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Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Guest Author Post - Jenn McKinlay

Please welcome Jenn Mickinlay, the author of Library Lover's Mysteries, Cupcake Mysteries, Good Bye Girl's Mysteries (as Josie Belle), Decoupage Mysteries (as Lucy Lawrence), and London Hat Shop Mysteries.

‘‘Paris Is always a good idea’’ - even if only in your mind.
Hi, Readers,

Paris, also known as the city of light, has fascinated me for as long as I can remember. I suppose it’s no surprise since the nickname ‘‘city of light’’ doesn’t refer to its amount of electrical illumination, but rather it is called the ‘‘city of light’’ because of the high concentration of artists, writers, and academics that fill the city. There must be something about Paris that draws the thinkers and dreamers to it like lightning to a lightning rod. It certainly draws me to it.

Sadly, I was all set to go to Paris to do some boots on the ground research when the tragic bombings took place. Because I was planning to take my sons, my husband and I had to have a sit down chat about the risks of traveling abroad when the temperament of the world at large was exceedingly unpredictable. In the end, I agreed the trip would have to wait, still I was on deadline and the research had to be done.

I used all sorts of online reference tools, Google Earth and YouTube being the favorites, but I also immersed myself in a million books about Paris to try and capture the feel of the city from first hand accounts, fictional tales, historical tomes, you name it. I went from feeling as if I had set an impossible task for myself -- to write accurately about a place I had never been -- to feeling like there was just too much information to cram into one book.

Suddenly, I felt as if it would be too easy to get something wrong. Because so many people have traveled there and so much had been written about it, I was sure to mess it up. Ack! Can you say pressure?

In times of high anxiety, when the ‘‘what if?’’ demon is clawing at me, I use my greatest weapon to beat it back. It’s simple but effective and I’ve taught it to my sons, because let’s face it, the teen years are fraught with anxiety. When I would start to freak out about the book: What if I get my facts wrong? What if I confuse the left and right banks? What if I mess up a description? Then I would take a deep breath and ask myself: And what if you don’t? Then I would be fine -- for about ten minutes before I would have to ask myself again: And what if you don’t? Eventually, you really do calm down, I swear.

It became a personal challenge to me to be as accurate as I could possibly be in describing Paris, with some fictional license, of course. The upside to the total immersion of research that I did is that when I do get to Paris, and I will, I’m going to know exactly where to go, when to go, and how to get there -- it’s all in my notes!

Here’s a description of ASSAULT AND BERET, so you can join me in Paris without having to leave the comforts of your own home. I must say, there is something to be said for traveling fictionally -- no bags to pack, no airports to contend with, and you don’t even need a passport!

Allons-y to Paris for more hats and homicide from the New York Times bestselling author of Copy Cap Murder!

London milliner Vivian Tremont and her American cousin and partner, Scarlett Parker, tip their caps to their beloved shop on Portobello Road in Notting Hill and set off for Paris, where Viv can’t wait to teach a hat-making class. But she has another reason to travel to the City of Light: to find the man she impulsively eloped with years ago and have their marriage annulled.

William Graham is not only handsome and charming, but he also has a glamorous job as an insurance investigator who works with priceless pieces of art, most recently a small Renoir that has been discovered in a junk shop. But when both Will and the masterpiece suddenly disappear, it’s up to the ladies from London to follow the trail of clues. They’ll need to hold on to their chapeaux, however, because someone is a master in art of deception.


THANKS FOR LETTING ME VISIT!
HAPPY READING! 



~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

THANK You Ms. McKinlay for joining us today.  I love Paris and can't wait to go back.  Looking forward to your book and the descriptions!

 
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Monday, January 9, 2017

Guest Author Post - Diana Orgain

Let's welcome Diana Orgain, author of the Love or Money Mystery Series, to our little blog! I reviewed her second book in the series, Second Chance at Murder (click here) and she gave us an interview (click here).  Today she shares with us the research she did for her recent release of the third book in the series.

Researching a Haunted Castle for Third Time’s a Crime

It began like most things begin today – with a google search. I was hunting for the perfect location to set my next mystery Third Time’s a Crime. The mystery is the third book in my reality TV series where I’d concocted an unsolved murder at a haunted castle. I needed an eerie location as a starting point for my story.

When I found the Preston Castle in Ione, California I knew I had it! From the Preston Castle website: “Experiences at the castle have included EVP, humming, whispers, touching, channeling, and seeing and recording orbs and apparitions. There have been no harmful events and no one has been hurt during these overnight events.”

You see this is no ordinary castle – it was the home of Preston School of Industry, one of the oldest and best-know reform schools in the United States. It is said to have been the sight of many mysterious tragic episodes, violent encounters and even unsolved murders. The accounts of visitors are that the castle is rife with ghost sightings. The fact that the castle sponsors overnight ghost tours seemed like just the ticket for my research.

I dialed my dear friend and paranormal mystery author, Kirsten Weiss.

“Want to go on a haunted castle flashlight tour with me?” I asked.

Kirsten laughed a response.

“Why are you laughing?” I asked, fearful that my request was too over the edge even for a paranormal mystery author.

“I can’t believe how lucky I am to be invited on a haunted castle tour,” Kirsten said. After I explained the details to her, Kirsten added. “Can we stop at a winery I like in Lodi?”

Now I couldn’t believe my luck. We were going to explore a historic site in California and include wine tasting?

Awesome.

We arrived at The Preston Castle as the sun was setting. It was wintertime and the light didn’t hover for very long. Before we knew it, our view of the Castle turned from breathtaking to downright eerie. The docent handed us flashlights and ushered into the vast foyer. The castle is 46,000 square feet, has 77 rooms and no fewer than 43 fireplaces and 257 windows!

We were cold beyond belief; every window in the place was broken, cracked or gone. We were only allowed to tour the first few floors and the basement. The third and fourth floor were closed due to the condition of the roof (I believe there’s a hole in it and those floors are beyond repair).

The first stop on the tour was the “prayer” room. It was set up like a small chapel, but instead of praying we watched an intro video that included the history of the construction of the castle and famous inmates (among them, my favorite country singer of all time Merle Haggard!)

Most of the public rooms on the main floor – like the dining room and hall – were enormous, while the private bedrooms on the second floor were tiny. Of note, on the second floor one side of the hallway had rooms with a sink, while the other side had rooms with a fireplace.

The dining room fascinated me. “Where's the kitchen?” I asked the docent.

“Downstairs,” she told me. “It’s where they found the body of the head housekeeper, Anna Corban.”

A chill danced across my spine. Poor Anna.

“Can we see the kitchen?” I asked.

The docent took us down a narrow staircase and showed a small cupboard where Anna’s body had been hidden. The cupboard was so small it seemed impossible that anyone would fit in it.

It turned out the kitchen was small too. All the food was prepared there and then transported through a dumbwaiter up to the dining room.

The cupboard, along with the kitchen and especially the dumbwaiter sparked an idea for me, and shortly after Third Time’s a Crime was written! I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it!
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Thank you Ms. Orgain for that delightful recounting of your trip.  Creepy at night I bet.

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Thursday, January 5, 2017

Review - Crime and Catnip

I reviewed the first book in this series, Meow if it's Murder (click here), the second book, Claws for Alarm (click here), and the author did two guest posts for us (click here), and second interview (click here). I was looking forward to this next installment in the series.  So let's see what else Nora and cat sidekick Nick investigate.  

Author: T.C. LoTempio

Copyright: December 2016 (Berkley) 304 pgs

Series: 3rd in Nick & Nora Mystery series

Sensuality: Mild

Mystery Sub-genre: Cozy

Main Character: Nora Charles former crime reporter, now a small business owner

Setting: modern day, Cruz, California

Obtained Through: Publisher for honest review

From the book cover: "While catering a gala for the Cruz Museum, Nora Charles agrees to look into the disappearance of director Violet Crenshaw’s niece, a case previously undertaken by her [cat] Nick’s former owner, a private eye whose whereabouts are also currently unknown.
As Nora and her curious cat Nick pull at the string of clues, they begin to unravel a twisted tale of coded messages, theft, false identities, murder, and international espionage. Nora dares to hope that the labyrinth of leads will not only help them locate the missing young woman, but also solve the disappearance of the detective. That’s if Nora can stay alive long enough to find him..."

Nora's stubborness is on full display and at times she was reckless. She is not trying to help, but flat out solve the murder herself. Detective Leroy Samms, the old college fling, is back working on the case with her FBI love-interest. He continues to repeatedly tell Nora to stop asking questions or generally being involved. This gets old tiresome quick. FBI Agent Daniel Corleone gets a few good moments in the story, but is mostly alongside Samms.  This is clearly a Samms vs Corleone sub-plot and I have already stated I'm team Corleone. Sister Lacey who was prevalent in the last book was absent this time around. Nick the cat is still the intuitive wonder, giving Nora clues via scrabble tiles and even helps rescue her. He adds a subtle touch of whimsy to the story.

The museum is an effective setting used to add another layer to the story.  The plot was rewarding and more involved than I anticipated - Kudos.  The pacing was maintained and I would read past my bedtime because I was enjoying the story.  

The killer reveal is a two-part puzzle and with some good twists that I thouroughly enjoyed.  The wrap up involves Nora's completion of her task for Violet Crenshaw.  

I have to say, this series keeps getting better. It incorporates some plotting that could easily be in a grittier sleuthing book, but maintains the lighter cozy air for a wonderful escape.

Rating:  Near Perfect - Couldn't Put it down. Buy two copies, one for you and one for a friend. 

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Don’t know much about wine? ‘The Little Wine Guide’ spans Cabernet to Chardonnay with tips on how to chill and store wine to buying wine among the vast options.

This jam-packed little book removes the mystery and makes savoring a fine wine fun. Learn the lingo fast through an overview of wine to get you on your feet pronto. Learn about the basic wine types to planning your own wine tasting, the intricacies of restaurant presentation etiquette to an overview of wine in America to assist you on your personal wine journey! Understand your unique taste preferences and what interests you in the world of wine from blogs, movies, documentaries, magazines or books on the people of the wine world.


Kerrianne (Goodreads) 5 star
"Great and compact intro into the world of wine. Can't wait to tour some local wineries with my new found knowledge. So happy I was able to win this through a Goodreads Giveaway!"

Cynthia Calongne--Lyr Lobo 5 star
"What a great book - fun content, well-organized and easy to read and digest!" 






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Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Guest Post - Kristi Abbott

Welcome the author of the new Popcorn Shop Mystery Series, author Eileen Rendahl, writing as Kristi Abbott, and also Eileen Carr. 

Importance of Girlfriends
I have two sisters. My mother’s best friend was her sister, who also had three girls. We spent all our vacations together and we’re all still close. I’d show you a recent picture of me with my cousin Elizabeth that attests to our closeness despite the fact that I take after my father’s side of the family and hover around a foot taller than her, but I wouldn’t want to be responsible for you spewing coffee out your nose onto your computer keyboard.

My point is not that I’m freakishly tall, it’s that I grew up in a way that fostered and revered female friendship and that finds its way into my books. In "Kernel of Truth" and "Pop Goes the Murder,” Rebecca is surrounded by female friends. She has her sister. She has Annie from the shop next door and she has Faith who works in the antique shop down the street. Her belief in female friendship is actually a bit of a blind spot for her. She can’t quite fathom the idea of a woman who would undercut other women. It doesn’t make sense to her.

I think my own personal reliance on female friends is part of why I enjoy creating the town around Rebecca so much in the Popcorn Shop Mysteries. My friends have supported me through some very dark days, have challenged me to be a better person, have had my back when things got tough, have laughed with me, have cried with me, and often have done those last two at wildly inappropriate times. It’s fun to create that same kind of life for Rebecca. My friends have made my life more interested and rich and I think they make Rebecca’s life richer and more interesting as well.

Chekhov very famously said that you shouldn’t have a pistol on the wall in the first act if it’s not going to be fired in the second. I probably shouldn’t bring up a photo unless I’m willing to show it to you. Fair warning. Swallow that coffee. Here it is:

FYI: I’m wearing flats.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Thank you Ms. Abbott.  I couldn't agree more about the importance of girlfriends to life.  I would be lost without mine and we need to help each other along in life every chance.  ;-)


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Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Review - Prose and Cons

I reviewed the first book in the series, Crime and Poetry (click here), and this is fast becoming a "must read."  I am attempting to catch up on my past due reviews, I got behind with the holidays.  Whew.


Author: Amanda Flowers

Copyright: Dec 2016 (Berkley) 352 pgs

Series: 2nd in Magical Bookshop Mystery series

Sensuality: Mild

Mystery Sub-genre: Cozy Mystery with some paranormal elements
 

Main Character: Violet Waverly, graduate student in American Literature PhD program

Setting: Modern day, Cascade Springs - New York

Obtained Through: Publisher for honest opinion

From the book cover: October in Cascade Springs means tourists are pouring in for the annual Food and Wine Festival, and Daisy hopes to draw those crowds to the store. She asks Violet and the local writing group, the Red Inkers, to give a reading of the works of Edgar Allan Poe in the shop’s back garden to entertain the revelers. Everyone eagerly agrees.

Yet their enthusiasm is soon extinguished when Violet discovers one of the writers dead during the event. After the shop magically tells Violet she’ll need to rely on Poe’s works to solve the murder, she enlists the help of her trusty tuxedo cat, Emerson, and the shop’s crow, Faulkner. But they must act fast before someone else’s heart beats nevermore...

The gang is back with Violet, Grandmother Daisy, persistent Mayor/ex-boyfriend Nathan, tantalizing Police Chief David Rainwater, the writing group Red Inkers play a central role, and the whimsical crow Faulkner and cat Emerson continue to charm.  The character mix is slightly less eccentric and a bit more real than you might expect for a cozy while maintaining the lighter feel.  The characters are welcoming and draw you into their world.

The town continues to provide a rich tapestry for the backdrop and more believable than most "bustling" small towns because of its proximity to Niagara Falls.  I typically have a problem with the usual small town setting that manage small shops with employees and large events, since small towns I've visited struggle to keep shops open at all.  This is more likely in the story with the regular tourist draw of the Falls nearby.  Besides that, the Food and Wine Festival supplies a level of confusion and complication that was utilized nicely.


I was engaged from the first page and that was maintained throughout.  The maze of who the victim really was and possible killers made this second book in the series an iron-strong addition signaling the story-lines will only get better.  I have to say the murder weapon was a surprising twist in itself.  There is a subplot introduced that touches Violet personally that added a deeper dimension.  The balance between characters and plot is perhaps the reason the pacing seemed effortless and smooth.


This had a great killer reveal with a good twist.  I liked it because of the tension and danger that was well constructed, my favorite in a reveal/confrontation.  The wrap-up promises the personal subplot mentioned will be further developed and the Nathan vs. Daniel dilemma is moving towards Violet making a decision.

Ms Flowers writes a novel with finely balanced mix of plot and characters with judicious dashes of magical whimsy topped with a dollop of romance.  Kudos.

Rating:  Excellent - Loved it! Buy it now and put this author on your watch list


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