Book Reviews: Do you or don’t you (a poll)

Reviews-of-smallcarBIGCITY1Do you post reviews on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Chapters.Indigo or Goodreads? If you’re an author, the answer is probably “yes.” That’s because, as an author, you know the value of a review. But what if you’re “just” a reader? (I should clarify that there is really is no “just” about it—without readers, there isn’t much point in writing anything—including this post).

The thing is, reviews mean a lot to authors. More than a lot, if we’re being honest (and you know me…honest to a fault). This isn’t just ego-boosting—though the thrill of seeing a 5-star review never gets old, at least to this author—it’s that reviews help to sell a book. Think about it. A friend tells you that “You have to read this book.” You look on Amazon or Goodreads and it has two reviews. Are you as keen to plunk down your hard-earned money as you might have been if there had been 15? What about 50? 100?  The reality is, reviews matter.

Of course, the hope is that every review will be a great review, but that’s unrealistic. Even bestselling novels like Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn had a few 1-star reviews (“Worst ending ever,” “Sorry I wasted my money,” “I want my money back.”)

So this post, and poll, is all about reviews. Why you leave them and why you don’t. I’ll share the results on Friday, October 28th after 12:00 noon EST.

Thanks for participating…and for all of you who post reviews, THANK YOU! Your opinion really does matter.

New Release Mondays: The Lazy Dragon and the Bumblespells Wizard by Kath Boyd Marsh

51qds-wbc5l-_sx348_bo1204203200_Author Name: Kath Boyd Marsh

Book Title: The Lazy Dragon and the Bumblespells Wizard

Book Genre: Fantasy (Middle Grade)

Release Date: October 1, 2016

Synopsis: Cl’rnce, laziest dragon at Dr’gon and Wizard Tech, can’t escape his Quest. Times is running out for getting the Whisper Stone to the Dr’gon Council Chamber when a Killer knight trees Cl’rnce. Moire Ain, a runaway with a magicks book and a hunger to become a wizard, saves him. Armed with her bumbled spells and Cl’rnce’s goal to get back to full time napping, they set off to complete the Quest and save a king.

Excerpt: Cl’rnce Merlin Clan Principus River Dr’gons—or as his twin sister called him, “waste of dr’gon scales”— crumpled the poster in his paw and stared into his school’s main hall. The Dr’gon and Wizard Technological School and Knights Academy students filed past him. None of them looked at him and most gave him a wide berth.

Cl’rnce didn’t care. He had plans. “ This is war. My sister is going to pay,” Cl’rnce whispered, too low for any of the other students to hear.

Hazel was one snarky sister, and it was over-the- top mean of her to make and hang that poster. He un-crumpled it and read it again:

Fair Warning. Cl’rnce Merlin Clan Principus River Drgons has stolen the baby Barforamous from the zoology department. Be on the lookout. Clrnce most assuredly plans a messy and smelly practical joke for the annual StudentsAssembly.

Cl’rnce sighed. Hazel was a spoiler. Most of what she wrote was true, except for the part about him having the Barforamous. Bubbles had escaped yesterday during Cl’rnce’s mid-afternoon nap. The smelly little fart-machine creature was probably eating all the stink- weed on the river’s edge and would work his way back to Wiz-Tech all on his own by tomorrow. But that was too late for Cl’rnce’s long-planned prank.

“Being brilliant, and the best practical joker at Wiz- Tech, of course I have a backup plan.” Cl’rnce sniggered.Three hours before, he’d snuck in and set a robe-shrinking spell. It would go off in less than an hour.

He was pretty good at magick, although he kept that a secret. Magick 101 was one of the few classes he didn’t sleep through, but he preferred to preserve his title as school slacker and practical joker. No point in ruining his reputation by letting anyone know how good he was at magick. Besides, as much as he liked magick, it was a lot of work.

9389485About the author: Kath Boyd Marsh, born a fourth generation Californian, roamed the USA and came to stay in the magical BlueGrass of Kentucky. Here she writes in an office filled with dragons. Her debut novel took a mere two decades and a multitude of drafts to find a publisher. But Kath, Cl’rnce Merlin Clan Principus Dr’gons, and Moire Ain would not give up. Find out more about Kath on her website.

 Find the Book



Interview with an Author: Sherry Harris, ad writer turned mystery author

51eqctkkoalSherry Harris, a former director of marketing for a financial planning company, decided writing fiction couldn’t be that different than writing ads. She couldn’t have been more wrong, but eventually because of a series of fortunate events and a great many people helping her along the way, Kensington published the Agatha nominated Tagged For Death, the first in the Sarah Winston Garage Sale mysteries. Other titles include: The Longest Yard Sale, All Murders Final. AGood Day To Buy comes out in April 2017.

Sherry honed her bartering skills as she moved around the country, while her husband served in the Air Force. Sherry uses her love of garage sales, her life as a military spouse, and her time living in Massachusetts as inspiration for the series. Sherry is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters In Crime, the New England Chapter of Sisters in Crime, and the Chesapeake Chapter of Sisters In Crime, where she serves as President.

Judy: Tell us a bit about your most recent novel, All Murders Final.

ALL MURDERS FINAL mech.inddSherry: All Murders Final is the third book of the Sarah Winston Garage Sale series. It’s winter in Ellington, Massachusetts, and Sarah has to come up with a plan for her garage sale business. She starts a virtual garage sale thinking that online she can avoid cranky customers but soon she’s getting death threats. When Sarah finds a client is murdered, one she had an argument with the night before, she doesn’t know who to trust online or off.

Judy: What or who inspired you to become a writer?

Sherry: I’ve wanted to write every since I read the Betsy-Tacy books by Maud Hart Lovelace. From a young age Betsy wants to be a writer. She loves to write in a tree behind her house and a cigar box holds her pencils and notebooks. I even went as far as to try writing in a tree when I was young. Balancing on a limb while writing, wasn’t nearly as much fun as it sounded in the book! But it was those books that sparked my interest in writing.

Judy: Describe a typical day in your life.

51z8lzdbvhlSherry: I’m lucky enough to have a home office to write in. I like it quiet but can tune out the noise of my family. My desk faces a window that looks out over a wooded area. Sometimes I think I should turn my desk to the wall because it’s easy to get distracted by a bird or neighbor going by. I don’t keep set writing hours. It depends on the day and what’s going on. My three best times of day are around 10:00 am, 4:00 pm and 8:00 pm. I find setting a word count works better for me than keeping hours. I usually try to write between 1000 to 1500 words a day. Sometimes I take the weekends off but the closer I get to a deadline the less likely that is.

Judy: What’s the best writing advice you have ever read or been given?

Sherry: The best writing advice I ever got was from author John Dufresne. It’s two bits actually. The first being: sit your butt in the chair. You aren’t ever going to write if you don’t and reading about writing or researching don’t count as writing. Second was his advice on what to do if you get stuck. John recommended looking around, write down everything your protagonist can see, hear, and feel. It’s gotten me unstuck every time. Most of that writing gets tossed out but it’s the process of moving on that’s important.



Find out more about Sherry Harris on her website.

New Release Mondays: Stone Cold Blooded by Catherine Dilts

stonecoldbloodedfront-5Author Name: Catherine Dilts

Book Title: Stone Cold Blooded – A Rock Shop Mystery

Book Genre: Mystery – amateur sleuth

Release Date: October 10, 2016

Synopsis: When Colorado rock shop owner Morgan Iverson’s reclusive neighbor is blown to bits, the police believe he stumbled into his own trap. His granddaughter claims he was murdered, and asks Morgan and newspaperman Kurt Willard to find his killer. Park hippies, alien hunters, and local politics complicate the case. In book three of the Rock Shop Mystery series, amateur sleuth Morgan must follow a trail of dinosaur bones to solve a Stone Cold Blooded murder.

Excerpt: Del blasted a short note on a shrill whistle.

“Heads up, everyone,” he yelled to the two spectators. “Morgan’s going on the range.”

The homemade shooting range occupied an unused area of the Rock of Ages property, fenced off from the donkeys’ various paddocks and pastures, and with a berm of dirt built up against the natural slope of a low hill. Stray bullets were sure to be absorbed by dirt.

After Del gave Morgan the go-ahead, she walked to a target tacked to a straw bale in front of the berm. Morgan studied the square of paper printed with concentric circles as she approached, disappointed that the center of the target appeared intact. Then she noticed a small hole in an outer ring. She jumped in the air and whooped.

“I hit it!”

Del opened his mouth, possibly to congratulate her, but Morgan couldn’t hear his words.

An explosion rocked the air. Rapid gunfire followed. Del crashed to the ground. For an instant, Morgan feared he’d been shot.

“Hit the dirt!” Del yelled. “Somebody’s shooting!”

Morgan dropped to her knees, feeling every sharp rock through her jeans. Gravel dug into her elbows. Distant shouting ended with more gunfire. Kurt belly-crawled to Morgan.

“It sounds like a battle!” He shouted above the noise of another explosion.

“Terrorists,” Lorina yelled. “I’d bet my best horse on it.”

Morgan pulled her cell phone from her jeans pocket. Thankfully, she had signal on this part of the property. Deputy J. B. Parker answered. Before Morgan got very far in her explanation, another explosion shook the ground.

“What in the heck’s going on?” the young deputy asked.

“Gunfire,” Morgan said. “Explosions. World War Three.”

“On your ranch?”

“No, the noise is coming from north of the rock shop,” Morgan said.

“Probably old man Day’s place,” Deputy Parker said. “The Chief and I are headed that way, Ms. Iverson. Hold tight, and don’t go anywhere near Day’s property.”

Morgan relayed the gist of her phone call to Kurt, Del, and Lorina.

“Makes sense,” Del said. “If anybody around here was capable of starting a war, it’d be Eustace Day.”

catherine-dilts-author-photoAbout the author: Catherine Dilts is the author of the Rock Shop Mystery series, while her short stories appear regularly in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. With a day job as an environmental regulatory technician, Catherine’s stories often have environmental or factory-based themes. Others reflect her love of the Colorado mountains, fishing, and running. Catherine caught mountain fever after a childhood vacation in Rocky Mountain National Park. Determined to give up her flat–lander ways, she moved from Oklahoma to Colorado where she lives with her husband. Learn more about Catherine on her website.

Find the book


My Publishing Journey: What’s in a Name (Part 2)

calamity-jane-movie-poster-1953-1020203311In Part 1 of this “What’s in a  Name” series, I shared the inspiration behind the names of four of the major characters in The Hanged Man’s Noose. Part 2 is dedicated to Skeletons in the Attic. Here goes:

Calamity (Callie) Barnstable (protagonist)

In my day job, I’m the Senior Editor of New England Antiques Journal, and over the years I’ve learned a lot about antiques. I found myself fascinated by some auction lots of Calamity Jane that came on the block and started researching her life. martha-calamity-jane-canary-a-very-rare-cabinet-photo-with-letter-of-transmittal-from-the-wyoming-photographer

It amused me that this manly-looking woman from the Wild West would have been portrayed by Doris Day in a 1950s musical. When it came time to name my protagonist in Skeletons, I decided to go with Calamity Doris Barnstable, Callie for short (it seemed important that she have a name that could be shortened).

What about the Barnstable you ask? I googled Callie Barnes, and there seemed to be at least a couple of women with that name. I wanted something unique. Barnstable was born!

And yes, for those of you who haven’t read the book, that movie poster is part of the story!

craigleithLeith Hampton (lawyer)

Leith Hampton started off life as Craig Leith, which is actually the name (although all one word) of a town in Ontario on Georgian Bay. But somehow, Craig Leith didn’t sound like a lawyer to me. Leith, however, sounded like the kind of first name someone educated at the best schools might have. And Hampton…for The Hamptons, of course! Money and power…the name Leith Hampton captured both.

mistyMisty Rivers (psychic)

Years ago, I saw a Clint Eastwood suspense movie called Play Misty for Me. I don’t remember much about the movie, but the name Misty always stuck with me. When I was looking for the name of my scheming psychic, Misty seemed perfect. Originally she was Misty Riverside, but at some point I decided I liked Rivers better. Sometimes it’s just about the name that works in your head.

photo-jpgRoyce Ashford (neighbor/love interest)

Royce is a contractor, but I wanted him to come from a wealthy background. His father is a stockbroker who has done well in the market. I thought about Rolls Royce and decided Royce would make a great first name (Royce’s sister is named Porsche). I’m not sure how I came up with Ashford…but the moment I thought of it, I knew it was a fit.

If there’s a character name in either of my books — or any of my short stories — you’d like more information on, leave a comment or send your question on my contact form. I may just do a Part 3!

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000040_00072]


Skeltons in the Attic is available on Kindle and trade paperback.

Find Skeletons in the Attic

New Release Mondays: Shares The Darkness by J.R. Lindermuth

sharesthedarkness2Author Name: J. R. Lindermuth

Book Title: Shares The Darkness

Book Genre: Mystery/romantic suspense

Release Date: Sept. 13, 2016

Synopsis: Jan Kepler and Swatara Creek Police Officer Flora Vastine were neighbors and schoolmates, but never close.

When Jan, a school teacher, avid birder and niece of a fellow officer, goes missing and is found dead in a nearby tract of woods Flora finds herself thrust into the middle of an examination of the other woman’s life, as she searches for clues.

As usual, the police have more than one crime to deal with. There’s illegal timbering and a series of vehicle thefts taking up their time. And there are other issues to deal with. Flora is concerned there’s some shakiness in her relationship with Cpl. Harry Minnich who seems to be making a lot of secretive phone calls.

Still Flora maintains focus on the murder. Despite evidence implicating other suspects, the odd behavior of another former classmate rouses Flora’s suspicion. Flora’s probing opens personal wounds as she observes the cost of obsessive love and tracks down the killer.

Excerpt: [Chapter 1]

“She didn’t come home last night.”

Flora Vastine hesitated. She knew Mrs. Kepler as the type of overly protective mother who wouldn’t take kindly to a suggestion her daughter might be sleeping around. “Maybe she stayed with a friend,” Flora said without specifying gender.

Mrs. Kepler shook her head. “She didn’t have an overnight bag or even a toothbrush. Besides, I’m sure Jan would have told me if she was going to do that.”

The woman had shown up just as Flora was preparing to leave for her shift. Mrs. Kepler had come down the street in her nightgown and robe, fuzzy slippers on her feet, sans makeup and without even having run a brush through her sleep-knotted gray hair. Obviously she was distraught and Flora had no choice but to invite her in. Besides, as a police officer she had a responsibility to those who sought her assistance–no matter how tenuous the situation might seem.

Flora’s father was still at the table, having a second cup of coffee. He looked up in surprise as the two women entered the kitchen. “Jan didn’t come home last night. Mrs. Kepler is worried,” Flora quickly explained.

“Oh,” her father said. “Of course you’re worried. What can we do to help? Have a seat. Would you like some coffee, Sylvia?”

“No. Thank you, but no,” Mrs. Kepler said, sliding onto a chair next to him. “My stomach is acidic enough. Coffee would definitely not help.”

Sneaking a quick glance at the clock, Flora saw she was going to be late. “Sorry,” she said, drawing out her mobile, “I’ve got to call in.”

“Oh, I don’t want you to be late.”

“It’s okay. I just have to let them know.” She made her call, told dispatch she was delayed and would explain on arrival.

Mrs. Kepler drew a hand across her face. “I hope I’m not getting you in trouble, Flora.”

Flora leaned on a chair on the opposite side of the table. “Not a problem. Do you know where Jan was going when she left the house yesterday?” Jan Kepler was a high school biology teacher who still lived with her widowed mother. When not working, she helped her friend Peg Peabody conduct birding tours spring and fall. As far as Flora knew, neither woman had a boyfriend.

“She had her binoculars and her bag. She didn’t say, but it was obvious she was going birding.”

“With Miss Peabody?”

“No. I called Peg last night. She said she hadn’t seen Jan since Tuesday.”

“Does she often go by herself?” Bill Vastine asked.

“Oh, yes. When she isn’t helping Peg she loves to go out alone. She says it’s better that way. No crowds of people making noise and scaring off the birds before you can find them.”

“Dangerous, isn’t it? What if she fell or something?”

“I’ve said the same thing myself. That’s why I got so worried when she didn’t come home.”

Some other dangers came to mind for Flora, but she didn’t mention them.  The woman was agitated enough. “Did she have her phone?”

jrlindermuthAbout The Author: A retired newspaper reporter and editor, J. R. Lindermuth is the author of 15 novels, including seven in his Sticks Hetrick crime series, and a non-fiction regional history. His short stories and articles have been published in a variety of magazines. He is a member of International Thriller Writers and a past vice president of the Short Mystery Fiction Society. To learn more about the author, visit his  website.

Find the book

Goodreads Giveaway!

If you haven’t read Skeletons in the Attic, here’s a chance to win a signed paperback copy on Goodreads. There is one signed copy available for US residents, and one signed copy available for Canadian residents. Good luck to all who enter!


Goodreads Book Giveaway

Skeletons in the Attic (A Marketville Mystery by Judy Penz Sheluk

Skeletons in the Attic (A Marketville Mystery

by Judy Penz Sheluk

Giveaway ends October 17, 2016.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway


Goodreads Book Giveaway

Skeletons in the Attic (A Marketville Mystery by Judy Penz Sheluk

Skeletons in the Attic (A Marketville Mystery

by Judy Penz Sheluk

Giveaway ends October 17, 2016.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway


Before They Were Authors: Tracy L. Ward

Portrait of young beautiful medieval woman in red dress

I first met Tracy L. Ward at Bloody Words Toronto in 2012. At the time, we were both aspiring authors. Fast forward to Bloody Words Toronto 2014, and Tracy had not only followed her dream,  her Peter Ainsley historical mystery series was selling, and selling well. Here’s a bit more about Tracy before she became an author (and I had no idea that Tracy had such an interesting history):


Shortly after my husband and I got married he enlisted in the Canadian Air Force. Within a year of his swearing in we were on the road, destined for military life and the frequent moves that accompanied it. As a recently graduated journalist this did not bode well for me. So much of the reporter’s job meant getting to know the community and the people in it. My employment prospects looked bleak. To my surprise I landed a position at small museum in an old, converted train station in the beautiful town of Collingwood, once a hub of activity where trains and laker ships met to transport goods to all the ports of the Great Lakes and beyond.

As a historical research assistant, I was charged with the wonderful task of creating a new archive, so the town and museum could centralize information regarding the new Historic District. It was my job to scour the archives at the museum, the local library, the county archives and even some provincial ones in Toronto, to find any information available regarding the over 150 properties within the designated district. I interviewed home owners, some who had lived in their homes for decades. I took pictures of historical aspects of buildings that remained such as coal shoots and root cellar doors. I walked every inch of the district over the course of that summer and relished every single second of it.

small-prayers-coverArchive retrieval can be monotonous. I would often spend days in front of the microfiche and only find a handful of helpful articles or pictures. The work is solitary, sedentary and quiet, but oh the little historical gems you will find!

I couldn’t help but smile every time I walked through the museum doors. When I donned the white gloves required to sort through old photographs and other artifacts I felt like my heart would explode. Lunch was often eaten sitting on the decommissioned train platform with my legs dangling over the edge to the tracks below. I never realized how much I loved history until I took that job. While working there I wrote a number of short stories, my first historicals, which were often inspired by photographs I had seen during my day job.

It was this job at the museum that inspired me to visit each and every historical museum and pioneer village within a few hours driving radius of my house. I was still a few years away from attempting my first historical novel but this job placed a spark in me that I didn’t realize was there. While trying my hand at contemporary novels, a few romances and some mysteries, I read non-fiction books about the early days of Canada, the wives of Henry Tudor and the lives of Victorian servants. I never imagined siting down to write a historical novel, not until an idea sparked inside me about a doctor called in to help solve a suspected poisoning.

The position was only available for the summer. By the time September rolled around I was switching gears and settling into a new position as a volunteer coordinator at a small charity. The commute was shorter, the pay better and there was never a shortage of people to converse with. Even though I only worked at the museum for four months I see it as the one job that inspired my writing the most. I don’t think I would have had the courage to write a historical if it weren’t for the summer I spent sorting through piles of old photographs and bent over dusty storage room boxes.

author-headshotAbout the author: A former journalist and graduate from Humber College’s School for Writers, Tracy L. Ward has been hard at work developing her favourite protagonist, Peter Ainsley, and chronicling his adventures as a morgue surgeon in Victorian England. The most recent book in the series, PRAYERS FOR THE DYING, was published in May 2016. She is currently working on the sixth book in the Marshall House Mystery series. To find out more about Tracy’s books follow her on Facebook or visit her website