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.  

[Lynn's Author Site] - [Buy Lynn's Book]

Monday, November 26, 2018

Time for Christmas and Holiday Shorts!

by Paula Gail Benson

On the day before Thanksgiving, Dru’s Book Musings featured Sleigh Bells and Sleuthing, an anthology of 16 cozy mystery novellas to celebrate the season. Here’s a link to Dru’s post. One hundred percent of the proceeds from sales of the anthology will benefit Good Fortune Farm Refuge, a non-profit ranch located in Semmes, Alabama, which rehabilitates abused and abandoned animals and finds homes for rescued animals.

Dru’s post reminded me that this is the time for reading seasonal shorts, so here are a few anthologies you might wish to consider:

Murder Under the Christmas Tree: Ten Classic Crime Stories for the Festive Season, edited by Cecily Gayford, has stories by Ian Rankin, Val McDermid, Arthur Conan Doyle, Dorothy L. Sayers, Edmund Crispin, G.K. Chesteron, Ngaio Marsh, Carter Dickson, Margery Allingham, and Ellis Peters.

Otto Penzler’s The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries contains 60 stories divided into categories like traditional, funny, Sherlockian, pulpy, uncanny, scary, surprising, modern, puzzling, and classic. It features authors like Mary Higgins Clark, Sara Paretsky, Max Allan Collins, Edward D. Hoch, John D. McDonald, and O. Henry.

Mistletoe Mysteries, Tales of Yuletide Murder were compiled by Charlotte McLeod. It contains 16 stories by McLeod, Mary Higgins Clark, Sharon McCrumb, Marcia Muller, Bill Pronzini, Peter Lovesey, and others.

Last year, I discovered and was completely charmed by The Usual Santas. It includes stories by Helene Tursten, Mick Herron, Martin Limón, Timothy Hallinan, Teresa Dovalpage, Mette Ivie Harrison, Colin Cotterill, Ed Lin, Stuart Neville, Tod Goldberg, Henry Chang, James R. Benn, Lene Kaaberbøl & Agnete Friis, Sujata Massey, Gary Corby, Cara Black, Stephanie Barron and a Foreword and story by Peter Lovesey.

In 2013, my December post for Writers Who Kill was the final installment of a series about writing short stories and compared the story structures of three excellent holiday short stories:

B.K. Stevens’ “Little Dumber Boy” (individually published under the Fingerprints imprint by Untreed Reads, December, 2010) (available on Amazon).

Barb Goffman’s “Christmas Surprise” in the collection Don’t Get Mad, Get Even: 15 Tales of Revenge and More (Wildside Press April, 2013).

Earl Staggs’ “Caught on Christmas Eve” in the collection Short Stories of Earl Staggs: 16 Tales of Mystery from Hard Boiled to Humor (Amazon Digital Services, Inc. 2011).

At the end of the post, I listed the following holiday anthologies:

Lori Avocato, Dana Cameron, Mary Daheim, Cait London, Suzanne Macpherson, Kerrelyn Sparks, Sugarplums and Scandal (HarperCollins Publishers 2010).

Carols and Crimes, Gifts and Grifters (Wolfmont Press 2009) (Authors Tony Burton, Austin S. Camacho, Thomas H. Cook, Herschel Cozine, Gail Farrelly, Margaret Fenton, Chris Grabenstein, Sue Ann Jaffarian, Frank Zafiro, and others).

John M. Floyd, editor, The Gift of Murder (Wolfmont Press 2009) (Authors Austin S. Camacho, Hershel Cozine, Bill Crider, Kris Neri, Randy Rawls, Carolyn J. Rose, Elizabeth Zelvin). 

Steve Hockensmith, Naughty: Nine Tales of Christmas Crime (an e-book collection of stories that previously appeared in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine or Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine).

Stuart MacBride, 12 Days of Winter: Crime at Christmas (HarperCollins Publishers 2011).

Margaret Maron, Five Christmas Gifts (Maron & Company; Ebook edition December, 2012).

John Mortimer, A Rumpole Christmas (Penguin Books, 2009).

May all your holiday reading be merry, bright, and only a little murderous!

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Many Thanks!

Welcome to the Stiletto Gang Black Friday Gift Guide!

We here at the Stiletto Gang love our readers and hope that you're all healthy and happy this holiday season. We've put together a list of our recent works to inspire you during the gift shopping free-for-all of Black Friday.  Aside from some fantastic sales many of the gang are offering giveaways and free books. So do a little shopping, but don't feel guilty if you snag a few presents for yourself as well!
Many thanks from all your friends at The Stiletto Gang!

Sparkle Abbey

Buy on: AmazonBarnes & NobleiTunes

The Dogfather

Who knew the world of designer purses could be such a dog-eat-dog business?

When a local, designer handbags store owner is found dead, the police first believe it’s an unfortunate accident. But the evidence doesn’t lie. Before you can say "wiseguy," Bow Wow Boutique owner, Melinda Langston’s, former fiancé and undercover FBI agent, Grey Donovan, is the prime suspect.  Now the two are working side-by-side to prove Grey's innocence— nothing personal, just business. Or is it? Suspects are piling up, family secrets are exposed, and no one is who they appear to be, including Mel’s newest employee. Time’s running out. Mel better sniff out the killer before she and Grey end up sleeping with the fishes.
Holiday Giveaway!
Winner’s choice of any Sparkle Abbey book.  Sign up for the Sparkle Abbey Newsletter between now and November 30th to be entered to win.

Debra H. Goldstein

Buy on: AmazonBarnes & NobleKoboIndieBound

One Taste Too Many

For culinary challenged Sarah Blair, there’s only one thing scarier than cooking from scratch—murder! 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 Siamese cat, wanted by the woman who broke up her marriage and her sister 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!

Holiday Giveaway!

Get free One Taste Too Many swag! Go to Debra's blog and sign up for a chance to win!

Bethany Maines

Pre-Order on: AmazonBarnes & NobleKobo

Blue Christmas

$0.99 - Release Date: 12/4/18
Drunken TV news cameraman Jake Garner thought he was tackling an intruder. But no, Jake just took out the gorgeous dog sitter. Mortified, Jake does what any man would who has just been dumped right before Christmas would do—give the offended party all his ex's things. Meanwhile, Blue Jones is determined to do whatever it takes to get her grandmother the best cancer treatment possible, even if that means some high-rise burglary from one of her worst dog-sitting clients, the failure to walk, feed or book a pet-sitter for a three day weekend, Grace Lorra. But Blue didn't count on Grace's ex, Jake, showing up and drunkenly handing over all of Grace's belongings— including her adorable French Bulldog, Jacques. It takes no time at all for Blue to fall in love with Jacques, but Blue also finds herself wondering if it would be so bad to return to the scene of the crime to reconnect with Jake. But as Christmas draws closer, Grace pressures Jake to return the dog and Blue is targeted by mysterious assailants. Can Jake find Blue and Jacques before her stalkers do? And can Jake and Blue stop these mystery men without also getting Blue arrested for theft? For Blue, Christmas has never been quite so dangerous. For Jake, Christmas has never been quite so Blue.

Holiday Sale!

Shark's Instinct & Shark's Bite

Buy Now: Amazon
Books 1 & 2 of the Shark Santoyo Crime Series- $0.99 each
When twenty something Shark got out of prison and made a deal with Geier, the boss of his old gang, he knew he’d be walking into trouble, but he never expected to meet the teenage crime savant Peregrine Hays. The knife-wielding beauty may fuel his dreams, but Peregrine has secrets of her own, and soon Shark is swept up in a whirlpool of murder, revenge, and love. Both streetwise and hardened by dark pasts, Shark and Peri are the perfect match as they battle crooked federal agents, sex traffickers, and gangs in search of vindication. But when Shark is faced with an enemy that knows him better than anyone else, he and Peri learn that their options may be staying together OR staying alive…

Lynn McPherson

Buy on: AmazonBarnes & Noble

The Girls’ Weekend Murder: An Izzy Walsh Mystery

It’s 1953 in the quiet New England town of Twin Oaks, and busy homemaker Izzy Walsh is enjoying her annual girls’ weekend. While off to a promising start, the weekend quickly goes awry when murder interrupts the fun, and the hostess is accused of the shocking crime. Izzy soon realizes it is up to her to save her innocent friend and bring the true killer to light. She must use her keen intuition and quick wit to uncover the dark truth before the killer brings her investigation to a dead stop.

The Girls Whispered Murder: An Izzy Walsh Mystery

Izzy Walsh is once again drawn into a dangerous mystery when a popular local chef is found murdered and clues begin to turn up everywhere she goes. Izzy is determined to help, but when a party of suspects begins to crowd the menu, it becomes hard to choose just one.

Cathy Perkins

Buy on: AmazonBarnes & NobleKobo

In It For The Money

Holly Price traded professional goals for personal plans when she agreed to leave her high-flying position with the Seattle Mergers and Acquisition team and take over the family accounting practice. Reunited with JC Dimitrak, her former fiancé, she’s already questioning whether she’s ready to flip her condo for marriage and a house in the ‘burbs.
When her cousin Tate needs investors for his innovative car suspension, Holly works her business matchmaking skills and connects him with a client. The Rockcrawler showcasing the new part crashes at its debut event, however, and the driver dies. Framed for the sabotage, Tate turns to Holly when the local cops—including JC—are ready to haul him to jail. Holly soon finds her cousin and client embroiled in multiple criminal schemes. She’s drawn into the investigation, a position that threatens her life, her family and her increasingly shaky relationship with JC.

Holiday Giveaway!

Giving away the new Holly Price box set! Sign up for my newsletter (on my website) – winner selected from new subscribers!

 J.M. Phillippe

Pre-Order on: Amazon

The Christmas Spirit

$1.99 - Release Date: 12/4/18
Charlene Dickenson didn't think that some minor stalking of her ex-boyfriend would lead to her untimely death. And she really didn't think that because she died in a Christmas-related accident, she would end up in the Hall of Christmas Spirits. But a Christmas death means that Charlene must discover if she has what it takes to be a Ghost of Christmas Past, Present, or Future—helping mortals transform their lives like Ebenezer Scrooge—or end up like Jacob Marley and spend the rest of her existence in chains.  Only Charlene has no intention of letting unknown forces control her life…death… after-life.  Charlene figures that with a little ingenuity and pluck, she can surely figure a way out of this situation.  But finding out how to win may just mean giving up everything she loves.  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.

AB Plum

Buy on: Amazon

Ready or Not

Thirty-seven-year-old cyber-sleuth Karen Sullivan convinces herself that the first obscene phone call is a fluke. Unnerving, but nothing to worry about. All kinds of creeps slither out at night. But the next call, and the next, and four more chip away at the perfect façade she presents to the world. The caller spews out more and more details. Dark, vile details. Chilling details known only to Karen and a dead man. When the caller threatens to contact her ailing father, she decides—against all reason—to confide in her best friend. Her friend’s brutal murder convinces Karen she’s the predator’s next prey. The collision of the past and present forces her to seek help from the last person she should trust.

Holiday Giveaway!

The Boy Nobody Loved 

A brilliant, psychologically wounded boy--reviled and bullied by his family--plots revenge. Who can blame him thinking of murder?

Shari Randall

Against the Claw

Buy on: AmazonBarnes & NobleIndieBound
Injured dancer Allie Larkin is still back home, lending a hand at her aunt’s Lazy Mermaid Lobster Shack. Now that the famed restaurant is branching out into catering, Allie’s help is needed more than ever – even on the lobster boat. The last thing she expects to find once she’s out on the bay, however, is the dead body of a beautiful young woman. When days pass and not even the police can ID the corpse, Allie takes it upon herself to learn what happened. Her search takes her all the way from the piers to the secluded estates of Mystic Bay’s elite. But how can she crack the case when everyone seems dead-set on keeping their secrets beneath the surface? 

Curses, Boiled Again!

Buy on: AmazonBarnes & NobleBooks-a-MillioniBooksIndieBound
Welcome to Mystic Bay, where the fish is always fresh, folks are ever-friendly, and murder is on a roll. Allie Larkin was living her dream as a ballet dancer when a bad fall put her out of business. Now she’s back home helping her Aunt Gully get her Lazy Mermaid Lobster Shack off the ground. Nothing would help Gully more than winning the local food festival’s Best Lobster Roll contest. The competition is sure to be killer – especially when one of the contest judges dies after eating a roll from one of Gully’s biggest competitors. Soon all eyes fall on Gully as prime suspect. Allie isn’t about to let her aunt go down for a crime she never could have cooked up. Can Allie, along with her devoted crew of friends, family, and customers, find a way to trap the killer and claw herself out of this hard-boiled murder case?

Linda Rodriguez

Buy on: AmazonBarnes & Noble

Plotting the Character-Driven Novel

Great plot springs from character and the motivations each character has for taking or not taking action. In Plotting the Character-Driven Novel, Linda Rodriguez turns her sought-after writing course on using depth of character as a springboard to a strong plot into a book designed to help the aspiring writer who wants to tell a story made compelling by the truth and complexity of its characters. She provides examples of actual documents she has used in creating her own award- winning books to demonstrate the methods she teaches.

Holiday Giveaway!

Rivka's Place by Linda Rodriguez features CJ, battle-scarred escaped convict, Rivka, tiny Holocaust survivor with a big heart, and a choice between love and hate when violence invades their sanctuary in a neighborhood that looks out for its own. Which way will CJ move when everything he cares about is threatened?  Visit to enter to win!

Judy Penz Sheluk

Buy on: Amazon

Past & Present: A Marketville Mystery #2

Sometimes the past reaches out to the present…
Soon after forming Past & Present Investigations, Calamity (Callie) Barnstable gets her first client: a woman seeking the truth about her grandmother, Anneliese Prei, who came to a "bad end" in 1956. But Anneliese’s past has a way of winding its way into Callie’s present, and not in a way anyone, least of all Callie, could have predicted

Holiday Giveaway!

Win a Kindle copy of Past & Present, book 2 in the Marketville Mystery series OR an audiobook copy of A Hole in One, book 2 in the Glass Dolphin Mystery Series (must be an Audible member). Winner’s choice. Email for a chance to win!

T.K. Thorne

Buy on: Amazon • Barnes & NobleKobo

House of Rose

Murder, mayhem, and a little magic occur when police officer Rose Brighton chases a suspect down a dark alley. Without warning, her vision wavers, and the lone suspect appears to divide into two men—the real suspect, frozen in time, and a shadow version with a gun. Confused by what she’s just seen, but with no time to second guess it’s meaning, Rose shoots the real suspect in the back. Forced to lie to detectives, she risks her job and her life to discover the shocking truth of who she really is—a witch of an ancient House, the prey of one powerful enemy, and the pawn of another.  House of Rose, set in the Deep South city of Birmingham, Alabama, is the first book of the Magic City Stories.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Skipping Woodstock, But Finding Women’s Lib—and Murder

By Kay Kendall

 In my Austin Starr mystery series I try not just to entertain but also to portray what an historical era is like. My first two books are set in the tumultuous 1960s: Desolation Row and Rainy Day Women. Due out next February is a prequel, After You’ve Gone. It features Austin Starr’s grandmother as a young woman in small town Texas during Prohibition. Although the historical setting is different (bootleg gin, flappers, gangsters), many of the issues the two women face are similar. What place should women have in society? What do women owe to their family, their husbands—and to themselves? What the grandmother grapples with in 1923 is related—almost distressingly so—to choices her granddaughter will face in 1969. To prepare you to read the prequel, here is a rundown on my previous mystery.
Rainy Day Women takes place in August 1969. Headlines across the continent shriek about the sensational murders in Los Angeles of a pregnant starlet and her friends—though Charles Manson and gang haven’t been caught yet. Apollo 12 astronauts Armstrong (he walked on the moon), Aldrin, and Collins have just arrived back on Earth. Rock music fans look forward to a big outdoor concert—posters call it the Woodstock Music and Art Fair.
But my amateur sleuth Austin Starr scarcely knows any of this. With a three-month-old baby, she is sleep-deprived and still adjusting to her new life’s heavy demands. Then a phone call sends her (and baby Wyatt) flying across North America to help find a killer. Why? Because her dear friend Larissa is suspected of murdering women’s liberation activists in Seattle and Vancouver. Then Austin’s former CIA trainer warns that someone has contracted a hit on her. Her anxious husband demands that she give up her quest and fly back to him. Austin must decide how much to risk when she realizes that tracking the killer puts her and her baby's lives in danger. 

I set my mystery against the backdrop of women’s liberation almost fifty years ago because second-wave feminism (as it’s now called) changed lives, and yet the rightful place of women in society still remains a point of contention. My character Austin Starr discovers the movement when she questions members of the dead women’s groups and is fascinated with the new ideas she hears.

 Even though Austin’s young husband is an anti-war activist, she herself is not a radical. I wanted her story to be accessible to anyone today, of whatever political persuasion, and so I explore what life was like for a typical young woman—not a headline maker, not a Hanoi Jane or Angela Davis, but a moderate who nonetheless gets swept up by history's tides during the turbulent sixties. All that turmoil lends itself to drama, intrigue, and murder.

I don’t think this is a true spoiler when I divulge that the very day Austin discovers the murderer is the same day it rained hardest at the Woodstock festival. Later she decides she has no regrets at missing the famous event, saying, “I never liked mud very much anyway.” In the coming prequel we see how much of her intrepid spirit she inherited from her grandmother—she who faced off against a thug sent to Texas by none other than Al Capone. Set among true-to-life details like that, I've composed another young woman's tale about finding her balance in a world ruled by men.
Meet the author
Kay Kendall is a long-time fan of historical novels and now writes mysteries that capture the spirit and turbulence of the sixties. A reformed PR executive who won international awards for her projects, Kay lives in Texas with her Canadian husband, three house rabbits, and spaniel Wills. Terribly allergic to her bunnies, she loves them anyway! Her book titles show she's a Bob Dylan buff.  In 2015 Rainy Day Women won two Silver Falchion Awards at Killer Nashville. Visit Kay at her website>   or on Facebook