Sterling and Me: Tail of a Mystery Author and Her Dog #7—and a Giveaway! @TheMysteryLadie

Lauren Carr is the international best-selling author of the Mac Faraday, Lovers in Crime, Chris Matheson Cold Case, and Thorny Rose Mysteries—over twenty-five titles across three fast-paced mystery series filled with twists and turns!

Killer Deadline marks Lauren’s first venture into mystery’s purely cozy sub-genre with a female protagonist. 

Book reviewers and readers alike rave about how Lauren Carr seamlessly crosses genres to include mystery, suspense, crime fiction, police procedurals, romance, and humor.

A popular speaker, Lauren is also the owner of Acorn Book Service, the umbrella under which falls iRead Book Tours. She lives with her husband and two spoiled rotten German Shepherds on a mountain in Harpers Ferry, WV.

Connect with the author:
Website  ~  Twitter  ~  Facebook  ~  Instagram ~ Pinterest

Why Grammar Nazis Need to Get a Grip

Is your New Year’s resolution that you are going to finish that book you’ve always wanted to write and get it published? Read on!

A common topic of conversation among writers is editors, editing, and reviews criticizing our books’ editing. Recently, I had an energetic email exchange with a writer who received her first review in which the reader complained about the editing. I am glad to say that she went away saying that she felt better.

Since Shadow of Murder (my 29th mystery!) is currently with the proofreader who is scouring it for errors, I thought now would be a good time to freshen up this lengthy (and venting) guest post that I had written a few years ago on my thoughts about what I call Grammar Nazis.

Grab a glass of champagne and read on:

 

The Internet has made it much easier for anyone yearning to voice their opinion about anything and everything to do so. Among those striving to be heard are readers anxious to release their inner book critics to heap praise or criticism upon the authors of those books they love or hate. Nowadays, any reader with a kindle simply has to hit a button at the end of the book to leave their ratings.

Thus, Grammar Nazis can now easily warn perspective readers of any book that does not meet their lofty standards by posting reviews citing the read as poorly written and badly edited.

This is not necessarily a good thing because nasty reviews from Grammar Nazis can potentially deter unwitting readers from purchasing and reading books that are actually very well written and finely edited.

What is a Grammar Nazi?

According to the Internet, a Grammar Nazi is someone who believes it’s their duty to attempt to correct any grammar and/or spelling mistakes they observe—usually found hanging around book reading chat rooms,

⇒  or posting one-star reviews declaring books poorly edited (or not edited at all) on Amazon, Goodreads, and every other book website they can find,

⇒  or sending emails with multi-paged lists of spelling and grammatical errors to authors of said books and declaring their editors and proofreaders incompetent.

I am very familiar with Grammar Nazis. My late mother was one. Luckily for authors, she was unplugged and had more important things to do than compose detailed lists of what she considered to be grammatical mistakes in books—unless it was one of mine.

What type of books have fallen victim to one or more negative reviews from Grammar Nazis? Well, here’s a sampling of reviews that I have found on Amazon, the biggest book seller in the world.

One reader, who identifies him/herself as a literature teacher, begins a long-winded one-star review by stating that he/she only uses To Kill a Mockingbird in his/her class “when forced to” because it is so poorly written. This reader goes on to say, “The descriptive passages were rather crude, and at times the language became practically unintelligible.”

Not even Ernest Hemingway is immune from Nazi attacks. Another reader posted a one-star review for For Whom the Bell Tolls. This reader writes:

I will not presume to say that I am right & that millions who love this book are wrong, but I really do not understand why this book is considered a classic. The dialogue is so choppy & forced-formal that it seems like the characters are all talking past each other.

Another reader had trouble understanding how Tom Clancy’s Hunt for Red October became a best-seller:

Clancy could have edited 40% of the text out and had a much better story. This novel is bogged down with irrelevant character descriptions, military acronyms, tedious sub-plots, and background stories that have nothing to contribute to the novel’s overall focus. I found myself constantly frustrated with the monotonous length it took to cover simple plot points. Clancy obviously has a huge audience; however, he needs an effective editor. This novel is a very slow read.

As you can see, Grammar Nazis really don’t care who you are or how experienced your publisher or editor is. When they see a mistake, they’re going to let readers know. Like in this Nazi’s review for Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight, published by Little, Brown Books for YA:

…the editing—or lack thereof—is appalling …; the grammar and syntax are unforgivably bad; the plot is onion-skin thin; and the characters are uniformly dull and uninspiring.

The purpose of this post is not to rip apart Grammar Nazis. After all, I was closely related to one. My mother used to proofread my books before they were released to catch errors missed by my team of multiple editors and proofreaders. (More about that later.)

Nor is the purpose of this post to convince Grammar Nazis that they’re wrong. Believe me, there is no convincing a Grammar Nazi they are mistaken about errors they have noted. They are right. They got “A’s” in English in school. They have worked for a hundred years as an editor for a daily newspaper and never once during that whole century—publishing two editions seven days a week—not once was there so much as one typo in any of those newspapers—not a single one!

As an author and a publisher, I would like to put this issue into a proper perspective for both readers and those authors whose books will fall victim to a reader or two who has too much time on his or her hands. As a rule, I do not engage or argue with the rare Grammar Nazi who posts a nasty review on Amazon, Goodreads, or any other sites about grammatical errors they may have found in my books. As a matter of fact, I give no credibility to Grammar Nazis at all and I will explain why in this post.

However, I do believe that the average reader who sees reviews posted by Grammar Nazis and new authors who will (not if) receive such reviews should be aware of a few things before they accept the Grammar Nazi’s claims of bad writing and poor editing as fact.

Poorly Edited According to Who (or is it Whom?)

A couple of years ago, an author friend of mine independently published a book. During the publication process, her book went through two rounds of editing (by two different editors) and was proofread by another editor, plus a friend of hers, who happened to be an English school teacher. Thus, her book was looked at by four different pairs of eyes before publication.

Nine months after the book was released and received several glowing reviews, she received one poor review declaring that it was poorly edited and had numerous grammatical errors. So, she hired yet another editor to proofread the book again for grammatical mistakes and misspellings. This editor, who used a different style manual than the other editors, ripped that book apart with changes on every page. So many in fact, that it took the formatter over a month to make every change in order to re-release the book.

Over a year later, a traditional publisher acquired this same book, signing my friend to a multi-book deal. As part of the re-release of this book under the new publisher, the book was edited yet again! It went through two separate editors—one of whom contacted my friend to tell her that it was very well written and was pretty clean to begin with. Not only that, but after the book was formatted, it was proofread by yet another editor.

First review my friend received from a reader stated:

This is the first novel I’ve read by this author, and while it was a good read, with a good plot, interesting primary and secondary characters, and was very suspenseful, the sheer number of grammatical errors, misused words, and spelling errors certainly detracted from my enjoyment of this book. While I’d like to read the next novels in this series, I can only hope that they are better edited and proofread than this one.

Excuse me! This book was looked at by—count them!—seven different editors plus an English teacher. Not all of them were ill-educated, poorly trained, or incompetent!

The answer to how this happens lies in this one simple question:

Grammatical errors, misused words, and spelling mistakes according to whose rules?

Over the years, I had assembled a team of editors and proofreaders to work on my own books based on each one’s strengths. It is a given, where one editor has strengths, he or she has weaknesses in another area.

Let me explain. A few years ago, I sent one of my books to a new editor to be proofread before its release. Because she was unproven to me, I sent the same book to yet another editor as a backup. Neither proofreader knew the book was being worked on by someone else. Therefore, they thought it was completely up to them to catch every mistake.

When the book came back from these two proofreaders, they had both identified completely different errors. Only in one instance did they both identify the same error! They concentrated completely on different areas in proofreading the book. One proofreader was more concerned with the punctuation while the other focused on the spelling.

Also, different editors/proofreaders work under a different set of rules.

One editor I worked with followed the new comma rules—whatever those are. From what I have seen, the comma is rarely used. I have read many books in recent years, whose editors seem to be following these rules. According to the new comma rules, the line from Gone with the Wind: “Frankly my dear I don’t give a damn,” has no commas.

Another one of my editors loves the Oxford comma. Thus, the line would be written, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”

Based on what she learned when she was in school, my late mother swore it was, “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.”

Who is right? Under interrogation, each one could cite a source and reasoning to back up their argument of where the commas go and why.

Another area of disagreement is the ellipse. That is the “…”. One of my editors believes there should be no space before or after the ellipse. Another editor firmly believes there should be a space before and after the ellipse.

Even highly regarded style manuals used by editors disagree. Some argue that the ellipse should be treated like a word, which means it should have a space both before and after. Others (mostly journalistic style manuals) say it should be treated like an em-dash (—) so there should be no space. This is because the space before and after can create havoc with formatting.

Therefore, I quite literally split the difference. During formatting I use a half-space before and after the ellipse.

Supreme Court Decides on the Apostrophe “s”

To better illustrate this issue, I love to tell writers, new editors, and readers about a book I edited for another author several years ago.

This book contained a character whose name ended in an “s.” Well, throughout the book, there were many instances in which his name was used in possessive.

Now, every editor has a thing or two or three or dozen, in which they will not trust their knowledge. To be safe, they will look it up in their style manual every single time. For me, the question of a proper name ending in “s” and used in possessive was one of those things. At that time, the Chicago Style Manual called for this possessive to be “s’” not “s’s.”

Well, the author said I was wrong and that it is supposed to be “s’s.”

So, I looked it up again, not just in the Chicago Style Manual, but several sites on the Internet. Not only did I discover that the answer varies in the Chicago Style Manual depending on which edition you use, but I also found a case in which the Supreme Court of the United States had gotten involved in this very argument while writing a decision on a case. Even the justices disagreed! Clarence Thomas (who should know since his name ends in an “s”) declared that it is “s.’”

I let the author have the last word. He requested that I change all of the possessive references for this character to “s’s.”

Then, upon proofing the book, the author brought in his daughter, a technical writer who goes by a totally different style manual. She stated that it should be “s’” without the extra “s.”

So I had to change it back.

Grammar and Punctuation Is Not Carved in Stone

Many people who are not in the business of writing, editing, or publishing fiction fail to realize that many of the grammar and punctuation rules that we were taught as being carved in stone really are not—especially when it comes to fiction.

Most fiction authors’ literary style and narrative voice don’t follow all of the rules taught in simple fourth grade grammar. Keeping in tune with the casual manner in which people communicate today, writers focus more on creating a conversational tone and flow to the narrative than using the correct pronoun.

When I sent my third book to the editor, I could practically hear her laughing between the lines in her notes when she rewrote a sentence in my narrative. “When was the last time you heard someone use the word ‘whom?’” she asked.

While my sentence was grammatically correct, she noted that it had such a formal stilted sound to it that it broke the easy going pace of my writing. As a result, the reader would be pulled out of the story. Yes, the sentence, rewritten by the editor, was grammatically incorrect. However, the narrative flowed much more naturally.

Grammar Nazis, particularly those who have spent the bulk of their education or professional lives in the world of non-fiction writing and editing (working in journalism or teaching grade school English), fail to realize this when reading fiction. Being a Nazi, they are incapable of becoming immersed in the plot and the story because they have spent their lives searching for mistakes. When they encounter what they perceive to be an error, they are so offended that all enjoyment of the other 99.9% of the book becomes an impossibility—all they can see and think about is that imperfection.

Feeling righteous about what they know is right, they feel compelled to note said error and to warn readers via bad reviews and/or notify the writer of what a sloppy job his editor did and wonder how any author who considers herself a professional could allow such mistakes to reach their readers.

“Your readers deserve better!” I have been chastised by one Grammar Nazi (not my mother.)

Here’s how this can and does happen:

Prolific writers (those who write more than one book a year) make mistakes. A prolific writer cares more about writing a thrilling book with fully developed characters and an intriguing plot than determining if every single word (Is it lay or lie?) is right and ensuring that every punctuation mark is correct (To use the comma or not to use the comma?).

Such minute details have the power to tie a Grammar Nazi’s panties into a knot.

Several years ago, I received an email from a woman informing me that I was a shoddy writer and how dare I consider myself worthy of editing other authors’ books. (I don’t edit other authors books anymore because I am too busy writing my own books.) Her complaint: In The Murders at Astaire Castle, which was released in the top 10 of mysteries on Amazon in July 2013, contained this sentence:

“On the way into the police station, David stopped at the donut shop to buy a box of donuts.”

The Nazi wrote, “No, sh!t.” She used the actual word. My error was using “donut” twice. That is repetition, which is a no-no. This, she declared was sloppy and shoddy writing. She went on to post a one-star review on Amazon and Goodreads.

Since she told me in her email that she was a writer, and obviously much better than I am since she would never have written that sentence, I looked up her profile in the social media sites and found that she had never released a book. Based on her reaction to the news that David had stopped at a donut shop to buy donuts, I think she is probably too busy sweating over every page, paragraph, sentence, comma, period, and word to allow her book to be released to the public.

By virtue of being a Grammar Nazi, her book must be perfect. Anything less is unacceptable.

That’s pretty sad in my opinion.

Prolific Writers and Editors Are Human Beings

Prolific writers know that there comes a time in every book’s life where we need to just let it go and move on to the next book. We accept the fact that there could very well—No, we know and accept the fact that there will be one, two, three, or twenty grammatical errors in the book that our team has not caught.

However, from a professional stand-point, it is not good business to hold up the release of a book to invest in yet another editor to scour a whole book in search of those few errors that will cause hissy fits for one or two Grammar Nazis—even if they do use the power of the Internet to proclaim the book as poorly edited.

At what point can a book—not a five-hundred word article or a student’s ten-page research paper—but a 60,000 to 110,000 word book—be declared error free, especially if editors, proofreaders, and Grammar Nazis can’t agree on what the rules are?

Unfortunately, not only are my editors and proofreaders professionals—but also, every single one is a human being. Therefore, they suffer from the condition that every human suffers—Yes, even the Grammar Nazis suffer from this dreaded incurable condition.

Human beings aren’t perfect. As intolerable as it may be, we all make mistakes.

I have worked with numerous editors in the thirty plus years that I have been writing and I have yet to meet an editor who is perfect, which is why I use more than one on every project.

Think about it. The Murders at Astaire Castle has 66,000 words. This Nazi was having a hissy fit over one sentence, consisting of nineteen words, in the middle of a 286-page book. Frankly, I thought one bad sentence out of the thousands of sentences in that book was doing pretty good.

I wouldn’t call that sloppy, shoddy, incompetent, or poor. Would you?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Giveaway

Win an ebook or audible download code for
IT’S MURDER, MY SON (winner’s choice).
Leave a comment to tell about the worst
editing/grammar error you read in a famous
novel. The winning name will be drawn on
the evening of Monday, January 3rd.

Sterling and Me: Tail of a Mystery Author and Her Dog #6—and a Giveaway! @TheMysteryLadie

Lauren Carr is the international best-selling author of the Mac Faraday, Lovers in Crime, Chris Matheson Cold Case, and Thorny Rose Mysteries—over twenty-five titles across three fast-paced mystery series filled with twists and turns!

Killer Deadline marks Lauren’s first venture into mystery’s purely cozy sub-genre with a female protagonist. 

Book reviewers and readers alike rave about how Lauren Carr seamlessly crosses genres to include mystery, suspense, crime fiction, police procedurals, romance, and humor.

A popular speaker, Lauren is also the owner of Acorn Book Service, the umbrella under which falls iRead Book Tours. She lives with her husband and two spoiled rotten German Shepherds on a mountain in Harpers Ferry, WV.

Connect with the author:  Website  ~  Twitter  ~  Facebook  ~  Instagram ~ Pinterest

An Excerpt from Shadow of Murder
A Mac Faraday Mystery – Book Fourteen

Erica Hart’s stomach flipped and then flopped when her dark blue SUV crested the top of the hill overlooking Deep Creek Lake. She was torn between anticipation and anxiety. It was exciting to return to her childhood vacation home. At the same time, she was uneasy to face the horrid memories of that one summer that had changed her life forever.

“Wentworth, we’re here,” she said.

There was a grunt and groan from the seat behind her. She could hear the harlequin Great Dane pull himself up from where he had been napping and plop his head on the passenger headrest to peer downhill at the bridge crossing the blue waters of Deep Creek Lake. Boats and jet skis dotted the water on the warm May afternoon.

“Honey, I’m home!” Teddy, the white cock-a-too, hopped out of the back seat onto the center console. He landed in the front passenger seat. He had spent the ride dozing on top of Wentworth. With his beak, he pulled himself up onto the dashboard.

“Not quite, Teddy. Home is at the other end of the lake and three-fourths of the way up Spencer Mountain.” Erica turned left off the freeway to take the two-lane road along the lakeshore. She craned her neck to take in the homes of various shapes and size.

Memorial Day weekend marked the official launch of the summer season in the resort town. Homeowners were busy opening windows to air out their vacation homes and doing other household chores to prepare for the warm weather.

Wentworth continued to rest his head on the back of the passenger seat. He moved only his eyes to take in the unfamiliar sights and sounds. This was the three-year old Great Dane’s first trip to Spencer, Maryland.

For Teddy, it was a return home. Like Erica, he had many happy memories of love and family. Erica’s mother had presented the baby cock-a-too to her father as a Father’s Day gift. His first ten years were divided between their home in Richmond, Virginia, and their vacation home in Spencer.

After their deaths, the visitations became less frequent and shorter as Erica’s life got busy her own family. One summer turned into two and then three and so on until a decade had passed. Eventually, the house turned into a vacation rental.

No matter how far away you may roam, or how long you stay away, there’s no place like home.

“There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home,” Teddy said in a voice reminiscent of Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz upon reaching the bridge crossing Deep Creek Lake at the base of Spencer Mountain. At forty-years old, the cock-a-too had an extensive vocabulary and impressive collection of movie quotes committed to his memory.

“Thank you, Judy Garland,” Erica said with a sigh as she turned the steering wheel to the left after crossing the bridge.

Gradually, the shades of green pines, oaks, maple trees and other wild plants transformed into a kaleidoscope of yellows, greens, reds, purples, and blues sprinkled among exotic plants corralled inside an eight-foot-tall steel fence. A half mile along the fence, Erica came upon a sign that read in silver gothic letters “Cooper Cove” erected on the fence next to a steel gate.

Erica slowed down and gazed through the slats of the fencing into the rich grounds of the luxurious home. If her memory served her correctly, it possessed a tragic history.

She looked beyond the tall exotic shrubs among the flowers to the windows of the dark brown home that rose above the gardens. Most would have described the estate nestled along the lakeshore as luxurious. No one could deny that it looked splendid.

Erica wondered why it made the hair on the back of her neck stand up. Was it here that some woman went mad and threw herself off the roof to her death?

She pressed her foot on the accelerator. She sped down the road to take the right at a fork to begin the climb up the mountain. The two-lane road was steep with only a guard rail to protect her from a perilous drop over rocky terrain.

Erica found it hard to believe that nothing had been done to broaden or straighten the road. While it was hard to believe nothing had been done, she knew why.

Most of the homeowners along the less developed portion of Spencer Mountain were wealthy summer residents who enjoyed a quiet, secluded life removed from the population that poured into Deep Creek Lake during the busy summer season. Wider, safer roads would entice more people to buy property and build houses. That would eliminate the very element that had drawn Erica’s parents and their neighbors to the more treacherous terrain known for boulders and steep drop offs.

Upon reaching the turn-off to the Hart home, the road swooped to the left, dipped, and looped around a boulder that leaned into the roadway. Just as Erica turned to the right, a huge black shadow darted out from behind the boulder and flew across the road.

It passed so close to the front of her vehicle she would later wonder how it was that she hadn’t hit it.

Erica thought it was a bear, but it moved too fast. She wondered if it was an enormous bird. Were those black wings?

Fearful of hitting the animal, Erica spun the steering wheel to the left and hit the brakes. The SUV headed straight toward the boulder.

Wentworth fell against the back seat. Teddy dropped into the foot compartment.

“That was dumb!” Erica hit the brakes and spun the steering wheel to head in the other direction—for the cliff.

“Not that way either!” She spun the wheel in the opposite direction and stomped on the brakes. The SUV fishtailed from one side of the road to the other until it smashed through the guardrail.

The airbags deployed to block Erica’s view.

The SUV came to a halt on the edge of a boulder jutting out over the mountainside.

“Lord have mercy!” Teddy pulled himself up onto the seat.

Wentworth groaned.

Erica sat still to regain her senses so that she could evaluate her circumstances. She saw treetops directly in front of her. As Wentworth righted himself, she felt the SUV lurch forward.

The vehicle teetered.

“Wentworth, stop!” She groped for the command. “Stay! Don’t move!”

His eyes wide, Wentworth lay still on the seat.

She reached for the button on the steering wheel to turn on the hands-free phone to call for help. The SUV lurched forward. “Damn!” She fell back against the seat.

Even reaching that far forward is enough to send us over.

She looked over at Teddy. He was a smart bird. Very smart. She wondered if he was smart enough to tell someone that they needed help. At the very least, she could save his life. There was no reason to force him to go over the cliff with her and Wentworth. Moving slowly, she pressed her finger on the button on her door to lower the windows.

“Teddy, go! Go get help!”

“Help!” Teddy called out in the voice of Erica’s late mother.

“That’s right. Get help,” Erica said.

“Help! Please!” Teddy climbed up the back of the passenger seat and hopped into the window. He turned to Erica and cocked his head. “I don’t want to die.”

“Neither do I,” Erica said. “Go! Fly for help.”

Teddy spread his wings and flew off through the treetops.

Unable to move, Erica watched the big white bird as best as she could. His white feathers stood out among the greenery of the forest.

She wondered if he would find someone. Even if he was smart enough to tell them that he needed help, would they understand that he was relaying a message? She doubted it.

While Teddy had an extremely extensive vocabulary and often conversed with people, he wasn’t communicating, he was simply mimicking what he had heard.

Erica looked in the rearview mirror and wondered how long it would be before Wentworth decided to stretch his muscles and send them both plummeting to their deaths.

“Oh, God, please help me.”

*****

Dusty O’Meara made a sharp right turn in his police cruiser to begin the steep climb up Spencer Mountain.

The new deputy chief of the resort town’s small police force was not yet familiar with the roads in and around Deep Creek Lake. His predecessor, Art Bogart aka Bogie had taken him on several trips around the area. Bogie and the police chief, David O’Callaghan, had the advantage of having been born and raised in the area. Dusty thought he just about had it down, except for the rural trails that snaked through the boulders and thick forest that lined the more remote area of the mountain.

As the road following the side of the mountain lurched to the left, Dusty stopped when he saw the sign marking the fork in the road. The road to the right was named Robin’s Way.

A large white cockatoo rested on top of the sign. His long tail feathers hung far beyond the bottom of the sign.

“Someone must have lost a bird.”

The cockatoo spread his wings and uttered a loud scream in a woman’s voice. “Help!”

“Definitely someone’s pet.” Dusty opened the door to his cruiser and slid out.

“I don’t want to die.”

Moving as slowly as possible to not scare the bird, Dusty asked in a smooth tone, “Now are you just making conversation or does your human need help?”

His eyes fixed on Dusty, Teddy spread his wings. He uttered another scream. “Help me please.”

This is crazy. But hey, I never claimed not to be crazy. “What do you want me to do? How can I help you?”

The bird flew off the sign and landed in the branch of the fork that weaved along the edge of the mountain. He turned around and cocked his head at Dusty.

“Okay, I’ll follow you. But if this turns into something weird, we’ll just keep it between the two of us.” Dusty climbed back into his cruiser, and slowly drove toward where the bird was waiting.

As he neared the bird, Teddy took off and flew down the road. Dusty sped up and followed.

As the woods became denser and the terrain rougher, Dusty slowed down. “I’ve lost my mind. Does anybody really live out here? I can’t believe they’d even be able to build a house onto the side of this mountain.”

“Help! Help me, please!” The large white bird swooped low and flew over the windshield of the cruiser. He then turned and headed back down the road.

“Okay, I’m coming.” Dusty pressed his foot on the accelerator.

As the road twisted and turned, the cockatoo maneuvered each turn in the road—remaining approximately six feet above the ground. Occasionally, he rose and slowed down—seemingly to check to see if Dusty was still following.

At a sudden dip in the road and twist around a boulder, Dusty saw the dark blue SUV wobbling on the edge of the cliff.

He hit the brakes. The cockatoo landed on the lights stretching across the top of his cruiser.

Forgetting the white bird, Dusty jumped out of his cruiser and pressed the button on his radio. “Dispatch, we have a vehicle in distress on Robin’s Way. We need emergency crews ASAP.” He saw the head of an enormous dog rise above the head rest and let out a deep bark.

Dusty rushed to the driver’s side door where a woman with long red hair pressed against the back rest to balance the vehicle tottering like the deadly version of a child’s game.

“Now is not a good time to ask for my driver’s license and registration.”

Despite the situation, Dusty laughed. “I guess that means you’re not hurt?”

“Not yet, but if I don’t get out of here soon, I will be.”

Wentworth scratched the door and whined a plea for Dusty to open it.

The vehicle rocked. Dusty pressed his weight against the rear section of the SUV in hopes of keeping it balanced on the boulder.

Erica tried not to whimper.

“Have you unbuckled your seatbelt?” Dusty couldn’t believe that he was telling someone to unbuckle their seatbelt. He saw that she had already unbuckled it and slipped out of it. “Are the doors unlocked?”

“Yes,” she said. “I’m not leaving without Wentworth.”

Dusty flicked his eyes at the dog peering at him through the open window.  He could hear the sirens of the emergency vehicles making their way up the mountain. There wasn’t enough time. The huge dog was ready to bolt and when he did, the vehicle was going over the cliff with his human inside.

“No dog left behind.” He flashed her a broad toothy, reassuring grin. “I get it. Will he jump out when I open the door?”

“He’s not as stupid as he looks.”

Dusty placed a hand on both door handles. “Okay, on the count of three. I’m opening both doors. As soon as your door is open grab my arm.” He locked his eyes with her sapphire pools. “Ready.”

She nodded her head.

“One. Two. Three.”

In one movement, Dusty threw open both doors. “Wentworth! Come!” While he called for Wentworth to jump out, Dusty reached into the vehicle to grabbed Erica’s outstretched hands.

She felt herself lifted from the vehicle and yanked toward the roadway. He fell back. They hit the ground wrapped in each other’s arms.

The SUV slid over the edge of the boulder and dropped front end first to the rocky terrain below.

Dusty and Erica climbed to their feet to watch the SUV roll end over end down the mountainside. The sound of the vehicle crashing its way down the mountainside echoed throughout the forest. Doors burst open to eject whatever was not secured inside. Her suitcase flew like a frisbee out of the rear compartment. It popped open when it ricocheted off a tree to send her clothes flying across the terrain.

Nose first, the vehicle hit a rocky ledge that jutted out over the lake. Erica recalled many sunny afternoons when she and her friends would jump off that ledge to dive into the lake.

Not unlike Erica and her friends, the SUV bounced off the rock ledge to fly off and land with a giant splash into the water below.

They stared at the thick woods littered with debris and broken tree branches. They could only imagine the horror if Erica and Wentworth had been inside. Teddy flew from where he had perched on top of Dusty’s cruiser to land on Erica’s shoulder. Wentworth rested his body against her side. She stroked the dog’s head in comfort.

Dusty broke the silence. “Is now a good time to ask for your license and registration?”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

SHADOW OF MURDER
A Mac Faraday Mystery, Book 14
by Lauren Carr
International Best-Selling Mystery Author

True crime blogger, Erica Hart starts a new chapter in her life with a bang when a dark shadow darts into the mountain road to send her SUV off a cliff and to the bottom of Deep Creek Lake. Spencer’s newest addition to the police force, Dusty O’Meara assumes it was a bear. Erica is not so sure.

Soon afterwards, contractors discover Konnor Langston’s body at the bottom of an abandoned swimming pool at the new summer home of Mac Faraday’s son.

With Police Chief David O’Callaghan away on paternity leave, Deputy Chief Dusty O’Meara must lead the investigation in his first murder case since moving to Spencer. Not only does Dusty have to work under the shadow of the legendary Mac Faraday, but he also has to match wits with Erica, who is determined to find justice for Konnor, her childhood friend.

Mac isn’t so difficult. Even Gnarly, the town’s canine mayor, is manageable if his authority is well-respected and he is kept entertained.

Erica Hart, Dusty finds, is more of a challenge. It wouldn’t be so difficult if she wasn’t so irresistible.

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Giveaway

To win a simply fabulous prize, subscribe to
Lauren’s newsletter at the bottom of her website
home page — https://mysterylady.net/.
Then leave a comment here suggesting a catch
phrase for Teddy. A winning subscriber will be
drawn on Friday evening, November 19th, and
that lucky person will win an audible download code for
ALL of the Mac Faraday Mysteries Books 1 to 13 😄

Book Review: The Risks of Dead Reckoning by Felicia Watson—and a Giveaway! @FeliciaTes @DXVaros @TLCBookTours

The Risks of Dead Reckoning
The Lovelace Series, Book 3
Felicia Watson
D. X. Varos, March 2021
ISBN 978-1941072899
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Naiche Decker is engaged! And no one is more surprised by it than her. But first, she has one more mission. The Lovelace is ordered to respond to a distress call from unexplored space, and from a crew who all died 200 years ago. What they find is not only amazing, but potentially lethal. If Lt. Decker is going to make it down the aisle, she will have to survive the dangers of planet Tolu first.

The Risks of Dead Reckoning was my introduction to the Lovelace trilogy and I found much to like here. While it’s generally preferable to read books in order, this works as a standalone as long as you’re willing to forgo some of the backstory and I am.

Ms. Watson has two main strengths in my opinion, vivid characterizations being one of them. As you might expect, the primary players on the Lovelace stand out in a crowd but others, including “bad guys”, are also very distinctive and add much to a lively story. (I especially appreciate the flying dinosaur-thingies.)

The other strong point is worldbuilding and I think Ms. Watson is particularly good at this aided, I think, by her background in science not to mention an active imagination. Whether she intended it or not, I was reminded a lot of the original Star Trek and that is not a bad thing. As in that series, here we have a spaceship crew heading into the unknown to explore but also to respond to what seems to be an appeal for help. When Deck and the rest of the Lovelace crew are confronted by creepy critters, odd aliens and lots of questions, what more could I ask for?

It’s a wild, fun ride and I’m very glad to have had a seat—now I need to check out the first two books.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2021.

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Purchase Links:
Barnes & Noble // Kobo // Amazon // Indiebound

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About the Author

Felicia Watson started writing stories as soon as they handed her a pencil in first grade. When not writing, Felicia spends her time with her darling dogs, her beloved husband, being an amateur pastry chef, and still finds time for her day job as a scientist.

Connect with Felicia:

Twitter // Goodreads

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Follow the tour here.

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Giveaway

To enter the drawing for a print copy of
The Risks of Dead Reckoning, leave a comment
below. The winning name will be drawn
on the evening of Wednesday, September 22nd.
US entrants only.

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Sterling and Me: Tail of a Mystery Author and Her Dog #5—and a Giveaway! @TheMysteryLadie

Lauren Carr is the international best-selling author of the Mac Faraday, Lovers in Crime, Chris Matheson Cold Case, and Thorny Rose Mysteries—over twenty-five titles across three fast-paced mystery series filled with twists and turns!

Killer Deadline marks Lauren’s first venture into mystery’s purely cozy sub-genre with a female protagonist. 

Book reviewers and readers alike rave about how Lauren Carr seamlessly crosses genres to include mystery, suspense, crime fiction, police procedurals, romance, and humor.

A popular speaker, Lauren is also the owner of Acorn Book Service, the umbrella under which falls iRead Book Tours. She lives with her husband and two spoiled rotten German Shepherds on a mountain in Harpers Ferry, WV.

Connect with the author:  Website  ~  Twitter  ~  Facebook  ~  Instagram ~ Pinterest

 

The More Characters Change…

Hair styles change. Fashion changes. Diets change. I remember when women trying to lose weight insisted that meat was the culprit to unwanted inches. Everyone would be eating big baked potatoes while dreaming of slipping into that teeny weeny bikini.

Now, meat (protein) is in. Potatoes (carbs) are out. But what doesn’t change is the search for that perfect diet.

When I was a new author honing my skills for mystery writing, I was convinced that it was possible to write book after book in a series without changing a thing—except the plotline. The characters would live in the same house. They would look the same. They don’t age. Their personalities remain constant.

My assumption was evidenced by devouring many classic mystery series in which the protagonists all remained the same from one book to the next.

Perry Mason never got married or involved in a serious relationship (I’m in the camp that was convinced it was because he was in one with Della.) His office remained at the same location. He never expanded to take on associates or get a bigger office. Della was never promoted to executive assistant.

Miss Marple never lost it when it came to her acute observation. She never ended up in a nursing home.

Nero Wolfe never went on a diet or left the house.

But we aren’t just discussing personal circumstances like moving into bigger homes or changing careers.

The character in each of these classic mystery series remained unchanged from one installment to the next. In other words, they never developed during the course of the series. While Hercule Poirot slowly grew older throughout Agatha Christie’s most famous series, his personality aka his character remained the same.

Many series writers want the next book to build on the previous installment. This forces readers to read the books in order. Imagine the confusion of watching the Lord of the Rings movies starting with The Return of the King.

Yet, for mystery authors like myself, who strive to make each mystery a standalone, it is a challenge to keep our characters the same. We want the characters to be the same person from one book to the next because we don’t want readers to be confused about changes in the characters’ circumstances.

I have discovered that this is an impossible task.

In It’s Murder, My Son, Mac Faraday was thrust into a new world. One day he was on the brink of bankruptcy. Suddenly, he comes into a fortune that many can only dream of. More than that, he discovers a birth mother who had never forgotten about him.

Through the course of the thirteen installments in the Mac Faraday Mysteries, we see Mac grow to embrace his new family and close circle of friends. He grows from the slightly awkward retired homicide detective in faded jeans to a sophisticated businessman, celebrated detective, brother, father, and husband.

Readers have seen Mac through his daughter marrying a navy officer forty-eight hours after meeting him, his geeky son embarking on a relationship with a naval academy midshipman who aspires to be the first female navy SEAL, and his half-brother dating a wide variety of women.

Through it all, Mac has remained the rock―the anchor to whom everyone goes for advice.

Archie Monday starts out the series as a hard-working editor and personal assistant to a famous mystery author. Traveling around the world with Robin Spencer, Mac’s late mother, had introduced her to elegance and luxury―an appreciation which she passes on to Mac. Her love and knowledge of literature, in particularly crime fiction, is a perfect match for Mac Faraday’s investigative skills.

In A Wedding and a Killing, Archie Monday changes up from assistant to the wealthy to become a rich man’s wife.

That is not to say that Archie spends her days getting facials and looking down her nose at the help. She continues her career as the top independent editor of mystery novels.

In The Nutcracker Conspiracy, the fourth Thorny Rose Mystery, Mac Faraday and Archie Monday leave for Europe where Archie has contracted to work with a member of the royal family on a novel. While Archie works, Mac Faraday enjoys the luxury of being her supportive husband.

Coming January 2022, in the fourteenth installment of the Mac Faraday Mysteries, A Homecoming to Die For, Mac and Archie return to Spencer after a year of living abroad to find that much has changed.

They are now godparents to David O’Callaghan and his wife’s new baby girl, Amelia Rose. That’s right, Mac’s womanizing half-brother has settled down to marry Hope. He is also the father of a teenaged son Gabriel, who he never knew he had.

Readers will find that David is much more settled and content. He is looking forward to embracing his four months of paternity leave to bond with his new family only to have murder rear its ugly head.

Mac’s son Tristan has taken the leap to become the homeowner of a lakeside home in Spencer. The older home requires massive renovations. Wouldn’t you know it—while Tristan is taking his father on a tour, contractors dig up the body of a woman in an abandoned swimming pool in his back yard.

The woman, Konnor Sweeney, had been reported missing twelve years earlier by a seasonal resident by the name of Erica Hart, a famous blogger known as the Cold Case Diva.

This investigation brings together a new team of detectives in Spencer.

Deputy Chief Bogie, who was sixty-five years old in the first Mac Faraday mystery, has married Doc Washington, the medical examiner, and retired to hang out and fish.

With David on leave, new Deputy Chief Dusty O’Meara must lead the investigation in his first murder case since moving to Spencer from Montana. Not only does Dusty have to prove himself to the citizens of Spencer, David, and the legendary Mac Faraday, but he also has to match wits with the Cold Case Diva, who is determined to get to the bottom of this mystery.

The town’s residents, David, and Mac Faraday aren’t so difficult. Even Gnarly, the town’s canine mayor, is manageable as long as he is fed and entertained. Erica Hart, Dusty finds, is more of a challenge. It wouldn’t be so difficult, if she wasn’t so gosh darn irresistible.

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Giveaway

Name a character in the upcoming A Homecoming to Die For!

The character is an older woman—true crime author. Former nun born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. She writes true crime novels about murders with a religious connection.

Enter your suggested name below in the comments. The author, Lauren Carr, will select the winning name. The winner will get a signed copy of A HOMECOMING TO DIE FOR, which will be released in January 2022.

 

Book Review: Not As We Knew It by F. M. Meredith @MarilynMeredith

Not As We Knew It
Rocky Bluff P. D. Mystery #16
F. M. Meredith
ISBN 979-8564552684
Trade Paperback

From the author—

The challenges come one after another for the Rocky Bluff P.D. to handle―from a missing woman to a fatal house fire.Detective Doug Milligan is faced with new and unusual problems to solve, some on the job and others related to his family.Gordon Butler isn’t too happy that his wife was chosen to train the latest new-hire.With the department shorthanded, Chief Chandra Taylor must make some hard decisions in order to protect the town of Rocky Bluff. Her romance with the mayor, which had been put on hold, is refreshed when she seeks his help.

One of the real pitfalls (for me) of accepting review requests from authors is the potential danger of having a request fall into a black hole because of backlogs that get worse and worse due to illness and life conditions in general (specifically the weird funk that has come with the pandemic, leading to a major reading slump and inability to focus). I have several books that have been wallowing in this pit, including this one, and I can only abjectly apologize for slacking off much too long. What’s really sad is that Not As We Knew It is a good book and it deserved better treatment from me.

Although some readers have said they don’t want the pandemic to play a role in the books they choose, Ms. Meredith opted to make it a part of her story and I’m glad she did. One of the hallmarks of police procedural is that they’re rooted in reality and this awful scourge is as real as it gets.

Ms. Meredith has a good hand with building characters we longtime fans love to spend time with and, besides the personal and societal complications of life brought about by Covid, our favorite detectives, such as Abel Navarro and Doug Milligan, are confronted by the crimes we might expect while Chief Taylor does everything she can to keep Rocky Bluff on an even keel, safe from criminals and overstressed, irrational citizens alike. You could say that Not As We Knew It is a police procedural very reflective of this odd world we’re struggling with. Well done!

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, August 2021.

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Giveaway

To enter the drawing for a print copy of
Not As We Knew It, leave a comment
below. The winning name will be drawn
on the evening of Thursday, September 2nd.
US and Canada entrants only.

Book Review: The Last Exit by Michael Kaufman—and a Giveaway! @KaufmanWrites @crookedlanebks

The Last Exit
A Jen Lu Mystery #1
Michael Kaufman
Crooked Lane Books, January 2021
ISBN 978-1-64385-567-7
Hardcover

Set in the future, Jen Lu is a Washington D.C. detective with a synth implant named Chandler residing in her neocortex. She is able to turn Chandler off at will, but is not supposed to when on duty. With a population grown out of control and limited resources and space for everyone, people over sixty-five are required to exit (die) so their children may live—as long as they can pay for an expensive longevity treatment.

One evening, Jen and Chandler are called to a stand-off between parents and child because the parents refuse to “exit” at their son’s demand.  A shoot-out occurs, with the mother’s last words something about going to Eden.

Jen’s investigation turns up a cheaper source for the treatment and the term “Eden” is mentioned, but reports are coming in of many people dying. When her supervisor calls her off the case, suspicions grow of something hinky going on, which involves people in government, law enforcement, and of course, highest society.

Determined to get to the bottom of it, especially after Chandler is turned off and Jen fired, Jen’s own life and hope for longevity is put in jeopardy as she follows a money trail. Only the presence of her former cop partner, her boyfriend, and Chandler’s power, can help put things right.

Excellent world-building, entirely plausible—and more than a bit scary. Fine writing and interesting characters make Mr. Kaufman most definitely a writer to watch.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, August 2021.
http://www.ckcrigger.com
Author of The Woman Who Built A Bridge (Spur Award Winner), Yester’s Ride,
Hometown Burning and Six Dancing Damsels: A China Bohannon Mystery

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Giveaway

To enter the drawing for a print copy of
The Last Exit, leave a comment
below. The winning name will be drawn
on the evening of Sunday, August 22nd.
US and Canada entrants only.

Book Review: The Ocean in Winter by Elizabeth de Veer—and a Giveaway! @BlackstoneAudio @TLCBookTours

The Ocean in Winter
Elizabeth de Veer
Blackstone Publishing, July 2021
ISBN 978-1-982674649
Hardcover

From the publisher—

The lives of the three Emery sisters were changed forever when Alex, eleven at the time, found their mother drowned in the bathtub of their home. After their mother’s suicide, the girls’ father shut down emotionally, leaving Alex responsible for caring for Colleen, then eight, and little Riley, just four. Now the girls are grown and navigating different directions. Alex, a nurse, has been traveling in India and grieving her struggle to have a child; Colleen is the devoted mother of preteens in denial that her marriage is ending; and Riley has been leading what her sisters imagine to be the dream life of a successful model in New York City. Decades may have passed, but the unresolved trauma of their mother’s death still looms over them creating distance between the sisters.

Then on a March night, a storm rages near the coast of northeastern Massachusetts. Alex sits alone in an old farmhouse she inherited from a stranger. The lights are out because of the storm; then, an unexpected knock at the door. When Alex opens it, her beautiful younger sister stands before her. Riley has long been estranged from their family, prompting Colleen to hire the private investigator from whom they’d been awaiting news. Comforted by her unexpected presence, Alex holds back her nagging questions: How had Riley found her? Wouldn’t the dirt roads have been impassable in the storm? Why did Riley insist on disappearing back into the night?

After her mysterious visitation, Alex and Colleen are determined to reconcile with Riley and to face their painful past, but the closer they come to finding their missing sister, the more they fear they’ll only be left with Riley’s secrets. An unforgettable story about grief, love, and what it means to be haunted, The Ocean in Winter marks the debut of a remarkable new voice in fiction.

Eleven-year-old Alex lost her childhood in an instant the moment she found her mother dead from suicide. Even that extremely traumatic event might have not been so overwhelming if only her father had been strong enough to step up to his duties but, no, he retreated. The three children were pretty much left on their own with Alex taking on the role of mother to Colleen and Riley.

The three girls promised to always be there for each other but life didn’t cooperate and they drifted apart, each on a very different path. Then certain circumstances bring them back into each other’s orbits again and the deep-seated love is still very evident.

This is a character-driven story with limited plot and, as such, the pacing is much slower than I usually like but there is no shortage of feeling. In fact, emotions run high and numerous themes come into play including some that might be considered triggers (suicide, depression, drug addiction, emotional abandonment, etc.). Ms. de Veer handles all of this with grace and compassion beyond her status as a debut author.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, July 2021.

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Purchase Links:
Barnes & Noble // Kobo // Amazon 
Blackstone Publishing // Indiebound

”Do we choose our memories, or do our memories choose us?
That’s the central question for the three sisters in Elizabeth de Veer’s
emotionally rich, incandescent debut novel. Ocean in Winter is
a page-turner of a book with a family mystery at its core, and profoundly
explores the ways in which women struggle to rebuild their lives
after grief and trauma. You won’t want to put it down once you start.”
—Holly Robinson, author of Beach Plum Island and Chance Harbor

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An Excerpt from
The Ocean in Winter

I am hurtling through Massachusetts at a rate of speed I cannot understand; the wind blows my cheeks, but it does not feel cold. I know only generally where I am going: deep into the state’s north- east corner where small towns cluster at the coast like grapes, nestled by a fragile barrier island at the mouth of the Merrimack River. The towns, blanketed now in briny mist, go by these names: Rowley; Newbury; Newburyport; Salisbury; and, inland, the city of Amesbury, the rough-edged river-fed mill town where my sisters and I grew up, a place I left when I was eighteen and never returned to. The town was too small for me, I suppose, and too much had happened for me and Amesbury to pretend that we had ever been all that close.

A storm has been raging here all day, but now the rain has stopped. In this strange moment, I come to stand on the doorstep of a house in the town of Newbury that I have never seen before, an old farmhouse whose white paint and green trim are cracked and peeling, wooden beams rotted. Behind me, I leave no foot- prints in the cold mud.

What year is this? I think for a moment. Wait, how do I not know the answer immediately?

It’s 2014. The answer comes to mind like a vague memory, as though the question itself does not matter. The house belongs to my oldest sister, Alex. Time is confusing to me right now—how long has it been since I saw her? Years, I think. But how many? Four, five, six? More? Maybe seven. I pushed her away. I pushed everyone away, far away, all to protect my ugly little secrets. Regret lingers in my throat like bile; I’ve made so many mistakes.

I glance through the front window; the room beyond is pitch black. The electricity in this area is out and has been out for a couple of hours. How do I know this? I’m not sure. In the woods beyond this clearing, trees creak high and long like old rocking chairs, swaying slowly in one direction and then the other. The effect is eerie, ghostly.

Many secrets stand between me and my sisters, Alex and Colleen, but not all will be revealed tonight. Tomorrow, after dawn breaks, one of these secrets shall become known. Others will unfold in the days to follow. Far from here a little boy sleeps soundly in his bed in the city. My awareness of him is so intense, I can almost hear his soft steady breath. Goodbye, sweet Caleb. Mama loves you, though she never did a good job of showing it.

I stand for a moment at the threshold of this house and take a deep breath of damp, mossy air, while a chill wind presses against my neck and blows my hair in my face. Alex is inside alone. She is not waiting for me, in fact, she is not expecting my visit. I raise my fist to the door and rap my knuckles against it. One moment passes, and then another. Nothing happens, so I knock again. Finally, Alex opens the door a crack.

“Hello?” she whispers. “Is someone there? Colleen?”

“Alex, it’s me,” I say, pushing my hair away from my face. “Riley.”

“Riley?” she says, incredulous. Then she opens the door the rest of the way. She points her flashlight toward me; I squint in the light and raise my hand to shield my eyes. From the shadows Alex stares, her pale face wide-eyed with fear and surprise. Slowly her expression registers recognition and then she gasps.

“Riley!” She pulls me inside and slams the door to leave the wind and wildness behind us. She throws her arms around me and hugs me hard and long; I do the same. There is a damp towel over her shoulder. Her wool sweater smells dusty, and the air reeks of plaster and paint.

“Hi, Alex,” I say.

“Where have you been?” she says, touching my arm as though she does not believe that I am real. “We’ve been searching for you. Are you okay? Wait, how did you find me?”

“That’s a lot of questions,” I say.

“Let me look at you,” she says, and she holds my face in her hands. She’s shorter than I am, which is surprising because she is eight years older, and I remember her as tall, although I suppose the last time I saw her I was already over a head taller. In my childhood memories, she’s a grown-up, which I guess she has been since she was eleven, since the day she saw what she saw. In the pale shimmer from two utility candles in paper cups, her skin looks tired, her eyes sunken as though she has not been sleeping. Her eyes bear the beginnings of fine lines at the corners; she, too, has aged in these past years. The dark, curly waves of her hair are streaked with a few gray strands, tied back in a sloppy ponytail. She looks strong, like she’s someone who knows what she’s doing. The kind of person I always wished I were or would someday become.

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About the Author

Elizabeth de Veer has a Master of Theological Studies from Harvard Divinity School and has been admitted to writing residencies at the Jentel Artist Residency, the Hambidge Center for Creative Arts and Sciences, and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. She is a member of several writing groups, including Grub Street Writers’ Collective of Boston, the Newburyport Writers’ Group, Sisters in Crime New England, and the New Hampshire Writers’ Project. She lives in a small town in Northeast Massachusetts with her husband, daughter, and labradoodle.

To learn more, check out her web site at elizabethdeveer.com.

Connect with Elizabeth
Website // Facebook // Instagram

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Follow the tour here.

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Giveaway

To enter the drawing for a print copy of
The Ocean in Winter, leave a comment
below. The winning name will be drawn
on the evening of Thursday, July 29th.
US entrants only.

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