Monday, December 28, 2015

Guest Post - Juliet Blackwell

I am currently reading Ms. Blackwell's newest book in the Haunted Home Renovation Mystery Series.  The review will be posted shortly.  But today we have a guest post from the author on the research pitfalls she faces.


Of Procrastination and Secret Passages

The Internet has made it difficult to be a writer.

In the olden days (ie, before the Internet), a person might come up with ideas for stories and then sit in her garret and write, while making a list of things to look up, *later*, in the library. And then, no matter how grand the research institution, the available information on any particular topic was limited due to shelf space and the librarian’s astute eye.

Not anymore. One of the easiest ways to procrastinate, as a writer, is to tumble into the abyss of the Internet. And I’m not talking about those known time-wasters like social media sites or cute films about cats. In this instance, I’m talking about legitimate research.

Case in point: in Give Up the Ghost (#6 in the Haunted Home Renovation series), San Francisco contractor extraordinaire, Mel Turner, stumbles onto secret passages in the Pacific Heights mansion she’s renovating. Do you have any idea how much time a person can spend on the subject “secret passages in old homes”? Try putting the topic into your search engine – but if you’re anything like me, only do so if you have a few days to spend reading and checking out the photographs.

There are secret passages used to escape and hide, and others used to spy on and kill people – don’t miss the “Murder Castle”, if you have a strong stomach (click here).

There are hidden bookcases (seriously, who among us hasn’t always longed for a secret passage in a bookcase?), trap doors, secret bunkers, smuggling tunnels, and hidden wine cellars (click here.)

*Honestly*. How is an author supposed to decide which kind of secret passage to use for her novel? The possibilities are endless. Finally, I turned to the architectural era of the house Mel was working on, built in the late 1800s. Fancy Victorian homes built at that time often had simple “secret” panels that led to narrow interior hallways. Usually these stretched between ballrooms or reception areas and quiet reading rooms or cigar parlors, presumably so the owners of the home (the men, mostly) could slip away from dull gatherings or noisy soirees and enjoy a little peace and quiet.

Of course, sometimes the passages were built “to confuse the spirits”, as in the case of the Winchester Mystery House (click here). But that’s a whole different web search, and another full day lost to pictures and articles, plus –in my case – a day trip to San Jose for a visit!

How about you – anyone secretly longing to stumble on secret passages every time you visit an old home? Have you ever seen – and dared to walk through—an actual secret passage?

If so, I’d love to hear about it. And if not – check out the Winchester Mystery House. They’ve got several!
 ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Thank you once again Ms. Blackwell for this delightful post.




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Sunday, December 27, 2015

Review - Murder at Whitehall

This book has two of my previous reviews of the series in the front matter of the book.  Wahoo!  I have been noticing my reviews are quoted in books coming out and I have forgotten to mention it.  

Read the full reviews here: #1 Murder at Hatfield House (click here), #2 Murder at Westminster Abbey (click here), and #3 Murder in the Queen's Garden (click here), plus a guest post by the author (click here).  Let's see what this addition to the series has in store for us!

Author: Amanda Carmack

Copyright: December 2015 (NAL) 304 pgs

Series: 4th in Elizabethan Mystery series

Sensuality: mild

Mystery Sub-genre: Historical Cozy

Main Characters: Kate Haywood, 18 year old musician in the employ of newly crowned Queen Elizabeth I

Setting: 1546 at Whitehall Palace in London

Obtained Through: Publisher for honest review

It's the first Christmas with Queen Elizabeth on the throne and her Highness wants to recapture the merry holidays from her youth.  She is tired of the endless suitors from other countries hoping to marry her and make alliances between countriesa and wants to enjoy herself.  Kate is tasked with some extra entertainment duties.  But somebody is determined to reveal advances the Queen endured in her youth from a father-in-law.  Kate is also tasked by the Queen to find who is behind the nasty messages about her dark childhood.  When one of the foreign dignitaries from Spain is found murdered, danger seems to be lurking close to the Queen and Kate is on the job.  Subplots are the two men in Kate's young life.  Kate also has her aging father visit.

The characters all come alive and weave a dangerous web of court intrigue.  Kate continues to become wise to the court intrigues and swears she will never marry or be involved.  She often sees more than others and as a musician people forget she is there.  Rob Cartman, the young actor managing his own troupe, is still determined to prove to Kate he is a worthy mate for her.  I wish this story-line had made more of an appearance in the last half of the book, particularly the wrap-up.  Anthony Elias is slowly building his life as a lawyer and Kate doesn't seem to fit anymore.  Lady Catherine, a young relative to the Queen is under tremendous pressure and scrutiny and missteps often in her youthful naivety. The characters bring the complicated and volatile times alive.

The setting of Whitehall Palace and London are used to great effect, accentuating the maze of the massive palace and the huge city of London. The intrigue is palpable thanks to the setting.

The plot is born out of the historical times of when Queen Elizabeth took the throne amid many countries wanting somebody else to reign for their own benefit.  But, this story makes the players and their shadowy intentions falable and nuanced while sinister. The pacing stays steady with a lot going on.  The climax has some wonderfully tense moments.  The wrap up was important for the Queen and Kate's relationship.  But, I would have liked a little more on Rob versus Anthony storyline.  So, who are YOU cheering on to win Kate's heart? 

This series consistently delivers a historical drama that envelops the reader and takes them on a lush ride.

Rating: Near Perfect - Couldn't Put it down. Buy two copies, one for you and one for a friend. 

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Monday, December 21, 2015

Guest Post - Amanda Carmack

I love these novels and this series.  My review for the newest in the series will be here soon.  Read the full reviews here: #1 Murder at Hatfield House (click here), and #2 Murder at Westminster Abbey (click here), #3 Murder in the Queen's Garden (click here) plus a guest post by the author (click here).  Let's find out about Christmas traditions that Queen Elizabeth enjoyed! 


Elizabeathan Holidays
One thing I learned as I researched Murder at Whitehall is that the Elizabethans really, really knew how to party at the holidays! The Christmas season (Christmastide) ran 12 days, from December 24 (Christmas Eve) to January 6 (Twelfth Day), and each day was filled with feasting, gift-giving (it was a huge status thing at Court to see what gift the Queen gave you, and to seek favor by what you gave her), pageants, masquerades, dancing, a St. Stephen's Day fox-hunt, and lots of general silliness. (One of the games was called Snapdragon, and involved a bowl of raisins covered in brandy and set alight. The players had to snatch the raisins from the flames and eat them without being burned. I think the brandy was heavily imbibed before this games as well, and I can guarantee this won't be something we're trying at my house this year!) 

Later in Queen Elizabeth's reign, she mostly kept Christmas at Greenwich, or sometimes at Hampton Court or Nonsuch Palace, but in the year my story is set, 1559, she spent the holiday at Whitehall in London. Elizabeth had only been queen for a year, so hers was a young Court full of high spirits. This was also one of the coldest winters in memory, so there would have been a lot of sledding and ice skating . It was fun to imagine this scene, and put my characters, Kate and her friends (including the real-life Lady Catherine Grey and her suitor Lord Hertford) into the action! 

Even though there were no Christmas trees or stockings hung by the fire, I was surprised to find we would recognize many of the traditional decorations of the time. Anything that was still green in December would be used--holly, ivy, yew, bay. The Yule log was lit on Christmas Eve using a bit of last year's log saved for the purpose. It was brought in by the men of the household, decorated with wreaths and ribbons, and set ablaze so everyone could gather around and tell tales of Christmases past. Music, as it is now, was one of the big mood-setters of the season, and since Kate is the queen's favorite musician I listened to many CDs of period music and imagined what she might play every day. 

Food was also just as big a part of the holiday as it is now! Roast meats were favorites (pork, beef, chicken, fricaseed, cooked in broths, roasted, baked into pies), along with stewed vegetables and fine whit manchet bread with fresh butter and cheese. Elizabeth was a light eater, especially compared with her father, but she was a great lover of sweets. These could include candied flowers, hard candies in syrup (called suckets, eaten with special sucket spoons), Portugese figs, Spanish oranges, tarts, gingerbread, and figgy pudding. The feast often ended with a spectacular piece of sugar art called (incongrously) subtleties. In 1564, this was a recreation of Whitehall itself in candy, complete with a sugar Thames. (At least they could work off the feasting in skating and sledding...) 


A couple fun reads on Christmas in this period are Maria Hubert's Christmas in Shakespeare's England and Hugh Douglas's A Right Royal Christmas, as well as Alison Sim's Food and Feast in Tudor England and Liza Picard's Elizabeth's London. 

Be sure and visit my website, http://amandacarmack.com, for more Behind the Scenes history on Kate and her world, and a few Christmas traditions and recipes. (Anyone going to try and cook the roasted peacock??)

~~~~~
Thanks Ms. Carmack for that great post and the wonderful novels.

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Sunday, December 20, 2015

Midwinter's Eve Giveaway Hop


This is my THANK YOU for following the blog and letting me be a part of your life. 

If you are looking for the Mid-Winters Eve Blog Hop, you are in the correct place and thank you for stopping by.  We celebrate everything mystery and suspense here - no doubt you can find something of interest!  


We have 5 packs of 2 books each available to win.

1)  The Iced Princess by Christine Husom and Five Alarm Fudge by Christine DeSmet

2)  White Colander Crime by Victoria Hamilton and A Fright to the Death by Dawn Eastman

3)  A Sticky Situation by Jessie Crocket and Rest Ye Murdered Gentlemen by Vicki Delany

4)  Dead Men Don't Eat Cookies by Virginia Lowell and Candy Cane Cupcake Killer by Livia Washburn

5)  Trimmed with Murder by Sally Goldenbaum and Murder on St. Nicholas Avenue by Victoria Thompson


Entry for giveaway lasts until December 31 6:00 p.m. (MST). U.S. entries only please.

I will be shipping the books to the winners.

How to enter:


*** First, you must be a member (follower) of this blog.***

All entries are to be in the comments for this post.  

I shall notify the winner via the email address you provide to get your mailing address and have the prize sent directly to you. If I don't hear from you in 3 days, I will select another winner and notify them.

IF you are a member of this blog, you only need to leave a comment with your correct email.

BECOME a member of this blog if you aren't already and enjoy the celebration of all things mystery and suspense.



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Monday, December 14, 2015

Guest Post - Joyce Tremel


Today we have the author of the new Brewing Trouble cozy mystery series sharing how she can to write about craft brew beers.  I reviewed the debut in this series (click here).  

My Path to Writing Cozy Mysteries

If someone had told me even ten years ago that I’d be writing cozies, I’m not sure I would have believed them. Back then, I was the part-time secretary for my local police department and the book I was writing was more of a police procedural, and my main character was an ex-cop who taught martial arts. It was definitely NOT a cozy in any way, shape, or form. It made sense to me to “write what you know.” I knew cops and I knew martial arts—I had a second degree blackbelt in Taekwondo.

Then in 2008, I was let go from that job and I wondered what to do next. Did I find another part-time job? Or should I take the opportunity to write full time and see what happened? Fortunately we didn’t need the tiny bit of income I’d had so I chose the latter and started a new book. The new story featured a police secretary named Irma Jean. She was a bit of a smart aleck. I let myself write without putting a label of “procedural” or “cozy” or anything else on the book. I just wrote the story. When it was finished I sent out queries and an agent liked it enough to work on revising it with me. She had me restructure the book and soon it was ready to submit to publishers.

Except…she dropped a bombshell on me. She was leaving to take her dream job with a publishing company. Eventually I found another agent who started submitting the book. Then she left agenting to go back to school, but the good news was another agent at the same agency took me on. Whew.

To make this long story a little shorter, In Spite of Murder ended up on the desk of an editor at Berkley. She liked the story but the book wasn’t cozy enough for their line. She liked my voice and wanted to know if I’d be interested in writing a cozy.

Well, YES.

I’d been reading a lot of cozies and I realized deep down that was what I wanted to write. That was the genre I had the voice for. I just had to figure out what my book would be about. I didn’t do crafts. I did help hubby with some home improvement type things, but there were already cozies that covered that topic. I tried to think up unusual occupations, but it seemed like most had been done. It finally dawned on me ( I may have been drinking a beer at the time) that there were no cozies with a craft brew theme.

Max O’Hara, my protagonist would be a female brewmaster and I’d set it in my hometown of Pittsburgh. She’d have five older brothers and her dad would be a homicide detective. Her romantic interest would be her childhood crush—the best friend of one of her brothers. I wrote a proposal for what I was calling the Brewing Trouble Series. The proposal included a synopsis of the first book, To Brew Or Not To Brew, plus ideas for following books. I sent the proposal along with the first three chapters to my agent.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

I am so thrilled to be able to finally share this book with readers. I can’t wait for you to meet and spend some time with all my characters. I hope you’ll love them as much as I do. Someone recently asked me if I had a favorite character and I think they were surprised it wasn’t the hunky ex-hockey player-chef, Jake. (An early reader said she needed more Jake in her life, lol.) I happen to adore Elmer, the ninety-two year old World War II vet. He says anything and everything that’s on his mind and doesn’t care who hears it!

I feel very comfortable in the world of writing cozies. Right now, I can’t imagine doing anything else!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

Thank you Joyce.  I loved your new series and the craft beer theme.  I love hearing about your path to getting to this stage in your writing career.

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Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Review - To Brew or Not to Brew

This week we have a debut novel for a new cozy series featuring a micro-brew pub and the young woman who is the owner and brew-master.  

Author: Joyce Tremel

Copyright: December 2015 (Berkley) 304 pgs

Series: 1st in Brewing Trouble Mystery series

Sensuality: mild kissing

Mystery Sub-genre: Cozy

Main Characters: Maxine “Max” O’Hara, Brewmaster and owner of The Allegheny Brew House

Setting: Modern day,  Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Obtained Through: Publisher for honest review


Maxine “Max” O’Hara, who studied in Germany for her brew-master certification, and is preparing to open her very own brew pub. But her assistant brew-master Kurt believes that the series of bad luck is actually deliberate sabotage.  One evening Kurt calls and tells Max to come to the pub, he knows who is behind the sabotage and can prove it.  When Max arrives she find Kurt dead.  The police believe it was a tragic accident, but Max know it was murder.  Subplots are her rescue of an adorable stray kitten and hiring the best friend of her brother to be the new chef.  The new chef is an ex-hockey player and her child-hood crush. Max is determined to figure who killed Kurt and ensure her pub has the best opening.

Maxine “Max” O’Hara went to Germany to study beer making, so she is independant. She is business savy and is going out on a limb to start her own business in an old historic building needing renovation.  She is easy to like and I instantly wanted be friends.  Jake Lambert, former ice hockey player and childhood friend of her brothers is changing careers and has the qualifications, but has he finally stopped seeing Max as only the little sister of his friend?  Candy and Kristie are Max's friends, full of heart and her cheerleaders.  Meet the family: her father Sean Sr is a police detective. Brothers: Father Sean and Mike are protective.  Other characters are the owner's of surrounding shops, some are antagonist towards her brewery coming into the neighborhood.

The setting is primarily the small community of shops surrounding the brewery giving it that cozy aspect.  Some Pittsburgh flavor is thrown in for good measure.  The old brewery building provides nice touch.

I can see this plot starting as a "What if" question.  We all have had a string of bad luck, but what if the bad luck was sabotage, what if somebody didn't want your life's dream to happen? Why? The pacing kept my interest as another murder takes place and the danger increases. Although I suspected the villain about midway, I hadn't a clue about the motive. The climax was good nail biting tension - just the way I like it. The wrap-up was smile-worthy. 

I particularly enjoyed this debut. It satisfies my criteria of a great main character, good plotting, nice setting and kept my interest throughout.  I am looking forward to the subsequent entries in this series.


Rating: Excellent - Loved it, it had a good grip on me! Buy it now and put this author on your watch list

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Thursday, November 26, 2015

SantaThing and





Interested in a Secret Santa for books?

SantaThing is a Secret Santa for LibraryThing members.


How it works

You pay into the SantaThing system (choose from $15–$50). You play Santa to a LibraryThing member we pick for you, by selecting books for them. Another Santa does the same for you, in secret. LibraryThing does the ordering, and you get the joy of giving AND receiving books!

Sign up once or thrice, for yourself or someone else. If you sign up for someone without a LibraryThing account, make sure to mention what kinds of books they like, so their Santa can choose wisely.

Even if you don’t want to be a Santa, you can help by suggesting books for others.

Sign-ups close MONDAY, December 1st at 9pm Eastern. By Tuesday morning, we’ll notify you via profile comment who your Santee is, and you can start picking books.

Picking closes Monday, December 8th at 12pm Eastern. As soon as the picking ends, the ordering begins, and we’ll get all the books out to you as soon as we can.

» Go sign up to become a Secret Santa now!
 
 
 Penguin Random House to Give Away Books on Giving Tuesday

Penguin Random House’s employees will be giving out free books on Giving Tuesday, December 1 as part of its #GiveaBook social media campaign, in which the publisher is donating a book to "First Book" for every tweet with the hashtag #GiveaBook, up to 35,000 times.

Tweet to provide kids with books!

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