Christmas is coming – watch out!

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Today Christina Freeburn is visiting Ascroft, eh? to tell us about Dash Away All, her latest novel in the Merry & Bright Handcrafted mystery series.

Welcome, Christina. 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.

Yes, Dash Away All is the third book in the Merry & Bright Handcrafted Mystery series. DASH AWAY ALLThe series all have a Christmassy title: Not A Creature Was Stirring (1), Better Watch Out (2), and Dash Away All (3). The series features Merry Winters, an empty nester who specializes in handcrafting Christmas décor and gift items. After Merry’s children grow up and move out, she decided it was time to stretch her dreams and herself as her children were no longer dependent on her. Her first throw-all-caution-to-the-wind moment though led her investigating a murder to keep herself out of jail.

In this book, Merry is excited that she’s having a big dream-come-true moment after being hired as the on-site crafter for a Christmas mystery movie titled Dash Away All. She loves all things Christmas, especially Christmas movies and is now, in a way, going to be in one. Her joy is short-lived when the night she arrives things start going very wrong, and the Queen of Christmas movies Luna Carmichael is a little more grinchy than one expects from a Christmas icon.

When Luna’s assistant Marie dies in an accident, Merry discovers things that points to the accident being not quite so accidental, and she can’t help wondering if Luna was the real target. And worse, Merry doesn’t know who to trust as everyone on the set seems to either be keeping secrets or creating an alternative truth.

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

I wanted to write a Christmas-in-July book and figured that a Christmas movie set was the perfect way to bring the holiday into the summertime. And with Merry being a crafter having her hired to create the crafts was a great reason she was hired for the movie but…can’t say anymore as I don’t want to give anything away.

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

I wanted to explore the issue of “editing” personal stories and how much are we entitled to know about another person. I scrapbook and in some of the groups I’m in there have been discussions about whether it’s dishonest not to document everything in a family scrapbook (the bad memories along with the good), or if individuals have the right to keep some of their personal story private. With Merry having been abandoned as a baby, I felt this was a good theme to explore with her, especially with the backdrop of a movie where people are pretending to be someone else.

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

I tend to create characters differently for each book. For this one, there were roles I needed filled for the story to be balanced and some of the characters came from that. My main characters usually are a result from me wanting to deal with something in my life and I find that easier to do it through the heroines. Usually that’s where my themes and the “heart” struggle for the character comes from…I’ve never had to do any amateur sleuthing.

I have a hard time saying any of the characters are my favorite as it feels like I’m picking one child over another. I will admit that some characters are more fun to write than others. I love writing Merry because of all the Christmas I get to add in when she’s in the story. In the Merry & Bright series, I have a great time writing Cornelius who is a bah humbug to Merry’s Christmas cheer. And Ebenezer, Merry’s guinea pig, is so a blast to write. I love creating mischief he can get into.

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

I always set the main part of my stories in a fictional town, so I “steal” from a couple of different places I have visited or lived and use those pieces to create the location. It’s hard for me to find an actual place that fits what I need for the book I’m working on and it works better for me to just make up my own town.

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

For this book, I did some research on Christmas movie making. I wanted to make sure I had enough details to add authenticity to the scenes and in a way that seemed natural for Merry to know since the book is written in first person. When there was something that she wouldn’t know, I worked on her learning about in a way that was natural considering her role in the movie.

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

This book had even me confused on who the murderer was. It switched three different times. I always start the book knowing who and why of the crime but this time the who and why switched after a character “told” me what the secondary secret (the true big secret) they were keeping. And even then, I was wrong and didn’t see who the killer was into working on the first edit. Fortunately, my wonderful editor was on board with me reworking the story, so the real culprit was revealed. What was interesting about all of this is there were already clues in the book pointing to this person that I hadn’t realized were there.

Thanks for answering my questions, Christina, and good luck with Dash Away All, the latest book in the Merry & Bright Handcrafted Mystery series.

Readers can learn more about Christina and her writing by visiting her website and blog, and her Facebook and Goodreads pages. You can also follow her on Twitter.

The novel is available at the following online retailers:

 Amazon – B&N – Kobo

christinaAbout Christina Freeburn: Christinas has always loved books. There was nothing better than picking up a story and being transported to another place. The love of reading evolved into the love of writing and she’s been writing since her teenage years. Her first novel was a 2003 Library of Virginia Literary Award nominee. Her mysteries series, Faith Hunter Scrap This Mystery and Merry & Bright Handcrafted Mysteries, are a mix of crafty and crime and feature heroines whose crafting time is interrupted by crime solving.

Christina served in the US Army and has also worked as a paralegal, librarian, church secretary, and golf shop pro. She lives in West Virginia with her husband, dog, and a rarely seen cat except by those who are afraid and allergic to felines.

Posted in Archives, July 2020, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

A sprinkling of murder

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Today Daryl Wood Gerber is visiting Ascroft, eh? to tell us about A Sprinkling of Murder, her first novel in the Fairy Garden mystery series.

Welcome, Daryl. 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.

Thank you so much for having me on your blog. My new book is A SPRINKLING OF MURDER. It is the first in a series. Fairy garden store owner Courtney Kelly believes in inviting magic into one’s life. But when uninvited trouble enters her shop, she’ll need more than a sprinkling of her imagination to solve a murder.

What is a fairy garden? It’s sort of like doll-housing for your garden. A person makes miniature gardens using fairy figurines and features like fairy doors and houses.

The series is set in the charming town, Carmel-by-the-Sea, California, and features Courtney Kelly, a former landscaper, who realized she wasn’t happy and needed to spread her wings. With a small inheritance that she received from her nana, she started Open Your Imagination. Soon after, she met Fiona, who by all intents and purposes is a fairy-in-training. When you read the story, you’ll learn why.

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

A Sprinkling of Murder_TRDI was at a Renaissance Faire and I fell in love with the art of fairy gardens. A woman who was there glowed with a lovely energy. I wanted to connect with that same glow. I found a garden store not far from me that focused on fairy gardens. There aren’t a lot of them. For me, it was Kismet! I went to the store and fell in love with everything there. So, I decided to create a character who could live the life of a shop owner who brings joy to customers by helping them design fairy gardens. It’s well known that seeing a fairy will bring luck into one’s life.

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

There is a lot of animosity toward Courtney, the protagonist, and her whimsical shop. One shop owner believes it should be banned from town. Another thinks Courtney is trying to take over his lease. I wanted to show how bias and misconceptions could lead to a bad end. But by the end of the story, there is a positive outcome, and some who didn’t believe in fairies, will come to their senses.

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

First, I come up with a name, age, and description. Then I focus on the character’s dreams or goals. I fell in love with Courtney—a name I’ve loved all my life—the moment she came to me. She was fully formed. She’d lost her mother at the age of ten. She lost her ability to see fairies at that moment. She needed to turn her life around. She needed what I’d felt the moment I first visited a fairy garden store—hope. Whimsy. A career that would make her smile. I adore her pluck. I love her relationship with her father.  And I absolutely love the relationship she forms with Fiona, a fairy-in-training, who can be an imp but who is also fiercely loyal to Courtney and desperately wants to find the truth.

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

I grew up in California and visited Carmel often. It is a place that I find calming and filled with spirituality. Though Carmel is already laid out as a town, I read up on its courtyards and shopping areas and decided to create a fictional courtyard for Courtney’s business. To anchor myself, I drew maps and more maps. Where the fictional shops are. What the interior décor looks like. What the shapes of the shops are. What’s across the street—another fictional courtyard. When I planned out the interior of Courtney’s shop, I paid attention to where she would sell specialty items like tea sets and wind chimes, and where her office was, and then I focused on the exterior patio, where she sells fairy figurines, gives classes, and has weekend teas. You should see the wall behind my computer—maps and layouts taped everywhere.

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

I visited Carmel and took a ton of pictures, visited the library, went to the post office, studied the people. I had so much fun. When I returned home, I read lots of articles about Carmel. In addition, I’ve studied all sorts of fairy garden sites. I’ve made over thirty fairy gardens in my backyard (Check out the pictures on my website as well as on my Pinterest page and my other social media platforms). Right outside my office, there is a garden nook, and I created a fairy village there. Seeing my miniature creations brings me joy and inspiration.

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

This is the first time I’ve written something magical. Notice that I use the word magical and not paranormal. It was quite a challenge once I gave into continuing with the idea. I’ve read many mysteries featuring witches and ghosts and even gargoyles, but to write this kind of mystery myself was daunting. Would it resonate? Would my foodie readers shy away from something so fanciful? Would I be able to find the “voice” that the story needed to keep the mystery the central theme, and the “world” a reality? I’m happy to say that reviews have been lovely and positive. And for my foodie readers . . . there are weekend teas at Open Your Imagination, so I do include recipes at the end of the books. Don’t miss the caramel blondies!

Thanks for answering my questions, Daryl, and good luck with A Sprinkling of Murder, the first book in the Fairy Garden Mystery series.

Readers can learn more about Daryl and her writing by visiting her website and her Facebook, Goodreads, Bookbub, Pinterest and Instagram pages. You can also follow her on Twitter.

To enter the author’s Rafflecopter giveaway draw for 3 books, a tote bag, tea and more: Click here.

The novel is available at the following online retailers:

 Amazon – B&N

Daryl Gerber0869 300dpiAbout Daryl Wood Gerber: Agatha Award-winning author Daryl Wood Gerber writes the nationally bestselling Cookbook Nook Mysteries as well as the French Bistro Mysteries. In June 2020, her new series, the Fairy Garden Mysteries debuts. As Avery Aames, she pens the popular Cheese Shop Mysteries. Daryl also writes the Aspen Adams novels of suspense as well as stand-alone suspense. Fun tidbit: as an actress, Daryl appeared in “Murder, She Wrote.” She loves to cook, garden, and read, and she has a frisky Goldendoodle named Sparky who keeps her in line!

Posted in Archives, July 2020, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

Mysterious Full Moon stories

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Today Cate Conte is visiting Ascroft, eh? to tell us about Witch Hunt, her first novel in the Full Moon mystery series.

Welcome, Cate. 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 having me! My new book, Witch Hunt, is the first in the Full Moon Mystery Series, featuring crystal shop owner Violet Mooney, who discovers that she’s a witch.

Here’s a blurb about it:

WITCH-HUNT (1)Murder isn’t always crystal-clear . . . especially when the prime suspect discovers she’s a witch.

Violet Mooney owns The Full Moon crystal shop in quaint North Harbor, Connecticut. Still grieving her beloved grandmother’s recent unexpected death, she takes comfort in her fat orange cat Monty and her work. Not everyone in town is thrilled with her business, however. When disagreeable town councilwoman Carla Fernandez picks a fight over Violet’s “voodoo shop,” the two have a very public confrontation. Of course, when Carla turns up dead, Violet gets little sympathy from the police as suspect #1.

But the shock of two policemen showing up at her door pales in comparison to the sudden appearance of her estranged mother Fiona and a surprise sister, Zoe. What Fiona reveals will rock her world and her sense of self—and reawaken her long-dormant mysterious power. Good thing. She’s gonna need it . . .

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

I used to be a reporter in a past life, and I saw firsthand the nastiness that occurred at the local level relating to business and politics. It always fascinated me, and I saw an opportunity to couple that here with a common but wildly inaccurate belief that things like crystals and other metaphysical practices are “bad” or “evil” or “voodoo.” The set-up of the mortal murder happens when local councilwoman Carla Fernandez accuses Violet very publicly of operating a voodoo shop – and she later winds up strangled in the local fountain, with Violet as the prime suspect. Of course Violet didn’t do it, but it was a nice way to tie the two ideas together.

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

There are a lot of themes in this book! In most of my books, I tend to explore family relationships – especially mother/daughter relationships, and that is true in this case as well. Violet and her mother have been separated for 27 years, so there’s a lot to unpack in that relationship and I’m looking forward to seeing how it evolves over the series.

I also wanted to touch on the idea of power, and how the quest for it can lead people astray and potentially cause a ripple effect of ugliness throughout the world, which is an element in the magickal world Violet winds up inhabiting.

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

I like to take traits, habits, physical appearance and other quirks from people I know and blend together into my characters. They all also have a (small) bit of me in them – for instance, the protagonist of my Pawsitively Organic Mysteries (by my alter ego Liz Mugavero) featured an animal loving, coffee drinking protagonist. While those two traits clearly mirror mine, Stan Connor was also tall (not me), long (also not me) and a gourmet pet food chef (definitely not me).

Violet is also a coffee drinker, as is Maddie James in my Cat Cafe Mysteries, and they both also love animals. And I definitely share Violet’s love of crystals.

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

I like to take real towns and fictionalize them – meaning, I keep elements of the real place but change it up to suit the needs of the story. And I change the names, too. I find it’s not so great to murder someone in a coffee shop and use the same name as your favorite coffee shop – they tend to not let you back in when you do things like that! So by building off of what already exists, it helps me capture the feeling of the place when I’m making other things up.

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

It really depends on the story. For this book, I’ve done research on witches and crystals my whole life – but I still spend a ton of time researching lesser-known stones and their healing properties so when readers are in the store with Violet they feel like they are learning something. For past books I’ve done things like work in a funeral home, tour a dairy farm, and spend time in Newport, RI (definitely the most fun!).

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

I had a ton of fun writing it and I hope you do reading it! I love magic and witchy things and being able to incorporate all that into a book is really a dream come true.

Thanks for answering my questions, Cate, and good luck with Witch Hunt, the first book in the Full Moon Mystery series.

Readers can learn more about Cate and her writing by visiting her 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 – Kobo

Liz-Mugavero-photo-199x300About Cate Conte: Cate is the alter ego of Liz Mugavero. Liz is the author of the Pawsitively Organic Mystery series from Kensington Books, the first of which was an Agatha nominee for Best First Novel. Cate is the author of the new Full Moon Mysteries for Kensington and writes the Cat Cafe Mystery series for Minotaur Books. As you can imagine, her canine and feline rescues demand the best organic food and treats around. She is a member of Sisters in Crime National, Sisters in Crime New England, Mystery Writers of America, and the Cat Writers’ Association. She currently lives in Connecticut.

Posted in July 2020, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Cooking can be deadly

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Today Rebecca Grubb is visiting Ascroft, eh? to tell us about Cast Iron Stake Through the Heart, the latest novel in the Cast Iron Skillet mystery series.

Welcome, Rebecca. 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.

Cast Iron Stake Through the Heart is book four in The Cast Iron Skillet Mystery Series. My BFF Jodi Rath writes the series, and I have been a huge fan since day one. I have edited several books in the series. But when she asked me to co-write book four with her, I was stunned, excited, and terrified. It has been a fantastic experience.

Cast Iron Stake Through the Heart starts with Jolie and Ava teaching an online cooking class on top of running their restaurant and investigating local crime. (I know! I wish I had half their energy!) Almost immediately, it becomes clear that things aren’t what they seem. Then, one of their online students is stabbed on screen! There are so many twists and turns in this story before the mystery is solved, readers will be guessing until the end!

The series takes place in the fictional village of Leavensport, Ohio. It’s a cozy little place, full of neat shops and restaurants and quirky villagers. Jolie, the main character, co-owns a favorite local restaurant, Cast Iron Creations, with her BFF, Ava. Jolie has a big family that loves getting in her business, especially her on-again, off-again relationship with Detective Mick Meiser. They show up at the most unfortunate moments!

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

CAST IRON STAKE THROUGH THE HEARTWhen Jolie and Ava are in the Dominican Republic in Blueberry Cobbler Blackmail, they want to learn about Dominican cuisine. They end up taking an online cooking course while they are there. From that point on, the idea of a murder taking place on-screen during an online class was born!

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

In many ways, this book is about Jolie’s personal journey. Because of her past, Jolie has a difficult time trusting. She has built a lot of walls. She is mindful of this, and so she journals and talks to her therapist, Tabitha. Her growth is really tested in this book.

Rising above your past is a concept many people can relate to. We hope that this series could be uplifting for someone who needs it. And, as always in this series, the goodness of humanity prevailing is a foundational idea.

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

The characters in this series have little pieces of real people in them, little pieces of the author’s self. My favorite character is Ava because she is sassy and has no filter. She says what she thinks, and when you get on her bad side, you know it.

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

We draw pictures, storyboards, and maps to help us visualize. I made a map of a new location in this book that looks kind of like a four-year-old drew it, but it got the job done! We also take pictures of buildings, shops, parks, and libraries and mix and match ideas until we come up with the perfect feel. Leavensport certainly has flavors from real places blended in!

If the author can see the place in their mind, they can bring it to life with rich detail in the story. Leavensport is so vivid in my mind that I sometimes forget that it isn’t a real place.

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

We use personal experience, published resources, and experts in the field to help us make sure our work is accurate. That includes cooking, forensics, police procedure, chemistry, biology, physics, you name it!

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

We had a lot of fun with the recipes in this book. There were so many tasty dishes in the story, so we included more recipes than ever before!

Thanks for answering my questions, Rebecca, and good luck with Cast Iron Stake Through the Heart, the latest book in the Cast Iron Skillet Mystery series.

Readers can learn more about the Cast Iron Skillet Mystery series by visiting Jodi Rath’s website and her Facebook, Goodreads, Bookbub and Pinterest pages. You can also follow her on Twitter (@jodirath).

The novel is available at the following online retailers:

Amazon – B&N – Kobo

About Rebecca Grubb: Rebecca utilizes her experience in the high school English classroom and her decades as a bookworm to coach writers and edit fiction and creative non-fiction. She enjoys reading and writing books, particularly mysteries and science fiction. She lives in a small town in Ohio with her husband and the three mischievous children.

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About Jodi Rath: Moving into her second decade working in education, Jodi Rath has decided to begin a life of crime in her Cast Iron Skillet Mystery Series. Her passion for both mysteries and education led her to combine the two to create her business MYS ED, where she splits her time between working as an adjunct for Ohio teachers and creating mischief in her fictional writing. She currently resides in a small, cozy village in Ohio with her husband and her nine cats.

Posted in Archives, June 2020, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

It’s summer in Texas

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Today Teresa Trent is visiting Ascroft, eh? to tell us about Die a Yellow Ribbon, her latest novel in the Pecan Bayou mystery series.

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

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

DIEAYELLOWRIBBON_COVERDie a Yellow Ribbon is the ninth book in the Pecan Bayou series. When I wrote it, I wanted it to be part Amazing Race and part It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. I wanted to write a great summer read where the characters of my little Texas town are running around in the heat trying to find a plastic pecan spray painted gold.

When you write this many books in a series, you have plenty of characters to play with and bring into the stories. In the beginning of the Pecan Bayou Series, Betsy was a single mom with one child and now she has married her wonderful Leo and they have three children. Her father is the local law, and she works at the newspaper writing a helpful hints column. I love her world because she is a mom, a daughter, a niece, and a part of the local media.

Where did the idea for the mystery come from?

It was a couple of things. I love reality television. My two favorites are Survivor and The Bachelor. The yellow ribbon comes from the Amazing Race where they try to find a yellow clue box. There is so much going on with the hunt for the Golden Pecan, it becomes a great backdrop for a murder mystery. The potential suspects are scattered, and the motives are plenty. There is an ongoing feud with the owner of the natural foods store and the owner of a vitamin supplement shop that aides in muscle building. With all that wholesome healthy living you’d think there be peace and reasoning, but not so much.

The second influence was the incredible book by Marie Kondo, Tidying Up. Talk about a helpful hints writer’s paradise. Betsy falls under the spell of total organization.

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

My main character has just read tidying up by Marie Kondo and has subjected her family to excruciating reorganization to the point of trying to control her oldest son who is about to be a senior in high school. Her mega-organization is an effort to gain control of things in her life that are changing. She’s having a tough time with the thought that her kids are growing up.  Of course, any sort of control is fleeting. Whether it’s a murder investigation or a sock drawer, you can’t manage everything. I came upon this theme after I read Tidying Up and started cleaning out closets and straightening drawers. It got so bad my husband asked me who had been folding his clothes, because it sure wasn’t me.

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

I try to write people I would like to have in my home. Then I write a bunch more I wouldn’t want around. My favorite characters usually come from Betsy’s family including her cousin Danny who has Down Syndrome. I have a son with Down Syndrome, who, although he doesn’t function at as high a level as Danny, inspired my writing of his character. Welcome to my world, which involves people of all abilities. His mother, Aunt Maggie is my dedication to all the wonderful women in my life who have always been there no matter what.

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

When I write a setting, first I use my senses. What does it look like, smell like, feel like, and then I filter it through my characters. Betsy would love the smell of the apple pie at the diner, while her boss the newspaper editor, would be listening to the conversations, looking for his next headline.

What research do you do to provide background information for the novel.

Research on Die a Yellow Ribbon was interesting. When I first wrote the novel, the vitamin supplement shop was a vape shop. I wanted to use something I considered unhealthy, yet seductive. I had never been in a vape shop and was a little nervous about it, but went in and asked a few questions to an exuberant young man and then explained I was writing a murder mystery. He became very excited and demonstrated the process of vaping with a large plume of strawberry scented vape that surrounded us both. Then he went on and told me all these ways I could kill someone with vaping supplies. I had to get out of there before he asked for a byline in the book! Eventually I changed the vape shop to the vitamin supplement shop because investigations into the harmful effects of vaping became disturbing news stories. I was worried they would close all the vape shops before the book came out.

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

Yes! Die a Yellow Ribbon is free on Kindle from June 15-19, so get your free copy! If you love the book, think about leaving a review on Amazon, Goodreads or wherever you leave reviews. I hope you enjoy your trip through the summer heat of Pecan Bayou, Texas in search of the Golden Pecan!

Thanks for answering my questions, Teresa, and good luck with Die a Yellow Ribbon, the latest book in the Pecan Bayou Mystery series.

Readers can learn more about Teresa and her writing by visiting her website and her blog, Goodreads, Instagram and LinkedIn pages. You can also follow her on Twitter.

The novel is available online at  Amazon 

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About Teresa Trent: This is Teresa’s ninth book in the Pecan Bayou Series that takes place in everyone’s favorite little town in Texas. Teresa writes the Pecan Bayou and Piney Woods series, but Pecan Bayou has always been a favorite place to call home for her. Teresa lives in Houston, Texas with her family.

Posted in Archives, June 2020, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

You never know what you’ll find in a snow drift

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Today Mary Feliz is visiting Ascroft, eh? to tell us about Snowed Under, her latest novel in the Mary McDonald mystery series.

Welcome, Mary. 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.

Snowed Under is the sixth book in the Maggie McDonald Mystery Series. It takes SNOWED UNDERamateur detective to a Lake Tahoe ski resort to help her friend Tess clear out her family’s cabin for sale. An epic High Sierra blizzard hits, and they’re snowbound. Maggie, who lives in the Mediterranean climate of the San Francisco Bay Area, is out of her depth. Things go downhill when they stumble on a body frozen in a drift.

The entire series focuses on Professional Organizer Maggie McDonald and her family, including a golden retriever with separation anxiety. Helping clear out neglected storage areas gives Maggie access to all the places people hide their secrets, including the skeletons in their closets. In each book, a dead body trashes her detailed organizational plan. Her investigation takes her to some of the most beautiful places in the area and touches lightly on some of the problematic issues of California living.

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

I’ve always been fascinated by the power of storms, and love the tropes of traditional mysteries that strand characters in remote country houses far from help in terrible weather. One of my favorite books is Storm by George R. Stewart. published in 1941. While the technology is dated now, it follows the development of a storm far out in the Pacific Ocean and follows it as it grows and makes landfall, wreaking havoc across California.

Another building block of this adventure was an article called Winter Warriors about the heroic efforts of the transportation workers who keep the Interstate 80 corridor open in weather akin to the storms that stopped fated Donner Party. https://www/sierrasun.com/news/winter-warriors.

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

Most of the story is a light-hearted romp through the beauty of the Lake Tahoe area in winter, and the coziness that comes from being indoors when the weather outside is treacherous. But there are hints of danger introduced by the weather, a murderer, and a variety other nefarious forces. In any international resort like Tahoe’s ski areas, you have people coming and going quickly. Some have great wealth. It’s adjacent to a private airport and a major interstate freeway that means bad guys can come and go quickly. Smuggling and fraud of all kinds create a complex law enforcement problem I can’t begin to resolve or understand in detail, but it adds creepy backdrop to an otherwise pastoral story.

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

Most of my favorite characters developed like that Pacific Storm in George Stewarts book, from a small blip in my brain to a full-blown personality that I sometimes forget is fictional. Their quirks aren’t always ones I planned. The antagonists are created to become the perfect foils for the characters I love so much. But I try to make them well-rounded with reasonable explanations for what they are doing. No one in my books is all bad or all good. I think there’s a very interesting line between good and bad, and like to look at the reasons that good people do bad things and bad people do good things.

My favorite characters to write about are Stephen Laird, one of Maggie’s best friends, and his mastiff, Munchkin. They both suffer from PTSD and look after one another, but are also strong, courageous, and eager to help others.

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

I write about the places in California that I love, most of which aren’t portrayed accurately on the screen. Lake Tahoe in winter was a favorite vacation spot for me and my boys when they were growing up. We spent many weekends and holidays watching the weather reports and wondering if we’d be able to get home, even with the snow chains we always carried. But a holiday in an area doesn’t shed much light on what it’s like to live there. For that insight, I consulted a dear friend whose family has a house on the North Shore, has spent decades visiting in the winter, and also lived there year-round.

Wooden chalets in the village

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

I do far more research than ever ends up in the books. I’m an information junkie and love wallowing in tiny details told in books, magazines, newspapers, and the people who live the experience. But only the most interesting details that serve the progression of the story make it into the book.

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

I have no idea where the car mechanic and his unusual garage came from, though I did once enjoy a gourmet meal elegantly served in a former roadside service station.

Thanks for answering my questions, Mary, and good luck with Snowed Under, the latest book in the Mary McDonald Mystery series.

Readers can learn more about Mary and her writing by visiting her website and her Facebook page. You can also follow her on Twitter.

The novel is available at the following online retailers:

Amazon     B&N  Kobo   Google Books     Kensington

MARY FELIZ (1)About Mary Feliz: Mary writes the Maggie McDonald Mysteries featuring a Silicon Valley professional organizer and her sidekick golden retriever. She’s worked for Fortune 500 firms and mom and pop enterprises, competed in whale boat races and done synchronized swimming. She attends organizing conferences in her character’s stead, but Maggie’s skills leave her in the dust.

Posted in Archives, June 2020, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Meet Charlotte Reed

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Today Charlotte Reed from Booked for Death is visiting Ascroft, eh? to tell us about the latest novel in the Book Lover’s B&B mystery series by Victoria Gilbert.

Welcome, Charlotte. 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.

BOOKED FOR DEATHHello, I’m Charlotte Reed, and my story starts in book one of the Booklover’s B&B series, BOOKED FOR DEATH. It’s a cozy mystery series set in Beaufort, North Carolina. Fortunately for anyone who loves the setting, Beaufort is a real place that you can visit! It’s a coastal town located only a few miles (across the Bogue Sound) from the sandy beaches of Atlantic Beach and the rest of the “Crystal Coast” of North Carolina. Although Beaufort isn’t located directly on the Atlantic Ocean, it does have a natural harbor that draws boaters of all kinds. It’s also a very historic area, with homes and other buildings dating back to the early eighteenth-century.

I manage Chapters, the bed-and-breakfast bequeathed to me by my late great-aunt, Isabella Harrington. Isabella collected books and created a wonderful private library long before she turned her home into Chapters. When she turned her 18th century home into a bed-and-breakfast, she decided to focus on literary events, which is a practice I now continue. Although Chapters sometimes functions as a regular B&B, most of the time we offer special vacation packages that celebrate authors, genres, or even specific books. As well as exploring Beaufort and the surrounding areas, lodgers at Chapters can enjoy book discussions, costume parties, special dinners, and other activities designed to match the theme of their vacation week.

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

The author likes to think she’s totally in control, but I and the other characters often steer her in a different direction. We believe this improves the story, and so far, the author hasn’t disagreed with this assessment.

How did you evolve as the main character?

Well, I’m the owner and manager of Chapters now, so I suppose it was a natural choice. But I must confess that I’m still learning how to run the inn, as I’ve only been doing so for a little over a year. I was a high school English teacher for many years before I inherited the B&B and never thought I’d change careers. In fact, I probably would’ve sold Chapters except for the fact that my beloved husband passed away in a tragic accident about three years ago. When I learned I’d inherited the B&B, I was still grieving and saw running the B&B as an opportunity to make a major change in my life.

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

I definitely enjoy sharing my story with others, including my good friend, independent bookstore owner, Julie Rivera. Even though Julie is somewhat younger than me – she’s 35 to my 42 – we’ve bonded over our mutual love of books and reading. I’ve also gotten to know my rather flamboyant neighbor, Ellen Montgomery, who’s a very active seventy-something retired film location scout. Or so she says. I think there may be some mystery in her background that she hasn’t revealed to me yet.

I also enjoy hosting book club events with some local residents of Beaufort, including the quirky Sandburg sisters, Bernadette and Ophelia, and café owners Pete and Sandy Nelson. I don’t even mind sharing the spotlight with Chapter’s longtime housekeeper and cook, Alicia Simpson, who also worked for more great-aunt Isabella. I’m not sure that Alicia entirely approves of me, but she is devoted to making Chapters a premiere B&B, and that’s really all that matters.

A few others who have big parts to play in the story are Damian Carr, the temperamental but brilliant freelance chef I bring in for special events, and a frequent guest, author Scott Kepler. Scott, who’s writing a nonfiction account of Beaufort’s connection to pirate history, stays at Chapters when he’s doing research in the area.

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

Chapters B&B is a large, wooden-framed home that was originally built in the early 18th century and then added to and renovated over the years. However, it still retains its colonial charm, including an enclosed back garden laid out in an English style. The rooms and suites are named and decorated to highlight specific genres or types of books, like the Mystery suite, or the Children’s Room. Each room includes shelves filled with books that match the room’s theme. In addition, Chapters offers an extensive library of books of all genres and from all time periods, including some rare editions. Guests are allowed to use the library, although I do ask that they request permission to handle the more fragile volumes.

Located on one of Beaufort’s beautiful tree-lined streets, Chapters is only a few blocks from the harbor, where boats of all sizes and descriptions are docked. I love walking the boardwalk adjacent to the water to survey the stunning sailboats and yachts that often dock there.

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

I would simply like to invite them to visit Chapters and Beaufort by picking up a copy of BOOKED FOR DEATH and diving into its pages. There’s a murder to solve, of course, but also a few other mysteries – including a revelation from the past that took me completely by surprise.

Also, BOOKED FOR DEATH will have a sequel, RESERVED FOR MURDER, which is scheduled for publication in May of 2021. So, my story continues! (But I promise, there are NO cliffhangers in any of my author’s books. Even though reading the series in order will provide better overall plot development and character growth, all the books can still be read individually).

Thanks for answering my questions, Charlotte, and good luck to you and your author, Victoria Gilbert with Booked for Death, the latest book in the Book Lover’s B&B Mystery series.

Readers can learn more about Victoria and her writing by visiting her 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    Kobo    Indie Bound 

Vicki Weavil 11About Victoria Gilbert: She raised in the shadow of the Blue Ridge Mountains, turned her early obsession with reading into a dual career as an author and librarian. Victoria has worked as a reference librarian, research librarian, and library director. When not writing or reading, she likes to spend her time watching films, gardening, or traveling. She is a member of Sisters in Crime and International Thriller Writers and lives in North Carolina.

Posted in Archives, June 2020, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

May I introduce Lady Rosamund?

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Today Lady Rosamund Phipps from Lady Rosamund and the Poison Pen is visiting Ascroft, eh? to tell us about the novel, the latest novel in the Rosie and MacBrae mystery series by Barbara Monajem.

Welcome, Lady Rosamund. 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.

Lady Rosamund and the Poison Pen is the first in a series of Regency mysteries. I am Lady Rosamund Phipps, and in this novel I am plagued by both a caricaturist and a poison pen. My sanity (I don’t use that word lightly) and my life are at stake!

I don’t know what will happen in the rest of the series – I cannot see the future – but the author says it will involve Mr. Gilroy McBrae as well as me. I’m not certain how I feel about this.

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

LADY ROSAMUND AND THE POISON PENThe poor, beleaguered writer is obliged to see, do, think, react, and comment precisely as I would! Sometimes my views seem frightfully archaic to her, but she steels herself and writes what I want her to. However, she seems determined to encourage my friendship, such as it is, with Mr. McBrae, and he is impossible to control.

How did you evolve as the main character?

I didn’t evolve. I’m the daughter of an earl, the granddaughter of a marquis, and the cousin of a duke. I am by my very existence a main character!

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

I’m partial to my friend Cynthia. She’s my bosom friend, and very worldly – which I am not. She explained some of the more risqué aspects of the caricatures to me. I dearly love my father (although he doesn’t really come into the first story). Surprisingly, I’m a little bit partial to Gilroy McBrae. This is quite odd and not entirely acceptable – he’s significantly below me socially, and in my mother’s words, a nobody. (Not that my mother’s opinion is likely to sway me. I would much rather NOT share the story with her.)

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

London in 1811! It’s cool, damp and dirty, but there’s plenty to do and amusing people to see. And it’s not Kent, where I grew up. Not that I dislike Kent itself, but my mother lives there, so I stay away.

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

Corvus, the obnoxious caricaturist, thinks HE should be the subject of this interview. How dare he? Not only that, how dare he mock me in his caricatures? Not that I dislike them, exactly. They’re skillful drawings, and he portrays me as much prettier than I am in real life. And some of them are quite, quite hilarious.

But others are not. Again, how dare he? There are no bounds to his effrontery!

Thanks for answering my questions, Lady Rosamund, and good luck to you and your author with Lady Rosamund and the Poison Pen, the latest book in the Rosie and McBrae Mystery series.

Readers can learn more about the author Barbara Monajem and her writing by visiting her website and her Facebook and Goodreads pages. You can also follow her on Twitter.

The novel is available online at  Amazon

Barbara Monajem author pic 2019About Barbara Monajem: Winner of the Holt Medallion, Maggie, Daphne du Maurier, Reviewer’s Choice and Epic awardsBarbara Monajem wrote her first story at eight years old about apple tree gnomes. She published a middle-grade fantasy when her children were young. When they grew up, she turned to writing for adults, first the Bayou Gavotte paranormal mysteries and then Regency romances with intrepid heroines and long-suffering heroes (or vice versa). Some of her Regencies have magic in them and some don’t (except for the magic of love, which is in every story she writes).

Barbara loves to cook, especially soups, and is an avid reader. There are only two items on her bucket list: to make asparagus pudding and succeed at knitting socks. She’ll manage the first but doubts she’ll ever accomplish the second. This is not a bid for immortality but merely the dismal truth. She lives near Atlanta, Georgia with an ever-shifting population of relatives, friends, and feline strays.

Posted in Archives, June 2020, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

Cass Donovan has stopped by

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Today Cass Donovan from Grave Consequences is visiting Ascroft, eh? to tell us about the novel, the latest novel in the Bay Island Psychic mystery series by Lena Gregory.

Welcome, Cass. 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 Cass Donovan, and I live inside the Bay Island Psychic Mystery series. I used to own a psychiatric practice in New York City, but the death of a patient, along with a series of personal problems, led me to give up that life and return to my childhood home on Bay Island. I opened Mystical Musings, my psychic shop on the boardwalk, hoping to help people who needed to speak to ghosts. Not that I actually believed in ghosts. I believed my ability to give accurate readings came from good instincts and years of psychiatric training. As time went on, and my series progressed, I’ve come to learn I may have been wrong about that. In Grave Consequences, Bay Island Psychic Mystery #5, the ghosts are haunting me relentlessly. The voices are so constant that I misunderstand what one of them is telling me and end up smack in the middle of a murder investigation.

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

GRAVE CONSEQUENCESI definitely control what happens in the story. When my writer tries to deviate from my plan, she doesn’t get very far and usually ends up deleting everything she’s written. The only one who gets more of a say than me in how the story progresses is my best friend, Bee. I’m pretty sure he’s my writer’s favorite.

How did you evolve as the main character?

My writer wanted two character with firm beliefs. Bee believes ghosts absolutely do not exist. Stephanie, on the other hand, believes in ghosts and has believed I could contact them since we were kids. But my writer wanted the main character to be uncertain, to evolve as the other two each tried to convince her to embrace their point of view. I try to keep an open mind, and I’ve grown through the series as I began to realize some of the things I knew came from somewhere other than good instincts.

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

Bee and Stephanie are my best friends, and I love sharing this story with them. They are by my side no matter what kind of trouble I get myself into.

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

Mystical Musings is my psychic shop on Bay Island’s boardwalk. The back of the shop boasts a beautiful view of the bay as well as the Bay Island Lighthouse. In Grave Consequences, I find myself in the middle of a murder investigation that involves the lighthouse, the keeper’s house, and a three-hundred-year-old pirate.

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

Grave Consequences is the fifth book in my Bay Island Psychic Mystery series, and I’d love for readers to join Bee, Stephanie, and me as we try to solve this case. While Grave Consequences can easily be read as a stand-alone, I’d love to share my entire journey with everyone.

Thank you so much for having me!

You’re welcome, Cass. Thanks for answering my questions and good luck to you and your author with Grave Consequences, the latest book in the Bay Island Psychi Mystery series.

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

The novel is available at the following online retailers:

 Amazon – B&N – Kobo 

lena-gregory-portrait (1)About Lena Gregory: She is the author of the Bay Island Psychic Mysteries, which take place on a small island between the north and south forks of Long Island, New York, and the All-Day Breakfast Café Mysteries, which are set on the outskirts of Florida’s Ocala National Forest.

Lena grew up in a small town on the south shore of eastern Long Island. She recently relocated to Clermont, Florida with her husband, three kids, son-in-law, and four dogs. Her hobbies include spending time with family, reading, jigsaw puzzles, 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 2020, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments

Meet Marty Golden

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Today Marty Golden is visiting Ascroft, eh? from Hit and Mist, to tell us about this latest novel in the Silicon Valley mystery series.

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

Tell us about the novel that you live inside and the series.

I’m Marty Golden, the hero of HIT AND MIST, the fourth book in the Silicon Valley Mystery series. How cool is that to have four books written about your own life? I don’t own a bakeshop, bookstore, or bed & breakfast place although I do eat, read, and sleep a lot. My friend, Marc Jedel, takes my notes and writes down the parts of my life that turn into murder mysteries. I hate that phrase. It makes me sound like I’m going around killing people, but I don’t hurt anyone. I’m a nice guy with a good sense of humor and an active inner voice that sometimes convinces me to jump in to solve a problem even if I don’t yet have a plan.

Although all these other people keep getting killed or know someone who dies, I’m too busy to get involved. But my parents stressed good etiquette when I was growing up so sometimes I have to help out. After all, it’s poor manners to let your friend’s death go unsolved. Or in the case of HIT AND MIST, I couldn’t let my friend go to a prison for a murder I was sure he didn’t commit.

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

HIT AND MIST COVERIt’s a little philosophical to ask someone whether they control their own destiny, isn’t it? All I know is when something bad happens around me or I’m in the middle of trouble and struggling to find an escape, I don’t see Marc Jedel, the writer, there helping me out. He tends to sit at his computer typing all day. Although I’ve seen his office and he now has a sit-stand desk so perhaps that midnight requisition that unfolds in HIT AND MIST was based on reality? For the most part, Marc takes my notes and turns what happened to me into a more polished story. Well, actually his copy editor does all the important polishing so I’m not really sure what Marc’s role is.

How did you evolve as the main character?

The story is told in first person so I kind of had to be the main character. Since I’m the guy who seems to encounter these dead bodies and run into these unusual circumstances, it only makes sense for the story to be about me. I mean, you could write a story about my friend Raj because he’s smarter and helps me when he’s not busy at work, but he’s not as funny and doesn’t seem to get into trouble as often. Also, I’m the one with the secret code name alert in the San Jose police department’s computer system. Just don’t ask me what it is.

I once read a summary that the author wrote about me. Marc said, “Marty isn’t exactly hero material. He has a wonderful combination of wit, irreverent humor and sarcasm mixed in with nerdy insecurities, absent-mindedness, and fumbling but effective amateur sleuthing skills. Sometimes, he even succeeds.” I thought that was rude and didn’t talk to him for a while, even though he was probably accurate.

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

I really enjoy sharing the story with my girlfriend, because, well, she’s my girlfriend. She always has clever ideas when I’m stuck and I’m constantly discovering unusual, new skills of hers.

In addition, I like spending time with my nieces. When my own kids were younger, I worked too much and wasn’t the most involved father. So I’m trying to spend more time with my nieces. Besides, they’re young enough that they still enjoy my dad jokes, or at least I still tell them my favorite ones. The best part of being an uncle is that I can have fun with my nieces and then say goodbye when I’m tired, or they’re cranky, or when Skye becomes a teenager.

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

HIT AND MIST, like all the novels so far in the Silicon Valley Mystery series, takes place in Silicon Valley, centered around San Jose, California. This area was once known as the Valley of Heart’s Delight for its scenic beauty, mild climate, and thousands of acres of blooming fruit trees. Today’s traffic and difficult, overcrowded living conditions for so many people now make this a less than ideal place to live. But the weather is still awesome! Silicon Valley often gets portrayed as some weird, geeky place full of startup billionaires in movies. And while all that is true, the movies miss the wonderful mix of people from different backgrounds, most fairly new to the area, the energy, and the scenery where you can go skiing, hiking amongst redwoods, or surfing all within a few hour drive. And, did I mention the weather?

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

Well, I think HIT AND MIST is awesome. I mean it’s all about me, my nieces, sister, girlfriend, and friends so why wouldn’t I think it was the best story ever? My friend, Marc Jedel, thinks my adventures will interest readers because it’s rare to find a cozy mystery with a male sleuth who doesn’t have a conventional cozy mystery job, nor live in a typical cozy mystery locale in a small town by the water. Marc once described me as “Monk meets Inspector Gadget meets Pink Panther.” I’m not so sure about all that but I do think he forgot to include “meets James Bond” in that description.

Thanks for answering my questions, Marty, and good luck to you and your author, Marc Jedel with Hit and Mist, the latest book in the Silicon Valley Mystery series.

Readers can learn more about Marc Jedel and his writing by visiting his website and his Facebook, Goodreads, BookBub and LinkedIn pages.

The novel is available at the following online retailers:

 Amazon – http://getbook.at/HitMist 

marc-jedel-200x300 (1)About Marc Jedel: For most of his life, he’s been inventing stories. His writing skills were honed in years of marketing leadership positions in Silicon Valley. While his high tech marketing roles involved crafting plenty of fiction, he called these marketing collateral, emails and ads.

The publication of his first novel, Uncle and Ants, gave him permission to claim “author” as his job. And achieving Amazon Best Seller status gave him even better adjectives to use in front of “author.” Like Marty, he lives in Silicon Valley and can’t believe that otherwise normal people would willingly jump out of an airplane and call it fun. Unlike Marty, he has a wonderful wife and a neurotic but sweet, small dog, who is often the first to weigh in on the humor in his writing.

Posted in Archives, June 2020, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments