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Wednesday, February 28, 2024


Today we sit down for a chat with Gabriela (Gabi) Espinosa from author Virginia Kelly’s Gabi Espinosa Mystery Series. 

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

I was playing it safe, raising my fifteen-year-old in a small town in the Florida Panhandle. Turner’s Crossroads became a safe haven when, at age eleven, my parents died, and I moved in with my paternal grandmother. I’d been living in Peru with my Peruvian mother and American father, and although I didn’t fit in with the town, I adjusted. So when my life turned upside down, I came back to Turner’s Crossroads.


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

I don’t gossip in a town full of gossips.


What do you like least about yourself?

I’m big on avoiding painful emotions.


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

I used a wooden cutting board as a self-defense tool.


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

It’s been more of a disagreement about how to handle two people in my life. To deal with a gossipy, grumpy employee, I prefer patience. My author believes a serious talk will make a difference. She forgets I’ve tried that. Then there’s my problem patron (I’m a librarian, but then so is my author). He requires patience as well as acceptance. But when his behavior suddenly changed, I altered my approach, which meant chasing answers.


What is your greatest fear?

Losing a loved one.


What makes you happy?

My daughter and living a safe, no-more-shocks, quiet life.


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

My husband would not have been murdered. If he were alive… Well, my life would be totally different. I would not have moved back to Turner’s Crossroads. I would still work in a large academic library, and I wouldn’t fear losing anyone else.


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

It’s a toss up between Ryker Fordham, my always-a-problem patron, and Mark Stone, the new deputy. Mr. Fordham (he was a friend of my late father’s) always complained about some library books, but his personality, odd to say the least, took a sudden nosedive. Mark Stone bugs me because I can’t figure him out. He’s impossible to read. Why he ever came to our little backwater is a mystery.


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

Not to trade places, but I’d love to adopt my friend Rhonda’s attitude about life. She knew how to live her life fully, her way.


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

My story, an amateur sleuth mystery, is Virginia’s ninth published title. Fully indie, she regained the rights to her traditionally published books. She stumbled into my life after writing romantic suspense novels for years. Why Tangled Secrets is a mystery, is… well, a mystery. Virginia’s one of those writers who sits down to write with barely any plan—a pantser. You can find more about her and her other books at her website


What's next for you?

Virginia’s putting me through another journey to, as she calls it, “complete my character arc.” It’s a rather daunting process, one I’m not sure I can handle. But she’s pulled others I’ve met in her books through their character arcs, so I’ll continue to believe in her ability to guide me through mine.


Tangled Secrets: A Gabi Espinosa Mystery


Turner’s Crossroads, where nothing happens… Until it does.


Reeling from her husband’s murder, librarian Gabriela Espinosa took her young daughter and sought refuge in the perceived safety of her tiny hometown in the Florida Panhandle. Six years later, the murder of her best friend shatters her sense of security and threatens the walls Gabi built to protect herself from grief.


Suspicion falls on an old friend of her late father’s. Though the man is troubled, Gabi believes he’s incapable of violence. In his defense, she begins asking questions which put her at odds with the local sheriff’s department and a mysterious new deputy. 


As she uncovers a tangle of complicated relationships, there’s a second murder. With fear resonating through the town’s sleepy façade, Gabi confronts a dark past that lays bare Turner’s Crossroads’ secrets, putting her, and her daughter, in danger.


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Wednesday, February 21, 2024


Award-winning and NY Times bestselling author Patricia Crisafulli writes the Ohnita Harbor Mystery Series. The second in the series was published this past September. She earned a Master of Fine Arts degree from Northwestern University, where she received the Distinguished Thesis Award in Creative Writing. Learn more about Patricia and her books at her website.

Why I Write Mysteries—and Why Readers Need Them

I stood before a panel of editors and agents seated at a long table and gave my best pitch for my novel-in-progress. To my thinking, this was women’s literary fiction centered around a strong female protagonist, Gabriela—a single mom who had to leave her dream job as an authenticator in New York City and return to her hometown where she works at a financially beleaguered library. The plot ignites around the discovery of a curious object donated to the library’s rummage sale, which turns out to be a medieval artifact.


When I finished my short pitch (a minute—maybe two), an editor who had worked at major publishing houses, spoke up: “You know what you’ve written, don’t you? Small town, quirky characters, an artifact. You add a couple of murders and you’ve got a great mystery.”


What happened at that conference a few years ago became a pivotal moment in my writing life. I became a mystery writer, which led to the publication of the first two novels in my Ohnita Harbor Mystery Series—The Secrets of Ohnita Harbor and The Secrets of Still Waters Chasm.


Why hadn’t I embraced the mystery genre earlier? Truthfully, I needed an outside perspective—an expert’s eye—to see what was already there in my story. 


In mysteries, I have found a great way to explore a theme that I absolutely love to write about—the intersection between the ordinary and the extraordinary. It’s the hero’s journey—the protagonist’s quest of discovery about herself and the world around her. It takes an inciting incident for that journey to begin—and that’s what a mystery provides!


In the opening scene of The Secrets of Still Waters Chasm, Gabriela and her new love interest Daniel are hiking through the pristine wilderness surrounding a remote chasm. Then suddenly, this outing turns much darker. On the shore of a deep-water lake at the bottom of the chasm, Gabriela and Daniel find a man convulsing with his last breaths. Not far away is a woman—body cold and her face ashen. After frantically trying to revive the two people with CPR, Gabriela and Daniel rush back up the trail for help, but when they return the bodies are gone. Gabriela begins to doubt her own judgment.


“She knew what she’d seen: the man’s body tensing in a seizure and the woman completely lifeless with no pulse. How could they suddenly feel better, clean themselves up, pack their stuff, and paddle away in a canoe? It was impossible, she told herself, except that was what appeared to have happened.”


The twists and turns of the plot not only advance the story, but also unfold a rich emotional topography—anger, fear, sadness, jealousy, hope, longing, love. Gabriela is confronted with all these feelings as she becomes embroiled in the investigation of what happened at the chasm and a nefarious business development that threatens to destroy the wilderness—plus authentication of yet another artifact (in The Secrets of Still Waters Chasm, it’s a 200-year-old nautical schematic). She encounters a host of characters, including an herbalist with an encyclopedic knowledge of plants for healing and for harm. Soon, Gabriela doesn’t know who or what to trust—including her own instincts.


And this brings me to why I believe we need mysteries—and for more than just their immense entertainment value. Mysteries are an exercise in critical thinking. They teach us to look beyond the surface. We ask more questions, dig more deeply, and seek out clues and connections that lead to answers that were previously hidden from us. 


Now tell me, in today’s uncertain world, isn’t that exactly what we all need? As we look beyond what appears at our feet or just beyond our noses, we see the bigger picture and broader issues. I’d like to think my Ohnita Harbor Mysteries help to serve that mission—to explore those extraordinary moments that intersect and interrupt our ordinary lives and lead us to bigger discoveries about ourselves and the world around us.


To me, that’s a great motivation to write—and read—mysteries.


The Secrets of Still Waters Chasm

An Ohnita Harbor Mystery, Book 2


On a beautiful September afternoon, a hike through the pristine wilderness of Still Waters Chasm becomes a path of deadly danger. On the shores of a deep lake, Gabriela Domenici and her boyfriend, Daniel Red Deer, find a man convulsing with his last breaths, not far from the body of a lifeless woman. But by the time help arrives, the bodies are gone. As Gabriela is pulled deeper into the mystery, she encounters a host of enigmatic characters -- from an herbalist with an encyclopedic knowledge of plants for help and harm to a young woman with an old drawing of unknown origin who desperately wants to sell it. Soon Gabriela's forays in and around the chasm put her on a collision course with those who will stop at nothing to prevent her from getting too close to the truth. 


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Wednesday, February 14, 2024


Today being Valentine’s Day, I thought I’d invite my dear friend and fellow amateur sleuth Samantha Newman back to the blog. (There's also a surprise at the end of this post, so keep reading!)

Some of you may remember that Sam dropped by Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers back on November 15th. For those of you who haven’t yet met her, Sam woke up one morning to discover her author, Gay Yellen, had shanghaied her life and turned her into an amateur sleuth. Sound familiar? Lois Winston did the same to me. Just as I now spend my days dealing with murder and mayhem in the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries, Sam now spends her days dealing with murder and mayhem in the Samantha Newman Mysteries.

Also, like my author, Sam’s author gave her a carrot in the form of a romantic interest. I have Zachary Barnes, and Sam has Carter Chapman. However, just like Lois, Gay couldn’t leave well enough alone. Like Zack, Carter may possibly be involved in clandestine government operations. The truth is on a need-to-know basis, and neither Lois nor Gay feel Sam and I need to know. Which, of course, creates all sorts of tension between us and our authors, not to mention between us and the men in our lives.


But it’s Valentine’s Day. I really don’t want to think about covert ops and alphabet agencies. Sam has decided likewise. So, we thought we’d share our perfect Valentine’s Day with you. Hopefully, our guys are reading this and will take the hint.


I’m thinking a private island resort with individual bungalows, free of interruptions from teenagers or a communist mother-in-law and her minions, and where we wouldn’t stumble over a dead body between the main course and desert. 


Once we arrive, we’d partake in a couple’s massage before a candlelight champagne dinner prepared and served by a private chef on our secluded patio. A string quartet would serenade us, and we’d slow-dance in the moonlight between courses. Dinner would begin with a Crab Louie salad served over a bed of bib lettuce, followed by escargot stuffed mushrooms. For an entrée we’d dine on pan seared scallops in a lemon-caper beurre blanc with roasted asparagus and truffle mashed potatoes. The meal would end with raspberry crème brûlée and hand-dipped chocolate truffles.


After dinner, we’ll curl up in bed to watch Singing in the Rain (because unlike most of my other favorite movies—CasablancaShakespeare in LoveSame Time Next Year, and La La Land—it has a happy ending), before turning out the lights. You’ll have to imagine what happens next since we live within the pages of cozy mysteries.


So, Sam. What’s your idea of a perfect Valentine celebration?


Wow, Anastasia, a private island is the perfect romantic escape from your wacky family! I’ll keep it in mind for another time. After my last scrape with a killer, I feel the need to be cocooning with Carter at his ranch in the hill country. Whenever he’s around, he loves to pamper me, so he’d cook, of course. A creamy vichyssoise to start—it tastes like something they eat in heaven. Maybe a gorgeous steak to follow, with lobster tails and a bottle of wine from the neighboring vineyard. Afterward, we’d sit by the fire drinking port in the library and listening to Miles Davis or Samara Joy. At some point, he’d start to massage my shoulder, and then we’d...oops, almost forgot that we’re in cozy land... Let’s just say, we’d get cozy!


In the morning, he’d make coffee and pancakes with maple syrup and fresh blueberries. We’d go for a horseback ride in the rolling hills around the ranch. Just when I start feeling that life could always be like this, he gets a message, heads off to who-knows-where, and another perfect Valentine’s Day bites the dust. Good thing I’m used to it by now.


Well, that sounds lovely, Sam (except for Carter rushing off, of course!) But since Zack is the gourmet chef in our family, and I’m more the microwave or oven-baked casserole queen, having him whip up our Valentine dinner wouldn’t be much of a holiday for him. Besides, he might get some ideas from the private chef and surprise me once we’re home. ;-)


My biggest worry, though, is knowing my author as I do, we’ll wake up the next morning and find the body of the private chef or one of the string quartet dead on the patio—and not from natural causes! Lois has a way of throwing a monkey wrench into any romantic interlude she allows me. We both know Gay is the same way with you. 


On second thought, maybe we’d just better stay home and order a heart-shaped pizza.


Oh well, pizza’s good. But what if the delivery guy is a serial killer?

The Samantha Newman Mysteries

All Samantha Newman wants is a good job, a place to call her own, and a chance at love. But in her rollercoaster life, things don’t come easy. Just when success seems possible, a dead body show up and Samantha's in the hot seat. If she didn’t have a sense of humor, she’d really go crazy. In the Samantha Newman Mysteries—The Body BusinessThe Body Next Door, and The Body in the Newsyou’ll laugh and maybe shed a tear as she wades through minefields in search of the life she wants to live.

The Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries

Crafts and murder don’t normally go hand-in-hand. However, normal deserted magazine crafts editor Anastasia Pollack’s world the day her husband permanently cashed in his chips in Las Vegas. That’s when her comfortable middle-class life crapped out. Now she's dealing with debt greater than the GNP of Uzbekistan, her husband’s mob-connected loan shark is demanding fifty G’s—or else, and she's stuck with her communist mother-in-law as a permanent houseguest. Life then leaps from how-do-I-dig-myself-out-of-this-hole? to how-do-I-keep-from-getting-killed? when the first dead body shows up.

There are now twelve books and three novellas in this humorous, critically acclaimed, and bestselling mystery series.

And now for the surprise!

For those of you who haven't read Assault with A Deadly Glue Gun, the first book in the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries, it's currently on sale for a limited time for only .99 cents at Amazon, B&N, Kobo, and Apple.

Saturday, February 10, 2024



Ever wonder what goes through the mind of a mystery author? Where she gets her ideas? Who inspired her characters? Join cozy mystery author Lois Winston Monday evening, February 12th for a Cozy Mystery Takeover Party on Facebook or via Zoom: 7pm ET, 6pm, CT, 5pm MT, and 4pm PT. 

Was Lois's sleuth's communist mother-in-law based on a real person? Does Lois own a Shakespeare-quoting parrot? Learn these things, plus anything and everything else you've ever wanted to know about Lois (within reason!), the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries, and her other books during this fun event Best of all? There will be prizes!

Wednesday, February 7, 2024


Today we sit down for a chat with mystery author Cindy Goyette. Learn more about her and her books at her website. 

When did you realize you wanted to write novels? 

I started writing women’s fiction novels in my twenties. Those books are in the closet where they belong, but that’s how I learned how to craft a book. 


How long did it take you to realize your dream of publication? 

It felt like forever. But once I got serious about having a book worthy of publication it took about nine years. There was downtime in between, where I wasn’t really trying, but it was a long road.


Are you traditionally published, indie published, or a hybrid author? 

Traditionally. A small publisher called Level Best Books


Where do you write? 

Usually in my office, but I get some of my best writing done on a plane.


Is silence golden, or do you need music to write by? What kind?

I can’t write in total silence. I usually have the TV on, even if I’m not paying attention to the show.


How much of your plots and characters are drawn from real life? From your life in particular?  

The main character in my probation series is a probation officer. I held that job for about twenty-five years, so I drew on a lot of my experiences for realism, settings, and feelings, but the story itself is totally fiction.


Describe your process for naming your character? 

Sounds bizarre, but they pretty much come to me fully formed with names. For some of the smaller characters I peruse baby name sites until something grabs me. 


Real settings or fictional towns? 

My probation series takes place in Phoenix. I’ve written a cozy mystery that has a fictional town.


What’s the quirkiest quirk one of your characters has? 

One of my characters thinks she’s psychic despite the fact that she’s often taken by surprise.


What’s your quirkiest quirk? 

I noticed in a recent zoom interview that I bite my lip a lot. Didn’t know I did this until I watched the video. I need to stop that!


If you could have written any book (one that someone else has already written,) which one would it be? Why? 

I would love to be able to do what Jodi Picoult does. I love all her books. She takes a current event and writes it so you can see it from all sides.


Everyone at some point wishes for a do-over. What’s yours? 

Gosh, most things. I feel in hindsight you could have done everything better. But I try not to dwell on that. There’s no use.


What’s your biggest pet peeve? 

When someone talks over you and doesn’t give anyone a chance to take part in the conversation.


You’re stranded on a deserted island. What are your three must-haves? 

My dogs (Oh, that takes up 2), and a really long book. I’d say pen and notebook so I could write but then I’d have to leave one of my dogs behind.


What was the worst job you’ve ever held? 

I was a behind-the-wheel driving instructor. It was terrifying. 


Who’s your all-time favorite literary character (any genre)? Why? 

Nancy Drew because she led me to love mysteries. Loved her curiosity!


Ocean or mountains? 

Ocean. Nothing puts me at peace like going to the coast.


City girl/guy or country girl/guy? 

The older I get, the more I like the country. But cities can be fun. I just can’t handle them for more than a few days, if not hours at a time.


What’s on the horizon for you? 

It’s my debut year! I plan to attend as many conferences and writing events as I can to network and talk about Obey All Laws. The second book in the series is due in June, so I’m tweaking that. Also working on book 3. 


Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself and/or your books?

Obey All Laws is a quick, fun read. I wanted to bring the world of a probation officer to life. It’s an under-represented profession that most people don’t know much about. What better job to write about as Casey is exposed to the wildest and craziest of human behavior. I’m hoping that a glimpse into Casey’s world will bring some recognition to the field.


Obey All Laws

A Probation Case Files Mystery, Book 1


Phoenix probation officer Casey Carson’s cousin goes missing at the hands of Diablo, a Phoenix gang. With women vanishing at an alarming rate in the area, police treat Hope’s disappearance as a priority. Still, Casey can’t sit on the sidelines, even with her ex-husband leading the investigation. After she receives information that proves her suspicions about Diablo right, the gang will do anything to keep her from sharing it with police, even if that means taking her on a one-way trip to the desert.


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