Gwen Mayo/Sarah Glenn – Murder on the Mullet Express

This week, I’m hosting authors, Gwen Mayo and Sarah Glenn.

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Gwen Mayo is passionate about blending her loves of history and mystery fiction. She currently lives and writes in Safety Harbor, Florida, but grew up in a large Irish family in the hills of Eastern Kentucky. She is the author of the Nessa Donnelly Mysteries and co-author of the Old Crows stories with Sarah Glenn.

Her stories have appeared in A Whodunit Halloween, Decades of Dirt, Halloween Frights (Volume I), and several flash fiction collections. She belongs to Sisters in Crime, SinC Guppies, the Short Mystery Fiction Society, the Historical Novel Society, and the Florida Authors and Publishers Association.

Gwen has a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Kentucky. Her most interesting job, though, was as a brakeman and railroad engineer from 1983 – 1987. She was one of the last engineers to be certified on steam locomotives. http://www.gwenmayo.com

Sarah E. Glenn has a B.S. in Journalism, which is a great degree for the dilettante she is. Later on, she did a stint as a graduate student in classical languages. She didn’t get the degree, but she’s great with crosswords. Her most interesting job was working the reports desk for the police department in Lexington, Kentucky, where she learned that criminals really are dumb.

Her great-great aunt served as a nurse in WWI, and was injured by poison gas during the fighting. A hundred years later, this would inspire Sarah to write stories Aunt Dess would probably not approve of. http://www.sarahglenn.com

County Seat

By Gwen Mayo

While researching the first Three Snowbirds mystery, Sarah and I ran across a lot of interesting tidbits of history that weren’t relevant to the story, but gave us a lot of insight into the people who built Citrus County. One of the tidbits that amused me dates back to the founding of the county. It had no place in Murder on the Mullet Express, but I think it shows the character and determination of the people.

In 1887, Florida Governor E. A. Perry signed into law a bill dividing Hernando County into three counties: Citrus to the north, and Pasco to the south. Legislation stipulated that for two years the town of Mannfield would be the temporary county seat of Citrus County, as it sat in the geographical center of the newly created county.

Voters were to decide where the permanent county seat would be located. The county was pretty much equally divided over keeping Mannfield as the county seat or moving it to Inverness. The political fight that ensued while trying to decide the permanent location of the county seat continued for the better part of two years. Several votes were taken without either side winning a majority.

On May 4, 1891, the supporters of Inverness finally won in a very close vote. That might have been the end of the story, but the opposition had no intention of quitting just because they lost by a few votes. Many of the county officials simply refused to move. The fight raged on, including a few fistfights. Mannfield supporters took the case to circuit court and managed to get a court injunction preventing the move.

Word travels fast, and the Inverness backers were determined to claim their hard-won victory. Before the injunction preventing moving the county seat could be served, Inverness supporters staged a midnight raid. Horses and wagons manned by Inverness supporters arrived in Mannfield. Everything that had to do with County government: records, court furniture, and fixtures, were stripped from the old courthouse and moved to the new county seat. Captain W.C. Zimmerman, the County Clerk, was in his office at the time and refused to move. Inverness men picked up his chair with him in it, loaded him in the wagon with his desk, and transported him and his office to the new location!

Inverness is still the county seat, and one of only two incorporated cities in Citrus County. As for what happened to Mannfield, only a few foundations remain. During the Great Depression, the United States Government purchased the property as part of the land conservation effort. Mannfield is now part of Florida’s Withlacoochee State Forest.

Here is an excerpt from Murder on the Mullet Express.

The Ladies Settle Into Their Room at Riverside Lodge

 “I don’t know if buying a house here would be wise,” Teddy said as she hung her dresses in the wardrobe. “It’s not nearly as built up as the brochure suggested.”

“We haven’t seen where they’re building yet. Besides, not everything needs to be built up,” Cornelia replied, unrolling her stockings. “Quiet is its own tonic.”

“This is even more isolated than Fisher’s Mill. Only one store, no library, no sign of any nightlife—”

A shriek from the shared bathroom interrupted Teddy’s litany. The nurses dropped their respective projects and rushed to the door.

When Cornelia opened it, a young woman fell backwards into her arms. The girl screamed, and it was clear that she was the source of the first cry.

Cornelia stood her back on her feet. “What’s wrong?”

“It’s horrible!” she managed.

“That’s hardly helpful,” she snapped, and left her for Teddy to manage. Cornelia stepped into the frame of the bathroom door.

The opposite door was also open. An older woman with salt-and-pepper hair stood there, scanning the room with frightened eyes. The chamber behind her was strewn with clothing and hatboxes.

“Careful,” she said, “there’s a creature in here.”

“Creature? Where is it?”

“In the bath. A reptile or a snake.” The woman shuddered.

“Let me look.” Cornelia slid into the room, eyeing the crevices and corners with suspicion. At any moment, she might need to jump back if it were a poisonous snake.

The first and second corners were empty; a toiletry bag obscured the third. A strong chance of enemy action there. The fourth corner was hidden by the tub. She glanced over the top.

A small lizard blinked up at her. It was probably a gecko. Cornelia leaned on the edge of the sink and reached for the bath towel. She flung it over the creature, bundling the reptile inside.

“Coming through!” she shouted, carrying the wad of fabric into a hallway crowded with curious guests. “Out of the way, or I’ll drop this lizard down someone’s trousers!”

The crowd parted like the Red Sea, and she charged through the exit and onto the grounds. One snap of the towel, and the unwanted guest skittered into the bushes.

“I wouldn’t come back if I were you,” she warned the gecko. “They might make you into a change purse.”

The night manager, a Mr. Hoyt, was busy trying to calm his guests. “I’m very sorry, ma’am. I’ll check the room myself before you go back in.”

“I demand another room! Better yet, another hotel!” The woman with salt-and-pepper hair sounded bold, but her hands trembled.

“Ma’am, you can do what you think best, but I don’t have any open rooms, and I don’t think any other hotels in the area have an empty room, either.”

Cornelia sighed and looked at Teddy, who was trying to hide a smile. “If you’d like, I could check the bathroom regularly for varmints.”

“That would be very kind of you, Mrs.—?”

“Miss. Cornelia Pettijohn.”

“I’m Helen Minyard, and this is my niece, Kathleen Burnell. We’re indebted to you.”

I caught a lizard, not a rattlesnake, Cornelia thought, but merely replied, “It’s a small price to pay for everyone’s peace of mind.”

Later, after everyone had returned to their rooms, Teddy and Cornelia pushed the two single beds together.

“That was so funny,” Teddy said. “All that fuss over a gecko.”

“I remember another girl who made a similar fuss in San Juan. She was quite upset about a gecko.”

“That wasn’t a gecko; that was an anole. He puffed up his sac and made a pass at me, the masher.”

“But you screamed just as loud.”

“And you came to my rescue. I don’t recall dropping into your arms the same way, though.”

“No, you already had me just where you wanted me.”

They both laughed.

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Carl Bookins – The Case of the Stolen Case

This week I’m welcoming back author, Carl Bookins.

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.

You are doing what?

OK. So I’m old, or aging, or however you want to phrase it. But I still have all my faculties. At least most of them. In some form.

So why, at 84, when I should probably go sit by the pool and read a good book, am I trying to establish a small publishing firm? That’s a very good question. I’ll try to answer it in a way that brings up numerous other questions I won’t try to answer.

I write stories, mostly crime fiction novels. You can find them at bookstores and on line under my name. I’ve been writing in one guise or another for about sixty years. My wife is a retired editor and publisher. You can see we’ve been pretty close observers of the writing field and we started when most writers used mechanical typewriters.

Back in the day, a writer wrote, submitted to an editor or agent who found a publisher and the work was eventually published. hard cover, paperback, trade editions, they all came out of professional publishing houses. It was not an inexpensive process.

There was something else, called Vanity Press, in which a writer could pay for the production of his or her book, usually without benefit of any professional editing. Most of those books seemed to fulfill the author’s needs but no one else’s.

Fast forward to the Twenty-first Century and new technology has made it possible to produce relatively inexpensive books in short order. But for them to stay out of the vanity publishing group, they still need rewrites, good book and cover designs, printing and distributing expertise. If you can provide all that, you can be a bone fide publisher. And it all costs money , to be paid for, hopefully, by future sales of the books you produce.

I’ve always believed that the authors ought to have more influence over publishing decisions, so I envision the formation of some kind of co-op to make most of the decisions about publishing books by this house, called Brookins Books, LLC. That’s what I am doing, very slowly and cautiously because all the functions of the publishing house cost money up front.. We’ll see how it goes.

The Case of the Stolen Case

Short private eye Sean NMI Sean grabs his gat and gets on his high horse to battle a roving gang of thieves and murderers. The gang has come to town after an unsolved pharmacy murder and robbery. A mysterious silver-colored case of unknown contents appears and disappears as Sean sorts a tangled web. When the gang targets Sean’s lady love, he mounts his high horse and like a house afire rides to retribution.

Website:  http://www.carlbrookins.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/carl.brookins?fref=ts

Twitter: @carlbrookins

Buy links:

The Case of the Yellow Diamond http://www.amazon.com/Case-Yellow-Diamond-Sean-Mystery/dp/0878398163/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1448218939&sr=8-1&keywords=the+case+of+the+yellow+diamond

The Case of the Stolen Case https://www.amazon.com/Case-Stolen-Carl-Brookins/dp/0985390689/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1483908318&sr=8-1&keywords=The+Case+of+the+Stolen+Case+Brookins

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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Blanche Day Manos – Grave Heritage

I’m so pleased to have, Blanche Day Manos, as my first guest author for 2017.

A retired kindergarten teacher turned to a life of crime? No, not really. The teacher part is correct but the life of crime Blanche Day Manos turned to occurs only on the pages of her cozy mysteries.

     Writing has been a lifelong pursuit and joy. Two years ago, Pen-L Publishing launched Blanche’s first cozy mystery, The Cemetery Club, written with co-author Barbara Burgess. Two other mysteries written by the Manos-Burgess duo followed, Grave Shift, and Best Left Buried. The fourth cozy in the Darcy Campbell, Flora Tucker series, Grave Heritage, written solo by Blanche, debuted in September.

     In between the third and fourth of the Campbell/Tucker series, Blanche wrote the first book of a new cozy mystery series, Moonlight Can Be Murder. She is now working on a sequel to the Moonlight mystery.

     Living in Oklahoma for most of her life, Blanche and her husband moved to Arkansas a few years ago to be near their son and his family. In between writing mysteries, she enjoys reading, drawing, painting, playing the piano, and working in her herb garden.

Grave Heritage

During the rainiest July on record for the people of Ventris County in Oklahoma, in the midst of a violent thunderstorm, a stranger is murdered. When a friend becomes the second person to die under suspicious circumstances, local sleuth Darcy Campbell is drawn into the investigation. Evidence points toward someone she cares about, but has loyalty blinded her to the truth? Danger is closer to Darcy and her mother, Flora, than either of them suspect. And, if the human threat is not enough, Lee Creek and the Ventris River flood, bringing Mother Nature into the fray.

Here is an excerpt from, Grave Heritage

“Faster, Darcy, faster!” Mom yelled as I rammed the car into reverse, backed out of the driveway and, tires spinning on the wet gravel, aimed for our bridge.

     In only a few minutes, the creek had risen. It now poured across the bridge. Saying a prayer that the raging water would not wash us downstream, I pressed on the accelerator and drove onto the planks. Thankful that I knew it so well, I could only guess where the bridge ended and the stream began. Catching us like a giant hand, the heavy current pushed us sideways. The tires lost traction. I stomped the accelerator. The struggling engine revved, but we were being swept ever closer to the thundering current of the creek.

Grave Heritage can be purchased from Amazon: www.amazon.com/dp/B01KPDTHX2

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

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End Of Year Wrap-up

Hello Readers,

Another year is nearing an end, and I’ve had a marvelous time hosting some talented and gracious authors on my blog. I’d like to thank each one of them, along with every loyal reader out there who has ever taken the time to leave a comment, written a review, emailed, tweeted, posted on Facebook, Goodreads, etc., or has personally told family members and friends about the books that have been featured on my blog.

It’s been an interesting year for me. In January, I decided not to renew my book contracts with my publisher, so I requested and was granted the rights to all my books. Then I had to go through the process of publishing them myself. And as the song goes, I did it my way, which is usually the long, hard way. But I’d had many disagreements with my publisher and it was a relief not have to deal with that publishing house any longer.

I managed to get all three of my novels out by May, which may seem like a long time for only three novels, but it was actually an accomplishment, since I’d had cataract surgery on both eyes, two weeks apart, in February. Which meant part of the month was kind of lost as far as writing is concerned.

Also at the beginning of this year, I began writing, The Tarkington Treasure, which is now available as an ebook for Amazon Kindle.

https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Ddigital-text&field-keywords=The+Tarkington+Treasure+by+Evelyn+Cullet

I wanted this to be the last novel in my Charlotte Ross Mystery series, but my editor has suggested that I write one more, just to tie up some loose ends. So, I guess I’ll be working on another Charlotte Ross mystery. But… I’ll also be writing a new cozy mystery series—The Willows Mysteries. The first book in the series is titled: In the Absence of Evidence. I hope to get both novels out some time next year. I’m keeping my muses crossed, anyway.

As I’ve done in previous years, to thank all the wonderful authors who have appeared on my blog this year, I’m going to tweet each of their blog posts every day until December 31st. I hope everyone will help them out by re-tweeting.

Thanks for reading my blog. I wish you all happiness and wellbeing—and for every author out there: Super-fantastic book sales in 2017!

With Gratitude,

Evelyn Cullet

 

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Julie Seedorf – Granny Pins a Pilferer

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This week, I’m welcoming author, Julie Seedorf

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Julie Seedorf is a Minnesotan. She calls dinner—supper and lunch—dinner. She has had many careers over her lifetime, but her favorite career was that of mother to her children. In later life she became a computer technician, opening her own business. In 2012 Julie signed a contract with Cozy Cat Press for her Fuchsia Minnesota Series. Books included in that series are Granny Hooks a Crook, Granny Skewers A Scoundrel, Granny Snows A Sneak and Granny Forks A Fugitive and Granny Pins A Pilferer. Closing her computer business in January 2014, Julie transitioned to becoming a full-time writer adding free-lance work for various newspapers, along with continuing her column Something About Nothing, which is now in book form in a book of the same name released in early 2015. Her children’s series, Granny’s In Trouble give her grandkids a hint of the young Grandma underneath the wrinkles. Her books are light and fluffy and highlight the fact in the midst of life we have to find the humor in bad situations to keep us going. “We all take ourselves too seriously, and we need to have a little fun.” Julie secretly yearns to be like the Granny characters in her books. In February 2016 the first book in the Brilliant Minnesota Series was released titled the Penderghast Puzzle Protectors. She also is part of a group mystery by Cozy Cat Press Authors titled Chasing the Codex. Julie’s serious side is revealed in a story included in the Anthology; We Go On – Anthology for Veterans where the proceeds go to Veteran’s Charities. Enjoy the moments; they may carry you through a lifetime.

Granny Pins A Pilferer

 Granny is at it again! When Granny accompanies her friend Mavis to the Next To The Last Resting Place nursing home to visit Mavis’ sister, Beulah, both women are shocked to find the new resident dead. Granny, being the amateur detective she is, suspects foul play, and soon she and her entire family concoct a plan to investigate possible shady doings at the nursing home. Granny will enter the home incognito and attempt to determine how Beulah met her suspicious demise. All this happens while Granny’s new husband Silas is entangled in his own dangerous mess. Someone has just blown up his house and Silas (a former detective) is out to discover the culprit, even as he worries about Granny’s safety in the home. As more nursing home residents fall victim to a strange and sudden “memory loss virus,” Granny engages the aid of her friends to get to the bottom of what turns out to be a very complex and complicated plot.

Here is an excerpt from, Granny Pins a Pilferer

Granny, otherwise known as Hermiony Vidalia Criony Fiddlestadt, shut the door to her bedroom and sat down on her bed, taking a short amount of alone time before she rejoined the others to go to the Pink Percolator. How had all this happened? She’d gone from living alone, being single and a top-notch undercover old lady detective, to being married to someone she hadn’t planned on marrying and having half the neighborhood living in her house.

She shook her head as she remembered Humboldt Snowshoe Notorious following Ditty Belle, Mavis, Delight, and Lulu into her house, interrupting the wedding. The man––Snowshoe, as they all called him––who’d been dragged into the house and brought to Granny’s was just as mystified and surprised when he found out the reason he’d been manhandled by Snowshoe, as had been Granny and Amelia. But, before they could say anything, the house shook and a loud explosion filled the air.

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Amazon Kindle:  http://www.amazon.com/dp/B01K0LA08U

Amazon: http://amzn.to/2fMtAFf

BarnesandNoble.com: http://bit.ly/2gGZqHY

Website: http://julieseedorf.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/julie.seedorf.author

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/julieseedorf

Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/julie_seedorf

Pinterest.com: http://pinterest.com/julieseedorf

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/author/julieseedorf

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/JulieSeedorf

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

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Cleo Lampos – Dust Between the Stitches

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This week I’m welcoming back my friend, and fellow member of the Oak Lawn Writer’s Group, author, Cleo Lampos.

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Cleo Lampos is a retired school teacher with a love for history. After researching the Dust Bowl era for several years, she wrote the historical fiction, Dust Between the Stitches. An avid quilter and member of a quilting club in her hometown of Oak Lawn, Illinois, the history of quilt patterns is interwoven in this book. Lampos enjoys writing magazine articles as well as the six novels to her credit. Using her Master’s Degree in Special Education from St. Xavier University and 26 years of teaching, three of these novels are part of a series, The Teachers of Diamond Project School.  Lampos is part of a community garden in her area, and helps her husband with an urban homestead on the South Side of Chicago. With great enjoyment, Lampos shares her knowledge of history with adult education classes at local community colleges and book clubs.

Cleo’s latest novel is, Dust Between the Stitches

Vibrant Addy Meyer wants nothing more than to teach children in the one-room school near her grandpa’s beet farm in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. But the 1930’s swirl with complications for this first-year teacher in rural Colorado. Between the Black Blizzards, the Board of Education, and the bank president, she is overwhelmed.

Addy falls in love with the orphans her grandfather adopted, and with her own students, but vows to guard her heart against the handsome drag line operator, Jess, with his suspicious past. Using her late grandmother’s patterns, Addy creates a quilt made from remnants and acquired swatches of feed sacks.

As the economy and impending foreclosure combine to destroy Addy and her grandfather’s futures, how can these scrapped lives ever be stitched into something coherent? From hurting and gritty people, Addy finds help and justice for her family.

Despair, dust and drought weave together with community to create the fabric of the Dust Bowl in muted earth tones punctuated by vivid threads of hope.

Here is an excerpt:

Addy glanced down at the crumpled paper in her hand and pressed it crinkly smooth against the gray wind-blown boards of the porch railing. Squinting her eyes against the blazing sun, she slid her moccasins through the fine dirt, raising tiny dust clouds around her ankles. She followed the scraggly path leading to the garden where she spotted Grandpa hoeing weeds between the rows of green beans. A wiry, thin gent with a shock of gray hair under his straw hat, Grandpa still maintained muscle mass in his biceps. His grip on the hoe remained firm and his attack on the weeds was sure.

                Passing a scarecrow created from frayed garments, Addy chuckled to herself. A remnant from Kansas. Grandma always had a scarecrow, even here in Colorado.  At the thought of her grandma, a pain stabbed her middle just like the way it did on the day she heard of grandma’s swift heart attack and death. One more loss, in a long chain of losses linked together. But she’d stop this one. She shook the paper as she gripped it tighter in her fist.

                “Hey, there, Addy. I spotted you comin’. Mighty warm for September, ain’t it?” Grandpa straightened. “What’s that in your hand?”

                “I think you have an idea. It’s from the bank in town.” She breathed in the air laced with fine rock residue, air that dehydrated one’s body and withered one’s soul.

                He reached for the letter. “Probably addressed to me. Yep. Says George right here in the heading, not Addy. You takin’ over my mail now?” Smiling, he leaned on his hoe, but the tone in his voice conveyed a serious edge.

                “Okay, chew me out for opening it. That letter says you have to come up with the back taxes for the bank will foreclose on you. Two thousand dollars. That’s a lot of money.” Addy waved the paper in front of his eyes. “Look.”

                “I know what it says. They’s been sending those to a bunch of us farmers and ranchers around here. Don’t mean too much. They can’t take all of our homesteads, now, can they?”

                Addy winced. “You know they can. They took my parents’ house and nearly the whole block we lived on back in Topeka. Yes, the bank will buy up every bit of the land you worked on all these years. It’s 1938 and the banks have just about foreclosed on the whole United States.”

                “Why, I’ve known the bank president since Martha and me settled here ten years ago. He’s my friend.” Grandpa pulled off his straw hat and wiped his brow with a handkerchief.

                “Don’t matter a bit, Grandpa. Banks have no hearts. But, I won’t let them take this land from you. I’ll find a way. Wait and see.” She pointed to a number at the bottom of the paper. “Two thousand dollars arrears. How could you get so far behind?” Addy paused to draw in her breath. “No more losses. I can’t lose one more thing. Not this farm.” Gritting her teeth in irritation, she seethed. She’d only been here for a week and now all this difficulty to face. Plus a new job.

                “Just one dust storm after another. Dried up every crop I put in. Thinned out the herd so we hardly have enough cattle to sell to keep current. Jess Dettmann got me plantin’ sugar beets for a cash crop. He dug the irrigation ditches with his dragline as his room and board.” Grandpa cupped his hand over his eyes and gazed at acres of straight rows of beets that stretched out across the sandy soil. “We’ll see how much the crop is worth this fall.” He plopped the straw hat back over his thick gray hair.

                “Yes. I just met this Jess person. Funny, you never talked about him. Gold digger, if you ask me.”

                Grandpa paused, staring at her. “Didn’t ask you.” With that, he picked up his hoe and sliced the stem off a prickly weed.

                Addy pressed her lips together so she wouldn’t say something she regretted. Shuffling back to the weathered house, she decided to water the raised bed garden. She pumped water into a galvanized watering can. Grandpa’s homestead was unusual for the area in the fact that he had a well in addition to a creek running on his property. In this decade of drought, it made all the difference between making it or losing everything. Every drop of liquid meant life. Addy carried the precious water to the thirsty plants until her arms ached and the agitation drained from her body.

                Website  www.cleolampos.com

Dust Between the Stitches is available on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Dust-Between-Stitches-Cleo-Lampos-ebook/dp/B01L94G7C0/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1480204041&sr=1-1&keywords=Dust+Between+the+Stitches+by+Cleo+Lampos

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

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Maggie King – Murder at the Moonshine Inn

This week, I’m hosting author, Maggie King.

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Maggie King is the author of the Hazel Rose Book Group mysteries, including the recently-released Murder at the Moonshine Inn. She contributed the stories “A Not So Genteel Murder” and “Reunion at Shockoe Slip” to the Virginia is for Mysteries anthologies.

Maggie is a member of Sisters in Crime, James River Writers, and the American Association of University Women. She has worked as a software developer, retail sales manager, and customer service supervisor. Maggie graduated from Elizabeth Seton College and earned a B.S. degree in Business Administration from Rochester Institute of Technology. She has called New Jersey, Massachusetts, and California home. These days she lives in Richmond, Virginia with her husband, Glen, and cats, Morris and Olive. She enjoys reading, walking, movies, traveling, theatre, and museums.

Where Do I Get My Mysterious Ideas?

Where do I get my ideas? That’s the #1 question I get from readers. The short answer: everywhere. But I never stop at the short answer. Frequently ideas are a collage of memories and characters from my life (or someone else’s life) to which I add a hefty measure of my fertile imagination, resulting in a Picasso-esque creation.

My idea for Murder at the Moonshine Inn came from two sources that I melded into one tale. When my husband retired and took up genealogy, he discovered many new-to-him relatives. He contacted them and they remain in touch to this day. Only one relative refused to acknowledge him, suspecting that he wanted money.

A family I knew in California inspired the second source. This family was shocked when the patriarch, a wealthy widower, remarried a much younger woman who lived life in the fast lane. As a novelty, she often hung out at a redneck bar. He was attracted to her beauty and youth. She was attracted to his lovely money. They both got what they wanted. But was it what they expected? And was it enough?

What inspired Murder at the Book Group, #1 in my Hazel Rose Book Group series? Book groups, naturally. Book groups have a special dynamic and the members can be fascinating to observe. In this story, I explore the decisions we might make as we stand at a crossroads in our lives. I’m intrigued by choices and how so many of us don’t consider the full range of consequences of our decisions and actions.

For “A Not So Genteel Murder” in the Virginia is for Mysteries anthology, I needed a Virginia landmark and I picked Richmond’s venerable Kent-Valentine House, headquarters for the Garden Club of Virginia. But the tale of betrayal, loss, and the power of family ties that I set there was solely based on my imagination, not an outside source.

“Reunion in Shockoe Slip” is a what-if story that I contributed to the Virginia is for Mysteries Vol. 2 anthology. Nancy and Roger were lovers thirty years before and meet again at a book signing in Richmond’s historic Shockoe Slip. Many of us have someone in our past who we’d just as soon leave in the past. But what if we see the person again after much time has gone by? Maybe we share pictures of our grandkids, pets, or milestone anniversary. Or, maybe things go very, very wrong.

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Website: http://www.maggieking.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MaggieKingAuthor

Twitter: https://twitter.com/MaggieKingAuthr

Buy link: http://amzn.to/2dtozWa

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

 

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Marja McGraw – Having a Great Crime – Wish Your Were Here

This week, I’m welcoming back one of my favorite authors, Marja McGraw.

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

Cold Cases vs. New Cases

Crime and criminals are as old as the inhabited world. It’s a fact of life. Consequently, in addition to daily troubles, there are old unsolved cases, most of which will probably never have their answers come to light.

In the Sandi Webster series, the protagonist is a young female private investigator. She and her husband/partner, Pete, handle current situations on a regular basis. However, once in a while, someone brings an old case to their attention.

I enjoy creating cold cases, partly because the mystery of the unsolved case takes place in another time. My characters don’t have to deal with death on an up close and personal level in those particular situations. They may have to deal with someone who’s involved with the crime in one way or another, but they’re not on the scene during the original crime. Yes, they can be placed in a dangerous situation, but that’s not something they expect when working on a cold case.

Such is the case with “Having a Great Crime – Wish You Were Here,” A Sandi Webster Mystery. It’s light reading with a little humor and deals with, as it turns out, more than one vintage crime.

Having a Great Crime – Wish You Were Here.

1936 – In the small farming community of Battle Ground, Washington, a scream is heard and actress Bonnie Singleton is found dead. With no evidence or suspects, the crime goes down in history as an unsolved murder. The only one who knows the truth is Bonnie Singleton, and her voice has been silenced.

That is, until many years later when Sandi Webster-Goldberg and her husband, Pete, go on a belated honeymoon to a new Bed and Breakfast in the small community.

Plenty of surprises await the couple when the proprietor of the B&B asks for their help. She doesn’t want her business to be known as the local haunted house.

Have Sandi and Pete ever been able to turn down a challenge? The request to find the truth has been made and once again they’re reluctantly on a cold case.

Excerpt from Chapter Two (Discussion with Bea, the owner of the Bed & Breakfast):

I reigned in my frustration and set my plans for relaxation aside. Maybe we could work some fun time into our honeymoon. I mean, it could happen.

“Why do you want me to look into this murder?” I hoped she had a good reason.

She did, and it had to do with her proposed livelihood. “This was a notorious murder. You may have heard of it. The victim was a famous actress, and this house was her getaway spot. You must have heard of the Bonnie Singleton murder, right? Um, unfortunately her death was what really made her famous.”

Pete nodded.

It rang a bell with me, but not a very loud one. “Bonnie Singleton? Wasn’t she an actress back in the 1930s?” I watch a lot of old movies and I was sure I’d seen her in at least one of them.

“Yes, and she was known for being sultry and a red hot babe. She was kind of like Jean Harlow or Mae West, or an early Marilyn Monroe.”

Okay, that description made me laugh. Aunt Bea talking about red hot babes?

“So what’s the issue?” Pete set his empty glass on the table.

Bea sat up straighter. “There are those who want to stay here just in case she haunts the house, which she doesn’t. There are others who don’t want to stay here because of the murder. I know there was a murder at your mother’s B&B, but it wasn’t in newspapers all over the country. They’ve even done specials on television about Bonnie’s unsolved murder.”

Ah, there it was. The murder had never been solved. She thought I could figure it out.

She held her hands out, palms up. “Your mother told me stories about you solving cold cases. I’m hoping you’ll do the same for me. I don’t want ghost hunters roaming around the house. I’d like to have guests who come here to unwind and enjoy life – to have fun.”

Pete nodded. “I can understand that.”

“How was she killed?” It was coming back to me slowly. I’d heard the story, but I didn’t remember any of the details.

“She was beaten and stabbed. The story goes that the beating should have killed her – that the stabbing was almost an afterthought.” Bea rubbed her arms, the thought chilling her. “There weren’t too many suspects. Most of them could account for their whereabouts when she died. Others didn’t like her, but didn’t seem to have a motive. And there wasn’t much in the way of evidence. They never found the murder weapon.”

“Do you have anything that might give us some clues?” I asked.

“There are plenty of newspaper articles, and the police must have an old file. I’m sure they’d let you look at it since the crime happened so long ago.

“There was a woman in town who was a little girl when all of this happened. At the time, she and her family lived across the road in a small house, but the house was torn down years ago. She and her brother used to play out here and she made friends with Bonnie. She remembered a little about people who visited the house. She said she remembered the actress as being warm and friendly, and funny. Sadly, she also remembered hearing screams the night of the murder. She passed away a couple of years ago.”

“Did she see anything that night?” Pete crossed his arms across his chest and leaned back, legs stretched out in front of him, looking comfortable. He was once a cop, and he learned to try to put people at ease when possible so they’d talk more.

“You know? I never asked her. I’m sure the police must have, though.”

We’d certainly need more to go on than what Bea had told us so far. “Do you know if the police found any letters? Pictures? Anything that might help?”

“Honestly, there wasn’t actually a police department here until the city was incorporated in the 1950s. From what I understand, it was all farms around here in the old days. I think there were some marshals at that time. You’d have to check. I don’t even know if there are still police records from that time period.” She smiled. “It was a small place and Main Street was pretty much the whole town. Other than that, it was all farms.”

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Website:          http://www.marjamcgraw.com/

Blog:               http://marjamcgraw.blogspot.com/

Buy Books:     https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_i_1_8?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=marja+mcgraw&sprefix=marja+mc%2Caps%2C1957&crid=1GP76N21NKK1T

Thank you, Evelyn for having me in today.

You’re welcome, Marja. It’s always a pleasure.

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

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Denise Rogers – Murderous Emeralds

This week I’m hosting author, Denise Rogers.

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Denise Rodgers spent the first twenty-eight years of her life working in the family jewelry business in Metro Detroit, followed by another more than twenty-something years running a home-based advertising company that catered to (you guessed it!) jewelers around the country. At the same time, she wrote and published two poetry books and a website of funny children’s poetry. Many of her poems have also been published in anthologies and textbooks around the globe. Rodgers’ most recent work, a funny murder mystery series featuring woman sleuth Bella Blumer, takes place in a jewelry store in Royal Oak, a suburb of Detroit. Book one and two are Deadly Diamonds and Murderous Emeralds. A third Jeweltown Murder Mystery cozy, Poison Pearl, is scheduled for early 2018.

While Denise share many traits with her main character, Bella Blumer, this book is in no way autobiographical. She lives in Metro Detroit—near, but not in Royal Oak—with her husband and two small dogs. She has two wonderful grown sons, two beautiful daughter-in-laws, and four amazing grandchildren, all under the age of three!

Cozy Mystery Author Reveals Secret of Life

Years ago, I read an article in Psychology Today that gave the secret of life. Okay, if not the secret of life, the secret of happiness, which is no secret at all. The gist of it was: those who enjoy what they have are happier than those who pine over what’s missing in their lives. It’s so simple it makes you feel like Homer Simpson: Duh-oh!

Because this is the month of Thanksgiving, and in the spirit of appreciating what I have in my life—I thought I’d make a list of things I’m grateful for—in the narrow world of my mystery books.

  1. I’m grateful for my writer’s tools. Like many writers, I’m particular about pen and paper. I like to write in thick, 9.5 x 6.5”, five-subject notebooks, preferably with a firm cardboard backer. I absolutely love gel pens, as well as my pricier fountain pen. And don’t get me started on my MacBook Air (on which I’m writing right now). I love the soft keyboard and the size of the screen, as well as my quick access to the Internet, unless I’m too distractible on a given day, in which case I turn it off.
  1. I’m grateful for my fictional characters. This might sound odd, but it’s so true. It all started with Bella Blumer, the main character of my growing Jeweltown mystery series. They talk about a writer’s voice. Well, I didn’t find my voice, I found Bella’s. Once she started talking about her “lying, cheating, skunk of an ex-husband” in Deadly Diamonds, I knew I had to write to find out what happened to her. And I didn’t even meet Max Fosner (her defense attorney and possible love interest) until I was well into the first book! Now, I love Max. I feel like I know him. And his kids. And Bella’s kids. And on and on. When I’m really into writing, I don’t think. Instead, I actually listen to how these different people/characters talk, because you know we all tend to talk a little differently from one another. And these differences in speech make a big difference when you’re reading a book.
  1. I’m grateful for the way I feel when I’m writing regularly. I feel whole. I feel centered. I feel like I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing on this earth. I know I’m not saving lives, but somehow it just feels right. Instead of meditating, I write. I’m sure if you measured my alpha waves, it would show a meditative state while writing.
  1. I’m grateful for the new world of online marketing and publishing. In the old days, which I remember well, you’d do all the work to write and polish your manuscript, and then the real work would begin…contacting agents and editors. At that time, I was writing poetry. It was so hard to get noticed that I didn’t even try writing fiction in earnest till the summer of 2010. That was when I took on a new non-creative job, financial management. Because of this job, I allowed myself to write a mystery novel, even if I had no idea what I was going to do with it, once completed. At that time, I was okay with the open-endedness. I was that burnt out on sending manuscripts to publishers.

Since the online publishing revolution, you can write and edit your work, contract for a cover, get the book formatted, and voila! You’re in the online marketplace. Of course, that’s when the work of marketing your book begins. But from what I’ve read, most authors, even those published by big name New York companies, also have to market their own books. So, thank you, Amazon! And Barnes & Noble. And Kobo. And iTunes.  And CreateSpace, and on and on! I’m grateful for the opportunity to put my words and characters out there. Bella likes the limelight, believe me!

  1. I’m grateful for all the wonderful mystery books out there. Our fifth-grade teachers were right! Good readers make good writers. It doesn’t hurt that I love reading anyway, and would do it for the sheer pleasure of it. However, as a writer, I sometimes step back from the action in a book to see what I’m enjoying, or what I’m not. Every book has a lesson for the active reader/writer.
  1. I’m grateful for my readers! Check out the reviews on my first two books on Amazon—Deadly Diamonds, and Murderous Emeralds. Thankfully, I’ve many more readers than reviews. I’m very thankful for every book sold, and for every person who is inspired to take the time to actually write a review on Amazon or Goodreads. I love hearing from readers on Facebook, or via email! So please feel free to write!

This list was easy to compile. I invite you, in the spirit of Thanksgiving, to compile your own grateful list.  The truth is, when we concentrate on those things that bring us joy, we tend to notice the joyful things in our lives. The opposite is also true. f you spend a lot of time complaining, even to yourself, you’ll tend to notice more of those annoying things out there. So, get into the spirit of Thanksgiving! Be thankful. Be grateful. Make a list. It might even make you happy!

Murderous Emeralds

It’s fall in Royal Oak, Michigan, just two miles north of the infamous Eight Mile Road, and jewelry designer Bella Blumer is ready to live the good life and leave the drama of last summer behind her. But the good life is not quite ready for Bella. In addition to jumping head first into another murder investigation to help a long-time friend, Bella has to deal with her fabulous boyfriend who wants to marry her—even if the thought of marriage makes her more than slightly nauseous. Add to that the fact that her newly sullen daughter is ignoring her, and her dragon-lady of a stepsister is in town and making life miserable for Bella’s not-so-lovable mother. When the murder investigation reveals one sordid secret after another, Bella has to scramble to find the murderer to save both her friend…and herself.

Excerpt from Murderous Emeralds

As soon as I saw Ollie Gleason walk into our store I knew there was going to be trouble.  He came up to the front counter, a furtive look about him as he spoke to my son, Vic. They were over by the emerald section of our display cases, so at least he wasn’t looking for a diamond again. All hell broke loose the last time he did that.  Call it a sixth sense, but I was pretty sure he wasn’t shopping for his wife and I didn’t like that. I tend to be strongly on the side of the wife in these situations, mostly because lying-cheating scumbags really get on my nerves, if you know what I mean.

I stared at the counter, pretty sure no one would notice me all tucked away in my jewelry studio, off to the side behind my glass door.  The first thing you notice about Ollie is his ridiculous toupee. Ridiculous because he owns the Chevy-Cadillac dealership on Main Street in Royal Oak, so you know he can afford better. He wears a business suit most of the time because he probably thinks the straight lines of the suit cover his fifty-six year-old overweight and misshapen body. It’s a fact that the top half of his body and the bottom just don’t line up. It’s not a good look, but I doubt that there’s much he can do about it short of major surgery or exercise, neither of which is an obvious option.

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Deadly Diamonds: Jeweltown Mystery Book 1

https://www.amazon.com/Deadly-Diamonds-Jeweltown-Mystery-Book/dp/0970838220/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1478206606&sr=8-2&keywords=deadly+diamonds

Murderous Emeralds: Jeweltown Mystery Book 2

https://www.amazon.com/Murderous-Emeralds-Jeweltown-Mystery-Book-ebook/dp/B01BUGTC2E/ref=tmm_kin_title_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

Facebook:: https://www.facebook.com/denise.rodgers.739

Twitter: @DeniseRmystery

Website: http://www.deniserodgersbooks.com/

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

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Kay Kendall – Rainy Day Women

This week, I’m hosting author, Kay Kendall.

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Kay Kendall is an award-winning author of two historical mysteries. Her second book, RAINY DAY WOMEN (2015), won for best mystery and best book at Killer Nashville in August 2016. It is the second in her Austin Starr mystery series, published by Stairway Press. The first was DESOLATION ROW (2013).

History intrigues me. I love reading about how women’s lives have changed throughout history and adore costume dramas in movies and on television. Imagining how my life would have been, for example, as a pioneer wife in south Texas (where I live now) fascinates me.

So, after reading historical fiction for ages and studying lots of history in school, I now write mysteries set in the past. Even if you disliked your own history classes, I try to entertain you as I offer a bit of history as background to my murder plots. If you are caught up in the search for a killer and also grasp a little about the past and how it all led to where we are today, then I am delighted.

Besides, I like to focus on human emotions and motives rather than technical gadgetry to prove who committed a crime. That inclination forces me back to writing about the days before CSI existed. That means that I had no choice but to write historically.

Finally, stories set during wars are ever-popular, and I felt drawn to write about a war period I myself remember, the Vietnam War. The upheaval of the 1960s is still a controversial subject. My first mystery, Desolation Row, introduced my amateur sleuth who is confused by that decade’s rapid social and political change. Heroine Austin Starr is a new bride whose husband is jailed for killing another anti-war activist. She is forced by circumstances to prove his innocence. No one else believes in him, least of all the police.

Austin Starr’s second case is detailed in Rainy Day Women. Her best friend joins a women’s liberation group and becomes the prime suspect when the group’s charismatic leader is killed. The reader goes along with Austin when she visits her first meeting of the feminist group and experiences her surprise at what she finds. This movement has come to be called second wave feminism. The subject is shockingly fresh and topical now. Women’s struggle for equality is all over the news, and many argue it is still not achieved, despite many advances.

Even the titles of the Austin Starr books are suddenly more relevant. That great troubadour is again making headlines now. Will he or won’t he be in Stockholm to receive his Nobel Prize for Literature, come December? Austin Starr would be a grandmother by now, and I am sure she’d be keen to find out the answer to this mystery. She is a fan of Bob Dylan, providing the inspiration for using titles of his songs for my books. Rainy Day Women hints at that mystery’s plot. The murders take place in soggy Vancouver, Canada, and Seattle, Washington, plus the victims are all women’s liberation activists. This is my favorite title. It fits so perfectly.

I hope Rainy Day Women will not only entertain you—but also inform about women’s lives back in the day. The similarities and differences just might surprise you.

Rainy Day Women

Kay Kendall’s Rainy Day Women is the second book in the Austin Starr Mystery series. In 1969, during the week of the Manson murders and Woodstock, the intrepid amateur sleuth, infant in tow, flies across the continent to support a friend suspected of murdering women’s liberation activists in Seattle and Vancouver. Then her former CIA trainer warns that an old enemy has contracted a hit on her. Her anxious husband demands that she give up her quest and fly back to him. How much should Austin risk when tracking the killer puts her and her baby’s life in danger?

Excerpt from chapter five of, Rainy Day Women

On Wednesday afternoon I stood in our tiny living room, surveying the few belongings we’d acquired. The furniture was used and scruffy, but Indian cotton throws added color. Snapshots of Wyatt sat on bookcases made of bricks and boards. Books and papers spilled out of them, and more books were stacked around the room. This felt like home. It was our home. This was the first time I’d be leaving it.

My bags were packed, and soon baby Wy and I would be flying west. The lyrics from Peter, Paul and Mary’s record circled in my head—except, unlike in their tale, I knew I’d be back again soon.

Long distance plane travel had never fazed me. In fact, I loved it. If I started Wy out early, maybe the four-hour flight from Toronto to Vancouver would set him up to be a great little traveler. Then we’d share many more trips with him—on happier occasions. I crossed my fingers.

The early sun filtered through the venetian blinds and lit all the places that I’d not dusted in months. I was fortunate David wasn’t like my friends’ husbands. They didn’t tolerate slovenliness in their wives. My mother’s voice barged into my head, shoved the folksingers aside, and announced, “I trained you better than this, Austin.”

Damn it all, for almost two years I’d lived thousands of miles away from her, and still, still, Mother provided the soundtrack in my brain. She never praised, only admonished. I wished I could turn her off like I could our hi-fi. A shake of my head helped me refocus on the coming trip, but I knew she’d pop up again soon.

David had taken the luggage downstairs to our Volkswagen van, and now his footsteps came clomping down the hall toward our apartment. I plucked Wy from his playpen and shuffled over to open the door for David.

“All set?” he said.

“Right.” I held Wyatt against my shoulder and moved into David’s arms to be held in them one last time before leaving.

“I’m so lucky you’re my husband. Have I ever told you how much I love you?”

A tear ran down my cheek. He wiped it away.

“Not in the last ten minutes.” He kissed Wy on the forehead and me on the lips. Wy took the opportunity to burp.

Spit-up stained my fresh blouse. Shoot.

“Can you hold him please? I’ll clean this off, and then we’d better go.” I handed Wy to David and marched into the kitchen for a wet cloth.

Fifteen minutes later we were driving along the Gardiner Expressway toward Toronto’s Pearson Airport. Wyatt gurgled happily on my lap, strapped into his plastic carrier. I held him tightly. The seat belt wasn’t long enough to stretch across two of us, let alone the carrier. He played with my hand for a few moments before the car’s motion lulled him to sleep.

I reached out and patted David’s arm, feeling like the luckiest girl in, well, at least Toronto. Remorse and guilt nibbled at the edges of my heart because I was about to leave this dear man. At the same time, my heart rejoiced at the coming adventure. The sound of Peter, Paul and Mary singing “Leaving on a Jet Plane” swam in my head. Only an act of willpower kept me from humming along.

I hoped the tune I’d sing on my return would be upbeat. Something like “Dance to the Music” by Sly and the Family Stone would do nicely.

With my free hand I switched on the radio. John Lennon’s wail of “Don’t Let Me Down” stabbed into my stomach and twisted the knife. I shot a sideways glance at David.

At the same time he shifted his eyes from the road to look at me. “You won’t, will you?”

“No, no, I won’t let you down, honey.” I punched the radio buttons, looking for a happier song for my send-off. That Beatles song was a guilt trip. The knife twisted another turn in my gut. Swell, a perfect metaphor for my flight out to help Larissa—guilt trip.

. . . And the story continues.

 

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Buy links for Rainy Day Women:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Rainy-Day-Women-Mystery-Mysteries-ebook/dp/B00W2X5SCS/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1476660796&sr=1-1&keywords=rainy+day+women

Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/rainy-day-women-kay-kendall/1122022299?ean=9781941071175

Website URL: http://AustinStarr.com

Blog URL: http://thestilettogang.blogspot.com/2016/09/let-good-times-roll.html < http://thestilettogang.blogspot.com/> I blog every third Wednesday of each month.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KayKendallAuthor/  & https://www.facebook.com/kendall.kl

Twitter: @kaylee_kendall

LinkedIn:  https://www.linkedin.com/in/kaykendallmysteries

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

 

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