Mysteries and M&Ms

Note – we’re continuing the #MysteryExchange, so I’m happy to welcome Christa Nardi to the blog talking about mysteries and M&Ms. I hope you’ll jump over to Christa’s blog and check out my post there!

Mysteries and M&Ms

By Christa Nardi

When I tell someone I like mystery novels or I write mysteries, I am quickly reminded that ‘mystery’ comes in a lot of variations, just like M&Ms.

Think about it. Like plain milk chocolate M&Ms, there’s always a main character, but that varies by gender or gender identity, animal or human, child or adult, and if adult, whether the person is in law enforcement, security, a private detective, or an amateur sleuth. The next level is the crime – theft, murder, serial killer, with or without nuts. Now add in the setting – small town, a winery, the south, the country, you name it. And just like M&Ms, new settings can pop up and add another twist. Imagine all the varieties of mystery like bowls of M&Ms. What’s your favorite?

Me, in M&Ms, I’m partial to the dark chocolate – with or without the peanuts. In mystery, I especially like mysteries with strong, smart, female sleuths – amateur or detective. For a quicker and lighter read I choose humorous mysteries or a cozy. I like cozy mysteries with the small town feel and the relationships, minimum graphic violence, limited profanity, and no graphic sex. I also like police procedurals, courtroom, and legal contexts. I enjoy a good romantic suspense. Though I can’t say I’ve yet to find a variety of M&Ms I didn’t like, you won’t find zombie or erotic mysteries on my TBR list.

Given all that, it is not a stretch that I choose to write mysteries with a strong, well-educated, female protagonist, set in a small town with a few close friends, limited violence, and sex off stage. I label most of what I write as “cozy mystery.” More recently, though, a reviewer commented the first in my new series (Prestige, Privilege & Murder: A Stacie Maroni Mystery) : “… crossed the line a bit taking it to a whole new level by sub-plotting the story around domestic violence…”

Certainly, the next in the series continues to cross that line – Foundation, Funny Business & Murder is scheduled for release the end of September. Every once in a while, whether the latest variety of M&Ms or a mystery novel, taking a walk on the wild side may be just the thing.


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Mentors: So What Is A Mentor?

The term “mentor “ gets thrown around a lot, but what does it really mean?


I’ve spent a huge chunk of my adult life as a manager, then senior manager and director for one of the big four international accounting firms. By definition, my role included developing the people who worked under me—not just their technical skills, although those were essential, but also their relationship skills. Being able to explain and interpret complex transactions, laws and financial requirements to a client, for example, is a key component of the job at this level in the industry.

But was I a mentor to these younger people?

I gave that a lot of thought as I wrote and rewrote this article. My role was to reinforce how the mentee’s current job and contributions fit into his or her long-term career goals, as well as how they personally fit into the bigger picture of the company’s goals. This is probably the classic mentor description.

Sidebar – Speaking of classics, did you know “mentor” comes from the character “Mentor” in Homer’s epic, The Odyssey? Mentor was a trusted friend of Odysseus, the king of Ithaca. When Odysseus fought in the Trojan War, Athena (as Mentor) served as friend, guardian and counsel to Odysseus’ son Telemachus. (Let’s hear it for high school English classes.)

Curious as to how other people viewed mentors, I spent some time online, reading numerous articles about mentors. I found the definition and description varied, depending upon the industry. In social services, for example, especially when working with young people, there’s often an emphasis on core values, fun, volunteering and empathy.

I liked my job and a lot of the people I met over the years, but beyond the shared core values, I didn’t see a lot of crossover to this description. Instead, in a broader sense, I saw a mentor as someone—regardless of the industry—who took a special interest in helping another person develop into a successful professional.

So how does that apply in the writing community?

Over the past few years, I’ve met so many people in the writing community who are incredibly generous with their time and knowledge, who’ve been willing to offer a guiding hand. Sometimes a friendship developed that has lasted for years; with others, it’s been a helpful gesture in the moment.

Are the people in the first category still mentors? Perhaps. The guys at the South Carolina Writes Workshop took me in as a total newbie, encouraged me and tactfully offered suggestions about conflict and structure for a novel. When I moved west, the Yakima Ladies listened to my chapters at our critique sessions and their absolute belief in my ability to weave character, dialogue and conflict meant as much as the woman who pushed me to seek publication.

Initially, all of these wonderful people went out of their way to encourage and teach me the necessary skills of the craft of writing or introduced me to other people who could further that knowledge. While we’re less likely to share that beginning guidance today, the trust and information sharing is still definitely there.

What about the second group? While “mentor” implies a continuing relationship, I can immediately think of people who befriended me at conferences, introduced me to agents, editors, and other authors, and generally offered the critical piece of help I needed in that moment. That generosity is it’s own special category of “mentor.”

Holly Price, the heroine in my current mystery series, is unexpectedly running the family after her father has a midlife brain-fart, runs off with his yoga instructor, and leaves his wife and the business in a precarious position. She’s traded a high profile specialty position in Seattle for a lead role in the family accounting practice. In her Seattle position, she’s never had to be a manager/mentor for the staff and she’s not sure she knows how to do it. Fortunately, Rick (her right hand man) believes in her and her ability:

“I know you used to work for a transaction group,” Sammy said. “What does ‘due diligence’ mean?”
Holly considered how to answer in guy terms. “Before you bought a used car, you’d want to know it ran, right?”
Sammy gave her a look that said, Well, duh.
“So you’d check for Bondo, rust. Get a Carfax report to see if it’d been wrecked or trashed by a flood. Maybe have a mechanic run tests.”
“Got the picture.” 
“Buying a ‘used’ company is the same thing. Is the asset labeled ‘building’ an office tower in Pasadena or a burnt-out shell in Watts? Are there liabilities hidden somewhere that are going to come back and bite you?”
“And you want to look at one of our clients?” Rick’s surprise showed in his voice.
She nodded. 
“Anything I can do?” Sammy asked. 
“Thanks, but not right now.”
Sammy headed to his cubicle and Rick followed her down the hall. As soon as they entered the conference room, he said, “You’re better with the staff than you realize.”
A faint blush warmed her face. “Thanks.”

So-About-the-Money web versionSO ABOUT THE MONEY (Book 1 in the Holly Price Mystery series) romps through eastern Washington with its rivers, wineries, Native American casinos, and assorted farm animals. Add in some wicked fun chemistry between the CPA amateur sleuth and a local detective and she better solve the case before the next dead body found beside the river is hers.

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This post appeared on “Just the Facts, Ma’am” blog here  ( )


Interview with a Gumshoe Girl

Welcome Sheagan O’Hare, the Gumshoe Girl, as today’s guest. Sheagan answered some questions for us, including how she became a detective–aka a gumshoe. 

  • What is your profession? I have just recently taken over Diamond Detective Agency, my family business. I never expected to be in this situation, so I know nothing about being a detective. But, I am trying not to let that deter me especially after I landed my first big client, a missing persons case. Problem is I’ve got this incredibly annoying, and unfortunately attractive, FBI agent who keeps trying to interfere with my case.
  • What are your thoughts on love? Love, huh. Not really sure since the guy I’ve been living with, I just caught cheating on me. I’ve sworn off guys while I’m trying to get the agency up and running again. However, I just ran into a guy from my past that I think is trying to become a little more than friends. And, well I mentioned the hot agent…so I’m not sure my heart is listening to my head.
  • What’s in your fridge right now? My fridge, that’s hysterical since I don’t even have a fridge. I’m living on my best friends couch, watching her puppy until she gets back from Napa, thank goodness too, because if not for her I would be utterly hopeless. But let’s say if I wasn’t such a mess and I actually had a fridge to look into…It would be filled with fresh, nutritious food and healthy snacks…yeah right, who are we kiddin’? It would totally be a half roll of cookie dough and wine.
  • What terrifies you most? My biggest fear? Failure. What if I can’t find this missing woman? What if I suck at being a private detective and the only tie to my family goes down the tubes? What if I can’t find an apartment before my best friend, Emmie, comes back from vacation? Never mind this love triangle I seemed to have found myself in. Ugh, sorry it’s just a lot to think about and all hinging on whether or not I can succeed. Quick let’s get to the next question, lol.
  • What quirky habits annoy you in others? So, I never realized this is something that would bug me, but Mac has this habit of clenching his jaw when he’s angry. And he seems to have this reaction every time I am with him. It’s really starting to bug me because it’s a constant indicator that I screwed something else up. I get it. I make mistakes, I don’t need a physical reminder of them.

Gumshoe Girl


Sheagan O’Hare got more than she bargained for when her newly inherited detective agency lands its first case; a missing person, embezzlement, and murder. Sheagan’s out to prove she can hang with the pro’s, despite the constant reminder of her amateur status from an annoyingly attractive FBI agent, Colin ‘Mac’ MacEvine, who’s forced himself into her life.

How does she feel when an old high school friend hopes to ignite a new romance?

Will she be able to discover if detective work and love can mingle before someone gets hurt?


Sheagan blinked back the sting in her eyes as sweat drizzled from her forehead. Her shoulders and forearms cried out as determination inched her body forward through the tin walls that framed her slender figure. The narrow shaft rendered her legs useless as they dragged behind her like dead weight. She made a vow to start working out as she approached her destination, the metal grate that looked down into the sweetheart suite of the Eliot Hotel. 

She shimmied her binoculars out of her bag and clutched them in her sweaty palms as she readied herself to delve into the world of private investigating. The friction of her movements caused her mahogany mane to cling to all the surfaces of her temporary confinement. Perched behind the filigree frame, peering like a caged animal, she was a mere 20 feet from her target. Her target? The Rat Bastard, who up until this very moment she’d called boyfriend. 

She wasn’t there to kill him, even though the thought had crossed her mind; no, she was there to catch him in the act. She suspected he had been cheating on her for some time, so proof would end her suspicion or the relationship. Spying on her significant other through an air-vent of a swanky hotel room was hardly a promising start to her so-called glamorous career as a private detective. But it snapped her back into the reality that her new chosen profession would often be messy and difficult. 

She peered through the grate and envied the spacious room below, but her viewing angle was no good for the task at hand. She could feel the heat in her cheeks rise along with her anger as she scanned the room and soaked in the extravagance–the hardwood tables, the Italian marble fireplace, the opulent sheen of the fabric on the overstuffed furniture that glimmered in the soft candlelight. The Rat Bastard was not known to overindulge on frivolous expenses, unless it was on her dime. Thoughts of killing him resurfaced. 

What is wrong with me? Why did I wait so long? 

She immediately regretted the fleeting question. She knew why. The answer brought back the pain and significance of her father’s sudden death. He had been the only family she had left, and he was gone. All that was left behind was his detective agency. She had thought about giving it up, but she couldn’t; it was her only connection to him, to her family. 

She closed her eyes briefly, realizing that now she was facing more loss–even if he was a lying, cheating Rat Bastard. 

No! It’s better this way, stay focused

She choked in a breath and turned her attention back to the room. His secret love nest was finished with soothing tones on the walls and thick, plush carpeting. 

What is that on the end table? 

Her gaze was drawn to the bottle label as it bobbed upside down in the melting ice. She sharpened the focus of her binoculars, and her eyes widened in recognition. 

Her cheeks flushed. Cristal, she scoffed. Who is this Bimbo, anyway? 

As if she had room to criticize this girl’s intelligence, when Sheagan was the one sweating her makeup off in a four-by-four-foot air-duct. 

Yeah, who’s the stupid one? 

She heard passionate sounds coming from the right of the room and recognized his tone. Leaning sideways, Sheagan pressed her face to the grate, but her limited 

view revealed only a portion of the bed and unable to make out major details, like faces. 

Crap, I can’t see anything. Damn! She needed to get a better look 

As she shifted her weight, the metal walls started to reverberate and Sheagan stifled a gasp, willing the rumbling to cease. Her breathing became labored as the musty air stole the aroma of the sweet perfume wafting up waft from the suite below. She stilled her movements and did the only thing she could think of… nothing. Nothing but stare at the heap of blankets and wait. 

Come on, bimbo, come up for air. I know he doesn’t last that long.

Her discomfort increased as the noise from their passion became more intense. Ugh, that’s it, I’ve had it!
She mashed her cheek and upper body against the grate.

I just need a peek to confirm.

She pressed harder, ogling the bed. Finally, she caught a tiny glimpse.

Just a little further.

She pushed and heard a chirring sound, then a scraping. She froze in place, but the grate gave way with a creaking groan and crashed to the ground. Time stood still as Sheagan realized there was nothing between her and the floor except air. 

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Andi Ramos is a debut author from central Massachusetts where she lives with her family, goat, and Boston Terriers. Her love for reading grew into a passion for writing. She dabbled with pen and paper for a long time and eventually stopped pushing her amusements aside and started developing those stories into novels. One of her favorite things to do is to hop into her motorhome with her family and write while traveling down the road as they journey to various destinations.






Lazy Days of Summer Sale!



August 8-14, 2018

It’s the dog days of summer, those last few weeks before sweater weather returns when dragonflies flit over ponds, fireflies light up the nights, and you’ve got the absolute best book to read while hiding out from life. Let us help you pick that next ebook…or two…or three in your favorite genre to finish out the season!

Plus, every 24 hours, we’re putting up a new giveaway. Check in daily for a chance to win an Amazon gift card, ebook prize pack, or other great prizes for booklovers.

Go here for the full 25 participating authors:

Or here for a special sale on So About the Money – Book 1 in the Holly Price Mystery series! 


The Murder That Inspired a Romantic Mystery Novel

The Murder That Inspired a Romantic Mystery Novel

By Kris Bock

Many writers are inspired by real events or people in their lives. This makes difficult situations a form of research. “This stinks, but maybe I can use it in a book!” I write romantic suspense for adults as Kris Bock and middle grade novels (for ages 9 to 12) as Chris Eboch. In most of these books, the connection to real-life experiences isn’t obvious. In my romantic suspense Whispers in the Dark, my heroine is an archaeology Masters student working at the fictional “Lost Valley” monument, which is closely based on Hovenweep National Monument, where I once spent a week camping. In Counterfeits, the heroine inherits a children’s art camp, which I based on a camp near Jemez Springs, New Mexico, where I’ve attended many writing retreats. Using real locations helps me bring the settings to life even if I did not, for example, fall into a ravine while fleeing from a bad guy.

But What We Found was inspired by helping to uncover a true case of murder.

Lest you think that makes me some kind of amateur detective, my involvement was purely accidental. Two friends and I were exploring the mountains, looking for some suitable gravel to try gold panning (because, why not?). We found a likely spot and were about to take a sample when the guys smelled something horrible. A glance in the right direction showed them a dead body hidden just out of sight of the path.

The next hour passed in a surreal blur. We’d left our phones in another vehicle, at the base of the mountain. Once we retrieved them, we still had to find a place with cell reception. We called 911, waited for the police, and led them to the body. Later that night we were interviewed by detectives.

By the following day, they had identified the body as a woman who had been missing. Her estranged ex-boyfriend was already a suspect in her disappearance, but without her body they’d have trouble prosecuting him. Seeing her picture on TV and learning about her family made the situation real in a new way. We wanted justice for someone we’d never met.

It’s All Research

As a writer, I knew I was getting rare first-hand experience into something powerful. I took pages of notes during that first week, even though I didn’t know how or when I might use them. I was fortunate to be with two men who talked openly about their experiences: the nightmares, the guilt over violence against women, the anxiety that came from now wondering what you might see in the bushes.

Three things struck me most strongly.

First, we all felt deeply invested in the case, even though we’d never met the woman in life and didn’t know anyone else involved. We followed the news stories, even though they made us anxious. When the murderer was finally sentenced … well, we weren’t happy (the sentence of less than 20 years was not, in our opinion, nearly long enough), but we were relieved that it was over.

Second, it affected every aspect of our lives for weeks. Even though the likelihood of finding another body, or even witnessing a different crime, was extremely slim, we were on high alert at all times. It was a struggle to put it behind us while still honoring the memory of the victim and holding on to what we had learned.

And finally, someone in law enforcement said that often people don’t report crime scenes like these. How could someone walk away from that? I started thinking about all the reasons someone might want to cover up their discovery, even if they had nothing to do with the crime. And that inspired What We Found.

Turning Truth into Fiction

Several years passed before I felt distant enough from the experience to fictionalize it, but I still had all those notes and memories to draw on. Some elements of What We Found, mainly the emotional ones, are taken directly from that experience. Most character and plot elements are fictional, although some are loosely inspired by the real events.

This isn’t an experience I would wish on anyone, but we’re glad we helped bring a crime to light and a murderer to justice. And it led to what I consider my most powerful and personal novel to date. After all, one benefit to being a writer is that the worst experiences are still valuable as research.

That’s the truth behind What We Found.

What We Found

When Audra goes back to her small hometown after college, she simply wants to fit in, work hard, and protect her 12-year-old brother from their overbearing mother. Finding a dead body in the woods changes everything.

Her former crush, Jay, insists they don’t report the body. But the dead woman was murdered, and someone starts targeting Audra. She has to stand up for herself in order to stand up for the murder victim. It’s a risk, and so is reaching out to the mysterious young man who works with deadly birds of prey. But with danger all around, some risks are worth taking.

“Another action-packed suspense novel by Kris Bock, perhaps her best to-date. The author weaves an intriguing tale with appealing characters. Watching Audra, the main character, evolve into an emotionally-mature and independent young woman is gratifying.” Reader Ellen Rippel

This title stands alone and is not part of a series.


An engine started. The battered old truck stood out like a janitor at the prom. It was dark blue, splattered with mud and probably decades old, with a cap on the bed. The evening sun glared off the side window, but as I walked slowly past the front I saw a figure inside – the one-handed man. He had his hand on the wheel but his head back, eyes closed.

I paused, studying his face. I guessed he was in his twenties, with short, light brown hair and pleasant features in a mask as still as death.

He opened his eyes and looked straight into mine.

I couldn’t move as he held my gaze. My heart thumped against my ribs. He studied me without expression, no smile, no frown, nothing in his face but weariness.

Finally I had to blink, and once the eye contact was broken, I jerked my gaze away and kept moving. I quickly turned between the next two cars, to get out of his view. I’d have to cross behind his truck to reach my car, which might look odd if he was still watching, but I didn’t care so long as I got out of there, fast.

I noticed the rusty screeching again. It was coming from his truck. I stumbled to a stop, staring at the back of the truck. What could be making that sound? The tailgate and back window on the cap were closed, hiding the sight inside, but the screech came again and again like someone – something – screaming.

The screams seemed to echo in my head. I couldn’t take any more. I turned away with a hand over my mouth to hold back my own scream and hurried to my car.

About the Author

Kris Bock writes novels of suspense and romance with outdoor adventures and Southwestern landscapes. All ebooks are .99c to $3.99 or free with Kindle Unliminted.

The Mad Monk’s Treasure follows the hunt for a long-lost treasure in the New Mexico desert. In The Dead Man’s Treasure, estranged relatives compete to reach a buried treasure by following a series of complex clues. In The Skeleton Canyon Treasure, sparks fly when reader favorites Camie and Tiger help a mysterious man track down his missing uncle. Whispers in the Dark features archaeology and intrigue among ancient Southwest ruins. In Counterfeits, stolen Rembrandt paintings bring danger to a small New Mexico town.

To learn more about her latest work, visit or her Amazon page. Sign up for Kris Bock’s newsletter for announcements of new books, sales, and more.

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Paranormal Transformation

When I started writing the book that become The Marquesa’s Necklace (The Oak Grove Mysteries, Book 1), it wasn’t supposed to be a cozy mystery. It was meant to be a paranormal romance, with a ghost as the romantic lead. In fact, the original title was The Ghost Who Loved Me.

Well, Harmony Duprie, the main character, wasn’t having it. Although she wasn’t ready for a man in her life as she was still nursing a broken heart, she’s much too practical to have a ghost complicating things. She attracts enough trouble on her own. Not only did she veto the ghost, she vetoed the romance (for the most part) and the book turned  into a mystery with her as an amateur sleuth.

I’m glad I listened to her. The book is better because of it. I’m still listening to what she has to say as I write the fourth book in the series.

Book Blurb

Harmony Duprie enjoyed her well-ordered life in the quiet little town of Oak Grove—until her arrest for drug trafficking. Cleared of all charges, she wants nothing more than to return to the uneventful lifestyle of a historical researcher she once savored.

But when her beloved old car “George” is stolen and explodes into a ball of flames, it sets off a series of events that throws her plans into turmoil. Toss in a police detective that may or may not be interested in her, an attractive but mysterious stranger on her trail, and an ex-boyfriend doing time, and Harmony’s life freefalls into a downward spiral of chaos.

Now she has to use her research skills to figure out who is behind the sinister incidents plaguing her, and why. And she better take it seriously, like her life depends upon finding the right answers.

Because it might.


By the time Janine and Sarah arrived in the morning, Luke, Joe and I had already wrestled the easy chair out to the curb. Joe was straightening up the kitchen while Luke and I restored order to the explosion of books and put them back on the shelves. Being an ex-librarian, I’m picky in how my books go, so the job was taking longer than Luke liked. When they knocked, Joe, who had self-appointed himself as my bodyguard, rushed to be the one to open it. I didn’t know what he had planned if it was an intruder—would an intruder knock? —but since he was a retired Marine, I wasn’t going to argue. Sarah and Janine stood there with their mouths hanging open, shocked by the scene. Janine gathered her wits and said, “What can we do to help?”

Joe answered for me. “One of you can tackle the bathroom. The other can haul a load of clothes to the basement and wash them.” The defiled lingerie already sat in the garbage can next to the garage.

An hour or so later Detective Thomason arrived. I was on my hands and knees scrubbing the kitchen floor in the spots the mop didn’t reach, when we heard a knock on the door. Joe just glared at me when I started to get up, so I let him do the honors, and returned to my cleaning.

“What do you want?” Joe said, rather gruffly and I figured I better check it out for myself.

Detective Thomason held a vase with a bouquet of supermarket flowers. He was wearing jeans and a T-shirt instead of a suit. Tight jeans, I might add, and the shirt did him favors that his suits never could. I thanked him and put the flowers in the middle of the kitchen table. Luke steered him towards the bedroom to figure out how to get the shredded mattress out of the apartment without knocking everything else over again. The bouquet proved to be a beacon of peace in the midst of the chaos that ruled for the rest of the day, and earned him back the name of Fred. He still didn’t rank being Freddie in my mind—not yet, anyhow.

I spent the night with Janine. I had to stay somewhere else because Luke, Joe, and I decided we would clean the carpet in the apartment before I replaced my furniture. The soil from the African Violets was ground into the rug. And there had been more foot-traffic through my place than normal for the past year.

The violets were wilted, but would survive. The footprints on the Grateful Dead tapestry vanished with a good beating and repeated vacuuming. Several of my books had their spines broken or their pages torn, but none of my first edition books were hurt. I had to go shopping for a new mattress, but Luke and Joe were going to give me an old loveseat they didn’t want anymore. Nothing seemed to have been taken. I got off lucky. Again.

A not-so-tiny voice in the back of my brain told me I’d better start worrying about my luck running out.


The Marquesa’s Necklace is currently on sale for 99¢

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Author Bio 

Born and raised among the rolling hills of western Pennsylvania, P.J. MacLayne still finds inspiration for her books in that landscape. She is a computer geek by day and a writer by night who currently lives in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains. When she’s not in front of a computer screen, she might be found exploring the back roads of the nearby national forests and parks. In addition to the Free Wolves’ stories, she is also the author of the Oak Grove series.

P.J. MacLayne can be reached on: 



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The Flame Ignites

Thank you so much for sharing this blog exchange, Cathy. I hope when your readers finish here they’ll go on over to “Deeds of Darkness; Deeds of Light” and read your post there. When you mentioned that you write contemporary mysteries I responded that I would be happy to exchange with one of my “contemporary” mysteries. That has certainly given me pause to think—with some alarm—on how fast time goes.


The Flame Ignites is, indeed, my newest re-release in my Elizabeth and Richard literary suspense series—which is, actually, a contemporary series that I am currently in the midst of re-editing and re-releasing. But, oh, my goodness—I first wrote that manuscript in 1984. I wonder how many of your readers were even born then? And the letters which form a significant part of the background, go back to 1979.

These mysteries (which do come up to the present time) feature Elizabeth and Richard, literature professors cum sleuths who find themselves enmeshed in mystifying murder as they explore the lives and works of such literary greats as: Rudyard Kipling, Elswyth Thane, Dorothy L Sayers, Shakespeare, and Jane Austen.

For The Flame Ignites, it is October 1984, the New England hillsides are ablaze with redgold autumn. Elizabeth is beginning her academic career and recently widowed Richard is stuck in the family business. They should be able to help each other but their meeting strikes sparks and raises old ghosts, possibly even the ghost of Richard’s dead wife. When Elizabeth finds an academic coup within her grasp for her thesis on the beloved American novelist Elswyth Thane, Richard stubbornly throws up barriers, but why? Rudyard Kipling, William Beebe, Charles Lindberg, Edna Ferber and a host of celebrities from an age past fill the pages of Elswyth Thane’s letters, but where is Elizabeth to find clues to the mystery haunting Richard?

A nostalgic return to an earlier, now-vanished time, The Flame Ignites evokes a long-distance relationship between a young woman just testing her wings and a celebrated American novelist, incorporating actual letters to the author. But what about the smoldering relationship between Elizabeth and Richard?

Like my heroine, I was unable to visit Elswyth Thane, my literary mentor, during her lifetime, but in 2014 I was able to visit her home in Vermont during a blazing autumn, put flowers on her grave as Elizabeth did, and visit Rudyard Kipling’s home as Thane had described it in her letters.


Donna Fletcher Crow authors 3 mystery series: The Monastery Murders, Lord Danvers Investigates Victorian True-Crime, And Elizabeth and Richard Literary Suspense. She is also the author of The Daughters of Courage pioneer family saga, the Where There is Love series set in 18th and 19th century England, and the Arthurian epic Glastonbury.

For more information you can receive a free book, learn about all her books and see pictures of her research trips and pictures from her garden on her website, visit her blog, and subscribe to her newsletter; follow her on Facebook; and Twitter.

All of Donna’s books are available on her website or through Amazon.


Unholy Alliance

Fellow mystery author Kathleen Rowland joins us today, celebrating the release of a new book, Unholy Alliance, book 2 in her Irish-American series with Tirgearr Publishing.

Jacket Copy

The worst happened. Her cousin is still missing. Just released from jail for a murder she didn’t commit, this is thanks to attorney. She has no clues. No destination. Just fear for the cousin she believes is held captive by a ruthless killer.

What if Tori were to park a food truck in the seedy waterfront neighborhood where the mob operates and hunt for this sadistic killer? Grady must protect the strong woman he’s come to adore. With emotions on a knife edge, Tori runs on instinct, on the desperation of affection between cousins. With adrenaline pumping, this is it. Tori identifies an island hideout, but Grady warns her to anticipate who her cousin is now.

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“Don’t let the anxiety of freedom consume you.” Attorney Grady Donahue Fletcher clenched his teeth and rehearsed what he’d say to his client, Victoria Morningstar. He’d won her appeal and drove to pick her up at Gladstone Penitentiary. “At least you won’t be placed in solitary.” That was worse.

Six months earlier Grady had phoned a reporter at the Los Angeles Globe. “Drew Barker. Grady Fletcher here.”

“Ah, the lawyer. Calling about a tip?”

“I am. Here’s something you can investigate. Tori Morningstar, did she murder Irene Brennan?”

“I wrote that story many years back,” the journalist had said. “I assume you have new discoveries.”

“Fraud, illegal testimony. Do you want the story first?” A second passed. “Otherwise, I’ll call the Orange County Guardian.”

“Okay, okay. We want it.”

Three days later Grady had a hand in writing the first article in Drew Barker’s column. “The public labeled Tori Morningstar as an undesirable. Not black and poor, but disfavored, accused, incarcerated, and wrongly condemned. Her cellphone has been recovered. Her call to 911 identified her voice and substantiated screams of the victim in the background. Could she have beaten someone while speaking to dispatch at the same time?”

The reporter had written the second article. “People who get their ideas about criminal lawyers from TV probably would be disappointed in Grady Fletcher. He lacks flash but stands up straight, his posture neither ramrod nor slouched. He doesn’t smoke, doesn’t wear thousand-dollar suits. His voice is soft and low, one of his assets. He speaks truth with a voice inviting confidences.”

As nice as that was, Grady’s stomach cramped over pressure and strain from Drew Barker’s final article with the headline, Tori Morningstar, Released Today. Picked up by the online service, Newser, KTLA, and CBS Los Angeles, they planned to broadcast his arrival to escort his client from Gladstone.

Tori’s decade-long prison sentence ended today but with a sobering fear over tomorrow.

When was a July morning this hot? Grady balanced her release papers on his lap as he rolled up one sleeve then the other while gripping the damp steering wheel. Sweat blossomed on his throbbing forehead, wrapped like a python’s grip. He adjusted the dial for the AC and embraced the challenge of helping another client get back on track. Embrace and conquer. Or at least sound like it.

Would you enjoy a summertime recipe from Kathleen?

Crab Cakes!




1 pound crabmeat (I used 8oz backfin & 8oz claw)
⅓ cup crackers (crushed, I used ritz)
3 green onions (finely chopped)
½ cup red bell pepper (finely chopped next time i will use less)
¼ cup mayonnaise (I used the brand that is made with olive oil)
1 egg
1 teaspoon worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon dry mustard
½ lemon (juiced)
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 large pinch cayenne pepper (I used)
add flour (sifted for dusting)

Dice vegetables small and add all ingredients together. Chill them for a least a few hours so they will hold together better. as always add to your liking you might consider onion powder or Old Bay about 1-1 1/2 Tbsp. or maybe go Cajun.

Crab meat has a lot of liquid in the container so I did let it drain. I did not want to add an extra egg or more crackers or bread crumbs or even panko if that is what you have on hand.

If you don’t like to fry, bake them in 375 oven turn them after 20 minutes bake another 20 or 25 minutes approx. make sure you spray or wipe some oil on whatever pan or foil you are using.

Tartar sauce is an easy topping or just lemon wedges.

About the author

Book Buyers Best finalist Kathleen Rowland is devoted to giving her readers fast-paced, high-stakes suspense with an erotic love story sure to melt their hearts. Her latest release is One Night in Havana, #34 in the City Nights series.  See Kathleen’s most recent books here:

Kathleen also has a steamy romantic suspense series with Tirgearr Publishing, Deadly Alliance is followed by Unholy Alliance. Keep an icy drink handy while reading these sizzling stories.

Kathleen used to write computer programs but now writes novels.   She grew up in Iowa where she caught lightning bugs, ran barefoot, and raced her sailboat on Lake Okoboji. Now she wears flip-flops and sails with her husband, Gerry, on Newport Harbor but wishes there were lightning bugs in California.

Kathleen exists happily with her witty CPA husband, Gerry, in their 70’s poolside retreat in Southern California where she adores time spent with visiting grandchildren, dogs, one bunny, and noisy neighbors. While proud of their five children who’ve flown the coop, she appreciates the luxury of time to write.

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Southern Inspiration

One of the questions authors hear most often is, “Where do you get the inspiration for your stories?” A snippet of conversation or a hmm, what if..? can spark an idea, but sometimes the setting suggests a story possibility. Exotic locations can be inspiring but a novel based at “home” allows me to dive deeper into what makes that place special and how the setting influences the story.

Although my family lives in the Pacific Northwest now, “Home” for me will always be South Carolina, the place I was born and raised.

Now lots of books have been written about the South and many of them feature small towns with a hundred residents who are all related to each other. While those places exist, that isn’t “my” South. I lived in a city filled with universities, cultural opportunities and innovative companies.

Many of the places described in Cypher are real, if slightly modified to protect the innocent. The story’s action shifts between the growing metropolitan area and a small, secluded lake. I learned to ski on Lake Bowen and stayed with friends in a cottage remarkably like the one where Cara retreats to regroup.

All those images tumbled through my head as Cypher’s story elements evolved. I knew that was the South I wanted to share with readers.

As the story grew and took shape, the companies I mentioned above took on a special significance for a story theme. Privately held companies occur all over the country, but the extension of the family into the company is especially present in the South. I knew I had to feature a company—Cypher—that reflected all the family dynamics—good and bad.

For example, although Caroline (Cara) Wainwright said she was perfectly happy working for the advertising agency, what if she really wanted to work for the family business like her brother, if only to snag her father’s attention? The rest of the “what ifs” about Cypher might give away plot twists, but from the beginning, Cara wondered: since her father had always made the business a higher priority than his family, how far would he go to protect it?

With Cara pulling on family dynamics inside both Cypher, Detective Davis Morris could push from the outside, piecing together bits of forensic evidence. He was also falling for Cara, which made him wonder if their attraction was desire, manipulation…or real. Talk about your personal conflict! David was investigating the murder of Cara’s friends—with everyone in her family hiding secrets and on the suspect list, including Cara. Unless Cara and David overcame their distrust and worked together, more people would die.

I love it when the stakes are higher because the hero and heroine stand to lose both personally and professionally. And Southerners have been known to add that touch of crazy.

What about you? Do you like books with a strong sense of place? What’s your favorite setting for a story?


How far will you go to protect the people…or things…you love?

When a hitman kills the wrong person, a Greenville, SC detective confronts hidden agendas and conflicting motives in a powerful local family, while trying to control his attraction to the intended victim—a woman who should be dead, but instead is hell-bent on saving the remnants of her family. Unwilling to stand by while her family and world are destroyed, she rips apart the secrets surrounding Cypher, the company her father built—and will take any measures to defend.

HOLT Medallion Award ~ Best Novel with Strong Romantic Elements

NATIONAL READER’S CHOICE ~ Best Novel with Strong Romantic Elements


Book links – available in digital and trade paperback

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Write What You Know

Write What You Know

By Avery Daniels

As a writer you often hear “write what you know.”  I’m not a lawyer, so no legal mysteries, nor a doctor for medical thrillers, or a police officer, private investigator and so on.  But I grew up with a five star resort (The Broadmoor) in a town that was a part of my youth and ingrained in my memories. 

During its sixty some years in operation, the resort’s ice arena was the training ground for World and Olympic champions, the site of hockey games, ice shows, and curling events, five World Figure Skating Championships, six U.S. Figure Skating Championships, and three National Sports Festivals. 

But back in my pre-teens and teen years, the resort rink would hold the glamorous Ice Revues there every year and my mother took me regularly.  I saw Dorothy Hamill, Robin Cousins, Brian Boitano, and of course Scott Hamilton with his stunning back flip on the ice.  Sadly, the rink was torn down in 1994 to make way for expansion of the resort’s main facilities.

The Broadmoor played into birthday celebrations at the restaurants, holiday brunchs, and company holiday parties there.  But I also remember the “lake” that is behind the historic original hotel.  It has changed over the years, but I remember saving up dried bread scraps and going to the lake to feed the ducks and swans.  They were so tame, they could tell who had food and would flock to you.  Back then, there was a tiny little island that the birds stayed on year round.  You could rent a canoe and paddle around the island and the birds would swim behind you waiting to be fed. 

One year the Broadmoor was hosting the Ladies Professional Golf Association Championships and my employer gave away a ticket to attend all day, with a lunch in the skybox overlooking the 18th hole, plus the day off paid.  That was another day that I cherish in my memories.  Plus, my one and only time skiing was at the old ski run behind the resort on the mountainside. 

The Broadmoor is part of local history as well.  The “a” in the name is branded always smaller than the other letters because Spencer Penrose, a wealthy local venture capitalist and investor who built the resort, was refused service at the Antlers hotel (still around too) when he had been to his mining interests and returned too dirty.  As soon as the Broadmoor name was to be registered, Penrose had the “a” smaller to be a reminder to not refuse service because of appearance.

The Broadmoor turned one hundred years old this year.  The birds aren’t as plentiful any more, the island in the small lake is gone, the canoes are replaced with paddleboats, and the ice rink and ski runs are gone.  But I still love going to the restaurants or the theater on the grounds.

Is it any wonder when I was going through what I knew enough about to incorporate into a mystery series that I thought of a five star resort?  Of course, in my Resort to Murder series it is named the Colorado Springs Resort and will have several books placed in other resorts as well. 

The second book I placed at a luxury ski resort in Vail, CO, which was loosely based on the amazing Bavarian themed Sonnenalp Hotel.  Friends have accused me of picking the resort theme because of the research I will be forced to do (wink, wink).  But I’m not confessing to anything.

How about you?  Is there a special place that holds many memories for you like that?  Maybe just one really cherished memory?





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Amazon  B&N  Kobo  iBooks  IndieBound

About the Author

Avery Daniels was born and raised in Colorado, graduated from college with a degree in business administration and has worked in fortune 500 companies and Department of Defense her entire life. Her most eventful job was apartment management for 352 units. She still resides in Colorado with two brother black cats as her spirited companions. She volunteers for a cat shelter, enjoys scrapbooking and card making, photography, and painting in watercolor and acrylic. She inherited a love for reading from her mother and grandmother and grew up talking about books at the dinner table.