Covers

All of my cov­ers have been designed by one of my daugh­ters while she was gross­ly under­em­ployed. For­tu­nate­ly for her, that is no longer the case. Unfor­tu­nate­ly for me, I have to rethink cov­ers. I want to go GREAT. I want to go PROFESSIONAL. I want to go with a cov­er that says, “BUY ME!” So, of course, I’ve asked a pro whose cov­ers are strik­ing and ver­setile to design the cov­er of my upcom­ing mys­tery.

In the mean­time, I’ve been writ­ing  a cou­ple of short sto­ries that I intend to offer for free—to fur­ther encour­age read­ers to buy my new mys­tery. So I’ve been did­dling with canva.com. I have used it to make a small design to put on Twit­ter, pro­mot­ing one of my books. (Don’t know if it actu­al­ly works, but…it looks good.) I’ve tried a lot of dif­fer­ent designs using a vari­ety of free and per­son­al pho­tos. This is what I’ve come up with so far.

HIDDEN BODY cover B

Deserter cover 2Tell me, what do you think? Good enough? Or not.

Five Stars for Buried In A Bog

9-14 Buried in a Bog coverI’m going back in my Goodreads file of five star reads. If I look at one I read two years ago and I can remem­ber the sto­ry with renewed plea­sure, I know it deserved every one of those five stars. That’s this one, Buried In A Bog, by Sheila Con­nol­ly.

My review:  This is the first of Sheila Connolly’s third mys­tery series, and my favorite. Buried in a Bog is far more than a mystery–it’s the sto­ry of a young woman from Boston deal­ing with loss and find­ing her way for­ward, as well as a sto­ry of a small vil­lage in Ire­land. It was grandmother’s last wish that she vis­it. It’s a sto­ry of rela­tion­ships, gen­er­a­tions, and above all, real—actually fic­tion­al, but for sure real peo­ple. It’s a mys­tery too, deal­ing with mur­der. This book sat­is­fies on every lev­el.

Anoth­er review­er said, “Awe­some book! The set­ting was cozy and real and made me want to head off to Ire­land for a spell. Can’t wait for the next one!”

Since then, Sheila Con­nol­ly has writ­ten the next one, and oth­ers as well. I espe­cial­ly like the first of her fourth series as well. (It’s a bit woo woo.) But why don’t you check out all of her series on her Ama­zon author page? You’ll be glad you did.

Five Stars for Murder on Lexington Avenue

8-31 Victoria Thompson coverMur­der on Lex­ing­ton Avenue is the 12th in Vic­to­ria Thompson’s Gaslight Mys­tery series. I’ve read sev­er­al, but this one is a favorite of mine. My review: Sarah Brandt, New York mid­wife in the ear­ly 1900s, keeps get­ting involved in mur­der while deliv­er­ing babies. It isn’t any­thing about souls pass­ing in and out, it’s just that the same peo­ple are involved. While one woman is hav­ing a baby, some­one she knows, be it her fam­i­ly or her neigh­bors, is mixed up in mur­der, often as the vic­tim. Sarah is handy and will­ing to help out an Irish cop, Detec­tive Sergeant Frank Mal­loy. In this case, the teenage daugh­ter of the vic­tim is involved with con­flict­ing schools of train­ing the deaf. Her father is a gen­er­al­ly dis­liked busi­ness own­er. But, who killed him? Seem­ing­ly he was alone at his place of busi­ness. His busi­ness part­ner, and sev­er­al oth­ers may have vis­it­ed. Or, none of them saw him, if one is to believe the tes­ti­mo­ny. And, even if Frank Mal­loy finds the killer, 1903 in New York often meant Frank, although he was the police, would find it dif­fi­cult to accuse any­one who had the mon­ey to make sure he didn’t keep his job. Then anoth­er mur­der com­pli­cates the pos­si­bil­i­ties.

The ambiance is authen­tic, the plot is devi­ous, the char­ac­ters are a mix from delight­ful to dev­il­ish. Best of all, the out­come is com­plete­ly unex­pect­ed, but, oh so absolute­ly right! High­ly rec­om­mend­ed to mys­tery and his­to­ry read­ers.

Vic­to­ria Thomp­son has been nom­i­nat­ed for an Agatha for his­toric mys­tery. There are now 17 books in the series. Her Ama­zon author page is here. (I believe the mid­wife and the police detec­tive sergeant are plan­ning to wed in the lat­est. Must read that too!)

Five Stars for Land Of Mountains

This is the first time my five-star review has revis­it­ed any author. You see, I like to toot the horn for as many authors as pos­si­ble, often talk­ing about the first in a series. But this book is a stand-alone, and in an entire­ly dif­fer­ent cat­e­go­ry. For a dif­fer­ent age, as well. Mid­dle-grade to young adult ver­sus adult mys­tery.

First Cover

First Cov­er

Okay, enough with  the blath­er. Land of Moun­tains by Jinx Schwartz is the view­point sto­ry of ten-year-old Lizbuthann, Tex­an, who moves to Haiti with her fam­i­ly dur­ing the 1950s. If Adven­tures of Huck­le­ber­ry Finn is a must for every boy (and girl) to read, equal­ly, Land of Moun­tains is a must for every girl (and boy) to read! (Hey, I know excla­ma­tion marks should only be used once in every full-length nov­el, if ever. You’ll under­stand if you read this book.)

New Cover

New Cov­er

Here’s the Ama­zon blurb: “A ten-year-old’s new home on an exot­ic Caribbean island proves so fas­ci­nat­ing she quick­ly for­gets she didn’t want to leave Texas. After all, where bet­ter than a jun­gle world teem­ing with voodoo, mys­tery, and a real­ly pesky zom­bie, to indulge her favorite pas­time: snoop­ing.

In this humor­ous mys­tery, award-win­ning author Jinx Schwartz trans­ports the read­er to anoth­er time and place where rivers, and lit­tle girls, ran wild and free.”

One review­er says: LAND OF MOUNTAINS by Jinx Schwartz is a Young Adult book for read­ers from 8 to 108. The book is a final­ist for a 2012 Eppie award.

LAND OF MOUNTAINS is a fun read, with seri­ous over­tones and under­pin­nings. WECLOM to Haiti, a coun­try verg­ing on rev­o­lu­tion when Eliz­a­beth Ann or Ann, as her father calls her, and her fam­i­ly of Texas South­ern Bap­tists arrive in 1954. Haiti, they soon learn, is a child’s par­adise and an adult’s night­mare.”

I first dis­cov­ered this book in time to give it to my third grand­daugh­ter when she was twelve. She thanked me pro­fuse­ly. (Note — kids haven’t writ­ten any reviews.) That one had the first cov­er. Last Decem­ber I gave the same book (new cov­er) to my fourth grand­daugh­ter, age eleven. Her fif­teen-year-old broth­er took one look at that new cov­er and said, “I am so going to read that. (Have I made up for the lack of youth reviews?)

Land of Moun­tains is sold as an ebook and paper­back (with either cov­er) at Ama­zon link.

Five Stars for Death By A Dark Horse

8-17 Death by a Dark HorseWhen Thea’s miss­ing horse, Black­ie, is found in the pas­ture with a dead woman, the first thought was that crushed head was caused by Black­ie. Thea knows that’s not true, but how did Valerie die?

Was it mur­der? Who did it? And why? Soon Thea is ask­ing all those ques­tions, but so are the police, and they have more clout.

Death by a Dark Horse is the first in Susan Schreyer’s Thea Camp­bell series. Black­ie is a promi­nent char­ac­ter in each one. (For a horse lover, how can that be bad?) And, since Thea has a habit of find­ing dan­ger, and her horse seems to real­ize that—how can that be bad for a mys­tery lover?

Let me share some oth­er reviews from Goodreads. “The clev­er­ly titled Death By A Dark Horse has all the trap­pings of an engag­ing mur­der mys­tery: high stakes, an inde­pen­dent hero­ine, intim­i­dat­ing goons and a clever vil­lain. All of this is set upon a back­drop of horse-rid­ing and dres­sage, so right off the bat I can eas­i­ly rec­om­mend this sto­ry to horse lovers.”

Anoth­er one: “This mys­tery has enough twists, turns, and inter­est­ing char­ac­ters to keep me reach­ing for my Kin­dle every free moment.

I enjoyed learn­ing inter­est­ing tid­bits about hors­es and their care while try­ing to fig­ure out “who­dunit” and why. The protagonist’s char­ac­ter­is­tics make her some­one I will fol­low into the next book of the series: Lev­els Of Decep­tion.”

I, too, found this mys­tery a cap­ti­vat­ing read. Rec­om­mend­ed for horse lovers, mys­tery lovers, heck, let’s just say for all read­ers and be done with it! And, I just dis­cov­ered, right now it’s a free ebook at Ama­zon.

Discovering Character-And Other Things

I should know Jo, my main char­ac­ter by now—I’ve just com­plet­ed final edits of the sec­ond mys­tery, plus a short sto­ry pre­quel. But she con­tin­ues to sur­prise me. I’ve been resist­ing.

Why? Hey, she and I start­ed out the same age with the same child­hood mem­o­ries, but our per­son­al­i­ties and life expe­ri­ences are dif­fer­ent. Over the years that I wrote and rewrote that first mys­tery, I aged, while Jo kept get­ting younger. By the time a small press said, “Is your man­u­script still avail­able? We want it,” I was near­ly eighty and she was some­where in her late six­ties (nev­er specif­i­cal­ly stat­ed).

As I start­ed the sequel, I thought, 61. Yeah, sounds about right. But, as I wrote, I decid­ed, maybe late 50s. That’s old enough to have the his­to­ry I’d sup­plied. Some of those mem­o­ries could be from Grand­ma, or a par­ent. Or, she’s into old stuff. Then I added a TV ref­er­ence I remem­ber watch­ing with my kids. My kids are most­ly in their 50s. So I wrote away, decid­ing she was that age. But, I still  had those ‘old’ ref­er­ences. Jo described her­self as old in a vari­ety of ways. I do not think of my 50s daugh­ters as old. They do not look old. Perhaps—I just didn’t think.

Until, I saw an arti­cle about Valerie Bertinel­li with her cook­book.8-13 Bertinelli cover She’s 55. Yoiks! How can that be? I remem­ber her on TV as a teenag­er. I’m real­iz­ing that fifty is def­i­nite­ly the new thir­ty. Final­ly, I have an image of my fifty-some­thing Jo—maybe not a beau­ty, def­i­nite­ly not a Valerie twin, but cer­tain­ly not a hag. And a whole new image of my mar­ket. And the pos­si­ble cov­er. And pos­si­bly a redo of the first cov­er. And, def­i­nite­ly, a redo of Jo’s atti­tude. She’s been much too laid back about the guy who’d like to know her much bet­ter. I mean, let’s have a lit­tle chem­istry there.

And maybe I’ll try Valerie’s recipes. (I do love to cook!)

 

 

Five Stars for Red Notice

8-10 Red Notice CoverA non-fic­tion that reads like a thriller? Yep, that’s Red Notice. Before the book begins, the term is explained: “An Inter­pol Red Notice is the clos­est instru­ment to an inter­na­tion­al arrest war­rant in use today.” Any coun­try can issue a red notice, which then goes into the elec­tron­ic sys­tem that is used to ver­i­fy trav­el­ers as they go from one coun­try to anoth­er. Almost always, unless the per­son check­ing pass­ports is not fol­low­ing pro­ce­dure, that per­son is shipped straight to the coun­try they prob­a­bly want to escape. It’s rare that Inter­pol fails to comply—which was why some Jews try­ing to escape Hitler’s Ger­many were returned. There are oth­er such instances as well.

Bill Brow­der, the author of Red Notice was speak­ing in Nor­way when Rus­sia issued the first one on him. Born in the Unit­ed States, he lived in Lon­don with his Russ­ian wife and his chil­dren. But, by then he was no longer run­ning Her­mitage Cap­i­tal Man­age­ment, the largest for­eign investor in Rus­sia. By then, some crooked cops and oth­ers had stolen his Russ­ian busi­ness he’d down­sized in favor of diver­si­fi­ca­tion. He sur­vived many legal busi­ness deals that were unpop­u­lar with Putin. He thought, since he was not Russ­ian, that he was safe. How­ev­er, he was only safe while his activ­i­ties were in Putin’s best inter­est.

I could go on, tell you more of this engross­ing, true sto­ry, but I don’t want to ruin it for any read­er. It’s great as a sto­ry. It’s even bet­ter as a warn­ing. One of the author’s Russ­ian lawyers was tor­tured to death because he refused to lie and accuse Brow­der of trumped up charges. Two of Browder’s lawyers were old­er. They remem­bered the Russ­ian mind­set and bare­ly man­aged to escape. The younger lawyer knew he’d done noth­ing wrong. He knew Rus­sia had no legal rea­son to arrest him. But, of course, to Putin, legal had absolute­ly noth­ing to do with it.

Do read this chill­ing tale. Then watch the news. You won’t get most of it—the media is too involved in var­i­ous flashy sto­ries. How­ev­er, recent­ly I read in The Week Mag­a­zine some­thing I saw nowhere else. One night a month or so ago, Rus­sia moved all the bound­ary signs a mile into Geor­gia ter­ri­to­ry. The home­own­ers now in Rus­sia were upset. A pipeline was now in Rus­sia. Noth­ing was, or could be done.

 

Lois Winston-Guest with A Stitch To Die For

7-27 a_stitch_to_die_forI’m hap­py to intro­duce my guest, Lois Win­ston. Her new book is A Stitch To Die For. (I absolute­ly love the cover—and the excerpt.) She answered a few of my ques­tions.

I know you write in more than one cat­e­go­ry. Do you have a pref­er­ence of one over the oth­ers?

I start­ed out writ­ing roman­tic sus­pense, but I real­ly found my voice when I switched over to writ­ing humor­ous first-per­son novels—initially in chick lit, then in ama­teur sleuth mys­ter­ies. I’m not a fun­ny per­son by nature. I either for­get or mess up the punch line of any joke I’ve ever tried to tell, but I dis­cov­ered I have a tal­ent for writ­ing fun­ny. Of course, humor is very sub­jec­tive, so not every­one “gets” my sense of humor, but that’s true of most things in life, isn’t it? Some peo­ple “get” you; oth­ers don’t.

What inspired you to begin your writ­ing career?

As cliché as it sounds, it was a dream. I usu­al­ly don’t remem­ber my dreams, but one night I expe­ri­enced a very vivid one that stayed with me. Every night for over a week the dream con­tin­ued, unfold­ing like the chap­ters of a book. I final­ly decid­ed I need­ed to write down the sto­ry, most­ly to get it out of my sys­tem. When I had fin­ished, I real­ized I want­ed to keep writ­ing. By the way, that ini­tial sto­ry, after years of revi­sions, became Love, Lies and a Dou­ble Shot of Decep­tion, the sec­ond book I sold.

Char­ac­ters and plots—are any of yours based on real peo­ple or real sit­u­a­tions? Does real­i­ty ever spark a cre­ative leap?

Most of my plots are born from actu­al events I’ve read about in the news­pa­per or watched on the news. I’m a total news junkie. A Stitch to Die For, my lat­est Anas­ta­sia Pol­lack Craft­ing Mys­tery, incor­po­rates sev­er­al news sto­ries that have appeared over the past year—swatting inci­dents that are occur­ring across the coun­try and a cou­ple of court cas­es where chil­dren died from salt poi­son­ing.

In addi­tion, some of my char­ac­ters have been based on peo­ple I’ve known. Lucille, Anastasia’s com­mu­nist moth­er-in-law, is based on my own com­mu­nist moth­er-in-law. The woman put me through years of hell. I’m now get­ting even. Lucille has become the char­ac­ter read­ers love to hate.

Now let’s talk about your new book, A Stitch To Die For. I love the cov­er for your new Anas­ta­sia Pol­lack mys­tery. Will you reveal a bit of a teas­er? Or more?

Thanks! I’m real­ly thrilled with the cov­er, too!

The adven­tures of reluc­tant ama­teur sleuth Anas­ta­sia Pol­lack con­tin­ue in A Stitch to Die For, the 5th book in the Anas­ta­sia Pol­lack Craft­ing Mys­tery series.

Ever since her hus­band died and left her in debt equal to the gross nation­al prod­uct of Uzbek­istan, mag­a­zine crafts edi­tor and reluc­tant ama­teur sleuth Anas­ta­sia Pol­lack has stum­bled across one dead body after another—but always in work-relat­ed set­tings. When a killer tar­gets the elder­ly nasty neigh­bor who lives across the street from her, mur­der strikes too close to home. Cou­ple that with a series of unset­tling events days before Hal­loween, and Anas­ta­sia begins to won­der if some­one is send­ing her a dead­ly mes­sage.

Excerpt:

Two weeks ago my moth­er, Flo­ra Sud­ber­ry Peri­win­kle Ramirez Scoffield Gold­berg O’Keefe, took her sixth trip down the aisle to become Flo­ra Sud­ber­ry Peri­win­kle Ramirez Scoffield Gold­berg O’Keefe Tut­tnauer. The groom’s daugh­ter was a no-show. At the time of the cer­e­mo­ny her body was being fished out of the Delaware and Rar­i­tan Canal in Lam­bertville, New Jer­sey.

Ira Pol­lack, my step­broth­er-in-law and the groom’s son-in-law, had just fin­ished a toast to Mama and Lawrence Tut­tnauer when two men in dark suits entered the back­yard cater­ing tent and head­ed straight toward him. Giv­en all my deal­ings with the police over the last few months, I eas­i­ly made them for detec­tives, a sus­pi­cion con­firmed when I spot­ted them flash­ing their badges. Ira nod­ded and fol­lowed them out of the tent.

I fol­lowed Ira.

He and the two men made their way to the patio at the back of his house. I stopped at the entrance to the tent. The men stood with their backs to me, Ira fac­ing me. From my van­tage point I couldn’t hear their words over the con­ver­sa­tions and music going on behind me, but I saw the col­or drain from Ira’s face. He shook his head vio­lent­ly and yelled, “No!” loud enough for me to hear.

I raced across the lawn as fast as I could in three-inch heels. Once at the patio, I placed my hand on Ira’s arm. In a voice that trem­bled as much as his body, he said, “Cyn­thia. They found her float­ing in the canal.”

I gasped, then led Ira over to one of the patio lounge chairs. He col­lapsed onto the cush­ion and buried his head in his hands as he choked out huge sobs.

I turned to the detec­tives, wait­ing for more of an expla­na­tion, but both ignored Ira’s grief to fix­ate on the par­ty across the lawn. “What’s going on here?” one of them asked.

A wed­ding,” I said.

Whose?”

Ira’s father-in-law mar­ried my moth­er.”

Both detec­tives knit their brows togeth­er and glared at Ira. “Your wife doesn’t show for her father’s wed­ding, and you’re not wor­ried?” asked the old­er and taller of the two men.

Ira tried speak­ing between sobs. His mouth opened and closed sev­er­al times, but no words came out. I answered for him. “Cyn­thia didn’t approve of her father mar­ry­ing my moth­er.”

And you are?” asked the sec­ond detec­tive, whip­ping out a notepad and pen­cil.

Anas­ta­sia Pol­lack. I’m also Ira’s step­sis­ter-in-law.”

Both detec­tives repeat­ed the twin eye­brow knit, but nei­ther said any­thing. Also, up to this point I had no idea how Cyn­thia had died, so I asked, “What hap­pened to Cyn­thia?”

The med­ical exam­in­er will have to deter­mine cause of death,” said the old­er detec­tive. “We’re wait­ing on an autop­sy.”

Do you sus­pect foul play?”

Why would you sug­gest that?” he asked.

I shrugged. “I can’t imag­ine how Cyn­thia would land in the canal on her own. She isn’t…wasn’t the canal-strolling type.” Dirt and extreme­ly expen­sive design­er duds don’t mix.

What type was she?” asked the younger detec­tive.

Cyn­thia the Tro­phy Wife was more the spend-all-day-spending-Ira’s-money type. I thought for a moment, not want­i­ng to say any­thing that might be mis­con­strued. If Cyn­thia hadn’t died of nat­ur­al caus­es, Ira would wind up at the top of the sus­pect list. “I only met her once,” I said, “but I’d describe her as some­one more inter­est­ed in indoor activ­i­ties than com­muning with nature.”

The spouse is always the prime sus­pect, but Ira was no killer. The man didn’t even have the back­bone to dis­ci­pline his brat­ty kids. If Cyn­thia had met with foul play, my mon­ey was on the pool boy she’d run off with weeks ear­li­er. “Ira, you have to tell the detec­tives what hap­pened with Cyn­thia.”

Buy Links  Paper­back     Kin­dle     Nook     iTunes     Kobo     Google Play

(Oth­er books in the series include Assault With a Dead­ly Glue Gun, Death by Killer Mop Doll, Revenge of the Crafty Corpse, Decoupage Can Be Dead­ly, and three mini-mys­ter­ies: Crewel Inten­tions, Mosa­ic May­hem, and Patch­work Per­il.)

7-27 lois-winstonBio: USA Today best­selling and award-win­ning author Lois Win­ston writes mys­tery, romance, roman­tic sus­pense, chick lit, women’s fic­tion, children’s chap­ter books, and non-fic­tion under her own name and her Emma Car­lyle pen name. Kirkus Reviews dubbed her crit­i­cal­ly acclaimed Anas­ta­sia Pol­lack Craft­ing Mys­tery series, “North Jersey’s more mature answer to Stephanie Plum.” In addi­tion, Lois is an award-win­ning craft and needle­work design­er who often draws much of her source mate­r­i­al for both her char­ac­ters and plots from her expe­ri­ences in the crafts indus­try. Vis­it Lois/Emma at her web­site and Anas­ta­sia at the Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers blog. Fol­low every­one on Tsu, on Pin­ter­est, and on Twit­ter @anasleuth. Sign up for her newslet­ter here.

Five Stars for A Hostage To Heritage

7-20 Adair coverI can’t believe I haven’t already pro­filed this book on my Mon­day book blog. It’s one of my very favorites—not only mys­tery, but his­to­ry as well! My com­ments from Ama­zon and Goodreads fol­low.

Suzanne Adair has pre­sent­ed the read­ing pub­lic with anoth­er excel­lent his­toric mys­tery adven­ture. This book is Michael Stoddard’s sto­ry. He’s a British offi­cer in Amer­i­ca at the time of our Rev­o­lu­tion. The ear­li­er books in this series tell the sto­ries of Amer­i­cans dur­ing that time, and a few of the char­ac­ters appear in all of the books. They, and this one as well, show the con­flict­ing loy­al­ties of peo­ple in our past, includ­ing the Eng­lish Michael. Besides that, there’s the main sto­ry of a miss­ing young boy and how Michael and his sec­ond in com­mand worked toward find­ing the boy while also fol­low­ing their com­mand­ing officer’s orders. I won’t say more, don’t want to ruin the sto­ry for any­one.

High­ly rec­om­mend­ed to lovers of his­to­ry, and mys­tery. This book sat­is­fies on every lev­el! It’s a mys­tery with great char­ac­ters, sol­id his­to­ry, sus­pense, and emo­tion. It’s his­tor­i­cal fic­tion with reveal­ing atti­tudes and war-time dan­ger. It’s a char­ac­ter study with “real” fic­tion­al peo­ple who had a past and will have a future. It’s roman­tic sus­pense with antic­i­pa­tion. And final­ly, it’s emo­tion trans­ferred from words on paper (or, in my case, on Kin­dle) to the read­er.

I’ll send you to Suzanne’s Ama­zon page where all her books are list­ed (mys­ter­ies of our Rev­o­lu­tion in the South­ern states) and Suzanne’s web­site and blog. Her blog hosts guest authors with a wide vari­ety of books, often includ­ing give­aways. (Always inter­est­ing.)