Paws for Concern

Today Amy Hueston is visiting Ascroft, eh? to tell us about Paws for Concern, the first novel in the Canine Confections mystery series.

Welcome, Amy. 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.

PAWS FOR CONCERN, A CANINE CONFECTIONS MYSTERY, is the first in the Canine Confections mystery series. The second, PAWS FOR ALARM, will be out soon. There are plenty of pups, sunshine and sweets with a little murder thrown in for fun.

In Paws For Concern life is good for Samantha Armstrong. She left her cheating boyfriend, settled into her cozy cottage on her Aunt Mary’s Palm Beach estate and is finally opening Canine Confections, her dream dog bakery on the ritzy Worth Avenue. 

But Samantha’s happy new life goes doggone crazy when Palm Beach resident and pastry shop owner Whitney Goodwin is found dead on Canine Confections’ floor, whisking Samantha into the middle of a murder investigation. The only bright spot is that she finds herself adopting Whitney’s loveable dog Sweet Pea.

As the killer strikes again, it’s obvious that the shopkeepers on Worth Avenue are the target. Samantha’s impatience won’t let sleeping dogs lie. She takes it upon herself to move things along by padding around town with Sweet Pea and sniffing out clues to clear her name and Canine Confections’ reputation—before it is too late …

Includes a recipe from Chef Sarah Deters at the test kitchen of Three Dog Bakery, the original bakery for dogs!

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

It came from my love of all things furry, sweet, cozy and mysterious. I like getting inside people’s heads so in this particular story we meet all these new people on the fancy Worth Avenue and watch how they interact with each other for the first time.

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

What prompted me to write about it was watching people firsthand because I live close to Palm Beach. In this book, a young woman moves to a town much fancier than the town she used to live and tries to find a way to fit in, which is hard to do when a dead body shows up in her new business. Add to that some problems with her Aunt Mary, whose estate she lives on. Overall, it deals with how people feel when feeling out of place. Being a cozy mystery, I keep things light and (hopefully) add humor to make things seem not so bad.

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

I create them by thinking about the story and who will help propel it forward. Once the characters are in place, they talk to me as if from behind a stage curtain. They whisper to each other behind the curtain, then come out center-stage to say their lines. I swear sometimes they take me by surprise. My favorite characters are the ones who aren’t so nice, who are sarcastic or sneaky or witchy. I’m partial to them because I try not to be those things in my daily life. (I’m only sarcastic, sneaky and witchy before my morning coffee.)

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

In a suspense I just finished writing, I think about the city, suburbs and countryside of New York. In the case of Paws for Concern, I think about how Worth Avenue looks, smells, sounds, even feels. There’s a little bit of magic in the air in Palm Beach.

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

I’ve been to Worth Avenue and Palm Beach more times than I can count. I’ve dined there, shopped there, looked at art galleries there, drank a Starbucks there.

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

I’m excited that Three Dog Bakery, the first dog bakery (back in 1989), had their Master Chef create recipes for dogs for my Canine Confections series.

Also, obviously, I hope you enjoy this book so much that you look forward to reading book 2 coming soon, PAWS FOR ALARM. For those of you who are partial to cats, a cat enters the series. Having the cat and the dog interact is a lot of fun. In the third book PAWS OF DEATH, we’ll continue to meet many more dogs, make more sweet treats and navigate through twisty tales. I love this stuff.

Thank you for answering my questions, Amy and good luck with Paws for Concern, the first book in the Canine Confections mystery series.

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

The novel is available at the following online retailers:

 Amazon – B&N

About Amy Hueston: Amy writes mini-mysteries for Woman’s World when she isn’t writing mysteries and suspense books. Paws for Concern is the first book in A Canine Confections Mystery series.

Posted in Archives, October 2020 | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

The Killer Outdoors

Today Andie Sullivan is visiting Ascroft, eh? to tell us about The Killer Outdoors, the latest novel in the Southwest Exposure mystery series.

Welcome, Andie. 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.

Hello Everybody. My name is Andie Sullivan and I’m the main character in THE KILLER OUTDOORS. When I’m not solving clues to the latest murder mystery in my hometown of Bushwhack, New Mexico, I’m running an adventure tour company with my brother. Normally, I’m either taking tourists rafting or hiking. Unfortunately for me, my ex-husband was recently found dead and what do you know…I’m the prime suspect. And of all things Sheriff Zac Mars thinks I could possibly be involved when I used to babysit him. That’s whole another can of worms.

But all that aside, I don’t plan on going down for a crime I didn’t commit. I plan on solving the investigation so I can continue to run my adventure company, and maybe sniff around another case or two in upcoming Southwest Exposure Mysteries.

Does the writer control what happens in the story or do you get a say too? I’d say Mrs. Linton mostly controls the story, but sometimes I throw her a curveball. Like that time the sheriff found me in the shower ready to clobber him with a toilet plunger. You’ll have to read the book to understand. It’s not what you think.

How did you evolve as the main character? My ex-husband is found dead and I have to prove my innocence.

Do you have any other characters you like sharing the story with? If so, why are you partial to them? Easy. My brother Kyle. We’re close and each other’s only family in town. Kyle always has my back even if he sometimes thinks I should mind my own business regarding homicide investigations in town. But he’s cool with it. He’s my brother.

What’s the place like where you find yourself in this story? Wonderful weather year round, with breathtaking views of the mountains. We have lots of hiking trails, rivers to fish in and fun campgrounds. There’s also a chipmunk village where you can visit with the cute furry creatures and feed them.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell readers about you and the book? Not a purse gal, but I do love a good fanny pack. And if you like humorous, thrilling adventures than you must get The Killer Outdoors and dive into a new cozy mystery series.

Thank you for answering my questions, Andie, and good luck to you and your author, Jodi Linton, with The Killer Outdoors, the latest book in the Southwest Exposure mystery series.

Readers can learn more about Andie and her author, Jodi Linton by visiting the author’s website and and her Readers Corner, and her Facebook, Bookbub, and Instagram pages. You can also follow her on Twitter.

The novel is available online at Amazon 

About Jodi Linton: I’m just a girl from Texas, minus the big hair…and oh, yeah, a horse. My crew consists of two kiddos, one which inherited my makeup addiction, and a husband still living out his garage band dreams, but in our closet next to my shoe collection.

I love to hang out with my readers, discussing books, recipes and just everyday shenanigans. I got started in the romance community, which you might know a few of my books from there. Now, I’m all about the cozies…and the coffee. Yeah, can’t forget that.

I’d love for you to come join my reader group, Jodi’s Book Corner or come like me on Facebook to discover my books. And chat. Naturally.

Posted in Archives, October 2020 | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Deadly Travel

Today Kate Parker is visiting Ascroft, eh? to tell us about Deadly Travel, her latest novel in the World War II mystery series.

Welcome, Kate. 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.

Deadly Travel is the fifth book in the Deadly Series. It takes place in March and April 1939, months before World War II began and centers around a Kindertransport. The Kindertransports were designed to rescue at-risk children, mostly Jewish, from Nazi held territory and bring them to England until such time that Hitler stopped persecuting Jews and other minorities. 10,000 children were rescued from the Holocaust this way. The fictitious Kindertransport that I write about occurs at the right time in history, but for the purposes of my story, there are two murders, two young boys in danger, and one lethal British traitor.

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

The Deadly Series, so far, has taken place in the time leading up to World War II in Britain. I’ve done a lot of reading and research into that time and place, and I’ve built mysteries surrounding actual events and attitudes. The Kindertransport, the main event of Deadly Travel, involved a lot of people with fundraising, with finding homes for these children, and with the actual journey. Then I wondered how these noble people would react to murder.

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

Each story in the Deadly Series springs out of the time I lived in a small town where a large number of Congolese refugees attended our church. They spoke a different language and had different customs and different beliefs about childrearing. I wondered how it would affect the refugees, trying to learn the ways of a new country. That story is still being written, so I looked to history for a similar situation, and studied the effect on Britain of taking in refugees before and during World War II, and the effect on the refugees. In Deadly Travel, I look at it through the experiences of two young boys.

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

I create my characters as I get to know them while I’m writing. Livvy is a particular favorite of mine. I couldn’t write a series from her point of view if I didn’t like her. She’s not perfect by any means, but she’s fair-minded and curious and she believes in justice. Sometimes she jumps in when she shouldn’t, but she’s determined to expose killers and spies. She’s also young and pretty and I’d like to be her rather than my old, dumpy self.

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

Research, research, and more research.

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

Except for my husband’s last illness and this year of global pandemic, I try to get to Britain once a year. This allows me to visit museums, old houses on tour, ride steam trains, and generally get the feel of the place. I also love the old digitized newspapers available at the British Library. Access to these are now available by subscription online, so I can do research on newspaper stories at home. That’s one good thing to come out of the pandemic. While I’m in London I haunt bookstores where I’ve found all sorts of good historical volumes on various subjects as well as reprints of books from bygone eras. 

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

I like adventurous and puzzling mysteries that keep me entertained, and I hope your readers do, too. If so, I hope that they will enjoy Deadly Travel.

Thanks for answering my questions, Kate, and good luck with Deadly Travel, the latest book in theWorld War II Mystery series.

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

The novel is available at the following online retailers:

Amazon – B&N – Kobo

About Kate Parker: Kate caught the reading bug early, and the writing bug soon followed. She’s always lived in a house surrounded by books and dust bunnies. After spending a dozen years in North Carolina, she moved to Colorado. The Rocky Mountains are beautiful, but she’d developed a love of wide rivers, warmer and wetter weather, and fast-growing greenery that sent her hurrying back to North Carolina.

Deadly Travel is the fifth book in the Deadly Series, and Kate’s plan is to follow it quickly with Deadly Darkness, both set in 1939 in the days leading up to war. There are at least three more of the Deadly Series coming that will bring the beginning of the war to Olivia’s doorstep. Kate reports that she is having fun creating new stories to entertain readers and chaos to challenge her characters.

Posted in Archives, October 2020 | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

You’ll Find A Waffle Lot of Murder Here

Today Gia Morelli is visiting Ascroft, eh? to tell us about A Waffle Lot of Murder, the latest novel in the All-Day Breakfast Cafe Mystery series.

Welcome, Gia. 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.

My name is Gia Morelli, and I live inside the All-Day Breakfast Cafe Mystery series. I used to work the breakfast shift for a busy deli in New York City, but a series of personal problems led me to give up that life and move twelve hundred miles away to Boggy Creek, Florida, my best friend Savannah’s home town. I opened the All-Day Breakfast Café on Main Street and, after a bit of a rocky start—finding my ex-husband’s body in my dumpster on opening day—I’ve come to love this town. I survived Bradley’s murder investigation, a night of tornadoes, come to accept that I will occasionally come across critters I am completely terrified of, and stumbled over more than one body, but the friends I’ve made here and the life I’ve created more than make up for all of that.

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

I 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, Savannah.

How did you evolve as the main character?

My author wanted a character who would be out of her element in the town she created, and that worked out perfectly for me. I was born and raised in New York City, lived there my whole life, and never traveled much. My experience with critters was limited to the cats that lived in the alley behind the deli and an occasional rat. In the first book of the series, Scone Cold Killer, I moved to a rural area of central Florida. I had to deal with spiders the size of my fist (hairy ones), snakes (some venomous), and most recently, a scorpion that carried her babies (lots of them) on her back. I knew nothing about tornadoes, though I learned quickly enough. I also never knew the joy of living in a small town and really getting to know the people, but now that I do, I wouldn’t want it any other way.

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

I love sharing the story with my best friend, Savannah. She’s fun, always has a smile on her face, and has my back no matter what kind of trouble I get myself into. Her cousin, Detective Hunter Quinn, is pretty fun to share the story with too, but in a different way.

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

It’s autumn in this story, and I am really missing the change of seasons; the leaves changing color, cool, crisp air, and driving out east on Long Island to visit farm stands and gorge myself on roasted sweet corn and apple cider. In an effort to keep me from getting too homesick, Savannah ropes me into doing the Haunted Town Festival, an annual event to benefit the local animal shelter. Unfortunately, when one of the coordinators is found dead, we end up pitching in to find out who killed her.

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

A Waffle Lot of Murder is the fourth book in my All-Day Breakfast Cafe Mystery series, and I’d love for readers to join Savannah and me as we try to solve this case. While A Waffle Lot of Murder 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, Gia, and good luck to you and your author, Lena Gregory, with A Waffle Lot of Murder, the latest book in the All-Day Breakfast Cafe mystery series.

Readers can learn more about Gia and her author, Lena Gregory by visiting the author’s 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 – Google Play

About Lena Gregory: Lena 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, October 2020 | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Tusk Justice

Today Victoria Tait is visiting Ascroft, eh? to tell us about Tusk Justice, her latest novel in the Kenya Kanga mystery series.

Welcome, Victoria. 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.

Tusk Justice is book 2 in the Kenya Kanga Mystery series.  I based the series in Kenya around the small market town of Nanyuki, in the shadow of Mount Kenya, where I lived for six years.  Book 1, Fowl Murder, introduces the principal characters:  ‘Mama Rose’ Hardie, a community vet in her mid-sixties and her disabled husband Craig; Thabiti, a young African man whose mother is murdered, and Chloe, a young attractive British lady who recently arrived in Kenya. 

In Fowl Murder, Mama Rose is propelled into the role of amateur sleuth when a childhood friend, Thabiti’s mother, is murdered.  Pressure is applied to the police to declare it an accident, so Thabiti persuades Rose to help him catch the killer.

Tusk Justice opens with the rescue of an orphan elephant whose mother was killed by poachers.  The story centres around the first Giant Clubs Summit in 2016, when African leaders, businessmen and leading conservations came together to discuss the future, and survival, of the African elephant and its habitat.

In the book, I added a local conference before the summit.  The keynote speaker is murdered in the hotel but with the Chief of Police in Nairobi, discussing security for the Summit, Rose is persuaded to help a young police constable solve the case.

I loved living in Kenya and through my books I want readers to experience its natural beauty, strange customs and wonderful people.  I try to bring alive the noise of the busy market, the majestic Mount Kenya after rain and the smell of dust in the reader’s nostrils.

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

The initial idea for the mystery, and how the murder took place, comes from an Agatha Christie short story.  A murder occurs in a room which has two entrances, but none of the witnesses can see both.  The story developed from there: once I start writing the characters tend to take over and whilst I have a general outline, the story often moves in unexpected directions.

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

I wanted to write about the Giants Club Summit and the plight of elephants.  I visited the David Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage in Nairobi, where I watched young orphan elephants fool around.  My children adopted one as a Christmas present.

Elephants live in herds but when young males reach fourteen or fifteen the herd leader, usually a mature female, drives them away.

From orphan elephants I explored the relationship between mothers and their sons, and it is this that lies at the heart of the story.  I began with the quote,

“The love of a Mother to her child is unconditional.”

And finished with,

“They say that abandonment is a wound that never heals. I say only that an abandoned child never forgets,” Mario Balotelli.

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

My main character is based on a fantastic lady, and friend, in Kenya who selflessly helps other people.  My other characters have come to me whilst I have been out running or walking and my mind mulls over the stories.  I have one character Sam, an enormous bear of a man, who started as a barman and suspect for the first murder but he wouldn’t go away and has developed into a complex character who seems to act as Mama Rose’s guardian angel.

I try to be authentic in that the characters match people you might meet in Kenya.  Names are something I spend a lot of time with.  The meaning of many character’s names often underlies their personalities.  I also try hard not to confuse readers by starting names with different letters. 

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

I am lucky as I have lived in the town I write about and visited many of the places in the books.  I try to imagine standing in a room or on a busy street and what the people and animals are doing around me?  What time of day is it, and what is the weather?  This affects their actions.  What can I smell and hear?  I’m not so good with touch or taste, although there is a lot of food and drink in my books.  Meals, coffee breaks or drinks at sunset are times when my characters meet.  They chat and I follow the conversations with my keyboard.

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

I am old-fashioned as I still use pencil and paper to begin my books.  I sketch scenarios and connect characters and actions.  I have A4 booklets where I write down my research.  I start with a topic and see where my research takes me.  Then I start another subject.  The themes start to come together, followed by the story.  Finally, I develop the characters.  At this point I find myself immersed in the story and I can begin writing.

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

My books are cozy mysteries as there is no sex or on-screen violence and they have a determined, often nosy, female protagonist.  The setting is a small town.  However, they are not cozy cozies and tackle some serious topics such as corruption and poaching.  They are for readers who like to learn about new places, are interested in exploring different themes with complex characters, and enjoy a good, old-fashioned mystery.

Thanks for answering my questions, Victoria, and good luck with Tusk Justice, the latest book in the Kenya Kanga Mystery series.

Readers can learn more about Victoria and her writing by visiting her website and her blog. You can also visit her Facebook, Goodreads and Pinterest pages.

The novel is available at the following online retailers:

Amazon – B&N – Kobo

About Victoria Tait: Victoria is the exciting new author of the Kenya Kanga Mystery series.  She’s drawn on 8 years living in rural Kenya, with her family, to write vivid and evocative descriptions.  Her readers feel the heat, taste the dryness, and smell the dust of Africa.  Her elderly amateur sleuth, “Mama Rose” Hardie is Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple reincarnated and living in Kenya.

Like all good military wives, Victoria follows the beat of the drum and has recently moved to war-scarred Sarajevo in Bosnia. She has two, fast-growing nearly teenage boys.  She enjoys horse riding and mountain biking but is apprehensive about learning to ski.  Victoria is looking forward to the sun, sand, and seafood of neighbouring Croatia when the world returns to normal.

Posted in Archives, October 2020 | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

What a Combination: Mistletoe, Moussaka and Murder

Today Tina Kashian is visiting Ascroft, eh? to tell us about Mistletoe, Moussake and Murder, the latest novel in the Kebab Kitchen mysteries series.

Welcome, Tina. 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.

First, thank you for inviting me to chat with your readers about the next book in the Kabab Kitchen cozy series, “Mistletoe, Moussaka & Murder.”

“Mistletoe, Moussaka & Murder” is the fifth book in my Kebab Kitchen cozy series. My amateur sleuth, Lucy Berberian, is a refugee from a Philadelphia law firm. She returns home to her family’s Mediterranean restaurant, Kebab Kitchen, at the Jersey Shore. Lucy may not have wanted to stay in Ocean Crest. After all, her ethnic family’s expectations can be as sticky as her mother’s baklava syrup. But friends and an ex beau—who is now the head chef at the restaurant—can change a lady’s mind. Lucy ends up managing the restaurant for her parents who are semi-retired.

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

What is the most adventurous thing you have done? In “Mistletoe, Moussaka & Murder,” Lucy signs up for the Polar Bear Plunge to raise money for the local senior center. She immediately doubts her wisdom because she hates the cold, but she knows it is for a good cause.

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

The theme for my books is always that the support and love of family and friends will help you through the worst times and celebrate the best times with you.

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

This is easy. My Armenian parents owned a restaurant near the Jersey Shore for thirty years. I grew up in the restaurant business. I rolled silverware in cloth napkins as a tween and worked as a hostess and waitressed as a teenager. The tips paid for my prom gown. We also vacationed at the Jersey Shore every summer. I built sandcastles, boogie boarded, and rode the boardwalk Ferris wheel. Now that I have my own two girls, we take them there every summer.

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

I love my amateur sleuth, Lucy, of course! Another favorite is Lucy’s best friend, Katie Watson. Lucy is a first-generation American who comes from a diverse background whereas Katie can trace her roots back to the Mayflower. Their funny camaraderie reminds me of Lucy and Ethel from “I Love Lucy.” They make a great crime fighting team.

As for my other characters, many are based on people I knew in my family’s restaurant. Sally is based on a friendly, long-time waitress, the line cook, Butch, is crafted after one of our talented chefs. And Lucy’s parents, Angela and Raffi Berberian…well…they have a little of my own parents in them. Both my mom and dad have passed away and this is my tribute to them.

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

My years working in the restaurant business provides the best “research.” I enjoy writing about gossipy wait staff, chatting with customers, and dealing with temperamental cooks in a hot kitchen. I love it all.

As for my fictional town of Ocean Crest at the Jersey Shore, it’s a combination of Ocean City and Wildwood Crest, two of my favorite Jersey Shore towns. We visit numerous times every year and stroll the boardwalk. It’s all in the name of research!

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

The series is straight from my heart. I come from a diverse background and I love sharing my family’s Mediterranean recipes for shish kebab, moussaka, hummus and baklava. Enjoy!

Thank you for answering my questions, Tina, and good luck with Mistletoe, Moussaka and Murder, the latest book in the Kebab Kitchen mystery series.

Readers can learn more about Tina 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:

AmazonBarnes & NobleGoogle BooksiBooksKobo

About Tina Kashian: Tina is an attorney and mechanical engineer whose love of reading for pleasure helped her get through years of academia. She is the author of the popular Kebab Kitchen Mediterranean cozy mystery series for Kensington Publishing. Tina spent her childhood summers at the Jersey shore building sandcastles, boogie boarding, and riding the boardwalk Ferris wheel. She also grew up in the restaurant business, as her Armenian parents owned a restaurant for thirty years. Tina still lives in New Jersey with her supportive husband and two daughters. Please visit her website at http://www.tinakashian.com to join her newsletter, receive delicious recipes, enter contests, and more!

Posted in Archives, October 2020 | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

A Berry Deadly Season

Today Marlee Jacob is visiting Ascroft, eh? to tell us about Hollyberry Homicide, the latest novel in the Berry Basket mystery series.

Welcome, Marlee. 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 asking. I’m Marlee Jacob, owner of The Berry Basket shop in Oriole Point, Michigan. I should explain that Oriole Point is a fictional town, and that the shop lives inside the Berry Basket mystery series. I chose a berry themed store because Michigan’s western coastline is known as the Fruit Belt, with orchards and vineyards in every direction. Although I do sell fresh berries when they’re in season, my shop is primarily devoted to berry flavored food products, wines, teas, coffees, vinegars, scented candles, even clothes and ceramics decorated with berries. Thanks to my talented baker Theo, I also offer a mouthwatering selection of berry pastries. I even sell berry flavored jerky! My family isn’t surprised I opened a berry store. My Jacob ancestors were fruit growers both here and in their native Holland, so I guess berries are in my blood.

Because Oriole Point is a beach resort town, we have events scheduled throughout the year to attract even more visitors. Given how common orchards are in the region, many of the festivals highlight berries. My series kicked off during the Strawberry Moon Bash in “Dying for Strawberries”, where a murderer had the audacity to bash me over the head. I suspect the name of the festival may have served as inspiration for the deed. And I had no idea I would be racing for my life during the Blackberry Road Rally in “Blackberry Burial”. Murders also took center-stage during the Blueberry Blowout celebration at our state fairground in “Killed on Blueberry Hill”. Then a frightened resident hoped the magical qualities of mulberries would protect her from a killer during our Halloween Harvest Festival in “Mulberry Mischief”. Let me just say that our annual Halloween Parade contained more thrills than usual.

I now find myself overwhelmed with Christmas preparations in “Hollyberry Homicide”. In addition to decking the halls at my home and shop, I also have to take part in the Hollyberry Market, learn the lines for my role in the local production of “A Christmas Carol”, and try to figure out if the deceased actor I replaced in the play was actually murdered. And I haven’t even finished my Christmas shopping yet!

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

My writer, Sharon Farrow, has learned that even though she puts together a detailed outline for each book, things often end up surprising her. Since I’m a bit of a control freak, I shoulder much of the blame when stories take an unexpected turn. However, let’s not forget my fellow Oriole Point residents. No one is more bossy than Piper Lyall-Pierce, the head of the Tourist and Visitor Center. I am certain that Piper has convinced Sharon to include her in more scenes than originally planned – and wearing designer duds in each one. Then there is my good friend Natasha, a former Russian beauty queen with an eccentric grasp of the English language. I frequently remind the author that as amusing as Natasha is, she should not be allowed to lead us astray from the main plot. I have had to do the same thing regarding Old Man Bowman, whose obsession with finding Bigfoot seems to amuse the writer a bit too much. To be frank, readers should thank me for keeping the author on point whenever one of her colorful characters demand too much of her attention. So you’re welcome.

How did you evolve as the main character?

Before I became a shop owner, I spent much of my twenties as a TV producer in NYC where I worked for the Gourmet Living Network. I might be there still if one of my cooking show stars hadn’t murdered a fellow chef. Although it was a stressful experience, I’m now grateful for that scandal since it sent me back to my beautiful hometown and the people I love the most.

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

Because Tess Nakamura is my best friend, I always enjoy spending time with her in the books, even when we stumble upon a dead body, or find ourselves pursued by a crazed killer. And she did me a solid this time around by volunteering to act with me in the local production of “A Christmas Carol”. I was quite happy that the writer included more scenes with my boyfriend Atticus ‘Kit’ Holt In this latest book, too. It helps that he is a sheriff’s deputy who often takes part in the murder investigations. Also he and I were both named after fictional characters. My Dickens’ loving mother, who is a professor of English literature, named me after Jacob Marley in “A Christmas Carol”. Blame it on the fact that I was born on Christmas Eve. And Kit’s mother named him after Atticus Finch, a beloved character from her favorite book “To Kill A Mockingbird”. Clearly, our romance was made in literary heaven.

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

As you can guess from the title, “Hollyberry Homicide” unfolds during the winter holiday season. And Piper, as head of the Tourist & Visitor Center, has a dizzying number of events planned in the run-up to Christmas and Hanukkah. She has worked her domineering magic once more and convinced my staff and me to volunteer. All of us will be part of her team of strolling carolers, as well as manning a booth at the open-air Hollyberry Market. She would have found a way to draft me into being part of the Santa Parade had the elderly Everett Hostetter not died. His unexpected death left our local theatrical troupe without a Jacob Marley in the annual production of “A Christmas Carol”. Even though I don’t resemble an elderly male ghost, the theater company decided I should take over the role of Jacob Marley, given my name. I blame Mom for this.

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

Not only will you have a mystery to intrigue you, but I include lots of information about berries in each mystery. And don’t forget the recipes at the end of the book. Finally, I hope “Hollyberry Homicide” will put you in an early holiday mood. Right about now, that first snowfall, Christmas carols, and candy canes start to look pretty good. So make some hot chocolate, find a comfy chair, and snuggle up with “Hollyberry Homicide”. Visits by Dickensian ghosts are optional.

Thank you for answering my questions, Marlee, and good luck to you and your author, Sharon Farrow, with Hollyberry Homicide, the latest book in the Berry Basket mystery series.

Readers can learn more about Marlee and her author, Sharon Farrow by visiting the author’s website and her Facebook and Bookbub pages. You can also follow her on Twitter.

The novel is available at the following online retailers:

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

About Sharon Farrow: Sharon Farrow is the latest pen name of award-winning author Sharon Pisacreta. A freelance writer since her twenties, she has been published in mystery, fantasy, and romance. Sharon currently writes The Berry Basket cozy mystery series for Kensington. The series debuted in 2016 and is set along the beautiful Lake Michigan shoreline where she now lives. She is also one half of the writing team D.E. Ireland, who co-author the Agatha nominated Eliza Doolittle and Henry Higgins mysteries.

Posted in Archives, October 2020 | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

A Sew Deadly Cruise

Today Lois Winston is visiting Ascroft, eh? to tell us about A Sew Deadly Cruise, the latest novel in the Anastacia Pollack Crafting mystery series.

Welcome, Lois. 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.

A Sew Deadly Cruise is the ninth book in my Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery Series. There are also three connecting novellas.

Anastasia is a suburban mom of two teenage boys and the crafts editor at a women’s magazine. Her perfect middle-class life disappears the day her husband drops dead at a roulette table in Las Vegas. That’s when she discovers he’s gambled away their savings and left her in debt greater than the GNP of most Third World nations. She’s also permanently stuck with her nasty communist mother-in-law and a loan shark demanding fifty thousand dollars—or else. Anastasia needs to find ways to dig herself out of debt, as well as stay one step ahead of the loan shark. If only all those dead bodies weren’t getting in her way…

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

As the series has progressed, so has Anastasia’s relationship with photojournalist (and possible spy) Zachary Barnes. Up to this point in the series, readers know very little about Zack’s backstory other than he was briefly married many years ago. In A Sew Deadly Cruise I decided it was time to fill both Anastasia and my readers in on Zack’s background. Of course, this being a mystery series, you know there will be dead bodies involved!

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

If you want me to go deep and heavy, I suppose the theme of the book is how what we experience in our youth often shapes us into the adults we become. But keep in mind, I write a humorous series. So the heaviness of the theme is balanced out by the way I, through my characters, use humor to lighten the mood and deal with often deeply emotional issues.

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

Some of my characters spring completely out of my imagination. Others are inspired by people I’ve known. There’s quite a bit of me in Anastasia, although if I ever tripped over a dead body (which I haven’t and hope I never will!), I’d leave the investigating to the professions.

The one character who is inspired completely by a real person is Anastasia’s mother-in-law Lucille. She’s modelled after my own, now-deceased, communist mother-in-law—right down to every mean bone in her body. She’s the character many of my readers love to hate—for good reason!

As for favorite characters, I’d have to say I’m partial to Anastasia because she’s pretty much my alter-ego since we share many life experiences. Zack is another favorite because how can you not love a mystery man whose DNA springs from the same primordial soup as Pierce Brosnan, George Clooney, and Antonio Banderas? And then there’s Ralph, the Shakespeare-quoting African Grey parrot Anastasia inherited from her great-aunt.

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

Unlike many cozy authors who set their books in fictitious small towns, I decided to set my series in a suburb of New York City. Anastasia lives in a real New Jersey town. I find it easier to keep things straight if I’m writing about places that actually exist, rather than trying to remember the ins and outs of a fictitious town where I constantly have to refer back to previous books to remember where I set the library or the distance to the nearest shopping center. I often receive emails from readers who will tell me they know exactly where something in the book took place, having been there themselves. I’ve found readers enjoy making that connection.

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

Most of the plots and subplots in my books are inspired by actual events I’ve experienced or read about. I’m a huge news junkie and keep a binder of interesting articles that I refer to for inspiration when I begin to flesh out a story.

For A Sew Deadly Cruise, I used my own experience from having taken several cruises in past years. I also did quite a bit of research into maritime law and other issues that impacted my story. For law enforcement and medical issues, I rely on the professionals who are members of an online group I belong to where authors can receive answers to questions they post.

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

I hope I’ve piqued your readers’ interest in my series, and they’ll want to get to know Anastasia. For those of you who enjoy pets in your mysteries, along with the aforementioned Ralph, the Pollack household also includes Lucille’s French bulldog Manifesto (I ask you, who names a dog after a communist treatise?) and her mother’s corpulent Persian cat, Catherine the Great. Mama claims descent from Russian nobility, making for quite a bit of conflict between her and Lucille!

Thanks for answering my questions, Lois, and good luck with A Sew Deadly Cruise, the latest book in theAnastacia Pollack Crafting Mystery series.

Readers can learn more about Lois and her writing by visiting her website and her Killer Crafts and Crafty Killers blog, as well as her Pinterest, Bookbub and Goodreads pages. You can also follow her on Twitter.

The novel is available at the following online retailers:

AmazonKoboNookApple iBooks

About Lois Winston: USA Today bestselling and award-winning author Lois Winston writes mystery, romance, romantic suspense, chick lit, women’s fiction, children’s chapter books, and nonfiction under her own name and her Emma Carlyle pen name. Kirkus Reviews dubbed her critically acclaimed Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series, “North Jersey’s more mature answer to Stephanie Plum.” In addition, Lois is a former literary agent and an award-winning craft and needlework designer who often draws much of her source material for both her characters and plots from her experiences in the crafts industry.

Posted in October 2020 | Tagged , , , , | 9 Comments

What a place for a murder

Today Magnolia “Maggie” Crozat is visiting Ascroft, eh? to tell us about Murder in the Bayou Boneyard, the latest novel in the Cajun Country mystery series.

Welcome, Maggie. 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 Magnolia “Maggie” Crozat, and I live inside MURDER IN THE BAYOU BONEYARD. It’s the sixth book in the Agatha Award-winning, USA Today bestselling Cajun Country Mystery series, which revolves around Crozat Plantation Bed and Breakfast, the Louisiana historic home-turned-B&B that my family and I run. (I’m also an artist, by the way.) In the latest book, an AirBnB-type app is stealing business from us, so I inspire all the local B&Bs to take part in a Halloween-themed “Pelican’s Spooky Past” guest package. Sabotage and murder ensue!

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

The writer and I work hand in hand. I let her know when something she writes for me doesn’t feel write. Given that this is our sixth book together, we’ve got a pretty good rhythm going, though.

How did you evolve as the main character?

When I first returned to my home town of Pelican, Louisiana – town motto, “Yes, We Peli-CAN!” – I was licking my wounds after a bad breakup and struggling to find myself as an artist. I didn’t want to be in Pelican and didn’t want to envision a life spent trying to keep our family business going. I felt like I’d never fit in in our small town. But now, I can’t envision spending my life anywhere else. I’m engaged and I have a great second job working as an art restoration specialist at a plantation historical site that once belonged to my mother’s family. I love our home and am proud to share it with guests.

Do you have any other characters you like sharing the story with? If so, why are you partial to them? I’m particularly close to my grand-mere. She’s eighty-three and a self-professed “grand dame,” although she’s very tongue-in-cheek about it. On the surface, she’s downright regal, but she’s insightful, sharp as a tack, and has a great sense of humor.

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

Oh, a difficult one! Financially, we’re strained by the Rent My Digs app competition. We’re opening a spa to lure more guests and I hired a distant cousin as the masseuse. She’s shown up with her husband and his twentysomething twins from his first marriage. I’m an only child, so I was excited about meeting our long-lost cousin Susannah and having her work with us. But she and her family turn out to be sketchy as can be. Huge mistake on my part bringing them on board. But how do we get rid of them?

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

Not much more about me, lol. But the book is full of unique Halloween stuff, like fascinating tidbits about Creole and Cajun mourning customs, a play taking place in an abandoned cemetery, and… a rougarou. That’s the Cajun version of a werewolf. If you love Halloween, you’ll love MURDER IN THE BAYOU BONEYARD – if I do say so myself!

Thank you for answering my questions, Maggie, and good luck to you and your author, Ellen Byron, with Murder in the Bayou Boneyard, the latest book in the Cajun Country mystery series.

Readers can learn more about Maggie and her author, Ellen Byron by visiting the author’s website and her Facebook, Goodreads, Bookbub, and Instagram pages.

The novel is available at the following online retailers:

 Penguin Random House – Amazon – B&N – Kobo – IndieBound

About Ellen Byron: Ellen’s Cajun Country Mysteries have won the Agatha award for Best Contemporary Novel and multiple Lefty awards for Best Humorous Mystery. Her Catering Hall Mystery series, written as Maria DiRico, launched with Here Comes the Body and was inspired by her real life. She’s an award-winning playwright and non-award-winning TV writer of comedies like WINGS, JUST SHOOT ME, and FAIRLY ODD PARENTS, but she considers her most impressive credit working as a cater-waiter for Martha Stewart. A native New Yorker who attended New Orleans’ Tulane University, she lives in Los Angeles with her husband, daughter, and rescue furbaby.

Posted in Archives, September 2020 | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Threads

Today Charlotte Whitney, author of the historical novel, Threads, is visiting Ascroft, eh? to introduce herself and her writing.

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

What prompted you to write about this historical event?

Talking to my grandmother when I was a teenager piqued my interest in the Great Depression.  My grandparents were farmers who had a huge garden, dairy cows, chickens, and pigs, yet they went hungry for a year.  Farm prices had plummeted to nothing, so they were forced to sell everything to pay the taxes and mortgage in order not lose the farm, even most of their home-grown food. What a setting for a novel!  When I wrote the book, I had no idea that the pandemic was around the corner. As it turned out there were so many parallels between then and today, it was uncanny.  Many readers have told me that they escaped to an earlier time, connected with the characters, and ended up feeling so much better, knowing that this, too, will pass.  I’m sure the feel-good ending of THREADS helped as well.

How closely did you stick to the historical facts? If you used them loosely, how did you decide whether to deviate from them?

I tried to stick entirely with historical facts.  While the book is set on a Midwestern family farm, there are still references to FDR, the New Deal, John Dillinger, distrust of banks, food shortages, and farm foreclosures. People had access to the radio and newspapers, so news was slower in arriving, but people had a thirst for current events. Also, I tried to keep everything authentic regarding circumstances around a farm, such as lack of electricity, running water, and telephones.  We see Pa milking cows, and plowing with a workhorse, and Ma making bread and darning socks.  The girls sewed their own clothes with a treadle machine, walked to the one-room country school, and were supposed to be seen, not heard.  Spoiler alert:  that didn’t always happen. 

What research did you do for this book?

I interviewed family members who had lived through the Depression on Michigan farms.  Also, I listened to countless online interviews and read many articles about the rural Midwest during that time. Sometimes someone would simply mention one thing and it would set me off on a tailspin, creating a subplot.  This happened when one of my aunts mentioned my grandpa wouldn’t let the Gypsies’ horses drink out of his horse tank. “Why?” I asked her. She didn’t have a clue.  I finally read about the general mistrust of the Gypsy bands that set up camp during the summer months in the Midwest.  Because they kept to themselves and spoke the unfamiliar Roma language, many false rumors were spread, including those of stealing children and having diseased horses.  In contrast, the Jewish peddler, Mr. Goldberg, was respected, actually adored by the Yoder girls. He made his living selling to the farmers, so interactions with him were warm and welcomed.  He spoke with a thick Yiddish accent, but people understood him. His horse was named “Ferd,” the Yiddish word for horse.

Do you use a mixture of historic figures and invented characters in the novel? Which is more difficult to write? Which do you prefer to write and why?

Oh, I love the invented characters.  So many have their own peculiarities and personality quirks.  There’s a reveal at the end about a minor character we grow to love, Mrs. Vandenberg.  I won’t be a spoiler, but suffice it to say, my readers are clapping their hands with surprise and gratitude about her backstory.

In a historical novel you must vividly recreate a place and people in a bygone era. How did you bring the place and people you are writing about to life?

I had a huge head start on this one, growing up on a  small family farm much like the one in THREADS.  There were five milk cows and a bull, plus chickens, pigs, barn cats, and a pet dog.  I understood the layout of all the outbuildings including the chicken coop, milk house, granary, corncrib, silo, hayloft, and the indoor and outdoor barnyards.  As a kid I had romped down the lanes, past the lilac bushes, past two natural ponds to the back forest.  The only thing missing was the “crick.”  Talking to relatives who grew up near the Rice Creek in rural Michigan filled that void.

There often seems to be more scope in historical novels for male characters rather than female characters. Do you prefer to write one sex or the other? And, if so, why?

THREADS is narrated by three sisters, and we hear their stories from their own voices. Most female readers have said they resonate with these girls, but I was surprised at the strong male response to the book.  When I wrote the book, I envisioned my profile reader as being female, well-educated, seeking “book club fiction.”  While that is still accurate, I now believe the more accurate term for THREADS is “historical fiction.”  That more comprehensive term embraces the large male contingent which has loved the book.  Frankly, what seems to be happening is that a female will read the book, and then pass it along to the men in her life.  As an author I love that.  It may not be an extra sale, but for me it means that the book is touching people’s hearts and souls.  That is my greatest reward.

Thanks for answering my questions, Charlotte, and good luck with Threads.

Readers can learn more about Charlotte Whitney and her writing by visiting her website, and her Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn pages. Readers can also follow her on Twitter.

Charlotte Whitney will be awarding a $50 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click here to enter the contest.

For more chances to win visit the rest of the stops on Charlotte’s tour.

The novel is available online at Amazon.

About Charlotte Whitney: Charlotte grew up in Michigan and spent much of her career at the University of Michigan directing internship and living-learning programs. She started out writing non-fiction while at the University and switched to romance with I DREAM IN WHITE. A passion for history inspired her to write THREADS A Depression Era Tale chronicling the stories of three sisters on a farm during the throes of the Great Depression. She lives in Arizona, where she loves hiking, bicycling, swimming, and practicing yoga.

Posted in Archives, September 2020 | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments