Guest Post: ACCEPTING CONSTRUCTIVE CRITICISM by Beth Rodgers

Mistletoe & Magic coverIt’s a pleasure to invite Beth Rodgers to take over my blog today as she shares her  thoughts on accepting constructive criticism – an issue that all authors have to face up to at some time in their careers.

Beth Rodgers is an accomplished author of YA fiction, who is currently celebrating the release of Mistletoe & Magic, a multi-author anthology that includes  “Hearts & Homes” – a contemporary young adult romance.


Accepting Constructive Criticism by Beth Rodgers

It may seem difficult at times to put your work out there for someone else to critique, whether it’s for editing in the process of publication, grading, or otherwise. The fact of the matter is that without hearing other people’s opinions, you are obviously bent on your own opinion on the writing you have done, and, let’s be honest – you think it’s great. We all do. It’s only natural to have emotional ties to the writing you have done. It is also possible that something you hated writing or hated the outcome of once it was fully written could be completely loved by one or more of your readers.

Criticism gets a bad rap. The word has a negative connotation. When people hear that someone is being critical or is criticizing something, they think negatively. Again, this is only natural and is a part of life. An important idea to remember, however, is that criticism does not have to be bad. Without criticism, think of how many pieces of writing, movies, TV shows, or other works of art would go out to the masses due to the biased opinion of the work’s creator.

Have you ever read a book you didn’t like? Have you ever watched a movie or TV show that you wish you hadn’t bothered with? Have you ever thought how nice it would be to be able to tell the author or creator of whatever it is you read, watched, etc. what you might have done differently? Everyone is a critic. Everyone judges. It’s something that is as normal as a typical daily routine. Yet, criticism and judgment can turn out positively. There are always at least two sides to every idea/topic/issue/etc. Just because you think something is great doesn’t mean the rest of the world does, and just because you think something was awful doesn’t mean the rest of the world didn’t love it. You are entitled to your opinion just like anyone else. Just because someone tells you that they suggest changing something doesn’t mean you have to do it. It doesn’t mean you have to agree with it. What it does mean is that you have to attempt to see that person’s viewpoint and analyze not only whether you agree with it, but determine whether you feel that others may see things the same way as the original critic. That is why having more than one person read your work and give you feedback is important. Even if the people you choose to read your work do not give the same advice, even if one person tells you how feedbackgreat it was while another says it was good but there was room for improvement, while another tells you they couldn’t stand it, sharing what other people had to say with the group of reviewers you have established for yourself will help you to gauge whether they truly noticed everything in your writing.

Just because you are the writer does not mean you are the only reader that writing will ever have. The definition of constructive criticism is “the process of offering valid and well-reasoned opinions about the work of others, usually involving both positive and negative comments, in a friendly manner rather than an oppositional one. The purpose of constructive criticism is to improve the outcome.” It is essential that this definition is not only remembered, but taken to heart. No writer has ever penned the perfect piece the first time around. If they say they have, they are lying to you. Read the following quotes from well-known people and authors to further your understanding of the power of constructive criticism:

Winston Churchill, Former British Prime Minister:
“Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfills the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.”

Hillary Clinton, Politician and Former Presidential Candidate:
“Take criticism seriously, but not personally. If there is truth or merit in the criticism, try to learn from it. Otherwise, let it roll right off you.”

Neil Gaiman, Author:
“I suspect that most authors don’t really want criticism, not even constructive criticism. They want straight-out, unabashed, unashamed, fulsome, informed, naked praise, arriving by the shipload every fifteen minutes or so.”

user-satisfaction-2800863_1280 Why do you think there are reviews on sites that sell books, appliances, and any other item you can possibly think of? The reason is simple. It is because people want to know what others think. They want to see differing opinions to help them make the most informed decision possible. So should it be with writing. Writers must be able to make informed, intelligent decisions based on suggestions that others have made. When something sounds negative, consider the actual intent behind the suggestion, and then determine whether the person is in any way coming up with something that is a possible revision that can be made. Just as you are entitled to your opinion, so are your readers. This is why only certain books make the New York Times Bestseller list, why certain movies and TV shows win Oscars, Golden Globes, and Emmy Awards, why certain music wins Grammys and American Music Awards, etc. If you have ever thought someone unfairly lost an award, an election, or anything else, you have a different opinion than those who did the voting. You are entitled to this. Remember this when someone reads your work and gives you suggestions. Your emotional and other connections with the Beth Rodgers Author Posterwork you have written is essential to you being motivated to continue writing. This is extremely important. Never forget this. However, don’t forget that others are entitled to their opinions as well, and their opinions may just help you improve your writing and sustain a more solid style from that point forward. Every little bit helps. You just have to see it that way.

About the Author

Beth Rodgers is the author of two contemporary young adult novels, Freshman Fourteen and Sweet Fifteen, as well as “Hearts & Homes,” a short story that follows her second novel, but can be read as a standalone story. It can be found in Mistletoe & Magic: A YA Books Central Holiday Anthology. She also works as an editor and creative writing presenter.

In her free time, Beth loves to watch binge-worthy TV shows, travel with her family, and read plenty of good books that she spends time reviewing for her blog and as a staff reviewer for YA Books Central. She lives in Michigan with her husband and children.

Connect with Beth on:

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Guest Post, Spotlight & Giveaway: COLD BREW KILLING by Lena Gregory

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Today, as part of a blog tour celebrating the recent release of Cold Brew Killing (All-Day Breakfast Café Mystery),   Lena Gregory stopped by to share some  ideas for how to shake up your breakfast routine.


Breakfast Ideas by Lena Gregory

When I was younger, I worked the breakfast shift at my grandfather’s deli. I loved everything about it, but I especially remember enjoying the aromas; coffee brewing, bacon, freshly baked Kaiser rolls…To this day, the smell of breakfast cooking reminds me of my childhood.

lena-gregory-portraitWhen I decided to write a cooking cozy, it seemed natural to base it around breakfast, but I started wondering if there would be enough items to fill the menu. So I sat down and thought about everything you could make for breakfast, and to my surprise, the list just kept getting longer and longer. Of course, you can always go with the traditional bacon, eggs, home fries, and toast, but here are a few more suggestions from the All-Day Breakfast Café menu you may enjoy.

Omelets: Omelets can be a quick easy breakfast, especially if you prepare ahead of time like Gia does. Once or twice a week you can spend a few minutes dicing your vegetables, or frying and cutting your meat, then keep it in a covered container in the refrigerator. When it’s time to make breakfast, you just throw in whatever you want, and you have a nice, hot meal in no time at all.

There are two ways to make omelets. You can cook the eggs first, then fill the omelet and fold it over, or you can scramble the omelet ingredients into the eggs, then cook them together. Personally, I prefer everything cooked together.

And what can you put in your omelet? Pretty much anything you’d like! Some of the omelets on Gia’s menu include:

Meat Lovers – a blend of bacon, ham, and sausage, topped with American or cheddar cheese.

Veggie Lovers – any kind of vegetables you like. Some of my favorites are spinach, tomatoes, squash, and zucchini.

Western – diced ham, green peppers, and onions topped with American cheese. Western omelets are also amazing on a Kaiser roll with salt and pepper.

Breakfast Pies: Breakfast pies take time to make, but they can be prepared ahead of time and kept in the fridge, then you can simply take a slice and heat it up any time you’re ready. When Gia makes breakfast pies, she lines the pie tins with home fries or shredded potatoes, then she scrambles eggs with whatever ingredients she want to use. (Mostly the same ingredients she uses in omelets.) Once cooked, she adds them to the pie tins, then sprinkles shredded cheddar cheese over the top and puts it in the oven until the cheese melts.

Sandwiches and Wraps: You can never go wrong with a nice bacon, egg, and cheese on a roll. Not only can you make it quickly, you can take it with you and eat it on the run.

Those are just a few breakfast ideas, but you could also do pancakes and waffles, (with or without toppings) burritos, quesadillas, even a breakfast pizza. So next time you aren’t sure what you feel like having for breakfast, just give something off Gia’s menu a try.


About Cold Brew Killing

When an ice cream vendor discovers a frozen stiff, Florida diner owner Gia Morelli has to serve up some just desserts . . .

A-COLD-KILING-BREWGia has become good friends with Trevor, a fun, flirtatious bachelor who owns the ice cream parlor down the street from her popular All-Day Breakfast Café. Trevor has the scoop on all sorts of local attractions and activities. But when he bursts into her diner, trembling and paler than a pint of French Vanilla, she can tell something’s very wrong. Trevor points her toward his shop then passes out cold. When Gia runs down to his shop, she discovers a chilling sight—a dead body in the open freezer. But the ice cream man’s troubles are just beginning. The police suspect him of this murder a la mode, especially when details of his questionable past surface. Gia believes in her friend and is determined to clear his name and find the real cold-blooded killer before someone else gets put on ice . . .

Giveaway

Click to enter a rafflecopter giveaway for a chance to win  $10 Amazon giftcard.

About the Author

Lena Gregory lives in a small town on the south shore of eastern Long Island with her husband and three children.

When she was growing up, she spent many lazy afternoons on the beach, in the yard, anywhere she could find to curl up with a good book. She loves reading as much now as she did then, but she now enjoys the added pleasure of creating her own stories.

Author Links:

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Guest Post & Spotlight: CONFOUND IT by Maggie Toussaint

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As part of a Blog Tour organized by Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours to celebrate the release of Confound It, Maggie Toussain  stopped by to share her thoughts on her main character, a single mom.  Enjoy.


Single Mom’s Club by Maggie Toussaint

MaggieToussaint.jpgThis is a true fact: like attracts like. If you were locked in a room with fifty cows and one person, you’d automatically gravitate toward the other person.

Dreamwalker and crime consultant Baxley Powell has been on her own for several years. She’s a single mom of a ten-year- old daughter, Larissa, and there have been times in the recent past where she got behind on her bills.

So it galls her to no end when the cops gloss over a victim’s death in order to catch bigger fish in the drug pipeline. A woman died. A mother. Don’t they get it? Doodle lost his mom, and now he’s an orphan.

Mandy Patterson was a single mom, and her death must count for something. After each
Dreamwalk visit with Mandy’s spirit, Baxley feels more convinced that she has to find Mandy’s killer.

Baxley understands the struggles Mandy went through and the tough decisions that had to be made. Childcare often costs more than a single mom can afford. Old cars break down. Kids outgrown their shoes. Life just keeps coming at you at full speed and single moms have to find ways to survive.

Sure, Mandy made a few decisions that weren’t great, but that shouldn’t mean she’s a disposable person. As a member of the single mom’s club, Baxley leads the charge to get justice for Mandy. The thing is, Mandy’s killer has no intention of getting caught…


About Confound It

Confound It_frontCov -smallerWhile hosting out-of-town guests at her Georgia home, Dreamwalker Baxley Powell is called upon to help investigate a suspicious fire. One of her guests, close friend and fellow dreamwalker Deputy Sam Mayes, accompanies her to the scene.

A meth cook is dead, and when Baxley visits her beyond the Veil of Life, she determines that the woman was murdered. Baxley pities Mandy Patterson, a single mother with aspirations for her teenage son Doodle. Unconcerned about the death of a criminal, the authorities pursue the drug-supply chain angle. Baxley worries about Doodle and vows to find out who killed his mother.

As the case grows more baffling, Baxley struggles against her attraction to Sam. Although her husband is missing and declared dead, she does not feel free to love again until she is sure of his fate.

Two suspects have the strongest motive, but Baxley has reason to believe they are pawns in a deeper game. And unless she can stop them, the world will never be the same.

Confound It (A Dreamwalker Mystery) is available on Amazon.

About the Author

Southern author Maggie Toussaint writes mystery, suspense, and dystopian fiction. Her work won the Silver Falchion Award for best mystery, the Readers’ Choice Award, and the EPIC Award. She’s published seventeen novels as well as several short stories and novellas. The next book in her paranormal mystery series, Dadgummit, releases August 2017. Maggie serves on the national board for Mystery Writers of America, is President of Southeast Mystery Writers of America, and is Co-VP of Low Country Sisters In Crime. Visit her at http://www.maggietoussaint.com.

Connect with Maggie:
Facebook | Twitter | Blog | Goodreads | LinkedIn | Pinterest | Booklover’s Bench | Amazon Author Central | Bookbub | Website 

Guest Post, Spotlight & Giveaway: THE CLOCK FLOWER by Barbara Casey

iRead Website new logoToday, as part of a tour organized by iRead Book Tours, I am happy have Barbara Casely as my guest as she celebrates the release of  The Clock Flower, the third book in the FIG Mystery Series.  I haven’t read The Clock Flower yet, but I definitely enjoyed the first book in the FIG series – The Cadence of Gypsies.  (You can find my review here.)


It’s a “Just Because”  Guest Post by Barbara Casey

All of my life I have been fascinated by those things for which there is no explanation. As a young child, I was full of questions which my grandmother was more than willing to at least try to answer. Failing that, it was just one of those “just because.” As a writer, that same fascination continues, and I often include things that have no reasonable explanation into my stories. The FIG Mystery Series is a good example.

barbara-casey_1In Book 1, The Cadence of Gypsies, I introduce the Voynich Manuscript, considered to be the most mysterious document in the world. Along with that, I add the mysterious gypsy culture that includes potions and spells that I have researched.

In The Wish Rider, Book 2 in the FIG Mystery Series, I explore the little-known area deep underground of Grand Central Terminal in New York City, a secret society that actually exists there, and the obscure language of hoboglyphs.

My latest book in this series, The Clock Flower, takes my readers to a small province in China where the research into mortality involves the simple dandelion flower, and an ancient archeological dig site reveals some of the same hoboglyph markings that were found in Grand Central Terminal’s secret underground.

Of course, my main characters—Dara, Mackenzie, and Jennifer—defy explanation given the fact that each FIG has an IQ in the genius range, and all three have developed a unique skill that enhances their coping abilities in a world where they are so different.

I truly love the FIGs and their devoted mentor, Carolina. In each book I have tried to tell their unique story and give an explanation of something that really can’t be explained. I will write one more book about them. It will be the most dramatic story of them all, and it will complete the series—just because.


About The Clock Flower

the-clock-flower-front-cover_origDara Roux, abandoned when she was seven years old by her mother. Exceptionally gifted in foreign languages. Orphan. Accepted to Yale University.

Mackenzie Yarborough, no record of her parents or where she was born. Exceptionally gifted in math and problem-solving. Orphan. Accepted to MIT.

Jennifer Torres, both parents killed in an automobile accident when she was sixteen. Exceptionally gifted in music and art. Orphan. Accepted to Juilliard.

The three FIGs—Females of Intellectual Genius—as they are called, have graduated from Wood Rose Orphanage and Academy for Young Women after returning from New York City where Dara learned why her mother abandoned her all those years ago, and they are now attending universities where they can further their special talents. This means they will be separated from each other and from Carolina, their much-loved mentor and teacher who is “one of them,” for the first time in their young lives. They vow to try living apart for one semester, in the so-called real world that doesn’t include the orphanage; but if things don’t work out, they will come up with another plan—a plan where they can be together once again.

​Dara is invited through Yale University to take part in an exciting archeological project in China. Jennifer, once again visualizing black and white images and the unusual sounds of another cadence that seem to be connected to Mackenzie, is engrossed in creating her next symphony at Juilliard. Mackenzie, because of her genius at problem-solving, is personally chosen by a US Senator to get involved in a mysterious, secret research project involving immortality that is being conducted in a small village in China—not too far from where Dara is involved with the archeological site. Once there, however, she finds herself facing a terrifying death from the blood-dripping teeth of an ancient evil dragon. Her best friends, the FIGs and Carolina, rely on their own unique genius and special talents to save her as she discovers the truth of her birth parents.

You can buy The Clock Flower at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
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Giveaway

Click here to enter a rafflecopter giveaway for a chance to win a copy of The Clock Flower and a $10 Amazon giftcard from the publisher.

About the Author

Barbara Casey is the author of several award-winning novels for both adults and young adults, as well as book-length works of nonfiction true crime and numerous articles, poems, and short stories. Her nonfiction true crime book, Kathryn Kelly: The Moll Behind Machine Gun Kelly, has been optioned for a major film and television series. In addition to her own writing, she is an editorial consultant and president of the Barbara Casey Agency. Established in 1995, she represents authors throughout the United States, Great Britain, Canada, and Japan. Barbara is also a partner in Strategic Media Books Publishing, an independent publishing house that specializes in cutting-edge adult nonfiction. Barbara lives on a mountain in Georgia with her husband, and three dogs who adopted her: Benton, a hound-mix; Fitz, a miniature dachshund; and Gert, a Jack Russel terrier of sorts.

Connect with the author: Website

Guest Post, Spotlight & Giveaway: DEATH BY A WHISKER by T.C. LoTempio

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As part of a Blog Tour organized by Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours to celebrate the release of Death by a Whisker: A Cat Rescue Mystery,  T. C. LoTempio  stopped by to share her thoughts on writing murder mysteries.  Enjoy. 


Channeling Your Inner Jess Fletcher  by  T. C. Lotempio

If you’re a fan of mystery series, and MURDER SHE WROTE in particular, you might have heard of something called “Cabot Cove Syndrome”.  Which is a term for a locale or a person whom death and mystery seems to stalk – ad nauseum!

Toni-LoTempio-Credit-to-Clifton-Animal-ShelterNot a funny thing when you’re a writer of said mysteries! Plotting a mystery, particularly a murder mystery,  is hard enough work!  How many bodies can one stumble on before you get a “body magnet” label attached to you, as Nora Charles in my Nick and Nora series has!  (although sometimes it’s hard to tell whether she or her cat, Nick, is the body magnet). Syd McCall in my Cat Rescue series is also well on her way to getting the same distinction!

Becoming a BM could be construed as a problem when writing a cozy series.  How does one avoid boring the reader?  Well, one way is to alternate the murder weapon – this time, a gun; next time, a knife, the time after that, poison—and so on. Alternate the mode of discovery as well.  And even though the Nick and Nora series always starts out with a murder in its prolog, sometimes it’s good to wait a bit to have a murder occur in the body of the story until readers become invested in your characters!  If they build up a rapport with your sleuth, they might be a tad more forgiving as to why so many folks come up dead in his/her balliwick!

Expand your character’s horizons, if at all possible.  If you can send your sleuth on a trip to stumble across dead bodies, all the better!  To quote Wikipedia:

From a statistical perspective, coincidences are inevitable and often less remarkable than they may appear intuitively

In short, where murders occur – and why – are just one of those things you can’t explain, one of life’s little mysteries.  Which is my response when cynical readers remark on Nora’s penchant for coming across a dead body – or two, or three.

Sit back and enjoy the ride, and if you have to, channel your inner Jessica.  You might end up solving the crime right along with our sleuth.


About Death by a Whisker

DEATH-BY-A-WHISKERGetting used to life back home in Deer Park, North Carolina, Sydney McCall and her right-hand tabby, Toby, are helping her sister Kat run the local animal shelter. Syd and Kat are all excited about the prospect of the shelter’s newest fundraiser: shopping channel queen Ulla Townsend. Shelter admin Maggie Shayne vehemently refuses to have anything to do with the woman, but the fundraiser ensues as planned. That is, until Ulla turns up dead in the middle of the event.

The cause of death is determined to be an allergic reaction, but Syd and Toby are sniffing out something fishy. When Syd met Ulla, it was clear she was distasteful and rude. And right before the event, Syd spotted some behind-the-scenes drama between Ulla and her manager. As they begin to investigate, they realize there is no shortage of suspects, and Maggie is at the top of the list.

Now Syd and Toby must claw their way to the truth before everything goes paws up at their animal shelter in Death by a Whisker by national bestselling author T. C. LoTempio.

Giveaway

Click here to enter a Rafflecopter for a chance to win a $25 Amazon Gift Card.

About the Author

While Toni Lotempio does not commit – or solve – murders in real life, she has no trouble doing it on paper. Her lifelong love of mysteries began early on when she was introduced to her first Nancy Drew mystery at age 10 – The Secret in the Old Attic.  She (and ROCCO, albeit he’s uncredited) pen the Nick and Nora mystery series from Berkley Prime Crime – the first volume, MEOW IF ITS MURDER, debuted Dec. 2, 2014. Followed by #2, CLAWS FOR ALARM.   #3, CRIME AND CATNIP, was released in December. She, Rocco and Maxx make their home in Clifton, New Jersey, just twenty minutes from the Big Apple – New York. Catch up with them at www.tclotempio.net and www.catsbooksmorecats.blogspot.com.

Where to find them:

Purchase Links:  Amazon    B&N    Google Play

Guest Post, Spotlight & Giveaway: DANCING IN THE RAIN by Lucy Appadoo

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As part of a tour organized by Italy Book Tours,  I am happy to have Lucy Appadoo as my guest as she celebrates the release of Dancing in the Rain, the third novel in the Italian Family series.


Exploring the Café and Piazza Life in Italy by Lucy Appadoo

At twenty-three years of age, I travelled to Piaggine, Italy and spent three months visiting the cities and villages. I not only visited the villages of Laurino, Batibaglia, and Positano,  I also spent time in Rome, Florence, Salerno (the Amalfi Coast), and Venice. I would’ve loved to have travelled to more of the amazing cities but I didn’t get the opportunity.

I spent time in the piazza in Piaggine with my cousins who would visit with their friends every night. I’d walk in the square with my one or both of my male cousin/s and each night a friend of theirs would buy us an alcoholic shot that was mixed in a glass test-tube like glass. Each night, I’d try a mix of cocktails in a test tube.

On that square, you had a bar and café, a bakery, and a restaurant. I loved staying at my aunt’s house as she lived upstairs in the bakery while her friend worked and lived in the bakery downstairs. Each day, I’d enter her home and the aroma of freshly-baked bread would permeate my senses. It was heavenly, and I would bite into the soft, doughy texture of fresh Italian bread. We’d eat the bread with a glass of wine or with food.   Amazing!

My cousin would also drive me around to the nearby villages, but what I found strange was that he’d never stop for us to explore the sights. Instead, he’d simply drive around for fifteen minutes or so, then return to the main village. I was thinking, “wow, not my idea of exploration, but maybe it was his.”

Piaggine is a beautiful village, mountainous, hilly, and with rough terrain around the farms. The stone houses felt cold inside but the wood fire ovens were great for home cooked meals. I would eat home-made bread, home-made sausages, home- made tomato sauce, fresh pasta, and home-made wine. Many things were made by hand, and the joy the Italians had from making something from scratch was captivating.

Exploring Italy in my 20s was amazing but I would have liked to explore more of the country. The history of the country left me feeling nostalgic when I returned back home to Melbourne. How can you compare the city of Melbourne with the cities in Italy and all its fabulous history. Impossible!!


Dancing in the RainAbout Dancing in the Rain

Fifteen-year old Valeria Allegro works diligently on the family farm in Italy, where she is torn between her duty to her family and her desire to find freedom from her strict, domineering father. She finds solace in Dario, a young student who provides a blissful escape—until a neighbour’s son, Gregorio, decides he wants her for himself.

This raises an alarm for her father, which leads to family conflict and aggression. When Dario is threatened and her family is plagued by a series of suspicious accidents, Valeria is desperate to keep her loved ones safe. Can she end the turmoil and escape the firmly built trap to find the freedom she craves?

Buy the Book

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Giveaway

Click here to enter a Rafflecopter giveaway for a chance to win a $50 Amazon gift card.

About the Author

Lucy Appadoo is a registered counsellor and wellness coach with a part-time private practice. She also works as a rehabilitation counsellor for the Australian government. In her spare time, she self-publishes or writes nonfiction and fiction texts. She previously worked as a rehabilitation consultant, caseworker, English as a second language teacher, and proofreader.

Lucy has postgraduate diplomas in psychology, education, and English as a Second Language teaching, as well as specialised qualifications in grief counselling and hypnosis. She has also completed wellness coaching courses (levels 1-3) at Wellness Coaching Australia.

Lucy enjoys reading romantic suspense, romance, thrillers, crime novels, family/historical drama, and sagas. She writes in the genres of romantic suspense, historical fiction, and romance. She has enjoyed travelling to exotic places such as Madrid, Mauritius, and Italy, and draws on these experiences in her creative writing.

Lucy’s favourite authors include Kendra Elliot, Christiane Heggan, Theresa Ragan, Tara Moss, Nicholas Sparks, Adriana Trigiani, Erica Spindler, and James Patterson (to name a few).

Lucy’s interests include meditation, playing tennis, journal writing, reading fiction and nonfiction texts about writing, coaching, and counselling, ongoing professional development, spending time with her husband and two daughters, and socialising with friends and family.

Connect with the Author:  Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook

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Character Guest Post & Giveaway: DUMPSTER DYING & GRILLED, CHILLED AND KILLED by Lesley A. Diehl

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This Blog Tour, organized by Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours, introduces readers to the first two books in the Big Lake Murder Mystery series by Lesley A. Diehl.  In this post, Emily Rhodes, the protagonist in the series, tells us a bit about herself.

Guest Post – Emily Rhodes

When I was younger and working as  preschool teacher, I never thought my retirement would be the way it is. I dreamed of retiring to North Carolina where I could still enjoy the change of seasons. Instead here I am in rural Florida, and I can’t say I’ve retired at all because I’m working nearly full-time as a bartender at the Big Lake Country Club. A bartender! Me! I’m as surprised as anyone that I would trade chasing preschoolers around the playground for slinging beers and Crown Royal to golfers. But I needed the money after the love of my life, Fred, died suddenly of a heart attack. There was the shock of his death followed by grief, of course, but what was totally unexpected was that he had never changed his will, and that will left everything to his ex-wife. I had no legal standing. I was only his live in girlfriend in the eyes of the law. So until I could hire a lawyer, I had to pay the bills. Hence, I have become an expert at mixing martinis and handling the drunks who insist they “just need one more drink.”

The first bartending job I got was in one of my favorite bars, the Burnt Biscuit, but when I denied drinks to a drunken rancher, actually the rancher who owned the biggest spread in the area, I got fired. Rancher, you say? Isn’t this Florida, you ask? Yes, but this is rural Florida, inland, away from the beaches and bikini-clad babes. The is the land of cattle, cowboys and alligators. It reminds me of Texas with palm trees. It’s hot, it’s muggy, and there is a huge lake here, but the color of the water is brown and it is inhabited by hundreds of alligators. You don’t take a dip in those waters. In fact, you have to watch where you’re stepping in your back yard. Some alligators like to get close and friendly especially if some idiot has been feeding them.

I’m making the best of living and working here. After I got fired, I was hired at the country club. The pay is so-so, but I get free greens fees and I manage to fit in a round every now and then. I’ve met some nice people here: my boss Clara, my neighbor Vicki and some gals I play golf with. Clara was kind enough to hook me up with her father who is a lawyer, so I have legal representation for contesting Fred’s old will. You wouldn’t think his ex-wife would be interested in his piddly little estate especially since she has remarried and is richer than anyone has a right to be, but she’s also greedy, and just plain mean. She likes to see me squirm as I struggle to pay the mortgage on the park model trailer Fred and I lived in. I’m not convinced Clara’s father, Hap, is the best choice of a lawyer, but he’s the only one I can afford (he asked for scratch-offs for payment).

TDumpster_cover_smallhere are some other folks I’ve met, but I’m not certain how I feel about them. One is Detective Stanton Lewis, a homicide detective with the local police department. I guess I forgot to mention that that drunken rancher ended up in the country club dumpster where I found him one night when I took out the garbage. Actually, I fell into the dumpster onto his body. So of course, I’m the police’s prime suspect for his murder. Detective Lewis is a steely-eyed, no nonsense detective who asks questions that will make you squirm. He does his homework, too. He knows more about a suspect than the suspect knows about himself, in my case, herself. And there’s something else. He’s about the handsomest man I’ve ever met. Aside from the fact that he’d like me to confess to the murder, I also get the feeling he’s more than a little interested in me personally. All of that makes me nervous because I find him just yummy, and I’m supposed to be grieving for Fred.

I had to hire a part-time bartender at the country club, and the only one I could get on such short notice was an bass fisherman named Donald Green. He is the most unpleasant man, seems to hate winter visitors, especially Yankee women who he views as having too much attitude. He means me, of course. He seems to get along with other women just fine. Some even seem to find him kind of attractive with his lean, muscular body and long silver hair that he wears in a ponytail. But I’ve never seen him smile unless he’s talking about fishing. It’s said he has the fastest bass boat on the lake. He took me out in it once fishing, but all I caught was another dead body. I still wonder if he did that on purpose. I’m conflicted in my feelings about him because sometimes he can be kind and generous like when he helped me with my car.

These two men are unlike any men I’ve encountered before. I think living in the Big Lake area of Florida brings out some primitive aspects of everyone’s character. Maybe I like that I’m more assertive and certain of myself now than I was before. And maybe I like my men a little on the wild side.

About Dumpster Dying

Emily Rhodes came to rural Florida for the cowboys, the cattle, and to do a little country two-step, not to fall head first onto a dead body in a dumpster. Ah, the golden years of retirement in the sunshine state. They’re more like pot metal to Emily, who discovers the body of the county’s wealthiest rancher in the Big Lake Country Club dumpster. With her close friend accused of the murder, Emily sets aside her grief at her life partner’s death to find the real killer. She underestimates the obstacles rural Florida can set up for a winter visitor and runs afoul of a local judge with his own version of justice, hires a lawyer who works out of a retirement home, and flees wild fires hand-in-hand with the man she believes to be the killer.

About Grilled, Chilled and Killed

Grilled_cover_small.jpgIt seems as if Emily is destined to discover dead bodies. This time she finds one of the contestants at the local barbecue cook-off dead and covered in barbecue sauce in a beer cooler. She should be used to stumbling onto corpses by now and the question of who killed the guy should pique her curiosity, but Emily decides to let Detective Lewis handle this one, at least until she figures his theory of who did the deed is wrong, wrong, wrong. Lewis’ denigration of Emily’s speculations is condescending enough to stimulate her dormant snooping skills. As the two of them go on their separate paths to find the killer, Lewis’ old partner, Toby the dirty, tobacco-spitting cop interferes in the investigation leaving Lewis with the wrong man in jail. Killers, bootleggers, barbecue and feral pigs—it’s a lethal game of hide and seek in the Florida swamp.

Giveaway

Enter a Rafflecopter for a chance to win an e-book and have your name used a a character in the next Emily Rhodes book.

About the Author

LDiehlLesley retired from her life as a professor of psychology and reclaimed her country roots by moving to a small cottage in the Butternut River Valley in Upstate New York. In the winter she migrates to old Florida—cowboys, scrub palmetto and open fields of grazing cattle, a place where spurs still jingle in the post office, and gators make golf a contact sport. Back north, the shy ghost inhabiting the cottage serves as her literary muse. When not writing, she gardens, cooks, frequents yard sales and renovates the 1874 cottage with the help of her husband, two cats and, of course, Fred the ghost, who gives artistic direction to their work. She is the author of a number of mystery series and mysteries as well as short stories. The third book in the Eve Appel murders (from Camel Press) A Sporting Murder was awarded a Readers’ Favorite Five Star Award and her short story Gator Aid a Sleuthfest (2009) short story first place. She has fired the alligator that served as her literary muse when she is in Florida and is interviewing applicants for the position.

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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.

Guest Post, Spotlight & Giveaway: WHAT FRESH SMELL by Jeffrey Marks

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As part of a Blog Tour organized by Great Escapes Free Virtual Book Tours,  I am pleased to have Jeffrey Marks as my guest today as he celebrates the release of What Fresh Smell, the third book in the Marissa Scott Mysteries series. A fan of puns,  Jeffrey is offering a free copy of his holiday-themed book,  Love Stinks, to anyone who leaves a punny title in the comments.


Ho-Ho-Homicide by Jeffrey Marks

Jeff_new.jpgWith the holidays coming up, I thought I might say a few words about another book in the Marissa Scott series, Love Stinks. All of the books in the series take place around a particular holiday, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Christmas, Father’s Day. Love Stinks, the second book in the series, takes place around the Christmas season, which is historically the busiest time at a mall.

This book was published second, but is actually a prequel to The Scent of Murder. If you prefer to read books sequentially in that universe, then Love Stinks would come first; however, if you prefer to read them by date of publication, then The Scent of Murder would precede it.

Love Stinks begins with Cincinnati’s favorite celebrity, Steve Douglas, coming back to town to tout his new cologne. When he arrives at Kantor’s department store, he begins his spiel, only to keel over dead on the podium. Since the death occurred in the cosmetics department, which Marissa manages, she is tasked with trying to bring order back to the department so sales are not impacted. Given the stress of dealing with Christmas sales, Marissa has to work with her friends to find out the murderer and get the department back to normal.

I love the title puns that I’ve been using in the books (Love Stinks, What Fresh Smell). I am thinking that the next one may be Smell in a Handbasket, but I won’t know for sure until the book is finished.

I’d be happy to give a free copy of Love Stinks to anyone who leaves a pun title (about noses, smells, scents, odors, etc) in the comment section.


Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000038_00061]About What Fresh Smell

There’s Murder in River City – Daycare that is.

When Marissa learns that a teacher at the daycare center has been murdered, she comes to the realization that she really didn’t know much about the people who worked there, especially the murdered woman. She’ll now have to manage her son, her mother, her mother’s Scottish terrier, and an ex-boyfriend as she tries to hunt down the people behind a robbery ring and the person who killed a daycare teacher. If she’s not careful, she might meet the same fate.

You can purchase the book on Amazon.

Giveaway

Click here to enter a rafflecopter for a chance to win  a copy of What Fresh Smell by Jeffrey Marks.

About the Author

Jeffrey Marks is a long-time mystery fan and freelancer.  After numerous mystery author profiles, he chose to chronicle the short but full life of mystery writer Craig Rice.

That biography (Who Was That Lady?) encouraged him to write mystery fiction. His works include Atomic Renaissance: Women Mystery Writers of the 1940s/1950s, and a biography of mystery author and critic Anthony Boucher entitled Anthony Boucher. It was nominated for an Agatha and fittingly, won an Anthony. He won a Malice Domestic Grant for The Scent of Murder, which has spurred the Marissa Scott series. What Fresh Smell is the third novel in the series.

His work has won a number of awards including the Barnes and Noble Prize and he was nominated for a Maxwell award (DWAA), an Edgar (MWA), three Agathas (Malice Domestic), two Macavity awards, and three Anthony awards (Bouchercon). Today, he writes from his home in Cincinnati, which he shares with his spouse and three dogs.

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