Intrigue Lurks Under the Radar

UNDER THE RADAR BANNER 640

Today Annette Dashofy is visiting Ascroft, eh? to tell us about Under the Radar, her latest novel in the Zoe Chambers mystery series.

Welcome, Annette. 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.

UNDER THE RADARAD: Under the Radar is the 9th in the Zoe Chambers Mystery Series, which follows a paramedic/deputy coroner in rural southwestern Pennsylvania. Zoe is a caregiver at heart and fights to save the lives of her patients. If she fails at that, she fights to find them justice. In Under the Radar, she responds to a shooting and discovers her longtime friend, Horace Pavelka, has gunned down a man who’d bullied him mercilessly for decades. Ruled self-defense, no charges are filed. When another of his tormentors turns up dead in Horace’s kitchen, Police Chief Pete Adams questions the man’s innocence in both cases…especially after Horace and his girlfriend go into hiding.

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

AD: I have a very vague memory of someone I went to school with—a quiet, gentle soul—retaliating against a bully near his home. This happened years ago but stuck with me. My imagination took over from there.

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

AD: As you can probably guess from my previous answers, bullying plays a big part throughout the story. In these troubled times, bullying has become so prevalent in our society, I wanted to address the topic in some way. I didn’t get to delve as deeply into it as I’d hoped (my stories often start in one direction and take off somewhere I don’t plan or expect), so I’ll probably revisit the topic in a future story.

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

AD: In a series such as mine, I have a cast of regular characters as well as the new ones introduced in each book. I spend a lot of time writing stuff that readers will never see, letting the character talk to me on the page. I want them to be “real.” The bad guys aren’t completely bad and feel justified in their actions. The good guys have flaws and insecurities. Everyone is the hero of their own story, so I like to learn as much about each of them as I can. It gets to the point where my favourite character often turns out to be the villain, as they’re often the most complex.

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

AD: My setting, while fictional, is heavily based on the area where I’ve lived all my life. I know it so well, though, that I sometimes have to step back look at things around me with fresh eyes. I try to include not only sights but smells and sensations too. If my story is set in the winter, I go outside during that season or that type of weather and observe what’s going on around me. And the real trick is to do more than simply describe the setting, but have the characters interact with it.

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

AD: I love research! I worked in EMS for several years and owned horses for over 25 years, so that part of Zoe’s world is ingrained in me, but I’ve never worked in the coroner’s office and never been a cop. However, I’ve taken citizen’s academies with the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police, the Pennsylvania State Police, and the FBI. I’ve also attended Writer’s Police Academy twice (and plan to go again this summer!) I’ve done ride-alongs and have experts in forensics, law enforcement, and the legal system ready and available to answer questions that arise.

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

AD: For those who have read my earlier book Cry Wolf and wonder about that big WOW moment at the end, you will finally get some answers about Zoe’s family in this one.

Thanks for answering my questions, Annette, and good luck with Under the Radar, the latest book in the Zoe Chambers Mystery series.

Readers can learn more about Annette and her writing by visiting her website and her Facebook page. You can also follow her on Twitter (@Annette_Dashofy)

The novel is available at the following online retailers:

Amazon – B&N – Kobo 

ANNETTE DASHOFYAbout Annette Dashofy: She is the USA Today best-selling author of the Zoe Chambers mystery series about a paramedic and deputy coroner in rural southwestern Pennsylvania. A former EMT and lifelong resident of the area about which she writes, Annette lives with her husband and one very spoiled cat on what was once her grandfather’s dairy farm. UNDER THE RADAR (February 2020) is the ninth in her series.

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

Being a Snowbird can be dangerous

MURDER ON THE MILLION DOLLAR PIER BANNER 640

Today Sarah E. Glenn, one of the duo who co-wrote Murder at the Million Dollar Pier with Gwen Mayo, is visiting Ascroft, eh? to tell us about this latest novel in the Three Snowbirds mystery series.

Welcome, Sarah. 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.

proofMatMDP_pinkflatSEG: Murder at the Million Dollar Pier is the second book in the Three Snowbirds series. It’s set at the height of the land boom in 1920s Florida, and our intrepid trio are among the early snowbirds who decided to winter in the Sunshine State. During their travels, they encounter opportunists, gangsters, and dead bodies.

In this book, the snowbirds arrive in Saint Petersburg and lodge at the newly-opened Vinoy. Their first night in the dining room, Snowbird Teddy Lawless comes face-to-face with Ansel Stevens, her ex-fiancée and the man who ruined her reputation and estranged her from her family. She was not prepared to be civil, then or during a second encounter at the Coliseum. When Ansel subsequently dies of poisoning, retired nurse Teddy quickly becomes the prime suspect. Cornelia and Professor Pettijohn must battle Ansel’s allies and his family to find the murderer.

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

SEG: In the first book, Teddy Lawless tells us that she ran away from finishing school. Since she went from being a debutante to a nurse in the Army before she met Cornelia, I knew there had to be a good story there.

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

SEG: We like to take the reader into the time and place of our stories. We try to recreate the feel of the location and the times, but we also touch on the good and bad aspects of that time. Florida was a land of great opportunity, but not for everyone. There were also winners and losers in each venture.

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

SEG: Cornelia and Teddy were inspired by Sarah’s great-great-aunt, who served as an Army nurse during the Great War (as WWI was known at the time). She served in France and was injured by poison gas. After she returned to the States, she travelled widely and hosted events in support of the veterans. Cornelia inherited her stubborn personality and a love of birdwatching. Teddy inherited the injury and social acumen, although she has put the latter to uses Aunt Dess would not have approved of.

Professor Pettijohn, engineer and inventor, was created by Gwen in her Nessa Donnelly series, and I fell in love with him. I poached the character for the Snowbirds series because he’s that much fun.

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

JPTavern (1)SEG: We visit the places we write about. Gwen and I have been to the Vinoy Hotel many times, we found what remained of The Gangplank (Saint Petersburg’s first nightclub), and we even drove to Sarasota to see the locations of Professor Pettijohn’s search for a witness. Gwen brings the sensory qualities and gritty details to our story, while I’ll tell you what was playing at the speakeasy, what people were eating, and explore the local attractions.

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

SEG: Gwen and I each bring our talents to the table. She steeps herself in books and historical photo collections for the locations, social history, and people, while I use Newspapers.com, various music sites, and old advertisements to give me a feel for what our heroes see and hear during their travels. I keep a calendar for the plotline and pair it with the information I gather. For example, our snowbirds compete for space with a throng of visitors from Maine because the governor and his entourage visited Saint Petersburg the same week our trio arrived. Why not play with it?

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

SEG: This book can be read as a standalone, but the first book in the series is Murder on the Mullet Express. The title was inspired by a real train that ran between Ocala and Homosassa for several decades.

Unlike the ‘big city’ setting of the Saint Petersburg novel, the setting is rural. The West Coast Development Company plans to build an ideal community in Homosassa, and Professor Pettijohn tells his niece Cornelia that he wants a warm winter home. He’s lying. Before the book is over, the local sheriff and mobsters from Tampa both take an unhealthy interest in him.

We’re currently working on book three, Ybor City Blues. It reintroduces us to some of the characters from the first novel, and our characters meet Charlie Wall, Tampa’s “Dean of the Underworld.” I hope this will whet your appetite!

Thank you for hosting me!

You’re welcome, Sarah. Thanks for answering my questions, and good luck with Murder at the Million Dollar Pier, the latest book in the Three Snowbirds Mystery series.

Readers can learn more about Sarah and Gwen, and their writing by visiting their Sarah’s and Gwen’s websites. You can also follow Sarah on Twitter.

The novel is available at the following online retailers

 Amazon Paperback – Amazon Kindle – B&N 

GwenSarahCouchMomeAbout Sarah E. Glenn: Sarah loves mystery and horror stories, often with a sidecar of humor. Several have appeared in mystery and paranormal anthologies, including G.W. Thomas’ Ghostbreakers series, Futures Mysterious Anthology Magazine, and Fish Tales: The Guppy Anthology. She belongs to Sisters in Crime, SinC Guppies, and the Short Mystery Fiction Society.

Her great-great aunt served as a nurse in WWI, and was injured by poison gas during the fighting. After being mustered out, she traveled widely. A hundred years later, ‘Aunt Dess’ would inspire Sarah to write stories she would likely not have approved of.

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

Three Collections Help a Worthwhile Cause

TourBanner_AustraliaBurns

Around the world people have watched the news as bush fires rage through Australia and wreck havoc and destruction, lamenting the tragedy and wanting to help. A group of authors have got together to do just that. This three volume collection of stories has been written to raise funds to donate to charities that are helping relief efforts in Australia.

Here’s a bit more about the books:

Stories in this collection are contributed by authors who care about Australia and the relief efforts from the devastating bushfires. All profits from the book will be donated to charities involved with the recovery efforts. The publisher and authors are not affiliated with the charities. They simply want to show Australia their love and support.

Volume 1: A collection of Short Stories in Mainstream Fiction, Women’s Fiction, Thrillers, and Mystery

perf5.000x8.000.inddA Solicitous Wife by Madeleine McDonald, No One Knew by Larry Farmer, Pinochle by Brenda Whiteside,  The Tuesday Night Meeting by Peggy Jaeger,  911, What’s Your Emergency? by D. V. Stone, Tall Tales by Laura Strickland, Fare Gain by Alexandra Christle, The Note by Stephen B. King, Three Ghosts by Julie Howard, Detective Paws and Lip Gloss by Maureen L. Bona tch, The Ring by Margaret Ann Spence, Portrait of a Gunfighter by Hywela Lyn, Six Hours or So by Lisa Wilkes, Prussic Acid by Melody DeBlois

 

 

Volume 2: A collection of Romance, Young Adult, and Women’s Fiction Short Stories

perf5.000x8.000.inddChe Gelida Manina by M. S. Spencer, Recipes for Love by Carol Henry, Waiting for Caleb by Gini Rifkin, Wings of Fire by Jana Richards, A Lark by Gabbi Grey, Apple Crisp by Terry Graham, Goody Twoshoes by Mark Love, The Number by Barbara Bettis, Deadly Homecoming by Peggy Chambers, An Egg-Cellent Witness by Marilyn Barr, Season of Withered Corn by Judy Ann Davis, Beneath the Pines by Debby Grahl, Christopher Reisner by Linda Griffin, Unexpected Love: Chase Allen by Anna Lores, The Cowboy and the Lady by Jean Adams, The Heart Necklace by Amanda Uhl, The Relaxation Response by Darcy Lundeen, Dancing Through Tears by Jeny Heckman

 

Volume Three: A collection of Paranormal, Horror, and Sci-Fi Fiction Short Stories

perf5.000x8.000.inddThe Pilot’s Son by CJ Zahner, The Vengeance by Rhonda Gilmour, A Climb to Kill by ML Erdahl, Born of Fangs by Sydney Winward, Johnny Appleseed      by Robert Herold, Rebellion in Slot III by Roni Denholtz, Home, Sweet Mobile Home by Alana Lorens, The Filthy Human by Tori V. Rainn, Baby Daddy by Kerry Blaisdell, The Witch of Calico Island by Cat Dubie, Stained-Glass Vision by Mary Morgan, A Witch’s Protocol by Tena Stetler, I Choose Life      by Kristal Dawn Harris, Together Forever by N. Christine Samuelson, Where Is Your High School Sweetheart? by Donna Kunkel, Lost and Found by Joanne Guidoccio, Nursery Chimes by D.S. Lucas

You can find the three volumes online at Amazon:

Volume 1

Volume 2

Volume 3

And don’t forget to enter the draw.

The publisher is giving away a $10 Amazon/BN Gift Card to a randomly drawn winner via Rafflecopter. Click here to enter.

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

Where did it come from?

SOUTHERN DOUBLE CROSS BANNER 820

Today Caroline Fardig author of Southern Double Cross, A Southern B&B mystery is joining us at Ascroft, eh? to tell us about what inspires her writing.

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

Thanks Dianne.

So, where do I find my inspiration?

One question I get asked a lot is, “How do you come up with this stuff?”  The answer is that my mind is constantly churning ideas, and it’s much easier to “come up with stuff” than to turn it off!  Still, I’m always on the lookout for unusual things to write about.  I look for inspiration in everything I do and experience, but these are a few of my favorite ways to get those creative juices flowing:

Music

SOUTHERN DOUBLE CROSSI always develop my stories to music.  When I re-read through certain scenes I have written, I can actually hear my “soundtrack” playing in the background.  Along the same lines, when I hear certain songs, I’m immediately transported into the middle of one of my books, right inside the scene as if I were actually there.  When I begin plotting a novel, I like to put on some music and relax, letting my mind wander.  The music has to fit the mood of the story, and sometimes if I find the perfect song, I wear out the replay button.

TV/movies

Let’s be clear—I am NOT in any way suggesting plagiarism here.  That being said, as a mystery writer, I find the TV show CSI very helpful.  Before I started binge watching the series, I had no idea about the science behind forensics or how the process of decomp worked.  I remember seeing one episode where the killer was using laughing gas to immobilize his victims so that he could set a fire and make it look like they had died accidentally.  The reasoning was that laughing gas doesn’t stay in the lungs for long, so it’s nearly impossible to find during an autopsy.  I wanted to go a little farther than that, and finally spun an idea about a killer mixing lethal combinations of meds that the victims were already taking.  Inspiration, not plagiarism.

Friends and family/ Life experiences

Write what you know, right?  If something funny or interesting happens to me, it goes in my next novel.  I’ve used certain interesting quirks from people I know in my characters.  And my heroines always have at least a little bit of myself in them.

People watching

I love to people watch.  It’s fun to go to a crowded place and watch humans interact.  I’ve learned so much by observing the wide spectrum of people’s facial expressions and body language.  I feel like if I can accurately describe a character’s expression and pair it with fitting dialogue, I’m (I hope!) giving my readers a glimpse into my imagination and how I see the scene playing out in my head.

New places

Every time I go to the beach, I came home with new story plans.  I think being able to completely relax and do absolutely nothing but stare out at the wide expanse of beautiful ocean for hours on end is the best inspiration I can get.  Conversely, if I’m setting a book in a big city, I always go and visit and get a feel for the area.  I try not to be a tourist, but rather act like a local to get the full effect.

 

The bottom line is that inspiration is everywhere.  In the hectic way that most of us live our lives, it’s difficult to appreciate our surroundings.  Even if you’re not a writer, take time to stop and smell the roses—they might just inspire a bright, beautiful idea.

Thanks for telling us about your inspirations, Caroline. Readers can learn more about Caroline and her writing, by visiting her website and her Facebook page. You can also follow her on Twitter (@carolinefardig).

The novel is available at the following online retailers.

Amazon  B&N   Kobo  

caroline-headshots-2015-10-06-0008About Caroline Fardig: Caroline is the USA TODAY BESTSELLING AUTHOR of the Java Jive Mysteries series and the Lizzie Hart Mysteries series. Fardig’s BAD MEDICINE was named one of the “Best Books of 2015” by Suspense Magazine. She worked as a schoolteacher, church organist, insurance agent, funeral parlor associate, and stay-at-home mom before she realized that she wanted to be a writer when she grew up. Born and raised in a small town in Indiana, Fardig still lives in that same town with an understanding husband, two sweet kids, two energetic dogs, and one malevolent cat.

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

Cooking up a mystery

THE GREAT IOWA CAUCUS BANNER 640

Today Rae Katherine Eighmey is visiting Ascroft, eh? to tell us about The Great Iowa Caucus Casserole Mystery, her latest novel in the Potluck Paradise Cafe mystery series.

Welcome, Rae. 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.

RKE: The Great Iowa Caucus Casserole Mystery is set in December and January the two Kindle front Covermonths before the Iowa Presidential Caucus. I have stories that take the four women central to the story through an entire year in the tourist community of Lake Livonia, and beyond. So I hope this will be the first of a series.

When we meet Susan Stewart in this book, she is six months into the adventure of reinventing a landmark cafe on Main Street. With the holiday season fast approaching, Susan Stewart’s fledgling Potluck Paradise Cafe is humming with the creation of new and delicious dishes to please the appetites of her community. But then, a mysterious note included in a Christmas card from her friend and mentor, Hazel Romer, who skipped town in the middle of a July night, raises important questions. What was the skeleton in Hazel’s closet that caused her to run away from the town she loved? And why had she left the restaurant to Susan? When a blizzard traps strangers in town overnight, the stage is set for a series of life-changing events for Susan, her teenaged children, and her friends, as the presidential caucus brings Iowa and Lake Livonia into national prominence.

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

RKE: The mystery is central to the characters and, without revealing too much, they told me.

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

RKE: When you live in Iowa it is hard to escape the presidential caucus.  Candidates come through beginning a year, or more, before the voting held in late January or early February every four years. How it works may be a mystery to the rest of the country. As I began to think about it, I realized that the Iowa Presidential Caucus is a casserole of finest ingredients—policy ideas, active candidates, determined local politicians, dedicated political activists, and hard-working Iowans. Every four years citizens across the state meet to hash out their differences and make a selection. Seldom is one candidate an overwhelming caucus choice. Instead, several winning candidates combine into a single dish of patriotic participation, ready to share with the rest of the nation.

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

RKE: The women, and men in The Great Iowa Caucus Casserole Mystery invented themselves.  The Iowa presidential caucus is central to the story. It happens every four years.  I began thinking about the book’s possibilities in time for the 2016 campaign, but it didn’t come together. So I’ve had Hazel, Susan, Lily, and June floating around in my brain. As the candidates began to come through Iowa this year, I figured it was now or never and the women began scrambling to get on to the page. And, may goodness; they had become very strong-minded over the years. On more than one page, I thought I knew where a chapter was heading and all of a sudden the words came out very differently from the character’s mouths.  But, mostly, I was able to be the boss!

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

RKE: I’m drawn to two things to help set the scene and establish the characters for my fiction and non-fiction books—weather and food. The weather is particularly key in The Great Iowa Caucus Casserole Mystery when a suddenly developing blizzard unexpectedly connects key characters. Changing winter weather continues as a strand through the book. As to the food, when the main character runs a cafe, how can you avoid food?  The recipes Susan Stewart picks for the caucus events discussions are drawn from midwestern classic comfort food.

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

RKE: Researching the events and lives of the characters for The Great Iowa Caucus Casserole Mystery was much easier than the months and even years of research I’ve done for my non-fiction books about Abraham Lincoln in the Kitchen and Stirring the Pot with Benjamin Franklin.  I have written two other novels that did require extensive research but for this novel my work was much easier. I live in a similar north Iowa community to the Lake Livonia setting for this book.  I’ve been to the presidential caucus over the years. However, I did need to verify the procedures for the 2020 caucus with the political parties. I also looked back through my old midwestern cookbooks to find specific recipes to fit the themes from the book’s caucus information night dishes. I selected some from WWI food conservation, classics from the 1950s, and even some health foods.

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

RKE: While The Great Iowa Caucus Casserole Mystery is centred around a political event, it is really the story of four strong, very different, women. Susan, Lily, June, and Hazel cooperate in the best of ways.  Susan’s teenaged children are a key part of her success. This is a cheerful story with 30 really great recipes.

Thanks for answering my questions, Rae, and good luck with The Great Iowa Caucus Casserole Mystery, the latest book in the Potluck Paradise Cafe Mystery series.

Online the novel is available on Amazon

Great Iowa Rae Eighmey headshotAbout Rae Katherine Eighmey: She is an award-winning author and cook with blue ribbons from both the Iowa and Minnesota State Fair cooking contests. She is the author of a dozen books about food and history including Abraham Lincoln in the Kitchen and Stirring the Pot with Benjamin Franklin.

She has written two other novels. Current events inspired this cozy mystery. A north Iowa resident, she is familiar with the Iowa presidential caucus and wanted to tell the tale of the caucus through the friendly story of three strong women who meet challenges in their lives and cook great food.

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

A Field Guide to Homicide

A FIELD GUIDE TO HOMICIDE BANNER 820

Today Lynn Cahoon is visiting Ascroft, eh? to tell us about A Field Guide to Homicide, her latest novel in the Cat Latimer mystery series.

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

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

A FIELD GUIDE TO HOMICIDELC: A FIELD GUIDE TO HOMICIDE is book #6 of the Cat Latimer series.  Cat runs a writers retreat in a mountain small college town in Colorado. Each book has four new writers, a student from Covington College, and of course, the crazy regulars. For this book, Seth (the Cat’s love interest and the town handyman) is taking the writing group on their own hike of the Colorado mountains, complete with a field guide to find local plants and animals. The one thing that wasn’t listed in the guide was the dead body. Then they find out it’s one of Seth’s army buddies.  One that was thought to have died in Germany many years ago.

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

LC: I really love the idea of hiding in plain sight and since Seth had gone into the service right out of college to make a life for him and Cat (before she married another man), I really needed to know what happened to make him leave the service.

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

LC: Old friendships and relationships is a big theme in the story. Bringing in already built and sometimes failed relationships for a second chance gives me as the writer a lot of things to play with. Here, there are several couples who are brought back together after years of being apart. Healing old wounds is a cathartic event.  And we always bring in the person as we think we know them.

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

LC: For my main characters, they build as the series builds. Uncle Pete is dating a past retreat guest, Shirley. She’s been really fun to write since she started writing after a career in law enforcement. The students and writers are fun because you know they’ll be gone in the next book.

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

LC: I love small town settings. And building the college town where Cat and Seth grew up and Cat went to school, was extra fun. The area was based on the area where I went to school in Boise. We lived in a small apartment on a street that had a lot of lovely old houses (like the house Cat owns). So it was fun thinking about living there in one of those houses.

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

LC: Since I’m writing cozy mysteries, research isn’t a huge part of the writing process. I did pinpoint the area where my fictional Aspen Hills is located. I wanted it close to Denver, but not too close.  Recipe testing is important because most of the books in the series have recipes included.

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

LC: Cozy mysteries are fun to read and write. I personally started writing the genre because it was where I went for comfort reads during my cancer treatments. It’s a fun genre to write because these characters become real to me. I hope you enjoy your visit to Aspen Hills.

Thanks for answering my questions, Lynn, and good luck with A Field Guide to Homicide, the latest book in the Cat Latimer mystery series.

Readers can learn more about Lynn and her writing by visiting her website and her Facebook and Goodreadspages. You can also follow her onTwitter.

The novel is available at the following online retailers:

 Amazon – B&N – Kobo – Google Play 

LYNN CAHOON 1 (2)About Lynn Cahoon: Lynn is the award-winning author of several New York Times and USA Today bestselling cozy mystery series. The Tourist Trap series is set in central coastal California with six-holiday novellas releasing in 2018–2019. She also pens the Cat Latimer series available in mass market paperback. Her newest series, the Farm to Fork mystery series, debuted in 2018. She lives in a small town like the ones she loves to write about with her husband and two fur babies. Readers can sign up for her newsletter at www.lynncahoon.com.

Posted in February 2020, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

What’s so funny about mystery?

SURVIVAL CAN BE DEADLY BANNER - 1 - 640

Today Charlotte Stuart author of Survival Can Be Deadly, a Discount Detective mystery, is joining us at Ascroft, eh? to talk about Your Myers-Briggs Type and Your Sense of Humor.

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

Laughter is universal across cultures. Humans start developing a sense of humor as early as six weeks old. It even exists in some animals. Primates, dogs, crows, parrots, rats, elephants, and dolphins are often mentioned in studies by researchers of humor in the animal kingdom. We all have the ability to laugh, but we don’t all end up laughing at the same things.

SURVIVAL CAN BE DEADLY coverAs a consultant I was certified in Myers-Briggs and used the assessment to look at teamwork and help resolve conflicts in the workplace. I renewed my interest in the personality inventory when, as a writer of humorous mysteries, I was trying to better understand how readers relate to humor. Although I didn’t come up with anything concrete to help me finetune my writing, I did find it helpful to better understand how personalities drive humor preferences. For one thing, it made me more accepting of criticism. What one person might label as hilarious, another might find trite. Not only can this be explained by the quality of the writing, but sometimes by the reader/writer relationship to humor.

It’s estimated that more than 50 million people have taken the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. Although some contend it isn’t as accurate as other assessments because it was developed through clinical observation rather than controlled research, it nevertheless provides a unique starting point from which to explore the reasons for differences in our responses to humor.

Here’s the quick and dirty explanation of the Myers-Briggs approach of looking at personality variations within four basic functions.

  • Introversion (I) & Extraversion (E)
    Do we get our energy more from ideas or from people? For instance, do you come home from a party exhausted or energized?
  • Intuition (N) & Sensing (S)
    Do you look for patterns and the big picture? Or do you prefer details and hands-on experience?
  • Feeling (F) & Thinking (T)
    Do you consider people and emotions when making decisions or do you prefer relying solely on facts and data?
  • Perception (P) & Judging (J)
    Are you flexible and adaptable or do you prefer structure and closure?

If you haven’t taken this assessment, the simple explanations above probably don’t explain everything you need to know to understand how your Myers-Briggs type connects to your sense of humor. But you may find it revealing to know that these kinds of differences exist and can predict – to some extent – what we laugh at.

The Myers-Briggs Inventory starts with the four functions and combines them to create sixteen personality types. Psychologists have connected these types to their humor preferences.

ISTJ – dry, meticulous

INTJ – sarcastic and cynical

INFJ – dark

ISFJ – hidden but surprising playful

ISTP – ironic or deadpan

ISFP – wide range, self-mocking

INFP – touch of the absurd, offbeat

INTP – can make almost anything funny

ESTP – broadly funny can be goofy

ESFP – light-hearted wit

ENTP – outrageous, extra dark

ENFP – playful and colorful

ESTJ – aggressive and shocking

ESFJ – adaptable to others

ENFJ – adaptive, appreciate dark and sarcastic observations

ENTJ – edgy and outrageous

Although I resist labels in general, I have to admit that my “type” and the humor I supposedly prefer, is right on.

A few observations:

  • Although some labels may seem negative – like “aggressive and shocking,” when you think about films such as Fargo, how else would you describe that type of humor?
  • I find it interesting that those types where people get their energy from other people also like to “adapt” to others, perhaps laughing at the same jokes when in a group.
  • Many of the introverts seem to find wordplay and irony appealing; whereas extroverts appear to prefer more playful humor, or, in some cases, exaggerated or dramatic humor.

Maya Angelou said: “I don’t trust anyone who doesn’t laugh.” She was an amazing writer with a wonderful, hearty laugh. Hopefully, in this chaotic world that is often fraught with negativity, we can find relief and comfort through laughter. And although I’m biased, I would suggest humorous mysteries as an excellent source of distraction and amusement You just have to find the right type of humor to tickle your funny bone.

Thanks for introducing yourself to us, Charlotte, with your explanation of how readers’ sense of humour impacts their enjoyment of mysteries that have a humorous element.

Readers can learn more about Charlotte and her writing by visiting the author’s website and her Facebook and Goodreadspages. You can also follow her on Twitter.

The novel is available online at Amazon.

 Amazon – B&N – Kobo – IndieBound

Survival CLStuartAbout Charlotte Stuart: In a world filled with uncertainty and too little chocolate, Charlotte Stuart, PhD, has taught college courses in communication, gone commercial fishing in Alaska, and was the VP of HR and Training for a large credit union. Her current passion is for writing lighthearted mysteries with a pinch of adventure and a dollop of humor. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys watching herons, eagles, seals and other sea life from her Vashon Island home office.

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

In Blue Ridge Library you might be Bound for Murder

BOUND FOR MURDER BANNER 6401

Today Victoria Gilbert is visiting Ascroft, eh? to tell us about Bound for Murder, her latest novel in the Blue Ridge Library mystery series.

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

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

BOUND FOR MURDER coverVG: BOUND FOR MURDER is the fourth book in the Blue Ridge Library Mystery series. This book focuses on the discovery of human bones on a farm that was once a 1960s commune. This older murder is tied to more current deaths, as my protagonist discovers that it wasn’t all peace and love among the “flower children” who lived in and around her home town.

The Blue Ridge Library Mystery series is a contemporary mystery series set in the fictional town of Taylorsford, which is located at the foot of the mountains in northern Virginia. The protagonist, Amy Webber, is the thirty-something library director of the Taylorsford public library. Determined and inquisitive, she is often called upon to assist the local sheriff’s department with research, but also finds herself involved in other aspects of local murder investigations. Amy lives with her elegant and charming aunt, Lydia Talbot, and is aided in her sleuthing by her significant other, dancer and choreographer, Richard Muir, as well as her best friend, Sunny, and other friends and family members.

There are currently four books published in the series: A MURDER FOR THE BOOKS (2017), SHELVED UNDER MURDER (2018), PAST DUE FOR MURDER (2019), and now BOUND FOR MURDER (2020). A fifth book, A DEADLY EDITION, will be published in Dec. 2020. In all of the books, historic events, including some mysterious deaths, intertwine with the contemporary murder investigations, and the historic mysteries are solved alongside the current ones.

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

VG: I wanted to write a story that featured one of the main secondary characters in my series, Sunshine “Sunny” Fields, and her family. Sunny is the library assistant at the Taylorsford Public Library and, in later books, also the town’s part-time mayor.

Sunny was raised by her grandparents, Carol and P.J. Fields, on their organic farm located just outside of Taylorsford. Back in the 1960s, Carol and P.J. were hippies and ran the farm as a commune. Several young people lived at the farm over a few years in the early 60s, one of whom disappeared without a trace not long after leaving the commune. When this former commune member’s skeleton is unearthed on the farm, it sets off an investigation that implicates Sunny’s grandparents and many of their former friends and acquaintances.

I was inspired to write this particular story by my own experiences of the hippie revolution – I was too young to participate, but I did observe it via my older schoolmates, cousins, and, of course, media coverage at the time. The concept of a group of young people living and working together while trying to reshape themselves and the world has always fascinated me. But as I sadly observed, these experiments didn’t often end well, primarily because of human nature, but also due to the drug use that was so prevalent at the time.

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

VG: There isn’t a very explicit theme, but the concept of past actions influencing the present is an important thread. There is also an exploration of how keeping secrets, no matter how well-intentioned, can be destructive to families and friendships.

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

VG: It’s difficult for me to explain how I create characters. I tend to start thinking about some basic aspects of each individual and build on that in a more organic way. That is, I allow for some “discovery” in writing the characters. Even though I know their basic backgrounds, they often surprise me!

Although I like all my characters, even the antagonists, I do have favourites. Again, I don’t always know going into the story which ones I will like the best. Often, I just find I enjoy writing some of the characters more than others, based on the personalities and character interactions that emerge as I develop them over the book, and the series.

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

VG: With this series, I can draw on my background, as I was raised in a small town in the area that Taylorsford and its environs are based on. As someone very familiar with the history and culture of the Blue Ridge Mountains, particularly in northern Virginia, I use a lot of my own experiences to add verisimilitude to the series. While Taylorsford is fictional, the town is basically an amalgam of a few real small towns, which means the natural environment, architecture, town layout, businesses, and cultural aspects are in keeping with a very specific area of the U.S. I think this add to the sense of reality in the setting.

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

VG: As a former librarian, I am always invested in doing research, but I don’t complete all of it before I begin writing the book. I may do a little bit at the beginning, then dive into more specific research as required by the story. For example, in the second book in the series, SHELVED UNDER MURDER, I found that I had to stop several times to research aspects of art theft and forgery, since that played a large part in the plot.

I use all types of resources for research – online materials, print, video, and primary documents. I have also travelled to specific locations for research purposes, although I can’t afford to do too much of that!

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

VG: I would like to let them know that I write each book in the series in a way that allows them to work as standalones. I promise that I never write “cliff-hanger” endings! But if a reader is really interested in ongoing, deeper, character development, I do recommend starting with the first book and reading through the series.

Thanks for answering my questions, Victoria, and good luck with Bound for Murder, the latest book in the Blue Ridge Library Mystery series.

Here’s an excerpt from the novel:

My foot, resting next to the macramé purse, vibrated from the loud music blaring from Sunny’s cell phone. “You want to get that? I realize the rule is no phones at the desk but since there’s no one here right now…”

Kurt coughed.

“No one who will care, I mean.” I cast him a smile before grabbing Sunny’s purse and handing it to her. “Go on—I know that ring.”

“Yeah, it’s the grands. Again.” Sunny pulled a comical face as she fished her phone out of the pouch. “They aren’t usually this needy, but ever since the county started that dredging work on the creek, they’ve been calling nonstop. They’re so worried about damage to the trees and shrubs along the stream bed.”

“Of course.” I’d heard plenty about this from Carol and P.J., who were irate over the heavy equipment that had recently descended upon their quiet organic farm. The fact that the county had a right-of-way to the creek, which was part of a larger watershed, did nothing to appease their anger.

“Government barreling in and taking over, like usual,” P.J. had told me, his thin lips quivering with repressed rage. “Didn’t even inform us ahead of time. Just showed up one day and proceeded to rip up my fields with their equipment. Well, they’d better not destroy our trees along the creek, that’s all I’ve got to say.”

I shook my head. “Can’t say I blame them.” I directed my words to Kurt as Sunny listened intently to her phone. “The county’s been tearing up the stream banks all along its route.”

Kurt’s expression betrayed no emotion, but his jaw tightened. That was odd. The art dealer rarely appeared tense, even in the direst of circumstances, yet the mention of dredging a creek seemed to have distressed him. It piqued my curiosity.

Or maybe I was imagining things. I shook my head to clear my thoughts. “They say it benefits the environment because it allows for better run-off from nearby rivers and ponds. But I don’t know. It seems rather destructive to me.”

When Kurt replied, his voice was as calm and charming as ever. “I knew that the dredging work was ongoing but didn’t realize it involved that farm.”

“Yeah, unfortunately.” I glanced at Sunny and noticed that all the color had fled her face. “Anything wrong?”

Sunny’s fingers clutched her cell phone so tightly I worried she might crack the plastic case. “Yes. Not with the grands, thank goodness, but dredging crews found something on the farm.”

“Buried treasure?” I asked, with a quick glance at Kurt.

“No, not anything like that.” Sunny’s voice shook. “According to the grands, an operator swung his Bobcat bucket the wrong way and dug deep into the bank, up and away from the stream. And that’s when they found it.”

“Found what?” I asked, my gaze flitting from Sunny’s trembling lips to the carved-in-stone stillness of Kurt’s face and back again.

“Bones,” Sunny said. “Human bones.” She stared at me, her eyes as glazed as glass. “An entire skeleton.”

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

The novel is available at the following online retailers:

Amazon     B&N    Kobo    Indie Bound   

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

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

Think twice before you hang out in an Apron Shop

HEMS AND HOMICIDE BANNER 820 1

Today Elizabeth Penney is visiting Ascroft, eh? to tell us about Hems and Homicide, her first novel in the Apron Shop mystery series.

Welcome, Elizabeth. 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.

HEMS AND HOMICIDE coverEP: HEMS AND HOMICIDE is the first in the Apron Shop Series, set in small town Blueberry Cove, Maine. Iris Buckley, a former fabric designer, is the main character in the series. After getting downsized from a catalog company, Iris returns home and starts selling vintage aprons and linens online. Her widowed grandmother, Anne Buckley, convinces Iris to open a shop on Main Street called Ruffles & Bows. Anne is also her business partner. The shop cat is an orange tabby named Quincy.

Blueberry Cove is home to an eclectic array of Maine natives, with spice added by newcomers and tourists. While launching and growing their business, Iris and Anne find themselves embroiled in small town mysteries and murders. Subplots include the lives of close friends, often connected to mysteries, and a touch of romance as Iris and Anne both begin to date again.

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

EP: One of my favorite plot devices is solving a mystery from the past, probably sparked by voracious reading of Nancy Drew as a child. All those secrets in the attic! Anyway, I decided to include two murders, one past, one present, but related to each other and to someone Iris loves, her grandmother. Anne is seventy, coming of age in the early 1970s, so I created a mystery featuring Maine in that period.

Is there a theme or subject that underlies the story? If so, what prompted you to write about it?
EP
: Cozy mystery series are built around a premise and there are many wonderful ones already published, which can make it hard to come up with something different. But during my idea phase, I realized that aprons offer numerous story possibilities. In addition to being beautiful garments, they are rich in history and cultural associations, i.e. plot ideas. In recent years, aprons have also enjoyed a surge in popularity and you can even buy them in big box stores! Iris Buckley, my main character, searches out antique aprons in all kinds of intriguing places, managing to stumble into murder and mayhem along the way. Quite often secrets of the past come to light.

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

EP: Character creation is a mysterious process. In this case, I started with my premise of an apron shop and then thought about my main character. An association many of us have concerning aprons is the 1950s, when they were very popular. Iris, my main character, favors mid-century style and she has a curvy figure suited to those clothes. She’s also a fabric designer so she’s well-versed in textiles, research, and fashion design. I also wanted to include an older character so I created Anne. With Anne, I wanted to step out of the stereotypes about older women. She’s energetic, active, and entrepreneurial.

I love all my characters and they come to seem quite real to me. But I do have a special fondness for some of the quirky cast members that seem to pop up when I write. HEMS AND HOMICIDE features a pig named Bacon, for example.

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

EP: I grew up in Maine and I live right next door now so it’s fairly easy to make visits and absorb the atmosphere. I try to include little details that really put you there: the cry of seagulls, the smell of salt, the breeze on your face as you watch waves roll in.

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

EP: I do a blend of in-person (for atmosphere and inspiration re: the town) and online. Typical research includes apron history, periodicals from a period (if writing about the past), law enforcement procedures, current news, and societal trends. For example, a trend I highlight in THREAD AND DEAD, book 2, is the growing interest in seaweed farming in Maine. I love including quirky and little-known details of Maine life in my books.

Thanks for answering my questions, Elizabeth, and good luck with Hems and Homicide, the first book in the Apron Shop Mystery series.

Readers can learn more about Elizabeth and her writing by visiting her website and her Goodreads page. You can also follow her on Twitter (@liz2penney).

The novel is available at the following online retailers:

Amazon  Barnes & Noble   IndieBound

ELIZABETH PENNEY HemsAbout Elizabeth Penney: She is an author, entrepreneur, and local food advocate living in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. In addition to writing full-time, she operates a small farm. Elements that often appear in her novels include vintage summer cottages, past/present mysteries, and the arts. She is represented by the fabulous Elizabeth Bewley at Sterling Lord Literistic.

Elizabeth’s writing credits include over twenty mysteries, short stories, and hundreds of business articles. A former consultant and nonprofit executive, she holds a BS and an MBA. She’s also written screenplays with her musician husband. She loves walking in the woods, kayaking on quiet ponds, trying new recipes, and feeding family and friends.

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

Fancy some glitter, glam and contraband?

GLITTER GLAM AND CONTRABAND BANNER 6401

Today Heather Weidner is visiting Ascroft, eh? to tell us about Glitter, Glam and Contraband, her latest novel in the Delanie Fitzgerald mystery series.

Welcome, Heather. 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.

HW: Thank you so much for letting me visit your blog. I’m so excited about the third book in the Delanie Fitzgerald series. In this one, my sassy private investigator is hired to find out who is stealing from the talent at a local drag show. Delanie gets more than she bargains for and a few makeup tips in the process. She also uses her skills to track down missing reptiles and uncover hidden valuables from a 100-year-old crime with a Poe connection.

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

Glitter, Glam, and Contraband copy_finalHW: Delanie, a private investigator, has three major cases/clients in this mystery. She had sleuthed at a local drag show in book one, and the owner calls her to help find out who is stealing from the talent in book three. My author friends (Fiona Quinn, Tina Glasneck, and Rosemary Shomaker) went with me to Godfrey’s in Richmond, VA for research. The talent there was very helpful and had lots of story ideas when they found out we were writers.

One of my team members at my day gig used to raise reptiles, and another collects exotic fish. They gave me the idea for contraband animals. And many years ago, I read an article about cornerstones and time capsules, and that triggered an idea for a mystery.

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

HW: My sleuth is a private investigator, and her income comes mainly from workman’s comp and cheating spouse cases. She’s excited to have more than one case at a time in this mystery. My stories are set in and around Richmond, VA. Readers will recognize a lot of the places that Delanie visits.

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

HW: I really like Delanie, her computer hacker partner, Duncan Reynolds, and his sidekick, Margaret the Wonder Dog. They are fun. Delanie is spunky and sassy, and she gets into way more trouble than I do. I also have a sleazy strip club owner, Charles (Chaz) Wellington Smith, III, who appeared in book one. He needed Delanie’s help to clear him when he’s accused of murdering the mayor. He was supposed to be only in book one, but he’s such a fun foil for Delanie, that he’s made an appearance in all of the books. Chaz grows on you after a while. In this book, he’s running for mayor of Richmond.

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

HW: I write where I know. All of my stories, novellas, and books are set in Virginia. I grew up in Virginia Beach, and we’ve lived in Central Virginia since the early 1990s.

The region with its mix of rural, suburbia, and urban neighbourhoods is a great place to live and write novels. I work in downtown Richmond on a hill above the former Tredegar Ironworks with one of the best views in RVA. This region is home to the state capital, but in many ways, it’s still a close-knit community. And I’m excited to share the big city/small town feel of the area with my readers.

The location gives me a lot of freedom to develop my mystery in a world with trees, cows, farmland, suburbia, skyscrapers, and the mighty James River. My sleuth, Delanie Fitzgerald, is a spunky private investigator with a knack for getting in and out of humorous situations. She lives in a quaint Sears and Roebuck catalog bungalow that fits her quirky style. While there are some catalog homes in the Hopewell area, I took the liberty of moving one to Chesterfield County for my private eye. From 1908 to 1940, the homes were originally ordered and delivered by rail to the owners who assembled them on their property. Delanie’s home is the Yates model, and new, the price ranged from $1,812 to $2,058 in 1938.

Central Virginia is on the I-95 corridor, close to Washington, DC, the beach, and the mountains. My character zips around the countryside and through the city in her black Mustang. She investigates clues or tails suspects in and around many historic and popular locales, including: Belle Island, Bon Air, Brandermill, Byrd Park, Carytown, Church Hill, Kanawha Canal, Library of Virginia, Main Street Station, Maymont, the Poe Museum, and Shockoe Slip. In the back of my novels, I always include a short list of the locales that are real.

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

HW: I actually do a lot of research. While the people and the crimes are fictitious, the world and most of the places are real. I want to make sure that I get the details right. I have a lot of crazy Google searches, and I’m sure I’m on someone’s list. Recently, I’ve been researching poisonous snakes, lidar radar guns, knives, drag queen blogs, and tiny houses.

My dad was a police officer for 46 years, and he’s a great resource. I’m also fortunate to be a part of several writer groups that have great programs with law enforcement and forensic experts. And social media is a great tool. I post questions on Facebook and Twitter a lot, and people are generous with their time and expertise.

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

HW: Delanie is spunky and feisty. She charges headfirst into situations; sometimes without thinking of the dangers. She gets into situations that include comicons, Renaissance faires, drag shows, larping (live action role playing), and roller derby.

Thanks for answering my questions, Heather, and good luck with Glitter, Glam and Contraband, the latest book in the Delanie Fitzgerald Mystery series.

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

The novel is available at the following online retailers:

 Amazon  – Apple Books –  Barnes and Noble – BookBub  –  Kobo –  Scribd 

Heather Weidner 2About Heather Weidner: Glitter, Glam, and Contraband is Heather Weidner’s third novel in the Delanie Fitzgerald series. Her short stories appear in the Virginia is for Mysteries series, 50 Shades of Cabernet, and Deadly Southern Charm. Her novellas appear in The Mutt Mysteries series. She is a member of Sisters in Crime – Central Virginia, Guppies, International Thriller Writers, and James River Writers. Originally from Virginia Beach, Heather has been a mystery fan since Scooby-Doo and Nancy Drew. She lives in Central Virginia with her husband and a pair of Jack Russell terriers. Heather earned her BA in English from Virginia Wesleyan University and her MA in American literature from the University of Richmond. Through the years, she has been a technical writer, editor, college professor, software tester, and IT manager.

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