Guest Blog Post: Kensington Author Leigh Hearon On Sustaining a Series


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publicity-2–Leigh Hearon, author of “Reining In Murder” and “Saddle Up For Murder”

At one of my first book signings for my debut mystery, “Reining In Murder,” someone asked me if I was worried that I’d created a series that would difficult to sustain. It was a fair question.

51j5ayazwlI write cozy mysteries.  My protagonist, Annie Carson, is a single 40-something woman who trains horses, rescues horses, and, as many readers have pointed out, gets along better with equines than humans. Annie also solves murders, much to the irritation of the local Sheriff, who’s been her friend since high school days.

Most of the action takes place on the Olympic Peninsula in a community that closely resembles my own. Just for the record, I live in a rural area where tractors determine the speed limit on country roads, most men sport red suspenders at the local café, and the post office closes between noon and one because there’s no one else to take over and after all, everyone’s entitled to eat lunch.

But back to the question.  My answer, of course, was that I envisioned myriad ways in which the series could develop. For one, Annie has a love interest, the very handsome Marcus, who happens to live in Silicon Valley where his thriving software business keeps him much of the time. Murder certainly could occur within the seething hotbed of California high tech companies. But even without that budding romance, Annie has many ways in which to prove she’s a crackerjack sleuth without a badge or gun. In “Saddle Up for 517dfnhjaol-_sx302_bo1204203200_Murder,” next in the series, a murder takes place on her own ranch, and the proximity of the victim’s death as well as Annie’s passing acquaintance with the deceased quickly pull her into the investigation.

In the third book, “Unbridled Murder” (which I’m now writing), Annie travels to Eastern Washington to solve a series of murders after she’s called upon to negotiate the rescue of horses held in what is euphemistically called a “feedlot,” otherwise known as a kill pen. Feedlots are not fiction. It’s where too many unwanted horses end up before being carted off to Mexico or Canada, where slaughterhouses still exist.

And the fourth book….well, for almost 25 years, I’ve earned my living as a private investigator. So far, bits and pieces of my more notorious cases have ended up in every book. With such a rich history to draw upon, I can’t see that changing much.

True, not a lot of murder takes place in my own back yard. Where I live, most arrests are for drug, domestic disturbances, and petty crimes. Occasionally, a homicide will occur, which becomes “The Crime of the Century” in our local weekly newspaper.  But just because I live in a relatively crime-free zone compared to my urban compatriots doesn’t mean that murder couldn’t take place here.

Think about it. To get to the Olympic Peninsula, most people take a charming ferry ride from Seattle or other points across the water. What a perfect place for a overboard murder to occur! And we have forests—dense, green, rain forests, where bodies easily could remain hidden for months, if not years, before an unsuspecting hiker comes across the remains. And mountains? We have a ton of them. Not to mention bears, cougars, coyote, and other feral animals that could force someone to jump off a cliff—unless it’s a human who forced the fall, of course.

And there’s the farming community. Thriving, well-tended organic farms are everywhere and we locals take full advantage of the produce. But who’s to say that a hideous death might occur when a John Deere suddenly goes rogue?

In short, I am firmly convinced that Annie’s adventures as a sleuth could continue well onto a series that stretches on indefinitely. The Sheriff may not like Annie’s interfering ways, but she’s already proven to be a pretty good detective on her own. No chance on her joining the local police force, however—not when she has so many good horses to ride. And a very handsome suitor who currently lives 1,200 miles away.


A Carson Stables Mystery, Book 2

Publication Date: October 25, 2016
Publisher: Kensington
ISBN-10: 149670035X
ISBN-13: 978-1496700353

On sale October 25, 2016!
Available for pre-order now!

At first, horse trainer and Carson Stables owner Annie Carson blames the random losses of local livestock on feral animals stalking Olympic Peninsula county’s farms and ranches. But when one of her own flock is found savagely slaughtered, it gets personal. Then it turns dangerous, when Annie discovers the body of a young woman hanging in her new hay barn. Suddenly, she’s up to her neck in complicated mysteries—one involving her private life. But her sleuthing skills aren’t exactly welcomed by the sheriff. And as she uncovers a clue to the killer’s identity, Annie fears she’s leading a deadly trail straight to her door.

Guest Blog Post: Writing the Modern Cat by Delia James


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9780451476586So, it turns out cats have taken over the world.

This is not going to be news to cat owners, or to cats themselves. They just wonder why it took so long for the rest of us to notice.

I am a cat person. I grew up with cats. When I was little we had a highly independent calico named Buttercup who learned to walk without making her bell collar ring and who mercilessly teased the great dane who lived next door. Since then, I’ve shared my home with a number of felines, from my (frankly) psychopathic Siamese, to Kuzbean who loved everybody, except Isis, to our current kitty, Buffy the Vermin Slayer who is sitting by my shoulder as I type this up.

Every last one of them has known their exact position at the center of the universe, and every last one of them has made sure that it was remembered.

So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anybody that I drew heavily on my personal cat experiences, as well as the cats owned by friends and family to create the character of Alistair for the Witch’s Cat mysteries. For instance, Colonel Kitty, the black, three-legged cat owned by Frank Hawthorne, is the namesake of a cat owned by good friends of mine, who was able to climb trees, fences, chairs faster than most four-legged cats. Miss Bootsie, the cat at the Harbor’s Rest hotel, may or may not be related to any number of cats I’ve met in bookstores and bed and breakfasts.

Alistair, however, is his own particular self.  Big, sassy, convinced (and rightly so) of his own intelligence. But loving and loyal. When he feels like it.

One of the reasons I enjoy writing the witch’s cat mysteries so much is the relationship between Anna and Alistair. They are such a great team, and Alistair’s personality just leapt off the page as soon as I began to write him. Like his human friends, Alistair has more abilities than average, and maybe an extra helping of smarts (although my own cats would argue this point). Despite this, I’ve tried to keep him one hundred percent cat. For instance, He sits on everything; papers, laundry, open books, toes that aren’t moving fast enough. The state of his food bowl is of constant and intense importance to him, especially if it is not full, or is full of the wrong thing. This last is borrowed straight from a trick of Buffy’s of standing at the bottom of the stairs to our room and meowing, loudly, at five in the morning, because we haven’t gotten up quickly enough (For the record, I am not exaggerating about the five in the morning part).

hat-bw-140x175Frustration. Exasperation. Confusion. Laughter.  A little strange fame, or maybe infamy. Magic. The kind of love that you would not choose to live without. That is what it is to be a cat owner, and that’s what I want to pour into the pages of the Witch’s Cat books.

Born in California and raised in Michigan, Delia James writes her tales of magic, cats, and mystery from her hundred-year-old bungalow home. She is the author of the Witch’s Cat mysteries, which began with A Familiar Tail. When not writing, she hikes, swims, gardens, cooks, reads, and raises her rapidly growing son.


Guest Blog Post: From One to Nineteen in the Blink of an Eye




9780451472120By Denise Swanson

Getting my first book traditionally published was a long and arduous journey. It took a long time and two hundred and seventy rejection slips to find an agent. And even then, it took that agent eighteen months to find a publisher. Nearly twenty years ago, cozy mysteries were nowhere near as popular as they are now. And since I had my own ideas on setting, sleuth’s appearance, and sleuth’s occupation, it was lot harder than if I’d have put Scumble River in Alabama, made my sleuth Skye a size six, and had her own a bookstore or work in law enforcement.

Few editors wanted to take the gamble on a book that didn’t fit the mold and am I ever glad the editor at NAL/Signet/Penguin was willing to give me a chance! With the first book, Murder of a Small-Town Honey, in its fifteenth printing, and the nineteen book, Murder of a Cranky Catnapper, due out September 6, I think it’s safe to say there was more interest in a curvy, Midwest, school psychologist than a lot of folks ever realized.

I’m thrilled that my series is such a long running one, and I’m always a bit surprised when someone asks me when I’m going to end it. I love Skye and her pals, and I’d be sad never to visit with them again. Because I was a school psychologist myself for twenty-two years, I still have tons of great plots. In fact, in my new book, Murder of a Cranky Catnapper, I used one of my own run-ins with a school board member. The guy who gave me a hard time didn’t end up dead—at least not in real life.

And having recently moved back to rural Illinois, I’m now collecting more small-town stories, too. Expect some interesting future plots about my experience hunkering down for a tornado.

I realize with a long series that stagnation is always a risk, but I have made a continued effort to allow my characters to change and grow. This means that Skye has lost cars, houses, and boyfriends. She’s altered her goals, expectations, and how she deals with her mother. And most of all, she’s matured from a woman who was running away from a life she didn’t want, to someone who runs towards the life she does want.

In my sixteenth book, Murder of a Stacked Librarian, Skye got married, and folks started asking if I planned on ending the series. But because I don’t think a woman’s journey ends when she finds the man of her dreams, the answer is no. In fact, in her newest adventure, Murder of a Cranky Catnapper, Skye deals with sleuthing while dswansonpregnant. Certainly, a growth experience for her and her new husband.

Having a husband and children will push Skye into even more exciting adventures and will surely change the dynamic of her relationship with her mom and friends. So to everyone who is concerned that I’ll end the series, all I can say is stay tuned for book number twenty!

About the author:

New York Times Bestselling author Denise Swanson writes the Scumble River and Devereaux’s Dime Store mysteries, as well as the Change of Heart contemporary romances. She lives in rural Illinois with her husband and big black cat.

For more information, visit her at or at

MURDER OF A CRANKY CATNAPPER  A Scumble River Mystery by Denise Swanson, September 6, 2016, $7.99, 266 pages.

Blog Tour Spot – An excerpt from Lies, Love & Redemption


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By Kelli A. Wilkins

Lies, Love & Redemption

The summary:

Shot and left for dead, Sam Hixton stumbles into a general store on the Nebraska prairie and collapses into the arms of Cassie Wilcox.

Cassie’s world is turned upside down when the handsome stranger drops into her life. Sam is another complication she doesn’t need: her business is dying and her trouble with the townspeople is escalating. Yet she’s determined to keep the store open — no matter what the cost.

As Sam recovers from his injuries, he hides the truth about his identity and convinces Cassie to let him work in the store. He’s attracted to her and admires her independent nature but quickly realizes Cassie’s in way over her head. They fight their growing attraction, and Cassie questions whether she can trust her fragile heart to a mysterious stranger. Will he accept her once he knows about her troubled past?

Cassie resists Sam’s advances and represses her feelings until one fateful night when they give in to their fiery passion. Together, they work out a plan to save the store but find their efforts are thwarted—and their lives endangered—by the locals.

Sam’s secret returns to haunt him and pulls him away just when Cassie needs him the most. Will he regain her trust when she learns the truth? Cassie has everything invested in the store—can she save it and find true love with Sam before it’s too late?

 The excerpt:

Sam wiped sweat off his brow with the back of his hand and forced himself to take another step. He grimaced as a white-hot pain shot up his right thigh. Keep moving. He had to keep moving. If he stopped, he’d die.

He sucked dusty air in through his clenched teeth and pressed on. One foot in front of the other. Left, right, wince. Repeat. After he’d hobbled a few more steps, his vision blurred, and the narrow wagon trail went fuzzy. Shit. That wasn’t good. The last time that happened, he woke face down on the prairie, half-fried in the sun. If he fell again, he’d never get up.

He shook his head to clear it and limped toward salvation. Just after sunrise, he had cleared the top of a hill and spotted a town in the distance. The wood buildings stood out like lighthouse beacons. How much farther was it? Five hundred yards? A thousand? It didn’t matter. He’d get there if he had to crawl. The town would have a doc to dig the bullets out of him—and water.

Water. He swallowed and felt an all-too-familiar burn in the back of his throat. His mouth was bone-dry and tasted like dirt. How long had it been since he’d had water? A day? Two? Hell, how long had it been since he was shot and left for dead?

He had stumbled across the Nebraska prairie for days, praying alternately for rescue or death. If God didn’t hate him, he would have come across a homestead, seen a rancher, or met someone on horseback—but he was alone. From time to time, he’d wondered if maybe he was already dead and cursed to wander like this for eternity.

But dead people didn’t feel pain. And yet, by all rights, he was supposed to be dead. The bastards who shot him had stripped him of the essentials: his horse, his canteen, and his guns. They had taken everything he needed to survive—but they didn’t get his satchel.

Something warm and wet trickled down his back in tiny rivulets. Was it sweat? Blood? He wasn’t sure anymore. He ignored it and clenched the leather satchel tighter in his right hand. Wouldn’t he be a sight for whoever found him when he got to town? Filthy, smelly, and covered in blood, he probably looked more dead than alive. If the doc—

His right leg buckled under him, and he sprawled to the ground. He lay in the grass, too weak to move. The wind blew dirt in his eyes as flies buzzed around his face. He tried to raise his left arm to shoo them away, but the pain was too much to bear. A bullet had ripped into his shoulder and probably was stuck in his back.

Sam closed his eyes. Why fight? It would be easier to stay here and die. By noon, buzzards would start swirling overhead, ready to pick at his bloodied flesh. Someone from town might wander out to see what the vultures were after, but it wasn’t likely. It wouldn’t take long to—

A banging noise interrupted his thoughts. He raised his head in the direction of the sound. Town. Someone was nearby. He had to call for help. Move. Get up and move. Now! He gathered what little strength he had left and pushed himself to his knees. A flash of pain cut across his ribs as he rose to his feet and turned toward town. A woman was sweeping the porch in front of a brown building. Thank God. Someone could help him.

He called out, but his feeble croak was lost in the wind. His heart sank as he realized she was too far away to hear him. The woman reminded him of an angel in her white dress with her long, blonde hair flowing loose around her shoulders. Surely that was a good sign. Maybe God had forgiven him and sent an angel to rescue him. Nah. That’d be ridiculous. God hated him.

Sam focused on the building and took a step. “Keep going. Only a little more,” he whispered.

Order Lies, Love & Redemption here:



Learn more about the book and get links to other platforms here:



Kelli A. Wilkins is an award-winning author who has published more than 95 short stories, 19 romance novels, and 5 non-fiction books. Her romances span many genres and heat levels.

In 2016, Kelli began re-releasing her romances previously published by Amber Quill Press. Visit her website and blog for a full title list, book summaries, and other information. Kelli’s third Medallion Press historical romance, Lies, Love & Redemption, was released in September 2016.

Her writing book, You Can Write—Really! A Beginner’s Guide to Writing Fiction is a fun and informative non-fiction guide based on her 15 years of experience as a writer. It’s filled with writing exercises and helpful tips all authors can use.

If you like to be scared, check out Kelli’s horror ebooks: Dead Til Dawn and Kropsy’s Curse.

Kelli posts on her Facebook author page: and Twitter: She also writes a weekly blog:

Visit her website, to learn more about all of her writings, read book excerpts, reviews, and more. Readers can sign up for her newsletter here:




Here are a few links to find Kelli & her writings on the web




Newsletter sign-up:

Medallion Press Author Page:






Blog Tour Spot: An Interview with Author Kelli A. Wilkins


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First of all, I think it’s wonderful you’ve written a western, it’s part of our not-so-distant past. The struggle to exist without all the benefits of a big city had to be quite a challenge. Is Cassie’s story something that’s been with you for awhile, eager to be told?

Yes, Lies, Love & Redemption has been with me for quite a while—many years, in fact. When I got the idea for the book, I did all the initial research and wrote a very rough draft. After that, the handwritten manuscript just sat around. I’m not exactly liesloveredemptionsure why other book projects came ahead of it, but they did. I wrote several other books while this one was waiting in the wings, so to speak. Cassie’s story was always there, but I guess I wasn’t ready to revise and edit it.

When I started working on the book, I found that although the basic story still resonated with me, I wanted (and needed) to make a lot of changes. I added new scenes, deleted others, and generally gave it a makeover. I think it’s a much stronger and better book now than it was originally.

Readers can order Lies, Love & Redemption here:



And learn more about the book and get links to other platforms here:

What came to you first, the characters or the plot?

It was a combination of both. I always had the opening scene of Sam walking across the prairie in my mind. I knew where he was going (to Cassie’s store) and I had the general idea of how the story would play out and who the characters are, but not the specifics of each scene. As I got further into writing the book, the details became more solidified.

Is this the first time you’ve written about the Nebraska prairie? Did you dig deep into its past?

Yes, this is the first time I’ve written about Nebraska, or tackled a western, for that matter. Although I’ve written a lot of historical romances, the time periods are always different. I’ve used Medieval (A Most Unusual Princess), Scottish (The Viking’s Witch) and Colonial (Dangerous Indenture) settings.

I enjoy reading about history and exploring what life was like back then, so doing the research part of the book is interesting—and time consuming. I’m always scribbling notes about details I could use in the book. I never use them all, but adding realistic details helps draw the reader into the world of the characters, even though it might be very different from how we live now.

But no matter what the setting, I’m finding that the basic structure of a romance (two people in love overcoming obstacles to be together) remains universal, wherever (or whenever) the story takes place. And I always make sure my historical romances are anything but boring. I don’t include a lot of “info dumps” or have stuffy characters lecturing about historical events unless it’s critical to the story.

Having a woman as a business owner is an interesting challenge in this time period. Tell us about Cassie Wilcox. Was she born in this town or moved from a big city for a new way of life? How did she come to own a general store? Why is she having trouble with the townspeople? Does she have any form of support?

Cassie has lived in Holloway all her life, and her father used to run the store. After a tragic incident, Cassie inherited the store and she is determined to keep it open, no matter what. Unfortunately, the town is dying out and the puritanical townspeople don’t approve of her headstrong and independent ways. They’d like nothing better than to drive her out.

Until Sam arrives, Cassie’s only form of support in town is Luke, the sheriff. He’s like a big brother to her and helps her out—whether she admits she needs help or not.

Sam Hixton had to be shot and left for dead not too far from town. He probably wouldn’t have made it there otherwise. What can you tell us about Sam without giving away too many of his secrets? 

Sam was shot and wandered across the prairie. He stumbled into town and literally collapsed at Cassie’s feet. He was in bad shape and Cassie had to persuade the doctor to treat him. Against her better judgment, Cassie allowed Sam to stay in the store until he recovered.

Sam is a noble man who feels he has a debt to pay and a duty to watch over Cassie, and this leads to conflict between them. The townsfolk (and Luke) don’t trust Sam because he’s a stranger, but as the story develops, Luke warms up to him. Sam is keeping his past a secret and is hiding his true identity—and much more—from everyone.

Was it fate that brought these two together?

Yes, fate brought Cassie and Sam together. They’re a lot alike in some ways; both are stubborn and think they don’t need anyone else. Over the course of the book, they realize they need (and want) each other. Sam and Cassie have troubled pasts that they’re trying to overcome and everything isn’t what it originally seems when we first meet them.

Was it a good idea for Cassie to hire Sam to work in her store?

Yes and no. From day one, Cassie keeps telling herself (and Luke) that as soon as Sam is healed, he has to leave. But the more she says it, the more you wonder: who is she trying to convince? Cassie does need help at the store, but she’s smart enough to realize she’s playing with fire when she hires Sam. He’s another complication she doesn’t need in her life—or so she thinks. Hiring Sam stirs up a whole bunch of new troubles (and emotions) for Cassie.

Is there an attraction there?

Oh yes! Sam is attracted to Cassie from the moment he first wakes up—even though she’s not being very nice to him. Cassie falls for Sam, too, but she has a hard time admitting it. Part of her doesn’t want to get attached because her heart’s been broken before, and she doesn’t want to feel vulnerable again.

What do they fear?

Cassie says she’s not afraid of anything, but we know that’s not true. Deep down, she fears losing the store. She’s also afraid of falling in love with Sam, only to lose him. She has experienced a lot of losses in her life and she is hesitant to open her heart to someone else.

As the situation with the townspeople escalates, Sam is afraid for Cassie’s safety. She has made enemies in town and people aren’t shy about wanting her gone. He’s also afraid that when Cassie finds out the truth about his past (and the things he’s done) that she won’t love him anymore.

Was this a difficult book to write? How soon after you submitted it to the publisher was it accepted? How many books have you had published now?

Lies, Love & Redemption wasn’t hard to write, but it was time-consuming. It’s a long book (over 60,000 words) and the longer the book, the longer the writing process. Once I had an outline of the scenes and knew where the book was going, I went through my usual writing process and the editing and revising stages. (Believe it or not, coming up with the title was one of the more challenging parts of getting the book finished. Credit goes to my husband for the great title!)

When it was finished, I submitted it to Medallion Press and they bought it about a month or two later. This is my third historical romance with Medallion Press (the other two books are The Viking’s Witch and Dangerous Indenture).

In addition to my novels with Medallion, I had 16 romances published with Amber Quill Press. After they went out of business in spring of 2016, I revised several of these books and began re-releasing them on my own as e-books on Amazon and other platforms. To date, I’ve re-released seven Amber Quill romances. I’m planning on re-releasing the rest in 2017. (Readers are invited to visit my blog, website, and social media pages for the latest updates.)

How are you promoting Lies, Love and Redemption?

I’m doing several guest blogs and interviews about the book. Plus, I’m posting book spotlights, doing ads, and sharing excerpts on social media (Goodreads, Facebook, etc.). I’m also sending out review requests, press releases, and featuring it in my newsletter.

What are you currently writing?

Right now, I’m writing another historical romance. I hope to have it ready for release in 2017. (No, there’s no title yet!) I’m also working on a few new horror short stories and revising more of my Amber Quill Press romances for 2017 releases.

Any tips for writers that you can share?

I have a lot of writing tips! In fact, I kept getting asked this question so often that I wrote a book about how to write. It’s called You Can Write—Really! A Beginner’s Guide to Writing Fiction. This fun guide is filled with advice, tips all writers can use, and writing exercises designed to motivate you and get you writing. It’s available on Amazon and other platforms:

I also posted 15 fun writing tips on my blog. The link is:

And here are 3 quick tips for GWN readers:

  1. If you’re writing a historical romance, be sure to do your homework and research the time period and setting. Find out what was invented when and check any facts you’re not sure of. (You don’t want your 1570 heroine struggling with a zipper or talking about events in history that haven’t happened yet!) Use details relevant to the era to add an extra dimension of believability to your scenes.
  2. Don’t make your heroes and heroines too perfect. Each character must have a weakness he or she works to overcome. It could be anything: chronic lateness, unreliability, drinks too much, lies, steals, or refuses to make attachments. Use this weakness against your character in the story and show readers how he or she overcomes it.
  3. Be sure to make life difficult for your characters. They should have challenges and obstacles to overcome in the story. Why not give them something from their pasts that comes back to haunt them? Perhaps a secret is revealed (or is threatened to be), an ex-lover returns, a love child appears at the worst moment, or a scandal threatens to destroy a prominent family member. This adds depth and believability to the characters and also moves the plot forward. What are the consequences of hiding the secret? What happens when it’s revealed?

 Thanks for letting me share my thoughts. It’s fun to answer questions and touch base with readers. Feel free to write with questions, follow me on social media, and share posts with your friends!

Happy Reading,

Kelli A. Wilkins


Kelli A. Wilkins is an award-winning author who has published more than 95 short stories, 19 romance novels, and 5 non-fiction books. Her romances span many genres and heat levels.

In 2016 Kelli began re-releasing her romances previously published by Amber Quill Press. Visit her website and blog for a full title list, book summaries, and other information. Kelli’s third Medallion Press historical romance, Lies, Love & Redemption, was released in September 2016.

Her writing book, You Can Write—Really! A Beginner’s Guide to Writing Fiction is a fun and informative non-fiction guide based on her 15 years of experience as a writer. It’s filled with writing exercises and helpful tips all authors can use.

If you like to be scared, check out Kelli’s horror ebooks: Dead Til Dawn and Kropsy’s Curse.

Kelli posts on her Facebook author page: and Twitter: She also writes a weekly blog:

Visit her website, to learn more about all of her writings, read book excerpts, reviews, and more. Readers can sign up for her newsletter here:


Here are a few links to find Kelli & her writings on the web




Newsletter sign-up:

Medallion Press Author Page:







Book Review: The Silent Journey by Michael J. Bellito


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51nmwl-czulThe Silent Journey

By Michael J. Bellito

Oak Tree Press

Trade paperback $12.95

118 pages

June 2016

Michael Bellito, a retired Harper College speech teacher and John Hersey High School teacher, had been living his life on his own terms. That is until he suffered a mini stroke, but did not think that’s what it was. Falling down while trying to get out of bed in the morning was what informed him he had suffered the major stroke on Aug. 17, 2012.

Ironically, the table had been turned, and now a speech teacher had to accept the fact that his stroke had left the right-side of his body paralyzed and that he had aphasia, the inability to speak caused by a stroke. He had to learn how to do everything all over again.

With a positive support system in place, which includes his loving family and “won’t take no for an answer” therapists, he is propelled forward to regain the daily living skills he previously had and his ability to walk, drive, even walk down a staircase without fear.

Bellito’s “Silent Journey” is an honest narrative which informs the reader of a true experience in acceptance, recovery and what it means to be loved. Each chapter shares every step he endured to regain his strength and abilities. Through Michael’s physical and emotional challenge, we learn that life is a gift and to take nothing for granted. We learn how truly wonderful spending time with family is. That those dealing with physical challenges today have to be so determined to work harder to recover, to walk up a staircase, to say their name and write or type. I encourage anyone who has a loved one going through this now, to buy the book so they can see that they are not going through the silent journey alone.

Four parallel bars out of five

Denise Fleischer

September 18, 2016

Question and Answer with Peg Cochran, Cozy Mystery Author




Before a book comes out, authors are asked to write blogs to help promote their book. We are grateful for the cozy reviewers and bloggers who help us get the word out about a new release! For this blog, I decided to do something different so I asked people who follow me on Facebook for questions they’d like answered. Here you go!

Did you grow up on a farm? If not, what inspired you to write about a farm?   

I grew up in a suburb in NJ, 25 miles from NYC.  That area is now densely populated, but when I was growing up, that wasn’t the case. My grandparents lived only a couple of miles away and down the street from them was a farm where they had horses, pigs and chickens. My grandparents had a huge “yard” and grew tomatoes, strawberries, blackberries and grapes for the wine my grandfather pressed himself.

About a mile or two from my house there was a small farm where they grew corn and a farm stand where you could buy the best Jersey corn ever!

The idea for the Farmer’s Daughter came from my agent and the premise intrigued me. I fleshed it out with character, a setting and a plot.

Do your characters ever influence you to take a different direction than where you intended to go? Or do you have a theme in mind and stick to the plan.

My characters usually allow me to stick to what I’ve planned. What does happen are those serendipitous brainstorms where all of a sudden a bunch of random dots become connected to each other—like where you have two unrelated characters but then you realize that character A is actually character B’s mother but neither knows it and that impacts the story and ties everything together. When that happens I jump out of my chair and run around the room pumping my fists in the air!

How much work was the research on this series? What did you do?

I love research so I don’t really consider it work. I did a lot of reading—books and on-line and I was still constantly looking things up—how much does a bag of chicken feed cost, what kind of chickens are the best for laying eggs—things like that.

How do you come up with your character?

I honestly don’t know. It’s a mysterious process and I try not to over-analyze it!  I usually start with some personality characteristics and then move on to deciding what a person like that would look like.

When you are not writing, what do you like to read?

I read mysteries as well as suspense. The books on my Kindle are pretty diverse from current bestsellers to Mary Higgins Clark to classic Agatha Christie and Patricia _5300044Wentworth along with a smattering of women’s fiction.

Are there certain farm animals that inspired a farm themed series?

Not really, no.  But I couldn’t write a book without a couple of pets—in this case a Jenkins, a Westhighland white terrier, Bitsy, a mastiff and a calico cat named Patches!

 About the book: NO FARM, NO FOUL: A Farmer’s Daughter Mystery by Peg Cochran, Sept. 6, 2016, $7.99 – First in a new series- 



Guest Blog Post: A Noisy Room of Her Own


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By Jean Flowers

I’ve learned to be very flexible in terms of where and when I write. Deadlines can do that to a writer.

Finding time, the “when,” is pretty easy. All I have to do is cut back on sleep and housecleaning, put a few multitasking techniques into play, and I’m all set.

The “where” is more challenging. Living in a suburb as I do, it’s sometimes hard to find a noisy spot. We’re at the end of long driveway, at least 300 feet from the main street. In the evening, there are no sounds—no buses, no honking horns, no crowds of people.

Once in a while, I get a little relief. Our neighbors on the adjoining street are great partiers, periodically turning their backyard into a venue for celebrations. I get very excited when I see a HAPPY ANNIVERSARY or CONGRATULATIONS banner going up across the fence. We don’t know the family, so, of course we’re not invited. The best of all cases—I get to write to a cheering crowd, music included, without needing to show up. A perfect background for creative writing.

I grew up in a relentlessly noisy environment. My childhood bedroom window was no more than five feet from the juke box of a pizza parlor. [For those with a fact checker bent, look up DeMaino’s Pizza in Revere, Massachusetts, still doing a thriving business.]

For years of undergraduate study, I had a commute of about an hour and 40 minutes each way, on a good day. So, I did the bulk of my homework with my arm wrapped around a pole on Boston’s MTA, the same one from which Charlie never returned.

My last apartment before migrating from Boston to California was above a bar in East Boston. It was the pre-recycling era and the law required all empty liquor bottles to be smashed. The idea was to prevent unhygienic refilling. Every night, for about an hour after the 2 a.m. closing, employees gathered around a metal barrel directly under our windows, in the back yard, and tossed the bottles into the barrel. With zero hope of sleeping, the surrounding tenants had no choice but to make good use of the time.

Those experiences shaped me forever. Once I know that the world is being taken care of, that life is going on, I can focus on my thoughts, my reading or writing. When it’s silent around me, every creaking floorboard startles me, the ice maker in my refrigerator door sounds like thunder, an air conditioner kicking in shakes me out of whatever thoughts I’m trying to put on paper.

Other than from Joe Pesci in My Cousin Vinny, I’ve felt little support in this attitude. Imagine how excited I was recently to find myself in the excellent company of Helen Keller:

“Cut off as I am, it is inevitable that I should sometimes feel like a shadow walking in a shadowy world. When this happens I ask to be taken to New York City. Always I return home weary but I have the comforting certainty that mankind is real flesh and I myself am not a dream.”  — Mainstream

What great company! Never again will I apologize for my need for assurance that the world outside my head is present and accounted for and doesn’t need me at the moment.

Jean Flowers is the pseudonym for a long time mystery writer who has published series with Berkley and Minotaur. Her first book in the Postmistress Mystery series is Death Takes Priority.

CANCELLED BY MURDER: A Postmistress Mystery by Jean Flowers, Berkley, paperback, September 6, 2016, $7.99, 290 pages.


On the Run in Washington with Coffeehouse Mystery author Cleo Coyle



A Guest Blog Post by Cleo
51stagn4lmlWhat would you do if a handsome federal agent burst into your shop, offered you his hand, and told you: “Your life is in danger, and you must come away with me now, no questions asked.”

If you’re coffeehouse manager Clare Cosi, and the agent is decorated Detective Mike Quinn, on special assignment with the US Justice Department, you would take his hand and go.

A divorced, single mom in her forties, Clare Cosi is a coffeehouse manager by day, a relentless snoop by night. In Dead to the Last Drop, now available in its new paperback edition, Clare sets out to caffeinate our nation’s capital and becomes embroiled in a capital crime—one that involves the disappearance of the President’s college-age daughter.

Is this troubled young woman a runaway bride? Or is she in grave danger?

To answer that question, Clare takes readers on a suspense-filled ride through Washington, DC; and although this murder mystery has plenty of thrills and page-turning twists, it’s also laced with humor, heart, and hearty good food. Because you can’t save the world on an empty stomach—at least Clare and Detective Quinn can’t. And as food lovers ourselves, neither can my husband and I!

If you are new to our Coffeehouse Mystery series, don’t let that discourage you from picking up Dead to the Last Drop. You can certainly read it as a stand-alone story, and if you like the ride, you have fourteen more books to enjoy.

But don’t miss this Washington entry. It’s embedded with hidden secrets about our nation’s capital that were inspired by my own experiences while living, studying, and working in DC.

And as you enjoy the book, be sure to drop by our new Jazz Space,, a virtual extension of the relaxed jazz supper club featured in Dead to the Last Drop. Listen to some of the music mentioned in the book, visit the locations, sample some recipes, and even listen to free live jazz, any night of the week.

To read the prologue and first chapter

of Dead to the Last Drop, click here.


photo by cleo coyle


Dead to the Last Drop is also a culinary mystery, with an appendix of more than 25 delicious recipes, including Double-Chocolate Espresso Cupcakes, Easy “Cake Pan” Cheesecake, the best Oatmeal Cookie Recipe you may ever bake, and a fantastic version of Black Magic Cake with a “secret ingredient” chocolate frosting.



 To see the book’s free Recipe Guide, click here.


CLEO’S NEWSLETTER: Contests, recipes, news, fun facts, and videos. To sign up, simply write an e-mail that says “sign me up” and send it to You will receive a reply with links to past newsletters that include free recipes.

Get a free title checklist with mini summaries of all 15 Coffeehouse Mysteries. To download the list as a PDF document, click here.




Alice Alfonsi and her husband, Marc Cerasini, who write as Cleo Coyle. Photos by Alice Alfonsi

CLEO COYLE is a pseudonym for Alice Alfonsi, writing in collaboration with her husband, Marc Cerasini. Both are New York Times bestselling authors of the Coffeehouse Mysteries, now celebrating over ten years in print. Alice has worked as a journalist in Washington, D.C., and New York City, and has written popular fiction, young adult and children’s books. A former magazine editor, Marc has authored espionage thrillers and nonfiction for adults and children. Alice and Marc are also bestselling media tie-in writers who have penned properties for Lucasfilm, NBC, Fox, Disney, Imagine, and MGM. They live and work in New York City, where they write independently and together, including the national bestselling Haunted Bookshop Mysteries.


2—Alice Alfonsi and her husband, Marc Cerasini, who write as Cleo Coyle. Photos by Alice Alfonsi

Christmas in September—Who Feels Merry?




by Julia Buckley

While Christmas is still four months away for us in the real world, it’s come a little early in fictional Pine Haven, Illinois, and Lilah Drake, still recovering from a brush with murder and a fling with a handsome police detective, has started a new life, giving up her day job as a Real Estate office clerk and taking on a job she likes much better, working at Haven of Pine Haven, the premiere caterer in town.  She’s ready for the holidays, and has even taken Christmas cards with an image of Mick, her beloved chocolate Lab, in a Santa hat.

e41e7a_125976e9bb6b42c9bb7230c024d7b46d.jpgNot Mick, but close: our puppy Digby.

She’s also still making secret food for her clients who pay to say they made it themselves. All in all, Lilah’s career trajectory is on the upswing, but she’s feeling sad as she drives to a local grade school to deliver pans of macaroni and cheese for a class Christmas party. When she sees a man dressed as Santa for the school event, she decides to ask him for some advice.

Not long afterward Lilah is getting back in her car and hears a strange sound; she looks across the parking lot to see that the poor Santa is lying in the snow, the victim of a single gunshot.

So, with Christmas only days away, Lilah must face the fact that someone out there 9780425275962might be worrying that she witnessed more than she did. She also has to face her one-time fling, Jay Parker of the Pine Haven P.D., and tell him that—for the second time—she has managed to be present at a murder.

Lilah’s problems are partially offset by her supportive family, who wrap her in their warm, protective embrace, and by the beauty of Pine Haven at Christmastime. She has always loved the garlands and the lights, the chilly air, the smiling people who choose to take a brief vacation from the stresses of life.

And like all of us, Lilah wants to have a Merry Christmas. In fact, when the Santa jokingly asks her what she wants for Christmas, she says “A second chance.”

In CHEDDAR OFF DEAD, readers will find out whether Lilah gets another chance with her one-time love interest, and whether an unknown murderer will decide that Lilah knows too much.

Get it in bookstores and on Amazon! CHEDDAR OFF DEAD: An Undercover Dish Mystery, by Julia Buckley, Berkley, September 6, 2016, $7.99.



Julia Buckley is the author of the Undercover Dish Mysteries, the Teddy Thurber Mysteries, and the Madeline Mann Mysteries. She’s a member of the Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and the Romance Writers of America, as well as the Chicago Writers Association. Julia has taught high school English for twenty-six years; she lives near Chicago with her husband, two sons, four cats, and one dog. You can visit the author at,,, and