Welcome to my Whimsical World

red 1Whenever I go out for the day or even for a short while, I enjoy seeing the scenery around me. It’s one of the advantages to living in the country. Cities have their own beauty and majesty but there’s just something special about the countryside. I often snap photos of landscapes, animals and flowers that catch my eye.

Last month I had a look through some of the photos I’ve taken during the past couple of years and realised that there were ones that would make great designs for the items I create in Redbubble. So I set to work creating Irish landscape and nature designs for my shop and I ended up with quite a few.

red 3Instead of just uploading them all at once, I’ve decided to do an Irish Country Christmas Countdown on my Whimsical World FB and Redbubble pages. Each day from 1st December until Christmas Eve I will upload one of my new Irish landscape and nature designs to Redbubble and tell FB readers about the new design and the inspiration behind it on my Whimsical World FB page.

Please drop by Dianne Ascroft’s Whimsical World FB as often as you wish until Christmas red 2Eve to see the new creation added that day.

All my designs can be found on Dianne Ascroft’s Whimsical World Redbubble page.

Hope you will visit this month.


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Posted in Archives, December 2019, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

How do you paint a ghost?


Today Sybil Johnson is visiting Ascroft, eh? to tell us about Ghosts of Painting Past, her latest novel in the Aurora Anderson mystery series.

Welcome, Sybil. 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.

SJ: Ghosts of Painting Past is the 5th book in my Aurora Anderson mystery series featuring computer programmer and tole/decorative painting enthusiast, Aurora (Rory) Anderson. The books are set in the fictional town of Vista Beach, California.


It’s Christmastime in the quiet Los Angeles County city of Vista Beach, home of computer programmer and tole-painting enthusiast Aurora (Rory) Anderson. The magic of the season fills the air as residents enjoy school concerts, a pier lighting ceremony and the annual sand-snowman contest.

During the weeks leading up to Christmas, Rory plans on painting ornaments to sell at the local craft fair and joining in on the holiday fun. But she finds the season anything but jolly after the house across the street is torn down, revealing a decades old crime. Past meets present when her father is implicated in the murder.

Fearing for her father’s future, Rory launches her own investigation, intent on discovering the truth and clearing his name.

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

SJ: For the last eight years, there has been continuous construction on our block. Four houses have been torn down and replaced with larger ones so far. We’re going into the ninth year (not joking) and there’s no end in sight. To deal with all of the annoyance and frustration this causes, I play the What if game, coming up with various mystery plots dealing with construction. One of those thoughts was: “What if a skeleton was found on a lot where a house was being torn down?” The story took off from there.

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

SJ: This book takes place around Christmas. Every time I think of the holidays, I think of family so I decided to have the story revolve around Rory’s parents. I also incorporated different kinds of families and thought about what people will do for their own family members when creating characters for the story.

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

SJ: I think every character I create has a little bit of me in them, which I suspect is true of most writers. Rory’s personality is probably the closest to mine of all of the characters I’ve created. I think of her as a better version of myself. I was in software development for many years and that’s what she does as well. We both enjoy decorative painting, but she’s a better painter than I am! Her best friend, Liz, is pretty much the complete opposite of Rory, both physically and personality wise. Where Rory is tall (6 feet—I always wanted to be tall), Liz is short. Liz is also much more outgoing and extremely confident. I like to say she’ll talk to anyone, anytime about anything. In some ways, she has characteristics that I wish I possessed myself.

For other characters, I take inspiration from the people I meet, even those brief encounters we have every day, as well as from reality show contestants and from people I know. Everything percolates in my brain and new characters come out.

Liz is probably my favorite character to write. Through her I get to “do” things I’d never do myself in real life.

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

SJ: I live in a beach city similar to the fictional one I write about. As soon as I know what time of year the story I’m working on will take place, I look to see what events and festivals happen in my area around that time and see if I can incorporate similar ones into the story. In A Palette For Murder I featured a chalk art festival that was loosely based on one that takes place every year in a nearby city and in Ghosts of Painting Past I put in a pier lighting ceremony that is very similar to one that takes place in the town I live in.

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

SJ: Since I do live in a city that’s similar to the one I write about, research often consists of just walking around town and seeing what’s going on. If I plan on putting in a festival like the chalk art festival I mentioned earlier, I try to attend the event I’m basing it on to get a feel for it. If that’s not possible, I do a lot of googling to see what I can find out about it. I pay special attention to any pictures and videos people post.

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

SJ: While Ghosts of Painting Past is the 5th book in the series, you don’t have to read the others to enjoy this one. I write all of my books so a reader can pick up any of them and get into the story without having to know what happened in the ones before it.

Thanks for answering my questions, Sybil, and good luck with Ghosts of Painting Past, the latest book in the Aurora Anderson Mystery series.

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

The novel is available at the following online retailers:

 Amazon Kindle – Amazon Paperback – Kobo 

SybilJohnson_2_croppedAbout Sybil Johnson: Sybil’s love affair with reading began in kindergarten with “The Three Little Pigs.” Visits to the library introduced her to Encyclopedia Brown, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle and a host of other characters. Fast forward to college where she continued reading while studying Computer Science. After a rewarding career in the computer industry, Sybil decided to try her hand at writing mysteries. Her short fiction has appeared in Mysterical-E and Spinetingler Magazine, among others. Originally from the Pacific Northwest, she now lives in Southern California where she enjoys tole painting, studying ancient languages and spending time with friends and family.

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

What a combination – memories and murder


Today Lynn Cahoon, author of Memories and Murder, a Tourist Trap mystery is joining us at Ascroft, eh? to tell us a bit about this latest novel in the series.

Welcome Lynn. Without any further delay, I’ll turn the floor over to you:

Hi blog readers! Thanks for having me over today. I’m so excited to tell you that Memories and Murder –book 10 of the Tourist Trap series is finally out.  I’ve been thinking about this story since I finished writing Killer Party so I’m ready to start talking about the story.

MEMORIES AND MURDER COVERI love writing cozy mysteries. Especially Tourist Trap. It’s set on the central California coast in a tourist town.  I love visiting the area and so when I’m planning a new book, it’s like I’m on vacation.  The area has beautiful beaches with a rocky coast line. And it’s close to the mountains. So it’s the best of both worlds, beach and mountain escapes.

Writing the series is like going home. Each of the books build on the characters’ lives.  I know they’re about the mystery, but if you have an ongoing cast of characters, you have to have some of their lives in addition to just solving the mystery.  The cool thing about the Tourist Trap series, is typically, there’s a new business added to the community with each story. I’ve had to let some of the characters move on and to better lives, but I guess all parents feel that way.

I’m asked often who my favorite character is in the books. My answer is always, I don’t have one. Each of the characters have their own style and growth ARC. I think Josh (the antique dealer) has grown the most in the stories and since he’s been doing the work, he deserves some good karma.  Maybe in book 12.  (Book 11 is already written and up for pre-order – Murder in Waiting.) Or maybe in a future book.

What’s the hardest thing to write? This is probably the next favorite question.  I have an easy answer. The title. Either it’s there or it doesn’t show up at all. The good thing is I have a great editorial team who is excellent at coming up with something when my mind is blank.

A final question that I get a lot is do I use real people for my characters. The answer is no. But sometimes, I do use a real person to start building a character. They usually don’t stay in the series long, if you get my drift.

So what questions do you have of authors that I didn’t hit?  I’ll stop by and answer a few more if you have some.

Thanks for introducing yourself and the series to us, Lynn.

Readers can learn more about Lynn and the Tourist Trap series by visiting the author’s website and her Facebook page. You can also follow her on Twitter.

The novel is available at the following online retailers:

 Amazon – B&N – Kobo  

LYNN CAHOON 1 (1)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.

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

Meet M.T. Bass and his new mystery


Today M.T. Bass is visiting Ascroft, eh? to tell us about Article 15, the first novel in his new mystery series.

Welcome, M.T. 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.

BookCover Article 15MTB: Article 15 did not start out being a series. I had an uber rich, sexy femme fatale going up against an ex-Navy SEAL, Griff. Once I was on the downhill side of the plot line, though, it struck me that the whole situation with Griff working as a “fixer” for his lawyer buddy, Lance, could have some legs with another story. I actually do have an idea for his next…adventure. And I’ve got a title, too: Outside the Wire. It just kind of works out that way sometimes.

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

MTB: I’m really in debt to Kathleen Turner’s role as Matty Walker in Body Heat. She was pretty darn scary in a lust inducing way. Strong female characters like that are alluring to me as a writer and I knew at some point that I would have to go down that dark path myself. I just wanted a more worthy challenge for Helena than Ned Racine, and I think Griff matches up pretty well with her.

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

MTB: I’m not a big social media guy. It’s kind of a necessity. But as a writer, the whole idea of censorship of any kind really, really bugs me and Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter, all out there deciding what people should and should not post and see over the past few years, just rubbed me the wrong way. Then, when you look into it, there is some nefarious history behind the scenes between government and Big Tech.  After all, Al Gore invented the Internet, right?  Any way it all made for a good dramatic backdrop for Helena and Griff.

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

MTB: I don’t feel like I “create” my characters.  They kind of all appear complete and I just fill in some of the details about them as I go along. A lot of times my favorites are the ones that are not really center stage, like T-Rex or Hannah or Ben.  They serve their particular roles in the stories, but I look at them and think, “Hmmm, there’s really more there than meets the eye.” But the story has to move along.

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

MTB: I’m not a really big detail guy.  And with TV, most scenes—like courtrooms, business offices, police stations, malls, and restaurants—are pretty familiar to readers. So, I try to find those few details critical to the characters and the action that I can spotlight, like Johnny’s (Griff’s lawyer) wall of celebrity 8x10s in his office.

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

MTB: Everything. Books, magazine articles, podcasts, YouTube videos, Google Earth, and, of course, the Interweb. Back in the antiquities, I spent a lot of time in the library. Now, it’s all right there, just a screen shot away. For every minute I scribble, I’ll bet I spend five or ten minutes doing research.

Thanks for answering my questions, M.T., and good luck with Article 15, the first book in your new mystery series.

Let’s share with readers an excerpt from the novel: “The low, almost husky yet honey smooth female voice poured seductively over Griff and blanked his mind as he turned into the pilot’s lounge. Though dimly lit, as they all were to facilitate napping, her red dress glowed like a hearth, yet she still wore her sunglasses as she studied her iPhone’s screen, slouching and sitting askew in one of the La-Z-Boy recliners with her legs crossed. Griff’s eye was drawn to the slow but rhythmic bounce of her stiletto heel. Predator had become prey. She took off her Jackie Ohhs, looked Griff up and down, then took a deep breath.

“Mmmm…tall, dark and dangerous…just the way I like them.”

Griff locked onto her blue-gray eyes and surrendered. He leaned against the door jam. His inside voice taunted, No plan survives contact with the enemy.

“I couldn’t help but notice Lance’s Escalade on the ramp. He is a conniving bastard, isn’t he? Of course, he is a lawyer, but he does excel at it. Not to mention the unseemly delight he takes in it.”

“Always has,” Griff said. “As long as I’ve known him.”

“Then, you really shouldn’t be surprised.”

Griff smiled, realizing it wasn’t Mayor Daley’s fault that he was still on the ground in Chicago. “Name’s Griff.”

“Yes. I know.”

He waited, his face an implacable facade, one molded and hammered into place on the Coronado Beach while enduring BUD/S training. “You got a name? Or will you answer to minx or vixen?”

“Hmmm…you like the ‘X’ words. I prefer Helena.”

“So…how long will we be playing Three Card Monte with modern art…Helena?”

Readers can learn more about M.T. Bass and his writing by visiting his website and his Facebook and Goodreads pages. You can also follow him on Twitter.

M.T. Bass will be awarding a $50 Amazon or Barnes and Noble Gift Card to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on this link to enter the draw: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/28e4345f3165

You can find a list of the rest of M.T.Bass’s tour stops here:


Why not drop by some of the stops? You’ll have a chance to enter the draw again at each stop.

The novel is available to purchase on the author’s website, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords.

Author Image Article 15About M.T. Bass: M.T. is a scribbler of fiction who holds fast to the notion that while victors may get to write history, novelists get to write/right reality. He lives, writes, flies and makes music in Mudcat Falls, USA. Born in Athens, Ohio, M.T. Bass grew up in St. Louis, Missouri. He graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University, majoring in English and Philosophy, then worked in the private sector (where they expect “results”) mainly in the Aerospace & Defense manufacturing market. During those years, Bass continued to write fiction. He is the author of eight novels: My Brother’s Keeper, Crossroads, In the Black, Somethin’ for Nothin’, Murder by Munchausen, The Darknet (Murder by Munchausen Mystery #2), The Invisible Mind (Murder by Munchausen Mystery #3) and Article 15. His writing spans various genres, including Mystery, Adventure, Romance, Black Comedy and TechnoThrillers. A Commercial Pilot and Certified Flight Instructor, airplanes and pilots are featured in many of his stories. Bass currently lives on the shores of Lake Erie near Lorain, Ohio.

Posted in Archives, November 2019, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 10 Comments

Tell Me No Lies


Today Shelley Noble is visiting Ascroft, eh? to tell us about Tell Me No Lies, her latest novel in the Lady Dunbridge mystery series.

Welcome, Shelley. 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.

TELL ME NO LIESSN: The Lady Dunbridge mystery series takes place in Manhattan during the Gilded Age. In the first,  ASK ME NO QUESTIONS, Lady Dunbridge, Phil to her friends, is a young widow  who with her butler and  ladies maid (Whom she found stowing away on the ship top New York) comes to Manhattan to  make her fortune and  finds herself embroiled in the murder of her best friend’s,  infamous,  race horse-owning, fast automobile driving, philandering husband.  In the current book, TELL ME NO LIES, Phil searches for the killer of a young business tycoon, whose death may set off another financial panic, and could ruin the reputation of several young debutantes.

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

SN: Once I had decided on a period, I ran across the real trial of Nan Patterson, a Floradora girl, accused of murdering her lover Cesar Young. It was so apropos of the period, that it sparked my imagination, and what if . . .  took over.

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

SN: The 1900s was such a pivotal period of history.  Automobiles were beginning to crowd the streets.  Telephones were in hundreds of Manhattan homes. Middle class young women went to college or worked in stores or offices. It was the era of the “Modern Woman,” pre flapper but on the verge of something exciting. Once I decided on a period, I looked for interesting events. The amazing Belmont Park and racetrack had just opened the year before.  TELL ME NO LIES takes place during the Financial Panic of 1907, fortunes are lost, lives are ruined. And it occurred to me that the more things change…I guess what interests me is how greed and fear can drive people to do extraordinary and sometimes stupid things.

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

SN: I live with my characters for a time before I beginning writing them. They occupy my head and when they feel real they go on the page.  It’s great when writing a series because you can let the characters grow and have setbacks book after book.  I think my favourite characters are the elusive ones, the ones that keep a little mystery about themselves even to me.

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

SN: Place has always been interactive to me, not just a backdrop for my characters to act in front of.  It has its own personality.  It’s seen through the character’s eyes, so it changes depending on who is seeing it.

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

SN: Lots and lots and lots. Primary sources, Newspapers of the times, dairies, then  also research that has been done since the events.  I can read a hundred year old newspaper all day.  Even the ads are fascinating. Plus nothing beats going to a place, I live right outside of Manhattan, and walking down the streets imagining it as it looked then, is so much fun.  I do get some funny looks sometimes.

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

SN: I wrote Lady Phil as a product of her time but also in the vein of the popular literature of the time.  With lots of action and energy as well as fashion and social events.

Thanks for answering my questions, Shelley, and good luck with Tell Me No Lies, the latest book in the Lady Dunbridge Mystery series.

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

The novel is available at the following online retailers:

 Amazon – B&N – Kobo

ShelleyNoble-FinalV3-copyAbout Shelley Noble: Shelley is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of contemporary women’s fiction. (Beach Colors, Whisper Beach, Lighthouse Beach.) And the author of the Lady Dunbridge Gilded Age Manhattan mysteries. Tell Me No Lies is the latest of the series. She has written eighteen amateur sleuth and historical mystery novels and novellas as Shelley Freydont. (The Sudoku Murders, Celebration Bay mysteries, The Gilded Age Newport mysteries.

A former professional dancer and choreographer, Shelley lives at the Jersey shore where she loves to discover new beaches and indulge her passion for lighthouses, vintage carousels, and the past.

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

Three Widows and a Corpse


Today Debra Sennefelder is visiting Ascroft, eh? to tell us about Three Widows and a Corpse, her latest novel in the Food Blogger mystery series.

Welcome, Debra. 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.

DS: THREE WIDOWS AND A CORPSE is the third book in my Food Blogger Mystery series. The series features food blogger, Hope Early who has recently returned to her hometown of Jefferson, CT. After a divorce, quitting her magazine job and losing a reality baking competition show, Hope decided to turn her part-time gig of blogging into her full-time job. In this book, Hope has jumped into organizing the town’s scavenger hunt which turns deadly when the body of disgraced real estate developer, Lionel Whitcomb, is found by three women who each claim to be married to him.

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

THREE WIDOWS AND A CORPSEDS: When I was submitting the first book in the series, THE UNINVITED CORPSE, to editors, I had to include summaries for the next two books in the series. While I had a completed draft of the second book, I needed an idea for the third book. The idea of three women claiming to be married to the same man popped into my head and then I got the idea for a scavenger hunt. I wrote up a fast paragraph and then about a year later I was writing the story.

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

DS: The question I always seem to be incorporating into my books is, how well do we really know people, is a big part of this book. There are three women who thought they knew their husband, yet it turns out they didn’t.

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

DS: I create characters based around the plot of each book. Since I write series, there are a handful of characters that are regulars, they’ll come back book after book. I’ve created them to round out Hope’s life. I try not to have favorites, but of course Hope is definitely a favorite because she’s the main character and I spend a lot of time with her.

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

DS: By using the characters, adding in little details of Jefferson’s history and taking them along with Hope on her day-to-day life. One of the most beautiful buildings on Main Street is the Victorian house that is the Merrifield Inn. There’s the historic Jefferson Library and the collection of quaint shops including Hope’s favorite coffee shop, The Coffee Clique.

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

DS: For THREE WIDOWS AND A CORPSE, I spent a lot of time on Pinterest looking for ideas about scavenger hunts. I probably only used about one percent of what I found. But it was a lot of fun researching.

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

DS: I’d like readers to know that my hope is when they sit down to read THREE WIDOWS AND A CORPSE that they have a joyful experience and are entertained.

Thanks for answering my questions, Debra, and good luck with Three Widows and a Corpse, the latest book in the Food Blogger Mystery series.

Readers can learn more about Debra and her writing by visiting her website and her Facebook and Instagram pages.

The novel is available at online retailers through the following link:


CroppedHeadShotAbout Debra Sennefelder: Debra is the author of the Food Blogger Mystery series and the Resale Boutique Mystery series, and is an avid reader who reads across a range of genres, but mystery fiction is her obsession. Her interest in people and relationships is channeled into her novels against a backdrop of crime and mystery. When she’s not reading, she enjoys cooking and baking and as a former food blogger, she is constantly taking photographs of her food. Yeah, she’s that person.

Born and raised in New York City, she now lives and writes in Connecticut with her family. She’s worked in pre-hospital care, retail and publishing. Her writing companions are her adorable and slightly spoiled Shih-Tzus, Susie and Billy. She is a member of Sisters in Crime, International Thriller Writers, Women’s Fiction Writers Association and Romance Writers of America.

Posted in November 2019, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Why Should You Beware the East Wind?


Today Barbara Barrrett is visiting Ascroft, eh? to tell us about Beware the a Wind, her latest novel in the Mah Jongg mystery series.

Welcome, Barbara. 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.

BB: Beware the East Wind is the fourth book in the Mah Jongg Mystery series about four retired women friends—Sydney Bonner, Marianne Putnam, Katrina “Kat” Faulkner and Micki Demetrius—who met while playing Mah Jongg in the small community of Serendipity Springs in central Florida. Though they don’t set out to investigate homicides, after being asked by a friend to investigate her husband’s murder in the first book, others start looking to them to help investigate subsequent homicides and questionable accidents. This series features four protagonists; one takes the lead in each book. Two are married, one is divorced and the fourth, who has been single all her life while she tended to her ailing mother, now finds herself the object of the sheriff’s romantic attention. Even in the midst of their investigations, life goes on in their community in such activities as a women’s club, a social group for those over 50, real estate transactions, numerous stops at the local coffeehouse and various shopping trips. Sydney’s husband, Trip, and Marianne’s, Beau, are golf buddies who spend many a day on the course. When not there, Trip is busy seeking to build a new post retirement life, and Beau is often prevailed upon to join in Trip’s latest activity. Worried about the danger involved in investigating murders, they also worm their way into their wives’ sleuthing activities. Kat has lived a frugal life until winning big in a lottery shortly after her mother’s death; suddenly, Kat has money and doesn’t know how to spend it. But her divorced friend and freelance writer, Micki, does, even if it’s to guide Kat through a makeover and wardrobe change for her lounge act.

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

eastwind-700BB: The initial idea for Beware the East Wind started when my Sisters in Crime chapter in Iowa invited a hypnotist to be their guest speaker. She became interested in hypnotism in her middle years, and after taking several courses and receiving certification, leveraged her new interest into entertaining at various functions like high school graduation parties. She later expanded into offering personal counselling services featuring hypno-therapy. The idea stuck around in the back of my brain until this year when I needed a victim for this fourth book. Let me be clear, the victim in this book is purely fictional; nothing about her is based on the real-life hypnotist that was our speaker.

Each title in this series features a Mah Jongg term. The first three titles are based on the suits of tiles used in the game, Craks, Bams and Dots. This fourth book comes from the Wind tiles. Once I decided on the hypnotism angle, I needed to find a way to tie it in with “Wind.” That wasn’t difficult, since the series is set in central Florida, what more dramatic wind is there than the one that causes the hurricane. Central Florida is somewhat less vulnerable to these storms but not impervious to the possibility. Ironically, no sooner was the book published than hurricane season was upon us and a mandatory evacuation order was issued for the parts of the Atlantic coast.

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

BB: Starting with the four friends and their significant others, community and friendship underlie each of the stories in this series. This was a deliberate decision so I could portray one of the positive aspects of retirement. Serendipity Springs is a relatively new intergenerational residential development. Most of the residents have come from other parts of the country and have chosen to live there because of the climate. To adapt, they’ve had to find new connections and relationships, just as has been my experience in making Florida my home half the year. By no means is retirement rosy for everyone, and I will deal with that aspect in future stories.

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

BB: My four protagonists were created using the DISC Inventory. It is a tool that helps people analyse their personalities according to four distinct categories: Dominance, Influence, Steadiness and Compliance. The personality of each character is based on one of these descriptors. I’ve taken this tool a few times in my employment history. It tends to be a fairly accurate measure, although it varies depending on whatever is happening in your life at the time, because that affects your answers to the numerous questions. I pegged Sydney as the main dominant character. She takes the lead role in the first two books. Micki is Influential; she’s the lead in the third book, Connect the Dots. In this fourth book, Marianne, the Steady one, is in charge. Kat takes over in Book 5, currently in development. As much as I would like to see myself as a Dominant personality, I keep coming out as a mix of Compliance and Steady, so I tend to see myself the most in Marianne and Kat, but I have the most fun writing Syd and Micki, because they go places in their brains and actions where I don’t always go or feel I can go.

With the ongoing secondary characters and characters that appear only in one book I can delve into other personality characteristics than those exhibited by my four protagonists.

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

BB: This series is not about my community, but it is inspired by it. I use local setting, traditions, activities and climate to bring life to Serendipity Springs. For instance, I try to describe the type of homes and parts of town found here. My covers immediately set the tone with the green foliage and flowers in the background. I also include different activities that occur within the community like the follies that Trip plans as a fundraiser in Book 1 or the class Marianne takes in writing one-act plays in Book 3. Many of these, including the weekly Mah Jongg game, take place in the community center. The coffee shop, yet to be named, has appeared in each book so far because the women hold their war councils there as they discuss their investigations. As far as the climate is concerned, I don’t dwell on the heat, humidity or sudden rain showers much, although I probably will in the future, but this fourth book reflects the impending threat of the approaching hurricane, and I play up the dark skies and wind.

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

BB: I like to start with personal contacts, if such exist. For instance, in Book 2, Bamboozled, the victim is the local distributor of essential oils. I interviewed a fellow Mah Jongg player who also sells these oils to learn more about the business. I already mentioned the presentation of the hypnotist, but she also provided source materials, which I turned to for more authenticity in this book. One of the suspects in this book owns a cleaning service. Since we don’t use one, I depended on friends’ experiences. I, do, fall back on my own experience when I can, like Beau’s examination by an orthopaedic surgeon for his knee problem in this book. When personal contacts, friends and my own knowledge aren’t enough, I’m on the internet doing research, like I did with dog grooming services, which are also included in Book 4.

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

BB: Although the murder occurs early in the story, like they all do, I took my time getting the investigation off the ground because the two husbands attempted to discourage their wives from getting involved. Their reticence has been building since the first case, where neither knew what was going on until the end. In Book 2, when they became more involved, Trip tried to take over, although he should have known better with his wife being such a strong personality. I wanted their hesitancy to come to the fore in this book and sort of be dealt with. Their feelings about their wives’ life of amateur sleuthing will continue to pop up different ways in subsequent stories and will be addressed according to the circumstances of a particular case.

The local sheriff, Rick Formero, takes a shine to Kat in Book 1. That relationship grows and bumps into various roadblocks in the next books. Although I also write contemporary romance novels, this love story takes a back seat to solving the murders, but it’s here to add depth to Kat’s character. Rick’s feelings about Kat and her friends’ investigations also have an arc, although basically he’d prefer these untrained civilians not mess with his cases. Still, he can’t deny how well they do at solving crimes. How he handles that realization will evolve. I’m barely into writing Book 5, but my plans at this point are to involve him in a way in which he hasn’t previously participated.

Micki, the single divorcee, is the only one at this point who doesn’t have a man in her life. She says she likes it that way after a ten-year difficult marriage to a gambler. Time will tell.

If you’re read this far, I hope you’ll check into the Mah Jongg Mystery series. You don’t need to know anything about the game to enjoy and understand it.

Thanks for answering my questions, Barbara, and good luck with Beware the East Wind, the latest book in the Mah Jongg Mystery series.

Readers can learn more about Barbara and her writing by visiting her website and her Facebook, Goodreads and Pinterest pages. You can also subscribe to her newsletter and follow her on Twitter.

The novel is available at the following online retailers:

Amazon   B&N

IMG_0004About Barbara Barrett: She started reading mysteries when she was pregnant with her first child to keep her mind off things like her changing body and food cravings. When she’d devoured as many Agatha Christies as she could find, she branched out to English village cozies and Ellery Queen. Later, to avoid a midlife crisis, she began writing fiction at night when she wasn’t at her day job as a human resources analyst for Iowa State Government. After releasing eleven full-length romance novels and one novella, she returned to the cozy mystery genre, using one of her retirement pastimes, the game of mah jongg, as her inspiration. Not only has it been a great social outlet, it has also helped keep her mind active when not writing. Anticipating the day when she would write her first mystery, she has been a member of the Mystery/Romantic Suspense chapter of Romance Writers of America for over a decade. She credits them with helping her hone her craft. Barbara is married to the man she met her senior year of college. They have two grown children and eight grandchildren.

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Drop by the Lighthouse Library


Today Eva Gates, author of Read and Buried, a Lighthouse Library mystery, is joining us at Ascroft, eh? to share her thoughts on real vs fictional settings for stories.

Welcome Eva. Without any further delay, I’ll turn the floor over to you:

Real vs. Fictional Settings: My version of Hogwarts

Generally speaking, a novel can be set in one of two places: a real place or a fictional place. (Or some combination of both).

Read and Buried (1)There are a lot of good reasons to create a fictional setting for a book: No one can point out all your mistakes; if something doesn’t work for you, you can just make it up; avoids all that pesky research.

On the other hand, setting a book in a real place, adds an element of realism. People can go to the location of scenes in your book, or remember having been there. That helps to bring a book and its characters vividly to life.

My Sherlock Holmes Bookshop (written under the name of Vicki Delany) series is set in a fictional version of a real town in a real place. My town of West London is in Cape Cod, pretty much where Chatham is actually located. The Year Round Christmas mysteries (also by Vicki Delany) have a more vague setting – somewhere on the Southern Shores of Lake Ontario – and the town of Rudolph isn’t intended to represent anywhere.

But it’s different for the Lighthouse Library series written under the name of Eva Gates.  Not only have I set the books in a real place – the Outer Banks – but in a very specific real place – The Bodie Island Lighthouse.

I took the framework of that real, and marvellous, lighthouse, which is essentially just a small outer building attached to a 210 foot tall tower with a spiral iron staircase inside and a big lamp on the top, and built a whole new world inside it. A library, complete with back staircases, offices, staff break room, broom closet, meeting room, rare books room, shelves overflowing with books.  I even gave it a small apartment for my character, Lucy Richardson, to live in.

I think of it as my version of the Tardis or Hermione Granger’s beaded handbag. Far larger on the inside that it appears from the outside.

But having done that, I wanted to be true to the marvellous setting of the lighthouse, and kept the outside of the building and its surroundings (minus the souvenir shop and tourist center!) intact.

As for the Outer Banks and the town of Nag’s Head, I’ve worked hard to make everything as realistic as possible. I’ve visited a couple of times, taking lots of pictures and careful notes. Back at home, Google Earth is an invaluable resource for checking the layout of streets, the location of public buildings and things like that.  In the books I mention some real places, such as Owen’s Restaurant, the restaurant at the Nags Head Fishing Pier, the police station/town hall complex, and have people living on real streets.  But I don’t describe real houses, or give street addresses. In the second book in the series, Booked for Trouble when Lucy’s mother stays at a hotel, the hotel is totally fictitious.  After all there are shenanigans galore going on at that hotel, and I don’t want anyone to think I know something I don’t!

It’s been a lot of fun taking real places and using them as scenes for my stories. I hope that Read and Buried will give you a feeling for the Outer Banks and a glimpse into its history. Who knows, maybe you’ll want to visit someday (if you haven’t already) and think of Lucy Richardson climbing the spiral iron stairs to her lighthouse aerie after a day in the library when you visit the Bodie Island Lighthouse.

Thanks for introducing yourself and your series to us, Eva.

Readers can learn more about Eva Gates and the Lighthouse Library mysteries by visiting the author’s website and her Facebook and Instagram pages. You can also follow her on Twitter (@vickidelany @evagatesauthor).

The novel is available at the following online retailers:

Amazon    B&N    Kobo

Made with Repix (http://repix.it)About Eva Gates/Vicki Delany: Vicky is one of Canada’s most prolific and varied crime writers and a national bestseller in the U.S. She has written more than thirty books:  clever cozies to Gothic thrillers to gritty police procedurals, to historical fiction and novellas for adult literacy. She is currently writing four cozy mystery series: the Tea By The Sea mysteries for Kensington, the Year Round Christmas mysteries for Penguin Random House, the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop series and, as Eva Gates, the Lighthouse Library books for Crooked Lane. Vicki is a past president of the Crime Writers of Canada and co-founder and organizer of the Women Killing It crime writing festival. She lives in Prince Edward County, Ontario, Canada.

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A Colour Coordinated Mystery


Today I’d like to welcome Traci Andrighetti to Ascroft, eh? I’ve invited Traci to visit to tell my readers a little about Galliano Gold, the latest book in her Franki Amato Mysteries series.

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

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000031_00001]Every time I write a new Franki Amato mystery, I have a mental checklist that I follow. First, I pick an Italian liqueur or a wine for the title with a matching color. There has to be either a rhyme, as with Limoncello Yellow, the first book in the series, or alliteration, like the other books to date: Prosecco Pink, Amaretto Amber, Campari Crimson, and most recently, Galliano Gold.

Next, because Franki Amato works as a private investigator at her best friend Veronica’s New Orleans-based company, Private Chicks, I decide which aspect of the city to feature in the story. To date I’ve done a boutique, a plantation, a strip club, a creepy cemetery, and now in Galliano Gold, a steamboat on the Mississippi River.

After that I figure out how the alcohol and the color figure into the murder, which is always the hardest part. Then I pick a drink and sometimes a dessert that feature the liqueur or wine from the title, and I mention them in the story and include the recipes as an extra for readers.

I also come up with ways to celebrate New Orleans—while having fun at Franki’s expense. For Galliano Gold, I wanted the old steamboat to be haunted, and the old captain needed to be a Mark Twain fanatic. And based on a reader’s suggestion, I included aspects of an ill-fated trip I took to NOLA last year—like a French Quarter flood I got caught in.

Then I pick interesting and amusing people from the city to include in the mystery. My favorite in Galliano Gold is the Dancing Hand Grenade, the mascot for the drink in the green plastic hand grenade-shaped cup you’ll see people carrying on Bourbon Street. And I’ve also thrown in one of my favorite Mardi Gras krewes, the Merry Antoinettes, whose motto is “Let them throw cake” (and they do). And of course I invented a few krewes of my own.

Crawdad wigLastly, I try to include an unusual item from the city. Thanks to the suggestion of my audiobook narrator, the multi-talented and multi-voiced Madeline Mrozek, I had Franki go undercover wearing a crawdad boil-themed wig from Fifi Mahony’s in Galliano Gold. If you have never heard of Fifi Mahony’s, I urge you to check out their Facebook page, because nothing showcases the weird, wild, and wonderful aspects of New Orleans like a Fifi Mahony’s wig.

But my favorite aspect of planning a Franki book is figuring out how her meddlesome Sicilian nonna is going to try to get her married—either to her boyfriend Bradley Hartmann or to one of many “nice Sicilian boys” Nonna knows through her network of friends.

If you’ve read a Franki Amato mystery, visited New Orleans, or know something about the city, please share below. Your comments mean a lot, and they often inspire me in my writing. And grazie mille to Ascroft, eh? for having me on the blog. It has been a pleasure!

Thanks for introducing yourself and the series to us, Traci. Readers can learn more about Traci by visiting the author’s website and her Facebook, Goodreads and BookBub pages. You can also follow her on Twitter.

The novel is available online at Amazon.

Traci Andrighetti-11bAbout Traci Andrighetti: Traci is the USA TODAY bestselling author of the Franki Amato Mysteries and the Danger Cove Hair Salon Mysteries. In her previous life, she was an award-winning literary translator and a Lecturer of Italian at the University of Texas at Austin, where she earned a Ph.D. in Applied Linguistics. But then she got wise and ditched that academic stuff for a life of crime–writing, that is. Her latest capers are teaching mystery writing for Savvy Authors and taking aspiring and established authors on intensive writing retreats to Italy with LemonLit.

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Meet Maddie Wilcox

Today Maddie Wilcox from Death of the City Marshall, an Old Los Angeles mystery, is joining us at Ascroft, eh?

Welcome Maddie.

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

My name is Maddie Wilcox. I am in my 80s, but the time about which I write is actually the 1870s, when I was only about 30 years old. The stories I told (and continue to tell) are my memoirs, which I begin with the curious events that are related in Death of the Zanjero and Death of the City Marshal. I will also relate the terrifying events of October 1871, when rioters lynched eighteen Chinese men and the terrible deeds that followed at a future time.

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

I have no idea what this means. These are my stories. The person penning them is only incidental.

How did you evolve as the main character?

The same way most of us do, I would hope. Alas, introspection is not as common as one would like to think. I simply try to be a better person from day to day, even now, in my old age.

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

These being my memoirs, I was writing about myself as a much younger woman, and most of the people I knew then are, sadly, gone and much missed. My dear, dear friends, Regina and Angelina, who were so helpful to me when I stumbled into chasing a killer. Then there was Mr. Lomax, who was not only a very calming presence, but a truly good man. And then there was my household, Sebastiano, Olivia, Enrique, Magdalena, and Juanita, and all the others. They became my family and, indeed, as I come into my dotage, their children show me the most tender concern and care for me as if for their own parents.

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

Los Angeles in the 1870s was a truly dismal place. No culture to speak of, and much pretension to such by the ladies of the pueblo. There was no orchestra of trained and able musicians. No plays. No opera. The streets were dusty. Because so many of the men there were transients, it was incredibly violent. I hated being there, but after my husband, Albert Wilcox, dragged me there in 1860, bought our vineyard and then died, I really had little choice but to stay. I suppose I could have left some years later, but as it turned out, the place really did become my home and the people you asked about earlier had become my family. By the time I had sufficient means to where I chose, the city had become somewhat more civilized and I had little inclination to find new friends elsewhere.

Anne Louise BannonIs there anything else you’d like to tell readers about you and the book?

These are my memoirs, so while I’m writing them as an old woman, when you encounter me, I am barely 30 years old.

Thanks for introducing yourself and the series to us, Maddie.

Readers can learn more about Maddie and her author, Anne Louise Bannon by visiting the author’s website and Facebook page. You can also follow her on Twitter.

The novel is available online on Amazon.


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