Marian McMahon Stanley: The Immaculate Sunday, Aug 21 2016 



Boston is a great setting for a mystery novel like The Immaculate – a story about the murder of an elderly nun and the unholy alliance that did her in.

Rich in history, ethnic neighborhoods, political intrigue and, at the time of the story, an ecclesiastical structure tightly tied to powerful civic interests – the city is a gift to any writer.

Sister Mary Aurelius – secretly called Spike by her students because she could be tough – burned with a mysterious mission she was determined to complete before she died.

But Aurelius is murdered before she can.

Rosaria O’Reilly, a former student who’d left the old neighborhood for a very different kind of life, comes back for the nun’s final services. There, she finds herself drawn further and further into this murder case where nothing is as it seems. At great personal risk to herself and others, Rosaria commits to finishing Sister’s dangerous mission. She does so, but in the process, her own sense of herself is changed forever.

To build the book’s sense of place, without having it read like a travelogue, I tried to weave specifics into the narrative:
The sound of a Bruins game playing on the TV at The Creek, a rough bar in Chelsea where Rosaria uncovers a key piece of the puzzle;
The smell of salty ocean air mixed with newly mown hay at the Motherhouse on the North Shore when Rosaria visits a nun with a story;
The sight of old Italian men in Frank Sinatra hats sitting outside the cafes in Boston’s North End as Rosaria drives along the waterfront;
The taste of whiskey in strong tea on a rainy day when Rosaria contemplates her losses in her condo on Boston Harbor;
The feel of the red bricks on the wall of the old-line parochial school where Aurelius is murdered.

Rich locations are like additional interesting characters in our stories. I’d like to think that worked in The Immaculate.

Available at Barking Rain Press, Amazon, Barnes and Noble and selected bookstores.


MARIAN MCMAHON STANLEY: Like her protagonist, Marian McMahon Stanley enjoyed an international corporate career with a Fortune 500 company and, more recently, a senior position at a large, urban university. A dual citizen of the Untied States and Ireland, she is a proud mother and grandmother of four adult children and a growing number of grandchildren. Marian writes in a small town outside Boston where she lives with her husband Bill and – just as in The Immaculate – a Westie named Archie.

Currently, she’s hard at work on her next mystery. You can find out more about Marian on her website, or on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. WWW.MARIANMCMAHONSTANLEY.COM

Natalie Barelli: Until I Met Her Sunday, Aug 14 2016 

Please welcome Australian author Natalie Barelli, who will describe the influences on the thread of her new novel, UNTIL I MET HER:

Until I Met Her_Ebook-300

Writers and Lies Natalie Barelli

Writers and lies

My new suspense novel, Until I Met Her, is loosely about a woman who pretends to be
the author of very successful novel.

I didn’t set out to write a novel about a writer, I set out
to write a novel about a lie, but the two are strangely intertwined: after all, it can be argued
that all crime writers are also consummate liars: they set out to tell you a story, which we,
the readers, take at face value, only to find out at the last minute that we were led up the
garden path and we are left to reel in shock at the deceit that was played out.

In Until I Met Her, Emma isn’t a writer at all, and she doesn’t harbour any ambitions of being
one, either. In her case, it all starts out as a favour to a friend. Put that way, if you were asked to put your name to a novel you didn’t write, would you?

That depends on who’s doing the asking, I hear you say. Which is a fair comment, so
let’s assume it’s your favourite thriller author: your favourite thriller author has asked you to
pretend that you wrote his or her latest book. Why? because it’s different from anything
she’s written before, because she’s typecast, she wants the novel to be received at face

Why not write under a pseudonym? you ask. Sure, but there’s a publicity tour to be
done, there are TV interviews lined up, magazine profiles wanting to be written.
Would you be Jill Emerson? Rosamond Smith? Robert Galbraith?

Of course you would.

These are all pen names, but here is a real life story: In the mid 70s, the famous French
author Romain Gary wrote a novel under the pseudonym Emile Ajar. The novel became so
successful that it became impossible for “Ajar” to stay out of the public eye. But no one
had ever met Ajar, not even his publisher. So under such pressure, Romain Gary enlisted
his nephew to front up and pretend to be “Ajar”.

It may have been decades before the age of the internet, but it still didn’t take long for
someone to point out that Ajar was in fact a man called Paul Pavlowitch. So Paul
Pavlowitch did yet more interviews admitting that yes, he had been writing under a
pseudonym. He was the nephew of a very famous author after all, he wanted some
anonymity. This multilayered subterfuge went on for a few years, during which “Emile Ajar”
published three more novels, and when Romain Gary died in 1980, Pavlowitch/Ajar came
out publicly and revealed the duplicity.

Back in the fictional realm, writers and lies make for some gripping thrillers, and some of
my favourites are John Colapinto’s About the Author, Sascha Arango’s The Truth and
Other Lies
, and Lie with Me, the beautifully written latest novel by the brilliant Sabine
Durrant. In all these, the protagonist is either a writer who lies about what they’ve written,
or someone who lies about being a writer.

In Until I Met Her, Emma has only recently met Beatrice, a famous crime writer, a woman
Emma admires, and they are fast becoming friends. Then Beatrice asks for a favour: she
needs someone to be “the author” of her yet to be published novel, someone not shackled
by the expectations of fame and genre. Would Emma be willing?

Of course she would.

Neither Beatrice nor Emma have any expectations of the novel breaking any records. It’s well and truly a literary effort, it might do well with the critics, but such novels
traditionally sell little on the commercial front.

Except that it does do well. So well, in fact, that very quickly, Emma becomes rich, famous,
and hailed as one of the most talented authors of her generation.

And now, Beatrice wants her novel back.
Until I Met Her is published on


You will usually find Natalie Barelli reading a book, and that book will more likely than not be a psychological thriller. When not absorbed in the latest gripping page-turner, Natalie works as an IT professional, loves cooking when she has the time, knits very badly and spends far too much time at the computer. She lives in rural NSW, in Australia.

Until I Met Her is her first novel.

Kate Rhodes: Blood Symmetry Wednesday, Aug 10 2016 


Kate Rhodes’ Alice Quentin series is one of Auntie M’s favorites, well-crafted books with realistic characters. She gobbles them up and then has to wait for the next exciting installment. Blood Symmetry follows her pattern of constructing a complex plot, mixed with compelling characters, thrown into a multi-layered tale that will have readers flipping pages long after the light should be turned out–and then impatiently waiting for the next one.

Alice is a plucky forensic psychologist you must adore if you’ve read any of the others, and now that her relationship with DCI Burns has solidified to a more personal connection, you’ll like her even more as she navigates the kind of union she never expected she’d be having on more than a superficial level. Readers will be privy to more of Burns, too, a nice addition as he tries to understand Alice, even as he knows she’s the one person who can help him on his current case. Her brief will be to when profiling what is determined to be a pair of criminals, and help unlock the memories of its prime witness.

Hematologist Clare Riordan and her son Mikey are out for a run on Clapham Common when they are abducted by a couple. Mikey manages to escape, but is so traumatized he’s mostly mute and barely readable. While Alice tries to profile the abductors, she also spends time at Mikey’s safe house to uncover his memories.

Alice’s perceptiveness to Mikey and the clues he give us allow us to feel for this child, who hopes desperately to be reunited with his mother even as he fears she’s dead. As bags of Claire’s blood turn up at different sites, it soon becomes apparent her demise may not be that far off. Besides being drained slowly of her blood, hers is being tainted with drugs that will kill her.

Rhodes’ meticulous research stands her in good stead, and her author’s note at the end of the book explains her personal connection to tell this story. Interspersed with Alice and Burns’ chapters are shorter ones of those of the abductors, bizarre and filled with urgency, adding to the tension. Will Claire be found before she’s killed? What is the significance of the sites where her blood is being left? And then a second hematologist is found dead, and all bets are off as Alice and Burns step up their pace to find who is behind this–and why.

Another sparkling entry in the Alice Quentin series. And yes, Auntie M is already pining for the next. Highly recommended.

Maggie McConnon: Wedding Bel Blues Sunday, Aug 7 2016 

Belfast McGrath is getting over a rough time, personally and professionally. What’s a fired chef to do but head home to her Irish-American family in Foster’s Landing. Their large manor house is a professional events location, famed for weddings, and before Bel knows it, she’s the maid of honor at her cousin Caleigh’s wedding.

The fact that she’s getting over her own broken engagement notwithstanding, things are far more complicated when Bel learns that Caleigh had a one-night stand two nights before her ceremony. And they zoom out of proportion when said lover falls from a balcony during the reception, landing right in front of Bel.

Great. Now she’s not only a witness to what she consider a murder, the lead detective turns out to be her old high school sweetheart, Kevin Hanson.

Bel knows her own past mistakes still haunt her, and to add to the complications, her parents start acting strange and she’s asked to take on their catering kitchen when the head chef quits in a snit. Not what a one-star Michelin chef had in mind. But family means helping out, and while she’s whipping their kitchen into shape, Bel tries to figure out what all the secrets are that everyone’s keeping–and what that has to do with a killer who suddenly sets his sights on Bel.

This is a delightful romp, filled with humor and hints of romance, the first in a series featuring Bel and her extended family. Auntie M is a huge fan of the Maeve Conlon suspense novels Maggies writes as Maggie Barbieri. This series will be a bit lighter and hits more on the cozy side of things, perfect for summer reading. McConnon’s own Irish family and their stories inform her knowledge, but the humor is all her own.

Wendy Walker: All is Not Forgotten Monday, Aug 1 2016 


In All Is Not Forgotten, Wendy Walker examines the implications of the use of a drug being developed which would be used to treat soldiers with PTSD which wipes out their memories of the incidents that haunt them. She skillfully blends fact with fiction in creating its use in this story filled with intrigue.

When teen Jenny is raped in the woods near her Connecticut home, her mother consents to her being given the controversial drug to erase the memory of the horrific assault she’s suffered.

But wiping out the memory also disturbs the police investigation into any relevant information Jenny could have given them regarding her attacker. As she heals from the wounds left behind, Jenny struggles with flashes of emotional memory of feelings that have no facts attached to them.

Her parents are at odds, with her father crazed that he cannot bring her attacked to justice. Her mother pretends the event didn’t really affect the tony country club circle they live in. With their entire family relationships torn apart by the attack, it will be Jenny’s psychiatrist who sets in the motion the revelations that will shock the family, the community, and Jenny, as the truth worms its way to the surface.

Walker uses a deft hand as she examines our place in society, the importance of memory, and how manipulation can be used in devastating and cleansing ways. Readers will be surprised and shocked at the ending. Reese Witherspoon’s production company has purchased the film rights, and Auntie M can see this on the big screen, suspenseful and taut with emotion, highly visual and emotionally charged. A winner.

Diane Madsen: Cracking the Code of the Canon: How Sherlock Holmes Made His Decisions Sunday, Jul 31 2016 

Please welcome Diane Gilbert Madsen, with a tale of the past mixing with the future of her new book:

Cracking the Code of the Canon FC lg

“The past is never where you think you left it.”
― Katherine Anne Porter

Family and the past always matter. This maxim came true for me when my newest book, CRACKING THE CODE OF THE CANON: HOW SHERLOCK HOLMES MADE HIS DECISIONS, was published by MX Publishers in London earlier this June.

I’ve been a fan of Sherlock Holmes since I was a young girl. I read all the stories and loved trying to solve the mysteries before Holmes revealed the clues. I loved the puzzles, the ciphers, the fingerprints, footprints, bloodhounds and typewriter forensics. All my friends in school knew of my passion and watched as I did experiments in Chemistry class and for the Science Fair. My older brother, Albert Earl Gilbert, was also a true Sherlock Holmes fan, and when he was in high school, he did a freehand pencil sketch of Holmes and Watson in their digs at 221B Baker Street.

Albert moved to New York, and the wonderful sketch got lost in the mists of time. He went on numerous expeditions and became a world-renowned wildlife artist ( He dedicated his art to conservation and preservation with hopes that it will have a direct effect on the survival of the world’s wildlife. He served on the President’s Council on the Arts and as President of the Society of Animal Artists for many years. His paintings are in collections of the American Museum of Natural History; Field Museum of Chicago; the Carnegie Museum; Princeton University; the National Audubon Society; and the National Wildlife Federation. The Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences purchased for their permanent collection all his original paintings from the award-winning book, “Trogons,” which won the International Book award for Best Book Design in the World in 2010. His book credits include “Reader’s Digest Book of North American Birds;” “Handbook of the Birds of the World;” “The Audubon Master Guide to Birding;” “Toucans, Barbets and Honeyguides;” “Curassows and Related Birds;” “Modern Wildlife Artists;” and “Masterpieces of Bird Art.”

While he was getting famous, I went on to write mystery stories – the DD McGil Literati Mystery Series, including A Cadger’s Curse; Hunting for Hemingway, and The Conan Doyle Notes: The Secret of Jack the Ripper. A few years ago both my brother and I had books coming out, and we held a joint launch party in Florida for both our books.
Al & Diane Gilbert Madsen - Book signings Nov. 2009 009

While I was doing research for the CONAN DOYLE NOTES, I was struck by how the outcomes of all the Sherlock Holmes stories varied. Some perpetrators were severely punished, while others – even murderers – were excused by Holmes and never faced the law or punishment. Some even escaped. So I decided to write a book on my findings and musings, and that is how CRACKING THE CODE OF THE CANON: HOW SHERLOCK HOLMES MADE HIS DECISIONS came about.

During my research, coincidentally (see, it can happen!) one of my brother’s colleagues from high school, Bob Bernardi, got in touch with me via e-mail. He now lives in California and told me he had saved my brother’s sketch of Holmes and Watson. He’d saved it from being thrown away, and he’s enjoyed it to this day. He asked if I’d like to have a copy.

sherlock holmes, 12/20/10, 4:58 PM,  8C, 3154x3743 (2862+4230), 150%, Custom,  1/50 s, R103.4, G76.5, B95.4

sherlock holmes, 12/20/10, 4:58 PM, 8C, 3154×3743 (2862+4230), 150%, Custom, 1/50 s, R103.4, G76.5, B95.4

Of course I jumped at the opportunity, and he sent it, not knowing that I was working on this new book. My brother and I toasted it and Bob after all these years. So imagine how pleased and excited I was when my publisher, Steve Emecz of MX Publishing, agreed to use that very same sketch my brother drew back in high school of Holmes and Watson in 221B where “It’s always 1895” on the jacket of my new book, Cracking the Code. It really makes this book a family achievement.

Purchase Cracking The Code from MX Publishers or or B & N or Amazon

1 DGM w Corona #3

Diane Gilbert Madsen
Twitter – @DianeMadsen
Facebook –
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Dawn Eastman: An Unhappy Medium Wednesday, Jul 27 2016 

Please welcome Dawn Eastman, whose book, An Unhappy Medium, covers a most unusual topic!

Thank you, Auntie M, for asking me to visit!

My Family Fortune cozy mystery series takes place in a small western Michigan town with an unusual tourist draw. The town is filled with psychics. Instead of boating, dune rides, and beaches, the main business is tarot reading, fortune telling, and séances. Since my ex-cop protagonist, Clytemnestra (Clyde) Fortune, has moved back to town, there have also been quite a few murders.

A couple of Clyde’s relatives are pet psychics. Her aunt has multiple clients and works with them to solve behavior issues or to locate a lost pet. Clyde’s nephew has a more untrained gift and seems to be able to read the thoughts of animals.

These two characters are give me so much pleasure to write. I have always loved animals and have had many pets in my life. It has always been fascinating to watch how these animals learn to communicate with their human caregivers. While I cannot read the thoughts of animals, I have developed relationships with some of the animals in my life that make it seem as if I can.

When I was growing up, my family owned a very smart standard poodle. I’m pretty sure he was training us most of the time. He seemed to have a vast vocabulary of English words and would often act as if he understood exactly what people were saying, even if the conversation didn’t involve him or his food. My brother and I taught that dog how to play “hide and seek.” The dog won every time. Of course, he found us within minutes when it was his turn to seek. But, if he was the one hiding, he could stay absolutely silent in his hiding place, even if he was in a dark closet, or we called him with the promise of treats.

Later, I owned a Wheaten terrier who was very sweet but not quite as smart. However, he took his duties as babysitter very seriously. Archie had just managed to get my son through toddlerhood when my daughter was born. He felt his main job was to alert me every time the new baby cried. It was as if he thought I couldn’t hear her myself, or he had a low opinion of my parenting skills. Every time she made a peep, he came running to me with a worried look and wouldn’t leave me alone until I had picked her up to quiet her.

My current dog is a very bossy bichon-shih tzu mix. He really has no trouble communicating that he has needs (demands), but not everyone knows exactly what he wants. He has been trying to train us for years. His main form of reward when we finally do what he wants is to find a squeaky toy and squeak it long and loud. I have not been able to convince him that we are not fans of his loud “thank yous.” But every time he gets fed, or gets let outside, or someone comes home, we are “rewarded” with several minutes of squeaking.

I hope you’ll find time to visit my fictional psychic town of Crystal Haven, Michigan. They’re expecting you and pets are welcome.

Dawn Eastman lived in Michigan for many years, in a house full of animals, unusual people, and laughter. She now lives in Iowa with her family and one extremely bossy small dog. She is the national bestselling author of The Family Fortune Mystery Series, which features psychics, animal communication, quirky characters and murders.

Sam Wiebe: Invisible Dead Sunday, Jul 24 2016 

Please welcome Canadian author Sam Weibe, to talk about what he’s learned about the publishing world:

The more you do something, the better you’re supposed to get, but I’m not sure that applies to writing. In some ways, each book is its own thing. Since my second novel, Invisible Dead, has just been published, I’ve been thinking about what I learned from my first novel, Last of the Independents, what lessons I can take away.

When I wrote Independents, I didn’t know anything about the market–and still don’t, really. A lot of people claim to know what works, what sells, what’s hot. This is guesswork presented as fact–if it weren’t, there’d be no discount bins in bookstores.

People will also tell you horror stories of working with publishers, having their novels’ setting changed from Toronto to Detroit, their endings changed, the soul of their fiction bled away by callous editors and money-hungry publishers. This hasn’t been my experience at all–maybe I’ve just been fortunate.

Last of the Independents won a Crime Writers of Canada manuscript award, and was published by Dundurn Press. By the time it came out, I had finished the manuscript of my second novel, and was ready to send it out.

When I first started submitting Invisible Dead to agents, I had interest, but often the agent didn’t ‘get’ the book, or wanted to make it something else. One agent actually told me she liked the story, but that it was “too much like a detective novel.”


Thankfully, Chris Bucci at the McDermid Agency got the book. He knew the market and had smart suggestions, but he never asked me to change the substance. It remained set in Vancouver, rather than being moved to Seattle or Los Angeles, and the characters and story remained intact.

When Chris submitted Invisible Dead, we had a few offers, one of which was quite generous. But Chris knew that Craig Pyette at Random House would be the ideal editor. There were a tense few days of waiting to see if a deal would be made, but happily it worked out. Happier still, Craig also got the book.

What do I mean by ‘got the book’–that they loved it unconditionally? Hardly. The book went through a rigorous editorial process. What it meant was that the changes Chris and Craig asked for made the book better.

To me, that’s the key–any change that might improve the novel is worth considering.

With Invisible Dead, I wrote the book I wanted to read–a book about Vancouver. I wanted to use the private eye novel as a vehicle to examine systems of power and violence, and to look at who counts and why. Vancouver is really no different than Seattle, Minneapolis, Juarez; it has its problems with land and money and sex and violence, but these are ultimately universal concerns.

The publishing process for Invisible Dead has been an exercise in faith. I have no idea about the relative success of the book, except that the form it’s being released in is what I envisioned. This is the book I wanted to write. Every writer should be so lucky as to have that experience at least once.

Sam Wiebe is the author of the crime novel Last of the Independents, which won the Kobo Emerging Writer Prize and an Arthur Ellis award. His second novel, Invisible Dead, was published this June. His short stories have appeared in Thuglit, Spinetingler, and SubTerrain, among others. Visit Sam:

Meg Wolfe: The Charlotte Anthony Mysteries Wednesday, Jul 20 2016 

Please welcome author Meg Wolfe, who will talk about her Charlotte Anthony Mysteries: (more…)

Tony Lee Moral: Ghost Maven Sunday, Jul 17 2016 

Please welcome Tony Lee Moral, who will talk about writing YA novels, his in particular! And the difference between mystery and suspense:

book front

Writing Young Adult: Ghost Maven by Tony Lee Moral

In my Young Adult novel Ghost Maven, I dive straight into the action with a kayaking trip in jeopardy in Monterey Bay, California, which quickly puts the central character in peril. Teen readers are impatient, and like to get to the story quickly, rather than having to wade through pages of backstory or exposition. So I start with Alice, the heroine who tells the story in the first person, in great danger, and facing her worst nightmare – open water and the fear of drowning.

Having lived in Monterey and Pacific Grove for two years, where the novel is set, this story about teens is incredibly personal to me. I walked the coastal paths Alice walked, taking in the blues and greens of Monterey Bay. I kayaked over the underwater kelp forests, marvelled at the diaphanous moon jellies in the Aquarium, and smelt the salty sea breeze during many long strolls along Carmel’s sandy beach. It’s a magical place to live, and one where I feel very at home with nature.

I start the novel with a quick succession of chapters, using famous landmarks around Monterey Bay, such as the Aquarium, Point Pinos Lighthouse, Point Lobos forest, Big Sur and Cannery Row. These are places rich in history and literature, from John Steinbeck to Jack Kerouac, as well as shrouded in mystery. Some are even linked to the supernatural. Point Pinos Lighthouse, for example, is said to be haunted, a plot device I use during the thrilling denouement of the novel.

Having written three books on Alfred Hitchcock, I specialise in mystery and suspense. Many readers become confused by the two terms. They are actually two very different processes. Mystery is an intellectual process like a riddle or a whodunit. The mystery of Henry, who saves Alice from drowning, is: who is he really? Is he a ghost? Where does he come from? What secrets does the island hold which he inhabits? What happened to Heather, the high school prom queen? These are all mysteries that run through the book.

We also know that Alice has suffered a terrible trauma in recent months, as her Mom died of a long illness, so is what she is seeing real? I wanted to create an atmosphere of uncertainty and delusion, which is why I wrote the scenes early on when Alice isn’t really sure if she’s seeing Henry or not. Is he a figment of her imagination? So the first half of the novel is devoted to who Henry is and why he holds such a spell over Alice.

Suspense is an emotional process in the reader, rather like a rollercoaster ride, or a trip to the haunted fun house. As Alfred Hitchcock once said, “In all suspense you have to give the reader information, so that they have something to be anxious about.” The suspense in Ghost Maven is: what will happen when Alice finds out who Henry really is? How will she react? What will she do? What will happen when the other sailors come looking for her? This suspense drives the narrative core of the book and invites readers to keep turning pages.

When writing Young Adult fiction, I think it’s very important to channel your inner teen. Ghost Maven revolves around the many first experiences of being a teenager such as: going on a first date, first love, and first prom date. Falling in love and losing a parent are intense feelings for a teenager, both of which Alice goes through, and which I can relate to. Teenagers don’t tend to think of their own mortality, as they have their whole lives stretching ahead of them. It’s only after Alice loses her Mom that she starts to think about the possibility of an afterlife and then Henry appears.

Writing authentic teen dialogue is important, especially if you want young readers to connect with your story. As a zoologist and psychologist by training, I find it fascinating to observe people and listen to the way they speak. When I’m in a queue at the movies for example, I enjoy listening to others talk about the film they have seen or are about to see, and I have three teenage nephews who banter and are fun to listen to. Capturing the intensity and feelings of being a teenager is vital, where everything seems so exaggerated. But I was wary of using slang, since it quickly dates your work.

Another challenge I had was that Henry and Alice are literally from two other worlds, so Henry’s style of speech was more formal and romantic; the flip side to Alice’s modern style. Anything that doesn’t advance the plot or characters should probably be cut. In early drafts I had scenes of Alice shopping in the outdoor markets of Monterey for California artichokes (which I love), but these scenes were the first to go. My advice when writing for teens is more immediate scenes and less narrative summary.


Tony Lee Moral will be signing copies of his Young Adult novel Ghost Maven at Old Capitol Books, 559 Tyler Street, Monterey, California on Saturday 3rd September at 2pm.

Copies of the book are available in October through Saturn’s Moon Press and check out the new website at

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