What’s so funny about mystery?


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 , , , , , , | Leave a comment

In Blue Ridge Library you might be Bound for Murder


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


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?
: 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?


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

Lanny Larcinese’s latest crime thriller

Death in the Family banner

Today Lanny Larcinese is visiting Ascroft, eh? to tell us about Death in the Family, his latest crime thriller.

Welcome, Lanny. 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.

Cover_Death in the FamilyLL: Death in the Family is not part of a series in the usual way of thinking; however, as the first novel I wrote but the second one published, it has some characters in common with I Detest All My Sins, the first book published. The main character in I Detest has only a supporting role in Death; another is a secondary character in both books. Plot, theme and writing style differs. Finally, the ending of Death in the Family is ambiguous enough to support a sequel but is not my work in progress. Readers have said they would look forward to a sequel to Death in the Family. Confused? I don’t blame you!

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

LL: Good question. My story ideas usually begin with a character, his important need, a theme, and some back story. I then develop plot events designed to stress the character and bring his needs into conflict with his world. In Death in the Family, I employed my knowledge of mob lore, the restaurant business and real estate and combined them into the mob’s mysterious interest in a diner owned by my protagonist’s girlfriend’s family. That mystery converged with the mystery of who killed my protagonist’s father and why, and led to the climax.

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

LL: All my stories have a theme. The trick is to bury it in a sweet spot just below the surface of more superficial plot events; otherwise, it comes off as a morality tale, or, if buried too deep, lost. I write my stories to be layered: surface plot events and tension; relationship issues; theme. The provenance of Death in the Family began with my image of a talented young man plagued by unrequited love from his mother who was deeply in love with his father, a low level mob wannabe. When the father gets murdered and his hands cut off, it’s the mother urging my protagonist to seek vengeance. By the end of the story, my anti-hero says, “She should always have known I was the better man.”

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

LL: Another great question! My characters and many of their features are always splintered off from my life, by which I mean direct experiences; people I’ve known personally; people I’ve known indirectly, e.g., read about; my imagination; and my knowledge of human proclivities. I mix and match features from all those sources depending upon motivations needed to move the story forward as well as create an interesting mix of people. No favorites; they’re all human, so to speak.

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

LL: Place is so important. It can almost be a character. I am a city guy. I have lived and worked directly in 5 cities, including now, and have traveled to many more. I know the urban landscape, city attitudes, risks and risk tolerance, demographic and ethnic variety, slum vs. the high rent district, where the action is, vital or dying, etc. The crack of a gunshot echoes differently in Chicago or New York than Des Moines. I’d have to do special research to place a story on an Amish farm.

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

LL: Crime writers joke the FBI may be at the door about our google searches. How did writers do it before google and Wikipedia? For Death in the Family, research included: how much C4 to blow up a Buick; the difference between military grade and commercial grade explosive; how fires spread; which mob capo controls Newark; airport security in 1990; can a stab wound at L4-5 cause paralysis…and more, including thesaurus, spelling dictionaries, grammar usage, etc. Being a pantser-writer, I never know what story matter will bollix me as I’m writing.

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

LL: I’m a genre writer, which means action and mystery, but I like this definition of literary writing: “Not much happens but a lot goes on.” I reach for both. Though my story is layered, writing an entertaining story comes first. It is enjoyable on that level. For the reader interested in more meat, that’s there too.

Thanks for answering my questions, Lanny, and good luck with Death in the Family, your latest crime thriller.

Lanny Larcinese will be awarding a $25 Amazon/BN GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. To enter the draw click here: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/28e4345f3241

You can find a list of the rest of Lanny Larcinese’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.

Readers can learn more about Lanny and his writing by visiting his Facebook page.

The novel is available online on Amazon:

AuthorPictureAbout Lanny Larcinese: Lanny Larcinese ‘s short work has appeared in magazines and has won a handful of local prizes. He lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He’s a native mid-westerner transplanted to the City of Brotherly Love where he has been writing fiction for seven years. When not writing, he lets his daughter, Amanda, charm him out of his socks, and works at impressing Jackie, his long-time companion who keeps him honest and laughing—in addition to being his first-line writing critic. He also spends more time than he should on Facebook but feels suitably guilty for it.


Posted in January 2020, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments

Home is Where Holidays Happen

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When I write my Christmas blog post each year I usually have a topic or theme for it. home 6Some of them have been: the wonder and happiness that Christmas tree and mantelpiece lights inspire for me, how warm and happy memories of holidays past can make you feel, the traditions that mean Christmas for me and others, and the way that seasonal songs stir our hearts and memories.


This year as Christmas approaches, I have been thinking a lot about home. Maybe it’s because next summer will mark three decades since I arrived in Britain. By the end of next summer I will have lived half my life in Britain and half of it in Canada.

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It’s hard to believe I’ve been in the United Kingdom for so long now. For many years after I moved to Britain, I avoided using the word ‘home’ to describe where I was living. I felt settled and happy here yet I didn’t feel like it was my home. At the same time, I had been away from Canada for long enough that I didn’t feel my native country was home either. So it was easier not to use the word at all. ‘Our house’ or ‘our place’ worked better.


But recently I’ve noticed that I now refer to the farm where I’ve lived for more than a decade as home without even thinking about it. That just feels like the right way to describe it. Although I think of myself as a Canadian, I home 4have friends and my husband’s family in the area and I’m involved in many community activities. I’ve become part of the place where I live. I feel comfortable here.

And I’ve realised that home isn’t necessarily where you were born or where you grew up. It doesn’t have to be where you’ve lived most of your life. You might not have even lived there for very long. Or you may only visit when you can. It might be a remote cabin surrounded by snowy peaks or a hut under the blazing sun on a white sandy beach or a crumbling grey stone castle shrouded in mist or an apartment, identical to all the others, in a towering skyscraper. Home is where you are comfortable and feel you belong whether that is as part of a large boisterous family or living alone with your pet. It’s the place, the people, and the pets that you choose to be with.

home 2Last year when I was working on some designs for my Redbubble shop for Christmas, I created several that shared the same slogan: ‘Home is where holidays happen’. The designs feature different living rooms, people and animals in each one but they share the same theme. I think they encapsulate my recent musings about home and Christmas.

Whether you have a quiet toast to the season with your cat on the couch in your bedsitter apartment or a relaxed celebration with one or two good friends in your tiny three room cottage or a huge party with family and friends spilling out of the home 1front door of a five storey mansion, home is where you share love and laughter, and make holiday memories that will live on in your heart and mind. It’s where you want to be during the holiday season.

Last year in my Christmas blog post I shared a short story I’d written which loosely relates to what I’ve been talking about. In the story I talk about why hot apple cider is one of my lasting memories of Christmas and winter. If you’d like to read that post, you’ll find it here.

Today is Christmas Eve and there’s only a few hours until the festivities begin. I hope the holiday that happens in your home this year is a wonderful one and I’d like to wish you a very Merry Christmas and a happy, healthy New Year.

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Step into Mystery in the Ming Dynasty


Today P.A. De Voe is visiting Ascroft, eh? to tell us about No Way To Die, her latest novel in the Ming Dynasty Mystery series.

Welcome to my blog. 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.

PDV: No Way to Die is the second novel in A Ming Dynasty Mystery series. The series is No Way Die coverset in a 14th century Chinese town.  There are two protagonists: Xiang-hua a women’s doctor and Shu-chang a teacher.  They are both young and trying to find their footing in life. Xiang-hua was trained by her grandmother and is constantly trying to live up to her family’s expectations. She puts up a brave face in everything she does, but fear of failure is her constant companion.

While Shu-chang was away, his father and uncle were murdered as they tried to protect their village. With no evidence to go on, the district’s magistrate gives up looking for the murderers. Shu-chang vows to find their murderers. Yet, he is now destitute and has to take a teaching job in a small school in another town where he meets Xiang-hua. His inability to bring his father and uncle justice haunts him, even as he helps to solve crimes for others.

Short Description of No Way to Die, A Ming Dynasty Mystery:

Through mystery and intrigue, No Way To Die transports the reader into the complex and engaging world of early Ming China.

 When a peddler finds a partially mutilated body of a stranger, the unlikely duo of a young scholar and a local women’s doctor once more join forces to discover who killed him and why. In probing the highly gendered world of early Ming China, unanticipated questions surface, complicating their investigation.

As their case rapidly transitions into the unexpected, they find all roads leading away from the victim, forcing them to consider alternate routes. Was the death the result of inexorable bad karma and beyond their purview, or merely the result of mortal foul play? Was the murdered man the intended victim? If not, who was and why? The investigation leads to a growing list of potential suspects: a lustful herbalist, an unscrupulous neighbor, a vengeful farmer, a jealous husband, a scorned wife, and a band of thieves. Who is innocent and who is the culprit? To solve the murder and bring peace to the victim’s spirit, the duo must untangle the truth and do it before the murderer strikes again.

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

PDV: I often find ideas for stories in the court documents from the last two Chinese dynasties. By reviewing the court’s cursory case files, I can see what kinds of serious crimes were committed, as well as the punishments handed down. These make the kernel of a story. My characters are imaginary, however, they may also be modelled after real people. For example, Xiang-hua is a women’s doctor who was trained by her grandmother. I modelled Xiang-hua after a real women’s doctor who lived in the Ming Dynasty.

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

PDV: An underlying theme is the importance of family in providing support and what happens when there is no such support. I wrote about this because family has been the bedrock of Chinese culture—both for good and bad. And this is one of the familiar strains for the readers, too, since family is also key to the readers’ life.

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

PDV: I want characters that are realistic, yet are not tied to the conventions of their time. At a time when young women were more and more controlled by their parents—kept at home, little education—there were other families who saw a more inclusive life for their daughters. Such was Xiang-hua’s family, who, as I said, was based on a real person in history. I wanted someone who could get out of the house and could visit women of all social backgrounds. A medical doctor fit the bill perfectly.

I like both Xiang-hua and Shu-chang, the young teacher. What I wanted was a duo that could work together to solve crimes. These two can because Xiang-hua has access to the women’s world and Shu-chang has access to the man’s world. Neither could be as successful by herself or himself.

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

PDV: Through short descriptions where relevant. This is one of the more difficult parts in writing early Ming Dynasty stories. Most readers will not come to the book with a clear idea of what a Chinese town looks like. Therefore, I need to balance between writing too much (and boring the reader) and writing too little. It’s an on-going challenge.

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

PDV: I read extensively about Chinese lifestyles, law, religion, etc. I watch Chinese movies in order to capture some of the characters’ sensibilities. Particularly how they manage to show intense emotion without showing intense emotion. Body language is very important. There is no one alive who can tell me what it’s like living in the 14th century, but I can extrapolate from a range of sources.

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

PDV: No Way to Die is as historically accurate as I could make it. It’s a great way to learn about traditional China. And No Way to Die is also a mystery, a puzzle in the Agatha Christie tradition.

Thanks for answering my questions and good luck with No Way To Die, the latest book in the Ming Dynasty Mystery series.

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

The novel is available online at Amazon

PA DE VOE 3About P.A. De Voe: She is an anthropologist with a PhD in Asian studies and a specialty in China. She has authored several stories featuring the early Ming Dynasty: The Mei-hua TrilogyHiddenWarned, and Trapped; the A Ming Dynasty Mystery series with Deadly Relations and No Way to DieLotus Shoes, a Mei-hua short story; and a collection of short stories: Judge Lu’s Case Files, stories of Crime & Mystery in Imperial ChinaWarned won a Silver Falchion Award for Best International Mystery; Trapped was a finalist for an Agatha Award and for a Silver Falchion Award. Her short story, The Immortality Mushroom, (a Judge Lu story) was in the Anthony Award-winning anthology Murder Under the Oaks edited by Art Taylor.

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Meet Lark Davis


Today Lark Davis from the Lark Davis Mystery series is visiting Ascroft, eh? to tell us about Load Up, the latest novel in the series.

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

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

Load Up OTHER SITESHello! My name is Lark Davis, and I’m a horse trainer and single mother living on the coast of California. Did you see what was missing there? Yeah? It was amateur sleuth. Because I’m not one. I’m a horse trainer—dressage specifically. And maybe a little bit nosy. And I like to gossip. A lot. And I might have gotten myself in the middle of a murder investigation a few weeks ago in Leg Up. And then, it was just bad luck that my barn was involved in another mystery in Stir Up. No, I’m sure none of that was my fault for finding out things and gossiping with the right people. Now the murder is on my street, just houses away from where my child sleeps. Can you blame a mother for wanting to get it solved? Or for flirting with the hunky cop?

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

The writer has no control whatsoever, just strongly worded suggestions that we frequently ignore. There’s a lot of swearing when we do this. It’s amusing.

How did you evolve as the main character?

Well, at the start of this I’d just lost my parents, divorced my husband, and moved my daughter and my barn to my mother’s hometown, so there might have been a few — not a lot, but a few —issues I needed to work out. And I might, just might, still be working on some of them. Maybe.

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

I love any interaction with my best friend Jen. She is my better half. Not funnier, but definitely better.

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

Well, I’ve helped solve one murder, and another mystery, but to be honest, I’ve been looking forward to getting back to focusing on the horses. I’ve got the show season starting up in a few months, and I’ve got clients that want some nice scores, so I have enough challenges.

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

I continue my rule as the Gossip Queen! No matter what the writer says.

Thanks for answering my questions, Lark, and good luck to you and the author with Load Up, the latest book in the Lark Davis Mystery series.

Readers can learn more about Lark and her author, Annabelle Hunter, by visiting the author’s Amazon page.

The novel is available online at  Amazon

About Annabelle Hunter: She is a stay-at-home mom and an avid fan of classic mystery shows and dressage. She lives in Southern California with her husband, two children, and too many animals.

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Did you know Travel Can Be Murder?


Today Lana Hansen from the Travel Can Be Murder Cozy Mystery series is visiting Ascroft, eh? to introduce herself and tell us about Death on the Danube, the first novel in the series.

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

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

Hi, everyone! I am Lana Hansen, the star of the new Travel Can Be Murder Cozy Mystery series. After my husband – a magician called The Great Ronaldo – left me for his new assistant, I moved to Seattle to start over. Things weren’t quite going as I had hoped, until my landlord and good friend Dotty Thompson offered me a job leading tours through Europe. Since I’ve started working for her, my life has improved dramatically!

DeathontheDanubeTCBM1_500coverThese stories are about my travels as a guide for Wanderlust Tours and the cities we visit, as well as my group of well-heeled tourists. Most are lovely people who want to explore the world, but don’t want to travel solo. Others are tagging along for the ride and not as enthusiastic about the cities we are visiting as I would hope. For some reason or another, several guests have died under suspicious circumstances, and I have had to help the police find the real culprit. That’s my least favorite part of these stories!

These stories start and end in my hometown of Seattle, Washington where my best friends Dotty and Willow also live. Without their counsel and support, I doubt I would remain sane.

My ex-husband Ron (a.k.a The Great Ronaldo) is unfortunately still a part of my story and this series. Though I am pleased to see there is a new romance on the horizon for me.

Before falling into this tour guide job, I was an award-winning journalist. At least, until I was wrongly accused of libel and got fired. My life hasn’t quite been the same since. The story I was investigating also runs as a thread through these books.

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

It is my story that the writer is telling – the books are all about me, my tours, and my good friends. If I was still working as an investigative reporter, or if my husband hadn’t of left me, I doubt you ever would have heard of me! Luckily, fate brought me to Seattle where I made great friends and discovered my passion for travel. The stories follow our trips and the often crazy events that take place on them. But once we are on tour, even I don’t know what is going to happen next!

How did you evolve as the main character?

My life is in constant motion. Every time I think I’ve finally got things figured out, my career or love life take a turn for the worst. Now I’m trying to go with the flow and enjoy the life I have.

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

My two best friends, Dotty and Willow, are part of each story. Dotty is not only my landlord, she is also the owner of Wanderlust Tours. If one of her tour guides hadn’t of gotten sick, I wouldn’t have become a guide for her company. Dotty just turned seventy and her health problems are starting to stack up. I feel responsible for her and spend a lot of time with her when I’m in Seattle. She also takes great care of my cat Seymour while I am working abroad.

I met my best friend Willow when I attended one of her yoga classes. An accident during one of The Great Ronaldo’s magic show’s left me with an injured shoulder and her classes changed my life for the better. Willow is one of the most practical, yet spiritual, people I have ever met. And she is definitely the most flexible! I don’t know what I would do without her advice and occasional kick in the pants. She is a true friend.

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

I love my basement apartment in Fremont – a funky neighborhood in Seattle, Washington. I am most at home with my cat Seymour on my lap and a good mystery novel in hand. However in this series, my travels as a tour guide for Wanderlust Tours keep me off the couch and exploring new destinations.

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

If you enjoy heartwarming stories about friendship, travel, and celebrating new experiences, I invite you to follow along on my journeys! The first book – Death on the Danube – is about my New Year’s trip to Budapest and will be released on November 28, 2019. The next three books in the series – Death by Baguette: A Valentine’s Murder in Paris, Death by Windmill: A Mother’s Day Murder in Amsterdam, and Death by Bagpipes: A Summer Murder in Edinburgh – will be released in 2020.

Thanks for answering my questions, Lana, and I wish you and your author, Jennifer S. Alderson, good luck with Death on the Danube, the first book in the Travel Can Be Murder Cozy Mystery series.

Readers can learn more about Lana, and her author’s writing, by visiting her author’s website and blog, as well as her Facebook page. You can also follow her on Twitter.

The novel is available online on Amazon US and Amazon worldwide.

JenniferSAldersonDanubeJennifer S. Alderson: Jennifer was born in San Francisco, raised in Seattle, and currently lives in Amsterdam. Her love of travel, art, and culture inspires her award-winning mystery series—the Zelda Richardson Mysteries and Travel Can Be Murder Cozy Mysteries—and standalone stories. After traveling extensively around Asia, Oceania, and Central America, she moved to Darwin, Australia, before settling in the Netherlands. Her background in journalism, multimedia development, and art history enriches her novels. When not writing, she can be found in a museum, biking around Amsterdam, or enjoying a coffee along the canal while planning her next research trip.

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Meet Mary MacDougall


Today Richard Audry is joining us at Ascroft, eh? to tell us how Mary MacDougall, the main character in his Mary MacDougall Mystery series, came into being.

Welcome Richard. Without further ado, I’ll turn the floor over to you and let you tell us about you and Mary MacDougall.

RA: I first tried my hand at writing novels back in the late ’80s, with an epic fantasy of 120k words that never sold. Next, I tackled a mystery. And not just any mystery, but a historical mystery. It wasn’t enough to confront the challenges of plotting a whodunit for the very first time. I had to add on the layers and complexities of a historical period I had not lived through and had not exactly studied deeply. But I was game for giving it my best shot. I knew I would have to do research—and I did plenty, in a nearby university library. No Google in those days; not even an Internet.

A FATAL FONDNESS coverThat first Mary MacDougall novel was inspired by an epiphany I had sitting in a movie theater. The film was Ivory and Merchant’s classic A Room with a View, based on the E.M. Forster novel. As I sat mesmerized by Helena Bonham Carter’s Lucy Honeychurch, an idea bubbled up in my head.

About that time, my wife and I had been watching Jeremy Brett’s Sherlock Holmes on PBS. (The best Holmes ever, IMHO. Sorry, Cumberbatch fans.) Hmmm, I thought. Why not mash up Holmes and Honeychurch? A young, lady sleuth with a steel-trap mind? And that was the book I wrote, set in 1903, complete with first-person narration by Mary MacDougall’s own Watson, her cousin Jeanette. I did my best to recreate a genuine period voice, as if the novel had indeed been written 90 years before.

Once again, agents and publishers weren’t interested. I ended up indie-publishing it in the early Oughties and learned that readers, mostly, didn’t like my Mary. Why? Because she was too much like Holmes—smart as a whip, but unemotional and somewhat cold. And readers, it turned out, didn’t really want period voice. Well, thought I, live and learn.

Flash forward to spring 2013. I ask my wife what she’d like for her birthday. She ruminates a bit and surprises the heck out of me: “What I’d really like is a new Mary MacDougall novel. I kinda liked her, and I miss her.”

Well, my better half didn’t get her novel. I mean, her wish came only six weeks before her birthday, and I’m not a quick writer. But she did get a novella (and a fancy dinner out, to boot).

The first “new” Mary MacDougall story was called A Pretty Little Plot. And Mary Version 2 is funnier, more amiable, more likeable than the first Mary—though still wickedly smart and full of herself. In this first story she manages to save the man who may, or may not, become the love of her life. She’s just not sure. These books aren’t romances, but matters of the heart do pop up now and again.

Three more Mary MacDougall stories followed, including the new novel, A Fatal Fondness.

This time around, Mary gets involved in an international plot in her hometown of Duluth, Minnesota. It’s my hometown also, so I had a lot of fun refreshing my research on turn-of-the-century Duluth. At times I drew on my grandmother’s stories of growing up in Duluth in that era. I even gave a character the name of a boy she remembered vividly. Beansie MacKenzie. I’ve always loved that name. They called him that—both the fictional and real boy—because he loved his pork and beans.

Another enjoyable aspect of this book was finally getting Mary’s Watson in place. Jeanette Harrison, Mary’s cousin, doesn’t do a first-person narration, but does, in her POV, express her traditional views about this young lady so willing to flout social conventions for the sake of truth and justice.

And that very first Mary MacDougall book, with the heiress/Sherlock mash-up that not many readers liked? What became of that? Well, the plot’s still a good one. And by and by, it will be rewritten and relaunched as the sixth in the series, with the new, improved Mary. I can hardly wait.

Thanks for introducing Mary MacDougall and the series to us, Richard.

Readers can learn more about Mary MacDougall and also Richard Audry, the author of the series, by visiting the author’s website and his Facebook page.

The novel is available online at Amazon.

RichardAudryFatalAbout Richard Audry: Richard Audry is the pen name of D. R. Martin. He is the author of the Mary MacDougall historical mysteries (four titles) and the King Harald canine cozy series (three titles). Under his own name, he has written the Johnny Graphic ghost adventure trilogy, the Marta Hjelm hardboiled mystery Smoking Ruin, and two books on some of his favorite authors: Travis McGee & Me and Four Science Fiction Masters.

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