Hippie Haven Homicide

Today Sally Carpenter is visiting Ascroft, eh? to tell us about Hippie Haven Homicide, her latest novel in the Psychedelic Spy mystery series.

Welcome, Sally. 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.

“Hippie Haven Homicide” is book two of the Psychedelic Spy retro-cozy series. The year is 1967. Noelle McNabb is an actress at the Country Christmas Family Fun Park, the tourist draw of the rural town of Yuletide, Indiana. She gets involved with a super secret spy agency called SIAMESE (Special Intelligence Apparatus for Midwest Surveillance and Espionage).

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

I was watching a Peter Sellers movie from 1967, “I Love You, Alice B. Toklas!” (Alice B. Toklas is a euphemism for marijuana). In the opening scene, an East Indian guru was chatting about the meaning of life.  I thought it’d be interesting if a sect of counterculture hippies invaded the conservative town of Yuletide. In the 1960s, Americans were exposed to non-Western spiritual thought such as Transcendental Meditation and ISKON (International Society of Krishna Consciousness, better known as the orange–robed Hare Krishnas). In the book, one of the cult members seemingly dies of a drug overdose, a common tragedy of the ’60s. Noelle is the only one who thinks the death was not self-inflicted.

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

I set my series in the 1960s because I find it a fascinating decade. I love the music, clothes, movies, TV, etc. of the time. There’s a spy agency because this was the James Bond era. Many of the ‘60s TV shows and movies were about spies. The Cold War was at its peak and American was in the space race with Russia.

As for an ongoing theme, Noelle discovers she’s related to a SIAMESE agent through an aunt she never knew existed. The aunt has a dark secret that will be explored more in upcoming books.

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

One of my fave TV shows is the “Mission: Impossible.” The spies played different characters on each mission. I made Noelle an actress so she could go undercover in various personas. I’ve been an actress, and I studied theater in college. Trevor, a friend of Noelle, is a newspaper reporter. I work at a newspaper so this was a no-brainer.

Destiny King the most interesting character. She’s a black woman who grew up in a single-parent household in the Chicago projects. She’s had a rough upbringing. She joined SIAMESE to have her criminal record erased. She had a lover who was killed. She’s seen the seamy side of life. Personality- and lifestyle-wise, Destiny is the opposite of Noelle, which makes a nice contrast. I’m more like Noelle than Destiny, so I like exploring the difference.

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

Details! I describe the food, clothing, cars, furniture, etc. It’s amazing how much has changed between the 1960s and modern day. Teens nowadays have never seen a rotary phone or a clock with hands.

I gave Christmas-related street and store names to Yuletide, which makes it unique and fun. The high school mascot is the Elves and school colors are red and green.

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

I grew up in the 1960s in a small town in Indiana, so some of Yuletide and its people are based on my remembrances and experiences.

I also look up every product, car, TV show and piece of music to make sure it fits in the book’s time frame.

I have a fun book called “The Hippie Handbook” that I used to build my hippie characters, Rambler and Moonbaby. Another book, “Images of American: Holiday World,” has photos of the Santa Claus Land theme park (yes, it’s real). I used that for designing the Yuletide park. A third book is “Fashionable Clothing from the Sears Catalogs: Mid 1960s” with photos of women’s clothing from the old Sears catalogs—the type of clothes Noelle would wear.  

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

The story line might sound deep, but it’s a fun read with humor and a lighthearted approach. Also, you need to read the book all the way through because what you think of some of the characters may change when you reach the end.

Thanks for hosting me on your blog! This was fun.

You’re welcome, Sally, and thanks for answering my questions. Good luck with Hippie Haven Homicide, the latest book in thePsychedelic Spy Mystery series.

Readers can learn more about Sally and her writing by visiting her website and her Facebook and Goodreads pages.

The novel is available at the following retailers:

 Digital – Paperback

About Sally Carpenter: Sally is native Hoosier living in Moorpark, California. She has a master’s degree in theater from Indiana State University. While in school, her plays “Star Collector” and “Common Ground” were finalists in the American College Theater Festival One-Act Playwrighting Competition. “Common Ground” also earned a college creative writing award. “Star Collector” was produced in New York City and served as the inspiration for her first mystery series.

Sally also has a Master of Divinity and a black belt in tae kwon do. She’s worked as an actress, college writing instructor, jail chaplain and tour guide/page for Paramount Pictures.

The books in her Sandy Fairfax Teen Idol series are: The Baffled Beatlemaniac Caper (2012 Eureka! Award finalist for best first mystery novel), The Sinister Sitcom CaperThe Cunning Cruise Ship Caper and The Quirky Quiz Show Caper, all with Cozy Cat Press. Flower Power Fatality is the first book in the Psychedelic Spy series. She has short stories in three anthologies: Last Exit to Murder, Plan B: Omnibus and Cozy Cat Shorts. She penned chapter three of the CCP group mystery Chasing the Codex.

Posted in Archives, September 2020 | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

I’m Glad I’ve Met Andi Grace Scott

Today Andi Grace Scott is visiting Ascroft, eh? to tell us about Dog-Gone Dead, the latest novel in the Low Country Dog Walker mystery series. I first met her in Bite The Dust and she is a great person.

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.

I’m part of A Low Country Dog Walker Mystery series set in Heyward Beach, South Carolina. Heyward Beach is a small coastal town that is partly on the mainland and partly a small island that’s only three miles long.

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

Jackie thinks she’s in control, but I periodically have to remind her who’s in charge.

How did you evolve as the main character?

Finding my first body turned my world upside down. The victim was my good friend and mentor. Years ago, my parents were killed in a hit-and-run accident. The driver was never caught, and I felt helpless. I was focused on raising my siblings at the time and wasn’t able to fight for justice. That all changed in Bite the Dust.

In Dog-Gone Dead, my brother is the primary focus of the investigation. There’s no possible way my brother killed a man. In this investigation, I plan to prove his innocence without annoying the sheriff’s department in the process.

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

Sunny, my German shepherd, is often with me. One good thing about running a dog-walking business is bringing her with me to visit other dogs. It helps socialization skills of many dogs who are home alone all day while their families are at work or school.

I’ve always looked out for my siblings, and I don’t mind sharing the story with them. There’s also a newcomer to our community, and I enjoy spending time with him. He’s smart and kind, and I admit to having a little crush on him.

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

Heyward Beach has plantations, public gardens, beaches, and one of my favorite places is Daily Java. The coffee shop has delicious baked goods too.

Sunny and I live on the island in a little beach cottage. My style is shabby chic, and while my home won’t be featured in decorating magazines, it’s comfortable.

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

If you like small towns, fun characters, tracking down clues, and dogs, you’ll like coming to visit me in Heyward Beach.

Thank you for answering my questions, Andi, and good luck to you and your author, Jackie Layton, with Dog-Gone Dead, the latest book in the Low Country Dog Walker mystery series. I’ve enjoyed the first two books in the series and I’m sure my readers will too.

Readers can learn more about Andi and her author, Jackie Layton by visiting the author’s website and her blog, as well as her Facebook, Bookbub, Instagram and Pinterest pages. You can also follow her on Twitter (@Joyfuljel).

The novel is available at the following online retailers:

Amazon – Kobo – Barnes & Noble – Google – Apple

About Jackie Layton: Former Kentucky pharmacist Jackie Layton loves her new life in the Low Country. When she’s not writing, Jackie enjoys walks on the beach, bike rides and collecting shells. The first two books in Jackie’s Low Country Dog Walker Mystery series are Bite the Dust and Dog-Gone Dead. Jackie always enjoys hearing from readers.

Posted in Archives, September 2020 | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

This is Showbiz?

Today Heather Haven is visiting Ascroft, eh? to tell us about Casting Call for a Corpse, the latest novel in the Alvarez Family Murder mystery series.

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

Tell us about your novel.

Casting Call for a Corpse is Book 7 of the Alvarez Family Murder Mysteries, but I like to think – and work at making – each book can function as a stand-a-lone. In fact, readers have often remarked they didn’t know a particular book was part of a series until they went to leave a review.

The story of Casting Call for a Corpse centers around a dead man wearing a tuxedo found in a clawfoot bathtub during a soiree for San Francisco VIPs. Home and tub belong to an internationally acclaimed actress who recently bought a famed Painted Lady on equally famous Alamo Square in San Francisco. The police believe the actress did the man in. One of her many romantic encounters, doncha know. She must be guilty. Or is she?

To the rescue is ace detective, Lee Alvarez, along with family, hubby, and Tugger the cat. Threatening letters, a sullen playwright, dead bodies, and a criminal web of jewel thieves all tread the boards of her friend’s latest musical. This is showbiz?

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

Yes. The Alvarez Family Murder Mysteries take place in California’s sparkling Bay Area, namely Silicon Valley. This fun detective series revolves around Lee Alvarez, a combination of Sue Graftonʼs Kinsey Millhone and Janet Evanovitchʼs Stephanie Plum. Completing the Alvarez Family is Leeʼs Never-Had-A-Bad-Hair-Day aristocratic mother; computer genius brother; gourmet chef and beloved uncle; and her energetic orange and white cat, Tugger. Oh, yes! And she sports a brand new husband, a former Navy SEAL. When the Alvarez clan is not solving murders, they run Discretionary Inquiries, a successful detective agency that normally deals with intellectual property and computer software thievery. With a recovery/prosecution rate of over ninety-four percent, Lee thinks the phrase We Are Smokin’ shouldbe their motto. But her blue-blooded CEO mother would never put that on a business card. These whodunits have a crackerjack mystery while exploring familial relationships — the good, the bad, and the amusing.

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

The story started out as a homage to Dorothy Sayers’ Whose Body? where the character of Lord Peter Wimsey is introduced. But I wanted to combine the ongoing characters from the series with a few characters from a play I penned some time ago about an actress, her loyal assistant, and an over-the-hill playwright. I added a Scottish character in honor of my heart sister, who was adopted at birth and recently found her Scottish birth family. Then I threw in my take on life backstage of a professional theater, which was a large part of my existence in my salad days. I mixed them all together and came out with an entertaining story with a few tender, loving moments and some laughs. Never forget to laugh. It will keep you sane.

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

Yes, honor, family, and friends. It carries through in all my stories. Do the right thing, even when it’s not the easiest thing to do. Be proud of yourself, your heritage, and strive to be happy. The pursuit of happiness is even in the Declaration of Independence! 

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

I often combine facets of people I know into a character I want to write about. A writer often has to be a psychologist. What makes a person tick? Do certain things? Are any traits in those near and dear to me what I need for one of my characters? For instance, Lee’s mother, Lila Hamilton Alvarez, is a Palo Alto blueblood. She’s based (loosely) on my boss at the Graduate School of Business, Stanford University, and my mother-in-law. Two strong, independent, single-minded women who are filled with courage and principles. But that can be a little hard for us poor mortals to live up to. Consequently, there is Lee Alvarez, trying to live up to the high standards of her mother. It creates a conflict, but one that can be warm, funny, and totally understandable by any woman who has admired her own mother.

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

I try to paint a picture with my words. I always try to include something of the five senses: sight, smell, sound, taste, and touch. That usually does it.

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

I do tons of research. If one is creating a fictional world there has to be some anchor for the reader to hold onto. The characters and storyline are made up. Everything else should be based on facts, unless you’re writing SciFi or fantasy. Keep as much of it as real as you can. It’s called grounding the story. For instance, in this book a helicopter comes into play. I did enough research to make sure whatever the characters were doing with the helicopter was true to life. That’s something Thomas B. Costain would have approved of wholeheartedly. Growing up, Mr. Costain was my hero. He created characters who moved the world within the realities of their time. If you haven’t read The Silver Chalice, The Black Rose or The Tontine, you have a treat in store for you. Here was a writer who mastered research and what it could do for his central characters and stories.

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

I don’t use vulgarity or racy scenes in my books. To my way of thinking, they aren’t necessary in the world I write about. Sure, the characters have their troubles and conflicts. It’s not a perfect world. But they learn, grow, work things out, and move on. They try to do the right thing. But in a very human, non-preachy way, because who needs that? Humor, love, with the occasional piece of chocolate. That’s the way to go.

Thank you for answering my questions, Heather, and good with Casting Call for a Corpse, the latest book in the Alvarez Family Murder mystery series.

Readers can learn more about Heather by visiting the author’s website and her Facebook page.

The novel is available online at  Amazon 

About Heather Haven: Heather moved to the Bay Area and studied creative writing at Stanford University. Previously, several of her comedy acts and plays were performed in NYC. Her novels include the humorous Silicon Valley-based Alvarez Family Murder Mysteries, Manhattan-based Persephone Cole Vintage Mysteries, Love Can Be Murder Novellas, Snow Lake Romantic Suspense Series and standalone mystery noir, Murder under the Big Top, based upon her mother’s stint as a performer with Ringling Brothers’ Circus. There is also her anthology, Corliss and Other Award-Winning Stories. Her favorite protagonist is in Corliss, one of the featured short stories, but don’t tell anyone!

Posted in Archives, September 2020 | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Follow the tour trail and the trail of crime

Do you remember that I told you several weeks ago that Mystery Follows Her, the multi-author cozy mystery collection, I put together with eight other writers, was launched in late July? I invited you to follow our authors and their stories through dangerous city streets, quaint villages, and locales across the globe to uncover the clues to a multitude of crimes with feisty female sleuths of various ages.

Today Mystery Follows Her is heading out across cyberspace on a virtual book tour. For the next two weeks you can follow our journey, and read interviews and guest posts with our authors, as well as reviews of the book at each of the blog stops. There’s also a contest to win a paperback copy of Mystery Follows Her (US only). You can enter the contest at most of the tour stops.

So, will you hit the road with us? Stop by some or all of our blog tour stops (don’t forget to enter the contest if you live in the US).

You’ll find all our tour stops listed at the bottom of this page: https://www.escapewithdollycas.com/mystery-follows-her-a-multi-author-cozy-mystery-collection-by-dianne-ascroft-ellen-jacobson-sarah-biglow-aubrey-elle-beate-boeker-adriana-licio-vikki-walton-a/

We’re starting our tour today at How It Happened and Maureen’s Musings.

Posted in September 2020, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Our Time Will Come

Today Jean Gallant Marcoux is visiting Ascroft, eh? to tell us about his debut historical novel, Our Time Will Come.

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

What prompted you to write about this historical event?

Years ago, I learned about the two WWII Québec Conferences of 1943 and 1944, where President Roosevelt, Prime Minister Churchill and their military advisers met in Québec City, my hometown, to make plans for D-Day. I even saw newspaper pictures of Churchill touring the city in an open-convertible limousine. At one point, the limo stopped in front of City Hall, and Churchill stood in the car to salute the dignitaries and the immense cheering crowd filling the street. I wondered why the Nazis didn’t use the opportunity to assassinate the British Prime Minister. Or did they try?

Once I retired from practicing medicine, I planned to write a spy novel on the subject, and I read all I could find about the events occurring in Europe and in Québec, just before and during WWII. I also read online, French and Canadian newspapers of the era.

I soon realized that a typical story of a Nazi spy coming by U-boat from Europe to assassinate Churchill during the Québec Conference, didn’t make historical sense. The planning of the Conference was kept secret almost until the day it started, and Churchill was NOT supposed to be exposed to the public. It’s only the Prime Minister’s daredevil nature, coupled with daily hordes of Quebecers in front of the Chateau Frontenac hotel clamoring for Churchill, that produced the last-minute decision of the open-convertible tour.

My spy novel became a love story, and I’m glad it did, because “Our Time Will Come” is a story that fans of historical novels should enjoy, as it explores a Canadian angle on WWII. Romance being a central theme of the book, it should also satisfy readers of that genre.

How closely did you stick to the historical facts?

All the historical facts in Our Time Will Come are accurate as to the date and place they occurred. Several minor characters are real-life figures. When they appear, the situation, incident and dialogue are product of my imagination.

What research did you do for this book?

I read all the books I could find regarding U-boats in Canadian waters, and German spies on Canadian soil during WWII. I also read online, French and Canadian newspapers of the 1938-1943 era to have the historical timeline right, and find out the mind set of the people at the time.

Do you use a mixture of historic and invented characters in the novel? Which is more difficult to write?

All the major and secondary characters in Our Time Will Come are fictitious. Winston Churchill, a minor character in my book was historically where I describe him to be in the book. His letter to my protagonists, however, is the fruit of my imagination.

In a historical novel you must re-create a place and people in a bygone era. How did you bring the place and people you are writing about to life?

The places I describe in Paris and Québec City, haven’t changed much since the 1940s. As mentioned above, reading newspapers of the era gave me a sense of what were Québecers concerns at the time. Conscription of young men, lack of available stuff, and food rationing were top on the list. The crowds gathered in front of the Chateau Frontenac Hotel begging to see Churchill, triggered his unplanned open convertible limo tour of the city.

There often seems to be more scope in historical novels for male characters than female characters. Do you prefer to write one sex or the other? And if so, why?

It is easier for a male to write from a male POV. However, to understand Hans, my German male protagonist’s decision to report to his army unit rather than escape to Canada with Hélène, his love in 1939, I had to go read historical books of the era. I found that ordinary German men, not only Nazis felt it was their duty to fight for the Fatherland.

For my female protagonist, Hélène, I imagined what my mother and aunts, who were her contemporaries, and like her educated by nuns, would have done if placed in her circumstances.

Thanks for answering my questions, Jean, and good luck with Our Time Will Come.

Readers can learn more about Jean Gallant Marcoux  and his writing by visiting his website, his blog and his Facebook page.

Jean Gallant Marcoux will be awarding a $20 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Enter to win a $20 Amazon/BN GC by clicking here.

The novel is available at the following online retailers:

Amazon.comBarnes & NobleIndigo

About Jean Gallant Marcoux: He was born in Quebec City Canada, where he earned an MD degree from Laval University. As a board-certified allergist, he practiced in Quebec City from 1970 to 1977 after which he continued his career in Houston Texas until his retirement in 2007.

Passionate for history, he has published articles for historical society magazines in his native Quebec. This is his debut novel. Dr. Marcoux lives in Houston with his family.

Posted in Archives, August 2020 | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Peachy Scream

Today Anna Gerard is visiting Ascroft, eh? to tell us about Peachy Scream, her latest novel in the Georgia B&B mystery series.

Welcome, Anna. 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.

Hello! Yes, Peachy Scream is the second in the Georgia B&B Mystery series from Crooked Lane Books. The stories feature my protagonist, Nina Fleet. Recently divorced and wanting to flee the big city rat race, she moves to Cymbeline, a small Georgia town west and south of Savannah. Nina uses a chunk of her substantial divorce settlement (her ex is a pro golfer) to purchase a lovely Queen Anne home. In book one, Peach Clobbered, she’s somewhat arm-twisted into turning place into a bed and breakfast inn. After hosting a displaced convent’s worth of elderly nuns, she decides she likes her new career and formally commits to being an innkeeper. And the action of Peachy Scream continues from there.

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

This series actually has been kicking around in my head and on paper for a very long time. With Death in a Shakespeare Garden being its original title, Peachy Scream was supposed to be the first in the series but ended up as book two. And, the series originally was set in East Texas in a fictional town based on a real-life town where I used to go antiquing. But the editor asked for the switch to Georgia, so there you go. I’ve always been fascinated by the theatre and am a big fan of Shakespeare’s work, and for years I’ve been wanting to use both as a backdrop for a book.

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

Underlying all my cozy mysteries is the theme of the importance of friendship and community. Peachy Scream also focuses on the notion of finding one’s place in the world. To thine own self be true, as Polonius advises in Hamlet. Several of the characters struggle to some degree with their personal truth.

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

All my protagonists tend to be a version of me (except younger and thinner!). And so by default they become my favorites, although I’m fond of all my characters, particularly the animals. I work hard to make them distinctive people/critters but also want them to be believable. They all have good qualities and not-so-admirable traits, and the occasional quirk, but I prefer not to lapse into parody. Everyone one of these folks is someone you’ve probably met at some time.

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

Research, of course, and on-site research when possible. If the latter is not something I can readily do, I reach out to my network of friends and fellow writers for help, particularly if they’ve lived in the place (or a similar place) where my story is set. I find that the tiny details—the colors that the buildings are painted, the regional-typical knickknacks found in a character’s house, the snacks everyone eats—are what truly adds verisimilitude to the story.

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

When I switched from writing historical romance and historical mystery to contemporary mystery, I thought research would be a snap. But I find myself looking up facts and verifying information as much or more than for a story with a historical setting. The internet as a tool is invaluable, whether it’s to check the requirements to hold the job of coroner in small-town Georgia or learn what time of the year a particular species of peach tree bears fruit. (Just be sure your vet your sources – for example, Wikipedia isn’t the most accurate font of info, but the entries do tend to have valuable bibliographies for further research). Google maps can be helpful, too.

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

Astute readers will recognize traditional Shakespearean tropes and references in Peachy Scream, and they should be sure to judge the story accordingly – this is not meant as social commentary. Bottom line, I think the story is a fun time, and I hope you will, too.

Thanks for answering my questions, Anna, and good luck with Peachy Scream, the latest book in the Georgia B&B Mystery series.

Readers can learn more about Anna and her writing by visiting her website and her Facebook page.

The novel is available at the following online retailers:

AMAZON     BARNES & NOBLE

About Anna Gerard: DIANE A.S. STUCKART writes as Anna Gerard. She is the New York Times bestselling author of the Black Cat Bookshop Mystery series (writing as Ali Brandon). She’s also the author of the award-winning Leonardo da Vinci historical mysteries, as well as several historical romances and numerous mystery, fantasy, and romance short stories. The first book in her Tarot Cats Mystery series is FOOL’S MOON. Her Georgia B&B Mystery series from Crooked Lane Books launched July 2019 with PEACH CLOBBERED, written as Anna Gerard. Book 2, PEACHY SCREAM is now available.

Diane is a member of Mystery Writers of America and served as the 2018 and 2019 Chapter President of the MWA Florida chapter, receiving the “Flamingo” Chapter Service award in 2019. She’s also a member of Sister in Crime. In addition to her mystery writing affiliations, she’s a member of the Cat Writers’ Association and belongs to the Palm Beach County Beekeepers Association. Diane is a native Texan with a degree in Journalism from the University of Oklahoma, but has been living in the West Palm Beach FL area since 2006. She shares her “almost in the Everglades” home with her husband, dogs, cats, and a few beehives.

Posted in Archives, August 2020 | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Knot of This World

Today Martha Rose is visiting Ascroft, eh? to tell us about Knot of This World, the latest novel in the Quilting mystery series.

Welcome, Martha. 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.

I’m Martha Rose, an overweight, divorced quilter with fibromyalgia in my 50s and living in the San Fernando Valley just north of LA. The newest novel in A Quilting Mystery series, Knot Of This World, is about a group of friends trying to keep one of their own from making a huge and dangerous mistake. Much of the story takes place in a clothing optional commune in Ojai, California where a serial killer might be living. Martha and her friends get into some hilarious antics trying to find answers and to protect their own.

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

Sometimes, when Mary Marks isn’t sure where she wants to go next, she often just sits at the computer and lets her characters talk to each other. That’s when we’ll come up with something she didn’t realize or suspect about the story. So yes, we do have a say.

How did you evolve as the main character?

Face it. I’m a version of the younger Mary Marks. She set me up that way so she could get inside my head (as the main character) more easily. She knows exactly how I would react or what I might say, because I am her. In a way. However, Mary doesn’t stumble over dead bodies the way I do.

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

I love all my friends and family for different reasons. They each have different skills I rely on, and they add such a richness to every scene. My novels are heavily character driven and they are all characters! To give you an example, my half-sister Giselle is sassy, sarcastic and smart. The funniest things can come out of her mouth! I’m so lucky I found her through DNA testing.

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

The Mystical Feather Society is both fascinating and frightening. We were warned about murders and misbehavior there. We found both. In the course of our investigation, we took a fascinating class in Tarot Card reading. It was only one of many significant twists and turns.

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

Yes. There’s a blonde in a halter top hidden somewhere in the story. See if you can find her in this book (and the others).

Thank you for answering my questions, Martha, and good luck to you and your author, Mary Marks, with Knot of This World, the latest book in the Quilting mystery series.

Readers can learn more about Martha and her author, Mary Marks by visiting the publisher’s and author’s websites and her Facebook page.

The novel is available at the following online retailers:

 Amazon – B&N – Kobo – Google Play – IndieBound

About Mary Marks: Mary was born and raised in Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area. She earned a B.A. in Anthropology from UCLA and an M.A. in Public Administration from the American Jewish University in Los Angeles. In 2004 she enrolled in the UCLA Extension Writers Program. Her first novel, Forget Me Knot, was a finalist in a national writing competition in 2011. She is currently a reviewer of cozy mysteries for The New York Journal of Books at www.nyjournalofbooks.com.

Posted in Archives, August 2020 | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Key Lime Crime

Today Lucy Burdette is visiting Ascroft, eh? to tell us about Key Lime Crime, her latest novel in the Key West Food Critic mystery series.

Welcome, Lucy. 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 KEY LIME CRIME is the tenth book in the Key West mystery series featuring food critic Hayley Snow. Newlywed food critic Hayley is facing a super busy  post holiday season, including a Key Lime pie judging contest and an overcommitted detective husband. When her husband’s mother makes an unannounced visit, Hayley must play the dutiful daughter-in-law. She and her pal Miss Gloria offer to escort his mom on the iconic Conch Train Tour of the island’s holiday lights. But it’s not all glittering palm trees and fantastic flamingos–the unlikely trio finds a real body stashed in one of the elaborate displays. Hayley’s new mother-in-law is intent on helping her get to the bottom of this.

When readers ask me if they need to read the books in order, I tell them that while the characters do grow and change over time, I try to write the mystery for each book so it stands alone.

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

Key West is very enthusiastic about decorating for Christmas. And there is a trolley that takes people around the island to look at the lights. One year we noticed a house that had a Santa splayed out on the front porch holding an empty bottle of booze. A sign on the steps said, “Santa may be a little late this year.” I couldn’t help wondering who might be in that Santa suit, and why, and what if they were a murder victim? And my writer brain was off…

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

I always end up writing about families—extended families, biological families, stepfamilies, and in this case, in laws. I’d had some readers suggest that they couldn’t warm up to the main character’s new husband. I began to think about that—why he was so reserved, why his parents did not attend the wedding, and what it would be like if his mother made an unplanned visit.

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

Many are based on people I know or composites of people I know. Miss Gloria, Hayley’s octogenarian houseboat-mate and great friend, is probably my favorite. Whenever I need a character to speak up on a subject or stand up for someone, Miss Gloria is there. She has a job giving tours at the Key West cemetery, plays mahjong with her “girlfriends” and drives an enormous old Buick Park Avenue that I borrowed from the car my in-laws drove for years. (My mother-in-law was also a spunky woman role model.) I always get a smile on my face writing about her. 

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

I live in Key West half of the year, so I know it quite well. Since the main character is a food critic, many of restaurants in the series are real places (unless Hayley has a bad meal or there’s a case of murder by poison.) I also read the local newspapers and Facebook groups looking for quirky events and possible conflicts. All of that goes into the books as background.

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

I attended the Key West Citizens’ police academy a couple of years back and learned a lot about police procedure. I have a good friend who’s a retired cop, so he helps me with questions and problems. For THE KEY LIME CRIME, I took a pie-baking class with a couple of fans—such fun!

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

I will tell you that I’m thrilled about the reviews so far. I’ll share two of them!

“Charming characters, an appealing setting, and mouthwatering bonus recipes make this a perfect choice for foodie cozy lovers.” Publishers’ Weekly
“The well-described Key West setting nicely complements the foodie frame in this satisfying cozy, which is a natural for fans of Joanne Fluke’s Hannah Swensen mysteries.”—Booklist

Thanks so much for having me visit your blog!

It was my pleasure, Lucy. Thanks for answering my questions and good luck with Key Lime Crime, the latest book in the Key West Food Critic Mystery series.

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

The novel is available at the following online retailers:

 Amazon – B&N – Kobo – IndieBound

About Lucy Burdette (aka Roberta Isleib): Lucy is a clinical psychologist and has published 16 mysteries, including the latest in the Key West food critic series, DEATH ON THE MENU (Crooked Lane Books, August 2018.) Her books and stories have been short-listed for Agatha, Anthony, and Macavity awards. She’s a member of Mystery Writers of America and a past president of Sisters in Crime. She blogs at Jungle Red Writersand shares her love for food with the culinary writers at Mystery Lovers Kitchen She lives in Madison CT and Key West FL.

Posted in Archives, August 2020 | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Death at High Tide

Today Hannah Dennison is visiting Ascroft, eh? to tell us about Death at High Tide, her first novel in the Island Sisters mystery series.

Welcome, Hannah. 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.

“Death at High Tide”, the first book in the Island Sisters Mysteries has been described as “Doc Martin” meets “The Durrells in Corfu” with a splash of Agatha Christie’s, “And Then There Were None.” This is my third mystery series, (I write the Vicky Hill Mysteries and the Honeychurch Hall Mysteries), all of which lean toward the lighter traditional mystery side.

I have always been intrigued by the dynamics of siblings and so, when I moved back to the UK after twenty-five years in California, I was over the moon about reconnecting with my sister again. Of course we had been in touch regularly and visited many times, but it wasn’t the same as living just half a mile from each other again.

“Death at High Tide” follows aspiring photographer, Evie Mead and her Hollywood producer older sister Margot Chandler, who unexpectedly discover that a crumbling Art Deco hotel on a remote island twenty-eight miles off the southwest Cornish peninsula has been mysteriously left to Evie in her husband’s will.

Margot surprises Evie with tickets for a weekend away at the Tregarrick Rock hotel, insisting they should go undercover to find out the 5 W’s –“Who, What, When, Where and Why.” Needless to say, murder and mayhem follow.

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

The idea came from a good friend who was the HR director for a resort on one of the five inhabited islands on the Isles of Scilly. My friend claimed that seasonal workers often fled to the islands because they were running away from something or hiding from someone. This concept intrigued me and in many ways, it is true of Evie and Margot who are hoping to start a new life there.

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

I always find that the theme presents itself after I have finished each book. And, without fail, even though I don’t intend to do it, I always write about reinvention. It’s in my two other series as well.

I’m fascinated by how those (including myself) have to start over following a loss— whether it’s through a death, a divorce or a serious illness, a big move to a new town or country and sometimes, it’s just starting a new job or becoming a parent. I’m interested in how people cope with what life throws at them.

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

Of course writers are usually all their characters so I don’t really have a favorite! I keep telling my own sister that she is not Margot Chandler in Death at High Tide  (the sisters are both parts of me). I always start with someone I know and can visualize physically. Sometimes it could be someone I noticed on a train or just someone I spotted when I was out walking my dogs. Often it’s an actor – I just need to see their face. Once I have the visual and maybe a pronounced character trait e.g. a turn of phrase or a pet peeve, I will write a brief character bible with the usual questions that include motivation etc. I always give my characters – even the minor ones – a secret, something that they would hate anyone to know about, as well as what I would expect find in their trash bin. You can tell a lot about a person by what they throw away.

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

If it truly exists, even if part of it is fiction, it’s critical that I visit the place. You can only get so much from Google, YouTube and travel shows. When I wrote an early draft of “Death at High Tide” I had not been to Tresco, (my fictional island is a mash-up of Tresco and Burgh Island off the South Devon coast). I had described everything as I had imagined it to be but when I actually got there, the visceral experience of smelling the fresh air, walking the wild northern part of the island (which is like the Scottish Highlands) or sitting in the Abbey Gardens (which is like the South of France), affected me deeply. And of course, who wouldn’t be affected by the history of the place with the dozens of shipwrecks that litter the surrounding ocean floor. The island was also a refuge for Royalists during the English Civil War.

Tresco itself is tiny. It only measures 2 miles by 1 mile wide and there are no cars, no streetlights and no police presence or hospital. There was a sense of isolation and remoteness that I hadn’t felt in my online research.

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

I get completely sidetracked by research. It’s a blessing and a curse. I have to know the background to everything I write about. There is an abandoned lighthouse that is featured in the book so I spent ages just looking at photographs and reading diaries of lighthouse keepers! I can’t help it.

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

Yes! I must talk about the cat on the cover. His name is Mister Tig. He and I went through a lot during our seventeen years together – the death of my dad, my international moves, my daughter going off to college and of course, the trials and tribulations of launching my writing career. I never intended to put Mister Tig into a book but voila! Now he is immortalized on paper. Mister Tig has his own Instagram page if any of your readers are cat lovers. It’s mistertig_hotelcat.

Thank you for these questions.

It was my pleasure. Thanks for answering them, Hannah, and good luck with Death at High Tide, the first book in theIsland Sisters Mystery series.

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

The novel is available at the following online retailers:

 Amazon     Barnes & Noble     IndieBound    Books A Million

About Hannah Dennison: Hannah was born and raised in Hampshire but spent more than two decades living in California. She has been an obituary reporter, antique dealer, private jet flight attendant and Hollywood story analyst. For many years Hannah taught mystery writing workshops at the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program in Los Angeles, California.

Hannah writes the Honeychurch Hall Mysteries and the Vicky Hill Mysteries both set in the wilds of the Devonshire countryside where she now lives with her two high-spirited Hungarian Vizslas.

Posted in Archives, August 2020 | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Crime and Cocktails

Today Lucy Lakestone is visiting Ascroft, eh? to tell us about Risky Whiskey, her first novel in the Bohemia Bartenders mystery series.

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

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

Risky Whiskey is the first novel in the Bohemia Bartenders Mysteries, fun whodunits starring a team of bartenders who travel to different events to make craft cocktails. Of course, they find trouble and solve mysteries along the way. In the first book, Pepper Revelle joins the team at a New Orleans cocktail convention as they make drinks to promote whiskey for a distiller from their Florida town. When the bourbon turns out to be dangerously bad, they have to track down the villain trying to sabotage the distiller while dodging attacks and making thousands of cocktails. Meanwhile, Pepper, an energetic extrovert, is drawn to Neil, the lead bartender, a cocktail nerd who is almost entirely her opposite. The contrast between them makes for good comedy.

It’s a bit unusual for a cozy series in that the settings change, but the cocktail world is almost like a traveling circus. Familiar characters show up in each story. While the first novel is set at a cocktail convention in New Orleans, the setting for the second novel, Wrecked by Rum, is a tiki convention in Fort Lauderdale. Many of the same characters appear in each book.

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

We’ve all heard about bad batches of liquor that can make someone sick, whether it’s a moonshiner’s still gone wrong or something a traveler picks up from a market vendor. I was interested in the idea of what might happen if a villain wanted a batch of “bad” liquor to appear to be an accident. The added appeal for me was re-creating the fun, color and energy of a cocktail convention like one I’ve attended in New Orleans, with its historic and storied bars, creepy cemeteries, great music and eccentric characters.

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

One theme of Risky Whiskey is family and friendship. While my heroine, Pepper, who survived Hurricane Katrina while growing up in New Orleans, is mostly estranged from her parents, she finds a new family in the Bohemia Bartenders. I think a lot of us, even if we get along with our relatives, form lifelong bonds with people who love the same things we do. As Edna Buchanan said, “Friends are the family we choose for ourselves.”

The second theme is more of an idea: that cocktails have come into their own as a culinary art form, and there are dedicated artists in that world who are as skilled and creative as any great chef. They aren’t just slinging beers and pouring pink frozen drinks. The cocktail world is full of fascinating stories and characters that offer great inspiration for a series of books.

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

Bartenders are intensely fun to write about, especially craft bartenders. They range from Pepper, who’s outgoing and fun and even a little edgy (yes, she curses occasionally, though she’s trying to stop), to Neil, a well-educated bar owner who’s written a cocktail book and is very serious about his work. He first appeared as a minor character in a romance series.

Pepper is sort of who I wish I could be. She’s up for anything. She loves the romance and history of New Orleans (as do I). And after seeing the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in person, I was inspired to make that storm part of her backstory. It’s enjoyable to write about someone who is always ready to plunge in where angels fear to tread, often with funny results.

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

New Orleans almost writes itself. I can close my eyes and see it, smell it, taste it. It’s beautiful and seedy and occasionally dangerous. It’s a rich and enticing city. All of my impressions of it go into Risky Whiskey.

The same could be said of Wrecked by Rum, which takes place in Fort Lauderdale, from the gorgeous tropical setting to the alluring 1950s-era Polynesian restaurant (inspired by the real Mai-Kai) where much of the action takes place. The tiki world is another world I love.

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

I can get totally lost in research. I’m passionate about knowing my setting and details before I write, and sometimes I detour for an hour or two on the way looking up an elusive fact online. Ideally, I’ve experienced a place in person. I sometimes interview people to get a sense of my topic, and that’s a great way to get ideas that beget even more ideas and layers in my stories. One of the most enjoyable aspects of research for these books is tasting the cocktails.

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

I hope readers have as much fun reading Risky Whiskey as I had writing it. I wrote it and part of the second book before the troubled times we’re experiencing now, but I figure the Bohemia Bartenders Mysteries take place in the “before time” — or in a parallel universe where people still get together in large numbers and have fun. It’s a great escape for me, and I hope it will be for readers, too. There’s a bit of romance, a dash of heat and some cursing, as previously mentioned, so I want them to know what to expect and to get to love my characters as much as I do.

Thanks for answering my questions, Lucy, and good luck with Risky Whiskey, the first book in theBohemia Bartenders Mystery series.

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

The novel is available at the following online retailers:

Apple iBooksAmazonBarnes & NobleGoogle PlayKobo

Lucy Lakestone is an award-winning author who lives on Florida’s east central coast, among the towns that serve as an inspiration for the hot romances of her Bohemia Beach Series and the jumping-off point for the Bohemia Bartenders Mysteries. She’s been a journalist, photographer, editor and video producer but prefers living in her imagination, where the moon is full and the cocktails are divine. 

See the book trailer

Posted in Archives, August 2020, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment