Friday, December 14, 2018

My Little (Southern) (New England) Town by Barbara Ross and Debra H. Goldstein

It’s axiomatic that settings in cozy mysteries are a part of the subgenre’s appeal. In the ideal cozy series, the reader mentally moves into the series setting. People who don’t read cozies often think the towns are generic, but actually, a setting for a cozy has to specific. Even if the town is fictional, it needs to feel like it could exist for the magic to work.

Debra H. Goldstein and Barbara Ross both recently released mystery novels. Debra’s One Taste Too Many, the debut in her Sarah Blair Mystery series, takes place in Wheaton, Alabama. Barbara Ross’s Steamed Open, the seventh in her Maine Clambake Mystery series, takes place in Busman’s Harbor, Maine.

Recently, Debra and Barb got together to talk about the differences between their small southern and New England towns.

Barb: First off, Debra, congratulations on your series debut. So exciting!

Before we dive in, tell the readers something about Wheaton, Alabama. Is it a real town? Is it near
a bigger metropolitan area?

Debra: Thank you!  Except for the bridge and river walk I stole from Wetumpka, Alabama, Wheaton
is a composite Southern town. A center square houses its Alabama crystalline white marble public
buildings, including city hall, the library, and the fire and police departments. Standing in the square, one can turn in three directions to find where most of Wheaton’s five thousand residents reside. While married, Sarah and Bill lived in a big home on Main Street, with his mother in the carriage house behind them. The streets in the fourth direction contain businesses, including the law firm where Sarah works and the strip center with the restaurant where her twin is employed. There is a big city fight going on as to whether Main Street should be rezoned as an entertainment district.

For contrast and excitement, I located Wheaton about fifteen minutes from Birmingham, the largest city in Alabama. Birmingham has more than two hundred thousand people and has become a foodie destination

How about Busman’s Harbor? Does it being a tourist town have any impact on your series?

Barb: Busman’s Harbor, Maine is also fictional, though it has a lot in common with Boothbay Harbor, Maine where my husband and I owned a house for many years. As the name indicates, the town is on the water and the primary occupations are lobstering and tourism. The populations swells to over 20,000 in the summer, but is only a little over 2,000 in the off-season. Midcoast Maine is beyond the more populated southern part of the state, but it’s still a lot more populated than other parts of Maine

Being a tourist town has a huge impact on the Maine Clambake Mysteries. My protagonist, Julia Snowden, runs a tourist business, an authentic Maine clambake. One of the really fun things about writing the series is the effect the seasons have on the stories. One thing my town has that I imagine yours doesn’t is big snowstorms. There’s one at the climax of the fifth book, Iced Under.

Does being Alabama-based have any significant effect on your series?

Debra: As you noted, we don’t get many snowstorms. Every few years, though, we have an ice storm that completely closes everything and, unfortunately, we have a tornado alley. Other than the weather, being Alabama based influences my character portrayal. My protagonist, Sarah Blair, speaks slower and softer than, for example, a New Yorker. Many residents, like her mother, are colorful story tellers; all of them take religion, politics, friendship, loyalty, and their animals very seriously; and, none, except the Sarah we meet in One Taste Too Many, have a problem looking anyone straight in the eye and saying, “Bless your heart” before delivering an expression of sympathy or an insult. 

Do your characters reflect your region of the country?

Barb: I’m laughing because the main regional trait all my characters have in common is that they don’t feel the need to chat when they run into one another in the grocery store, and they don’t butt into (or even comment on) each other’s business, which is occasionally handy when I don’t want Julia to get information too quickly. My Main-i-est character is Gus, the proprietor of a restaurant and Julia’s landlord. Gus only serves people who he knows, no tourists. He is based on a real person who really did that. Julia’s mother comes from a wealthy summer family, which is another kind of Mainer.

What about the food in your series? Is it regional?

Debra: For dishes prepared by Chefs Emily, Marcus, or Jane, I incorporate a lot of farm to table fresh ingredients, but there are some recipes that must be breaded and fried. Sarah, being allergic to her kitchen, uses as many pre-prepped short-cut foods and methods as she can find.

Barb: The other difference to my mind is the food. In addition to the clambake, the recipes in my books focus on seasonal, local ingredients, so lots of fish, chowder and wild Maine blueberries.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Barbara Ross is the author of seven Maine Clambake Mysteries. The latest, Steamed Open, was released December 18, 2018. Barbara’s novellas featuring Julia Snowden are included along with stories by Leslie Meier and Lee Hollis in Eggnog Murder and Yule Log Murder. Barbara and her husband live in Portland, Maine. Visit her website at

Steamed Open by Barbara Ross

It’s summertime in Busman’s Harbor, Maine, and the clamming is easy—or it was until a mysterious new neighbor blocks access to the beach, cutting off the Snowden Family Clambake’s supply. Julia Snowden is just one of many townspeople angered by Bartholomew Frick’s decision. But which one of them was angry enough to kill?

Judge Debra H. Goldstein is the author of One Taste Too Many, the first of Kensington’s new Sarah
Blair cozy mystery series. She also wrote Should Have Played Poker and 2012 IPPY Award winning Maze in Blue. Her short stories, including Anthony and Agatha nominated “The Night They Burned Ms. Dixie’s Place,” have appeared in numerous periodicals and anthologies including Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, Black Cat Mystery Magazine, and Mystery Weekly. Find out more about Debra at

One Taste Too Many by Debra H. Goldstein

Sarah knew starting over would be messy. But things fall apart completely when her ex drops dead, seemingly poisoned by her twin’s award-winning rhubarb crisp. Now, with RahRah, her cat, wanted by the woman who broke up her marriage and Emily wanted by the police for murder, Sarah needs to figure out the right recipe to crack the case before time runs out. Unfortunately, for a gal whose idea of good china is floral paper plates, catching the real killer and living to tell about it could mean facing a fate worse than death—being in the kitchen!


Thursday, December 13, 2018

How I Learned the Hard Way by Juliana Aragon Fatula

This week I taught  my Bridging Borders students how to write poetry. I'm a poet and I know it. I'm a good poet. Maybe even a great poet. But I'm not yet a great mystery writer. I had to learn the hard way how much work, effort, determination, and skill the great writers, the master writers use to write a great mystery.

Well, I finished my first draft. Bah humbug. It stinks. That's okay. My first meatloaf tasted like shoe leather. Today I'm a great cook. This I know. Like my mother, I know how to make tamales, etc. etc. etc.

I just stole that from the King and I. Ha.

So I did the brave thing writers must do and I submitted my manuscript to a wonderful writer who I trust and admire to read and give me feedback. And she did. She did an incredible job and I owe her big time for her experience and wisdom. I am proud to be her mentee. I have several great master writer friends. That's what gives me an advantage. I learn from my master writer friends and I know when I've not written a great book but instead a good book. It's a great main character that everyone loves and wants more of. But my skills in writing my story need to be fine tuned, like an instrument. I must learn to play solo without my teachers.

I'm prepared to do the work. I've resolved myself to this task. It's my new bucket list. I mean we're all dying, right. Someday I'll fly high in the sky with a bird and I want to leave my words behind. My great words. Not my good words.

In truth, I'm blessed with a great husband and great son who love me and I'm spoiled with technology. Some of this tech stuff, I don't even know how to use, but I'm learning something new everyday. I put on my beats blue tooth headphones, turn on audio books, select a good book, and listen to a digital book.

It's fascinating. I fall asleep with the book going and have to rewind what I missed while I'm sleeping. I've read a few great books already and I'm on my way to writing reviews of these great books, just give me time to adjust to my new attitude. I appreciate all of you readers who want to read my poems, watch my facebook cooking videos, and who attend my workshops and readings at bookstores. I love you. Keep reading, writing, and mastering the art of being a writer.

The Crazy Chicana in Catholic City
Red Canon Falling on Churches
The Road I Ride Bleeds

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Joy to My World

by Bethany Maines

As the year draws to a close, I find myself doing the usual assessment of what I did this year and what I’ll be doing next year.  But this year, I’m trying to concentrate on evaluating more through the lens of not just financial success, but emotional success.  What was fun for me?  Because if a creative project doesn’t bring me joy, why am I spending valuable emotional time on it?

One of the joyful projects of my year was Blue Christmas. I like romantic adventures that find characters swept up in dangerous events.  And I liked turning a Christmas Carol into something that’s not quite so sweet and sugary.  I also find myself already pondering what Christmas carol I can do next year.  Santa Baby?  Sleigh Ride?  Mele Kalikimaka?  Gabriel’s Message?  What message could Gabriel be getting and how could it upend his life? Or what message is he sending?  Who is this Gabe guy anyway?  A struggling coffee shop owner soured on love by the barista who left him cold?  A photographer who just cannot take one more fake happy family photo for the holidays? The possibilities are endless and so are the Christmas Carols. 

Another project that made me happy this year was the SharkSantoyo series.  This action packed five book series follows the ups and downs of Peregrine Hays and Shark Santoyo as they try to outwit the mob, the FBI and Peri’s private investigator uncle.  I loved creating the overarching storyline, the quirky characters, the bad guys with hearts of gold, and the bad guys that were just plain bad.  I loved the characters and I’m hoping that people will enjoy the roller-coaster ride along with them.  (Book #3 comes out in April 2019!)

2018 was a great year for exploring the characters I love and what I want to write. Next up in my pondering: the best way to pursue what I love in 2019! 

PS. Have a suggestion for which Christmas carol I should turn into a story next?  Comment below!

Bethany Maines is the author of the Carrie Mae Mystery Series, San Juan Islands Mysteries, Shark Santoyo Crime Series, and numerous short stories. When she's not traveling to exotic lands, or kicking some serious butt with her fourth degree black belt in karate, she can be found chasing her daughter or glued to the computer working on her next novel. You can also catch up with her on YouTube, Twitter and Facebook.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Peace to one and all

By Barbara Plum aka AB Plum

At this time of year, my cul-de-sac hops with holiday celebrations:
  • ·         Dewali (November 7)
  • ·         Hanukkah (December 2-10)
  • ·         Yule (December 21-January 21)
  • ·         Christmas (December 24-25)
  • ·         Kwanzaa (December 26-January 1)

I’m aware many people don’t celebrate at this time of year—for a variety of reasons. But. For family, friends, strangers, and non-celebrants, I send out a personal hope for peace to shine—if for only a moment—in your lives wherever you are.

**** Barbara Plum aka AB Plum lives off the Silicon Valley fast lane but in the shadow of Google. She writes light, funny paranormal romances and dark, gripping psychological thrillers. Both genres provide escape on long winter nights. Find her books here on Amazon and here.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Happy Holidays

I know there are writers out there with mad organizational skills. I am not one of them.

I'm more the I-think-I'm-forgetting-something sort. The writer who lifts her gaze from her computer screen and wonders if the kids are picked up, the dinner is made, and dog is walked. No, no, and no.

Which is how I realized that today is the second Monday of the month--my day on my favorite blog. I looked up from my screen and said, "EEEK!"

No I didn't. I said something much stronger.

At any rate, I looked up. And I wished I had a beautiful blog written about the meaning of the holidays, or my love of Christmas cookies, or why I am the only one in my house who has any wish to decorate. (I don't--not this year--but if I don't get moving soon Christmas will look like any other day.)

Wishes don't produce beautifully written blog posts.

And, this missive should have been posted more than six hours ago.

So, I'll simply say this--I wish you joy and peace and a season filled with love and laughter.

Also, does anyone have a good black-eyed pea recipe for New Year's? I need some luck in 2019!

Julie Mulhern is the USA Today bestselling author of The Country Club Murders and the Poppy Fields Adventures. 

She is a Kansas City native who grew up on a steady diet of Agatha Christie. She spends her spare time whipping up gourmet meals for her family, working out at the gym and finding new ways to keep her house spotlessly clean--and she's got an active imagination. Truth is--she's an expert at calling for take-out, she grumbles about walking the dog and the dust bunnies under the bed have grown into dust lions.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Living Under An Assumed Name

Guest Post by Mary Lee Ashford

Huge thanks to Linda Rodriguez who very kindly offered me her spot this month to talk about my new identity and my new series. Thanks, Linda!

You know, I've always thought it would be fun to have a secret identity. An assumed name. Perhaps a name that's mysterious and dangerous sounding. And now I have one, an assumed name that is. Only it's not very dangerous sounding and it's definitely not something I want to keep secret.

We're all familiar with pseudonyms or the fancier term, nom de plumes. However, I never imagined when I started writing that I'd have more than one pen name. Initially I assumed I'd write under my own name. Instead I have two pen names: Sparkle Abbey, where I'm half of a writing team, and now also, Mary Lee Ashford, where I'm writing a new cozy mystery series for Kensington Books/Lyrical Press.

I'm so excited about this series and it has been such a joy to write on so many different levels. First off, I've read culinary mysteries for years and jumped at the chance to try my hand at one. Also, this series is set in a fictional small town in the midwest and it's been fun to be able to put into the books all the things I love about small towns.

Additionally, for me, it's always about the characters. That's where it all starts. So I've loved the opportunity to develop Sugar Calloway and Dixie Spicer, the not-to-be-stopped ladies who drive the story. Sugar and Dixie have each had some things in their lives that didn't turn out exactly as planned. (Haven't we all?) They are both ready to start a new chapter and are well on their way but throws another curve ball and suddenly they're in the midst of a murder investigation. (By the way, if you're reading this and you're a writer, Linda Rodriguez has a fabulous book on characters: Plotting the Character Driven Novel.)

Here's a little bit more about the first book, GAME OF SCONES,  which just came out this week:

After losing her job as food editor at a glossy magazine, Rosetta Sugarbaker Calloway—aka “Sugar” to friends—isn’t sweet on accepting defeat and crawling back to her gossipy southern hometown. So when she has an opportunity to launch a community cookbook business with blue-ribbon baker Dixie Spicer in peaceful St. Ignatius, Iowa, she jumps at the chance to start over from scratch.

But as Sugar assembles recipes for the local centennial celebration, it’s not long before she’s up to her oven mitts in explosive threats, too-hot-to-handle scandals, and a dead body belonging to the moody matriarch of the town’s first family. With suspicions running wild, Sugar and Spice must solve the murder before someone innocent takes the heat—and the real culprit gathers enough ingredients to strike again . . .

The second book in the series, RISKY BISCUITS, will be out in July of 2019. And I'm working on book three right now so stay tuned for more news on that!

GAME OF SCONES is available at all your favorite places to buy books: 

If you'd like to stay in touch with the new me (and I hope you do) please visit my website and sign up for my newsletter. 

You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, and I have tons of tasty recipes on Pinterest. #GameOfScones #RecipesToDieFor #SugarAndSpiceMystery

Again, thank-you Linda for inviting me to step in on your day to introduce my new series...and my new identity. 

Thursday, December 6, 2018

The Next Big Thing

by Sparkle Abbey

Everyone has dreams and aspirations. We certainly have big dreams! But why do some people achieve their dreams and others struggle? We believe it comes down to one word—action. We strongly believe setting goals, creating a plan, and working hard creates success. You’ve probably read a blog or two by us about goal setting. We love goals! They give us a clear picture of what we want and help us map out how to get there.

All of our writer friends know that as 2018 comes to a close, we will kick off 2019 with new goals and an action plan to turn those new Sparkle Abbey dreams into reality. It never takes long for someone to ask us, “What are you working on now?” We love that question for a number of reasons—to test new titles, to talk about the newest Sparkle Abbey project, and to talk about our individual projects.

Game of Scone CoverAh, yes. . . . Individual projects. Maybe you’ve heard that Sparkle, aka Mary Lee, has been diligently working on her own cozy mystery series under the name of Mary Lee Ashford. We are thrilled to announce that book one, Game of Scones, debuted this week!

It's the first in a new series called the Sugar & Spice mysteries and we think you'll see some similarities to our Pampered Pets books  - cozy, twisty, and with a dollop of humor. 

The publisher, Kensington Books/Lyrical Press describes it like this: 

As co-owner of Sugar and Spice Cookbooks, Sugar Calloway has seen simple confections bring friends together and spark fiery feuds. Except this time, the recipe truly is to die for . . . 

We hope you’ll check out Game of Scones and celebrate with us the realization of another dream. And as 2018 comes to a close, we wish you much success as you work toward your own goals in 2019. 

Special Pricing!

Also one last piece of fun news: Raiders of the Lost Bark, book eight in our Pampered Pets series is on sale for 99¢ in all eBook formats. 

Amazon Barnes & Noble Kobo iTunes

Sparkle Abbey is the pseudonym of two mystery authors (Mary Lee Woods and Anita Carter). They are friends and neighbors as well as co-writers of the Pampered Pets Mystery Series. The pen name was created by combining the names of their rescue pets--Sparkle (Mary Lee's cat) and Abbey (Anita's dog). If you want to make sure you're up on all the Sparkle Abbey news, stop by their website and sign up for updates at

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Clicking Our Heels: No New Year's Resolutions Because Our Noses Are to the Grindstone

Clicking Our Heels – No New Year’s Resolutions Because Our Noses Are to the Grindstone


To enter for a chance to win Paula Benson's Let it Snow and Debra H. Goldstein's One Taste Too Many just comment on this blog with your what you are working on whether writing or in some other area of life. Good luck and happy reading! -- winner will be announced next Wednesday on The Stiletto Gang Facebook page - 

Most people make New Year’s Resolutions, but the Stiletto Gang is a busy group. Today, we’re going to tell you what each of us is working on and how it differs, if it does, from things we’ve written in the past.

Julie Mulhern – I am currently plotting the ninth Country Club Murder – more Ellison, more Anarchy, more murder, and, of course, more Mr. Coffee.

Juliana Aragon Flatula – I recently was invited to submit to the Colorado Online Encyclopedia by the Colorado Poet Laureate, Joseph Hutchinson. It will help K-12 teachers search online for poetry using key words. I submitted ten of my poems and look forward to seeing the website.

Cathy P. Perkins – I’m currently working on the sequel to The Body in the Beaver Pond, which just won the Claymore Award (squee!). I’m also slowly moving forward with a more literary mystery, a book I’ve wanted to write for years, but promised not to touch until after my father died.

Kay Kendall – My first two mysteries are set in the late 1960s and feature a young woman named Austin Starr. She becomes an amateur sleuth in order to prove her new husband is not a murderer, and then she continues when her best friend becomes a prime suspect. The book titles are from Bob Dylan songs:  Desolation Row and Rainy Day Women. My third mystery debuts in early 2019 and is a prequel about Austin’s grandmother, set in small town Texas during the Roaring Twenties. Because I have no emotional attachment to that decade, it was easier and more fun to write. The prequel is called After You’re Gone, also the name of a tune that is still covered by artists today, including Ella Fitzgerald and Fiona Apple among many others.

J.M. Phillippe – I feel like I am really leaning in to world building these days, and really enjoying creating worlds for my characters to run around in.  It does make it harder to come back to the actual plot sometimes though.

Bethany Maines – Ohhhhh. I’m not sure this is a conversation we have time for. I’m working on another sci-fairy novel to be part of the Galactic Dreams universe that I share with two other authors (Karen Harris Tully and J.M. Phillippe). Then I’ve got a Christmas mystery novella that may or may not get done in time for Christmas, a literary thriller, and another San Juan Islands Murder Mystery novel.

Debra H. Goldstein – I’m working on Three Treats Too Many, the third book in my Sarah Blair mystery series while preparing to launch the series’ first book, One Taste Too Many in January. I’m also working on a group of new short stories.

Linda Rodriguez – I’ve been making notes for a literary novel that my agent wants me to write. It will be a different experience from writing the mysteries. I think it’s going to take a longer time to completion. I’m just sort of feeling my way through it right now. I have written literary short fiction before, but not for a long time. So I’m really looking forward to it.

Shari Randall – I’m working on a standalone. It’s a thriller with humorous elements based on a character in a short story I wrote called “The Objective Case” in the Chesapeake Crimes: This Job is Murder anthology. She’s been bugging me to write her into a novel for years – I’m having a blast!

 TK Thorne – I’m stepping way out of my comfort zone with my new Magic City Trilogy. My previous books have been historical fiction set in the ancient past about strong women, given no name and one line in the biblical stories (Noah’s wife and Lot’s wife), as well as civil rights era nonfiction. But House of Rose, the first book, is set in current time with a different kind of strong woman – a police officer with abilities to see glimpses of the past or future. I called on a previous career in law enforcement and mixed it with large doses of imagination.

Paula Gail Benson – I’m working on some darker stories now. Learning how to respect the villain’s rationale while still making sure justice prevails is a challenge!

AB Plum – Although I’m writing a paranormal romance trilogy loosely based on The Wizard of Oz – quite different from the dark, psychological thrillers series I recently finished, the major themes – family and misfits – remain constant.

Dru Ann Love – Because I’m not a writer, my blog, dru’s book musings, keeps me busy.

Judy Penz Sheluk – I’m working on book 3 for both of my mystery series (The Glass Dolphin and Marketville), but I’m also starting to do research for a collection of non-fiction essays, as well as a non-fiction novel. The non-fiction doesn’t have a mystery element.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Getting into The Spirit

by J.M. Phillippe

There are a few things that mark the Christmas season for me. The first, of course, is finally getting up the decorations. To make that easier, I invested in a decent fake tree a few years back, which means I don't have to worry about how to get a tree home (after the year I dragged a 5 foot tree a mile home by myself, only to get the net wrapped around it caught on the hanging chandelier in the entrance of my building, leaving me holding it above my head until my neighbor came home and saved me).  The second is starting my usual list of holiday shows and movies, all of which will culminate on Christmas day when I host a non-traditional Christmas movie marathon (which always ends with Die Hard).

And then of course, there are the Christmas books and stories I read. This is the perfect season to curl up with a good story. I tend toward genre fiction -- mysteries, fantasies, and science fiction stories -- since they help me tap into the various moods of the season. Christmas, for me, isn't a time of just happiness. It is also a time when I reflect on all those I'm not with, either because they have passed on or because they are so far away. I rely on stories to help me get through the season, both the grief and the joy. Books and stories have always been reliable sources of support and distraction for me. I will be picking up familiar favorites, such as Hogfather by Terry Pratchett, and A Redbird Christmas by Fannie Flagg. It is always a good time to dive in to The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien, or to revisit the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling or The Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin.

This year, I am super excited to have put out my own holiday, The Christmas Spirit (which comes out in print and digital today!!) as well as pick up my copy of fellow Stiletto Gang member Bethany Maines' story Blue Christmas. I thoroughly enjoyed her holiday story last year, Oh, Holy Night, and can't wait to dig into this year's holiday mystery action romance.

In the meantime, I wish everyone happy reading this holiday season, and if you're so inclined, check out my novella, The Christmas Spirit (details below) or Bethany Maines' Blue Christmas.

The Christmas Spirit: a paranormal holiday adventure

In this dark comedy inspired by Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, Charlene Dickenson has just discovered that she will spend her after-life as a holiday spirit. She must do whatever it takes to become a Ghost of Christmas Past, Present, or Future—helping mortals transform their lives like Ebenezer Scrooge—or end up like Jacob Marley and spend her after-life in chains.  Stuck in a place where the Christmas music never ends and the holiday treats will never make you full, Charlene is going to have to figure out how to let go of her mortal life and embrace the Christmas Spirit. 

Blue Christmas

Blue Jones just stole Jake Garner’s dog. And his heart. But technically the French Bulldog, Jacques, belongs to Jake’s ex-girlfriend. And soon Jake is being pressured to return the dog and Blue is being targeted by mysterious attackers. Can Jake find Blue and Jacques before her stalkers do? For Blue, Christmas has never been quite so dangerous.  For Jake, Christmas has never been quite so Blue.

J.M. Phillippe is the author of the novels Perfect Likeness and Aurora One and the short stories The Sight and Plane Signals. She has lived in the deserts of California, the suburbs of Seattle, and the mad rush of New York City. She works as a clinical social worker in Brooklyn, New York and spends her free time binge-watching quality TV, drinking cider with amazing friends, and learning the art of radical self-acceptance, one day at a time.

Monday, December 3, 2018

For the Love of Christmas Movies

Judy Penz Sheluk

I'll admit it. I love those impossibly cheesy holiday movies, the cheesier the better. In fact, I have a Holiday Movie Rating System (HMRS) that goes something like this (maximum 55 points):

Paper-thin plot or wildly implausible plot: 5 points

Female lead is either widowed, divorced, recently broken up with fiancé  or can't seem to find true love: 5 points

Male lead is fabulously rich: 5 points (5 bonus points if female lead isn't aware of his money OR is not impressed by it)

Male lead seems nasty at first or has a not-so-hidden agenda: 5 points

Male lead has a best friend who's in love with the female lead and doesn't stand a chance: 5 points

Movie title sums up the entire plot line: 5 points

Movie title is a clever pun: 5 points [Seriously, don't you think MERRY Me at Christmas would have been a catchier title than MARRY Me at Christmas?]

Recognize the same actors/actresses in multiple cheesy movies: 5 points

Ending is completely predictable from the opening credits: 10 BONUS points!

Do you have a favorite cheesy Christmas movie? Something to add to my Holiday Movie Rating System?  Post a comment and let me know!

PS: Books make great stocking stuffers! Find mine at all the usual suspects, including Amazon, Kobo, and Barnes & Noble

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Tales of Christmas

by Bethany Maines

In 2017 a Romance novelist friend of mine invited me to be part of an anthology of holiday novellas as part of a marketing event.  I said, “Of course!” Did I have a holiday novella?  No, I did not.  Was it September when she asked and all content was due in November?  Yes, yes it was.  The result of my feverish typing and carpal tunnel syndrome was Oh, Holy Night.  This fun romance about a freelance graphic designer and the cute guy she keeps meeting at her local Starbucks somehow managed to end up also being about a bank robbery, friendship and recovering from grief.  But despite the record breaking pace I actually enjoyed my little holiday story and I decided that I wanted to do it again. Just… not quite so fast.

So this year I’m releasing Blue Christmas.  This Suspense Romance novella also features a  teeny bit of crime, a helping of romance, and a dog.  Because I like dogs. This time our intrepid heroine is a college student Blue Jones and the square jawed hero is local TV news cameraman Jake Garner.  And the dog is an adorable French Bulldog named Jacques who disapproves of almost everything.  If you’re looking for some Christmas adventures please feel free to indulge in these holiday treats.  They’re calorie free. 

Blue Christmas - ¢.99 – available 12/4 -Blue Jones just stole Jake Garner’s dog. And his heart. But technically the French Bulldog, Jacques, belongs to Jake’s ex-girlfriend. And soon Jake is being pressured to return the dog and Blue is being targeted by mysterious attackers. Can Jake find Blue and Jacques before her stalkers do? For Blue, Christmas has never been quite so dangerous.  For Jake, Christmas has never been quite so Blue.

Oh, Holy Night - ¢.99 – available now - Christmas is a lot more dangerous than it used to be. Graphic designer Violet Harper is usually found at her local Starbucks. Handsome Roman Knox is usually carrying a gun. But tonight they’re both in a bank and there’s a body on the floor. It’s a mess, a robbery and almost the worst day ever, but maybe a Christmas miracle can get them out of the bank and into love. Join Violet and Roman as they try to figure out the rules to modern dating and bank robbery.

And for more holiday humor and adventure with a touch of romance, check out fellow Stiletto Gang sister J.M. Phillippe’s A Christmas Spirit – The recently deceased Charlene Dickenson is stuck in a place where the Christmas music never ends and the holiday treats will never make you full. Charlene is going to have to figure out how to let go of her mortal life and embrace the Christmas Spirit.

Available in print and e-formats on 12/4.  Pre-order on: Amazon

Bethany Maines is the author of the Carrie Mae Mystery Series, San Juan Islands Mysteries, Shark Santoyo Crime Series, and numerous short stories. When she's not traveling to exotic lands, or kicking some serious butt with her fourth degree black belt in karate, she can be found chasing her daughter or glued to the computer working on her next novel. You can also catch up with her on YouTube, Twitter and Facebook.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

What’s in a Name?

--> By Lynn McPherson
One of my favourite things about cozy mysteries is the title. While an eye-catching cover is important, a clever pun has me giddy with glee to dig right in. The first cozy mystery I encountered was Murder, She Meowed, by Rita Mae Brown. My sister introduced me to it several years ago. It brought me so much joy, I actually kept the book in my purse for weeks—even after I finished the delightful story—because I just couldn’t get enough of the name.
Today, cozy titles still give me instant gratification. Ginger Bolton’s latest offering, Goodbye Crueller World, had me counting down the days for its release from the moment I heard its title. So, what is it that draws a reader in? For me, it is the promise of a story that captures the joy of the name. I know that when I am finished reading a cozy, justice will be restored without any tears shed. It is like a contract between author and reader.
But the title of the book is only one of many parts of a book that require a label. What about the characters? How important is it to choose the right name for each individual in a story?
I first began writing books soon after my first child was born. Choosing a name for her was something I had given countless hours to in the months leading up to her birth. After all, it wasn’t just me making the selection—my husband had opinions, too. We talked into the wee hours of the night on several occasions before our daughter was born discussing names we liked and those we didn’t. Compromise has never been my strong suit, but it was a fun exercise and made us both realize how the moniker one is given can present an image or leave an impression even before a person is known.
While I will refrain from giving you my personal spin on what goes into a good choice for a name or rules one should follow, I will leave the reader with my final thoughts, as an author and a mom. Do not make your choice an open discussion. Only involve one or (if you must) two individuals to agree on a name. Do not ask for opinions or suggestions from others or you will find yourself in an awkward position. We tend to seek approval from those around us that we love and care about. This is one of those rare occasions where I advise against it. Keep it simple and go with your gut.

Lynn McPherson has worked for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, ran a small business, and taught English across the globe. She has travelled the world solo where her daring spirit has led her to jump out of airplanes, dive with sharks, and learn she would never master a surfboard. She now channels her lifelong love of adventure and history into her writing, where she is free to go anywhere, anytime. Her cozy series has two books out: The Girls' Weekend Murder and The Girls Whispered Murder.  

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