Nancy Boyarsky – The Bequest

It’s my pleasure to welcome back author, Nancy Boyarsky.

Nancy has been a writer and editor for her entire working career. She coauthored Backroom Politics, a New York Times notable book, with her husband Bill Boyarsky. She has written several textbooks on the justice system as well as written articles for publications such as the Los Angeles Times, Forbes, and McCall’s. She also contributed to political anthologies, including In the Running, about women’s political campaigns, and The Challenge of California by the late Eugene Lee. In addition to her writing career, she was communications director for political affairs for ARCO. Nancy is a graduate of U.C. Berkeley with a major in English literature. She lives in Los Angeles.

 The Bequest is Nancy Boyarsky’s second mystery. Her first, The Swap, was published earlier this year.

The Bequest

Nicole Graves, still reeling from her kidnapping in London (which takes place in The Swap, Nancy’s first mystery), is struggling to balance work at L.A.’s most prestigious law firm and a long-distance romance with her English lover. Things go sideways when she tracks down a missing colleague. The murder of the firm’s in-house investigator, his mysterious wealth, and his inexplicable bequest make Nicole a target for the police, the paparazzi, and the killer.

When Nicole’s life takes an unexpected turn, she uncovers evil and corruption among the city’s most powerful people. The fast-paced mystery unravels against the backdrop of L.A. with its peculiar mix of balmy weather, the celebrity-crazed media, and a corrupt power structure hidden by the veneer of glamour and wealth.

Here is an excerpt:

She gave another shout. “Robert? Are you there?” No answer.

She opened the door wider, pulled off her sunglasses, and took a step inside, about to call out again. But as her eyes adjusted to the light, she saw him. He was less than a dozen feet away, across the octagonal entry hall. He was half sitting, half sagging against the wall, and there was a bullet hole in the center of his forehead. On the wall above, at eye level, was a Rorschach splotch of crimson so dark it was almost black, surrounded by a fine splatter of the same color. Below that was a dark smear where his head had rubbed against the wall on its way down. Flies were buzzing around Robert’s head as well as near the splotches on the wall. Only now did she notice the smell, a metallic stink mixed with the sweet undertone of decay. She held her breath and studied Robert’s face.

He was staring right at her with a deadpan expression, as if he’d just made one of his wry jokes and was waiting for her to laugh.”


My ✰✰✰✰✰ Review

In this second book of the promising new series, The Nicole Graves Mysteries, Nicole is struggling to put her life back together after her kidnapping in London, when the murder of an investigator who works for her law firm gives her life an expected turn. He’s left her his home and all his dubious wealth, which makes her a target for the killer, and the corrupt L.A. power structure.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this fast-paced mystery. The author’s writing pulls you right into the story  And I like the nice little romance and the romantic complication. The plot is solid, and the characters are likable. I highly recommend this novel to any mystery reader.

Website and author page:

Purchase The Bequest at the following websites:

Thanks for stopping by. Nancy and I would love to hear from you, so please feel free to leave a comment.



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Beth Prentice – Deadly Tails

This week, I’m welcoming author, Beth Prentiss.

Beth Prentice is the USA Today Bestselling Author of the Westport Mysteries. Killer Unleashed, her GHP debut novel, received a bronze medal in the 2016 Readers Favorite International Book Awards. Her main wish is to write books you can sit back, relax with, and escape from your everyday life…and ones that you walk away from with a smile! When she’s not writing you will usually find her at the beach with a coffee in hand, pursuing her favorite pastime—people watching!

Deadly Tails

Chloe McDermott’s life in Westport is pretty close to perfect. She has a good job, a gorgeous boyfriend, Brody, and an adorable little dog, Theo.

But when Chloe receives a gift of an old chessboard from an elderly friend, her perfect life unexpectedly falls apart. Theo is dognapped, the chessboard is stolen, and her friend apparently commits suicide in his home. But when the autopsy reveals a murder, Chloe knows something doesn’t add up and she suspects the old game board is at the center of
it all. She enlists the help of boyfriend’s hot-headed father and her flamboyantly fabulous BFF to get to the heart of the truth. Can she solve the riddle and find a killer before Theo is added to the body count? Or will she lose her little furry friend forever?

Here is an excerpt:

“Stop!” I yelled, running down my hallway. My socks were sliding on the shiny floorboards beneath my feet, and I was having a hard time getting traction. But I couldn’t let that slow me down. It was of the utmost importance that I caught him in time. I couldn’t let him get away. If I did, I would live to regret it.

I should have been more mindful. I should have taken more care. But I didn’t. If I could go back just two minutes in time, I would do it all differently.

“Theo, please!” I begged, skidding to a halt as I grabbed the door jam and spun into the lounge room, my foot landing in a large dollop of sticky chocolate sauce. My white couch came into view as Theo stopped in front of it and took a giant leap onto his footstool, the chocolate sauce bottle firmly clenched between his little teeth, the contents pooling beneath it. From there Theo turned to look at me.

My breath caught with the knowledge of what was going to happen next. How did I not see this coming? How?

I knew how. I’d been busy daydreaming about my boyfriend Brody as he’d stepped into the shower this morning, and I hadn’t been paying attention to what I was doing. I should have known doing two things at once was a bad idea. Pouring chocolate sauce onto a breakfast biscuit while sitting on the floor to pull my shoes on was never going to end well. But in my defence, I’d thought that Theo was still sound asleep on my bed. How was I to know that he had snuck up behind me and stolen the sauce container the second that I placed it on the floor?

Theo is my Chihuahua. He’s ten inches tall, white with big brown spots, not quite as hairy as he once was (thanks to a seriously bad haircut I may have given him), but when he looked in the mirror he saw The Rock. In all honesty, he fit in my handbag. (I know—I’ve had him in there.) But for something so small, he had a lot of personality

“No!” I yelled, my cranky voice turned up for maximum effect. Not that it mattered. Theo blinked one last time, and before I could launch myself towards him, he clamped down harder on the sauce container and leaped up onto the cushion, only stopping once he’d completed three anticlockwise turns, the chocolate sauce dripping concentric circles around him.


“Dude! You’re killing me,” I cried, surveying the chocolate trail leading from the kitchen to the brand-new couch that Brody had bought for me. That was going to stain. Oh boy! How was I going to explain this to Brody? He’d already lectured me on my choice of breakfast.

 Theo didn’t want to give up his prize, but after I lifted him under my arm and wrestled the plastic bottle from grip, he relented. His mouth was tiny, but apparently eco plastic was flimsy and squashed easily for a perfect fit. It may save the planet, but it didn’t save my couch.

“You’re a really bad boy!” I scolded. “You know that you’re not allowed to have chocolate. And look at the mess you’ve made!”

Theo just blinked, his deep brown eyes shining with contentment, his tongue hanging to one side, as chocolate sauce stuck to his fur.

I’d only owned Theo for a few months, but he seemed to have settled in with me pretty well. I didn’t really mind though. I’d completely fallen in love with him. You see, Theo used to belong to my elderly neighbor Betty. A few months ago, she asked me to hand him over to the local animal shelter for her as she was moving into a retirement village and couldn’t take him. Of course I said yes, as I do pretty much whatever people ask of me, but when I got there I just couldn’t hand him over. At the time, Theo used his big puppy-dog eyes to woo me. Now he just uses them whenever he wants to get his own way or get out of trouble.

Brody was moving around upstairs, his footsteps echoing on the floorboards. I knew his routine, and I had approximately three minutes to clean up before he came downstairs. One look at this mess and I’d be listening to a lecture on the adverse effects of sugar for months. Brody is an amazing man, but he’s also very health conscious. I loved sugar, and the last thing I needed was another reason to remove it from my pantry.

Running back to the kitchen, I threw the sauce bottle into the bin, grabbed the antibacterial wipes, dropped to my knees, and frantically started to wipe every bit of chocolate that I could find.

The upstairs toilet flushed.

Pushing the dirty wipes into the pocket of my jeans, I pulled out a clean wipe and hurriedly wiped at the trail.

Who knew chocolate sauce was so sticky? Maybe I should reassess my breakfast choice. Surely it couldn’t be good for me.

Theo trotted ahead, licking here and there. “Stop that!” I hissed.

“Chloe!” called Brody from the top of the stairs. I froze, worried that I was about to be sprung. “Have you seen my white cotton shirt? I need it for a meeting that I have this morning.”

“Ummm…it’s in the ironing pile. Maybe you could wear the blue one instead?” Brody murmured a response and moved back to the bedroom. He actually lived across the road from me, but over time, his wardrobe spent more time here than it did there. Not that I was complaining. I loved having him here. Except when he went all fitness, health guru on me, then it wasn’t as much fun. I knew he only had my best interests at heart, so I should lighten up on him. And he is adorable when he gets that intense look in his eyes when he’s passionate about something. Still, I didn’t have time for that this morning. I was already late for work.

I’d managed to clean the sticky trail that led to the couch. Standing and looking at the cushion, I wondered how I was going to fix that. Why hadn’t we chosen leather?

The stairs creaked as Brody made his way down.

Theo had jumped back onto the couch and was now licking at the sweet stain he’d made. The cover was going to have to be removed and then dry-cleaned. But how was I going to achieve that in the next ten seconds?

As Brody stepped off the bottom tread, I grabbed at the blanket slung over the back of the chair and threw it over Theo and the stain.

“Hey,” I said, hurriedly moving to Brody. “You look good. I love that shirt on you,” I murmured nuzzling his neck, hoping to distract him.

“What’s that smell?” he asked before giving me a kiss.

“Smell?” I asked innocently.

“It’s really sweet.”

“Oh, ummm…it’s a new perfume that I’m trying,” I quickly replied. After all, for all I knew he could have been referring to my quick squirt of Versace that I had sprayed around my neck.

His brown eyes reminded me of the chocolate that I had just been mopping. They just gave me an even bigger reason to love the stuff.

“Okay. Well I think I like your other one better.” He placed his hands on my hips, ready for a much deeper kiss.

“Yeah, me too. I probably won’t wear this one ever again.”

“What’s that in your pocket?” he asked, his fingers stopping as they reached the wipes that I pushed there. “Is that…an anti-bac wipe?” he asked, pulling one out. Only problem was, it was like a magic trick. You pulled on one and they just kept coming. Even I was wondering how I’d managed to get so many in there.

Deadly Tails is available as a pre-order on Amazon at this time:

Publication Date: August 8th.

Don’t forget to check out Beth’s website.

Thanks for stopping by to read this post. We’d love to hear from you, so please feel free to leave a comment.


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Eleanor Kuhns – The Devil’s Cold Dish

This week I’m welcoming author, Eleanor Kuhns.

Eleanor Kuhns Author of The Devil's Cold Dish.

ELEANOR KUHNS is the 2011 winner of the Minotaur Books/Mystery Writers of America First Crime Novel competition. She lives in Campbell Hall, New York, received her master’s in Library Science from Columbia University, and is currently the Assistant Director at the Goshen Public Library in Orange County, New York. She is the author of A Simple Murder, Death of a Dyer, Cradle to Grave, and other mysteries.

Here Comes the Circus

When I was researching Death in Salem, I came across a factoid that captivated me. In 1794, the first elephant arrived on these shores in Salem. This was an animal that no one, except possibly the merchant sailors, had ever seen.  I was so interested in the elephant that I put his arrival, and the tricks he’d been taught, in the book. And the circus is such a fascinating topic I plan to set a future novel against a circus background.

At roughly the same time as the elephant’s arrival the first circus was performed in the United States. Like so many parts of American culture, the early circus was a transplant from Great Britain, brought over by John Bill Ricketts in 1793.

England’s circus had begun in 1768 with a retired Sergeant-Major named Philip Astley. A trick rider, he began exhibiting his horsemanship just outside of London. He performed in a circle – or circus (Latin for circle) – like most equestrians. In 1770 Astley decided to draw other entertainers to what was basically a horse show: i.e. he hired acrobats, ropedancers (wire walkers) and jugglers to attract a larger audience. He ended his show with a Pantomime that included Harlequin, Columbine and Clown, characters from the Elizabethan stage theater. Of course they became another prominent and familiar part of the circus: the clowns. The new circus became very popular.

So why did John Bill Ricketts bring his circus to Philadelphia? Well, Astley had built a large enclosed ring (that he called a Hippodrome) not only in London but also in France. With the brewing violence of the French Revolution, Astley fled Paris.  And England began preparing for war, a war that began a few years later with Napoleon’s rise. Ricketts had already brought some of his performers to the United States. With the upset in Europe more and more of the British circus folk joined him in Philadelphia.

A few years later, Ricketts took the circus on tour. Do not imagine this early circus as performing under a big canvas tent with trained elephants, lions and other exotic animals. In the beginning they performed outside in a handy field and passed around the hat.  The circus still did not have the more exotic animals like lions and elephants. The animal acts at this time consisted of trained dogs, pigs and sometimes bears. And of course trained horses as this was still primarily an equestrian show. Later, temporary wood enclosures, usually open to the sky, were built in the towns for the performances. The first canvas big top was not used until the mid-nineteenth century when the circus truly became a traveling entertainment.


By 1900 circuses dominated American popular culture. 1905 was the Golden Age. Then hundreds of outfits existed, playing to between several hundred and 20,000 people a night.

One final note: the circus, or at least acrobats and jugglers, actually have their beginnings in the Bronze Age.  The ancient Egyptians taught these arts to the Greeks, and the Greeks taught them to the Romans. (Acrobatics arose independently in China.)During the Middle Ages, the jugglers and acrobats performed at fairs all over Europe and in England.  In the mid-1600s in England, however, the fairs and the entertainment stopped. The Puritans or Roundheads formed the Commonwealth in England and prohibited all entertainment including Christmas celebrations.

And if anyone is interested in pursuing a circus career, there are a number of circus schools around the world, (Ukraine, Germany and France) including several in the United States.

The Devil’s Cold Dish

Will Rees is back home on his farm in 1796 Maine with his teenage son, his pregnant wife, their five adopted children, and endless farm work under the blistering summer sun. But for all that, Rees is happy to have returned to Dugard, Maine, the town where he was born and raised, and where he’s always felt at home. Until now. When a man is found dead – murdered – after getting into a public dispute with Rees, Rees starts to realize someone is intentionally trying to pin the murder on him. Then, his farm is attacked, his wife is accused of witchcraft, and a second body is found that points to the Rees family. Rees can feel the town of Dugard turning against him, and he knows that he and his family won’t be safe there unless he can find the murderer and reveal the truth…before the murderer gets to him first.

The Devil's Cold Dish by Eleanor Kuhns

My ✰✰✰✰✰ Review

This post Revolutionary war mystery brings the political and social customs of the time to life. Will Rees is a weaver by trade, but he also has a farm in Dugard, Massachusetts. He hates farm life, so after first his wife dies, he leaves his son, David, with his sister and her family who are suppose to take care of the farm while he hires out to do weaving jobs around the country. When he returns home, with a new, pregnant wife, he finds out that his sister’s husband had beat his son, and they had run his farm into the ground.

Most of the people in the town of Dugard, where Will lives and grew up, hate him because he has, over the years, slighted them in one way or another. His sister Caroline, who has a vicious tongue, blames him for all her problems because she is poor and he has so much more than she, spreads rumors that his pregnant wife, Lydia, is a witch. When two men who live in their area are murdered, Lydia is accused of killing them via her witchy deeds, and Will is suspected of helping her. When he goes to town to look for allies, he has few, if any.

This is the story of a man who is trying his best to protect his family and homestead, and to investigate murder in a time when vigilantes came after private citizens, laws were pretty much up to the current magistrate, superstitions ran rampant, and accusations of witchcraft resulted in arrest and hanging.

This novel is rich with historical detail and diverse characters. Oh, and did I mention—it’s a page-turner.

The Devil’s Cold Dish can be purchased on Amazon:

If you’d like to question Eleanor about the circus or start a discussion regarding her historical mysteries, please feel free to leave a comment, we’d both love to hear from you. 


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Carl Brookins – Reunion

This week, it’s my pleasure to welcome back author, Carl Brookins.

 Before he became a mystery writer and reviewer, Carl Brookins was a counselor and faculty member at Metropolitan State University in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Brookins and his wife are avid recreational sailors. He is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and Private Eye Writers of America. He can frequently be found touring bookstores and libraries with his companions-in-crime, The Minnesota Crime Wave.

He writes the sailing adventure series featuring Michael Tanner and Mary Whitney. The third novel is Old Silver. His new private investigator series features Sean NMI Sean, a short P.I. The first is titled The Case of the Greedy Lawyers. Brookins received a liberal arts degree from the University of Minnesota and studied for a MA in Communications at Michigan State University


Periodically I read comments on social media regarding suggested or advisable limits on what practicing authors should or should not reveal about their attitudes and feelings regarding politics and religion. Rarely do I see any comments referring to certain other topics as verboten; topics like murder, thievery, assault and other assorted crimes. Not long ago I encountered a relative not seen in a very long time. He came to dinner asking if there were certain forbidden topics we should not raise at the dinner table. I handed him a piece of paper saying, “here’s the list of forbidden topics.” The paper was blank.

Naturally, I prefer rational, informed discussions with only occasional shouting and a general absence of insulting adjectives or personal invective. But friends and relatives should be able to discuss current events and other subjects of deep or casual interest with thought and passion and not have to feel too constrained by social rules which are essentially artificial. One should also be free to write about almost any topic. And, of course, one is free to not read such materials.

So, what about books, novels, short stories and the like? When I began my career as an author of crime fiction, I was informed that we didn’t explore certain controversial topics, religion and politics being among the most prominent. Why not, I wondered?

Because, I was informed, authors who wear a beige cloak of neutrality won’t offend possible readers and thus will be more successful. While I understand that, it seems to me that an author might gain like-minded readers. On the one hand, I do not care for crime fiction which pushes a particular bias. On the other hand, a character may reveal a certain attitude which informs her or his actions in the story. In my case, readers looking for books pushing my biases will be disappointed. I almost never give characters any opportunity to voice political or religious points of view. In the rare instance where that occurs, a character’s personal bias may be in opposition to my own. Readers may infer biases to my characters should they choose to do that. They do so at their own peril. I really don’t even think about what my character’s biases are. Readers have suggested my characters’ biases to me some of which have been surprising.

My detective, Sean Sean, is generally a good guy. If he crosses the line, it is in the pursuit of good, never of evil. But has he broken the law? Indeed. Numerous times, from speeding, leaving the scene of an accident to discharging a firearm inside city limits, shooting the occasional bad guy, making threats, and engaging in burglary, assault and battery.  But he has no religious bias other than to be generally skeptical.

Which devolves to the point. I don’t write my fiction to make political or social points or to try to persuade readers to my position. That isn’t my goal. My goal is to entertain, allow a reader to waste a few pleasant moments, perhaps forget pending problems. If you find an agenda or perceive a bias in my novels and stories, that’s on you and that’s OK, as far as I’m concerned.


When ordinary folks gather for a high school class reunion, they don’t expect to become murder targets. In early spring, Jack Marston and his companion Lori Jacobs are still finding their way into their relationship, while Jack is learning more of the idiosyncrasies of his position at City College. A letter arrives with a fateful invitation. Classmates in the town of Riverview are organizing a major reunion of Lori’s high school graduating class. Lori persuades Jack to accompany her on this summer journey into her past. The first evening is well under way when one of Lori’s classmates, is discovered brutally murdered in a field behind the very restaurant where the opening night festivities are going on. In the ensuing investigation, Marston and Lori discover that the small community is not as placid as it appears. They become targets of a vicious group of insiders who will apparently stop at nothing to remain concealed. And meanwhile, who is killing the graduates?


My ✰✰✰✰ Review

The past is always with us and sometimes it comes back, or so Jack Marston finds out when he and his girlfriend, Lori Jacobs, attend her class reunion in the small town of Riverview—a town with secrets galore. He’s anxious to learn more about her past, but he never realizes that delving into it would be deadly. Although Jack is retired from his former job as an investigator for the U.S. Navy, he gets pulled into the inquiries about several murders when Lori insists on finding the answers to why her former classmates are being killed.

The numerous classmates and spouses introduced to Jack once he and Lori were at the reunion were little difficult to remember and keep track of, especially if I had to leave the book and come back to it at another time. However, I must admit that as the story progressed, it got a bit easier when the murder suspects were narrowed down. The interesting thing about this novel is that there are two separate murder mysteries.

 Solid personalities, believable dialog, and an interesting story kept me turning the pages.



The Inside Passage

The Case of the Yellow Diamond

The Case of the Stolen Case

Come and enjoy a time of conversation with author Carl Brookins as he talks about translating his sailing adventures to fiction and creating fictional characters that feel like old friends. Brookins is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and Private Eye Writers of America. He can frequently be found touring bookstores and libraries with his companions-in-crime, The Minnesota Crime Wave.

We’d love to hear from you, so please feel free to leave a comment.

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F.M. Meredith – Unresolved

It’s my pleasure to welcome back one of my favorite mystery authors,

F.M. Meredith.

 F. M. Meredith lived for many years in a small beach community much like Rocky Bluff. She has many relatives and friends who are in law enforcement and share their experiences and expertise with her. She taught writing for Writers Digest Schools for 10 years, and was an instructor at the prestigious Maui Writers Retreat, and has taught at many writers’ conferences. Marilyn is a member of three chapters of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and serves on the board of the Public Safety Writers of America. She lives in the foothills of the Sierra. Visit her at and her blog at


I’m sure there are many authors—and I even know of a few—who have most romantic or exciting lives. However, I am not one of those.

However, over the years I have had some exciting times, mostly connected to writing conferences.

Writing and mystery conferences are held all over the country and back when I was up to traveling, I had the pleasure of going to many places I’d never have gone to otherwise, sometime with my hubby and sometimes solo from New Orleans to Alaska, Hawaii, Madison and Milwaukee Wisconsin, Austin, Plano, and San Antonio, Texas, Washington DC, Tampa and Orlando Florida, Seattle and Bellingham Washington, and many wonderful cities in California, Arizona and Nevada. I’ve probably missed a few.

My first trip to Alaska was for Left Coast Crime where I not only got to see moose wandering around downtown Anchorage, but I met two young Native women and became friends with them. I also visited a small village to speak to school kids and to get there I rode with the principal on the frozen river. (Yes, that was an adventure and a scary one at that.)

On my second trip to Alaska was to attend Bouchercon, and afterwards I stayed with one of the young Native women I’d met on my first trip and had wonderful time which included speaking to every class in the grammar and middle school in Wasilla and visiting the Anchorage Museum.

I was fortunate to be chosen to be an instructor for the prestigious Maui Writers Retreat which meant I spent five days in Maui working with new writers. My husband came along and spent his time sightseeing.

During this time I’ve met so many wonderful people, writers and readers. Though I no longer fly to exotic and faraway places, I still attend book and craft fairs and give talks in places where I can drive.

But what I’ve mentioned are really only some brief events in my life—what I’m really proud of is that I’ve been married to my husband going on 66 years, we raised 5 great kids, are grandparents to 18, and have 18 great grands, and 2 great-greats. Our offspring have brought great joy to our lives.

F.M. aka Marilyn Meredith


Rocky Bluff P.D. is underpaid and understaffed and when two dead bodies turn up, the department is stretched to the limit. The mayor is the first body discovered, the second an older woman whose death is caused in a bizarre manner. Because no one liked the mayor, including his estranged wife and the members of the city council, the suspects are many, but each one has an alibi.

Unresolved is available on Amazon:

Marilyn and I would love to hear from you, so please feel free to leave a comment.

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Laura Elvebak – A Matter of Revenge

This week, it’s my pleasure to host author, Laura Elvebak.

Laura studied writing at UCLA, USC, Rice University, and Beyond Baroque in Venice, California. After taking a directing class in Houston, she co-wrote, directed and acted in a one-act play. She optioned three screenplays to a local production company, and co-wrote a script for the 48 Hour Film Project.

She is the author of the Niki Alexander mysteries, Less Dead, Lost Witness and A Matter of Revenge. Niki Alexander is an ex-cop turned counselor for a teen shelter. Her standalone, The Flawed Dance, takes place in Philadelphia in the late sixties, about a young woman fleeing from an abusive lover and hides in the demimonde world of go-go bars and mobsters. Laura is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters-In-Crime, The International Thriller Writers, and The Final Twist Writers and has a presence on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Good Reads, and Amazon Author Central.

How Emotion Can Improve Your Book

One of my favorite TV shows is The Voice. I’ve watched every season since the beginning. I used to get so frustrated when the singer I thought was the most talented didn’t win. After last season, I tried to think of a reason why that particular contestant winner was chosen and not my first choice.

The answer finally came to me. The audience and the voters at home responded to the contestant’s story, not the range and quality of his voice, although that is important. But it is the performer who leaves his audience with goosebumps and tears who wins in the end.

This is true of any creative work whether it be a song, a movie, or a painting. It certainly applies to books. What stories do you remember long after you’ve read them? What made them a classic or a best seller? They had to touch your heart.

The trick now is to discover how to make your books memorable. I always look at the characters. What makes them stand out? He could be courageous in spite of a physical or mental deformity. She could be tenacious despite tremendous obstacles. He could be willing to lose his life to save someone else. We respond to a great love story, or a major sacrifice, or winning despite all odds. But only if we care about the people.

I write the Niki Alexander mysteries. People argue about what is more important, the characters or the plot. It think it’s both, but the scale leans toward the characters. To me, they drive the plot by setting a goal worth risking their life to reach. I want to know why they choose to go down certain roads and what they will do when the road is blocked. What spurs them into action? In other words, what motivates them? You want your readers to care if your protagonist completes his journey. To accomplish this, the author must care.

Through three books in the series, Niki Alexander has become as familiar to me as my alter ego. I know her that well.  However, before I wrote the first words, I needed to know who she was. That doesn’t mean I listed every nuance in voice, walk, what she ate for breakfast, what color were her eyes and hair, etc. These are important to note at some time, so her description doesn’t deviate from book to book, but can be written down in a notebook as necessary.

What I need to know is how they were raised. In a loving home or brought up in foster care? What values do they live by? Are they religious or an atheist? What wounds and secrets formed or changed their lives? What’s the darkest part of them they won’t reveal to anyone? What do they fear the most? What do they think of themselves? What do others think about them?

Some of these characteristics I won’t know at first until they reveal themselves to me by their actions, reactions, and decisions. One thing I do is have my main character write about herself in her own words. I want to be in her skin, to feel what she is feeling, react as she would. If the writer feels the emotion, so will the reader.

I do the same with my antagonists and victims. They had a life. They loved, hated, believed in something so important to them that they fought or died for it. This is the emotional engine that propels the plot.

Here is an excerpt from, A Matter of Revenge:


In the evening haze under a full moon, the pink house in River Oaks, Houston’s wealthiest neighborhood, loomed like a castle among the massive oaks. Bushes shaped like gargoyles lined the stairs leading to the burgundy double doors. Eleven-year-old Jayme Rockland had once seen gargoyles in a scary movie. She was sure the monsters were snarling at her as she inched forward. Better not to look at them. Curtis Ray might read her fear and send her away.

He gave a nervous cough, and then covered it by scowling at the house. She knew him well enough to know he’d rather die than show fear. He told everyone he was thirteen, but she knew better. He’d been only one grade ahead of her, not two, when his folks died and he got sent away. But she let him say whatever. Friends stuck together no matter what.

“This be the right place,” he announced in a low tone.

She glanced at him, catching the slight tremor in his voice. Who was he trying to convince? For the first time since they’d left the streets of Montrose, doubt crept in like the ugly cockroaches in Granny’s house. Her mom once said fear was as contagious as the flu. Now she knew what that meant. What if they were on the wrong street? What if someone waited for them on the other side of the door?

“Why you whispering?” Her voice quivered. “You said nobody would be home.” To hide the itch of fear crawling on her skin, she laughed. Didn’t help. She stared at the house and sucked in air. “You sure he’s gone?”

“He’s supposed to be out of town.” He didn’t sound so sure.

“Yeah, well, you know supposing don’t mean nothing.” She picked up a stone from the ground and tossed it into the grass.

“Owner’s ain’t here,” he said in a firm voice. “Nobody’s here. What’s the matter? You scared?”

“Not.” She imagined the castle’s ghosts peering at her from the windows. “Just saying.”

“Come on, we’re going around back. Hurry.”

She skipped to catch up. “You sure you know what you’re doing?”

“Yeah, now stop asking stupid questions.”

She followed him around the side of the house and through an unlocked iron gate. Her eyes widened when a gigantic pool came into sight. Holy crap! And a tennis court? Their home town could fit in this man’s backyard. She reached into her pocket and took out the cell phone Curtis Ray had given her and pressed the camera app. Pointed, focused and clicked.

He jerked his head toward the sound, yanked her hand down, and snapped her out of her stardust moment. “Not yet,” he whispered.

He led her to a small tool shed by the main house and opened the door. She peered in and recoiled at the darkness, the smell of gasoline and pesticides. Dirt scattered the floor. She imagined creatures, hidden in the corner, waiting to pounce. Rats, maybe. Spiders or snakes, even. She wanted to stay outside, but if he could pretend to be unafraid, so could she.

He took a pen light from his pocket and shined the light around the room. He aimed at a flower pot in the corner. Kneeling next to it, he put his hand inside. He closed his eyes.

What was he doing? She listened for sounds, the scratching of animals or the buzz of insects, but all remained quiet. She turned her attention back to Curtis Ray and watched him pull his hand out of the pot. Empty. He dipped into a second pot next to it. This time he came up with a piece of paper wrapped around a key. He tucked it in his pocket, stood, and turned off the pen light. He motioned to the door and they stepped out under the dwindling light of a darkening blue-gray sky.

He acted like she wasn’t there. She had to quicken her steps to keep up with him. To her surprise, they arrived at the back door. The key fit into the lock and the door opened.

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Marie Lavender – Upon Your Love

It’s the first day of Spring. Time to turn to thoughts of love. ♥♥♥ To mark the occasion, I’m hosting award-winning, multi-genre author, Marie Lavender and her novel, Upon Your Love. So take a deep breath and get ready to be romanced in style.

Bestselling multi-genre author of UPON YOUR RETURN and 23 other books. March 2016 Empress of the Universe title – winner of the “Broken Heart” themed contest and the “I Love You” themed contest on Poetry Universe. SECOND CHANCE HEART and A LITTLE MAGICK placed in the TOP 10 on the 2015 P&E Readers’ Poll. Nominated in the TRR Readers’ Choice Awards for Winter 2015. Poetry winner of the 2015 PnP Authors Contest. The Versatile Blogger Award for 2015. Honorable Mention in the 2014 BTS Red Carpet Book Awards. Finalist and Runner-up in the 2014 MARSocial’s Author of the Year Competition. Honorable mention in the January 2014 Reader’s Choice Award. Liebster Blogger Award for 2013 and 2014. Top 10 Authors on Winner of the Great One Liners Contest on the Directory of Published Authors.

Marie Lavender lives in the Midwest with her family and three cats. She has been writing for a little over twenty-five years. She has more works in progress than she can count on two hands. Since 2010, Marie has published 24 books in the genres of historical romance, contemporary romance, romantic suspense, paranormal romance, fantasy, science fiction, mystery/thriller, literary fiction and poetry. She has also contributed to several multi-author anthologies. Her current series are The Heiresses in Love Series, The Magick Series, The Blood at First Sight Series and The Code of Endhivar Series.

Upon Your Love

The Hill family saga concludes as loyalties are questioned, faiths will be tested and undying love may come at a terrible cost…

Fara Hill, mother and faithful wife, is torn between her family at home and her urge to be at sea. Soon, she learns some disturbing truths. Was the past a fairy tale instead of reality?

Chloe Hill, loving wife and young mother, questions her faith when her husband sets an ultimatum she cannot meet. Will she be able to keep her marriage from falling apart?

Adrienne Bellamont Hill, born of a valiant captain and a fiery redhead, is untamed to her core and will bow to no man. Then Christian du Plessis enters her life with an offer she can’t refuse. Discovering the man behind the polished gentleman, she is drawn to him in many ways. Holding out for love is a family tradition, but can she resist the temptation of passion?

Christian finds this young woman to be a fascinating challenge, and is torn between keeping his distance from her and succumbing to her charms. A fierce battle of wills ensues as he sees she is much more than he ever imagined.

But danger lurks, threatening to destroy everything…

Can these two strong-willed individuals unite in the cause before time runs out?

Here is an excerpt from, Upon Your Love.

Christian scanned the wall and came to rest on a woman whose face was obscured by the way she stood. She was turned slightly away, in conversation with another girl. She had long, dark wavy hair and a nice form. When she turned back towards him, he caught his breath at the stunning figure she posed. Her eyes were a violet color; he could tell because the gas lights in the room caught them like fine gemstones. She was also fairly tall for a woman. Her skin was a fine, light golden shade, which didn’t detract from her beauty at all. Most of her contemporaries avoided direct sunlight. It was clear that her skin tone was natural, perhaps with a hint of being blessed by the sun’s rays. He wondered what sort of woman would place herself in the elements while the other women in her circle managed to elude such avenues.

His gaze continued to travel over her strange perfection. Her décolletage dipped to the tops of her full breasts, hinting at pleasure, and she was dressed in a long gown of pale blue. The shape of the gown gave off the suggestion of ample curves beneath. What kind, he could only guess. He imagined the costume was an heirloom because most women’s fashions these days weren’t so revealing. “Who is that?” he pointed.

            “Mademoiselle Bellamont Hill.”

            “I haven’t seen her before.”

            “It is past her season. She hasn’t been to a function in a couple of years, I believe. Something about a mourning period.”

            “But, isn’t she from around here?”

            “Yes, in a way. Her family travels often. Her father is a captain, and so is her brother. When she is here, she lives with her mother and aunt.”

            “Why hasn’t she married?”

            Pierce shrugged. “It could be any number of reasons. Why? Do you want me to ask her to dance?”

            “No, not her. Perhaps her companion would be interested.” He referred to the blonde woman at Mademoiselle Hill’s side. Christian didn’t allow himself to wonder why he thought the other girl would not suit his friend.

            Pierce agreed, and they both started in that direction. When they approached the ladies, Christian took the first woman’s hand, brushing his lips over it. He observed that her skin was incredibly soft and had a tantalizing sweet scent. He curbed the urge to explore it further.

            She gasped, a flush staining her cheeks. “Monsieur?”

            “Forgive me for the abrupt entrance. I am Christian du Plessis. It is a pleasure to meet you, Mademoiselle.”

            She smiled. “Thank you. I am Adrienne Nicolette Bellamont Hill.” She looked over at her companion. If she noticed the impropriety of not being introduced by a common acquaintance, she did not say. “This is my good friend, Elena Wyndham. She’s visiting from England.”

            Though he’d blinked as she gave her full name, he managed, “Oh? It is so good to have your acquaintance. Ladies, this is my ami, Pierce Laroque.”

            “Hello, Pierce,” both girls chimed and shook his hand alternately.

            Pierce looked flustered as he murmured a greeting.

            “I hope you’ll take good care of my friend here. He is rather shy with women. Perhaps you might make him feel welcome,” he whispered, leaning in close to Elena with a smile.

            She gave him a conspiratorial smile, and then turned to Pierce. “Might you dance with me, Monsieur? I can’t stand here and simply watch this gaiety.”

            Pierce readily agreed and escorted Elena to the dance floor just as the music for another waltz began.

            The woman named Adrienne frowned, looking up at Christian. “What was that? What are you up to?”

            “Just a little matchmaking,” he shrugged.

            “Perhaps your friend wouldn’t be pleased with your interference.”

            Christian took her hand and tucked it in the crook of his arm. “Shall we walk?” At her nod, he led her in a stroll around the edges of the room. As they ambled along, the heavenly scent of blended flowers and honey drifted into his nose. He struggled with the desire to lean closer so that he could breathe more of her in. “I’m sure he would welcome it. Pierce is rather reserved, and not at all used to conversing with women.”

            She nodded. “He asked for your help then.”

            His mouth twisted. Pierce would never have asked; he was far too honorable a man for that, which was why he’d volunteered. “In a manner of speaking, yes.”

            “I suppose I cannot reprimand you for assisting a friend,” she sighed. “For a moment, I simply thought you had ulterior motives.”

            “To pair myself off with you?”

            She lifted a brow. “You can’t blame me for the assumption.”

            “No, I cannot. Don’t take this the wrong way, Mademoiselle Hill. You are very tempting, and I am more drawn to you than I should be. But, my purpose in coming here tonight wasn’t self-serving. It was to help Pierce find a wife.”

            She stumbled a little, and he clasped her arm in time. “A wife? Surely you cannot be serious.”


            “But, Elena wouldn’t… she would never—”

            “No? And why not? Pierce is a good man.”

            “So? What woman would agree to marry a man after one night?”

            “Stranger things have happened, I’m sure.”

Her beautiful, dark brows drew together and even her apparent perplexity appealed to him.

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Betty Jean Craige – Dam Witherston

Today, it’s my pleasure to welcome back author, Betty Jean Craige.

Dr. Betty Jean Craige has published books in the fields of Spanish poetry, modern literature, history of ideas, politics, ecology, and art.  She is a scholar, a translator, a teacher, and a novelist.

Dam Witherston

The mayor of the north Georgia town of Witherston and one of its prominent attorneys are being blackmailed by a mysterious Donna Dam, who threatens to expose the two men’s shameful activities of forty years ago if they do not take a paternity test and pay a hefty sum of money, and if Mayor Rather does not withdraw his proposal to build a dam, creating a lake on top of a sacred Cherokee burial ground. Blackmail leads to murder, and when Detective Mev Arroyo and her two teenage twins investigate, they discover some dark secrets, putting all their lives in danger…

Excerpt from Dam Witherston (Black Opal Books, 2017) by Betty Jean Craige


Mayor Rich Rather grabbed his cell phone when a beep signaled the arrival of an email.

“Excuse me,” he said to Trevor Bennington, Jr., President of Bennington Financial Services and member of the Witherston Town Council. “I’m expecting an estimate from Appalachian Landscape Contractors.”

He opened his email.

From:  Donna Dam (

To: Rich Rather


Fri 03/10/2017 9:31 AM.

Dear Mayor Rather:

Do you remember what you were doing on the night of November 5-6, 1977? I bet you do.  You will pay for it.

There is a wooden shed 1/4 mile upstream from Withers Fork on east bank of Saloli Stream. It’s on the Zamora property. Bring $9,900 in cash at 5:00 pm tomorrow. Leave the money in an envelope inside on the table. If you do not show up on time, I will go public with your secret.

Donna Dam

Sent from my iPhone

“Anything wrong, Rich?”

“No, nothing, nothing at all. Thanks, Trevor.” Rich stood up. “But I’m afraid I’ve got other business to attend to. I’m sorry to be cutting our meeting short. So sorry.”

The mayor showed him out of his office and deleted the email.

Grant Griggs sat down for Friday morning coffee with Patrick Davis, President of Witherston Savings and Loan. As was their custom at the Witherston Inn Cafe they’d taken a back table.

“Looks like Rich will give the contract to Appalachian Lakescape Contractors, Grant,” Patrick said. “I lobbied him hard.”

“Thanks, Patrick. I promise that will work out for both of us.”

Grant’s cell phone beeped.

“Do you mind if I check my email, Patrick? I’m expecting a message from Phyllis Graph.”

From:  Donna Dam (

To: Grant Griggs


Fri 03/10/2017 9:31 AM.

Dear Mr. Griggs:

Do you remember what you were doing on the night of November 5-6, 1977? I bet you do.  You will pay for it.

There is a wooden shed 1/4 mile upstream from Withers Fork on east bank of Saloli Stream. It’s on the Zamora property. Bring $9,900 in cash at 5:00 pm tomorrow. Leave the money in an envelope inside on the table. If you do not show up on time, I will go public with your secret.

Donna Dam

Sent from my iPhone

“Shit,” Grant muttered. “Patrick, I’m sorry to have to leave you, but I’ve got to see a client. I must go now.” He deleted the email and walked out of the restaurant.

Red Wilker was vacuuming the stuffed black bear the taxidermist had just delivered to Wilker’s Gun Shop when he got the email.

From: Donna Dam (

To: Red Wilker


Fri 03/10/2017 9:31 AM.

Dear Mr. Wilker:

Would you like for the people of Witherston to know that you are buying up property in Saloli Valley with inside information about the proposed lake? I bet you wouldn’t.

There is a wooden shed 1/4 mile upstream from Withers Fork on east bank of Saloli Stream. It’s on the Zamora property. Bring $5,000 in cash at 5:00 pm tomorrow. Leave the money in an envelope inside on the table. If you do not show up on time, I will go public with your secret. And you could get jail time.

Donna Dam

Sent from my iPhone

“‘What the duck is this? Look, Grace. Who in creation is Donna Dam?” He handed his cell phone to his wife.

Grace read the email. “Is she referring to your land buy-outs in Saloli Valley?”

“How could she find that out? How could anybody?”

“Rich knows. Grant knows. Phyllis knows. Patrick knows.”

“They all have a stake in the lake. They won’t be talking.”

“What are you going to do?”

“Don’t ask. You don’t need to know.”

Red deleted the email.

Other Witherston Mysteries:

  • Downstream

  • Fairfield’s Auction

Dam Witherston


Fairfield’s Auction

Betty Jean and I would love to hear from you, so please feel free to leave a comment. 

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Sue Owens Wright – The Secret of Bramble Hill

Today it’s my pleasure to host author, Sue Owens Wright.

Sue Owens Wright is an award-winning author of fiction and nonfiction. She is an eleven-time finalist for the Maxwell, awarded annually by the Dog Writers Association of America (DWAA) to the best writer on the subject of dogs. She has twice won the Maxwell Award and earned special recognition from the Humane Society of the United States for her writing. She writes the acclaimed Beanie and Cruiser Mystery Series, including Howling Bloody Murder, Sirius About Murder, Embarking On Murder and Braced For Murder, which is recommended on the American Kennel Club’s list of Best Dog Books.

Her nonfiction books include What’s Your Dog’s IQ?, 150 Activities for Bored Dogs, and People’s Guide to Pets. She has been published in numerous magazines, including Dog Fancy, Mystery Scene, AKC GAZETTE, Fido Friendly, The Bark, and Animal Fair. Her work also appears in several anthologies, including PEN Oakland’s “Fightin’ Words,” along with Norman Mailer and other literary notables. Her newest novel is:

The Secret of Bramble Hill

In April 1946, Tessa Field returns to Bramble Hill in the quaint Cornish seaside town of Covington Haven, England, after learning of her aunt Emily Maxwell’s drowning in a boating accident. The moment Tessa sets foot on the grounds of Bramble Hill, long-dormant psychic powers are stirred in her. Through a series of eerie manifestations and unexplained mishaps, she senses an entity in the house is trying to make contact and reveal dark secrets. Tessa narrowly escapes being trampled by a horse ridden by the handsome aristocrat and writer Peter Tremayne, a childhood friend. Upon their unexpected reunion, Tessa is immediately attracted to him, and he to her. Yet, despite their budding romance, she soon becomes distrustful of his true motives. Convinced that her aunt did not die in an accident but was murdered, Tessa investigates and soon becomes entangled in a web of deception, betrayal, and treachery that threatens her very life.

My Review

This story takes place in the 1940s, after the war. Tess is a young expatriate who goes back to England for her aunt’s memorial service and discovers that her aunt’s accidental death has suspicious overtones. In the style of a Gothic romance, there’s the childhood friend who has now grown into a handsome and charming man, ghosts, a pirate’s treasure hidden somewhere in her aunt’s mansion—a house with a long and rumored past. And an untrustworthy new uncle. It’s full of mysticism with a touch of the occult. Because Tess has the gift of “sight” she often finds herself in strange places as if in a dream. This story is told from the third person omniscient point of view, so the reader knows what everyone’s thoughts and intentions are, making it all the more fascinating. I really enjoyed reading this book and had a hard time putting it down. Sit back in a cozy chair with a cup of tea or a glass of wine, and get ready to be taken on a mysterious trip to the past.

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Judy Alter – Murder at Peacock Mansion

This week it’s my pleasure to host author, Judy Alter.

An award-winning novelist, Judy Alter is the author of several fictional biographies of women of the American West. In The Gilded Cage she has turned her attention to the late nineteenth century in her home town, Chicago, to tell the story of the lives of Potter and Cissy Palmer, a high society couple with differing views on philanthropy and workers’ right. She is also the author of six books in the Kelly O’Connell Mysteries series. With the 2014 publication of The Perfect Coed, she introduced the Oak Grove Mysteries.

Her work has been recognized with awards from the Western Writers of America, the Texas Institute of Letters, and the National Cowboy Museum and Hall of Fame. She has been honored with the Owen Wister Award for Lifetime Achievement by WWA and inducted into the Texas Literary Hall of Fame and the WWA Hall of Fame.

Murder at Peacock Mansion

Arson, a bad beating, and a recluse who claims someone is trying to kill her all collide in this third Blue Plate Café Mystery with Kate Chambers. Torn between trying to save David Clinkscales, her old boss and new lover, and curiosity about Edith Aldridge’s story of an attempt on her life, Kate has to remind herself she has a café to run. She nurses a morose David, whose spirit has been hurt as badly as his body, and tries to placate Mrs. Aldridge, who was once accused of murdering her husband but acquitted. One by one, Mrs. Aldridge’s stepchildren enter the picture. Is it coincidence that David is Edith Aldridge’s lawyer? Or that she seems to rely heavily on the private investigator David hires? First the peacocks die…and then the people. Everyone is in danger, and no one knows who to suspect.

My Review

I love to read cozy mysteries, and I really enjoyed reading this one. Ms. Alter pulls you into the story with her easy writing style. Her characters are believable. The plot is well thought out. Kate, the protagonist, is likable, even though she often comes across as somewhat of a doormat, because she’s always doing favors for demanding and ungrateful people, including her sister, Donna. But there appears to be some guilt there from the way the author weaves backstory into Kate’s thoughts about Donna. Obviously, unfortunate things had happened to her in a previous novel in this series.

The Blue Plate Cafe is your typical small town eating place and the author’s description of the cafe, the town and Peacock Mansion, puts the reader right into the settings. This is a well-paced, easily read cozy with an interesting plot, several twists and an unexpected ending. There’s even a bonus with some delicious down-home recipes. What more could you ask?


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Judy and I would love to hear from you, so please feel free to leave a comment.

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