Celebrate National Pet Day: Read a Mystery

Do mysteries need cats?

Absolutely.

Yesterday (April 11) was National Pet Day and I’m a day late in celebrating. But isn’t every day National Pet Day? It is in my house. Just ask Olive and Morris.

Olive and Morris

Many mystery series, including my Hazel Rose Book Group one, feature felines. Recently I posted on Pens, Paws, and Claws about these series, offering reading suggestions. Read it here.

So honor our furry friends by reading a cat mystery. And read the posts by the authors who contribute to Pens, Paws, and Claws.

Playing Fair When You Write a Mystery

Let’s give a big welcome to Anne Canadeo, author of the Black Sheep & Company Mysteries. Enjoy her behind-the-scenes look at the making of a mystery. 

Take it away, Anne! 

Spoiler alert!  If you’re a mystery fan and you don’t want to know how a villain is hidden in plain in sight, read no further. However, even after trade secrets are revealed below, I’m fairly certain we can still trick you.

Like many authors of the genre, a life-long love of mysteries inspired me to spin my own.  My hall of fame includes the astonishing Sherlock Holmes, ever persistent Miss Marple, and audacious Kinsey Malone.  The plot may twist and turn as a favorite sleuth solves a case, but the killer’s identity always makes sense in the end. “Elementary, dear reader.” And I feel downright cheated if the solution seems pulled from thin air.

As a fan of the genre and as a writer, I want a mystery to play fair.  I want readers of The Black Sheep & Company Mysteries to be stumped and surprised, but look back and see that the clues were all there.

I recall the “connect the dots” puzzles I worked on as a child. “Can you find the cat?” the instructions would say. A good analogy for devising a mystery plot; making up such a puzzle, I mean. Writers try hard to camouflage the culprit’s identity in the noise and activity of the narrative. But we also try to embed a few other images in that field of dots and subtly encourage you to connect them the wrong way. Yes, there’s a cat. The cat may have done it. But wait, there’s a dog, too. And what about that hamster? He had means, motive, and opportunity.

It seems to me the trick is not just presenting a cast of suspects, but suspects who vary in culpability. A seasoned reader will sift out the obvious red herrings and decide they have picked the real offender. Sorry, it’s even more complicated than that.

Most of the heavy lifting happens in the outline stage, when it’s much easier to rearrange the puzzle pieces on the page. Once the first draft of the manuscript is finished, I always go back and plant more misleading hints that encourage even the sharpest fan to make the wrong connections. Like a final touch of salt on a dish, before it’s brought to the table.  I usually present at least one character who is actually guilty of something—blackmail, adultery, fraud—but not the murder. When the real killer steps forward, hopefully, there’s an aha moment and it all falls into place.

Creating false trails and optical illusions is truly the hard work of building a solid plot, but the real fun of the job, too. The very satisfying fun that keeps me writing mysteries.

Anne Canadeo is the bestselling author of more than thirty books, including the popular Black Sheep & Company Mysteries, and the Cape Light series, written as Katherine Spencer. When she’s away from her keyboard, Anne enjoys roaming on her bike, walking her dog, cooking and “extreme” gardening. She was recently honored by New York State for her volunteer work, which includes managing a food outreach, helping the homeless and bringing free books to      children in need of literacy support.  She lives in Northport, N.Y. with her husband, daughter and canine office assistant. Anne loves to hear from readers. Contact her on Facebook, Instagram or at: anne@annecanadeo.com.

Connect with Anne:

annecanadeo.com

Facebook

Instagram

Lily, Anne’s dog and writing assistant, is also on Instagram as the LiteraryHound

Buy links for Knit to Kill:

AMAZON

Barnes & Noble

IndieBound

iBooks

Kobo

Missing Authors: Update #5

The “Missing Author” series is back! Thank you readers, for wanting to know what happened to your favorite mystery authors who, for whatever reason, haven’t published in a while. Thanks also for introducing me to some great new-to-me authors. I really enjoyed the late Graham Landrum’s The Garden Club Mystery.

Read on for the latest updates:

Barbara D’Amato, author of three series set in Chicago. Brian D’amato (son?) posts frequently on her Facebook page. But she does not. Curious.

Jane Haddam, author of the Gregor Demarkian series, set in Philadelphia.

I emailed Ms. Haddam on May 25, 2017, asking about her plans for the Gregor Demarkian series. Fighting Chance is the most recent  book in the series, and that was published in 2014. She didn’t respond. However, on January 9, 2018, she introduced the Georgia Xenakis series with Dead Letters.

She’s blogging and has a new Facebook author page. She’s experimenting with a GoFundMe page. Read about it here.

On March 11, she posted that she was in the hospital and not feeling well.

M.D. Lake, aka Allen Simpson, author of the Peggy O’Neill mysteries, set in Minnesota. I was corresponding with the president of the Twin Cities Sisters in Crime a few months ago; she asked one of the chapter’s members to contact Allen. I haven’t heard back yet, but I’m following up.

Ann Ripley, author of the Gardening Mysteries. She’s on Facebook. On February 26, 2017, she posted to a friend:

My agent is looking at a mystery I’ve written. If someone buys it, I’ll go out and drink a couple of margaritas.

I hope Ms. Ripley has had success.

Corinne Holt Sawyer, author of the Angela Benbow and Caledonia Wingate series, set in Southern California.

Here’s her bio from FantasticFiction, and it’s fascinating. Ms. Sawyer has an impressive resume. She last published in 1999.

She’s 94 and lives in a retirement community in Carlsbad, California. Very nice! Apparently she’s enjoying the upscale lifestyle of her fictional sleuths, hopefully sans murder!

Beth Sherman, author of the Jersey Shore mysteries. According to a mutual mystery author friend, Ms. Sherman is a college professor and publishes fiction and poetry in literary journals. She has been pursuing her PhD. Apparently she has moved on from mysteries.

Christine Wenger, author of the Comfort Food Mystery series.

She is publishing western romances, and has a new one coming out on April 3, 2018. Here’s her response to my inquiry about the status of her diner series:

Unfortunately, the series ended after IT’S A  WONDERFUL KNIFE. The publisher didn’t want it anymore. Darn it! I am writing bull rider books for Harlequin right now, but you never know. I might  publish more of Trixie and the gang  myself!!  

Thanks for writing. I appreciate your interest. And sorry for the delay in replying to you.

Chris

Updates from Previous Posts

Shirley Damsgaard, author of the Ophelia and Abby series, set in small town Iowa. Shirley accepted my Facebook request and she is a frequent poster. Earlier this year I sent her a Facebook message, asking if she planned to return to her series. She didn’t respond. But I followed a hunch and found this Facebook posting from Shirley on September 17, 2017:

Thanks for all the comments on my little survey! There were so many that I couldn’t reply to each one separately! And a special thanks to everyone who wants more Ophelia and Abby! It means more than I can say that there is still an interest in “the girls!” Even after all this time since the last release! I am trying to get back in the game so to speak and doing some rearranging in my life to make it more conducive to writing.

A little background on what set me pondering the short story-novella question. On Saturday, I had a terrific time attending a reading given by one of my “besties” and fellow author, Tamara Jones (totally unbiased pitch here…she has a new book coming out October 3rd, “Morgan’s Run,” and as one of her first readers, I can tell you, it’s really good! 👍) Anyway, at the reading, I also met her publisher, Aaron Bunce, and as things usually go when those involved in the industry get together, the conversation turned to marketing and how to be successful. It brought to mind as to whether or not short stories and novellas could be used as an effective tool to help build a readership, but I wondered just how popular they are.

It seems from your comments, that most of you do enjoy them. AND several of you made important points….1. don’t leave you hanging at the end of the story; 2. Use the story to give you further insight into the series’ characters. The last point was something I really hadn’t considered while working on this current piece, but will now! Tink plays a more central role in this story and, thanks to your comments, I will definitely look at ways to let you all get to know her better!

Again, thanks for the input!

End of Shirley’s post

Shirley did publish a collection of stories, Shadow Tales, in 2011. It includes an Ophelia and Abby story.

Madelyn Alt. I get more requests on her whereabouts than for any other author. I don’t have any info on her beyond this post from 2016.


I’m having a tough time finding information on the status of the following authors. If you know anything, please leave a comment:

K.J.Erickson, author of the Mars Bahr series, set in Minneapolis

Lynda Robinson, creator of Lord Meren, chief investigator for Pharaoh Tutankhamun in ancient Egypt.

Mary Stanton (pseud. Claudia Bishop), a prolific writer of mysteries set in Upstate New York and Savannah, Georgia.

Earl Emerson, author of two series set in Washington State: Mac Fontana, ex-firefighter and arson investigator; and Thomas Black, bicycling-enthusiast private eye. The last Thomas Black story was published in 2015.

Barbara Taylor McCafferty (pseud. Tierney McClellan) and Beverly Taylor Herald, twin sisters and one time prolific authors of several series.

Jean Hager, wrote three series set in Oklahoma and Missouri

Sharon Kahn, creator of Ruby Rothman, a rabbi’s widow in Eternal, Texas


Posts from my “Missing Authors” series, in chronological order:

Missing Rochelle Krich

Discovering a Lost Author: John J. Lamb

Whatever Happened to Gabrielle Kraft?

Whatever Happened to (Name an Author)?

In Memory of My Favorite Mystery Authors (And Maybe Yours)

Those Missing Authors: An Update

Missing Author Found!

Missing Authors: Update 2

“Missing Authors: Update 3”

“Missing Authors: Update 4”


Do you have a favorite author who hasn’t written in some time and isn’t included in one of the above posts? Yes? Include the name(s) in the comments section and I’ll see what I can find out. It may take me some time but I will get back to you, either personally or in an upcoming blog post.

Some authors are easy to find, while some are not. Fortunately, many still maintain websites and are active on social media so I can contact them. Often life circumstances put her or his writing on hold. Some are making a comeback with a new series. Sadly, I find that some have left us for the great beyond. Others have seemingly vanished.

Find bibliographies for the above authors on Stop You’re Killing Me, a great resource for mystery lovers.

 

 

When in Wales …

It’s a pleasure to once again host mystery author Amy Reade. Yesterday she launched her new release, Murder in Thistlecross, #3 in the Malice series. If you love tales of complex characters driven to desperate acts to guard their secrets and fortune, this series is for you. 

Amy has been here before. This past August she interviewed Sylvie Carmichael, the main character in Highland Peril, #2 in the Malice series. See the interview here

Without further ado, here’s Amy.


Maybe it’s because I’m always hungry, or maybe it’s because I just love to cook, but when I write I’m sometimes surprised to find that food almost always manages to make its way into what I’m writing.

My new release, Murder in Thistlecross, is no different. I went through a cheese-and-crackers stage while I wrote the book, and you might find that the characters enjoy their cheese and crackers, too. Weird, huh? And Maisie, the cook in the castle where the book is set, provides all manner of tasty meals for the castle guests.

So I guess it’s only natural that when I talked to Maggie about writing this post, she suggested that I write about food. Sounds good to me!

The food of Wales, like the food of any nation or culture, is unique in its use of certain ingredients. In the United States, we like our potatoes and corn (and cheeseburgers). In Germany, it’s sausage and dark breads. And in many parts of the UK, it’s fish and chips.

In Wales, it’s leeks and potatoes, though there are many other foods that, while not necessarily unique to Wales, are prepared in ways that are special to Wales.

Take, for example, Welsh Rarebit. I had heard of it a thousand times, but until my husband ordered it in a restaurant several years ago, I had no idea what it was. I assumed it contained rabbit and had been spelled wrong on purpose for centuries.

Wrong.

It’s cheese on toast. And it’s delicious.

Clearly, neither cheese nor toast can be claimed as a Welsh specialty, but Welsh Rarebit? That’s a Welsh dish—the word “Welsh” is even in the name (the recipe is below).

Ever heard of Minwel Tibbott? I thought not. She was a Welsh historian and anthropologist who was instrumental in transcribing the words and memories of elderly Welsh people (particularly women) during the mid-twentieth century. It was her job and her passion to record their cooking methods and recipes (often dating to the late nineteenth century), many of which had never been written down, for future generations of Welsh cooks. She traveled all over Wales to properly record memories, including the old way of life, availability of foodstuffs, and culinary heritage.

So, Minwel, thank you for the service you provided to all the people of Wales and around the world who appreciate good food and good stories.

I thought I’d share a couple recipes with you before I go. All are adapted from A Taste of Wales by Annette Yates. They’re all traditionally Welsh dishes, and I’ve provided the original Welsh spelling of each dish (though don’t ask me to pronounce them—I think Welsh must be one of the most difficult languages to learn). Enjoy!

Welsh Rarebit: Caws wedi pobi

2 thick slices of bread

2 tsp. butter, softened

2 tsp. mustard (can be regular, spicy, stone-ground, whatever you prefer)

4 ounces crumbly cheddar cheese, grated (Welsh Caerphilly cheese, if possible)

Black pepper

Paprika

Combine butter, mustard, and grated cheese in a small bowl. Set aside.

Preheat the broiler to high. Broil both sides of the bread until lightly toasted. Be careful to watch the bread—it’ll burn easily!

Spread cheese mixture on toast and broil again until cheese is bubbly and golden, just a couple minutes.

Sprinkle with a pinch of pepper and a pinch of paprika; serve hot.

Whinberry and Apple Tart: Tarten lus ac afalau

2 ¼ c. all-purpose flour

5-6 tbsp. sugar, divided, plus extra for sprinkling

10 tbsp butter, chilled and cut into small cubes

1 egg

Ice water

2 apples, peeled, cored, and roughly chopped

2 tsp. cornstarch

3 c. whinberries (also known as blueberries)

Milk for brushing

Sift flour and 2 tbsp. sugar into a medium bowl. Add the butter and rub with your fingers until mixture resembles fine crumbs.

Stir in the egg and enough ice water to form a smooth dough. Wrap dough and refrigerate for 20-30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 190 C/375 F/Gas mark 5. Roll out half of dough on a lightly-floured surface, then transfer to 9-inch pie plate. Allow excess to hang over edge. Roll out remaining dough to make a top crust.

Toss apples with cornstarch until evenly coated, then transfer to the pie plate. Scatter whinberries on top and sprinkle 3-4 tbsp. sugar over the mixture. Cover fruit with top crust; seal and crimp edges, discarding excess dough. Make a small slit in the top of the pie for steam to escape.

Brush the top of the pie with a bit of milk and sprinkle with a bit more sugar.

Bake for 30-40 minutes, until pastry is crisp and golden and filling is cooked through.

Teabread: Bara brith

1 1/3 c. mixed dried fruit and candied peels (such as raisins, dates, candied orange peel, etc.)

1 c. strong hot tea

2 c. self-rising flour

1 t. apple pie spice

2 tbsp butter

8 tbsp. light brown sugar

1 egg, lightly beaten

Place fruit in a medium heatproof bowl and cover with tea. Cover and leave at room temperature several hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 180 C/350 F/Gas mark 4. Grease a 2-lb. bread pan and line with parchment paper.

Stir flour and apple pie spice in a large mixing bowl. Add butter and use your fingers to rub it into the flour/spice until mixture resembles fine crumbs.

Stir in sugar; stir in fruit and soaking liquid. Stir in egg.

Stir entire mixture well until it has a soft consistency.

Transfer mixture to prepared bread pan; level the surface of the dough.

Bake for about one hour until bread tests done. Allow to cool for 10 minutes, then cool completely on a wire rack.


Amy M. Reade is the USA Today bestselling author of The Malice Series, consisting of The House on Candlewick Lane, Highland Peril, and Murder in Thistlecross, all of which are set in the United Kingdom. She has also written a cozy mystery, The Worst Noel, and three standalone novels of gothic suspense: Secrets of Hallstead House, The Ghosts of Peppernell Manor, and House of the Hanging Jade.

Amy is a recovering attorney living in Southern New Jersey. She is active in community organizations and loves reading, cooking, and traveling when she’s not writing. She is currently working on a contemporary mystery set in Washington, DC, a historical mystery set in Cape May County, New Jersey, and a second cozy.

Buy Links for Murder in Thistlecross

Amazon: http://amzn.to/2fObci7

Barnes & Noble: http://bit.ly/2AXt1XO

Kobo: http://bit.ly/2rqpeyu

Google Play: http://bit.ly/2n2yseL

iTunes: https://apple.co/2Dvvw5M

Independent Bookstore: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781516100194

Social Media Links

Websites: www.amymreade.com

Blog: www.amreade.wordpress.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/amreadeauthor

Facebook: www.facebook.com/groups/AmyMReadesGothicFictionFans

Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/amreade

Instagram: www.instagram.com/amymreade

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Amy-M.-Reade/e/B00LX6ASF2/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0

Goodreads Page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8189243.Amy_M_Reade

Thanks, Amy! Excuse me while I book my next vacation … to Wales.

What do (some) writers and religious fundamentalists have in common?

Welcome back, John Lindermuth! Today is launch day for John’s latest, In Silence Sealed, and I’m thrilled that he’s celebrating here. Let me tell you, In Silence Sealed is quite a page turner!

And it’s John’s third visit to my blog. In September, 2016, he talked about Shares the Darkness. He returned in April, 2017 when he released Geronimo Must Die.

It’s all yours, John. Give us a glimpse of In Silence Sealed.


Some writers are like religious fundamentalists.

They read, or hear someone discuss a rule they’ve heard about, and it becomes gospel. It doesn’t have to come from Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style to start them red penciling whole paragraphs of a novel. Just mention “rule” and it immediately becomes scripture, part of a revised Talmud, and you couldn’t pay them to violate it.

They forget rules are intended to be guides and not a new version of the Quran. Rules are not absolute law. Generally there’s good reasoning behind them and it pays to abide by them. There are also times when they can and should be violated. And, if you should break one of these rules, you won’t have the Taliban pursuing you (though some critic may lambast you).

Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing are observed with ritual devotion by some scriveners. I love Leonard’s work. I think he’s a great stylist and the rules are a sound selection. But, with little effort, I’m sure you can find many admirable writers who’ve broken some of these rules at one time or another. In fact, if you read a lot of Elmore’s stories (as I have) you’ll see even he occasionally drifts from the canon. This isn’t blasphemy. Leonard sometimes spoke with tongue in cheek and was aware of Somerset Maugham’s dictum: “There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.”

This matter of rules applies equally to those in law enforcement. One such unspoken rule poses a quandary for Stick’s friend Aaron Brubaker, Swatara Creek police chief, in my latest novel, In Silence Sealed, eighth in the Sticks Hetrick series.

Aaron’s daughter, Lydia, is the prime suspect when her new boyfriend Jason Russell is murdered. The rule in question prevents Aaron from being involved in the investigation, which is being conducted by State Police. Aaron’s frustration is only minimally relieved when State Police Sgt. Chris Runyan agrees to Hetrick’s assistance and permits Swatara Creek Cpl. Harry Minnich to help with forensics. Brubaker’s worries increase with discovery the pistol he’d insisted Lydia carry is missing and may be the murder weapon.

Blurb:
Lydia, daughter of Swatara Creek Police Chief Aaron Brubaker, is accused of murdering her boyfriend Jason Russell, handsome but feckless stepson of Clay Stoneroad, a famous writer who recently moved to a farm outside town.

Daniel “Sticks” Hetrick, now a county detective, is determined to prove Lydia’s innocence. His job is made more difficult when the weapon her father insisted she carry is found missing.

Mysteries surround the Stoneroad family. Vickie Walker, a strange young woman also recently arrived in town insists that Nan Calder, the writer’s secretary, is her sister, a claim Calder denies. Then Diana Wozniak, reporter for a sleazy tabloid, is the victim of a hit-and-run accident and police learn she attempted to blackmail the writer.

The sudden disappearance of Lydia and Vickie puts Hetrick and his friends in a desperate race against time to find them, unravel secrets and apprehend the real killer.

Excerpt:
Hetrick pulled his pickup in beside the State Police cruiser, switched off the engine and swigged the last of his coffee. It wasn’t unusual for him to be called in for a serious crime in his territory but, gazing round, it surprised him the locals hadn’t arrived on the scene.

A young trooper stepped up as he exited the truck. “Detective Hetrick?”

“Yes.”

“They’re waiting for you in the paddock behind the barn, sir,” he said, gesturing in the direction.

“Swatara Creek not here yet?”

The trooper gave him a perplexed look. “Uh, no, sir.”

Gravel crunching underfoot, Hetrick headed up the grade. He glanced toward the house and saw a light in a window at the rear in what he assumed must be the kitchen. A curl of smoke lifted from a chimney into a gray sky. There was a chill in the air and frost glistened in the faded grass of the yard. Hetrick drew up the collar of his coat.

Reaching the paddock he saw Doc Furman bent over a body on the ground. Sergeant Chris Runyan nodded and gave a quick two-finger salute as he noted Hetrick’s approach. Runyan was as tall as Sticks but with a heavier build. He wore the traditional PSP campaign hat with a black commando sweater over his gray uniform shirt and dark trousers.

“Morning, Sticks,” Runyan said, blue eyes in a ruddy face twinkling. “It’s been a while since we called you out of bed this early in the day,” he added with a grin. 

“What have we got?”

“Male, late twenties, early thirties,” Doc said, gazing up. “Gunshot wound to the temple.”

“Jason Russell,” Runyan added. He pointed toward the house. “Lived here with his mother, stepfather and the stepfather’s secretary.”

“I know who he is,” Hetrick said. “I’ve met Mr. Stoneroad. Who found the body?”“From what we’ve been told, the secretary. I haven’t finished my interviews. We’ll go in when the doctor is done here.”

“Has Aaron been notified? Unusual for his people to arrive later than us.”

Runyan shook his head. “Haven’t called him.”

Sticks gave him a puzzled look.


Intrigued? Like I said, In Silence Sealed is a page turner. Order your copy here. 

J.R. Lindermuth, a retired newspaper editor, lives and writes in a house built by a man who rode with Buffalo Bill Cody. He has published more than 16 novels 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 is a past vice president of the Short Mystery Fiction Society.

Links:
Webpage: http://www.jrlindermuth.net

Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/author/jrlindermuth

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/john.lindermuth

Facebook author page: https://www.facebook.com/John-Lindermuth-175253187537/?fref=ts

Twitter: https://twitter.com/jrlindermuth

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1005496.J_R_Lindermuth

Thanks, John!