Pop in for Popcorn Fun

Today Sofie Kelly, author of A Night’s Tail, a Magical Cats mystery, is joining us at Ascroft, eh? to tell us some fun facts about popcorn. I’ll turn the floor over to you, Sofie:

In A Night’s Tail, the latest Magical Cats mystery, readers learn that librarian Kathleen Paulson’s boyfriend, Detective Marcus Gordon has developed a taste for gourmet popcorn. That happened, in part, because a friend of mine has become, in her words, “a popcorn connoisseur.” After picking her brain—and trying her popcorn—and after a little time spent on the Internet, here are a dozen fun facts about popcorn:

  1. The US is the world’s largest producer of popcorn according to the USDA.
  2. Popcorn comes in two shapes, snowflake and mushroom. Because snowflake-shaped popcorn is bigger, movie theaters typically sell that shape.
  3. Nebraska produces more popcorn than any other state in the country, followed closely by Indiana
    4. Orville Redenbacher brand is the top-selling popcorn.
    5. Popcorn is a type of maize, a member of the grass family.
  4. When they pop, kernels can travel up to three feet in the air.
  5. Making popcorn is one of the number one uses for microwave ovens.
  6. Charles Cretors, introduced the world’s first mobile popcorn machine in Chicago in 1893. One of its attributes was the fact that it could supposedly be moved by a small pony…or a boy.
  7. Archaeological evidence found in Peru suggests that popcorn existed as early as 4700 B.C.
  8. In the early 1950s, as televisions became popular, popcorn sales decreased because people were staying home to watch TV instead of going out to the movies. Once popcorn became readily available to make at home, sales went up again.
  9. Some of the most popular popcorn flavorings include ranch, jalapeno, dill pickle, sour cream and onion and caramel corn.
  10. According to popcorn.org, Americans consume close to 14 billion quarts of popcorn each year. Other sources put the number closer to 17 billion quarts. That’s about 42 quarts per person. If you’re reading all the Magical Cats mysteries as you’re eating your popcorn, that works out to 3.5 quarts per book. Enjoy!

Thanks for this fun insight into the novel, Sofie, and good luck with A Night’s Tail, the latest novel in the Magical Cats series.

Readers can learn more about Sofie and her writing by visiting her website.

The novel is available at the following online retailers:

 Amazon    –    Barnes and Noble     –       Indiebound

About Sofie Kelly: Sofie writes the New York Times bestselling Magical Cats mysteries that feature librarian Kathleen Paulson and her two very special cats, Owen and Hercules, who have a magical knack for solving crime. As Sofie Ryan she is the author of the New York Times bestselling Second Chance Cat mystery series. She lives on the east coast with her husband and daughter.

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Why Not Stop By the Library Today?

Today Allison Brook is visiting Ascroft, eh? to tell us about Buried in the Stacks, her latest novel in the Haunted Library mystery series.

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

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

AB: BURIED IN THE STACKS is the third book in my Haunted Library mystery series, which takes place in Clover Ridge, a picturesque village in Connecticut. Carrie Singleton, my 30-year-old sleuth, is head of programs and events of the Clover Ridge Library. A kind and caring person, she often finds herself embroiled in mysteries and murder.

In BURIED IN THE STACKS, Carrie fears that a group she’s joined to create a daytime haven for the homeless plans to use the facility as a front for illegal activities. She is also investigating the murder of Dorothy Hawkins, the unpopular and disagreeable reference librarian. In the past, the ghost of Evelyn Havers, a woman who used to work in the library, has helped Carrie in her investigations. But this time Evelyn’s relatives are involved and she holds back vital information.

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

AB: Dorothy, the reference librarian has caused problems for Carrie because she felt she should have been offered Carrie’s job. Dorothy is also Evelyn’s niece, and capable of less than honourable actions. Which is why Evelyn is reluctant to share important information with Carrie.

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

AB: The homeless often seek shelter in libraries during the cold months of winter. This is not a very good arrangement. I thought it would be nice if the people of Clover Ridge created a place where the homeless could spend those days in a facility that offered them assistance and interesting activities.

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

AB: I suppose I envision my characters then give them free rein. They are very real to me—well-developed, with personality and flaws.

I adore all my characters, which is a good thing because so many of them appear throughout the series. Evelyn is a favourite character because, while she often helps Carrie, she’s sometimes unpredictable. I like spunky Angela, Carrie’s best friend who works at the circulation desk and tells it like is. She’s a great sounding board when Carrie’s sleuthing. As is Dylan Avery, Carrie’s handsome, clever boyfriend, who is a professional investigator in his own right and never puts Carrie down. Carrie’s great aunt and uncle, her boss Sally, her little cousin Tacey—the only other person who can see Evelyn—and Smoky Joe, the library cat who really belongs to Carrie are all delightful characters that add a dimension to the storyline.

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

AB: Much of the story takes place in the library. I help my readers envision the interior of the library. They get to know the other librarians, Carrie’s two assistants, the programs and events that Carrie presents as well as her day-to-day responsibilities.

I have described the village, which is centuries old, and the Green which the library faces as do many other buildings that have since been converted to galleries, restaurants, and shops. I describe restaurants that Carrie and her friends frequent.

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

AB: While Clover Ridge is a made-up village, I have based it on a real village. I do a great deal of research regarding this real place when setting various scenes.

Thanks for answering my questions, Allison, and good luck with Buried in the Stacks, the latest book in the Haunted Library Mystery series.

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

The novel is available at the following online retailers:

 Amazon – B&N – Kobo – IndieBound

About Allison Brook: Allison Brook is the pseudonym for Marilyn Levinson, who writes mysteries, romantic suspense, and novels for kids. She lives on Long Island and enjoys traveling, reading, watching foreign films, doing Sudoku and dining out. She especially loves to visit with her grandchildren on FaceTime.

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How Did it Become Number’s Up?

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Today Annabelle Hunter, author of Number’s Up, her first novel in the Barrow Bay Mysteries is visiting Ascroft, eh? to tell us a little about how she writes.

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

Thanks Dianne.

I’ve noticed that one of the first things people ask writers is, “what’s your method?” Most times I stare at them and pray that someone else jumps in to answer. Because I don’t know that I have a method. That seems so… professional. Logical. Organized.

Not that I’m not… but… well, I’m bad at staying that way.

Number's Up OTHER SITESStep one — the idea. Most times this just comes to me. I’ll be watching something or reading, and a thought comes to me.  Most times it is in no relation to what I’m doing, but I’m not picky. Then I think about it, scratch out some notes and, if I think it’s good, I grab a notebook and start world building. Or, since I’ve been focusing on Barrow Bay, the funny moment comes, and I start creating a crime around it.

Step two — the first chapter. I like to do this first because it gives me a flavor of the characters and the story. It also lets me flesh out the character in my mind. It gives me some momentum. Do I recommend this? Probably not. It probably would be better to do an outline first. I have learned that going more than three chapters before stopping for an outline is a horrible idea. Very, Very horrible. I regret it rather quickly. On the other hand, starting with the outline before the first chapter is the quickest way for me to lose interest. It’s a fine line. You might need to find yours.

Step three – outline. Who’s the victim? Who are the suspects? What my red herrings and clues are. What order we will find out the clues? Then I move to secondary plots in great detail – AKA ‘romance here, blah, blah, blah’.

Yep. I’m super detailed.

Step four – I start writing, using my outline as a blueprint, until the characters take over. That’s when limbs come out of nowhere. Bets appear. Family dinners happen when my outline clearly said, ‘cop interview’, and dates happen instead of an intense interview at the police station. Yep, super methodic. And organized. I’m in control. I mean, they’re figments of my imagination, so that means even when they are in control, I’m in control.

Don’t burst my bubble.

Step Five – Adjust my outline. Again. Swear at it. Complain to my husband. Get no sympathy. Go back and write.

Step six – finish writing the story. Look at the outline. Confirm that at least there is some resemblance to it in the story. And that all the clues made it.

Step seven – get a lot of coffee. And chocolate. This needs its own step. Pre-editing comfort food is super important. Do not underestimate the pre-editing comfort food.

Step eight – First edit using the grammar program. Much cursing at all the things it gets wrong. More swearing as I look up questionable grammar mistakes. Eat some chocolate. Finish. Move on to the computer reading it out loud. More cursing, and a few wails of ‘what was I thinking?’ Refill the comfort food. More coffee. This can last for days.

Step nine – stop editing to write something else, anything else. Anything to remind myself that writing is fun, and that editing is worth it so I can write. More coffee.

Step ten – finish listening to the computer read and correcting all my stupid moments from writing too fast. Go into another read through. Want to never see it again. Pray for it to get erased. Fear it will be erased. Add some more characterization. A few more ideas for the plot. Realize that it was all worth it. It’s genius. It’s the best book I’ve ever written.

Step eleven – Beta (or Alpha or critique partners… what ever you want to call them) readers. The ones that I know will be painfully honest, but in a way that will make me understand they want you to fix it, not cry and drink lots of alcohol. I still cry.

Step twelve – take their ideas and fix my manuscript. Know that the editor is going to love it. It’s amazing. I have the best readers ever. This is the best I can make it. It’s a flawless diamond polished to perfection.

Step thirteen – get it back from a development edit. Read the first page of the report. Stop. Go to the store and stock up on cookies, coffee and alcohol. Cry. Get angry. Cry again. Swear I’m going to give up writing forever. Right after I fix everything. And edit it. Again.

Step fourteen – Send it out to the beta readers again. Thank my editor profusely when the beta readers don’t hate it. Take their suggestions and send it off for line edits. Run out of coffee around this step and suffer.

Step fifteen – repeat Step Thirteen. Worry I’m wasting my editor’s time, call her and have her tell me I’m not, but really, I might think about these changes. Badger her into telling me the truth – forget saying it nicely, I need to know exactly what she means. Exactly. Dive deeper into my myopic, stubborn side. I’m going to get this right. Eat more cookies.

Step sixteen – Fix it. Worry about it. Stress that it’s not good enough. Debate if my editor is being too nice to me. Maybe it needs another line edit. Gather my courage. Send it in for proofreading.

Step seventeen – The proofreader liked it! Think maybe I might not be delusional. Fix the notes. Send it to my second proofreader.

Step eighteen – Make the final changes. Stress. Stop myself from reading it. My grammar sucks. I’ve had two people read it with better grammar. Trust me, I can add grammar errors in, under the guise of fixing it. I’m that bad.

Step nineteen – format. Get ready for release. Tell myself that it’s too late. Sing the chorus of “Let it Go.” Pray. Plead. Cry. Cross my fingers. Do a like-my-book dance. If someone’s come up with it and put it on the internet (and it’s free) I’ve done it. Focus on social media. Realize that I’m awkward on social media. Do it anyways. Eat more cookies.

Step twenty – Release. Stress. Cookies. Recently, get so sick that my phone’s facial recognition software refuses to recognize me. Yell at the phone that has the audacity to give me shade about not looking good. See that someone had bought the book that wasn’t a friend or family member. Realize it doesn’t suck.

Wash and repeat. And that, is how I write a book. Hopefully that helps. Or at least tells you that you’re not alone. Or that you’re doing better than me. What ever keeps you writing. XOXO

Thanks for sharing this with us, Annabelle, and good luck with Number’s Up, the first book in the Barrow Bay Mystery series.

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

The novel is available online at Amazon.

About Annabelle Hunter: Annabelle 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.

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

Sample Some Christmas Trifle

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Today Pearl Avery from Christmas Trifle, A Snow Lake Romantic Suspense mystery is joining us at Ascroft, eh?

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

My name is Pearl Avery. I’m fifty-six years old, feel twenty, and often act twelve. I’ve been married four times: twice a widow, once divorced, and one marriage annulled. I love life, good times, and men.

Christmas Trifle Front-Amazon copyI also love my niece, Charly. In Christmas Trifle, Book One of the Snow Lake Romantic Suspense Novels, I am what you could call the truth-sayer. It’s a role I take on reluctantly. But when Charly and her husband, Cliff, start acting like a couple of knot heads, I have no choice but to get involved.

Not that my straight-laced sister didn’t raise a sweetheart of a girl. But Charly’s more compliant in her marriage than I think she should be. And it backfires big time. Then there’s Cliff. He becomes one of those television personalities who saves people’s restaurants. It’s a very popular show and he begins to believe his own press. He’s on location all the time leaving Charly to run their own restaurant, doing double the work. The long and short of it is: two chefs who start out madly in love and follow their dream of owning an upscale restaurant together, are in trouble. Then they become involved in a few murders.

I mean, really? I don’t want to say these two are idiots, but they need a keeper. I sure hope it isn’t me. Because being their truth-sayer is more than enough. Christmas Trifle, Book One of the Snow Lake Romantic Suspense Novels. I’ve got my work cut out for me.

Thanks for introducing yourself and the series to us, Pearl. Readers can learn more about Pearl and Heather Haven, the author of the series, by visiting the author’s website and her Facebook page. You can also follow her on Twitter.

The novel is available online at Amazon.

HeatherPhoto2About Heather Haven: In the midst of writing her fourteenth novel, Heather has also written short stories, comedy acts, television treatments, ad copy, commercials, and plays. She has won numerous awards for her Silicon Valley-based Alvarez Family Murder Mysteries; Manhattan-based WWII Persephone Cole Vintage Mysteries; Ringling Brothers’ Circus mystery noir, Death of a Clown; and Corliss and Other Award-Winning Stories. She has two romantic suspense series: Love Can be Murder Mystery Novellas with Lee Alvarez and Gurn Hanson, the Nick and Nora Charles of Silicon Valley, and the new Snow Lake Romantic Suspense Novels, of which Christmas Trifle is Book One.

She and her husband of thirty-four years are allowed to live with their two cats, Ellie and Yulie, in the foothills of San Jose, California.

Posted in September 2019 | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Stop and chat with Jayne Barnard

Today Jayne Barnard is visiting Ascroft, eh? to talk to us about Where the Ice Falls, her latest novel in the Falls Mysteries.

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

Tell us about your novel. Is it part of a series?

JB: Where the Ice Falls is the 2nd of 3 in The Falls Mysteries from Dundurn Press of Toronto, Canada. The series revolves around three friends – Lacey, Jan, and Dee – living in a half-wilderness hamlet on the eastern slope of the Rocky Mountains. When crime comes calling, these 30-something women are already struggling with divorce, disability, and the ever-looming threat of financial disaster. In the first book, When the Flood Falls, the rising river threatens the only bridge back to civilization just when Dee is being terrorized by a nighttime prowler. Jan digs into village history and Lacey tackles Dee’s ex, each hoping to uncover the stalker’s identity before Dee gets injured or worse. In the second book, set over Christmas, Dee’s terminally-ill mother comes to visit and Lacey must balance her care with hunting the person who locked a young intern into a woodshed to freeze during a week-long blizzard.  In the third book, Why the Rock Falls, well… you’ll have to wait until the summer of 2020 to find out what happens there.

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

JB: The idea for the frozen intern came to me over 15 years ago, when a young computer services intern fell foul of an older manager at our company. The manager’s irritation over a quite minor transgression developed into a lasting grudge and, like Marcia in the book, he spared no effort to drive the intern out of the company. The same intern got stuck in a snowdrift the next winter, coming back from snowboarding at Banff. Although he was only out there six hours, it was quite an anxious time for his family, as there have been instances where people set out in a mountain snowstorm and were never seen again. My imagination ran amok over the possibilities. What if he’d never come home. Who would want him to vanish in a blizzard? Who might benefit and who might suffer? Setting the disappearance at a fictional wilderness resort added the constant threat of another blizzard trapping the characters far from aid, and allowed me to showcase our incredible mountain scenery.

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

JB: At heart the series is about the friendships that support us as we grow through the upheavals of adulthood. This time, I tackled it through the perspective of watching a parent dying too early, and how that affects Dee. Medical assistance in dying is a quite new law in Canada, with strong feelings on all sides of the issue. I wanted to explore those ideas through the various characters a bit: the daughter, the reverend, the two nurses. I didn’t know when I began writing that I’d soon lose 3 people, including my father, to terminal illnesses – two of them to medically assisted death. My women friends were a tremendous support to me during all that, as Dee’s friends were to her. Zoe, who has been too busy with work and family to keep up her female friendships, provides the contrasting story: a woman at breaking point with nobody to confide in. Marcia’s friendship with the absent Phyl is another strand of that same theme.

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

JB: My main characters come from life – not exact copies of people but friends or acquaintances who get into situations that have multiple possible outcomes. Usually the situation resolves with only minor unpleasantness but my imagination leaps naturally to the most drastic solution first. When my high school friend, one of the first female RCMP officers in Canada, retired from policing after a decade, she was quite changed and unable to pinpoint exactly why. Lacey is based on my worst-case thinking about what might have occurred to crush my friend’s emotions to the point that she wasn’t able to fully feel or express them.

Loreena, the dying artist in Where the Ice Falls, is named after my friend who was diagnosed with a brain cancer early in my first draft. Having the character named after her, and seeing some of her artworks and personality traits immortalized in my book, gave her pleasure when she was going through a rather hard treatment regimen and not expected to survive it. I’m pleased to say she’s in remission and I’ll be putting the book into her hands soon.

Like the character Jan, I have ME/CFS, a neuro-immune illness that limits my physical and mental energy (I write lying on a chaise, with a lightweight keyboard and wrist braces). When she is trapped at home in When the Flood Falls, watching out the window while everyone else goes off to the museum gala, her feelings are an amalgam of the many years I spent housebound, left behind when my friends and family were out living their lives. I’m a bit stronger now than when I wrote the first draft more than a decade ago, but I still have to miss a lot of social outings because I need my limited energy to write. As the series goes on, Jan gets to reflect on newer research into ME/CFS and to try out new treatments that give her some small measure of her old life back.

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

JB: As you might imagine, it’s rather difficult for wheelchair users like me to get out into the deep wilderness, especially in winter when snowdrifts might be higher than a tall man’s hat. Fortunately, I have a photographer friend who loves any excuse to challenge himself against Nature. When I’ve decided on a setting, a season, and a certain mood for a scene, I send him a map with the particulars. He waits for an ideal day and sets off to take endless photographs for me of the area, the sky, the approaches, any buildings from which someone might see a killer dumping a body… He also records the sounds, smells, traffic volumes, and anything else that might be useful for either a sleuth or a villain.

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

JB: I really like talking to people who do the job or live in the area I’m interested in. There are always snippets of purely insider information that add authenticity to a setting or scene. For this novel I needed to research medical assistance in dying, both the procedures and the public attitudes in various parts of Canada; I started talking to older people who had been waiting for the law to change, or who had walked their loved ones along that assisted-dying path. Then I had first-hand knowledge during my father’s final year, which was quite trying at the time but came in useful during the editing process.

I had to learn a bit about dementia care as well as nursing home infection-containment practices. I’d had a roster of visiting nurses for several years when at my most ill, and could call upon them for information about medications and patient management. Additionally I found a retired oil company executive to coach me through the complex processes involved in selling an oil company. Setting the ski resort in a wilderness area meant familiarizing myself with the landscape via Google Satellite and then hikers’ maps. I needed a north-facing slope that would catch and hold the snow, and was far enough from main roads to make the resort being snowed in for a whole week realistic. Even if the intern freed himself from the shed on the first day, he had to be stranded out there with no hope of rescue.

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

JB: It’s a cold, dark, Christmas story with a ghost. An ideal read when you’re curled up by a cosy fire with a steaming mug at your elbow.

I hope readers enjoy the location as much as I do, and that they consider visiting this rich natural environment. I’m very interested in what locations they love, too. We have so many unique wildland locations in our country.

Thanks for answering my questions, Jayne, and good luck with Where the Ice Falls, the latest book in theFalls Mysteries. I always enjoy stories that revolve around friendships between women.  And I have to admit that the ghost intrigues me. I look forward to reading the novel.

Readers can learn more about Jayne and her writing by visiting her website and her Facebook page. You can also follow her on Twitter.

The novel is available online: http://.ly/IpeI50vy6Fc

About J. E. (Jayne) Barnard: J.E. (Jayne) Barnard of Calgary writes award-winning short fiction and the Prix-Aurora nominated YA novellas, the Maddie Hatter Adventures. Her 2018 new release, When the Flood Falls, won the 2016 Unhanged Arthur and debuts The Falls Mysteriesa new psychological suspense series from Dundurn Press.  Her work has won the 2016 Dundurn Unhanged Arthur, the 2011 Bony Pete, and the 1990 Saskatchewan Writers Guild Award, and been shortlisted for the Prix Aurora, the Debut Dagger, the Book Publishing in Alberta Award, and numerous short fiction prizes.

Posted in Archives, August 2019 | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

She Sees More Than You Would Expect

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Today Tanya R. Taylor is visiting Ascroft, eh? to tell us about Blind Sight, the first novel in the Lucille Pfiffer mystery series.

Welcome, Tanya. 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.

BLIND SIGHT (LUCILLE PFIFFER MYSTERY SERIES book one) REGTRT: Lucille Pfiffer is a blind woman who’s also a heroine. Her determination to solve the mystery surrounding the death of a beautiful young lady in book one – BLIND SIGHT – is crucial to the right person being brought to justice. In book two – BLIND ESCAPE – she finds herself entangled in a murder mystery, but also becomes a target for extortion. Each book will have an exciting plot that readers can devour and many more books are planned for this series.

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

TRT: I was outside in a parking lot waiting for my daughter when the idea popped into my mind about this older lady being completely blind, but yet being able to see what was going on around her. She ultimately takes it upon herself to solve a puzzling mystery concerning the death of a beautiful young lady and proves to everyone that even though she has a disability, she’s not hindered by it.

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

TRT: I guess the idea stemmed from the fact that my father was dealing with Glaucoma issues at the time (he’s now passed away) and I was trying to find remedies to help improve his vision. It was something that was at the forefront of my mind and it just so happened that one day as I was outside in a parking lot waiting for my daughter, the idea popped into my head about this older lady being completely blind, but yet being able to see what was going on around her. She ultimately proves to everyone that even though she has a disability, she’s not hindered by it and can even unravel puzzling mysteries that might otherwise remain unsolved. I sat there in the car, pressed the record button on my cell phone and created the plot.

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

TRT: Although all the characters in BLIND SIGHT are interesting, my absolute favorite are the protagonist Lucille Pfiifer and Vanilla, her brave and wise Shih Tzu dog.

I really like them because Lucille is strong, in spite of her disability, and she stands up for those she cares about. Vanilla is fun and also in her mind, Lucille’s protector. She’s so adorable.

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

TRT: I envision it in my mind (everything about it) and do my best to write it the way I envision it.

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

TRT: The internet is just a fingertip away, so anything I need to know, I research online. Thankfully, I didn’t need to do that much research for this book since we own a Shih Tzu also named Vanilla and she’s my inspiration.

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

TRT: BLIND SIGHT is a cozy mystery with a bit of humor as well. The second book in the series, BLIND ESCAPE, will be released on September 5th.

Thanks for answering my questions, Tanya, and good luck with Blind Sight, the first book in the Lucille Pfiffer Mystery series.

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

The novel is available online at  Amazon 

Photo - Tanya (normal size)About Tanya R. Taylor: Tanya has wowed readers with her riveting plots and compelling themes. She is the author of several #1 bestsellers on Amazon and published her first book titled: ‘A Killing Rage’ as a young adult. She has worked in the Financial arena and is also a seasoned ghostwriter. Her book ‘Cornelius’ climbed to #1 in the Teen & Young-adult Multi-generational Family Fiction category. And her supernatural, suspense/thrillers – ‘CARA’ and ‘INFESTATION: A Small Town Nightmare’ are multiple times #1 international bestsellers. Tanya writes in various genres including Paranormal Romance, Fantasy, Thrillers, Science-fiction, Mystery and Suspense. She has a passion for the welfare of children.

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

Is There A Time For Murder?

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Today T.C. Lotempio is visiting Ascroft, eh? to tell us about The Time for Murder is Meow, the first novel in the Purr N Bark Pet Shop mystery series.

Welcome, T.C. Let’s get started, shall we?

THE TIME FOR MURDER IS MEOW COVERTell us about your novel. Is it part of a series? If so, please tell us about the series too.

TCL: The Time for Murder is Meow is the first in the Pet Shop series.  It’s about Crishell, “Shell” McMillan, a former actress who inherits her aunt’s pet shop and decides it’s time for a career change. When the woman who was giving her a hard time about donating her aunt’s poster collection to the local museum is found dead, Shell is tagged as suspect #1 and she and her former co-star Gary, have to work hard to clear her name.

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

TCL: I’d been reading a few blogs by agents and one mentioned they’d like to see a good mystery that centered around a movie memorabilia shop, so I wrote that.  Then an editor wanted me to change the setting to a pet shop, so I did that.  Then the editor got let go, but my agent managed to place the book with another publisher.

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

TCL: It’s about being able to re-invent yourself, which is what I did myself. After years of slaving at dead end jobs, I finally caught a break and am doing what I love to do – write.

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

TCL: I always try to put a little bit of myself and people I know into all of my characters. Do I have a favorite? That’s like asking a mother to pick her favorite child LOL. But we all have favorites, and I confess I’m partial to Nick, the tubby feline hero of the Nick and Nora series.

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

TCL: I try to visualize myself in each scene, acting it out.

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

TCL: It depends on what I’m writing about.  I like to do research on small towns to get a feel for what I can put in the background of the book, for example, I’ll research local bookstores, libraries, coffee shops, etc.

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

TCL: If you’re in the mood for a spirited heroine, a good mystery and two feisty felines, this is the book for you!

Thanks for answering my questions, T.C., and good luck with The Time for Murder is Meow, the first book in the Purr N Bark Pet Shop Mystery series.

Readers can learn more about T.C. and her writing by visiting her website and her blog.

The novel is available at the following online retailers:

Amazon   B&N   IndieBound 

Here’s an excerpt from TIME FOR MURDER IS MEOW:

“After I hung up from Max I flopped down in the worn chair behind the register and leaned back, my hands laced behind my neck.  Max’s parting words bothered me more than I cared to admit, and a twinge of guilt arrowed through me at the thought I might possibly cost Gary this job.  Kahlua hopped up on my lap and swatted my chin with her paw.  “You’re right, Kahlua,” I said.  “Max might have been exaggerating, hoping to play on my sympathy. Gary’s a big boy and a good actor.  He’ll push through no matter what the role.”

It was high time I thought about what was best for me for a change.  As Aunt Tillie used to say, “If you don’t put yourself first, it’s a sure bet no one else will.”  Well, it was high time I did that. I’d put everyone else’s needs above mine, far too often, most recently with disastrous results.  I glanced at my hand – the empty third finger of my left hand, specifically – and a small sigh escaped my lips.

Everything happens for a reason.

A mental picture of Patrick rose in my mind’s eye, and I resolutely pushed it away. I’d been so certain he was the one.  I’d spend hours in my trailer between scenes, fantasizing about the perfect life we’d have together and then, in one afternoon, it had all come crashing down. I’d flung my four-carat diamond ring at Patrick and the script girl he was in bed with, stormed out of the apartment and never looked back. A month later the show was cancelled, and three weeks after that I was on a plane to Fox Hollow. And now here I sat, sorting through boxes of catnip balls and doggie chew toys. Go figure.

The bell above the shop door tinkled, jostling me out of my reverie and reminding me once again I’d forgotten to lock the door.  “I’m sorry, we’re not open for business yet,” I began, and then stopped short.  Three people stood grouped in the doorway, two women and a man. One woman was short and stout. She had flame colored hair (think Lucille Ball, only REDDER) teased up off her head and anchored with what had to be at least a pound of hairspray. She wore an aqua and orange flowered caftan a size too small which served to accentuate her generous frame instead of hiding it. Her age was hard to judge but I placed her as approximately ten years older than myself, late forties to mid-fifties. The man was around the same age. He had a brown beard shot with streaks of grey, and kind eyes behind large, tortoise framed glasses. His jeans were neat and pressed, and held up by multicolored suspenders with a thread of glitter running through them.

The other girl was a good bit younger than either of her companions.  I placed her a bit younger than myself, late twenties, early thirties tops. She had long, luxurious dark brown, almost black hair that flowed across her shoulders like a waterfall. I couldn’t see her eyes behind the massive Jackie O sunglasses she wore, but I was betting they were the same color as the hair. Her slender frame was accentuated by the skintight Capri jeans and tank top she wore. Toenails painted a bright blue peeped out from flip-flops of the same color. The girl carried a massive basket wrapped in yellow cellophane.

“Welcome to Fox Hollow,” they chorused, almost as if they’d either rehearsed it or else done it a million times before. It was hard to tell which.  “We know you’re not open yet,” the redhead added.  “But we saw the light on, so we figured maybe this was as good a time as any.”  She held out her hand. “Rita Sakowski.  I run the coffee shop up the block.  Sweet Perks.”

“Oh, yes.” I gave an enthusiastic nod. “I did notice your shop.  I’m rather a coffee nut.  Sorry I haven’t had time to stop in yet, but I’ve been busy.”

“Oh, we know,” Rita gushed. “You’re Crishell Marlowe, the actress, Tillie’s niece. I’ve always loved that name. It’s so unusual. How did you think of it, or did some Hollywood bigwig do it for you?”

“Nope. If anyone’s to blame, it’s my parents.” I took the hand she shoved in front of me and let her pump it up and down. “They couldn’t decide between Shelley and Christine, so they invented Crishell. It’s kind of a mouthful for most people, though, so I go by my nickname. Shell.” I paused. “I should also mention I’m using my real last name now. McMillan.”

“Oh.”  Rita dropped my hand abruptly. Her smile faltered just a bit and then it was back in place. “Well, I have to tell you everyone in Fox Hollow is just thrilled you’ve decided to keep Tillie’s legacy alive.”

I smiled back. “It’s my pleasure.”  I waved a hand around the store.  “I’ve been taking inventory.  I wanted to open it next week, but I doubt I’ll be ready much before the end of the month. As you can see, there’s still a lot of work to be done.  I have to restock a lot of items, and, of course, get some pets in here.”

Rita nodded.  “Of course.  Tillie did let things slack off a bit those last few months.  I guess we should have been quicker to take that as a sign something was wrong.  Your aunt never slacked off. Never.”

We were all silent for a few seconds, and then the man reached out and took my hand. “Well, I’m pleased to meet you, Shell McMillan. I’m Ron Webb. Webb’s Florists.  My store is right next door to Rita’s.” He grinned. “Sure comes in handy during the slow hours when I need a cup of java or a fresh baked scone to pick me up.”

The brunette reached up to brush a strand of hair from her glasses. I noted the blue polish on the fingernails had added glitter. “And I’m Olivia Niven,” she said. “My claim to fame is running the dance academy on Main Street.” She wrinkled her nose at me and looked pointedly at my feet. “Do you dance, Shell?”

“Not very well. I turned down Dancing on Air because I have two left feet. My co-star, Gary Presser was on last season though. He came in second.”

“I know. I voted for him. He got robbed.” Olivia looked me up and down. “I bet I could make a passable dancer out of you,” she laughed and flicked her hand dismissively. “If I can train the Boswell twins to win last year’s annual competition, I can train anyone.”

“That’s true,” Rita’s red hair swayed to and fro as she nodded. “Talk about left feet, those girls had ‘em, and now, well, you should see them foxtrot.”

Olivia shot me a mischievous grin. “Come by the studio. My girls will be thrilled to meet you.  The boys even more so.  They were all big Spy Anyone fans.” She shifted the basket to her other hand and whipped off the sunglasses, and I saw her eyes were indeed the same color as the hair, maybe even a shade darker. “So,” she reached out to tap the top of the basket. “We just came over to give you this small token to welcome you to the shop community, and to offer any help you might need.”

Rita gave Olivia a small nudge, and the younger woman held out the basket to me. Through the cellophane I saw cookies, cakes, an assortment of gourmet teas and coffees, and a small plant.

“Some treats Rita, Ron and I put together,” Olivia said, with a sidelong glance at her companions. “To be honest, it was mostly Rita. Enjoy.”

“Thanks.” I had to grip the basket hard. It was really loaded down. “This was very nice of you.”

Rita waved her hand carelessly. “Oh, don’t mention it sweetie. We all loved your aunt, and this store is one of the most popular in Fox Hollow. When the tour buses come through, they always make a stop here. Nothing people like better than to take a little souvenier home to their pets. Oh, and you might want to give Kathleen Power a call.  She knits the most darling doggie and kitty sweaters and booties.  Your aunt used to sell them for her all the time, on consignment.”

“Thanks, I’ll do that.” I smiled. “I hope I can live up to my aunt’s reputation.”

“I’m sure you will, dear.” Rita hesitated and then added, “I have to say, we were all surprised when we heard that you would be moving here and taking over the store.”

“Oh, don’t be so coy, Rita,” Olivia cut in. She turned to me. “We were shocked. After all, Fox Hollow’s no Hollywood.”

I nodded. “Thank God for that.”

Now that her arms were free, Olivia crossed them over her well endowed chest. “So, you’re really planning on staying and making a go of this? Or is this just a pit stop before your next series?”

Apparently Olivia wasn’t the type to pull any punches. Personally I found that refreshing after living in the phony Hollywood community for so long. “I assure you, I’m here to stay. I’ve retired from show business.”

Olivia’s perfectly arched eyebrow skyrocketed.  “Retired? Really?  I would think that would be hard.  Isn’t it in your blood? I mean, your mother’s an actress too, right?”

I shot her a wry smile. “If that’s true, then I want a transfusion.”

“I was sad to hear about your series,” Rita cut in. “I always watched Spy Anyone. It was one of my favorite shows.”

“Mine too,” said Ron and Olivia nodded. “I watched it for your co-star,” Olivia said with a shrug. “I hope he’s not retiring from show business too.”

“Gary? I doubt it. He’s too much of a ham.”

Olivia leaned one arm on the counter. “Frankly, I’m disappointed. I thought your moving here had something to do with that breakup of yours, you know with that director—OW!” She rubbed at her side and glared at Rita.

“No sense in rehashing things I’m sure Shell must be sick of hearing, right Shell?” Rita said smoothly.

“Oh, for pity’s sakes, the woman lived in Hollywood, the gossip capital of the world. She’s used to it, aren’t you Shell?” Olivia demanded.

“Now now Olivia, don’t put her on the spot,” chided Ron. “She might not want to talk about it.”

“Oh, don’t be silly Ron. Shell’s a public figure. Her life’s been an open book for years,” snapped Olivia. “Besides, I’m curious about this retirement.  What made you decide to give up the bright lights to follow in your aunt’s footsteps?”

“Those bright lights aren’t all they’re cracked up to be,” I said.  “When you’re on a hit show, your life isn’t your own.  As for taking over Aunt Tillie’s business, well, I’ve always loved animals.  I think if I hadn’t been pushed into going into acting, I probably would have gone for a career in veterinary medicine.  And I feel I owe it to my aunt. She was always there for me when I was growing up.  One of my biggest regrets is not having had much contact with her before she passed. No one in our family even knew she was ill.”

Rita made a sympathetic noise. “Don’t beat yourself up over that, dear. No one did. Tillie could be quite close-mouthed when it came to certain things, and her health was one of them.  I doubted she’d have ever told you anything anyway. Tillie never liked folks worrying or fussing over her.”

“But she did enjoy fussing over others,” Olivia put in. “Take her roommate, for example.”

My head swiveled in Olivia’s direction and I let out an astonished gasp. “Roommate? My aunt’s lawyer didn’t mention anything about her having a roommate.”

“No?” Olivia shrugged. “Maybe it slipped his mind.”

“Kind of an important detail to slip up on, don’t you think?” I placed my hands on my hips. “Are you sure about this? I mean, I find it a bit hard to believe my aunt would take in a boarder. She didn’t need the money, and as you’ve already pointed out, she valued her privacy.”

Olivia chuckled. “That’s because you never saw the two of them together. He doted on your aunt, and she was a sucker for him.”

He. A male boarder. A sudden thought occurred to me. “Were my aunt and this boarder involved?”

“Oh, absolutely!” Olivia nodded. “There was nothing Tillie wouldn’t do for him. He had her wrapped around his little finger. Or maybe I should say paw.”

“Paw?”

Eyes twinkling, Olivia reached toward the basket I’d set on the counter, undid the cellophane and crinkled some of it between her fingers. “That should bring him running, see! There he is now.”

I turned and caught a blur of white out of the corner of my eye. The next instant, the blur streaked past me and with one graceful leap landed on all fours right in the center of the counter.

“Oh my God,” I cried. “What is that?”

“Merow,” said the blur. “Owww.”

The others started to laugh. “That,” choked out Olivia. “Is the store mascot and your aunt’s roomie.

“Shell, meet Purrday.”

Toni-LoTempio-Credit-to-Clifton-Animal-Shelter-245x300About T.C. Lotempio: While Toni Lotempio does not commit – or solve – murders in real life, she has no trouble doing it on paper. Her lifelong love of mysteries began early on when she was introduced to her first Nancy Drew mystery at age 10 – The Secret in the Old Attic.  She and her cat pen the Nick and Nora mystery series from Berkley Prime Crime and the Cat Rescue series from Crooked Lane.  Her latest, the Pet Shop Mysteries, makes its debut August 8 with The Time for Murder is Meow.

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Risky Biscuits

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Today Mary Lee Ashford is visiting Ascroft, eh? to tell us about Risky Biscuits, her latest novel in the Sugar & Spice mystery series.

Welcome, Mary. 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.

Risky Biscuits-HighResMLA: Thanks for asking! In Risky Biscuits, Sugar Calloway and Dixie Spicer launched their community cookbook business a few months ago and now have a few solid clients. They’ve taken on The Crack of Dawn Breakfast Club who want to put together a collection of their recipes as a fundraiser to fund refurbishing a shelter at the city park. But things go awry when the key organizer of the group is missing and later found dead. Suddenly Sugar and Dixie find themselves in the midst of a murder investigation that involves secrets both past and present. and more sticky situations than, well, a sticky bun. So, while they are collecting recipes they are also collecting clues much to the chagrin of local law enforcement.

Risky Biscuits is the second book in the Sugar & Spice Mystery Series which begins with genesis of the cookbook business. After losing her job as food editor at a glossy magazine, Rosetta Sugarbaker Calloway – aka “Sugar” isn’t sweet on accepting defeat and crawling back home to her overbearing family in Georgia. So when she has the chance to work with blue-ribbon baker, Dixie Spicer, in peaceful St. Ignatius, Iowa she jumps at the chance to start over from scratch. The first book in the series is Game of Scones.

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

MLA: In most cases for me, the central mystery always starts with a question. In this case, that question was: What if, in my small town where everyone knows everyone else, someone was killed who everyone liked. And if the victim was so well-liked, what could possibly be the motive for murder?

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

MLA: There’s almost always a theme as a part of my books, but I don’t always know what it is until the story unfolds. In the case of Risky Biscuits, the theme is “home.” An important theme to be sure and one that carries a lot of emotion of all of us. In the story, a hometown golden boy has come home to St. Ignatius and his return is the catalyst for all kinds of change. Also, Sugar who is researching her father’s family begins to examine her own definition of home.

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

MLA: Many authors create extensive character sketches or fill out questionnaires about their characters before the get started. While I do keep files on my characters (mostly so I don’t create inconsistencies) I find I learn more and more about them as the book is written. After all, that’s how we get to know people in real life, isn’t it? We get to know bits and pieces about them the longer we know them. And then if we find ourselves in an extreme situation with them we really find out what they’re made of. Hopefully nothing as extreme as a murder in real life, but you get the idea. People (and characters) under pressure reveal who they are at the deepest level.

I’m partial to Sugar because I love her outlook on life. She is feisty but kind-hearted. Fiercely loyal and stubborn in a good way. Even when people are difficult, like her neighbor, Mrs. Pickett, she tries very hard to have patience. Though, make no mistake, Sugar is a strong woman who will stand up for what’s right, defend those she loves, and see things through to the end.

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

MLA: In this series, I choose a setting that I’m very familiar with. I grew up in a small rural town in Iowa. If you remember the book or movie, The Bridges of Madison County, that’s actually where I am from. Although it was fun to write about a fictional setting that has a lot in common with my own background, I think the technique for bringing it to life is much the same as it was for other settings I’ve used.

I like to think about what makes the place unique. What is it about this place that the story I’m writing could only be set there. No other place would work. Only this place.

And then I like to explore, what do the people who live there think about the place. How do they view it? What do they love or hate about it? And next, I think about how do people who don’t live there feel about the place. What’s it like to an outsider? What unique things about the place draw them in? What things about the place drive them crazy?

Because in this case the town is fictional, I don’t get to bring in real snippets of history, but I did research several towns of similar size and characteristics in order to be able to sprinkle in some background for St. Ignatius.

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

MLA: It the case of this series, I did a lot of research about cookbook publishing and talked to people who have similar businesses. Also, there’s a bit of research around police procedures and crime investigation. Though the books are cozy mysteries and not police procedurals, I want to make sure that I’ve not created implausible situations that couldn’t happen in real life.

And then finally, there’s the recipe research, but what’s more fun than finding great ideas for scones and biscuits, right? And, of course, once a recipe is created, it simply must be tested. Check out my Pinterest board if you’re interested in more recipes: www.pinterest.com/maryleeashford

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

MLA: These have been great questions! Thank-you for letting me talk about my books. The only thing that I would add is that I hope readers enjoy them as much as I enjoy writing them!

Thanks for answering my questions, Mary, and good luck with Risky Biscuits, the latest book in the Sugar & Spice Mystery series.

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

The novel is available at the following online retailers:

Amazon    Barnes & Noble     Kobo    iBooks

Mary Lee Ashford PhotoAbout Mary Lee Ashford: She is a lifelong bibliophile, and avid reader, and supporter of public libraries. In addition to writing the Sugar & Spice mystery series for Kensington Books, she also writes as half of the writing team of Sparkle Abbey, author of the national bestselling Pampered Pets mystery series from Bell Bridge Books.

Prior to publishing Mary Lee won first place in the Daphne du Maurier contest, sponsored by the Kiss of Death chapter of RWA, and was a finalist in Murder in the Grove’s mystery contest, as well as Killer Nashville’s Claymore Dagger contest.

She is the founding president of Sisters in Crime – Iowa and a current board member of the Mystery Writers of America Midwest chapter, as well as a member of Novelists, Inc., Romance Writers of America, Kiss of Death the RWA Mystery Suspense chapter, Sisters in Crime, and the SinC internet group Guppies.

Mary Lee has a passionate interest in creativity and teaches a university level course in Creative Management to MPA candidates, as well as presenting workshops and blogging about creativity. She loves encouraging other writers and is a frequent presenter on a variety of topics at workshops, conferences, and writers’ groups. In her day job, Mary Lee is a Deputy Chief Information Officer. She currently resides in the Midwest with her husband, Tim, and Sparkle, the rescue cat namesake of the Sparkle Abbey pseudonym. Her delights are reading and enjoying her family and especially her six grandchildren.

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Samantha’s Stopping By Today

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Today Samantha Lowe is visiting Ascroft, eh? to tell us about Rest, Relax, Run for Your Life, the latest novel in the Ooey, Gooey Bakery mystery series written by Katherine H. Brown.

Welcome, Samantha. Tell me about yourself and the Ooey, Gooey Bakery.

Hi! I’m Samantha Lowe and I’m thrilled to be joining you today. My friend Piper, she isn’t ooeygooey_mockup-updateso big on the public speaking and asked me if I could take today’s post. I’ve never had a problem with the limelight, probably because my mother has been sticking me in etiquette classes, pageants, and town events for as long as I can remember. My mother, Deidra, loves being the center of attention and really embraced her role as mayor’s wife when my father, Gregory, was elected mayor of our little coastal town.

Seashell Bay is a beautiful place to call home. Mother, of course, has aspirations of the White House from what I can tell but I’m content here. Piper and I co-own and operate the Ooey Gooey Goodness Bakery creating delectable desserts and the occasional breakfast or brunch baked good, too. Deciding to drop out of college and go into business nearly gave my mother a stroke; thankfully, I knew it was the best move for me and I’ve never looked back.

I’m not the only disappointment in the family. My brother Griffin took a regular ho-hum job as well rather than following our father into politics. Mother still has hope she can change his mind.

Enough about me! Let me tell you about the bakery. The Ooey Gooey Goodness Bakery is on a quaint little street of shops in the middle of town, accompanied by Flo’s Flowers, Auntie Em’s Antiques, and the Bait & Tackle Store. Flo, our closest shop neighbor, is a pretty regular customer. I’ll be honest, I’ve never had a reason to go in the Bait & Tackle – not a big fisherwoman – and we work so much at the bakery that I’ve never seen the inside of Auntie Em’s either; now that I think of it, I kind of feel badly about that. Hmm. Anyway, our bakery is small but cozy. A little café in the front with cute round bistro tables makes customers feel welcome to hang out and enjoy their treats. The kitchen in the back is awesome; lots of counter space, huge walk-in fridge, large stainless-steel work island. We do a lot of chatting and taste-testing in that kitchen. Piper and I share in the baking but she bakes a larger portion than me. I keep the books and chip in more often with the decorating for special birthday orders. I love to make things pretty, so piping icing onto cakes or themed and shaped cookies is always a blast. Piper says she doesn’t have the patience for all of the detail work that some of them require which makes us the perfect team.

Look at the time! I’ve really got to get back to work. We have extra baking to do; you see, we won a contest for raising money to increase awareness of human trafficking and it kind of made the news. Now, our bakery is more popular than ever which is great but boy are we busy.

I hope to see you all soon at the Ooey Gooey Goodness Bakery. Thanks for letting me stop by!

Thanks for visiting, Samantha, and I look forward to getting to know the Ooey, Gooey Bakery.

Readers can learn more about Samantha and Rest, Relax, Run for your Life by visiting her author’s website and Facebook, Goodreads, Bookbub and Instagram pages.

The novel is available online:

 Amazon 

20190129172842_IMG_3255_polarr_1About Katherine Brown: Katherine is a Texas girl, a lover of books, and a weaver of words. Her first official publication was of two children’s books in 2017, which has now grown into five books of the School is Scary series; however, she likes to think her career as a writer started when she sold her parents newsletters of articles about school and poetry for fifty cents per copy as a pre-teen. Married to a wonderful husband and mom of a smart, spunky stepdaughter, Katherine enjoys spending time with family and reading as many new books as she can get her hands on. Her YA series, the Ooey Gooey Bakery Mystery series, is ramping up in 2019 with book 1 released in March and book 2 was released June 1, 2019.

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The Great Jewel Robbery

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Today Elizabeth McKenna is visiting Ascroft, eh? to tell us about The Great Jewel Robbery, the first novel in the Front Page 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.

Great-Jewel-Robbery-EBOOK-COVEREM: The Great Jewel Robbery is book one of a new cozy mystery series called A Front Page Mystery. The story is told by Emma, a sports reporter for the Chicago Tribune. Her best friend and roommate, Grace, is also a reporter but for the Life & Style section of the newspaper. Grace is covering a charity gala at a lakeside mansion when one of the auction items, a multimillion-dollar necklace, is stolen. Emma is on hand as Grace’s “plus one” for the event, and they decide to investigate the crime to further their careers.

As the women are reporters for a large newspaper, future stories in the mystery series could be set anywhere, but I anticipate most of them will be in Wisconsin and Illinois. I am setting Emma and Grace up to have some love interests, which will keep them closer to home.

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

EM: Though my first three novels have been romances, I’ve always loved a good mystery. I grew up reading and watching Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, Agatha Christie, Columbo, Matlock, Murder She Wrote, Monk, Psych, Law & Order—I could go on and on.

When I set out to write The Great Jewel Robbery, I was under a tremendous time crunch. I had read that Hallmark Publishing was accepting unagented submissions, and as an independent author, this was a great opportunity. Unfortunately, the deadline was less than three months away, and I am a slow writer. I calculated I would need to write at least one thousand words a day—something I’ve never done. That obstacle, along with a non-existent plot, made me ask for help.

Over drinks and a Friday night fish fry, my family and I brainstormed the plot. As I finished each chapter, I sent it to my daughters and my husband to critique. My girls caught typos and grammar, and once I convinced them I wouldn’t be upset, they offered character and plot criticisms. My husband was extremely helpful with the big picture. He’s an engineer with a logical mind that I was grateful to take advantage of.

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

EM: There’s no profound message or theme in The Great Jewel Robbery’s plot. The book I wrote before this one, First Crush Last Love, was so full of angst, pulled from my teens and twenties that I needed to write something light and breezy. The one thing I try to do with all of my books is to make sure that the plot and the characters’ actions are logical or at least understandable. I don’t want convenient things to happen to move the plot along. For example, an early draft of TGJR had Emma leaving the gala and going to the mansion’s rooftop terrace with a man she had just met—alone. I’m not sure what I was thinking, as I am constantly telling my college-aged daughters to never, ever go anywhere alone at a party, nightclub, etc. A beta reader said her inner mom was screaming at Emma, and she was right. So, I changed the scene to include other people on the terrace.

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

EM: Throughout the novels that I’ve written, the one constant has been all of the main characters have big chunks of me and also pieces of my daughters in them. Minor characters are often formed around people I know. I think the characters in my first book, Cera’s Place, will always be my favorite. It’s a historical romance with a tough female main character and a sexy rugged cowboy/ex-soldier. Besides mysteries, I love a good western, and in writing Cera’s Place, I fulfilled some fantasies.

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

EM: Obviously, the internet helps with filling in gaps of my knowledge of a place. I’ve been to the locales of all four of my novels, but two of the stories were historical, so I had to rely on reference books and old newspaper articles, photos, maps, etc. My favorite novels don’t have lengthy descriptions, and I tend to be a concise writer. (I have a Journalism degree and was a technical writer for over twenty years.) I prefer to focus on dialog and actions.

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

EM: The Great Jewel Robbery is set in a village near where I live, and the mansion where most of the story takes place is based on a real-life mansion built around 1900 on Geneva Lake (which is also near where I live). I did some research on the mansion so that I could describe its details and history accurately. I also researched diamond and gem necklaces so that I could set an accurate value. As the main characters are reporters and I was a Journalism major, I didn’t have to do much research for that.

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

EM: I’m hoping readers will enjoy my venture into mystery. I’ve received a lot of positive feedback on my romances, which all had touches of mystery. Now, I’ve flipped it around to have mainly mystery with a splash of romance.

Thanks for answering my questions, Elizabeth, and good luck with The Great Jewel Robbery, the first book in the Front Page Mystery series.

Readers can learn more about Elizabeth 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  –   Barnes & Noble –   Kobo  – Scribd  –  Apple 

Elizabeth McKenna Author picAbout Elizabeth McKenna: Elizbeth’s love of books reaches back to her childhood, where her tastes ranged from Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys to Stephen King’s horror stories. She had never read a romance novel until one Christmas when her sister gave her the latest bestseller by Nora Roberts. She was hooked from page one (actually, she admits it was the first love scene). She combined her love of history, romance, and a happy ending to write Cera’s Place and Venice in the Moonlight. Her contemporary romance novel, First Crush Last Love, is loosely based on her life during her teens and twenties. The Great Jewel Robbery is her debut cozy mystery, and she hopes readers will like it as much as they have enjoyed her romances. Elizabeth lives in Wisconsin with her understanding husband, two beautiful daughters, and a sassy Labrador. When she isn’t writing, working, or being a mom, she’s sleeping.

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