Guest Blog Post – Death of a Red-Hot Rancher by Mimi Granger


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I’ve always loved romance novels. In fact, I began my publishing career writing historical and contemporary romances. To me, time period didn’t matter as much as the message of romance: that women are strong, determined, and capable, that the men in their lives can be supportive and loving (as well as sizzling hot), that there is hope in the world, and that the possibility for happily ever after when two people establish a loving, caring relationship isn’t far-fetched.

Still, as much as I enjoyed writing romances, I’d always been a mystery reader and the chance to write novels with twisty turning plots, red herrings, and a dead body (or two) really appealed to me. Even then, my mysteries had a hint of romance. In the mysteries I wrote as Casey Daniels, Pepper Martin had her hot cop boyfriend, Quinn. In the Ethnic Eats mystery series I wrote under the name Kylie Logan, there was hunky Declan, the proprietor of the Irish shop across the street from the restaurant Laurel managed. These sorts of relationships in a mystery are a great way to let readers see another side of the heroines who investigate crimes.

Then it hit me–there was an even better way to have romance take center stage in my novels. Thus, Love Under the Covers was born, the specialty romance bookstore owned by Lizzie Hale, the heroine in my new Love is Murder mysteries.

Owning a bookstore is Lizzie’s dream, and she’s moved from Chicago to Tinker’s Creek, Ohio, to make it come true. There, she’s not only made a home for herself, but she’s built a community of book lovers and readers. The local romance writers’ group meets at her store, and customers line up to purchase their favorite subgenres. Contemporaries have their own sleek and modern room in the old house Lizzie has turned into the shop; historicals are in a room with a fireplace and easy chairs; erotica (of course) is shelved in a bedroom; paranormals in a sunroom that includes weird plants and vintage Halloween kitsch.

All is not ideal, though. How can it be when Lizzie finds local bison rancher and ladies’ man, Brody Pierce murdered? She’s got to act, and fast, before Max Alvarez, the park ranger who’s investigating, catches wind of the fact that Brody and Lizzie’s aunt, Charmaine, have a connection, and that Charmaine just might be Suspect Number One. And it gets worse, because whenever Max is around, Lizzie’s insides wiggle like Jell-O, her outsides itch, her tongue gets tied, and her knees get weak. You see, there’s a secret Lizzie is determined to keep–though she might be an expert when it comes to fictional romance, she’s a total non-starter when it comes to real-life romance. Lucky for Lizzie, there’s one thing she can discuss with Max without melting into a puddle of mush–murder!

Romance, murder, a shaggy dog, and plenty of suspects keep Lizzie busy in the first in the new series, Death of a Red-Hot Rancher.

Mimi Granger is a pseudonym for Connie Laux, an established mystery author. She is the author of the League of Literary Ladies Mystery series, the Button Box Mystery series, and the Haunted Mansion Mystery series. Mimi resides in Cleveland, Ohio. Learn more online at

Guest Blog Post – Dining in the Catskills circa 1950 by Vicki Delany



Many people who were there have said that the most important part of a Catskills vacation in the 1950s was the food.

Quantity as well as quality.

As my character, Elizabeth Grady, is the manager of my fictional Haggerman’s’ Catskills Resort, it’s important to her what’s on the menu. And there are a lot of menus.  Three meals a day in three dining rooms – main, children, staff. Plus, evening cocktail party canapes, midnight dessert buffet, afternoon tea on the veranda, catered picnics, ‘round the clock room service, and special private dinners.

As with many other aspects of researching the Catskills in the 1950s, I had little trouble finding contemporary source material.  Many books about the era, written by people who were there, have entire menus printed in them.  Did you know that at dinner at a fancy restaurant, you’d have your choice of juice for your first course?  Not only did I not know that, I don’t know why anyone would want orange juice before dinner (never mind prune juice).

It was the 1950s: Jell-O salads made with canned pineapple. Aspic molds, cheddar cheese stuck on toothpicks in pineapples (what was it with pineapple anyway?), Cheez Whiz spread on celery sticks, angel food cakes, bright red maraschino cherries in just about everything, including drinks, overcooked beef, boiled potatoes and boiled spinach.

Tastes have changed, and you don’ t often see Jell-O salads or boiled spinach on the menu at a fancy restaurant these days. Fortunately for research purposes, as well as menus, actual cookbooks from the era are still in use in a lot of homes and recipes have been posted on the internet.

I can’t say I tried cooking anything I read about though. Jell-O salads with canned pineapple just doesn’t appeal.

Vicki Delany is the author of the Year-Round Christmas Mysteries, the Constable Molly Smith Mysteries, and, writing as Eva Gates, the Lighthouse Library Mystery. Vicki currently resides in Ontario, Canada. Learn more online at Her latest book is Deadly Summer Nights, paperback, Sept. 14, 2021. $7.99, part of A Catskill Summer Resort Mystery, Berkley. Read an excerpt: right this way!


Book Review – Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake by Alexis Hall


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Title: Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake

Author: Alexis Hall

Publisher: Forever

Series: Winner Takes All #1

Format: trade paperback, 435 pages

Genre: LGBTQ – Humorous Fiction

Published on: May 18, 2021

Author’s Website: check it out!

Twitter: follow the tweets!

Facebook: right this way!

Buy It: Amazon     Barnes and Noble

Rosaline Palmer is a single mother in England who desperately needs to win Britain’s most popular baking show so that she and her daughter, Amelie, can stop living paycheck-to-paycheck and depending on her parents.

But it’s not going to be easy.

Before she even steps foot on the grounds where the competition is being filmed, she and Alain Pope, another contestant, find themselves stuck at the train station. They have to sleep on a farm since there’s a mechanical issue with their train. They make it to Patchley House and Park with barely enough time to freshen up and eat breakfast. Early on, Rosaline regrets lying to Alain about being a medical student. She felt her real life would not impress him.

After making friends during the competition, it comes back to haunt her. She tells them that she’s a single mother and it gets back to Alain. Of course, he’s upset with her for lying to him. But is he really someone to be trusted?

As with all competitors, Rosaline sets out to get noticed above the others, but when judged for her cake and pie, her baking is regarded as “average, nothing spectacular.” Every step of the competition, Rosaline gives it her all, but ends up just about making it to the next round. This shakes her confidence. If that isn’t stressful enough, her life surfaces. Rosaline’s relationship with her parents is difficult. They give her money to help pay for her and her daughter’s expenses, but at the same time they’re worried that her relationship with Lauren, her ex, is going to confuse Amelie. They don’t think she can make the appropriate decisions in her life. The only thing they do like is Alain, who Rosaline is pretty sure only sees their time alone together as a short-term relationship.

And then there’s Harry. He’s down to earth, maybe not the most cultured individual, but when it comes to helping his friends he’s right there when you call him. He also  knows how to fix electrical issues. That alone saved the day for Rosaline. When their friendship leads to Alain becoming jealous, Rosaline has to figure out which man is the better choice as well as trying to win the competition.

Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake focuses on relationships. Most importantly, that of a mother and daughter. When Rosaline became pregnant she chose the responsible, loving decision and no matter how difficult it was to support them, she would not have done anything differently. There’s also her intimate relationships and friendships. Both need special attention. Though it was hard for her to tell which man would be what she and her daughter needed in their lives, she did figure it out in the end.

The author lays it out there. Keeps dialogue as natural as possible and very British. I had to look up a word or too, but that’s fine. That’s how readers learn.

This is a book you read slowly so you don’t miss a single minute of the character’s personalities. They don’t hold back when they have something to say.

Oh, read the book to find out who wins the competition!

three and a half reality baking show contestants out of five

Denise Fleischer

Sept. 21, 2021


Guest Blog Post – What Exactly Inspired ‘On Location’ by Sarah Echavarre Smith


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When I set out to write my new book On Location, I wanted it to be the ultimate romcom read. I wanted lots of steam, sweet and relatable characters, a fun setting, loads of humor, tons and tons of drama, and an ending that would make readers go “aww.”

The premise is the most fun one I’ve ever come up with: Filipino-American television producer Alia gets to make the series of her dreams: a show about Utah’s national parks. It’s the career break she’s been working years for, but she’ll have to navigate working with the hottle who ghosted her and a diva host to make her professional—and romantic—dreams come true.

It’s the perfect mix of romance, hinjinxs, wanderlust, drama, and emotion, and I can’t wait for readers to get their hands on it.

So what exactly inspired it?

  1. The pandemic/quarantine

Like almost everyone else, I was stuck at home for most of the pandemic, dreaming about all of the places I wished I could visit. Southern Utah is one of my favorite destinations I’ve ever been to. It takes your breath away with its red desert landscape and jaw-dropping rock formations. Since I couldn’t travel there, the next best thing I could think of was to use it as the setting for On Location. Even though it wasn’t as amazing as visiting in person, it was still so fun to write a story set there. I looked back on all the photos I had taken during previous visits, which gave me all the happy feels. I even incorporated some of the hikes and sightseeing I did into the plot of the book, which added a special personal connection to the story.

2. The travel program Rock The Park

One of my favorite shows ever is the travel show Rock The Park. For six seasons, hosts Jack and Colton explored national parks all over the US. I’ve been a viewer of this show for years and loved it. Even when I was stuck in my house, I could always count on Rock The Park reruns to give me a taste of so many stunning national parks. When I started watching it years ago, it helped spark my love of hiking, specifically at national parks. I rewatched episodes about Utah’s five national parks (Arches, Bryce, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, and Zion) in preparation to write scenes in my book that are set at those parks. Not only did it help refresh my memory of each place, but it also helped get me into an adventure mindset, which made writing about each destination all the more fun.

3. The drama series UnREAL

One of the shows I binged during quarantine was UnREAL, which aired a few years ago on Lifetime. Boy oh boy, did it suck me in. The premise was brilliant: it’s a fictionalized drama series about a Bachelor-type dating show that showcased all the juicy, cutthroat behind-the-scenes goings-on amongst the staff that produced the show. It was gloriously gritty, shocking, hilarious, and sexy. The storylines were often outrageous—but supposedly based on things that had actually happened on The Bachelor and The Bachelorette. When I finished watching it, I felt inspired to amp up the drama in On Location. I don’t want to give anything away because of course it’s more fun if you go out and read what happens in the book. But know that there are some over-the-top diva/jerk characters and a couple of plot points loosely inspired by UnREAL. But don’t worry! On Location is still a very sweet and emotional romance at heart, just with a tad bit of edge.

About the Author

Sarah Echavarre Smith is a copywriter-turned-author who wants to make the world a lovelier place, one kissing story at a time. When she’s not writing, you can find her hiking, eating chocolate and perfecting her lumpia recipe. She is the author of Faker, Simmer Down, and On Location.


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New Title – Her Perfect Life by Hank Phillippi Ryan



What secrets can anyone really keep buried? And how far will others go to discover them…? Bestselling and award-winning author and investigative reporter Hank Phillippi Ryan returns with a lightning-paced novel of suspense that will keep readers guessing until the last page: HER PERFECT LIFE (A Forge Hardcover, eBook, and Macmillan Audio; now available). Touching on issues of privacy, family secrets, social media, and living life in the public eye— that’s something Ryan, the longtime on-camera investigative reporter for Boston’s WHDH-TV, understands more than anyone. And that makes HER PERFECT LIFE Ryan’s most riveting—and personal—book yet.

Hank Phillippi Ryan has won 37 Emmys for her work on television, but beyond her recognition for her reporting, Ryan has countless fans across the country for her award-winning and critically-acclaimed bestselling suspense and thriller novels, including 2019’s The Murder List (which won the Anthony Award for Best Novel of the Year and was nominated for both the Agatha and the Mary Higgins Clark Award), and 2020’s The First to Lie (nominated for the Mary Higgins Clark Award and the Anthony Award for Best Novel.) Now, Ryan expertly combines her experience as an award-winning reporter—and her life living in the public eye—with her story-telling talent and her prowess in creating compelling and relatable characters, to create this utterly unputdownable page-turner.

Everyone knows Lily Atwood—and that may be her biggest problem….
The beloved television reporter has it all—fame, fortune, Emmys, an adorable seven-year-old daughter, and the hashtag her loving fans created: #PerfectLily. To keep it, all she has to do is protect one life-changing secret. Her own.

Lily has an anonymous source who feeds her story tips—but suddenly, the source begins telling Lily inside information about her own life. How does he—or she—know the truth?

Lily understands that no one reveals a secret unless they have a reason. Now she’s terrified someone is determined to destroy her world—and with it, everyone and everything she holds dear.

How much will she be forced to risk to keep her perfect life?

With HER PERFECT LIFE, Hank Phillippi Ryan has once again spun a stunning new psychological standalone that will be devoured by fans who’ll rip through the pages—and be left to be gasping at the final twists.

About the book:

Her Perfect Life

Hank Phillippi Ryan

Forge Hardcover

336 pages/$27.99

also available in audio from Macmillan Audio

went on sale: Sept. 14, 2021

Guest Blog Post – Nancy Drew Made Me Do It – By Miranda James


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Readers are usually curious about where writers get their ideas. There’s no easy answer to that. Sometimes they simply pop into my head. Other times there is a definite inspiration, as in the case of my latest book, What the Cat Dragged In. That inspiration was Nancy Drew.

I started reading mysteries when I discovered Nancy Drew as an adolescent. Thanks to The Secret of Shadow Ranch, I got hooked and have loved mysteries in the many decades since. One of my favorites in the long-running series is The Secret in the Old Attic. Doesn’t the title itself conjure up all sorts of possibilities? What could you find in an attic that would lead to an exciting adventure?

My sleuth, Charlie Harris, is not a teenaged young woman, so he is excited by different, and perhaps more sinister, items from those Nancy found in old Mr. March’s attic. In this case, the attic now belongs to Charlie, who discovers that he has inherited his grandfather’s old farmhouse. He thought the farmhouse had been sold years ago, but now he’s faced with a key part of his family’s history.

When Charlie goes to investigate the house, seeing it for the first time in nearly fifty years, he takes with him his Maine Coon cat, Diesel, his constant companion. Once they reach the attic, Diesel disappears into the interior, nosing around while Charlie surveys the dust and the physical items that have been left over the years.

Diesel finds something most unexpected – a skull and human bones left in an old wardrobe. Charlie is shocked, of course, because who expects to find old bones in the attic? Charlie starts to ponder the natural questions of who put the bones there. Was it his grandfather, or the tenant who had the life-lease on the house since the death of old Mr. Harris?

The answer to this question turns out to be a tricky one, and I had a great time uncovering the secret in this particular attic. I hope readers will enjoy the journey as well. Thanks, Nancy Drew, for the inspiration.

About the Author

Miranda James is the New York Times bestselling author of the Cat in the Stacks Mysteries, including Twelve Angry Librarians, No Cats Allowed, and Arsenic and Old Books, as well as the Southern Ladies Mysteries, including Fixing to Die, Digging… More about Miranda James

Read an Excerpt: right this way!

About the book: What the Cat Dragged In By Miranda James. Part of the Cat in the Stacks Mysteries. Hardcover $26.00. Published Aug. 31, 2021.

Buy It: Amazon

Barnes & Noble

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Guest Blog Post – Change by Jenn McKinlay, author of ‘Wait For It’



Change. Some people love it. Some people hate it. I am definitely in the former category. If I don’t like my job, I look for a new one. If my relationship isn’t what I want, I break up with the person. If a friendship goes sour, see you later. Life is too short not to off load baggage and shake things up every now and again, at least for me.

Writing Annabelle Martin’s story in my romcom Wait For It, was as natural as breathing. Just like our intrepid heroine, I, too, packed up most of my stuff and headed to Arizona from New England when I was in my mid twenties and life had gotten completely stale. Were there things I missed after such a huge move? Absolutely.

Family and friends were missed quite desperately, but they all love coming to AZ to visit, so that worked out. As for jobs, I tried on a bunch until I found one that stuck. The things I hadn’t expected to miss were what hit me the hardest. I missed diners. There’s really only Denny’s or IHOP in my new state, so no mini jukebox at the end of each booth, no revolving dessert carousel by the counter.  It was tragic. I longed for the ocean but then discovered Arizona’s beach, Rocky Point, Mexico, is only a few hours away. Doable. I craved seafood, but soon found out that there is a plethora of Mexican food in AZ and in so many varieties — Baja, Sonora, Chihuahua, to name a few. I truly don’t think I could give up Mexican food at this point. I hear there are excellent Mexican restaurants back east but I am dubious.

Change can be less dramatic than the move across the country that Annabelle makes. It can come in the form of changing the self sabotaging behaviors of a lifetime to fully embrace the opportunity for happiness when it presents itself. Our hero, Nick Daire, is presented with just such a task. Nick’s journey forced me to look at some of my own hardwiring to see what behaviors I had developed over the years to protect myself. It was a very enlightening to write Nick’s story.

Wait For It is ultimately a romcom about growth and becoming your best self. I learned so much from both Annabelle and Nick as we journeyed together while writing their stories. It is my hope, dear readers, that you do, too.

Jenn McKinlay

Buy the Book: Amazon

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Guest Blog Post – Cat People Versus Dog People by Sofie Kelly


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Are you a cat person or a dog person? If you’ve read any of the Magical Cats mysteries you’d probably be able to guess that although there are a lot of dogs that I like, I am definitely a cat person. I was curious about the differences between cat lovers and dog fans aside from their choice of pets. Here are a few of the things I learned.

  1. According to a survey from 2018 by Mars Petcare, cat people are more creative. Matisse was a cat person. So was Pablo Picasso, Ernest Hemingway, Georgia O’Keefe, and Patricia Highsmith.
  2. According to the same survey, dog people are more active, more likely to be running, dancing or playing sports. This makes sense. Dogs need to be walked. Cats don’t.
  3. Both cat and dog fans believe having a furry friend is good for them. Turns out they’re right. Petting your cat or cuddling with your dog can help lower blood pressure.
  4. Cats are not exactly known for being good at doing what their humans want them to do. Turns out the same can be said for the humans. Cat people tend to be non-conformists, doing what’s expedient. Dog people are more likely to adhere to the rules.
  5. Dog people are more out-going and cat people tend to be more introverted.
  6. Dog people like sports and action movies. Cat people like to read, which likely explains the popularity of mysteries where the main character has at least one cat.
  7. A study at Ball State University found that cat people see themselves as being more independent. Since cats themselves are very independent it makes sense that the people who live with them would share the same quality.
  8. Both dog people and cat people tend to spoil their pets. Obesity is on the rise in both animal populations. The problem? Too many treats and not enough exercise.
  9. Dog lovers and cat fans both admit to talking to their pets. I talk to my neighbor’s cat, Mac, about what city council is up to on a regular basis. He has some strong opinions on bike lanes and zoning issues.
  10. Stanley Coren, author of Why We Love the Dogs We Do, found that dog lovers are more likely to be married with children and living in a house. Cat people are more often found in apartments and condos. And dog people are more likely to welcome a cat into their home than cat owners are to welcome a dog into theirs. (Well, they do have all that extra space!)

So what do you think? Are these characteristics correct or way off base? And what about you? Are you a cat person or a dog lover? Or maybe some of both?

About Sofie Ryan

Sofie Kelly is a New York Times bestselling author and mixed-media artist who lives on the East Coast with her husband and daughter. She writes the New York Times bestselling Magical Cats mysteries and, as Sofie Ryan, writes the New York Times bestselling Second Chance Cat mysteries.

Guest Blog Post – HAMLET, Castles, and the Gothic Imagination By Veronica Bond


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In recent interviews, I’ve talked about my favorite fictional castles and discussed some of the Gothic plot staples attributed to Horace Walpole. But even Walpole must have been influenced by William Shakespeare. Walpole gets credit for crafting the first Gothic novel, but many of his details seem to echo some of those found in HAMLET.

Let’s start with the castle itself. When Hamlet begins, the young, melancholy prince is wandering like a lost soul around Elsinore, his family castle, in a morally “rotten” Denmark. Shakespeare uses the dark and mysterious castle to great effect throughout his play, and it’s impossible to read it without imagining the interior of Elsinore: its drafty halls, its lonely chambers.

In addition, the play starts with the sighting of a ghost. When the men standing watch report this ghost to Hamlet, he joins the watch and sees the ghost for himself: the image of his dead father (also named Hamlet) who informs his son that he was murdered, and that young Hamlet must avenge his death. This element of the supernatural adds intrigue, suspense, and a touch of horror to the play, investing it with the proper Gothic tone from the start (but I can only call this Gothic in retrospect).

Still more evidence lies in the notion of hidden things: the play is filled with hidden motives, unspoken longings, and actual hiding places (Polonius behind the arras offers a prime example, and this unfortunate hiding place leads to drama and death).

Another archetype of Walpole’s is the notion of overwrought emotion, and Hamlet is filled with angst. In fact, one might assume that Hamlet is only a teen based on some of his emotional speeches; in reality he is thirty years old, but Shakespeare knows how to wring emotion from his audience. When Hamlet and Laertes fight in the grave of poor dead Ophelia about who loved her more, Shakespeare provides the very definition of “overwrought,” and the moment when Hamlet finds Claudius at prayer in the chapel provides an emotional, bitter conflict between Hamlet’s desire for revenge and his unwillingness to interrupt a moment of prayer.

In my cozy-Gothic DEATH IN CASTLE DARK, I pay due homage to Walpole, but I tried to capture the essence of Shakespeare’s greatest play, at least in terms of significant detail. At the heart of the mystery is a large, mysterious castle. Dwelling within it is an alternative Hamlet: a dog by that name, black-furred and restless as he roams the halls. There is a chapel which has significance to the overall plot, and there is a great deal of soap-opera level emotion, just as we all love in our Gothic stories. Perhaps most important, there are any number of secret places and hidden doors to keep a reader satisfied. The “cozy” part means that it also possesses some funny or charming or whimsical moments that make the characters more like friends than like dramatic personae. With this little book, I am writing about what I love: the drama of the Gothic, and the joy of simple moments and cozy places.

Veronica Bond is the pseudonym for Julia Buckley, a beloved author who has taught high school English for twenty-nine years. Her previous series include the Undercover Dish mysteries and the Writer’s Apprentice mysteries. She currently resides in Chicago, Illinois. Learn more online at, Twitter, and Instagram.


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Guest Blog Post – Having an Architect as a Brother is of Great Value to a Writer by JoAnna Carl


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Nearly every Sunday morning, I call my brother, and for a half-hour or so the two of us catch up on family news, trade gossip, and retell stories we’ve heard since childhood.

Our parents followed the traditional practice of giving their son the same first name as our dad’s and using our mom’s maiden name for his middle name. This makes my brother’s full name “Willard Waite Kimbrell.” That’s a mouthful for a baby, so it’s not surprising that quite early he was nicknamed “Kim,” even though it’s a name often assigned to girls. Kim says that doesn’t bother him, and his family and friends don’t think much about it either. But on one recent Sunday Kim and I discovered we had grown up with different stories about just why our parents gave Kim that nickname.

“Mother told me,” I said, “that you were one of these babies who looks just like his grandfather. Everybody who came to see you said, “Oh! You’ve got another Kimbrell!”

Kim said, “She told me it was because I had the same first name our dad had. She didn’t want the neighbors hearing her yell, ‘Willard! You get in the house this minute!’”

For whatever reason, Kim became Kim at a very young age, and his nickname even decorates his architectural drawings.

Having an architect as a brother is of great value to a writer. It’s not exactly that he helps me research, he merely mines knowledge he already has.

Not only can Kim identify styles and construction methods, he simply understands how things fit together. If I want to know how villains can rappel down an elevator shaft to rob a bank or how the roof of a commercial building was constructed in 1907, I just ask Kim. He knows.

He also has a lot of general knowledge that I don’t. He’s told me how to fire a deer rifle, described how to sail a small sailboat, and revealed the secrets of getting along with city planning officials.

He usually doesn’t tell me how to write. But once I complained that I’d been trying to start a new book, and things weren’t going well.

Kim laughed. “Let me tell you about this man I know,” he said. “He’s a great big guy who was a combat helicopter pilot and now has his own business. Nice guy. Wouldn’t hurt a fly.”

This man and Kim were having coffee when the phone rang, and Kim’s pal began to berate the caller, who apparently owed him money. He ended by saying, “I’ll be over this afternoon, and I’m NOT BRINGING A LAWYER!”

I changed the appearance and background of the guy to match a character created for a previous book. But after I stopped laughing, Kim’s story kicked off The Chocolate Raccoon Rigmarole.

Kim had helped me build a lot of fictional buildings, but it was the first time he came up with part of a book. So, I dedicated it to him.



JoAnna Carl is the pseudonym for a multi-published mystery writer. She is the national bestselling author of the Chocoholic Mysteries. She spent more than twenty-five years in the newspaper business as a reporter, feature writer, and columnist. She holds a degree in journalism from the University of Oklahoma. JoAnna currently lives in Oklahoma but summers in Michigan.