Pamela J. Castrucci: Down the Staircase Sunday, Apr 8 2018 

Pamela J. Castrucci’s first novel, Down the Staircase, is a work of Magical Realism enriched with elements of crime, suspense and mystery.

Inspired by true events in her own life, Castrucci currently anticipates releasing the next installment of The Staircase Series by the end of 2018. Castrucci, a successful attorney and single mom, shares what moved her to write her novel. *****

When I was young, I was fairly certain that my parents feared that I would run off and join the circus someday. A good student, I was keenly focused on the arts, particularly literature and theater. I indulged my passions by obtaining a degree in literature, but life events occurred, as they so often do, which caused me to choose another path.

My love of the arts, particularly writing, were eclipsed by my need to pursue justice. I obtained my law degree and entered the Navy. My time in the Navy’s Judge Advocate General (“JAG”) Corps, while brief, was intense, challenging and fulfilling.

Once I got over the initial shock and dismay when I learned that my cases largely involved domestic violence and crimes against children, I felt a fire ignite within me. I needed to do whatever I could to deliver justice for those victims, especially the youngest, who had no voice.

Like Cara Stone, the protagonist in Down the Staircase, those cases both haunted me and spurred me onward. Even after leaving the service, the lessons I had learned in prosecuting those cases formed a foundation for the rest of my legal career, while thoughts of pursuing my writing becoming more remote with each year.

I have had Cara’s story rattling around in my brain for more than twenty years. Like so many, I promised myself I would one day bring her story to life. Other priorities allowed me to keep her story safely tucked away on a quiet, dusty shelf in my mental filing cabinet, enabling me to procrastinate and avoid being vulnerable.

But then life has a way of getting one’s attention, drawing our deeply held needs to the surface and into the light. And so it was for me this past October, when various coincidences converged. Every year, I ask my young twins, my Raptors, the same series of questions, delighting in how their interests and priorities change and evolve.

I’d had a very challenging day at a job I truly enjoy last October. I chose to ask my children their annual questions as an antidote to that difficult day. Their answers were as fun and as satisfying as ever, but this year, there was a twist. When I had finished by asking them what they wanted to be when they grew up, they then asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. We discussed my dream of becoming a novelist and with the clear- eyed pragmatism of young children, they could not see any reason why I couldn’t fulfill that dream.

Their wisdom gave me pause. Earlier that day, I’d received an email from a business coach I’d met earlier in my career, promoting a self-publishing school for new authors. These coincidences – the difficult day, the confidence of my children, and the seemingly-random receipt of an email with the promise of tools to make my dream come true – were just what I needed to take Cara’s story “off the shelf.”

I signed up for the course that very night. I hope readers will enjoy Cara’s story and will look forward to the next installment in the series. I also hope that my story will encourage other writers to take the leap and bring their stories into the world.


You can find Down the Staircase on Amazon~

https://www.amazon.com/Down-Staircase-1-Pamela-Castrucci/dp/1986845028/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1522700628&sr=8-2&keywords=down+the+staircase

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Christi Daugherty: The Echo Killing Monday, Mar 26 2018 

Christi Daughterty’s accomplished debut, The Echo Killing, will have readers looking for a sequel (it’s in the works for next spring), after meeting crime reporter Harper McClain.

The lushness of antebellum Savannah, Georgia, lends its setting to the story of the determined reporter, and Daugterty’s own experience in that job shines through, as does her love for the city which echoes Harper’s own.

Harper enjoys her job, despite her sad family history. At the age of twelve, she walking home from school to find her artist mother’s brutally murdered body. With the unsolved murder never far from Harper’s thoughts,she works evenings on the crime beat, spending time following the police radio to crimes that will bring headlines and please her editor.

Then a new murder takes her to the house of a murder, where she watches the victim’s young daughter being led away from the scene, just as she was years ago. Harper is determined to glimpse the actual murder scene, and soon is sorry she did. It’s eerily familiar to her mother’s murder, from the naked victim,being found in the kitchen to the multiple stab wounds.

Only someone who had seen her mother’s killing could replicate it in so much detail. Does this mean her mother’s killer is on the loose again? The killer is forensically aware, too, leaving no clues for detectives.

The new case becomes an obsession with Harper, despite being warned by the cops she’s close to, her photographer friend, and her editor to leave it alone. This victim turns out to have a very different background from Harper’s mother, and as she investigates her life, Harper soon finds a disturbing tie to several prominent people, including someone on the police force.

Her probing could cost Harper more than just her job–it cost her life as she unravels the complicated case.

This atmospheric, engrossing tale is filled with realistic characters and dialogue, and a romantic subplot only adds to the layers of the book, which aptly illustrates what it means when murder is so personal.

A suspenseful mystery that will have readers lined up for its next installment. Highly recommended.

Phillip Margolin: The Third Victim Saturday, Mar 24 2018 

Phillip Margolin’s newest legal thriller, The Third Victim, debuts a new series featuring young lawyer Robin Lockwood. Just landing her dream job working with Regina Barrister, the legend of criminal defense attorney, after a clerkship at the Oregon Supreme Court.

The strong opening gives readers a dark rural Oregon road and a lone driver, who slams on the brakes when a young woman–dehydrated, starved and beaten–runs across his path asking for help.

She’s escaped from a cabin where she’s been held prisoner, and soon the cabin’s owner, a prominent attorny in his own right, is arrested for the beating and kidnapping, as well as the deaths of two other women in similar circumstances.

With evidence against him mounting, Robin’s firm take on the defense of Alex Mason, who insists he’s innocent. Second chair on this very public trial is Robin, but she’s seeing things with her renowned boss that lead her to worry about Barrister’s behavior.

Then several details in their case seem at odds, and it will take Robin and Barrister’s team to figure out what is really going on. The complicated plot hangs together well, with enough twists and turns to keep readers guessing as the story unfolds, inside the courtroom and out.

An interesting lead character, Robin Lockwood’s past as an MMA fighter just might find her in good stead when things turn ulgy. Margolin’s own experience as a criminal defense attorney shines through, turning the legalese and court proceedings into interesting scenes.

This crafty story with its tight plot will leave readers looking for the next installment featuring Robin Lockwood and the legal team.

Stuart MacBride: A Dark So Deadly & Now We Are Dead Wednesday, Feb 28 2018 


Stuart MacBride is a favorite of Auntie M’s. She recently had the good fortune to catch up on two new releases. First up is A Dark So Deadly, featuring DC Callum MacGregor, who complains he gets all the boring cases.

His team is made up of misfits, but when an ancient mummy turns up in a landfull site, his job is to find which museum it’s been stolen from.

But things heat up and a chance to redeem themselves occurs when Callum finds a link between the mummy and three missing men. The Misfit Mob is handed the assignment, and although the higher-ups doubt they will succeed–well, that would spoil all the fun if Auntie M told you it all, now, wouldn’t it?

Callum’s big brother Alastair, a washed-up celebrity, gets thrown into the mix and adds to the delightful read. A new character written with MacBride’s trademark humor, making this a strong read. We can hope we see more of Callum and his friends.

With Now We Are Dead, MacBride centers on one of the most imaginative characters he’s created, Logan MacRae’s thorn in his side, DCI Roberta Steel, that not-so-paragon of virtue who has been caught during In the Cold Dark Ground setting up a defendant, despite his badness and more than deserving prison actions.

You don’t have to read the previous book to get this one, although you should read the entire series, but in this one Roberta takes on center stage. With his trademark humor, MacBride gets down and dirty with Roberta.

Demoted and given DC Stewart Quirrel to keep her company, Roberta and Tufty, as he’s known, start off following a pack of shoplifters.

Jack Wallace, the creep Roberta was caught fitting up to get a solid conviction, is back on the streets. With women being attacked again, she’s certain it’s Wallace up to his old tricks.

But there are the solid alibis he’s manufactured for himself, complete with CCTV coverage, plus the similarity to his MO, leaving Roberta to think he’s schooled assistants to replicate his attacks.

But when Wallace and his cronies decide to go after Roberta’s wife and two daughters, it’s no-holds-barred in one of the most action-packed and fitting climaxes MacBride could have written.

Makes Auntie M’s heart sing just to think about it again. Don’t miss this one, either. Just get the whole darn series. Highly recommended.

Yrsa Sigurdardottir: The Legacy Thursday, Feb 15 2018 


The Queen of Icelandic Noir debuts a thrilling new series with The Legacy, introducing detective Huldar and psychologist Freyja.

The two share an uncomfortable event before being assigned to a case that’s fraught with misery: A woman is horrifically murdered in her own home, and the only witness is her seven-year-old daughter, who hid under her mother’s bed during the killing.

Using Freyja’s talents with the child, Huldar must test his new promotion to its limits as he tries to make sense of the unusual murder method.

Pushing young Margaret has produced little effect, but once it’s known she was a witness, her life becomes in danger and Freyja ends up taking her into her home for safety when the killings continue.

But is that really a safe environment? And how can Hildar figure out why the seemingly unrelated victims are related to the killer, who seems aware of forensic concerns?

A complicated thread of evidence with short-wave radios and a series of numbers that impact the investigation provide an unusual subplot that adds to the horrid murder methods the killer uses.

It will take all of Huldar’s smarts and savviness to figure out what Margaret has obliquely told him. Named Best Crime Novel of the Year in Iceland, this is one Auntie M dares you to figure out until the end. Highly recommended.

Michelle Birkby: The House at Baker Street Wednesday, Oct 25 2017 

Former library assistant Michelle Birkby has long been a fan of the Conan Doyle stories and especially of his female characters, so it’s no surprise her debut, The House at Baker Street, concentrates on the giving those women their own stories to tell.

Shortlisted for Best Historical Crime Novel by the CWA, her story takes two beloved women, Mary Watson and Mrs. Hudson, and given them full-depth characterizations. Her fresh take on Mrs. Hudson, always so much more than just his housekeeper, pushed the action. After working with Sherlock Holmes and observing him at work, when he turns down a case, she and Mary Watson decide they will take it on themselves.

Laura Shirley is a society woman who is being blackmailed, but the two sleuths quickly discover she’s just one of a long list of women trying to preserve their reputations when women’s rights meant something entirely different that that phrase conjurs up now, and when a whiff of any impropriety, justified or not, could ruin a woman. Despite not demanding money, the blackmailer is ruining lives, and Mrs. Hudson, who’s voice is grand in this, determines she cannot abide the practice and sets out to stop him. When the women realize the depth of the tragic ends some of the women come to, their resolve deepens.

This feminist take on the classic detective investigation will see the two women using the Baker Street irregulars and even Irene Adler to follow clues to bring the perpretrator to justice. There are appearances by Holmes and Watson, and references to the Canon, but the story belongs to the women.

Original and entertaining, with a second book already set for next year.

Peggy O’Neal Peden: Your Killin’ Heart Wednesday, May 10 2017 

Peggy O’Neal Peden won the Malice Domestic Competition for Best First Traditional Mystery Novel with Your Killin’ Heart.

The debut of this new series is set in Nashville where Peden has lived for most of her life, and she captures the feel of the place from the point of view of Campbell Hale, a travel agent with her place in the Hillsboro Village area near Music Row and Vanderbilt U.

She’s become friends with Doug Elliot, and pushes her way into joining him to visit the home of dead country icon Jake Miller, one of her father’s favorite musicians.

It’s only later when she hears of the death of Hazel Miller that Campbell realizes the widow she saw taking a nap in an upstairs bedroom she just had to check out might already have been dead. It seems Campbell is just a wee bit nosy at the best of times, and she doesn’t hesitate to start to ask questions.

As the bodies start to pile up, and a painting becomes a focal point,a lanky detective seems to take more than a casual interest in Campbell. She will fine her tendency to sleuth is perhaps not always in her own best interests.

A refreshing setting for a new cozy series.

Tracee de Hahn: Swiss Vendetta Wednesday, Mar 1 2017 

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Tracee deHahn’s debut bring readers to Lausanne, Switzerland, in Swiss Vendetta.

Perfectly capturing the setting during an ice storm, she introduces detective Agnes Luthi, a Swiss-American who has left behind her work with Financial Crimes to shed her old life before her husband’s death. Being new to Violent Crimes, Agnes is juggling her three sons’ care and grief, while living with a mother-in-law who blames her for her husband’s death.

Her first case will turn out to be a locked-room style, when she is called to investigate the murder of a young woman at the grand Chateau Vallotton, on Lac Leman. The ensuring blizzard and ice storm will keep Agnes and several others at the Chateau for days as the investigation continues and they are cut off from the outside world.

It’s not just the intense cold that has Agnes in its grip–it’s the eerie candlelit vastness of the Chateau, with too many rooms to count or explore; it’s the emotions and guilt she carries after her husband’s death; and it’s the knowledge that a murderer is among the people she’s staying with, eating with, talking with.

This Swiss family includes servants loyal to them for generations, and so Agnes worries her questions are not being answered truthfully when a young appraiser for a London auction house is found stabbed to death on the grounds.

Everyone she comes into contact with is a suspect; and she despairs of trusting anyone.

An complex mystery with plays out on several emotional levels, making it an accomplished debut. Highly recommended.

Lynn Chandler Willis: Tell Me No Lies Saturday, Feb 18 2017 

Please welcome Lynn Chandler Willis, to talk to readers about:
Small Town Newspapers Make For Great Fiction:

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Title: Small Town Newspapers Make For Great Fiction
By: Lynn Chandler Willis

When it comes to writing advice, one of the more common statements is write what you know. We writers hear it all the time. I usually ignore it all the time. My newest release, Tell Me No Lies, is the exception.

I never intended for the main character, Ava Logan, to be a shadow of myself. Yes, she’s the publisher and owner of a small town newspaper. So was I. Yes, she’s the single mom of two kids—a son and a daughter. So am I. Yes, she has a border collie named Finn. So do I.

But that’s where the similarities end. The other 97% of what makes fictional Ava Logan, well, fictional, is—-fiction.

Ava tends to be hot-headed. I’m laid back like my father. I’m the apologizer—you know, the one who apologizes even when I shouldn’t just to keep the peace. Ava struggled through a not-so-happy childhood. I was raised by Ozzie and Harriet. Well, not really, but pretty darn close. Couldn’t have asked for a better childhood.

So what part of Ava Logan is real? Not so much Ava, as it is the what—the newspaper she owns. The Jackson Creek Chronicle is fictitious. But is it real. Every small town newspaper publisher struggles with the issues Ava faces in Tell Me No Lies.

How many different ways can you write a story about the local pumpkin festival and make each one new and exciting? How many “public service announcements” for fundraisers, benefits, and soccer sign ups are going to run before someone actually buys ad space? And how many town council members are going to be livid at something published that more-or-less refers to them as nitwits? Since small town councils rarely ever totally agree on anything, at least one, maybe more, will at one time or another be on the publisher’s side.

Small town politics can be, and often are, downright ruthless. It pits neighbor against neighbor. That guy across the street, the one whose son plays T-ball with your kid, asked for a special use permit to build some chicken houses on his property. The neighborhood is against it, but the guy is within his rights. How are you going to vote Mr. Council Member? And better yet, how is the newspaper going to cover it? Will they make the council look like a bully if the council denies it? Or will they take the neighborhood’s side? Or will they present both sides equally and fairly?

That isn’t as easy as it sounds. There’s an awful lot of gray area in the world of small town newspapers which often lead to a moral dilemma for the publisher. That makes for great conflict and good drama. Which makes great fiction.

Tell Me No Lies: Ava Logan, single mother and small business owner, lives deep in the heart of the Appalachian Mountains, where poverty and pride reign. As publisher of the town newspaper, she’s busy balancing election season stories and a rash of ginseng thieves. And then the story gets personal. After her friend is murdered, Ava digs for the truth all the while juggling her two teenage children, her friend’s orphaned toddler, and her own muddied past. Faced with threats against those closest to her, Ava must find the killer before she, or someone she loves, ends up dead.

Lynn Chandler Willis has worked in the corporate world, the television industry, and owned a small-town newspaper. Her novel, Shamus-Award finalist, Wink of an Eye, (Minotaur, 2014) won the SMP/PWA Best 1st P.I. Novel, making her the first woman in a decade to win the national contest. Tell Me No Lies is the first title in the Ava Logan Mystery Series with Henery Press. She lives in North Carolina with a border collie named Finn.

Website: lynnchandlerwillis.com

Edith Maxwell: Delivering the Truth Friday, Apr 8 2016 

Edith Maxwell is one of the hardest working authors Auntie M knows, juggling now four series and bringing out books that have a wide readership. Today she’s talking about her new historical mystery, Delivering the Truth, the first in her Quaker Midwife Mysteries. Check out that neat cover and discover the mystery inside.

Delivering the TruthCover

Learning about the Past

Thanks for having me back, Auntie M!

My latest venture – historical mystery – involves a level of research I don’t need to do when I write my contemporary mysteries. I had so much to learn about the late 1800s. And there’s nobody still alive to ask.

How would a Quaker speak and act? What did women wear under their outer clothes? Did a modest New England home have indoor plumbing, gas lamps, a coal stove? What were matches like?
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I’ve found a couple of good reference books for everyday life. Ruth Goodman’s How to Be a Victorian describes everything from toothbrushes to underwear. Miss Parloa’s New Cookbook and Marketing Guide from 1890 has all kinds of handy tips about the kitchen and foods available in the end of the century. Pinterest provides images of clothing. And then there’s Sarah Chrisman – who lives like someone in 1888 and writes about it! http://www.thisvictorianlife.com/

MontWardCarriages
I needed to learn about all the different types of horse-drawn vehicles. Carriages, wagons, buggies, drays, runabouts, broughtons, phaetons, surries – and so many more. Luckily for me, the town where the series is set, Amesbury, Massachusetts, is where I live and it was world-famed for its carriage manufacturing. There are antique carriages all over town, a thriving Carriage Museum, and many enthusiastic history buffs to call on.

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Because my protagonist is a midwife, I delved into medical care of the time. Basic uncomplicated childbirth hasn’t changed that much. But did they know about the importance of washing hands yet? I learned that the germ theory of infection was known. Was there a hospital nearby in case of emergency? Yes, the hospital in the next town was eight years old at the time of Delivering the Truth. I found a midwifery textbook from the era. I learned that blood typing wasn’t yet used but that a lab could find out from a snip of hair if arsenic had been ingested.

Reading local newspapers from a hundred and thirty years ago provide much detail about both news and the prices of goods and services, as do the Sear & Roebuck catalog and the Montgomery Ward catalog, both of which are available on Amazon as reproductions. For example, you could buy a two-spring Phaeton (a single-horse kind of buggy with a roof) for $70, a drop-leaf desk for $9.50, and a pair of Irish lace curtains for $2.35. My midwife Rose bought a new bicycle for $45.
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And because I write mysteries, there’s the all-important question of police procedure. I’ve found pictures of the local police force in town, and dug up The Massachusetts Peace Officer: A Manual for Sheriffs, Constables, Police, and other Civil Officers from 1890. An officer had to lay a hand on the shoulder of someone he was arresting, for example. I also learned that they didn’t yet use fingerprinting.

There’s more, of course. Local historical societies and museums are a rich resource. But at some point you just have to write the book!

Readers, do you like doing research? Where do you find resources to learn about the past, or about your current passion, whatever it is?

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Edith Maxwell writes the Quaker Midwife Mysteries and the Local Foods Mysteries, the Country Store Mysteries (as Maddie Day), and the Lauren Rousseau Mysteries (as Tace Baker), as well as award-winning short crime fiction. Her short story, “A Questionable Death,” is nominated for a 2016 Agatha Award for Best Short Story. The tale features the 1888 setting and characters from her Quaker Midwife Mysteries series, which debuts with Delivering the Truth on April 8.

Maxwell is Vice-President of Sisters in Crime New England and Clerk of Amesbury Friends Meeting. She lives north of Boston with her beau and three cats, and blogs with the other Wicked Cozy Authors. You can find her on Facebook, twitter, Pinterest, and at her web site, edithmaxwell.com.

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