New Release Mondays: Cold Heart by Karen Pullen

Author Name: Karen Pullen

Book Title: Cold Heart

Book Genre: Traditional mystery

Release Date: January 18, 2017

Synopsis:  Just when the physical risks of Stella Lavender’s assignment as undercover drug agent are getting to her, she gives a hitchhiking teenager a ride to a babysitting job where they discover the father’s lifeless body. Equally horrifying: his toddler is missing. When Stella recognizes dad as a small-time drug dealer, she joins the investigation, rummaging through every strata of society in a relentless pursuit of a cold-hearted murderer who won’t stop at just one victim.

Excerpt: Upstairs, in the child’s room, I found a tiny sock in a laundry bin. Pink with white ducks on the cuff.

Merle’s leather harness was in the trunk of my car. It was his signal to go to work. I buckled it around him and led him to the back of the house, to the patio. “Check,” I whispered, waving the sock under his nose and removing the lead. Nose down, he circled the patio, ignoring the puddled blood, pausing at the foot of the stairs, then charging into the scrubby woods. I could barely keep up and called him to slow. He looked up for an instant but he was a dog on a mission, a little-pink-sock mission. He paralleled the lakeshore for a hundred yards, through brambly underbrush that scratched my legs. I could only imagine what it had done to a toddler’s tender skin.

He paused in a clearing, over what he’d found: a disposable diaper, dry, recently dropped. A diaper? Why? He waited for me, then took off again, drawn by a scent that must have been strong. I pushed away dark thoughts and trampled after him, finally catching up at the rocky lakeshore where he trotted, nose down, one way, then another, then back. He’d lost the scent.

Shit. Shit shit shit.

A breeze rippled the lake’s surface, disturbing the reflection of whipped-cream clouds and bluer than blue sky. Blue, despondent, wretched, downcast—pick any or all, that’s how I felt.

Paige Mercer was probably in the lake.

About the author: Karen Pullen escaped a cubicle to seek her fortune as an innkeeper and fiction writer. Cold Heart is the second in the Stella Lavender series; Cold Feet was published in 2013, also by Five Star. She’s published several dozen short stories that will be collected into Restless Dreams by GusGus Press in September. She owns a B&B in Pittsboro, North Carolina. Updates on Karen and her writing can be found on her website, www.karenpullen.com.

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Before They Were Authors: Jennifer Alderson

Jennifer S. Alderson

Jennifer S. Alderson worked as a journalist and website developer in Seattle, Washington before trading her financial security for a backpack. After years of traveling the world, she now calls Amsterdam home. She’s the author of two novels, a travel fiction thriller set in Nepal and Thailand, Down and Out in Kathmandu: adventures in backpacking, and a suspenseful whodunit set in Amsterdam, The Lover’s Portrait: An Art Mystery. Here’s more about Jennifer, in her own words:

I’ve never been one to shy away from a challenge and I love learning new things. As a result, my career path has taken many twists and turns along the way. Before my novels were published, I worked as a journalist and editor for regional newspapers, then as a multimedia developer for large corporations, before finally transitioning into my latest role as collection researcher and project assistant for museums. All of the jobs and experiences I’ve had have influenced my writing by inspiring and informing storylines, plot twists, and characters.

The University Library (UBA) is the largest library at the University of Amsterdam.

When burnout forced me to rethink my career in the ICT sector, I moved from Seattle, Washington to the Netherlands to study European art history at the University of Amsterdam for a year. At the time, art history seemed like the perfect antithesis to sitting behind a desk pushing pixels all day long. I’d minored in the subject while majoring in journalism and figured doing something completely different would help me find my path in life again.

Those first few months of classes were a revelation. I loved the subject matter, lectures, and numerous field trips so much that I ended up staying longer and earning a Master’s degree in Museum Studies. Unfortunately the world-wide economy crashed in 2008 – the year I graduated – and my dream of becoming a senior curator at the Van Gogh Museum was never realized. However, I was lucky enough to work for several museums in Amsterdam before subsidy cuts for cultural institutions translated into massive layoffs.

Museum Willet-Holthuysen on the Herengracht canal in Amsterdam

One of my favorite assignments was creating an exhibition plan for Museum Willet-Holthuysen in Amsterdam, a well-maintained canal house bequeathed to the city in 1895 by its’ last occupants on the condition it become a museum bearing their names. It’s still filled with the former owners’ impressive furnishings and extensive collection of sculptures, paintings and decorative arts. Technically my title was collection researcher and my goal was to find connections between the many tomes on ceramic in Abraham Willet’s extensive library and his collection of European ceramic objects. To what extent did he follow the advice and trends mentioned or discussed in his books, the majority of which he purchased himself; exhibition catalogues, contemporary art theory and other guides containing the latest trends and tips for collectors. My research into his collections, as well as my observations of the dynamics inherent to a museum’s exhibition project team, inspired several of the characters and scenes in my second book, The Lover’s Portrait: An Art Mystery

My work as a collection researcher for an exhibition of Bispoles at Amsterdam’s Tropenmuseum directly inspired my current work-in-progress, the third book in the Adventures of Zelda Richardson series. During my search through photographs and film fragments of Asmat tribes, missionaries and anthropologists working in Papua New Guinea during the 1950s and 1960s, I discovered that a well-known Dutch missionary – Reverend Gerald Zegwaard – was one of the last people to see Michael Rockefeller alive. During their meeting they’d made an appointment to meet up after Rockefeller returned from an acquisition trip upriver. The young American disappeared days later, resulting in one of the most famous unsolved mysteries of our time. That little detail about his un-kept appointment with Reverend Zegwaard stuck with me and eventually inspired me to write my next art mystery, about missionaries, anthropologists and Bispoles. If all goes well, it will be released in the summer of 2017.

Find out more about Jennifer and her books at http://www.jennifersalderson.com.

 

 

 

 

New Release Mondays: Scheduled to Death by Mary Feliz

Author Name: Mary Feliz

Book Title: Scheduled to Death

Book Genre: Cozy Mystery

Release Date: January 17, 2017

Synopsis: Professional organizer Maggie McDonald has a knack for cleaning up other people’s messes. So when the fiancée of her latest client turns up dead, it’s up to her to sort through the untidy list of suspects and identify the real killer. To do so, she’ll have to outmaneuver the suspicious, obnoxious police investigator she’s nicknamed “Detective Awful” before a shadowy figure can check off the first item on their personal to-do list—Kill Maggie McDonald.

Excerpt: Linc shifted from one foot to another, took off his glasses, and cleaned them with his shirttail. He looked around the room, blinking as if surprised to find he was no longer in his Stanford University lab. I flicked the light switch but the room remained dim. Last week I’d brought over a supply of bulbs to replace several that I’d found burnt out. I must have missed this one.

“Did you lose power in the storm?” I asked Linc.

He answered with a shrug. “I’m not sure. Maybe? I was at my lab working on my project.”

“Let’s get started upstairs,” I said. “I want to show Tess how much progress you’ve made.”

Linc turned toward the staircase that divided the kitchen and living room. I started up the steps behind him then stopped and called over my shoulder. “Tess, I’m going to show you Linc’s workroom first. He’s been working in there while I’ve been tackling the other rooms.” Linc hadn’t, actually, made all that much progress, but he had agreed on broad-based guidelines for culling the equipment and organizing some of his papers.

Newton nudged past us to lead the way up the stairs. When I reached the hall landing, it was dark. Right, I thought. The storm. No electricity.

Newton growled, low in his throat, then whimpered. Linc moved down the hall toward his office and workroom. In the doorway, he gasped and froze. His mouth dropped open. His eyes grew wide. He stepped back but leaned forward with his arm outstretched.

“Whatever it is, we can fix it,” I said, rushing toward him, terrified I’d tossed out something of great value. “Everything we moved out of here is still in the garage.”

Peering over Linc’s shaking shoulders, I bit my lip, swallowed hard, and grasped his arm as he tried to move forward into the room. We couldn’t fix it. Not this.

About the author: Mary Feliz writes the Maggie McDonald Mysteries featuring a Silicon Valley professional organizer and her sidekick golden retriever. She’s worked for Fortune 500 firms and mom and pop enterprises, competed in whale boat races and done synchronized swimming. She attends organizing conferences in her character’s stead, but Maggie’s skills leave her in the dust. Visit Mary on Facebook at Mary Feliz Books or on her website at: maryfeliz.com

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One Writer’s Journey: Creating a Fiction Town

Main Street, Newmarket, Ontario

When I started writing Skeletons in the Attic, I wanted to create a fictional town that readers could believe in. I also wanted my protagonist, Calamity (Callie) Barnstable, to be a fish out of water. I decided to make Callie a single woman born and raised in the city—Toronto, Canada, in her case—who’s forced to move to the town of Marketville.

Callie describes Marketville as “a commuter community about an hour north of Toronto, the sort of town where families with two kids, a collie, and a cat moved to looking for a bigger house, a better school, and soccer fields. It didn’t sound much like her…” and while she’s not keen to move there, she doesn’t have a lot of choice.

As a former city girl, also born and raised in Toronto, I can remember feeling much the same way about the town of Newmarket, which is also a commuter community about an hour north of Toronto. Nevertheless, my husband, Mike, and I bought our first house there in the late 1980s (houses in Toronto being outside of our financial means). Newmarket and the surrounding area have seen considerable development since then, but I can still remember my mom saying, “They have houses that far north?”

The plaque dedicated to Samuel Lount, located outside the Holland Landing Community Centre. Lount’s Landing is a much fictionalized version of Holland Landing.

Mike and I moved again in 1990 to the neighboring—and even smaller—community of Holland Landing, which served as partial inspiration for Lount’s Landing in my novel, The Hanged Man’s Noose. Lount’s Landing’s Main Street, however, was inspired by Newmarket’s Main Street. That’s the great thing about being a writer and fictionalizing a setting. You can pull your favorite things from one place and put it in another! In the case of Marketville and Lount’s Landing, I’ve also taken the liberty of making them much more “small town” than they actually are.

*This entry is an abbreviated version of my Jan. 14th post on the Mystery Thriller Week website and serves as an introduction to a terrific initiative for authors and readers. For more information, visit About Mystery Thriller Week. The countdown is on!

New Release Mondays: Adrift by Micki Browning

Author Name: Micki Browning

Book Title: Adrift

Book Genre: Mystery & Suspense

Release Date: January 10, 2017

Synopsis: Marine scientist Meredith Cavallo thought adjusting to a laid-back life in the Florida Keys would be a breeze after life in the Arctic, but when a ghost-hunting documentary leader vanishes during a midnight dive, she’s caught in a storm of supernatural intrigue.

Determined to debunk paranormal explanations and salvage her reputation, Mer launches her own investigation. When someone tries to kill her, she knows the truth is about to surface. Maybe dead men do tell tales.

Excerpt: Mer fought to keep the unconscious diver on the surface, and they bobbed in the water just beyond the back of the LunaSea. She’d get only one chance to get him on the boat without injury.

She imagined carrying him like a sleepy child, his arms draped over her shoulders. Only she had to grab the ladder, find her footing and wedge her leg between his, or the force of the rocking boat would slam them back into the ocean.

“Here it comes, Cavallo,” Leroy, the captain, said. “Get ready.”

Mer inhaled and felt the power of the water swell beneath her. As the wave ebbed, she swam toward the boat, planted her foot, and drew her arms in to pin the diver against the ladder. Another wave hit, raising the LunaSea’s stern into the air. Gravity pulled at Mer, doing its best to drag her back into the sea. She gripped the ladder. Her biceps strained until Leroy seized the diver under the armpits and hauled him onto the deck like a gaffed fish.

Before Mer could readjust, the swim step plummeted and hit the water with a teeth-jarring thud. She held tight as the boat righted itself, and then clambered up the ladder.

Emergency equipment littered the deck like flotsam. Mer dropped her gear on the bench.

Leroy leaned over the now conscious diver. His tense face made Mer’s pulse race.

The diver clawed at the oxygen mask on his face. “Tell her!”

Mer brushed the man’s hand aside and resettled the mask. “Tell me what?” she asked her captain.

“He says he was diving the Spiegel Grove shipwreck.”

“Impossible,” she said. “We’re five miles away, and the current’s going in the wrong direction.”

“That he was diving the Spiegel and there was a—” Leroy struggled to find the right word. “Presence.”

“A presence? You mean like a ghost? Please.” She pursed her lips.

He shook his head. “I know. Except just after you went in the Sea Dragon radioed they’re missing a diver off the Spiegel.” He nodded toward the diver. “This one.”

About the author: Award-winning author Micki Browning worked in municipal law enforcement for over two decades and is an FBI National Academy graduate. She retired as a division commander – wonderful fodder for her current career as a full-time writer.

Her mystery, Adrift, set in the Florida Keys, won the 2015 Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence and the Royal Palm Literary Award for best unpublished mystery and unpublished book of the year.

Micki resides in Southern Florida with her partner in crime and a vast array of scuba equipment. She’s currently working on Beached, the second Mer Cavallo Mystery. Learn more at www.MickiBrowning.com.

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Before They Were Authors: Dawn Barclay

I was introduced to Dawn Barclay through  Mystery Thriller Week, an initiative to support authors by promoting their books.

Dawn’s debut novel, written under the pseudonym of D.M. Barr, is Expired Listings. Before we find out what Dawn did before becoming an author, here’s a bit about her book:

Someone is ‘deactivating’ the Realtors in Rock Canyon and almost no one seems to care. Not the surviving brokers, who consider the serial killings a competitive boon. Not the town’s residents, who see the murders as a public service. In fact, the only person who’s even somewhat alarmed is Dana Black, a kinky, sharp-witted yet emotionally skittish Realtor who has no alibi for the crimes because during each, she was using her empty listings for games like Bondage Bingo with her sadistic lover, Dare. And yet, mysteriously, all clues are pointing her way.

Judy: What was the best job (besides being a writer) that you ever had, and how has it influenced your writing?

Dawn: All of my previous jobs involved communications and sales & marketing which is probably why I enjoy promoting my book as much as writing it. I loved working as a reporter and editor at Travel Agent Magazine because I was around erudite people, but since that involved writing, I’ll skip that. I loved working in Sales, Marketing and Public Relations for Barclay International Group (short-term apartments and villas around the world) because I grew the company from nothing to a major player during its time, and I also got to host press trips with amazing people who went on to write articles about the company in Vogue, Good Housekeeping, Diversion, etc.

Judy: What was the funniest thing that ever happened to you at work?

Dawn: The one time I let down my hair on a press trip (I was working as a travel writer), I stayed out late and drank and had a great time. When the reporter from a major NY paper filed *his* story, I discovered he had alluded to my entire night of semi-debauchery for all the world to read.

Judy: What made you decide to become a writer?

Dawn: I LOVE being read. It’s probably why I spent years writing for magazines at minimum wage. I remember back in the fifth grade, I had read Harriet the Spy (one of my favorite books!) and everyone was writing slam books where we wrote down what we really felt about other people. Someone stole mine and I grabbed it back and ripped it up…and then helped them piece it back together so they could read what I had written!

Judy: Tell us a bit about yourself and where we can find out more about you.

Dawn: My background includes stints in corporate communications, marketing, travel journalism, meeting planning, public relations and real estate. I was, for a long and happy time, an award-winning magazine writer and editor. Then kids happened. Now they’re off doing whatever it is they do (who knows, they won’t friend me on Facebook) and I can spend my spare time weaving tales of debauchery and whatever else tickles my fancy. My first novel, Expired Listings, can be found at http://www.expiredlistingsnovel.com.

New Release Mondays: A Fatal Twist by Tracy Weber

Author Name: Tracy Weber

Book Title: A Fatal Twist

Book Genre: Cozy Mystery

Release Date: January 8, 2017

Synopsis: Yoga instructor Kate Davidson’s life takes a chaotic turn when she agrees to be the doula for her pregnant best friend and foster two puppies. The chaos worsens when Kate finds the dead body of a philandering fertility doctor and Rachel, one of her yoga students, fleeing the scene. Kate is convinced her student is innocent, and she sets out to find the real killer before her testimony condemns Rachel to a life behind bars.

Excerpt: I peeked down the hall, toward the sound. Four doors away, a fiftyish man in a white doctor’s coat leaned over a woman wearing a black cocktail dress and red stilettos. The female, a mid-thirties Hispanic woman with heavily lined, deep cocoa eyes, gave him a sultry pout.

“If not here, where? I’ve been waiting in that hotel room for hours.” She nuzzled his neck. Her right hand lay flat against his chest. Her left explored significantly further south.

The man’s voice turned low and throaty. “You’re killing me.” He reluctantly pushed her away, exposing designer glasses, a handsome face, and perfectly tousled, George Clooney-like hair. “I told you I’d call as soon as I could leave, and I will. But we can’t be seen like this. Not here. Especially not now.”

She ran a burgundy fingernail down the center of his sternum. “So what if someone sees us? I’m tired of sneaking around. It’s time for you to get a divorce. Past time.”

The man flashed a conciliatory smile. “Patience, Mariella. Patience. I told you. As soon as the lawsuit is settled, I’ll leave her.”

She grabbed his lapels and pulled him closer. “In case you haven’t noticed, patience isn’t my strong suit.”

This time, he didn’t resist her. Their show zoomed right past PG on the fast track to R.

And they were blocking my way back to Rhonda’s birthing suite.

Fabulous.

What was I supposed to do now? I considered tiptoeing past the two lovers, hoping they wouldn’t notice me. I considered announcing myself loudly, in hopes that they’d scurry away. I even considered spraying them both with the nearest fire extinguisher, in an attempt to cool them down before the building ignited.

Their show was that hot.

About the author: Tracy Weber is the author of the award-winning Downward Dog Mysteries series. The first book in the series, Murder Strikes a Pose, won the Maxwell Award for Fiction and was nominated for the Agatha award for Best First Novel. She loves sharing her passion for yoga and animals in any way possible. Tracy and her husband Marc live in Seattle with their crazy German shepherd pup, Ana. When she’s not writing, Tracy spends her time teaching yoga, trying to corral Ana, and sipping Blackthorn cider at her favorite ale house.

For more information on Tracy, visit her author website

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New Year’s Resolutions

I’m not a huge believe in New Year’s Resolutions, mostly because I think if you want to do something, you should do it or plan to do it NOW and not on January 1st. That said, I do set annual goals, b0th personally and professionally, which I suppose is pretty much the same thing. Here, in no particular order, are some of my professional goals:

2017 Goodreads Reading Challenge: I’ve committed to read 48 books, or 4 per month. It’s ambitious, but not unrealistic, and Goodreads keeps track of my progress. You might wonder why this is a professional goal, but reading really is the best teacher.

Short Stories: In 2016, I completed two short stories and started a few others. The completed stories were accepted in a blind judged competition through Sisters in Crime Toronto, and are included in a fine collection titled The Whole She-Bang 3. This year, I’m planning to write and complete four short stories. You might think writing short stories is easy, and I suppose for some people they are, but I find them incredibly challenging to write. Doubling my previous year’s output is ambitious for me.

Sequels: I’m hard at work on the sequels to The Hanged Man’s Noose and Skeletons in the Attic. It’s a challenge, working on two series at the same time, especially since the Glass Dolphin mysteries are written in third person, alternate POVs, and the Marketville mysteries are written in first person. But what a wonderful problem to have.

Conferences: Malice Domestic in Bethesda, Md. (Washington, DC) at the end of April and Bouchercon in Toronto in October. The Canadian dollar is really weak right now (about .75 US) so Malice was a real debate for me, but something inside me said “you must go.” As for Bouchercon, I’m on the volunteer committee, which is a wonderful experience in itself. My current task is gatekeeper/coordinator for the Passport to Murder anthology.

School: I’m a graduate of Gotham Writing School’s Fiction Writing Program. This year, I’m planning to take their introductory course in writing scripts. This is a bit of a dabble approach to see which, if any of the disciplines, is something I’d like to try more seriously. I haven’t decided WHEN this year, but it’s on the docket.

Audiobooks: Skeletons in the Attic will be release in audiobook format in 2017, date TBD. I’m hoping to get a contract for The Hanged Man’s Noose with the same publisher. Cross your fingers and toes! 

Novella: I have an idea percolating for a novella comedic mystery series. Not sure how far I’ll get with this, but I’m jotting down notes now.

Support Other Authors: One of the best things about being an author is that it gives me a voice to support other authors. I already have New Release Mondays assigned out through March, as well as several author interviews on alternate Fridays. I hope you enjoy these, and that you find new great reads as a result. Authors supporting authors. It doesn’t get better than that.

Newsletters: I don’t have a schedule for these, but I do send out three or four a year, if I have news to report. If you haven’t signed up, you can do so here. Note: if you have signed up to receive my blog by email, that doesn’t mean you have signed up for my newsletter. Anti-spam legislation requires separate sign ups.  I NEVER sell/give out  your email address.

Will I achieve every goal? Maybe, maybe not, but I do know that without goal setting, I would have never taken that first creative writing class, written that first short story, or taken a leap of faith and left my corporate day job to become a successful freelance writer and editor, and eventually, an Amazon International bestselling author. The sky, as someone once said, is the limit. Believe you can and you’re halfway there.

Happy New Year!

Judy