Devil’s Kiss

Rook Campbell is visiting Ascroft, eh? today to tell us about Devil’s Kiss, the first novel in the Small Batch mystery series.

Welcome, Rook. Let’s get started, shall we?

Tell us about the novel that you live inside. Is it part of a series? If so, please tell us about the series too.

Hey y’all! I’m Rook Campbell. I live inside Devil’s Kiss in a small town called Rothdale in Kentucky. It’s the first book in the Small Batch series. At the beginning of my story, I’m having a hard time finding viable employment and thanks to my best friend and neighbor, Bryan, I land a cool job at the Four Wild Horses bourbon distillery. I thank my lucky stars because it seems my life is finally on the right track—that is, until some crazy stuff starts happening at the distillery: murders and stolen Devil’s Kiss bourbon definitely keep the workplace interesting. I can’t help myself, I have to get involved in trying to figure out who’s behind the crimes—especially since my own life is being threatened, too.

In the second book, Mermaid Cove, a friend from the Mermaid Cove distillery goes missing and I need to help find her because I’m not the sort of person to stand by and let my friends suffer. I have to do everything in my power to help. Tensions are high in the bourbon community as local distilleries are vying for a prestigious award and I’m willing to bet my eye teeth that Patrice’s disappearance has something to do with that.

The title of the third book, Unbridled Spirits, is play on the Kentucky Commonwealth’s motto: Unbridled Spirit, but it’s also set during the Halloween season. My distillery, Four Wild Horses, is hosting a bourbon event at a historical home once owned by a bourbon baron from the 1800s. The best part is that the house is supposedly haunted. The event includes not only a tasting of our new bourbon, but a ghost tour of the newly renovated home. I mean, really, is there anything more fun than bourbon and a ghost tour? But things go sideways real fast when a body is found during the ghost tour. 

Does the writer control what happens in the story or do you get a say too?

The writer is the medium I pass through. She comes up with some things and helps keeps the story organized. But a lot of times, I tap her on the shoulder and say, “Hey, what if this happened instead?” She’s pretty flexible and open to new ideas, which means we go off the planned course a lot. But that’s part of the fun and the adventure, isn’t it?

How did you evolve as the main character?

I’m still evolving, growing, and changing. I have trouble being open, trusting, and vulnerable, so I’m learning to do that with the other people in my life—though begrudgingly. I admit I’m fighting it every step of the way.

Do you have any other characters you like sharing the story with? If so, why are you partial to them?

My grandma, Prim, is my favorite. Of course! She took me in when my mother was murdered and my dad went to jail for the crime (though I’m convinced he’s innocent—at least of that particular crime). I was still young, so she basically raised me. Prim is this petite, frail-looking woman who looks like a stiff wind would carry her off, but she’s possesses a backbone of steel. Prim makes no bones about speaking her mind. She’s tough, sassy, and fiercely loyal to the people she loves. I hope I’m even half the woman she is and my main mission in life is to make her proud.

What’s the place like where you find yourself in this story?

Rothdale is a typical small town in Kentucky. It has its newer, more modern parts alongside the historic areas that date back to the early 1800s or even earlier in some cases. Rothdale has its sweet, charming side with neatly trimmed yards and pristinely kept homes. But it also has areas that are run-down, in disrepair and poorer neighborhoods where people struggle to get by. Prim and I live in an old farmhouse on a winding country road just outside of the town. The house sits on a chunk of land that had been passed down through the generations and it had been a fully operational farm complete with livestock and a large garden until my Papaw died. Once he died, Prim and I couldn’t handle the workload by ourselves, so we had to sell off the livestock and reduce the crops to a small personal garden. I lived in Lexington for awhile, but when my marriage to Cam dissolved, I moved back in with Prim. And, honestly, I like the quietness and the slower pace of rural life.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell readers about you and the book?

I love my town, Kentucky, and my friends and family. We’re a bit rugged, but we’re loyal and loving, and we value resilience. Most of all, we value a sense of humor. Why else would my mother name me Rook? You might think I was named after a bird or because I have black hair the color of a rook’s wings. Nope. I was named after my grandma Prim’s favorite card game. But y’all should also know that I love books. In fact, I studied English Literature in college and was going to get a PhD in English until I couldn’t continue financially. Anyway, I love to read, especially true crime, mysteries, and forensics books, and I love to watch Forensics Files. So, if y’all are interested in talking about books, you should definitely check out Michelle’s website, www.michellebennington.com, and link to her social media. She and I are cut from the same bookworm cloth and would love to connect with you!

Thank you for answering my questions, Rook, and good luck to you and your author, Michelle Bennington, with Devil’s Kiss, the first book in the Small Batch mystery series.

Readers can learn more about Rook and her author, Michelle Bennington by visiting the author’s website and her Facebook, Goodreads, Instagram and Pinterest pages. You can also follow her on Twitter and YouTube.

The novel is available at the following online retailers:

 Amazon – Barnes and Noble

About Michelle Bennington: Born and raised in the beautiful Bluegrass state of Kentucky, Michelle Bennington developed a passion for books early on that has progressed into a mild hoarding situation and an ever-growing to-read pile.

When she’s not creating contemporary or historical fictional worlds full of mysteries, she obsesses over all things British and historical. In rare moments of spare time, she can be found engaging in a wide array of arts and crafts, dance, and attending ghost tours.

Posted in Archives, August 2022 | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Shifting and Shenanigans

Elizabeth Pantley is visiting Ascroft, eh? today to tell us about Shifting and Shenanigans, her first novel in the Magical Mystery Book Club series.

Welcome, Elizabeth. Let’s get started, shall we?

Tell us about your novel. Is it part of a series? If so, please tell us about the series too.

Thanks for inviting me today! I’m so excited to introduce my new series: The Magical Mystery Book Club. This is the first in hopefully a long line of book club tales.

Who doesn’t love a book club, especially when all the members are fun, quirky, and up for anything? This club happens to be connected to an enchanted library filled with cozy mysteries!

The club finds out pretty quickly that these are no ordinary books. Once the group decides on a book and reads the first page they are whooshed away – right into the book! Since they didn’t know the rules, they didn’t read the blurb, so they don’t know much about the book. This is a paranormal mystery and they are in for a few big surprises.

The pressure is on. In order to get out of the book and back home they must solve the murder mystery.

Where did the idea for the mystery that is central to the story come from?

I’m a voracious reader of cozies, and sometimes I find myself thinking it would be fun to travel to the place described in the book. Once I realized this would be a great theme for a series my mind went crazy! There are at least a dozen story ideas rolling around in my head.

I love paranormal mysteries best. Nothing too out-there extreme, but touches of magic in real-life, small-town settings where I can imagine magical things happening.

Is there a theme or subject that underlies the story? If so, what prompted you to write about it?

I recently took a trip to Colorado and spent some time in a few lovely rural towns. The quaint shops, open spaces, horse pastures, and friendly laid-back lifestyle was perfect for this first book in the series.

How do you create your characters? Do you have favourite ones? If so, why are you partial to them?

I tend to pattern my characters off those I enjoy in movies or TV series. I’ll start with this character in mind as a general blueprint. Once I start writing and the story moves along the characters take over and emerge as a new, different version of the actor in my head at the start of the series. In this book one of the book club members started out as a version of Cameron from Modern Family. I love his honest, excited, over-the-top approach to life. And he always makes me laugh. So, you’ll meet Sebastian, a similar type of guy!

How do you bring to life the place you are writing about?

I choose a real-life location that I’ve visited as a starting point. Then I’ll Google similar places and look at photos. Then I’ll create the world that appears in the book by drawing a map with the main locations. I’ll include photos of scenes, like a party, for example, so that I can bring the scene to life for my reader.

What research do you do to provide background information to help you write the novel?

I tend to research as I go. If a character owns a bakery and is making scones, I’ll do a quick look at the process. Even though the setting is enchanted the more realistic the parts and pieces the easier it is for my reader to be immersed in the story.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell readers about the book?

I had an absolute blast writing this story! The idea of being inside a book created some interesting aspects of the story. The writer of this book likes adjectives, so everything in the downtown appears … more! More color, more friendliness, more charm, more fun!

I’ve just finished writing book two in the series, which takes place on a Hawaiian cruise. Readers can look for a varied and interesting set of locations in the book club series to follow.

I hope you’ll enjoy Shifting and Shenanigans!

Thanks for answering my questions, Elizabeth, and good luck with Shifting and Shenanigans, the first book in Magical Mystery Book Club series.

Readers can learn more about Elizabeth and her writing by visiting her website and blog, and her Facebook, Goodreads, Pinterest and Instagram pages. Readers can also sign up for her newsletter.

The novel is available online at  Amazon

About Elizabeth Pantley: Elizabeth says that writing the Destiny Falls Mystery and Magic book series is the most fun she’s ever had at work. Fans of the series say her joy is evident through the stories she tells. Elizabeth is also the internationally bestselling author of The No-Cry Sleep Solution and twelve other books for parents. Her books have been published in over twenty languages. She lives in the Pacific Northwest, the beautiful inspiration for the enchanted Destiny Falls world.

Posted in Archives, August 2022 | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

What does music tell mystery readers?

Zac Bissonnette, author of A Killing in Costumes, a Hollywood Treasures Mystery, is visiting Ascroft, eh? today to tell us about why he includes music in his mysteries.

Welcome, Zac. I’ll turn the floor over to you –

I love when mystery writers include music in their stories. Music is such an important part of people’s lives, and it gets mentioned so much less than things that I think matter a lot less—things like what people eat. 

According to my extremely rigorous two-second Google search, people listen to an average of 26.9 hours of music per week—there are, in fact, very few activities we devote as much time to as listening to music. Other than sleeping, which is hard to write about in a way that’s interesting.

When Jonathan Kellerman writes that Alex Delaware is listening to Pat Metheny, or Robert B. Parker has Spenser going to see Carol Sloane sing in a chic Boston jazz club, I’m learning about the character, what kind of music they like and when they like it, the memories it brings for them, and what they look to music for: Inspiration? Soothing? Energy? The music we listen to and why we listen to music at all reveals so much about us.

So, it’s always been an element of mysteries that I’ve liked, but I like it more now because of the magic of technology—if a character is listening to a song I don’t know, I can pull up a music streaming app and give it a listen. 

Music is an important part of the lives of the main characters in my book: Jay and Cindy used to be professional musicians. A few of their favorite songs:

Jay:

Even Now by Barry Manilow 

Brighten the Corner by Ella Fitzgerald 

It Could Happen to You by Perry Como

Cindy:

Hit Me With Your Best Shot by Pat Benatar

Once Bitten, Twice Shy by Great White

Hip to Be Square by Huey Lewis and the News

Thank you for sharing this with us, Zac, and good luck with A Killing in Costumes, a Hollywood Treasures Mystery.

Readers can learn more about Zac Bissonnette by visiting the author’s website and his Goodreads and Bookbub pages. Readers can also follow him on Twitter.

The book is available online at the following retailers: 

 Amazon – B&N – Kobo – Google Play – IndieBound 

About Zac Bissonnette: Zac is the New York Times bestselling author of several nonfiction books, including The Great Beanie Baby Bubble: Mass Delusion and the Dark Side of Cute.

His favorite singer is Perry Como. His favorite author is Agatha Christie. His favorite tea is Harney & Sons Hot Cinnamon Spice.

Posted in Archives, August 2022 | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Murder Backstage

Nupur Tustin is visiting Ascroft, eh? to tell us about Murder Backstage, her latest novel in the Joseph Haydn Mystery series.

Welcome, Nurpur. Let’s get started, shall we?

Tell us about your novel. Is it part of a series? If so, please tell us about the series too.

Murder Backstage is the fourth mystery in the Joseph Haydn Mystery series. The series is set in the great composer Joseph Haydn’s Austria and moves from Eisenstadt, where he spent most of his life, to Vienna.

Haydn’s fictional career in detection begins as a young man in Vienna in the short story “The Baker’s Boy.” A baker is murdered and his assistant is suspected of murder. But something convinces Haydn that the boy, something of a simpleton, isn’t guilty of murder. How to prove it is the question. (The Haydn Mystery short stories are in an anthology called Murder in Vienna that I give every reader who signs up on my website.)

But my first Haydn Mystery was the first novel in the series, A Minor Deception. When a violinist goes missing, what seems like a minor mishap soon turns out to be a major catastrophe. The title is a play on words. Dark pieces are often written in the minor mode, while happy pieces are written in the major mode.

I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of authenticating the work of an artist or composer. It’s a lot more complex than anyone realizes. Artists and composers can have bad days, which means those compositions might not be on par with what we’re used to seeing or hearing. In the early stages of their development, their work might not be quite as sophisticated and polished as in the later stages.

The paper, the ink, the trail of documents, receipts, and letters are often more important than stylistic concerns in establishing authenticity. (There was an incident when one of the most reputed Haydn scholars, HC Robbins Landon, was taken in by a set of works that turned out to be not by Haydn at all. He graciously acknowledged his error, remarking that even if not by Haydn the works were still beautiful.)

Aria to Death explores this idea, but with Haydn having to authenticate the lost operas of Monteverdi that have unexpectedly appeared in Vienna. There were two Gonzaga women who’d married into the Habsburg family, and through the older of the two Monteverdi had sought a position with the Habsburgs. That didn’t pan out, but much of his music did make its way to Vienna. And later when Mantua was attacked by the Habsburgs, the Empress, a Gonzaga, did try to save the family’s collection of music and the musicians.

A Ph.D. dissertation I read on Monteverdi’s music gave me the idea that eventually helps Haydn to authenticate the works as genuine Monteverdi compositions.

Prussian Counterpoint takes place in Prussia, which Haydn to the best of my knowledge never visited. But Prussia’s role—along with Russia’s—in taking over Poland, interfering in internal politics and ultimately carving the place up is a fascinating bit of history.

And to put Haydn in the center of it as well as explore eighteenth-century espionage and the role of women in such activities was especially delightful for me.

Murder Backstage, the newest book, is quite different from the other books. The focus is on the mundane—on opera and its production in Vienna’s Burgtheater. The nobility don’t play very much of a role in the story, and the murder doesn’t have the political ramifications we see in the other novels.

But I absolutely loved working on a novel that was on the cozier spectrum of historical cozies. And I loved exploring the technical aspects of production. I even read the book Haydn’s employer blithely tosses to him, Motta’s treatise on the theater and theatrical productions.

Where did the idea for the mystery that is central to the story come from?

The idea for Murder Backstage comes from a real-life incident in the life of the Mozarts. When I first started researching the Haydn novels, I had to come up with innovative ways to explore life in the eighteenth century. One of these was to look at Leopold Mozart’s letters.

The elder Mozart was a consummate letter-writer, an extraordinarily observant man who commented on everything from the politics of the day and the condition of the roads to the hiring of maids and educating children. His letters are a treasure trove of life in the German lands.

Although my story is set in 1770, the incident actually took place in 1768. Leopold had been travelling with his family, on a mission to get the world to recognize young Mozart’s talent. He knew he was to nurture this enormous talent entrusted to his care—and he was right to take his job seriously. What he didn’t realize was that the job didn’t include promoting Mozart and launching him to fame. That part, God would take care of. And God didn’t need Leopold’s help in this regard.

But Leopold, like most of us, believed so deeply in the promise, longed so much for its fulfilment that he felt like the Biblical Sarah that God needed quite a bit of help in fulfilling His promises. So in Vienna, Leopold got hold of the idea to have his young son compose an opera. This, if nothing else, would make all Vienna sit up and take notice.

It was a remark thrown casually by the Emperor Joseph that gave Leopold the idea, and he was so determined to bring the plan to fruition, he made quite the nuisance of himself. The opera—La finta semplice—isn’t very good. I expect more teamwork might have resulted in a fairly decent production, but Leopold wasn’t exactly a team player.

In the end, it was never performed at the Burgtheater and the impresario accused Leopold of “prostituting” his child. It was a horrendous accusation, and reading it, I was surprised Leopold had refrained from striking the man, if not murdering him!

So, in my version, the impresario, Affligio, is murdered and Leopold is suspected of killing him; after all, everyone had heard the dispute between the two men.

Is there a theme or subject that underlies the story? If so, what prompted you to write about it?

When I’m writing a story, I don’t consciously think of a theme. My concern is to tell the story rather than to preach or moralize. That’s not to say some underlying themes don’t emerge. In mysteries as in real life, we’re constantly struggling to ascertain the truth, to distinguish between appearance and reality. People who murder don’t necessarily look like murderers. On the hand, behind every murder and every murderer is a story—a chain of events, if you will—that leads to the awful deed.

I like to think that even as you hate my killers, you can understand the motivation behind their choices. You can see how they went the wrong way, and how easily we ourselves could take a wrong turn. This is why we pray, “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.” Temptations—or trials and tribulations—don’t always bring about the best in us, and there’s a very real temptation to sin.

Sin is crouching at the door, as the Bible reminds us, when we harbour anger, envy, jealousy, guilt, fear, and other negative emotions. You have only to watch some true crime programs to realize how true this is. We are all vulnerable and we all need to be very careful and to rely on God.

How do you create your characters? Do you have favourite ones? If so, why are you partial to them?

Because this is a historical mystery series, many of my characters are based on real people. I’ve had to research their lives and understand their characters in order to bring them to life. It’s a challenging process, but also very satisfying.

Then there are the fictional characters—the palace maids, Rosalie and Greta, some of Haydn’s musicians, police guards and police inspectors. I have far more leeway with them. They develop organically from the story and its needs.

I enjoy writing Maria Anna, Haydn’s wife. They had a contentious relationship in real life, but I’ve added a little twist to that. Underneath all that bickering, they’re quite fond of each other. I’ve enjoyed working with Rosalie and Greta as well.

I’d never intended to have an upstairs-downstairs dynamic in the series. That just came about. Rosalie was deeply involved in the events of A Minor Deception, and needed her own point-of-view. After that, it just became necessary to include them in every novel, and I always find the mystery solving goes much better with those two women around.

How do you bring to life the place you are writing about?

There’s a lot of reading, poring over maps, and researching the changes that have taken place in the locales the novels are set in since the eighteenth century. Research on Mozart is extensive enough that the details I need are more often found in the literature on Mozart than on Haydn. Leopold Mozart’s letters have come in very handy as has research done on the Esterhàzy palaces and estates. The Esterhàzys were Haydn’s employers. Johann Pezzl’s account of Vienna in that time period has been very useful, too. When all else fails, I use my imagination.

What research do you do to provide background information to help you write the novel?

Depending on the novel, I may have to understand the politics of the time. For Prussian Counterpoint, I read several biographies of Frederick the Great to bring him to life and read a biography of Catherine the Great as well. I’ve read and continue to read biographies of Haydn, including the two earliest ones by Dies and Griesinger, as well as accounts of Maria Theresa—a woman I greatly admire.

For Murder Backstage, I read about opera production, the technical side of things, the changes in Viennese opera from Metastasio to Gluck. I even read a picture book on simple machines to understand the mechanics of it all!

Naturally, I read about Mozart’s operas. And, of course, I watched quite a few operas on DVD! Now that was enjoyable.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell readers about the book?

If you’d like to meet the Mozarts and if you love the idea of going backstage to get a glimpse of an eighteenth-century production of opera, I think you’ll really enjoy Murder Backstage. Reading the Mozarts’ letters helped me to understand their characters and I’m rather proud of the way I’ve brought them to life in the novel.

I also marvel anew at the way in which practical concerns—seamless scene changes, for instance—can shape the story and therefore the music. Although as a writer I understand this only too well, I find myself, even so, both astounded and fascinated by it. I think most readers will as well.

You get a unique glimpse into storytelling and the way the medium—be it film, television, or opera—can shape the storyline.

Thanks for answering my questions, Nurpur, and good luck with Murder Backstage, the latest book in the Joseph Haydn Mystery series.

Readers can learn more about Nurpur and her writing by visiting her website and her Facebook, Goodreads and Bookbub pages.

The novel is available at the following online retailers: NTustin Shop

Amazon   Barnes & Noble   Apple iBooks   Kobo

About Nurpur Tustin: A former journalist, Nupur Tustin misuses a Ph.D. in Communication and an M.A. in English to orchestrate mayhem in Joseph Haydn’s Austria and to paint intrigue in her Celine Skye Psychic Mysteries about a psychic who takes on the outrageous and still unsolved Gardner Museum theft! In addition to being a storyteller and avid mystery fan, Nupur is a wife and homeschooling Mom who’s recently become a Christian.

Posted in August 2022 | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

The Fragrance of Death

Sally Solari is visiting Ascroft, eh? to tell us about The Fragrance of Death, the latest novel in the Sally Solari mystery series.

Welcome, Sally. Let’s get started, shall we?

Tell us about the novel that you live inside. Is it part of a series? If so, please tell us about the series too.

I’m Sally Solari, a fourth-generation Italian from the beautiful beach town of Santa Cruz, California. My great-grandfather, Ciro, emigrated here from Liguria back in the late eighteen hundreds and plied his trade as a fisherman, catching the anchovies, lingcod, salmon, and squid that swim the waters of the Monterey Bay. His son, Salvatore, founded Solari’s, an Italian seafood restaurant out on the town’s historic fisherman’s wharf, and I pretty much grew up in its kitchen, helping my parents serve linguine with clam sauce, fried calamari, and homemade fugassa bread.

But when my Aunt Letta was murdered almost two years ago in the garde manger of Gauguin, her trendy, upscale eatery in downtown Santa Cruz, I not only inherited her restaurant—which has caused some big-time friction between my father and me—but I also undertook to investigate Letta’s death. Which is why there’s now a five-book series of mysteries with me as their protagonist. Because you know what? Turns out I’m pretty good at this sleuthing thing. You can read about my most recent exploits in Leslie Karst’s The Fragrance of Death, in which I investigate the death of one of my fellow competitors at the annual Santa Cruz Artichoke Cook-Off.

Does the writer control what happens in the story or do you get a say too?

I can be pretty bossy, but Leslie’s the writer, so I give her a fair amount of slack with regard to her story telling. I mean, my life in reality is not nearly so exciting as she portrays it in the books. But then again, who would want to read about the long hours I spend at Gauguin filleting black cod, whisking up batches of sauce béarnaise, and struggling over the front-of-the-house scheduling when someone calls in sick? It’s far more exciting to read about the time I spend sneaking around investigating murders, so if she chooses to omit some of the drudgery from my days, I say, power to her!

How did you evolve as the main character?

I think the primary way in which I’ve evolved over the five books in the series is that I’ve become far more confident—not only as a sleuth, but also as a cook and restaurant owner, and as a person in general. And also much wiser. When I think back now to the time I investigated my Aunt Letta’s death, I’m amazed at how naïve I was, assuming I could simply waltz into the situation and solve her murder like some kind of Italian Miss Marple. Turns out murder suspects don’t always take kindly to you snooping around their private lives. So I’ve become a bit more savvy. Oh, and I’m also SUCH a better cook now than when I hefted my first sauté pan on the Gauguin line….

Do you have any other characters you like sharing the story with? If so, why are you partial to them?

I’m pleased that Leslie decided to include my actual family, friends, and coworkers in the stories, because they mean so much to me in real life—and they all have such fascinating backstories of their own. I may have my issues with my dad, Mario, who—ever since I inherited Gauguin—has had a hard time not thinking I’m looking down on his old-school restaurant and our family’s Italian traditions, but ultimately, we’re fagmilia. And there’s little more important than that.

As for my head chef, Javier, he’s been a godsend to me, teaching me the ropes of running a restaurant and being there for me when I most need it.

And then there’s the charming, boyish, surfing district attorney, Eric. He’s my ex-boyfriend, but he’s also my BFF. I can’t imagine not having him in my life, so thank goodness he’s such a vital part of these stories.

What’s the place like where you find yourself in this story?

I am so happy that Leslie has given Santa Cruz the starring role it deserves in her mystery series, as it’s truly a special place. The town’s old-time Italian fishermen and restaurant owners—now having to come to terms with the newly-arrived techies and hipsters, along with their passion for the modern food movement—make for a colorful cast of characters. And with the stunning beauty of the town’s coastline and redwood forests, lively downtown, and famous roller coaster as a backdrop, I think she considered it pretty much a no-brainer to use the real Santa Cruz in her books.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell readers about you and the book?

That—contrary to what a lot of people think—I’m not Leslie. Okay, so we do share many things in common: our love of food and cooking, dogs, Giants baseball, single-barrel bourbon, and snarky comebacks. And we’re both ex-lawyers who far prefer whipping up a mushroom omelette with Gruyère cheese to drafting a motion to compel discovery.

But we’re different, too. Leslie, for example, if faced with a dead body, would turn and high-tail it the other way as fast as her short little legs would carry her. Nor, I’m guessing, would she want to own a restaurant. Having to work nights, weekends, and holidays and be on your feet for hours on end with an aching back and burns all over your arms and hands? No way could she possibly handle that. (And now that I think about it, why the heck do I want to so? I guess it must simply be a part of my family genes.)

Thank you for answering my questions, Sally, and good luck to you and your author, Leslie Karst, with The Fragrance of Death, the latest book in the Sally Solari mystery series.

Readers can learn more about Sally and her author, Leslie Karst by visiting the author’s website and her Facebook, Goodreads, Bookbub, and Instagram pages. You can also follow her on Twitter.

The novel is available at the following online retailers:

 Amazon – BookShop – B&N

About Leslie Karst: Leslie is the author of the Lefty Award-nominated Sally Solari culinary mystery series. The daughter of a law professor and a potter, she waited tables and sang in a new wave rock band before deciding she was ready for “real” job and ending up at Stanford Law School. It was during her career as a research and appellate attorney in Santa Cruz, California, that Leslie rediscovered her youthful passion for food and cooking and once more returned to school—this time to earn a degree in culinary arts.

Now retired from the law, Leslie spends her time cooking, cycling, gardening, singing alto in her local community chorus, and of course writing. She and her wife and their Jack Russell mix split their time between Santa Cruz and Hilo, Hawai‘i.

Posted in Archives, July 2022 | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Meet PI Kelly Pruett

PI Kelly Pruett is visiting Ascroft, eh? today to tell us about Deceived, the latest novel in the Kelly Pruett mystery series.

Welcome, Kelly. Let’s get started, shall we?

Tell us about the novel that you live inside. Is it part of a series? If so, please tell us about the series too.

The latest book where my story unfolds is DECEIVED. I’m on the case to find out what’s happening inside a woman’s shelter after my client’s granddaughter goes underground, and another young woman is missing. Deceived is the third book in the series, which is aptly named after me!

The series begins at the beginning of my being an official PI. My dad died a of a stroke a year earlier and then I had my first case involving a young woman struck by a train. I share my life with my deaf daughter, Mitz, and I co-parent with my ex. As if that didn’t have its own challenges, his mom lives next door. Besides my sweet daughter, Floyd, my floppy eared Basset, is my sidekick, and Kyle Jaeger, my swoon worthy cop boyfriend is a big help in my investigations.

Does the writer control what happens in the story or do you get a say too?

I like to let the writer think she has control of the story, but I always have plenty of sway. When she thinks she knows where I’m going, I zig left. Or if she anticipates my left turn, I zig right. I have my own mind after all. I didn’t get to be a decent PI by letting other people tell me what to do (okay, I’m not near as good as my dad), but you get the point. I know how to think on my own, and thankfully my writer goes with it.

How did you evolve as the main character?

In the beginning, I wasn’t sure about being a PI, and after my ex-husband cheated on me with my best friend, I developed trust issues. But over time, I’ve learned to trust my gut and to trust other people. I’ve also come to realize that the people around me aren’t so much as trying to stop me from being a PI, but want me to balance my safety with the responsibilities of being a good mom.

As my half-sis likes to tell me, I can be a bull in a China shop on occasion, so it took me a bit to get that.

Do you have any other characters you like sharing the story with? If so, why are you partial to them?

My daughter, Mitz, and Floyd are my two favorite people (yes, I count my dog as people too). Both accept who I am and love me unconditionally. I don’t have to prove anything to them—although I am trying to show my girl what a strong capable woman is in the world. And that she herself can have anything she wants. That she should never let society define her pathway. Anyway—they are both my heart.

What’s the place like where you find yourself in this story?

I’m in a good place as far as feeling like I can handle whatever is thrown at me. But going undercover in the woman’s shelter has me a little off balance. I’m surrounded by the hopelessness of it, and so many young women that didn’t have good parental support for their choices. It breaks my heart to see the fear and sadness. But I also see I can help there. I will find the missing young women, and I will find out what debauchery is happening in the shelter before I’m through.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell readers about you and the book?

If you enjoy character driven and twisty mysteries, I think you’ll really enjoy Deceived – and the entire Kelly Pruett mystery series. There’s no graphic violence and you can count on justice being served in the end!

Thank you for answering my questions, Kelly, and good luck to you and your author, Mary Keliikoa, with Deceived, the latest book in the Kelly Pruett mystery series.

Readers can learn more about Kelly and her author, Mary Keliikoa by visiting the author’s website and her Facebook, Goodreads, Bookbub, and Instagram pages. You can also follow her on Twitter.

The novel is available at the following online retailers:

Amazon – B&N – Bookshop.org – Apple – Kobo

SIGNED COPIES ARE AVAILABLE THRU VINTAGE BOOKS 

About Mary Keliikoa: Mary is the Shamus finalist and Lefty, Agatha and Anthony nominated author of the PI Kelly Pruett mystery series, and the Misty Pines mystery series featuring former Portland homicide detective turned small-town sheriff. Her short stories have appeared in Woman’s World and in the anthology Peace, Love and Crime.

A Pacific NW native, she spent years working around lawyers and admits to being that person who gets excited when called for jury duty. When not in Washington, you can find Mary on the beach in Hawaii. But even under the palm trees and blazing sun, she’s plotting her next murder—novel that is.

Posted in Archives, July 2022 | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

The Sign of the Calico Quartz

Jan Drexler, author of The Sign of the Calico Quartz, a Sweetbrier Inn Mystery, is visiting Ascroft, eh? today to tell us about the Black Hills of South Dakota and why she set her series there.

Welcome, Jan. I’ll turn the floor over to you –

In the first thirty years of our marriage, my husband’s job moved us an average of once every five years. The longest we lived anywhere was seven years and the shortest was six months.

That history gave our family a plethora of interesting experiences, many friends all over the country, more than a passing acquaintance with some great places, and a longing to find a place we could call home.

Then just over ten years ago, we landed in the Black Hills of South Dakota – the farthest north, the farthest west, and the highest elevation of any place we’ve ever lived – and we immediately felt that this was the home we had been looking for.

How does a love affair start? Is it the first bouquet of snowflakes? The first whispers of the wind in your ear? The cobalt blue skies winking a morning hello?

We get to share our Hills during the tourist season as people flock to our area. All summer long the roads swell with traffic. During the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in August the air is filled with the roar of bikes. Millions – literally millions – of people from around the world make the Black Hills their summer destination.

As much as we enjoy and appreciate the tourists, it’s the off-season that holds my heart. That stretch between Labor Day and Memorial Day when the Hills are quiet once again.

That brings me to The Sweetbrier Inn Mysteries, a cozy mystery series set in the Black Hills.

The Sweetbrier Inn is an upscale B&B, the long-held dream of Rose Blackwood, Emma’s aunt. When she retired, Rose built the two-story log mansion to house the inn, complete with a professional kitchen where Wil Scott, a professional chef and Rose’s partner, works his culinary magic. The inn’s property is surrounded on three sides by the Black Hills National Forest and is the site of an abandoned gold mine.

The first story in the series, The Sign of the Calico Quartz, takes place during what the tourism industry calls the “shoulder season.” After the winter is (mostly) over and before the tourist season kickoff on Memorial Day weekend. It’s the first week for the inn to be open for the season, and every room is booked.

The inn’s success is interfering with Rose’s writing (she’s working on her memoirs) so she decides to invite her niece Emma to work in the inn for the summer. After all, since her disastrous job loss, Emma has been at loose ends, and Rose could use her help with a mystery that’s been plaguing her.

But before Rose can bring Emma up to speed on the suspicious notes she’s been receiving, a dead body appears in Emma’s room.

Up until then, Emma has felt like the proverbial fish out of water. In her job she worked at executive resorts all over the world, and between jobs, she’s been living in Chicago while she sent out resume after resume. She is hoping a summer in the Black Hills will provide a little bit of peace and quiet…until she finds the body.

Amidst the kerfuffle that follows, Emma discovers more shocking details about her summer home, including the fact that there are places where you can’t get cell-phone reception, even in an emergency!

Her new friends bring her up to speed. Her bestie, Becky, has lived in the area her whole life, and Becky’s cousin, Deputy Cal Cooper is super-helpful, except when he’s investigating Emma as a possible murderer. Rose’s corgi, Thatcher, is always ready to sniff out clues and Emma’s young cat, Tim, is willing to lend a listening ear in exchange for a chin scratch.

Will the crew be able to join forces to solve the murder before the killer strikes again?

They will if Emma has anything to say about it. But meanwhile, she’s falling in love with whispering winds, tall dark trees, and cobalt blue skies.

Thank you for sharing this with us, Jan, and good luck with The Sign of the Calico Quartz, a Sweetbrier Inn Mystery.

Readers can learn more about Jan Drexler by visiting the author’s website and her Facebook and Goodreads pages.

The book is available online at  Amazon 

About Jan Drexler:  Jan lives in the Black Hills of South Dakota with her husband, where she enjoys hiking and spending time with her expanding family. She is the author of several historical romance novels, including the award-winning Mattie’s Pledge, and is pleased to be starting a new adventure with a cozy mystery series, The Sweetbrier Inn Mysteries

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A Bride’s Guide to Marriage and Murder

Frances Wynn, Countess of Harleigh, formerly Frances Price, American heiress is visiting Ascroft, eh? today to tell us about A Bride’s Guide to Marriage and Murder, the latest novel in the Countess of Harleigh mystery series.

Welcome, Frances. Let’s get started, shall we?

Tell us about the novel that you live inside. Is it part of a series? If so, please tell us about the series too.

Thank you for chatting with me today. The Countess of Harleigh mystery series follows, well, me. I’m Frances Wynn, Countess of Harleigh, formerly Frances Price, American heiress. My mother brought me to London to buy—I mean find—a titled husband. The series begins ten years after my wedding and one year after my late husband’s death. I’d been a dutiful daughter, wife, and mother, and once my period of mourning ended, I decided it was high time I took my life into my own hands, before my mother found me a new husband or my in-laws spent all my money.

It was exciting to make a new life for my daughter and myself. And daunting. Then my aunt and sister arrived for my sister’s London season. Having them near gave me more confidence, enough to investigate the murder that took place in my garden. George Hazelton, my next-door neighbor, was a great help with that. Time passed. I introduced more young ladies to London society, investigated more murders, and became very close to George. In fact, we’re were just married. We’d be on our honeymoon now if our neighbor hadn’t been murdered in his office next door to the reception. Well, that might not have stopped us either, except that my brother, Alonzo, was found at the crime scene, holding the murder weapon. If we want to prove him innocent, we’ll have to find the real killer.

Does the writer control what happens in the story or do you get a say too?

I like to think of it as a collaboration. I allow Ms. Freeman to use me to tell the story, but it is my life after all. If she wants me to take a risk, or dissemble, or just be sneaky, that’s all part of the fun, isn’t it? But once in a while she’ll call upon me to do something that is so out of character, I have no choice but to shut down the entire operation until she sees the error of her ways and corrects it. I refuse to cooperate with something that essentially goes against the grain, and it’s rather amusing to see her so frustrated.

How did you evolve as the main character?

An excellent question! I was just minding my own business, trying to make a home for myself and my daughter, wondering if I’d be able to pay the servants, when a detective inspector stopped in and insinuated that I murdered my husband—said he had an anonymous letter pointing him in my direction. How absurd! If I had intended to murder Reggie, I’d never have waited nine years to do so. He’d be lucky to have made it through the first week of our marriage.

Well, I had to do some investigating to prove my innocence and it turned out, I’m rather good at it, which surprised me. I also managed to stand up for myself, which also surprised me. I’ve found myself in a cycle of the more investigating I do, the more confidence I gain, and the more I believe I can do. It’s really quite rewarding. I suppose that’s my evolution story.

Do you have any other characters you like sharing the story with? If so, why are you partial to them?

Oh, yes. We have a rather large cast of characters here. I’ll limit the introductions to those who assist me in my investigations. There’s Henrietta Chesney, my aunt Hetty. She came to London with my younger sister for Lily’s first social season and remained with me after Lily married. Aunt Hetty is a financial genius and is very helpful when finding the culprit means following the money.

Lady Fiona Nash has been my closest friend since our social debut ten years ago. She’s likely to become bored long before the culprit is found, but there isn’t a speck of gossip or rumor circulating in this city that gets past her. She’s invaluable when I need to know more about a suspect.

There are one or two others who have helped me here and there, but the person I rely on most is George Hazelton, my new husband. He’s the third son of an earl, which means he can expect no money from the family. Always the adventurous type, George earns his living doing something secretive for the government and his sleuthing skills come in quite handy—I am still learning, after all. Fortunately, George is happy to help.

What’s the place like where you find yourself in this story?

I live in Belgravia, which is a small, posh neighborhood in London. Belgravia is made up of quiet streets, large homes, small gardens, and very wealthy people—for the most part. Grosvenor Place marks our Eastern boundary and just across that street is Buckingham Palace and its grounds. To the North of the palace is the neighborhood of Mayfair, where the more established monied elite lives. The inhabitants of these two neighborhoods pretty much make up our social circle. It’s very much a small town within a big city. 

Is there anything else you’d like to tell readers about you and the book?

Well, I’d like to thank them for reading about me. I hope you’ll enjoy my wedding. For those of you who have been following my story, you had to know that George and I could never have a normal wedding, but I do hope it’s entertaining.

Thank you for answering my questions, Frances, and good luck to you and your author, Dianne Freeman, with A Bride’s Guide to Marriage and Murder, the latest book in the Countess of Harleigh mystery series.

Readers can learn more about Frances and her author, Dianne Freeman by visiting the author’s website and her Facebook, Goodreads, and Instagram pages. You can also follow her on Twitter.

The novel is available at the following online retailers:

Amazon – B & N

About Dianne Freeman: Dianne is the acclaimed author of the Countess of Harleigh Mystery series. She is an Agatha Award and Lefty Award winner, as well as a finalist for the prestigious Mary Higgins Clark Award from Mystery Writers of America. After thirty years of working in corporate accounting and finance, she now writes full-time. Born and raised in Michigan, she and her husband split their time between Michigan and Arizona. 

Posted in July 2022 | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

With a Spirit of Vengeance

Bee (Bryan) Maxwell, from With a Spirit of Vengeance, a Bay Island Psychic Mystery, is visiting Ascroft, eh? today to tell us about a typical day in her life.

Welcome, Bee. I’ll turn the floor over to you –

Hi! My name is Bee (Bryan) Maxwell, and I own Dreamweaver Designs, a designer dress shop down the boardwalk from Mystical Musings. Cass Donovan is one of my best friends.

My typical day doesn’t start until sometime around noon. That is, if Cass doesn’t wake me up earlier, for some reason, which has been happening all too often lately. But I can’t work on my designs during the day, too many distractions, so I often work until the wee hours of the morning, then have a bite to eat and go to bed as the sun is rising.

Anyway, I usually get up around noon, then head to the diner or the deli for breakfast and a good dose of my favorite pastime, gossip. I often stop in to visit with Cass and Stephanie, my other best friend, for a while afterward to share any good dirt I unearthed during my morning rounds. And I visit with Stephanie’s little boy, Aiden, who has become the center of my world.

I’m even doing better with Stephanie’s husband, Tank, though it’ll be a while before I completely trust him. Let’s just say, he and I don’t see the world the same way. He’s a big, tough detective, and I’m…well…not.

After a visit with my girls, I head in to the shop to work. I have a huge fashion show every year, and I’m expecting a number of buyers from New York City to attend the next one. Business has begun to pick up lately, especially with the introduction of my new beach wedding line. You just have to see it. It’s fabulous, if I do say so myself.

Preparations for my annual fashion show, the most important event of the year for me, are fully underway, and let me tell you, the stress is incredible. I have yet to convince Cass to model the new chemise set I’ve designed for her, but I’m pretty sure I can talk her into it. I hope. And if I can’t, I’ll just pull out the big guns; I’ll remind her of the Ouija Board fiasco. That oughta do it.

As if that isn’t enough stress for me to deal with, Ophelia Wilson, or her ghost at least since she lived and died over a hundred years ago, is tormenting Cass again. And after I thought we’d put that whole issue to rest. Now it looks like we may have to try to solve a century old murder to help Ophelia move on. Well, at least it will make for a good vlog for Mystical Musings.

Thank you for sharing this with us, Bee, and good luck with With a Spirit of Vengeance, a Bay Island Psychic Mystery.

Readers can learn more about Bee and her author, Lena Gregory by visiting the author’s website and her Facebook, Goodreads, and Pinterest pages. Readers can also follow her on Twitter.

The book is available online at the following retailers:

 Amazon   Barnes and Noble   Kobo

About Lena Gregory: Lena grew up in a small town on the south shore of eastern Long Island, but she recently traded in cold, damp, gray winters for the warmth and sunshine of central Florida, where she now lives with her husband, three kids, son-in-law, and four dogs. Her hobbies include spending time with family, reading, and walking. Her love for writing developed when her youngest son was born and didn’t sleep through the night. She works full-time as a writer and a freelance editor and is a member of Sisters in Crime.

Posted in Archives, June 2022 | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

A Hint of Mischief

Fiona is visiting Ascroft, eh? today to tell us about A Hint of Mischief, the latest novel in the Fairy Garden mystery series.

Welcome, Fiona. Let’s get started, shall we?

Tell us about the novel that you live inside. Is it part of a series? If so, please tell us about the series too.

Hi, I’m Fiona, and I’m a righteous fairy in the Fairy Garden Mysteries. I was a bit of an imp in the fairy kingdom, so the queen fairy booted me out and said, in order to return, I had to help humans solve problems in order to earn my adult wings. I am the only righteous fairy in the fairy kingdom. There’s only one at a time, so I’d better get my act together.

I met Courtney Kelly when I arrived in Carmel-by-the-Sea on the very day she was opening her fairy garden shop called Open Your Imagination. She used to work for her father in his landscaping company, but she wasn’t fulfilled, so she spread her wings and, with a little inheritance from her nana, started her own shop. She’s so excited. I’m thrilled for her, too.

There are three books in the series, counting this one, A HINT OF MISCHIEF. In each, I’ve helped Courtney solve a crime. It’s not easy. I’m not allowed to make anyone tell the truth. But I can calm people, and I can hear people, and I can follow a lead, just like Courtney. We work well together. I love her very much.

Does the writer control what happens in the story or do you get a say too?

Oh, my, do you think a writer could control me? Ha! Well, okay, yes, Daryl does, sort of. And I trust her to do the right thing. She gets me, you know? I think all her life she’s believed in fairies, and that takes a good imagination. So many humans don’t believe in us. But she does, so I encourage her. I even visit all her fairy gardens to bring them a little magic. I think she suspects I do this, but I’m keeping mum about it.

How did you evolve as the main character?

So far, I’ve earned two sets of my adult fairy wings. I need three. And I’m tamping down my impish behavior. I really want to be good. Smart. Trustworthy. I want Courtney to be able to count on me in a pinch. The queen fairy has told my mentor, Merryweather of Song, that I’m doing a pretty good job of learning. Merryweather teaches me potions and such. She also keeps a tight rein on me. I’m not allowed to socialize yet. But I’m hoping I’ll be able to do so soon. I mean, I can see my fairy friends, but it has to be for the right reason, not just fooling around. In fact, with my friend Zephyr, I was able to help a reporter find a missing woman. That was really cool. Zephyr is an intuitive fairy. She gets to use her mental skills. I’m working on that.

Do you have any other characters you like sharing the story with? If so, why are you partial to them?

Like I said above, I do love my fairy friends. Zephyr is really cool. And now that I’ve met Callie, aka Calliope, I really enjoy her, too. She can be a bit over the top when it comes to loving and nurturing nature, but that’s her character. I admire her for her passion. And I am quite partial to Pixie, Courtney’s Ragdoll cat. Pixie and I play all the time. Because I can fly and elude her, she gets frustrated, but I know she loves me. I also love Courtney’s best friend Meaghan Brownie. She is an artist and loves beauty and she plays the harp. And then there’s Joss Timberlake. She works at the shop and she can see me now. At first, she couldn’t, but when she truly opened her mind, wow! She is older than Courtney and acts like Courtney’s protector. That’s sweet, don’t you think? And don’t get me started about Brady Cash. He’s so handsome and funny and he adores Courtney. He owns the restaurant across the street from the shop. He can’t see me yet, but I’m pretty sure he’ll be able to in time. He wants to. That’s always a good start.

What’s the place like where you find yourself in this story?

Well, I spend most of my time at Open your Imagination. The shop sells plants and fairy figurines. There’s a patio with a beautiful fountain and ficus trees that I can retreat into. The patio is where Courtney serves tea on the weekends. The main showroom has all sorts of beautiful items for sale, like teacups and plant holders and books about fairies and gardening. Oh, and windchimes. I love the tinkling sound of chimes.  I also spend time at Courtney’s cottage, Dream-by-the-Sea. She fixed it up, and her backyard is filled with fairy gardens and sweet smelling plants. It reminds me of home.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell readers about you and the book?

Like I said, this is the 3rd in the series. Readers might want to start with the first because that’s where they’ll get to know how Courtney and I met, but a reader can read this story on its own. My author tries to make sure that all her books can be read as a stand-alone. She gives enough of my backstory that a reader won’t feel lost. Feeling lost is NOT a good feeling. Trust me, I know. That’s how I felt when I was booted from the fairy realm. But now I belong, and I love living with Courtney.

Thank you for answering my questions, Fiona, and good luck to you and your author, Daryl Wood Gerber, with A Hint of Mischief, the latest book in the Fairy Garden mystery series.

Readers can learn more about Fiona and her author, Daryl Wood Gerber by visiting the author’s website and her Facebook, Goodreads, Bookbub, Youtube, Instagram and Pinterest pages. You can also follow her on Twitter.

The novel is available at the following online retailers:

Amazon – B&N – Kobo – Bookshop – Murder by Book –  Mysterious Galaxy

About Daryl Wood Gerber: Agatha Award-winning author Daryl Wood Gerber is best known for her nationally bestselling Fairy Garden Mysteries, Cookbook Nook Mysteries, and French Bistro Mysteries. As Avery Aames, she penned the popular Cheese Shop Mysteries. In addition, Daryl writes the Aspen Adams Novels of Suspense as well as stand-alone suspense. Daryl loves to cook, fairy garden, and read. She has a frisky Goldendoodle who keeps her in line. And she has been known to jump out of a perfectly good airplane and hitch-hike around Ireland alone.

Posted in Archives, June 2022 | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment