Edith Maxwell: Farmed and Dangerous Sunday, May 31 2015 

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Auntie M thoroughly enjoyed Edith Maxwell’s newest Local Foods mystery, Farmed and Dangerous.

The mystery follows the latest adventure of organic farmer Cameron Flaherty. Moran Manor Assisted Living is now home to the man who raised her, Great-Uncle Albert, and his new romantic interest, Marilyn. But it’s much more to Cam, trying to establish herself as an organic farmer. She’s hoping to get the contract to provide produce for the Manor and to that end has dropped off some of her delicious greens, root veggies, squash, herbs and even homemade pesto for a trial meal. With her rescued chickens, including the recalcitrant TopKnot slow to lay eggs in the cold weather, Cam works hard alone at her farm with only occasional help.

With her detective beau Pete Pappas making her a fabulous Greek meal that night, Cam’s fingers are crossed that dinner at Moran Manor is going well. Then Pete gets a call that changes everything: one of the Manor’s patients has died, poisoned after eating the meal based on Cam’s produce. And Pete must step back from their relationship until she’s cleared.

Since no one else at the Manor who ate the same meal was poisoned, the question soon becomes: Who would want Bev Montgomery to die? Surely not the handsome opera singer/farmer Richard Broadhurst, seen taking Bev out to dinner recently. Could it be her own daughter, Ginger, who wants to use Bev’s farmland for luxury condos? And what is Cam’s friend’s ex husband doing at the Manor? Ruth Dodge’s husband, Frank, hasn’t been seen or heard from in months, yet it suddenly appears his photographs are being featured at the Manor.

You’ll learn about the intricacies of organic farming while Cam unearths a killer in this second Local Foods mystery. But wait–there’s more!

Auntie M had the pleasure of interviewing fellow Sister in Crime, author Edith Maxwell. This is not the only series Edith writes. Let’s hear from her in her own words about how she juggles writing.

Auntie M: Edith, you have such an interesting background. Could you tell readers how you came to write crime fiction?

Edith Maxwell: I love reading mysteries, especially cozy and traditional mysteries. It just made sense that I would write in that genre, too. I started my first book when my younger son went off to kindergarten while I was home with the kids for a few years and being an organic farmer. It was the first time I’d had every morning to myself since my older son was born, and I jumped into mystery writing feet first, knowing nothing much about creative writing except my urge to do exactly that.
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AM: You juggle writing FOUR different mystery series! It boggles my mind how busy you must be with The Local Foods Mysteries; The Quaker Midwife Mysteries; The Country Store Mysteries; The Lauren Rousseau Mysteries. What made you decide to go in these very different directions?

EM: It was a pretty organic process. I will say that, for now, I have no plans for additional Lauren Rousseau books after Bluffing is Murder, which came out last November. Three series is enough to keep me more than busy, even though Speaking of Murder was my very first completed mystery novel and dear to my heart.

The Local Foods series was my first contract with a major publisher. After I turned in the third book, I wasn’t sure if they were going to extend the contract, so I created the Country Store series set in southern Indiana, where I used to live. Lo and behold, my editor at Kensington bought it, AND continued the Local Foods series for at least two more books. Delivering the Truth, the first in the historical Quaker Midwife Mysteries, which is set in my town in 1888, was a book I simply had to write, combining my love of local history with the legacy of independent and courageous Quaker women. I feel so privileged that Midnight Ink acquired it and awarded me a three-book contract. I’m just starting to write the second book now.

AM: How do you keep four different series straight? Talk about juggling—what’s your routine for writing and keeping things straight and organized?

EM: I write every morning, starting by seven. I do my very best to be working on only one book at a time. While I’m working on the first draft in one series, a draft in a different series might be sitting. Seasoning, as Quakers call it, and giving me some distance before I plunge into revisions. Sometimes, of course, the system blows up a little, like when copyedits come in on one book, a synopsis is due for a different book, and all I really want to be doing is creating the story of a third. But usually it works pretty well. Mind you, I am a complete failure at juggling actual balls.

AM: And while we’re on the subject of juggling, you also have a short story that was nominated for an Agatha –how did you fit that in?

EM: Once I get the idea for a short story, it doesn’t take me that long to write. Short works also go through their own seasoning and polishing process, but it’s all so abbreviated I can fit it in around the edges of my other work. I took Amtrak to Bethesda for the Malice Domestic conference, for example, and most of my work time down and back was working on a Poe-themed short story.

AM: Could you compare writing short fiction to a full-length novel for readers?

EM: Sometimes a short story plot just isn’t big enough for a novel. And the complexity of a novel-length work would overwhelm a 4000-word short. For example, the seed of Delivering the Truth was a short story I wrote, “Breaking the Silence,” which was published in a Level Best Anthology (and which I have reissued as an ebook called “Fire in Carriagetown”). But its story of malicious arson wasn’t big enough for a book, and the protagonist, a seventeen-year old mill girl, wasn’t strong enough to carry a series. So I invented her midwife aunt, Rose Carroll, who is the sleuth in the books, and added a couple of murders.

AM: When you have down time, which I suspect there isn’t much of, what else besides writing interests you?

EM: I love gardening, once the snow has stopped. Which took a long time this year! I cook, I read, I go for long walks, and we love to see movies on the big screen at our local Screening Room.

AM: When you squeeze in reading time, what’s waiting on your To Be Read Pile?

EM: I still pretty much read only in the genre. Right now next up is two of the Wicked Cozy authors’ new releases: The Icing on the Corpse by Liz Mugavero, and Musseled Out by Barb Ross. Then I’m dying to read Catriona McPherson’s new thriller, Come to Harm, and Victoria Thompson’s latest Gaslight Mystery, Murder on Amsterdam Avenue, also an historical featuring a midwife-sleuth. But I’ve also agreed to blurb a collection of short stories by fabulous Quaker author Chuck Fager, so that’s going to bump the novels. So many books, so little time!
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AM: Finally, what’s one thing readers would never guess about Edith Maxwell?

EM: I’ve said before publically that I hold a long-dusty black belt in karate as well as a long-unused doctorate in linguistics, so those won’t work. Okay, here’s one. When I was twenty-two, traveling cross- country on a Greyhound pass for a month, I sometimes climbed up and stretched out in the overhead luggage rack on long nighttime rides between far-flung western cities. No, I didn’t tell my parents. And if you actually know me, this won’t surprise you all that much. Also, see the last line in my answer to question 4…

MaxwellCrop Agatha-nominated and Amazon-bestselling author Edith Maxwell writes four murder mystery series, most with recipes, as well as award-winning short stories. Farmed and Dangerous is the latest in Maxwell’s Local Foods Mysteries series (Kensington Publishing). The latest book in the Lauren Rousseau mysteries, under the pseudonym Tace Baker (Barking Rain Press), is Bluffing is Murder. Maxwell’s Country Store Mysteries, written as Maddie Day (also from Kensington), will debut with Flipped for Murder in November, 2015. Her Quaker Midwife Mysteries series features Quaker midwife Rose Carroll solving mysteries in 1888 Amesbury with John Greenleaf Whittier’s help, and will debut in March, 2016 with Delivering the Truth.

A fourth-generation Californian, Maxwell lives in an antique house north of Boston with her beau and three cats. She blogs every weekday with the other Wicked Cozy Authors (http://wickedcozyauthors.com), and you can find her at http://www.edithmaxwell.com, @edithmaxwell, on Pinterest and Instagram, and at http://www.facebook.com/EdithMaxwellAuthor.

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Ausma Jehanat Khan: The Unquiet Dead Sunday, May 24 2015 

Unquiet Dead
Rarely is Auntie M affected by a book so much that she has to let time go by to give it a fair review.
But that’s what happened after closing the last page of this disturbingly powerful novel, The Unquiet Dead by Ausma Zehanat Khan.

When the Bosnian War was ongoing, Auntie M was aware of the situation, but for a mother, nurse and new wife without relatives there that were directly affected, it became something noted on the nightly news. Khan removes that distance by bringing war atrocities and their aftermath directly to the reader in the form of lasting affects on several characters who managed to escape.

At the same time, it’s also a police procedural of the strongest kind, set in Toronto with a Muslim veteran police detective, Esa Khattak, and his partner, Detective Rachel Getty. As head of Toronto’s Community Policing Section, Khattack’s team handles sensitive minority cases all the time. They are tasked with investigating the death of Christopher Drayton, a successful businessman who has fallen off a cliff near his home.

What first appears to be a straightforward accident of a fall from the cliffs overlooking Lake Ontario in the dark turns out to be so much more. Khattak soon comes to believe that Drayton was really Drazen Krstic, a war criminal responsible for the slaughter of thousands of Muslims during what has come to be known as the Srebrenica Massacre. Then it comes to light that Drayton has been receiving letters that contain quotations from war survivor’s testimony. Could his death be a revenge killing by relatives of survivors who’ve settled in Canada?

The case has personal ramifications for Khattak, and with Getty carrying her own secrets, the duo are learning to trust each other. Yet even as they build respect and trust in each other, they are learning from each other about the different cultures they represent. As their investigation continues, it will bring them more questions than answers that center on the conclave where Drayton lived and the small neighborhood there. Drayton was due to be married shortly, and his fiancee and her two daughters are several of the interesting characters Khan has created. There is also the question of a large donation he was to give to a museum in the same area and his participation in it.

Khan alternates the investigation against the background of the war, with several survivors stories representative of the horrific experiences of many. Without harping on political issues but with the travesty of war atrocities the focus, the novel stays firmly in the realm of a police investigation, with well-drawn characters, as the threads of the past and the present become woven into a chilling climax.

It is revealed after reading the novel, and there is not really a spoiler alert needed here, that the letters Drayton received contain lines from actual testimony from war crimes trials. In a lengthy and well-documented addendum, the author explains the origins of the quotes, showing the horror of ethnic cleansing that occurred at the time when a culture and its followers were attempted to be rubbed off the face of the earth.

This is an outstanding debut, meticulous in its research, compelling in its characters, and Auntie M can only hope this is not the last we’ve seen of this detective duo. Highly recommended.

Madeleine Mysko: Stone Harbor Bound Sunday, May 17 2015 

Please welcome author Madeleine Mysko and her new release: Stone Harbor Bound

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Confessions of Wannabe Mystery Writer

Unlike many of Auntie M’s guests and readers, I’m neither a writer of mystery novels nor a lifelong reader of them. I guess you could call me a wannabe—a “literary” novelist who occasionally hangs out in the mystery genre, hoping to pick up a few tricks of the trade from the respected practitioners.

Among writer friends, I make a joke of my addiction to re-runs of Masterpiece Mystery—Inspectors Morse, Lewis, and Lynley . . . Miss Marple, Wallander—but then, turning serious, I muse that watching mysteries can be a good thing for those of us interested in plot development. I expect my friends to believe what I’ve made myself believe—that an afternoon of watching murder mysteries (when I ought to be writing) isn’t really procrastinating, not as long as I’m “studying” in what order the writer makes things happen on the screen.

My brother (not a writer but an audiologist) has long been an avid reader of mystery novels. For years now, he’s been saying he and I should collaborate—that he could come up with the story line, drawing from his familiarity with detectives and police procedurals and all sorts of formulae for whodunits. And of course I would do the writing. There’s something wistfully half-serious about my brother’s proposal. He really loves mystery novels. He really loves me. Maybe he thinks I could actually deliver on my half of the bargain.

Once, out of the blue and without my brother’s help, I came up with an idea for a mystery novel. I was very pleased with myself. I had what seemed the necessary ingredients: setting (contemporary Baltimore), sleuth (somewhat jaded nurse about my age), and murder (or what appears to be murder to the nurse-sleuth, but to no one else.) I wrote the first chapter of my first mystery novel in a glow of self-satisfaction. Then right after I typed “Chapter Two” I was in trouble.

Determined to follow through, I ordered several manuals with bold, no-nonsense titles like “How to Write a Mystery Novel.” I devoured these manuals with pleasure, as though they were novels themselves, the heroine a person just like me who crafts a gem and finds both agent and publisher to adore her. This was ten years ago. I still have Chapter One of my first mystery novel on my computer. As for the how-to books, I think they may have left the house last fall, in a box headed for the Hospital Auxiliary Sale.

I’ve recently launched my second novel, Stone Harbor Bound (Bridle Path Press). Already, much to my surprise, I’m happily working away at a third. I’ve got the setting (contemporary Baltimore) and the main character (a somewhat jaded nurse about my age). I’ve even raided Chapter One of my first mystery novel for some of those details that delighted me the first time around.

But the main character of my third novel isn’t actually a sleuth. Turns out she’s just a wannabe, like me.

* * * * *
Madeleine Mysko’s poetry, fiction, and essays have been published widely in journals that include Smartish Pace, The Hudson Review, Shenandoah, Little Patuxent Review, and Bellevue Literary Review. She is the author of two novels, Bringing Vincent Home and Stone Harbor Bound. A graduate of The Writing Seminars of The Johns Hopkins University, she has taught creative writing in the Baltimore area for years, and presently serves as contributing editor at American Journal of Nursing.

Stone Harbor Bound is available from Bridle Path Press: http://www.bridlepress.com
and from Amazon.com

James R. Callan: On sidekicks and Over My Dead Body, a Father Frank Mystery Sunday, May 10 2015 

Happy Mother’s Day! While Auntie M is visiting her Minnesota Grands, please welcome author James Callan, talking about sidekicks with a brief excerpt of his new release, OVER MY DEAD BODY:

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The Sidekick Is Not an Afterthought

All writers know the importance of a good sidekick to the protagonist. The protagonist is the leading character, the one on a mission, the person charged with the task of changing the course of things. As such, the main character is somewhat limited.

The sidekick, on the other hand, is not encumbered by such. Oh, yes, she (or he) is going to help the protagonist. But she is not the main driving force. As a result, she has a much wider range of what she can do. She can be funnier, crazier, can engage in things far afield from the main quest the protagonist must follow. The sidekick has a great opportunity to be more interesting.

In Over My Dead Body, a Father Frank Mystery released the first week of May, the sidekick is Georgia Peitz. Here’s an example of her free spirit: (Mike is the detective delivering the information that Syd committed suicide.)

Georgia jerked her hand up and stabbed a finger toward the detective. “Right. Angry. Not depressed. Not suicidal. Angry. He was planning to fight it.” She tilted her head and gave Mike an angelic smile. “He did not commit suicide.”

“Maybe he finally saw he couldn’t win.”

“I suppose some people might end it all if they couldn’t win something that was important to them,” Georgia said. The frown lines on Mike’s forehead began to disappear. “But,” she continued, “that was not Syd. Did you know him, Mike?”

“No.”

“Then, you’re not qualified to say what he would do in such a circumstance.” Again, the angelic smile. “I am.”

Don’t overlook the power of the sidekick to enliven your book and keep your reader engaged.

James R. Callan

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. He has had four non-fiction books published. He now concentrates on his favorite genre, mystery/suspense, with his sixth book releasing in 2015.

http://www.jamesrcallan.com
Amazon Author Page: http://amzn.to/1eeykvG
Click http://amzn.to/1BmYQ0Q to see Over My Dead Body.

Cleansed by Fire (paperback & e-pub) NOW in audio, narrated by five-time Emmy winner Jonathan Mumm.

Over My Dead Body at: http://amzn.to/1BmYQ0Q
Character: The Heartbeat of the Novel – Second Edition at: http://amzn.to/19l69jd
How to Write Great Dialog Second Edition at: http://amzn.to/1yHx0uK
Cleansed by Fire at: http://amzn.to/1fqgWee

Dorothy Hayes: Broken Window, the second Carol Rossi Mystery. Sunday, May 3 2015 

Please welcome Dorothy Hayes, premiering her second Jerry and Rossi Mystery

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Jerry and Rossi are at it again in Broken Window.
They’re married for three months when the story opens and living on Jerry’s farm and animal rescue reserve, Peaceable Kingdom. Jerry is a detective on the Wilton Police Force and Rossi is an investigative reporter in her new job at the The Norwalk Daily News. They met when Rossi covered a police strike, in Murder at the P&Z, the first book in the Carol Rossi Mystery Series.

She was working for the town newspaper, The Wilton Weekly News. At that point, Rossi had lost both parents in a years time, and with them was gone that feeling that she was the most important person in the world to someone, until Jerry came along.

Rossi is a local hero. Her expose’s resulted in ousting some politicians and better environmental protection. She proved time and time again that she was at late night meetings representing the public’s interests. Then when the recently retired town planner’s secretary is found dead on School Road, in Murder at the P&Z, it is Rossi and Jerry who solve that murder, but to everyone in town, it seemed like Rossi did it singlehandedly. The murder case brought the two closer together.

In Broken Window, in August 1984, a Wilton High School graduate goes missing off a number six subway train in New York City, and the parents turn to Rossi and Jerry for help. The city is dangerous, its crime rate at an all time high, it is in a financial crisis, ten thousand fewer cops are on the streets, the NYPD won’t care about a missing Wilton girl, the parents tell Rossi and Jerry.

Rossi is much more on her own walking the city streets looking for clues, and riding the graffiti marred, old and failing subway trains searching for a witness to the girl’s kidnapping. With frequent muggings, and gangs openly roaming the trains wearing their gang colors, the subway trains had become a symbol of the declining city. Life is more complicated, now as well; she’s a 47 year-old newlywed. Both she and Jerry must adjust, but adjustments don’t come easy in the middle of a missing person’s case.

Rossi’s main objective is to find the missing girl before she’s killed; she’s racing against the fatally ticking clock, so everything else is on hold. She can’t do it any other way. Jerry’s objective is to watch over their farm, his job, and keep it all afloat, and he’s not getting much help from Rossi. Will Rossi find her missing girl in time? Will she pay the price of a failed marriage? ~~~

New Release: Broken Window published March 1, by Mainly Murder Press, http://www.amazon.com/Broken-Window-Dorothy-H-Hayes/dp/0990510336, Murder at the P&Z, 2013,http://www.amazon.com/Murder-at-Dorothy-H-Hayes-ebook/dp/B00BHHSLTC

Broken Window:
The New York City subway was dangerous, the parents told the three Wilton High School graduates, but the girls weren’t taking no for an answer. Kelly Singleton, soon to be an NYU freshman, and her two friends board the hazardous subway train. Several stops later, her two friends get off, but Kelly is nowhere to be found. It is the torrid August of 1984, and crime is at an all-time high. Kelly’s desperate parents turn to reporter Carol Rossi and police detective Jerry Stevenson to find their missing daughter.

Praise for Broken Window:

“From the first sentence to the last, Dorothy Hayes takes you on a pulse-pounding journey into the heart of darkness … With flowing prose that won’t let go, impeccable research, and characters that breathe life on the page, do not miss Broken Window.”
–Racine Hiet, author, Stanley Park: A Novel; radio host, Party 934;
and publisher/editor, Thrive in Life Magazine

“Hayes captures the danger of New York City in the 1980s and the nightmare of a girl gone missing … This suspenseful story rings so true, I couldn’t put it down.”
–Garry Rodgers, retired homicide detective, forensic coroner and best-selling crime writer

“Wow, another great book! … Hayes continues the fast-moving mystery thriller technique of Murder at the P&Z as we follow Rossi in her search for a missing 18-year-old girl in New York City.”
–Frank Hoffman, Co-founder, All-Creatures.org

“Over her head, professionally and romantically.” Scratch the surface of a small town planning and zoning department, and you’ll uncover a story. That’s what Carol Rossi counts on in the winter of 1983, and she’s right. A former teacher, age 47 and romantically involved with a much younger police officer, she needs a big story to make a success of her new career as a reporter for a Wilton, Connecticut, weekly newspaper, but murder isn’t what she had in mind. When the victim turns out to be a woman on Rossi’s beat, writing a story no longer seems enough, and she vows to find the killer. Stalked and terrorized, Rossi soon finds herself in over her head, professionally and romantically. Published by Mainly Murder Press: February 17, 2013

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Dorothy Hayes, a staff writer for local Connecticut newspapers for five years, received and honorary award for her in-depth series on Vietnam Veterans from the Society of Professional Journalists. Prior to that she was a Language Arts teacher. A staff writer for a national animal protection organization, for six years, she wrote Animal Instinct, 2006. Dorothy lives in Stamford, CT with her husband, Arthur. She also raised four children, and is the mother-in-law to three, grandmother to fourteen, and is GN to Bella. She writes for WomenofMystery.Net, CriminalElement.Com, and is a member of Sisters-in-Crime-Tri-State Chapter, and Mystery Writers of American. Visit her at DorothyHayes.com for more information.