Susan Van Kirk: The Endurance Mysteries Thursday, Nov 17 2016 


Please welcome Susan Van Kirk, to introduce her Endurance Mysteries, and don’t miss her giveaway mentioned at the end for her newest in the series, Marry in Haste:

The Endurance Mystery Series

If you are looking for a new mystery series, please check out my Endurance Mysteries. Five Star Publishing/Cengage has published the first two books in the series, and I published a novella as an e-book only on Amazon.

Let me clue you in on some “insider information.” Each of the novels has a title that come from Ben Franklin’s Poor Richard’s Almanac. The last word in each of the novels is “Endurance.” Finally, my three children gave me a word to use in each of these books, hoping to stump me. Hasn’t happened yet. Even “helicopter” fits in.

Endurance is a small town with a history going back to the 1830s, when settlers came to downstate Illinois to found towns and colleges on the edge of the prairie. In our time, the town has a population of 15,000 and places with such names as Patsy’s Pub, the Coffee Bean, the Penny Saved Shoe Store, Shady Meadows Cemetery, and the Homestretch Funeral Home (my personal favorite.) It’s a nice town, you know what I mean … as long as you don’t mind a murder or two.

The main character is Grace Kimball, widow and mother of three adult children. She is 57 and has just retired from teaching at Endurance High School. This means she sees former students all the time, and the reader gets to hear the crazy antics she remembers about their high school years.

Grace has a circle of female friends, but her best friend is Detective TJ Sweeney. Some might say theirs is an improbable friendship, since Grace grew up in a white bread Indianapolis home, and TJ is an intelligent biracial woman who is the product of a broken home. Grace taught TJ and mentored her through high school and college. They are loyal to the end and have each other’s backs, which is a good thing. Grace gets herself into all kinds of trouble because of her curiosity.
Into this relationship comes a mystery man, the 62-year-old Jeff Maitlin, who was a big deal in the NYC journalism community. He has decided to end his career by working part-time with a small-town newspaper, the Endurance Register. Maitlin is a mystery man because no one knows why he came to such a small place or what his past has been.

In the first book, Three May Keep a Secret, we meet Grace and discover she is haunted by a tragedy in her past that she has never been able to put behind her. When shoddy journalist, Brenda Norris, is murdered in a suspicious fire, Grace is hired by the newspaper editor, Jeff Maitlin, to fill in for Brenda, researching the town’s history for a big centennial. Unfortunately, that past hides dark secrets.

When yet a second murder occurs, Grace’s friend, TJ Sweeney, homicide detective, races against time to find a killer. Even Grace’s life will be threatened by her worse nightmare. Against the backdrop of the town’s 175th founder’s celebration, Grace and Jeff find an undeniable attraction for each other. But can she trust this mystery man?

I was told by my publisher that it would be a loooong two-year break between the first and second books. So, I self-published a novella about my complicated police detective, TJ Sweeney, called The Locket: From the Casebook of TJ Sweeney. It is an e-book and takes us back to the 1940s. A body is discovered when workers are digging the foundation for a new building. TJ Sweeney must identify the victim and figure out what happened to her.

Obviously, we had no DNA in the 1940s, so this will be difficult. We also learn about Sweeney’s past and her complicated feelings about her Caucasian father, who left when she was little. Her mother, a proud African American woman, tells TJ about what it was like to be in a mixed marriage in the 1940s. The victim was last seen at a big band venue called The Roof Garden, and TJ has an amazing conversation with an elderly woman who explains what it was like back then when she danced at The Roof Garden in the 30s. Dead ends, difficulties, and amazing finds … and then, for TJ Sweeney, this case becomes personal.

The second novel, Marry in Haste, is the story of two women, a century apart, living in the small town of Endurance, and both ignoring Ben Franklin’s “Marry in Haste, Repent at Leisure.” A huge Victorian house is the setting for much of this novel, and in the house Grace finds a hidden diary from 1893.

It reveals the bittersweet story of Olivia Havelock, who came to Endurance and married a powerful, but abusive, judge. In the present day, Grace’s former student, Emily Folger, is accused of murdering her philandering, abusive husband. Grace sets out to prove Emily’s innocence, working with TJ Sweeney. Can the lessons from the diary help her save Emily Folger? This second full-length novel just came out November 16.

The third book will be out next year, and it is called Death Takes No Bribes. Grace goes back to her old high school, where she taught for almost three decades, when the principal is murdered in a horrific way. It’s a sentimental journey for Grace, who retired a year ago, and now she walks among her old colleagues wondering if one of them could be capable of murder.

Each mystery has a universal theme, and at the heart of the series is the resilience of women and how they support each other. They celebrate family, loyalty, and, often, social issues. History and romance twine their way through each book. So, I hope you’ll consider trying my Endurance Mysteries. Right now, I have a giveaway going on GoodReads for Marry in Haste that lasts until midnight on November 21.

Susan Van Kirk grew up in Galesburg, Illinois, and received degrees from Knox College and the University of Illinois. She taught high school English for thirty-four years, then spent an additional ten years teaching at Monmouth College.

Her first Endurance mystery novel, Three May Keep a Secret, was published in 2014 by Five Star Publishing/Cengage. In April, 2016, she published an Endurance e-book novella titled The Locket: From the Casebook of TJ Sweeney. Her third Endurance novel, Death Takes No Bribes, will follow Marry in Haste.

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Mike Sherer: Blind Rage Sunday, Apr 24 2016 

Please welcome guest Mike Sherer, whose new YA/New Adult thriller, BLIND RAGE debuted April 19th~


Welcome to the Brave New World

Or, How BLIND RAGE Got Published

For any author, getting a book published is a big deal, an exciting time. So I’m thrilled that BLIND RAGE, the first book in my Tess Barrett young adult/new adult thriller series is coming out on April 19th.

While there are more roads to publication these days than ever, they are rarely smooth. My own journey has taken twists and turns, traveling down broad highways only to abruptly end up on a scenic dead end. Somehow, I keep finding a way forward.

Here are the roads taken and how they led to the publication of BLIND RAGE. My first mystery was published in 1988 by an old, traditional NYC publisher, Dodd, Mead & Co. (The story of how that book came to be published is too long to relate here.) Through no fault of mine, I’m glad to say, the publisher went under shortly after my book came out.

Two years later, however, I sold the paperback rights to that book, plus the next two books in the series, to HarperPaperbacks. Harper was just starting its paperback mystery line, anchored by Tony Hillerman’s books, and I was excited about my prospects with them. Alas, one month after the first of my three books came out, Harper declined its option on the fourth book based on four weeks of sales. That meant, of course, that they put no marketing effort behind books #2 and #3.

Ten years went by (raising kids, working a regular job, etc., etc.) before Ed Gorman called to tell me of an opportunity to get back into print with a small library edition publisher. I ended up publishing three more books in the Emerson Ward mystery series with Five Star, as well as a standalone suspense novel.

I knew, though, that to get back to the big leagues, to get sent up to The Show from the minors, I had to come up with a new series. I decided to try my hand at a thriller this time, and after a casual conversation with my local bookstore owner, I came up with a character I loved and a crazy, but just plausible plot. After a year-and-a-half of research and writing, I finished my first Blake Sanders thriller, NIGHT BLIND.

I also knew that the publishing industry had changed dramatically since I sold my first books. Back then, (an era I refer to as “B.K.”), editors at traditional NYC publishing houses still responded to query letters from unagented authors. If I wanted to this new book to land at a big house, I’d have to get an agent. After a two-year search, I was lucky enough to get picked up by Lukas Ortiz at the Philip Spitzer Literary Agency, the shop that represents Michael Connelly, Alafair Burke and her dad James Lee Burke.

But even the weight of that esteemed agency couldn’t get me a contract in NY. And the earth shifted once again. During the process of writing NIGHT BLIND, e-books were a novelty that started to gain steam. But suddenly, an online bookstore called Amazon introduced its own e-reader, the Kindle.

Not long after, Amazon also announced that it was creating its own publishing imprints in different genres. I talked with Lukas about it, and we agreed that Thomas & Mercer might be receptive to my new series. They were, and brought NIGHT BLIND out in 2012. The book was nominated for an ITW Thriller Award in 2013. But five days prior to the announcement, T&M told Lukas and me that they didn’t plan to publish the rest of the Blake Sander series.

Self-publishing “Before Kindle” was a nice way of describing vanity publishing, wherein authors pay a press to print copies of their books and then use the subsequent unopened boxes of books to weight their car trunks for traction in snow in the winter. But Kindle, with Amazon’s algorithms and marketing muscle, leveled the publishing playing field somewhat. So, I ended up self-publishing the next couple of Blake Sanders thrillers.

In the meantime, I woke from a bizarre dream one morning in which phrases incorporating the word “blind” had tumbled through my brain—blind rage, blind justice, blind instinct… I shook myself and wondered what the heck it meant, and realized that they were book titles for a thriller series featuring a blind girl.

With dismay, after waking further and drinking a cup of coffee, I realized that a blind girl couldn’t solve crimes or mysteries, let alone be the protagonist of a thriller series. Until a few moments later I was struck by the brilliant thought that she was assisted not by the traditional see-eye dog, but by a seeing-eye guy. I liked the idea so much that before starting on my fourth Blake Sanders novel, I dove into BLIND RAGE, finished it, then wrote a second Tess Barrett book called BLIND INSTINCT, and developed an eight-book story arc.

Lukas, though, isn’t well-connected to the YA/NA genre, and felt uncomfortable representing the series. But after my experience in self-publishing, I felt strongly about having some sort of publisher put out BLIND RAGE.

See, the thing about self-publishing is that e-readers and platforms like Kindle, Nook, and iBooks have made it incredibly easy to “publish” a book. But you still have to find an audience. And now that self-publishing is so easy, you’re trying to make your voice heard over literally a million other authors.

I approached an editor at Skyscape, Amazon’s YA imprint, whom I’d met before, and asked if she’d like to take a look at BLIND RAGE. She said she would, so I sent it to her. And waited. And waited some more. When two years went by with no response to my follow-up queries, I took the hint and decided to try a new Amazon feature, Kindle Scout, where readers nominate books they’d like to read based on excerpts. Those books with a high level of reader interest are selected by Kindle for publication on the Kindle platform. Amazon pays a small advance ($1,500), and modestly promotes the books.

Our younger daughter is a design major at UW, and I asked her if she’d be interested in designing a cover for the book. She agreed, and came up with one of the most striking book covers I’ve ever had. By January, 2015, all was ready for me to pull the trigger. I took a deep breath and uploaded both the file and cover image to Kindle Scout and began my 30-day campaign to find readers. Five days after the campaign ended, Kindle Scout e-mailed with the good news that BLIND RAGE had been selected.

If there’s any moral to the story, it’s that persistence can pay off. If you believe strongly enough in your work and don’t give up, there’s always a way.

MWS Author Photo BW

Michael W. Sherer is the author of the Seattle-based Blake Sanders thriller series, including the just-released Night Strike. Night Blind, the first in the series, was nominated for an ITW Thriller Award in 2013. In addition to the Tess Barrett thriller series, his other books include the award-winning Emerson Ward mystery series, and the stand-alone suspense novel, Island Life.

Please visit him at or you can follow him on Facebook at and on Twitter @MysteryNovelist.

Fran Stewart: A Wee Murder in My Shop~ Sunday, Jun 21 2015 

Auntie M is at her writing group, workshopping the opening to the new Nora Tierney (The Golden Hour, for those of you who are wondering what the next color will be). The cover is completed on Death Unscripted, the first Trudy Genova Manhattan Mystery, and she’ll reveal that shortly.

Please welcome author Fran Stewart, who writes two mystery series,The ScotShop and the Miscuit McKee Mysteries:

Wee Murder

In between writing my ScotShop and Biscuit McKee mystery series, I sometimes go off on tangents of sheer whimsy. One of these inspired moments came as I sat beside the creek in my back yard a few years ago, mulling over how I was going to handle Biscuit. I ended up revising what I’d written and using it in the regular monthly column I wrote for the Atlanta Writers Club. Then a publisher grouped six years of those columns together in a workbook—the easiest book I ever had to write.

Here’s what I came up with that day beside the creek, revised slightly once again. Whether you’re a writer or a reader (we writers LOVE our readers!), you just might get some ideas from this “Pencil Play:”

Spring is a good time to take up where I left off last fall and begin to write outdoors. Even if you have a laptop, why not step outside and write with a pencil, just for the fun of it? Pencils have been around since 1565. Anything that’s lasted that long must have a few things going for it.
Let’s see, a pencil . . .
1. is portable.
2. runs without batteries. For that matter, it can run without brains, but I hope that’s not the case here.
3. has an eraser, the 1565 version of a delete key.
4. provides a handy canvas for tooth imprints. I’ve never known anyone who hasn’t occasionally chewed on a pencil. What computer gives a frustrated writer that kind of alleviation? I don’t group solitaire, Sudoku, or Candy Crush in the same league with a yellow number 2 Ticonderoga.
5. can be thrown across the path / room / deck when simple erasure or chewing isn’t active enough (see numbers 3 and 4 above).
6. can be sharpened without a fancy gadget. My Swiss Army knife works just fine. If the circumstances are dire enough, I can even sacrifice a fingernail to tear the wood back away from the graphite.
7. can be broken in half to fit in a tiny notebook or a small pocket. Of course, this eliminates the delete function of one-half of it, but I can use the bare half for my Journal of Work in Progress. That Journal isn’t edited, after all. It just gets me rolling and gives me a chance to air those vague ideas. And the just plain stupid ones that will never show up in my finished manuscript, but need to be released from my psyche before the good ideas can roll out.

Go ahead. I dare you. Try writing outside, under a tree or on a deck or next to a lake. All because of a simple pencil.

Over the years since I originally wrote this, I’ve continued to follow my own advice. Pencils—and the ideas they seem to generate—have saved my story line most than once. Only last night, my fourteenth-century Scottish ghost wouldn’t stay where I wanted him to be. I kept pounding away at the keyboard, trying to force a recalcitrant character into my (sort of) outline, and he kept growling at me with that wonderful Scottish burr of his: I dinna wish to go there, my lass, and ye canna make me do it.

Finally, in disgust, I brewed a cup of tea, grabbed my spiral-bound notebook and my trusty pencil, headed for the loveseat in my living room, chewed for a moment or two (see number 4 in the list above), and began to follow him where he wanted to go. His journey was, I must admit, much more interesting than what I’d had in mind.

Could I have followed him just as well on the computer? Well, okay; I admit the possibility. But the pencil gave me a good excuse to put my feet up, thereby jostling my muse (the cat who had to move her perch when I relocated). Obviously, the newer, better ideas began to flow.
* * *

Fran Stewart is the author of the Biscuit McKee Mysteries – GRAY AS ASHES is the seventh book in that series – as well as a standalone mystery – A SLAYING SONG TONIGHT. Her non-fiction work includes FROM THE TIP OF MY PEN: A WORKBOOK FOR WRITERS. Her new ScotShop Mystery Series from Berkley Press begins with A WEE MURDER IN MY SHOP.

Fran lives quietly with various rescued cats beside a creek on the other side of Hog Mountain, Georgia, northeast of Atlanta.
She sings alto with a community chorus and volunteers at her grandchildren’s school library. She is a member of the National League of American Pen Women, Sisters in Crime, and Mystery Writers of America.
Buy the book:


Hamelin, Vermont, isn’t the most likely place for bagpipes and tartan, but at Peggy Winn’s ScotShop, business is booming…
While on a transatlantic hunt for some authentic wares to sell at her shop, Peggy is looking to forget her troubles by digging through the hidden treasures of the Scottish Highlands. With so many enchanting items on sale, Peggy can’t resist buying a beautiful old tartan shawl. But once she wraps it around her shoulders, she discovers that her purchase comes with a hidden fee: the specter of a fourteenth-century Scotsman.
Unsure if her Highland fling was real or a product of an overactive imagination, Peggy returns home to Vermont—only to find the dead body of her ex-boyfriend on the floor of her shop. When the police chief arrests Peggy’s cousin based on some incriminating evidence, Peggy decides to ask her haunting Scottish companion to help figure out who really committed the crime—before anyone else gets kilt…

Photo credit: Mozelle Funderburk

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

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


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,, Murder at the P&Z, 2013,

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,

“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

Hayes headshot
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 for more information.