Come with me to the fair

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

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

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

AD: FAIR GAME is the eighth in the Zoe Chambers Mystery Series. Zoe is a paramedic and deputy coroner in rural southwestern Pennsylvania’s Monongahela County. Throughout the series, she stubbornly fights for her friends, both new and old, seeking justice for those whose lives she can’t save. This leads her to assist and often hinder local Chief of Police Pete Adams, with whom she’s fallen in love. In FAIR GAME, she has escaped to the county fair with her horse to work through some personal issues but finds herself bonding with a troubled teen and a grieving father. Meanwhile, back in Vance Township, Pete investigates a dead woman’s mysterious final hours. Was her homicide a tragic accident? Or something much more sinister?

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

AD: I was a 4-Her as a kid, just like Zoe, and am still friends with many of my fellow 4-Hers and former leaders, so I knew I wanted to set a story at the county fair as a treat for them. A school bus demolition derby has long been a staple of the weeklong fair. When I realized that most people had never heard of school bus demo derby, let alone seen one, I knew it had to be central to the story. Besides, a crashed bus seemed like the perfect location to find a dead body!

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

AD: The theme of what makes a family runs through all the books in my series. Although I come from a solid and boringly normal family, Zoe does not and has longed for that stability most of her life. It started as a simple character trait back in the first book, but I’ve loved exploring the different familial relationships of the different characters: fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, siblings, and mostly, Zoe’s effort to create a family, even if it’s bound by heart instead of blood.

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

AD: It’s hard for me to think of it as “creating” a character. I start out with a rough idea of who this person is, but they often take over as I write the story, teaching me about their lives and their motivations as I go. Of course, I have favourites. The regulars feel like old and dear friends. Harry Adams, Pete’s dad, who appears in three books of the series (but not FAIR GAME, darn it), is a reader favourite and reminds me of my own dad, so I adore him. Surprisingly though, I frequently fall in love with my villains, because of their complexity. I don’t enjoy writing bad guys with no good in them. I often make that sympathetic part of them so strong that I hate to see them go at the end. Or they’re so wickedly bad that I love to hate them.

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

AD: Setting is very important to me. My series is located in a fictionalized version of where I’ve lived all my life, so research often involves simply stepping outside. I try to include a lot of touches about the season in which the current book is set, which means if a story is taking place in the spring, I make notes during that season of what tangibly stands out. The earthy aroma of approaching rain. The buzz of a weed-whacker. The ticking sound of rain turning to sleet against a window. And then I work those into the narrative. For FAIR GAME, I take my characters to the county fair, and while I spent a week there every year when I was a kid, I hadn’t paid attention back then. So last fall, I bought a weekly pass and attended almost every day, taking photos and notes of sights, sounds, smells, and tastes. Yes, I had to eat fair food. It’s a hard job but needs to be done!

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

AD: Beyond the location research I’ve already mentioned, I do a lot of research into law enforcement. Zoe’s a paramedic, and I used to work on an ambulance, so my knowledge of that world is fairly solid. However, having never been a cop or a coroner, I need to do research to make those characters as authentic as possible. I’ve taken citizens’ academies for the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police and the Pennsylvania State Police. I’ve twice attended Writer’s Police Academy, an annual conference which is exactly what the title implies. Writers go through classes at a police training facility taught by the same instructors who teach real cops. I’ve also cultivated relationships with law enforcement, attorneys, and coroners who answer my questions as they arise.

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

AD: I think the opening page and the closing chapter will make my long-time readers squeal in delight. I hope the pages in between please both my old and new readers as well.

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

Readers can learn more about Annette by visiting her website and her blog, and following her on Facebook and Twitter (@Annette_Dashofy).

Fair Game is available at the following online retailers:

 Amazon – Amazon Hardcover/Paperback – B&N – Kobo – IndieBound

 

About Annette Dashofy: She is the USA Today best-selling author of the Zoe Chambers mystery series about a paramedic and deputy coroner in rural Pennsylvania’s tight-knit Vance Township. CIRCLE OF INFLUENCE was a finalist for the Agatha Award for Best First Novel of 2014 and BRIDGES BURNEDwas nominated for the 2015 Agatha for Best Contemporary Novel.

 

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Posted in Archives, May 2019 | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

A New Century Cottage Cozy Mystery Is Here

I’m delighted to announce that Out of Options, my latest story in the Century Cottage Cozy Mysteries series, is now available and it’s free on several online retailers.

Out of Options is a prequel novella to the Century Cottage Cozy Mysteries series, and introduces Lois Stone and her companions, Raggs and Ribbons, a pair of perceptive calico cats. A Timeless Celebration, which was released last autumn is the first book in the series.

A dry district, a shocking secret, a missing person. When Lois Stone’s friend, Beth Darrow, arranges to meet her to reveal an astonishing discovery, Lois’s curiosity is piqued. Then Beth doesn’t keep their lunch date and Lois becomes worried. What has happened to her friend?

And so begins a weekend of skulking in the park, apple and cinnamon pancakes, familiar faces staring out of old newspapers, calico cats, shadows on the windowpane, and more than one person who might want Beth to disappear from the quiet, leafy streets of the historic and staunchly dry West Toronto Junction neighbourhood.

 

I hope this snippet of the story has you intrigued. If you’d like to learn more, you can find Out of Options online at: 

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Out-Options-Century-Cottage-Mysteries-ebook/dp/B07R4GQWQN

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Out-Options-Century-Cottage-Mysteries-ebook/dp/B07R4GQWQN

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/gb/en/ebook/out-of-options-5 

Barnes and Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/out-of-options-dianne-ascroft/1131401945?ean=2940156495054 

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

Step Into The Wetlands With Us

I’ve invited Judi Lynn to join us today to tell us about the inspiration behind a tradition in the family life of her character, Jazzi Zanders, in The Body In The Wetlands. I’ll let you take it from here, Judi:

Hi, I’m Judith Post and I write cozy mysteries under the pen name Judi Lynn.  A few reviewers have commented that they enjoy the close relationship Jazzi has with her family in The Body in the Wetlands.  Her live-in boyfriend, Ansel, isn’t so lucky.  His family kicked him out the minute he graduated from high school.  They own a dairy farm and only wanted to split the profits so many ways.

Jazzi works with her cousin, Jerod, and Ansel as house-flippers.  Jerod loves to give her a hard time, but he’s a devoted family man, too.  He’s crazy about his wife, Franny, and their two kids.  So that everyone can keep in touch with each other, Jazzi has her entire family to her house every Sunday for Sunday meal.  Her parents.  Jerod’s parents.  Her sister and her boyfriend.  Gran and her live-in helper, Samantha.  She does all of the cooking, but people throw money in a jar to help pay for all of the food.

I got the idea for Sunday meal from my family.  When I got married, my dad insisted on getting together every Thursday night for supper.  One week, we’d go to Mom and Dad’s house, and the next week, they’d come to ours, along with my two sisters.  My mom was a wonderful cook.  I’d never even peeled a potato, so cooking for everyone every other Thursday was a daunting task, especially since I taught all day and Dad wanted his food on the table at five.  But I started out simple with pot roasts, etc. and got hooked on cooking and braver until my dad warned me not to get too fancy.  He liked simple food.

Somehow, after not poisoning anyone for months, I got signed up to have Thanksgiving and Easter for the entire side of Mom’s family at our house, too.  My grandmother, Aunt Phyllis, and my cousin Jenny—who all lived together—came.  They, in themselves, were an interesting crew.  Grandma had been married to a truck driver and cussed like one.  Aunt Phyllis was deaf, and Jenny had cerebral palsy.  My uncle, his wife, and four kids came, too.  My husband’s parents also came.  So we ended up with about twenty people for most holidays.  And it was wonderful.  So wonderful, I wanted the same for Jazzi.

Thanks for your insight into your character Jazzi’s life. Let’s tell readers a bit more about the book:

High summer in River Bluffs, Indiana, is always sweltering and sweet. But the heat is really on when a decidedly dead body turns up in the neighborhood.

When established house flippers Jazzi Zanders and her cousin Jerod donate a week’s worth of remodeling work to Jazzi’s sister Olivia, they’re expecting nothing more than back-breaking roofing work and cold beers at the end of each long, hot day. With Jazzi’s live-in boyfriend and partner Ansel on the team, it promises to be a quick break before starting their next big project—until Leo, an elderly neighbor of Olivia’s, unexpectedly goes missing . . .

When the friendly senior’s dog tugs Jazzi and the guys toward the wetlands beyond Olivia’s neighborhood, they stumble across a decomposing corpse—and a lot of questions. With Jazzi’s pal Detective Gaff along to investigate, Jazzi finds her hands full of a whole new mystery instead of the usual hammer and nails. And this time it will take some sophisticated sleuthing to track down the culprit of the deadly crime—before the killer turns on her next . . .

The Body in the Wetlands is available at the following retailers:

Amazon   B&N   Kobo   Google Play

About Judi Lynn: Judi Lynn received a Master’s Degree from Indiana University as an elementary school teacher after attending the IPFW campus. She taught 1st, 2nd, and 4th grades for six years before having her two daughters.  She loves gardening, cooking and trying new recipes.

Readers can visit her website  and her blog .

 

Posted in May 2019 | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Meet Kate Hamilton

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Today I’ve invited Connie Berry to Ascroft, eh? to tell us a bit about her latest novel, A Dream of Death, and her Kate Hamilton Mystery series.

Welcome to Ascroft, eh? Connie. 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.

FinalADream of DeathCB: A Dream of Death, first in the Kate Hamilton Mystery series, is set in the UK and features American antiques dealer Kate Hamilton and Detective Inspector Tom Mallory.

Kate returns to the Isle of Glenroth, the Hebridean island where her deceased husband was born, her heart set on a reconciliation with his sister, proprietor of the island’s luxe country house hotel. The next morning a body turns up, and when the police arrest her husband’s best childhood friend, Kate teams up with Tom Mallory, a vacationing detective inspector from Suffolk, England, to unmask a killer determined to rewrite island history—and Kate’s future.

In the second in the series, A Legacy of Murder (October 2019), Kate plans a lovely pre-Christmas visit to the Suffolk village of Long Barston where her daughter, a student at Oxford University, has an internship at Finchley Hall, a stately home famous for the unearthing in 1818 of an Anglo-Saxon treasure trove—and for murder. The good news: Long Barston is on DI Mallory’s patch. The bad news: one of the interns is found dead. Finchley Hall’s legacy of murder lives on.

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

CB: The idea for A Dream of Death came from my own life. Like my protagonist, Kate, I was raised in the world of fine antiques. My father was the true antiques fanatic, but my mother was the scholar and sleuth, applying near-Sherlockian principles of research and deduction to uncover the often-hidden history behind the fine objects they collected and sold. In A Dream of Death, Kate interprets and follows clues hidden in an antique marquetry casket (a small chest for valuables) to expose a killer nursing a grudge two centuries old.

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

CB: The underlying theme in A Dream of Death is the effect of the past on the present. Each of the main characters struggles in some way with his or her past. And, of course, the Isle of Glenroth itself trades on its dubious connection with the clan uprisings and Bonnie Prince Charlie.

I’ve always been fascinated with history. My paternal grandmother was born in Scotland, and came to the U.S. to work for the Rockefeller family (old John D. Rockefeller was said to have a marked preference for Scottish servants). Her life was built on lies and secrets, some of which I’ve unraveled, thanks to online genealogical records. My father carried the burden of those secrets and kept them until her death.

What if everything you knew about the past was a lie? That’s the story question in A Dream of Death. “If you have skeletons in the closet,” said George Bernard Shaw [quoted by Rachel Manija Brown in her memoir, All the Fishes Come Home to Roost], “you may as well make them dance.”

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

CB: Great question. Everything an author creates has its origin in his or her mind—woven together from observations, memories, and experiences, both real and virtual. That includes characters. While none of my characters represent a particular person, there are always resemblances to people I’ve known. One particular character in A Dream of Death (eventually deleted) bore a striking physical resemblance to a relative—so striking that I changed certain characteristics for fear my relative would see herself and be hurt. *Note to my female relatives: if you think it’s you, it isn’t.

I’m obviously partial to Kate—she’s the one telling the story, so the reader sees everything through her eyes and from her perspective. I’m also fond of the eccentric characters who inhabit my books—and the British villages and countryside I write about. “The amount of eccentricity in a society,” John Stuart Mill famously wrote, “has generally been proportional to the amount of genius, mental vigor and moral courage it contained. That so few now dare to be eccentric marks the chief danger of the time.”

My father was a genius—and a lovable eccentric. I wouldn’t have traded him for all the ordinary father’s in the world.

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

CB: I adore research. I can get lost in research—so much so that it sometimes becomes a problem. “Get back to the writing,” I order myself, my mind still mulling over such fascinating questions as the origin of wigs in the British legal system and the scientific explanation behind the medieval Suffolk legend of the green children.

Research is easy and fun these days. I remember graduate school when research meant hours of riffling through the library card catalog, taking notes by hand, and toting stacks of books to a cubicle reserved in advance. Now we use computers and printers. For each book, I keep a large notebook for research, background material, photographs, character sketches, and plot ideas. For A Dream of Death, I used Google Maps Street View to follow Kate’s drive in the Scottish Highlands from Mallaig to Inverness.

With that said, there’s nothing like actually being there. Last autumn my husband and I drove the route Kate took in Scotland. I consulted with a detective inspector from Fort William and the chief of police on the Isle of Skye. And somehow we talked the kindly concierge at Inverlochy Castle into letting us scramble up and onto the roof.

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

CB: I’ve loved every minute spent planning, researching, writing, and re-writing A Dream of Death. I hope my readers will love reading it.

Thanks for answering my questions, Connie, and good luck with A Dream of Death, this latest novel in your Kate Hamilton Mystery series.

Readers can learn more about Connie Berry by visiting her website, and her Facebook and Goodreads pages. Readers can also follow her on Twitter.

A Dream of Death is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other online retailers.

dream death authorAbout Connie Berry: Like her main character, Connie Berry was raised by charmingly eccentric antique collectors who opened a shop, not because they wanted to sell antiques but because they needed a plausible excuse to keep buying them. Connie adores history, off-season foreign travel, cute animals, and all things British. She lives in Ohio with her husband and adorable Shih Tzu, Millie.

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

Meet the Not So Reluctant Detectives

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Today I’ve invited D.E. Haggerty to Ascroft, eh? to tell us a bit about her latest novel, Hide Not Seek, and her Not So Reluctant Detectives series.

Welcome to Ascroft, eh?. Let’s get started, shall we?

HnS FP3Tell us about your novel. Is it part of a series? If so, please tell us about the series too.

DEH: Hide Not Seek is the third novel in the Not So Reluctant Detective series. The series consists of three standalone novels. In each story, a different high school employee gets involved with a murder and ends up trying to solve it. In Hide Not Seek, the English lit teacher, Pru, is accused of murder. When it turns out she has a rock-solid alibi for the time of the murder, the murderer starts stalking her. Naturally, the three friends decide they need to solve the murder.

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

DEH: In the previous novel of the series, the heroine is accused of murder as she was supposedly stalked by the victim. Writing about the stalking stirred up thoughts about women who are stalked and what happens when someone takes the law into their own hands.

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

DEH: As this series is set primarily in a high school library, I created my characters around the type of women who usually work in high schools. There’s a librarian, a high school counsellor, and a teacher. My favourite character is usually the heroine of the story I just finished writing.

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

DEH: As the Not So Reluctant Detective series is set in Milwaukee where I went to university a million years ago, I spent a lot of time on Google maps reacquainting myself with locations. I tried to describe the locations so people who actually live there will be able to nod and say ‘oh yeah, I know the place she’s describing’.

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

DEH: I’m anal about research. I research all kinds of details readers probably don’t care about like how much does a house along Lake Michigan cost or how much a professional rugby player in New Zealand makes.

Thanks for answering my questions, and good luck with Hide Not Seek, this latest novel in your Not So Reluctant Detectives series.

Readers can learn more about D. E. Haggerty by visiting her website, and her Facebook, Goodreads, Bookbub and LinkedIn pages.

Hide Not Seek is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo and other online retailers.

_MG_0371_2About D.E. Haggerty: She grew up reading everything from her mom’s Harlequin romances to Nancy Drew, to Little Women. When she wasn’t flipping pages in a library book, she was penning horrendous poems, writing songs no one should ever sing, or drafting stories which have thankfully been destroyed. College and a stint in the U.S. Army came along, robbing her of free time to write and read. After surviving the army experience, she went back to school and got her law degree. She jumped ship and joined her hubby in the Netherlands before the graduation ceremony could even begin. A few years into her legal career, she was exhausted, fed up, and just plain done. She quit her job and sat down to write a manuscript, which she promptly hid in the attic before returning to the law. But practicing law really wasn’t her thing, so she quit (again!) and went off to Germany to start a B&B. Turns out running a B&B wasn’t her thing either. She polished off that manuscript languishing in the attic before following her husband to Istanbul where she decided to give the whole writer-thing a go. But ten years was too many to stay away from my adopted home. I packed up again and moved to The Hague where, in between tennis matches and failing to save the world, she’s currently working on her next book. Hide Not See is her fifteenth novel.

Posted in April 2019, Archives, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

What’s Happening at the Marina?

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I’d like to welcome Kelly Jackson, a character in Murder at the Marina, to Ascroft, eh? today. She’s stopped by to tell us a bit about the novel and the Kelly Jackson Mysteries.

It’s lovely to have you here, Kelly. 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.

MURDER AT THE MARINAKelly: My name is Kelly Jackson, and I’m the protagonist in a mystery series written by Janet Finsilver. It’s been such a fun experience! I’m the manager of Redwood Cove Bed and Breakfast in a small tourist town on the northern California coast.

Soon after arriving, I met a crime-solving group of seniors, the Silver Sentinels. They questioned whether or not the death of the manager I was replacing was an accident or murder. Since then, we’ve worked together on a number of crimes disrupting their beloved community.

There are dogs with special abilities in each of the books that contribute in different ways to people’s lives. Some of the canines that show up in certain books include termite finders, hearing assistance dogs, a diabetic alert dog, and a police bloodhound.

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

Kelly: I definitely get a say, as do the other characters. Janet welcomes our thoughts. She keeps a pen that lights up and a pad next to the bed at night to write down ideas. During the day she keeps her phone close by and records any comments from us on an ongoing basis.

How did you evolve as the main character?

Kelly: I was raised on a Wyoming ranch. We host guests in the summer, and we are a working livestock ranch all year long. I love that life and my family, but I wanted something else, a career that would be my own. I worked for Michael Corrigan, owner of Resorts International, when he needed someone to step in at one of his Colorado properties. One thing led to another, and now I’m a managing one of his inns.

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

Kelly: I really like all the characters I share the story with on a regular basis.

The Silver Sentinels are a wonderful, witty group. We’ve worked together to keep the community safe.

Helen Rogers, a widower, is the inn’s baker and general assistant. She moved to Redwood Cove when she lost her husband. She has worked hard to help her ten-year-old son, Tommy, adjust to the area. His touch of Asperger’s makes it difficult for him to make friends. He has his Basset Hound, Fred, as a constant companion.

Scott Thompson, who works for the same company I do, is often present. I feel drawn to him, but a very bitter divorce has me taking tiny steps in the relationship department.

There are many more great characters in the story, but I’ll stop here and let you discover the rest of them!

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

Kelly: The town of Redwood Cove rests on cliffs above the beautiful Pacific Ocean. The waves crash endlessly, spewing foam high into the air.  Majestic towering redwood trees surround this northern California community. Many of the town’s historic elements have been retained, giving it a special charm.

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

Kelly: My most recently released book, Murder at the Marina, brings to light the story of two of the Silver Sentinels, Russian brothers Ivan and Rudy Dublinsky. I learned about their escape from Russia and that they had ties to Russian aristocracy.

As far as telling people about me, I’m thrilled to be here and love my new friends and the area. Please come visit me in Redwood Cove!

Thanks for visiting, Kelly. Good luck to you and Jane Finsilver with this latest release in the Kelly Jackson Mysteries series.

Readers can learn more about Jane Finsilver by visiting her website, and her Facebook and Pinterest pages. You can also follow her on Twitter.

Murder at the Marina is available at these retailers online:

 Amazon  – B&N – Kobo – Google Play

Janet-Finsilver-290x300About Janet Finsilver: Janet is the USA TODAY bestselling author of the Kelly Jackson mystery series. She worked in education for many years as a teacher, a program administrator, and a workshop presenter. Janet majored in English and earned a Master’s Degree in Education. She loves animals and has two dogs–Kylie and Ellie. Janet has ridden western style since she was a child and was a member of the National Ski Patrol. One of the highlights of her life was touching whales in the San Ignacio Lagoon. MURDER AT REDWOOD COVE, her debut mystery, was released on October 13, 2015. Her second book, MURDER AT THE MANSION, was released on June 7, 2016. Book 3, MURDER AT THE FORTUNE TELLER’S TABLE was released on March 14, 2017.

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

Sifting Through The Clues with us

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I’d like to welcome Daryl Wood Gerber, author of Sifting Through Clues, to Ascroft, eh? today. She’s stopped by to tell us a bit about her latest novel and the Cookbook Nook Mysteries.

It’s lovely to have you here, Daryl. 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.

SIFTING THROUGH CLUES coverDWG: Sifting Through Clues is the 8th in the Cookbook Nook Mysteries. In the first in the series, Final Sentence, Jenna Hart, an ex-advertising executive, moves home to Crystal Cove, California to help her aunt open a culinary bookshop and café and to find her smile.

In Sifting Through Clues book clubs from all over have descended on Crystal Cove to celebrate the library’s Book Club Bonanza week, and Jenna Hart has packed the Cookbook Nook with juicy reads. She’s most excited about spending an evening with the Mystery Mavens and their moveable feast, when they will go from house to house to share different culinary treats and discuss the whodunit they’re all reading, It’s all fun for the savvy armchair detectives until one of the members of the group is found murdered at the last stop on the tour until one of the members of the group is found murdered at the last stop on the tour. As if that weren’t enough to spoil her appetite, Jenna discovers that all the evidence points to her friend Pepper as being the guilty party. Sifting through the clues, Jenna unearths any number of possible culprits, but she’ll have to cook up a new way to catch the killer before Pepper’s goose is cooked.

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

DWG: I did a book signing at a culinary bookshop called Salt and Pepper in Occoquan, Virginia, and I fell in love with the store. I knew then and there that I had to write about it. I set my store in California. I’m a California girl. Having worked as an actress, I thought it would be interesting to make my protagonist an advertising executive with an eye for detail.  This is a great attribute for an amateur sleuth. In addition, I thought it would be fun if she couldn’t cook but wanted to learn.

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

DWG: In Sifting Through Clues, the notion of having to “sift” through so many facets of one’s life—or of the victim’s life–to find the truth is what came up for me. Who is hiding lies? How will these lies be uncovered? To pair this with a cooking theme of baking and sifting seemed a perfect fit.

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

DWG: I start with my protagonist and work out from there. I figure out what she looks like, her age, her marital status, etc. Then I work on her wants and needs, the things that make her happy and things that rile her. Then I create her family and friends, using the same method.  I love all my characters. They’ve become like good friends. They live in my mind and come alive as I write them. I adore Aunt Vera in the Cookbook Nook Mysteries. I think, in a way, her childlike ability to love and trust everyone is a winning characteristic. I love Jenna, the protagonist, for her pluck and her resolve to rise above the dire situations that have upended her life. She’s strong and clever.

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

DWG: I work hard at detail. I try to picture the setting at all times. I have created a map of Crystal Cove and posted it on my website. It helps me orient myself to this fictional town. I like to infuse the town with activities because that brings the whole town to life. The mayor likes to feature weekly themes to encourage tourism. These themes help me anchor the stories.

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

DWG: I research everything. Ask Facebook. You can’t believe the ads that pop up for me. I look up which cookbooks to include. I search recipes. I view photographs of the cities along the California coast for ideas. For Sifting Through Clues, I had to learn about mining for gold and all sorts of fun stuff. I even researched book clubs and the books they’d read. And I researched traveling feasts. Taste testing was a blast.

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

DWG: This story is fun because Jenna throws her all into helping Pepper, a woman who was once her antagonist. She and Pepper have since become friends. Pepper is the mother of the police chief. Jenna is friends with the police chief, too, and feels she must help, because, with her mother as a main suspect in a murder, she’s too close to the problem. Jenna can provide perspective.

Thanks for some great questions, Dianne.

It was my pleasure having you here today, Daryl, and thanks for your interesting answers. Good luck with this latest novel in the Cookbook Nook Mysteries.

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

Sifting Through Clues and the rest of the books in the series are available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Kobo, as well as other retailers.

DARYL WOOD GERBERAbout Daryl Wood Gerber: Agatha Award-winning Daryl Wood Gerber writes the nationally bestselling Cookbook Nook Mysteries as well as the French Bistro Mysteries.  As Avery Aames, she pens the popular Cheese Shop Mysteries. Daryl also writes stand-alone suspense. Fun tidbit: as an actress, Daryl appeared in “Murder, She Wrote.” She loves to cook, and she has a frisky Goldendoodle named Sparky who keeps her in line!

Posted in April 2019, Archives, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Jump into Chutes and Ladder

CHUTES AND LADDER BANNER 448

I’ve invited Marc Jedel to Ascroft, eh? to tell us a bit about his latest novel, Chutes and Ladder.

Welcome Marc. 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.

Chutes and Ladder small for webMJ: Chutes and Ladder is the second book in the Silicon Valley Mystery series, but can be read standalone. Marty Golden is not your typical, cozy mystery protagonist. As a male sleuth who doesn’t own a bakery, bookstore, or bed & breakfast, or live by the beach, he stands out from the crowd of cozy protagonists. To stay with the “B” alliteration, Marty does bumble his way through the investigations, armed with nothing but an eye for detail and powers of self-delusion.

In Chutes and Ladder, Marty discovers the dead body of his friend while failing as chaperone for a Girl Scouts camping trip. After the police rule it an accidental death, he disagrees and decides to investigate because friends don’t let their friend’s death go unsolved. One reviewer called it “a gem with its great plotting and unusual cast.”

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

MJ: I tend to pay attention to the strange stories in the newspaper, especially about unusual deaths or bizarre situations. This became a lot more socially acceptable once I become a published mystery author. Almost like a puzzle, I enjoy trying to merge together multiple situations into a coherent plot and trick the reader.

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

MJ: In a rare moment of introspection, I decided that the book should be about more than just humor wrapped in a mystery. A literary scholar, if one ever were foolish enough to select my novels for their dissertation, might say they’re about a search for family life, friends and happiness. However, Marty typically doesn’t realize this is what he wants out of life, so he tries hard to return to the quiet, simple and peaceful life that he had before his sister and his nieces moved to town.

Marty frequently mentions advice and etiquette lessons that his parents gave him when he was young. He’s often dismayed that their lessons didn’t cover the unusual predicaments that he finds himself in.

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

MJ: I’m obviously partial to the protagonist, Marty, since the novel is told in first person. My friends and family believe he’s not exactly a huge stretch of the imagination for me to write. But it’s fiction. I mean, I’m not a software engineer. I enjoy writing Marty’s nieces, especially young Megan. They’re loosely based on my own nieces and kids, exaggerated and merged with other kids that I’ve known. Perhaps my favorite side character is Mrs. Quarles, the school secretary. Marty struggles mightily to deal with her, and I always laugh as I’m writing her scenes. A surprising number of readers tell me she’s one of their favorite characters too. I’d love to hear from your readers which characters or scenes they like best.

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

MJ: I’ve lived a long time in Silicon Valley, working in high-tech, marketing roles. A lot of interesting characters work in big, high-tech companies. While I haven’t based any character directly off someone I’ve met, let’s just say that certain people influenced some characters more than others.

If Silicon Valley is portrayed in fiction, it tends to be a very one-sided and biased view. I wanted to bring the beauty of the area, as well as the diversity and unusual personalities that I’ve encountered, into my novels.

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

MJ: I’ve found that writing has made me more willing to talk to strangers in different situations and more observant and patient in lines and crowded situations, as I’m looking for material. I’m normally more of an introvert. Who’d have thought that the solitary occupation of being an author would make me more socially outgoing?

Most of my detailed mystery research is done via the internet. I’m hopeful that no law enforcement agencies are watching my searches and wondering what I may be up to. Not to be paranoid or anything, but I’ll use this space to remind them: “Marc Jedel is a fiction writer of humorous murder mysteries. Fiction!”

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

MJ: I’ll quote a reviewer: “I enjoyed this fast-paced humorous mystery just as much as Uncle and Ants. His writing is clever, and the plotting is meticulous and exceptionally well-executed.”

Feel free to start reading the series with Chutes and Ladder. I think it’s even better written than Uncle and Ants, although that’s probably because I’ve just spent all this time with it. I’m sure I’ll fall in love with book 3, Serf and Turf, next as I work on that one. Both books are available free on Kindle Unlimited and will stay at a lower price on Amazon during the Great Escapes Tour so pick them up today!

Thanks for answering my questions, Marc, and good luck with Chutes and Ladder, this latest novel in your Silicon Valley Mystery series.

Readers can learn more about Marc by visiting his website, and his Facebook, Goodreads, Bookbub and LinkedIn pages.

Chutes and Ladder is available on Amazon.

marc-jedel-200x300About Marc Jedel: For most of my life, I’ve been inventing stories. Some, especially when I was young, involved my sister as the villain. As my sister’s brother for her entire life, I’m highly qualified to tell the tale of this evolving, quirky sibling relationship.

My writing skills were honed in years of marketing leadership positions in Silicon Valley. While my high tech marketing roles involved crafting plenty of fiction, we called these marketing collateral, emails and ads.

The publication of my first novel, Uncle and Ants, gave me permission to claim “author” as my job. This leads to way more interesting discussions than answering “marketing.”

My family would tell you that Marty’s character isn’t much of a stretch of the imagination for me, but I proudly resemble that remark. Like Marty, I live in Silicon Valley and can’t believe that otherwise normal people would willingly jump out of an airplane and call it fun. Unlike Marty, I have a wonderful wife and a neurotic but sweet, small dog, who is often the first to weigh in on the humor in my writing.

 

Posted in April 2019, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Step Back in Time with Joseph Haydn

PRUSSIAN COUNTERPOINT BANNER 184

I’ve invited  Nupur Tustin to Ascroft, eh? to introduce us to her Joseph Haydn Mystery Series.

Welcome Nupur.

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.

NT: Prussian Counterpoint is the third novel in the Joseph Haydn Mystery Series. Haydn was an eighteenth-century Austrian composer, a man who was the son of a wheelwright and a cook and who, in his own lifetime, achieved remarkable fame and wealth.

Prussian_cover_500x800_Final SmallFrom the very beginning, I knew I would be writing a historical mystery series. Although my tastes have since expanded to contemporary mystery and thriller writers—from Aaron and Charlotte Elkins to Jeffrey Deaver and Michael Connelly—at the time, seven years ago, I refused to read anything other than historical mysteries, and I was especially fond of Stephanie Barron’s Jane Austen series and Susan Wittig Albert’s Beatrix Potter series.

Believe it or not, it was the author’s note in one of the Beatrix Potter mysteries that inspired the Joseph Haydn Series. Albert talks about the immense satisfaction she’d had researching Beatrix Potter’s life. I’d just come out of a Ph.D. program, and as a former journalist, research was something I was very comfortable with.

I was a new mother, confined to the house, unable to even sit at the piano for a little while because my baby had severe acid reflux disease and needed constant care. Researching a composer was my way of keeping in touch with music and planning a mystery series was a way of keeping my sanity intact.

Haydn faced a number of setbacks. His career as a singer was doomed when his voice broke and then he was thrown out of St. Stephen’s Cathedral, where he was a choirboy, with just the shirt on his back. Yet he remained unfailingly optimistic. And years later, he still remembered the people who, poor themselves, had reached out to help him.

He was the perfect sleuth in so many ways: a man from the lower classes, but who as a respected musician enjoyed the confidence of the nobility; a person so grateful for the support he himself had received, he would never turn down a request for help. But more than that, he became my muse. The path of a writer isn’t easy, and every time I’ve faced a setback, I’ve turned to and received inspiration from Haydn—from the details of his life and from his attitude.

Even so, I never thought I’d get one novel written much less three!

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

NT: Researching Haydn also meant researching his times, in particular the political situation in Europe. Before I knew it, I was reading a biography of Maria Theresa, a woman I’ve come to greatly admire. It may seem strange to think of an Empress as a career woman, but in a sense that was what she was. We read about her juggling her need to be a mother and a wife—she was very much in love with her Francis—with her need to manage affairs of the state.

From the moment she ascended the throne in 1740, she was threatened from all sides—the biggest threat of all coming from Prussia where Frederick II, only a few years older than she, had been King for only a few months longer.

At the time that Frederick decided to march into Silesia—with no warning of his actions—Maria Theresa was heavily pregnant. Can you imagine being a few months from giving birth, having to learn at the young age of twenty-three how to govern with aged advisors and an empty treasury, and then having to contend with an invasion?

I was pregnant myself with my second child when I read about all this. My heart went out to the young Queen—Maria Theresa was Archduchess of Austria and Queen of Hungary at the time. The War of Austrian Succession lasted eight years and then only a few years later was followed by the Seven Years’ War. That lasted until 1763. And throughout that period, Maria Theresa continued to govern and to give birth. Her youngest, Antoine—Marie Antoinette—was born in November, 1755.

I knew I wanted to involve Haydn in a mystery that brought Maria Theresa into a confrontation with her old nemesis, Frederick of Prussia. At first, I thought it would be a short story. It took me some time to realize that the backdrop of their old enmity, of Austria’s marriage negotiations with France, were simply too large in scope to be explored fully in a story.

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

NT: In addition to the relationship between Maria Theresa and Frederick II, which I’ve discussed above, the novel also revolves around the partition of Poland. The chain of events that would lead to the first partition of Poland in 1772 began shortly after the Seven Years’ War ended in 1763.

Prussian Counterpoint is set in 1768, in the year that Russia forced the Polish Sejm, practically at gunpoint, to grant certain rights to religious minorities—Lutherans and those belonging to the Orthodox Christian Church. When two elderly Catholic Bishops protested, they were summarily arrested and the Polish King, placed on the throne by his former lover Catherine of Russia, did nothing.

Incensed, some of the Polish gentry organized a confederation at Bar to protest this. That, of course, led to Russia sending troops into Poland to crush the protest.

You have to understand that all this had more to do with Russian—and Prussian—control of Poland than it had with any concern for religious tolerance. Russia, in particular, was seeking a way of opening a route to the Black Sea. Peter the Great had managed to gain access to the Baltic Sea. Catherine was simply following in his footsteps.

But other than the political events taking place at the time, there’s also the idea of espionage. In the eighteenth century, women had a particular advantage in the field: they were invisible. As Nadine Akkerman points out in her excellent book Invisible Agents, women could in the guise of exchanging notes on domestic matters convey information of a more political nature.

And from artichoke juice to raw eggs, women had a number of excellent remedies for conveying messages concealed so well that no one realized a message even existed.

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

NT: For my historical figures, I read biographies, letters, any material I can get my hands on to get a sense of the personalities of the people I’m writing about. When it comes to characters like Rosalie and Greta, maids at the Esterházy Palace where Haydn is employed as Kapellmeister, Director of Music, they develop more organically through the scenes that I write.

I don’t feel that I create any of my fictional characters. I feel that they already exist. My job is to see them and portray them clearly enough to convey their personality to my readers. I’ve found that my characters won’t work with me if I try to make them into something they’re not. So I try to see them in my mind’s eye as closely as I can and to listen to their words very carefully.

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

NT: In the same way that I do my characters—by immersing myself in descriptions of locations in the eighteenth century. I pore over maps, look to see what streets existed and what they were called at the time that my novels are set.

Finding this type of information is exactly like working a case. Everything isn’t neatly available all in one place. Sometimes, one has to go about finding what one needs in a roundabout fashion. If I need to know what eighteenth-century Vienna was like, I might find more information in the biographies of Mozart than in any biography of Haydn.

I’ve mentioned sleigh rides in Prussian Counterpoint. I’d never even known the Viennese enjoyed sleigh races until I read Stefan Zweig’s biography of Marie Antoinette. I followed up on that information by writing to people in Vienna.

When all else fails, I follow Catriona McPherson’s excellent advice: I make stuff up. I remind myself I’m writing historical fiction not fact, take a huge gulp of wine to assuage my guilt, and set to work.

I’m joking about the wine. But yes, if all of my research efforts have failed to yield any clues, I do the best I can with the information I have. I can’t say it makes me happy to do that. But sometimes one doesn’t have a choice.

Unfortunately eighteenth-century individuals seem to have taken much of their lives for granted and have sadly failed to record every aspect of it as meticulously as the contemporary writer of historical mysteries might wish.

I try to remember that when I write in my own journal, but it’s so hard to predict what someone in the future might or might not be familiar with that I can’t say I blame my predecessors for not being so very precise. I sometimes wonder how much of twenty-first century life people centuries later will be able to infer from our written accounts. And how accurate will they be?

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

NT: The best research one can do is to immerse oneself in biographies of people who lived in the times and in the places where one’s work is set. Letters and diaries and sometimes just the oddest of books can have nuggets of valuable information. You always have to be on the lookout for interesting books and sources of information.

But when I’m at my wits’ end, and I feel like I’ve turned every stone to no avail, I turn, as I always do, to the Österreichische Nationalbibliothek or the Austrian National Library.

Or I turn to academic experts in the field. Whether it’s espionage or authenticating works of music, funeral rites or Monteverdi, one can always find scholars who are more than willing to share their expertise.

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

NT: I think readers will enjoy seeing Haydn pitting his wits against the Prussian King. But if they’d like to see how the son of a market-judge solves other smaller cases in his town, they’re welcome to get a complimentary taste of his sleuthing skills from: http://bit.ly/Haydn_Taste_of_Murder

I’m offering three short mysteries there, which I’m sure readers will enjoy.

Thank you for answering my questions, Nupur, and good luck with your latest book in the series. Readers can learn more about Nupur by visiting her website, and her Facebook, Goodreads and Bookbub pages.

Prussian Counterpoint is available on Amazon, Kobo, Nook and Apple.

NT headshot_originalAbout Nupur Tustin: A former journalist, Nupur relies upon a Ph.D. in Communication and an M.A. in English to orchestrate fictional mayhem.  The Haydn mysteries are a result of her life-long passion for classical music and its history. Childhood piano lessons and a 1903 Weber Upright share equal blame for her original compositions, available on ntustin.musicaneo.com.

Her writing includes work for Reuters and CNBC, short stories and freelance articles, and research published in peer-reviewed academic journals. She lives in Southern California with her husband, three rambunctious children, and a pit bull.

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

Step into the Maggie O’Malley Mysteries

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Today I’ve invited Kathleen Valenti to Ascroft, eh? as part of her Great Escapes virtual book tour to tell us about her new mystery, As Directed.

Welcome Kathleen. 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.

KV: AS DIRECTED is the third book in the Maggie O’Malley Mystery Series.

AsDirected cover front REVIn it, former pharmaceutical researcher Maggie O’Malley is rebuilding her life, trading test tubes for pill bottles as she embarks on a new career at the corner drugstore. But as she spreads her wings, things begin to go terribly wrong. A customer falls ill in the store. Followed by another. And then more. The spectre of poisoning arises, conjuring old grudges, past sins, buried secrets and new suspicions from which no one is immune. As Maggie and her best friend Constantine begin to investigate, they discover that some of the deadliest doses come from the most unexpected places.

The series features books in the “traditional” mystery style with a medical angle. The books offer up suspense, intrigue and plenty of witty dialogue.

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

KV: The book’s central mystery surrounds customers becoming ill at the pharmacy at which Maggie works. The idea is based both around the Tylenol murders of the 1980s and Maggie’s new role as a pharmacy tech. Add in the fact that Maggie is recovering from a head injury and isn’t quite herself, and there are questions aplenty!

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

KV: At its heart, AS DIRECTED is about trust. This trust applies not only to the faith we put in others, but also the belief we have in ourselves.

This theme was important to Maggie’s growth as a character. She begins the series as a twenty-something on the brink of a new career. By the time the events in AS DIRECTED get under way, her world has crumbled, her confidence has eroded, and her trust in others (and herself) has diminished. Like us all, Maggie grows and changes in the crucible of life.

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

KV: In many ways, my characters come to me fully formed. They’re like the people in our lives: wonderful, flawed, heroic and broken. Although Maggie is the series’ eponymous protagonist, my favorite character is Constantine. I love him for his goofiness, his loyalty, and his ability to lighten the mood.

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

KV: The places that I write about in this series are fictional, but I infuse a lot of detail into the story so that they truly come to life. That means describing in broad brushstrokes as well as finer details to make these locations seem as real as your own hometown.

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

KV: Because I write medical-ish mysteries, I do a TON of research. Most of it begins online, but I’m fortunate enough to have friends who are pharmacists, physicians, and in pharmaceutical development to keep me on the straight and narrow.

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

KV: This is a book I’m particularly proud of. I love its combination of action, suspense, and humor and was delighted to receive this lovely quote from Liv Constantine, international best-seller of The Last Mrs. Parrish:

“A chilling game of cat and mouse that moves with lightning speed and stunning twists. Lies, secrets and evil spin a deadly web in this gripping tale of malice and deceit.”

Thanks Kathleen for dropping by today. Good luck with your latest book in the Maggie O’Malley Mystery Series.

Readers can learn more about Kathleen by visiting her website, as well as her Facebook, Goodreads and Twitter pages.

The book is available at the following online retailers:

Amazon Barnes & Noble  iTunes  Kobo

kvpromoshotAbout Kathleen Valenti: Kathleen is the author of the Maggie O’Malley Mystery Series, which includes her Agatha- and Lefty-nominated debut novel, Protocol. When Kathleen isn’t writing page-turning mysteries that combine humor and suspense, she works as a nationally award-winning advertising copywriter. She lives in Oregon with her family where she pretends to enjoy running.

Posted in March 2019, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments