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.

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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

Mystery and Mah Jongg

Today Marianne Putnam is visiting Ascroft, eh? to tell us about Jokers Wild, the latest novel in the Mah Jongg mystery series.

Welcome, Marianne. 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 Marianne Putnam and I am one of the four protagonists who live in the Mah Jongg Mystery series. I take the lead role in Jokers Wild. The four of us, all women, all retired, live in the central Florida town of Serendipity Springs. We met a few years back as we were learning to play the game of Mah Jongg. The Springs is a new town, a little over twenty years old, so most of its residents have come from places other than this state. My husband, Beau, and I came from a small town in Pennsylvania where I was a pharmacist and he was a botanist for a nursery. My friends, Sydney Bonner, Micki Demetrius and Katrina Faulkner and I enjoy each other’s company beyond our weekly Mah Jongg game, even if it’s just to chat and drink beverages at our local coffee shop. However, in the last couple years we’ve found ourselves solving local murders. It started when one of our Mah Jongg friends prevailed upon us to discover who murdered her husband. At the time, once we “helped” the sheriff solve that one we thought our days as amateur sleuths were over, especially since one of us had a close run-in with death before we resolved the case. But our reputation spread, and more and more cases fell into our hands.     

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

My writer identifies with me more than my three friends (or so I think) because we’re both short, and we both tend to be analytical thinkers, although I’m the one with the scientific background and hers in American history. In an earlier book in the series, I voiced my discontent with my life despite the fact that I had a loving husband, beautiful home, great friends and we were reasonably fixed financially so we didn’t have to worry about our livelihood. She listened and let me discover an interest of hers that she’d set aside in order to give herself enough time to write: one-act plays. I took a class for seniors at our local community center and realized I’d found what I’d been seeking. I’ve continued to write them and submit them to various contests. In this book, I’ve just learned I won the local contest and they are planning to produce my play, “Jokers Wild.”

How did you evolve as the main character?

Actually, all four of us are the main character in each book in the series, although we take turns assuming the lead role. That honor first fell to me in Book 4, Beware the East Wind. In Book 2, Bamboozled, my husband, Beau and I checked out a wannabe chef by hiring him to prepare a fancy dinner for us; that went well until he imbibed a little too much of the wine meant for us. We never did get that dinner.

Each of us brings different strengths to the table (and not just the Mah Jongg table), which is what makes us such an effective investigative team. As I told you earlier, I’m considered the analyst in the group. But I’m not totally an introvert. I’m good with people, especially when it comes to interrogation, although Kat’s the empathetic one. I’m also the domestic one; I love to cook and I’m a pretty good housekeeper. I can’t stand a messy house (unlike my writer). I once again emerge in the lead role in Book 6, Jokers Wild; I even find the body, which makes me a suspect in the sheriff’s eyes, although by now, he knows me well enough not to take that seriously. Nonetheless, I don’t get to participate in the investigation, although fate has a way of pulling you in anyway.  

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

Like I said earlier, as the story starts, I’ve just learned that my one-act is going to be put on by the local community theater. They have even invited me to sit in on rehearsals, although I don’t have any say in who’s selected for the roles or production crew. I shortly discover I don’t like the New York “professional” who’s been brought in to direct. No one does, actually, not even his wife. Then, just minutes before curtains up, she and I find his body floating lifelessly in their pool.

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

Jokers Wild is a standalone book; you don’t have to have read the first five books in the series in order to enjoy this one (although have at it, if you’d like to start with Book 1 and work you way up). Nor do you have to know how to play Mah Jongg or even like the game. It serves as the backdrop vehicle that got us together and keeps us going week after week.

To learn more about me and my three friends, as well as our little community, subscribe to my author’s newsletter at https://www.subscribepage.com/BBCozies and receive a free link to download the introduction to our series, The Mistresses of Mah Jongg.

Thank you for answering my questions, Marianne, and good luck to you and your author, Barbara Barrett, with Jokers Wild, the latest book in the Mah Jongg mystery series.

Readers can learn more about Marianne and her author, Barbara Barrett by visiting the author’s website and her Facebook and Goodreads pages. You can also follow her on Twitter (Twitter.com/bbarrettbooks).

The novel is available at online at Amazon

About Barbara Barrett: Barbara started reading mysteries when she was pregnant with her first child to keep her mind off things like her changing body and food cravings. When she’d devoured as many Agatha Christies as she could find, she branched out to English village cozies and Ellery Queen.

Author Barbara Barrett. Photo by Chris Kridler, ChrisKridler.com

Later, to avoid a midlife crisis, she began writing fiction at night when she wasn’t at her day job in human resources for Iowa State Government. After releasing eleven full-length romance novels and two novellas, she returned to the cozy mystery genre, using one of her retirement pastimes, the game of mah jongg, as her inspiration. Not only has it been a great social outlet, it has also helped keep her mind active when not writing.

Jokers Wild, the sixth book in her “Mah Jongg Mystery” series, features four friends who play mah jongg together and share otherwise in each other’s lives. None of the four is based on an actual person. Each is an amalgamation of several mah jongg friends with a lot of Barbara’s imagination thrown in for good measure. The four will continue to appear in future books in the series.

Barbara is a member of Sisters in Crime, Sinc-Iowa, Romance Writers of America and the SpacecoasT chapter of Romance Writers of America.

She is married to the man she met her senior year of college. They have two grown children and eight grandchildren.

Now retired, she is a resident of Florida, although she spends her summers in Iowa, her home state. She earned her B.A. degree in History from the University of Iowa and her Master’s Degree in History from Drake University.

When not in front of her laptop creating her next story, she plays mah jongg, travels and enjoys lunches with friends.

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Meet the Author of When Lions Roar

Today Karen Leigh Gruber, author of When Lions Roar, is visiting Ascroft, eh? to introduce herself and her writing.

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

What are your favorite TV shows?

Over the years I have stopped watching a lot of television. I’ve always loved detective shows. Some of my favorites are: The Closer, Law and Order, Hill Street Blues, Monk, Columbo, and Blue Bloods. Recently, I fell in love with Shitt$ Creek, the characters are so over the top, I think it’s clever and so funny, I wish there was more to come.

What is your favorite meal?

My favorite meal is homemade pasta with spaghetti sauce and meatballs that my husband and I learned to make at an Italian cooking class. I love the whole experience, it tastes terrific and it brings back such fun memories.

If you were to write a series of novels, what would it be about?

Ooh, I have this vision of writing a series of books with a strong female lead, a woman who overcomes something in her life and finds her voice, her sovereignty. Similar to When Lions Roar, a journey of sorts all over the world. Maybe the main characters are from different places in the world, or maybe the locations are all over the world where the book takes place, but it definitely has something to do with a sense of travel and a woman and her voice.

Is there a writer you idolize? If so who?

There’s something to be said about the authors who are able to create mountains of popular books that entertain and people are clamoring to read. I find that to be amazing. But what I really love are authors who do something unusual with their writing and the author that comes to mind is Jean Rhys, who wrote Wide Sargasso Sea.  This book is a prequel to the novel Jane Eyre, written about the mad woman in the attic. It’s rather a dark book, yet I loved the writing. Anytime an author sounds lyrical to me, who can paint a picture without being too wordy, who can move me, who makes me think after I’ve closed the book, who makes me want to talk about it or find somebody else to read it so we can talk about it together. Those are the authors that I idolize.

How did you come up for the title of this book?

When Lions Roar was birthed at a retreat that I went to in 2019. As part of the preparation for the retreat, there were a series of practices, writing exercises and visualizations that took place before we arrived for the retreat. During one of the sessions, I asked the question, “Is there anything about the title that needs to be revealed or that is ready to be revealed to me at this time?” I received a flash of a roaring lion, and I could hear the words in my mind in my mind When Lions Roar and I knew that was it.

Thanks for answering my questions, Karen, and good luck with When Lions Roar.

Readers can learn more about Karen Leigh Gruber and her writing by visiting her website, and her Facebook and Instagram pages.

As part of Karen’s book tour, one randomly chosen winner via rafflecopter will win a $50 Amazon/BN.com gift card. Click here to enter the contest

The novel is available online at Amazon. The pre-sale page can be found here.

About Karen Gruber: Karen is an international #1 best-selling contributing author, inspirational speaker, and a Leadership Development Coach for women and moms. She specializes in inspiring moms to realize their potential as mothers, women, and leaders. Karen has had extensive specialized training in parenting, feminine spirituality, and leadership.  Over the past 15 years she has provided innovative leadership coaching for moms and has dramatically transformed her own life.

Sharing her life with her husband Jim and daughter Jaymie, presenting her message to other women, and traveling the world bring her the greatest joy. She is the founder of The Inspired Mama, a company located in gorgeous Denver, Colorado that focuses on the inspiration, leadership, and wellbeing of women and moms.

When Lions Roar is Karen’s debut fictional work. She is freakish about Christmas lights and loves to play Baccarat. 

Posted in Archives, September 2020 | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments

Checked Out For Murder

Today Allison Brook is visiting Ascroft, eh? to tell us about Checked Out for Murder, the latest novel in the Haunted Library mystery series.

Welcome, Allison. 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.

CHECKED OUT FOR MURDER is the fourth book in the Haunted Library mystery series. This series takes place in a small town called Clover Ridge, in Connecticut. My sleuth, Carrie Singleton, is the head of programs and events at the Clover Ridge Library. Carrie finds herself solving murder mysteries, often with the assistance of the ghost of Evelyn Havers, a former library aide.

In this book, Carrie befriends a psychic who appears to have a secret. She also has to deal with her difficult mother who has come to Clover Ridge because her second husband is in a movie being filmed in town. Two murders occur and Carrie wonders if they are connected in any way to a homicide that took place twenty years earlier. She must locate a woman who might have the answer.

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

I like the idea of bringing in secrets of the past and the idea of linking a cold case with current murders.

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

The theme of parent-child relationships underlies the story—Carrie’s relationship with her non-maternal mother—and another relationship that’s connected to the homicides.

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

My characters are most important to me. I love writing a series because, with each adventure my characters develop and grow. I love to see how they relate to one another. I’m not sure how I create my characters. They simply come to mind and grow more and more real with each book.

Carrie, my sleuth, is my favorite. At the beginning of the series, she’s unhappy, rebellious and ready to leave town when she’s offered the position in the library. Over time, she develops friends, has a boyfriend, and becomes a responsible member of the community.

I adore Evelyn Havers, my ghost, who comes and goes mysteriously. She offers Carrie advice and helps Carrie solve mysteries. However, she withholds important information when she fears it will tarnish any of her relatives’ reputations. Evelyn also comes to depend on Carrie and often asks her to contact people on her behalf. I’m so fond of Evelyn because she has her own vulnerabilities.

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

Clover Ridge is based on a real town that I once visited. I often read about this town and study pictures and maps of the town and its surrounding area.  And of course my imagination makes up or changes what best suits my novels.

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

My sleuth works in a library. While I’m not a librarian, I spend a lot of time in my library and have a good friend who has position very similar to Carrie’s.

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

I think it’s a fun read and a good mystery!

Thank you for answering my questions, Allison, and good luck with Checked Out for Murder, the latest book in the Haunted Library mystery series.

Readers can learn more about Allison by visiting her website and her Facebook, Goodreads, Bookbub, Instagram and Pinterest pages. You can also follow her on Twitter (@MarilynLevinson@AllisonBrookML ).

The novel is available at the following online retailers:

 Amazon – B&N – Kobo – IndieBound

About Allison Brook: A former Spanish teacher, Marilyn Levinson writes mysteries, romantic suspense, and novels for kids. Her books have received many accolades. As Allison Brook she writes the Haunted Library series. DEATH OVERDUE, the first in the series, was an Agatha nominee for Best Contemporary Novel in 2018. Other mysteries include the Golden Age of Mystery Book Club series and the Twin Lakes series.

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It’s Cozy Mystery Day

On the anniversary of Agatha Christie’s birthday, Cozy Mystery Day is celebrated. That’s today! What better excuse is there to take some time out to read?

You can start here by dipping your toes into nine new cozy mysteries in Mystery Follows Her. Each story will lead you into that author’s series.

Click and cozy up with characters you won’t forget:

https://books2read.com/mysteryfollowsher

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The Watchman of Rothenburg Dies

Today Adriana Licio is visiting Ascroft, eh? to tell us about The Watchman of Rothenburg Dies, the first book in the Homeswappers Mystery series.

Welcome, Adriana. 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.

The Watchman of Rothenburg Dies is the first book in a fiction series called The Homeswappers Mysteries, but the idea underpinning the series is somewhat autobiographical. For the past 15 years, my hubby and I have been taking all our holidays by swapping houses with fellow travellers all around the world. When Frodo, our golden retriever, joined the family in 2010, we gave up flights and started to drive all the way to destinations in Europe. We have been to large cities such as London, Prague, Stockholm, Vienna and Paris, but what we love the most is to discover tiny places that (almost) no one has heard of. We love small towns, villages and hamlets.

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

Rothenburg ob der Tauber was one of the first places we visited with Frodo back in 2010. The place is enchanting, a quaint medieval town surrounded by ancient walls with pastel-coloured half-timbered houses and mysterious watchtowers. At night, you can join the Night Watchman for his tour as he takes visitors to discover the hidden corners and forgotten secrets of the town. The guy is really good at telling stories, but all the time during the tour, I couldn’t stop thinking, “What would happen if he were to drop dead with a halberd in his chest?”

Exactly ten years later, I decided to answer that “What if?” – with a purely fictitious Night Watchman, of course.

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

There are two themes overarching the whole series and both are very precious to me.

The first one is friendship, both between humans and between a human and their pet. Can you think of anything more precious than friendship? I can’t. I also believe that friendship is a rather odd kind of a plant as it can blossom between the most unexpected individuals, for example two women with extremely different characters, or a human who can’t stand pets and a… Basset Hound!

The more obstacles it has to overcome, the deeper friendship’s roots will go.

The other theme is that of empowering women in general, and women over 60 in particular. My grandmother used to say (after having brought up 5 children and looked after a husband with a temper) that life started at 60. For now, I’ll take her word for it.

I was also inspired by my great grandmother, who was a very independent woman. She used to move around between Campania and Apulia anytime she felt the urge, driving her horse and carriage. She also used to go to the theatre alone at a time when most women would never dream of doing that.

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

That’s part of the magic of writing. I knew I wanted to write a series set across a number of small European towns, but I had no idea who the main characters would be. A couple like my husband and me? Two sisters? A whole family?

Then one morning, from nowhere in particular, two ladies – Etta and Dora – sprang to my mind. At a particular point in their lives, they had just retired and were shocked to discover the paltry pension they would get – hardly enough to survive on, with nothing left to fulfil their dreams of living a decent life and enjoying a little trip away every now and then.

Characters have a tendency to come up with their own baggage. In fact, I soon found out the women were living in the two quaint villages we get to know in the prequel to the series, Castelmezzano, The Witch is Dead. Etta is strong willed and opinionated, whereas Dora looks on the surface of it to be a people pleaser… but she knows how to work things the way she wants.

And then there’s Napoleon, or simply Leon, a Basset Hound with an attitude who makes his debut appearance in the first book in the series, The Watchman of Rothenburg Dies. And he possibly is my favourite character!

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

I’m a travel freak. I’ve been dreaming of travelling since I was a child. And I do not need to travel to exotic places; I’d much rather discover new people and places, even quite close to home. The important thing is to have the “Traveller’s attitude” – that is, curiosity and being a good observer. And a well-developed sense of irony comes in handy because when you travel, the strangest things are bound to happen.

So to answer your question, when you write about something you love, you’ve already brought it to life before you ask yourself the hows and whys.

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

Guess what? I travel. I love research trips!

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

Just that it’s giveaway time! If your readers would like to let me know which town intrigues them the most among the four shown on the covers of my books, I will pick a lucky winner to receive a free eBook of The Watchman of Rothenburg Dies, Book 1 in the brand-new Homeswappers Mysteries series.

Which of the four places featured on the covers would you like to visit and why?

1) Castelmezzano, a small fairy-tale town in Southern Italy perched up amongst rocky outcrops.

2) Rothenburg ob der Tauber, a medieval town in Germany with half-timbered houses in an array of pastel colours, ancient townwalls and mysterious watchtowers.

3) Mecklenburg, the land of 1,000 lakes and beautiful mansions in Northern Germany.

4) Aero Island, a small Danish island of cobbled streets and the most charming Christmas market.

Thanks for answering my questions, Adriana, and good luck with The Watchman of Rothenburg Dies, the first book in the Homeswappers Mysteries series. I’ve read the book and really enjoyed it. I’m sure anyone who reads it will fall in love with the characters.

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

The book is available online at the following retailer:

 Amazon   Free on Kindle Unlimited

About Adriana Licio: She loves loads of things: travelling, walking, good food, reading, small villages and home swapping. She runs her family perfumery and between a dark patchouli and a musky rose, she reads and writes cozy mysteries. She resisted writing for as long as she could but one day she found an alluring blank page and the words flowed in the weird English she learned in Glasgow.

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Twin Time

Today Olga Werby is visiting Ascroft, eh? to tell us about her historical novel Twin Time.

Welcome, Olga. I’ll turn the floor over to you:

Olga: I guess I should start with the fact that I was born in Russia. I lived in Leningrad (now Saint Petersburg) until I was thirteen and a half. I came to America as a refugee. So I have some affinity for the place my story takes place in and its culture, its language…its smell, its light, its trees, its flowers, its architecture, its temperature… I have fond memories of the White Nights and days when the sun never fully rose above the horizon. I left when I was already a pretty formed human and I had to make myself fit into a new place that was very foreign and scary, in many ways. I also didn’t really speak any English when my family arrived in New York City. I couldn’t even write my name down on a piece of paper in school. So the idea that I now use English as my primary language of telling fiction is crazy! I don’t think it would be possible if not for the Internet, my external brain and linguist. Add to that that I’m dyslexic and you can see how improbably the idea of writing and publishing books is for one like me. Yet, here we are.

But there’s more. My family, from both sides, had suffered incredible damage at the hands of the Russian government and during the WWII. But for this novel, “Twin Time”, I focused on my grandmother’s story, who lived an extraordinary life…mostly in secret. She was born into a wealthy (and titled) family just after the 1917 revolution. But she lived in a relatively small town and politics takes time to drift into the rural areas of the country. Years after the revolution, her life hadn’t changed much until one night, when a former student from her grandmother’s orphanage knocked on the door of their estate and told them to run. You see, the boy they raised and educated became a cop in the newly formed Soviet Union. He came to warn the family that was kind to him that the powers in charge were coming to burn down their house and kill everyone inside. So my grandmother, who was just a child at the time, and her family got on their horses and ran, leaving all of their possessions behind.

They ran for years, scattering into the four corners of the world. Eventually, my grandmother, her brother, and their mother met up in Moscow at a home of a former nanny. She gave them shelter. By then, the family was destitute. My grandmother remembers waiting for her mom to come home from work one evening. She waited for many hours and then went to the train station to find out what could have happened. Her mother was standing alone by the tracks. She went blind from hunger and couldn’t find her way home.

The nightmares didn’t end there. In May of 1927, British police made a bust of Soviet trade delegation in London. Under the cover of diplomatic immunity, the All Russian Co-operative Society was spying on the British, stealing some top-secret documents. For this, the men of ARCOS were expelled and diplomatic relations between the nations were dissolved for several years. The Soviets had to retaliate, of course. Shortly afterwards, they rounded up all British citizens living in Moscow and shot them. That was my family—my grandmother’s father was a British citizen. Fortunately, my grandmother, her brother, and her mother survived. Unfortunately, my grandmother had a very un-Russian last name (we have no idea if it was Lee or Leigh or Li or some variation there off—the spelling in Russian is all the same). To run from the authorities, my grandmother married an officer in a Soviet army and gained a very ordinary last name. She never talked about her family. Ever! What we learned about her past we learned when we did an interview in her late 80’s in a safety of my living room. And even then, she kept telling us that walls had ears and some things are just best forgotten.

For those who are interested in learning more about the ARCOS affair, please visit the Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/All_Russian_Co-operative_Society

Some of the backstory of “Twin Time” is actually the story of my grandmother’s childhood. She lived in a similar pretty wooden house. Her family was the pillar of their community. Just like in “Twin Time”, there was an orphanage and a little church. I tried to incorporate as many details as I could into my story from my grandmother’s memories of her childhood. And of course the historical facts as presented in my story are all accurate.

Sacha teaching math at Olga;s grandmother’s orphanage

My professional career took me from getting degrees in Math and Astrophysics (remember, I really didn’t know English back then and couldn’t go into fields of study that required solid control of language) to getting my doctorate in education. As a kid with learning disabilities, I am very interested in cognitive differences. I’ve diagnosed my first case of autism about twenty-five years ago. That child was non-verbal. Since then, I’ve come across many families that had children with “differences”. It is extraordinary difficult to raise a child who is different in this (or any other) country. “Twin Time” gave me a way of talking about autism and its costs to the family and friends. The time travel device opened up the possibility of giving a child with autism a voice. Again, everything you will read in “Twin Time” is carefully researched. When I discuss autism and family dynamics and therapies, I draw on actual research. For those who might think that I’ve meant to make anyone in Sasha’s family evil, that’s not true. There are no bad guys here really, there are just victims of circumstances and fate.

Olga’s grandmother

I did want my book, my story to have a happy ending. I wanted to show the possibility of love even in dire situations. And I wanted for my readers to love Sasha as much as I did. But to learn what happened, you’ll have to read my story.

One final thing, when my grandmother died, about a decade after my grandfather’s death, she insisted that her ashes were scattered in a different ocean from my grandfather.

Thanks for answering my questions, Olga, and good luck with Twin Time.

Readers can learn more about Olga Werby and her writing by visiting her website and her Facebook, Goodreads, Bookbub and Pinterest pages. You can also follow her on Twitter. The book’s trailer is online here.

Olga Werby & Christopher Werby will be awarding two signed books to a randomly drawn winner (US only) via rafflecopter during the tour. Enter to win a signed copy of Twin Time by clicking here.

For more chances to enter the contest, readers can visit other stops on the tour. The tour dates can be found here

The novel is available online at Amazon.

About Olga Werby: Olga got her B.A. from Columbia University in Mathematics and Astrophysics and worked at NASA on the Pioneer Venus Project as a programmer. She received her masters from U.C. Berkeley in Education of Math, Science, and Technology and went on to earn a doctorate in education. Together with her husband and business partner, Olga conceives, designs, and creates products, ideas, websites, and exhibits. Along the way, she writes science fiction (sometimes, with her husband…and yet they are still married!).

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

Undone in Uluru

Today Richie Hanley is visiting Ascroft, eh? to tell us about Undone in Uluru, the latest novel in the Traveler cozy mystery series.

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

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

I’m Richard Hanley, the father of the main character, Naomi. I’m in Undone in Uluru, part of the Traveler Cozy Mystery series. This is Naomi’s third trip.

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

I’m on vacation so I’m go with the flow. But, I’m always prepared. From an early age, I taught Naomi to be prepared. She’s never been a great listener. Sometimes I wonder if any of my lessons have sunk in. I hope Naomi has learned a few things from me on how to be ready for any situation.

How did you evolve as a main character?     

This is my first international trip with my eldest child, Naomi. She’s the main character of the series. My ex-wife, Deirdre, and my other daughter, Charlotte, have traveled with her earlier in the series. I’ve watched her relationships evolve, and improve, with both of them since their trips. The two of us have always been good so I don’t think we’ll have a major change in our relationship.

Neither of us do well in the romance department, so maybe that will change on this trip. I’m hoping she’ll find love soon. I’d like to be a grandfather!

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

We meet a nice young man, a solo traveler, Daniel on the trip. He spends a lot of time with us, during meals and day tours. Naomi and Daniel spend a lot of time together during our time in the Red Centre trying to find a missing person but I don’t mind. (See my previous answer!)

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

We’re in traveling to Australia. We’re in Yulara, to visit Uluru (formerly known as Ayers Rock) and other sites in the area.

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

Traveling with Naomi may be different, complicated, and dangerous but it’s a lot of fun. There are lots of different of foods, drinks, people, places.

Thank you for answering my questions, Richie, and good luck to you and your author, A. R. Kennedy, with Undone in Uluru, the latest book in the Traveler Cozy mystery series.

Readers can learn more about Richie and his author, A. R. Kennedy by visiting the author’s website and her Facebook, Goodreads, and Bookbub pages. You can also follow her on Twitter.

The novel is available online at Amazon

About A. R. Kennedy: The author lives in Long Beach, New York, with her two pups. She works hard to put food on the floor for them. As her favorite T-shirt says, ‘I work so my dog can have a better life’. She’s an avid traveler. But don’t worry. While she’s away, her parents dote on their grand-puppies even more than she does. Her writing is a combination of her love of travel, animals, and the journey we all take to find ourselves.

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

Beware these beach reads

Today Summer Merriweather is visiting Ascroft, eh? to tell us about Little Bookshop of Murder, the first novel in the Beach Reads mystery series.

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

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

I’ve come home to Brigid’s Island because my mom has passed away. She left me her bookshop and I’m deciding what I should do with it, considering it’s not my favorite place and I’m completely broke. All I can say about the series is part is I hope so!

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

The writer controls it all—except the series decision! (That’s up to the publisher.)

How did you evolve as the main character?

At a beach trip with just my writer and a girlfriend, who were fantasizing about bookstores on the beach. The next thing I knew, my mom died, and I was heading back home.

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

I’m partial to my cousin Piper and my aunt Agatha. I grew up with Piper and she’s like a sister to me. Aunt Agatha is my mom’s sister and we are all very close.

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

Brigid’s Island is a small island off the coast of North Carolina. For years, we slowly simmered as a tourist destination. But suddenly it’s booming. And my mom’s bookstore, Beach Reads, is booming, too. It’s located right on the boardwalk and its specialty is romance and mysteries.

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

They tell me that Beach Reads is every reader’s dream store, with quiet nooks to read. Author signatures all over the store—on the walls and floor. Free coffee and tea all day long—and my favorite is the balcony, where you can sit with the sound of the waves in the background, reading.

Thank you for answering my questions, Summer, and good luck to you and your author, Maggie Blackburn, with Little Bookshop of Murder, the first book in the Beach Reads mystery series.

Readers can learn more about Summer and her author, Maggie Blackburn by visiting the author’s website. You can also follow her on Twitter (@molliecoxbryan).

The novel is available at the following online retailers:

 Amazon – B&N – Kobo

About Maggie Blackburn: Maggie is the author of the Cora Crafts mysteries and the Cumberland Creek mysteries under another pen name. Her books have been selected as finalists for an Agatha Award and a Daphne du Maurier Award and as a Top 10 Beach Reads by Woman’s World. She has also been short-listed for the Virginia Library People’s Choice Award. She is the mother of two young women who are off following their dreams in the music business. She currently lives in Waynesboro, VA, and works at the University of Virginia as a development associate.

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