featuring guest authors; crafting tips and projects; recipes from food editor and sleuthing sidekick Cloris McWerther; and decorating, travel, fashion, health, beauty, and finance tips from the rest of the American Woman editors.

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Friday, July 30, 2021

#CRAFTING WITH ANASTASIA--MYSTERY AUTHOR PATY JAGER AND HER NEW SLEUTH'S UNIQUE HOBBY

Paty Jager is an award-winning author of fifty-one novels, eight novellas, and numerous anthologies of murder mystery and western romance. All her work has Western or Native American elements in them along with hints of humor and engaging characters. Paty and her husband raise alfalfa hay in rural eastern Oregon. Riding horses and battling rattlesnakes, she not only writes the western lifestyle, she lives it. Learn more about Paty and her books at her website and blog

Everyone Needs a Hobby

I have admiration and empathy for Indigenous people. I am inspired by their beliefs and culture, I have empathy for the way they have been treated, and I admire their facing all adversities. That is why I do my research, talk to people in the tribes I write about, and try my best to show the good and the bad of their lives. 

 

The main character of my new Spotted Pony Casino Mysteries is a female disabled veteran who grew up on the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Reservation. This is a reservation in NE Oregon where the Umatilla, Cayuse, and Walla Walla tribes were banished to during the treaties. There are also some Nez Perce from marriages and very few true Cayuse tribal members. They are a strong group of tribes who are resilient and have learned to use technology and embrace moving into the future all while also managing to hang onto their roots and culture.

 

 Dela Alvaro isn’t Indigenous. Her mother is Swedish and her father was Hispanic. She grew up on the reservation where her mother taught school. After school she joined the army and planned to make a career in the Military Police. However, while out on a mission, their jeep was hit by an IED. 

 

As a lower leg amputee, Dela has had to change her expectations for a job. She also has to learn how to deal with life as an amputee. I, nor anyone in my family, is an amputee. So I have been watching Youtube videos and have joined a Facebook group for lower limb amputees to read how they cope and the obstacles they come across. Reading some of their vents has helped me to better see how they feel and react to situations. 

 

I do this with any culture, occupation, or as in this case, disability I come across to help me portray the character as best I can. I take being as factual as possible in my fiction seriously. 

 

Knowing I had this post to write for Anatasia Pollack’s Killer Crafts and Crafty Killers blog, I decided Dela needs a hobby. Even as an amputee, she runs. She knows her body has to be in good condition to be able to do her job or any job with her disability. But I thought, she needs something she can do for herself. To ease the tension of her job and maybe take her out of herself, if that makes sense.

 

When you get to know her, you will understand why I didn’t pick hobbies like beading or weaving. Not something she would do. But music…They say music soothes. That is what Dela needs on her down time, something that soothes and lets her forget. I decided to have her play the Native American flute. Not only will she play them, but she is also learning how to make them. Of course, Dela won’t let anyone know she is making them until she feels she has made the best one she can make.

 

Having been in the Army for nearly two decades, she has to rejoin the civilians, which requires her friends and co-workers to draw her into their lives and make her feel comfortable. I am having a blast writing this character. I hope if you choose to read the book, you’ll enjoy getting to know Dela and her friends.  

 

Poker Face

Spotted Pony Casino Mystery, Book 1

 

Dela Alvaro is a disabled veteran who grew up on the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Reservation. When an IED in Iraq ended her military career, she came home to reassess her life and landed a job in security at the Indian run casino on the reservation. 

 

Not even a year into being the assistant to the head of security, Dela is promoted on a trial basis. When one of the casino employees is found stabbed and stuffed in a laundry chute, she knows she can kiss head of security good-bye if she doesn’t find the killer before the media gets hold of the story. 

 

While she is in over her head, she can’t decide if the FBI Special Agent called in to help is a blessing or a curse. It’s a man she ran across in Iraq who overrode her authority. When a second casino employee is killed, Dela has to decide if she can trust the special agent with not only keeping her job but keeping the rest of the casino employees safe. 

 

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Wednesday, July 28, 2021

AUTHOR AND FILMMAKER SHEA E. BUTLER ASKS, "WHAT'S IN A NAME?"


Shea E. Butler is a short story author and award-winning filmmaker. She was that kid who huddled under the covers after “lights out” reading a book by flashlight. Born in Cairo, Egypt to American parents living abroad, Shea is a US citizen and Permanent Resident of Canada who loves traveling. Her most awe-inspiring trip was a horseback riding safari through the Okavango Delta in Botswana. Nothing like being charged by two lions to get your creative juices flowing! Learn more about Shea and her work at her website.

What’s in a Name?

As a child, I had a plethora of animals from the mundane (goldfish, hamsters, dogs, cats) to the exotic (guinea hens, a racoon and even a baby alligator - who soon became a resident of the local zoo.) Deciding on a name for a pet was always a big deal. I was very serious about finding just the right name for each one of them. Sometimes it was difficult. Sometimes it was a fun game. Sometimes it took weeks. Other times it was magical and instantaneous. I just knew, as if the Universe was whispering in my ear. 

 

But why is a name so important?

 

Your name is the first impression someone has of you. It differentiates you from everyone else. It is your identity and your self-worth. It’s one reason prisoners are identified by numbers and slaves had their names stripped from them and given new ones. 

 

There’s power in a name. If something has a name, it’s real. It exists. There’s an old saying, “Knowledge is power.” From ancient times to modern day, religions, myths, and stories expound on that theme. There’s a belief that knowing someone’s true name gives you magical powers over them. In the Bible, naming the animals in Eden, gave humankind dominion over them. It is also cross cultural. Ancient Egypt, Greece, Japan, and Native Americans, to name a few, all have beliefs and myths about the power of someone’s true name. 

 

When creating fictional characters, it’s crucial to find their true name so you can ground them in the reality of your story. This pertains not only to your characters, but also to the world your characters inhabit and everyone and everything in it. The names you choose will reveal nuances to and the background of your characters including their upbringing, personality, family genealogy, religion, ideals, and beliefs, as well as cultural and historical influences of the times and places they’ve lived. 

 

Now, instead of agonizing over naming a childhood pet, I agonize over naming my fictional characters. I try out first names. Last names. Even middle names. I hand write out various combinations of names to see how they look. I verbalize names to get the “feel” of how they flow off my tongue, and how the names sound to my ear. I peruse old phone books, cemetery headstones, school yearbooks, libraries, film credits and I borrow, mix, and match names of my friends and family to create new names. For me, knowing the true names of my characters, like plot and story, is an essential part of writing. 

 

So, what’s in a name? Everything.

 

How do you name your characters? I’d love to hear how you find your characters’ true names.

 

Metamorphosis

Shea’s urban fantasy short story, “Metamorphosis,” will be published late 2021 in Scare Street’s upcoming Night Terrors anthology. “Metamorphosis” is centered around a vulnerable, young college student who, after a lethal attack, wakes up in the morgue transitioning into a black cougar. Calandra’s determined to survive in this new lifeform so she can hunt down her attacker and reap retribution. Things get interesting when her path crosses that of an LAPD Detective tracking the same killer. 

Monday, July 26, 2021

#CRAFTS WITH ANASTASIA--FORENSIC ARTIST CARRIE STUART PARKS CRAFTS A CLASSIC AGATHA CHRISTIE STYLE MYSTERY

Carrie Stuart Parks is an award-winning, internationally known forensic artist. She travels across the US and Canada teaching courses in forensic art to law enforcement professionals including the FBI, Secret Service, and RCMP, and is the largest instructor of forensic art in the world. Her bestselling mystery/suspense/thriller novels have garnered numerous awards. She has also written and illustrated bestselling art books. Learn more about Carrie and her books at her website.

 

I grew up on a ranch in north Idaho where we had cattle, horses, chickens, and dogs. Both my parents were expert horseback riders—with my dad a champion bareback bronc rider from his college days. I wanted to incorporate the horse element into my next mystery/suspense/thriller, Woman in Shadow. 

 

Originally the setting was the Stanley Basin of central Idaho, just a mountain pass away from Sun Valley. Overlooking the spectacular Sawtooth Mountain Ranges, Stanley has a population of around sixty-three in the winter but hosts several million visitors in the summer. I honeymooned there alongside the Salmon River in a rustic cabin. 

 

Instead, I invented the town of Targhee Falls, in Idaho near Yellowstone National Park. I wanted to write the Idaho version of the classic who-done-it Agatha Christie story—a group of people cut off from the outside with a killer running amok. The Mule Shoe Ranch is a “primitive facility” charging a fortune for very rich people to enjoy the great outdoors—while dining in a five-star restaurant and being pampered by the staff.

 

As in all my books, dogs are featured and in this case were actual characters. Maverick, an Anatolian Shepherd, and Holly, a lab mix. Holly is based on my editor’s dog and named in his honor.

One of Carrie's paintings

Another common feature of my books is introducing some type of forensic angle. Darby Graham, the protagonist, is a forensic linguist. I’m a forensic artist and use the deception angle of forensic language—statement analysis—to assess the statements of victims or witnesses of crime.

 

Woman in Shadow 

 

A woman off the grid. 

 

Darby Graham thinks she’s on a much-needed vacation in remote Idaho to relax. But before she even arrives at the ranch, an earthquake strikes. Then a barn on the edge of town is engulfed in flames and strange problems at the ranch begin to escalate, and Darby finds herself immersed in a chilling mystery.

 

A town on fire. 

 

More fires erupt around town, and a serial arsonist sends taunting letters to the press after each. As a forensic linguist, this is Darby’s area of expertise . . . but the scars her work has caused her are also the reason she’s trying to escape her life.

 

A growing darkness. 

 

As the shadows continue moving in, pieces of the town around her come into sharper focus. To make it out alive, Darby must decide if she can trust the one man who sees her clearly.

 

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Friday, July 23, 2021

EAVESDROPING ON AN INTERVIEW BETWEEN TWO OF AUTHOR LINDA LOVELY'S CHARACTERS

A journalism major in college, Linda Lovely has spent most of her career working in PR and advertising—an early introduction to penning fiction. With Neighbors Like These is Lovely’s ninth mystery/suspense novel. Whether she’s writing cozy mysteries, historical suspense, or contemporary thrillers, her novels share one common element—smart, independent heroines. Humor and romance also sneak into every manuscript. Today Linda lets us eavesdrop on an interview between two of her characters. Learn more about Linda and her books at her website.  

Deputy Sheriff Ibsen Interviews Kylee Kane

(Kylee and her friend Ted Welch have found and reported a corpse with an arrow in his chest and a deer head in his lap. This is the crime scene interview—interrogation—Deputy Sheriff Nick Ibsen wanted to conduct with ex-girlfriend, Kylee Kane, who dumped him after learning his macho, misogynist views.)

 

Deputy Ibsen: For the record, please state your full name, address, age, and occupation.

 

Kylee(Rolls her eyes.) Like you don’t know.

 

Ibsen: Answer my questions, or I’ll arrest you for obstruction. I’m in charge. State your name, address, age, and occupation.

 

Kylee: My name is Kylee Ann Kane. I live on a boat docked at the marina in downtown Beaufort, SC. I’m fifty years old, a Coast Guard retiree. 

 

Ibsen: So, you’re unemployed.

 

Kylee: Between jobs. Maybe I’ll run for sheriff. I know how much you’d enjoy having a woman as your boss.

 

Ibsen(Face gets redder.) That’ll be the day. How does putting around in a little puddle-jumper and boarding fancy yachts to count lifejackets qualify you for anything?

 

Kylee(Shaking her head.) Go ahead. Poke fun at the Coast Guard. You never listened when I explained all we do. Everything from keeping ports safe from terrorist attacks to catching drug smugglers and human traffickers. I’m a trained investigator. And I certainly learned more about investigating in the Coast Guard then you did as a grunt in the Marines. I’ve solved more crimes than you’ve investigated.

 

Ibsen: Well, pardon me, Miss High and Mighty unemployed investigator with no jurisdiction on Hullis Island. What were you doing cruising the island at midnight with this Welch fellow? Kind of suspicious you being the first at the murder scene.

 

Kylee(Takes deep breath.) Shortly before midnight, someone driving Dan Finley’s truck used his commercial tank to spray the lawn across from my mother’s house. Since Finley’s feuding with that neighbor, Ted and I suspected Finley was taking out his ire on the neighbor’s grass. When we drove to Finley’s house to confront him about the vandalism, we found his corpse. 

 

Ibsen: What? Were you sitting in your mother’s house using binoculars to play Peeping Penny when you “happened” to see this so-called vandalism? 

 

Kylee: Ibsen, there’s not a window in my mother’s house with a view of that neighbor’s yard. Ted and I were outside—an informal stakeout. We suspected Finley might vandalize the lawn while the owners were out of town. We also hoped to catch the person delivering hate mail to Mom’s mailbox. 

 

Ibsen(Grinding teeth.) What’s this about hate mail? What did your mother do? The old bat never has an opinion that doesn’t escape her lips. What’s she doing now to provoke her neighbors? 

 

Kylee: You have it backwards. The directors of the Hullis Island Owners Association provoked Mom and lots of her friends. They voted to allow a deer hunt inside the island’s nature preserve. Mom’s convinced the directors can’t make that decision without a membership vote. Whoever put the threatening postcard in Mom’s mailbox disagrees.

 

Ibsen: Your mother ought to think before she spews her nonsense. She’s just finished chemo, right? Probably addled her brain. If you were a good daughter, you’d explain that hunting is the best way to keep animal populations in check.

 

Kylee: Hunting is not the issue. You’re not listening again. When we lived in Iowa, Dad hunted quail and rabbits. Mom’s not anti-hunting. She objects to directors making decisions without consulting members. She only asks that they allow discussion of alternatives and put the question to a vote.

 

Ibsen: What’s your relationship with this Ted Welch? Are you doing the nasty with him?

 

Kylee(Sucks in a shocked breath.) Nasty? That might describe anyone having sex with you, but it wouldn’t apply it to most humans. My relationship with Ted is none of your business. However, since I quit seeing you, my taste in men has dramatically improved. If you’re going to ask any more questions along those lines, I want this conversation recorded. A witness would be nice, too. How about Ted?

 

Ibsen: I’ll talk to him later. See if your stories match. Why’s he mixed up in this anyway? Or are you going to tell me he’s an investigator, too? 

 

Kylee: No, Ted’s company manages the island’s HOA along with a dozen or more other homeowner associations in the Lowcountry. We wanted to talk with Finley to stop the vandalism before tempers in the pro-deer and pro-hunting contingents got any hotter.

 

Ibsen: Well, your boyfriend and you have done a Cracker Jack job. Poor management led to this Finley’s death. The arrow in his chest and the trophy deer head in his lap are clear giveaways. The killer is some Bambi lover gone berserk.

 

Kylee(Sighing.) Doesn’t matter what I say. You’ve already jumped to conclusions instead of investigating. Are we done?

 

Ibsen: Yeah, get out of here and stay away. The evidence is plain as day. Don’t do anything stupid to contaminate the crime scene or my investigation.

 

Kylee(Tongue almost bleeding from biting it. She turns and mumbles to herself.) Think it’s too late to keep stupidity out of this investigation when there’s an idiot in charge.

 

With Neighbors Like These

An HOA Mystery, Book 1 

 

Managing HOAs Can Be Murder

 

Murder victims in separate Lowcountry homeowner associations appear to have had only two things in common—they antagonized neighbors and their dead bodies were posed to shock. Are HOA feuds provoking these murders? Kylee Kane, a retired Coast Guard investigator, agrees to help her friend’s HOA management company find the answer. After uncovering decades-old links between the murder victims, Kylee IDs the killer’s next target. Can she foil the third act in the killer’s death-as-theater game or will she be the next corpse on display?  

 

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Wednesday, July 21, 2021

AN INTERVIEW WITH MRS. ALEXANDER FROM AUTHOR MARY VEE'S DETECTIVE CARHILL MYSTERY SERIES

Today we sit down for a chat with Mrs. Alexander (Elizabeth to her close friends), the main character in Justice for Elizabeth, the second book in the Detective Carhill Mystery Series by author Mary Vee. 

What was your life like before your author started pulling your strings? 

My estate is in Manhattan, and my husband is an accountant and partner at Markus, Alexander, Richards, and Chesterton, that is, he was. He is currently a resident at the Metropolitan Correctional Center. The truth is, I pulled Mary Vee’s strings. I needed Detective Carhill’s help and had no other way to ask him without her writing my story. You see, my family’s name was at stake, and the gossipers refused to believe my husband is innocent! I had no other choice. She had to stop all her projects and write this story.

 

What’s the one trait you like most about yourself? 

I have four friends who are very special to me. We’ve formed a group back in high school French class and called it Cinq Amis. Although we’ve lived all over the world since graduating, we’ve kept in touch, met in Paris several times, and speak only French to each other. Hah. The stories I could tell about Paris. Mmm. Yes. What a delightful city. One of my friends, Sylvia, went missing last Christmas. Her daughter called Detective Carhill to solve the case. He’s such a dear. I feel I could call no one else to help my Phillip.

 

What do you like least about yourself? 

I can’t imagine anything not to like about myself. I’m charitable, run my household, organize parties and teas. I’ve raised a high society daughter to carry on the family and employ a large staff. I hardly understand why the question was asked. 

 

What is the strangest thing your author has had you do or had happen to you? There was the time the maid was murdered in the kitchen. The whole event was quite frightening and ghastly. I don’t recall it helping us solve Phillip’s case. If anything, it complicated things. She’d only worked in the mansion a few days. I suppose I wonder why it couldn’t have happened elsewhere. Like in the woods beyond the grounds where it wouldn’t have created such a mess.

 

Do you argue with your author? If so, what do you argue about? 

We debated whether I should attend the fundraiser or not. I missed Phillip terribly that day, and a few gossipers had dug their claws into our name. I simply didn’t want to go. I was tired and didn’t want to deal with any person. Mary Vee, though, felt I should attend since I had organized the event. She suggested the gossipers would have more to say if I had stayed home. We compromised. I went but left early.

 

What is your greatest fear? 

That I’ll lose my husband. If he is found guilty and sent to prison, I don’t know what I’d do. Can you imagine the children’s hospital calling on a convict’s wife to organize a fundraiser? As it is, my hairdresser says several of her clients will change hairdressers if she continues doing my hair. I’ll have nothing to do. My life will be over. 

 

What makes you happy? 

Before page one of this story, I wanted nothing more than to have every event I organize turn out perfectly, my house in perfect order, and our name spoken highly of. After the last page? To be kissed by Phillip.

 

If you could rewrite a part of your story, what would it be? Why? 

Naturally, I would prefer my husband had never been set up for a crime he didn’t commit. With him in prison, I can’t attend events. A married woman of my stature should not make an appearance without an escort. Think of all the social obligations I’ve missed. I haven’t bought a new pair of shoes in days. The judge froze our assets. I explained what would happen if Mary Vee forced us to endure this travesty. We’d lose everything. Most importantly our good name. We’d reach the bitter end. But she insisted readers would want to walk this journey with me.

 

Of the other characters in your book, which one bugs you the most? Why? 

Lincoln Chesterton. Definitely. I truly am sorry his wife passed and can understand his feelings of loneliness. But I’m married. All right, so my husband Phillip is in prison during the trial leaving me alone in this huge estate. This doesn’t mean I want to renew a relationship with a man I dated in high school. From the moment he first asked to spend time with me, I knew he was the one who set up my Phillip. He has always disliked my husband.

 

Of the other characters in your book, which one would you love to trade places with? Why? 

Well, I hardly think I would delight in trading places with any other character. No one could run my household or live up to the expectations placed on a woman in my class, much less know which fork to use for the dessert. It’s not their fault. They haven’t been raised in high society as I have.  

 

Tell us a little something about your author. Where can readers find her website/blog? 

Mary Vee writes Never Give Up Stories (her brand). She was homeless for a time then earned an MA in Counseling and became a caseworker for low income and homeless people. She has worked with villagers living in the drug cartel mountains in Honduras and Native Americans living in tribal areas in Montana. She married an Air Force veteran and settled in Michigan. Mary writes for her King.

 

Mary attends one to two writing conferences every year, reads books on writing annually, and has completed years of writing courses. She uses what she has learned when writing articles posted on her website: TodaysWritersWorld.com where easy solutions for busy writers and readers can be found. 

 

Mary tutors young writers including international students, some she has met through her Instagram account. She speaks in schools as well as adult classes on writing topics. Her articles have been published in Horizon, Faces (distributed to schools across the nation), Focus on the Family Clubhouse Jr., ACSI Exemplary Programs, and others. 

 

Learn more about Mary and her books at her website. https://TodaysWritersWorld.com

 

What's next for you? 

With the case solved by the last page of my story, Justice for Elizabeth, Phillip and I have made plans to take a cruise. We need to talk. Far away from here. Get to know each other. Do you know he kissed me this morning and said he liked my dress! Oh, and we’ve decided to adopt the maid’s son. I simply couldn’t send him off to an orphanage.

 

As for Mary Vee, she is working on her next book, reading, and writing articles for her website when not traveling. I hear she is planning a trip to Greece this fall.

 

Justice for Elizabeth

A Detective Carhill Mystery, Book 2


High society woman, Elizabeth Alexander, can’t possibly fulfill her societal obligations with her husband locked away in prison.

 

The gossipers won’t believe he is innocent. Her family’s name is at stake unless she finds the person who set up her husband.

 

Detective Carhill recently helped one of the Cinq Amis, Elizabeth’s dearest friends. The man kept the entire ordeal from inking the papers and solved the case quickly, as he promised. 

 

Elizabeth is running out of time. Unless Carhill solves the case, and soon, the Alexander family name will forever be worthless.

 

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Monday, July 19, 2021

MYSTERY AUTHOR JACKIE LAYTON COLLECTS SHELLS ON PAWLEYS ISLAND

Mystery author and former Kentuckian Jackie Layton loves her new life in the Low Country. Jackie enjoys time on the beach despite one vacation that ended with cracked ribs from riding her boogie board with the kids and another trip that ended up with a hook in her foot and a trip to the emergency room. There’s nothing like time at the beach, although she tends to be a bit more cautious these days. Learn more about Jackie and her books at her website. 

Pawleys Island Shell

I moved to Pawleys Island, South Carolina in April 2019. My husband and I have always loved the beach, and when he was offered a job in this area, we were excited. There are so many reasons we love the beach, and looking for shells is one of them. Where else can you go for a walk and discover so many treasures? I mean, the ocean hits the beach and leaves behind a variety of shells. On a really good day, you can hear them jingle against each other in the water before hitting land. 

 

When we settled here, I heard people talking about the Pawleys Island shell before I ever found one. I’ve collected shells for years, and of course I wanted to find this shell.

 

Locals told us the Pawleys Island shell could only be found here, but I struggled to find one. We asked for clues. Some people told us to look at the north end of the beach. Others suggested we should look near the walkways onto the beach at low tide. Others said look around the pier. 

 

We tried these tips. My husband and I often thought we had found one of these unique shells until we picked it up. A Pawleys Island shell is fan-shaped. It comes in colors like red, brown, tan, and even green on a creamy background. The ridges are thick and smooth. It’s a calico scallop shell, and it can also be found on the neighboring Litchfield Beach. 

 

We found our first Pawleys Island shell at the most northern point of the island at low tide. After we found our first one, it became easier to find more. We’ve developed an eye for these little gems. If you ask me for tips, my only advice would be to keep looking.

 

A local jeweler created a collection of silver and gold Pawleys Island shells, and he helped increase the popularity of this unique ocean treasure.

 

It turns out the Pawleys Island shell is also known as the Imperial Venus Clam. I won’t argue with science, but I’ll always think of it as the Pawleys Island shell.

 

A Low Country Dog Walker Mystery series is set in this area of South Carolina. The town of Heyward Beach is a fictional setting based on some of my favorite beaches, including Pawleys Island.

 

Bite the Dust

A Low Country Dog Walker Mystery, Book 1

Secrets can be deadly.

One steamy South Carolina morning, Low Country dog walker Andi Grace Scott discovers a client’s dead body. Police quickly decide she’s the prime suspect. Horrified, she knows she’ll have to turn detective if she’s going to convince them they’re barking up the wrong tree.

 

Proving her innocence could be a tall order. The local police never solved the hit-and-run that killed her parents; Andi Grace isn’t sure they’ll solve this crime either…not when they have a convenient suspect—one caught with the possible murder weapon in her hand. She’ll have to follow every clue and call in every favor, even if that puts her in danger.

 

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Friday, July 16, 2021

BOOK CLUB FRIDAY--AN INTERVIEW WITH SGT. WINSTON WINDFLOWER FROM AUTHOR MIKE MARTIN'S SGT. WINDFLOWER MYSTERIES

Today we sit down for a chat with Sgt. Winston Windflower from the award-winning Sgt. Windflower Mysteries by author Mike Martin.

What was your life like before your author started pulling your strings?

I liked my life, but it wasn’t as interesting as it is now. It seems there’s a lot more people in my life. Even an occasional ghost.

 

What’s the one trait you like most about yourself?

I am kind. I have a soft heart, and I think that makes me a better person. And even a better police officer.

 

What do you like least about yourself?

I am impatient. Not a great trait for a Mountie when most police work is actually spent waiting. My children are teaching me patience, though.

 

What is the strangest thing your author has had you do or had happen to you?

Oh boy, so many things. Mostly silly stuff with my kids like being a judge on their American Idol game. Or falling down a mine shaft in the middle of nowhere. Actually, he inflicts a lot of injuries on me. I hope you feel sorry for me.

 

Do you argue with your author? If so, what do you argue about?

All the time. I tell him my story and how he should write it. Then he asks other characters for their opinions. Often the story turns out completely different from the one I planned.

 

What is your greatest fear?

It used to be getting shot. But now it’s if something were to happen to my wife and children. I still don’t want to get shot, by the way. Please tell my author.

 

What makes you happy?

I am a simple guy. My ideal day would be a picnic with my family or going fishing with my friend. I am grateful for what I have and that makes me happy. Usually.

 

If you could rewrite a part of your story, what would it be? Why?

I don’t think so. I have a great life and it just keeps getting better. One person who read one of the books called me Canada’s friendliest Mountie. I like that.

 

Of the other characters in your book, which one bugs you the most? Why?

I actually like most of the other characters. But I occasionally butt heads with the higher ups in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. They don’t understand life at the working level. And the criminals are pretty creepy. But most of them are sick people so it’s hard to get too mad with them.

 

Of the other characters in your book, which one would you love to trade places with? Why?

I like Herb Stoodley’s life. He runs the Mug-Up cafĂ© with his wife in Grand Bank and knows a lot about trout fishing and classical music. He’s teaching me about both.

 

Tell us a little something about your author. Where can readers find her website/blog?

Mike Martin was born in St. John's, NL on the east coast of Canada and now lives and works in Ottawa, Ontario. He is a long-time freelance writer, and his articles and essays have appeared in newspapers, magazines and online across Canada, the United States, and New Zealand. Learn more about Mike and his books at his website.

 

What's next for you?

I’m telling my author the story for the next book in the Sgt. Windflower Mystery series. I’d tell you about it, but then I’d have to kill you. Just joking!!

 

Safe Harbor

A Sgt. Windflower Mystery, Book 10


Sgt. Windflower in a special assignment in St. John's and adjusting to life in the big city. He is navigating traffic, a difficult boss at work, and what seems like an epidemic of missing girls. He becomes more interested when he discovers that one of the girls is from Grand Bank. Then a girl approaches his RCMP van one night and he is pulled into the underlife of the capital city. But he still manages to enjoy all of the good things in life. His family, old and new friends, and the love of living so close to the Atlantic Ocean.

 

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Wednesday, July 14, 2021

THE WRITING LIFE WITH SUSPENSE AUTHOR KIERSTIN MARQUET

Kierstin Marquet is an award-winning author who writes clean, high octane, and often humorous psychological suspense stories where families vs. criminals. She uses her degree in criminal justice and minor in psychology to create authentic characters she hopes readers will want to continue reading about late into the night. Learn more about her and her books at her website. 

My writing journey began in an unusual way. I suffered from insomnia in elementary school. One night I was crying because I couldn’t sleep. My dad, a sheriff’s deputy, had just come home from work and heard me. I can still hear the creaky-squeaky sound his gun belt makes when it rubs against the keepers holding it in place as he dropped to a knee beside my bed and asked what was wrong. After I explained the problem, he said, “You like kittens. Why don’t you tell yourself stories about kittens on swing sets and slides at a playground?”

 

Ever since then, I have dealt with my lifelong insomnia by telling myself stories to go to sleep. When I began writing about the nightly adventures into my imagination, I was terrified people would think they were cheesy, so I kept them to myself.


I followed in my dad’s footsteps and acquired a degree in criminal justice with a minor in psychology, but I left crime-fighting to my federal agent husband when we started a family.

 

I was in my mid-thirties before I told the first person—my husband, whom I’d been married to for over a decade—that I wrote stories.

 

Before we moved to the Middle East for his job in 2007, I grabbed a bunch of books on sale from the library to have something to read while I was overseas.

 

One of the books had a male main character who had been unjustly incarcerated in prison for murder. He escaped and was so desperate to find the real killer, he kidnapped a woman and forced her to help him. I thought of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 1985 movie Commando. Arnie’s character kidnapped a flight attendant to help him rescue his missing daughter.

 

Excited about an adventure with action and a touch of romance, I dove into the former library book. By chapter two, the main characters were falling into bed hopelessly “in love”. I stopped reading and thought a few things in rapid succession:

 

That’s lust, not love—they’re totally different.

 

How could she REALISTICALLY fall in love with her kidnapper without it looking like Stockholm Syndrome?

 

As ideas started flowing, I thought, “I can write a better story.”

 

The plot needs to be DIFFERENT from the library book.

 

What crime could my male character commit that makes him terrified of the police?

 

In order for him to be a sympathetic character, his crime couldn’t be morally reprehensible.

 

I made the girl he kidnaps the daughter of a sheriff’s deputy and the twists and turns began.

 

But the twists and turns in my real life had just begun. After spending twelve hours a day for two weeks writing, I told my husband, “I need to try to get published in order to justify the amount of time I’m spending on the computer.”

 

My husband, Captain Awesome, responded by giving me five How to Write a Novel type books for Christmas. At first, I was insulted, THEN I began reading them. They changed my life. I devoured sixteen more, and they fed my fervor.

 

In 2013, I won a first chapter contest in the suspense category and was offered a publishing contract. The “name” I would publish them under became an issue. It’s not uncommon for horrible people to stalk, harass, and harm law enforcement officers and their families. Exposing my real name to the world might attract more attention than we wanted. I’d grown up with the threat, so when my husband requested that I use a pen name, I didn’t fuss.

 

But what name?

 

It didn’t take long for me to recall the name of a child I’d met years ago. While on duty, my dad responded to a call and then brought Kierstin to our house until the Division of Child and Family Services could take her. She was around eight years old, shoelace-slender, and had such severe bruises on her body her school had called the sheriff’s department. She stayed with us for a short time, then left with DCFS.

 

Years later, I asked my dad what happened to her. He said, “Oh, honey. The family moved to Idaho and her stepfather killed her there.”

 

That rocked me to the core of my being. Taking Kierstin’s name became a way of memorializing her. Because of kids like her, I grew up with an insatiable need to rescue victims both on the page and in real life.

 

Shattered Lives 

In Shattered Lives, the Aurelian Society Series starter, you’ll meet the teenagers living hundreds of miles apart whose lives become inexorably tangled in a fight to survive hitmen working for a criminal syndicate.


Eighteen-year-old mechanic Tommy Galvez and his family struggle to make it out of a drug and gang-infested San Diego barrio the legal way. Their well-intentioned choices lead to disastrous consequences.


In Mountain Green, Utah, eighteen-year-old Ashten Mason enjoys a life built with cookie-cutter perfectionism and plans of graduating from WSU early. Tragedy strikes when she’s accused of helping her boyfriend cheat on exams. Her pending expulsion leads Ashten to make decisions she’ll regret for the rest of her life. 

 

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Monday, July 12, 2021

AUTHOR M. ELLE KELSO ON RESEARCHING FOR RANCH-SET NOVELS

M. Elle Kelso is a Canadian writer who crosses genres from western/action, paranormal and suspense. But they all have one thing in common—a little hint of romance. Learn more about her and her books at her website. 

Git along little dogies…

...not doggies, as I see written in some places. And for those of you who don’t know what a dogie is...it’s a motherless calf. 

 

That's just one of the mistakes I’ve seen in books when authors, like me, don’t know everything there is to know about their subject, yet write as though they do.

 

One of my favorite things to hate is reading about cows. Cows are a thing. But the chances of every animal in the herd on a good-sized cattle ranch being a cow are slim and next to none. Maybe even none. The actual fact is that a lot of that herd will be steers. That’s a neutered bull calf allowed to mature to beef weight. Or some may be heifers (pronounced heffers for all you non-farm people.) That’s the young females who haven’t been bred yet. The rest will be cows, and maybe, depending on the animal himself and the time of year, one or even two, could be bulls. 

 

The reason I say time of year is that there likely wouldn’t be a bull in a pasture full of cows who are ready to be bred unless that is why the bull is there in the first place. And if that’s the case, there won’t be any steers in the pasture or likely even heifers unless they’re to be bred to that specific bull as well. Hormones are just as wild in animals as they can be in people.

 

The same thing can apply to horses in many ways, but there are definitely some things you wouldn’t want to do. You’d never put more than one stallion in the same pasture with another if there is even the slightest possibility of one of the mares coming into heat, and it is usually inadvisable to pasture two stallions at any time. Stallions and gelding will get along since the gelding isn’t moved by hormones—his or of any other horse. Mares cycle on an approximately 21-day cycle of seven days in heat, fourteen out. Length of daylight will affect most mares, and they will be out of heat from autumn, through winter and back in come spring. 

 

And again, terminology in horses can be hard to understand and get right.

 

Foals are all babies. Colts are male foals up to three years old. Then they are assumed to be ready to be used for breeding and are called stallions or studs. Fillies are female colts up to three years old, then are called mares and are usually ready to be bred. 

 

Other horsey terminology are things like the type of horse: draft (working horses, usually bigger and heavier than) light or saddle breeds (those horses used in many sports such as rodeo, jumping, eventing, driving) I could write an entire book on just how many breeds there are, what their uses are and how to identify them, but instead I’d advise you to go to your search bar and type in ‘types of horses’. Then go to the Wikipedia page. You’ll find more than you ever wanted to know on that site. 

 

Just know that if you don’t do that and describe a Quarter horse as a dressage horse, you’ll be laughed at, or the book will end up against a wall.

 

Once you have figured out what kind of cattle or horses your ranch will be stocked with, make sure to find out exactly how many of each kind can be supported by the land mass you’ve chosen for the ranch. Like I said in an earlier blog, 100 cattle on ten acres won’t fit—they’d be standing on top of each other.

 

In No Bull I used quarter horses and Herefords. Both are farm or ranch use animals. Hereford cattle are beef cattle. Unless you’re talking about a dairy farm, the word Holstein should never show up in a ranching book. 

 

That’s just some of the problems with linguistics you run up against when writing western placed novels. Tread carefully to avoid becoming a laughingstock.

 

If you need help, feel free to contact me at mellekelso@gmail.com. I’m happy to assist if I can.

 

Ring Shy

Cyber Cowboy Series, Book 1

 

Meet the Cyber Cowboys—a tough bunch of private eyes who know computers and the law inside out and backward. Every time they step out of their computer-P.I. boots—answer a call that doesn’t include black-hat hackers, online hustlers and fraudulent con artists—they meet nothing but trouble. Attempted murder, arson, rustling, and abduction they can handle. Falling in love sends them looking for the ‘help’ button. Computers? Artificial intelligence has nothing to do with it! In every case, these laid back investigators have to get down and dirty to save the women they love. They help multi-national companies and governments fix their problems...but when trouble hits and love gets involved? They’re the ones who need rescuing

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The Corbin, Taylor & Wynn Investigative Agency is three men (Blake Corbin, Jared Wynn and David Taylor) who’ve been in business together for years. The agency is headquartered in Cheyenne, Wyoming when the series begins but soon moves to the foothills of the Big Horn Mountains. Business is so good they hire additional investigators and even the new guys aren’t immune to the trouble love can cause.

 

The Cyber Cowboys series is four stories of romantic suspense and skullduggery set in Wyoming and Oregon. Additional stories may augment the series based on the characters who work for the agency. 

 

In Ring Shy lawyer-rancher-investigator Blake Corbin is hired by Kaycee Morgan’s father Patrick to find out who is trying to kill her. Vandalism escalates to arson and attempted murder in a vendetta against Kaycee and her show dog kennel. Black, the help from his partners and a few friends in the Portland Police Department, corrals the bad guy and lassoes the girl.

 

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