Five Stars for MAIDS OF MISFORTUNE

My five-star pick this week combines two of my loves—mystery and historic fiction. Maids of Misfortune takes place in 1879 San Francisco. A young widow supports herself as boarding house owner Annie Fuller, and, in disguise, as psychic Sibyl who gives personal and financial advice to clients. As a woman, she knows that no one would ever accept such advice from her, but they will accept it as coming from the stars. When one of her clients dies, supposedly by suicide, she knows his finances weren’t in the shambles the police claim. When the police realize it was murder, they look to his family. Annie poses as a serving girl for the family to find the truth.

The author, M. Louisa Locke, seamlessly puts the reader squarely in that time and place. While we are engrossed in the plot we notice the work involved to keep up a house, the attitudes of everyone toward a Chinese cook, Annie’s belated realization of what her laundry girl does, and the problems of travel and communication in an earlier age.

Maids of Misfortune is the first of a series (the ebook is now free). There are several short stories as well. The fourth full-length mystery in the series will be out this month.

Of interest to the writers among my readers, M. Louisa Locke’s blog shares her ongoing marketing plans for an independent writer. (Next week I’ll revisit the upcoming Agatha awards with another good read.)

Agatha Nominee-CIRCLE OF INFLUENCE

My five star pick today is a two-fer—five stars plus Agatha nominee for Best First Novel!

It’s winter, the snow is piling high, and Zoe Chambers, paramedic and deputy coroner in rural Pennsylvania is on the road with the emergency vehicle, trying to save lives. But someone is murdered, and in a small town where everyone knows everyone else, there are a lot of secrets and connections.

I read Circle of Influence last May with lovely warm sunshine, but author Annette Dashofy made me feel every bit of icy precipitation as I settled down to read one great mystery, with unexpected revelations on almost every page.

If you haven’t yet read Circle of Influence, snuggle into a blanket before a roaring fire and settle down to read one great not-quite-cozy mystery with an excellent plot and memorable characters. And, if you attend Malice Domestic in May, consider voting for Circle of Influence.

Five Stars for LOWCOUNTRY BOIL

I read Lowcountry Boil two years ago, shortly after it was published by Henery Press. Then I went to my first ever Malice Domestic in 2013, and voted for it to win as Best First Novel of 2012. Of course, I was sure I’d picked a lot of other winners as well, but Lowcountry Boil was the only winner I picked. Since I was sitting at one of the Henery Press tables, I got a front row seat as the other Henery Press authors helped Susan Boyer celebrate.

Susan Boyer-Agatha winner

Susan Boyer-Agatha winner

To do justice to this book, I’m rereading it now, and enjoying it just as much as I did the first time. Some things come back to me immediately. I remembered the ghost (I love ghosts). When the locket turned up, I thought, aha! Other plot points had slipped my mind. Oh, yes, now I remember, I thought as a new danger unfolded.

But this isn’t telling you about a great read. A Great Winning Read! Not only did it win the Agatha, but it won the 2012 Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery Suspense.

The lowcountry of the story is a South Carolina island along the Intracoastal Waterway (Did I pass it on one of several boating trips, I wonder?) It’s a close-knit community of friends, relatives, and often, enemies who may be both friends or relatives.

Liz returns to the island homestead after her grandmother dies. She learns it was murder. So, why would anyone kill a sweet old lady? There are conspiracies afoot, and a ghost who confers with Liz, looking to save the island from the bad guys.

Are the problems broken marriages, land grabs, long remembered slights? Or, none of the above? Although Liz runs her own private investigation agency in the city, her brother, the local police chief, does not want her help in solving one murder and trying to prevent further mayhem.

Other reviewer comments: “I can see why this debut mystery is getting a lot of buzz.”

“The paranormal aspect adds to the story rather than taking it over, striking the perfect balance.”

“A Southern Mystery to be Savored!”

I agree with all of them.

Five Stars For JUST ADD WATER

I didn’t have to dig very deeply into my favorites list to come up with 5 star A Just Add Water by Jinx Schwartyz. I understand that this author is as at-home on boats as she is in front of her computer writing about Hetta Coffey.

Hetta doesn’t have a boat as the book starts. She has women friends, an ex fiancé, and a dog named RJ. Let’s just say, boy friends come and go, and their coming isn’t always good. Could be fatal, as a matter of fact. But, oh, that does make for good reading!

The dead body doesn’t appear right away, but the action is non-stop. Hetta is after a man, any man. Perhaps buying a boat is the way to go. Then, again, perhaps not. But Hetta has a boat, and she is intends to learn how to use it. (That’s a quote, more or less, from the author’s tweets, “Hetta has a boat and she’s not afraid to use it.”)

This is my first Hetta Coffey Mystery and won’t be the last! I read Jinx Schwartyz’ Land of Mountains before giving it to a granddaughter and absolutely loved it. It is semi-autobiographical. I don’t think Just Add Water is, but it certainly could be, if the child in the earlier book grew up to get involved in murder instead of just into boats.

I’d like to quote from a few others who liked this book:

“First, I must say this book was a chuckle a minute—except for the parts not designed to elicit chuckles, of course.”

“Whether you’re a fan of mystery, chick lit, or humor, you’ll be a fan of Hetta Coffey and author Jinx Schwartz.”

“Hetta is brash and bold with a mouth that doesn’t have much of a filter.”

There are many more reviews, but that gives you an idea. Almost all of them are positive.

Just Add Water is available here.

Cloud Nine

Cloud Nine

Of course, I know a little something about boats as well. Just for kicks, I’ll add a picture of the boat my husband and I sailed for a good many years. We didn’t find any killers, but we did run into a few killer storms. And, knowing a little bit about boats myself, only made me appreciate Just Add Water even more.

Does knowledge of the subject affect your reading? I know, if an author doesn’t get something right that I do know about, that does affects my reading pleasure. It down-right destroys it.

It’s All About The Book

5 star AStarting next week, every Monday will be my FIVE STAR READS day. I’ll talk about a book I’ve recently read, or, maybe not so recently read, that’s on my favorites list.

What makes a book one of my favorites? Ummm… could be because I stayed up late at night to continue reading. Could be because I absolutely loved the main characters, or the plot, or the sentiment, or… Perhaps I don’t know exactly what it is that tips an enjoyable novel over to the superlative.

Like they say, my choice might not be your cuppa tea. Even, on another day, it might not have been my favorite. But, rest assured, I’ll tell you what shivered my timbers with each book. Likely it will be a mystery. But, not always. (I’m looking forward to listing a particular middle-grade novel.) I also like historic fiction, especially historic mysteries. A few romances resonate with me (I have favorite authors). Often, a non-fiction will catch my eye.  I like comedy in stories, but I appreciate good suspense as well.

Along with my Monday with books, I’ll post another blog entry each Thursday. The subjects will be varied. I’ll include entries on both days to follow my mystery, history, and spooks, oh my caption. But, I’ll no doubt include some that could only be considered ‘rambling.’

Come back on Thursday, and again on next Monday. Hopefully, I’ll have refined my five star reads logo. And, hopefully, I’ll find out how to reorganize my first page to include an option to follow my blog, to shorten the list of past posts, and, possibly, even include other options.

What makes a book one of your favorites?

 

A New e-book

Two years ago I published A KNUCKLEHEAD IN 1920s ALASKA, aA Knucklehead in 1920s Alaska memoir of my father’s experiences when he went to Alaska hoping to earn money for college expenses. I’ve now published it as a Kindle e-book.

Here’s the blurb: At age eighty-eight, William (Bill) Collins recorded his adventures as a young man who traveled to Alaska to earn money for college. In the 1920s he found adventure, but not much money working in the railroad yards, in mines, as a pearl diver (dishwasher), and anything else between.

During three summers and one winter, Bill survived hunger, earthquake, stomping caribou, and icicle frost. He learned about stopes, sluice boxes, powder smoke, and the Festival of the Midnight Sun. He found friends who would face a bear for him and enemies eager to knife him or smash him with a twenty-pound sledge. Bill had one lucky day and more than a few really bad days.

This is the story of one hot-headed young man determined to earn his own way. In his own words, he was a true knucklehead.

~ ~ ~

I’ve included a bonus short mystery at the end, “Yesterday’s News,” previously published by Futures Mysterious Anthology Magazine. Even better, the entire e-book is free for those who purchase, or have already purchased, the paperback from Amazon.

Now for a question: Do you know any interesting stories from your parents or grandparents that your children might be interested in?

And another question: Have you ever considered telling that story to a wider audience?

And a hint: Those were the questions I asked myself a few years ago, and with a bit of encouragement, this was my answer.

A Tropical Thanksgiving

Kait Carson lives in and writes from Florida. Her latest book, DEATH BYKait-cover BLUE WATER, was released by Henery Press on Veterans’ Day 2014.  In it, paralegal Hayden Kent discovers a man’s body at 120’ beneath the sea. She thinks she is witness to a tragic accident. Instead, she becomes the prime suspect when the victim is revealed to be the brother of the man who recently jilted her, and she has no alibi.

A year ago I spent Thanksgiving in Florida, but this year I’m at home in Pennsylvania. Unlike my guest, that was only a sometime visit. But Kait remembers past Thanksgivings and has her own way of celebrating in the tropics. Let her tell you about it…

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. Known to my family as Turkey Day, it was a favorite childhood holiday. Whether it was at home or away – there were two constants. A groaning table of food (followed by groaning family members), and cold weather—sometimes snow. SNOW, what has snow got to do with a tropical thanksgiving? Well, nothing. But my childhood turkey days were usually spent in the north. Sometimes on my great grandfather’s farm. He was a hardy soul who lived into his 100s. Family history varies on whether it was 103 or 106. I doubt he knew. He was born in the ‘old country’ at home on, yes, a farm. No records were kept, or no records that he kept were kept.

Turkey day on the farm in upstate New York was special. All of the dinner was homegrown. Since both of my great grandparents were immigrants, keeping American holidays, especially Thanksgiving, was a religion with them. Our location made snow a frequent visitor on Thanksgiving Day.

Fast forward to my late teens. Here comes the tropical part. I fell in love with Miami as a five year old when we visited cousins. I never fell out of love. When the time came for me to go to college, it was UM or bust—Go Canes! Once planted, my roots grew in the warm, sandy soil, and I’ve never left. My adult reality has Thanksgivings far removed from anything resembling snow, unless you count white sandy beaches. Temperatures of 80 and above are the norm. But it’s Thanksgiving! It’s autumn. It needs to be COLD. I don’t know who invented air conditioning. I could probably Google it, but that’s been my solution since I moved here. Crank the A/C down to 60, pull on a sweater, turn on the oven and have at it. Turkey, brussels sprouts, yams (a Southern staple I might add), mashed potatoes, green beans, sweet potato pie (nod to the South) and pumpkin pie. It all pours out of my oven and on to the table. I close all the drapes to block out the green grass and palm trees, light the fireplace, and voila, a cool, Florida, Thanksgiving.

Hayden Kent, the heroine of DEATH BY BLUE WATER, would never understand. Hayden is a Conch. Born and bred in the Florida Keys. Her idea of Thanksgiving runs to Florida lobster stuffing (very good by the way) and ambrosia (also very good). She’s probably going to spend her early morning SCUBA diving to celebrate having a day off, and then hosting a dinner for her friends Mallory and Janice, and maybe her boss, Grant. Any way she slices it, the pie will be from the bakery, and everyone will have a late night, a great time, and leftovers to go.

Come to think of it, that sounds like the perfect turkey day. No matter where or how you celebrate, I hope you have a wonderful day.

Kait-photoBIO: Kait Carson lives and works in South Central Florida. She shares her home with her pilot husband, a Cherokee Six airplane, eight rescued cats, and three birds. So far, there is no partridge in the avocado tree. Kait is a rabid SCUBA diver and can be found underwater most summer weekends. A self-styled warm water wimp, the diving stops on Columbus Day and the day trips by air begin. Visit her at www.kaitcarson.com, or on Facebook at facebook.com/kaitcarsonauthor.

Kait’s mention of her favorite foods, especially that ambrosia, reminds me of our family specialty—a necessity for any holiday meal, officially known as apple pudding, but also known as red stuff. Do you have a favorite for holiday meals?

Wild Fire Release Party and Settings Hunt

Ally-WildFire_Cover-453x680Wild Fire released November 7

I’m happy to be part of Ally Shields’ Release Party. She has a great event planned. Keep reading to learn all about it. Here’s Ally —

Thank you so much for being part of the  release party and giveaway for the sixth book in my Guardian Witch series!

(See contest details at the bottom.)

Book Blurb: A vision. A lost talisman. A dangerous journey through time…

A month after their bonding, Ari and Andreas are still adjusting to married life when they learn the hard way that the O-Seven, the terrifying and brutal vampire elders, still have them in their sights. A three million dollar bounty hangs over each of their heads, and there’s no lack of assassins eager to collect.

When the local seer has a terrifying vision of the destruction of Riverdale, it’s up to Ari—as usual—to keep everyone safe. Only this time, an enemy from the past has bound her fire powers, and the city’s string of arsons seems connected.

Daron, the vampire prince in Toronto, has information that two of the vampire elders are on their way to Riverdale. Which can’t be good. Only a risky and unprecedented journey through time can provide the help they need. But that will leave Andreas to face the O-Seven alone…

Buy Links

Amazon:  http://www.amazon.com/Wild-Fire-Guardian-Witch-Book-ebook/dp/B00NWX6Y7K

Also available at most online booksellers

Book Trailer on Youtube: http://youtu.be/nGO1wudi7xQ

Author Bio: Ally Shields was born and raised in the Midwest, along the Mississippi River, and considers herself a “river rat.” The setting and folklore of that area are often incorporated into her Guardian Witch series. After  a career in law and juvenile justice, she turned to full-time writing in 2009. She loves writing, reading and traveling. Way too often she can be found on Twitter. @ShieldsAlly

Author Contacts:

Website: http://allyshields.com

Blog: http://allyshields.com/blog.html

Facebook: http://facebook.com/AllyShieldsAuthor

Twitter: http://twitter.com/ShieldsAlly

Goodreads:  http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6527209.Ally_Shields

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/author/allyshields
Other books in the series:

Awakening the Fire (#1); Fire Within (#2; Burning Both Ends (#3); Blood and Fire (#4); Fire Storm (#5).

Coming Soon: Eternal Fires (Guardian Witch #7) (TBA)

Also by Ally Shields: Cross Keys, an Elvenrude novel (October 2014)

Blog Tour GIVEAWAY: Nov. 7-10:  Readers and writers always talk about characters in books, but settings are almost as important, and they play a huge role in the Guardian Witch series. Wild Fire is no exception, and this blog tour is revealing several settings that are the backdrop for major events in this new release. In fact, I think they’re so important that I’m running a special contest.

If you collect the names and numbers of all ten settings, you could win your choice of three ebooks in the series (including this latest release) or a $15.00 Amazon gift certificate. It’s easy to do. Here are the rules.

Visit the blogs on this list — or enough to collect all ten settings — then email me at allyshieldsbooks@gmail.com by 9:00 a.m. EST, Monday, November 10, 2014 with your completed list. You will automatically be entered in the random drawing (two winners).

NOTE: A setting may appear on more than one blog, so be sure you have 10 different settings before turning in your entry.

Here is the list of participating blogs*:

AJ Locke
Angela Myers
Brinda Berry
Carmen Stefanescu
Danielle Devor
Dani-Lyn Alexander
DL Richardson
JL Buck
Joyce Laverne
Kath Marsh
Kirstin Pulioff
Lindsey Loucks
Norma Huss
Sue Roebuck
Tina Gayle
Erin Moore

(*If you can’t find a post, return to allyshields.com for updated links and blogs.)

Now for the setting: #10

Setting #10:  Victorian Mansion – Andreas’s Victorian home in Olde Town, which Ari now shares. The well-preserved residence and its spacious lawn is surrounded by a six foot wrought iron fence and partially lined with well-kept shrubbery. It is furnished primarily with antiques from the 1700s and 1800s.

Halloween Countdown-YA Ghost Reads

Vala-Ghost_Writer_300dpiIs there anything better than a ghost story for Halloween? Yes—two ghost stories. One is mine, but first, let me tell you about Vala Kaye’s Ghost Writer.

Tech-savvy teen Malden Montgomery leaves New York City anticipating nothing but boredom when her artist-mother brings her along on a two-week vacation to a family inn in rural Virginia.

What Malden doesn’t expect is the owner’s 17-year-old son, Jackson, who is totally to-die-for cute. But does she dare believe him when he tells her that her room at the inn may be haunted by a young woman named Emily, who died there more than 150 years ago?

Then Emily begins to communicate with Malden and she and Jackson realize they have to find a way to help Emily’s ghost come back home or risk a spirit’s wrath if they choose to leave her lost in the darkness forever.

Vala Kaye – ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Vala Kaye

Vala Kaye grew up in Texas as an avid reader of science fiction, romance and history. Her favorite writers ran the gamut from Robert Heinlein to Margaret Mitchell, and included side journeys with Louisa May Alcott’s “Little Women” and The Hardy Boys mysteries.

After graduating from college with a double major in Communications and History, Vala now lives and writes in warm and sunny southern California. She is addicted to movies, live theater, word games and salsa dancing.

In her first published YA novella, Ghost Writer, Vala explores what happens when the human ‘spirit’ meets computer technology. Vala’s newest title is Artificial Intelligence, book #1 of “The Superhero Next Door” series.

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Get in the mood for Halloween with this fast, fun YA paranormal novella! “Ghost Writer” is now available in print or as an e-book. Check it out at these online retailers: Amazon | B&N.com | KoboiBooks

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The second YA ghost read is mine, Cherish (A YA Ghost Mystery). You can read all about it here: The e-book is free for five days from October 28 through November 1 at Amazon. But, before you do anything, comment below. Maybe you will win Ghost Writer.