Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Researching Dillinger's Decption by Ronald K. Myers

While doing research for Dillinger’s Deception and Impossible Gold, a suppressed memory of author Ronald K. Myers surfaced:

At the age of three, he was in the machine-gun turret protected Jungle Inn casino.  While his father was conducting some sort of business there, Myers was inside sitting on a wooden table that was close to one of the steel gun turrets.  Not only were machine guns in the turrets, shotguns were also ready for use  The man behind the turret must have accidently let a shotgun slip next to the long rectangular opening.  It rattled like thunder.  Myers jumped up off the board and cried.  The man laughed.  Every time Myers stopped crying and calmed down, the man rattled the shotgun and laughed.

The first in a series, Dillinger’s Deception starts us on a road never traveled before.  Here, sensible
Freddy, wise guy Rafferty, and the incandescent Neal McCord, push a 1940 hot rod Ford to the limit and race over the border to borrow a Canadian flag.  After they run smack into a wicked brooding
mass of ugly, stone-faced Mafiosi wanna be’s, it becomes a ‘refusing-to-die’game.They end up with a bank bag that leads them to the Jungle Inn Casino.  
Although the notorious Purple Gang, John Dillinger, and gangsters from all over the country no longer visit the former gun-turret protected safe haven, the sprawling building creates chaos, but the sunrise souvenir is within their grasp.

Reading like an express train, Ronald K. Myers’ tale of a hot rod Ford racing through the midnight streets with its passengers attempting to break away from poverty and themselves shakes the
shackles of society and takes us to a place where nightmares come true.

Author’s Biography

Whether American novelist Ronald K. Myers, is remembering the brutalities of being beaten
when he could scarcely walk, being outweighed and outclassed in the boxing ring, or dying and coming back to life, his writing reveals things we could not have expected.

His humor-sprinkled novel, I’m Gonna Cut Your Ears Off, is perhaps one of his best wild tales about life among the depressed economic classes of the U.S. children of mill workers of Pennsylvania.  His futuristic novels include Pigmy Wars,The Orange Turn, and Stay On the Blue Grass.  Characters in his thrillers Dillinger’s Deception and Impossible Gold are forced to jam years of living into a few days. Dangerous Detour gives us a glimpse of the isolated island of
The Rock, Shemya, Alaska.

When Myers and, Kenny, a brother he never knew he had, were united and they exchanged life
histories.  In disbelief, Kenny asked him if he had all his oars in the water. And it is no wonder.  Butcher-knife-carrying bullies chased four-year-old Myers and threatened to cut his ears off.  When he was a little older, he worked for months with a broken shovel and dug a pond in a creek.  Fish and other wildlife came, and he used the pond water to raise over a hundred rabbits. 
Then, neighbors ran raw sewage into the creek, poisoned his rabbits and killed the fish.  And wildlife no longer came.  He was told that it was progress,and that nothing could be done about it. 
This is the driving force behind his futuristic novels Stay On the Blue Grass, The Orange Turn, and Pigmy Wars.

At the age of twelve, completely paralyzed with rheumatic fever, Myers was condemned to be
a cripple for the rest of his life. He fought his way back to his feet, limped back to school; and because he couldn’t fight back and was considered an “other-side-of-the-tracks slum kid” who swam
and hung around a polluted river; cruel rich kids pummeled him.  He took the beatings, fought the crippling legacy of the disease, and became a championship high school wrestler.  
With a college scholarship almost in his pocket, he got married, joined the Army Security Agency, and made it through a cryptic school where a few candidates who washed out were taken away in
straight jackets.

Then, he was transported to Shemya, an isolated island at the end of the Aleutian chain,called, “The Rock.”  Under the cloud of threatening Russian capture, he became a guinea pig in a nuclear test called Long Shot.  During the 1968 Washington, DC race riots, he was a gas station shift-leader and experienced the violent racial side of the American dream.  In the late sixties, he was a semi-drunk in Chitose,Japan.  
Back in the states, he landed in a steel mill, operating a 225-ton Hot Metal Crane from six stories up, where he watched many men get crippled and killed.  When he boxed, he was called an animal.  Whenhe jumped on a Harley Davidson motorcycle, he became a hill-climbing nut.  He has won arm wrestling championships. 
On calmer more civilized days, he attended the University of Virginia, was a tour guide, a mailbox painter, tree trimmer,clerk on the Erie and B&O Railroads, diesel locomotive mechanic, high school wrestling coach, salesman, construction worker, roofer, scuba diver,power lifter, union representative, electrician, and newsletter publisher.  He is also the inventor of magical trick rope called Flick It.  
What else has he done?  Died in 1998, came back to write. His varied life experiences are reflected in his writings.  When he’s not swimming, fishing, or at a writer’s meeting, he can be found in Pennsylvania, reading and writing.

Dillinger’s Deception, Stay On the Blue Grass, The  Orange Turn, and I’m Gonna Cut Your Ears Off, are available at Double Dragon Publishing, and just about any eBook sites.  Pigmy Wars will be released in August of 2016.  Impossible Gold will be released soon. 
Until next time,

Ronald K. Myers

Sunday, December 27, 2015

My Home's Story: An Historical Mystery by Lea Wait

My Home’s Story: An Historical Mystery
            In the mid-1950s my grandparents and parents bought a Maine house built in 1774. Since then the house has served as a full or part-time residence for almost everyone in the family. I’m lucky to be the current (full-time) owner.
            Of course, any old house comes with stories. In the case of this house, over 240 years of memories.
            The house’s history has also landed it in many books on Maine history, and, although it has never been opened to the public, in many Maine guidebooks.
            It’s known as the Marie Antoinette House.
            Captain Stephen Clough, the house’s owner in the 1780s and 90s, was in the “salt and spar” trade: he took the trunks of white pine trees to Europe, where they became masts and spars for royal navies, and brought back salt, used to preserve fish for long winters. His business partner was James Swan, a Boston businessman he’d met when they fought together during the American Revolution. After the Revolution Swan went to Paris, where he bought and sold American war debts. Lafayette, Talleyrand, and many people in the French court were his friends.
            The story is that in 1794 Captain Clough and his ship Sally were in Le Havre, under instructions from Swan, and that Clough, along with Lafayette and Talleyrand, plotted to help French queen Marie Antoinette escape from the Bastille.
            Did they? That’s the mystery. We don’t know. 
            We do know Clough and his ship were in Le Havre, and that many plots to save the queen failed. We know Clough set sail from France in the middle of the night (a very unusual things to do) at the beginning of the Reign of Terror, which ended with the deaths of many supporters of the royal family.
            Clough arrived in Boston with a ship filled with expensive French furniture, tapestries, clothing, porcelain, and so forth. James Swan took possession of most of the things (they’re now in the Boston Museum of Fine Art) and Clough sailed home to Maine, where his wife gave birth to his fifth child, a girl, whom he named Hannah Antoinette.
            People said the belongings he brought to America belonged to Marie Antoinette, and were to make her comfortable when she reached Maine. But the queen’s residence had been looted long before Clough got to France. People said he brought with him Marie’s Persian cats, who mated with Maine raccoons and gave birth to the Maine coon cat. (Highly unlikely.) People said the ghost of the unhappy queen came with Clough, and haunts the house or its rose gardens. (I’ve never seen her.)
            Did Clough try to help Marie Antoinette? Or did he hope to enable some Royalists to escape from France?
            We’ll probably never know.
            I tell one version of this story in my latest book, THREAD AND GONE, which will ship this week. In my book today’s owner of the house finds a piece of elaborate medieval needlepoint under the eaves of the attic and then … but to learn more, you’ll have to read THREAD AND GONE! 

Maine author Lea Wait writes the Shadows Antique print mystery series, the most recent of which is Shadows on a Maine Christmas, and the Mainely Needlepoint series, the most recent of which is Thread and Gone. She also writes historical novels for ages 8-14 set in nineteenth century Maine, and Living and Writing on the Coast of Maine, essays about her life as an author.  For more information about Lea and her books, see her website,, and friend her on Goodreads and Facebook.       

Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas to You!

The first 20 people who contact me, I'll send them a Kindle copy of their choice of either one of my Rocky Bluff P.D. mysteries or my Deputy Tempe Crabtree mysteries. You can go to my website: and see what's there, even read the first chapter of most of the books. 

Email me privately with your choice:

Latest Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery. is Not as it Seems.

Violent Departures is the latest in the Rocky Bluff P.D. mystery series.

I write this series under the name F. M. Meredith.


Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Time, the Place, and the Story by Gayle Bartos-Pool

There are a lot of holiday books out there… and movies. I happen to collect Santas. 3500 and counting to be exact. I knew someday I would write a Christmas story, but what about?

I didn’t want to write a children’s story with twenty pages and big drawings. I wanted one that grownups would like. And not a retelling of A Christmas Carol or It’s a Wonderful Life. I like them just the way they are.

I was walking through the mall just as the stores had finished decking themselves out in tinsel and holly several years ago. I heard someone singing. He was using a microphone. He was also wearing a red suit. The guy had a great voice. A singer in a Santa Claus suit. An idea exploded in my head as I stood there listening to him.

I don’t live in Las Vegas, but what better place to locate my guy. Johnny Madison obviously isn’t a big-time singer, so I put him in an out of the way dive off the strip. He loses his job, but his agent who runs an employment agency, not a talent agency, gets him a gig singing Sinatra songs in another dive. It doesn’t go well. Then he gets hit by a taxi. But the driver is going to play an important part in his life.

Then his agent calls. The only job left in town is at the mall. What kind of singing gig is there in a mall? And he has to wear this suit… a red suit… a Santa Claus suit, but he can sing if he wants. And he does.

Johnny gets noticed by the female clerks in nearby shops and they like his voice. So does a young girl in a wheelchair. She loves Santa. And her father is a BIG TALENT AGENT.

Johnny finally gets another chance to sing, but this time it isn’t what he expects… it’s worse. And there is another problem. He makes a promise to the young girl as Santa. He makes another promise to the big talent agent as a singer. But this is his big chance. Maybe his last chance. What does a guy do on Christmas Eve?

 A former private detective and once a reporter for a small weekly newspaper, Gayle Bartos-Pool writes two detective series: the Gin Caulfield P.I. series (Media JusticeHedge Bet & Damning Evidence) and The Johnny Casino Casebook Series. She also penned a series of spy novels, The SPYGAME Trilogy: The Odd Man, Dry Bones, and Star Power. She has a collection of short stories in From Light To DARK, as well as novels: Eddie Buick’s Last CaseEnchanted: The Ring, The Rose, and The RapierThe Santa Claus Singer, and a delightful holiday story, Bearnard’s Christmas.

She is the former Speakers Bureau Director for Sisters in Crime/Los Angeles and also a member of Mystery Writers of America and The Woman’s Club of Hollywood. She teaches writing classes: “Anatomy of a Short Story,” “How To Write Convincing Dialogue” and “Writing a Killer Opening Line” in sunny Southern California.


Link to book on Amazon:


Monday, December 21, 2015

IN 25 WORDS OR LESS by Joanne Guidoccio

After completing my novel, I attended a number of workshops where the facilitators stressed the importance of a hook or logline.

What is a hook/logline?

Very simply, it is a concise sentence that answers the question: What is your novel about? An effective logline provides enough interest to prolong the conversation with a prospective agent or publisher, encourages readers to pick up the book, and creates tweetable buzz.

At first, I found it a daunting task. How could I possibly condense 69,000 words into 25 words or less?

I started by looking at the some of the great hooks in literature and cinema:

A man goes into the jungle to search for a missing general. (Heart of Darkness)

A reclusive chocolateer opens up his factory to the lucky children who find golden tickets. (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory)

A sea captain forces his crew to search for an elusive white whale. (Moby Dick)

A train engine thinks it can make it up a hill. (The Little Engine That Could)

A young FBI cadet must confide in an incarcerated and manipulative killer to receive his help on catching another serial killer who skins his victims. (The Silence of the Lambs)

Two imprisoned men bond over a number of years, finding solace and eventual redemption through acts of common decency. (The Shawshank Redemption)

Forrest Gump, while not intelligent, has accidentally been present at many historic moments, but his true love, Jenny, eludes him. (Forrest Gump)

And my all time favorite…

Film Director James Cameron pitched his idea for the three-hour epic in just six words:
Romeo and Juliet on the Titanic.

My hook

A brunette lottery winner never has an alibi when dead blondes turn up in Dumpsters near her favorite haunts. (A Season for Killing Blondes)

Do you have a hook for your novel or WIP? 


Hours before the opening of her career counseling practice, Gilda Greco discovers the dead body of golden girl Carrie Ann Godfrey, neatly arranged in the dumpster outside her office. Gilda’s life and budding career are stalled as Detective Carlo Fantin, her former high school crush, conducts the investigation.

When three more dead blondes turn up all brutally strangled and deposited near Gilda’s favorite haunts, she is pegged as a prime suspect for the murders. Frustrated by Carlo’s chilly detective persona and the mean girl antics of Carrie Ann’s meddling relatives, Gilda decides to launch her own investigation. She discovers a gaggle of suspects, among them a yoga instructor in need of anger management training, a lecherous photographer, and fourteen ex-boyfriends.

As the puzzle pieces fall into place, shocking revelations emerge, forcing Gilda to confront the envy and deceit she has long overlooked.


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In 2008, Joanne took advantage of early retirement and decided to launch a second career that would tap into her creative side and utilize her well-honed organizational skills. Slowly, a writing practice emerged. Her articles and book reviews were published in newspapers, magazines, and online. When she tried her hand at fiction, she made reinvention a recurring theme in her novels and short stories. A member of Sisters in Crime, Crime Writers of Canada, and Romance Writers of America, Joanne writes paranormal romance, cozy mysteries, and inspirational literature from her home base of Guelph, Ontario.

Where to find Joanne...







Thursday, December 17, 2015

Let the Holidays Inspire Your Next (Fictional) Murder By Nina Mansfield

I think of the holidays, I think of family. And whenever I think of family, I think of murder.
No need to start calling the proper authorities. Sure, my family drives me a little bit batty at times, but I don’t spend my time plotting their demise. However, whenever I am stuffing my face at one of those raucous holiday parties, I can’t help but think it would make a great setting for some murder mystery story.

After all, so many of the key ingredients for a good mystery are already in place. Means, motive and opportunity.

I’ll start with motive, because murderous motives can run high in families. I’m thinking fictionally of course. Kill off a sibling or two, and suddenly someone gets a much better share of that rich uncle’s inheritance. And speaking of inheritances, when is that rich uncle or great-great-Aunt what’s her name going to kick the can and leave you a fortune to squander? Money not your motive—how about revenge? The brother who stole your girlfriend in high school and ended up marrying the woman of your dreams; the cousin who gave you that bum stock tip and cost you a fortune; the sister who never has a problem with her pumpkin pie crust… sure, you can spend the whole year avoiding this loathsome person, but not during the holidays. Plan on spending lots of time with them in close quarters so that your vengeful thoughts can boil over.

Means and opportunity go hand in hand during the holidays. Put a bunch of people in one place, add a fair amount of food, alcohol, some general chaos, and boom. Where did that carving knife go? Does this punch taste a little funny to you? Oh, I don’t want any apple crisp, but you should really try some. Almost everyone is  just a wee bit tipsy, so no one is going to remember exactly who left the room at what time to check on the roast, or notice that Uncle Al has been missing for hours…until of course his body turns up. Was he strangled with the Christmas lights? Poisoned with the mistletoe? The possibilities are endless.

Families often abound with kooky characters who would not normally come together in one place if it were not for that turkey that needs eating, or those gifts that need to be exchanged. And if you are like me, you probably base the characters in your stories, at least loosely, on the people you encounter in real life. Even if you have the most wonderful, least annoying, sanity provoking family in the world, I am sure there is at least one quirky personality that through the magic of fiction might make it into your next story. And I am sure that you could devise a reason why someone might want to slip a bit of cyanide into their eggnog.

There are, of course, many, many tales of murder and suspense that are set during this holiday season of ours. Here are just a few titles to inspire you:

·         “Christmas Crumble” by M.C. Beaton

·         Hercule Poirot’s Christmas by Agatha Christie
·         The Fleet Street Murders by Charles Finch

·         Jerusalem Inn by Martha Grimes

·         Tied up in Tinsel by Ngaio Marsh

·         The Darkest Room by Johan Theorin

I’m going to give myself a little homework assignment over the holidays. While the wine is being drunk and the stuffing is getting gobbled up, I’m going to keep my writer’s eyes open, and plan a little murder. On paper, of course.

What’s your favorite holiday murder mystery? Please share in the comments.

Nina Mansfield BIO:

Nina Mansfield is a Greenwich, Connecticut based writer. Her debut novel, SWIMMING ALONE a young adult mystery, was published by Fire & Ice YA in August 2015. Nina began her writing career as a playwright; she has written numerous plays, which have been published and produced throughout United States and internationally. Nina’s short mystery fiction has appeared in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine and Mysterical-E. Nina is a member of Mystery Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, Sisters in Crime, the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and the Dramatists Guild.  Please visit her at


The Sea Side Strangler is on the loose in Beach Point, where fifteen-year-old Cathy Banks is spending what she thinks will be a wretched summer. Just when she begins to make friends, and even finds a crush to drool over, her new friend Lauren vanishes.  When a body surfaces in Beach Point Bay, Cathy is forced to face the question: Has the Sea Side Strangler struck again?

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

"Never Trust Your Memory" by Betty Webb

Like it or not, research is invaluable to writing a good mystery novel. But much of that research means double-checking things you already “know.”

For instance, I’ve lived in Scottsdale AZ since 1982, and much of my time here has been spent as a reporter, driving back and forth across the Valley of the Sun chasing story after story. So I knew the Valley pretty well, right? Wrong.

In the first draft of “Desert Noir,” my first mystery novel, I misnamed streets and put in intersections that don’t exist. I also wrote in tracts of empty desert that no longer exist, having long been replaced by sprawling subdivisions. I misnamed hotels, I misnamed corporations, I wrote in one-way streets running the wrong way.

How did this happen? Easy. I was writing from “memory of the known” only, and thus didn’t bother to fact-check my memory. Fortunately, in the second draft of “Desert Noir,” I fact-checked myself via a map and updated business and location information, so I caught those goofs before my agent delivered my manuscript to my publisher. I’ll have to admit, though, the number of errors I’d made in writing from memory alone surprised me.

I am now writing “Desert Vengeance,” my ninth “Desert” novel, at the same time I’m celebrating the release of “The Puffin of Death,” my fourth “Gunn Zoo” mystery. Since the publication of that long-ago “Desert Noir” I’ve learned a thing or two.

I’ve especially learned that we writers should never trust our memories; memory lies. Look back on your childhood, for instance, and make a list of all the dates you can remember off the top of your head without double-checking. What year did you go to Disneyland, for instance? Had your baby brother already been born, or was he still just a gleam in your parents’ eyes? Did you have to wait very long to get on the Matterhorn ride, or was it a breeze? Which hotel did you stay at, and for how long? Was it a trip unblemished by trouble, or did snafus pester your trip every day? Write down all your answers, and then check them against your parents’ (and/or your baby brother’s) recollections. Chances are you all remember very different experiences, right down to the year of the Disneyland trip.

Reporters know how much “facts” tend to wiggle around, according to the person who is relating them. Let’s say four pedestrians – each standing on separate corners – see the same accident. Once the debris is cleared away and the vehicles hauled off, the reporter sent out to cover the accident gets four very different versions of the accident. The woman standing on the northeast says the green Chevy Malibu ran the red light and crashed into the tan Volkswagen Golf.  The man standing on the southeast corner tells the reporter that the accident happened because neither the green Buick nor the white Honda Civic stopped at the four-way stop sign. The other two witnesses saw something completely different, an accident involving a green Hyundai Sonota and a white Fiat, or a black Ford and a pale blue Nissan. Sometimes there was a light at the intersection, sometimes it was a four-way stop. No matter which version the reporter writes up – unless he first checks with the official accident report – his story will be flawed.

My point is this: when putting something in print, never trust your memory. Or what you “saw.” Check your sources first.
Iceland Sodhouses

While researching “The Puffin of Death,” which was set in Iceland, I read histories of Iceland, studied Icelandic travel books, Googled all things Icelandic, and – because the book includes many species of birds – bought and read the Collins Field Guide edition of “Birds of Britain & Europe,” by Roger Tory Peterson, Guy Montfort, and P.A.D. Hollom. I committed as much information as I could to memory. Then I flew to Iceland and crisscrossed the country for two weeks, picking up literature, receipts, and souvenirs from each spot I visited. Then I came home and began to write.

Guess what? Regardless of all the care I took while writing the first draft of “The Puffin of Death,” I misnamed a hotel, got some directions wrong, misnamed a volcano, put the town of Vik sixty miles east of where it actually sits, and got the ingredients wrong in the Icelandic version of a hot dog. Again, how could this happen?

It happened because I wrote that first draft from memory -- and even a trained reporter’s memory can be flawed.

Fortunately, using the reams of material and bags full of receipts I’d collected in Iceland, I was able to fix my screw-ups in the final draft of “The Puffin of Death,” and so far, no one has written me to tell me I got something wrong. However, my husband – who was with me during my Icelandic sojourn – remembers the trip differently, right down to what we ate for dinner at that restaurant overlooking the slope of Eyjafjallakokull, the erupting volcano that tied up European air traffic for five days, six years ago.

Or was it six days, five years ago?

Betty Webb

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Avoid the January Writing Blahs by J. L. Greger

I like to curl up in January and forget my writing. Big mistake! Do you lose energy during the cold days of winter? Maybe these tips will encourage you to make progress on your writing projects in January.

1) Write every day. My definition of writing includes: researching topics, composing text, editing, and publicizing the work. The advantage of writing a bit every day is I’m forced to think about my plot, characters, and style frequently.

2) Organize your writing. I’m more of a pantser than a plotter, but I keep a running list of characters (with short profiles) and a timeline. These tools make it easier for me to quickly pick up my writing every day.

3) Edit. I know a few authors claim they only need to edit their work once; I'm not that good. I find the editing task less daunting if I break the process into three steps and do each after I complete a chapter or two. (Of course, I still have to edit again after I complete the first draft.)

These questions should be considered during a content edit. Are the facts (scientific, historic, geographic) correct? Are locations described vividly and accurately? Are the characters interesting and consistent? Do major character "grow" during the arc of the story? Is the timeline realistic?

 The style edit is hard to define but important. Novels are generally more interesting if dialogue, action sequences, and psychological development of characters are interspersed so that the pace of the novel varies. The point of view should be clear in each scene.

The edit for word choices, grammar, and typos often seems like an endless process. I try to reduce the use of "overused” words, replace weak verbs with action ones, tweak sentences to be active not passive, and check for spelling and grammar errors (which I euphemistically call typos).

4) Read. When I’m stumped on how to present a scene or develop a character, I read someone else’s fiction—short stories or novels. As I read their work, I try to imagine how they would handle my “problem.”

I hope you’ll want to check out, my latest thriller, I Saw You in Beirut. It’s available at Amazon:

In I Saw You in Beirut, a mysterious source of leaks on the Iranian nuclear industry, known only as F, sends an email from Tabriz: Help. Contact Almquist. Intelligence sources determine the message refers to Sara Almquist, a globetrotting epidemiologist, and seek her help to extract F from Iran. As Sara tries to identify F by dredging up memories about her student days at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and her work in Lebanon and the Emirates, groups ostensibly wanting to prevent F’s escape attack her repeatedly. She begins to suspect her current friendship with Sanders, a secretive State Department official, is the real reason she’s being attacked.

Bio: JL Greger’s thrillers and mysteries feature a middle-aged woman protagonist, Sara Almquist. She includes travel to exotic places, tidbits of science, and lots of action in her novels because she is an inveterate traveler and a biological scientist. Her novels include: Malignancy (winner of 2015 Public Safety Writers’ annual contest), Ignore the Pain, Murder: A New Way to Lose Weight, and Coming Flu. Bug (shown in the picture) rules their house and is a character in all her novels. Her website is:

THE HOOK by Kathleen Delaney

Cozy mysteries have been around since Agatha Christie started turning them out during the early nineteen hundreds. They’ve changed since then but still retain the same central core. Not too much blood, sex remains firmly behind closed doors, and the thrust of the story is who committed murder and why.

Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple knew everyone in her village, knew their parents and their children. She was a keen observer of human nature and a great listener. She also expected the worst of everyone and was rarely disappointed. The combination of village life and Miss Marple’s assessment of the people in it while she knitted garment after garment was The Hook. I don’t think Agatha used that term, but it was what made us come back, story after story.

Cozies are still grounded in one place, usually in a small town, and always with a small cast of characters who know each other well. Sometimes too well. Publishers want their heroine-it is almost always a heroine- to be an integral part of the community, as was Miss Marple, with the mystery revolving around the part she plays in that community. Only, today we have heroines who run flower shops, bakeries, tea shops, herb shops, catering businesses and quilting stores. They are real estate salespeople, sheriffs or mayors in small towns, have dead end jobs, clean houses, teach fly fishing—maybe not fly fishing.  The murders, all the conflict in the story, swirl around their jobs or professions. The combination of that and what happens while they’re doing them pulls us back into their world again and again, wanting to see what happens next.

That is The Hook. But wait, there’s more.

In a cozy mystery the setting is not only worked into the story line but subtly imparts information. Herbs and what they do for, or possibly, to you, quilt patterns and the history behind them, a behind the scenes look at how bakeries turn out those delicious delights, how wineries turn grapes into wine. These are the little added things that make the modern cozy not only fun but interesting on a whole new level. Miss Marple may have knitted a mean sweater and listened to everything everyone in her village had to say but she never gave us a knitting pattern nor took us down the aisle of the local dog show.

I’ve tried to add some of those “behind the scenes” tidbits in the Ellen McKenzie real estate mysteries. I’ve touched on real estate development in a small town, talked about breeding and showing of Arabian horses, murdered a chef by dropping him into a wine fermenting tank, (the wine in that tank didn’t get bottled but you get a pretty good tour of the wine cellar floor while looking for clues) and explored the kitchen and all of its equipment in a small local bakery.

It’s in the fifth book in the Ellen McKenzie series, though, where I have really explored the possibilities of setting.

Murder by Syllabub finds Ellen McKenzie and her aunt, Mary McGill, in Virginia, learning how to bake a cake in a fireplace, roast a stuffed chicken on a spit and how to make Syllabub, while they track down a murdering colonial ghost.  

Where else but in a cozy mystery could you learn all these things, have fun, and solve a murder at the same time?  

Millie headed through the tables, toward the dressing area, but not with her usual brisk trot. She crouched down, almost slinking, the rumble in her throat audible as she dragged her leash. Mary watched her for a moment, the unease she’d felt before returning and building. She’d never seen Millie act like this. Where was she going? Toward the curtains. There was no uncertainty in the dog’s destination. There was something behind those curtains she didn’t like.
Mary set her tote down once more but held tightly onto her phone. She clicked off the flashlight and set her finger on the red button AARP had so thoughtfully provided for quick access to 911. Surely she wouldn’t need it, but she didn’t like the way Millie was acting. Was there really something behind those curtains? Slowly she threaded her way through the tables, her eyes never leaving the dog.
Millie stopped in front of the faded green bedspread that closed off one end of the dressing area. She looked back over her shoulder at Mary then back at the bedspread, and the rumble in her throat got louder. Something stuck out from under the bedspread. Mary came to a halt and stared. Whatever it was hadn’t been there last night. She stepped closer. Slippers. Pink furry slippers. Had someone come in here last night to try on slippers? Irritation wiped away the unease that had filled her. Of all the idiotic things to do. Why anyone would…how anyone could have...puzzled, but no less irritated, Mary descended on the slippers, intent on putting them back on the correct table before everyone got here. She stopped.
The slippers had feet in them.
Her heart started to beat faster and her breath came out in little puffs. Holding her cell in one hand, she grabbed the bedspread with the other and pulled. They’d done a good job. It slid easily on the makeshift rod to expose the chair Mary had left in the dressing area. A chair that should have been empty but wasn’t. A woman sat sprawled in it. An old woman with wispy gray hair, her feet encased in the pink slippers. The rest of her was covered with a long-sleeved pink nightdress. A blue corduroy robe had come loose from its tie and fell open on each side of her, covering the chair. The tie lay on the floor beside her.
Mary gasped loud and clear in the empty room. It couldn’t be. It was impossible, only she was looking at her. Emilie Plym, poor little Miss Plym who wouldn’t hurt a fly, who most of the time didn’t know where she was or how she got there, but who never seemed to mind. Someone would gather her up and return her home, she was sure. Everyone was her friend, and she had a smile for them all. How had she gotten in here? Why had she? Mary made herself look closer. Miss Plym’s face was an odd gray color, and her eyes were open and bloodshot. Her mouth was slightly open and her tongue…Mary started to blink rapidly in an effort to clear her vision and she staggered a little. Whatever had happened, Miss Plym had not come in, sat down and quietly died.
Breathe deeply. Deep breaths, that’s right. She looked at Millie, who no longer seemed to want to growl. She stared at Miss Plym as if she, too, couldn’t believe what she saw.
Mary sighed and hit the red 911 button. “Hazel? Is that you? Yes, it’s Mary. No, I’m not all right. Hazel, I’m at St. Mark’s, in the church hall. No, no. It’s not on fire. I’m afraid it’s worse than that. Miss Plym is here. No, I can’t take her home and neither can anyone else. Hazel, she’s dead, and I don’t think from natural causes. Can you get Dan over here right away? Thanks.”
Mary hung up and slipped the phone in her jacket pocket before she addressed the dog. “I don’t know what happened, but I know there’ll be no rummage sale today.”
Millie whined. 

About the books:

Kathleen Delaney’s mysteries have consistently been praised by Library Journal, Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, Booklist, and recently, Purebred Dead was named Book of the Day in the Killer Memphis newsletter. Curtains for Miss Plym has already earned a 5 star review and it is yet to be released.
Look for it in the UK in early Jan and in the US in April.

Read the 1st chapter of all the books  by clicking

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Friday, December 11, 2015


Edward Harlow writes etiquette books under the pseudonym of Aunt Civility, a secret shared only by his publisher and his brother, Nicholas.  He was hired to write the books by Classical Reads Publishing because he met their criteria: he could memorize facts, such as which fork to use to eat the shrimp cocktail; he turned out copy quickly; and he looked good in a tuxedo (for those times when he would appear in public as Aunt Civility's official representative.)

Good manners don't come naturally to Edward, and that's where his brother comes in. Nicholas, who is also Edward's secretary, keeps his brother in check. However, not even Emily Post anticipated the proper response to murder, and when a fellow guest at Inglenook Resort turns up dead, it's every man (and woman) for himself.

Though Edward is a fictional character in my latest mystery novel, Civility Rules, I think he serves to remind us that manners are the root of a civil society.  Remember when men removed their hats as funerals passed by? Or when women didn't swear, at least not in public?

Manners are more than just a fad. They are an intricate part of respecting the other person, and the key to bringing them back into style is to practice them in public.  But remember, not everyone knows the rules, so be kind when you point out errors. Here are a few examples of how I had to learn my manners:

When I was at a party, I approached a table of people to say hello. An older gentleman rose when I approached, and though it was difficult for him to remain standing, he didn't return to his seat. He was standing in the presence of a young lady, and he wasn't going to sit until I did. As soon as I figured this out, I found a chair and sat down so that he could be comfortable. He was practicing good manners, but so was I when I noticed his discomfort and responded.  One of the keys to good manners is the rule do what you can to make the other person comfortable.

Another time, before I could drive, a friend and I were on a crowded bus headed for the mall. New people boarded, but the two of us didn't notice, as we were deep in conversation and fits of giggles. Suddenly, a woman said to me, "Get up and let that lady have your seat." An elderly woman had boarded the bus and found that all of the seats were taken. We hadn't noticed. I jumped to my feet, said, "Yes, Ma'am," and gave up my seat.

The first woman needed to point out to me the correct response to the situation, and by the way, she did it with a smile.  Though I showed a relapse in not recognizing the situation, I had been raised with manners, so I responded to authority with the proper address and by complying with her request.

Nicholas often points out to Edward, "You never use your manners with me!"  How true! When we have a familiar relationship with someone, such as a family member, it's easy to forget to say please and thank you. Sometimes, good manners are even discouraged. When I worked in the insurance industry, my clients were Ma'am and Sir. Countless times, the response was, "Don't call me that! It makes me sound old!" Since good manners are not about me as much as about the other person, I stopped the practice, and I noticed that this slight change altered the tone of future conversations. They became more casual. In some ways, a shame.

So, are you ready to test your manners?

You approach Pastor Terry Jones with your friend, Ida Smith. Which is the correct introduction?

1. Ida, I'd like you to meet Pastor Jones.
2. Pastor Jones, I'd like to introduce you to my friend, Ida Smith.
3. Terry, this is Ida. Ida, this is Terry.

The correct answer is #2.  When making introductions, always use a person's title. Also, the person of higher social rank (the head of the congregation, your boss, etc.) should be addressed first, and the other person should be introduced to them.

Thank you all for taking the time to read this post, and a big thank you to Marilyn Meredith for having me on her blog! Have a wonderful, civil week!


Jacqueline Vick is the author of over twenty short stories, novelettes and mystery novels. Her April 2010 article for Fido Friendly Magazine, “Calling Canine Clairvoyants”, led to the first Frankie Chandler Pet Psychic mystery, Barking Mad About Murder, followed by A Bird's Eye View of Murder. Her first Harlow Brothers' mystery, Civility Rules, will be out by January 2016. To find out more, visit her website at