Marilyn Meredith – Seldom Traveled

Today, I’m hosting one of my favorite mystery authors, Marilyn Meredith.

Me and Hap in church.


Marilyn has had so many books published, she’s lost track of the count, but it’s getting near 40. She lives in a community similar to the fictional mountain town of Bear Creek, the big difference being that Bear Creek is a thousand feet higher in the mountains. She is a member of Mystery Writers of American, three chapters of Sisters in Crime, and is a board member of Public Safety Writers of America.


In my Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series, Tempe and her family have aged, but at a much slower pace than we do in real life. When the series began, Tempe was in her early thirties with a teenaged son, Blair. I’ve never mentioned her husband Hutch’s age, but he’s only a bit older than Tempe.

Blair has now completed college, works as a fireman for the Los Osos Fire Department, and he married in Not as it Seems.

Though Tempe and Hutch have experienced some rocky places in their marriage, neither has faced any major illnesses or accidents.

Not so with my friends and relatives or myself. In fact, I’ve reached the age where I’ve lost some dear friends, and others have experienced major family and health problems. I’m blessed to still have my husband and four of my five children, but we’ve gone through a lot together.

On the plus side, hubby and I still have each other after many years of marriage, and we’ve been able to enjoy not only many grandchildren, but also great-grandkids.

Because I love writing about Tempe and her family, I’m glad the aging process for her has been slow. She’s still young enough and healthy enough to do her job as a deputy. In fact in this latest tale, besides being mentally challenged by trying to solve a murder, she is also physically challenged several times.

I’m thankful I’m still healthy enough to keep writing about Tempe and her adventures, even if I have aged at the normal pace.


Seldom Traveled

The tranquility of the mountain community of Bear Creek is disrupted by a runaway fugitive, a vicious murderer, and a raging forest fire. Deputy Tempe Crabtree is threatened by all three.

Seldom Traveled Front Cover

New Contest:

Winners will be randomly picked from those leaving the most comments on the blog posts. Each winner can choose one of the earlier books in the series as either a print book or e-book.

Follow me over to tomorrow.

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Katherine Prairie – Thirst

This week, I’m hosting author, Katherine Prairie.

Katherine Prairie v2

Katherine, a geologist and IT specialist, stepped away from the international petroleum industry to follow her passion for writing. An avid traveller with an insatiable curiosity, you never know where you’ll find her next! But most days, she’s in Vancouver, Canada quietly plotting murder and mayhem under the watchful eye of a cat.

She is an award-winning presenter and the author of the thriller THIRST.

I often say that I like to work in the gray area between black and white, the fuzzy zone where the clear choice between right and wrong is less than clear. My thriller Thirst is peppered with situations that challenge my protagonist Alex Graham and my villain alike. But as I swirled my brush against my watercolour paints to find the perfect shade for my colouring book cat, I started thinking about this differently.

If you dip your watercolour brush in pure indigo blue, the result is intense colour. Add water and almost every shade from dark blue to the faintest tint of blue is possible. Mix in a second colour and everything changes, and if you combine too many colours, it becomes muddy.

Motives and personality traits are much the same. A single strong motive is like indigo blue – intense, dark and deep. But water dilutes the motive, allowing you to create a spectrum, with each shade delivering different behaviour and decisions. Consider greed, which in its most intense form can result in armed robbery, and in its more watered down form might drive a person to eat a whole cheesecake. Both actions are driven by the same intense desire, but one is far more dark than the other.

Add a second trait, a second motive, like fear and the colour changes, opening up even more possible choices. A man, desperate to feed his family might resort to robbery, yet someone with strong greed might fear prison enough to not commit the crime at all – it depends on which emotion or motive is strongest.

When enough traits come together, the colours mix and become murky, making it difficult to determine the dominant motive. But isn’t that what real life is like? There are times when fear is the only thing we feel, and we recoil or change direction immediately. Step off a curb and have a horn honk at you, and most of us will turn back. But I’ve seen men and women stop and stare-down the car, thumping their fist on the hood, angrily shouting at the driver. For them, anger and righteousness come through the strongest in that moment.

I work up detailed character profiles for every major character in my thrillers. Upbringing, religious beliefs, childhood friends, hobbies, closely held secrets –basically everything that might make a person “tick”.  As I write, the profile changes and becomes richer, as though I’m adding other colours to create a complex personality, and more water to push behaviour and motive further along the spectrum.

Sometimes my characters surprise me. Even though I believe their personality and motives will drive them to act in a certain way, they resist. It’s because there’s something about the portrait I’ve built that suggests that in that split-second, the character would take a different path. And when that happens, it’s magic.

The advantage of letting your characters drive plot is that they can take you places you hadn’t considered. After all, as authors we too have our own colours. We’re playing out an imaginary story, but there will always be an aspect of our personality within. When a story is too-closely plotted out at the beginning before work has begun, there’s no room for this kind of exploration. It’s like a paint-by-number landscape where each tiny piece of canvas is destined to be filled by a specific colour. Yet if you take away the numbering and let yourself freely decide on each colour, the work can be magnificent.

There are authors who can take away the outlines completely, working with a blank canvas that allows them complete flexibility as they work. That too can be dangerous because unless you have a clear picture in mind, you can end up with an abstract piece of art. While such work can be beautiful, it is often open to personal interpretation, something that isn’t always successful in a novel where your words and plot must guide your reader to visualize the story.

So I’m stepping out from the gray area, to stand firmly in the full spectrum of colour in all its shades. I’ve probably been there all along considering that black and white are often seen as opposite ends of the colour band. But somehow knowing that I have more colours to work with than shades of gray has changed how I think about my characters. My geologist, Alex Graham will never be the same!

Excerpt from the start of the Thirst.

  Alex Graham knew when to be afraid.

Her pulse quickened at the distant low-pitched whistle that warned of yet another rising wind gust far above her tent. She held her breath and listened for the sound to die off, for the wind to settle. But a mournful howl signaled the wind’s plunge over the jagged granite peaks into the narrow valley she called home.

Eyes tightly shut, she clenched her sleeping bag tight beneath her chin. Massive boughs shook as the high-speed downdraft lashed at towering evergreens that lined the lower reaches of the steep rock face. The rattle of thousands of aspen leaves whipped into frenzied movement betrayed the wind’s push across the valley floor.

It wouldn’t be long now.

Thirst cover

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Christa Nardi – Murder In The Theater

Today I’m hosting mystery author, Christa Nardi



by Christa Nardi

The drama program has never been so dramatic.

It’d be the season to be jolly if only someone hadn’t set the stage for murder. When a student is arrested for the crime, Professor Sheridan Hendley is cast in the role of amateur sleuth. Tensions run high, friendships are strained, and the college administration is beginning to panic. As the plot thickens Sheridan is yet again drawn deeper into danger. Will she find the truth before the final curtain call?

Cold Creek Series Book 4, Murder in the Theater by Christa Nardi, is another great cozy mystery.


AMAZON  Books in the Cold Creek Series

For more information on the Cold Creek Series:

Excerpt from Chapter 4 MURDER IN THE THEATER

Soon the sounds of Phantom of the Opera wafted into the kitchen. By the time dinner was ready and on the table, I found Brett asleep on the couch with Charlie curled up on his lap. Charlie immediately jumped up when she saw me causing Brett to stir.

“Dinner?” He rubbed his hand over his face and sat forward. He looked like he hadn’t slept while he was in Altavista.

I smiled and reached out my hand. “Ready and waiting.”

I knew better than to ask about the case and didn’t want to share Max’s theory in case it put Brett on the spot. That limited topics for conversation. I had just broached the topic of Thanksgiving again when the doorbell rang.

“Expecting anybody?”

I shook my head and went to the door. Charlie beat me to the door and Brett followed behind me. I looked through the peephole and commented, “It’s Marty.”

I noted Brett’s jaw working but didn’t understand the sudden tension. I opened the door.

“Hi Marty. Come on in. What’s up? Are you okay?”

Marty looked a mess. An attorney, Marty Cohn most often dressed for court even when walking on the college campus. A suit, dress shirt, and tie, all perfectly pressed comprised his standard uniform. Tonight, though, his shirt was half untucked and both his shirt and pants looked like he’d slept in them. His jacket was nowhere in sight. His eyes were heavy and bloodshot – a perfect match to Brett’s. If I didn’t know Marty better, I’d have wondered if he had been on a bender.

Marty didn’t answer. He glared at Brett who stared back at him. Charlie picked up on the tension and emitted a low growl. As if on cue, the crescendo from the Phantom played. The animosity between them was palpable but I didn’t understand it. I felt helpless to diffuse the situation.

“Someone want to fill me in?”

“You want to tell her, DETECTIVE? Or should I?” Marty shouted, his face flushed and his hands clenched. Charlie growled again and I spoke softly to her to calm her. I shifted my gaze to Brett with trepidation.

“Leave her out of this Marty. She has nothing to do with it. You have to know I didn’t take any pleasure in this process. It would have gone down the same.”

“If it has nothing to do with me, then why is he here?”

I looked from Brett to Marty and back again. Marty didn’t answer and he didn’t move a muscle. It was déja vu from when I worked in a residential treatment center with teenage boys facing off over some perceived slight.

“Nobody wants to talk? Then how about we all sit down. Marty, we were eating dinner, can I fix you a plate? Get you something to drink?”

He fizzled out and slithered into the armchair, rubbing his hands over the stubble on his face. Another first. In the six months I’d known Marty, he’d never needed a shave.

Brett turned and went back into the kitchen. I followed. I looked at him with raised eyebrows silently asking him what was going on. He shook his head ever so slightly and got down another plate. Between us, we got the food and wine for all of us out to where Marty still sat, head in hands.

Brett handed Marty a glass of wine. “Here, you need this.”

Marty looked up, opened his mouth but no words came out. He took the glass of wine and then the plate and utensils I handed him. Brett and I sat on the couch with our plates, our glasses of wine nearby. Charlie sat at attention between Marty and Brett in guard mode.

I kept shifting my gaze from one man to the other for some hint as we ate. Nobody said a word and the tension remained. Marty picked at his food initially, then cleaned his plate without even looking up. I wondered when he had last eaten.

When all the plates were clean, I asked if anyone wanted more. Both men shook their heads in silence. I picked up the plates and took them to the kitchen. The sound score from Phantom was the only sound other than my heels clicking on the kitchen tile.

I rejoined the men. Neither said a word. I looked to Brett as he seemed more in control and asked again, “Could someone fill me in please?”

“What have you heard about the case in Altavista today, Sher?”

I glanced at Marty, not sure where this was going.

“The last I heard was someone had been brought in for questioning and an arrest was expected. That was early this afternoon. I haven’t checked since and didn’t catch the news tonight.”

“Isaac Waxman was arrested for the murder of William Thompson. Waxman is Marty’s nephew.”

My jaw dropped as I shifted my attention to Marty. I glanced back to Brett once the realization sunk in.

“Were you the arresting officer?”

Brett exhaled and pulled his hands through his curly hair, a sure sign he was stressed.

“I assisted in the investigation and was present when he was initially questioned and when he was arrested. For all intents and purposes, this is still local jurisdiction. The Altavista Police Chief officially made the arrest. Waxman is scheduled for arraignment in two days.”

He hesitated before he added, “One other thing, Sher. Isaac is a sophomore at Cold Creek College. He’s in Fine Arts.”

Brett held my gaze and I felt the tension rise as my eyes opened wider. Marty still didn’t say anything and his head was back in his hands. We sat there for a few more minutes in silence.

Please feel free to leave a comment. Christa and I would love to hear from you, and don’t forget to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway below for a chance to win some great prizes.

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Gerrie Ferris Finger – American Nights

Today I’m welcoming back author, Gerrie Ferris Finger.

Gerrie for newspaper

Gerrie Ferris Finger won The Malice Domestic/St. Martin’s Minotaur Best First Traditional Novel for THE END GAME, published by St. Martin’s on April 27, 2010. The second in the series, THE LAST TEMPTATION, was released July 2012 from Five Star. Five Star also released the third in the series, THE DEVIL LAUGHED, in 2013.

Gerrie grew up in Missouri then went South to write for The Atlanta Constitution. She traveled the Tobacco Roads of Georgia and Alabama and the narrow, historic streets of New Orleans. She wrote about Natchez, Mississippi’s unique history, Florida’s diverse population, and the Outer Banks struggle to keep light houses from toppling into the sea. Visits to Cape Hatteras resulted in her historical paranormal, THE GHOST SHIP.

WHISPERING, a romance, is set on one of Georgia’s barrier islands.

Three books in the Laura Kate O’Connell Plantation Series were set in southwest Georgia’s plantation region. They are: WHEN SERPENTS DIE, HONORED DAUGHTERS and WAGON DOGS.

MERCILESS is the first in her novella series. HEARTLESS is the second.

How Fiction Explores Personal and Moral Questions.

I’ve been thinking about how fiction explores personal and moral questions. In other words the characters’ character. Critics, reviewers and readers quickly pick up on lack of character development. And are quick to tell us so.

If protagonists don’t show pluck and have a set of morals, readers will put aside the story before it begins to bore completely. Sometimes it’s easier and more fun to create antagonists to play bad guy in order to foil the convictions and actions of the heroes and heroines. This back and forth throughout the plot keeps a reader turning pages. The little showdowns and then the denouement showing convictions in action, creates tension—in real life and in its fictional counterpart.

Lack of personal character is evident often at page one because the characters themselves lay on the page like paper dolls. (This is also likely by “telling” not “showing” the characters in thought and in action, but I digress). By page ten there had better be some backbone in the protags. Giving them great names and listing their hair and eye color is all good, but from the jump they need attitudes and opinions shown in their interactions. Take a by-the-book judge who comes up against a delinquent teenager boy that makes him reminisce for his dead son. When personal positions come up against an opposing dilemma, what’s the character to do? The judge can stick to his mind-set, or he can cave and live with the outcome played out in the fictional plot. Where there’s the hope of redemption, there’s also the reality of regret.

In an old story, “A White Heron” by Sarah Orne Jewett, Sylvia, a young girl, is devoted to birds and animals. Then she meets and falls for a male ornithologist. She has to make an ethical decision about her beliefs and loyalties when the young man wants to kill and stuff the rare bird. Jewett resolves the conflict beautifully.

Genre will influence the attitudes your characters have and the actions they take. Mysteries, thrillers, suspense explore fairness and fists. Even plots are devised around justice for the good. The very idea of certain plots present moral dilemmas. Some people find serial killer plots personally repugnant. I don’t necessarily care to be in a killer’s head. We know his monstrous deeds by the resolve of those fighters-against-evil who go after him/her.

In other plots, murder changes everyone’s attitudes. In Val McDermid’s, A Place of Execution, certain judgments enacted impact the morals of all other characters—cops, citizens, etc.—kept hidden for thirty-five years. Lee Child’s Jack Reacher, on the other hand, has no problem handling miscreants. His code is to wipe them out wherever and whenever he meets them. We like Jack Reacher for his inflexible moral posture.

Love, romance and relationship stories contain themes of loyalty and betrayal. Is it right and moral to tell the truth and possibly ruin your relationship? What if the would-be groom goes out on his last night free and meets up with a girl friend of both he and his fiancé? They have a one-night stand which leaves him feeling guilty. Should he tell his bride the truth because they’ve vowed never to keep secrets from one another? Or not, and hope the girlfriend keeps her mouth shut for the rest of their lives? Or a tale of two lovers: the woman wants a child, but the man does not. She’s pregnant.

Fantasy, myth and science fiction explore issues of consciousness, humanity and self-awareness. Is the environment ours to do with as we please? Should animals, computers, trees have the  same rights as humans? Do we, in fact, have free will? A vampire swears he will not bite an adolescent, but one girl wants to become a vampire and live forever. He’d like her to be with him forever, but vampire life isn’t always that great.

Whatever the plot, make your characters interact within their personal and moral codes.

Gerrie Ferris Finger


AMERICAN NIGHTS – 6th in the Moriah Dru/Richard Lake thriller series.

Saudi Arabian prince Husam al Saliba hires Moriah Dru, a PI specializing in
tracing missing children, to find his missing wife, NASA scientist Reeve
Cresley, and daughter, Shahrazad (Shara). The prince strikes Dru as charming but
not believable, and his tale of falling in love with Reeve, turning his back on
his kingdom for the woman he loves, and his king’s disapproval of him marrying
sounds like a fairy tale. After all the prince is known to be a great
storyteller and is partial to reciting tales from the Arabian Nights. The
investigation has just begun when Reeve’s parents, Lowell and Donna Cresley, who
did not seem suitably disturbed that Reeve and Shara are missing, are killed.
Dru soon discovers that nobody in this tale is what they seem. Then she finds
out all have something dreadful to hide.

The villains always know where they stand with Dru and Lake.

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


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Connie Cockrell – Mystery at the Fair

This week, I’m hosting author, Connie Cockrell

Connie Cockrell IMG_4629 Small

A 20-year Air Force career, time as a manager at a computer operations company, wife, mother, sister and volunteer, provides a rich background for Connie Cockrell’s story-telling.

Cockrell grew up in upstate NY, just outside of Gloversville, NY before she joined the military at age 18. Having lived in Europe, Great Britain, and several places around the United States, she now lives in Payson, AZ with her husband: hiking, gardening, and playing bunko. She writes about whatever comes into her head so her books could be in any genre. She’s published fourteen books so far, has been included in five different anthologies and been published on Connie’s always on the lookout for a good story idea. Beware, you may be the next one.

Mystery at the Fair

When Jean Hays moved to Greyson, Arizona, she thought she’d found the perfect place in which to get away from her sleazy ex-husband and start over, a fresh beginning far from the big city.

But when she discovers the desiccated corpse of local quilting legend Ina Grange in a storage container on the fairgrounds where she’s volunteering, she inadvertently starts uncovering a deadly conspiracy just under the surface of the sleepy town.

Between managing the annual Greyson fair and pursuing the shadowy trail of destruction left by the murderer, Jean has her hands full dealing with drunken brawls and nasty falls, suspicious ex-wives and keen-sharp knives. And that’s not to mention the stubborn Police Chief himself.

Will Jean find the truth before the killer decides enough is enough?

Here is an excerpt from, Mystery at the Fair

Preview: Jean Hays is a new resident of small town Greyson, Arizona where she’s volunteered to run the Exhibits building. She’s looking for the plastic totes of ribbons left over from last year.

She swung the container doors open wide. The doorway was a tangled mess of everything the fairgrounds needed to have stored. Jean pulled a wooden tripod out of the doorway and used it to prop the right-hand door open. It looked as though it was a sign post. A lot of other events that were held at the fairgrounds used these containers. Five feet into the container she wished she’d brought a flashlight. Sweat began dripping in earnest as she peered into the musty darkness. Smells like mice in here. Hope they haven’t gotten into the tubs.

Winding her way past safety cones, stacked tables, buckets of rope, steel cable and broken metal chairs, she stepped over a pile of rebar to reach her stack of tubs. One, two, three, four, she counted. Where’s the fifth tub? The heat was giving her a headache so she massaged her temples after she’d wiped her filthy hands on her shorts. She hauled the bins out to the front of the container. When those were outside she decided to check farther to the back. The Exhibits team had been sure there ought to be five bins. A pile of cardboard boxes labeled Mud Run blocked her way. Jean moved the three boxes behind her and stepped over a pile of rusting chain. It’s creepy and dirty in here. Let me just find the box and get out.

Squinting, she saw a medium blue tub labeled Fair Ribbons just out of reach on top of another stack of bins. There you are. She wiped her face again and held her breath. The smell of dead things was overwhelming. I hope nothing crawled into my bin. The ribbons will be ruined. She picked her way past boxes, rusting metal things she couldn’t identify and a broken ladder. She pulled the tilted bin toward her–just a little more—and then the whole pile of bins fell over with a godawful racket. Her bin slid to the floor, taking part of her thumbnail with it and raising a cloud of dust.

“Owww!” she cried as she jerked her hand away and stuck the injured digit in her mouth. In front of her, the two doors of a metal cabinet against the right-hand wall of the container creaked open and a desiccated human body fell out of it in seeming slow motion.

In the moments it fell, her eyes were wide as her brain tried to make sense of the situation; she could see long hair trailing behind the head as the thing toppled. Female, was her instant thought, especially as the body wore a woman’s pink down vest. The vest was discolored with rust stains. Then Jean realized that the discoloration must be body fluids. Her stomach rolled and as the thing hit the bin at her feet, she shrieked and scrambled outside.

Panting, she stared at the gaping mouth of the container. Jean pulled her cell phone out of her pocket and dialed 911. When the operator answered she said, “This is Jean Hays, VP of Exhibits at the fairgrounds. I just found a dead body in the storage container on the southwest side of the grounds.”

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Today is Connie’s Birthday, so let’s make it a happy one. Please leave a message, I’m sure she’d love to hear from you.

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Anna Celeste Burke – Murder at Catmmando Mountain

This week, I’m happy to welcome back mystery author, Anna Celeste Burke.

cropped head shot

Anna Celeste Burke is an award-winning and bestselling author who enjoys snooping into life’s mysteries with fun, fiction, & food—California style! Her books include the Jessica Huntington Desert Cities Mystery series set in the Coachella Valley near Palm Springs, the Corsario Cove Cozy Mystery series set on California’s Central Coast, and The Georgie Shaw Cozy Mystery series set in Orange County, California–the OC. Coming soon: The Misadventures of Betsy Stark that take place in the Coachella Valley. Find out more at

Murder at Catmmando Mountain, Georgie Shaw Cozy Mystery #1

As Georgie Shaw can tell you, it’s not easy doing public relations for Catmmando Tom, a famous cartoon cat. When they find a dead body at the foot of Catmmando Mountain in Marvelous Marley World’s Arcadia theme park, it’s a PR nightmare. Still, Georgie loves working at the “Cat Factory,” but when someone frames her for murder more than her job is at stake. Who’s out to get Georgie? Can she and the handsome detective, Jack Wheeler, figure it out before there’s more trouble at Marvelous Marley World? Read Murder at Catmmando Mountain, meet Georgie, Jack, and Georgie’s beloved Siamese cat, Miles, to find out whodunit.

Here is an excerpt from, Murder at Catmmando Mountain

1 Purrfect Murder 

“It’s a marvelous world…a MARVELOUS MARLEY world!”

Doing PR—public relations—for a cat isn’t easy. Working in any capacity for a very famous cartoon cat might sound like a dream job, but it’s not. The Furry Caped Avenger, Catmmando Tom, may be a superhero, but his megalomaniacal creator is an altogether different kind of character. Maximillian Marley loves animals. People, not so much, even though they’re the lifeblood of Marley’s pastoral theme park, Arcadia. It’s the two-legged visitors that pay the $100 admission fee for adults and $50 for children under twelve.

On occasion, their pets are welcome, too. All of the enchantment produced by other divisions of Marvelous Marley World Enterprises relies on hard-earned cash people dole out. That includes visits to the Marvelous Marley World Resorts, as well as purchases of videos, movies, and merchandise featuring Marvelous Marley World characters.

As I reviewed our current PR agenda, I straightened my posture to shoulder the burden. Super cat cartoons, movies, and merchandise had made Max Marley very wealthy. A host of animated animal characters had followed on the furry heels of Catmmando Tom’s acclaim. A few human characters, often cast in supporting roles, were included in the projects produced at Marvelous Max Studios. The theme parks and resorts were next. The first Arcadia was built here in Orange County, California, near our World Headquarters. Each iconic character has a special place in Arcadia, a fantasyland of dreams and adventures, built around relationships between super pets and their owners. In Max Marley’s imagination, it wasn’t always clear who owned whom, however. Most of the time his stories involved super pets rescuing their beloved humans and endangered animals from ne’er-do-wells of one species or another.


Mystery #2 is out now in our summer collection of beach reads  & Mystery #3 will be released Aug. 29th in Happy Homicides 4: Fall into Crime. I’ll have stand-alone versions soon, too, in Kindle & Paperback.

Murder at Catmmando Mountain is one of The 50 Self-published Books Worth Reading in 2016.

50 self pub 2016 Georgie





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Happy Homicides 2: Thirteen Cozy Mysteries (Crimes of the Heart)

Mother’s Day Magic with Love 

Stories of Sun, Sand, and Sea

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Sharon Love Cook – Laugh ’til You Die

This week, I’m please to host author, Sharon Love Cook.


All my books have a seaside setting. That may be because I grew up in Gloucester, Mass, where the smell of fish sticks was always in the air. A nautical setting feels natural to me. Likewise, I got my first writing job as a teenage correspondent for the Cape Ann Summer Sun, a newspaper supplement aimed at tourists. I drew cartoons to accompany my column. The latter were mainly about jellyfish invasions, sand castle contests and swim classes.

I tend to be a late bloomer. I went to college in my forties and got an MFA in writing in my fifties. I had the dubious distinction of being the oldest editor on the campus newspaper. Nonetheless, I have plenty of company among fellow baby boomers. As I mentioned, I’m a cartoonist and art school grad who’s illustrated the covers for all three Granite Cove Mysteries: A Nose for Hanky Panky, A Deadly Christmas Carol and Laugh ‘til You Die.

Like my protagonist, I’ve done stand-up comedy at nursing homes, something I don’t recommend as a career path.

Here’s a brief synopsis of Laugh ‘til You Die: 

 It’s midnight in Granite Cove; only the sea clams are open. Murder rocks the sleepy fishing village.

Rose McNichols, reporter for the Granite Cove Gazette, moonlights as a stand-up comic at Shady Nook Retirement Home. There she meets Mabel Smithwick, former Boston socialite. The elderly woman claims she witnessed a drowning at her Hemlock Point pool last summer. However, Mabel is partial to gin and tonic; she is not a credible witness. But when she turns up dead, Rose wishes she’d paid more attention. Before long, Rose herself is a target . . .

Here’s an excerpt: 

    What was the punch line?

     I’d told the joke last week. The audience at Green Pastures Retirement Center had howled. I took a breath, telling myself not to panic. I’m only forty years old. I couldn’t forget a signature joke. Yet as I waited for the punch line, it seemed that I had.

     I’d heard comics speak of “dying” in front of an audience. Now I knew the feeling. Shame washed over me. I wet my lips. My mouth was as dry as Shirley’s bouffant hair. In desperation, I mumbled a plea to Saint Jude Thaddeus, patron saint of hopeless causes: Help me!

     The response was immediate: The door to the activities room burst open and Mabel, blonde wig askew, stumbled inside, almost falling over her walker. She shrieked: “My roommate is dead! She’s been murdered!

     I exhaled. Saved by the bell.


Laugh ‘til You Die can be found on Amazon:  or ordered at local bookstores. I can be reached and at my (sadly neglected) website:, or Facebook: sharonlovecook

Lastly, I’ll send an e-book to someone who mentions their favorite childhood mystery sleuth and explains why that character was special. So please feel free to leave a comment.


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Maria Grazia Swan – A Cat to Die For

This week, I’m hosting author, Maria Grazia Swan.

gemini a

Best selling author Maria Grazia Swan was born in Italy, but this rolling stone has definitely gathered no moss. She lived in Belgium, France, Germany, in beautiful Orange County, California where she raised her family, and is currently at home in Phoenix, Arizona–but stay tuned for weekly updates of Where in the World is Maria Grazia Swan?

As a young girl, her vivid imagination predestined her to be a writer. She won her first literary award at the age of fourteen while living in Belgium. As a young woman Maria returned to Italy to design for–ooh-la-la–haute couture. Once in the U.S. and after years of concentrating on family, she tackled real estate. These days her time is devoted to her deepest passions: writing and helping people and pets find the perfect home.

Maria loves travel, opera, good books, hiking, and intelligent movies (if she can find one, that is). When asked about her idea of a perfect evening, she favors stimulating conversation, Northern Italian food and perfectly chilled Prosecco–but then, who doesn’t?

A Cat To Die For 

Mina Calvi’s new Furry Friends Foundation is a dream come true. Her no-kill shelter rescues and places dogs and cats into new forever homes, and it gives Mina a purpose in life.

But changes are looming on a perfect Sunday afternoon at the Dana Point Marina where she is minding the adoption booth.

A Greek heiress, young, petite and beautiful, shows up on the arm of the love of Mina’s life, Diego Moran. And worse, she wants to adopt Mina’s calico cat, Houdini. Why is the spoiled woman so insistent on getting Houdini when she already owns a look-alike cat?

When Houdini is cat-napped, the cat-sitter murdered, and the ransom demand sent to the heiress, Mina has to keep her wits about her to get her beloved cat home safely, and to keep her heart from getting broken again by Diego, who inexplicably pops up at every turn of the unfolding drama.

Here is an excerpt:

“No.” It escaped her lips like a cry for mercy. “No.”

“You actually hid poor Zeus under your bed?” Diego lifted the silky bed skirt and sort of poked his head under the bed.

She waited, wishing to die.

Slowly and silently, he began to pull out things, white things, long, rectangular things. Boxes. Four of them. The cut-flower boxes he’d sent her two years earlier, when she still meant something to him. He lined them up next to each other like four little coffins filled with dead dreams and un-kept promises. Without moving, he looked up at her.

Mina trembled in all her loneliness and humiliation. She hid her head between her knees. “Go. Please go.”

She wasn’t going to let him see her cry. She could hear him moving. He walked by, out the door, started down the stairs, then stopped. And suddenly he was next to her, kneeling on the floor, his arms around her, his lips in her hair.

“I—I will get you Houdini back. I promise.”

She didn’t move, didn’t talk. Everything had been said a long time ago.

ACtDF BS 424 x 640

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Cassie Page – Armoires and Arsenic

This week, I’m hosting, Cassie Page, author of The Darling Valley Cozy Mystery Series.

helen 1 copy


I was born, Helen Cassidy Page, in the Bronx in New York and after graduating from high school my older brother invited me to live with him and his family in San Mateo in California to go to college. The move changed my life in many ways. I settled in the bay area permanently, where I raised my daughter. A love of cooking led to a cooking school which led to a cookbook with a cardiologist at Stanford University where I was working at the time, and that’s how my writing career began.

Over the years I’ve published over 34 books, including a serious novel about Ireland in the 1800’s. I trace the roots of that book to my family’s history in Ireland, but my cozy mysteries are more light-hearted and fun.

I’ve traveled to all continents but Australia, including Antarctica, which was a life long dream. You’ll find some of my experiences popping up in my books, which helps me relive some happy moments.

I’m currently working on a time travel series with my daughter which we hope to publish later this year.

Armoires and Arsenic, which I publish under my pen name, Cassie Page, takes place in a fictional town called Darling Valley, named after a town I visited in South Africa. I place Darling Valley in Marin County near my home in San Francisco and Olivia, my heroine enjoys many of the things I do, including decorating and fine food.

Where Do I get My Ideas?

People are often curious about where I get ideas for stories. The answer is I don’t really know. They just appear in my head. I think the process is different for every writer. I know writers who say they hear their stories, while others see them. I knew a writer once who needed quiet because otherwise he couldn’t hear the story in his head. I belong to the latter group I think. I see images, the scenes and just write down what I see. Sometimes my story starts with an interesting first line. My next cozy started with a cover. A Second Coat Murder came to me when I saw blood dripping down the side of a paint can. But because it’s a cozy that’s as gory as it can get. Now I’m in the middle of figuring out who the victim is and how he died. That was fairly easy. I’m still not quite sure who did it. Writers have to solve the puzzle along with their readers. Well, we do it first and then write it. But at some point it is a mystery to us, too.

I always like to put a subtext in my stories, something interesting in addition to the whodunit. I’ve had bodies buried on ancient burial sites that allowed me to do anthropological research on California. One of my characters loves rebuilding old trailers so I had to find the first vacation trailer ever built. But my favorite research came when I found the title for Dying for Diamonds and immersed myself in the jewels of India. I let my imagination go wild in that book. It was hard to come back to reality; the story was more fun.

Armoires and Arsenic

  What Olivia liked best about moving to sleepy Darling Valley from LA was the absence of crime. No worrying about parking her car on a side street because it might get stolen. Nobody slipping sticky fingers into her purse and lifting her wallet while an accomplice distracted her at the sale rack at Neiman’s. Not having to trip over a dead body blocking the doorway of her office building while the LAPD took their sweet time locking down the crime scene. But the best part of living in Darling Valley was never having to find herself sitting across from Brooks Baker at a dinner party while he romanced his new girlfriend and referred to Olivia as a client.

What she hated about Darling Valley was the 400 miles between its pristine mansions and gritty but happening LA.

Here’s an excerpt:

Olivia sat in her office in the immaculately restored Queen Anne Victorian that housed her two bedroom loft, her design and antique business, and a possibly illegal mother-in-law in the basement. The dream house compensated for leaving what she considered the center of the universe, Los Angeles, California.

The mother-in-law housed a regal, but reclusive little old lady who barely gave Olivia the time of day but paid her rent on time. Wait a minute. If the apartment was not up to code, did that qualify as crime? Why didn’t she ask the previous owners when she signed the loan documents containing a contingency that Mrs. Harmon remain ensconced down there for life at the same ridiculous rent? When she thought about it, which she did now over coffee gone cold, that low rent was definitely criminal. And her own fault for overlooking the code issue when renovation was her stock in trade.

Olivia studied her dismal P&L statement that stared back at her from the Excel file on her laptop. Darling Valley was breaking her bank. But enough S&M. She needed to finish up her impossibly long to-do list for the weekend sale before Cody arrived with the armoire. The success of the sale would determine her future, and the armoire would be the centerpiece of the well-publicized event.

The French boudoir phone rang, startling her out of her catastrophic ruminations. Her arm shot sideways into her coffee mug, splashing her favorite Jamaica Blue Mountain over her desk. This was becoming a cartoon of a morning going very wrong.

 She barked,  “Cody, you’re late,” while she sopped up the coffee with the sleeve of her hoodie.

“Only by an hour,” Cody replied in an offended tone that Olivia knew masked a grin spreading across his apple cheeks. “How’d you know it was me?”

 “Cody, no customers call about a furniture order at 7:00 in the morning. So it was either you or Elgin Fastner from the bank harassing me about my about to be late mortgage payment if we don’t get to work.”

Cody was her twenty-one year old delivery guy and right hand everything. They both knew he got away with murder, but he was Olivia’s only true friend in this strange, new town. As Cody apologized for his tardiness in a nasal but passable Wolf Blitzer imitation, she fingered one of the three antique netsuke she had unpacked earlier, another source of disappointment. Because of her connection to Brooks, Edward de Waal, the famed ceramicist, had appraised them for her. After ignoring them in his studio for over a month, he finally returned the pieces yesterday with a note saying the inch-long, carved ivory toggles for a Japanese gentleman’s purse were indeed late seventeenth century, but would only command $1,500 each, tops. The shunga, an erotic figure with the iconic nine-tentacled octopus embracing the naked woman, might fetch $2,000. But only from a serious collector. Her dashed hopes for a number three times that raised the stakes on the sale.

 “When are you getting here, Cody?” A committed multi-tasker, she checked the time on her laptop while she playfully harassed Cody and winced. Where did two hours go? “There’s work to do. I’m in big trouble if this sale isn’t a blowout. So get cracking, my friend.”

“Are you going to have the cat and nine tails waiting for me?”

She laughed. If she were fifteen years younger she could have a thing for Cody. But she wasn’t into boy toys.

“You’ll wish that’s all I have waiting for you if you don’t get those beauties over here. Like yesterday!”

She meant the French armoire, library steps and bergère chairs Cody had picked up from Blackman Furniture Restoration and Imports.

“Seriously, we need to get set up to push merchandise this weekend. Unless you’ve been doubling down on your Wheaties, it’s going to take us the rest of the day to sling everything around and make the showroom pretty.”

 “OMG! What are you worried about?”

Olivia could hear the wind whistling in the open driver side window over Cody’s voice.

“I can rearrange the goods in the showroom with one hand tied behind me. You gotta believe, woman. Believe!”

He spoke like a preacher at a prayer meeting, a place Cody had never frequented in his life. Then he added in all seriousness, “Of course, there is that one armoire that almost broke my back getting it into the truck. What do you have in there, O? Boulders?”

At first, Olivia winced at Cody referring to her stock and collateral, her beloved treasures, as mere goods, as though she sold discount plastic patio furniture. Hers was an enviable collection of mostly seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth century French and English antiques she had transported up from Los Angeles earlier this year.

Cody racked up his share of screw-ups on the job, but he was her first friend in Darling Valley. His loyalty to her soon convinced her to cut him some slack. Sure he marched to his own drummer. But so did she.

“What’s your ETA?” she asked.

“I’d say fifteen, maybe twenty minutes.”

“Does that include stopping for coffee at the shop with the cute new barista? Or is that why you’re already an hour late?”

“Coffee and donuts,” Cody said, slapping his head so Olivia could hear. “I knew I forgot the most important thing. See you in less than an hour, O.”

Cody called her O or OMG most of the time, and ma’am when he was innocently flirting with her—neither of them was interested in bridging the age gap, so the occasional sexy teasing was just fun. Cody reserved her full name, Olivia, though, for those serious times when he had gotten himself into trouble. Like spilling his coffee on the Aubusson carpet in the front of the showroom when he was gesturing about how he had maneuvered into Mrs. Gotrock’s driveway without hitting her prize peacocks who had suddenly decided to display right in front of his truck. Gotrocks. That’s how he referred to her few wealthy clients. If only she had more of them. Naturally, he had nicked a lawn ornament when he swerved to avoid the birds, and Olivia had to replace it.

He said, “I’ll pick up the usual for you,” and before Olivia could object, the line went dead.

She knew he wouldn’t answer if she called back to remind him to hustle. Oh well. It would give her time to get dressed, a ritual that could extend beyond Cody’s arrival if she wasn’t paying attention to the clock.

 Wait a minute, she thought as she shut down her computer. What was that about boulders in the armoire? And he never explained why he was so late. They had agreed on 6 a.m.

armoires vector final

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

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Marja McGraw – Choosing One Moment

This week, I’m excited to host one of my favorite authors, Marja McGraw.

Author Photo Newest

Marja McGraw was born and raised in Southern California. She worked in both civil and criminal law, state transportation, and a city building department.  She has lived and worked in California, Nevada, Oregon, Alaska and Arizona.

She wrote a weekly column for a small town newspaper in Northern Nevada, and conducted a Writers’ Support Group in Northern Arizona. A past member of Sisters in Crime (SinC), she was also the Editor for the SinC-Internet Newsletter for a year and a half.

Marja writes two mystery series: The Sandi Webster Mysteries and The Bogey Man Mysteries, which are light reading with a touch of humor. She also occasionally writes stories that aren’t part of a series.

Marja says that each of her mysteries contains a little humor, a little romance and A Little Murder!

She now lives in Washington, where life is good.

Choosing One Moment

If you ever receive an inheritance, you may want to think it over carefully before you begin sorting through antiques and mementos. They aren’t always as they seem.

Carrie McFerrin learned this the hard way.

Here’s an excerpt from Choosing One Moment:

This is the scene when Carrie McFerrin travels to 1909:

That’s when the phone rang. Not my cell phone, but the crank phone I’d just hung on the wall. The one that wasn’t connected to anything.

Ring, ring, ring. There was a pause before there were three more short rings.

It took a moment to take it all in. I lifted the ear piece from the phone and stared at it for a moment before listening.

“Hello?” My voice squeaked when I spoke into the mouth piece.

The tinny sounding voice of my aunt said, “I need you to come now, Carrie. Hurry.”

Two things happened simultaneously. The line went dead and dizziness hit me like a sledge hammer. The nausea wasn’t far behind.

I dropped the ear piece and sat on the floor, hard, closing my eyes and trying to breathe normally.  I couldn’t do it.

My heart pounded and my head was throbbing. No, it was more like the veins were pulsating. The nausea increased and I closed my eyes tighter, trying to will the dizziness away.

It felt like a high wind was blowing through the house.

Not possible.

There was a feeling of vertigo, and then as suddenly as it had come on me, it stopped. I didn’t want to open my eyes because I was afraid it would start again.

~ * ~

It felt like a breeze brushed my face and there was a hand on my shoulder, gently shaking me.

Patricia must have come back and found me.

“Open your eyes very slowly, Carrie.”

I knew the voice, but something wasn’t right.

The hand started gently shaking my shoulder with more vigor.

“Open your eyes slowly, and don’t be shocked by what you see.”

Huh? Don’t be shocked? The voice alone was throwing me for a loop. I was sure I recognized the sound of the woman speaking to me.

“Slowly?” I asked, my eyes flying open at the speed of light.

“Oh, dear,” the voice said. “I wanted you to take things in a little at a time.”

I looked up and my mouth dropped open. If I didn’t know better, I’d think the woman was… No, it couldn’t be.

“Close your mouth, sweetie. It’s not ladylike to stare with your mouth open.”


“You always trusted me. Do it again. I’ll explain all of this to you.” She waved her arm in an arc, taking in our surroundings.

Glancing past the woman, my mouth almost dropped open again. I wasn’t sitting in my kitchen, nor was I with Patricia. I was sitting on the ground outside of the house. There was more. The white house was still white, but it looked almost new.

There were wet clothes hanging on a rope that was spread between two trees.

“Aunt Genny? It can’t be you. I mean, it really can’t.”

“It’s me, but call me Elsbeth. People will still call you Carrie, which makes life a little easier.”

“Have I died?”

She laughed. “No, sweetie. You’ve come a long way to help me – a long way in time, that is. You’ve traveled through time.”

Choosing One Moment Final

My ✰✰✰✰✰ Review

Carrie McFerrin inherits an old house from her aunt and then travels back in time to solve a mystery along with the same aunt, who had also traveled back in time. Carrie meets her ancestors, and must adjust to the “old way” of doing things. No modern appliances, no fast food restaurants, and she has to drink raw, unpasteurized milk. But she manages to adjust to these things, and a lot more. She actually finds she likes living in the early 1900s. While working to solve the mystery, Carrie meets a young man whom she falls in love with. I don’t want to give anymore of the story away, so all I’m going to say is that this time travel novel was a delight to read, with wonderful characters, a great storyline, and a surprise ending. I highly recommend this novel.

Choosing One Moment can be purchased at Amzon:

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


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