The Line Between Research and Literary License—and a Giveaway!

Lauren and Gnarly

Lauren Carr is the best-selling author of the Mac Faraday Mysteries, which takes place in Deep Creek Lake, Maryland. Killer in the Band is the third installment in the Lovers in Crime Mystery series.

In addition to her series set in the northern panhandle of West Virginia, Lauren Carr has also written the Mac Faraday Mysteries, set on Deep Creek Lake in western Maryland, and the Thorny Rose Mysteries, set in Washington DC. The second installment in the Thorny Rose Mysteries, which features Joshua Thornton’s son Murphy and Jessica Faraday, Mac’s daughter, A Fine Year for Murder, was released in January 2017.

Lauren is a popular speaker who has made appearances at schools, youth groups, and on author panels at conventions. She also passes on what she has learned in her years of writing and publishing by conducting workshops and teaching in community education classes.

She lives with her husband, son, and four dogs on a mountain in Harpers Ferry, WV. Visit Lauren Carr’s website at http://www.mysterylady.net to learn more about Lauren and her upcoming mysteries.

Fiction is a work of the imagination. You won’t get an argument from me on that.  Even so, that doesn’t mean fiction writers should let their imaginations run so wild that they begin stretching the facts.  Every time they do, they’re betting on the reader to stretch his or her imagination just to accommodate them – it’s a risk that rarely ever pans out.

What’s the best way to establish the reader’s trust in the story’s narrator?  Keeping the facts straight.  State flat out falsehoods or portray your characters as lacking knowledge of the very basics in their professions and the writer is viewed as either ignorant or lazy. Either way, the writer loses their readers’ trust with something that could be so easily fixed.

Yet, on the other hand, fiction writers can’t allow themselves to get so bogged down with having every fact so perfectly straight that their imagination ends up hog-tied—rendering them unable to write.

Do I get hung up on research? It depends on the area of detail in question. There are some areas of research that are in actuality “moving targets.” It is a waste of time for writers to sweat over intricate details that could possibly be obsolete before their book’s release. State gun laws is an excellent example. Federal and state gun laws are always changing.

The Mac Faraday mystery series is set in Maryland, which has one of the strictest gun laws in the country. However, readers will notice that Mac Faraday and other characters freely carry concealed weapons, which is illegal in that state. If I was to have each of these characters follow the letter of the law, they would need to stop before crossing state lines to lock up their guns and go through other procedures, weighing down the plot with minute details that have nothing to do with moving the story forward—all in the name of keeping the facts straight.

But then, what if Maryland’s gun laws were to change a few years later? My characters’ actions would then appear silly and unnecessary. For that reason, as a writer, I have chosen to completely ignore the whole issue.

I knew I had my work cut out for me when I started working on Kill and Run. Lieutenant Murphy Thornton, USN, and Jessica Faraday, daughter of multi-millionaire detective Mac Faraday, the protagonist from my mystery series set in Deep Creek Lake, are of a younger generation. Not only that, but they live in Washington, DC, which is nothing like the resort town of Deep Creek Lake, where my family vacations, or the small town of Chester, West Virginia, the setting for my Lovers in Crime Mysteries. I grew up in Chester and still have family living there.

Yet, I was not completely lost. As a former editor for the federal government, I had lived and worked in the Washington, DC area for over ten years. No weekend was complete without hitting the downtown clubs on Saturday night. It wasn’t hard for me to rekindle the fast-paced excitement of big city life—with which I was very familiar.

While I hadn’t been inside the Pentagon since I was a federal bureaucrat, luckily I still had several sources within the military. When I met my husband, he was a naval officer stationed at the Pentagon. As a former federal employee, I had worked in several places around Washington. I knew the basic security procedures for entering and leaving federal buildings. For example, at one point, Murphy needs to escort a witness to his office. In order to take her into the building, he needs to get her a visitor’s badge. Later, when he must go into a meeting, he has to hand her off to an escort who has security clearances.

The most difficult research I encountered in Kill and Run was the military officers’ spouses’ clubs. Jessica Faraday is active in the navy officers’ wives’ club, and one of the murder victims is active in the army counterpart. Therefore, I needed to know how such clubs work. When my husband had been in the navy, I never joined. I requested information from a club that I found on the Internet, but received no reply. So, I had to rely on information from a friend who had been active in a branch while she and her husband were stationed overseas. Since the club in Kill and Run was made up of mostly women, I modeled the social hierarchy and tone of other women’s social clubs that I was familiar with.

Yet, I have come to learn that no matter how much I research the people, places, and things for a book, there are going to be readers who, if they want to find fault, will find it. You’d be surprised about what some readers with too much time on their hands will go to the trouble of contacting authors.

In one scene in It’s Murder, My Son, Mac Faraday goes to the Spencer Inn, the five-star inn he had inherited from his birth mother. During this scene, he is served a five-hundred dollar bottle of champagne, which I had researched online—copying and pasting the name and describing the bottle in detail from a picture on the website where it could be purchased. I described how the wine steward had served the bottle—modeling this on how I have been served by wine stewards in fine restaurants.

Within a month of It’s Murder, My Son’s release, I received a phone call from a reader telling me that scene was wrong! The reader went to the trouble of hunting down my phone number to call me. I’m still not sure what was wrong, but, after getting over the shock, I explained that I modeled the scene from when I myself had been served wine in fine restaurants, to which the reader replied, “Those weren’t five-star restaurants!”

But wait, there’s more! Remember the five hundred dollar bottle of champagne which I hunted down online—complete with a picture of the bottle and a “buy now” button to purchase? Two and a half years after book’s release, I get an email from a reader claiming that champagne did not exist. The winery doesn’t make champagne. Well, with a scoff I went online to try to find it so I could send him a link. But couldn’t find the site.

Oh, well. That was where I learned a lesson about fiction writing and research. There’s a reason authors have literary license. It is silly for writers to allow themselves to get so bogged down researching every minute little fact in order to make everything precisely accurate to appease readers who get their jollies out of finding mistakes. Unless that detail has a direct effect on the plotline, it doesn’t really matter. So what if the wine steward was not perfect? He had no role in committing or solving the mystery. So what if that winery did not make champagne? It still tasted good in Mac’s world.

I don’t have time for that.

Do I fudge on the facts? Yep! I admit it. Every writer has to sometimes. In doing so, I draw upon what information I was able to gather and fill in the blanks while trying to keep it believable. For example, in Kill and Run, readers will meet the Joint Chiefs of Staff, for whom Murphy directly works. The chair of the Joint Chiefs is General Maxine Raleigh, USAF. Yep, she’s a woman! Not only is she on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, but she is the chair. To date, a woman has never been appointed to the Joint Chiefs of Staff. When I was researching this, one of my sources said that was not believable, to which I replied, “This is my world and, in my world, women can be appointed chair to the Joint Chiefs of Staff.”

Also, in my world, wine stewards are less than perfect while serving five hundred dollar bottles of champagne that don’t really exist.

Check out Lauren Carr’s
Audiobook-a-palooza Blog Tour! 

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One lucky reader here will win three
downloadable audiobooks of the
Thorny Rose Mysteries—Three
Days to Forever, Kill and Run,
and A Fine Year for Murder. Just
leave a comment below pointing
out a factual error that you
have found in a book—but not any
found in a Lauren Carr mystery!
The winning name will be drawn
Monday evening, May 22nd.

Book Review: Murder Between the Lines by Radha Vatsal—and a Giveaway!

Murder Between the Lines
A Kitty Weeks Mystery #2
Radha Vatsal
Sourcebooks Landmark, May 2017
ISBN 978-1-4926-3892-6
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Intrepid journalist Kitty Weeks returns in the second book in this acclaimed WW1-era historical mystery series to investigate the death of a boarding school student.

When Kitty’s latest assignment for the New York Sentinel Ladies’ Page takes her to Westfield Hall, she expects to find an orderly establishment teaching French and dancing-but there’s more going on at the school than initially meets the eye.

Tragedy strikes when a student named Elspeth is found frozen to death in Central Park. The doctor’s proclaim that the girl’s sleepwalking was the cause, but Kitty isn’t so sure.

Determined to uncover the truth, Kitty must investigate a more chilling scenario-a murder that may involve Elspeth’s scientist father and a new invention by a man named Thomas Edison.

The early 1900’s have always been a favorite historical period for me with its blend of innocence and the beginnings of the fights for social justice, whether it be the push for women’s rights or perhaps the protection of workers, adults and children. Murder Between the Lines has all the charm and interesting setting I look for in this type of historical.

Kitty Weeks is a natural if unintended sleuth in her zeal to be a “real” reporter and perhaps find justice for those in need and her editor has agreed to let her do more than cover society. A country with high-flying ideals on the precipice of war and coping with suffragettes and the like presents plenty of opportunity for Kitty, herself a wealthy member of society, but she’s drawn to the death of a young lady, a death she finds quite suspicious even after it’s ruled accidental. Kitty had met Elspeth while doing a piece on her boarding school and found her focus on scientific matters most interesting but wonders if that could have led to her death.

With an easy pace and an appealing protagonist determined to solve an engaging puzzle, Ms. Vatsal kept me entertained and following Kitty down several paths before  finally reaching a solution. I thoroughly enjoyed my first adventure with this intrepid young woman and really appreciated the author’s attention to the details of the period. While she’s perhaps not as well-developed a character as I would like, Kitty’s intelligence and her own reactions to the issues of her day make her a young woman I want to meet again.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, May 2017.

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To enter the drawing for print
copies of both Murder Between
the Lines and A Front Page Affair,
the first book, leave a
comment below.
The winning name
will be drawn
Sunday evening,
May 21st. Open to
residents
of the US and Canada.

Book Review: Silent Rain by Karin Salvalaggio—and a Giveaway!

Silent Rain
Macy Greeley Mysteries #4
Karin Salvalaggio
Minotaur Books, May 2017
ISBN 978-1-250-07893-3
Hardcover

From the publisher—

Grace Adams has spent three years trying to move on―mentally, physically, emotionally―from the traumatizing events of her past. But it’s not easy when the world is morbidly curious about the crimes that shaped her childhood, when despite her changed name, people still track her down for the sensational details. Now in college in Bolton, Montana, the one person Grace has trusted with the truth about her past has betrayed her. The bestselling novelist Peter Granger wants to use Grace’s story in his next book, regardless of how desperate Grace is to keep the details to herself. And then, on Halloween night, Peter Granger’s house burns to the ground and his and his wife’s bodies are found inside.

Montana state detective Macy Greeley is sent to Bolton to handle the investigation into the fire and deaths…which soon appear to be arson and murder. It doesn’t take Macy long to realize that Grace isn’t the only one whom Peter Granger has betrayed, and there are no shortage of others in town who took issue with him and his wife. What at first looked like a straightforward investigation is poised to expose some of Bolton’s darkest secrets, and the fallout may put more than one life in danger.

I had never read any of the Macy Greeley books before this one but, when a review copy was offered to me by the publisher, I pounced on it. Police procedurals are among my favorite mystery subgenres and, in looking at the earlier books, it was very apparent that the series is well-regarded. Now that I’ve been introduced to Macy and her world, I have to agree and, even as a standalone, Silent Rain is indeed well worth the time.

When Macy is sent to investigate a house fire and resulting deaths, she’s unaware that she already knows one of the potential suspects. Grace, who played a critical role in one of Macy’s earlier cases, was betrayed by Peter Granger who wanted to tell the world the story she’s been running from. How far would Grace have gone to stop him? And who else hated Peter Granger enough to do this?

Macy is a single mother to a young boy and the scenes with him add a great deal to the reader’s understanding of this detective and her compassion for others, even in little ways, while she pursues truth. In this case, numerous threads come together but slowly enough to give the reader time to ponder the various leads…and, for me, come to the wrong conclusion more than once.

Silent Rain is an engrossing mystery and features vivid characters, both good and bad. I’m happy to have “discovered” another police procedural series I can get into with a good deal of anticipation.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, May 2017.

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To enter the drawing for a
hardcover
copy of Silent Rain,
leave a
comment below. There will
be two winners that
will be drawn
Friday evening,
May 12th. Open to
residents
of the US and Canada.

Book Review: The Inheritance by Jacqueline Seewald—and a Giveaway!

The Inheritance
Jacqueline Seewald
Intrigue Publishing, December 2016
ISBN 978-1-940758-50-3
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Jennifer Stoddard is a 35-year-old widow who has just found out she is the sole heir of her grandmother’s estate, located in the midwest town she grew up in. But there is a catch; she must live in the house for two years before she can claim the estate and someone doesn’t want her there. The threats begin soon after her return. A rifle shot whizzes through her car window, her brakes are tampered with, and her tires are slashed. Police Chief, Grant Coleman, is called upon to investigate. Unfortunately, the history between Jen and Grant from high school causes them to mistrust each other. However, Grant is a professional and intends to do his job. Together they explore who might want to drive Jen out of the house, while trying to understand their feelings of anger, mistrust and desire for each other. With Jen’s life on the line, will they be able to put the past behind them to work together and save her and her son’s lives?

We’ve seen this premise before, that of someone having to fulfill usually difficult conditions in order to receive an inheritance. The differences with this particular story lie in the questions that immediately arise in the reader’s mind, starting with wondering why Jen had to learn through an attorney that her grandmother had passed a month earlier. That in itself isn’t the puzzle—that sort of thing isn’t unheard of—but, in this case, the attorney got Jen’s address from her mother so why didn’t the woman tell her? And, if her grandmother played such a large role in her youth, why did Jen essentially cut her out of her life?

Those questions and more are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg when Jen returns to her hometown and accepts the challenge of the will. The mansion is in dire need of repair and she hires a contractor, Rob Coleman, who turns out to be the brother of Grant Coleman who broke her heart in high school. Unfortunately, Grant is the police chief and has a distinctly hostile attitude towards her. When it starts to look like someone really doesn’t want her in town, that attitude is going to cause problems of its own.

Along with the mounting tension of the attacks, there’s an enjoyable sidestory involving Jen’s visiting friend, Maryann, and Rob. These are two likeable characters I couldn’t help rooting for and they helped lighten the suspense. That suspense builds and builds until a dramatic ending that held even more surprises. All in all, The Inheritance is a finely-crafted story that held my attention from the very first page to the last.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, May 2017.

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To enter the drawing for a print
copy of The Inheritance, leave a
comment
below. The winning name
will be drawn Fri
day evening,
May 5th. Open to residents
of the US and Canada.

Double Launch—and a Giveaway!

2017 double Agatha-nominated and national best-selling author Edith Maxwell writes the Quaker Midwife Mysteries and the Local Foods Mysteries; as Maddie Day she writes the Country Store Mysteries and the Cozy Capers Book Group Mysteries. Her award-winning short crime fiction has appeared in many juried anthologies and journals. She is President of Sisters in Crime New England. Maxwell writes, cooks, and gardens north of Boston with her beau and three cats. She blogs at WickedCozyAuthors.com, Killer Characters, and with the Midnight Ink authors. Find her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and at www.edithmaxwell.com.

Thanks for having me back today! My eleventh mystery officially released earlier this month. Called to Justice is my second Quaker Midwife Mystery and I’m delighted by the reviews and cheers it has received so far. When the Grits Hit the Fan, my tenth mystery, came out at the end of March, and I was confronted with how to celebrate two books (under two names in two series from two publishers) at once.

So I held a double launch party at my fabulous local independent bookstore, Jabberwocky Bookshop in Newburyport, MA a few weeks ago. To top off the celebration, I’ll give away an advance copy of my third spring book, Mulch Ado About Murder, to one commenter today! (Note: a version of this post appeared on wickedcozyauthors.com.)

Jabberwocky Bookshop

Jabberwocky owner Sue Little is super supportive of local authors and readers everywhere. When I mentioned I wanted to interview my alter ego Maddie Day  – and vice versa – she thought it was a great idea.

Edith Maxwell and Sue Little

I found an Indiana cap, and brought my Quaker bonnet. I baked gingersnaps from the late 1800s (Fanny Farmer helped with the recipe) as well as Kahlua Brownies Robbie Jordan might serve in her country store restaurant (recipe in Flipped for Murder). I assembled a few door prizes. And I wrote up a number of questions for Maddie and me to ask each other.

The audience kept building. I spied local writer pals, a bunch of Quakers, fans I’d met at previous library events, and more.

Connie Hambly, Mary Schaefer, Nancy Langmeyer, Edith Maxwell, Laurie Mendoza and Holly Robinson

My darling son JD helped dole out raffle tickets.

I’d started speaking when two Wicked Cozy Authors slipped in – Julie Hennrikus and Barb Ross, having battled traffic all the way up from the Boston area (we three slipped out for a drink and a late dinner afterwards, too).

Edith Maxwell, Julie Hennrikus and Barb Ross

It was one of the more fun launch parties I’ve held. People seemed to like the alter egos talking to each other.

After my script was done, I read a short first scene from each book, and then entertained lively audience questions.

Afterwards? Wine, dessert, and signing books, of course.

And if anyone not local to north of Boston wants to order a signed copy of Called to Justice or When the Grits Hit the Fan, please consider doing it via Jabberwocky! Just make sure to request a signed copy in the comments when you check out.

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Giveaway

Readers: Which authors have you helped celebrate launches – or wished you had? Writers, favorite launch parties? Tips and downfalls? Enter your comment below for a chance to win an advance reading copy of Mulch Ado About Murder. The winning name will be drawn Friday evening, April 28th. Open to residents of the US.

Powerful Lyrics—and a Giveaway!

J. H. Bográn, born and raised in Honduras, is the son of a journalist. He ironically prefers to write fiction rather than fact. José’s genre of choice is thrillers, but he likes to throw in a twist of romance into the mix. His works include novels and short stories in both English and Spanish. He has also worked on scripts for motion pictures and domestic television in his home country.

He’s a member of The Crime Writers Association, the Short Fiction Writers Guild and the International Thriller Writers where he also serves as the Thriller Roundtable Coordinator and contributor editor for their official e-zine The Big Thrill.

POISONED TEARS is his third novel in English and has already garnered positive reviews and recommendations. Jon Land calls it “a splendid piece of crime noir,” while Douglas Preston says it’s a first class roller-coaster ride.

Website // Facebook // Twitter // Goodreads // Newsletter Signup

Amazon // Barnes & Noble

Music is an essential part of my life. At one point, I blogged about how my life is so much like a movie I even have the soundtrack! I guess it must be because of my passion for stories—which would also explain why I write—but I find some of the messages delivered by lyrics as fascinating and quite powerful. As writers, I truly believe there’s much to be learned from powerful lyrics that are able to encapsulate an idea, a thought, or a feeling in very few words. Please allow me to share some of my favorites with you.

“You Oughta Know” by Alanis Morissette

Does she know how you told me you’d hold me | Until you died, till you died |But you’re still alive.

This complaint to a former lover about a broken promise is exceptionally powerful. To me, it speaks of how easy we make promises we can’t keep and how the spurned lover feels when realizing the deception.

Along the same lines, you can also feel the unrequited love in Adele’s hit “Rolling in the Deep” when she claims:

Think of me in the depths of your despair.

Or take a moment to thing about “Numb” by Linkin Park

Every step that I take is another mistake to you.

Here’s another complaint to a lover. This time includes a feeling of self-defeat that is both disturbing and sad.

But not all songs are about lovers current or old, some are just plain stories that even include a moral. Look for instance at Kenny Roger’s song “Coward of the County” where a father imparts the following advice to his son:

Promise me, son, | Not to do the things I’ve done | Walk away from trouble if you can |

Now it don’t mean you’re weak | If you turn the other cheek |

And I hope you’re old enough to understand | Son, you don’t have to fight to be a man

After a lifetime of being obedient to his father’s last wishes, the man comes to find his loved-one raped by three other men. What choice does he have?

“Papa, I should hope you understand |Sometimes you gotta fight when you’re a man”

Almost every time I get to check the news I see nothing but trouble in all parts of the world. Invariably, this line from the tune “The Miracle” by Queen comes to mind with a little bit of hope as it reminds me these news are not so new anyway but also, that there’s hope in some of the other things that are permanent:

Super powers always fighting, |But Mona Lisa just keeps on smiling.

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To enter the drawing for an
ebook
copy of Poisoned Tears,
leave a comment
below. The
winning name will be drawn
Tue
sday evening, April 25th.

My Ukuleles…I May Have a Problem…and a Giveaway!

Leslie Langtry is the USA Today Bestselling author of three cozy comedy series. She lives in the Midwest with her family and a few cats who do not appreciate her. And she hoards ukuleles (she might need an intervention).

Leslie Langtry’s first book in her Ukulele Mystery Series, Ukulele Murder, is on sale for 99c from April 10-16! You can check it out with the other books in the Aloha Lagoon Mysteries here:

http://www.gemmahalliday.com/Aloha_Lagoon/books-leslie.html

After a long day of writing, I decompress by messing around with the ukulele. The results aren’t pretty, but I enjoy it. I can play a few songs (for some strange reason they’re all Beatles songs and Edelweiss), and I’m just now taking lessons like from a real professional musician and everything. So now, I can read tabs and notes and fingerpick (albeit very, very slowly) a few more songs, including the Theme from Batman (I’m nothing if not eclectic), Fur Elise and Haele – a Hawaiian song.

My Grandpa Smiley played ukulele. Fun little songs like Won’t You Come Home Bill Bailey & Harvest Moon. That’s his instrument above on the far left. I can’t really play it because the tuning pegs are shot. It’s a sweet little uke.

The green instrument next to Grandpa’s is a Waterman by KALA. It’s waterproof, made of a tough plastic that still resonates well. I’m taking it with me to Florida for the Novelists Inc conference in October. My husband thinks I bought it just for that one event. He may not be wrong…

The middle uke is a Kahuna ukulele. I bought that one because I liked the hula girl and tiki on it. AND it has pink strings! It was a completely frivolous buy but I couldn’t resist. Who doesn’t want a uke with pictures and pink strings? It seems like a no-brainer to me.

Which may be why my first uke was the KALA Pineapple uke, second from the right. Several years ago, on a whim, my friend Michele and I decided to buy ukes and take a group class at West Music. This is us:

Michelle, rocking her sweet Hawaiian Punch hat

Anyway, my friend bought a normal, hourglass shaped blue uke. And I bought one that looked like a pineapple. Literally.  I guess I can’t do things like everyone else. Anyway – it’s a nice instrument with a little more of a mellow sound, probably because of its shape. It’s my go-to uke for my private lessons.

The last instrument is a KALA Travel Soprano. It’s a smidge smaller and half the width of the other ukes. When I was paying for it, my daughter asked why I needed it.

“Because it’s smaller,” I said, assuming this made sense to everyone.

She rolled her eyes, “Oh, right. Like an instrument like the ukulele needs a smaller version…”

I suspect she was being sarcastic.

Oh well. I love the ukulele and the calluses on my fingertips from playing. Maybe someday, I’ll be able to play more than a few songs. I doubt I’ll ever be a virtuoso, but that doesn’t matter. Playing around with this instrument relaxes me. And that’s all that matters.

Right?

Leslie Langtry’s first book in her Ukulele Mystery Series, Ukulele Murder, is on sale for 99c from April 10-16! You can check it out with the other books in the Aloha Lagoon Mysteries here:

http://www.gemmahalliday.com/Aloha_Lagoon/books-leslie.html

Ukulele Murder (A Nani Johnson Mystery)
Aloha Lagoon Mysteries book #1

Nani Johnson thought she had it made when she moved from Kansas to the resort town of Aloha Lagoon, Kauai. In spite of her certifiably crazy mom, Nani is determined that nothing will stop her from becoming a ukulele virtuoso! Unfortunately her Julliard training doesn’t help her break into the local music scene due to some heavy competition from the Terrible Trio—three hostile, local musicians. The only work she finds is a few bar mitzvahs and gigs at the kitschy Blue Hawaii Wedding Chapel.

But when one of Nani’s competitors drops dead right after a public feud, Nani becomes the police’s main suspect. A missing murder weapon, mysterious threats, and a heck of a frame-up job all have Nani worrying she’ll be trading in her flowery muumuus for prison orange. Enter hunky local botanist Nick Woodfield, who just might be able to help her clear her name…that is if he doesn’t have secrets of his own. With the bodies stacking up, the danger closing in, and the authorities circling, Nani must track down a killer…before she ends up the latest victim of the Ukulele Murderer!

BUY LINKS:

Amazon // B&N // iBooks // Google Play

Kobo // Smashwords // Print

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In addition to the 99c sale of
Ukulele Murder, Leslie is giving
away a signed, print copy of
the book to one lucky US
commenter on today’s post!
The winning name will be drawn
on Wednesday evening, April 19th.