse are no lady!” and she snapped, “Neither are you!”

My husband Thomas S. Owens (my co-author for the new edition) received a letter of encouragement from Dolly Brumfield, who played in the League from 1947-53. She wrote, “Thanks for your interest in our story! It really did happen and is a part of history – women’s history and sports history.”

Why did you decide to publish with Summer Game Books?
Summer Game Books is a young company, but already has acquired titles by respected baseball authors. I feel honored to be in such a lineup. SGB has reissued past classic baseball titles. Belles is in great company.

What are you working on now?
I have several future Kindle e-book projects brewing. Stay tuned . . .


Diana Star Helmer began considering the role of women in athletics on an elementary school playground. A female teacher interrupted Diana’s tetherball mastery, chiding: “Can’t you let the other girl win sometimes?” When covering a 1980s game at Dodger Stadium, coach Joey Amalfitano apologized to Diana for belching near one of her on-field interviews. Since the first edition of Belles of the Ballpark was published in 1992, Diana has written more than 40 books. Her first two novels include Elsie’s Afghan and A Dog’s Best Friend, available as Kindle e-books.

Thomas S. Owens is author of more than 40 books. He writes the blog “Baseball By The Letters.” Yes, Tom and Diana are married. They live in Iowa, but are taking offers.

Connect with Diana:
Website  |  Barnes & Noble  |  Powell's Books  |  The Book Depository  |  BooksAMillion

Monday, June 15, 2015



What would you risk to be with the love of your life? A family is threatened by an irresistible attraction in this compelling debut that will appeal to fans of Liane Moriarty and Anita Shreve.

Looking back on it now, I can see it was instant. the second we locked eyes. Boom. Just like that. the me I had spent a lifetime perfecting began its disintegration from that moment. And despite the carnage it brought to all our lives, I still don't regret it.
What would you risk to be with the love of your life? And what if your soul mate is the one who will destroy you?

Mel is living the dream. She's a successful GP, married to a charming anaesthetist and raising a beautiful family in their plush home in Perth. But when she boards a flight to Melbourne, she meets Matt and her picture perfect Stepford life unravels as she falls in love for the first time ever.

What begins as a flirty conversation between strangers quickly develops into a hot and obsessive affair with disastrous consequences neither Mel nor Matt could have ever seen coming. Mel's dream life turns into her worst nightmare.

Love at First Flight will take everything you believe about what true love is and spin it on its head.


Tess, do you have another job outside of writing?

I’m a physiotherapist and have been for the past twenty years. Along with my hubby, I own and operate three clinics around Perth. It is crazy busy, so writing is definitely my night job. But I also love my day job working in private practice. Every Tuesday I run exercise classes for the over 75s, and we always finish with a dance number like the Hokey Pokey or the Macarena, best job ever.

What’s your favorite line from a book?
“You’re my own personal brand of heroin.” Edward to Bella in Twilight.

Are any of your characters inspired by real people? 
Hell, yes! I really do believe you write what you know. Of course the novel is a work of fiction, not a biography and not a journal, and I credit my imagination for it, but I have definitely taken inspiration from events and people in my life.

It is no coincidence that Mel has long black hair and is a health professional who falls for a tall, dark, handsome and broody, moody physio. That’s me and my husband! But the great thing about writing is that I get to make Mel as hot as I like and morph her into someone as sexy as Angelina Jolie - hey, it’s my prerogative isn’t it? Matt’s parents are very much inspired by my own mother and father-in-law who lived out in the country on a sprawling property where we used to go to wind down from the city with them. Matt’s sister is a powerful human rights lawyer, just like two of my world-beating cousins. I even used my children’s names for characters - Tom, Lara and Lachlan. (Lara has a blink and you miss it, part because I am saving her. I have big things planned for Lara in book two!)

Is your book based on real events?
Again, the book is fictional and not a diary, but I did incorporate many real life events into this fictional story. My husband and I tragically lost our third child Lachy at birth, my darling friend Jess committed suicide, my darling friend Julie fought a fierce battle with cancer and those stories and a few more events that shaped my life made it into the book.

Wow. Sounds like a very poignant book. What song would you pick to go with your book?

"Here Without You" by Three Doors Down really captures the sense of longing of being far away from your love that is in Love at First Flight.

Who are your favorite authors?
My all time favourite author is Maeve Binchy. But I also love Marian Keyes, Nicholas Evans, Adriana Trigiani, Robert James Waller, Stephenie Meyer, and Rosamund Pilcher.

What book are you currently reading and in what format?
I’m reading Luna Tango by Alli Sinclair, on my Kindle (I love my Kindle!!). It’s a beautiful romance set in Argentina, and it shifts between today and the 1950’s.

Where and when do you prefer to do your writing?

Snuggled up in bed. I’ve tried to be bohemian and trendy and take my laptop to hipster cafes to write, but I am just too distractable and get nothing done. I need to be tucked up in bed, late at night, hubby snoring peacefully next to me, and that’s where I do my best work.

Where’s home for you?
I live in Perth, right on the coast of the Indian Ocean in Western Australia. I can see the sun set over the horizon every night. It is the most beautiful place in the world and I’m so parochial about it, I set my book here.

Sounds wonderful! Let's say you’re leaving your country for a year. What’s the last meal (or food) you would want to have before leaving?
TimTams - the best chocolate layered biscuit known to man. There are fake TimTam imitations the world over, but every Aussie knows there is only one TimTam worth passing your lips. We have a tradition here of TimTam slammers. We break off the ends of the TimTam and then dunk it into coffee and suck up the coffee through the biscuit.

What’s your favorite candy bar? And don’t tell me you don’t have one!
Of course I have one! It’s not a bar though, it’s an egg. Cadbury Crème Eggs, even just typing these words makes my mouth water.

They are delicious. What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
My greatest hobby is reading. I love nothing more than heading to the beach with a good book and lying in the sun soaking up a story. I enjoy art and craft with my kids and spend lots of time weekends making things and painting things with them. I also love to bake, knit, tend to my veggie patch, watch Downton Abbey – anything little old ladies love to do, I do too! And I’m obsessed with The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills and New York! So watching them on TV is a real favorite.

If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
I love my hometown of Perth and would not choose to leave it permanently, but if I could have a year in Venice, that would be a dream come true! Nowhere in the world has captured my heart like Venice did when I was there last year. Oh, to have a year of listening the church bells ringing from San Marco’s cathedral as gondoliers navigate past my balcony, singing “That’s Amore” and then wandering the tiny cobbled lanes in search of fresh pastries to eat. It doesn’t get much better than that!

What are you working on now?

I’m writing my second book, and I’m very excited! I am writing a contemporary romance called Flat White With One, which is about my main character Mel’s son as an adult (he is a teenager in Love at First Flight). Nick is Australia’s most popular football player, a real playboy who falls for a young, conservative Egyptian girl named Anna with a tragic past who is anything but the typical footballer’s girlfriend. Flat White With One is their love story. Nick and Anna are tested by her family, Nick’s football community, and the Australian public as nobody seems to approve of them being together.


Tess Woods is a health professional who lives in Perth, Australia with one husband, two children, one dog and one cat who rules over all of them. Love at First Flight is her first novel for HarperCollins. When she isn't working or being a personal assistant to her kids, Tess enjoys reading and all kinds of grannyish pleasures like knitting, baking, drinking tea, watching Downton Abbey and tending to the veggie patch.

Connect with Tess:
Website  | Facebook  |  Goodreads

Friday, June 12, 2015


And now, for something a little different . . . today I have Melissa Marni, writer of the little word studio blog. Its the tag line is: "Tiny Tales for Big Ideas." The blog was launched as a place to post original stories inspired by the work of artists and photographers from around the world. Keep reading for more on her blog, to read a sample of her short stories, and find out more about Melissa.


It all started on the back porch of my apartment. An idea for a short story popped into my head as I sat drinking my coffee-with-milk and browsing the Internet. The whole thing took a few hours to write and when it was done I thought, “Would anyone want to read this?” So, posted it in order to find out; the experience felt just like floating a fictional message in a bottle into the vast ocean of digital content . . . hoping for the best . . . and that’s how little word studio was born.

A few weeks later, I was contacted on Instagram by a London-based graphic designer asking if I’d like to collaborate on a project – her art, my words. After hearing more about the collaboration, I realized I’d found the key to making little word studio unique: Find talented artists around the world and write the untold stories of their creations. I’ve since been lucky enough to team up with talented illustrators, photographers and animators from the U.S., England, Russia, France, Sweden, Italy, Germany . . . the list goes on. It's been amazing to see what inspires them and their artwork has helped push the boundaries of my prose.


By Melissa Marni

Somewhere in the untamed French countryside near Versailles, on the border of all that was good and evil, once sat a small patch of wild lavender, and just beyond, a smaller spring. An accidental journey brought Astrid to this spring, its water tumbling like wet poetry across flowering earth.

She was in the shrubbiest part of the woods searching for a particularly large clump of jasmine to be tucked behind her sister Maryse’s “perfect pearl of an ear.” (This ear, according to their mother, Bernadette, was but a single feature among any number of flawless ones that could be found resting on the perfect face of Maryse.)

“As you get older, it’s actually quite the luck you look so much like your father,” said Bernadette on Astrid’s twenty-third birthday last year. “Unlike me or Maryse, you have no discernible beauty now, so you’ve no beauty to lose.”

Yet, even to the casual stranger, Astrid, like her father, was undeniably beautiful in both heart and head. Her beauty was a seedling of fact sowed through compliments like this from Monsieur Claude Duvet: “Well heavens awaken me, Astrid! You’ve become a woman worthy of the gods!”

Indeed she had, growing from pretty little Astrid into a honey-haired, indigo-eyed Aphrodite. Her mother and sister weren’t completely unattractive, each with some agreeable amount of beauty – Maryse an exact, younger reflection of her mother – though when standing by Astrid, the two couldn’t compare.

But here’s the logic of Bernadette the moderately beautiful philosopher: If she was, in her mind, a great beauty then so too was Maryse, sharing her mother’s rubberish complexion and brown, wiry hair. In lingering glances, it might be said Bernadette was more keenly aware of Astrid’s goddess-like looks than she let on.

A fair bet could be made then won that this knowledge motivated Bernadette to give Astrid an endless list of daily chores like picking flowers for her sister’s hair or sewing a dead dragonfly onto the collar of a twill dress.

“I’m only asking you to make me a bug brooch,” her mother had said. “Unless those fat fingers of yours have stopped working, I don’t see why it must be that hard.”

While Astrid was busy figuring out how to thread a dragonfly’s wing, Bernadette was dragging Maryse to every fête west of Paris, teacup-clanking a path through society’s ranks. “There is grave necessity for us to be seen in public,” her mother told Maryse. “We must wow those who matter through our stylish grace and be grateful for the sturdiness of Astrid; with your father gone, we can’t afford a mule.”

Astrid was on such a mulishly mandated chore – “collect a handful of lavender that’s turned a deep purple but hasn’t yet browned” – when she found the spring. She heard the burbles of the spring before she saw it, which explained why Astrid bumped into a woman standing at its edge.

“I’m so sorry, Madam!”

The woman looked up and Astrid stared right into her dark, feral eyes. She was almost a head shorter than Astrid, a bad hunch curling her back, a frizz of gray hair growing around a face crackled as an old pumice stone.

“It’s nothing,” the woman cooed. “Come closer though, these eyes can’t see like they used to and I need your help.”

With an agreeable head shake, Astrid took a step toward the curious woman near the spring.

“Better. But would you mind bringing me some water? I can’t reach down far enough.”

Astrid did as told, emptying her bucket of the lavender inside, sweeping it clean then scooping a handful of spring water.

“For you,” Astrid said. “Please keep the bucket so you can use it if you ever visit this spring again.”

The woman giggled and the sound was young and bright. “I do come most afternoons,” she replied. “Thank you for this gift, Astrid the Beautiful, and here is mine in return …”

How the woman knew her name or how in the next moment, Astrid was back in her kitchen, lavender in hand, should rightly be described as magic.

“Late again, Astrid!” Her mother growled, grabbing at the lavender. “Maryse, come come and let’s see if these flowers can be stuck to your little ear.”

“If the lavender doesn’t work, I can …” Astrid began but never finished. As she spoke, each word produced a tiny diamond from her mouth, which fell to the floor with a ceremonious and sparkly thud.

Bernadette, a matter-of-fact woman who believed intelligence the awful stepsister of charm, never thought to ask why diamonds were suddenly spurting from her youngest daughter’s mouth. She only wanted to know how such a thing might also happen for Maryse, “whose lips are so much prettier and more deserving of jewels.”

“I’m not sure,” Astrid said, three small diamonds springing free from somewhere behind her snow-white teeth. “When I was picking lavender, I met a woman who said she had a gift for me …”

“You met a woman with a gift for you?” Bernadette was practically cackling. “Of course she didn’t know of your sister, better in every way, otherwise … otherwise! Take Maryse to this woman directly so she can give her a diamond mouth and take yours away, if possible. Though the diamonds you’ve spilled, we’ll keep.”

When Astrid returned to the spring with Maryse, the woman was still there, a huddled fairy among lavender brush.

“That’s her,” Astrid whispered, nudging Maryse forward and catching the two diamonds that left her tongue. Astrid was sure none of what her mother wanted would come to pass; Maryse barely spoke to anyone but when she did, whatever came out was terrible.

“Hello, Madame!” Mayrse bellowed. “I would like a diamond mouth like my sister but brighter and with larger diamonds! I would also like! It! Right! Now!”

The woman never nodded or smiled to let Maryse know she’d heard the request. Instead, when Maryse said her last word – “now” – an enormous, slimy toad jumped from her mouth into the spring.

“What?” Maryse burped and another toad parted her lips, splashing as it hit the foamy surface of the spring.

Astrid, in her kind heart, almost felt sorry for Maryse. Still, watching the toads that dove happily from her sister’s screaming mouth into the water below, she had only one thought: escape. As Astrid walked away, she turned one last time toward the woman, a wonderful, gift-giving nymph of the woods, who if she could speak might tell you now and ever after that Astrid lived a happy life.


Melissa Marni is the founder and author of little word studio. A native of New York, Melissa now lives in Newport Beach, California. She wrote her first story at the age of nine, (something about evil witches and shoelaces), and has been writing ever since. Melissa is a lover of red wine, soft cheese, books read by firelight, Pacific Ocean sunsets and her crooked-eared little dog, Austin.

Connect with Melissa: