Not even the community garden is safe

Judith Gonda is visiting Ascroft, eh? today to tell us about Murder in the Community Garden, her latest novel in the Tory Benning Mystery series.

Welcome, Judith. 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.

MURDER IN THE COMMUNITY GARDEN is the third book in the landscape architect Tory Benning mystery series. The series is set in fictional Santa Sofia, California, a small coastal town in northern Santa Barbara County, twelve miles north of the city of Santa Barbara. A luxury resort, the Hotel Santa Sofia, whose grounds Tory designed and installed, is featured in each book, along with the town’s two main drags, the Avenue, where the upscale boutiques, trendy restaurants, and art galleries are located, and the Promenade, the road that hugs the curvy coast overlooking the Pacific Ocean and local pier. Recurring characters include Tory’s best friend, Ashley Payne, a lawyer, Ashley’s on-again/off again boyfriend, SSPD lieutenant Adrian Ramirez, and Jake Logan, a Santa Barbara based PI. Other recurring characters are Tory’s paternal uncle and his wife, both semi-retired from the family’s landscape business, and her maternal aunt, Marian the librarian. Tory has a cream sable Pomeranian named Iris and a black cat name Otis. A new canine character, a red Pom, is introduced in MURDER IN THE COMMUNITY GARDEN, where one of the inaugural gardeners is found murdered and a friend of Tory’s becomes a prime suspect.

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

I’ve been fascinated with the concept of community gardens ever since I discovered Wattles Farm, a large organic community garden in Hollywood. Gardening is the definition of nurturance and growth and the idea of a community garden where so many different people come together to set up their own unique plots intrigued me. I liked the shock value of a seemingly safe and serene setting being the site for a murder. As for the plot idea, nothing is as it appears to be, and it always starts with the victim for me. Are they who everyone thought them to be? The story is set post-pandemic, but there is mention of the effect it had on everyone’s life and how that plays into the story.

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

Tory’s search for truth and her quest for justice is the overall theme of the series, but in terms of her character development it’s all about resilience. I try to write characters that are realistic and relatable, people the reader wants to hang out with. Tory is basically an optimist despite all the emotional trauma she’s experienced and even though she struggles and is far from perfect, her basic inner strength and the support she and her friend Ashley provide one another as they each blaze their own trail is comforting and always hopeful. In addition to the core murder mystery central to each book, we also follow Tory’s and the other characters’ development in each new book. The first book, Murder in the Secret Maze, dealt with Tory’s loss and how she dealt with her grief. The second book, Murder in the Christmas Tree Lot, dealt with putting her grief behind her despite moving two steps forward and one step back. The third book, Murder in the Community Garden, is where she becomes reflective and considers her options more carefully.

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

I have two daughters around Tory’s age and seeing the issues they and their friends face in their thirties gives me lots of food for thought. All my characters are amalgams of people I’ve known or read about. I like my main character, Tory, and her best friend, Ashley, the best because both are strong, professionally-accomplished females, yet neither of them take themselves too seriously and both would readily admit they have a lot to learn. Plus, they are kind-hearted, express appreciation for one another, and apologize when they mess up. Oh, and both are somewhat boy crazy, because I wanted to show their many facets. That they are not one or the other, serious or flighty, they can be both, smart and silly. Much like real people have many, and often inconsistent, sides to them.

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

Santa Sofia is based upon my idealized version of Santa Barbara that includes the best parts of Santa Barbara plus other characteristics from some of my other favorite places like Los Angeles, Carmel, and the San Francisco Bay area.

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

For the setting, my frequent visits to Santa Barbara, particularly the Four Seasons Biltmore where I’ve stayed, and upon which I based the Hotel Santa Sofia. In terms of landscape architecture, my older daughter is a landscape architect, and my husband is an architect, so those worlds are very familiar to me, and I ask them when I need advice. For everything else, online research is my first go-to.

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

Above all, my books aim to entertain and intrigue readers. Tory is a smart and cautious sleuth, in general, and caring. MURDER IN THE COMMUNITY GARDEN is a murder mystery that becomes intricately entangled with new developments in Tory’s personal life that are overall hopeful and positive.

Thanks for answering my questions, Judith, and good luck with Murder in the Community Garden, the latest book in the Tory Benning Mystery series.

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

The novel is available at the following online retailers:

Amazon    Barnes and Noble    Kobo    Google Play    Smashwords 

About Judith Gonda: Judith is a mystery writer and Ph.D. psychologist with a penchant for Pomeranians, plants, and puns, so it’s not surprising they all pop up in her amateur sleuth mysteries featuring landscape architect Tory Benning. 

Posted in Archives, May 2022 | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Bear Witness

Stacie Calder is visiting Ascroft, eh? to tell us about Bear Witness, the first novel in the Alaska Untamed mystery series.

Welcome, Stacie. 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.

Right now, I’m living inside Bear Witness, an Alaska Untamed Mystery. It’s the story of something that happens while I’m providing tours on a tour boat outside Juneau, Alaska. I’m a naturalist by love and vocation, so I always point out whatever fantastic wildlife I can off the boat where I work. Living inside that kind of story is delightful! Plus, I always bring along my wonderful husky, Sasha.  Only… well, we sometimes get tourists onboard who aren’t very nice, including some who want to start a competing tour company. And then—well, I hate to talk about it, but one guy disappears during a tour far offshore, and his body is found in the water on our tour the next day. It turns out he’s been murdered, and we’ve got a bunch of suspects onboard, including our wonderful captain, Palmer Clementos. Even I’m somewhat of a suspect. But I’m determined in whatever I do, so I have to help find the answers.

Okay, enough about that for now. But yes, I’ve been told this story is part of a series. The writer let me know that and says I might get involved in having to solve additional murders in that area in Alaska. I love being in Alaska. But solving murders? I’d really rather not, but if they happen where I’m working, well, I might have to help solve them too.

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

I’d say the writer controls more than I do. I mean, come on, murders? I’d much rather just view and point out and revel in having wildlife around. But I have to admit that I sometimes tell the writer what I’d like to do to help out, and she’s pretty good about listening to me and working that in.

How did you evolve as the main character?

Well, I’ve been told that the writer took a boat tour similar to the ones I help to give, in the same area, really enjoyed the staff onboard, especially those who gave the tours and pointed out the wildlife, and got inspired to write about similar tours. But she writes mysteries among other things, and had to figure out who might be skilled and determined enough to help solve murders. Me? Well, I don’t consider myself a detective, but I do think I’m skilled at what I do, and I’m always determined to do the best job possible in whatever I undertake. And so… well, that writer glommed on to me as not only one who provides tours, but also solves murders.

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

I work for ClemTours, which is owned by the Clementos family, and I like them all. Those who captain the boats are the children of the senior Clementoses, and they’re all named after towns in Alaska. The captain of the ClemElk, the boat on which I work, is Palmer Clementos, and he’s a really nice guy—and a murder suspect in this story. I like him, and his assistant Steph Porter, and especially my assistant in giving tours, Lettie Amblex. And then, after the murder, when the investigation begins, I meet Officer Liam Amaruq of the new Initial Response Section of the Alaska State Troopers, and oh yes, I am partial to him. My favorite other character, though, is Sasha.

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

Alaska, in the waters and fjords near Juneau like Tracy Arm, with melting glaciers nearby? It’s wonderful! And there’s so much wildlife around that I adore pointing out to our tourists, like mama harbor seals and babies on ice in the water, and also humpback whales and porpoises, kittiwakes in the sky, and brown bears and wolves on the mountains along the shoreline. In the summer, it’s not especially cold, despite being Alaska.

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

Well, I can’t say I’m glad I had to help solve a murder. And the situation… well, it turned out pretty interesting. I really had to do some digging and asking questions and putting myself in danger to figure things out. But I did it. And I think it came out as a pretty interesting story.

Thank you for answering my questions, Stacie, and good luck to you and your author, Lark O. Jensen, with Bear Witness, the first book in the Alaska Untamed mystery series.

Readers can learn more about Stacie and her author, Lark O. Jensen by visiting the author’s website and her Facebook page.

The novel is available at the following online retailers:

Amazon    Barnes & Noble 

About Lark O. Jensen: Lark’s name is the pseudonym of Linda O. Johnston, a former lawyer who is now a full-time writer. Lark has written Bear Witness, the first Alaska Untamed mystery for Crooked Lane. Linda has written the Barkery & Biscuits Mystery series and the Superstition Mysteries for Midnight Ink and the Pet Rescue Mysteries and Kendra Ballantyne, Pet-Sitter mysteries for Berkley Prime Crime. Linda also writes for Harlequin Romantic Suspense, and her stories often involve dogs.

Posted in Archives, May 2022 | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Margaritas, Mayhem & Murder

Andi Anna Jones is visiting Ascroft, eh? today to tell us about Margaritas, Mayhem & Murder, the latest novel in the Andi Anna Jones mystery series.

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

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

Hi folks! I run a travel agency, although my right hand, Ellie, would, and should, take credit for the success of Graves Travel. That said, most people assume I love traveling. I suppose that’s a popular belief when it comes to agents. Actually, I get so sick of hearing customer complaints, personal travel is about the last thing I want to do! And, crowded airplanes (I’m a severe claustrophobe!), airports, and lost luggage? Forget it! Another fallacy is that I travel in luxury. Ha! I have to beg for a comped room or plane ticket. Even then, luxury is not involved.

Other than work, my life consists of some fun, sun, and adventure. However I usually manage to get tangled up in more dangerous situations than I care to admit. Add to that, an extremely annoying ex-stepmother, Ruby, who constantly drags me into her dramas, and you pretty much have it.

Yep, unfortunately I have to stay on my toes because the series continues with a very dangerous trip to Louisiana in Sazerac, Sleuth & Slay (2023). I sure do hope my author gives me enough time to rest up before I have to tackle those alligator-infested bayous!  

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

Oh, she likes to think she’s in charge, but on occasion, I put my foot down and say, “Nope! I’m not going there!” I even drag an unexpected character or two into the story, especially if I get bored.

How did you evolve as the main character?

Through a stressful turn of events. Years ago, my author thought she wanted to be a travel agent in North Miami. She even went to school to learn the airline computer reservation system. After one week on the job, she knew she’d made a huge mistake. I hate to insult her, but she was the worst travel agent this side of the Mississippi. I’ve heard she used to hide behind the computer, or run to the break room when a particularly difficult customer would walk in. Guess she needed to exorcise those ghosts from the past, so she created me. I was ready to walk off the job until she gave me a hunky love interest. He balances the good with the bad.

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

Well, there’s Ruby. I don’t like sharing anything with her, but she’ll pout if I don’t mention her. My mother had been gone almost ten years when he met this “firecracker redhead” at the Hialeah Bingo Parlor. Ruby and I were like oil and water from the very beginning, so you can imagine my shock and dismay when he asked me to look after her if anything happened to him. They were married for five years until he “left the earthly bonds”, and I’m stuck trying to keep her, and her flea-market hairpiece and pencil-drawn eyebrows, out of trouble.

I thought I’d gotten rid of her in the second book, but readers kept asking, “What’s Ruby up to next?” “Oh, I can’t wait to read Ruby’s next adventure!” So, my author and I are stuck with her.

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

Oh, I can’t tell you that. I’d give too much away. You’ll just have to see for yourself how much “agency” I reveal from one sticky situation to the next.

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

Buy it! Read it! Post a review about the heroine (me!). I’m really getting into all this fame and notoriety and hope I get to star in a 3rd or 4th book. All this excitement keeps me out of the agency so Ellie can do her work instead of fixing my mistakes. She runs the place, anyway, and knows it.

Thank you for answering my questions, Andi, and good luck to you and your author, Mary Cunningham, with Margaritas, Mayhem & Murder, the latest book in the Andi Anna Jones mystery series.

Readers can learn more about Andi and her author, Mary Cunningham by visiting the author’s website and her Facebook and Goodreads pages. You can also follow her on Twitter.

The novel is available at the following online retailers:

 Amazon – B&N

About Mary Cunningham: Mary Cunningham grew up on the northern side of the Ohio River in Corydon, Indiana. Her first memories are of her dad’s original bedtime stories that no doubt inspired her imagination and love of a well-spun “yarn.” Through the author’s horrifying stint as a travel agent, Andi Anna Jones sprang to life. The adult/mystery series gives extra meaning to the phrase, “Write what you know.”

Cunningham has several books published, including Cynthia’s Attic, a five-book middle-grade fantasy, women’s lifestyle/humor book, WOOF: Women Only Over Fifty, Ebooks, Christmas With Daisy and Ghost Light. A biography of an army brat, turned UConn and WNBA basketball player, will be published in the spring of 2022. She is a member of Sisters In Crime, Sisters In Crime-Atlanta Chapter, International Thriller Writers, Inc., and the Carrollton Writers Guild.

When she gives her fingers a break from the keyboard, Mary enjoys golf, swimming, and exploring the mountains of West Georgia where she makes her home with her husband and adopted, four-legged, furry daughter, Lucy.

Posted in Archives, May 2022 | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Shadow of the Gypsy

Josh Bartlett is visiting Ascroft, eh? to tell us about the novel Shadow of the Gypsy.

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

Tell us about the novel that you live inside.

I find myself caught in a series of mysteries. Most of them seen to involve something that I lost or never had. But even more than that, something that happened that still haunts me even though I’m doing my best to hang out in the Blue Ridge until the coast is clear and I can return to the Litchfield Hills of Connecticut and my childhood sweetheart Molly if she’ll have me. But there is so much unknown and if my old nemesis Zharko, who was supposed to have been deported, returns somehow from Russia or Budapest or wherever and all this unfinished business comes crashing through, I don’t know what I’ll do. I’m no hero but then again I don’t really know what I’m capable of. I changed my name to Josh Bartlet but maybe you can’t play hide and seek in this world. Maybe you have to face your demons. Maybe the past is never past.

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

In a sense the writer is a great help. He seems to be living moment-to-moment too and is almost always surprised by what I say or do. Almost going through this at the same time as if dying to find out the whole time all the significant things he didn’t know he knew.

How did you evolve as the main character?

I was always the main character destined to go on some mythical hero’s journey and fulfill Teddy Roosevelt’s dictum that credit belongs to those who by hook or crook enter the arena and keep picking themselves up– who dare to take something on till the bitter end.

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

Naturally I’m willing to share the stage with Molly and discover whether there’s any chance we can get together. I’m also secretly wondering what makes a rogue Gypsy like Zharko tick plus Irina my estranged mother. Matter of fact, everyone fascinates me one way or another whether I’m willing to admit it or not.

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

I first find myself nestled in a small town in the Blue Ridge in the spring where everything seems wholesome and nonthreatening away from the workaday world with its congestion and competition. I know I’m just kidding myself and it can’t last. But still and all, Black Mountain in the burgeoning spring is truly a reassuring delight.  

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

I hope, despite my shortcomings, they’ll sense there’s more to me than meets the eye. That in some way this isn’t just another mystery/thriller and there’s something about my plight they can relate to. Something that will make them care.  

Thank you for answering my questions, Josh, and good luck to you and your author, Shelly Frome, with Shadow of the Gypsy.

Readers can learn more about Josh and his author, Shelly Frome by visiting the author’s Facebook, Goodreads, Bookbub, and Instagram pages. You can also follow him on Twitter.

The novel is available online at  Amazon 

About Shelly Frome: Shelly is a member of Mystery Writers of America, a professor of dramatic arts emeritus at UConn, a former professional actor, and a writer of crime novels and books on theater and film. He also is a features writer for Gannett Publications. His fiction includes Sun Dance for Andy Horn, Lilac Moon, Twilight of the Drifter, Tinseltown Riff, Murder Run, Moon Games and The Secluded Village Murders. Among his works of non-fiction are The Actors Studio: A History and a guide to playwriting and one on screenwriting, Miranda and the D-Day Caper is his latest foray into the world of crime and the amateur sleuth. He lives in Black Mountain, North Carolina.

Posted in May 2022 | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

Knit or Dye Trying

Allie Pleiter is visiting Ascroft, eh? today to tell us about Knit or Dye Trying, her latest novel in the Riverbank Knitting Mystery series.

Welcome, Allie. 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.

KNIT OR DYE TRYING is the second book in the Riverbank Knitting Mysteries. Maryland yarn shop owner Libby Beckett finds herself in a tangle of sister rivalry that leaves her VIP guest murdered. With the help of her friends, her loyal shop customers, her meddling mother, and of course charming dog Hank, Libby unravels the clues to save the day and her town’s food festival.

The Riverbank Knitting Mysteries follows reluctant sleuth Libby Beckett as she launches her dream of opening a Maryland yarn shop. Set in the small tourist town of Collinstown, the series features a cast of lovable—and not-so-lovable—characters that enrich and complicate Libby’s life. The first book in the series, ON SKEIN OF DEATH, released in 2021 and the third book, IT CAME UP ON A MIDNIGHT SHEAR, will hit shelves November of this year.

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

While the complexities of yarn dying and the multitude of unusual fibers that can make yarn are certainly key to the story, the mystery revolves around tangled family dynamics. I wanted to explore the fascinating and beautiful world of independent fiber dye artists. I also found it compelling to put that artistry in the context of a dysfunctional family and how “success” can breed misery as much as it breeds acclaim.

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

Contrary to what you might think, it’s really not about yarn. Or knitting. Those are certainly present vividly throughout the story, but the story is really about family and jealousy and what such emotions can drive us to do to those we should love the most.

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

My characters can saunter up to my imagination and introduce themselves—often without warning. Libby came to me fully realized—shop name, dog, and all. Others, like shop assistant Linda have revealed themselves to me in layers. Gavin has been fun to explore because of all the history he has with Libby. Readers seem to be especially fond of Rhonda, Libby’s mom. I expect that may be because Rhonda seems to say what we’re all thinking (even when it ought not to be said!). And of course, there’s Hank. I’m a dog owner myself, so I understand the special bond of companionship pets offer.

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

While my books are almost always set in fictional towns, I do try to base them on actual ones. I prefer to make multiple in-person visits to my location, gathering details, atmosphere, geographic layout, etc. But every location “comes to life” by virtue of the people in it. In that aspect, some small town dynamics are universal. If I do my job right, readers recognize characters from their own communities in Collinstown’s colorful residents.

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

Each Riverbank Knitting Mystery focuses on a different aspect of yarn and fiber arts. So I’ll do a wide swath of book research to begin. Then, I draw on topic experts to help me get the details right. Getting to know such talented people has been one of the greatest pleasures of writing the series. I also need help from crime-specific experts like medical professionals, law enforcement, and attorneys. I’m fortunate to have a bunch of great people eager to help me.

Is there anything else youd like to tell readers about the book?

If you are a knitting reader (and there are loads of them!), it’s fun to know there is a knitting pattern included in each book. Also, I LOVE to visit bookstores and bookclubs, so any interested readers should contact me at allie@alliepleiter.com if they’re interested in setting up an in-person or virtual visit.

Thanks for answering my questions, Allie, and good luck with Knit or Dye Trying the latest book in the Riverbank Knitting Mystery series.

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

The novel is available at the following online retailers:

Link on my webpage    Amazon (including Kindle and Audible)      Barnes & Noble (including Nook)      Apple Books     Google Play     Kobo     IndieBound

About Allie Pleiter: An avid knitter, coffee junkie and firm believer that “pie makes everything better,” Allie Pleiter writes both fiction and non-fiction working on as many as four novels at a time.  The bestselling author of over fifty books, Allie has enjoyed a twenty-year career with over 1.5 million books sold.  In addition to writing, Allie maintains an active writing productivity coaching practice and speaks regularly on the creative process, publishing, and her very favorite topic—The Chunky Method of time management for writers.

Posted in April 2022, Archives | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Murder Next Door

Michele Pariza Wacek is visiting Ascroft, eh? today to tell us about Murder Next Door, her latest novel in the Charlie Kingsley Mystery series.

Welcome, Michele. 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.

Murder Next Door is Book 3 in the Charlie Kingsley Mysteries series. The series takes place in the 1990s and Charlie runs a tea and tincture business out of her home. She also has a knack for solving mysteries and her tea clients have a knack for needing someone to help them get out of a jam.

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

It’s a vampire/Rear Window mashup. I always loved Alfred Hitchcock movies, including Rear Window, and I started to wonder what Mildred, one of Redemption’s most notorious nosy neighbours, saw next door. Was it a murder? Something else?

I know! She thinks her next door neighbor’s housesitter is a vampire!

(I should probably note this is not a paranormal cozy.)

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

A common theme in all my stories is “things are never as they seem” and, of course, thinking a vampire is living next door to you certainly fits that. But, also, this book touches upon atoning for past sins and doing the right thing even when it’s difficult.

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

My characters more or less show up and insist I write about them. In terms of favourites, I would say Charlie is definitely at the top. She was one of my most persistent characters, constantly tapping me on my shoulder until I would write her stories. She’s got me better trained now.

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

I try and touch on multiple senses, certainly sight and sound, but also smells. I don’t write a lot of description, I mostly try and keep the story moving forward, but what description I do write, I try and make as powerful as possible.

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

Lots of internet searches, of course, but I also reach out to friends and family where appropriate. I haven’t found anyone yet who doesn’t like helping a fiction author out.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell readers about the book? Even though I’m designing this series to be a standalone, I am starting a few series arcs in this book that will be continued throughout the series.

Thanks for answering my questions, Michele, and good luck with Murder Next Door, the latest book in the Charlie Kingsley Mystery series.

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

The novel is available online at  Amazon

About Michele Pariza Wacek: When Michele was 3 years old, she taught herself to read because she wanted to write stories so badly. It took some time (and some detours) but now she does spend much of her time writing stories. Mystery stories, to be exact. They’re clean and twisty, and range from psychological thrillers to cozies, with a dash of romance and supernatural thrown into the mix. If that wasn’t enough, she posts lots of fun things on her blog, including short stories, puzzles, recipes and more, at MPWNovels.com. For a free prequel to her cozy mystery series, The Charlie Kingsley Mysteries, visit https://mpwnovels.com/freebies/

Michele holds a double major in English and Communications from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Currently, she lives in the mountains of Prescott, Arizona with her husband Paul and southern squirrel hunter Cassie.

Posted in April 2022, Archives | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Ghosts, Lore & a House by the Shore

Lily Bennett is visiting Ascroft, eh? to tell us about Ghosts, Lore & a House by the Shore, the first novel in the Lily & Cassie by the Sea mystery series.

Welcome, Lily Let’s get started, shall we?

Tell us about the novel that you live inside. Is it part of a series? If so, please tell us about the series too.  Hi, I’m Lily Bennett.  I’m a graphic designer and, more recently, a business owner in Hideaway Bay.  I live in the Lily & Cassie by the Sea series.  It’s a cozy mystery series following the (mis)adventures of me and my daughter, Cassie, after we both lost our husbands in a plane crash.  It’s a fun series set in the seaside town of Hideaway Bay.  One of the reasons Cassie and I chose the town is because of its picturesque business district.  And, of course, the beautiful house of Whispering Manor.  We didn’t know about the house’s reputation before we bought it, but we got an earful the first week we lived here.  And it’s quite a doozy of a story.  You can find out more in our first book.  Book 1 is Ghosts, Lore & a House by the Shore. 

Does the writer control what happens in the story or do you get a say too? Cassie and I definitely have a say in what happens to us!  That’s how Cassie ended up with the cat, though I would have preferred a dog.  I’m pretty confident Nellie will let us control our own destiny!

How did you evolve as the main character?

Well, I’ve gone through quite the transformation.  I never expected to not only lose my husband in a plane crash but then my son-in-law, too!  It was life-changing for both me and Cassie, to say the least.  But it led to a new chapter in both our lives, and we’re determined to make it a good one.  We left our pasts behind and moved to Hideaway Bay to start fresh.  I’ve gone from puttering around with my own graphic design to being a full-fledged business owner in town with the recent opening of our boutique, Buy the Sea

On top of that, I never expected to have the adventure we’ve had since moving into Whispering Manor. 

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

My daughter, Cassie.  I’m partial to her for obvious reasons, but also because she’s smart, funny, caring and adventurous.  Cassie is the one who keeps us moving forward whether she knows it or not.  Her curiosity is what found us the property for Buy the Sea and landed us in the adventure we got wrapped up in during our first book.

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

It’s beautiful here in Hideaway Bay.  And you can’t beat this old house.  It’s filled with custom woodwork and carvings.  Cassie and I both fell in love with it when we first saw it.  It’s like something out of a movie.  You can’t beat living right on the ocean, either.  And the town is picturesque.  It really is the perfect little seaside getaway. 

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

I don’t want to say too much and give something away but I never expected to have an adventure like this at my age!  It really is quite something.  I’d encourage readers to hop into the series right from the start.  It promises to be very entertaining!

Thank you for answering my questions, Lily, and good luck to you and your author, Nellie H. Steele, with Ghosts, Lore & a House by the Shore, the first book in the Lily & Cassie by the Sea mystery series.

Readers can learn more about Lily and her author, Nellie H. Steele by visiting the author’s website and her Facebook, Goodreads, Bookbub, Instagram and TikTok pages. You can also follow her on Twitter.

The novel is available online at Amazon

About Nellie H. Steele: An Indies Today finalist for Best Book of the Year 2020 with Cleopatra’s Tomb, Nellie H. Steele made the leap from science to art with her first book, The Secret of Dunhaven Castle.

An animal enthusiast, Nellie often features a version of one of her fourteen rescue animals in her stories, though the fictional pets are usually better behaved than her own fur-babies!  A literary split personality, Nellie’s work ranges from cozy mystery to supernatural suspense to riveting adventure.

She lives in the South Hills of Pittsburgh.  When she isn’t writing or engaging in animal care, she enjoys teaching Statistics and Data Science at a local university.

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Fake Death

Dotty Sayers is visiting Ascroft, eh? today to tell us about Fake Death, the first novel in the Dotty Sayers Antiques mystery series.

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

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

Hi, I’m Dotty, Dotty Sayers, and I’m rather nervous.  This is my first interview and I’m not sure what to say.

I’ve started working at Akemans Antiques, mostly in the auction house, just as a receptionist, nothing important.  Although I help organize the monthly auctions and David Rook – he’s a consultant valuer for Akemans – does ask me to help when he has a valuable collection to evaluate.

I enjoy Akemans and it’s nice working and meeting people and earning my own money.  Al, my husband, he died a few months ago.  He was in the British army and was sent to Africa on a peacekeeping tour, but he didn’t come back.

I wasn’t sure what to do until I was asked to help at Akemans but that’s another story.  A free one actually, called Hour is Come, available on my author’s website, VictoriaTait.com.

I decided to keep my job at Akeman’s and continue living in our military quarter.  But then the regiment announced it was merging and I had to decide whether to move to Scotland with them, or stay in the Cotswolds, and find somewhere to live.  That’s all in the book, Fake Death.

I didn’t want to attend the Remembrance Parade in Cirencester, but I was told it was my duty and then a man died.  The police didn’t know who he was at first and it was very confusing as he had pretended to be other people.  When I finally connected the clues worked out who killed him, I was sad.

I hoped there would be no more deaths but in book 2, Valued for Murder, an opera singer and antiques expert is found dead at the bottom of a circular staircase.  And all the questions and the suspicions start again.

And the series?  It’s named after me – The Dotty Sayers Antique Mystery series.

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

To start with the author provides a cast of characters who I meet and then a dead body is found.  I think she knows who the murder is but she leaves the clues, and handling the police up to me.  Luckily, I have a friend on the police force, Constable Varma, who’s rather indiscrete and tells me what’s happening with an investigation.

How did you evolve as the main character?

In Hour is Come, I’m very shy, even more than I am now, but without my husband telling me what to do all the time, I find myself with a job at Akemans.  It was only temporary to start with, but I helped solve a murder when a body was found in a large grandfather clock.

I’m not sure why, but I seem to be able to piece clues together and solve murders.

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

There are those who work at Akemans.  Gilly Wimsey’s the nicest and she looks out for me.  Her job is running the antiques center, but she also helps in the auction house when her sister George, who’s rather highly strung, starts panicking and shouting at us in the run up to an auction.

Marion is very efficient, and she helps out before an auction, and her husband is David Rook, who’s taken me under his wing and is teaching me about antiques.

But my closest friend is Keya, Constable Varma, who works for a belligerent Welsh police officer, Inspector Evans.  Keya and I work well together.

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

The Cotswolds are so pretty, even in November.  Coln Akeman is a typical rural village with buildings constructed from sandy-yellow Cotswold stone and it has a pub, The Axeman, and a pretty river, the Coln, running through it.

And I like Cirencester, the local town.  It has loads of history and was very important in Roman times.  I like living in England, which is why I don’t want to move back to Scotland.

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

I hope you enjoy the book and please be patient with me.  I’m nervous and I know people call me naïve but I am trying to learn more about life, and stand up for myself.   I’m having to when murders keep happening around me.

Thank you for answering my questions, Dotty, and good luck to you and your author, Victoria Tait, with Fake Death, the first book in the Dotty Sayers Antiques mystery series.

Readers can learn more about Dotty and her author, Victoria Tait by visiting the author’s website and her Goodreads, Bookbub, Instagram and Pinterest pages. You can also sign up for her newsletter.

The novel is available online at  Amazon 

About Victoria Tait: Victoria was born and raised in Yorkshire, UK, and never expected to travel the world.  But she fell for an Army Officer, and has followed him from Northern Ireland, up to the Scottish Highlands, across to Africa and the Kenyan Savannah, back to the British Cotswolds, and they are now living in Sarajevo, in Bosnia and Herzegovina, in Southern Europe.

She never expected to be an author, but all this moving is not ideal for holding down a job.  Instead, she has taken the experiences of the places she has lived to write vivid and evocative cozy mystery books with determined female sleuths.

She has two fast-growing teenage boys, and together they’ve learnt to ski on the Bosnian mountains.  She also enjoys horse riding, mountain biking and she has started running as a way to improve her physical fitness, mental wellbeing and shed some excess pounds.

Posted in April 2022, Archives | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

The Art of the Decoy

Trish Esden is visiting Ascroft, eh? today to tell us about The Art of the Decoy, her first novel in the Scandal Mountain Antiques Mystery series.

Welcome, Trish. 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.

THE ART OF THE DECOY is my debut mystery and is the first book in the Scandal Mountain Antiques Mystery series. The second book in the series—A WEALTH OF DECEPTION—will be coming out in spring of 2023.

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

I’ve been an antique dealer since my teens, so that inspired the Scandal Mountain Antiques Mystery series along with my love for reading and watching mysteries on TV. THE ART OF THE DECOY itself was inspired by the setting of the novel which is on the border of Vermont and Quebec, a place where French Canadian culture and history has deep roots. It also was inspired by a nonfiction book, PRICELESS, by Robert K. Wittman who went undercover as part of the FBI’s Art Crime Team to rescue the world’s stolen treasures.

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

At the beginning of the novel there is a quote from the main character, Edie Brown, about the world of art and antiques. She says: “And to us dealers in the art and antiques trade, it really all comes down to the cash. Well, that, plus the love of history. And the hunt. And the desire for beautiful things.” The relationship between people—particularly collectors and dealers—and antiques and art is a subject that has always fascinated me. Why do people covet and collect? Why are they drawn to keep certain items and throw out others? I suspect these questions filter into the series in several ways—not just focusing on art and antiques, but also on relationships people choose to hold on to and others they freely leave behind.

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

I come up with a story idea or seed, then I ask myself what sort of characters would find the situation the most challenging. I love—and in some cases despise—my reoccurring main cast of characters. However, my some of my favourites are background characters. I enjoy creating rich backstories for them and giving them quirks that feel real. In THE ART OF THE DECOY, Claude Bouchard and Bucky Sanders are at the top of my list. They are both old-timers who have a lot more to them than it might appear at first glance.

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

Setting is easy for me. I’m a very visual writer. As I write, I ‘see’ the setting in fine detail. Being specific about those little details and showing how they emotionally and physically effect the main character is the key to bringing a place to life for the reader. In the case of my series, I made it even easier on myself by surrounding the fiction town of Scandal Mountain, Vermont with places I’m familiar with in real life—such as Stowe, St. Albans, and Burlington, Vermont.

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

I do tons of research. My initial research is online. I read articles, watch videos, and listen to endless podcasts. In the case of THE ART OF THE DECOY, I also studied auction listings, dealers websites, and archives just like my main character does in the novel. I also ask questions at museums, and chat with experts. In this novel’s case, that included talking with a probation officer.

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

I love having readers as well as aspiring authors follow me on social media. Be sure to also signup for my newsletter on my website. You’ll find a contact email there. Feel free to use it if you have questions about writing or any of my series. I enjoy answering questions and staying in touch.

Thanks for answering my questions, Trish, and good luck with The Art of the Decoy, the first book Scandal Mountain Antiques Mystery series.

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

The novel is available at the following online retailers:

Amazon – IndieBound – Barnes & Noble – Books-a-Million – Kobo

About Trish Esden: Trish loves museums, gardens, wilderness, dogs, and birds, in various orders depending on the day. She lives in northern Vermont where she deals antiques with her husband, a profession she’s been involved with since her teens. Don’t ask what her favorite type of antique is. She loves hunting down old bottles and rusty barn junk as much as she enjoys fine art and furnishings.

Posted in April 2022, Archives | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Mining for Murder

Zo Zones is visiting Ascroft, eh? today to tell us about Mining for Murder, the latest novel in the Happy Camper mystery series.

Welcome, Zo. 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.

Hello, all. I’m Zo (short for Zoelle) Zones, and I’m the main character in Mining for Murder. Mining for Murder is the third book in the Happy Camper cozy mystery series.

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

My writer always has plans for me, but then I shake them up with an unexpected thought or word. It keeps her on her toes!

How did you evolve as the main character?

I started the Happy Camper gift shop after being a journalist for ten years. People aren’t reading as many newspapers as they used to, and my job was unexpectedly cut along with several of my friends’ jobs. But I turned the negative into a positive by opening up my own tourist shop, a longtime dream of mine.

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

I share the story with my good friends Jules, the owner of Spirits & Spirits, and Hattie, our town librarian, and my boyfriend Max, our local forest ranger. Brady Merrigan, the town sheriff, also dominates a good deal of the story, but with the recent influx of murders, who can blame him?

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

I living in Spirit Canyon, a fictional town in the Black Hills of South Dakota. It’s a beautiful area with fishing, hiking, and a picturesque waterfall. A busy vacation destination, the town is filled with fun shops like mine. The perfect place to visit!

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

My writer is a native of South Dakota and has vacationed in the Black Hills many times herself. She loves sharing details about her state with readers and hopes you enjoy your time here!

Thank you for answering my questions, Zo, and good luck to you and your author, Mary Angela, with Mining for Murder, the latest book in the Happy Camper mystery series.

Readers can learn more about Zo and her author, Mary Angela by visiting the author’s website and her Facebook, Goodreads and Instagram pages. You can also follow her on Twitter.

The novel is available at the following online retailers:

Amazon – B&N – Apple – Google Books – Kobo 

© Julie Prairie Photography 2016

About Mary Angela: Mary is the author of the Happy Camper cozy mystery series, the Professor Prather academic mystery series, and several short stories. When Mary isn’t penning heartwarming whodunits, she’s teaching, reading, traveling, or spending time with her family. She lives in South Dakota with her husband, daughters, and spoiled pets.

Posted in April 2022, Archives | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment