MC Beaton: The Blood of an Englishman Thursday, Sep 18 2014 

M C Beaton has written Agatha Raisin’s 25th adventure! The long-running witty series continues without missing a beat with The Blood of an Englishman.

When Agatha finds herself attending the Winter Parva pantomime production of “Babes in the Woods,” she never figures on the Cotswold’s village losing its popular baker. Dragged there by the vicar’s wife, the only redeeming thing about the evening appears to be meeting the producer, Gareth Craven, who sets her hormones firing.

But moments after strutting on stage as a threatening ogre, baker Bert Simple disappears through a trap door as planned, and isn’t seen at the final curtain call. His body is found by the show’s producer, standing up and pierced by a horrible spike affixed to the platform.

When the good-looking Craven asks Agatha to help him find the murderer, how can she resist?

All of the usual staff at Agatha’s PI business are on hand, from the ex-policeman Patrick, the youngsters Toni and Simon, the older Phil and her secretary, Mrs. Freedman. And she starts where she should, with the biggest gossip in the village, and branches out from there.

There will be broken marriages and engagements, a blacksmith, temperamental feuds in the cast, and a whole lot more as Agatha’s team start to get too close to a killer. In her usual manner, Agatha manages to smoke her annoying cigarettes, have a few drinks, annoy the police, and find herself perilously close to death. And all while checking out the new antiques dealer she meets in a bar. Vintage Beaton.

In honor of Beaton’s 25th book, Minotaur teamed up with Stash Tea and sent along two boxes of tea for an afternoon tea party. Here’s my favorite RAISIN scone recipe, courtesy of Gail Monaghan, NY cookbook author and cooking teacher. These freeze well, just as she promised, and I’ve made them raisins but also subbed with chocolate chips and with craisins. All variations are excellent. Pop one in the toaster straight from the freezer and relax as your kitchen fills with the scent of a baking scone. And don’t forget the culpa Stash tea!

2 cups all purpose flour
1 Tblsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/3 cups dried currants
1/3 cup sugar, plus more for sprinkling
1 cup cold heavy cream

3 Tblsp unsalted butter, melted

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Over large bowl, sift flour, baking powder, salt and the 1/3 cup sugar. Stir in currants. Add heavy cream and use an electric mixer to blend on low until all ingredients are just combined.

Dump dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead very briefly. Roll sought out to 1″ thickness. Use a biscuit cutter to cut scones, or as I do, a sharp knife to make triangles. Place 1″ apart on greased or parchment-lined baking sheet.

Use a pastry brush to paint topf of scones with the melted butter and sprinkle with sugar. Place sheet in center of oven and bake until golden, 12-15 mins.

Let cool on baking rack. Serve warm or at room temperature with butter and jam, or as they do in England, with clotted cream. Store in airtight container if to be used in the next day; or freeze up to 12 weeks and pop in the toaster when you have a craving for tea and scones!

My own favorite tea party was this past summer, when I spent the afternoon in London with mentor and friend, P. D. James and her assistant, the lovely Joyce McLennan. There was even a cozy on the teapot!

Alafair Burke: All Day and a Night & Writers Police Academy 2014 Sunday, Sep 14 2014 

Auntie M recently had a wonderful experience at the Writers Police Academy, held in Greensboro NC over three and half days, and filled to the brim for any writer whose work contains any element of crime.WPA_Logo

The instructors were culled from all aspects of crime: police, fire, EMT, self-defense, Secret Service and more, even a microbiologist. Classes were a mix of group assembly and individual lectures. I learned all I needed for my next book about smallpox from Dr. Denene Lofland, wife of Lee Lofland, retired police and author whose is the brainchild of this compelling event.

These were long days and I filled a notebook with information. Friday and Saturday mornings started with group events and then you took off for your chosen classes. Friday AM we watched a setup scene play out: A vehicle had plowed into a group setting up for a yard sale. Seven victims were made up with with realistic injuries except for the two dummies who stood in for the dead ones the car had run over. At GO: The Fire Dept arrived and used the Jaws of Life to raise the car off the dead victims, while the police arrested the drunk driver and the EMT’s rolled in, sirens blasting, and triaged the patients, then set about doing first aid and taking them on stretchers by ambulance. The entire scene was cleared in 40 mins. Sat AM’s was watching two officers use C4 to blast open doors and gain access to a building. Demo5

You could sign up for physical events, like ride-alongs with real officers for half a shift, riding in an ambulance, learning about fire calls and deaths and scenes. You could shoot a fake gun and do the same routine offers train with, running through an area to flush out criminals and hope you don’t shoot the baby in the stroller! (Author Lisa Gardner, one of the Everyone’s Assembly speakers, shot the baby–and then was so adrenaline pumped she shot the real criminal over twenty times!). You could sign up for the driving simulator, too, and most everyone crashed chasing a criminal. Harder than it looks.

There were at least six different lectures you could choose from in EVERY slot, two in the AM, two in the afternoon. Lunches were provided. The Everyone’s Assembly speakers were Lisa Gardner and Alafair Burke, both very good presentations, more notes, lots of time for Q/A after. All of the instructors were real hands-on law enforcement, psychologists, EMTs, including Secret Service, FBI, and even the Chief of Police of a Louisiana parrish who was a SWAT agent for 16 yrs. Then there was Dr. Katherine Ramsland, who does forensic autopsies and specializes in serial killers. She has worked with serial killers, collects chainsaw suicide cases (yes, you CAN commit suicide using a chain saw on yourself and she had photos to prove it!) and focuses on paraphilias–graphic photos and fascinating stuff. We were riveted. I also took a class from Robin Burcell, a police officer and artist, now author, who writes a series with a protagonist who does that. We learned how she gets the information she needs from witnesses to create her drawings. She showed us her sketches and then the photo of the criminal who was subsequently caught and how close those were. And most give their talk twice so if class size meant when you arrived at their classroom and there were no seats, you simply chose another in that slot and took it on the second try. All had Q/A so you could ask about your particular book, and this helpful to me in the Microbial class I took, taught by Dr. Denene Lofland, about viruses and bacterial spread and attacks.

Even though my particular series is set in England, there was plenty there for me to use. For instance, one session was with the head of Forensics at Durham’s Police Department–a real CSI–and the methods for photographing and gathering and preserving evidence apply through most countries.

At the Sat evening banquet the guest was Michael Connolly, interviewed by former Secret Service agent Mike Roche, who described writing his Harry Bosch and Micky Haller series and then graciously sat at a table and signed books for another hour, as did all of the guest lecturers who had books in print.

If you write any type of novel that hits on any of these highly recommend this chance to meet other writers, learn a lot from the experts, and have a few laughs. The fee without the hotel room was $270 for the conference and HALF of that is paid for by Sisters in Crime if you are a member. They are a huge sponsor of this event. Well run, and worth the time and money. And don’t forget to check out Lee Lofland, the retired officer who writes Graveyard Shift, a great blog on things for writers to help them get cops and criminal justice “right,” and who blogs every week after CASTLE episodes with author Melanie Atkins who hits the romance angle, about what they got right and where they are lacking, often with tons of humor. Lee is the author of HOWDUNIT, a volume that makes police procedures easily understood for writers, and MASTERS OF TRUE CRIME. Howdunit_

One of the assemblies for the group was by Alafair Burke, a wonderful presentation on the myths she learned as a prosecutor. Now teaching law at Hofstra University, Burke explained the exceptions to needing a search warrant and the facts behind search and seizure law. Alafair at WPA

She’s also the author of crime fiction novels, including two series. Here’s the review of her newest NYPD Detective Ellie Hatcher series, All Day and a Night.

The title refers to a sentence of life without parole, the harshest New York can hand out in the absence of the death penalty. It’s been given to serial killer Anthony Amaro, convicted two decades earlier of a murder and believed responsible for several others. That is, until he receives a letter in prison stating that the recent murder of psychotherapist Helen Brunswick contained the same signature as those murders attributed to Amaro: the victim’s bones were broken after she was dead.

With Amaro asking for his sentence to be vacated and a tough celebrity lawyer on his case, things heat up for Det. Ellie Hatcher and her partner JJ Rogan, who are brought in to review the past evidence in what is termed a ‘fresh look’ team. In theory it means going over the past evidence. In practice, it means questioning everything done by the first team on the case, and isn’t designed to win them friends with their colleagues. It doesn’t help that Ellie’s boyfriend, ADA Max Donovan, is the one who’s given them this assignment.

What follows is the taking apart of a case from twenty years ago, with the added heat brought on by the distaste of the previous officers, compounded by Amaro’s lawyer, Linda Moreland, who has managed to spirit young lawyer Carrie Blank away from her elite law firm to this cause. Carrie’s half sister was one of Amaro’s victims–or was she? Does she represent an outlier? And who is really responsible for the murder of Helen Brunswick?

As Carrie Blank and Ellie and Rogan run similar investigations, things heat up when they all travel to Carrie’s upstate hometown, and culminate in an attack on Carrie that makes it clear someone has gotten too close to the truth.

Burke’s complex plot and ability to keep her detectives human is the hallmark of the series. This story involved the choices women make, and all of those repercussions on so many angles. Readers will feel like they are in the midst of this investigation with the detectives, even as the twists are thrown at them.

Coco Ihle: She Had to Know Sunday, Sep 7 2014 

Welcome guest author Coco Ihle and leave a comment to win a free copy of her book SHE HAD TO KNOW.

Words of Wisdom for Dreamers by Coco Ihle

We’ve all had dreams. What are yours? Have you had some fulfilled? Are you still in the process of realizing your desires?

Doggedly pursuing our dreams gives us a sense that they may come to fruition, that we may actually accomplish something in our pursuit. The more passion and determination we possess, the easier it is to move toward our goals, and having a support system helps us emotionally and practically.

Years ago when I first started writing, I shared with friends and relatives my intention of writing a book one day. Some encouraged me to go for it, some said it would be too difficult, an impossible accomplishment. I chose to go for it, despite what pitfalls I might encounter. One friend in particular shared with me a poem that has been a mainstay in my quest. The author is unknown, but I would thank him/her if I could. Here it is. I hope it will encourage you, as well.

I wish I were a could be
if I could not be an are.
For a could be is a maybe
with a chance of reaching far.
I’d rather have been a has been
than a might have been, by far.
For a might have been has never been,
while a has was once an are.

I’ve been thinking about the journey I’ve made to become a published author. As I look back, it hasn’t been short or easy, but it has been rewarding. Persistence through all the stumbling blocks, and even working through discouragement from time to time, has made my dream come true. My wish for you is that you have a good support system, dogged determination and persistence to make your dreams come true. I think it’s worth it. I hope you do, too.

I’d love to hear any secrets you may have in fulfilling your dreams. And for someone who leaves a comment and would like to write a review of my book, SHE HAD TO KNOW, I’ll put all the names in a caldron, stir the brew and select a winner for a free copy. Thank you so very much, Marni, for having me as a guest on your blog.

P1050616_pp Best Yet

Coco Ihle’s debut mystery, SHE HAD TO KNOW, has autobiographical elements involving two reunited long lost sisters’ harrowing adventures in a castle in Scotland. A product of foster care and adoption, Coco spent over fifty years searching for her sister, and found her in 1994. In her former career, she was an internationally known belly dancer who was privileged to perform in Greece, Turkey, Mexico, Spain, Hawaii, and for appearances with the Today Show’s Willard Scott, actors Cliff Robertson and Whoopie Goldberg. She was a magazine staff writer, fundraiser for many charities and an instructor at Auburn University. A contest won her a spot in the Florida Writers Association anthology, published in 2009 and she is a contributing author in an anthology from Second Wind Publishing, recently released. She is a member of MWA, SinC, FWA, the ALMA Society and Clan Buchanan of Scotland. She lives near Tampa, Florida.

Elizabeth George: Just One Evil Act and The Edge of the Water Sunday, Aug 31 2014 

Don’t let the size of Elizabeth George’s newest Lynley-Havers novel put you off. Just One Evil Act finds her back in fine form with an engrossing read and a case that has unexpected turns and settings.JustOneEvilAct

Readers of the series know Sergeant Barbara Havers has grown fond of her neighbor, Taymullah Azhar, and his daughter, Hadiyyah. Never married to the child’s mother, Angelina had nevertheless reappeared in an previous book and charmed her way into the life of both Havers and Azhar before disappearing with the child. Havers can’t really help—Azhar had never married Angelina, and his name isn’t on Hadiyyah’s birth certificate so he has no legal claim. In desperation, Azhar and Barbara hire a private detective to find her without success.

Then Angelina reappears with shocking news: Hadiyyah is missing, kidnapped from an Italian marketplace. The Italian police are investigating, and the Yard won’t get involved–that is, until Havers takes matters into her own hands at the risk of her own career. And there’s no doubt her career is in jeopardy: Lynley’s brief affair with her superior now over, the woman seems out to end Haver’s career and a colleague gleefully assists her.

Havers travels to Italy to the town of Lucca, charmingly and faithfully described, and what she finds there will have Inspector Lynley joining her as they try to unravel what soon becomes a far more complex case than a typical kidnapping, revealing secrets that have far-reaching effects outside of the investigation. There will be disputes with the Italian police and a diabolical politician as both Havers and Lynley find themselves in unknown territory and with their authority in question. With both her job and the life of a little girl on the line, Barbara must decide what matters most, and how far she’s willing to go to protect it.

At times there seems to be no good ending for either Havers or Azhar and his daughter; and yet at the end of this book readers will feel that the resolution is the only one that could have happened.


George has also tested the waters in the YA department with the publication of the first in a new series last year, The Edge of Nowhere, which introduced teen Becca, who has a sixth sense about people and who is on the run from her criminal stepfather. Its sequel The Edge of the Water,, finds Becca still living in secret on Whidbey Island, even hiding from her boyfriend, the Ugandan orphan Derric.

This is not as simple a book as you might expect if you’re an adult reading a novel intended for the YA audience, and there is a lot of exploration of the sex lives of teenagers. There is also a story line of a black seal named Nero who returns to the same place every year that gives a different kind of edge to the mystery which might frustrate adults reading it but Auntie M suspects it will delight YA readers.

Becca’s ability to hear people’s thoughts are there, along with a supernatural mystery and plenty of teen drama for the intended audience. The main characters’ arcs show development and the discoveries within the community are an added facet. There will be resolution to some of the issues at the end with enough open to lead YA readers to the next installment.

Sherry Harris: Tagged for Death Sunday, Aug 24 2014 

Thanks so much for asking me to join you today to talk about how the Sarah Winston Garage Sale series came about. My path to publication is a bit different. An editor in NYC gets an idea for a series with a garage sale theme. He goes to an agent, who goes to a friend, who comes to me. It sounds easy, right? Oh, if it only were!

Tagged for Death mech.indd
I’ve been writing for a number of years and have three manuscripts in the drawer and a stack of rejection letters to go with them. Over those years I’ve attended a number of writing and fan conferences. One year at Malice I sat at a table with Julie Hennrikus (now one of my fellow Wicked Cozy Authors). Julie lived in Massachusetts. We’d just found out that my husband was being stationed at Hanscom Air Force Base near Bedford, Massachusetts that summer. She told me I should join the New England chapter of Sisters in Crime when we got there.

I did and I continued to work on the craft of writing. (Yes, I’m a slow learner!) Two years ago I pitched to agent John Talbot at Crime Bake. He wasn’t interested in the three books in the drawer either. A few weeks later I received an email from Barbara Ross. An editor in New York had an idea for a cozy mystery series with a garage sale theme. The editor contacted John Talbot. John then asked Barbara if she knew anyone she thought might be able to write the series. Barbara knew I loved garage sales and asked me.

A week later I’d written a proposal for the series. All the characters, the setting, and the plot flowed out of me. I turned it in to John. He tweaked a few things and sent it off. After much handwringing and pacing, I signed a three book deal. The books are set in the fictional town of Ellington, Massachusetts and on a fictional Air Force base I named Fitch Air Force Base. I guess all of those years of preparation paid off when an unexpected opportunity came to me.

In Tagged for Death Sarah has to make a decision whether to help clear her ex-husband’s name after he’s accused of murder. Why would help a lying, cheating ex? Because otherwise she might also be accused. Tagged for Death, the first in the Sarah Winston Garage Sale series, will be available December 2, 2014.


Sherry Harris started bargain hunting in second grade at her best friend’s yard sale. She honed her bartering skills as she moved around the country while her husband served in the Air Force. Sherry uses her love of garage sales, her life as a military spouse, and her time living in Massachusetts as inspiration for the series. Blog: Website:

James Callan: Forget the Labels Sunday, Aug 17 2014 

Please welcome James R Callan, mystery writer and author of a resource for writers: Character: The Heartbeat of a Novel.

cover-character Forget the Labels

We’ve all heard, “Clothes make the man.” Actually, I don’t believe that. But I do believe the writer can use clothes to show her readers a lot about a character – without actually telling those things.

I’m not talking about giving the reader the designer’s name for each piece of clothing the character is wearing. Personally, I tire of that quickly. I know other avid readers who feel the same way. It’s one of the instances when I’m taken out of the story by the thought that the writer is trying to impress me with her knowledge of all those designers.

I’m sure some readers and perhaps some publishers like that attention to detail. Frankly, that’s too easy to get much credit for detail. Once you’ve established this character likes designer labels, the rest is not so much detail as fluff.

If you’re trying to get across the idea that this character has a lot of money, or she shops at exclusive boutiques, or designer clothes are important to her, or she was raised to wear only designer clothes, then I believe you can do that in a better way.

What I want to explore today is what clothes tell us about the character, rather than who manufactured the clothes. Here’s an example from my book on character development, Character: The Heartbeat of the Novel.

The silky material clung to every curve and garnered the attention of every male, and many of the females, in the crowded room. Jane tugged at the skirt, trying to keep it from hugging her hips. Why did she get talked into wearing this? Her blue cotton skirt and white blouse would have been more comfortable.

Regardless of what label adorns the skirt, the reader gets a good feel for how Jane feels about clothes. Even more important, we have shown the reader a lot about Jane, how she feels about herself, how she sees herself. We accomplished this in a subtle way, but the reader will get it very clearly.

You can accomplish similar things by showing how a character feels about other aspects of personal care or appearance. Here are two examples from my character development book.

Jennifer fished a lipstick out of her purse and with two quick motions ran a hint of pink across her lips.

Ashley used a fine brush to outline her lips, opened another tube and brushed on a deep rose color to her lips. Finally, she applied a thin coat of gloss. She studied the effect. It was only a casual lunch. This would do.

Do you get a clear picture of how these two women deal with appearances? Does this show you something about them, without the author having to tell you?

Could I tell you Ashley is very concerned that she always looks her best, even at casual events? Certainly. But in this short paragraph, I have shown you much more clearly, and in a way you will likely remember. I could write several paragraphs explaining that Jennifer isn’t concerned with makeup. She uses lipstick mainly to keep her lips from drying out, plus a little color gives her face more definition. She is confident in her looks and doesn’t feel like she needs to enhance them. But one sentence gives the reader most of that and in a way that will be believed.

The universal admonition is: “show, don’t tell.” Use clothes, makeup, and hair not so much to tell the reader the outward appearance, but to show the reader who this character really is, how they feel about themselves, how they relate to others.

Cover-A Ton of Gold

After a successful career in mathematics and computer science, receiving grants from the National Science Foundation and NASA, and being listed in Who’s Who in Computer Science and Two Thousand Notable Americans, James R. Callan turned to his first love—writing. He wrote a monthly column for a national magazine for two years, and published four non-fiction books. He now concentrates on his favorite genre, mysteries, with his sixth book releasing in Spring, 2014.

Amazon Author page:
Twitter: @jamesrcallan

A Ton of Gold On Amazon at: or Nook at:

Character: The Heartbeat of the Novel, (Oak Tree Press, 2013)
On Amazon at:

Janet Simpson: Lost Cause Sunday, Aug 10 2014 

Auntie M welcomes author Janet Simpson, living in Australia, who will discuss the origin of her series.
A quick note to fans of Nicola Upson’s Josephine Tey series: THE DEATH OF LUCY KYTE is now available in paperback from Bourbon Street Books.

Let’s travel to Oz and meet Janet Simpson. Welcome Janet!


Where in the world is Daisy Dunlop?

Every author has their own methods for crafting a story. Some people turn a vivid dream into a creative reality. Others hear a snippet of conversation that sparks the imagination. A movie plot or a TV show might stir the creative juices. There are writers who plan every twist and turn, others have a brilliant idea and jump right in, riding it until they type, The End. Some books are plot heavy and character light. Some bounce along and weave their magic purely on the addictive charisma of the imaginary people who have been brought to life by the author. The possibilities when a person who chooses to craft stories for a living sits in front of a blank computer screen, fingers hovering over the keys, or turns their notebook to a crisp blank page with their favorite pen in hand, are endless.

When I start writing a new book it always begins with the characters. I am captivated by an idea of a person. If ignored they niggle at me, demanding that I listen to their voice and tell their unique story. Daisy Dunlop was the character who drove me to write Lost Cause. It is her mystery series, her adventures and her life. However, she didn’t come alone. She dragged her dark and mysterious and sometimes sullen sidekick, Solomon, along with her. The story of the unwilling Irish PI and the, would be, Heir Hunter was born.

The plot was all disaster prone Daisy’s, the point of view both Solomon’s and Daisy’s. The setting is not the country I have called home since I was in my mid twenties, but rather the south coast of England, where I grew up and wasted a great deal of my misspent youth. The towns where I met and fell in love with my husband, where I had my first son, and where I revisited and lived for 18 months when my boys were still children became the backdrop to Daisy’s adventure. This may seem a strange choice for an Aussie author, but as an English girl abroad I have learned one important thing about being English: our sense of humor is unique. Some people love it and some people hate it, but it is not found anywhere else in the world. When Daisy first popped into my head she arrived with a full blown English accent and a sense of humor that could exist in no other country on earth. So, where is Daisy Dunlop? Right now, as I close in on the end of writing book two in the series, Lost and Found, she is at a dog kennels, which is really odd, because dogs scare her to death. I can’t see this ending well.


Diminutive English rose, JL Simpson, was stolen away by a giant nomad and replanted in a southern land filled with gum trees and kangaroos. She quickly grasped the meaning of G’day and mate whilst steadfastly refusing all attempts to convert her to Vegemite.
She loves sharing tales about unexpected twists of fate. Holding on to a steadfast belief every obstacle can be overcome, she spends her moments of solitude creating adventures where mystery and mayhem collide.


Lost Cause – Amazon

Lost Cause – Taliesin Publishing

Lost Cause – Nook



Twitter: @jlsimpsonauthor

Amazon Author Page:


Summer Standouts: Penny, Garrett, Casey, Cha and Adler Thursday, Aug 7 2014 

Auntie M has guests this summer to give authors you might not have heard of a chance to tell you about their books. But today she wants to share the best of what she’s been reading whilst others are blogging away. These are some of summer’s best reads for crime.

LongWayHome After last year’s profoundly moving How The Light Gets In, it is difficult to imagine how Louise Penny could conjure up a way to bring Armand Gamache out of his hard-won retirement. In The Long Way Home, it takes his friendship with artist Clara Morrow to do just that.

After a year’s separation due to her husband jealousy over Clara’s career upturn, Peter Morrow was supposed to return home for them to sort out their marriage and decide if it could continue. Yet that deadline has come and gone and Clara knows something has happened to keep Peter from getting in touch with her. Despite not knowing what his feelings are, she insists he would never not have tried to contact her.

Together with Jean-Guy Beauvoir, Gamache will assist Clara and her friend Myrna as they retrace Peter’s steps in an effort to locate him. Their journey will take them from the art school where Clara and Peter met, to some of his unusual and despised family, to a desolate place deep into Quebec where few have ventured and where few have returned from intact.

The usual characters for Three Pines make their appearance, but it come down to this group of four to unravel where Peter has gone to find his soul–and why. As they find themselves drawing closer and closer to Peter, the foursome will face some unanticipated scenarios and dark moments. Written with her usual style and an unerring sense of human nature, Penny’s newest will bring readers on a journey where things are turned upside down, just as the book jacket suggests, to final unexpected climax.

A. D. Garrett is the pen name for two authors collaborating in a way that brings forensics and mystery to the forefront in Everyone Lies. everyone-lies-usa-800px
Auntie M has read and enjoyed other mysteries by Margaret Murphy and here she teams up with forensic scientist Professor Dave Barcaly. Their main characters echo their expertise. DI Kate Simms was demoted in the past for her work on a case involving Prof Nick Fennimore, a one-time advisor to the National Crime Faculty, a man whose mind and forensic knowledge equal none other.

Despite their complicated past, Simms will reach out to Fennimore for his expertise when a string of drug addicts die and she suspects the drugs are laced with more than the usual cutting agents. Her investigation becomes high profile with the death of a celebrity in the mix and the media becomes involved. There will be whore houses to search and drugs to chase, and a convenient fall guy for what may turn out to be a hidden agenda of the deepest proportions Simms could imagine.

Seemingly thwarted by her superiors and her own past, Simms struggles to find out why these deaths are occurring, along with the identity of one of the girls, a prostitute who may or may not have been involved on her own. Her own family life suffers. The plot is complicated but satisfying, filled with all kinds of the best scientific analysis and facts for those of us who like those angles. With two unusual protagonists, readers can hope this duo will be brought back for a sequel, and soon.

Steph Cha’s sequel to Follow Her Home is the compelling Beware, Beware, featuring one of the most original protagonists to come along in a long time: Juniper Song, a Marlowe noir fan working as an apprentice to the PI firm she found herself involved with in Book One.

Song’s Hollywood location brings her right into the glitzy scene with her first case when New York artist Daphne Freamon asks the young investigator to follow her screenwriter boyfriend around. Jamie may be using drugs again, and Song quickly establishes this to be the case. Working for an aging movie star, Jamie is soon the prime suspect after a night of partying finds the star dead in his bathtub. Is it suicide or murder?

Now Song’s job becomes proving Jamie’s innocence. With lies, blackmail and hidden secrets coming to light each time she turns around, Song will find things hitting too close to home for her comfort. And then things turn on a dime and she must decide how much her conscience can bear in the name of justice and revenge. Fast-paced and definitely with an different edge, Steph Cha has created an Asian American character whose culture adds a layer to the action.

LastToKnow2 Elizabeth Adler continues her Mallory Malone-Harry Jordan series by taking readers to western Massachusetts Evening Lake in Last to Know.

Smarting from Mallory’s departure to Paris after breaking up with him, the Boston detective is spending time at his lake house with his dog, Squeeze. The small close-knit community is about to be blown apart by two newcomers: Lacey Havnel and her daughter Bea. One family, the Osbournes, will become particularly involved. Husband Wally is a well-known writer of horror stories; wife Rose is the ultimate wife and earth mother. Four children in varying ages occupy their home near Harry’s. All will become involved with Be a Havnel when Lacey is killed when the duo’s house explodes.

Then it’s determined that Lacey was murdered before the explosion, and that the mother-daughter team are not who they claim to be. Harry must decide if he can keep his job if it means living without Mallory just as the murderers begin to pile up. One device Adler uses is to tell the story through varied points of view, so that readers are getting more information than Harry is privy to. A page-turner and great beach read.

Jane Casey’s Maeve Kerrigan series returns with the fifth, The Kill.TheKill
With an intriguing plot and fast pacing, this is a smooth read that will translate well to television, and Auntie M won’t be surprised to see the series has been sold for that purpose very soon.

DC Maeve Kerrigan and DCI Josh Derwent are working alongside the rest of the MIT to unravel a series of police killings in metropolitan London. Someone is killing their police colleagues and everyone is on high alert to find the murderers. Are they killings all the work of one chief or is there more happening here than meets the eye?

Casey’s hallmark of the series is how she combines police procedural information alongside relationship development and subplots, especially as pertains to her superior officers, and most importantly, the misogynist DCI Derwent, as complex a character as there ever was to leap off the page. Kerrigan is tough, yet has human frailties, not the least of which is her worry about her handsome live-in boyfriend. When things turn upside down there, you will feel her ache as she’s unable to to comfort him when his colleague is murdered.

This is subtle, smart writing at its best. A great series if you haven’t found it.

NEW IN PAPERBACK: Jane Haddam’s Hearts of Sand, previously reviewed, is now in paperback for fans of retired FBI profiler Gregor Demarkian, who visits a Connecticut beach town to resurrect a decades-old disappearance and murder.

Lynn Chandler-Willis: The Rising Sunday, Aug 3 2014 

Jesse to the Rescue

When I started writing The Rising, I had a very rough idea of where the story was going. I knew what I wanted to happen but had no idea how I was going to make it happen. Getting from Point A to Point Z was going to take some planning.

The main character, Detective Ellie Saunders, was a thirty year-old woman with a bad habit of looking for love in a one-night stand. One of those one-night stands turns out to be a co-worker, Jesse Alvarez, a former vice cop with a gorgeous smile. To Ellie’s horror, Jesse is assigned to help with her case.

But as often happens with fictional characters, they have a mind of their own. Jesse was not only pushing himself into Ellie’s case, he was pushing himself into my novel! Jesse Alvarez was intended to be a very secondary character. A character’s whose only purpose was to illustrate Ellie’s spiraling out of control personal life.

So I gave him a few lines of dialogue. And then a few more. And then a couple more. And before I knew it, Jesse was more than Ellie’s former one-night stand. He was her partner. And trust me, I never intended for Ellie to have a partner. This was her story. I wanted her to face certain fears on her own. I wanted her to come to terms with her life, on her terms. But what was I to do? Every time I tried holding him back, he pushed himself right back in the scene.

And then I found myself, and Ellie, in a situation I wasn’t comfortable being in. Not only was Jesse taking over Ellie’s personal life, he was taking over the case. He was becoming her rescuer. Every scene where Ellie faced even a small amount of danger, it was Jesse to the rescue.

I wanted Ellie to be strong from the start. I wanted her to be clear-headed and independent. But I also wanted her to be vulnerable. In the book, she has a very tender spot for the little boy dubbed Johnny Doe. Yet, she forms a strong maternal protectiveness over the child. A mamma grizzly at its worst. In another aspect, she has a very real fear of facing the media, stemming from a childhood trauma. Once the “Johnny Doe” case goes public, the media is stirred into a feeding frenzy, forcing Ellie to deal with those fears. I purposely held Jesse back in these instances, forcing Ellie to step-up-to-the-plate and face the issues on her own.

When the time came for the final showdown between Ellie and the suspect, again, I left Jesse at home. Although he played an important role, to the case and in Ellie’s personal life—I wanted it to be all Ellie in the end. I wanted Ellie to save herself and not rely on a handsome partner with a gorgeous smile.

Yes, Jesse’s around in the end—but he’s not Ellie’s rescuer. She did that all by herself.

Lynn Chandler-Willis has worked in the corporate world (hated it!), the television news business (fun job) and the newspaper industry (not a fan of the word “apparently” and phrase “according to”). She keeps coming back to fiction because she likes making stuff up and you just can’t do that in the newspaper or television news business.

She was born, raised, and continues to live in the heart of North Carolina within walking distance to her kids and their spouses and her nine grandchildren. She shares her home, and heart, with Sam the cocker spaniel.

She is the author of the best-selling true crime book, Unholy Covenant. Her debut novel, The Rising (Pelican Book Group, 2013) won the 2013 Grace Award for Excellence in Faith Based Fiction and was a finalist for an INSPY award. In October 2013, she was the first woman in a ten-year span to be named winner of the Minotaur Books/Private Eye Novel Writers of America Best First Private Eye Novel competition for her novel, Wink of an Eye. It will be released by Minotaur in Nov. 2014.

D. P. Lyle: Original Sin Sunday, Jul 27 2014 

What if?: The Crucial First Question OS 200X300-72

So you have a cool idea for a story. Big deal. Ideas are a dime a dozen. And ideas aren’t stories. To become a story, your idea must evolve into a premise, or what many call “The Central Story Question.” It’s what the story is really about.

To become a premise, the original idea must ultimately lead to the question: What if?

What if this happened? What if that person did this? What if that dude hanging out at your local coffee shop is actually a rogue undercover agent with a deadly agenda? Or a serial killer? Or is stalking one of the baristas?

It is from those two words–What if?—that stories arise.

The power of your story’s What If? can’t be overestimated. It is the single guidepost that will keep you on track as your churn out those 100,000 words. A good What if? states the main character, the situation, the stakes, and, most importantly, the central story question.

It is the answering of this question that is the story.

The What If? should be stated in about 25 words or so. Because the What If? is brief, it’s often called the elevator pitch or the agent pitch. It communicates your story in the most efficient terms. We’ve all heard writers respond when asked what their story is about by saying things like, “Well, there’s this guy who lives on an island. And he hates the water. And a big shark is killing people and this is threatening to shut down the town’s beaches on a holiday weekend. And then there’s this other guy who is a shark expert and he has a really cool boat. Oh, I forgot, the first guy is the chief of police.” Yawn.

What if a hydrophobic, island-community police chief must go out on the water to kill a predatory shark to save the town’s summer economy and to prove his own self worth?

What if an FBI trainee must exchange personal information with a sadistic serial killer in order to track another serial killer and save a Senator’s daughter?

What if the youngest son of a mafia family takes revenge on the men who shot his father and becomes the new godfather, losing his own soul in the process?

These are of course Jaws, Silence of the Lambs, and The Godfather, respectively. See how these What If?s reveal the protagonist and clearly state the story premise? Read these books or watch the movies and you will see that each scene moves toward answering the story’s What If? Each of your scenes should, too. If not, consider cutting, or at least reworking, those that don’t.

Here’s a tip: When your What If? is completed to your satisfaction, print it out and tape it to your computer or the front of your writing pad so you will see it every time you sit down to write. Before writing each scene, read your What If? and ask yourself, “Does this scene help answer the Central Story Question?” If you do this, you will never lose sight of what your story is about. Particularly in the dreaded middle, where so many stories get lost in the jumble of character and backstory and cool dialog and all the other stuff that goes into a manuscript. The What If? keeps you focused and on track.

What if a female cardiovascular surgeon must unravel why so many of her post-op patients succumb to bizarre homicidal rages and to do so must dig deeply into her family history?

That’s the What If? for ORIGINAL SIN, my latest Samantha Cody thriller.


Dr. Lucy Wagner was on top of her game. The only cardiac surgeon on staff, a new pediatric cardiac unit dedicated to her, and an impeccable reputation not only put her at the apex of the local medical pyramid but also garnered a few powerful enemies. Such is the nature of jealousy and greed. Turf wars can get ugly. Still all was good until the day old John Scully, the spiritual founder and leader of a local snake-handling church, died on her operating table. Fainting spells, nightmarish dreams, and patient after patient succumbing to some violent psychosis followed, putting her career, and her life, in jeopardy. Aided by long time friend and ex-boxer, ex-cop Samantha Cody, Lucy must reach deeply into her family’s past and into her own soul to find the strength to confront old and very powerful forces she never knew existed.

Read the First Chapter Here:


D. P. Lyle is the Macavity and Benjamin Franklin Silver Award winning and Edgar, Agatha, Anthony, Scribe, and USA Best Book Award nominated author of many non-fiction books (MURDER & MAYHEM; FORENSICS FOR DUMMIES; FORENSICS & FICTION; MORE FORENSICS & FICTION; HOWDUNNIT: FORENSICS; and ABA FUNDAMENTALS: UNDERSTANDING FORENSIC SCIENCE) as well as numerous works of fiction, including the Samantha Cody thriller series (DEVIL’S PLAYGROUND, DOUBLE BLIND, and ORIGINAL SIN); the Dub Walker Thriller series (STRESS FRACTURE; HOT LIGHTS, COLD STEEL, and RUN TO GROUND); and the Royal Pains media tie-in novels (ROYAL PAINS: FIRST, DO NO HARM and ROYAL PAINS: SICK RICH). His essay on Jules Verne’s THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND appears in THRILLERS: 100 MUST READS and his short story “Even Steven” in ITW’s anthology THRILLER 3: LOVE IS MURDER.

Along with Jan Burke, he is the co-host of Crime and Science Radio. He has worked with many novelists and with the writers of popular television shows such as Law & Order, CSI: Miami, Diagnosis Murder, Monk, Judging Amy, Peacemakers, Cold Case, House, Medium, Women’s Murder Club, 1-800-Missing, The Glades, and Pretty Little Liars.

Crime and Science Radio:

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