Wendy H Jones: Killer’s Countdown Friday, Dec 19 2014 

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Thank you Aunty M for hosting me on your blog and allowing me to talk about my first novel. It is an absolute honour to be on such an imaginative and interesting blog.

As you are aware, but many of your readers may not be, I released my first book in the Detective Inspector Shona McKenzie Mysteries in November this year. This is set in Dundee, Scotland, where I am originally from and live.

I say originally from as I left Dundee two weeks after my eighteenth birthday to join the Royal Navy as a Nurse. I served for six years and then joined the Army and served for a further seventeen. During this time I was fortunate enough to travel to many different countries and have some amazing adventures.

Three years ago I returned to Dundee to write and DI Shona McKenzie was conceived. Shona is a feisty young woman who, like me was born in Dundee. However at the age of two she moved to Oxford as her father took up a post at the University there.

She has only returned to Dundee a year before the novel starts, at the insistence of her now ex-husband. She is an excellent detective but relies on her team, DS Peter Johnston in particular, for local knowledge. This is her first major case and Shona is keen to prove herself to both her superiors and her team.

A number of women have been killed and the police are at a loss to find out what is linking them. The book is written from both the viewpoint of the police and the killer.
The book has been well received and most people who have read it are asking when the next book will be out. I have almost finished writing the second book and this is called Killer’s Craft. I am expecting it to be out in June or July 2015.
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Since the book came out, other than wanting the sequel, the burning question seems to be what does the H. in my name stand for? My middle name is Henderson, a fine Scottish name, and it also happens to be my great grandmother’s maiden name.

Thank you once again for allowing me to take over your blog for the day. If anyone wants to find out more about the book then here is the Amazon Universal Link. This will take you to the Amazon of the country in which you buy your books. http://mybook.to/KillersCountdown Website: http://www.wendyhjones.com Twitter: @WendyHJones

Susan Kroupa: Christmas Goes to the Dogs Wednesday, Dec 17 2014 

Please welcome guest Susan Kroupa and her Doodlebugged Mysteries:

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Christmas Goes to the Dogs, er, um, Sheep

The Doodlebugged Mysteries are humorous cozies narrated by Doodle, an obedience-impaired labradoodle who flunked out of service-dog training because in his mind, “smart and obedient don’t always go hand in hand.”

After a career change, where he’s trained to be a bed bug detection dog, Doodle gets adopted by “the boss,” Josh Hunter, and meets Molly, the boss’s ten- year-old daughter. Between Doodle’s nose and Molly’s independence, the two of them always seem to be in some kind of trouble.

The newly released fourth book, Bad-Mouthed, takes place over Christmas, and working on it got me thinking about dogs and their place or lack of it in Christmas tradition. There are plenty of songs featuring sheep and shepherds, and there are legends about donkeys and camels. But dogs?

Do a Google search on “dogs and Christmas” and beyond The Barking Dogs singing Christmas carols, there not much to find. No touching stories about dogs helping the baby Jesus or stories of dogs at the North Pole. Even in the song “The Friendly Beasts,” dogs are left out.

Of course, being a dog, Doodle’s knowledge about Christmas is limited to his experiences such as, “I know all about Christmas trees from my service dog days, of course, since our bosses took us into all sorts of stores, rest homes, and schools that had them. We learned that we were not allowed to eat anything on the tree, or even sniff it, and we absolutely weren’t allowed to lift our leg anywhere near it. Just sayin’.”

Doodle is baffled by the idea of a white Christmas. Does the day come in colors? And what’s with all the gift-giving? He notices that dogs don’t get mentioned much at Christmas, something he gripes about when he has to play a sheep in a pageant because his labradoodle coat is thick and curly. As he tells it, “I’m a sheep. Not really a sheep, of course. I’m a labradoodle who works as a bed-bug detection dog, which means I have a finely tuned, highly trained sense of smell . . . But in this Christmas pageant, I’m supposed to be a sheep. So, here I am onstage beside Molly and her best friend, Tanya, who are dressed as shepherds in long robes, wearing odd scarves held on their heads with thick ropes. I have what are supposed to be sheep’s ears—no sheep scent on them at all— tied onto my head. Why anyone would prefer a sheep to a dog is beyond me, but it seems to be a Christmas thing.”

Naturally, Doodle gets into trouble and he and Molly end up with mysteries to solve and, inDoodle’s case, bad guys to chase, but along the way, Doodle learns a lot more about Christmas. Because this is one book where Christmas goes to the dogs, or, um, dog.

Called “the perfect blend of mystery, suspense, and laugh-out-loud doggy observations,” by best-selling mystery author Virginia Smith, the Doodlebugged mysteries have delighted dog and cozy mystery lovers from ages 9 to 92. In Bad-Mouthed, Doodle’s back for another adventure.

Who knew chasing a rat in the middle of a Christmas pageant could cause so much trouble? Certainly not Doodle, the obedience-impaired labradoodle who works for “the boss,” Josh Hunter of Hunter Bed Bug Detection, nor Molly, the boss’s ten-year-old daughter. But then Doodle’s the first to admit he doesn’t quite get Christmas.
Doodle’s antics during the pageant draw the attention of a popular video-blogger, who asks to do a feature on his sniffer-dog skills. But when the blog airs, pretty much the opposite of what Molly and the boss expected, the boss’s phone rings off the hook with distraught customers who think Doodle’s bed bug “finds” can’t be trusted.

Throw in a handful of threatening letters, some lost dogs, and a devastating fire, and Molly and Doodle have their hands—well, in Doodle’s case, his paws—full finding out just who’s been naughty and who’s been nice.
Available at most ebook retailers and will be released in paperback on Dec 18th.

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Susan J. Kroupa is a dog lover currently owned by a 70 pound labradoodle whose superpower is bringing home dead possums and raccoons and who happens to be the inspiration for her Doodlebugged books. She’s also an award-winning author whose fiction has appeared in Realms of Fantasy, and in a variety of professional anthologies, including Bruce Coville’s Shapeshifters. Her non-fiction publications include features about environmental issues and Hopi Indian culture for The Arizona Republic, High Country News, and American Forests. She now lives in the Blue Ridge Mountains in Southwestern Virginia, where she’s busy writing the next Doodlebugged mystery. You can find her books and read her blog at http://www.susankroupa.com and visit her Amazon Author page at http://amazon.com/author/susankroupa.

Dee Phelps: The Disappointment Room Sunday, Dec 14 2014 

Please welcome fellow retired nurse, Dee Phelps, who will describe her own journey to the writing life, and her award-winning novel, The Disappointment Room. disappointrm

Out of the Closet
By Dee Phelps

In my former life I was a nurse. As a nursing student – a million years ago – my husband and I and our three year-old son lived in a tiny apartment. To get any study time accomplished, I needed a quiet No Mommy Zone. We had a walk-in-closet that was, thankfully, big enough to smoosh a little writing desk up against the back wall. It was my saving grace and it served its purpose; albeit claustrophobic and filled with the fragrant aroma of old sneakers. The closet worked – then.

Ten years ago my husband passed away suddenly and tragically. I was at a crossroads in my life. Would I continue on nursing, or, veer off the familiar path and venture down the thicket-filled, dark and scary lane of writing? Choices can sometimes be confusing, and sticking with the safest alternative is most often the easiest way. Having mucked in blood and guts for over twenty five years, and having raised three boys, easy was not in my vocabulary.

With My Three Sons, aka, The Three Stooges, grown and happily ensconced in their own lives and professions, I decided to delve into my lifelong pursuit of writing. I decided to live the dream.

“Still round the corner there may wait
A new road or a secret gate
And though I oft have passed them by
A day will come at last when I
Shall take the hidden paths that run
West of the Moon, East of the Sun.” – J. R. R. Tolkien

I retired my bedpan and hung up my stethoscope and went back to school. After all, what did I know about writing? I had trouble spelling aye – I mean, I. With a new degree under my stretchy-waisted jeans, I took the next step along the unknown literary road.

But, herein lies the vast difference of my closet days and these days. I still hear my youngest son’s plaintive cry: “Mom! You sold my bedroom furniture and made my room into an office?” With no remorse, I responded, “Why yes. Yes I did! No more closet for me!” The look on his face was priceless.

Out of that one-windowed bedroom with a lovely view of my neighbors chain-linked fence, came dozens of magazine articles, a children’s book and The Silver Falchion Award winning novel for Best First Novel 2014, The Disappointment Room. No pun intended!

I live a little life, in a little house in a little town, but I sure do feel like a millionaire! But, for all my blessings, it is still time for changes. Time for growth and new experiences. I have rented an apartment in the Tuscan hills for six months at a writers and artist’s retreat. It is an ancient walled villa perched on a hill and my writing space overlooks Florence, an olive grove and a vineyard.

By chance or by design, we must move forward toward self-fulfillment and our own personal nirvana. Despite adversity and day-to-day passivity, keep your dreams close and stive to make them a reality.

Whether it’s a closet, a make-shift bedroom office or Tuscany—no matter what your view—make your dreams your main focus.

THE DISAPPOINTMENT ROOM

The past collides with the present in this exciting tale that begins in 1844 on Coffin Point Plantation, Beaufort, South Carolina. Beginning with Charles Knight, locked away in a Disappointment Room, with only Munday, his black nanny, and Helen, her daughter, for companions, the Knight family saga is set in motion.
THE DISAPPOINTMENT ROOM is a gripping story of human bondage and the relentless search for freedom; freedom from the ghosts, secrets, terrors, and atrocities of the past. But the past keeps coming back.
A fast-paced, exciting read infused with the Gullah culture, voodoo, slavery, and the politics of the antebellum and contemporary South.

“Phelps’ amazing first novel is a spellbinding saga of a young man imprisoned in a hidden room in a South Carolina plantation where dark family secrets, slavery, and the Gullah culture of superstition come to life on the page. Don’t miss this one!” CASSANDRA KING, bestselling author of The Sunday Wife and Moonrise.

“A compelling saga of the past meeting the present, told in the author’s distinctive voice.” JEFFERY DEAVER, international bestselling author of The Bone Collector, XO, The Kill Room and The October List.

“A haunting and fascinating first novel of a boy hidden in an attic room in a Carolina plantation home by a conspiring mother whose personal ambitions outweigh her love for her family.” PAT CONROY, bestselling author of The Prince of Tides, The Great Santini, Beach Music and South of Broad.

“The Disappointment Room is a fast-paced novel infused with the Gullah culture, slavery, and politics in the antebellum South. A young boy from a plantation family is confined by his politically ambitious mother to a secret room in the house on Coffin Point Plantation. His quest for personal freedom parallels those of the slaves who travel with him on a difficult journey to freedom. A powerful debut from author Dee Phelps.” MARY ALICE MONROE, New York Times bestselling author of The Summer Girls.

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DEE PHELPS is an alumnus of The University of Pittsburgh and Wharton School of Nursing. Dee was inspired to write THE DISAPPOINTMENT ROOM as a result of fascinating and sometimes harrowing stories passed down from her ancestors, who once owned a Lowcountry cotton plantation near Beaufort, South Carolina. She is the author of the children’s book THE FLOWER IN THE THICKETS, written under the pen name, Marcella Miller. She has written numerous international travel articles for national magazines. A surgical nurse for over twenty-five years, Dee lives in Beaufort, South Carolina.

Judi Dench: Behind the Scenes Tuesday, Dec 9 2014 

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Auntie M usually reviews crime novels, in all their glory and all the varied genres that exist. But occasionally different publishers allow her to read and review a different kind of book, and she thanks St. Martin’s for giving her the chance to read the wonderful book Judi Dench has put together that debuts today on what is her 80th birthday.

With her interest in all things British and her own mystery series set in England, it’s no surprise Auntie M relished reading about the life of the wonderful actress whose varied stage and movie roles span a career that started in her teens and continues today. The book includes photos of family and friends, as well as her movie and stage roles, and gives readers a glimpse into the life of a working actor who has no intention of stopping.

This book is a fast, delightful read, filled with photos from her personal collection and captioned with anecdotes. In this way it’s less a traditional biography and more of a blend of her reminiscing with a personal take on her life and career. Paging through the book, one can hear her voice reflecting on the images.

The numerous awards Dench has won include an Oscar, two Golden Globes, ten BAFTA Awards and the BAFTA Academy Fellowship Aware for Lifetime Achievement. Her knowledge of Shakespeare and the roles she’s played are incredible to understand as the reader pages through. And yet she could be speaking to the reader over a cup of tea: ‘I don’t want to work with anybody who hasn’t got a sense of humor, it’s too boring and that goes for directs too. It’s too tedious … the moment you start taking yourself too seriously, and you can’t laugh at yourself or see the funny side of something, I think pack your bag.”

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L to R: Daughter Finty, husband Michael Williams, Judi Dench, courtesy BBC.uk

And laugh she has, sometimes on stage in the middle of productions, and more often with her daughter, Finty, also an actor, and grandson Sammy. These moments are balanced by the more poignant remembrances: the loss of her beloved husband, fellow actor Michael Williams, with photos of them playing together; as well as her more recent situation with macular degeneration, which has made it impossible for her to read scripts or watch films. Instead she learns her lines by listening to them on tape, which means she is often the best-prepared actor when it comes time to rehearse.

There was a huge outcry and surprise when her Bond character “M” was killed off in Skyfall recently, yet Dench never looks back. She enjoys ensemble acting and traveled to India again to complete the sequel to The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, and found great joy within with her friends who happen to be great actresses on Masterpiece Theatre’s Cranford. She met the real Philomena she played in the film of the same name, and followed that with the stage play Peter and Alice, about Lewis Carroll’s inspiration for Alice in Wonderland, Alice Liddell Hargreaves, meeting J. M. Barrie’s model for Peter Pan in Peter Llwelyn Davies. By the way, that play was written by American John Logan, who also wrote the scripts for such films as Gladiator … and Skyfall. The circle of life continues in the theatre and film world and at its center is this wonderful actor who has given us so much delight.

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Dame Judi Dench receiving her Companion of Honour Award from Queen Elizabeth II.

Awarded an OBE in 1970, Dench was created a Dame of the British Empire in 1988 and a Companion of Honour in 2005, this last a reward for outstanding achievement, in this case, for the Arts. Happy Birthday, Dame Judi.

Helen Smith: Emily Castle, Alison Wonderland and The Miracle Inspector Sunday, Dec 7 2014 

Please welcome UK author Helen Smith, who will describe a most unusual approach to her Emily Castle mysteries.

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Are you on Pinterest? I joined a while ago and wasn’t quite sure what to do on there. I saw lovely recipes from friends. I saw interesting ideas for interior decoration and gardens. I saw clever craft projects and gorgeous book covers. I looked and admired and did nothing with the boards I had set up.

Then one day, after talking about who could play the main characters in my Emily Castles mystery series if it ever got made for TV, I got busy on Pinterest. I realized that Pinterest would be the perfect place to play the “what if” game.

I set up boards with bonus material for my books, including fantasy casting and locations. It’s a brilliant procrastination tool! But it’s fun, too. I have put the links to the Pinterest boards in the back of my books, hoping that readers who have enjoyed my stories and want to know a little bit more about the characters will visit and follow me there.

It’s an ongoing project but so far I have fantasy casting for Emily Castles, my twenty-six-year-old amateur sleuth, and her side-kick Dr. Muriel. They are the main characters in a contemporary British mystery series that starts with Emily’s visit to a party hosted by a mysterious troupe of circus performers in Three Sisters.
Alison Wonderland
I also have casting ideas for my two Alison Wonderland books, including Alison and her boss at the private detective agency where she works in London. I also have casting ideas for my dystopian novel, The Miracle Inspector.
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It’s great fun. The only problem? Finding male actors to play the younger main characters in my books. All my fantasy casting ideas – except for Ben Wishaw as Lucas in The Miracle Inspector – are horribly out of date. I need someone like John Corbett in his Northern Exposure days but twenty years younger to play Alison’s love interest in Alison Wonderland and Being Light.

If you have any fantasy casting ideas for any of my characters, they will be gratefully received!

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You can find Helen Smith here:

Helen Smith’s blog: http://www.emperorsclothes.co.uk
Helen Smith’s website: http://helensmithbooks.com
Helen Smith on Twitter: http://twitter.com/emperorsclothes
Helen Smith’s books on Amazon: http://smarturl.it/helensmithbooks
Helen Smith on Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/emperorsclothes

For the Boys: Great Holiday Gift Reads Wednesday, Dec 3 2014 

Auntie M enjoyed the Bette Midler movie “For the Boys” and decided to title this post after that as these books all have suspense and action in common, popular with male readers. This is NOT to say that women don’t read these books–of course they do! But if you’re looking for a gift for a male reader, try one of these.

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Stephen Leather’s Spider Shepherd series are among top sellers in the UK. This year’s White Lies brings Shepherd back for his 11th outing with MI5. When a former trainee is presumed kidnapped in the wilds of Pakistan, he joins the rescue mission with disastrous results. With Shepherd tortured by al-Qeda terrorist, it will be up to MI5 Controller Charlotte Button to rescue him in the most unorthodox way. Fast-paced and action-filled.

Hounded
For the dog lovers on your list, you can’t go wrong with David Rosenfelt’s Andy Carpenter series. The newest, Hounded
,finds Andy and girlfriend Laurie Collins arriving at a crime scene discovered by his good friend, policeman Pete Stanton. When the body of ex-con Danny Balfour is found, the victim’s four-year old son and basset hound need care and Pete asks the couple to assume to prevent both boy and dog from going into the system. But once Pete comes under suspicion in the death, he will need Andy to put on his lawyer cap to clear him. A nice mix of humor and sleuthing. Why not get the entire series?

Darkest Hour
Tony Schumacher brings a different ending to World War II in The Darkest Hour
, as he the imagines London of 1946 and how it would be if the Nazis won the war and occupied Great Britain. John Henry Rossett is an unlikely hero: a former war hero and policeman whose family died during the attacks on England and has become an alcoholic. Depressed, with little future before him, Rossett works for the SS in the Office of Jewish Affairs, seemingly unaffected by rounding up Jews for deportation–until he finds an 8 yr-old boy hidden in the chimney of a house he raids. Will Jacob be Rossett’s salvation or his downfall? That remains to be seen as the unlikely duo struggle to stay alive and one step ahead of every group after them as Rossett comes to understand he can trust no one. Intriguing and original, an imaginative thriller.

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South African writer Wilbur Smith’s newest entry in his ancient Egypt series, Desert God , is perfect for the reader who enjoys historical epic novels. Focusing on the character Taita, this slave and advisor to the pharaoh finds himself caught up in a quest to destroy the army of Hyksos and for an alliance with Crete. This takes him on a journey up the Nile through Arabia and over the vast seas of ancient times. With shifting loyalties and never knowing whom can be trusted, Taita’s struggle is as action-packed as any present day novel, as it describes the customs and culture of a time from long ago.

And in Paperback:
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We return to Stephen Leather and his Nightingale series for Lastnight. The newest in his supernatural detective series find Nightingale searching for the killer of Goths who all have a tattoo connecting them to a Satanic child-sacrificing cult. Called the Order of Nine Angles, the Order soon has Nightingale himself in its sights and will do anything to stop him bringing them to earth. His solution is unorthodox and will have readers flipping pages to find the resolution.

Wash Stratagem
Adam LeBor’s new novel, The Washington Stratagem
, is the sequel to The Geneva Option, which introduced UN covert negotiator Yael Azoulay. Having a strong and sexy woman at the center of the action is a nice twist, as Yael is tasked with confronting a lobbying and asset management group in Washington, DC, about extensive links to US involvement in Middle Eastern wars. Treading a delicate line, Yael must combine international politics and her life as a spy as she races to root out the corruption she finds. Both novels would make a great gift together.

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James W. Hall has written 13 Thorn novels, all featuring the fly-tying investigator and his sidekick, and returns with Going Dark,a strong entry in the suspense genre. His nemesis this time is ELF, the Earth Liberation Front, an extremist environmental group whose usual means of damage is arson. This time the stakes are raised when they target Florida’s largest nuclear plant, and they’ve managed to involve Thorn’s newly-discovered son, Flynn. Helping Flynn escape from remote Prince Key while at the same time foiling their attempts will lead Thorn to his craziest idea yet. Look for the newest Thorn, Big Finish, later this month.

Runner
Runner follows Patrick Lee’s strong thriller debut, The Breach, featuring former black-ops soldier Sam Dryden. Running at 3 AM has never been so dangerous for Dryden once he encounters 12-yr old Rachel, who only recalls her last two months in a secret prison. Soon it’s obvious protecting Rachel will be more of a chore than he’d expected, as heavily armed crews drive them both across the nation to find answers to whom is pursing her, and why–and all as Dryden suspects that running into Rachel may not have been a coincidence. Warner Brothers has film rights and this action-packed suspense novel will easily translate to the screen.

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It’s easy to see why Lee Child calls Dreda Say Mitchell’s first John MacDonagh novel “Breathless from the first word and thrilling to the last.” Mac wakes up in a trashed hotel room without any memory of how it got that way, bloodied and in pain. He soon discovers his lover’s body in the bathroom, and with evidence pointing to him as her killer, Mac must find the real killer even as he races against time and his grief to clear himself. Tracking him down is none other than DI Rio Wray,an ambitious black female detective on her way to the top, even if it means proving her close friend Mac is a killer. Fascinating look at the world of undercover cops and first of a new series destined to be a winner by this award-winning crime writer.

Catriona McPherson: A Deadly Measure of Brimstone Sunday, Nov 30 2014 

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Auntie M loves the cover art of Catriona McPherson’s newest Dandy Gilver Scottish mystery, A Deadly Measure of Brimstone. The strong series, among other awards, won the Bruce Alexander Memorial Historical Mystery Award in 2013 and 2014.

But she liked the inside even more, as Dandy moves her two sons and husband, all recovering from a bout of the nasty chest illnesses which reach to the staff, to the spa town of Moffat to recuperate. Dandy has her own agenda to install central heating when the family is gone, and has neglected to mention this to her husband, Hugh.

Of course, with Dandy it’s never that simple. She and her partner Alec agree to take on a case to investigate the death of a woman who died suddenly at Laidlaw’s Hydropathic Establishment. Mrs. Addie’s grown children have written to ask Gilver and Osborne to look into their mother’s death, termed heart failue, which her children insist was not Mrs. Addie’s health issue before this visit.

It seems fairly simple: have Hugh and the boys treated and give them time to recover whilst investigating the death. Even aging dog Bunty comes along for the trip. But nothing is ever that straightforward with Dandy,
who soon finds herself disrobing to take saunas, cold baths, and salt rub massages all in the name of finding the evidence they seek.

With Alec also at the Hydro, the duo will find spirits, mediums, an even an after-hours establishment at the Hydro, run by Dr. Dorothea Laidlaw and her brother Thomas, who inherited the spa from their father.

McPherson gets the period details just right, from clothing and manners to the way people spoke in 1929. And Dandy’s humorous and slightly irreverent thoughts are on full display, as when Dandy and Alec endeavor to describe Mrs. Addie: “Thrashing out a description which honored her memory – one could not simply say she looked like a piglet in tweeds …”

Great fun that encapsulates the bygone Golden Age era from this award-winning author.

Cold, Cold Sea by Linda Huber Sunday, Nov 23 2014 

Please welcome guest Linda Huber, a Scot who lives in Switzerland (big sigh here) who will describe the impetus for her book THE COLD COLD SEA: TCCS3

Tale of Two Families

Family is such a big part of everyone’s life. My own family spans two countries now; Scotland, where I grew up, and Switzerland, where I’ve lived for the past twenty-odd years.

Living as I do between two cultures has certainly enriched my writing, but it was a family event that inspired my second book, The Cold Cold Sea, which tells how a (fictional) family cope after the death of a child. My Scottish roots have always been important to me. In the late 90s I began to research my family tree, and found something that shook me to the core. These were the pre-Internet days and I had sent charts of various family groups to all the relations I could find, asking them to fill my gaps with as much detail as they could.

One distant cousin returned hers having added a child to an aunt’s family – a girl who died in the 1940s, aged just eleven. Beside the child’s dates she had written two words – Agnes drowned. I was horrified to think that this little girl had lived her short life in a branch of my own family – and I had never heard of her. We discovered later that she had drowned in an indoor swimming pool in Glasgow.

I began to wonder – how do parents cope with such a tragedy in their lives? What do they do to get over their loss? How is the relationship affected? And the siblings of the dead child?

Then I thought – what if they don’t cope, these bereaved parents? What if this new, terrible reality in their lives is so unbearable that they have to change it? And of course, you can’t change reality. Or can you? And that was the start of The Cold Cold Sea.

Website: http://www.lindahuber.net Amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/Linda- Huber/e/B00CN7BB0Q/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1414345217&sr=1-1
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Linda Huber grew up in Glasgow, Scotland, where she trained as a physiotherapist. She spent the next ten years working with neurological patients and handicapped children, firstly in Glasgow and then in Switzerland. During this time she learned that different people have different ways of dealing with stressful events in their lives, and this knowledge still helps her today in her writing.

Linda now lives in Arbon, Switzerland, where she works as a language teacher at a school in a medieval castle on the banks of Lake Constance. The Paradise Trees is her debut novel and was published by Legend Press in 2013. Her second Legend Press book, The Cold Cold Sea, was published in August 2014. She has also had over 50 short stories and articles published in women’s magazines.
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D. E. Ireland: Wouldn’t It Be Deadly? Thursday, Nov 20 2014 

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D. E. Ireland is the pen name of two Michigan authors and friends who’ve hit upon a wonderful device: continuing the story of Eliza Doolitte and Henry Higgins in their first mystery, Wouldn’t It Be Deadly?

With all the original players here, including Colonel Pickering, Freddie Eynsford-Hill, and even Mrs. Pearce, the action opens just after Eliza’s appearance at the Embassy Ball which cemented her transformation from a Covent Garden flower girl to a duchess.

Eliza is living with Higgins’ mother, dating Freddie, and still nursing her annoyances against Higgins, while working as the assistant to his rival elocution expert, Emil Nepommuck. When her boss makes the unfortunate mistake of taking public credit for Eliza’s transformation, Higgins’ publishes a damning article that exposes Nepommuck as the fraud he is–until he’s murdered, and the most obvious suspect is, of course, Henry Higgins.

The only way to clear Henry is for Eliza to help him sleuth the many enemies Nepommuck has gathered, and what a crew it turns out to be: elderly dowagers, Americans, actresses–all have been tutored by the charlatan to lose their accents and upgrade their vowels and consonants. There are secrets being kept, and Higgins has his own surprising one to hide as the investigation heats up and it soon becomes clear that he is on the verge of being arrested.

The author’s are to be credited for maintaining the tone and the personality of all of the players, down to using dialogue you can believe these characters would say. There is humor and exasperation, and the final scene rivals anything yet to be seen on Drury Lane. All of the period details are spot on. A wonderful debut of pure brain candy and one can only feel G. B. Shaw would be best pleased.

Maia Chance: Snow White Red-Handed Sunday, Nov 16 2014 

Please welcome author Maia Chance. To be entered to win a copy of SNOW WHITE RED-HANDED, leave a comment~
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Bit Part Firecrackers

A reader recently asked me, “How do you create your secondary characters?”

This isn’t talked about much—we writers adore rhapsodizing about our fierce/vulnerable/dauntless/altogether fascinating sleuths and sidekicks instead. But cozy mysteries are character-driven stories, and that refers to all of the characters.

Snow White Red-Handed, my newly-released historical cozy mystery, trots out an eclectic cast of secondary characters, from castle servants and a casino owner to a mysterious Russian princess and an ungainly stepsister. And so—in answer to my Gentle Reader’s question—here is my checklist for secondary characters.

1. They are Fleshed Out.

This applies even to secondary characters who have only one speaking line. Why? Here’s something special about a whodunnit-style mystery: since many of the secondary characters are murder suspects, that means that one of them is really a primary character: the villain. Trippy, right? So, every one of the suspects must have enough punch and intrigue not to seem like a random killer when the truth comes out at the end. My rule of thumb is that everyone has a secret even if it’s not THE secret.

2. They Provide Variety.

Secondary characters can create dimension not provided by the main characters. In Snow White Red-Handed, for instance, I explore class and nationality not only through my sleuth Ophelia Flax (American variety hall actress) and her romantic interest (privileged British professor); I also have a family of American upstarts with a fortune made in the railroad and down-at-heel German servants. And I was able to explore varied settings through secondary characters, too. Because of a couple of sinister guards, the protagonists are lured into a horseback chase through the forest, while my bombastic lady naturalist leads the sleuths to a luxurious health sanatorium. What is more, each of these characters is distinctive in appearance, dress, and mode of speech. Mr. Smith, the American millionaire’s private secretary, speaks like this:

“Like California? Haw! The Black Forest is about as much like California as one of them Arabian racehorses is like a Mexico donkey. Oh, that’s a hoot! No, one thing’s certain, and it’s that I’ve got to get myself back to some real wilderness. That durned police-man, Schubert, has forbidden us all to leave until he gets to the bottom of the murders, but I figure that’ll take about as much time as for him to learn to be a ballerina.”

3. They Provide Absurd (Comic?) Relief.

I admit, Snow White Red-Handed isn’t exactly a serious story. Early readers have called it “fun,” and I can more than live with that. Because even though I will never, alas, be as witty as P. G. Wodehouse (secret fantasy of mine), I do want my books to be at least mildly amusing. I find that my secondary characters, behind my back, tiptoe again and again over the threshold into Absurd Territory. Here is one of the descriptions of the lady naturalist and her elderly, consumptive employer, two characters I immensely enjoyed writing:

“Miss Gertie posed like one of those Viking ladies at the opera, all blond braids and magnificent bosom, in an arched doorway at the far end of the dining room. All that was missing was one of those helmets with horns. She gripped the handles of a wicker wheelchair, which was occupied by what appeared to be a heap of black wool with a white wig.”

4. They Provide Historical Dimension.

Here’s something people have been asking a lot about: how I came up with the attitudes of my German fairy tale scholar, Professor Winkler. His snotty belief that fairy tales are merely the product of debased “peasant” minds is derived from an actual historical essay written by James Russell Lowell (a Harvard professor) in 1870. There was no way I could’ve made it up; Lowell’s assertions have that special outlandish-yet-real flavor. (This is why I compulsively read Wikipedia articles: truth is way, way weirder than fiction.)

5. They Enhance Themes and Motifs.

In Snow White Red-Handed, secondary characters embody or enact themes and motifs from the fairy tale “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.” For instance, from the fairy tale I pulled the theme of beauty tied to a mother-daughter relationship. Next, I explored that theme through the avenue of the secondary character Prudence Bright, whose actress-and-courtesan mom taught her to value her looks and feminine wiles above all else. As another example, “Snow White” has that little detail about the Wicked Queen wanting to eat Snow White’s liver (or lungs, or heart, depending on the version), so in Snow White Red-Handed I HAD to go there:

“Luncheon, by the by,” Winkler said to Mr. Coop, “was superb. The sautéed liver! Your cook is a sorceress. Did you bring her from America?”

Truthfully, there are lots of writing days when my secondary characters are vastly more amusing to play with than my main characters. On those days I feel like I should, like a theater manager, pull the exuberant bit part actor offstage with a cane. Yet sometimes I indulge, and let them bask in the limelight a moment or two longer.

BIO: FEM_0463 web

Maia Chance writes historical mystery novels that are rife with absurd predicaments and romantic adventure. She is the author of the Fairy Tale Fatal and The Discreet Retrieval Agency series, and her first mystery, Snow White Red-Handed, is available now from Berkley Prime Crime.

Maia is a candidate for a Ph.D. in English at the University of Washington. This means that the exploits of Fairy Tale Fatal’s heroine, variety hall actress Ophelia Flax, were dreamt up while Maia was purportedly researching 19th-century American literature and fairy tale criticism. The Discreet Retrieval Agency series was born of Maia’s fascination with vintage shoes, automobiles, and cocktails combined with an adoration of P. G. Wodehouse and chocolate.

Upcoming titles include Come Hell or Highball (St. Martin’s Press, 2015) and Cinderella Six Feet Under (Berkley Prime Crime, 2015). Maia lives in Seattle, where she shakes a killer martini, grows a mean radish, and bakes mocha bundts to die for.

LINKS:

WEBSITE: maiachance.com
FACEBOOK: facebook.com/MaiaChance
TWITTER: twitter.com/maiachance
GOODREADS: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8127322.Maia_Chance

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