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A new Washington Whodunit: Calamity at the Continental Club by Colleen J. Shogan

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The Mayflower Society is about to hold its annual meeting at Washington D.C.’s swanky gathering place for the elite, the Continental Club. That means Kit Marshall’s upper-crust future in-laws, Buffy and Winston Hollingsworth, are coming for a visit. Annoyed that Kit has not set a date to marry Doug, Buffy wants her to commit to a high society wedding at the club. Kit, though chief of staff for a congresswoman, feels uncomfortable with Buffy and Winston’s crowd.

Kit receives an unexpected reprieve in the form of murder. En route to her morning jog, she encounters the corpse of the leader of the Mayflower Society, conservative multimedia tycoon Grayson Bancroft. On the security cameras, no one was seen entering or leaving the club, which means the culprit had to be an overnight guest. Little love was lost on Bancroft, but the police have their prime suspect: Doug’s father.

Buffy and Winston, formerly disdainful of Kit’s sleuthing, urge her to investigate. With her future in-laws’ freedom and reputations at stake, Kit sets out once again to solve a murder mystery, this time aided by her fiancé Doug in addition to her friends Meg and Trevor and her dog Clarence. Her search for clues will take her from the club to the Smithsonian Museum, the National Archives, and Mount Vernon.

Calamity at the Continental Club is Book 3 of the Washington Whodunit series, which began with Stabbing in the Senate and continued with Homicide in the House.


Island Confidential: Colleen, welcome to Island Confidential! Can you tell us a little bit about your protagonist? 

Colleen Shogan: Kit Marshall is a plucky, thirty-something Capitol Hill staffer who somehow finds herself embroiled in murder on a routine basis in Washington, D.C. In this book, she’s dealing with her recent proposal and planning a wedding while she solves a double homicide. She’s got her hands full!

How similar are you and Kit?

CS: I previously worked as a congressional staffer, but I’m not Kit Marshall. Instead, Kit is a pastiche of all the women I worked with on Capitol Hill. She’s no one person, but blends a lot of traits and characteristics. Kit tries to balance a lot in her life. She’s a little obsessed with keeping everyone happy: her fiancé, her best friend, her boss. But she also likes to have fun and has an impetuous side. She’d be a good person to know in Washington.

Do your characters change and evolve throughout consecutive books in the series?

CS: Yes, absolutely. I’ve read a number of cozy mystery series and one of my pet peeves is characters who remain static. There’s something comforting to readers about that consistency but it can also grow boring. So I try to keep relationships evolving. Kit’s fiancé, Doug, changes a lot in this story, and that’s going to have long term effects for the role he plays in the series.

Have you ever thought of killing someone that you know in real life–on the pages of a murder mystery, I mean?

CS: Sure, all the time. What’s the point of writing mysteries if you can’t fantasize about killing people who bug you the most?

How realistic is your setting? Do you take liberties, or are you true to life?

CS: My settings are true to life. This book is set at a fictitious social club in Washington, D.C. but it strongly resembles several real-life locations. At times, you may need to take small liberties to make a particular plot work, but I am pretty obsessive about making sure I’m describing Washington in an accurate way. I want people who have never lived in our nation’s capital to understand what it’s like to reside there.

When the movie or TV series is made, who plays the major parts?

CS: America Ferrera might make a good Kit Marshall. Or maybe Kelly Clarkson. I don’t like it when movies are made and the character in the book wasn’t super skinny, but then the actress who plays her is a size 2. That ruins it. For Meg, I picture a Clare Danes or Kristen Bell. For Doug, it’s harder to say. I think Charlie Day could do it. He could bring a lot of humor and wit to Doug.

What’s the worst and best advice you’ve heard or received as an author?

CS: The best advice has to do with perseverance. It’s important to keep writing and revising. Not everyone is going to like what you write. That doesn’t mean a lot of other people won’t love it! I’ve been lucky and haven’t received too much bad advice. I do remember an agent I met who liked my concept for a mystery series based in Washington, D.C. But she didn’t like the working title of my first book, Stabbing in the Senate. Quite frankly, I adored the alliterative title and so did everyone else who heard about it. So I had to say “thanks, but no thanks!”


About the Author

Colleen Shogan has been reading mysteries since the age of six. A political scientist by training, Colleen has taught American politics at Yale, George Mason, Georgetown, and Penn. She previously worked in the United States Senate and for the Congressional Research Service. She’s currently a senior executive at the Library of Congress, working on great outreach initiatives such as the National Book Festival. She lives in Arlington, Virginia with her husband Rob Raffety and their beagle mutt, Conan.

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A new Gilda Greco Mystery, guest post, #Giveaway: Too Many Women in the Room by Joanne Guidoccio

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When Gilda Greco invites her closest friends to a VIP dinner, she plans to share David Korba’s signature dishes and launch their joint venture—Xenia, an innovative Greek restaurant near Sudbury, Ontario.

Unknown to Gilda, David has also invited Michael Taylor, a lecherous photographer who has throughout the past three decades managed to annoy all the women in the room. One woman follows Michael to a deserted field for his midnight run and stabs him in the jugular.

Gilda’s life is awash with complications as she wrestles with a certain detective’s commitment issues and growing doubts about her risky investment in Xenia. Frustrated, Gilda launches her own investigation and uncovers decades-old secrets and resentments that have festered until they explode into untimely death. Can Gilda outwit a killer bent on killing again?

 

 


All About Tag Lines

At a recent meet-up, I was surprised to learn that many of the writers in the room (myself included) didn’t know the difference between a log line and a tag line. I had always assumed the two terms could be used interchangeably. While both terms originated in the film industry, the two concepts have very different structures and functions.

A log line provides the main conflict, main character, and the stakes in a well-constructed sentence that is usually less than 25 words in length.

A tag line is a catch phrase that sets the tone. It sums up the entire plot in one compelling phrase or sentence that is at most 10 words in length.

In my research, I discovered that several synonyms exist for taglines, among them tags (United States), end lines or straplines in the United Kingdom, payoffs in Italy, and baselines in Belgium, and signatures in France.

Here are sample tag lines from the film industry:

One ring to rule them all.        Lord of the Rings

Don’t go into the water.         Jaws

The list is life.                          Schindler’s List

Not every gift is a blessing.    The Sixth Sense

The Toys are back in town.     Toy Story 2

Collide with destiny.              Titanic

There can be only one.            Highlander

Whoever wins…We lose.        Alien Vs. Predator

While these tag lines evoke interest and emotion, they provide few specifics about the individual movies. Instead, puns and clever wording set the appropriate tone and succeed in hooking potential moviegoers.

In the same way, a tag line for a novel needs to tantalize prospective readers with a minimum of well-chosen words and images. Less is definitely more when it comes to taglines.

Here’s the tag line for Too Many Women in the Room:

8 women → 8 motives to kill.

Any memorable tag lines to share?


About The Author

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 Crime Writers of Canada, Sisters in Crime, and Romance Writers of America, Joanne writes cozy mysteries, paranormal romance, and inspirational literature from her home base of Guelph, Ontario.

Where to find Joanne…

 

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Murder with a paranormal twist: New Sins for Old Scores

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Murder, like history, often repeats itself. And, when it does, it’s the worst kind of murder.
Detective Richard Jax was never good at history—but, after years as a cop, he is about to get the lesson of his life. Ambushed and dying on a stakeout, he’s saved by Captain Patrick “Trick” McCall—the ghost of a World War II OSS agent. Trick has been waiting since 1944 for a chance to solve his own murder. Soon Jax is a suspect in a string of murders—murders linked to smuggling refugees out of the Middle East—a plot similar to the World War II OSS operation that brought scientists out of war-torn Europe. With the aid of a beautiful and intelligent historian, Dr. Alex Vouros, Jax and Trick unravel a seventy-year-old plot that began with Trick’s murder in 1944. Could the World War II mastermind, code named Harriet, be alive and up to old games? Is history repeating itself?Together, Jax and Trick hunt for the link between their pasts—confronted by some of Washington’s elite and one provocative, alluring French Underground agent, Abrielle Chanoux. Somewhere in Trick’s memories is a traitor. That traitor killed him. That traitor is killing again. Who framed Jax and who wants Trick’s secret to remain secret? The answer may be, who doesn’t?


T.J., thanks for stopping by Island Confidential.  Can you tell us a little bit about your lead characters, Richard and Trick?

 T.J.:Richard Jax and Trick McCall are some of my fav characters from my mysteries! Jax is a Special Agent with the Virginia Bureau of Criminal Investigations (BCI)—the state’s version of the FBI. He’s a likable, hardworking guy who runs afoul of his fiancé and best friend—Kathleen Cullen and Special Agent Leo Carraba. Let’s just say he trusts the wrong people. Jax has a few quirks, too, like reciting movie quotes and characters when he gets nervous. His favorite is old firm noir from the 1940’s like Charlie Chan.  Then there’s Trick. When Jax is ambushed and nearly killed, he’s saved by the spirit of long-dead World War II OSS—Office of Strategic Services—operative, Captain Patrick “Trick” McCall. Trick was murdered in 1944 and is hunting his own killer, now. But being the pragmatic investigator he is, Jax thinks he’s losing his mind and not seeing a ghost—despite the help Trick gives him. When Jax has to face his own failures with his fiancé and Carraba, he begins to question his own sanity and wonder if his being the prime suspect in Carraba’s murder is for good reason. Was he to blame? Did he actually kill his best friend?

While Jax is pragmatic and often too serious, Trick is a fun-loving, fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants adventurer who pushes and cajoles Jax along the way to solving the murders. Together they must find the truth behind a WWII traitor and a treacherous plot that has lasted for over 75 years. As they do, Trick has to come to terms with being a 1940’s man suddenly thrust into 2011. The people and advances are unnerving to him and he uses humor and sarcasm to make his place in this world.

 In the end, Jax learns the truth behind Captain Trick McCall, his friends and loves, and why history has once again repeated itself.

Is there any of you in either of the protagonists?   

 T.J.: Moi? Well … a bit but not as much as my protagonists in my other novels. I’m an acquired taste and it’s best to spread the real-me over a few characters and not all in one. As a former government agent now a consultant, Jax’s persona and idiosyncrasies are certainly from me. So are his skill-sets. I’ve run homicide and corruption investigations, chased terrorists, and dealt with the human side of these crimes and adventures. Those things come from my experiences and onto the pages—I hope. I try to capture that human cost—the innocent caught up in the chase, the untold consequences of my character’s actions and inactions. Many other’s thrillers and mysteries are focused on the chase, the clues, and the grand finale. Mine are too, but I try hard to carry along the cost of these events in my stories. With Jax, he loses his friends and loves along the way, and as he makes new ones, there is a larger cost—trust, respect, even his career. I’ve experienced these things myself.

There is certainly more of me in Captain Trick McCall than Jax. I love Trick’s character. He’s an adventurer—that’s how he was recruited into the OSS in the 1940’s. He tries to keep things light and fun and even in the face of danger, keeps his cool with jokes and sarcasm. That’s 110% me. Trick also likes to dissect problems with a little charm and wit—keep the goal in mind but don’t let it consume you. That’s also something I try to do. Not always successfully, but then, Trick isn’t, either.

In my writing, no matter the character, I try to look through their eyes and respond realistically. I’ve been in many real-life adventures and can relate to what my characters endure. Even the bad guys—although it’s a bit harder since I’ve never been a truly bad guy in my life. I have been to murder scenes, autopsies, terror attacks … you name it. I know what holding back bile is like when you first get to a nasty crime scene. I know fear and what it’s like to wonder if you’re going home that night. I also know what it’s like to tell someone their loved one is dead. So those costs in a murder mystery are real to me and I try very hard to make them real to my characters.

So between Jax and Trick, they each have a good piece of me in them. After all, I wrote them so I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have a big investment in their lives.

How would you feel about these characters if you met them in real life?

 T.J.: Truth is, I have. Every one of my characters comes from my real-life background and adventures I’ve had around the world. I’ve lived and worked in places like Greece, Turkey, Italy, the United Kingdom, throughout the America’s and elsewhere. I’ve known some pretty amazing people and some pretty nasty ones. So when I develop a character, I steal traits from those I’ve known. Bad guys included. Oh, there is no character that is 100% someone, but maybe 50-50 between a couple people I’ve known.  So, if I’d met them now, I’d be right at home.

Do your characters change and evolve throughout consecutive books in the series?

  T.J.:  Absolutely. If they didn’t, who’d read about them? I try to develop a character as close to life as possible—strengths, weaknesses, oddities. Jax can be too pragmatic, loses his confidence, and is no-fun—too focused and driven. As New Sins for Old Scores moves along, Trick begins to break through and pull other traits out of him. Jax lightens up a bit and regains some of his confidence. But since Jax is a victim in this story, too, he has a long way to go to find normalcy again. By the end of New Sins for Old Scores, he’s close but not completely healed up. Trick also continues to go through character development. He begins as an out-of-sorts forties man trying to understand the 21st century. As the story progresses, he begins to hone his own contributions to the story and grows his confidence in this new world of his.

 My characters also have true-to-life failings. As I mentioned, Jax loses confidence and also is too pragmatic to let loose and enjoy sometimes. He struggles with the loss of his friend and fiancé, and that weighs him down. As the story builds, he occasionally finds his feet again but it doesn’t always last—causing him to make bad decisions and fail. As the series moves on, those gains and losses will continue and he and Trick will undoubtedly have to deal with other setbacks, too. It’s those setbacks and challenges that I use to move the stories and the characters forward. Without that, it would be the same old characters, doing the same old investigating. No fun at all.

 One of the big changes in Jax is how he comes to grip with Trick McCall. He gives up trying to decide if he’s a ghost or the byproduct of his near-death injuries. Over time, he treats him like a partner in solving the murders and even allows Trick to “share” him. You’ll have to read New Sins for Old Scores to learn what that means!

Have you ever thought of killing someone that you know in real life–on the pages of a murder mystery, I mean? 

 T.J.: Well … Did someone say something about me? They can’t prove it!

 In my profession, especially back in the gun-toting days with the government, I often considered the possibility I’d have to kill someone. Part of my mission back then was protecting high-ranking dignitaries from terrorist attacks and investigating terror attacks. While most missions were relatively safe, there were a few that raised the hair on my neck and kept me awake nights. There were lots of times I considered the very real possibility of having to kill someone—or someones.

But to your real question, absolutely. At one of my client offices, I have a very close friend. Every time he gives me trouble, I threatened to make him my next victim. Slow. Maniacal. In a dark basement with leeches and snakes. Yeah, he loves it.

 In truth, there have been people I’ve known in my past that have already been the bad guys and victims in my books. About five at last count. It’s easier for me to connect with bad guy characters if I mentally connect them to someone. I know their personalities, their dark sides, their mannerisms, etc. I project them into a character. It works well for me.

 And let me tell you, my ex-wife … boy, was knocking her off fun!

How realistic is your setting? Do you take liberties, or are you true to life?

T.J.: Both. My settings are, for the most part, real places that I take a few liberties with. For instance, the Grey Coat Inn in New Sins for Old Scores is a real place. It’s called something else and is not exactly where I say in the book, but it’s real nonetheless. It also has a deep history as part of the Underground Railroad just as I say in the story. Leesburg is a growing historic town in Virginia, as is Winchester (from my Oliver Tucker series). I try to keep places real so readers can relate, perhaps find and explore them too. I change things that can cause issues—building names (unless they are innocuous to the story) and specific streets, in particular if a murder occurs there or a bad guy lives there.

I am very fortunate to live in Virginia where history and wonderful towns are plentiful. All my mysteries have a historical subplot in them and I love to use the local Virginia culture and history to further those plots. It’s not hard to stay true to life, because in Virginia, history goes back to before we were a country and it has “been-there, done-that.”

I use historical events to bolster my modern-day plots. In New Sins for Old Scores, the historical subplot surrounds Operation Paperclip. This was a real OSS operation during WWII where the US was sneaking scientists and industrialists out of war-torn Europe back to the US. The Soviets and other allies did it as well. In New Sins for Old Scores, I overlaid that famous operation into the modern day and simply asked the questions, “What would happen if someone did that today in the Middle East? What if they did it illegally? What might happen then?” I connected Operation Paperclip, modern day activities surrounding the Middle East conflicts, and poof, New Sins for Old Scores was written.

 Characters are real to life, too, and based on true events. Captain Patrick “Trick” McCall is based on my mentor of 25 years, Wally F. Wally was one of the last OSS Operatives from WWII and a former deputy director at CIA. He worked with me on the characters and history, and in time, became half of Trick McCall. I, of course, was the other half—clearly the better half. The fun half, too. I lost Wally in 2015 to age and a bad heart (he was 92!) and publishing New Sins became even more important to me.

 Still, you might notice it’s not dedicated to him. That’s because I have since written a thriller, The Consultant: Double Effect, about modern day terrorism in Northern Virginia that will be published by Oceanview in May, 2018. In The Consultant, Wally is 100% the character named Oscar LaRue and plays a huge role in this book and the coming sequels. That book is dedicated to him as “the real Oscar LaRue.” I dare say, too, that every story I’ve written and published, Wally has been a main character in some way. In his living years, he begrudgingly loved it. He wasn’t a fan of the paranormal mysteries on the outside, but he loved that he was a main character on the inside.

When the movie or TV series is made, who plays the major parts?

 T.J.:The big question, right?  Today, you have to look a bit deeper into film and TV to find the really good characters. The media shoves the same old names and types at you—Brad Pitt, Jolie, DiCaprio. All stellar performers, no doubt. But there are some really great “others” that I’d go to see before any of them.

I’d love to see Nathan Fillion as Trick. I think he’s a fun-loving, personable actor who could pull off the role of being a man from the 40’s suddenly thrown into the 21st century. I also think Karl Urban from Almost Human would make a great Jax, or perhaps Alex O’Laughlin. Both of them are great actors. They can be focused and serious, but when a Nathan Fillion gets involved as Trick, they would be fun and adventurous, too. Alex, the beautiful historian, would definitely be Hayley Atwell from Agent Carter. She’s beautiful, skilled in action shows, and has that strong, take-charge persona.

What’s the worst and best advice you’ve heard or received as an author?

 T.J.:

Best advice: Keep writing. Don’t quit. It takes years to get where you’re going for most of us, don’t give up or you’ll never get anywhere. It’s the way it is. Unless you’re the 1% of authors, you won’t write a blockbuster for your first book or two or three that will allow you to quit your job and move into the mansion. I’ll never be able to do that but I won’t stop writing and hope my books continue to be published. It takes time. Long hours. Rewrites. Rewrites. Rewrites. Then more rewrites and a hell of a lot of rejection. Don’t quit. Ever.

Worst Advice: So many I can’t pick. Here are a couple of small pieces of advice that nearly threw me before I realized they were not for me:

  1. Never mix first-person with third-person in the same novel. Oh please, it’s done all the time and while I’m a new author, it works for me just fine.
  1. Start with self-publishing to get your work out. If you’re really, really good at editing, covers, marketing, and all the things no one tells you about publishing, then this might work. For me, I went to traditional publishing first. I wanted to make my bones (establish myself) before I even considered any other path. I felt, and this is not true for everyone, that getting an agent and traditional publisher first would prove to myself that I was good and could “do this.” I can always self-pub later after I develop my work and an audience. To me, it was a means of proving myself in the market. Now, having said that, many authors find happiness and a good platform doing it exclusively on their own. There are some that have best sellers and have made a huge career on their own. I am in awe of them. One day, maybe. The truth is, there are so many publishing paths today. Self-publishing is just one. There are some amazingly good micro-presses and indie presses that even if you can’t get into one of the big houses, there are great options for more traditional publishing. Black Opal Books, who published New Sins for Old Scores, is among the best of these indie presses.

In my case, I’m extremely lucky that I have three publishing houses. My first series, the Oliver Tucker Gumshoe Ghost mysteries (God, I hate that tag line) has three books with Midnight Ink, a smaller publisher under Llewellyn publishing. New Sins for Old Scores is with a great indie, Black Opal Books. My new thriller, The Consultant: Double Effect is with Oceanview Publishing, a larger, great house right up there with the biggies. I’m thrilled with all the deals my agent put together and each one moves me farther ahead. Had I stopped early on and went solo in self-publishing, I’m not sure I’d have had the ability to get even this far along.

 So, my advice? Look around. Do your research on your options. And above all, don’t be afraid to take a risk.


About The Author  

Tj O’CONNOR IS THE GOLD MEDAL WINNER OF THE 2015 INDEPENDENT PUBLISHERS BOOK AWARDS (IPPY) FOR MYSTERIES. He is the author of New Sins for Old Scores, from Black Opal Books, and Dying to KnowDying for the Past, and Dying to TellHis new thriller,The Consultant, will be out in May 2018 from Oceanview Publishing. Tj is an international security consultant specializing in anti-terrorism, investigations, and threat analysis—life experiences that drive his novels. With his former life as a government agent and years as a consultant, he has lived and worked around the world in places like Greece, Turkey, Italy, Germany, the United Kingdom, and throughout the Americas—among others. He was raised in New York’s Hudson Valley and lives with his wife and Lab companions in Virginia where they raised five children. Dying to Know is also the 2015 Bronze Medal winner of theReader’s Favorite Book Review Awards, a finalist for the Silver Falchion Best Books of 2014,and a finalist for the Foreword Review’s 2014 INDIEFAB Book of the Year Award.

Learn about Tj’s world at:

Web Site    Facebook     Blog     Goodreads


 

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New first in series: Engaged in Trouble (An Enchanted Events Mystery Book 1)

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When a washed-up pop star inherits a wedding planning business, it’s all bouquets and bliss until a bride turns up dead.
Paisley Sutton shot to stardom as a teenage rock sensation, but ten years later that star has fizzled out, just like her bank account. When she unexpectedly inherits her aunt’s wedding planning business, Paisley leaves the glamour of Los Angeles for a charming small town in Arkansas. Thinking she’ll arrive in Sugar Creek and liquidate the moldly property, Paisley’s shocked to find Enchanted Events has experienced a major makeover and is now the place for brides. She’s got two months to keep Enchanted Events afloat if she wants to sell and rekindle her music career with the profits.Paisley’s tossed into a world of vows and venues, but her most difficult challenge comes in the form of one demanding bride. When this Bridezilla’s found facedown in her cake, all fingers point to Paisley as the prime murder suspect. And she does not look good in prison orange.

This former pop princess will need the help of her gun-toting, ex-CIA grandmother and her handsome neighbor, Beau Hudson, to unravel the mystery and clear her good name. As she and her unruly posse dig into Bridezilla’s life, she discovers the woman had a long list of enemies. The closer Paisley gets to the truth, the more her own life is in danger.

Love is in the air this wedding season, but before Paisley can help the ladies of Sugar Creek say, “I do,” she’s got to unveil a killer. Or find herself the next target.

Engaged in Trouble is the first book in the long-awaited Enchanted Events cozy mystery series by award-winning author Jenny B. Jones. If you like laugh-out-loud adventures, small-town romance, unforgettable, sassy characters, and a mystery to keep you guessing, then you’ll love this new page-turning series.


Jenny, thanks for stopping by Island Confidential! Can you tell us a little bit about your protagonist? 

JBJ: Paisley Sutton is a former member of an uber popular girl band. If you think about the band Destiny’s Child, there’s at least one member you might not be able to name. That’s Paisley. She rose to fame as a teen, but now over ten years later, she’s barely getting gigs singing on cruise ships. When she unexpectedly inherits her great-aunt’s mothball ridden wedding business, Paisley moves back to Sugar Creek, Arkansas, planning to keep the business afloat long enough to sell the vintage home its housed in and cash in the profits. But when she rolls in to Sugar Creek, she realizes the moldy business is now a booming event planning agency, which is just the beginning of her complications. A dead bride in a waiting room doesn’t help either.

How would you feel about her if you met her in real life?

JBJ: I’d love to meet Paisley in real life. She wears her funky stage clothes to work, has stories of rock stars to tell, and has a gun-toting granny who’s former CIA in her corner. But Paisley’s also battling some demons and is the underdog. I’ll always root for the underdog. 
Paisley might be like me in a few ways—she’s sarcastic, likes to keep things on the bright side, and has a grandmother she adores.

Do your characters change and evolve throughout consecutive books in the series?

JBJ: I’m just finishing book two, Royally in Trouble, but the series is somewhat planned out. Paisley really struggles with self-esteem issues and earning the approval of her super successful parents. Her siblings are brainiacs, and Paisley’s always been the artsy gypsy who never quite fit their mold of what success should look like. Through the series she has to slowly let go of the old dreams to grab hold of the new ones life is offering her, including a romance with a man who was once her childhood enemy.

Have you ever thought of killing someone that you know in real life–on the pages of a murder mystery, I mean?

JBJ: Ha, no, but maybe I need to up my game? I have named some bad guys or annoying characters after a few people who’ve crossed my path who weren’t the kindest.

How realistic is your setting? Do you take liberties, or are you true to life?

JBJ: My setting is very realistic. It’s set in the Northwest corner of Arkansas, which is an interesting blend of Mayberry meets Los Angeles. It’s the home of Wal-Mart, which means that celebrities are occasionally there to do business with the mega retailer. The downtowns in the area cities have undergone renovations and are rebuilding and rebranding, including some downhome stores/restaurants, as well as some trendy, urban upper scale venues. So you might go eat a favorite Mexican restaurant, walk the square, hear some bluegrass, and even see someone like Tom Cruise or Hugh Jackman. Sugar Creek is a fictional town on a very real creek that nestles next to these Northwest Arkansas cities. And a Rockwell town is a perfect place to have a fictional murder, right? The locals all seem so innocent…

When the movie or TV series is made, who plays the major parts?

JBJ: I’m not totally sure, but I do know I want a walk-on part. I think Emma Stone would make a great Paisley, and for her romantic interest, I’ve been modeling him after an actor named Ross Marquand. Luke Evans is welcome to audition as well. I wouldn’t turn him down, though I might make him go through a few call backs.

What’s the best advice you’ve had as an author?

JBJ: Six months before I got my first contract, I was at my first writing conference. I had paid to have a few chapters of my manuscript reviewed by an author I admired. She asked me if I had pitched to any agents or editors. I said, “No, I was told not to since my book isn’t done.” And she said words I will never forget. “The rules are made for everyone but you.” In other words, push through those barriers and doors. Assume the answer is yes until you hear a no. Assume you can be an exception. Expect a miracle. Years later that author and I are now friends, but I’ll be her fangirl forever and owe her so much. She passed my few chapters on to a publisher, and six months later, I had the contract that launched my career.


About The Author

Award-winning, best-selling author Jenny B. Jones writes romance, cozies, and YA with sass and Southern charm. Since she has very little free time, Jenny believes in spending her spare hours in meaningful, intellectual pursuits, such as eating ice cream, watching puppy videos, and reading celebrity gossip. She lives in the beautiful state of Arkansas and has worked in public education for half of forever.  She loves bluegrass, a good laugh, and strong tea. She adores hearing from readers.

Webpage: www.JennyBJones.com
Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/jennybjones/
Twitter: @jenbjones

Instagram: @JennyBJonesAuthor
Good Reads: www.goodreads.com/JennyBJones

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New Zodiac Mystery: All Signs Point to Murder by Connie di Marco

>>> Enter to win a print copy of The Madness of Mercury <<<

The stars predict a wedding-day disaster, but San Francisco astrologer Julia Bonatti never expected murder

Julia Bonatti is alarmed by the astrological signs looming over Geneva Leary’s wedding day, but nobody asked Julia’s opinion and being a bridesmaid means supporting the bride no matter what. Even with the foreboding Moon-Mars-Pluto lineup in the heavens, no one’s prepared for the catastrophes that strike: a no-show sister, a passed-out wedding planner, and a lethal shooting in the dead of night.

With anger and grief threatening to tear the Leary family part, Julia is determined to understand how such a terrible tragedy could occur. As she digs deeper into the family’s secrets, her astrological insights will lead her to the truth about a criminal enterprise that stretches far beyond the California coast.


Island Confidential: Connie, thank you for stopping by! Can you tell us a little bit about your protagonist?

Connie di Marco: Julia Bonatti is a San Francisco astrologer who never thought murder would be part of her practice. In fact, she never in a million years would have predicted she’d be a practicing astrologer. Her life took an abrupt turn when her fiancé was killed in a hit and run accident, and she was no longer able to continue with her life plans. Astrology offered a sense of solace and comfort, a pathway to understand the cruel blow that she had been dealt. She discovered she was fascinated by the arcane symbols and their meanings and eventually realized she was quite good at the art of synthesis and helping her clients through difficult times.

How much of you is in Julia?  

CdM: It’s probably not possible to create any character that isn’t some aspect of oneself. Julia’s outlook on life, her values and sensibilities are probably mine, but she is a much freer and more daring agent. She’s a woman alone, although she has close family and friend connections that support her. But in a real sense, she’s a lone wolf, free to wander the city at any time, day or night, and open to far more adventure than I would be. She’s much more physically daring than I, not afraid to investigate, to confront suspects or to do whatever she feels necessary to solve the crime in spite of the danger this could represent. If I met her in real life, I’d probably admire her and wish I could be more like her. Perhaps every protagonist is an idealized version of each writer’s psyche.

Do your characters change and evolve throughout consecutive books in the series?

CdM: Yes, they do. There is a chronology to the characters’ lives and as the series continues, I do want everyone to grow and evolve. But it’s also important for each book to be read as a stand alone. I’ve found authors I’ve loved by picking up their fifth or maybe tenth book in a series, and enjoying it so much, I’ve gone back to the beginning and read each one from the start. It can be a tricky task to give readers enough backstory to understand what forces shaped a character, but not describe so much that it bogs the story down or bores a reader who is familiar with the series.

Have you ever thought of killing someone that you know in real life–on the pages of a murder mystery, I mean?

CdM: Hmmm. Should I admit to this? Well, I’ll say this, one or two of my victims are modeled on people I’ve known and really disliked, although the names have been changed to prevent any lawsuits! And I know I’ve modeled villains on real life people too. That’s even more fun. I like to invent murderers who could be someone we know, someone who lives next door, an everyday person, someone for whom there’s a logic to their crime. They may not by nature be all bad or evil, but just people who commit crimes out of passion or impulse. Or because they believe they must commit that terrible act in order to protect themselves and survive. Delving into that gray area makes those characters far more interesting I think.

How realistic is your setting? Do you take liberties, or are you true to life?

A: The Zodiac Mysteries are set in San Francisco, a real city with real streets and real buildings. So I try to be completely accurate when I describe a location like the downtown courthouse, or the kinds of restaurants in North Beach for example, although I do take liberties. It’s impossible not to. In All Signs Point to Murder, Julia meets a man who can give her information she needs at a place called Wong’s, an all night diner in Chinatown. Is there a real Wong’s? I doubt it, but there are plenty of small eateries like that in that area, so the location seems true to the city and the story. Sometimes, Julia will go to a place that really does exist. For example, she has a lunch at the Garden Court restaurant inside the Palace Hotel. A beautifully restored historic location with potted palms and glass ceilings and plus, it was a chance to incorporate a little history about its builder from 1873.

My earlier series, the Soup Lover’s Mysteries, written as Connie Archer, required a different approach. Snowflake, Vermont is an imaginary village but it offers the same things that any small town in Vermont would have – a Village Green, a white-steepled church, a soup restaurant and so on. But in those books, I wanted to cultivate that imaginary sense of place. I studied a list of Vermont cities and towns before coming up with names that don’t really exist in Vermont. The jail is in Bournmouth and the hospital’s in Lincoln Falls. I wanted to make sure that any town I mentioned did not have a counterpart in real life. I wanted the village to exist in an unreal place, like Brigadoon in the musical, a mysterious village that only appears for one day every hundred years.

When the movie or TV series is made, who plays the major parts?

CdM: I don’t really ever think about that. For one thing, no writer ever has any control over scripts or casting. I think every reader forms a picture in his or her head about a character, how they walk, what they look like, how they sound, and often the casting of actors doesn’t work very well. When Katherine Heigl was cast as Stephanie Plum, I was taken aback. Nothing against the actress, but in no way did she seem like my vision of Stephanie Plum. In the best of all possible worlds, a writer would have some control over those decisions, but that rarely if ever happens.

What’s the worst and best advice you’ve heard or received as an author?

CdM: Probably the worst advice writers receive is to write what they know. I think that’s a very limiting concept that puts braces on our imaginations. Where would all the historical novels come from? How would authors be able to inhabit another century and recreate what was and wasn’t there for a modern reader?

It’s fine to write about worlds one is familiar with, but a writer also needs to constantly stretch and investigate worlds they know nothing about. Do I know anything about the discovery of a dead body? First hand? I don’t, but research will give me the answers I need. Do I know anything about human trafficking or smuggling or child abduction? Fortunately not, but these are all subjects that crime writers deal with. On the other hand, we all experience the same griefs, regrets, loves and sadness, all sorts of emotional states, no matter who we are and the exploration of those feelings is what makes a book memorable.

The best advice I’ve ever heard, and I knew it before I heard or read of it, is to get out of your own way. In other words, just let things flow. A writer friend, Dennis Palumbo, has written a book called Writing from the Inside Out. It’s a really wonderful and compassionate book. In it, he quotes Pablo Casals who said, “Learn the notes, then forget about ‘em.” Really great advice! You can spend your whole life nitpicking and worrying and editing and never get anything finished. Just get out of your own way, turn off the editor in your brain and keep your fingers moving over the keyboard.


About The Author

Connie di Marco is the author of the Zodiac Mysteries from Midnight Ink, featuring San Francisco astrologer, Julia Bonatti.  The first in the series, The Madness of Mercury, was released in June 2016 and the second, All Signs Point to Murder, available for pre-order now, will be released on August 8, 2017.

Writing as Connie Archer, she is also the national bestselling author of the Soup Lover’s Mystery series from Berkley Prime Crime.  Some of her favorite recipes can be found in The Cozy Cookbook  and The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook.  Connie is a member of International Thriller Writers, Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime.

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The Blessed Event is on sale for only 99 cents (U.S. only)

Professor Molly thinks she’s finally adjusting to marriage (despite the fact that her worst-ever student is now her stepson). But when a visit from her new in-laws coincides with a well-timed murder, she realizes she might have a killer under her roof.
The Blessed Event is a Kindle Scout selection, published by Amazon’s Kindle Press. Kindle Scout is reader-powered publishing. If you want to help select the next new release from Kindle Press, head on over and start voting!


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New Hamptons Murder Mystery: Death on West End Road by Carrie Doyle

Like a basket of warm cinnamon buns, an unsolved crime is something that Hamptons innkeeper and sleuth Antonia Bingham just can’t resist. Despite a busy high-season schedule and an inn booked to capacity, Antonia has agreed to investigate a cold case in her beloved adopted hometown, East Hampton, NY: the killing of Susie Whitaker, whose brutal 1990 slaying on a tennis court in the poshest part of town was never solved. And the person who has hired Antonia? Prime suspect Pauline Framingham, a manipulative pharmaceutical heiress from a powerful family. The crime scene is compromised, the circumstances are complicated, and former witnesses are cagey, haunted and very reluctant to revisit what happened on that sun-splashed afternoon decades earlier. As Antonia attempts to unravel the mysteries of the past she unearths even darker secrets and ultimately wonders if it would have been best to let sleeping dogs lie. To make matters worse, past acquaintances and love interests reappear in the Hamptons, disrupting Antonia’s world and causing her to scurry to the fridge for comfort.

Death on West End Road is the third book in the Hamptons Murder Mystery Series. Along with a colorful cast of supporting characters, the beating heart of the book is Antonia Bingham, restaurateur, gourmand, and nosy carb-lover.

Praise for Death on Windmill Way by Carrie Doyle:
“Doyle is an enthusiastic guide for Long Island’s East End village…fun and satisfying”
–Kirkus Reviews

“…a fast-paced, cozy mystery story set within the well-heeled confines of East Hampton, New York…[it] will keep audiences guessing right up until the end…”
–Foreword reviews


Island Confidential: Antonia, welcome back to Island Confidential. Can you tell our readers something about yourself that we might not know?

Antonia Bingham: Despite the fact that I am chatty and love to engage with people I actually can be quite secretive. I think the readers would be shocked to know that I am planning a trip. Pretty soon I will be heading back to California and I will confront my past. It’s time that I come face to face with my fears and ensure that my ex-husband will never harm me again or anyone else for that matter. No one who knows me would imagine that I am planning this, and if they knew they would surely stop me. That’s why no one can know.

Are you and Joseph Fowler still on good terms? Does he have any competition in the BFF department?

AB: Joseph Fowler, the acclaimed author of many award winning historical novels is my best friend and really like a father to me. I am so lucky I have him in my life. But recently, believe it or not, Larry Lipper, the annoying crime reporter from The East Hampton Star, has been instrumental to me. Now I definitely do not want to say we get along best—he’s irritating, vain, narcissistic and believes every woman is in love with him. But actually, I was recently asked to solve a cold case and it was Larry who was my wingman. He helped me more than I could imagine.

Now that you and Larry seem to have declared a truce, is there any other character do you have a conflict with? 

AB: I have a one-sided imaginary conflict with Melanie Wells, a famous actress and the wife of Nick Darrow, the famous actor. The truth is, I have a giant crush on him and wish she were not around. I know that’s terrible, terrible! But they have such a toxic relationship to begin with that it makes me angry. I despise how she treats him. Okay, of course I only know his side of things. But still. Look, I know I am no competition to a gorgeous movie star, but a girl can dream, right?

Last time we spoke, your told me your author, Carrie Doyle, was procrastinating. But now it sounds like she’s been working hard and might want to take a little time for herself!

AB: I think that like me, she spent too much time in the kitchen this year and needs to get out and enjoy the sun! East Hampton is beautiful so I would encourage her to take a bike ride or go for a swim in the ocean. There is so much to see and do away from the desk and the computer and summer is so short!

What’s next for you?

AB: A mysterious man has booked the inn for a weekend and several guests will be joining him. They are all addressed by pseudonyms. It all sounds very creepy and dramatic but I am looking forward to it!


About the Author:

 

Carrie Doyle was the founding Editor-in- Chief of the Russian edition of Marie Claire Magazine. She is currently a Contributing Editor of Hamptons Magazine and has written extensively for Harper’s Bazaar, Town & Country and has also written for Women’s Health and Avenue on the Beach. With Jill Kargman, Carrie co-wrote the film Intern (which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 1999), as well as several screenplays sold to Showtime, Paramount Pictures, Nickelodeon Films and the Oxygen Network. Carrie and Jill co-wrote five books together, including three teen books for HarperCollins and two bestselling women’s fiction books, The Right Address and Wolves in Chic Clothing (Broadway Books). Carrie also penned the popular novel The Infidelity Pact (Broadway Books). Carrie lives in New York City with her husband and two children and is currently at work on an animated series for broadcast as well as her new series, the Hamptons Murder Mysteries.

 

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New Elmwood Confidential Cozy Mystery: Dead Air and Double Dares

Crystal Cropper, editor of the Elmwood Gazette, has added incentive in finding out who killed Horace Q. Ogilvie, owner of the local radio station and the most reviled man in town. Horace turns up dead minutes before he is supposed to broadcast his next malicious editorial, designed to destroy yet another Elmwood luminary.

Fortunately for the police department, Horace’s list of future targets provides an abundant pool of suspects. Unfortunately for Crystal, her name is at the top!


Guest post from Janis Thornton: Butt-Bustin’, Bloomin’ Boomers

 

Imagine my delight when I read this paragraph in the first email from the new editor assigned to give my book a final scrub:

“I am currently at work on the proofreading of Dead Air & Double Dares. While hunting for misplaced commas and odd spacing, I have been enjoying Crystal’s adventures. I need your help on something. I had my assistant Olivia read DA&DD before I set to work. I told her very little about the book so I could get a fresh read. Olivia found herself quite far into the novel before she realized that Crystal was in her sixties. She assumed our sleuth was in her thirties.”

I had to read it again. Olivia assumed my sixty-plus-year-old protagonist was in her thirties! I wrote back my editor praising her assistant’s presumption.

I enjoyed hearing about Olivia’s surprise finding out Crystal is over 60. What she experienced is exactly what I’m trying to convey through Crystal’s character — that just because someone is well into their “golden years” doesn’t mean they can’t be as vibrant and relevant and youthful as they were in their 30s and 40s.

Part of the fun of writing a novel is creating characters that channel the author’s views and attitudes. Take my protagonist, Crystal Cropper, for example. Crystal is very much like me. I confess, she embodies many of the life experiences that make me who I am: We’re both only-children … we’ve both been editors at small-town newspapers … we’re single, independent, fun loving, and domestically challenged. And although we’re well into our sixties, we both blow our pretty, blonde stacks every time someone dares suggest or treats us like we’re “old ladies.”

While we are proud to be children of the era of skinny Elvis, saddle shoes, and poodle skirts … do not expect us to behave like “old ladies.”

Crystal is a Baby Boomer, but she has no use for society’s long-accepted expectation that she behave in a manner traditionally associated with being older. She lives her life on her own terms, as a woman who’s tireless, culturally current, curious, relevant, and bold. She will not be dismissed, diminished, disregarded, or declared irrelevant simply because there are silver roots at the bottom of her blonde curls.

Crystal’s self-proclaimed mission is to gather support for a long-overdue, age-based demographic: Butt-Bustin’, Bloomin’ Boomers.

Not getting the picture? Then picture this: Meryl Streep. Sally Field. Condoleezza Rice. Helen Mirren. Kathy Bates. Oprah Winfrey. Hillary Clinton. All are relevant, high-energy, resourceful, independent, confidant, accomplished Boomers. They’re all well into their third act, living with the same positive attitude, lust and gusto they exhibited at half their age.

I beg my Boomer-aged friends to reject the long-standing, stereotypical definition of them as gerontologically impaired. I also encourage them to hold up their past as a telephoto lens and focus it on their potential. And their future.

I hope as you read “Dead Air & Double Dares,” Book 2 in the Elmwood Confidential series, you will find a kinship with Crystal Cropper. She’s not old. She’s better than ever — a Butt-Bustin’ Bloomin’ Boomer through and through. I hope my readers — regardless of their generational identity — connect with her. Those who have yet to reach their sixth decade of life are in for an exciting awakening. That classic advertising slogan, “I’m not getting old … I’m getting better,” has never been more relevant. It’s true for Crystal and me, and it should be true for women at every age and stage of life.

So here’s to Olivia … mission accomplished! Thank you for seeing Crystal for the woman she is and not the woman you expected. Crystal Cropper may have lived sixty years, but she is ageless!


About the Author:

Janis Thornton is a writer, personal historian, and journalist. She is the author of two local history books, “Images of America: Tipton County” and “Images of America: Frankfort”; and contributor to “Chicken Soup for the Mother’s Soul 2” (page 189!). “Dust Bunnies and Dead Bodies” is her debut novel (a cozy mystery), released in October 2014. She is a member of Sisters in Crime, the Indiana Writers Center, Association of Personal Historians, and the Midwest Writers Workshop Planning Committee. A 2009 MWW Fellow, she also was a finalist in the Daphne du Maurier contest that year. Her newspaper feature stories have been recognized by Women in Communications (Lafayette, Indiana chapter), Smiles Unlimited, and the Hoosier State Press Association. She lives in Indiana. You may contact/follow/like her at http://www.janis-thornton.com, Twitter (@JanisThornton), and Facebook (facebook.com/janis.thorntonauthor).

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New Bakeshop Mystery: A Crime of Passion (Fruit)

Torte―everybody’s favorite small-town family bakeshop―is headed for the high seas, where murder is about to make a splash. . .

Jules Capshaw is trying to keep her cool as Torte gets set to make its transformation from quaint, local confectionary café to royal pastry palace. Meanwhile, Jules’s estranged husband Carlos is making a desperate plea for her to come aboard his cruise ship and dazzle everyone with her signature sweets. She may be skeptical about returning to her former nautical life with Carlos but Jules can’t resist an all-expense-paid trip, either. If only she knew that a dead body would find its way onto the itinerary . .

Now, instead of enjoying tropical drinks on deck between whipping up batches of sea-salted chocolates and flambéing fresh pineapple slices in the kitchen, Jules is plunged into dangerous waters. Her investigation leaves her with more questions than answers: Why can’t anyone on board identify the young woman? And how can she help Carlos keep passengers at ease with a killer in their midst? Jules feels like she’s ready to jump ship. Can she solve this case without getting in too deep?

“A warm and inviting atmosphere, friendly and likable main characters, and a nasty murder mystery to solve!” ―Fresh Fiction

“A perfect mix for fans of Jenn McKinlay, Leslie Budewitz, or Jessica Beck.”
―Library Journal

 


About The Author  

Ellie Alexander is a Pacific Northwest native who spends ample time testing pastry recipes in her home kitchen or at one of the many famed coffeehouses nearby. When she’s not coated in flour, you’ll find her outside exploring hiking trails and trying to burn off calories consumed in the name of research.

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