Spotlight & Guest Post: FAMILY MATTERS by Laurinda Wallace

I am pleased to have Laurinda Wallace as my guest today as she tells us about her journey from avid reader to mystery writer.  She is the author of numerous novels, including the Gracie Anderson Mystery series.


What Makes This Writer Tic … er … Tick by Laurinda Wallace

Laurinda-1.jpgI’m a reader. A voracious reader. More than a one-book-at-a-time reader. It all started with Dick and Jane stories in the first grade. Once I had those under my belt, I couldn’t stop. Adventures in the pages of books seemed much more exciting than my real life, which led me to ruminate about writing my own stories. There were a lot of beginnings, but not much in the way of middles or ends of stories. I went back to reading.

Then I was old enough for a library card. Now that is power. I could make selections from any genre and take more than one book out at a time. A few more attempts at writing a novel came and went. Back to reading and writing compositions for English class. Then writing became part of my work: John Doe, being duly sworn, deposes and says. 1. He resides at 123 ABC Street, etc. etc. In those years as a paralegal, I learned to be succinct and mind the details. There was a beginning, middle, and end to every contract or affidavit.

Then when you manage to age a bit more, and your perseverance improves ever so slightly, youthful dreams can circle back. You’ve experienced some actual strange adventures like sitting on the Thousand Island Bridge in a Chevy Nova at 10pm. Your husband is under the car trying jiggling a wonky transmission, so it’ll shift properly and you can finish a road trip. Plenty of the ordinary like washing off your children in a cold stream in Nova Scotia after one gets carsick all over the backseat, including her unsuspecting sister trapped in a car seat. Then mountain-high joys over goals achieved, daughters’ weddings, grandsons born, and soggy Kleenex sorrows and disappointments—well you know about them. The circumstances that try faith and put callouses on your knees, because you certainly don’t have answers. It’s the stuff of stories and for me it was time to take all of those experiences to see if there was an entire book, including a middle and an end.

Writing mysteries seemed the natural thing to do. Good triumphs over evil. A bit of justice served up. Mysteries also engage the brain—solve the puzzle—look for clues—sort through the suspects. I can’t get enough of them as a reader and wanted to try my hand at weaving tales of small towns and a little murder. Beautiful rural Western New York where I lived most of my life was a place I wanted to share with readers. Where dairy cows outnumber people and neighbors are … well … real neighbors. A dog certainly had to play a role since Labradors have always been part of our family. So, Gracie Andersen, a widow and kennel owner was created, along with her trusty Labrador, Haley. Gracie’s insatiable curiosity and Haley’s predilection for trouble often draw them into danger with a few laughs along the way. I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Gracie Andersen Mystery Series

Family Matters is the first book in  Laurinda Wallace’s  Gracy Anderson Mystery series).

Description:

familymattersThink your family’s dysfunctional? Meet Gracie Andersen’s and the peaceful farming community of Deer Creek. Gracie has her hands full–a new business and trying to get her life on track after the loss of her husband and unborn child. When an odd gift from her troubled uncle thrusts her into an investigation of a cousin’s tragic death 20 years ago, Gracie meets with opposition from family and friends. What really happened that rainy, October night when her cousin was killed by a hit-and-run driver? As pieces of the truth are wrenched from the past, her new business, Milky Way Kennels teeters on the edge of disaster. And then death strikes again. Someone is determined Gracie won’t find the truth. With Haley, her black Labrador by her side, Gracie doggedly pursues the trail of clues to unravel the mystery of her cousin Charlotte’s untimely death.

Additional books in the series include:

About the Author

A lifelong bookworm, Laurinda was often in hot water for reading way past her bedtime as a child. Now, armed with a Kindle, she is never without a book and still ignores the time. She readily admits that writing the Gracie Andersen mystery series is more fun than is probably legal, but someone had to do it. Recent retirement from a long career in administration allows more writing time, and she has added two new Gracie mysteries to the series this year. She is also writing a true crime book and a 1930s suspense series is in development. In addition to writing mysteries and inspirational books, she has contributed to numerous print and online magazines. She is a member of Sisters in Crime (national), the Tucson chapter of Sisters in Crime, and is a grateful recipient of multiple Poets and Writers grants.

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Guest Post: POPULATING A SMALL TOWN by Susan C. Daffron

My guest today is Susan C. Daffron, author of the Alpine Grove Romantic Comedy series.  All ten of the books in the series feature pet lovers and their animals. In her guest post, the author talks about creating human and animal characters in a small town setting.


Populating a Small Town with Human and Animal Characters

By Susan C. Daffron

Many of the reviews of the books in my Alpine Grove series mention how much they enjoy reading about the town itself. One reviewer said that he felt like he could draw a map based on the books and several folks want to move there. Just as in real small towns, in the fictional town of Alpine Grove, you tend to encounter people you know.

Although readers love the fact that new characters meet and interact with established characters, it can make matters more complex for the writer. For example, I included a cameo of Becca and Jack from the fourth novel (Snow Furries) in the tenth novel daydreamretriver(Daydream Retriever). Anyone who has read Snow Furries knows that Becca talks really fast, Jack is a somewhat philosophical forester, and the couple live in a small log cabin owned by yet another character. If Becca doesn’t sound like she did in Snow Furries or I inadvertently change details like where she lives, readers will notice and tell me about it.

Because the characters in my books have pets, I need to keep track of the critter personalities too. My readers are passionate pet lovers, so Swoosie the Samoyed had better continue to try and eat everything in sight whenever she appears on a page. Readers know that Roxy the dachshund owned by Tracy the vet tech likes to get into small spaces and Linus the big hairy brown dog is a mellow sweetheart. All of the animals have to remain in character just as much as the humans do.

Keeping It Real

For me, one key to retaining writerly sanity is to keep notes about all the characters that appear in a book. I use Scrivener, so within the book project, I create a reference page using the built-in character sketch template. The template has sections for the person’s physical description, background, occupation, quirks, and conflicts.

Although I don’t go completely nuts on details, I fill in the basics before I start writing a new novel. I also select a Myers-Brigg type for the main characters. Whether or not you buy into the Myers-Brigg system, it does work as a way to differentiate personalities. For example, Beth Connelly in Bark to the Future is a geeky INTP and her introverted personality has a big effect on how she behaves throughout the novel. In a similar way, I write out the animal personalities. For example, Tessa the golden retriever is a hyperactive nutball and that affects her actions in the story.

A Series Bible Is Your Friend

It may seem like a lot of work to write down so much for each book, but now that I have ten books in my series, I’m even happier that I included such detailed information. Around book 5 or so, I created a separate “Alpine Grove Reference” Scrivener project. Now when I finish a novel, I copy the character sheets and notes into the master project, so I can refer to it later.

Right now, I’m writing a spin-off series, which starts in (you guessed it) Alpine Grove. Thanks to the series bible, I was able to easily remember locations and throw in a few nods to people that regular readers will recognize. When you populate a small town where everyone knows your name, you’d better remember who everybody is.

About the Author

alpinegrove1Susan Daffron is the author of the Alpine Grove Romantic Comedies, a series of novels that feature residents of the small town of Alpine Grove and their various quirky dogs and cats. She is also an award-winning author of many nonfiction books, including several about pets and animal rescue. Find out more about her books at http://www.SusanDaffron.com. You can download the first novel in her Alpine Grove series of romantic comedies, Chez Stinky, for free on sites like Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, and the Apple iBookstore.

Spotlight & Guest Post: A WHOLE LATTE MURDER by Caroline Fardig

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As part of a Blog Tour organized by Great Escapes Free Virtual Book Tours,  I am pleased to have Caroline Fardig as my guest today as she celebrates her recently released addition to the Java Jive Mystery series – A Whole Latte Murder.  Having read and enjoyed a previous book in her Java Jive series, I look forward to reading this newest addition.


 Writing’s effect on my life, or My life’s effect on my writing by Caroline Fardig

Caroline Fardig.jpegI love how writing has affected my life. I feel much more confident, and I’m much more well-spoken. I find that I notice people, places, and things more than I ever have—I guess it’s the writer in me looking for new ideas and inspiration. Conversely, I enjoy seeing what kind of effect that my life experiences have on my writing. Whenever I learn a life lesson or gain knowledge on a subject, it only makes my writing better.

I’ve had a really odd career path in my adult life. I went to college to be a music teacher, and I was for a while. I finally decided that teaching wasn’t for me, but I had learned some good life skills, such as crowd control and conflict resolution. At that point, I went in a completely different direction and became an insurance agent. It turns out, working with the general public in customer service and sales isn’t much different than working with whiny children. From working in the insurance business, I learned how to switch gears fast and wear many different hats—having to try to wheel and deal to sell someone a new policy right after having to empathize with a person who had been hurt in an accident. After my daughter was born, I took some time off to take care of her, and it was truly a wonderful experience. But, once she got in school, I felt like I needed something to do. I then got a job at a funeral home, being a greeter and helping with day-to-day tasks. It’s amazing how much work goes on behind the scenes of a funeral, and the difficult part is to make sure that everything gets done quickly, yet quietly and with the utmost respect and reverence for the dead as well as grieving family members. You have to be sympathetic, but not allow yourself to become emotional. From that job, I learned how to put my feelings aside to get my work done, and how to stay calm even when you think everything is going wrong.

My on-the-job training has become invaluable in my life, as well as in my writing. I can make my characters argue, and with what I’ve learned about dealing with conflict, I can easily maneuver them to a resolution—whether it be a positive or a negative one. In writing humorous books, it’s essential to be able to swiftly change the tone if a scene gets too deep and dark. From learning how to deal with different kinds of people and situations back to back, I can easily divert the characters away from getting too dramatic by shifting the focus of the scene to something lighter. When writing mysteries, you have to deal with death, and I’m often angered at how characters in books and movies lose a friend and just move on with the action like nothing happened. A lot of times, writers don’t allow their characters to take time to grieve. That’s something I wanted to do differently in my writing. My characters actually go to funerals, just like we would in real life, and take time to process what they’re feeling.

I’m grateful for all of the wonderful and unusual jobs I have had. Now, I can add writer to the list, which is another completely different experience. Being able to get your thoughts out on paper is very therapeutic, and I’m thankful that other people actually want to read what I write down.


About A Whole Latte Murder

latteCoffeehouse manager and reluctant sleuth Juliet Langley returns in a gripping novel from the bestselling author of Death Before Decaf and Mug Shot. Just as things are perking up in Nashville, a serial killer sends tensions foaming over.

Juliet’s personal and professional lives have recently received an extra jolt of energy. Her romance with the hunky detective Ryder Hamilton continues to simmer, and business at Java Jive has never been better. But her good mood quickly turns as stale as day-old espresso when she finds out that Ryder has been promoted to his precinct’s homicide division. With him risking his life to catch the worst kind of criminals, Juliet’s growing sense of unease ignites when a local college student goes missing.

Suddenly every Nashville resident is on high alert, especially Juliet’s neighbor Chelsea. Juliet does her best to calm the girl’s nerves, but her worst fears are confirmed when she finds Chelsea dead. Even though she tries her best to stay out of it, Juliet’s involvement puts a strain on Ryder’s first homicide case. The situation soon becomes even more personal for Juliet and her best friend Pete Bennett when one of their employees disappears during her shift. As a killer lurks in the shadows, Juliet, Pete, and Ryder seek out a double shot of justice.

About the Author

Caroline Fardig is the author of Death Before Decaf and the Lizzie Hart series. She worked as a schoolteacher, church organist, insurance agent, funeral parlor associate, and stay-at-home mom before she realized that she wanted to be a writer when she grew up. Born and raised in a small town in Indiana, Fardig still lives in that same town with an understanding husband, two sweet kids, two energetic dogs, and one malevolent cat.

Author Links

Purchase Links:   Amazon      B&N

Guest Post, Spotlight & Giveaway: SEND IN THE CLOWNS by Julie Mulhern

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As part of a Blog Tour organized by Great Escapes Free Virtual Book Tours,  I am pleased to have USA Today bestselling author Julie Mulhern as my guest today as she celebrates the release of her latest cozy mystery –Send in the Clowns.


On writing by Julie Mulhern

I’ve been writing for what feels like seventy-two hours straight. My eyes itch. My neck hurts. Homophones have banded together and declared me their sworn enemies. You have to watch out for those homophones – there attacks are two sneaky.

Not that I’m complaining—it’s just that when I imagined being a writer, I imagined picking up a pen when the muse struck. And bon-bons. Lots and lots of bon-bons.

The reality is a book release and a deadline on top of each other, cheap chocolate, and two (begone foul homophone!) too much coffee. The reality isn’t a muse, it’s an ever-expanding butt in seat, fingers poised on a keyboard, and words—even crappy words—adding up to a first draft.

Writing is not the glamorous pursuit I imagined. Instead, it’s stumbling out of bed in the dark, pulling on a ratty bathrobe, blindly pushing the button on the coffee maker, and writing—every day.

You know what? I wouldn’t change a thing…well, maybe the bon-bons.


About Send in the Clowns

send-in-the-clownsHaunted houses are scary enough without knife-wielding clowns. Especially murderous knife-wielding clowns. So thinks Ellison Russell, single mother, artist, and reluctant sleuth.

Now death wears a red nose and Ellison is up to the blood-stained collar of her new trench coat in costumes, caffeine, and possible killers. Who stabbed Brooks Harney? And why? Money? Jealousy? Drugs?

With Mother meddling, her father furious, and her date dragged downtown for questioning, turns out Ellison’s only confidante is Mr. Coffee.

Books in the Country Club Murders Humorous Mystery Series:

* THE DEEP END (#1)
* GUARANTEED TO BLEED (#2)
* CLOUDS IN MY COFFEE (#3)
* SEND IN THE CLOWNS (#4)

Giveaway

Click here to enter a Rafflecopter giveaway for a chance to win one of five e-copies of Send in the Clowns.

julieAbout Julie Mulhern

Julie Mulhern is the USA Today bestselling author of The Country Club Murders. She is a Kansas City native who grew up on a steady diet of Agatha Christie. She spends her spare time whipping up gourmet meals for her family, working out at the gym and finding new ways to keep her house spotlessly clean–and she’s got an active imagination. Truth is–she’s an expert at calling for take-out, she grumbles about walking the dog and the dust bunnies under the bed have grown into dust lions.

Author Links

Purchase Links

Amazon – Barnes and Noble – iBooks – Kobo 

Guest Post & Giveaway: THE CORPSE WITH THE RUBY LIPS by Cathy Ace

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As part of a Blog Tour organized by Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours,  I am pleased to have Cathy Ace as my guest today as she tells us about her choice of settings for her Cait Morgan Mysteries, which include her latest release – The Corpse with the Ruby Lips.


Setting the Scene for the Cait Morgan Mysteries by Cathy Ace

Thanks for having me along today, and for offering me the chance to talk about something that resonates with me…the settings of my books.

1610884_639339149521629_3791092845543988135_nWhen I started writing the Cait Morgan Mysteries I was keen to avoid “Cabot Cove Syndrome” – you know what I mean…the fact that all the tales take place in a backwater town or village where the body-count is on a par with a major urban center, and anyone who makes the mistake of visiting reduces their life expectancy to about twenty pages. Of course, by making my sleuth travel to a different country for each book I’ve given her another problem to face – that of being viewed as some sort of “Typhoid Mary” where people drop dead within minutes of her arrival. But, when writing a series of mysteries, one has to make a decision about which path to take, and hen all you can do is hope one’s readers are prepared to take the trip you plan for them, suspending disbelief as required.

That said, I do think that communicating the truths about a location – once a location is decided upon – need to be adhered to, and place offers a host of opportunities for the mystery writer. Cait Morgan was in Nice, on the Cote d’Azur, in her first adventure, THE CORPSE WITH THE SILVER TONGUE, and the puzzling mystery she faced there could not have taken place anywhere other than in the building and the city in which it was set – the building having once been Gestapo HQ during the Vichy years, and the city being one blessed with Roman ruins, ancient artefacts, and, now, a dazzling array of glamorous and moneyed residents. Similarly, British Columbia’s wine country was the perfect setting for THE CORPSE WITH THE GOLDEN NOSE, which focused on the possible suicide of a world-famous vintner and the chefs, restaurants, B&B’s and locally powerful (and decidedly odd) people who choose to live on the banks of a lake rumored to have its own “Ogopogo” monster.

When I decided to take Cait to the Pacific coast of Mexico in THE CORPSE WITH THE EMERALD THUMB, I didn’t want to focus on the drug problems in the area, but on the people who live their lives there trying to avoid such issues – they are more concerned with the amount of water all the holidaymakers use and how that impacts their ability to grow crops, which was something Cait became aware of during the course of her inquiries, where she had to race the clock to save her beloved Bud from being locked away in a federal prison. And I followed this desire to show the part of a place that might not be the first thing that comes to mind in my fourth book, THE CORPSE WITH THE PLATINUM HAIR. Set in a fictional casino in Las Vegas, I knew many of my readers – even those who had never walked The Strip – would have a pretty clear idea of what Vegas is all about, but I wanted to take them behind the gilded curtains and give them a glimpse of what it’s like to be an insider there, not someone just swinging through for a long weekend.

In each of my books I like to set the scene for tensions to flare between those who have been born and raised in a locale, those who have moved to live there – sometimes decades earlier – but who will always be viewed as “incomers’, those who moved to an area because of the way it was when they first saw it…then do everything they can to change it, and those who are – like Cait – just passing through. She’s always an outsider, even when I took her back to her homeland of Wales in THE CORPSE WITH THE SAPPHIRE EYES, where she discovered that home might be where the heart is, but home can change a great deal when you’ve been away from it for some time.

The Hawai’ian Islands are beautiful, each in their own way, as are the luxury cruise-ships which traverse the ocean there, and I tried, in THE CORPSE WITH THE DIAMOND HAND, to convey both the sense of the beauty and open-air life of the Islands, as well as the feeling of confinement that can creep over a person when they are trapped on a ship knowing a killer is on the loose.

Two of the most complex locations I’ve worked with are those in my two most recent books: in THE CORPSE WITH THE GARNET FACE, I set the story in Amsterdam, a city I know well, but which has so many layers beneath that which the normal tourist sees – or expects – that I felt the need to take Cait and the tale beyond the confines of this city filled with art, canals and world-famous architecture and out to the coast where there are delightful beaches, and into the areas where the tulips are grown…but during the heat of summer, when the fields are bare and the huge skies meeting the distant, flat horizon can feel truly oppressive.

And so to Budapest for THE CORPSE WITH THE RUBY LIPS. I’ve been fortunate to spend a good deal of time in Budapest over the years, and I came to love the city which pulses on both sides of the majestic Danube. I learned that every single visitor – at some point – will find themselves humming the tune they keep telling themselves to not hum! (You can hear it now, can’t you?) The people in Budapest are quite amazing – they’ve lived, in many cases, through an almost unbelievable history, beneath the boot of first the Nazis and then the Communist Party. Residents over the age of thirty all know what it is to walk the streets unable to say what they really think aloud; those of my age knew only that condition for half their lives, and those who are older? They are still getting used to being able to do and say what they truly want to, and it makes many of them uncomfortable. There’s a tension in the city that comes from those old wounds, because, amongst the fabulous architecture and deep roots of history, the youngsters who have only ever known a free life do as they will without question…which can create problems.

Yes, when it comes to choosing settings for the Cait Morgan Mysteries, I’m glad I decided she should travel to places I know well, and encounter mysteries wrapped up in their location, because I’ve enjoyed “revisiting” those places in the pages of my books, and I hope you enjoy your armchair travels with Cait.


About The Corpse with the Ruby Lips

ruby-lips-cover-high-resQuirky criminology professor Cait Morgan is invited to be a guest lecturer at a Budapest university, and although she’s hesitant to go without her husband and trusted sidekick, Bud, who must stay home to care for his aging parents, she decides to make the month-long trip on her own.

Soon after arriving, one of her new students, Zsofia, pleads with Cait to help her uncover any clues about her grandmother’s unsolved murder, which happened decades ago on the campus of Cait’s own home university in Canada. Cait agrees, but when she is repeatedly hassled by an creepy colleague, and as bizarre details about Zsofia’s family members come to light, Cait is beset by uncertainty.

As she gets closer to the truth, Cait’s investigation puts the powers-that-be on high alert, and her instincts tell her she’s in grave danger. Bud races to Budapest to come to Cait’s side, but will it be too late?

Giveaway

Click here to enter a Rafflecopter giveaway for a chance to win a signed copy of the Corpse with the Ruby Lips.

About the Author

Cathy Ace loves crime! It’s true – she discovered Nancy Drew in her local library, then found Agatha Christie on her Mum’s bookshelves, and she never looked back. Cathy happily admits that the characters she met between the book-covers as a child have influenced her writing. “Nancy Drew was plucky, strong and independent, and Agatha Christie’s puzzles engaged me every time. I love the sort of book that mixes intricate plotting with a dash of danger, and that’s what I’ve tried to create with my Cait Morgan Mystery Series. Beginning my new series, featuring the women of the WISE Enquiries Agency, I have been able to indulge my love of stately homes, village life and the interplay between characters that can take place in that sort of setting.”

Born and raised in Swansea, South Wales, Cathy is, like her heroine Cait Morgan, now a Canadian citizen. “Cait’s Welsh Canadian, as am I. They say ‘write what you know’, so a short, plus-sized Welsh woman, who’s quite bossy, fits the bill! But Cait and I are not one and the same: she’s got skills and talents I don’t possess,and I’m delighted to say that I don’t usually encounter corpses wherever I go! I’ve also chosen to burrow even deeper into my roots by creating a new cast of characters in the WISE women who come from all four corners of the United Kingdom and work in a uniquely British setting – a ducal estate set in the rolling Welsh countryside of the Wye Valley in Powys, where I spent a good deal of time when I was young.”

With a successful career in marketing having given her the chance to write training courses and textbooks, Cathy has now finally turned her attention to her real passion: crime fiction. Her short stories have appeared in multiple anthologies. Two of her works, “Dear George” and “Domestic Violence”, have also been produced by Jarvis & Ayres Productions as “Afternoon Reading” broadcasts for BBC Radio 4.

Cathy now writes two series of traditional mysteries: The Cait Morgan Mysteries (TouchWood Editions) and The WISE Enquiries Agency Mysteries (Severn House Publishers).

Cathy is proud to be Chair of Crime Writers of Canada,  a member of Sisters in Crime, the Crime Writers Association, and Mystery Writers of America.

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 Purchase Links:  Amazon – B&N

Guest Post & Spotlight: LANDRY’S TRUE COLORS by Krysten Lindsay Hager

For a change of pace, I am happy to host Krysten Lindsy Hager, who is celebrating the release of the paperback edition of True Colors. In her guest post,  Krysten talks about her inspiration for Landry’s True Colors – a  young adult series about friendship, self-esteem, fitting in, middle school and high school, frenemies, crushes, and self-image. Sounds like relevant and enjoyable reading for the younger generation.

Inspiration for the Landry’s True Colors Series by Krysten Lindsay Hager

When writing my teen series, the Landry’s True Colors Series, I wanted to create a character who showed her own insecurities and feeling about friends, her looks, talking to boys, school, etc. to show that everyone has their insecure moments and that no one is alone in that.

Landry is a very realistic teen in that I didn’t create her to magically have all the answers. She gets pushed around by friends and you see her trying to deal with the situations and handle moving from one  group of friends who turns their back on her, to another group where she might need to conform to fit  in. We see Landry realize she feels most comfortable with friends she can be herself around and not have to pretend to like certain things to fit in. She doesn’t come to that realization overnight that you need to find those kinds of friends, but it’s by trial and error and in learning it’s okay to be yourself and  that good friends will accept you for who you are—not who you pretend to be.

Landry shows her flaws and the things that make her anxious –like talking to her crush, the modeling competitions, and being on live TV. Even though she makes it through a few rounds of the modeling contest, she still deals with self-doubt due to her own insecurities and mean comments made by “frenemies” as well as girls at school. I’ve had readers share with me that they identify with Landry and liked that we saw even her embarrassing moments where she gets so nervous she makes a bee-line for the bathroom. One reading specialist wrote me to say her students felt better seeing that even this teen model sometimes felt bad about how she looked. I wanted to write a book that made people feel less alone in their own insecurities and hearing that from readers means so much to me.

I think the subject of jealousy and competition is something we all face at that age—at all ages really. I know I sure ran across it and recently I had a cousin who is in college complaining about dealing with jealousy drama on the same day I was talking to someone with a twelve year-old daughter who was dealing with the exact same issues. It’s difficult to deal with things like that, but when those negative feelings are coming from people you considered good friends…well, it hurts all the more. It really all boils down to friendships and loyalty and what it means to be a true friend. I think it’s a message that hits everyone no matter what your age or background is—everyone deals with this at some point in  their lives. I used to like to read about girls I could relate to and I hope someone reads the Landry’s True Colors Series and feels a little less alone in the world.

About Landry’s True Colors

The Landry’s True Colors Series is a clean reads young adult humor series about friendship, self-esteem, fitting in, middle school and high school, frenemies, crushes, and self-image. It’s a clean reads book so it’s suitable for ages 11 and up.
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True Colors (Book 1)

Landry Albright just wants to be one of the interesting girls at school who always have exciting things going on in their lives. She wants to stand out, but also wants to fit in, so she gives in when her two best friends, Ericka and Tori, push her into trying out for a teen reality show modeling competition with them. Landry goes in nervous, but impresses the judges enough to make it to the next round.

However, Ericka and Tori get cut and basically “unfriend” her on Monday at school. Landry tries to make new friends, but gets caught up between wanting to be herself and conforming to who her new friends want her to be. Along the way she learns that modeling is nowhere as glamorous as it seems, how to deal with frenemies, a new crush, and that true friends see you for who you really are and like you because of it.

Best Friends…Forever? (Book 2):

Landry Albright hopes the new year will start off in an amazing way—instead she has to deal with more frenemy issues, boy drama, and having most of her best friends make the cheerleading squad without her. Suddenly, it seems like all anyone can talk about is starting high school next year—something she finds terrifying.

Landry gets her first boyfriend (her crush, Vladi), but then gets dumped just as things come to a head with her friends. She feels lost and left out, but finds good advice about dealing with frenemies from what she considers an unlikely source. Landry faces having to speak up for what’s right, tell the truth (even when it hurts), and how to get past the fear of failure as she gets another shot at competing in the American Ingénue TV show modeling competition. Will she get a second chance with her friends, fame, and Vladi?

Watch the BFF book trailer here.

Landry in Like (Book 3):

Things seem to be going well in Landry Albright’s world—she’s getting invited to be on local talk shows to talk about her modeling career, her best friends have her back, and her boyfriend Vladi has becoming someone she can truly count on…and then everything changes.

Suddenly it seems like most of the girls in school are into hanging out at a new teen dance club, while Landry just wants to spend her weekends playing video games and baking cup-cakes at sleepovers. Then, Yasmin McCarty, the most popular girl in school, starts to come between Landry’s friendship with her best friend Ashanti. Things take a turn when Yasmin tells Vladi that Landry is interested in another boy. Can Landry get her relationships with Ashanti and Vladi back or will she be left out and left behind?

Watch the Landry in Like book trailer here.

About the Author:

KLHager_Krysten Lindsay Hager writes about friendship, self-esteem, fitting in, frenemies, the celebrity world, values, and self-image in True Colors, Best Friends…Forever? Landry in Like, Next Door to a Star and Competing with the Star. Best Friends…Forever? was ranked at #1 on Amazon’s Hot New Releases in Teen; Young Adult Values; Virtues Fiction, and True Colors is an international bestseller. Her work has  been featured in USA Today, The Flint Journal, the Bellbrook Times, the Grand Haven Tribune, and on the talk show Living Dayton.
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Spotlight, Guest Post & Giveaway: WITHOUT A DOUBT by Nancy Cole Silverman and a Review, too.

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As part of a Blog Tour organized by Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours,  I am pleased to have Nancy Cole Silverman as my guest today as she celebrates the upcoming release of Without a Doubt – the third book in the  Carol Childs Mystery Series.  In her guest  post on justifiable homicide she confesses to having had a murderous thought or two in the past.  (Haven’t we all?)


Justifiable Homicide by Nancy Cole Silverman

Sometimes murder is justified.  I say this, of course, very tongue-in-cheek, because that’s exactly what happened. But, before I get ahead of myself let me share a little history.    P1030875a

When I was very young, and by that I mean twenty-something, I was living in Germany, where my ex-husband was stationed with the Air Force. It was during the early seventies and like many other air force wives with husbands in Europe, when we arrived, I suddenly found myself alone. For reasons I’ve never understood, our husbands were constantly TDY. That’s temporary duty for those non-military types; meaning he was gone, for long stretches of time.

Which meant, I needed to be self-sufficient. And so, along with two of the other Air Force wives, we set out to explore Europe.  None of us had a lot of money. But, we were all fortunate enough to have jobs.  Lori and I worked as teachers for the DOD. I taught English, Lori taught History and Teri was a nurse. We shared expenses: gas, food, lodging and my used green Volvo, which I had bought off a soldier returning stateside.

Together we went everywhere. We stayed in youth hostels, gasthauses and pensiones. Once we even stayed in a brothel, by accident. We were headed to England via Calais, France, when a storm grounded our hovercraft. Low hanging clouds rolled in and every available inn was shuttered, except one.  A small bistro. We entered, hoping to have dinner before returning south to Germany when the proprietor approached us.  Did we need a room?  Ha! Ha! What we didn’t know–or was possibly lost in translation– will one day become a short story. However, I can tell you while we were never bothered, we slept with our eyes open, our clothes on and left at the first ray of sunlight.

On one trip we breakfasted in Germany, lunched in Austria and dinnered in Northern Italy.  Lori, who had visited Florence with her husband on a previous trip, swore to us the best-looking man on the planet ran a pensione in Florence. So on our next trip south, we had to check to him out.

Beauty, as they say, is in the eyes of the beholder.  And while Lori was never anything but loyal to her handsome husband Bob, neither Teri nor I could see what she saw in Roberto. He was more Alfred E. Neuman than Michaelangelo.

Dirty Old Man and Nancy (2)But, back to my story and my tongue-in-cheek reference to justifiable homicide.  It happened on a trip to Neuschwanstein, a gorgeous, white castle in the Bavarian Alps built by the Mad King Ludwig in 1886.

On our hike up to the castle, we were met by a little old German man who looked as though he could have stepped out of a history.  He had a full gray beard and was wearing lederhosen, long socks, and hiking boots.  And with a twinkle in his eye, he offered to pose for a photo with us. I took the first set of pictures; Lori and then Teri. Great shots I might add.  They used them on Christmas Cards later that year. I, however, was the last to pose, and trusting this would be a quick photo, went and sat next to him.  The only difference was – remember that twinkle in his eye – when I sat down, he wrapped his arm around my neck, smiled at the camera and with my head in a neck lock, proceeded to kiss me, tongue in cheek!

And this is why I believe there is such a thing as justifiable homicide.   How about you?  What experiences in your life have led you to believe you could commit murder?


Without A Doubt – A Carol Childs Mystery

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“Carol is a smart, savvy heroine that will appeal to readers. This is a cozy with a bite.” – Rosemary Smith, Books for Avid Readers (on Shadow of Doubt)

“Fast paced and cleverly plotted, an edgy cozy with undertones of noir.” – Sue McGinty, Author of the Bella Kowalski Central Coast Mysteries (on Beyond a Doubt)

As radio reporter Carol Childs investigates a series of Beverly Hills jewelry heists, she realizes her FBI boyfriend, Eric, is working the same case. Even worse, she may have inadvertently helped the suspect escape. The situation intensifies when the suspect calls the radio station during a live broadcast, baiting Carol deeper into the investigation.

In order for her to uncover the truth, Carol must choose between her job and her personal relationships. What started out as coincidence between Carol and Eric becomes a race for the facts—pitting them against one another—before the thieves can pull off a daring escape, leaving a trail of dead bodies behind, and taking the jewels with them.

My Review

I enjoyed this book. It was a light read, with an interesting plot. Carol Childs is a reporter, which lent credibility to her ability to track down information. Carol is a likeable and well developed character. Her personal relationship with Eric is strained by her involvement in the case,  which made a lot of sense.  I guess what I’m trying to say is that the characters felt real – believable – for me, that’s a big plus.  The mystery  was fairly fast paced, with a lot going on (no spoilers here) and a few unexpected twists along the way.  I expect that cozy mystery fans will enjoy this book.

This book is part of a series, however can easily be read as a standalone.

FTC Disclosure:   I received a complimentary copy of this book as part of this blog tour.  This has not affected the content of my review in any way. 

Giveaway

Enter for a chance to win one of three signed copies of Without A Doubt  in this Rafflecopter giveaway.

About the Author

Nancy Cole Silverman credits her twenty-five years in news and talk radio for helping her to develop an ear for storytelling. But it wasn’t until after she retired that she was able to write fiction full-time. Much of what Silverman writes about is pulled from events that were reported on from inside some of Los Angeles’ busiest newsrooms where she spent the bulk of her career. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, Bruce, and two standard poodles.

Books in the Carol Childs Mystery Series:

  • SHADOW OF DOUBT (#1)
  • BEYOND A DOUBT (#2)
  • WITHOUT A DOUBT (#3)

Buy links:

Guest Post & Giveaway: JUST THE FACTS, MA’AM by Ellen Mansoor Collier

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As part of a Blog Tour organized by Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours,  I am pleased to have Ellen Mansoor Collier as my guest today as she celebrates the release of VAMPS, VILLAINS AND VAUDEVILLE – the fourth book in the  Jazz Age Mystery Series.  Today she shares her thoughts and on writing historical novels.


JUST THE FACTS, MA’AM  by Ellen Mansoor Collier

EllenSancroppedI’ll admit, I was never much of a history buff in high school or college. What did Ancient Egypt or the Civil War have to do with my daily life of classes, jobs,  Student Council, football games, parties or dances? Although my mother was a World History teacher, I wasn’t at all interested until I managed an antiques shop after college between journalism jobs.

My bosses were two antiques dealers and decorators who took me on buying trips and taught me about different styles and period design. Antiques gave me a visual peek into the past: I could see the way people lived, touch their clothing, furniture, understand their habits and trends. Suddenly, for me, history came alive.

That glimpse led to a fascination with the Roaring Twenties. I loved almost everything about the 1920s:  the style, the carefree spirihere t, interior design, the flowing flapper clothes and jewelry, the lingo, the music. Not only did the right to vote in 1920 allow women’s emancipation, the “Dry Decade” became an era of invention and innovation, the “flaming youth’s” rebellion against the stuffy old Victorian mores, leading to the giddy excitement of the Jazz Age.

I tried to convey that sense of freedom and “anything goes” attitude in my soft-boiled Jazz Age mystery series, through the POV of my main character Jasmine (“Jazz”) Cross, a society reporter who longs to cover hard news in a male-dominated world. Her ambition is thwarted by her old-fashioned editors, yet she’s determined to find ways around the newspaper’s rules and restrictions. I created Jazz as a flapper version of real-life Victorian journalist Nellie Bly, and set the novels during Prohibition in 1920s Galveston, Texas, interweaving actual gangsters, events and local landmarks into the plots.

While researching FLAPPERS, I became intrigued when I found out that Al Capone tried to muscle in on Galveston’s rival gangs, the Beach and Downtown gangs. I included this fun fact in the preface to show the powerful reach and reputation of Galveston’s gangsters, little known outside of Texas.

As a journalist, I prefer reality-based stories because I feel like I’m learning something new while I’m reading and researching. I enjoyed watching old silent movies, period dramas and documentaries, especially noir films featuring gangsters and mobsters, noting the settings (furniture, lamps, clothing, music, etc.) and jotted down expressions and bits of conversation. (True, I’m guilty of overusing Jazz Age sayings so I included a glossary of slang in the back of my novels.)

Since I wrote about real people, politicians (and gangsters), I had to be careful not to include anything too offensive or incriminating since much of the information was based on legend and largely undocumented.

What’s interesting is that the gangsters and bootleggers of yesteryear mirror today’s drug dealers, gangs and cartels. Still, I learned a lot about organized crime, politics and Prohibition, and how often their worlds intermingled.

History may repeat itself, but fiction makes it fresh and new. Enjoy!


Vamps, Villains and Vaudeville
A historical Jazz Age mystery inspired by real-life Galveston gangs and local landmarks.

VAMPS VILLAINSIn 1920s Galveston, society reporter Jazz Cross is in for a surprise when she attends a traveling vaudeville show with her beau, Prohibition Agent James Burton, and discovers that an old flame acts in the production. That night, they find a stabbing victim behind the Oasis — her half-brother Sammy’s speakeasy — who’s identified as an actor in the troupe. When the victim disappears and later turns up dead, Jazz must help prove that Sammy wasn’t the killer.

Meanwhile, a ring of jewel thieves are turning up all over town, robbing rich tourists of their precious gems. After a second vaudeville actor is found dead, Jazz discovers that the events behind the scenes are much more interesting than the outdated acts onstage.

To make matters worse, Sammy’s old nemesis demands that he settles a score and forces him into yet another illegal scheme. Can Jazz help solve the murders and prove her brother’s innocence—so he can escape the Downtown Gang for good?

Giveaway
Click here to enter a Rafflecopter giveaway for a chance to win an e-copy of a Jazz Age Mystery.

About Ellen Mansoor Collier

Ellen Mansoor Collier is a Houston-based freelance magazine writer and editor whose articles and essays have been published in a variety of national magazines. Several of her short stories have appeared in Woman’s World. During college summers, she worked as a reporter for a Houston community newspaper and as a cocktail waitress, both jobs providing background experience for her Jazz Age mysteries.

A flapper at heart, she’s worked as a magazine editor/writer, and in advertising and public relations (plus endured a hectic semester as a substitute teacher). She graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in Magazine Journalism and served on UTmost, the college magazine and as president of WICI (Women in Communications).

FLAPPERS, FLASKS AND FOUL PLAY is her first novel, published in 2012, followed by the sequel, BATHING BEAUTIES, BOOZE AND BULLETS, released in May 2013. She lives in Houston with her husband and Chow mutts, and visits Galveston whenever possible.

“When you grow up in Houston, Galveston becomes like a second home. I had no idea this sleepy beach town had such a wild and colorful past until I began doing research, and became fascinated by the legends and stories of the 1920s. Finally I had to stop researching and start writing, trying to imagine a flapper’s life in Galveston during Prohibition.”

Author Links:

Website: http://www.flapperfinds.com/
GoodReads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6452242.Ellen_Mansoor_Collier
Pinterest – https://www.pinterest.com/artdecodame/flappers/
Purchase Link

Other books by this author:

You can find all her books on Amazon.

Guest Post & Giveaway: A MARKETING TIMELINE FOR THE BUSY AUTHOR by Michele Lynn Seigfried

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As part of a Blog Tour organized by Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours,  I am happy to have Michele Lynn Seigfried as my guest as she shares her insights on the multitude of tasks that authors should consider when planning their next book release.


A Marketing Timeline for the Busy Author
by Michele Lynn Seigfried

michele photoSo you’ve written a book. How are you going to sell it? Ideally, you should be selling that book from the moment you started writing it. Marketing is hard work! Extremely hard work! Especially if you’re like me, holding down a full-time job and have one or more babies to take care of! (The adult varieties of babies count too!).

There is no right or wrong way to publicize your book. Below is a general pre-launch timeline that I use for marketing new books. One that won’t make you want to blow your brains out! I try to focus on only one task per week (when I can), so that I don’t get overwhelmed.

Time in Advance
of Book Launch
     Task

26+  weeks:               Write & edit your book. Periodically post on social media to include your readers in your  writing  process and to create hype. You can include excerpts, announcements, polls, or  ask for help with characters names or your book title! The social media sites I  use are my blog, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, Tsu,  and Goodreads.

25 weeks:                   Finalize your book’s title. Announce it on Social Media.

24  weeks:                  Add info about your book to your website.

23 weeks:                   Create a book synopsis.  Include it on your website and social media sites.

22  weeks:                  Solicit testimonials for use on your cover, webpage, and sales outlets.

21  weeks:                  Select your book launch date.

20  weeks:                 Set your marketing budget. Decide how much you want to spend on paid advertisements,  book reviews, writing competitions, etc.

19  weeks:                  Send testimonials, artwork, etc., to your cover designer.

18  weeks:                  Order ARC copies.

17  weeks:                  Send out ARCs to professional reviewers, beta readers, and media outlets.

16  weeks:                  Create a video  book trailer or hire someone to create one. Post it on YouTube, your webpage, and social media.

15  weeks:                  Do  a Cover reveal. Ask or hire bloggers to help you. Post the cover on your  website and social media.

14  weeks:                  Add your book to Goodreads. Add the cover and the video trailer.

13  weeks:                 Send your book out for awards. Decide which ones are in your budget and are  available in the time frame you are seeking.

12  weeks:                 Put your book on Amazon for kindle presales. Add the presales link to your website and social media.

11  weeks:                  Set up a virtual book tour like this one!

10  weeks:                 Seek out more reviews.  Ask people to post their reviews on Amazon after your book is launched.

9 weeks:                    Create  or update your Amazon Author Central profile.

8 weeks:                    Contact libraries for appearances, schedule book shows.

7 weeks:                    Order marketing materials (such as bookmarks) and/or giveaway items.

6 weeks:                    Set up giveaways:  RafflecopterGoodreads, Amazon, or your own. Consider using a giveaway during your virtual book tour to attract more visitors during the tour.

5  weeks:                   Write  press releases and create a media kit with your new book information and author  information.

4  weeks:                   Put one or more of your other books on sale or free for kindle. Consider paid marketing  opportunities to announce your sales if that’s in your budget. Submit your sales to the multitude of websites that will not charge you to market your free or cheap book.  Do a blast email with the sales info to your email list and to announce the new book that’s coming.

3  weeks:                   Answer interviews and write guest posts for your virtual blog tour and your own blog.

2  weeks:                   Post the first chapter of your book on your website. Send out social media posts letting  readers know it’s there.

1  week:                      Post, tweet,  post, tweet.  Let the world know your new  book is coming.

Launch Day:             Change your website from saying “pre-order” to “now available.” Post other links where your book is  available (Barnes and Noble, Kobo, etc.).
Post on social media.

I hope you’ll find this marketing timeline useful! Best of luck on your new book!


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Released just last week, Major Crimes is the fourth installment in the Jersey Shore Mystery Series by Michele Lynn Seigfried.

Buckle up for hours of laughter, romance, and excitement with this Jersey Shore Mystery. When handsome detective, Bryce Kelly, is accused of a crime he didn’t commit, he finds himself on the run and in hiding. Can amateur sleuth, Chelsey Alton, and a few quirky friends help him find the real killer and prove his innocence before it’s too late? If you love mysteries, don’t miss this humorous whodunit!

Giveaway
Click the link below to enter for a chance to win a  $50 Amazon Gift Card from the author:
A Rafflecopter giveaway

About the Author

Michele Lynn Seigfried is the author of humorous, cozy mystery novels and a children’s picture book author/illustrator.

Michele was born and raised in New Jersey. In her mystery novels, she draws from her personal expertise in the area of municipal government, in which she has served for over 17 years in two different municipalities.

She holds a B.A. in communication from the College of New Jersey with a minor in art. She obtained the Master Municipal Clerk certification from the International Institute of Municipal Clerks in 2010. She also holds the Registered Municipal Clerk certification and Certified Municipal Registrar Certifications from the State of New Jersey.

In combining her love of writing with art, Michele began writing and illustrating children’s picture books in 2013.  She has won several awards for her novels.

Author Links:

Website:  www.michelelynnseigfried.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/MicheleLynnSeigfried
Twitter: www.twitter.com/micheleseig
Goodreads: www.goodreads.com/MicheleSeig
Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/MicheleSeig
Amazon: www.amazon.com/author/micheleseig
Email: MicheleSeigfried@gmail.com
Google+: www.google.com/+MicheleLynnSeigfried
Tsu: https://www.tsu.co/micheleseigfried

Guest Post: 8 BENEFITS TO WRITING AND READING KINDLE WORLD STORIES by Julie C. Gilbert

What do you know about Kindle Worlds (KW)?  An author of several Lei Crime KW novella, author Julie C. Gilbert makes some convincing points about the merits of KW stories for writers and readers alike.


8 of the Many Benefits to Writing and Reading Kindle World Stories
by Julie C. Gilbert

4 Benefits for Writers:Juliegilbert

  • Discover new readers – Amazon chooses worlds that are already popular. Here’s your chance to shine before a fresh lot of readers.
  • Challenge yourself in a new way – novellas are a different beast than novels. They’re shorter than novels, but that doesn’t mean they’re necessarily “easier” to put together. It’s just a different skill set. In a novel you have a lot of time to go deep into your characters and flesh out the plot, but in a novella, you’ve kind of got to get to the point quickly, while still maintaining enough characterization that people care for the person you’re writing about.
  • Meet awesome people – This isn’t a new form of online dating, but it is a great way to network with other writers. I’ve only really “met” two of the owners of Kindle Worlds series—authors who penned the series which a particular KW is based on, but they’re both awesome. I’m talking about the others helping to build the world. My experiences with the crew involved in bringing the Lei Crime KW to life have been amazing. I even got to meet one in person.
  • Develop your skills – Writing is the sort of craft that improves over time and with much practice. Kindle Worlds are great because they already have established worlds filled with characters you can take then shape into someone new.

4 Benefits for Readers:

  • Expanding worlds that already fascinate you – Writers only have so much time in their lives, and some of it is occupied by eating, sleeping, and making sure our families and significant others know we still exist. Kindle Worlds allows other authors to keep the series magic alive by bringing you new stories.
  • Going deeper into certain characters – page time can be a coveted thing when it comes to characters. There’s a fine balance between giving enough details so the people feel real and drowning readers in details. KW stories take characters who might only be mere blips on the radar of the regular series and gives them their chance to shine.
  • Discovering new authors – This might sound like more of a writer benefit than a reader one, but it works well for both. Take these as writer auditions for your affections. Generally speaking, Kindle Worlds stories are novellas or short stories. They have to be a minimum of 5000 words, but I’ve yet to see many of even short novel length. (50K) I believe the “sweet spot” we were collectively told was 25000 words. Most of the Kindle Worlds authors I know have their own series as well. If you find somebody you like, you’ll have discovered a new treasure. I probably know about 2-3 dozen at this point, and of those, only one comes to mind as a new writer.
  • Meet awesome people – A solid number of the writers who involve themselves with Kindle Worlds are independent writers. Some are best sellers and others are traditionally published, but they’re also pretty down to earth. If you hunted them down on Facebook, I’m fairly certain they’d answer you.

How to Get the Most out of Kindle Worlds:

sdw_UY250_It’s recommended that you read at least the first in the canon series (the original series). Other than that, the more of the canon series you enjoy, the more side characters you’ll meet along the way.

Lei Crime Series Kindle World Novellas:

About Julie Gilbert:

“I’m a high school chemistry teacher, a writer, a Lego maniac, and a Star Wars fan. I also drink too much root beer and tea. I’ve written four Lei Crime Kindle World novellas: Never Again, Money Makes it Deadlier, Revenge Makes it Sweeter, and Christmas Makes it Chaos. Soon, I’ll be joining the launch for a brand new Kindle World (Sydney Rye, coming March 2016).”Neveragain

Contact Info and Social Media: