A Grave Roast

Piper Addison is visiting Ascroft, eh? to tell us about A Grave Roast, the first novel in the Orchard Hollow mystery series.

Welcome, Piper. 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.

A Grave Roast is a paranormal cozy mystery set in the town of Orchard Hollow. Our town is much like all other small towns, except for one thing: we have magic. Well, some of our residents do; yours truly included. It’s the first book in the Orchard Hollow mystery series.

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

No one tells me what to do! If it was up to my writer, she’d have me leave the entire murder case to the police and we all know how well that would turn out. No, thank you! If something is threatening the life I’m trying to build for myself, you can be sure I’ll take care of it myself.

How did you evolve as the main character?

When you spend enough time bothering your writer, they have no choice but to write your story. I waited patiently in the sidelines until it was time for me to make my appearance. Turns out I have great timing because my stubbornness is exactly what this case needed.

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

Like is a stretch. Just kidding! I wouldn’t be where I am without my ghost familiar, Stella Rutherford. You’d think getting stuck with a snobby ghost would be terrible, but Stella isn’t so bad on most days. And she’s pretty handy when it comes to sleuthing, especially when she’s not giving me grief over my outfit choices. And let’s not forget Harry Houdini! He’s a permanent fixture in my life and the kind of raccoon you love to hate.

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

There’s no place better than Orchard Hollow. At least, that’s what I think but then again, I’d never been anywhere else. Why would I bother? We have everything I need right here: quirky neighbors, cute shops, and a whole lot of magic!

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

If you’re worried about hitting the big four-oh, don’t be! At least you’re not trying to keep yourself out jail two months before your birthday like I am. Read the book to see if I manage to keep my freedom!

Thank you for answering my questions, Piper, and good luck to you and your author, A. N. Sage, with A Grave Roast, the first book in the Orchard Hollow mystery series.

Readers can learn more about Piper and her author, A. N. Sage by visiting the author’s website and her Facebook, YouTube and Tiktok pages.

The novel is available online at  Amazon

About A.N. Sage: She is a bestselling, award-winning author of young adult fantasy and mystery. She has spent most of her life waiting to meet a witch, vampire, or at least get haunted by a ghost. In between failed seances and many questionable outfit choices, she has developed a keen eye for the extra-ordinary.

A.N. spends her free time reading and binge-watching television shows in her pajamas. Currently, she resides in Toronto, Canada with her husband who is not a creature of the night and their daughter who just might be. A.N. Sage is a Scorpio and a massive advocate of leggings for pants.

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A Study in Chocolate

Amber Royer, author of A Study in Chocolate, a Bean to Bar mystery, is visiting Ascroft, eh? today to tell us about the Holmes Influence.

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

Sherlock Holmes laid the groundwork for a whole genre of fictional detectives.  But this character wasn’t created out of thin air.  Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was building on the work Edgar Allen Poe put into the first ever fictional detective, C. Auguste Dupin.  In A Study in Scarlet, the first novel featuring Holmes, Holmes even mentions Dupin, commenting on Poe’s detective’s methods of observation.  These references to Dupin are repeated in several other stories, all by Holmes, comparing himself and his methods to Dupin’s.  (Though he seems to believe Dupin to be showier and shallower than himself.)

Holmes is probably the character who in turn has been most adapted, riffed on and referenced in the genre.  From the Young Sherlock Holmes to Enola Holmes, people are always eager for new takes on the character.  I am always intrigued when I see something new involving Sherlock Holmes.

Imagine how those two characters – Holmes and Dupin – founded an entire genre.  Genre has always been a conversation, with readers coming to a specific genre for certain tropes and with specific expectations, and writers and publishers looking at what readers have enjoyed and factoring that into their work – or flipping tropes and expectations, commenting on what has been said before, or referencing earlier literature in a way that allows readers to feel like they are part of an in-joke or an in-group. 

Current writers are always going to filter what they’ve enjoyed reading into elements that show up in their own work.  Often, it’s the joy of reading, and the way certain books stick with us over time, that gets us writing in the first place.  I’m not talking about actual copying – which is never okay.  But the use of a certain plot twist, character type, or setting is often influenced by books we ourselves have loved.  I’ve been a writing instructor since 2008, and as I’m getting to know a student’s goals and work, I will often ask what the student’s four favorite books are.  Almost invariably, I can see something about the tone, genre, voice, or other elements that makes it make sense that this student, as this particular type of reader, would turn around and write their particular book.  After all, art in its barest sense is one human being trying to interpret and entire world, and it’s hard to do that from scratch.

Like Doyle, I tend to acknowledge my influences openly, in the pages of my books.  Often, this is filtered through my characters and how they find their lives similar to art.  Or I will have them talking about books or films they enjoyed.  My current release is no different.  The very title A Study in Chocolate is an homage to A Study in Scarlet.  I play on the word Study in the title in two ways – both by having the murder take place in a literal study (in an over-the-top historic house) and having an artist introduce my protagonist Felicity to the art of painting on chocolate.  This makes sense because Felicity is a craft chocolate maker, and I have used each of the Bean to Bar Mysteries to highlight a different aspect of chocolate, from making it to sculpting with it.

I wanted there to be more to the homage than just a cute title, though, so I tried to add in fun in-references, like having a horse-drawn carriage (something I have always seen in the historic areas of Galveston) play a part in the mystery – though obviously not the same way Doyle used it in his story.

There is a quote from Doyle’s work, where Holmes says, “There’s the scarlet thread of murder running through the colourless skein of life, and our duty is to unravel it, and isolate it, and expose every inch of it.”  In a riff/homage on this, I have Felicity’s friend who owns a yarn shop as a suspect in A Study in Chocolate.  (Felicity, of course, doesn’t believe her friend could be a killer, which further invests her in solving the crime.) 

But even more directly, I introduce a killer who is a Sherlock Holmes fan.  This person sends Felicity a copy of A Study in Scarlet, and tries to draw her into solving this case of revenge before more bad things happen – despite Felicity protesting that she’s not actually a detective, that she’s always just helped figure out the puzzle because she was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I hope you have as much fun reading all the little references to Holmes – and my other favorite literary detectives – as I did writing them.

Thank you for sharing this with us, Amber, and good luck with A Study in Chocolate, a Bean to Bar mystery.

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

The book is available online at the following retailers:

Amazon – B&N – Kobo 

About Amber Royer: Amber writes the CHOCOVERSE comic telenovela-style foodie-inspired space opera series, and the BEAN TO BAR MYSTERIES. She is also the author of STORY LIKE A JOURNALIST: A WORKBOOK FOR NOVELISTS, which boils down her writing knowledge into an actionable plan involving over 100 worksheets to build a comprehensive story plan for your novel. She blogs about creative writing techniques and all things chocolate at www.amberroyer.com. She also teaches creative writing and is an author coach. If you are very nice to her, she might make you cupcakes.  Chocolate cupcakes, of course.

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Murder of Pearl

Nellie H. Steele, author of Murder of Pearl, a Pearl Party mystery, is visiting Ascroft, eh? today to tell us about the inspiration for her Pearl Party mysteries series.

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

I’ve had a lot of people ask me about the genesis of the idea behind one of my most recent releases.  Murder of Pearl kicks off the Pearl Party Mysteries cozy mystery series.  And more than a few people have been curious about how I came up with the idea of a team of sisters who sell pearl jewelry as the basis for a cozy mystery series.

The truth is the story is based on actual events!  (At least the pearl party bit is, not the murder!). 

The idea formed while I watched the real Kelly at one of her many pearl parties.  She worked for a company called Vantel Pearls.  They sold a variety of jewelry (and other pieces) with pearls inset into each piece. 


The fun of the parties was the oyster openings.  You’d pick a jewelry piece (or two, haha), and at the next live event, Kelly would open an oystery (or three!) for you and reveal the pearl that would go into your jewelry piece. 


Sometimes seeing the pearl would make you change your mind entirely and buy a different item.  The pearls came in a variety of colors and sizes.  Kelly would reveal the color after cleaning the pearl and then measure it for you.  (Just like Kelly Silverman does in the first scene of the book!). 

The ”mystery” of seeing what you’d get: Would you get a big wedding white pearl?  Would it be a little cotton candy pink gem of a pearl?  Maybe it would be one of the coveted lavender pearls with a little dimple in the side.  In any case, the allure of what you’d get kept people coming back for more. 

And sometimes you’d be lucky enough to get twins (hello, new earrings!). 

There are a lot of cozy craft mysteries out there (knitters, quilters, scrapbookers), and I figured there was room for a pearl connoisseur! 

So, I got to work (after checking with the real Kelly, of course) creating a mystery around her fun pearl biz.  I included all the details I remembered from the many pearl parties I attended with her and tossed in a body and, voila!  A brand-new mystery series based around the super fun idea of shucking pearls for a business. 

I hope you’ll check out Murder of Pearl and see what the pearl business is like…along with a few other surprises!

Thank you for sharing this with us, Nellie, and good luck with Murder of Pearl, a Pearl Party mystery.

Readers can learn more about Nellie H. Steele by visiting the author’s website and her blog, as well as her Facebook, Goodreads, and Instagram pages. Readers can also follow her on Twitter.

The book is available online at Amazon

About Nellie H. Steele: Award-winning author Nellie H. Steele writes in as many genres as she reads.Addicted to books since she could read, Nellie escaped to fictional worlds like the ones created by Carolyn Keene or Victoria Holt long before she decided to put pen to paper and create her own realities.When she’s not spinning a cozy mystery tale, building a new realm in a contemporary fantasy, or writing another action-adventure car chase, you can find her shuffling through her Noah’s Ark of rescue animals or enjoying a hot cuppa (that’s tea for most Americans.)

Posted in Archives, January 2023, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Death on the Emerald Isle

Terrie Farley Moran is visiting Ascroft, eh? today to tell us about Murder She Wrote, Death on the Emerald Isle.

Welcome, Terrie. 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.

Hi Dianne, I am delighted to be here to talk about Murder, She Wrote Death on the Emerald Isle which is book fifty six of the Murder She Wrote series started by Donald Bain in the late 1980s. These books are spin-offs of the long running Murder, She Wrote television show starring the legendary Angela Lansbury as Jessica Fletcher, a widowed, retired school teacher who, as it turns out has a talent for writing mystery novels and a knack for solving murders in real life. The television show is still widely viewed all over the world, and the books continue to have a broad international audience.

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

As a fan of the television series and an avid reader of the books for decades, I have enjoyed seeing Jessica solve murders in her quaint home town of Cabot Cove, Maine and in small towns and big cities all over the world. Central to any Murder, She Wrote story is that Jessica Fletcher is an empathetic and engaging person. When she is traveling, the people she meets along the way warm up to her just as she does to them. So when tragedy, such as a murder, strikes Jessica’s natural curiosity and her sympathetic nature lead her to discover a solution.

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

To me there is only one theme that underlies murder. For some reason the killer believes that taking the life of another human being is the only way that the killer can relieve their own personal stress due to a situation, whatever it may be, that has spiralled out of control in the killer’s mind.

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

Jessica Fletcher is absolutely my favorite character in this series. Since we have been buddies for nearly forty years, I enjoy her company and love the fact that she can still surprise me after all this time. Regarding the creation of other characters let me say this: writing a book is based on a series of decisions. Once a writer decides what she wants to happen in the story, then she has to decide who the people are. In a Murder, She Wrote mystery, we know Jessica will solve the crime. But we still need a victim, a killer, several people who might be the killer, but aren’t, and ancillary characters who are affected by the crime in one way or another. So I think of these folks one at a time and have them hang around in my head for a while. After they convince me that they are right for the job, I give them a name and we move forward.

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

Research! Research! Research! The library is a wonderful resource. As is the Internet. Northern Ireland is a real place and I have been fortunate enough to visit many parts of it once or twice. But unless I was there on the day I was writing about say, Ballycastle and Fairhead, I never trust my memory. Things have a way of changing. So not only do I read about the places I am writing about, I go to Google Maps and drop the little man icon on a road and he and I travel along all the roads that Jessica will ride on or bypass during her time there.

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

Well for this book, the primary research involved the setting and its history—the bombing of Belfast during World War Two, the myths and truths around Giant’s Causeway, exploring the Titanic Museum, and so on. In addition, since the O’Bannon family was in the business of producing cosmetics based on seaweed as a primary ingredient, I had to research that as well as the dynamics of the import-export business. And of course Jessica always enjoys a meal or two during the course of a book, so I want the food to be authentic for the region.

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

This book was, in many ways, a labor of love. Angela Lansbury had Irish ancestry and a great love of the island of Ireland. For many years she owned first one and then another home in County Cork. Although several episodes of the television series take place in the Republic of Ireland, none of the books are set anywhere in Ireland, so early on, I decided that I would write a book in which Jessica would visit the island that Angela loved. Angela Lansbury passed away on October 11, 2022, just as Murder, She Wrote Death on the Emerald Isle was set to go to print. I am pleased to tell you that this book is dedicated to the renowned, never to be forgotten ANGELA LANSBURY.

Thanks for answering my questions, Terrie, and good luck with Murder She Wrote,  Death on the Emerald Isle.

Readers can learn more about Terrie and her writing by visiting her website and her Facebook page.

The novel is available at the following online retailers:

Amazon – B&N – Kobo – IndieBound – Bookshop.org – PenguinRandomHouse

About Terrie Farley Moran: Along with Jessica FletcherTerrie Farley Moran co-writes the Murder She Wrote mystery series including Murder, She Wrote: Killer on the Court. She is the author of the Read ‘Em and Eat cozy mystery series and also co-writes the Scrapbooking Mysteries with Laura Childs. Recipient of both the Agatha and the Derringer Awards, Moran has published numerous mystery short stories. The only thing Terrie enjoys more than wrangling mystery plots into submission is hanging out with any or all of her seven grandchildren.

Posted in Archives, January 2023 | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Moving is Murder

Nellie H. Steele, author of Moving is Murder, a Middle Age is Murder mystery, is visiting Ascroft, eh? today to tell us why she is writing about older characters.

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

Nellie: In two of my three most recent releases, I’ve written from the perspective of an older character (Kelly and Jodi are both in their 50s and Ellie of Middle Age is Murder has just turned 50).  I found the writing to be an interesting foray into a more mature perspective from my previous characters.

Even though the others were all younger, they still exhibited a level of maturity, but by adding a few “over 50s” to the mix, the reader gets a new and unique perspective on life.  All three of these characters have much more life experience to bring to the table that has colored their perspectives and created a strong personality. 

They’ve had their fair share of ups and downs in life already.  They’re used to dealing with the unexpected in many cases, which makes them decisive and strong-minded (for better or worse!). 

They don’t have a problem speaking their minds, and they rarely back down from what they think is right. 

In surveying the current books on the market, many of them contain much younger characters.  The typical premise is that they are thrown into an unexpected situation in their twenties that shapes their lives.  The idea is that it hits them when they are young and still “green.”

But this leaves lots of missed opportunities to throw older heroes and heroines into the mix.  Despite their age, they’ve not only got a lot of life to live, but they’ve got a lot of wisdom to bring to the table.  And there are plenty of unexpected situations to throw them into (I’m not sure about you, but I’ve never investigated a murder and I’m well over my twenties!). 

The fun part is seeing how they react to the unexpected when they’ve got experience to handle surprises and not back down. 

I’ve really enjoyed bringing these characters to life, filling in their back stories, and using it to color their view of the world.  Sprinkle in a few later-in-life surprises, and you’ve got the perfect ingredients for a mystery with a confident heroine! 

I still enjoy writing all my younger characters (variety is the spice of life, right?), but I’ve had a blast with the older ones.  I think there’s something really appealing about knowing that there is still adventure to be had once you’re no longer “young” and that there’s still lots of life to look forward to and things to do. 

There’s a shift in perspective and each generation changes the idea of what’s considered “old.”  I love that my characters can be middle aged and still living life to the fullest, experiencing new things, and discovering their place in their changing worlds.

So, if you’re looking for a mature heroine’s perspective, hop into Middle Age is Murder and join Ellie as she transforms her life after 50!

Thank you for sharing this with us, Nellie, and good luck with Moving is Murder, a Middle Age is Murder mystery.

Readers can learn more about Nellie H. Steele by visiting the author’s website and her blog, as well as her Facebook, Goodreads, and Instagram pages. Readers can also follow her on Twitter.

The book is available online at  Amazon

About Nellie H. Steele: Award-winning author Nellie H. Steele writes in as many genres as she reads. Addicted to books since she could read, Nellie escaped to fictional worlds like the ones created by Carolyn Keene or Victoria Holt long before she decided to put pen to paper and create her own realities. When she’s not spinning a cozy mystery tale, building a new realm in a contemporary fantasy, or writing another action-adventure car chase, you can find her shuffling through her Noah’s Ark of rescue animals or enjoying a hot cuppa (that’s tea for most Americans.)

Posted in Archives, January 2023 | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Of Mushrooms and Matrimony

Tish Tarragon is visiting Ascroft, eh? to tell us about Of Mushrooms and Matrimony, the latest novel in the Tish Tarragon mystery series.

Welcome, Tish. 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.

OF MUSHROOMS AND MATRIMONY is the sixth in the mystery series named after me, Tish Tarragon, a literary café owner and caterer. (Think: cozy eating spot with a lending library and menu items named after book titles and characters) The story opens with me having been evicted from the café which also serves as my home and struggling to find a new space for my business as well as a place to live.

As if that’s not enough, while working on my last catering gig before officially closing up shop – a lovely book-themed wedding at Abbingdon Green Bed and Breakfast – one of the guests at the B&B is found dead in his room, a victim of mushroom poisoning. The victim, Gunnar Randall, was a controversial tv food critic, so suspects abound.

With my knowledge of food and cooking, and as an official consultant for the Hobson Glen Sheriff’s Department, it’s up to me to help solve the crime while simultaneously providing the bride and groom with the best day of their lives.

It’s a lofty goal, but I’ve managed to achieve since my arrival here from Richmond, VA over a year ago.

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

My writer controls my story quite well, although every now and then I give her a surprise: a snippet of dialogue, an unexpected clue, or an odd plot twist. I like to keep her on her toes. 😉

How did you evolve as the main character?

I believe my creator had originally applied to a call for a veterinary mystery. Her sample pages were rejected by the publisher, but her agent so liked the main character – me but with a slightly different name! – that she asked her to rewrite the mystery with a different theme and setting. My author loves to cook, so she created a culinary mystery set around Richmond, VA, which was close to her home at the time.

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

Oh, the entire town of Hobson Glen shares the spotlight in my mysteries, but especially dear to my heart is Sheriff Clemson Reade (for reasons I’ll allow your readers to discover) and my best friends from college, Julian Pen Davis and Mary Jo Okensholt.

Julian is the weatherman for Channel Ten news, but he also covers the occasional human interest story, like the Christmas Fair where the young actress, Jenny Inkpen was murdered. Mary Jo is the mother of two teens, which a fulltime job unto itself, but she also works at my café and for the Director of the library board.

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

Hobson Glen is a small town outside Richmond with a traditional Main Street and a bunch of kooky characters, the kookiest of which is Enid Kemper, an eccentric elderly woman who is never seen without her green conure, Langhorne, perched upon her shoulder. Then there’s Opal Schaffer, the local romance novelist and organic gardener who continually tries to get me to model for one of her book covers and my top baker and creator of delicious cakes, Celestine Rufus, who not only makes me look like a rock star, but dishes out some great advice.

Hobson Glen is a remarkable town and I love living in it. Via my work solving crimes, I’ve been able to visit the neighboring communities of Ashton Courthouse and Coleton Creek, but they’re not quite like Hobson Glen, which is why I’d love to continue to work and live here. There is a bar and grill building up for sale which would be a perfect location for my new café, but it’s far outside my budget. Ah well!

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

Just that they should definitely check us out, if they’re a fan of culinary cozies with a deliciously darker side. There are even recipes included in my books! The wonderful team at Severn House Books does a terrific job of designing eye catching covers and making sure my adventures are fast paced and action packed. I cannot thank them enough!

Thank you for answering my questions, Tish, and good luck to you and your author, Amy Patricia Meade, with Of Mushrooms and Murder, the latest book in the Tish Tarragon mystery series.

Readers can learn more about Tish and her author, Amy Patricia Meade by visiting the author’s website and her Facebook and Instagram pages.

The novel is available at the following online retailers:

 Amazon – B&N – Kobo – IndieBound

About Amy Patricia Meade: Author of the critically acclaimed Marjorie McClelland Mysteries, Vermont Country Living Mysteries, and Tish Tarragon Mysteries, Amy is a native of Long Island, NY, where she cut her teeth on classic films and books featuring Nancy Drew and Encyclopedia Brown.

After stints as an Operations Manager for a document imaging company and as a freelance technical writer, Amy left the bright lights of New York City and headed north to pursue her creative writing career amidst the idyllic beauty of Vermont’s Green Mountains. After five years living in Bristol, England, Amy now resides in upstate New York. When not writing, Amy spends her time working for her musician husband, watching classic films, testing new recipes, belly dancing, and cleaning cat hair from her lap.

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Have a custom Christmas

Have you ever threaded popcorn onto a string or made a paper chain you draped across the branches of your Christmas tree? Some families cut down their own Christmas trees, and put up and take down their decorations on certain dates each year. Do you sit in the dark and watch a candle flicker tentatively on the mantelpiece or scan the darkness for lights glowing in the windows of neighbouring houses? Do you stop to listen to buskers and carollers on the street singing carols and Christmas songs? Decorating Christmas trees and lighting our houses for the holiday season, and singing festive songs and carols are just a few of the customs or traditions that many of us enjoy each Christmas.

What is a tradition? Wikipedia says: tradition is a belief or behavior (folk custom) passed down within a group or society with symbolic meaning or special significance with origins in the past. Traditions can persist and evolve for thousands of years—the word tradition itself derives from the Latin ‘tradere’ literally meaning to transmit, to hand over, to give for safekeeping. While it is commonly assumed that traditions have an ancient history, many traditions have been invented on purpose, whether that be political or cultural, over short periods of time.

There are so many customs or traditions associated with Christmas. They may be part of the celebrations of whole communities and countries or ones that belong to a single family. We put pine trees adorned with baubles in our living rooms; hang Christmas wreaths on our front doors, garlands on our banisters and stockings on our mantelpieces (or our bedposts); set poinsettas on our tables; run to advent calendars each day in December to discover what is in that day’s box; eat Christmas pudding, mince pies and candy canes, and enjoy a feast on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.

Some of our traditions, such as carol singing, date back hundreds of years, while others such as watching Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer or A Charlie Brown Christmas on television or embarking on frantic shopping trips in glitzy downtown precincts are very recent. Many of our best-loved traditions, including decorating our trees, cookie swaps, sending Christmas cards and adorning our trees and houses with lights aren’t much more than a century old.

But, in our own experience, if we have practiced a custom since childhood, it feels like it must have always existed. It becomes integral to our festive season. An important aspect of Christmas traditions is the sense of continuity that they give us. Some people find such predictability boring but most of us find it comforting.

This autumn I contributed a short story to Deadly Traditions, a multi-author Christmas-themed cozy mystery anthology. The stories in the book launch readers into a whole stack of mysteries and holiday traditions.

If you’d like to know more about the anthology, you can find it here:  https://books2read.com/u/4NjW6G  The book is only available until December 31st

I had fun writing my story for the book, Mistletoe and Murder, as it evoked memories from my teen years. As a teenager attending youth group Christmas activities, I always looked out for any mistletoe in a room, hoping that whatever boy I had a crush on that year would steal a kiss from me under it. It was an exciting part of the holiday season for a young girl. But, in my story, I turned the tables on my character Marge Kirkwood. She has a completely different experience and finds more trouble under the mistletoe than she ever wanted.

Quite a diverse assortment of traditions get a mention in Deadly Traditions. They include decorating the house and the Christmas tree, Santa Claus’s yearly trip around the globe, cookie swaps, carol singing, sending Christmas cards, hiding a pickle in the Christmas tree and stringing up Christmas lights. Many of them were very familiar to me but some like cookie swaps and hiding a pickle in the tree were completely new.

Christmas lights are one of my favourite traditions. Light is a source of warmth and cheer. It’s ability to pierce the darkness encourages us to hope for better times to come after the dark ones.

Before electric light was invented, candles were placed on Christmas trees to illuminate them. In 1882 Edward Hibberd Johnson, Thomas Edison’s inventing partner, strung together a set of lights and put them on a Christmas tree in New York. Since then, the Christmas lights industry has boomed. I never tire of seeing strings of coloured lights winking in ever-changing patterns on a Christmas tree, in windows or fixed to the roof of a house.

Since I love Christmas lights, it’s probably fortunate I wasn’t born a generation earlier. Electricity didn’t arrive in most parts of the county in Northern Ireland where I live until 1947 or later. Prior to this homes were lit with oil and kerosene lamps, and candles. Large candles, set in carved-out turnip bases, were placed in the windows on Christmas Eve. Although flickering candles are beautiful, I think I would have missed the range of colours and lighting patterns my string of electric lights can produce.

There’s just something so magical about watching lights twinkle. Every year when I see them, I think back to Christmases in my family home when I was growing up. In our small house we had a pair of green wreaths, with electric candles set in them, hanging in our front windows; their flames glowed red and welcoming as I returned home each evening. And before I went to bed on Christmas Eve, I sat in the dark in our living room and watched the multi-coloured lights glowing on the pint-sized Christmas tree sitting on a table in the corner.  

The wonder that Christmas lights awaken in me brightens my holidays each year, and links me to my childhood memories, and to the age-old hope that light brings. What traditions are your favourites? Do they link you to your past or more ancient traditions?

Whatever customs are part of your Christmas celebrations, I hope you have a bright and warm holiday season. Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year!

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

Death Checked Out

Greta Plank is visiting Ascroft, eh? to tell us about Death Checked Out, the first novel in the Larkspur Library mystery series.

Welcome, Greta. 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.

Death Checked Out is the first novel in the Larkspur Library Mystery series. My name is Greta Plank, and I’m the director of Larkspur Community Library. I’ve only been in my position for the past four months. I moved to Larkspur earlier this year, and it was the best decision I ever made. I’m not saying I was running away from my past, but I’m not not saying it, if you catch my drift.

But I don’t like to focus on that. After all, I prefer to talk about happy things.

Like this gorgeous lakeside town! Larkspur is located in the Northwoods of Wisconsin. If you’re picturing towering pine trees, quaking aspens with leaves that change to the most beautiful shades of yellow and orange in the fall, and sparkling lake water, then you’ve got the right idea. Not only is Larkspur a gorgeous setting, but the people aren’t half bad either.

I’m still getting used to everyone knowing everything about everyone else, but all that interest and meddling comes from a place of love. That’s what I was trying to convince my neighbor, Franklin.

He was known as the town recluse. I bulldozed my way into his life and, dare I say, his heart, using my tote of library books. I made deliveries to his house, and he loved me for it. I came to see him as a father figure, and I like to think I was like the daughter he never had.

When he asked for the phone number of one of the members of the Friends of the Library nonprofit, I could hardly believe it. I was pretty sure he wanted to get to know her more…romantically speaking. And I was so here for it.

My own love life might be in shambles, but dang it, I still want a happily ever after for my friends.

But then Franklin turned up dead. It was awful, and to make matters worse, what I thought was just a tragic accident, the new detective in town declared a murder. And he made it clear that I was his prime suspect.

I couldn’t let my reputation get ruined…again. Fortunately, my co-librarians, the Larkspur community, and my lawyer mom helped me figure out what really happened. And boy, I did not see that coming.

Apparently, there are two more books in the Larkspur Library Mystery series all lined up and under contract. I can’t imagine anything worse befalling Larkspur, but we’ll see what my author has up her sleeve.

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

Ha! Speaking of my author, she’s a definite plotter, that one. She likes to know where her story is going, and she usually has specific scenes or ideas in her head that she’s writing toward. But sometimes I go rouge, and I like to think we collaborate to ensure the story winds up just the way it’s supposed to…happy endings always!

How did you evolve as the main character?

Now this is a loaded question. Are we ever fully evolved? I don’t think so. I know I have a lot of room to grow. I guess it’s a good thing I have at least two more books to make my way through, huh?

I will say that at the start of Death Checked Out I’m a little naïve. I just want everyone to be happy, alright? When things start looking bleak, my fight or flight response usually lands on flight. But I did decide to fight in this case, and I learned a lot of valuable lessons in the process.

I’ve got some trust issues in the romance department that’ll take some time to work out. But again, I don’t like talking about that.

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

My co-librarians, Josie and Iris, have become like sisters to me, even though I’ve known them for less than six months. We make a great team, and we’re constantly playing off of each other to figure out best practices for the library and for our lives. We balance each other out, and they have my back over the course of the entire book—pushing me when I need to get out of my comfort zone and reigning me back in when I go a little too Nancy Drew.

Detective Mark McHenry is sort of a stick in the mud, so the jury’s out on whether or not I really like sharing the story with him. But I have to admit that I’m warming up to the idea of having him around. I think there might be a heart behind his stony, stoic façade and intense gazes. Time will tell…

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

Oh my goodness, I’ve already gushed about Larkspur, haven’t I? What else can I say? It’s stunning. We’re about three or four hours north of the Milwaukee metro area. Up here it’s all fresh air and lakefront breezes in the summer, and frosty, frozen winters.

My author made up Larkspur, but she based it off of her real-life experience in a lakeside town in Northern Wisconsin. Almost all of her best childhood memories were made there, so I guess you could say Larkspur was crafted with nothing but love.

She did embellish a bit, and I’m glad for that. Because her Larkspur has this quaint downtown strip, complete with my favorite spot, Mugs & Hugs, the café owned by my friend, Allison. She’s got the best coffee and pastries in Larkspur, and she’s always glad to serve it with a side of intel on the comings and goings in town.

When I want some peace and quiet, I’m happy to get back to my oasis, the log cabin I miraculously managed to purchase. It’s situated right on the lake, and it couldn’t be cozier.

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

Just that I hope you’ll stop by for a visit. I’d love to take you around Larkspur myself. I’ve heard that my book is perfect for fans of Jenn McKinlay’s Library Lovers mysteries and Holly Danver’s Lakeside Library mysteries. What’s not to love about bookish cozies, am I right?

Anyway, hopefully all that murder business is behind us. I’m looking forward to the fall festival here, and with all the planning and pitching in everyone’s doing, I can’t imagine anything bad happening. Hopefully I’m not proven wrong in book two. See you soon!

Thank you for answering my questions, Greta, and good luck to you and your author, Leah Dobrinska, with Death Checked Out, the first book in the Larkspur Library mystery series.

Readers can learn more about Greta and her author, Leah Dobrinska by visiting the author’s website and her Facebook, Goodreads, Instagram, Bookbub and Tiktok pages.

The novel is available at the following online retailers:

 Amazon – Barnes and Noble

About Leah Dobrinska: Leah is the author of the Larkspur Library Mysteries, a cozy mystery series set in the Wisconsin Northwoods, and the Mapleton novels, a series of standalone small town romances. She earned her degree in English Literature from UW-Madison and has since worked as a freelance writer, editor, and content marketer. As a kid, she hoped to grow up to be either Nancy Drew or Elizabeth Bennet. Now, she fulfills that dream by writing mysteries and love stories. Death Checked Out is her debut cozy mystery.

A sucker for a good sentence, a happy ending, and the smell of books—both old and new—Leah lives out her very own happily ever after in a small Wisconsin town with her husband and their gaggle of kids. When she’s not writing, handing out snacks, or visiting local parks, Leah enjoys reading and running.

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Cowboys and Chaos

Elizabeth Pantley, author of Cowboys and Chaos, a Magical Mystery Book Club mystery, is visiting Ascroft, eh? today to tell us why mature sleuths make great characters.

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

Elizabeth: “One of the characters in the Magical Mystery Book Club series is Zelda, Zell to her friends. She’s eighty years old, and very proud of that fact. Readers tell me that they love her, and she’s their favorite character in the series. It’s not uncommon to find a senior citizen in a cozy mystery! What makes them so popular?

Seniors Lose their Filters

Whether it’s intentionally or by accident, seniors often blurt out things they shouldn’t. This makes for some very funny scenes, an intriguing character, and secrets exposed unexpectedly.

Experience and Wisdom Strengthen the Plot

An older sleuth carries a lifetime of experience that enables them to figure out the nuances of a case. An intelligent twenty-something person may miss something that a senior catches because of their past experiences. “Oh, I remember when…” can be a useful tool.

They can Get Away with Things

A tiny eighty-year-old woman can play the adorable card and get away with unacceptable behavior that would be nipped in the bud if it were a younger person. A crinkly, dimpled smile can convince anyone of innocence.

They Give Us Hope

Older characters who are smart, fun, and quirky tell us that age doesn’t mean you have to sit on a rocking chair and knit when you’re a senior citizen. You don’t have to become boring and bland. They demonstrate that no matter what your age, you can have a great time in your life.

They Reflect our Societal Shift

Sixty is the new forty, so they say. Therefore, eighty must be the new sixty, right? In today’s world of superior medical care, healthier personal habits, and the availability of information about how to live a longer, healthier life, you’ll see many seniors out there running marathons, hiking mountains, skiing, and sailing. So why not solving mysteries!”

Thank you for sharing this with us, Elizabeth, and good luck with Cowboys and Chaos, a Magical Mystery Book Club mystery.

Readers can learn more about Elizabeth Pantley by visiting the author’s website and her Facebook, Instagram and Bookbub pages.

The book is available online at Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon CA and Amazon AU.

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

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Who Says Marge Doesn’t Have Any Christmas Spirit?

This autumn we released Deadly Traditions, a multi-author Christmas-themed cozy mystery anthology. Deadly Traditions launches readers into a whole stack of mysteries and holiday traditions.

In my story, Mistletoe and Murder, my character Marge Kirkwood has found more __ than she ever wanted under the mistletoe. More what? Read the story to find out.

The book is only available until December 31st. You can find it here:  https://books2read.com/u/4NjW6G

Now, I’ll let Marge from Mistletoe and Murder tell you a bit about her story:

“No matter what anyone may tell you, I’m no Grinch. I don’t know why I’m even giving that rumour a second thought. People can say whatever they like about Marge Kirkwood. It’ll just roll off me like water off a duck’s back. But, if there isn’t any truth to what they say, I’ll set them straight. It’s not that I don’t have any Christmas spirit, it’s just that things keep getting in the way of it this year.  

My best friend Lois Stone moved from the big city to the town where I live last summer. So, since this is her first Christmas in Fenwater, I want to show her how amazing a small town holiday season is. I’m gonna make sure she knows she’s not missing a thing now that she’s away from the bright lights and bustle.

I have loads of ideas for making the season sparkle. Firstly, there’s a few parties that are absolute musts on Fenwater’s holiday calendar and we’ll hit all of them. Lois can bring her new beau Bruce along. I introduced them after all. We’ll need some time to recover in between shindigs so we’ll also spend a few evenings at my condo. Lois enjoys the company of my mother, Mrs G, and there’s a great view of the street that Lois and I live on from my fourth floor window. Lois doesn’t have the same view from her stone century cottage, but she does have a cozy, crackling fire going on winter evenings. She also makes great hot whiskeys so we’ll spend some time at her place too.    

In preparation for the festivities, I got myself spruced up. Not that it took much to do. I’ve got a good, ample figure, if I do say so myself. And that red chiffon cocktail dress I picked up in Guelph suits me to a tee with my blonde hairdo. That little red number was the only one like it on the rack so I’m guaranteed not to meet my double when we’re out, except in a mirror. I’ve got my hair looking its best too. It may have had a bit of help from a bottle, but no one would guess the colour isn’t all me. All in all, I’m ready to dazzle their socks off.

We kicked off with the Fenwater Association’s Christmas party last Saturday night. It’s held in our swankiest hotel – well, our only hotel – and the place was looking like the Ritz. But I wasn’t counting on it being draped in mistletoe – I had to practically slither around the walls to avoid being caught under that green stuff. Nor did I expect to be plagued by Mike Wilson, who practically stalked me through high school. He thought he was irresistible and couldn’t understand why I didn’t see it. I still shudder every time I get a whiff of Aqua Velva aftershave. So, the night didn’t start well. And seeing my ex-husband, who has recently moved back to town, at the party didn’t help my festive mood either.

Overall, the party was going downhill fast. And then someone keeled over and died right smack under that mistletoe dangling from a chandelier. Could it get any worse? You better believe it could – I got dragged into investigating the death. Usually, it’s Lois who lands in the middle of crime scenes. I help her snoop around and give her the odd push when she needs to be more assertive. But mostly, I let her take the helm to figure out what happened. This time is different though. I’ve known the deceased and most of the guests for years.

Despite this, I still might have been able to mind my own business and stay out of it, but the clincher was my kids. Their Christmas will be ruined if I don’t figure out what happened. Okay, so they’re adults now, but doesn’t every mother want to make Christmas special for her kids? And since the cops suspect my ex – their father – murdered the deceased, the holiday will go down the drain for our family if he gets arrested. So, I have no choice: I have to find the killer.

Now can you see why people may have noticed I’m not belting out songs from Perry Como’s Christmas album this year? Imagine being landed with a murder to solve smack in the middle of the Christmas party season! And, if that wasn’t enough, I’m not getting much chance to drop into the Honey Pot diner and sample the yummy gingerbread muffins and other festive fayre they have. These goodies are only on the menu for the holiday season and I’m missing out.

This week has been all about figuring out which one of my fellow townsfolk is a killer. I’m determined to get to the bottom of this and fast. My red stiletto shoes are being reheeled as I speak, and I’ll be wearing them to my office Christmas party next week. So, you can bet I’ll get to the bottom of this murder. Then I’m off to paint the town red and they’ll see what Christmas spirit I’ve got.”

If you want to find out how things turn out for Marge, and read the other stories in Deadly Traditions, check it out here: https://books2read.com/u/4NjW6G

But remember, the book is only available until the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve.

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