What’s Happening at the Marina?

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I’d like to welcome Kelly Jackson, a character in Murder at the Marina, to Ascroft, eh? today. She’s stopped by to tell us a bit about the novel and the Kelly Jackson Mysteries.

It’s lovely to have you here, Kelly. Let’s get started, shall we?

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

MURDER AT THE MARINAKelly: My name is Kelly Jackson, and I’m the protagonist in a mystery series written by Janet Finsilver. It’s been such a fun experience! I’m the manager of Redwood Cove Bed and Breakfast in a small tourist town on the northern California coast.

Soon after arriving, I met a crime-solving group of seniors, the Silver Sentinels. They questioned whether or not the death of the manager I was replacing was an accident or murder. Since then, we’ve worked together on a number of crimes disrupting their beloved community.

There are dogs with special abilities in each of the books that contribute in different ways to people’s lives. Some of the canines that show up in certain books include termite finders, hearing assistance dogs, a diabetic alert dog, and a police bloodhound.

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

Kelly: I definitely get a say, as do the other characters. Janet welcomes our thoughts. She keeps a pen that lights up and a pad next to the bed at night to write down ideas. During the day she keeps her phone close by and records any comments from us on an ongoing basis.

How did you evolve as the main character?

Kelly: I was raised on a Wyoming ranch. We host guests in the summer, and we are a working livestock ranch all year long. I love that life and my family, but I wanted something else, a career that would be my own. I worked for Michael Corrigan, owner of Resorts International, when he needed someone to step in at one of his Colorado properties. One thing led to another, and now I’m a managing one of his inns.

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

Kelly: I really like all the characters I share the story with on a regular basis.

The Silver Sentinels are a wonderful, witty group. We’ve worked together to keep the community safe.

Helen Rogers, a widower, is the inn’s baker and general assistant. She moved to Redwood Cove when she lost her husband. She has worked hard to help her ten-year-old son, Tommy, adjust to the area. His touch of Asperger’s makes it difficult for him to make friends. He has his Basset Hound, Fred, as a constant companion.

Scott Thompson, who works for the same company I do, is often present. I feel drawn to him, but a very bitter divorce has me taking tiny steps in the relationship department.

There are many more great characters in the story, but I’ll stop here and let you discover the rest of them!

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

Kelly: The town of Redwood Cove rests on cliffs above the beautiful Pacific Ocean. The waves crash endlessly, spewing foam high into the air.  Majestic towering redwood trees surround this northern California community. Many of the town’s historic elements have been retained, giving it a special charm.

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

Kelly: My most recently released book, Murder at the Marina, brings to light the story of two of the Silver Sentinels, Russian brothers Ivan and Rudy Dublinsky. I learned about their escape from Russia and that they had ties to Russian aristocracy.

As far as telling people about me, I’m thrilled to be here and love my new friends and the area. Please come visit me in Redwood Cove!

Thanks for visiting, Kelly. Good luck to you and Jane Finsilver with this latest release in the Kelly Jackson Mysteries series.

Readers can learn more about Jane Finsilver by visiting her website, and her Facebook and Pinterest pages. You can also follow her on Twitter.

Murder at the Marina is available at these retailers online:

 Amazon  – B&N – Kobo – Google Play

Janet-Finsilver-290x300About Janet Finsilver: Janet is the USA TODAY bestselling author of the Kelly Jackson mystery series. She worked in education for many years as a teacher, a program administrator, and a workshop presenter. Janet majored in English and earned a Master’s Degree in Education. She loves animals and has two dogs–Kylie and Ellie. Janet has ridden western style since she was a child and was a member of the National Ski Patrol. One of the highlights of her life was touching whales in the San Ignacio Lagoon. MURDER AT REDWOOD COVE, her debut mystery, was released on October 13, 2015. Her second book, MURDER AT THE MANSION, was released on June 7, 2016. Book 3, MURDER AT THE FORTUNE TELLER’S TABLE was released on March 14, 2017.

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Posted in April 2019, Archives, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Sifting Through The Clues with us

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I’d like to welcome Daryl Wood Gerber, author of Sifting Through Clues, to Ascroft, eh? today. She’s stopped by to tell us a bit about her latest novel and the Cookbook Nook Mysteries.

It’s lovely to have you here, 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.

SIFTING THROUGH CLUES coverDWG: Sifting Through Clues is the 8th in the Cookbook Nook Mysteries. In the first in the series, Final Sentence, Jenna Hart, an ex-advertising executive, moves home to Crystal Cove, California to help her aunt open a culinary bookshop and café and to find her smile.

In Sifting Through Clues book clubs from all over have descended on Crystal Cove to celebrate the library’s Book Club Bonanza week, and Jenna Hart has packed the Cookbook Nook with juicy reads. She’s most excited about spending an evening with the Mystery Mavens and their moveable feast, when they will go from house to house to share different culinary treats and discuss the whodunit they’re all reading, It’s all fun for the savvy armchair detectives until one of the members of the group is found murdered at the last stop on the tour until one of the members of the group is found murdered at the last stop on the tour. As if that weren’t enough to spoil her appetite, Jenna discovers that all the evidence points to her friend Pepper as being the guilty party. Sifting through the clues, Jenna unearths any number of possible culprits, but she’ll have to cook up a new way to catch the killer before Pepper’s goose is cooked.

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

DWG: I did a book signing at a culinary bookshop called Salt and Pepper in Occoquan, Virginia, and I fell in love with the store. I knew then and there that I had to write about it. I set my store in California. I’m a California girl. Having worked as an actress, I thought it would be interesting to make my protagonist an advertising executive with an eye for detail.  This is a great attribute for an amateur sleuth. In addition, I thought it would be fun if she couldn’t cook but wanted to learn.

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

DWG: In Sifting Through Clues, the notion of having to “sift” through so many facets of one’s life—or of the victim’s life–to find the truth is what came up for me. Who is hiding lies? How will these lies be uncovered? To pair this with a cooking theme of baking and sifting seemed a perfect fit.

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

DWG: I start with my protagonist and work out from there. I figure out what she looks like, her age, her marital status, etc. Then I work on her wants and needs, the things that make her happy and things that rile her. Then I create her family and friends, using the same method.  I love all my characters. They’ve become like good friends. They live in my mind and come alive as I write them. I adore Aunt Vera in the Cookbook Nook Mysteries. I think, in a way, her childlike ability to love and trust everyone is a winning characteristic. I love Jenna, the protagonist, for her pluck and her resolve to rise above the dire situations that have upended her life. She’s strong and clever.

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

DWG: I work hard at detail. I try to picture the setting at all times. I have created a map of Crystal Cove and posted it on my website. It helps me orient myself to this fictional town. I like to infuse the town with activities because that brings the whole town to life. The mayor likes to feature weekly themes to encourage tourism. These themes help me anchor the stories.

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

DWG: I research everything. Ask Facebook. You can’t believe the ads that pop up for me. I look up which cookbooks to include. I search recipes. I view photographs of the cities along the California coast for ideas. For Sifting Through Clues, I had to learn about mining for gold and all sorts of fun stuff. I even researched book clubs and the books they’d read. And I researched traveling feasts. Taste testing was a blast.

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

DWG: This story is fun because Jenna throws her all into helping Pepper, a woman who was once her antagonist. She and Pepper have since become friends. Pepper is the mother of the police chief. Jenna is friends with the police chief, too, and feels she must help, because, with her mother as a main suspect in a murder, she’s too close to the problem. Jenna can provide perspective.

Thanks for some great questions, Dianne.

It was my pleasure having you here today, Daryl, and thanks for your interesting answers. Good luck with this latest novel in the Cookbook Nook Mysteries.

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

Sifting Through Clues and the rest of the books in the series are available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Kobo, as well as other retailers.

DARYL WOOD GERBERAbout Daryl Wood Gerber: Agatha Award-winning Daryl Wood Gerber writes the nationally bestselling Cookbook Nook Mysteries as well as the French Bistro Mysteries.  As Avery Aames, she pens the popular Cheese Shop Mysteries. Daryl also writes stand-alone suspense. Fun tidbit: as an actress, Daryl appeared in “Murder, She Wrote.” She loves to cook, and she has a frisky Goldendoodle named Sparky who keeps her in line!

Posted in April 2019, Archives, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Jump into Chutes and Ladder

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I’ve invited Marc Jedel to Ascroft, eh? to tell us a bit about his latest novel, Chutes and Ladder.

Welcome Marc. 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.

Chutes and Ladder small for webMJ: Chutes and Ladder is the second book in the Silicon Valley Mystery series, but can be read standalone. Marty Golden is not your typical, cozy mystery protagonist. As a male sleuth who doesn’t own a bakery, bookstore, or bed & breakfast, or live by the beach, he stands out from the crowd of cozy protagonists. To stay with the “B” alliteration, Marty does bumble his way through the investigations, armed with nothing but an eye for detail and powers of self-delusion.

In Chutes and Ladder, Marty discovers the dead body of his friend while failing as chaperone for a Girl Scouts camping trip. After the police rule it an accidental death, he disagrees and decides to investigate because friends don’t let their friend’s death go unsolved. One reviewer called it “a gem with its great plotting and unusual cast.”

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

MJ: I tend to pay attention to the strange stories in the newspaper, especially about unusual deaths or bizarre situations. This became a lot more socially acceptable once I become a published mystery author. Almost like a puzzle, I enjoy trying to merge together multiple situations into a coherent plot and trick the reader.

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

MJ: In a rare moment of introspection, I decided that the book should be about more than just humor wrapped in a mystery. A literary scholar, if one ever were foolish enough to select my novels for their dissertation, might say they’re about a search for family life, friends and happiness. However, Marty typically doesn’t realize this is what he wants out of life, so he tries hard to return to the quiet, simple and peaceful life that he had before his sister and his nieces moved to town.

Marty frequently mentions advice and etiquette lessons that his parents gave him when he was young. He’s often dismayed that their lessons didn’t cover the unusual predicaments that he finds himself in.

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

MJ: I’m obviously partial to the protagonist, Marty, since the novel is told in first person. My friends and family believe he’s not exactly a huge stretch of the imagination for me to write. But it’s fiction. I mean, I’m not a software engineer. I enjoy writing Marty’s nieces, especially young Megan. They’re loosely based on my own nieces and kids, exaggerated and merged with other kids that I’ve known. Perhaps my favorite side character is Mrs. Quarles, the school secretary. Marty struggles mightily to deal with her, and I always laugh as I’m writing her scenes. A surprising number of readers tell me she’s one of their favorite characters too. I’d love to hear from your readers which characters or scenes they like best.

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

MJ: I’ve lived a long time in Silicon Valley, working in high-tech, marketing roles. A lot of interesting characters work in big, high-tech companies. While I haven’t based any character directly off someone I’ve met, let’s just say that certain people influenced some characters more than others.

If Silicon Valley is portrayed in fiction, it tends to be a very one-sided and biased view. I wanted to bring the beauty of the area, as well as the diversity and unusual personalities that I’ve encountered, into my novels.

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

MJ: I’ve found that writing has made me more willing to talk to strangers in different situations and more observant and patient in lines and crowded situations, as I’m looking for material. I’m normally more of an introvert. Who’d have thought that the solitary occupation of being an author would make me more socially outgoing?

Most of my detailed mystery research is done via the internet. I’m hopeful that no law enforcement agencies are watching my searches and wondering what I may be up to. Not to be paranoid or anything, but I’ll use this space to remind them: “Marc Jedel is a fiction writer of humorous murder mysteries. Fiction!”

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

MJ: I’ll quote a reviewer: “I enjoyed this fast-paced humorous mystery just as much as Uncle and Ants. His writing is clever, and the plotting is meticulous and exceptionally well-executed.”

Feel free to start reading the series with Chutes and Ladder. I think it’s even better written than Uncle and Ants, although that’s probably because I’ve just spent all this time with it. I’m sure I’ll fall in love with book 3, Serf and Turf, next as I work on that one. Both books are available free on Kindle Unlimited and will stay at a lower price on Amazon during the Great Escapes Tour so pick them up today!

Thanks for answering my questions, Marc, and good luck with Chutes and Ladder, this latest novel in your Silicon Valley Mystery series.

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

Chutes and Ladder is available on Amazon.

marc-jedel-200x300About Marc Jedel: For most of my life, I’ve been inventing stories. Some, especially when I was young, involved my sister as the villain. As my sister’s brother for her entire life, I’m highly qualified to tell the tale of this evolving, quirky sibling relationship.

My writing skills were honed in years of marketing leadership positions in Silicon Valley. While my high tech marketing roles involved crafting plenty of fiction, we called these marketing collateral, emails and ads.

The publication of my first novel, Uncle and Ants, gave me permission to claim “author” as my job. This leads to way more interesting discussions than answering “marketing.”

My family would tell you that Marty’s character isn’t much of a stretch of the imagination for me, but I proudly resemble that remark. Like Marty, I live in Silicon Valley and can’t believe that otherwise normal people would willingly jump out of an airplane and call it fun. Unlike Marty, I have a wonderful wife and a neurotic but sweet, small dog, who is often the first to weigh in on the humor in my writing.

 

Posted in April 2019, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Step Back in Time with Joseph Haydn

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I’ve invited  Nupur Tustin to Ascroft, eh? to introduce us to her Joseph Haydn Mystery Series.

Welcome Nupur.

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.

NT: Prussian Counterpoint is the third novel in the Joseph Haydn Mystery Series. Haydn was an eighteenth-century Austrian composer, a man who was the son of a wheelwright and a cook and who, in his own lifetime, achieved remarkable fame and wealth.

Prussian_cover_500x800_Final SmallFrom the very beginning, I knew I would be writing a historical mystery series. Although my tastes have since expanded to contemporary mystery and thriller writers—from Aaron and Charlotte Elkins to Jeffrey Deaver and Michael Connelly—at the time, seven years ago, I refused to read anything other than historical mysteries, and I was especially fond of Stephanie Barron’s Jane Austen series and Susan Wittig Albert’s Beatrix Potter series.

Believe it or not, it was the author’s note in one of the Beatrix Potter mysteries that inspired the Joseph Haydn Series. Albert talks about the immense satisfaction she’d had researching Beatrix Potter’s life. I’d just come out of a Ph.D. program, and as a former journalist, research was something I was very comfortable with.

I was a new mother, confined to the house, unable to even sit at the piano for a little while because my baby had severe acid reflux disease and needed constant care. Researching a composer was my way of keeping in touch with music and planning a mystery series was a way of keeping my sanity intact.

Haydn faced a number of setbacks. His career as a singer was doomed when his voice broke and then he was thrown out of St. Stephen’s Cathedral, where he was a choirboy, with just the shirt on his back. Yet he remained unfailingly optimistic. And years later, he still remembered the people who, poor themselves, had reached out to help him.

He was the perfect sleuth in so many ways: a man from the lower classes, but who as a respected musician enjoyed the confidence of the nobility; a person so grateful for the support he himself had received, he would never turn down a request for help. But more than that, he became my muse. The path of a writer isn’t easy, and every time I’ve faced a setback, I’ve turned to and received inspiration from Haydn—from the details of his life and from his attitude.

Even so, I never thought I’d get one novel written much less three!

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

NT: Researching Haydn also meant researching his times, in particular the political situation in Europe. Before I knew it, I was reading a biography of Maria Theresa, a woman I’ve come to greatly admire. It may seem strange to think of an Empress as a career woman, but in a sense that was what she was. We read about her juggling her need to be a mother and a wife—she was very much in love with her Francis—with her need to manage affairs of the state.

From the moment she ascended the throne in 1740, she was threatened from all sides—the biggest threat of all coming from Prussia where Frederick II, only a few years older than she, had been King for only a few months longer.

At the time that Frederick decided to march into Silesia—with no warning of his actions—Maria Theresa was heavily pregnant. Can you imagine being a few months from giving birth, having to learn at the young age of twenty-three how to govern with aged advisors and an empty treasury, and then having to contend with an invasion?

I was pregnant myself with my second child when I read about all this. My heart went out to the young Queen—Maria Theresa was Archduchess of Austria and Queen of Hungary at the time. The War of Austrian Succession lasted eight years and then only a few years later was followed by the Seven Years’ War. That lasted until 1763. And throughout that period, Maria Theresa continued to govern and to give birth. Her youngest, Antoine—Marie Antoinette—was born in November, 1755.

I knew I wanted to involve Haydn in a mystery that brought Maria Theresa into a confrontation with her old nemesis, Frederick of Prussia. At first, I thought it would be a short story. It took me some time to realize that the backdrop of their old enmity, of Austria’s marriage negotiations with France, were simply too large in scope to be explored fully in a story.

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

NT: In addition to the relationship between Maria Theresa and Frederick II, which I’ve discussed above, the novel also revolves around the partition of Poland. The chain of events that would lead to the first partition of Poland in 1772 began shortly after the Seven Years’ War ended in 1763.

Prussian Counterpoint is set in 1768, in the year that Russia forced the Polish Sejm, practically at gunpoint, to grant certain rights to religious minorities—Lutherans and those belonging to the Orthodox Christian Church. When two elderly Catholic Bishops protested, they were summarily arrested and the Polish King, placed on the throne by his former lover Catherine of Russia, did nothing.

Incensed, some of the Polish gentry organized a confederation at Bar to protest this. That, of course, led to Russia sending troops into Poland to crush the protest.

You have to understand that all this had more to do with Russian—and Prussian—control of Poland than it had with any concern for religious tolerance. Russia, in particular, was seeking a way of opening a route to the Black Sea. Peter the Great had managed to gain access to the Baltic Sea. Catherine was simply following in his footsteps.

But other than the political events taking place at the time, there’s also the idea of espionage. In the eighteenth century, women had a particular advantage in the field: they were invisible. As Nadine Akkerman points out in her excellent book Invisible Agents, women could in the guise of exchanging notes on domestic matters convey information of a more political nature.

And from artichoke juice to raw eggs, women had a number of excellent remedies for conveying messages concealed so well that no one realized a message even existed.

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

NT: For my historical figures, I read biographies, letters, any material I can get my hands on to get a sense of the personalities of the people I’m writing about. When it comes to characters like Rosalie and Greta, maids at the Esterházy Palace where Haydn is employed as Kapellmeister, Director of Music, they develop more organically through the scenes that I write.

I don’t feel that I create any of my fictional characters. I feel that they already exist. My job is to see them and portray them clearly enough to convey their personality to my readers. I’ve found that my characters won’t work with me if I try to make them into something they’re not. So I try to see them in my mind’s eye as closely as I can and to listen to their words very carefully.

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

NT: In the same way that I do my characters—by immersing myself in descriptions of locations in the eighteenth century. I pore over maps, look to see what streets existed and what they were called at the time that my novels are set.

Finding this type of information is exactly like working a case. Everything isn’t neatly available all in one place. Sometimes, one has to go about finding what one needs in a roundabout fashion. If I need to know what eighteenth-century Vienna was like, I might find more information in the biographies of Mozart than in any biography of Haydn.

I’ve mentioned sleigh rides in Prussian Counterpoint. I’d never even known the Viennese enjoyed sleigh races until I read Stefan Zweig’s biography of Marie Antoinette. I followed up on that information by writing to people in Vienna.

When all else fails, I follow Catriona McPherson’s excellent advice: I make stuff up. I remind myself I’m writing historical fiction not fact, take a huge gulp of wine to assuage my guilt, and set to work.

I’m joking about the wine. But yes, if all of my research efforts have failed to yield any clues, I do the best I can with the information I have. I can’t say it makes me happy to do that. But sometimes one doesn’t have a choice.

Unfortunately eighteenth-century individuals seem to have taken much of their lives for granted and have sadly failed to record every aspect of it as meticulously as the contemporary writer of historical mysteries might wish.

I try to remember that when I write in my own journal, but it’s so hard to predict what someone in the future might or might not be familiar with that I can’t say I blame my predecessors for not being so very precise. I sometimes wonder how much of twenty-first century life people centuries later will be able to infer from our written accounts. And how accurate will they be?

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

NT: The best research one can do is to immerse oneself in biographies of people who lived in the times and in the places where one’s work is set. Letters and diaries and sometimes just the oddest of books can have nuggets of valuable information. You always have to be on the lookout for interesting books and sources of information.

But when I’m at my wits’ end, and I feel like I’ve turned every stone to no avail, I turn, as I always do, to the Österreichische Nationalbibliothek or the Austrian National Library.

Or I turn to academic experts in the field. Whether it’s espionage or authenticating works of music, funeral rites or Monteverdi, one can always find scholars who are more than willing to share their expertise.

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

NT: I think readers will enjoy seeing Haydn pitting his wits against the Prussian King. But if they’d like to see how the son of a market-judge solves other smaller cases in his town, they’re welcome to get a complimentary taste of his sleuthing skills from: http://bit.ly/Haydn_Taste_of_Murder

I’m offering three short mysteries there, which I’m sure readers will enjoy.

Thank you for answering my questions, Nupur, and good luck with your latest book in the series. Readers can learn more about Nupur by visiting her website, and her Facebook, Goodreads and Bookbub pages.

Prussian Counterpoint is available on Amazon, Kobo, Nook and Apple.

NT headshot_originalAbout Nupur Tustin: A former journalist, Nupur relies upon a Ph.D. in Communication and an M.A. in English to orchestrate fictional mayhem.  The Haydn mysteries are a result of her life-long passion for classical music and its history. Childhood piano lessons and a 1903 Weber Upright share equal blame for her original compositions, available on ntustin.musicaneo.com.

Her writing includes work for Reuters and CNBC, short stories and freelance articles, and research published in peer-reviewed academic journals. She lives in Southern California with her husband, three rambunctious children, and a pit bull.

Posted in Archives, March 2019, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Step into the Maggie O’Malley Mysteries

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Today I’ve invited Kathleen Valenti to Ascroft, eh? as part of her Great Escapes virtual book tour to tell us about her new mystery, As Directed.

Welcome Kathleen. 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.

KV: AS DIRECTED is the third book in the Maggie O’Malley Mystery Series.

AsDirected cover front REVIn it, former pharmaceutical researcher Maggie O’Malley is rebuilding her life, trading test tubes for pill bottles as she embarks on a new career at the corner drugstore. But as she spreads her wings, things begin to go terribly wrong. A customer falls ill in the store. Followed by another. And then more. The spectre of poisoning arises, conjuring old grudges, past sins, buried secrets and new suspicions from which no one is immune. As Maggie and her best friend Constantine begin to investigate, they discover that some of the deadliest doses come from the most unexpected places.

The series features books in the “traditional” mystery style with a medical angle. The books offer up suspense, intrigue and plenty of witty dialogue.

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

KV: The book’s central mystery surrounds customers becoming ill at the pharmacy at which Maggie works. The idea is based both around the Tylenol murders of the 1980s and Maggie’s new role as a pharmacy tech. Add in the fact that Maggie is recovering from a head injury and isn’t quite herself, and there are questions aplenty!

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

KV: At its heart, AS DIRECTED is about trust. This trust applies not only to the faith we put in others, but also the belief we have in ourselves.

This theme was important to Maggie’s growth as a character. She begins the series as a twenty-something on the brink of a new career. By the time the events in AS DIRECTED get under way, her world has crumbled, her confidence has eroded, and her trust in others (and herself) has diminished. Like us all, Maggie grows and changes in the crucible of life.

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

KV: In many ways, my characters come to me fully formed. They’re like the people in our lives: wonderful, flawed, heroic and broken. Although Maggie is the series’ eponymous protagonist, my favorite character is Constantine. I love him for his goofiness, his loyalty, and his ability to lighten the mood.

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

KV: The places that I write about in this series are fictional, but I infuse a lot of detail into the story so that they truly come to life. That means describing in broad brushstrokes as well as finer details to make these locations seem as real as your own hometown.

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

KV: Because I write medical-ish mysteries, I do a TON of research. Most of it begins online, but I’m fortunate enough to have friends who are pharmacists, physicians, and in pharmaceutical development to keep me on the straight and narrow.

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

KV: This is a book I’m particularly proud of. I love its combination of action, suspense, and humor and was delighted to receive this lovely quote from Liv Constantine, international best-seller of The Last Mrs. Parrish:

“A chilling game of cat and mouse that moves with lightning speed and stunning twists. Lies, secrets and evil spin a deadly web in this gripping tale of malice and deceit.”

Thanks Kathleen for dropping by today. Good luck with your latest book in the Maggie O’Malley Mystery Series.

Readers can learn more about Kathleen by visiting her website, as well as her Facebook, Goodreads and Twitter pages.

The book is available at the following online retailers:

Amazon Barnes & Noble  iTunes  Kobo

kvpromoshotAbout Kathleen Valenti: Kathleen is the author of the Maggie O’Malley Mystery Series, which includes her Agatha- and Lefty-nominated debut novel, Protocol. When Kathleen isn’t writing page-turning mysteries that combine humor and suspense, she works as a nationally award-winning advertising copywriter. She lives in Oregon with her family where she pretends to enjoy running.

Posted in March 2019, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments

Cyanide with Christie

I’ve invited Katherine Bolger Hyde to drop in today and tell us a bit about Cyanide with Christie and her Crime with the Classics series.

Welcome Katherine. 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.

Cyanide coverKBH: Cyanide with Christie is the third book in the Crime with the Classics series. The protagonist, Emily Cavanaugh, is a retired literature professor who solves crimes by relating them to her favorite classic novels. Each book focuses on a different classic author.

In Cyanide with Christie, Emily has finished remodelling the Victorian mansion she inherited in the first book, Arsenic with Austen, to turn it into a writers’ retreat center, and she’s welcoming her first group of guests for Christmas week. But several of those guests turn out to have history with each other, and in the middle of a game of charades on Christmas Day, one of them ends up dead.

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

KBH: For this series, I always start by thinking about the author I’m focusing on. What kind of themes does the author address? What sort of characters does she portray? What recognizable elements can I play off of that will help readers relate to the story?

With Agatha Christie, since she’s a mystery writer with a huge oeuvre, I had a lot to play with. I used one of her typical settings—a country house cut off from the world by bad weather—and her favorite weapon, cyanide. I made the characters a little outrageous and sprinkled in a fair bit of humor. Also, the plot hinges on one of her most common tropes—but I won’t say which, because that would be telling.

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

KBH: One theme is the importance of family. Emily has none living, and she feels a deep sense of bereavement because of it. Choosing that theme was primarily a way to get Emily emotionally involved in the story, since the victim is someone she’s only just met and heartily dislikes.

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

KBH: I’m very fond of my main characters—Emily; her partner in life and detection, Lieutenant Sheriff Luke Richards; and her young housekeeper, Katie. Emily is a lot like me, though certainly not an exact portrait, and Luke is partly based on someone I used to know. I’m also quite partial to a character who dies before the beginning of the series—Emily’s great aunt Beatrice, who owes a lot to my own great aunt Gladys. The other characters in the series are completely imagined, but I don’t do detailed personality sketches or anything beforehand; I get to know the characters as they appear on the page. I always feel they exist independently of me, out in the ether, just waiting for my keyboard to bring them to life.

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

KBH: Description is one of my favorite things to write. I don’t dwell on it but weave it in with the action. In describing settings, I always try to view them through the lens of the character’s emotions and reactions rather than just writing a travelogue. Then I look for sensory details that will evoke a feeling of the place in the reader. This series is set in a small town on the Oregon coast, and people familiar with the locale have consistently told me I capture it well.

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

KBH: My “research” consists primarily of spending a week every summer at a writing retreat in the town my fictional town is based on. It’s quite a pleasant way to do research! Then of course I have to read up on the works of the classic author the book is focused on, which is also something I love to do anyway. For particular details about weapons, police procedure, and whatnot, I either search the internet or reference books or consult knowledgeable acquaintances. My chemist husband has proved helpful on numerous occasions.

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

KBH: If you’re not familiar with the series, feel free to dive right in with Cyanide with Christie. You’ll get more background on the characters if you start with the first two books, Arsenic with Austen and Bloodstains with Brontë, but you won’t feel lost if you read the books out of order. Pull your easy chair up to the fire, pour yourself a big cup of cocoa or tea, and have a lovely time in transplanted Christie-land!

Thank you, Katherine, for your informative answers which you presented in an entertaining manner. I feel like I’ve met your main characters and would like to get to know them better.

Readers can learn more about Katherine and her writing by visiting her website, and her Facebook, Goodreads and Twitter pages. Cyanide with Christie and the other books in the series can be found on her Amazon author page.

Cyanide author imageAbout Katherine Bolger Hyde: Katherine was born almost in New York City in 1956 and has lived all over the US, but currently makes her home in the redwood country of California with her husband, youngest child, and two obstreperous cats. She decided at age eleven to become a writer, her initial idols being Mark Twain and Louisa May Alcott. In college she majored in Russian literature and expanded her favorites to include Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Austen, Dickens, and many more.Katherine writes the Crime with the Classics traditional mystery series for adults as well as fantasy and picture books for children. When not writing, reading, or editing (her day job), she can usually be found singing, dancing, knitting, or drawing plans for her dream house.

 

Posted in February 2019, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Welcome to Moss Hill Island

HERBS AND HOMICIDES BANNER 184

I’d like to welcome Astoria Wright, the author of The Faerie Apothecary Mysteries to Ascroft, eh? so that she can introduce us to Moss Hill Island where the series is set.

Welcome Astoria. We’d love to hear about the island.

AW: Hello Dianne and thanks for inviting me to stop by. I’ll let Carissa Shae, the protagonist of The Faerie Apothecary Mysteries, tell us about her hometown, the fictional island of Moss Hill:

Moss Hill IslandMoss Hill is not your typical town. An island off the western shores of the United Kingdom, right near the Great Blasket, it’s a stunning sight when it’s visible and has easy access from Ireland when it’s accessible by ferry boat. The island is covered in mist, but it all becomes clear the closer you are to it. You’ve also probably never heard of us because the islands around us are either abandoned or too small to hold a community like ours.

Not that we’re a big city. We’re a fairly small society of farmers, fishermen, and shop owners. I, myself, run an apothecary. It’s a type of pharmacy that focuses on herbal remedies. Sure, there are regular pharmacies everywhere, but none of them have that magical touch we have here at the Seelie Tree Apothecary shop. Many intriguing characters visit the apothecary from all over the island.

The view from the shop windows might seem like it’s just a quaint cobblestone road, but there’s so much more to Moss Hill than meets the eye. With rolling hills and greenery set between two mountains, it’s positively picturesque.

HerbsandHomicide coverIf you want to see the whole town in one glance, the view is breathtaking from the top of Mount Aisling. Just don’t go into Mount Vale. The hiking trails there are a bit dangerous, and visitors often lose their way on the treacherous trails. It’s best to avoid that mountain, but you can still appreciate the view. The sight of it is otherworldly even from a distance. 

Once within the town itself, you’ll get a feel of the friendliness of Moss Hill in every shop you visit. Right next door to the Seelie Tree Apothecary is the best bakery in town, Gooseberry, which many shop owners and city hall workers frequent.  If you really want to get to know the locals, who call themselves Mossies, visit the 2nd Street Pub. Mossies love to hang out there enjoying the entrees and ocean views. Get a discount at either establishment when purchasing an herbal remedy of your choice.*

You may meet locals who seem odd – that’s just part of the charm of a small town. You’ll notice some exceptionally tall and remarkably short residents. There are some who speak with accents you’ve never heard and others with accents of all kinds. Then there are the one or two who will be too friendly, too grumpy, or too strange to tell what they’re all about. Mossies can seem mysterious. Don’t read too much into it or you’ll start to think this town is a magical place.

Of course, I can’t say that Moss Hill is magical, but I can tell you that it’s enchanting. So, come stay for a visit. Pop into the pub for a chat with the locals. Stay in the charming Failté Abhaile Hotel. Have some pastries at Gooseberry and, of course, stop by the Seelie Tree Apothecary shop for a visit that is as healthy as it is a happy one!

*This offer is fictional. See book for details.

Thanks Astoria and Carissa for letting readers have a glimpse into your world. Astoria is currently on a Great Escapes cozy mystery book tour with Herbs and Homicide, the first book in the series.

Readers can learn about the rest of the stops on the tour and also enter a contest to win one of two signed copies of the book by visiting her book tour page:  

https://www.escapewithdollycas.com/great-escapes-virtual-book-tours/upcoming-great-escapes-book-tours/herbs-and-homicide-the-faerie-apothecary-cozy-mystery-by-astoria-wright/

To learn more about the author and her books, visit her website, and her Facebook, Goodreads and Twitter pages. Herbs and Homicide is available on Amazon.

astoriawrightAbout Astoria Wright: Astoria is the author of The Faerie Apothecary Mysteries, including the bestselling prequel novella Chaos in the Countryside. Intrigued by myths and inspired by cozy mystery writers before her, Astoria tries to combine two worlds with human and faerie neighbors trying to solve puzzling crimes on the fictional island of Moss Hill. She’s also a poet, which shows in the Moss Hill poetry anthology “written” by the characters in the series. Her goal is to bring Moss Hill to life in her stories, because who doesn’t wish we lived in a town with magical faeries as neighbors?

 

Posted in February 2019, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

It’s Burns Night and here’s my wish for you

burns night piper

We’re already well into the first month of 2019. I hope you enjoyed the holiday season last month and have had time to recover by now. After a relaxing Christmas season I’m hard at work revising and editing Out of Options, my prequel novella in the Century Cottage Cozy Mysteries series, so that it will be ready to release this spring.

thistle-3498683_1920If you’ve read the first book in the series, A Timeless Celebration, you’ll know that the series is set in Fenwater, a small town in rural Ontario that has a strong connection with its Scottish heritage. Since things Scottish will frequently play a part in the stories in the series, I thought it would be apt to take a couple minutes today to mark Burns Night, an occasion that is celebrated in Scotland and in Scottish communities worldwide. Burns Night is a night to honour the Scottish national poet, Robert Burns, and to celebrate all things Scottish – sort of like St Patrick’s Day without the green beer if you have Scottish ancestry. If you haven’t encountered Burns Night before and you’d like to learn more about it, you’ll find a brief history here.

old woman transparentLois Stone, the main character in the Century Cottage Cozy Mysteries series, has Scottish ancestry that she doesn’t really want to talk about and she plays the bagpipes. So, although I haven’t asked her, I’m sure she’s at a Burns Night celebration today. Maybe she’s even the piper who is piping in the haggis. She’ll be wearing tartan and surrounded by friends and neighbours as they toast the haggis and Burns’ memory. I think she deserves an evening to enjoy herself after the turbulent introduction she had to Fenwater last year in A Timeless Celebration. When the second book in the series is released later this year, we’ll drop in on her again and find out how she’s settling into her new home.

But today I’d like to wish you my personal version of a Scottish blessing ’cause nothing beats family and friends, and enough books to fill your head and heart.

burns night cottage

Posted in January 2019, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Warm Wishes and A Tale for the Holidays

christmas-blog 2The day after tomorrow is Christmas Day. For most of us, when we think of Christmas, lots of familiar images flood our minds: the crunch of boots on snow, festooned Christmas trees, a roaring fire in the hearth, the scent of pine drifting through the house, dancing lights strung around windows, the tangy scent of cinnamon and cloves, the sweet scent of buttered popcorn,  colourful ornaments glinting on the tree, the smell of turkey roasting in the oven, Christmas songs playing in every shop you enter. The list could go on and on.

christmas-blog 7Many of the images I mentioned have traditions associated with them: some families cut down their own Christmas tree, decorations are often hung on a certain date, children string popcorn onto threads to create garlands to decorate the tree, turkey is served for Christmas lunch. Some traditions are part of the celebrations of whole communities and countries, and others are ones that have become tradition to a family because they have done it like that for years.

The images we hold in our minds of a traditional Christmas are often linked to memories of our own Christmases past. And memories are an important part of the holiday season.

When I first arrived in Britain almost thirty years ago and encountered the apple cider that is served in pubs, it sparked my memories of the non-alcoholic version of the drink that I enjoyed during my teenage winters and Christmases in Canada. A few years ago I wrote about these memories for Foreign Flavours, an anthology of writings by ex-pat writers around the world, and I shared the piece with listeners at Woolly Winter Tales, an evening in Enniskillen Castle Museum last week.

As my contribution to the warm glow of Christmas, I’d like to share the memory with you today:

“Cider, with a dash of blackcurrent, has been an intrinsic part of many evenings I’ve spent at folk clubs and Irish music sessions since I first came to Ireland almost thirty years ago. It’s always been one of my favourite drinks. Sometimes the next morning, a pounding head makes me rue indulging, but I still wouldn’t refuse a glass of cider as I sit in a pub, tapping my foot to the music.

When I first arrived in Ireland I was surprised to find cider on tap in the pub. I had only encountered the unfermented, non-alcoholic variety as I was growing up in Canada. Its taste might make your lips pucker but it doesn’t make your head buzz after a few glasses.

sleigh-ride-549727_1920During my teens, a winter tradition for our youth group was Hayride Saturday in Ontario’s farmland. When we arrived at the farm, less than an hour’s drive outside Toronto, we city kids thought we were miles from civilisation. Wrapped up in coats, hats and mittens we bundled onto a large, flatbed wagon piled high with hay. We wriggled into the hay for warmth, the girls covertly trying to edge in beside the boys we fancied. The wagon would lurch off down the country road, pulled by a pair of shaggy draught horses, as we squealed and clutched the edges of the creaking vehicle. Invariably the boys would roughhouse, pushing and shoving each other, until at least one of them tumbled off. We’d shout encouragement as the man overboard ran to catch up with the wagon. The horses lumbered along the frosty road at an easy pace so there was never any danger that he would be left behind.

christmas-blog 12By the time we arrived back at the farmyard, we were hoarse from shouting and laughing, and shivering with cold, our noses glowing like Rudolph’s. Laughing, we’d hop off the wagon and troop into the barn where refreshments were laid out on a long wooden table. A hotdog stopped my stomach rumbling, but a cup of steaming apple cider was the real treat. I would wrap my chilled hands around the cup and inhale the scents of cinnamon, orange rinds and cloves before I took my first sip. Nothing could beat its sweet, tangy taste. Armed with my liquid hand warmer, I’d wander outside to huddle at the bonfire that was lit as darkness fell. Sitting on a bale of hay with sparks from the fire popping and floating past me, blowing wood smoke through my hair, I thought that this was country life. Nowadays I’m more familiar with real country life. I pitch in when we make hay on our farm each summer, gathering the bales together to be lifted and brought into the byre, and feed cattle in winter, lifting sections of hay and throwing them into the feeder while dodging the animals’ swinging heads.

But let’s get back to the apple cider. Hot apple cider was an integral part of winter and Christmas for me. There was always cider at skating parties, sleigh rides, and Christmas festivities. During my youth as the cold weather set in, wherever there were family, friends and fun, there was also hot apple cider.

On a visit home several years ago, I was delighted to discover that the drink is now on the menu at Tim Horton Donut Shops. It was the middle of a muggy Toronto summer and daytime temperatures hovered around 30 degrees celcius but that didn’t deter me. Either early in the morning or in the evening as the sun was dipping toward the horizon, I would stroll to the local donut shop and order a hot cider. I savoured these treats as I knew I’d miss them when I returned to Ireland.

christmas-blog 3Then a few days before that holiday ended, I got a pleasant surprise when I discovered that you can now buy cartons of apple cider. All you need to add to the mixture is hot water. It isn’t quite the same as fresh cider but it’s the next best thing. So, before I left Toronto, I trooped off to the supermarket to buy a carton and packed as many of the individual sachets as I could into my backpack. Fortunately I wasn’t searched at the airport. If I had been, would they have believed that the white powdered substance I was carrying was nothing more sinister than cider mixtures?

Ever since that summer, each Christmas friends and family send me ‘care packages’ of cider sachets. I could survive without my fix of cider but I enjoy it. So, for a few weeks each winter, until the stash of sachets runs out, I sit with my husband in our living room in front of a roaring fire savouring my steaming brew and making new Christmas memories.”

So that’s a glimpse into my memories of Christmases past and present. I hope you also have fond memories of your Christmases past to cherish, and I wish you new, wonderful memories this holiday season.

Enjoy the holidays! Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year!

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Posted in Archives, December 2018, Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

Gallivanting With Great Escapes Blog Tours

December is a busy time, isn’t it? There’s always so much to do, and this year it seems busier than usual to me. In between my Christmas preparations, I’ve been working on my novella, Out of Options, a prequel to A Timeless Celebration, and also creating novelty holiday designs for my Redbubble and Amazon Merch shops. And I’ve still found time to go gallivanting too!

Great Escapes TIMELESS-BANNER

Since December 7th I’ve been on a Great Escapes blog tour with my new cozy mystery, A Timeless Celebration. The tour has been filled with stops every day for spotlights, giveaways, reviews, excerpts and interviews with me and also Ribbons, one of the cats in the novel. It’s been a whirlwind of chatting and fun.

I’ve been sharing the tour stops on Facebook each day, but if you missed my posts, I’d like to share some of the highlights so far with you:

Timeless Titanic watchesOn December 8 I was invited to guest post at StoreyBook Reviews about where the idea came from for A Timeless Celebration. I’ll give you a clue: it’s partly related to the Titanic. https://storeybookreviews.com/2018/12/guest-post-giveaway-a-timeless-celebration/

The Book Decoder said in a review on December 9: “”The first thing I observed about the book was the writing. It is poetic and charming. I loved Ascroft’s storytelling style -unique and precise.”

https://thebookdecoder.com/2018/12/09/blog-tour-a-timeless-celebration-by-diane-ascroft/

I stopped at Mallory Heart’s Cozies on December 11 and in her review she said this about the novel: … it is a heartwarming delight with really well-developed characters and such a beautiful setting.”

https://malloryheartscozies.blogspot.com/2018/12/toura-timeless-celebration-by-dianne.html

My tour host, Lori, at Escape With Dollycas interviewed me on her blog on December 13 and, among a few other topics, we chatted about what drew me to write cozy mysteries, a few things people don’t know about me, and which of my characters is most like me.

https://www.escapewithdollycas.com/2018/12/13/specialguest-dianne-ascroft-author-of-a-timeless-celebration-century-cottage-cozy-mysteries-great-escapes-book-tour/

Fergus_along_St_Andrew_St_EOn December 15 I shared in a guest post with Terry Ambrose at Mysteries With Character why Fenwick is the perfect town for my cozy mysteries. https://terryambrose.com/2018/12/timeless-celebration/

On a wet Sunday afternoon (December 16), I was at Cozy Up With Kathy to chat about, among other topics, what is a century house, the Titanic, what’s in my pantry and which authors I would like to invite to dine with me.

https://cozyupwithkathy.blogspot.com/2018/12/a-timeless-celebration-interview.html

The Avid Reader had this to say in her review of the novel on December 17: “A Timeless Celebration is a laid-back cozy mystery set in a quaint small town and includes two cuddly felines, an unexpected apparition, a good friend, a century house and a timely theft.

https://bibliophileandavidreader.blogspot.com/2018/12/a-timeless-celebration-by-dianne.htm

So, as you can see, it’s been a busy couple of weeks, but I’m enjoying the tour. I enjoy stopping by various blogs to chat. The tour ends on December 20 but there’s still an interview with Ribbons, one of the cats in my novel, a recipe for hot apple cider, another author interview and chances to enter the tour giveaway during the last few days.

Stop by Escape With Dollycas for the rest of the tour schedule: https://www.escapewithdollycas.com/great-escapes-virtual-book-tours/books-currently-on-tour/a-timeless-celebration-century-cottage-cozy-mysteries-by-dianne-ascroft/

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