Guest Blog Post – Meet Harriet Gordon by A.M. Stuart

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I first met Harriet Gordon in the microfiche room of the Singapore National Library.

Of course, she wasn’t known as Harriet Gordon. Her name was Mrs. Howell, and in March of 1905 she placed an advertisement in the Straits Times, offering her services as a Stenographer and Typist. She guaranteed “RAPID & CAREFUL work together with ABSOLUTE SECRECY” (the capitals are hers). The now long-forgotten Mrs. Howell’s advertisement jumped off the microfiche at me. I loved her commitment to ABSOLUTE SECRECY, and slowly the character of Harriet Gordon—widow, typist, stenographer, and failed suffragette—began to form.

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Over the next few years, I started to rebuild her world – a colonial Singapore you can barely glimpse in the modern, go-ahead city of Singapore.

It is not just a case of recreating the physical world. Harriet does not exist in isolation. She has friends and family and, most importantly (for Harriet), her partner in crime: the enigmatic Inspector Robert Curran, head of the Detective Branch of the Straits Settlements Police Force.

9781984802644Singapore Sapphire is the first of an ongoing historical mystery series with Harriet Gordon and Inspector Curran at its heart. There are so many stories brewing in the tropical heat of the Malay Peninsula where truth and corpses tend to decompose quickly!

I have been waiting a long time to share Harriet with you. I hope you love her as much as I do!

A.M. Stuart 

ABOUT SINGAPORE SAPPHIRE

Early twentieth-century Singapore is a place where a person can disappear, and Harriet Gordon hopes to make a new life for herself there, leaving her tragic memories behind her–but murder gets in the way.

Singapore, 1910–Desperate for a fresh start, Harriet Gordon finds herself living with her brother, a reverend and headmaster of a school for boys, in Singapore at the height of colonial rule. Hoping to gain some financial independence, she advertises her services as a personal secretary. It is unfortunate that she should discover her first client, Sir Oswald Newbold–explorer, mine magnate and president of the exclusive Explorers and Geographers Club–dead with a knife in his throat.

When Inspector Robert Curran is put on the case, he realizes that he has an unusual witness in Harriet. Harriet’s keen eye for detail and strong sense of duty interests him, as does her distrust of the police and her traumatic past, which she is at pains to keep secret from the gossips of Singapore society.

When another body is dragged from the canal, Harriet feels compelled to help with the case. She and Curran are soon drawn into a murderous web of treachery and deceit and find themselves face-to-face with a ruthless cabal that has no qualms about killing again to protect its secrets.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Australian author, A.M. Stuart, began her writing career half way up a tree in the school playground where she wrote her first (unpublished) historical romance. She now writes historical romance as Alison Stuart (a Goodreads author).

Born in Kenya, her family came to Australia when she was ten years old. She has also lived in Singapore.

In her life outside writing, she enjoyed a varied career as a lawyer in a wide number of fields including the military and as a senior executive in the fire services.

The first of The Harriet Gordon Mysteries, SINGAPORE SAPPHIRE, will be published by Berkley in August 2019.

 

Guest Blog Post – Paprika and Hungary: Interesting Facts by Julia Buckley

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Paprika is the national spice of Hungary, and Americans are familiar with certain Hungarian dishes that are famous for their use of this spice: Chicken Paprikás and Hungarian Gulyas. In my book, DEATH IN A BUDAPEST BUTTERFLY, the Hungarians would not consider cooking without this essential spice.

But what is paprika? What makes it so special?

Paprika, a powder derived from air-drying sweet peppers, actually originated in Mexico, where the pepper plants grow in the wild. But long ago, when Buda was still separated from Pest, Turks began growing the spice on the shores of the Danube, an ideal spot for growing. Hungarian paprika developed its own distinctive flavor. Initially it was a hot spice, but eventually a breeder developed a sweet version as well. Now there are several varieties of Hungarian paprika.

From Budapest by Locals Blog: https://www.budapestbylocals.com/hungarian-paprika.html

“In the shops you can find 8 brands of the spice varying in colour and pungency:

  • Special quality (Különleges) – this is the mildest of all and has the most vibrant red colour
  • Delicate (csípősmentes csemege)-mild with rich flavour,
  • Exquisite delicate (csemege) –slightly more pungent than the Delicate,
  • Pungent Exquisite delicate (csípős csemege), even more pungent
  • Noble sweet (édesnemes) – the most common type, slightly pungent with bright red colour,
  • Half-sweet (félédes) – a medium-pungent
  • Rose (rózsa) – light red colour, mildly pungent
  • Hot (erős) – the hottest of all paprikas, light brown-orange colour.”

In Hungary, paprika is grown in two main regions: Szeged and Kalocsa. According to Food Tour Budapest, (link here: http://www.foodtourbudapest.com/blog/paprika-harvest), “Franciscan monks are said to be the first people who brought paprika to Szeged from their wandering around the Balkan region. They soaked the paprika in pálinka and used it to heal insect bites or malaria. (http://www.latogatobarat.hu/en). Due to the healing fact and the lack of pepper in the country during the Napoleon wars, (he banned bringing any spices from the Middle East), paprika became more and more popular in the region.”

If you want to cook with Hungarian paprika, you need to check your label carefully to make sure that it’s really imported from Hungary. Hungarian paprika has such a good reputation that other paprika-producers will try to imply that theirs is from Hungary with misleading labels.

When it comes to cooking with this delicious spice, finding the right paprika can make all the difference to your final result.

 

 

 

Blog Tour – Why I Love Writing Romance by Bestselling Author Kat Martin

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From birth to death, romance is part of everyone’s lives, a mother’s love for her newborn baby, a son or daughter’s love for a parent, or love for the person who shares your life.

Falling in love is the part that intrigues me.  I love giving my characters obstacles that reveal their strengths and weaknesses, everything from murder and mayhem to running for their lives.  The obstacles they face form the plots of my stories.  The way the characters overcome them shows their strengths and weaknesses and eventually is what draws the two of them together. Cover (The Deception) 300x450

In my latest Romantic Thriller, THE DECEPTION, book two of my Maximum Security series, Kate Gallagher is devastated when she learns her sister has been murdered.  Determined to find Chrissy’s killer, Kate hires lethal bounty hunter, Hawk Maddox.  Working together, they follow a trail of clues that lead them deep into the city’s underbelly.  Though Hawk warns her of the danger, nothing he says can convince Kate to walk away.

The best part of writing a romantic thriller is that the reader can be sure the perils the couple faces will be worth it.  By the last page of the book, the hero and heroine are going to find the forever kind of love and get the happy ending they deserve.

I hope you will watch for THE DECEPTION, and that if you haven’t read THE CONSPIRACY, you’ll look for it, too.

Till then very best wishes and happy reading, Kat

Kat Martin Bio

 New York Times bestselling author Kat Martin is a graduate of the University of California at Santa Barbara where she majored in Anthropology and also studied History. Currently residing in Missoula, Montana with her Western-author husband, L. J. Martin, Kat has written sixty-five Historical and Contemporary Romantic Suspense novels. More than sixteen million copies of her books are in print and she has been published in twenty foreign countries. Kat is currently at work on her next Romantic Suspense.

PUBLISHERS WEEKLY REVIEW

THE DECEPTION

https://www.publishersweekly.com/9781335007698

Martin revs the power from page one of this fast-paced romantic thriller, the second novel in her Maximum Security series (after The Conspiracy). After Kate Gallagher’s runaway younger sister, Chrissy, is murdered, she’s determined to find the killer, no matter what it takes. Bounty hunter Jason “Hawk” Maddox, a former Marine, doesn’t do relationships, but he’s quite willing to dance with Kate and start nudging her toward his bed; then she blurts out that her sister was killed. When Kate hires Hawk’s employer, Maximum Security, to investigate the murder, Martin immediately begins leading her well-drawn characters through a high-octane plot with hair-raising twists and turns, skillfully dragging red herrings everywhere. A subplot about a terrified, trafficked 13-year-old crackles with undeniable energy, as does the hot romance between Kate and Hawk. Even Martin’s most despicable characters (especially pedophile Denny Rayburg) are complex, adding to readers’ emotional investment. Fans of romantic suspense won’t be able to put this book down until the final page is turned, and Martin is likely to recruit thriller readers as well as romance fans with this snappy story. Agent: Alexandra Machinist, ICM. (Sept.)

THE DECEPTION

Back cover copy

 When missing turns to murdered, one woman’s search for answers will take her to a place she never wanted to go…

After searching for her sister for two long years, Kate Gallagher is devastated when she’s called to the morgue to identify Chrissy’s body, the runaway teen the victim of a brutal attack. Guilt and grief send Kate into a tailspin. She failed Chrissy once…she won’t do it again. Even if finding her sister’s killer means following a lethal bounty hunter into the heart of darkness, placing both their lives in danger.

Working at Maximum Security has taken Jason Maddox down some dangerous paths, but never for a client he’s so drawn to, or for a case so monstrous. As clues lead them deeper into the city’s underbelly, connections to human trafficking draw them closer and closer to peril, but even Jase’s warnings can’t convince Kate to walk away. As the deadly operation puts a target on their backs, they’ll have to decide what matters most: the truth…or their lives.

THE DECEPTION

PURCHASE LINKS

AMAZON

Kindle https://www.amazon.com/Deception-Maximum-Security-Book-ebook/dp/B07N42GTRB

Hardcover https://www.amazon.com/Deception-Maximum-Security-Kat-Martin/dp/1335007695

Barnes & Noble

Nook https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/deception-dwayne-t-martin/1125448252?ean=9781488054327#/

Hardcover https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/deception-dwayne-t-martin/1125448252?ean=9781335007698#/

KOBO

https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/the-deception-25

GOOGLE

https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Kat_Martin_The_Deception?id=ATaFDwAAQBAJ

ITUNES

https://books.apple.com/us/book/the-deception/id1450623296

INDIEBOUND

Hardcover https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781335007698

Publishers Weekly Review

https://www.publishersweekly.com/9781335541895

https://bit.ly/2PVYzoZ

KAT’S WEBSITE

https://www.katmartin.com/

CONTEST LINKS

Monthly Contest: https://www.katmartin.com/monthly-contest/

SOCIAL MEDIA

Twitter: https://twitter.com/katmartinauthor

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KatMartinAuthor

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/43705315-the-deception?

Instagram:https://www.instagram.com/KatMartinAuthor

 

 

 

 

New Berkley Title: Love and Death Among the Cheetahs by Rhys Bowen

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ABOUT LOVE AND DEATH AMONG THE CHEETAHS

Georgie and Darcy are finally on their honeymoon in Kenya’s Happy Valley, but murder crashes the party in this all-new installment in the New York Times bestselling series.

I was so excited when Darcy announced out of the blue that we were flying to Kenya for our extended honeymoon. Now that we are here, I suspect he has actually been sent to fulfill another secret mission. I am trying very hard not to pick a fight about it, because after all, we are in paradise! Darcy finally confides that there have been robberies in London and Paris. It seems the thief was a member of the aristocracy and may have fled to Kenya. Since we are staying in the Happy Valley—the center of upper-class English life—we are well positioned to hunt for clues and ferret out possible suspects.

Now that I am a sophisticated married woman, I am doing my best to sound like one. But crikey! These aristocrats are a thoroughly loathsome sort enjoying a completely decadent lifestyle filled with wild parties and rampant infidelity. And one of the leading lights in the community, Lord Cheriton, has the nerve to make a play for me. While I am on my honeymoon! Of course, I put an end to that right off.

When he is found bloodied and lifeless along a lonely stretch of road, it appears he fell victim to a lion. But it seems that the Happy Valley community wants to close the case a bit too quickly. Darcy and I soon discover that there is much more than a simple robbery and an animal attack to contend with here in Kenya.

Nearly everyone has a motive to want Lord Cheriton dead and some will go to great lengths to silence anyone who asks too many questions. The hunt is on! I just hope I can survive my honeymoon long enough to catch a killer. . . .

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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Photo: © John Quin-Harkin

Rhys Bowen, a New York Times bestselling author, has been nominated for every major award in mystery writing, including the Edgar, and has won many, including both the Agatha and Anthony awards. She is the author of the Royal Spyness Mysteries, set in 1930s London, the Molly Murphy Mysteries, set in turn-of-the-century New York, and the Constable Evans Mysteries, set in Wales. She was born in England and now divides her time between Northern California and Arizona.

Book Review – My Ex-Best Friend’s Wedding by Wendy Wax

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My Ex-Best Friend’s Wedding

By Wendy Wax

A Berkley original trade paperback

Published May 14, 2019

352 pages

$16.00

Have to admit it. Since reading Wendy Wax’s “Best Beach Ever,” (May 2018) I’m a fan. I might be reading the books out of order as I was just introduced to her special way of capturing the challenges of women today, but it doesn’t matter to me. I have to read “On Mermaid Point” and “While We Were Watching Downton Abbey.” Both are on my bedside shelf

When I heard Wendy had a new stand-alone title I had to read it. I wasn’t disappointed, either. You’d think the title says it all, but there are a lot of situations unfolding in this book that get you thinking. It all begins with a wedding dress worn by many generations of the family, but there’s so much more.

Lauren and Brianna have been the best of friends since Kindergarten. They even share the same birthday. They were inseparable. While in high school, Brianna’s grandmother died. For years, she was Brianna’s caregiver as her parents had devoted their lives to archeology and had no time to raise their daughter. Brianna came to live with Lauren’s family. The two young ladies had a common goal: they wanted to become writers. While they were in college, they began plotting a contemporary novel set in the Outer Banks. They planned to move to New York after graduation. Lauren was disappointed when Brianna changed her mind, but she still went along with her plans and moved to New York. While Lauren struggled to make a life for herself and become a writer, Brianna married Lauren’s high school boyfriend. These decisions nearly destroyed their friendship.

Making it more difficult is the fact that Lauren has become a bestselling author having written their co-drafted book. Years later, Brianna finally finishes her manuscript, which is a lifetime achievement for her. Right about that time, both women’s lives are shaken: one by the truth which was kept from her all her life. Another has to stop looking the other way and simply accepting what’s happening in her relationship.

My Ex-Best Friend’s Wedding definitely introduces a plot twist. Just when one of the women thinks her life is heading down the right path, bang, she hits a really big pothole. It wasn’t because of the decisions she made in her life. It was her mother. Secrets have a way of revealing themselves whether you’re ready for them or not. Quite possibly, they might ease you into your true destination.

Enjoyed reading this book. I could easily relate to both Lauren and Brianna’s lives. I understood how they would feel being “betrayed” on my different levels. But don’t worry, this one has a happy ending.

Four romance manuscripts out of five

Denise Fleischer

gottawritenetwork.wordpress.com

August 4, 2019

Blog Tour – The Conspiracy by Kat Martin Guest Blog Post & Excerpt

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Researching Columbia

Sometimes what you think is going to be a great idea for a novel turns out to be a whole lot of work! That’s what happens when you realize the idea you are now in the middle of isn’t going to work the way you thought it would.

Kat---Ventura-Star-(275by20-1In THE CONSPIRACY, I got the idea for a book that started in Texas, moved to the Caribbean, and ended up in Venezuela.  With all the trouble country is having, I thought it would be a great setting for a Romantic Thriller.

Unfortunately, after I was well into the book and started doing the necessary research for that segment of the story, I realized the geography I needed and the rural setting didn’t exist in Venezuela.

I spent days digging around in South America, looking for a rainforest that could be reasonably reached from the Caribbean island of Aruba.  Nothing worked.

Finally, I realized there actually was a spot that exactly fit the image in my head.  (This happens to writers all the time.  No one knows why.) The spot was in Columbia, a place I had no desire to write about, but fit the story exactly.

So I went to work researching a remote area of Columbia accessible from Aruba.

Chase Garrett, the hero of THE CONSPIRACY, with the help of Harper Winston, the woman who hires him to find her missing brother, wind up in extreme danger in the Columbian tropical forest.  It’s a very unusual place that required hours of research, but in the end, it was worth it.

I had my work cut out for me, finding which animals, reptiles, and birds lived in the area.  Reading about the customs of the indigenous tribes, and the politics.  Rebel armies inhabit the forest and they don’t like intruders.

The research made THE CONSPIRACY one of the most challenging books I’ve written, but hopefully it’s one of my most interesting.  I hope you’ll look for THE CONSPIRACY, out in paperback July 30th, the first of my Maximum Security series, and that you enjoy.  Until next time, very best wishes and happy reading,

Kat    

The Conspiracy - paperback cover

EXCERPT 4 of 5

The sounds of the rainforest surrounded him, the hum of insects, the shrill cry of a monkey, and the rustle of leaves as a wild animal moved through the undergrowth not far away.

In the blackness of night, Michael Winston leaned back against the thick trunk of an eighty foot Kapok rising up from the damp, mossy floor of the rainforest.  His wrists burned from the plastic ties biding his hands behind his back. The white Bermuda shorts his captors had allowed him to put on when they had boarded BUZZ Word and found him sleeping naked next to Pia in the master cabin were gone.  Replaced by khaki fatigues more suitable for their trek into the jungle.

Huddled on the ground beside him, hands also bound, Pia rested her head on his shoulder, her long mahogany hair teasing his cheek.  She was petite, no more than five foot-three, with big brown eyes and smooth olive skin. Even with her makeup gone, her baggy fatigues damp from the afternoon rain and sticking to her lush curves, she was beautiful.

Every time he looked at her, guilt and fury washed over him.  Fury that he was helpless to protect her from what might be in store for them.  Guilt that if he hadn’t convinced her to go sailing with him she would be safe back in Aruba.

He could only pray that their captors would continue to obey whatever orders had apparently come down from their leader, which seemed to be not to hurt them.

At least no more than they had already happened during the fight to subdue them that night on the boat.  His jaw and cheek were bruised and his ribs ached from the blows he had taken.  He would have kept fighting if one of the men hadn’t pulled a gun and pressed it against Pia’s head.

That had been days ago.  What day was it now?  He tried to count backward, remembered making incredible love to Pia for the first time after a night of gambling at the Trade Winds Casino.  Both of them had won a little money, enough to have them smiling when they returned to the boat and ended up in bed.

He remembered Pia falling asleep in his arms. Remembered the deep, satisfied sleep he’d drifted into himself, a rarity with the heavy work schedule he’d been under.

Sometime later that night, two men, big, burly and tough, had boarded the yacht and taken control, forcing him to sail out of the marina into the open sea.  For the next two days, Michael had been certain the men’s intention was to pirate the yacht, kill them and dump their bodies in the ocean.

If it hadn’t been for Pia, he would have made an attempt to overpower his captors, but the men were heavily armed and well-trained, and he wasn’t willing to risk Pia’s life unless there was absolutely no other choice.

Eventually, the boat had sailed into a quiet cove on a deserted stretch of beach several hundred miles from Curacao.  If his mental calculations were correct, they’d arrived somewhere in Colombia.

They’d been imprisoned two more days before soldiers had arrived to take charge of them.  By then, Michael had been certain the motive was ransom, a demand for millions from his mega-rich father in return for his son’s release.  But he was no longer sure.

Not since the soldiers had forced him and Pia to begin this grueling trek into the rainforest that covered the steep sides of the mountains.  They had hiked all day in ill-fitting boots provided by their captors that rubbed blisters on their feet.

At dusk the soldiers had stopped the march and begun making camp.  Exhausted, Michael had slumped against the tree and Pia had eased down beside him. He had no idea how long they’d sat there while the men ate and drank between raucous bursts of laughter.

They’d been brought water and a little food, which they’d been released just long enough to eat, given a bathroom break, then been tied up again and left beneath the tree.

Equally as wet, numb and cold as he was, Pia shifted and raised her head to look at him.  “How many more days, do you think, till we reach wherever they’re taking us?”

They hadn’t arrived at their final destination–he was sure of that.  “I heard some of them talking.  My Spanish sucks, but I was able to make out some of what they said.  If I got it right, they’re planning to reach the main camp by tomorrow night.”

Which meant another long day of hiking through the harsh, wet, mountainous tropical landscape.  Pia spoke far better Spanish than he did, but she’d been careful not to let them know.  She was extremely smart, which was one of the reasons he’d been attracted to her in the first place.  Not to mention her beautiful face and fantastic figure.

“Do you think they’ve sent word to your father?”

He had told her his ransom theory mostly to keep her spirits up, told her his father was worth millions of dollars and that he would surely pay for the safe return of his only son and the girl who was with him.

Though Michael had never been able to live up to his father’s expectations and they rarely spoke these days, it didn’t change the fact they were blood.  His father would pay the ransom demand and Pia would be part of the bargain–Michael wasn’t leaving without her.

“They’ve probably sent word by now,” he said. “They’ll want to be paid in cash. It might take my father a while to get the money together and get it down here.”

And his sister would be looking for them, he was sure of that.  He hadn’t called her in days, as she had made him promise to do.  Harper would know something was wrong and she would be doing her best to find him.

Purchase Links

AMAZON

Paperback https://www.amazon.com/Conspiracy-Maximum-Security-Kat-Martin/dp/1335045759

Kindle https://www.amazon.com/Conspiracy-Maximum-Security-Book-ebook/dp/B07C14Q9M2

Hardcover https://www.amazon.com/Conspiracy-Maximum-Security-Kat-Martin/dp/1335541896

Barnes & Noble

Paperback https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/conspiracy-duane-l-martin/1120825832?ean=9781335045751#/

Nook https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/conspiracy-duane-l-martin/1120825832?ean=9781488098901#/

Hardcoverhttps://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/conspiracy-duane-l-martin/1120825832?ean=9781335541895#/

KOBO

https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/the-conspiracy-16

GOOGLE

https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Kat_Martin_The_Conspiracy?id=Xx1VDwAAQBAJ

ITUNES

https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/the-conspiracy/id1369525583?mt=11

INDIEBOUND

Paperback https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781335045751

Hardcover https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781335008183

Publishers Weekly Review

https://www.publishersweekly.com/9781335541895

https://bit.ly/2PVYzoZ

THE CONSPIRACY

BACK COVER COPY

Harper Winston’s brother has disappeared. Pursuing his dream of sailing the Caribbean, Michael hasn’t responded to texts or emails in days. When even the Coast Guard can’t find him, Harper is forced to take desperate measures. Which means going to Chase Garrett, once her brother’s best friend, now the only man she can trust…or so she hopes.

As the successful owner of Maximum Security, Chase has learned to trust his gut. He knows Harper’s father is mixed up in a deadly business, and suspects there’s more to Michael’s disappearance than meets the eye. Getting involved again with the Winstons goes against everything he stands for, yet old loyalties die hard. As the case draws him closer to Harper and deeper into the Winstons’ snarled crime family, he is forced to put everything on the line to keep Harper safe…and both of them alive.

Kat Martin Bio

New York Times bestselling author Kat Martin is a graduate of the University of California at Santa Barbara where she majored in Anthropology and also studied History. Currently residing in Missoula, Montana with her Western-author husband, L. J. Martin, Kat has written sixty-five Historical and Contemporary Romantic Suspense novels. More than sixteen million copies of her books are in print and she has been published in twenty foreign countries. Kat is currently at work on her next Romantic Suspense.

KAT’S WEBSITE

https://www.katmartin.com/

CONTEST LINKS

Monthly Contest: https://www.katmartin.com/monthly-contest/

SOCIAL MEDIA

Twitter: https://twitter.com/katmartinauthor

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KatMartinAuthor

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/39929060-the-conspiracy?

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/KatMartinAuthor

 

 

 

Guest Blog Post – For Old Times’ Sake by Miranda James

9780451491121I love old movies. Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, Irene Dunne, Claudette Colbert, Clark Gable, Barbara Stanwyck, Fred McMurray, Rosalind Russell, Carole Lombard, Audrey Hepburn, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers – these were the great stars of Hollywood’s Golden Era (and yes I know I’ve left off a lot of names, so you can add your own favorites to the list). My favorite genre of movies from this period is screwball comedy. I love the fast-paced stories, the rapid-fire dialogue, and the subtle ways that sexual attraction is handled.

My favorite screwball comedies, you ask? Well, Bringing Up Baby tops the list, but close to the top are gems like The Awful Truth and Ball of Fire. I have seen my favorites numerous times. I like to re-watch my favorites for the same reasons that I like to re-read favorite books. It’s simply spending time with old friends, particularly old friends whom you can trust not to disappoint you.

There is at least one screwball murder mystery, The Mad Miss Manton, with Barbara Stanwyck and Henry Fonda. It’s actually a fairly clever plot, and it’s well worth seeking out. So is The Lady Eve with the same two stars; it has crime as part of the plot, and Stanwyck and Fonda are superb in it.

When I was trying to come up with a title for the latest “Cat in the Stacks” novel, I found a list of movies titles that had been changed so that each had some kind of cat reference. The one that immediately attracted my attention was The Pawful Truth. It’s obviously a take-off on one of my favorites, named above, and that set me thinking.

What if? These are the two most useful words for a mystery writer. What if I took elements from the comic movie and used them in the plot of a murder mystery? How would that turn out?

The result was the latest book in the series, The Pawful Truth. If you’ve seen the movie, I hope you will enjoy some of the in-jokes in the story. If you haven’t seen it, I hope you’ll watch it at some point. It’s enormous fun, and I hope you also have fun with the story I have told.

ABOUT THE PAWFUL TRUTH

When Charlie Harris decides to go back to school, he and his Maine Coon cat, Diesel, find themselves entangled in a deadly lovers quarrel on campus in the latest installment of the New York Times bestselling series.

In addition to his library duties and his role as doting grandad, Charlie has enrolled in  an early medieval history course offered by young, charismatic professor Carey Warriner. Charlie feels a bit out of place- his fellow classmates are half his age- except for Dixie Bell Compton, another ‘mature’ student. When Charlie hears an angry exchange between her and their professor, his interest in piqued. He’s even more intrigued when she shows up at his office asking for a study partner. Charlie turns her down and is saddened to learn just a few days later that Dixie has been killed.

Charlie wonders if Professor Warriner had anything to do with Dixie’s death. Warriner is married to a fellow professor who happens to be a successful author. There are rumors on campus that their marriage was on the rocks. Was Dixie’s death the result of a lovers’ triangle gone bad? Charlie soon discovers that the professor’s wife may have some secrets of her own and his suspect list is only getting longer.

As he and Diesel step further into the tangled web of relationships, someone else is viciously killed. Whose jealousy finally erupted into murderous rage? Was it a crime of passion or is there another  more sinister motive? Charlie  races to unravel this mystery: and to draw out the culprit, he may just have to put his own life on the line…

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 Up the Dirt, and Dead with the Wind. James lives in Mississippi. Visit the author at catinthestacks.com and facebook.com/mirandajamesauthor.

Guest Blog Post: On the Magic of Writing a Series By Juliet Blackwell

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Bewitched and Betrothed by Juliet Blackwell, Witchcraft Mystery, paperback, June 25, 2019, 352 pages.

Here’s the thing: When a fledgling author sets out to write a series, she never knows whether it will wind up being a single book or ten or twenty. My very first series, for example, only lasted for four books – even though I had planned (and hoped) to write many more.

So how does an author plan for overarching series plots and character paths, even while making sure each installment of the series follows its own plots and subplots to their conclusions?

In my case, at least, in involves a lot of planning, but also the willingness to write by the seat of my pants when things don’t go they way I expected/planned/proposed. Because characters, like living people, often don’t do what they’re supposed to do – much less what following the paths a mere mortal like me had outlined in advance.

Case in point: the main character’s love life. In the Witchcraft Series, Lily Ivory is a natural-born witch who has been hiding her powers for most of her life. She was born into a European magical system, but raised in her grandmother’s Mexican magical tradition. In the series, Lily started out with a flirtation with Aidan, a powerful witch, but then falls for a sexy “mythbuster” named Max. Aidan has too many secrets, and eventually Max made Lily doubt herself when he couldn’t get past the whole witch thing. (As an aside: I grew up watching old reruns of Bewitched, and even as a little kid I couldn’t understand why Darren didn’t get over himself and support his wife’s talents and interests. I mean, really, Darren?)

While I was trying to figure out a way for Max to redeem himself, a man named Sailor walked onto the scene. A brooding, chain-smoking, motorcycle-riding, hard-drinking psychic with a major chip on his shoulder. (Also, he’s a teensy bit handsome). And without my intending it, sparks flew. In Sailor, Lily found someone who is her mental and magical match, and who supports her –and her powers. Their relationship was rough, at first, but eventually Sailor began to cherish and value her, just as she is. In Sailor, Lily found someone with whom she doesn’t have to hide – and isn’t that what we all deserve?

Who knew? I swear, I didn’t plan it! But, for me, this is the magic of the writing life. This is the Muse visiting, the inspiration for a story that seems to come from beyond. When the characters become so real they feel like friends; their dialogue flows as if I’m watching a movie; and they attend to resolving their own trials and tribulations. It’s really quite amazing – and it keeps me addicted to writing!

Of course, if I “respect the Muse” it means I have to alter my own silly, merely mortal outline, and roll with the new storylines. Often I have to alter the way I had planned to resolve the plot, or how to intertwine character arcs. Luckily, I write fiction, so I get to make things up to explain what just happened.

In Bewitched and Betrothed, Sailor and Lily have already decided to take the next step in their relationship, and are engaged to be married. But with a supernatural force threatening their beloved San Francisco, and Lily’s grandmother’s coven in town, will they be able to escape Alcatraz and still make it to the redwood fairy circle to exchange their vows?

That last part, I did plan in advance. But getting there was a wild ride!

 

GBP: What Happened While Writing Booking the Crook by Laurie Cass

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Booking the Crook by Laurie Cass, mass market paperback/July 2, 2019.

In a perfect world, I’d start a book and continue writing on a near-daily basis until the end. Sadly, this has never happened to me. Not for any of the other books I’ve written, and certainly not for this book, which probably set my personal record for Most Extended Interruptions.

Some interruptions are pretty much assumed. At some point during the first draft, I’ll do rewrites on the book previously submitted, which will be followed by copyedits, which will be followed by a final proofreading of the typeset copy. There will also be interruptions due to things like the holidays, flu and flu-like illnesses, wedding, funerals, etc.

This book, however, had two additional interruptions. The first one went like this. It was the first Saturday in March 2018. I’d started writing the first draft of Booking the Crook a couple of weeks earlier. Deadline for delivering the manuscript to my editor was July 10. Plenty of time!

No, wait. My husband and I and another couple were headed to Ireland at the end of May. My sweetie and I had never gone anywhere that required passports, and we were geeked beyond belief. So wouldn’t it be cool to have the first draft done before leaving for Ireland? Why yes it would. Less than four months away, but if I kept at it, I could do it.

Back to that fateful Saturday morning. I’d kissed my husband good-bye, he’d gone off to ski, and I’d settled down with my computer with the goal of writing three thousand words. 869 words in (and I’m not making that number up; I track my word counts), the phone rang.

As per usual, my husband had been skiing a black diamond—for you non-skiers out there, read “freakishly steep hill”—only this time he’d fallen hard and slid into a signpost, shoulder blade first. This spun him around and sent him into the woods, where he lay until the intrepid Ski Patrol came to cart him down the hill.

The phone call was my husband asking for a ride to the hospital, where we learned he’d broken his shoulder blade. And that started my month long writing break. Happily, no surgery was required, but he couldn’t drive for a number of weeks, couldn’t put on his own shirt, couldn’t…well, let’s just say life wasn’t easy for him.

He healed well, and I was back at writing by the second week of April. But by now I’d long given up the idea of finishing the first draft pre-Ireland. So what did I do? What most writers would—I hauled my laptop to Ireland so I could keep working.

But then a truly weird thing happened. About three days into the trip, when I was writing, I could hear one of my characters talking with an Irish accent. This, from a book set in Michigan and populated entirely by Americans. And it was only one of the characters. None of the others sounded any different.

I have no idea what that means, or if it means anything. But it does make me wonder if it could happen again. And if it could happen in another country. England? Italy? Peru? Nepal? Perhaps I should try all of them!

ABOUT BOOKING THE CROOK

It’s all paws on deck as a librarian and her rescue cat track down a killer in the newest book in the national bestselling Bookmobile Cat mystery series.

Minnie Hamilton and her rescue cat, Eddie, cruise around lovely Chilson, Michigan delivering happiness and good reads in their bookmobile. But the feisty librarian is worried that the bookmobile’s future could be uncertain when a new library board chair arrives and doesn’t seem too friendly to her pet project.

Still, she has to put her personal worries aside when she and Eddie are out on their regular route and one of their favorite customers doesn’t turn up to collect her books. Minnie, at Eddie’s prodding, checks on the woman and finds her lying dead in her snow-covered driveway. Now it’s up to Minnie and her friends–feline and otherwise–to find the perpetrator and give them their due.

Guest Blog Post – Author Kate Carlisle Makes a Narrow Escape

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Kate Carlisle is the New York Times  bestselling author of two ongoing series: the Bibliophile Mysteries featuring San Francisco bookbinder Brooklyn Wainwright, whose rare book restoration skills uncover old secrets, treachery and murder; and the Fixer-Upper Mysteries, featuring Shannon Hammer, a home contractor who discovers not only skeletons in her neighbors’ closets, but murder victims, too. Hallmark Movies & Mysteries has brought the Fixer-Upper Mysteries to TV in a series of movies starring Jewel and Colin Ferguson. A native Californian, Kate worked in television production for many years before turning to writing.

One sunny day last year, I was in Palm Springs with my husband and our family. The sky was a beautiful bright blue, the temperature a perfect 72 degrees. We strolled through shops, stopped for a bite to eat… not a worry in the world. It was all very relaxed and lighthearted.

Until suddenly, we found ourselves in an incredibly dangerous, life-or-death situation.

We stumbled upon a vampire’s lair and were confronted by a vampire who’d been locked out of his coffin! We were his only hope. We had to work together to uncover the secrets behind how he became a vampire in the first place in order to find the key to his coffin before the sun turned him to dust.

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We were at Escape Room Palm Springs on a research trip for my latest book, The Book Supremacy.

Have you heard of escape rooms? They’re the latest trend in experiential entertainment. Unlike going to a movie, where you’re passive, entering an escape room puts you right into the thick of the action. You become part of the story.

In The Book Supremacy, bookbinder Brooklyn Wainwright allows her rare first edition James Bond novel to be displayed for the anniversary of a San Francisco spy shop with escape rooms. Then the fun and games turn deadly.

Confession: I wrote the first draft of The Book Supremacy without ever having visited an escape room. I turned in the book, but I was worried that I had made the puzzles too challenging. So between first draft and revisions, I visited Escape Room Palm Springs to experience it for myself.

Here’s a snippet about one of the escape rooms in The Book Supremacy:

Alex looked up and gasped.

I followed her gaze up to the ceiling and saw that one of the acoustic tiles had come loose. A bloody hand and part of an arm were sticking out from the duct. A dozen bloody handprints marked the nearby ceiling tiles.

Unsure whether to laugh or shriek, I whispered, “Oh, my God.”

“Don’t mind him,” the Game Master said. “He’s dead. But there are other zombies outside, also dead of course, but ready to attack.” He stared intently at the three of us. “We usually have more people playing the game so you three will have to work harder. But you all look like you’ve got brains.”

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“We do,” Wallace said.

“Good.” The Game Master flashed an evil grin. “Zombies love brains.”

We all laughed weakly.

He began to giggle. His laughter grew louder and louder until he was hysterical. Abruptly he stopped laughing and headed out the door. “Clock starts now. Good luck, kiddies.”

He shut the door firmly and we heard the loud click.

There was a sudden loud pounding. I swore I must’ve jumped a foot.

“Open up!” someone screeched. “Let us in!”

There was growling and more shrieks as the pounding continued.

“Holy crap.” I quickly backed away from the door.

Wallace gazed from me to Alex. “I believe those are the zombies.”

My family and I had a blast at Escape Room Palm Springs! We had to solve a series of puzzles in order to reach the next clue, and the next, and the next, until finally you either reach the end. . . or the vampire dies. The puzzles were really clever and made us think. What was especially fun was that it felt like a competition, but not against each other. We worked together and competed against the clock. We had one hour to complete it, and we used up every bit of that time. When we solved the final puzzle and saved the poor lonely vampire’s life, we really felt like we accomplished something.

And best of all, I discovered that the escape room in The Book Supremacy would give my readers a very realistic experience. The real-life escape room was every bit as challenging as the ones in the book. The only difference is that in the real world, no one was murdered—at least, not as far as I know.

Do escape rooms sound fun to you? Have you ever visited? If so, tell me about it. If not, would you? Or would you prefer to stick with the fictional version in The Book Supremacy?

 ABOUT THE BOOK:

Kate4In the latest in this New York Times bestselling series, San Francisco book-restoration expert Brooklyn Wainwright investigates a mysterious spy novel linked to a string of murders…

 Newlyweds Brooklyn and Derek are enjoying the final days of their honeymoon in Paris. As they’re browsing the book stalls along the Seine, Brooklyn finds the perfect gift for Derek, a first edition James Bond novel, The Spy Who Loved Me. When they bump into Ned, an old friend from Derek’s spy days, Brooklyn shows him her latest treasure.

Once they’re back home in San Francisco, they visit a spy shop Ned mentioned. The owner begs them to let him display the book Brooklyn found in Paris as part of the shop’s first anniversary celebration. Before they agree, Derek makes sure the security is up to snuff—turns out, the unassuming book is worth a great deal more than sentimental value.

Soon after, Derek is dismayed when he receives a mysterious letter from Paris announcing Ned’s death. Then late one night, someone is killed inside the spy shop. Are the murders connected to Brooklyn’s rare, pricey book? Is there something even more sinister afoot? Brooklyn and the spy who loves her will have to delve into the darkest parts of Derek’s past to unmask an enemy who’s been waiting for the chance to destroy everything they hold dear.