Guest Blog Post – Wrapping Murder in Season Up in a Holiday Bow By Jon Land


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Books don’t happen in a vacuum. Indeed, there’s far more involved than us writers going into our self-imposed bubbles and just turning in whatever emerges however many months later.

My titles in the Murder, She Wrote series, for example, always begin with a one or so page proposal in which I sketch out for my editors that particular book’s story. But much more goes into the planning than that and each of the last three books I did were conceived with marketing concerns taking center stage, as much as creative ones. With MURDER IN SEASON, for example, I thought it was time to do a holiday-themed Murder, She Wrote book to take advantage of our late November pub date.

Okay, confession time: That notion actually sprang from the fact that I was getting bumped further down the Cozy bestseller lists by pretty much any mystery with “Christmas” in the title. That made it time for me to do one. And even if “Christmas” didn’t appear in the title, I knew Berkley would be able to create a package that would scream “Holidays!” And, boy, did they ever, as you can see from the cover. Talk about a perfect stocking stuffer!

But I had another idea kicking around in my head, that is to kind of play with the fact that Jessica Fletcher’s beloved town of Cabot Cove has been labeled the murder capital of the world, thanks to the inordinate number of homicides that take place there per capita. So, I asked myself and my editors, what if a tabloid TV reporter comes to town to do a story on what’s behind Cabot Cove’s excessive murder rate?

I’d also been playing around with the notion of Jessica finding the remains of two bodies buried in her backyard, murder coming home in other words. See, in MANUSCRIPT FOR MURDER, my second effort in the series, Jessica’s beloved home at 698 Candlewood Lane is badly damaged in a fire. So for the three books that followed, she’s been living in a suite at Cabot Cove’s Hill House Hotel. So I had her return to Candlewood Lane at long last in MURDER IN SEASON, specifically to take advantage of having the remains of two murder victims, separated by centuries, uncovered by a construction crew installing a new septic system.

Little did I know then that buried with the remains would be a colonial chest containing the founding documents of Cabot Cove. Those founding documents are packed with clues about a local legend in the form of a long-lost treasure that once belonged to the five men who founded the town in the late 1700’s, men who held their own dangerous secrets. I had so much fun delving into those secrets and the actual, albeit fictional, history of Cabot Cove that I had to remind myself that was just a part of the greater story I was telling.

When I started the book, I didn’t yet know that (Spoiler Alert!) the tabloid TV reporter wasn’t in town to do a story on Cabot Cove’s murder rate at all. That was just a ruse to disguise the fact something else entirely has brought him to Cabot Cove. I did know, however, that several descendants of the town’s original founders would be murdered and, ultimately, Jessica would link those killings to both the remains found in her backyard and that long-lost treasure.

In all my books, not just my entries in the Murder, She Wrote series, the challenge and the fun lies in tying all the disparate elements together into a cohesive whole. Basically, I do that on the fly, the twists and turns unfolding for me in real time just as they do for the reader. That’s what I meant by fun!

But since MURDER IN SEASON was a holiday-themed Murder, She Wrote entry, I also wanted to inject the feel of the season and what it’s best known for, particularly friends, family, and traditions. I’d already established my own tradition of bringing back popular characters from the TV series long missing from the books, like I did in A TIME FOR MURDER with Amos Tupper. That made MURDER IN SEASON the perfect opportunity to inject family into the mix and, for Jessica, family means her nephew Grady whom she and her late husband Frank raised after his parents were killed in an accident.

Grady arrives with wife Donna, late of the TV show, and Jessica’s beloved grand-nephew little Frank, who I created. And those family scenes were the ones I had the most fun writing, since it was something else the books had never fully explored prior to my taking the reins. That element of MURDER IN SEASON allowed me to showcase Jessica in a way I never before, recalling that so many episodes of the TV series were driven by her rescuing a niece, nephew or cousin from injustice. So I wasn’t really reinventing the wheel here, just hitching it to a new wagon.

And that’s the point. When I took over the series, my stated goal was to reconceive Murder, She Wrote as if the series originated in the present instead of 1984. Jessica, in my mind, needed to be the modern, independent woman she doesn’t get enough credit for being way ahead of her time. People forget that when the Murder, She Wrote TV series first premiered, all its competition in the crime genre was toplined by men. Shows like Matlock, Barnaby Jones, The Rockford Files, Miami Vice, Magnum PI, Hawaii Five-O—the list goes on and on. Jessica Fletcher never got the accolades she deserved for being a groundbreaker, a truly 21stcentury woman in the throwback vanilla Reagan era.

That’s why I believe the ageless Jessica has, well, aged as well as she has. And that’s why the most important thing I wanted to do in MURDER IN SEASON was blend a typically great Murder, She Wrote mystery with the day-to-day demands of the holiday season. Jessica loves both solving and writing mysteries, but she loves family and friends more. And that’s the theme that emerges by the end of a book I’m convinced will be greeted as my finest effort since claiming the series as my own.

Time To Read Christmas Romance!!


Gotta Write Network blogger

I admit it. I’m an avid reader. As much as I love writing, put me in a bookstore and I’m in heaven! It’s so hard for me to walk away. I want to look at every cover and turn it over to read the summaries. There are so many novels about second chances in life and love, cozy mysteries to be read in my mother’s comfy blue recliner. Then there’s the Christmas novels. Don’t even get me started on that topic.

I just read my first Susan Mallery novel,  “Happily this Christmas,” from her Happily inc. series and I loved it. It’s one of those books where you don’t want it to end. It’s the sixth book in this series. The others are “Meant to be Yours,” “Not Quite Over You,” “Why Not Tonight,” “Second Chance Girl,” and You Say it First.” I want to read the whole series. The book was published by Harlequin.

Buy it: here

HAPPILY THIS CHRISTMAS is about Wynn Beauchene who is a single mom and small business owner. For years, she’s stayed away from long-term relationships. She did get close with mystery author Jaspar Dembenski, but that was the past and Jaspar has a new life.

Wynn is interested in her next door neighbor, Police Captain Garrick McCabe. Turns out he really needs her. At first, not in the way she hopes. His daughter is going to stay with him for awhile. Her baby is due shortly and her husband is serving in the military. Her mom has her hands full with three demanding sons. So staying with her dad is a must. The problem is that Joylyn and her father haven’t been close over the years. It’s going to be super awkward changing that. Garrick puts his plan into action. He asks Wynn to help him make his house a home so Joylyn will be happy there. Together they learn that it takes more than interior decorating and a woman’s touch. It takes love. The cover, characters and the town draw you in. Plenty of lessons learned and a happy ending.

Below are other Christmas-themed books I picked up because of Instagram and Facebook recommendations. Can’t wait to read them. This one I bought.

From Janet’s website:

HOLDING OUT FOR CHRISTMAS By Janet Dailey—A demure kindergarten teacher with dreams of Nashville stardom makes a difficult choice when she reunites with a smitten and wildly attractive rancher during an annual western-themed Christmas ball that launches a holiday season of romance and promise.

Buy it: Here

From the publisher: Fans of RaeAnne Thayne, Lori Wilde, and Fern Michaels will delight in this beautiful Christmas love story with a heart the size of Texas. A visit to Janet Dailey’s Christmas Tree Ranch is the perfect kick-off to a flawless holiday season!

She’s all he wants for Christmas.  Maybe even forever…

Conner Branch hasn’t stopping thinking about the sultry singer he spotted on stage during last year’s Cowboy Christmas ball. So imagine his surprise when he discovers the demure kindergarten teacher who comes home for the holidays to Branding Iron, Texas, is the very same woman. And once he’s up close and personal with the mesmerizing Megan, he’s downright determined to keep her by his side for good…

If only Conner Branch were simply the star struck cowboy she once believed him to be, Megan wouldn’t have to worry about losing everything to the rugged—and wildly romantic—rancher. With Christmas in the air, it’s a little too easy to imagine spending the holidays, not to mention her whole life, wrapped in Conner’s loving arms.  But this songstress has hopes for a big career back in Nashville. And no little holiday romance will ever get in the way of that. So what’s a woman to do when she finds herself facing down a love as big and bold as Texas itself?

From the publisher:


Buy it: here

Snowball—an aptly named bundle of feline fluff—is thankful to be spending her first Christmas in the comfort of Weber Haus, the Victorian B&B run by Miss Tilly. Emily Diemer, who cooks for the guests, dotes on Snowball, but she’s not thrilled about another new arrival at the B&B: Miss Tilly’s nephew, Lukas. Which is odd, because Snowball’s animal instincts tell her that Lukas and Emily should definitely be friends.
Everything Emily needs is in this quaint community—including, she hopes, the chance to open her own bakery one day. She doesn’t think much of Lukas for leaving his aging aunt to struggle while he jets around the world taking photographs. But now that he’s here, helping to spruce up the property and getting mixed up in Snowball’s antics, she begins to soften a little. Until she learns what he has planned . . .
Lukas is going to sell Weber Haus so that Miss Tilly can retire. But Snowball is certain that this B&B, and these people, are supposed to be her forever home. Somehow she has to get these stubborn humans to see things through the wisdom of a cat’s eye and a kitten’s loyal, loving heart . .

“Expertly crafted…the perfect Christmas treat.”
Booklist, Starred Review

Let’s add to this list!! Leave the titles and a short summary of what you’re reading with a Christmas theme.

–E-mail me at if you’d like me to review your book. Very interested in reading now: Christmas romance, cozy mysteries, books with animals. Publishers e-mail me press releases and book review requests.

Guest Blog Post – Extreme Makeover: Magic Edition by Elizabeth

Title: Falling into Magic

Series: Destiny Falls Mystery & Magic, Book 1

Author: Elizabeth Pantley

Publisher: KDP

Format: eBook / $2.99 – Kindle Unlimited / Free – Paperback /$9.00 US

Published: Nov. 12, 2020 / 299 pages

Read an Excerpt: here

Buy It: Amazon US    

Amazon Canada

Amazon UK

What if you could remodel your home simply by wishing for the new feature? That’s what the Caldwell Crest house in Destiny Falls is like.

The house has been around since the 1900s, but rumor has it that it started as a castle in the 1800s. The magic is usually subtle. You don’t notice changes day by day, but over the years you’ll come to realize that what used to be a four-car garage now holds eight. Possibly, the dining room has extended to meet the needs of the growing family. And perhaps, a window seat appears just exactly where the sun lands each morning.

I must admit, the idea for this enchanted home came from my own life experience – which is where many author’s ideas originate, I think.

My husband has a construction business, and we have built or remodeled several homes together over the years. Sadly, there is no magic. It’s all blood, sweat and tears! And lots of time, energy and frustration, too.

When I built this enchanted community, I thought it would be marvelous if homes changed to meet your needs over time. What if just wishing would make it so. Oh, wouldn’t it be a dream if your new bathroom or a kitchen remodel just appeared one morning!

In Destiny Falls there is magic to be found in unexpected places. Enchanted buildings are one of those places, and you never know what you might find.

Here’s a short excerpt that gives you just a peek at the wonders of the Caldwell Crest home.

EXCERPT from Falling into Magic

 “Do you live here?” I asked.

“I have a place in town,” Axel said, “but the tradition is to live here until you get married and come back if you’re widowed or divorced. Or if the house calls you back. That happened to my grandparents when they became empty nesters. Caldwell Crest is massive – we all have rooms here, even if we don’t live here full time. The house has been in the family for centuries.”

“That doesn’t make sense,” I said. “The house looks like a brand-new mansion. Oh sorry. Is that rude?”

“No, you’re okay,” Axel said. “It is a mansion, a manor, an estate, a castle. The house changes over time. Usually the changes are very subtle day-by-day, but over the years and decades they become obvious.”

Wow. Talk about Extreme Makeover: Magic Edition. “I really appreciate that you’re letting me stay with you.” I said. “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome, I guess. You’re a Caldwell, and you’ve been chosen. The town or the house brought you, otherwise you wouldn’t be here. You’ll get a room too, once the house creates one for you.”

“Are you serious? Really? I’ll have a room in this beautiful place?” I was trying hard to absorb everything, but it was happening so fast.

“Yes, Ms. Caldwell, you will have your very own room. I suspect it’s being built now.” He pointed down the hallway. “You’ll know when it’s ready. One day you’ll have a compulsion to open a door and,” he snapped his fingers, “it will be there.”

“Will it look like your room?” I wondered aloud. I hoped so. His room was amazing. Especially the stone fireplace and massive window out to the gardens and water.

“I can’t say. It will be created for you based on your likes and needs. All of us kids have our own rooms, but they’re all very different.

Guest Blog Post – Hitting the Target By Elizabeth Logan



For a bit of humor in these challenging times, there’s nothing like a paraprosdokian—that engaging figure of speech in which the latter part of a sentence is surprising, often humorous, inspiring us to rethink the first part.

Here’s one of my favorite paraprosdokians, since it describes me and my writing process pretty well:

To be sure of hitting the target, shoot first and call whatever you hit the target.

 Pretty clever technique, yes?

Cheating? Perhaps!

But more often than not, this is my decision-making process. Not a lot of planning, just responses to what comes my way, strategizing as I go. It’s how I handled college term papers, for example, those assignments dreaded by us math majors. I’d write the paper, then go back and outline, if I had to turn one in!

For a long time, I thought this questionable character trait meant that I couldn’t be a writer. But finally, I learned I wasn’t alone in my methods. In fact, there was a technical (of course) name for my process, and eventually I grew to acknowledge myself as a pantser, writing by the seat of my pants.

The other guys, those who lay out the story in advance, are plotters.

Pantsing is my way of being in the story as I’m writing it. Maybe I’m simply not creative, but I can’t write a suspenseful scene unless I’m in suspense. Or a moment of surprise (She opened the door, expecting. . .) unless I’m surprised. If the man at the door is Norman, as scheduled in the outline, at III (b) (iii), then what fun is that?

Of course, I do have a general idea of the major plot points and story lines, but they’re not written down, called on only as a jumping off place for something from left field.

It’s my theory, that for other professions or even projects of a social nature, people fall into one category or the other. For example, how you might approach a dinner party at your home:

  1. write out a menu and accompanying recipes in advance, check off what ingredients you have in stock vs what you need to buy, and so on.
  2. check out your freezer and fridge on the day of, and work with it.

How we approach a project doesn’t matter, as long as the dinner party—or the book—is a success, by whatever means we judge it.

The target will take care of itself.

—Authors interested in writing a guest blog post, contact GWN at

Guest Blog Post – The Case of the Missing Eraser by Jennifer J. Chow


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The Facts:

Title: Mimi Lee Reads Between The Lines

Series: A Sassy Cat Mystery

Author: Jennifer J. Chow

Publisher: Berkley

Format: Paperback /$16.00 US

Published: Nov. 10, 2020 / 320 pages

Read An Excerpt: here

Buy It:  Amazon     Barnes

Who knew that school could be so informative about collecting clues and detective work? I remember the games I used to play as an elementary kid. They were a load of fun, and lots of guessing happened. Here are three examples:

Button, You Must Wander

In our classroom, the teacher had one child sit in the middle of a circle made up of the other students. The person in the middle would close their eyes, and then we would all sing a rhythmic song called “Button, You Must Wander.” Traditionally, a button was used, but I think we passed around an eraser in our circle. At the end of the song, the passing stopped. The kids in the circle would hide their hands behind their backs, as though any one of them had the missing eraser. The child in the middle would then open their eyes and try to figure out who had the eraser. One way someone could figure out who had it was by kids’ nervous tics or expressions, just like a real detective. The “detective” had three chances only, though, before the culprit escaped capture!

Heads Up, Seven Up

The way I played this game was that we had seven students act as pickers. The other kids would stay at their desks, place their heads down on the surface, and pop their thumbs up. The pickers would go through the room and select certain kids by tapping their thumbs. Those children would put their thumbs down after being tagged. After some allotted time, the teacher called out, “Heads Up, Seven Up.” Those who’d been selected would have to figure which classmate picked them. Was it the “obvious” answer, their friend because of a close connection? Or was it somebody not as well-known to them, who wanted to mask their selection process?

Who Am I?

This yes-or-no guessing game involved a series of questions. In the version I played, sticky notes were placed on the person’s back with the name of someone famous. My teachers used this game to reinforce knowledge of interesting historical figures. Then everybody would walk around asking close-ended questions like, “Am I living or dead?” A helpful way to figure out one’s identity is to start with generalized questions and then narrow down to specifics. And guess what? That’s what detectives do when working a case—go from broad strokes to narrow pinpoints.

These elementary school games must have inspired in me a love for mystery at a young age. It’s no wonder then that my latest book, Mimi Lee Reads Between the Lines, happens in a school setting. However, the stakes are now definitely higher in the novel than just a missing eraser. A killer is on the loose, and Mimi Lee plus her talking cat Marshmallow, must make things better before Mimi’s sister finds herself out of a job and in the police station with handcuffs on.

Book Review – Haunted Homicide by Lucy Ness


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Title: Haunted Homicide

Series: A Haunted Mansion Mystery #1

Author: Lucy Ness

Publisher: Berkley

Format: Paperback, 304 pages, was given a netgalley ebook, bought the paperback

Published: Sept. 29, 2020

Setting: Portage Path, Ohio

Read An Excerpt: here

Buy it:  Amazon    Barnes

The minute Avery Morgan stepped foot in the historic mansion, home of the Portage Path Woman’s Club, she knew there were issues.

Gone were the members who hosted tea parties, worked on their needlework, discussed politics and history. Besides the dwindling membership was the challenge of restoring the Marigold Room after a fire.

Before she even unpacked, Jack Harkness, the restorationist, arrived to determine the damages and offer an estimate. Then she meets Quentin Cruze, the chef, and Geneva, the waitress, who have very little to do and both dislike working with Muriel, the club president. She was always trying to cut corners and that makes it difficult for the chef. Then there’s the constant threat that Quentin and Geneva will be fired just like Bill, the maintenance man.

Avery steps right into the role of the club’s business manager by attending a chamber of commerce meeting in hopes of promoting the club. When she returns from the grocery store and arrives back at the club (where she lives) she sees that her room has been searched and is a mess. Next thing she knows the lights go out. While searching for a fuse box in the basement, she stumbles on Muriel’s body. If that isn’t enough to deal with, she comes face to face with the ghost of a young woman. At first Avery doesn’t believe the young woman is a ghost, even though her aunt is a Lily Dale medium.

The police are notified and the investigation begins. She hasn’t even gotten over the shock of finding Muriel and trying to figure out the strange appearances and disappearances of the young woman in the basement when she’s asked by the board to help figure out who killed Muriel. Avery intuitively begins to take a closer look at the women she’s working for. She notices bruises on Patricia, for one. Then there’s the quick transition electing Agnes as the next club president. Muriel wasn’t even buried yet. One asks if Muriel’s death was motivated by everyone wanting Agnes as president. That’s what Avery has to figure out.

It will take Avery’s quick thinking, her ghostly side-kick, and a little assistance from Sergeant Alterman and Jack to solve this case.

I loved this mystery before I even read it. I admit it, the book cover is the first thing that draws me in and if a ghost is a character, that’s an added plus. If she’s a flapper, I’m sold three times. This mystery was filled with characters with personality, lots of secrets, a possible relationship, and a lot of twists and turns. I did think electing Agnes so quickly was uncaring of the club members. She might have been a difficult person to deal with, but you can wait until she’s buried. Loved the interaction between Avery and the ghost. I do hope more of her background is shared and that she can interact with the Sergeant, as well. It would be interesting to see the club come to life when everyone leaves. There is such a powerful energy with that type of venue.

four bottles of gin out of five

Denise Fleischer

Nov. 14, 2020

–E-mail me at if you’d like me to review your book. Very interested in reading now: Christmas romance, cozy mysteries, books with animals. Publishers e-mail me press releases and book review requests.

Guest Blog Post – Birth of a Cozy Series by Margaret Loudon


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The Facts:

Title: Murder in the Margins

Series: The Open Book Mysteries

Author: Margaret Loudon

Publisher: Berkley

Format: paperback, $7.99/US

Published: Oct. 27, 2020

Read An Excerpt: here

Buy It:  Amazon     Barnes

I don’t know about you, but I’m somewhat fascinated by the royal family—particularly the younger generation.  Not in an obsessive must-read-everything-about-them kind of way but I enjoy seeing pictures of Kate in her evening gowns and Meghan holding little Archie. I read about them while waiting in line at the grocery store where you can peruse the tabloids to pass the time.

I’m also a bit obsessed with England and all things British although it’s been quite awhile since I’ve been. We had to cancel our trip this year, natch.

And then I read about a bookstore advertising for a “writer in residence.”

So naturally I began to think England + royal family + writer in residence = a potential cozy series?

And that’s how the Open Book Series was born. The story revolves around Penelope “Pen” Parish, an American, who takes a position as the writer in residence at the Open Book in Upper Chumley-on-Stoke, England. She’s a gothic novel writer who is suffering from writer’s block and needs a change of scenery.

Now to work in the royal family…or at least some nobility. So I created Arthur Worthington, the duke of Upper Chumley-on-Stoke who just happens to be the red-haired favorite of the queen. (get it?)  And the town is in an uproar because he’s engaged to an American romance writer (sound familiar?)

I’ve had a blast researching the different words and expressions the Brits use like toff, knackered, chuffed to bits, the high street and so on. And the food has been equally fascinating—baked goods like Jammie Dodgers, Chelsea buns, Victoria Sponge, etc.  I’ve even tried my hand at baking a Madeira Cake.

Even though we can’t travel at the moment, sit back, put your feet up, pick up a copy of Murder in the Margins and follow along as Penelope Parish heads for adventure in Chumley-on-Stoke, England.




Blog Tour Spotlight – Holly Bell – Crafting Magic – How and Why?


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Do You Believe in Magic?

Everyone believes in magic of some kind, in my experience. I don’t mean the ingenious sleight of hand, but the effect of something that cannot be quantified, or cannot be detected with the five senses.

The Magic Scale

Magic in stories ranges from Sleeping Beauty to Chucky. It stretches from the good fairies bestowing blessings on the princess all the way to the horror genre. It comes in a variety of flavours from sweet to sour. So how does a writer decide what to put in the magical world she or he is building?

Why Handling Magic is A Risky Business

Too dark, and cozy paranormal mystery (think Miss Marple with magic) becomes dark fantasy; darker still, and it moves into occult and horror. By the same token, horror fans will be disappointed by good fairies and joyful Easter Bunnies. This delicate management is the challenge facing any writer of supernatural or paranormal fiction.

On a more serious note, to many, magic is an article of faith. It’s a feature of Wicca and, on a broader scale, of Paganism, religions unofficially recognised in several countries. Of course, a writer wants to entertain without causing offence.

For example, here in the UK, on dark moons, (Kali moons, moonless nights), and at Halloween, people gather in isolated or rural spots to cast spells. They may mix potions, for example, for love or to harm. Even if reduced to purely psychological effects, magic is very real to these practitioners. In some cultures, there are built-in practices of protection against harmful enchantments.

Magic during centuries past has had its lot thrown in with superstition, ignorance, evil and fraud. In short, it’s had a rocky road, and prejudices take time to be soothed away.

A Rose By Any Other Name

On the other hand, magic is also seen as something good, wondrous, extraordinary.

‘It was a magical event.’

‘There was something in the air that evening.’

‘Our eyes met. A magic moment.’

With all the fairy lights and the decorations, the hall looked magical.’

‘As I stood by the waterfall, a rainbow formed. It was magic.’

What do we mean when we say these things? That something that cannot be measured or perceived by touch, taste, smell, hearing or sight was present. Maybe it was something that helped events fall into place, so we were at the perfect place at the perfect time to have a life-changing experience.

You might call it synchronicity, serendipity, or the power of positivity. Let me give you an example.

The Aquarium

I like to have a DVD of a fireplace playing on my TV. Even in summer. But one day, it was so hot that I decide to change it for one of an aquarium of tropical fish. This was an exceptionally rare occurrence.

That day, an engineer came to keep an appointment to do a structural check on the building. I invited him in, and he noticed the aquarium. We began discussing keeping warm water fish, and he told me he’d been a diving instructor. This was something I knew a little about, and as we chatted, he revealed his dream to go back to the work he loved. I encouraged him to trust that there was a way.

It was a delightful interaction, a platonic connection between strangers. And it all happened because that day I changed the DVD, almost as though I’d known that person — whom I’d never met before — was coming.  Magic?

Magical Meetings

I love to ask happy couples how they met. I remember reading about a man who’d taken a route home he’d never walked before and seen a beautiful woman and thought, ‘I’m going to marry that girl.’ The couple had a lasting and joyful relationship.

Another couple — let’s call them Geoff and Sally — met at a dance. It was a place Geoff never went to. But that night he was so thirsty he took the door to the first venue that served refreshments. It so happened that Sally’s friend suddenly felt unwell and had to go home. Sally might have left too, but Geoff asked her to dance … and the rest is history.

How often do people recall, ‘Something told me to … go there, do that’ with the happiest of outcomes? Magic?

Magic and Cozy Paranormal Mystery

Within ‘magic’ is the light and the dark: Samantha from Bewitched and Voldemort. JK Rowling does an excellent job of showing that ceremonial magic is not all beer and skittles, that magic used for destructive purposes backfires. However, she also has her characters having fun with it.

Where does this put magic in a cozy paranormal mystery? For me, I had to construct a world that I can believe in. Yes, I’m writing fiction, but there has to be truth in it. I do subscribe to the Shakespeare quotation that appears in the books: ‘There are more things in heaven and earth … than are dreamt of in your philosophy.’

Some of the ‘magical’ events or conditions in the books I have experienced first hand. I have also known two ghostbusters in my life and heard their accounts. Yes, actual professionals employed often by businesses that have moved into new premises erected over old buildings. Paranormal manifestations spook the staff. Who you gonna call?

Magic and the Characters in the Amanda Cadabra Books

Amanda has been a witch since she was six years of age. Her witch grandparents, Senara and Perran, teach little Amanda both the joy and danger of wielding the wand. Rule number one: no spells on humans, or there will be dire consequences. They impress on her the responsibilities of being a witch, even if no one knows that you are.

By contrast, Detective Inspector Thomas Trelawney insists it’s all nonsense and mumbo jumbo and no subject for a rational man. Throughout the series, his scepticism is eroded as he discovers some truths about his past. He comes to understand why his mother won’t have magic mentioned.

There are two wicked Cornish witch-clans, closely connected to Amanda and Thomas, who wield magic only for their own power. On the other hand, the gentle farming family of the Cadabras holds to the credo: a witch does not strike out. In Book 4, The Rise of Sunken Madley, magic is manifested all its forms in the villagers of Amanda’s endearingly quaint home hamlet.

Above all, in Amanda’s world, good and light and enchantment triumph over evil and dark and sorcery. In the end, I had to create a world with hope, humour, adventure, suspense and love, a world where I would want to live. I hope you find it too, both in the real world and in Sunken Madley.

Wishing you a magical day, in the best possible way!


Cat adorer and chocolate lover, British author Holly Bell is a photographer and video maker when not creating novels. She had long experience of non-fiction writing before a serendipitous meeting with a successful fiction author. He convinced Holly that she could pen cozy mysteries.

Holly devoured all of the Agatha Christie books long before she knew that Miss Marple was the godmother of the Cozy Mystery genre. Her love of JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings meant that her first literary creation in this area would have to be a cozy paranormal.

Having derived immense delight from the adventure of writing Amanda Cadabra and The Hidey-Hole and its sequels, Holly has more in the pipeline. The fifth book in the series Amanda Cadabra and The Hidden Depths has just been released and the next book is already in the making.



Book Review – She Gets That From Me by Robin Wells


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Title: She Gets That From Me

Author: Robin Wells

Publisher: Berkley

Format: e-book, paperback, 425 pages

Published on: Sept. 22, 2020

Read an Excerpt: here

Buy It: Amazon Barnes

Quinn Langston owns a retail home furnishings shop in New Orleans to promote her design business. As Godmother to her best friend’s daughter, she’s more than happy to babysit when her friend, Brooke, goes on a business trip.

When Brooke dies unexpectedly, Brooke’s grandmother, Margaret, and Quinn have to care for Lily because Brooke was a single mother and the father was a sperm donor. Zach knows nothing about his daughter’s existence, but when Brooke died Margaret felt it was important that Lily’s father be a part of her life. Margaret contacts the donor registry and hopes for the best. She had no idea the donor’s wife was curious to see if he had any children as the chance for them to become parents was unlikely without an egg donor.

Little did his wife know that Zach would turn up at Brooke’s house hoping to meet the child. He believed the child was older and eager to meet him. Lily is only three. To make things even more complicated, Brooke encouraged Quinn to use the rest of the sperm donation frozen years ago. So Quinn is pregnant with Lily’s half brother or sister. 

While Zach’s wife, Jessica, is trying to make a new life for them in Seattle, Zach has second thoughts. Their marriage lacks intimacy and the prime focus is Jessica getting pregnant. He’s frustrated and really doesn’t want to be around her. He finds himself naturally drawn to Lily and Quinn and not simply because of obligation. He’s proud to be Lily’s father and is falling in love with Quinn.

When Margaret is no longer able to be the main guardian, Quinn immediately assumes the role of both their caregivers. Then Quinn and Zach find themselves at a turning point in their lives.

I give Robin Wells a sincere applause for writing about a very complicated subject. She handled it well. She presented quite a few of their POVs so you knew exactly how they felt about the experience. Each was done with realistic emotions and behaviors. I loved Lily and felt terrible for her. A child at that age would be unable to grasp that a parent would be gone forever. Having an aunt and father who loved her kept her on a positive path. As for Jack’s wife having to deal with her husband being the father of two children and she is having difficulty getting pregnant, that had to be so frustrating. But fate saw the path to bring happiness to all concerned. I definitely will be reading more novels by Robin Wells.

I did receive the free e-book from NetGalley, but bought the book. I will always be a print book lover first.

five daddies out of five

Denise Fleischer (

November 1, 2020

Currently reading: Haunted Homicide by Lucy Ness and North and Central by Bob Hartley. I do have a TBR list, but always interested in romance, cozy mysteries, paranormal and women’s fiction. Print books over e-books. Know that I take my time reading your book. I don’t believe in speed reading a novel.

Blog Tour Spotlight –Travel with Walt and Betty Rollin the full-time RVers and Help Them Solve A Mystery Or Two!!


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Superstition Victim (Rollin RV Mystery #3)

Buy the book: here

A rustic campground in the shadows of Arizona’s Superstition Mountains is anything but peaceful for Walt and Betty Rollin, full-time RVers hoping for tranquil hiking and a good deal on a new RV. What they find instead are secrets buried deeper than the Lost Dutchman’s legendary treasure… secrets so valuable someone is willing to kill to keep them. Local law enforcement seems unable to help, leaving Walt and Betty to do all they can—no matter what it takes. This is the third installment in the Rollin RV Mystery series which RVers and non-RVers alike have called “page-turning,” “engrossing,” and their favorite way to stay up past bedtime.

Superstition Victim is a fascinating read. Add first-hand information about living the full-time RV lifestyle, stir in danger and adventure that always follows [Behrens’] main characters, and a tasty mystery is served up to the reader. Ramping up the danger in this plot keeps the reader’s eyes glued to the pages. I could not put it down even at the end,” wrote Margo Armstrong, author of For Women Only: Traveling Solo in Your RV, and 9 other books on the lifestyle.

Yuma Baby (Rollin RV Mystery #2)

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A little girl in the back of a car, a lost stuffed toy in the desert, a frantic mother missing a child… they all seem related, but can Walt and Betty Rollin stay out of trouble themselves long enough to make the connections—before someone ends up dead? Retired, living and traveling full-time in their RV, Walt and Betty are hoping to relax under the winter sun in Yuma, Arizona, until word of their third grandchild’s birth summons them to snowy Ohio. But a chance encounter with a troubled young couple changes everything—and forces them to re-evaluate what “family” really means

Marcella Gauthier, in her review for Escapees Magazine (read by more than 50,000 Escapee Club members) wrote, “The main book selection in this issue is from a favorite author of the RVing community, Ellen Behrens. We wait breathlessly for another Rollin RV mystery with Walt and Betty Rollin… [T]his one keeps you on the edge of your seat wondering what will happen next. About the time you think you have it figured out, she throws in another plot twist. By the end of the book, you will begin to suspect everyone, even people who were completely unable to be the killer. Then Ellen surprises you when she reveals the real killer. Don’t peek at the end! Following Ellen’s trail of crumbs, as Betty and Walt try to solve the mystery, is delightful.”

Pea Body (Rollin RV Mystery #1)

Buy the book: here

Betty and Walt Rollin are bird watching at Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, avoiding Talkative Ted and Clingy Caroline, their overbearing neighbors at the RV “resort” where they’ve been staying. When Betty spots a very non-avian body at the edge of a far pond, she and Walt are drawn into the investigation. What they discover threatens to uncover long-held secrets that could ruin local reputations, and plunges these retired, full-time RVers up to their necks in the deep sand of local politics and passions.

Sherry Fundin, at her Fundinmental blog, wrote, “If you are looking for an adventure, Pea Body by Ellen Behrens is a fun and entertaining cozy mystery that shares the wonders of nature, the characters of a small, seasonal coastal town on the outerbanks of North Carolina, the danger of greed in the hands of those that will do anything to get what they want, and the freedom and drawbacks of a home on wheels.”

About the author

The daughter of artists, Ellen Behrens was raised in Clyde, Ohio, the setting for Sherwood Anderson’s “Winesburg, Ohio,” which might explain why stories captured her at such a young age. After several years of doing other things — from selling souvenirs to cleaning apartments — and completing a bachelor’s degree at Denison University in Ohio, she returned to campus at Bowling Green State University where she earned a Master of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing.

She’s the author of four novels (“Superstition Victim,” “Yuma Baby,” “Pea Body” and “None But the Dead and Dying”), a short story collection (“Road Tales: Short Stories About Full-Time RVing”), and a nonfiction book. Her short works have appeared in numerous periodicals and a few anthologies, and her nonfiction articles have also been widely published.

A former fiction editor for Mid-American Review, an internationally-recognized literary magazine, she’s led numerous workshops, presented at conferences and readings of her fiction across the country.

Ellen is listed in Who’s Who in America, Who’s Who in American Women, and Who’s Who in Education. In 1993 she was awarded an Ohio Arts Council Individual Artist Grant.