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Thursday, October 20, 2016

Spooktacular Giveaway Hop 2016

If you are joining us as part of the Spooktacular Giveaway Blog hop, look around and stay for awhile.  We celebrate everything mystery and suspense here - no doubt you can find something of interest!


We are celebrating Halloween here at Mysteries and My Musings with a giveaway for the sixth year!  One combination prize to a winner, 6 winners!

1)  Gone With the Witch (Wish Craft Mystery #6) by Heather Blake and A Grave Prediction (Psychic Eye Mystery #14) by Victoria Laurie

2)  The Witch and the Dead (Wish Craft Mystery #7) by Heather Blake and Twice Told Tail (A Black Cat Bookshop Mystery #6) by Ali Brandon

3)  The Ghost and Mrs Fletcher (Murder She Wrote Mysteries #44) by Donald Bain and The Readaholics and the Gothic Gala (A Book Club Mystery #3) by Laura DiSilverio

4)   Inspector of the Dead (Thomas and Emily De Quincey Investigation #2) by David Morrell and A Dark and Stormy Murder (A Writer's Apprentice Mystery #1) by Julia Buckley

5)   Spells and Scones (A Magical Bakery Mystery #6) by Bailey Cates and A Toxic Trousseau (Witchcraft Mystery (Book 8) by Juliet Blackwell

6)  Behind Chocolate Bars (A Chocolate Covered Mystery #3) by Kathy Aarons and Paws and Effect (Magical Cats #8) by Sofie Kelly

Entry for giveaway lasts until October 31 6:00 p.m. (MST).  U.S.  entries only please.

I will be shipping the books to the winners.

How to enter:

*** First, you must be a member (follower) of this blog.***

All entries are to be in the comments for this post.

I will accept entries for this giveaway until 6:00 p.m (MST) on  Oct 31, 2015.    I shall notify each winner via the email address you provide to get your mailing address and have the prize sent directly to you.  If I don't hear from you in 3 days, I will select another winner and notify them.

IF you are a member (or email subscriber) of this blog, you only need to leave a comment with your correct email.

BECOME a member (or email subscriber) of this blog if you aren't already and enjoy the celebration of all things mystery and suspense.

Other participating blogs:

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Book Review - Whispers Beyond the Veil

I jumped at the chance to read and review this book based on the blurb and the main character's description.  This is a brand new historical cozy series, so join me in the turn of the century when there was a surge of interest in psychic phenomenon and medium-ship and multitudes of fakes taking advantage people.  

Author:  Jessica Estevao

Copyright: September 2016 (Berkley) 352 pgs

Series: 1st in A Change of Fortune Mystery series

Sensuality: Mild

Mystery Sub-genre:  Cozy Historical Mystery

Main Characters: Ruby Proulx, a psychic with a "questionable" past

Setting: 1898, Old Orchard-Maine

Obtained Through: Publisher for honest review

"Canada, 1898. The only life Ruby Proulx has ever known is that of a nomad, traveling across the country with her snake-oil salesman father. She dreams of taking root somewhere, someday, but, until she can, she makes her way by reading tarot cards. Yet she never imagined her own life would take such a turn…

After one of her father’s medical “miracles” goes deadly wrong, Ruby evades authorities by hiding in the seaside resort town of Old Orchard, Maine, where her estranged aunt, Honoria, owns the Hotel Belden, a unique residence that caters to Spiritualists—a place where Ruby should be safe as long as she can keep her dark secret hidden.

But Ruby’s plan begins to crumble after a psychic investigator checks into the hotel and senses Ruby is hiding more than she’s letting on. Now Ruby must do what she can to escape both his attention and Aunt Honoria’s insistence that she has a true gift, before she loses her precious new home and family forever."

Ruby may seem worldly wise for her youth, but she has the proverbial good heart in spite of her con-artist rearing. This makes her endearing as she struggles to be honest.  Aunt Honoria is a dear, the relative that gives unconditional love.  Officer Warren Yancy provides the potential love interest, and even though it is the standard policeman - his struggle with Ruby on many levels makes it interesting.  Lucinda (Lucy) is Officer Yancy's sister who has become Ruby's fast friend and is a great side kick.  The Velmont Sisters, Elva and Dovie, become Ruby's most ardent supporters as she develops her psychic abilities.  They are the breakout stars.

The seaside town of Old Orchard is a great setting that is woven throughout the story to become a vivid element in the tapestry.  Loved the town and the Hotel Belden.  

The plot and subplots are equal parts mystery and character driven for a great story.  The murderer was well hidden in plain sight, clever.  Pacing was perfect and kept me reading into the night to find out the next bit facing Ruby.  

The climax was fun with some dramatic elements. I enjoyed the killer confrontation and hope this is a signature of the series.  The wrap up was equally well done, and I am anxious for the next installment. 

This is an exciting debut novel, Ms. Estevao provides complex characters in a fascinating time period with interesting plots in an idyllic setting.  Couldn't ask for better.

Rating:  Near Perfect - Buy two copies: one for you and one for a friend. 

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Monday, October 17, 2016

Guest Author Post - Diane Vallere

Diane Vallere, the author of Material Witness series, Mad for Mod, Style and Error series, and the newest Costume Shop Mystery series (debut novel review click here) joins us today.  At age ten, Diane launched her own detective agency and has maintained a passion for shoes, clues, and clothes ever since.  Please welcome this multi-published author to M&MM.

Shaking Up Your Routine  

A funny thing happened while I was writing MASKING FOR TROUBLE. I got called for Jury Duty. I had hit that murky middle part of the manuscript and was actually happy for the distraction. I hoped that shaking up my regular routine would result would help me, but I also knew I had an excuse for not working. Truthfully, it could have gone either way.

I got up early and walked to the Metro stop, and then rode it to the courthouse. I ate a Pop-Tart for lunch and spent the rest of my time writing in the courtyard. I sat through jury selection only to be told that we would continue the process the next day.

I was fascinated by the process. A rumpled lawyer who appeared leaned back so far in his chair I thought it would break. A second lawyer who looked perfectly put together from his bowtie to his tailored suit. A third lawyer (it was a confusing case) who jumped in every once in a while, just to remind us that his client wasn’t happy with either of the brothers who were suing each other. The longer I sat in the back of the courthouse studying the people involved, the more I realized it was exactly what I needed to shake myself out of the murky middle. I took notes on how people were dressed (“Lawyer costumes”), how they acted, what they said. I watched a quiet woman in head- to-toe pink politely answer a lawyer who questioned her when she said she owned property. (“Do you mean your husband owns property?” “No, it’s mine. I formed a limited liability corporation and manage four properties in Los Angeles.”) (That’ll teach the lawyer to make judgement of women dressed in head-to-toe pink!)

By the time jury selection was complete, I was one of two people who hadn’t been selected. The group was dismissed for lunch. I could have caught the Metro home and gone about the rest of my week. But something about the process appealed to my sense of adventure. I wanted to see how this case unfolded. (Plus, I kind of liked getting out of the house.) I showed up at the courthouse every day for the next week and sat in the back. I took notes and revisited my synopsis. And during lunch breaks, I navigated the murky middle of my manuscript and came out the other side.

The case went on for almost two weeks. Revisions and other responsibilities kept me from attending during the second week but I made arrangements with one of the jurors to tell me the outcome. I finished MASKING FOR TROUBLE in the month that followed and there’s no doubt that, while there’s no court case scene in my book, the experience impacted the story.

Lessons learned: get out of the house. Experience new things. Watch. Learn. Take Notes. And never underestimate a woman dressed in head-to-toe pink.

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THANK You Ms. Vallere for another example of how authors are a breed apart and take inspiration from everyday life.  

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Monday, October 10, 2016

Guest Author Post - Joyce Tremel

Please welcome Joyce Tremel to the blog today. Joyce was a police secretary for over ten years. Her fiction has appeared in Mysterical-e, and her nonfiction has been published in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police magazine. To Brew or Not to Brew is her first novel (click here). She lives in a suburb of Pittsburgh with her husband and a spoiled cat.


5. It’s not as easy as it looks. Believe it or not, there are readers out there who think that cozy mysteries are inferior to other mysteries. Obviously, they’ve never tried to write one. I’ve found it takes quite a bit of skill to kill someone and not gross out the reader. The cozy writer has to get the horror of the murder across without showing much in the way of blood, guts, and the like. You have to describe what happened without actually describing what happened. This also applies to any sexy scenes. I’m perfectly content with not having to write those kinds of scenes. Banter, innuendo, and an occasional kiss that leaves the character’s knees weak is enough for me. I like to leave the rest up to imagination.

4. It’s sometimes hard to find adequate substitutes for swear words. I worked as a police secretary for ten years. Believe me, cops swear. I learned a whole new vocabulary when I worked for the police department. When you have officers talking in a cozy, you can’t very well have them use what must be their favorite word in the whole world because they say it three times in every sentence. And you can’t have them say gosh, darn, or golly either. Andy Griffith could get away with it, but that’s about it. My protagonist’s dad is a homicide detective and in one scene I have Max say something like, “My dad rarely swore but I could tell he held back a string of words that would have turned the air blue.” I do throw in an occasional damn and have used the letters S.O.B. Sometimes I’ll interrupt the dialogue just before the swear word would be uttered. So far, it works. I think.

3. There’s a fine line between educating the reader on the character’s craft or occupation and boring them to death. No one wants to read page after page of how your character does something. My protagonist Max is a craft brewer and there’s a lot of chemistry involved in brewing beer. If I started rambling on about how to calculate the specific gravity of a certain brew in order to calculate the alcohol by volume, I don’ t think readers would be too happy. In the best case scenario, they’d skip those pages; in the worst case, they’d throw the book against the wall. It’s a mystery novel, not a textbook. Information like that must be sprinkled in lightly.

2. Recipes are hard to come up with. I’m usually thinking more about the plot and what the characters are doing than about what they’re eating or cooking. I’ve had to train myself to actually stop and describe certain foods and then search for a recipe to include. That’s probably why the first book, To Brew or Not to Brew only had two recipes. I did a little better with books two and three. Tangled Up in Brew has four, and next year’s A Room With a Brew will have five.

1. Write everything down. When I was about halfway through writing the first book, I realized I was NOT going to remember which character had blue eyes, who had brown eyes, how tall a certain someone was, etc. I started what we call a Character Bible. I jotted down each character, what they looked like, and anything else I thought might be important. I did the same with each shop and location in the series. I even drew a little map so I’d remember which store/shop/restaurant was where. And thank goodness I did. I refer to it constantly. Between that and the style sheet (which has even more detailed info on it) from my copy editor, I’ve saved hours that would have been spent searching through previous manuscripts for one tiny tidbit of information. All because I couldn’t remember something I thought I would.

These are the top five things I’ve learned writing a cozy series. Readers, what have you learned reading one?

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THANK You Ms Tremel for this delightful post - I can relate to the swearing conundrum.  Tough question, but I would have to say I have learned I love reading mysteries because of the brush with danger while knowing I am completely safe from it.  Anybody else want to share?

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Saturday, October 8, 2016

Guest Author Post - Laura Childs

Welcome Laura Childs, USA Today and New York Times bestselling author of the Tea Shop Mysteries, Scrapbook Mysteries, the Cackleberry Club Mysteries, and Afton Tangler Thrillers under the Pen-name Gerry Schmitt.  In her previous life she was CEO of her own marketing firm, authored several screenplays, and produced a reality TV show. She is married to Dr. Bob, a professor of Chinese art history, enjoys travel, and has two Chinese Shar-Pei dogs.

I am excited she is joining us with a guest post discussing creating a sense of place in her writing.  I love when a setting is a character in the story, so I am enjoying this post.

On Creating a Sense of Place.

The first time I visited New Orleans, I fell head over heels in love with the city. And because this fanciful city was introduced to me by friends who lived there, friends who actually belonged to the famed Rex and Comus krewes, I had the rare privilege of being invited into the giant float dens, meeting the float builders, marching in one of the Fat Tuesday parades, and attending the white tie (not just black tie) Rex Ball.

New Orleans truly is The Big Easy and The City That Care Forgot. It’s also a city that been mythologized and derided, and is filled with contradictions. It’s eccentric, overindulgent, and just naturally possesses a dark side. And I just knew that New Orleans would provide the perfect setting and backdrop for my Scrapbooking Mysteries.

The tricky thing, of course, is how to capture the essence of New Orleans. How to bottle the magic and then spill it out onto the pages of my mysteries.

Well, I’ve tried very hard to do just that. Because at its heart, New Orleans is a spooky, highly atmospheric place that lends itself to a mystery novel setting. Think about it – you have the crumbling French Quarter with grande dame architecture, above-ground cemeteries, elegant Garden District homes, live oaks dripping with Spanish moss, massive Mississippi River, and fog-shrouded bayous.

A setting like New Orleans makes it exciting to create a total “sense of place” for readers. To depict the smell of chicory coffee at the CafĂ© du Monde, the aroma of fried oysters, and the sweet scent of magnolias at midnight. As a feast for the eyes, I focus on taut descriptions of narrow cobblestone streets with gaslights flickering overhead and dark blue-black bayous that stretch to the Gulf.

As a counterpoint to my spooky aura, my main character, Carmela Bertrand, is a savvy, focused, amateur sleuth who doesn’t rely on “coincidences” or inept police work to solve crimes. She dives headfirst into New Orleans society and digs for information. In Parchment and Old Lace, Carmela gets pulled from a dinner at Commanders Palace to the murder of a bride-to-be in St. Louis Cemetery. As Carmela digs deep, she realizes the killer could be the conflicted groom, stalker attorney, jealous bridesmaid, or crazy mother-in-law to be. And as Carmela sorts through this dysfunctional group of suspects, snippets of antique lace and parchment become critical clues. It all comes to a head at a raucous casino party and ends with a frantic chase through an abandoned theme park.

Parchment and Old Lace delivers a gripping story in a realistic, yes-you-will-feel-it setting. There are also scrapbook tips and recipes for Pecan Pie Muffins, Sweet Potato Casserole, and Big Easy Butter Chicken.

But just when you’ve settled back and assumed everything is safe in Carmela’s world, footsteps sound behind you and the lonely toot of a tugboat whistle floats in from the Mississippi.

Gosh, I picked a fun career!

All my best, Laura Childs

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THANK You Ms. Childs for that delightful post.  

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