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Friday, January 31, 2020

BOOK CLUB FRIDAY--AN INTERVIEW WITH MYSTERY AUTHOR F.M. MEREDITH'S SERGEANT RYAN STRICKLAND

Today we sit down for a chat with Sergeant Ryan Strickland from author F.M. Meredith’s
Rocky Bluff P.D. series.

What was your life like before your author started pulling your strings?
As a police officer, I was pretty carefree, and didn’t make the best choices for my life—resulting in dire consequences for others. I was what they called a publicity hound, loved to get myself into the news. 

What’s the one trait you like most about yourself?
That I had the capacity to change—though I have to give most of the credit to my wife Barbara. Being married to her has made me see things in an entirely different way. 

What do you like least about yourself?
The fact that I’ve kept a huge secret for all these years, a secret that I’ll never tell anyone.

What is the strangest thing your author has had you do or had happen to you?
Becoming a father to a beautiful little girl with Down Syndrome. I had no idea I could love someone so much as my daughter Angel.

Do you argue with your author? If so, what do you argue about?
Though at times I’d like to have a bigger role in each book, when what happened to me was the major plot, it wasn’t at all pleasant.

What is your greatest fear?
My greatest fear is that something bad might happen to Angel. I don’t want anyone to make fun of her, either.

What makes you happy?
Though I love my police work, being with my wife and family is the best part of my life—something I never imagined could be true.

If you could rewrite a part of your story, what would it be? Why?
Definitely, I would like to change what happened in the first book, Final Respects, but if I did, I wouldn’t be in the life I am today.

Of the other characters in your book, which one bugs you the most? Why?
For a long time it was Gordon Butler, a go-by-the book cop and one who managed to get himself into all sorts of awkward, dangerous, and sometimes funny situations. He’s now married, and he’s matured a lot.

Of the other characters in your book, which one would you love to trade places with? Why?
I wouldn’t want to trade places with any of the characters. Right now I’m at the best place in my life I’ve ever been as a husband, father, being a sergeant on the RBPD, and my job as public information officer. 

Tell us a little something about your author. Where can readers find her website/blog?
F.M. Meredith (who is also Marilyn Meredith) has been writing the Rocky Bluff P.D. series and the Deputy Tempe Crabtree series for many years. She once lived in a small beach community like Rocky Bluff and that’s where she first became interested in writing about law enforcement. She’s also a member of two chapters of Sisters in Crime and on the board of the Public Safety Writers Association, and claims many of the law enforcement members as friends and research sources. Learn more about her at her website and blog.

What's next for you?
I have no idea what will be happening with Ryan Strickland in the months to come. Hopefully, I’ll be involved with an interesting case. Something unusual is always happening in Rocky Bluff.

Bones in the Attic
In a small town like Rocky Bluff, personal and professional often overlap, so Detective Doug Milligan is not surprised when his daughter Beth is the one who informs him a body has been discovered.

What is surprising is that the body is in a long-abandoned home that Beth and other students are turning into a haunted house as a fundraiser. The city granted permission for the project as long as it was limited to the downstairs for safety reasons. But one student, Mike Patterson, couldn't resist the temptation to look in the attic.

Detective Milligan stepped carefully a trunk and peered inside. Only a musty unpleasant smell emanated from the contents, not the noxious decomposition odor he'd expected. The skeleton crammed inside was still clothed in the remnants of what may have been pajamas.

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Wednesday, January 29, 2020

CHARACTER INTERVIEW--AMERGIN FROM AUTHOR M.L. FOXX'S CELTIC MYST TRILOGY

The Irish Countryside. Close your eyes and imagine the dragons of yore.
Today we sit down for a chat with Amergin from M.L. Foxx’s Celtic Myst Trilogy. 

What was your life like before your author started pulling your strings?
I had a lot of responsibility with the de Dannan clan. It all started thousands of years ago, before the measurement of time.... We lived in Inis Fail, which is Ancient Ireland. Then my author wanted me to tell my story. And so I did, and it took three books to tell all.

Amergin
What’s the one trait you like most about yourself?
I am Amergin, a druid and I am a descendent of the original wise one that placed the elemental power of the lands in the hands of the Tribe of Danu. I'm a wizard charged with the task of providing wisdom and protection for the descendants of the Tuatha de Danann.

What do you like least about yourself?
My liege does not always take my ideas seriously. Though the Danu come from a long line of faeries, my liege is not one. And so he does not always take me at my word and it can take a lot to convince him. And sometimes I have to lower myself to begging for the good of the clan. I do not enjoy that at all. 

What is the strangest thing your author has had you do or had happen to you?
Well, I created a dragon. That was a challenge I tell you. But I was up to the task and Palriad the Magnificent was able to take on the dark dragon of the witch and come out victorious.

Do you argue with your author? 
Not very often, but yes I did. 

If so, what do you argue about?
I wanted to have a mate going through eternity and she said no. So I am a lonely wizard, but I do have my Aibell Brid and her loved ones to watch over and mentor. 

What is your greatest fear?
That Mourdra (that is the witch) will win and I will have lost that which the Gods and Goddesses tasked me with. The protection of the de Dannan’s. 

What makes you happy?
Watching Aibell Brid and her daughter Derdriu dance and play their fiddles. 

If you could rewrite a part of your story, what would it be? Why?
Because it is a trilogy, it is a continuation of the story. I cannot tell what I would like to change because it would be a spoiler for the end of the first book, and it would also end the story before the completion of prophecy. 

Of the other characters in your book, which one bugs you the most? Why?
The fact that Mourdra can see what the de Dannan’s are doing in her Cauldron. And the clan and villagers have no idea when she is going to attack. 

Of the other characters in your book, which one would you love to trade places with? Why?
Cuchulain Dubhshlàine because he is a warrior and mortal. He does not have to live forever and protect those from evil forces. He protects his loved ones in battle not through spells and magic.

Tell us a little something about your author. 
Author, M.L. Foxx has lived her life in Utah. She loves the mountains. Someday she’d like to move to Ireland, home of her ancestors. She and her hubby love to travel anywhere. As long as they’re together and it’s an adventure. Her favorite places she has visited is Ireland, Scotland, and Tuscany, Italy.

She loves to hear from fans. This is her first jaunt into Fantasy and Sci-Fi. She loves it. It gives her freedom of choice. She also loves to go to the movies and you got it… Watch The Avengers and Dead Pool, among others.

When not writing or traveling, she is hanging out with family.

PS: She also writes under her own name, Mary Martinez.

Where can readers find her website/blog?

Find M.L. at her website where you can find links to her other social media. 

The Cupán of Flúirse 
Celtic Myst Trilogy, Book 1

Forged by the gods, the Cupán of Flúirse is born under the thunder of Taranis, fashioned with symbols of the elements to bring peace and abundance to the clans.

Element of the air, Amergin is a faithful protector and guardian. Through the years, he’s guided the other elements and reigned over times of peace, prosperity, and royal births.

However, the witch Mourdra, is plagued with jealousy over the clans. They hold dear all she desires…and has been denied. The fire dragon and Klenidalf, an evil wizard are tasked to do her bidding, to plunder the clans…and steal the Cupán of Flúirse.

Without the sacred chalice, Amergin is condemned to wander the Earth, those he’s vowed to protect out of his reach.

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Monday, January 27, 2020

CRAFTS WITH ANASTASIA--ZOOLUMINATION AT THE NASHVILLE ZOO


During a recent holiday trip to visit family in Nashville, I had the chance to go to the Nashville Zoo's Zoolumination: Chinese Festival of Lights


This massive lantern event spans more than sixty acres and features more than 500 custom-designed lanterns, along with a life-size North Pole holiday village, acrobats from Zigong, China, and artists who practice traditional Chinese crafts. 


Here are just of few of the incredible exhibits on display. Some of the lanterns are as tall as a four-story building. The dragon is nearly the length of a football field. 


The festival runs through February 2nd. If you’re within a drive of Nashville, you won’t want to miss this extraordinarily breathtaking event.


Friday, January 24, 2020

BOOK CLUB FRIDAY--AUTHOR KAY KENDALL'S PREQUEL TO HER AUSTIN STARR MYSTERY SERIES

Today we welcome back historical amateur sleuth author Kay Kendall who lives in Texas with her Canadian husband, three house rabbits, and a spaniel. Learn more about Kay and her books at her website. 

By writing historical mysteries about female amateur sleuths, I’ve combined my passions for history and for women’s empowerment. I set my first two mysteries in the late 1960s with Austin Starr as a young woman trying to exonerate relatives and friends accused as murderers, all set against the backdrop of the anti-war movement and women’s liberation. The books are Desolation Row and Rainy Day Women, and both derive their names from Bob Dylan songs that evoke the era. 

Then I decided to go further back into American history—back to the Roaring Twenties and the excitement of the Jazz Age and Prohibition, when gangsters ran amuck and women had just won the right to vote. I would trace my protagonist Austin Starr’s lineage back to her Texas grandmother, Wallie MacGregor.  Now, clearly I couldn’t use another Dylan tune for inspiration. Luckily my research uncovered the perfect song and title, “After You’ve Gone.” Written in 1918, it was hot during the 1920s and stayed popular throughout many decades. Even in the last thirty years singers covered it, including Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, and Fiona Apple. In truth, the song is fantastic and still holds up.

Read my newest mystery, After You’ve Gone, and you’ll see many characters struggle through their lives after someone has gone—people near and dear to them. Survivors are left bereft and must learn to carry on alone. The biggest loss of all kicks off the mystery, of course. 

The story opens in 1923 and unfolds as a town’s secrets are uncovered by a sheltered, yet enterprising, young woman. Puzzling disappearances, deaths, and lethal grudges—twenty-three-year-old Wallie finds it all.

Walter MacGregor (aka Wallie) lives in Gunmetal, Texas, during Prohibition. Her calm existence shatters when her father's rum-running brother returns after a long absence. Rory is fleeing from enraged bootleggers. His tales of adventure and his natural charisma fascinate Wallie. Yet, these same traits appall her father, a respected judge. 

Wallie’s mother died when she was young, and her father (after whom she was named) raised her, helped by her strict maternal aunt and the family housekeeper, Athalia. Allowed to hunt, fish, and ride "like a boy," Wallie still feels her life lacks adventure. 
Poppa's tales of courthouse shenanigans and her own avid reading of Sherlock Holmes tales only whet her appetite. After getting to know her Uncle Rory, Wallie tells her ever-present beagle puppy Holler that she's eager to learn about her uncle's daring life. She’s never known brothers so dissimilar.

When a freak accident rocks the town, Wallie sees a crime scene showing foul play, but the local sheriff says she’s being a silly female. Annoyed, she sets out to prove her theory. Snooping into her family's past, she finds clues pointing to the sinful port city of Galveston on the Gulf Coast. When dour Aunt Ida insists she accompany her to visit relatives in Houston, Wallie convinces her aunt to turn her Model T toward Galveston. They soon tangle with dangerous and immoral people—gangsters who rule the town, thugs sent down from Chicago to muscle in on shady businesses, and two flamboyant flappers. "These women are floozies," sniffs Aunt Ida, but they’re also useful, divulging secrets from Gunmetal that are decades old.

Wallie's curiosity pushes her into sinister situations in Galveston, while even worse danger awaits back home again in Gunmetal—more death, her warring suitors, a missing puppy, plus an advancing "blue norther," extreme autumn weather famous in Texas. Wallie wonders if she’s really not meant to be Sherleen Holmes, Texas style. Then again, she knows she must persist.

Words from the chorus of “After You’ve Gone” fit the storyline of my new mystery. Because the lyrics are no longer under copyright, they can open my book. You may also listen to Fiona Apple sing “After You’ve Gone” here.

After you’ve gone and left me crying
After you’ve gone there’s no denying,
You’ll feel blue, you’ll feel sad,
You’ll miss the bestest pal you’ve ever had.
There’ll come a time, now don’t forget it,
There’ll come a time, when you’ll regret it.
Oh! Babe, think what you’re doing.
You know my love for you will drive me to ruin,
After you’ve gone,
After you’ve gone away, away.

Music by Turner Layton and lyrics by Henry Creamer (1918)

After You’ve Gone
An Austin Starr Mystery Prequel

It’s hard to imagine anything could go wrong in a quiet Texas town in the 1920s. However, when a fatal accident looks more like murder to Wallie MacGregor, she begins to investigate. Aided by her dog and her prim aunt, she soon discovers long-buried secrets in her search for the truth.

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Wednesday, January 22, 2020

ON PREQUELS, POLICE PROCEDURALS, AND DIAMOND HEISTS WITH AUTHOR MICHAEL STANLEY

Jwaneng Diamond Mine, Botswana
Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip write under the name Michael Stanley. Their award-winning mystery series, featuring Detective Kubu, is set in Botswana, a fascinating country with magnificent conservation areas and varied peoples.  Facets of Death, the latest book in the series, is a prequel. Their latest thriller, Shoot the Bastards, introduces Minnesotan environmental journalist Crystal Nguyen. Set mainly in South Africa, it has as back-story the vicious trade in rhino horn.

Michael has lived in South Africa, Kenya, Australia and the US. He now lives in Knysna on the Cape south coast of South Africa. Stanley splits his time between Minneapolis, Cape Town, and Denmark. Learn more about them at their website and the Murder is Everywhere blog they share with eight other international mystery authors.

A Need for a Prequel
We, Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip, write a police procedural series under the name Michael Stanley. The protagonist is Assistant Superintendent David ‘Kubu’ Bengu of the Botswana police.

The first Kubu novel, A Carrion Death, was set contemporaneously with its publication in 2008. Each successive book followed the same pattern. After six Kubu novels, we took a break and wrote Dead of Night (titled Shoot the Bastards in North America), a stand-alone thriller about rhino poaching.

When we started writing A Carrion Death, we didn’t plan that Kubu would be the protagonist. As novice novelists, we heeded the advice of experienced writers, who said we should write about what we knew. So, as academics, we planned that a brilliant young ecologist would discover a body that had been left in the desert for hyenas to devour and go on to solve the mystery.

However, it was obvious to our young professor that it was no accident that the body was lying naked on the Kalahari sands. It was a case of murder, and the police had to be called in. So we sent a detective, David Bengu, from the Criminal Investigation Department headquarters in Gaborone into the Kalahari in his Land Rover. He was a large man with the nickname Kubu – hippopotamus in the local language. 

He provisioned himself with sandwiches and something to drink. He brought along some cassette tapes of some of his favourite operas to sing along with in his only-sing-when-no-one-is-around baritone.

He also had time to muse about how a Bushman school friend had shown him how to see clues of things hidden in the desert, such as the stone-like Lithops plants and the trapdoor spiders. Aha, we said. That was the spark that made Kubu want to become a detective. He would train himself to look beyond the obvious.

By the time this larger-than-life character had visited the scene of the crime and interviewed the men who’d found the body, he made it clear to us that he had to be the main character. That came as a complete surprise. We thought we were in charge of the story.

But how well did we actually know him? 

During the series, we discovered he was smart and good at solving problems. He was happily married and sober almost all of the time. His character developed, his relationships with his wife, parents, and colleagues deepened, and he became more solid, more three-dimensional. 

But there was nothing that explained how he’d gone from school to being the star detective in the Botswana CID. It was not just a hole in his background but in a way, a gap in his character.

Diamonds have always been one of Botswana’s most important exports and allowed the newly independent country to flourish. The two richest diamond mines in the world are there, owned by a joint venture between the government and the diamond giant De Beers. The fact that the country was almost totally reliant on diamonds for its success made us wonder about the impact of a massive heist. Could it shake the country’s financial foundation?

We decided to address both the issue of Kubu’s early role in the CID and a robbery at the height of the diamond boom by writing a prequel to the series –a mystery that starts the day he joins the CID as a new detective straight out of university without ever having to be a constable on the beat. 

Immediately things started to take shape. Kubu’s first case is a minor matter concerning a few suitcases going missing at Gaborone airport. Yet it’s a challenging puzzle, and he loves it. However, the other detectives, who have come up in the CID the hard way, have no time for him. He has to struggle to find a place for himself. Then, a massive diamond robbery takes place, and suddenly everything changes. Everyone is thrown into the case, even the raw detective in his first week on the job.

As we wrote the prequel, we were delighted to watch Kubu develop, having insights, but also making the mistakes that only experience can avoid. He earns respect, but also opprobrium. Eventually, Kubu and his boss deduce who the mastermind behind the robbery actually is, but they have no strong evidence. Now they have to find some way to catch him, and they both find their careers on the line—in Kubu’s case, before his career has even begun. 

Writing Facets of Death was a journey of exploration for us. We learnt a lot about how Kubu became the CID’s best detective and about who he is as a person. We know him better now. 

It was fifteen years between putting fingers to keys for A Carrion Death and Facets of Death. We enjoyed writing the prequel just as much as the debut. We hope readers will enjoy the young Kubu’s journey also.

Facets of Death
A prequel to the award-winning Detective Kubu series

David Bengu has always stood out from the crowd. His personality and his physique match his nickname, Kubu—Setswana for "hippopotamus"—a seemingly docile creature, but one of the deadliest in Africa. His keen mind and famous persistence have seen him rise in the Botswana CID. But how did he get his start?

His resentful new colleagues are suspicious of a detective who has entered the CID straight from university, skipping the usual beat cop phase. 

Shortly after he joins the CID, the richest diamond mine in the world is robbed of 100,000 carats of diamonds in transit. The robbery is well executed and brutal. Police immediately suspect an inside job, but there is no evidence of who it could be. 

When the robbers are killed execution-style in South Africa and the diamonds are still missing, the game changes, and suspicion focuses on a witch doctor and his son. Does "Kubu" have the skill and the integrity to engineer an international trap and catch those responsible, or will the biggest risk of his life end in disaster?

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Monday, January 20, 2020

AUTHOR INTERVIEW--KELLY BRAKENHOFF

Today we sit down for a chat with cozy mystery author Kelly Brakenhoff who writes the Cassandra Sato Academic Mysteries. Kelly is also the author of a children’s picture book series illustrated by her sister. She says you should see her answer below about her childhood because the universe has an awesome sense of humor. Learn more about Kelly and her books at her website. 

When did you realize you wanted to write novels?
I don't remember not loving to read, and then writing followed soon afterwards. In elementary school, my younger sister and I made homemade comic books featuring dogs and cats. I wrote the words, and she did the illustrations. Think Garfield meets Snoopy. They were pretty bad. 

How long did it take you to realize your dream of publication?
This question makes me laugh and choke up at the same time. Forty years, if you count from those homemade comic book days in elementary school. Thirty years, if you count how long ago I graduated from college with my freshly embossed English degree in hand, ready to conquer the literary world. Twenty-six years, from when my first son was born, and I embraced my part-time career as an American Sign Language Interpreter and full-time motherhood. In between naps and trips to the children’s museum, I wrote newsletters, articles, and anything for whatever club or group asked me. Five years, since my first NaNoWriMo November after the kids had grown up and I finally had a break from PTO bake sales and bleacher butt from watching thousands of youth baseball games. I loved the challenge of writing 50K words in 30 days and seeing if I could really do what I’d always dreamed. Fourteen months, since I made the choice to stop querying traditionally and learn about indie publishing. 

Are you traditionally published, indie published, or a hybrid author?
Both of my series are indie published. I established my own imprint and hired experts for cover design and editing. My next dream is to use my publishing company to publish Deaf or Hard of Hearing authors who might not get opportunities from traditional publishers. Readers are interested in knowing what it’s like to live in the world as a person who hears differently or not at all, and who communicates through signed language instead of spoken languages. 

Where do you write?
Usually in my home office as far from the cookie jar as possible, but sometimes at the kitchen table for a change of scenery. I’m an extrovert so if I’m feeling lonely, I go to a local coffee shop to write, drink tea, and people watch.

Is silence golden, or do you need music to write by? What kind?
Before Dead Week, I could take music or leave it. And strictly instrumental movie or piano scores. This storyline included very feisty characters and dramatic moments. It was the first project I’ve written where I made a Spotify playlist filled with Girl Power songs and anthems that pushed me to take the characters further. The Dead Week playlist is public if you want to check it out! 

How much of your plots and characters are drawn from real life? From your life in particular?
Years ago, I met one of my best friends while my husband and I lived in Hawai’i. I’ve often wished she lived closer to me in Nebraska so we could hang out together in person. Of course, who in their right mind trades the sunny skies and sandy beaches of paradise for miles and miles of cornfields? Right, no one. 

When I began writing my novel in November of 2014, it was my chance to finally bring my wishes to life. So, I invented Cassandra Sato (who is only a little like my real-life friend) and moved her to fictional Carson, Nebraska, to see how she’d handle the face-freezing winters and ethnically homogenous people. 

Most days you’ll find me in a college classroom interpreting for deaf students attending their undergraduate classes. Many of the funny situations and dialogue are things I’ve seen or overheard on campus. One thing readers mentioned after my first book, Death by Dissertation, was how much they enjoyed learning about what life is like for deaf college students on campus. I thought Dead Week was a perfect opportunity to help people understand the world from their viewpoint a little more.  

For Dead Week, my Stuff I Want in this Book list included researching more about adoption, text-based emergency management systems, and Vietnam War protests. I threw in my day-job expertise as an ASL Interpreter and years of interacting with the Deaf Community to make people more aware of the important issue of equal access to public information in ASL and other languages. 

After mashing all of those elements together, I came up with a creative way to murder someone while checking off everything on my list. Easy peasy, right? 

Describe your process for naming your character?
Before writing one word, I asked my friend’s permission to “borrow” her career field and the moving to Nebraska premise for my books. Then I asked her if she could have any other name in the world besides her real name, what would it be? And she said Cassandra. Since the character is from a Japanese American family who migrated to Hawai’i, Sato seemed like a perfect last name.

Real settings or fictional towns?
Carson, Nebraska is a fictional town, but is surrounded by real town names. I used real locally famous names for the college and buildings. 

What’s the quirkiest quirk one of your characters has?
Professor Bergstrom, Cassandra’s mentor, is a philosophy professor who teaches a wildly popular Philosophy of Batman course and rattles off wise quotes to Cassandra during various situations. She tries to guess who belongs to the famous quote and she’s often wrong.

What’s your quirkiest quirk?
Part of being fluent in American Sign Language is that the grammar and stress of your sentences are shown through facial expressions. My family and friends tease me that my eyebrows and face are very expressive. I’m a lousy poker player.

If you could have written any book (one that someone else has already written,) which one would it be? Why?
Any of the Erma Bombeck books, like If Life is a Bowl of Cherries, What am I Doing in the Pits? She nailed the ups and downs of motherhood in all its emotional messiness. Although I could never be as funny as she was. She’s my idol.

Everyone at some point wishes for a do-over. What’s yours?
It’s not like my life has been all perfectly rosy, but do-overs are something I consciously avoid dwelling on. Every step on my path made me who I am today, and I don’t know if going back would be better.

What’s your biggest pet peeve?
Online stores that charge for shipping.

You’re stranded on a deserted island. What are your three must-haves?
The Lord of the Rings Trilogy. A nice pillow. A hat. (My skin burns pretty easily.)

What was the worst job you’ve ever held?
Envelope stuffer for an advertiser mailing business before email became available. I am not cut out for repetitive jobs.

What’s the best book you’ve ever read?
Aaack! That’s like asking which child is my favorite. Let’s say the Harry Potter series, because every time I read them, I notice something else.

Ocean or mountains?
Ocean!

City girl/guy or country girl/guy?
Mid-sized city

What’s on the horizon for you?
Currently I’m working on the next Cassandra Sato book, Dead of Winter Break, coming summer of 2020. Also, I’m finalizing the text for the next Duke the Deaf Dog book, Farts Make Noise, so I can hand it off to my sister for illustrations. 

Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself and/or your books?
Like I mentioned before, I’m an extrovert. And I’m shameless about wanting to talk to readers. I’d love it if you followed me on Facebook, Goodreads, BookBub, Amazon or wherever you like to hang out and talk about books. Because I love talking about books and not only mine. 

Dead Week
A Cassandra Sato Acdemic Mystery, Book 2

Will Dead Week kill Cassandra’s career?

VP of Student Affairs Cassndra Sato has a desk full of problems and it’s not even Thanksgiving break.

Cassandra’s new boss talks to her dead husband. Cassandra’s mentor thinks he’s a superhero in a senior citizen’s body. And Cassandra, recently moved from Hawai’I, can’t crack the code of what to wear during November in Nebraska.

Cassandra faces end of semester pranks, stray dogs, winter storms, and viral news stories in her fight for justice for a group of student activists. But that’s nothing compared to the wrath of a Helicopter Mom!

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Friday, January 17, 2020

BOOK CLUB FRIDAY--FROM ESCAPE ROOM TO HISTORICAL ROMANCE WITH GUEST AUTHOR LESLIE HACHTEL

Bestselling historical, historical paranormal, and romantic suspense author Leslie Hachtel has been a gypsy most of her adult life. Her various jobs, including licensed veterinary technician, caterer, horseback riding instructor for the disabled, and advertising media buyer have given her a wealth of experiences. However, it has been writing that has consistently been her passion. Today she joins us to tell how an escape room experience spawned an historical romance series. Learn more about Leslie and her books at her website and blog.

People always ask me where I get my ideas. The answer when asked about this series is an easy one. I originally got the idea in the strangest way. I went to an ‘escape room’. If you’ve never heard of one, it’s a place where you go and they “lock” you in a room with a theme. You have an hour to put together all the clues and find your way out. (Note: You’re not really locked in and they will let you out at the end of the hour-win or lose).

Here was our theme: Our room was an old ship and the story was we had been shanghaied. If we could not solve the puzzles and free ourselves, we would be taken to wherever the captain decided we should go. And we would have to serve him forever. Sadly, we did not win but they did let us out anyway. And the idea for the books was born. 

Then came the research. I loved the feeling of going back in time in that escape room. So, I wanted my books to be historical and with an exotic locale. After much reading, I discovered Sultan Moulay of Morocco. He was known as ‘the bloodthirsty’ and is said to have been not only ruthless, but managed to father over 900 children. It is true that in the 1700’s (and even earlier), women disappeared from various countries all the time and were never heard from again. It was believed they were captured and taken to a harem far away. Now, if that wasn’t an intriguing beginning, I have no idea what would be. 

One story led to another and now there are three. I definitely enjoyed the research and this was an eye opening time in history. I also learned some words in Arabic and the customs were fascinating.

I love it if you’d go with me on my journeys through time and locations. And, I’d love to hear from you.

Freed From Morocco
Morocco Series, Book 3

Snatched from her home and hijacked to Morocco, Lady Olivia prays for someone to come and save her. Help appears in the form of Tristan, the man she loves. He disguises himself as an English ambassador in order to rescue her, but he is betrayed. Now, she must find a way to help him. Can they escape? And will they ever be free from the clutches of the sultan?

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Wednesday, January 15, 2020

THE WRITING LIFE WITH MYSTERY AUTHOR ALICE ZOGG

Mystery author Alice Zogg was born and raised in Zurich, Switzerland.  She moved to New York City and then relocated to Southern California, where she has resided for more than forty years. She is an avid traveler and plays racquetball and golf. Learn more about Alice and her books at her website. 

When doing a panel event, we authors are often asked, “What made you become a writer?” or, “Have you wanted to become a writer since childhood?” Most of my peers answer the first question with an elaborate account of having always been passionate about the art of creative writing, and the second with a definite “yes.”

My answer to question number two is, “No.” As a child, I could have never sat still long enough to write a few paragraphs, let alone an entire book. As to why I became a writer, I’m a bit embarrassed, but the following is the truth:

Between Christmas and New Years’ of 2002, I went to the local bookstore looking for new reading material. I had read all the books ever written by my favorite authors— Agatha Christie, P. D. James, Dick Francis, and others—and I hoped to find some mystery novels penned by more contemporary authors. I came home two hours later empty handed. Here is the dialogue I had with my husband:

“Where are the books you bought?” he asked.

“I couldn’t find any that appealed to me.” 

“If you’re so picky, why don’t you write your own?”

His sarcastic remark went ignored at the time. But a couple weeks later, I thought, why not? And so I gave it a shot. In October of 2003, I published my first mystery novelIt was not as simple as I make it sound, but I basically taught myself how to write and do research. Since then, I have penned ten books in the R. A. Huber series and four stand-alone works. I write in the traditional mystery genre; in other words, neither cozy nor hardcore. 

My series’ protagonist, R. A. Huber, was born in Switzerland and came to the United States as a young woman, where she made her home. Longing for excitement after she retires, Huber starts a second career and opens a private investigating business in Pasadena, California. With each book the gutsy private eye’s cases take her on new journeys. She is called to places like Catalina Island, Lake Tahoe, and the Central Mexico region, all the way to Davos, Switzerland, then back in the US to the Big Bear Lake area, the balloon festival in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and to a location near Solvang, California. 

In Murder at the Cubbyhole, she stays close to home in Pasadena, where she gets a glimpse into the theater world, and in Guilty or Not, an investigation takes her and her sidekick Andi on a cruise to Alaska. Evil at Shore Haven is my tenth and final mystery in the series, where Huber goes undercover. She checks herself in as a resident at a senior community near the Ventura pier to investigate several sudden deaths that occurred at the facility.

I am working at improving my writing with each new book, and I am particularly proud of having penned my stand-alone mystery novels, A Bet Turned Deadly, Accidental Eyewitness, The Ill-Fated Scientist, and the most recent, No Curtain Call. I write for my own pleasure, and if readers enjoy my stories, I consider that a bonus.

No Curtain Call
When the curtain falls, the story begins...

Nick Fox, a retired sheriff’s department lieutenant, is trying to get his act together after nearly being blown up in a targeted explosion that cost him the loss of part of his leg and a kidney, resulting in his subsequent retirement. 

Then a friend asks him to investigate the death of his son, who died from an opioid overdose at the end of a musical performance at Citadel High School three-and-a-half years earlier. His friend insists that his kid would never do drugs or commit suicide. Instead, he suspects murder. 

Despite the trail being cold after the time lapse and a crisis within his own family, Fox cracks open the inactive case and takes another hard look. Can he finally raise the curtain on the killer?

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Monday, January 13, 2020

#COOKING WITH CLORIS--AUTHOR KRIS BOCK WHIPS UP CHERRY SCONES AND A CAT CAFE SWEET ROMANCE

Kris Bock writes romance, mystery, and suspense. Her Furrever Friends Sweet Romance series features the employees and customers at a cat café. Her romantic suspense novels, set in the Southwest, feature treasure hunting and archeology, along with intrigue. Learn more about Kris and her books at her website where you can also learn how to get a free Furrever Friends short story and printable copies of the recipes mentioned in future cat café novels. 

Have you heard about the growing trend of cat cafés? They're a recent phenomenon, but now you can find several hundred around the world. Each café partners with local shelters, choosing 15 to 20 healthy, sociable cats to house at the café. People can spend time with cats if they can't have a cat for some reason, or if they simply love the idea of hanging out with a bunch of cats. 

If you happen to fall in love with one, all the cats are available for adoption. For example, Catopia Cat Café in Albuquerque has had over 100 adoptions in its first year.

Some cafés charge an hourly fee, while others require a minimum food and drink purchase. In case you’re worried about health codes, no cats are allowed in the food prep areas. Either the café has a separate room for the cats, or all food is made and wrapped elsewhere.

My cat café series features a bakery, so I'm collecting wonderful recipes for baked goods. Each book has a recipe at the end, and I'll eventually put together a collection.

The recipe below is something my mother made on Christmas morning for many years. We have it for breakfast along with Mexican hot chocolate. Of course, it's good at any time of year. Now that the busy holiday season is over, but it's still cold in most places, how about curling up with a good book, a cup of hot tea, and one of these lovely scones?

Cherry Scones 
(featured in Coffee and Crushes at the Cat Café)

Ingredients:
1/2 cup dried cherries, cranberries, or currents
approx. 1/2-cup apple or grape juice
2 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 cup cold butter
1 egg
1/2 cup plain yogurt (full-fat preferred)
1 tsp. lemon or orange zest

Preheat oven to 375°

Soak cherries in juice for at least 10 minutes while you mix other ingredients.

Mix the flour and 1/4 cup of the sugar. Blend in the baking soda, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg. 

Cut in the butter with a pastry blender or two knives until the mixture has fine crumbs. 

Stir in the egg, yogurt, and zest. Drain the cherries or other dried fruit well. Mix them in.

Spray a baking sheet lightly with oil. Turn the dough onto the baking sheet. Pat it down into a 9-inch circle. Cut the dough into 8 wedges. Separate them slightly. Sprinkle with additional sugar if you want them to sparkle a bit.

Bake until golden and firm, about 20 minutes. 

Serve warm with butter, clotted cream, orange marmalade, or jam.

What would you serve at your cat café?

Coffee and Crushes at the Cat Café
A Furrever Friends Sweet Romance

What do you do when you meet the guy of your dreams? Set him up with your sister, of course.

Kari doesn't have time for love when she's opening her new cat café. Renovating an old restaurant, hiring employees, fighting with the health inspector – oh, and welcoming 16 shelter cats – keeps her plenty busy. She's doing this for the cats, the community, and most of all her family. The café will give her sister, Marley, a job worthy of her baking skills.

Then a tattooed military vet wanders in claiming to be a master baker himself. The café doesn't need another baker, but maybe Marley needs a man. Surely she'll fall for a guy this sweet, this sexy, this tasty.

Colin has other ideas. It's Kari who makes him want to pour on the sugar and turn up the heat. But he's spent the last two years recovering from physical and psychological wounds. Is he really ready for a relationship? He's not even sure he should commit to Samson, the fluffy marshmallow of a cat who steals his heart.

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