Book Review: Playing Possum by Lois Schmitt—and 2 Giveaways! @schmittmystery @encirclepub @partnersincr1me

Playing Possum

by Lois Schmitt

February 1-28, 2022 Virtual Book Tour

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



Playing Possum
A Kristy Farrell Animal Lovers Mystery, #3
Lois Schmitt
Encircle Publications, December 2021
ISBN‎ 978-1-64599-305-6

From the publisher—

Murder, Mayhem, and Missing Animals.

When animals mysteriously disappear from the Pendwell Wildlife Refuge, former English teacher turned magazine reporter Kristy Farrell is on the case. Days later, the body of the refuge’s director is found in a grassy clearing.

Kristy, assisted by her veterinarian daughter, investigates and discovers strong motives among the suspects, including greed, infidelity, betrayal, and blackmail.

As Kristy delves further, she finds herself up against the powerful Pendwell family, especially matriarch Victoria Buckley Pendwell, chair of the refuge board of trustees, and Victoria’s son, Austin Pendwell, who is slated to run for the state senate.

But ferreting out the murderer and finding the missing animals aren’t Kristy only challenges. While researching a story on puppy mills, she uncovers criminal activity that reaches far beyond the neighborhood pet store.

Meanwhile, strange things are happening back at the refuge, and soon a second murder occurs. Kristy is thwarted in her attempts to discover the murderer by her old nemesis, the blustery Detective Wolfe.

Kristy perseveres and as she unearths shady deals and dark secrets, Kristy slowly draws the killer out of the shadows.

After having enjoyed Something Fishy, the second book in this series, I was looking forward to Kristy’s next adventure and Ms. Schmitt did not disappoint me at all. Playing Possum (I really get a smile out of her titles) is just as focused on the animal world, a big plus for me, and is built on an equally intriguing puzzle.

Being an investigative reporter, Kristy easily juggles the multiple issues that come up in addition to the initial murder and the interplay between mother and daughter (Abby), what you might call a dynamic duo, is spot on, sort of a well-oiled machine, and I really enjoy Kristy’s antagonistic relationship with the crabby detective. Yes, he’s obnoxious and certainly unappreciative of her nosing around but I find him to be a pleasant change from the usual romantic entanglement. After all, not every sleuthing woman needs to fall for the investigating cop , right?

As a proponent of animal rescue, I’m so glad the author chose to address the needs of distressed wildlife and domestic animals and the efforts made by many to make the world a safer place for all creatures. If even one reader is moved to participate in some way, we all will be the better for it. Meanwhile, any mystery fan is sure to like Playing Possum.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, February 2022.


Praise for Playing Possum:

Lois Schmitt’s Playing Possum does cozies proud. Fresh
and traditional all at once.” -Reed Farrel Coleman,
New York Times bestselling author of Sleepless City

“In her third book of the series, writer Lois Schmitt has crafted an
intricately-plotted mystery full of twists and humor, with a cast of
colorful characters, set in a wildlife refuge rehab center. Cozy fans,
and especially followers of Schmitt’s animal lovers’ mysteries, will
find great entertainment in Playing Possum.” -Phyllis Gobbell,
award-winning author of the Jordan Mayfair Mysteries


An Excerpt from Playing Possum

I waited until a man and a woman emerged from the county medical examiner’s van. I followed them into the wildlife preserve, maintaining a discreet distance while wondering what happened. Did a jogger succumb to a heart attack? Did a child fall into a pond and drown? I inhaled deeply, hoping to steady my nerves. I passed the clearing on the right where the administration building was located. I continued trailing the two members of the medical examiner’s staff until another clearing came into view—this one bordered by yellow crime scene tape. I gasped. Not far from where I stood, spread out in full view was a female body with blood covering much of the head. The body was face down, but I recognized the small build, sandy colored hair, and jade green shirt. I tasted bile. I wanted to scream, but I slapped my hand in front of my mouth. After regaining my composure, I surveyed my surroundings. Three people wearing jackets emblazoned in the back with the words Crime Scene Investigator were near the front of the clearing. One was bent over the body and the other two appeared to be examining the nearby ground. When the medical examiner’s team approached, the investigator next to the body rose up and started talking. I couldn’t make it all out, but I did hear him say “Blow to the head.” “Oh, no,” I mumbled when I spied two homicide detectives I knew. Detective Adrian Fox, a thirty something African American, stood on the side of the clearing, near a small pond. He was talking to a woman who yesterday had been arguing with the preserve’s director. The director had called this woman Elena, so I assumed this was Elena Salazar, the education coordinator. I couldn’t hear what she was saying to the detective, but she was gesturing wildly with her arms. The other detective, Steve Wolfe, had marched over to the body and was now barking orders to the medical examiner’s staff, who didn’t seem pleased. As Wolfe turned around, the woman in the medical examiner’s jacket shook her head. I sighed. Wolfe and I had a history. He was a bully who had gone to school with my younger brother Tim, constantly picking on him. Granted Tim was the classic nerd who might as well have worn the sign “Kick Me” on his back. I had recently solved two of Wolfe’s murder cases, which only irritated him more. Wolfe spied me and headed in my direction, his face turning the color of a beet. His gray pants hung below his pot belly, his glacier blue eyes as cold as ever, and he wore the same annoying grin as when he was a kid that made me want to slap his face. “What happened?” I asked. “I’m here about a dead squirrel,” he said. “I’m a homicide detective. What do you think happened?” “I know the victim,” I said. He narrowed his eyes. “How do you know her?” “I’m doing a story on the wildlife refuge and—” “How come whenever you do a story people die?” Not really a nice way to put it. “Who found the body?” I asked. “Three hikers.” “What caused—” “This is none of your business. This is a crime scene.” He pointed a fat finger at me. “You need to leave.” “I’m behind the yellow tape,” I argued. I didn’t think his face could get any redder, but it did. “Stay out of my way.” He spun around and stomped off toward the side where Detective Fox appeared to be jotting something in a notepad. Elena Salazar was no longer there. I had no idea where she went. I had lots of questions, but I wasn’t getting answers from Wolfe. The crime scene investigators were packing up. Maybe I’d have better luck with them. “When was she killed” I asked the one investigator, who looked young enough to appear on an acne remedy commercial. “We need to wait for the autopsy.” “Do you have an approximate time of death?” “Sorry. We can’t talk to the public.” I sighed. I’d have to get the answers somewhere else. I wondered why the victim had been at the clearing. I glanced at the pond, guessing this was where the rehabilitated turtle would be released. Did she come here early to check things out before the release? But what would she be checking? My thoughts were interrupted as the medical examiner’s team passed by me carrying a stretcher with the covered body. I figured I might learn something if I listened to their conversation. Eavesdropping was one of my talents. I scratched my theory about arriving early to check on conditions for the turtle release when one of the attendants said, “I can’t imagine why anyone would be in these woods at midnight.” *** Excerpt from Playing Possum by Lois Schmitt. Copyright 2021 by Lois Schmitt. Reproduced with permission from Lois Schmitt. All rights reserved.



About the Author


A mystery fan since she read her first Nancy Drew, Lois Schmitt combined a love of mysteries with a love of animals in her series featuring animal magazine reporter Kristy Farrell. Lois is member of several wildlife conservation and humane organizations, as well as Mystery Writers of America. She received 2nd runner-up for the Killer Nashville Claymore award for her second book in the series entitled Something Fishy, She previously served as media spokesperson for a local consumer affairs agency and currently teaches at a community college. Lois lives in Massapequa, Long Island with her family, which includes a 120 pound Bernese Mountain dog. This dog bears a striking resemblance to Archie, a dog of many breeds featured in her Kristy Farrell Mystery Series.

Catch Up With Lois Schmitt:
Instagram: @loisschmittmysteries

Twitter: @schmittmystery

Facebook: @LoisSchmittAuthor


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Sterling and Me: Tail of a Mystery Author and Her Dog #8—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

How Michelangelo Became a White Supremacist

The year: 1508

Setting: Sistine Chapel

Michelangelo enters the Sistine Chapel with his paints and scaffolding. He has a great image in his mind. This will be his masterpiece that will define him as an artist. The creation that he puts on this ceiling is going to put his name in the history books to immortalize him as a great master painter.

As Michelangelo is setting up, someone comes in. Spying one of the cans of paint, he asks, “Is that red paint you have there?”

Michelangelo says it is. The red will be needed for much of the painting. For example, in the creation of Man.

“Can’t you use another color?”

“No,” Michelangelo says. “Red is one of the primary colors.”

“But it is so offensive. Red is the color of evil,” the visitor says. “Evil is offensive. Therefore, red is offensive.”

“It is the color of blood which gives us life,” Michelangelo says.

“According to you. A significant percentage of people don’t like the color red. Using it will offend them, which will make you―and us―look bad. People will think we’re endorsing evil. We’ll lose business.”

Michelangelo relents and takes the bucket of red paint out of the chapel. He is thinking about how he is going to adjust his painting when he returns to find someone else standing over the bucket of yellow paint.

“Is this yellow paint?” the new visitor asks with a glare in his eyes.

“Yes,” Michelangelo manages to say before the gentleman launches into his tirade.

“Are you saying that we’re cowards? Yellow is the color of cowards used in terms like yellow-belly and—”

“No!” Michelangelo throws up his hands. “I just need to use yellow because it’s the base color in brown—”

But before Michelangelo can finish the second visitor runs from the chapel declaring Michelangelo a racist. Michelangelo is still trying to comprehend how painting a picture on the ceiling of a building could cause such a scandal when a third person comes in to spy yet another bucket of paint.

“Is that green?”

“‘I need it for the Garden of Eden,” Michelangelo says in a firm tone.

“Why green? Aren’t you discriminating against the color blue? Blue has just as much right to be used for the Garden of Eden as green. Besides, were you there? How do you know the Garden of Eden wasn’t blue instead of green?”

A month later, Michelangelo finishes the Sistine Chapel. When the great ceiling is revealed to the public, they stare up in awe at the great white ceiling high above. After Michelangelo had eliminated every color that offended anyone, all he had left was white.

“Why did you go with white instead of black?” someone asked.

That was when Michelangelo went down in history as a white supremacist.

Portrait of Michelangelo Buonarroti, Early 17th cen. Found in the Collection of Galleria Enrico Lumina, Bergamo. (Photo by Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images)

* * * * *

This week, an author friend of mine called to vent.

Writers love to vent. It’s a great exercise in putting heightened emotions into words and broadening our vocabulary.

My friend received a review for her new release. The reader loved everything about the book but deducted one star from the otherwise five-star review because she had used the word “faggot” twice.

A historical fiction, the novel was set in the 1960s and the word in question was used in dialogue between two characters. The reader goes on to note that the character who uses the word transforms by the end of the book and even apologizes for using said word. However, the reader says, she was offended by the author using the word in her book and for that reason, she was deducting the star in her rating.

“So I’m not allow to use the word ‘faggot’ in my books,” my friend said, “even when vernacular calls for it.”

“Nope,” I said. “You are also not allowed to use manhole because that is not gender neutral. And don’t even think of setting your next book in Washington DC during the 1980s and mentioning their football team.”

The sad thing is that this is not the first time that I’ve had such conversations with some of my writer friends. I’ve had three such conversations in the last month! Political correctness and cancel culture have muzzled novelists—even those who are not writing about culture or politics—but they feel compelled to seek historical accuracy.

One author’s upcoming cozy mystery is also set in the 1960s. She is terrified and seriously thinking about not promoting it! Not promoting it! How can an author put in the trouble of writing a book and then not promote it because they are terrified of some snowflakes having a meltdown?

Her feel-good mystery contains an African-American character. Since the book is set in the 1960s, this character would be referred to as “black.” Realistically, that was the term used at the time. The author went so far as to research when “African-American” started being used. That was the 1990s.

She is so nervous that she has gone out of her way to insert narrative stating that nowadays, this character would be called African-American in hopes of soothing potentially sensitive readers, but she knows that some won’t accept this apology.

I believe my author friends contact me for understanding because I have been unintentionally offending readers since the beginning!

Several years ago, I received a review for a Mac Faraday Mystery, in which the reader opened with “Thankfully, this book in the series contained no insulting-to-fat-people characters.”

I did a lot of head scratching trying to figure out what she was talking about. When did I insult fat people? Apparently, one of my fans had the same question because she went onto the site to ask. The reader claimed that in one of my previous books I had presented a fat character in a derogatory manner. The fan came back to say that if it was the book she was thinking of, it was the character, not fat people who were presented in a derogatory manner.

The fact remains, this reader was so offended by my use of an obese character in It’s Murder, My Son that she felt compelled to carry out her grudge by posting a negative comment several books later.

In It’s Murder, My Son, Betsy is a victim. She is sloppy and, yes, obese. Her low self-esteem puts her in the perfect situation to be manipulated by the killer—who is slender and attractive, by the way.

Rightfully, it should be the skinny people posting negative reviews about me making them out to be homicidal. In It’s Murder, My Son, I killed five slender people.  Only one victim was overweight. I mean, if I’m prejudiced against overweight people because I killed one—I must really have it out for slender people!

A psychologist could claim that I have deepseated jealousy against people who can successfully control their weight. Maybe we should do a survey of the murder victims in all of my books to compare how many were average weight and how many were overweight.

Fiction writers should not walk on eggshells!

Those who want to excel at their craft should not allow a few to force them to measure every single word or portion of a plotline for fear of offending a small group of readers with a political or cultural agenda.

Unfortunately, our culture has driven many writers to do so. Which explains the phone calls, emails, and zoom calls with writers asking, “Do you think this is going to offend someone?”

My answer: Yes.

No matter how hard we try to please everyone, someone will take offense. It’s like my mother and many mothers out there used to say: You can’t please everyone!

Today, “faggot” is on the list of Banned Words. No matter what the setting or the characters, you cannot use this word at all for any reason.

However, fifteen years ago, that word was not on the Banned Word list. What are authors of those books where that word was used supposed to do? Are they responsible for going through their backlist, deleting those words, and then re-releasing their books?

What if the author is dead, like Mark Twain, who wrote Huckleberry Finn. Famously, this American Classic was written at a time when the N-word was not on the Banned Word list. In the case of this book, the N-word was commonly used as it still is today in rapper music. This classic features an African-American as a protagonist—a positive character and portrays the friendship of a Caucasian boy and the African-American.

However, because the author used this word at a time and place in American history when it was not on the Banned Words list, many libraries and schools have banned the entire book—denying young readers of the historical and literary benefits of the story of Huckleberry Finn. Likewise, with To Kill a Mockingbird.

Who’s compiling this list of offensive words? How are writers supposed to get it so that they can be informed in real time about what words not to use? It seems only right that we receive regular updates when words are added to the list so that we don’t unintentionally offend someone. Are words ever taken off the list—making them okay to use?

Does anyone out there have a name or email address of this contact person? Raise your hand if you have it. … I didn’t think so.

This post is not directed toward those sensitive readers who throw hissy fits in the form of negative reviews because their feelings were unintentionally hurt in the name of art. Nothing I, or any author, say can change their perception.

This post is directed to writers paralyzed in front of their laptops. They are terrified that the next word they type may be on that list—or will end up on the list in the future—ideally during the publishing process.

Writers who attempt to bend over backwards to please those who find offense in a word used by a fictional character in a work of fiction might as well throw away their laptops and take up dogwalking.

It’s an unrealistic feat for novelists to keep track of words banned by others. When you start measuring your writing vocabulary based on what others deem correct, you cease to write for yourself. You are now writing for a group of readers who are impossible to please.

Do they really care about your books? Or are they more concerned about controlling what you write? Censoring the words you use in your books? Muzzling your right to free speech? Is that their endgame?

Yesterday, they didn’t like you using the word “black.” Today, it is the word “faggot.” What will it be tomorrow? What words will they add next month?

As writers bend to their demands, they add more words to their list—until like Michelangelo, all you have is a blank white laptop screen.

Then, they will call you a white supremacist because your screen is not black.


Coming in March!

Mac Faraday and Gnarly Are Back in SHADOW OF MURDER

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 afterward, 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 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.

The police chief and Mac aren’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.



Win audible download codes for both
It’s Murder, My Son and Old Loves Die Hard,
the first and second Mac Faraday novels.
Leave a comment to tell what American Classic
that you loved has been banned from school
libraries and why? The winning name will be
drawn on the evening of Friday, February 11th.


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?



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?”


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.



To win a simply fabulous prize, subscribe to
Lauren’s newsletter at the bottom of her website
home page —
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.


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


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


Follow the tour here.



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.


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.



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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Not As We Knew It, leave a comment
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