Maia Chance: Come Hell or Highball Thursday, Sep 24 2015 

While Auntie M is off on the first leg of a book tour for DEATH UNSCRIPTED (now available from Bridle Path Press or on Amazon, soon to be Kindle), please welcome author Maia Chance and her third mystery: Come Hell or Highball, to talk about forcing creativity. And be ready for a treat, folks–this is cute!

Come Hell or Highball

On Not Reinventing the Wheel

When I was in elementary school and junior high, I enjoyed competing (oh so nerdily) in something called Odyssey of the Mind, a sort of team-oriented creativity Olympics for kids. One of the coolest things I learned from O. M. w
as that you can deliberately mobilize or even, under pressure, force yourself to be creative.

Sounds so . . . inartistic, doesn’t it? I mean, what about the fairylike muse and her feelings?

Forget her. When you have work to do, creative work, and if you’ve got deadlines looming, you need tools, not temperamental pixies.

What I took away from all my time in Odyssey of the Mind (which is evidently still going strong) is that if you can’t think of a new idea, you can sort of smush two things together, and if you push hard enough, voilà!, there’s your fresh new idea. It’s like plate tectonics creating new mountains ranges.

For instance:

Random thing 1: DOG
Random thing 2: CHOPSTICKS

New idea: OMG! A children’s picture book about a King Charles Spaniel food critic. And his fatal flaw is dipping his ears in his soup. (I swear I just thought of that right now. I kind of like it. . . .)

It’s mash-up. Pastiche. Synthesis. Synergy. And this is, at its heart, what I think the creative process really is. Although our culture clings to a fantasy of an independent genius who is capable of reinventing the wheel (and isn’t that the Apple company’s whole shtick?), older ways of Making Stuff were more communal.

Fairy tales, for instance, rarely have a single author but are instead the culmination (still going on today!) of long traditions. Some historians even think that Homer was (is?) really an amalgamation of an oral tradition. And really, anyone working inside a genre is simply building upon and tweaking the ever-changing conventions and reader expectations of their genre. Cozy mystery writers like me have Agatha Christie omnipresent, hovering over our writing desks like the North Star.

Pablo Picasso said, “Good artists copy, great artists steal.” First of all, if that’s how PICASSO worked, then by gum, it’s good enough for me. Second, let’s unpack this. To me, this quote means:

Borrowing is kind of . . . wimpy. Borrowing is tentative and all “I PROMISE I’ll give it back and I won’t rip it or stain it. You’ll never even notice it’s gone!” Borrowing results in things like those Sweet Valley High books, all written by different people but with Created by Francine Pascal stamped on their covers. Ugh.

On the other hand, stealing means you take it and make it your own, with audacity and aplomb. You don’t give it back because you can’t give it back, because by the time you’ve had your way with it, it’s unrecognizable.

Speaking purely for myself, I am wholly incapable of producing anything, and I mean anything, out of thin air. Instead, I absorb, fragment, synthesize, and repeat. Over and over. Until I have something to work with.


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. Her first mystery, Snow White Red-Handed, was a national bestseller and her latest releases are Cinderella Six Feet Under and Come Hell or Highball.

Oh, a creative influences include P. G. Wodehouse, Janet Evanovich, Are You Being Served?, Agatha Christie, Nathaniel Hawthorne, M. C. Beaton, The Real Housewives of Orange County, and F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Visit Maia on the web at:


31-year-old society matron Lola Woodby has survived her loveless marriage with an unholy mixture of highballs, detective novels, and chocolate layer cake, until her husband dies suddenly, leaving her his fortune…or so Lola thought. As it turns out, all she inherits from Alfie is a big pile of debt. Pretty soon, Lola and her stalwart Swedish cook, Berta, are reduced to hiding out in the secret love nest Alfie kept in New York City. But when rent comes due, Lola and Berta have no choice but to accept an offer made by one of Alfie’s girls-on-the-side: in exchange for a handsome sum of money, the girl wants Lola to retrieve a mysterious reel of film for her. It sounds like an easy enough way to earn the rent money. But Lola and Berta realize they’re in way over their heads when, before they can retrieve it, the man currently in possession of the film reel is murdered, and the reel disappears. On a quest to retrieve the reel and solve the murder before the killer comes after them next, Lola and Berta find themselves navigating one wacky situation after another in high style and low company.

Emma Jameson: Marriage Can Be Murder Sunday, Dec 21 2014 

British author Emma Jameson has a new series premiering. The Dr. Benjamin Bones mysteries start out with Marriage Can Be Murder. MCBM Cover

On the eve of World War II, Dr. Benjamin Bones is at war with himself.

While most young men are being sent away to fight the Germans, Ben is chosen to serve on English soil. Ordered to move to wild, beautiful Cornwall, he must trade his posh London office and stylish city life for the tiny village of Birdswing, population 1,221 souls.

But leaving his home and shelving his career ambitions aren’t the only sacrifices facing Ben. His unfaithful wife, Penny, is accompanying him to Cornwall in a last-ditch effort to save their marriage. But moments after their arrival, Penny is run down in the street, and Ben is almost fatally injured. And while the villagers assume Penny’s death to be an accident, Ben quickly deduces it was murder.

As he convalesces in Fenton House, which the locals call haunted, Ben meets Birdswing’s eccentric inhabitants. Mr. Gaston, the volunteer air warden, obsessed with defending his remote village against Nazi spies; Mrs. Cobblepot, a thoroughly practical housekeeper who believes in fairies; and Lady Juliet Linton, a prickly, headstrong aristocrat who won’t take no for an answer.

While adapting to life during Britain’s “War at Home,” a time of ration books, victory gardens, bomb shelters, and the Blackout, Ben sets about solving the mystery of Penny’s murder—with a little help from Lady Juliet and the Fenton House ghost.

As a special treat for Auntie M readers, Jameson has provided an excerpt of the new book:

10 October, 1939

Ben didn’t need to leave his room over the Sheared Sheep to know it was getting colder; he felt it every time a southeaster blew through, penetrating the late Victorian heap as easily as a torn mack. Downstairs, raucous laughter and pint-fueled rows started in midafternoon and carried straight through till closing. After the issuing of the Call-Up Proclamation, it seemed most of the village’s young men were heading into the pub a little earlier each day, either to drown their fears or enjoy what might be a final pint with friends. Ben often overheard long snatches of conversation, provincial and circular in nature, that did nothing to entice him downstairs. And if not for the insistence of his nurse, a curt sister with very definite views on the curative power of sunlight, he would have kept his blackout screens in place night and day. What difference did it make?
The words of the publican, Angus Foss, floated up from the barroom. That is, if the perpetually aggrieved tones of a perpetually aggrieved Scot can ever be said to “float.”
“Aye, I’ll fetch him for ye. Just what my poor spine needs, another wee traipse down the stairs with a full-grown man in my arms. Devil of a way to start the day. And me due to unlock the doors in a quarter hour….”
Ben checked the alarm clock beside his bed. Was it really not yet three o’clock? Dawn was trundling toward dusk even slower than usual.
“… but ye know my temperament. Man o’ the people. Live to serve,” Foss continued morosely. “Still, martyrs and saints have their limits. The Council—meaning your ladyship’s mother, ye ken—had best make restitution for all I’m out in lost rent. That includes meals, housekeeping, and electric current. If I’m not assured payment by tomorrow morning, I’ll put him out, I swear by God I will.”
Foss’s threat didn’t trouble Ben. He’d overheard it many times during his slow convalescence, though never attached to a twenty-four hour deadline. The insistence of some unseen visitor to have him brought downstairs was what bothered him. Foss found the process inconvenient; Ben found it downright humiliating. As for whatever the visitor wished to discuss, it didn’t matter. Unless the person asking represented the British army, Ben would say what he always said: no.
Easing his Edwardian wheelchair, a ghastly contraption fashioned of blond wood and rattan, out of his room, Ben maneuvered onto the landing. There, near the top of the stairs, he couldn’t see the bar, where Foss and his visitor were standing, but he could hear her voice quite clearly.
“I understand he’s lodged here six weeks. So lost rent is fair enough,” she said in the flowing tones of an educated woman. “But surely you customarily provide meals to your guests? I’ve always pitied those souls unfortunate enough to squat in this hovel, but I refuse to believe even you would bill them separately for electric lights. Or what you call housekeeping, which amounts to Edith Hoovering twice a month and linens changed once per solstice?”
Foss cleared his throat. “Now, that’s verra hard—”
“Nonsense. I was being kind to Edith. If I were the sort of woman who engaged in gossip, and I assure you I am not, I would add that outside Birdswing, ‘Hoovering’ is not the common term for Edith’s primary occupation. I might also remark that you virtually never let that room upstairs, except for the sort of exchange that doesn’t require a hot meal to sizzle.”
“That’s a lie!” Foss thundered. “No immoral congress takes place within these walls.”
“Of course there’s no immoral congress. A physician with two broken legs occupies the requisite space.” As the woman laughed, Ben leaned forward, trying to get a look at her. “Mind you, I make no accusations. I never repeat gossip and would prefer not to hear the rumors about poor Edith and your tawdry little room. No doubt she’s a nearly adequate maid, and it’s a nearly bearable cell. So please believe me, my dear Mr. Foss, when I say I perceive your discontent. My mother perceives your discontent. Far away, nestled amongst the most distant stars, advanced life forms perceive your—”
“Dinna ken what you’re on about,” Foss said peevishly.
“Of course not. Being met with slack jaws and faintly suspicious eyes is both my blessing and my curse. But if you could just sublimate your habitual disgruntlement long enough to fetch down—”
“Blessing?” Foss cut in again. “How the deuce is it a blessing that regular folk can’t make heads nor tails o’ what ye say?”
“It reduces the volume of complaints directed toward my mother.” The visitor sounded cheerful. “She’s not a well woman, you know, and heaven knows my childhood travails contributed to her condition. How fortuitous that as I matured, I acquired sufficient vocabulary to speak my mind without ruining her day. Now. Mr. Foss. I’ve very much enjoyed our little talk, but the time draws nigh for you to ply your unsavory trade, and Edith to ply hers. So will you fetch down Dr. Bones, please?”
“Aye, Lady Juliet.” The cantankerous Scot sounded defeated.
Ben wheeled back into his room. Somewhere in the midst of listening to that acid-tongued woman, he’d lost his resolve to say no, at least without hearing her out. But what could she possibly want? Everyone in Birdswing knew of his injuries. His right leg, broken below the knee, was mostly healed, but his left leg had been shattered. During that titanic smack of impact, the moment his torso struck the lorry’s bonnet, his legs had connected with its iron grille, breaking the tibia and fibula in two places each. Moreover, his femur had snapped, either when the lorry hit him or when he struck the ground. Now Ben knew firsthand the truth of the medical school saying: a broken femur was the worst pain a man could experience. Its corollary, that childbirth was the worst pain a human being could experience, made him devoutly glad to be male.
Hearing the stairs creak under Foss’s heavy tread, Ben gripped the arms of his chair and slowly, carefully, tried to rise. His right leg trembled. It had grown weak during the long recuperation. Two seconds later, his left buckled, dropping him back in the wheelchair with a stab of agony.
Perspiration broke out across his forehead. Sighing, he wiped it away. There was no more morphine for him: since the declaration of war, narcotics and other essential medications were strictly rationed. As a result, he’d been undermedicated, at least by London hospital standards, but that was probably a blessing. Morphine didn’t eliminate pain, it just created detachment, placing the patient on a billowy cloud from which discomfort could be ignored. No other substance came close; not even single malt whiskey could compete with an injectable opioid. And Ben, who during his internship had struggled to comprehend the nature of morphine addiction, understood it now all too well. He’d survived the accident. Penny had not. The chance for them to repair their union, or at least face its dissolution together, had been snuffed out without amends or even goodbyes. When real physical pain was entwined with amorphous demons like heartbreak, guilt, or misery, and a substance existed that artificially detached the sufferer for a few precious hours, who on earth wouldn’t be tempted?
He looked around the little room. The books and magazines his mum and dad had brought were long read; the condolence cards and letters from the extended Bones family were tucked away. His last visitor had been an aunt on holiday who’d dropped by out of morbid curiosity; his last telegram, from Penny’s brother George, asking if Penny had any life insurance money due. A fresh distraction might be worth the price of venturing downstairs.
“Dr. Bones! Are ye decent?” Foss bellowed outside the door.
“Yes.” Only due to the efforts of his nurse, who insisted her patients be fully dressed by breakfast, no lazing about in pajamas or dressing gown. Most days, Ben didn’t see the point, any more than he saw the point of looking out the window at this sad little village he refused to call home. But defying such a grimly resolved sister wasn’t worth the wear and tear on his vocal cords. So not only was he decent, he was properly attired to meet this backwater aristocrat, from his silk necktie to his Oxford dress shoes. “Do come in.”
“Do come in,” Foss mimicked. As usual, his hair was wild, his shirt was stained, and a bit of egg clung to his bushy mustache. “I’ve not come to take tea with ye. Here to break me back again in service to her ladyship.”
“You sound like you don’t fancy the task. Shame. Being carried by you is the highlight of my week.” Ben kept his tone light. “So tomorrow morning I’m out on my ear, is that right?”
Foss had the decency to look abashed. “Ye heard?”
“As my mystery visitor put it, beings on faraway planets heard. Never mind, Foss, think nothing of it. If the government hasn’t paid you yet for my room and board, I don’t blame you for feeling ill-used. Tell me about that woman. What does she want?”
“Like anyone kens the answer to that. Beat down me door while I was at lunch and prattled on till I gave in. Her and her mother, Lady Victoria, come from people who once owned every acre of Birdswing. Reckon they still do, or near as makes no difference. I told her you’re fit for nowt, but she wouldn’t listen. That’s how she wound up married to a bounder—not listening.”
“Married to a bounder?” The revelation didn’t surprise Ben; Birdswing brimmed with gossip. Everyone, even his nurse, seemed incapable of simple discourse without tossing in a few nuggets of personal information about someone not present to defend themselves.
“Aye, and not just any bounder, the prince o’ the lot. As flamboyant as Valentino and as phony as they come, stuffed with lies and promises. Made off with half the family fortune, from what I hear. Course Lady Juliet and her mum are close-mouthed about it, but care to wager how it ended?” Foss lifted his eyebrows so high, small eyes gleamed within their narrow sockets. “The ‘d’ word.”
Ben knew he was supposed to respond with disapproval and chose to depart from the script. “Good on her.”
“There’s no call for sarcasm.” Foss adopted a tone of virtuous sorrow. “It’s a stain on Birdswing. All the manor staff deny it—high-minded and high-handed, the lot o’ them. But he’s gone, isn’t he, and Lady Juliet only wears her ring on formal occasions. Still, she’s Mrs. Bolivar, not Miss Linton. Remember that.” Taking a deep breath, he bent over the wheelchair. “Ready?”
“Ready.” Ben steeled himself. Foss, stringy but remarkably strong, slid one arm around his shoulders and another beneath his knees, lifting him out of the chair. Bad enough to be held close by another man, particularly one like Foss, but the mere experience of being carried downstairs set Ben’s left knee on fire. His thigh ached, too. By the time Foss deposited him on the pub’s lone sofa, a red velvet affair long past its prime, fresh perspiration stood out on Ben’s forehead and tears stung his eyes. Fortunately, Foss was too occupied with his own resentment to notice.
“You look like a slender wee lad, but you weigh more than a keg o’ me best. At least when I shift one o’ those, I’m padding me pocket while I strain me back.” Foss sighed theatrically. “Let me fill my lungs and I’ll fetch down your bloody chair.”
It was a bumpy transit via wheelchair down the pub’s front steps, beneath two elms, and into the dazzling afternoon sun. Parked by the curb was a Crossley 20/30, gleaming ebony and clean as a whistle. Its driver leaned against the bonnet, six foot two if she stood an inch, clad in what looked like waterproof trousers, a man’s green Macintosh, and galoshes. Dull brown hair was scraped back in a bun, exposing what seemed like too much face: a vast expanse of forehead and chin and cheeks, all of it sunburned. Ben, aware that during the war, unmarried women would temporarily fill the positions vacated by able-bodied men, thought this she-behemoth was better suited to farm or factory labor. Perhaps when it came to hiring drivers, Lady Juliet’s judgment was as questionable as her taste in men.
“Good heavens, it’s the man himself!” she called. “After such a long wait, I’d nearly succumbed to despair.”
Ben gaped at her. He hadn’t expected that smooth, educated voice to issue from those lips.
His expression must have amused the woman, who laughed. “Don’t look so frightened, Dr. Bones. I don’t eat injured men for lunch. Nor do I dress for dinner, as it were, to run midday errands. Unlike you.” She eyed him critically, as if his London wardrobe were wildly inappropriate. “If my arrival had been foretold, would you have received me in top hat and tails? Mr. Foss, I fear our new village physician is the achingly formal sort. Introduce us properly, would you please?”
Slightly overwhelmed by the torrent of words, Ben tried to frame a rebuttal, but Foss was already speaking.
“Lady Juliet Bolivar, this is—”
“Linton. I’ve taken back my family name,” she cut across him.
Foss’s bushy eyebrows lifted, tiny eyes gleaming again. That new kernel of information would soon take root in his pub’s fertile ground. “Lady Juliet Linton, this is Dr. Benjamin Bones. Old Sully says we ought to call him ‘Broken Bones’ on account of the accident.”
“Ah, yes. An accident which killed his wife.” Lady Juliet’s smile disappeared. “Has Old Sully produced a clever nickname for that aspect of the tragedy, too? ‘Wrecked Widower’? ‘Heartsick Husband’?”
“Come now, Lady Juliet. The lads were just having a bit o’ fun. No need to—”
“Dr. Bones, I see once again why it’s folly to rely on others for introductions or, indeed, almost anything else,” she said. “They omit what you care about, sprinkle in what you don’t, and tie up the package with a ribbon of indifference. Best speak for yourself. I’m Juliet. It’s a terrible name—curse of my life, next to my height—but there it is.” Looming over the chair, she stuck a large hand in his face. The thumbnail was torn off to the quick; the palm was crisscrossed with scratches.
“I’m Ben.” Quickly, aware he might be cut off if he gave her an opening, he continued, “You should know, my knee hurts like the devil and I have no idea why you insisted I come down to meet you. I don’t suppose you’ve received a message from the Army?” More hopefully, he asked, “Are they ready to transfer me to a small hospital or sanatorium where I can continue my convalescence?”
She gave an unladylike snort. “No. I did hear from the Army a week ago—or my mother heard, which is the same thing. They’re under the impression you’re fit to begin work in the village. Still, the Council elected to give you a bit more recuperation time, what with the magnitude of your loss.” She fixed him with light brown eyes. “My deepest condolences.” For the first time, the words weren’t tinged with acid.
“Thank you. But fit? I can’t even walk.”
“Must you walk to attend the sick?” From her great height, Lady Juliet studied him like a blue heron surveying a fish. “Old Dr. Egon was seventy-four. In the end he couldn’t hear, couldn’t see, and most assuredly couldn’t walk, at least more than a few yards, without assistance. Also, he was drunk by eight o’clock every night. Nevertheless, in his final year he delivered eight babies, set eleven broken limbs, and treated any number of fevers and coughs. If the scotch hadn’t killed him, he’d be staggering toward me now, peering through his thick specs and asking me to repeat every third word.” She sighed. “Surely you can do better, even from a wheelchair. I have a—well, a delicate case, a situation that calls for a physician. Someone with discretion and a glimmer of human empathy,” she added, pitching her voice toward Foss. “Are you willing, Dr. Bones?”
It was on his lips to say no. The sun beat down with summer-like intensity, his knee throbbed, and even if Foss helped him into Lady Juliet’s car, heaven knew how much more pain a drive over rutted country roads would bring.
She stared at him, arms folded across her chest.
“Very well.” He heaved a great sigh calculated to let this bossy, ill-dressed woman know how far she’d overstepped. It was drowned out by her crow of delight.
“Capital! Mr. Foss, please help the good doctor into my car before he changes his mind. Yes, there’s room for his chair in back. This heap seats seven, don’t you know.”
“Wheels are a wee bit muddy,” Foss warned after depositing Ben on the front passenger seat’s threadbare upholstery.
“Never mind that.” Climbing behind the wheel, Lady Juliet slammed her door with gusto. “Do I look like the sort who’s afraid of a little mud?”
He struggled to come up with an answer. From this close, he noticed two things: her brown eyes were surprisingly soft, and there was a slender twig in her hair. It stood up, just atop her severe bun, like an intrepid climber who’d scaled a mountain.
“Oh, Dr. Bones, don’t be so taken aback. I wasn’t fishing for a compliment.”
“I know, it’s only… you have a stick in your hair. Now that I mention it—a walking stick. Insect, I mean.”
He expected a shriek. Instead, Lady Juliet looked mildly intrigued. “Do I? It’s a wonder I can’t feel it. Relieve me of this uninvited passenger, there’s a good man.”
Gently, he plucked the stick-insect from her hair. Lady Juliet grinned at it. “I suppose you think you’re terribly clever, catching a ride with me. Come on, then. Step this way,” she ordered the bug, linking her finger with Ben’s until the insect obeyed. “Let’s get you sorted.”
Ben watched her climb out of the Crossley, stride across the meadow opposite the pub, and deposit the insect on a tree stump. He heard her telling it something—parting advice, no doubt—and then she returned to the 20/30, leaving a swath of trampled grass in her wake.
“Now. Keys. Front pocket? Right,” she muttered as she got behind the wheel again. Apparently even she wasn’t exempt from her own constant stream of commands. “Sorry for the delay, Dr. Bones, but I couldn’t drop him too close to the pub. Wouldn’t that be a terribly ignominious end, flattened by Mr. Foss’s heel?”
“I suppose. But my wife, Penny, would have squashed that bug without a second thought.”
“Wrong. She would have screamed for you to do it.”
Ben chuckled. It was his first genuine laugh in ages. “You knew her?”
“Oh, my dear Dr. Bones.” Those soft brown eyes veered away as the car’s engine roared to life. “Everyone in this village knew Penny.”
“Yes, of course. I should have realized.” Ben groped for something more. Penny had mentioned Birdswing many times; she’d relied on it as a punchline while entertaining their metropolitan friends. Her only fond memory of the village, she’d often said, was watching it shrink into oblivion as the train chugged away. “Were you friends?”
For once, Lady Juliet didn’t soliloquize. She shook her head.
They were probably about the same age, Ben thought. They must have been thrown together constantly, at least at school.
“Did you have a falling out?”
“Oh. Well. You know what they say.” Another sidelong glance, quicker this time. “Nothing but good of the dead.” And to Ben’s surprise, she spoke not another word the entire way to Belsham Manor.

MARRIAGE CAN BE MURDER (Dr. Benjamin Bones Mysteries #1) is the new cozy mystery series from New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Emma Jameson. Blog Link: Facebook Author Page: Buy Links: Amazon: BN: Apple Store: Kobo Books:

Author Photo-2 Emma Jameson is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Lord & Lady Hetheridge cozy mystery series. Book #1, ICE BLUE, Book #2, BLUE MURDER, and Book #3, SOMETHING BLUE, are available now. She is at work on Book #4, BLACK & BLUE, and also DIVORCE CAN BE DEADLY, the second of her new series starring amateur sleuth Dr. Benjamin Bones.

Tracy Weber: Murder Strikes a Pose Sunday, Jan 5 2014 

Please welcome guest Tracy Weber, yoga teacher and author of of the debut mystery Murder Strikes A Pose.

Leave a comment for a chance to win an autographed copy of Tracy’s book.

                                                                                              How in the World did I Get Here?

I never intended to be a writer. But then again, I never intended to be a yoga teacher. If you’d asked me in my early thirties, I’d have told you that yoga was for woo woo Gumby wannabes, and writing was for people who had more talent in their left pinky toe than I possessed in my entire five-foot-two-inch body. a_003

I blame a fender-bender for my yoga career. In the early 1990s I was in a car accident that left me in severe chronic pain for over seven years. That pain was eventually mitigated—if not completely cured—by consistent yoga practice. My life was so transformed by yoga that I quit my corporate job and opened Whole Life Yoga in order to share the ancient practice with others.

My writing career has more complex origins. For that, I blame a grueling workout, my temperamental German shepherd Tasha, and Susan Conant.

The ingredients were already inside me, I just didn’t know it. I love dogs. So much so that my husband has nicknamed me the “creepy puppy lady.” I adore my own dog to a fault, even though she’s no Rin Tin Tin. I’ve read cozies since long before I knew there was a genre by that name. And my lifework is yoga. My mystery series was like a stew that had been slow cooking inside of me for years.

The one day, while trying to distract myself from a grueling workout, a passage in Susan Conant’s Black Ribbon made me burst into laughter. I knew I’d found my author soul mate. I jumped off the exercise bike, ran home, got online, and proceeded to buy every book she had ever written. While I was at it, I stumbled across a site about cozy mysteries.

That’s all it took.

I began to wonder, what would happen if a yoga teacher with a crazy dog like mine got mixed up in murder? And if she did, could I write about it? The whole idea seemed crazy. After all, I hadn’t written fiction since I was eighteen—which was way too long ago for me to admit—and I had no writing training. I laughed the whole idea off until a feisty yoga teacher named Kate Davidson popped into my head a few days later.

0_002She insisted that I tell the story of how she found the love of her life—a German shepherd named Bella—while solving the murder of her homeless friend, George. She promised me that her story was both entertaining and important. Kate is one stubborn woman. She refused to leave, no matter how much I begged her to.

Two years later, I gave in and write wrote down her story. The first draft poured out of my fingers in three weeks, though I spent over a year perfecting it. Before I even typed “the end,” Kate had gone and found another body. I’ve not yet finished the second book, but Kate tells me that she’s already involved in a third murder. I have a feeling that she, Bella, and their quirky counterparts will be with me, solving crimes, for many years. At least I hope so.

I hope you will be entertained by their escapades and grow to love them as much as I do.

Please join us, and let me know what you think!

Check out MURDER STRIKES A POSE, the first in the Downward Dog Yoga Mysteries. Available at Amazon and bookstores everywhere!

Tracy Weber is a certified yoga teacher and the founder of Whole Life Yoga, an award-winning yoga studio in Seattle, where she current­ly lives with her husband, Marc, and German shepherd, Tasha. She loves sharing her passion for yoga and animals in any form possible. When she’s not writing, she spends her time teaching yoga, walking Tasha, and sip­ping Blackthorn cider at her favorite ale house. Murder Strikes a Pose is her debut novel. Connect with Tracy at her author page or on Facebook


Seattle Yoga instructor Kate Davidson tries to live up to yoga’s Zen-like expectations, but it’s not easy while struggling to keep her small business afloat or dodging her best friend’s matchmaking efforts. When George, a homeless alcoholic, and his loud, horse-sized German shepherd, Bella, start hawking newspapers outside her studio, Kate attempts to convince them to leave. Instead, the three strike up an unlikely friendship. Then Kate finds George’s body. The police dismiss it as a drug-related street crime, but Kate knows he was no drug dealer. Now she must solve George’s murder and find someone willing to adopt his intimidating companion before Bella is sent to the big dog park in the sky. With the murderer on her trail, Kate has to work fast or her next Corpse Pose may be for real.

Great Holiday Gifts for Readers #1 Sunday, Dec 8 2013 

For the next few posts, Auntie M is going to give reader gift suggestions for that reader on your list–and don’t forget it’s perfectly permissible to gift yourself!Poirotp0_v3_s260x420

Outsold by only Shakespeare and the Bible, Agatha Christie is the most widely published author of all time. Auntie M had the good fortune to visit her Devon home this this summer when in England. Greenway, on the River Dart, is just a few short miles from where Christie grew up and the home has been preserved as it was when she and her family were in residence, down to some of her clothes in her bedroom closet and her favorite lily of the valley in evidence on china jewelry boxes left on her nightstand. When entering her bedroom, a docent obligingly plays a brief taped interview of Christie talking about her writing process, and as her voice fills the room, her presence is felt everywhere. One expects hear the sound of her typewriter at any moment. The house was used as the setting for Christie’s Piorot novel, Dead Man’s Folly, and two others. The David Suchet/ITV televised version of the novel was filmed there. The home is only a brief ride from the seaside town of Torquay, where Christie frequently had tea with friends at The Grand Hotel across from the Torbay seafront. Don’t miss the chance to tour the house and lovely restored grounds that lead down to the river if you find yourself anywhere near this section of southwest England. But Auntie M digresses.

Golden Age writer Dorothy Sayers felt Hercule Poirot was “one of the few detectives with real charm” and there’s no mistaking readers’ fondness for the dapper Belgian, portrayed on television by actor David Suchet, causing Christie’s grandson, Matthew Pritchard, to regret she hadn’t lived to see his fine portrayal.

Now William Morrow has brought out a volume of over fifty of Christie’s short stories and novellas featuring Poirot, gathering them into one volume that would be the perfect gift for any mystery afficionado. Hercule Poirot: The Complete Short Stories has an introduction by Charles Todd. You cannnot go wrong with this one for any reader who enjoys mysteries, full stop. If Auntie M didn’t already own a copy, it would be the first thing on her list.

Morrow is also publishing Christie’s novels for e-book readers for the first time, so look for those, too.


Dennis Lehane teamed up with Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollins, to bring out a line of books he’s chosen. The second was Ivy Pochoda’s Visitation Street. pochoda-visitation_street

Vastly different from the usual crime novel, this is an exploration of the sociology of an urban area and surrounds the disappearance of a young woman in the rough neighborhood of Brooklyn’s Red Hook waterfront.

The setting is visually described, a reflection of Pochoda living across the street from a bar in the area and writing about the inhabitants she saw outside her window.

There are blocks to walk on and blocks to avoid; there are areas of gentrification and others of great demise, in a seemingly endless evolution that causes conflict between races and classes that she vividly and realistically describes.

June and Val are the two friends at the center of the story. The two fifteen year-olds are looking for adventure as summer is ending. June wants to find a party, but Val convinces her instead to forget boys and drinking and take a small raft out into the river.

When only Val returns, found semi-conscious in weeds along the shore, the story turns to exploring what really happened to June that night, and affects the community that suddenly becomes the focus of an investigation and will reveal the its secrets on more than one level.

The community’s response to June’s disappearance will be as varied as the complex but utterly believable characters Pochoda has created. Her lyrical prose led Lehane to comment: “Visitation Street is urban Opera writ large. Gritty and magical, filled with mystery, poetry and pain, Ivy Pochoda’s voice recalls Richard Price, Junot Diaz, and even Alice Sebold, yet it’s indelibly her own.”


Sue Grafton’s iconic Kinsey Millhone has given readers over thirty years of quirky delight with her singular reporting voice. W is for Wasted is the newest entry in the grafton wasted_p0_v2_s260x420series and fans won’t be disappointed.

The opening lines hook the reader immediately: “Two dead men changed the entire course of my life that fall. One of them I knew and the other I’d never laid eyes on until I saw him in the morgue.”

Kinsey doesn’t recognize the man she’s been called to the morgue to identify, but her name and phone number were found in his pocket.  He was a homeless man, known to sleep rough at times, and his body has been found on the beach.

Kinsey sets out to find out the man’s identity, not knowing how his death will merge with that of a murder six weeks earlier. A local private investigator Kinsey knows had been shot to death near the Santa Teresa beach in what looks at first like a robbery attempt that got out of control.

Things change dramatically when Kinsey identifies the homeless man and finds he’s linked to her in more ways than she could possibly image.

Grafton has kept Kinsey in first person throughout the series but recently added the points of view of several other characters in the later books. In this case, we see the dead PI, Pete Wolinsky, in third person and come to understand his last case and how it intersects with Kinsey’s own investigation.

All the usual people who are part of Kinsey’s circle are on hand, too, with some surprising additions. This is vintage and yet modern Grafton at her best.


Continuing with beloved series, we jump across the pond to England and Ruth Rendell’s Inspector Wexford, which will soon mark its fiftieth anniversary.17Rendell571848

Learning to adjust to retirement has been difficult for Reg Wexford in No Man’s Nightingale. He’s decided as a project to work his way through The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.

Therefore it comes as a great relief when his old deputy, Mike Burden, asks him to tag along on some of the interviews after a female vicar is found strangled in her Kingsmarkham vicarge. They are each having difficulty getting used to their new roles but their friendship remains solid and honest, a hallmark of the series. That Burden has recently become a grandparent, in contrast to the five Dora and Reg Wexford have by their two daughters, shows Rendell has not hesitated to age her cast as time has gone by.

Vicar Sarah Hussain had many detractors: those who don’t believe women should be ordained; those who don’t agree with her outspoken views on church reform; those who object to her mixed race heritage. Born of a white Irish mother and an Indian father, Sarah is a single mother to a teenaged girl.

Adding to the complications that involve Wexford is that the same woman who cleans for him and his wife, Dora, cleaned at the vicarage and found the body. Maxine annoys Wexford to no end when she cleans, yet now she’s become a part of this murder investigation.

When Wexford finds a letter at Sarah’s house she was using as a bookmark, he sticks it in his pocket to look at later, but it’s several days before he remembers it and then has to confess his transgression to Burden. But it provides a clue to the dead woman’s past; a past that may have impacted on her death.

Rendell does her usual fine job of complex plotting and revealing character, while maintaining the banter between Wexford and Burden.


Ten-Lords-a-Leaping-265Ten Lords A-Leaping is the third installment in C. C. Benison’s series featuring mystery-solving and thoughtful protagonist, Father Tom Christmas.

This is the perfect book for Golden Age fans who aren’t looking for action-packed thriller but rather the kind of classic Christie cozy wrote, but in a contemporary setting.

There are red herrings, a host of suspects drawn from amongst the rivalries of an aristocratic family, and even a touch of magic.

Fr. Tom has been talked into skydiving for a fundraiser for his Thornfield Regis church’s new roof  , a prospect that leaves him wondering what he’s gotten himself into. Back on the terra firma after a rocky landing that sprains his ankle, he’s shocked to see two of the remaining skydivers appear to tangle in a mid-air fight before finally landing safely. The two brothers-in-law are Oliver, the 7th Marquess of Morboner, and Hector, the 10th Earl of Fairhaven.

That sprained ankle finds the widower vicar, his daughter Miranda, as well as their housekeeper Madrun, all guests for far longer than expected at the home of Lord and Lady Fairhaven, Eggescombe Hall. The vast castle with enormous grounds boasts a pool, tennis courts, ornate gardens, and a gatehouse for the staff.

When Fr. Tom finds one of the two men dead in the labyrinth on the castle’s grounds, the murder sets off a thinking man’s puzzle for Fr. Tom to solve.

Bennison thoughtfully provides a cast of characters and a family tree so readers can understand the quite complicated relationships between the many people staying on at the Hall. Bigamy, sex after hours, art forgery, and lies will all find their way into the mix during the days it takes Fr. Tom to unravel the murderer, and not before a second death.  Readers who enjoy British whodunits will have a ball.


1766Helensmith9963Helen Smith is the author of Invitation to Die, originally published in episodes as a Kindle serial. The award-winning author of novels, plays, and children’s books, I had the pleasure of meeting Helen at Bouchercon this year and found her as funny and original as her heroine in this new series.

At 26, Londoner Emily Castles finds herself once again looking for employment.

So when famous romance author Morgana Blakely, aunt of Emily’s neighbors, asks her to help out at a weekend romance writers’ conference she’s organized, she can hardly say no. How difficult can it be to organize gift bags and help out with a dinner?

When Emily shows up at the hotel, she’s immediately pressed into service and meets an odd assortment of attendees, some nursing old grievance, some holding hidden secrets, all determined to out do each other for the fans who will be present. There’s even an American blogger whose been invited to be a guest, but for some reason, Winnie Kraster hasn’t shown up.

Emily dutifully takes a call for Morgana and it’s from the missing Winnie, saying she’s been delayed. But hours later, a woman’s body is found on the estate bordering the hotel and it’s poor missing Winnie.

Detective Rory James is assigned to investigate the case, and it happens Emily met him when he was a constable. When Emily confides that she suspects someone involved with the conference is the murderer, Rory disagrees, hardly a happy event at a romance festival. Emily takes notes of things that occur to her or that she overhears, but it’s not until she has the help of philosophy professor Dr. Muriel that the pieces come together for her.

This is brain candy, as sweet as the violet cremes a chocolatier with a secret delivers to be put in each guest’s gift bag. Smith gives vivid scene-setting and over-the-top characters as suspects.  The humor is tongue-in-cheek about blogging, book reviewers, and writers. Emily Castles was introduced in a previous short story but will appear soon in her next adventure.


David Rosenfelt writes thrillers, too, but any of his Andy Carpenter novels  would make a great addition to anyone’s shelves. With his humorous bent alternating  with suspense, the series4000000leader00000000733689_s4

continues with Leader of the Pack  now in paperback. Andy is a lawyer and dog lover, and his own dog, Tara, accompanies him and is often a better judge of character than Andy. On the side, Andy runs a dog rescue, which mirrors Rosenfelt’s real life. More on that later.

One of Andy’s less successful cases led years ago to a murder conviction for his client, Joey DeSimone, but Andy has always believed the man innocent of the murders of Karen and Richard Solarno.

As a favor to Joey, Andy agrees to check on the man’s elderly and forgetful uncle, taking Tara along for the visits. Nicky Fats falls for Tara but once he starts muttering about taking out someone else, Andy’s interest clicks. Could Nicky know, in the confines of his confusion, who really murdered the Salerno’s? And how can Andy find out and get Joey a new trial?

With the help of his friends, Andy launches an investigation into the business dealings of Solarno’s company and soon finds himself almost dying. Coupled with other information he unearths, he’s able to convince a judge to give Joey a new trial.

This is where the fun starts, as the trial scenes will reach a verdict that gives Andy’s heart a twist. And then he really figures out what’s been happening.

This is a complex plot, despite the humor and the presence of Laurie, Andy’s love interest, and several friends from the series making reappearances. There will be the drug trafficking, the involvement of the FBI, and don’t forget the family business of the DeSimone’s, the Mafia.

While Rosenfelt manages to keep things light, he balances it nicely with intrigue, action, and a satisfying ending that ties up all the ends. And then some. An additional touch is the listing he adds at the end of every book of Acknowledgments to friends who happen to be famous, or maybe not even people, as in this volume where Andy and Cherry Garcia show up alongside Woody and Gracie Allen and Neil and Hope Diamond.

By the way, there is a real Tara Foundation that helps find homes for sick or injured dogs. To date the foundation has rescued over 4000 dogs from shelves, and Rosenfelt often houses dozens at a time in his Maine house. Another reason to buy this book for any dog lover on your list.