Decluttering — and What Else? A Giveaway, Of Course! @JMmystery

Jeanne Matthews is the author of the Dinah Pelerin international mysteries published by Poisoned Pen Press. Like her amateur sleuth, Jeanne was born with a serious wanderlust. Originally from Georgia, she enjoys traveling the world and learning about other cultures and customs, which she incorporates into her novels. She currently lives in Renton, Washington with her husband who is a law professor. Where the Bones Are Buried, the fifth book in the series, is in bookstores now . You can learn more about Jeanne’s books at

The past year has narrowed the scope of what is and isn’t possible.  During the pandemic we’ve all had to cancel or postpone travel plans, convert social visits to a computer-generated version of reality, and learn to subsist on home cooking or take-out.  At midnight on December 31st, 2020 dissolved into 2021 without bringing much change.  Health experts urge us to remain cloistered in our own pods for the foreseeable future.  In the circumstances, it was hard for me to muster a list of healthy New Year’s resolutions.

Drinking less is out of the question.  Wine is one of the few things I look forward to at the end of the day.  The other two are pizza and chocolate, so screw any notion of dieting.  Having recently had knee replacement surgery, I can’t take up kickboxing or distance running.  The piano has been out of tune since God knows when and the only other “improving” sort of resolution that came to mind was decluttering.  People write about the joy of shedding unneeded possessions, how it boosts productivity, reduces stress, and lifts the spirits.

I started in the bedroom closet.  It’s been months since I needed anything that came off a hanger.  Near the back a sad little cluster of dresses surprised me.  I tried to recall the last time I’d had occasion to wear a dress.  I tried to imagine the next time.  If there were a next time, would any of these long disused outfits reach around my expanding middle?  The answer did not reduce stress or spark joy.

A better place to begin downsizing might be the library where books spill out of cases onto the floor and lay jumbled in teetering piles.  I surveyed the case with the shelf that collapsed last year under the weight of the People’s Almanac, a multi-volume compendium of little known and fascinating facts.  I browsed a few pages of Volume 1.  Mata Hari charged her lovers $7500 a night?  Wow.  And a whole section on the billions of dollars in lost and buried treasure right here in the U.S.A.  Set that one aside to read later.  Volume 2 contains accounts of several sensational murder cases.  Maybe some good plot ideas in there.  Better save that one, too.  William Roughhead’s The Murderer’s Companion is definitely a keeper.  Also, The Annotated Mother Goose and the 1959 edition of Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase & Fable.

Behind Birds Every Child Should Know, I found a dog-eared copy of Topper, the hilarious novel about a pair of madcap ghosts named George and Marion Kerby that gave rise to a movie and TV series.  Another keeper, definitely worth rereading.  My decluttering resolution, like so many resolutions of New Years Past, was going nowhere fast.  Then what to my wondering eye should appear but “Dr. Eliot’s Five-Foot Shelf of Books,” a/k/a The Harvard Classics.  Published in 1909 and 1910, these fifty-one volumes were intended to provide a liberal education to anyone who read them diligently for fifteen minutes every day.

Diligence has never been my strong suit.  Maybe if I’d begun in 1910, I’d be up to speed.  But after a certain age, the philosophy of Epictetus and the Confessions of St. Augustine can’t compete with a juicy murder mystery or Bill Buford’s fabulous new book (Dirt) about cooking and eating in France.  I should have sold Dr. Eliot’s classics on eBay back when so many TV talking heads were scrambling for impressive Zoom backgrounds.  Oh, well.  Into the box they go.  Two whole shelves empty.  I run a Swiffer across the dust left behind and feel the stress leaving my body.

I’m on a roll now, feeling ruthless and productive.  More boxes!  Project Gutenberg has no doubt made Mother Goose and Brewer’s Dictionary available free online.  Toss them.  And looky over there in the corner.  One, two, three, four pristine hardcover copies of my first novel – last seen at Left Coast Crime in Santa Fe ten years ago and lugged home in a suitcase full of free pre-release books and promotional swag from other authors.  Remembering how that initial story developed and came into being still elicits a frisson of pride and nostalgia.  But holding onto extra copies of one’s own books is a vanity best outgrown.  So.  If anyone would like a copy of Dinah’s debut in the wilds of Australia, leave a comment – and perhaps a bit of advice on the Zen of decluttering.  I’m afraid to discover what lurks in the attic.


Help Jeanne declutter!

To enter the drawing for a hardcover copy
of Bones of Contention, just leave your
decluttering comment/advice below. Four
winning names will be drawn on Monday
evening, January 11th.

The Time Has Come @kdkoppang

I’ve been running this book blog since November 2009 and, for many of those years, I’ve been blessed to have four of my favorite authors visit every few weeks with guest posts. One of these wonderful people is Kathleen Delaney and I’ve always looked forward to each offering she would send, whether it was about writing—her books and others’—, her travels, her beloved pets, her thoughts on current events or any of a myriad of topics. I’ve also loved every one of Kathy’s books and will miss her wonderful stories. Thank you, Kathy, for all the posts that never failed to interest me and others and for your friendship. I expect to see you around the web for many years to come 😄 


Kathleen Delaney, author of Murder Half-Baked and other books, retired from real estate to pursue writing full time. She’s here today to say goodbye as she retires from the book world.

Purebred Dead, the first in the new Mary McGill series, was released in August 2015 and Curtains for Miss Plym was released in April 2016. Blood Red, White and Blue was released in July 2017 and was a finalist for best canine book of the year in the Dog Writers of America annual writing contest. Kathleen’s newest book in the series, Dressed to Kill, was released in the UK on August 1, 2019 and in the US on November 1, 2019.

“The time has come, the walrus said, to speak of many things,” and he did. Sailing ships and sealing wax, cabbages and kings, but he never mentioned retirement. Possibly because Louis Carroll wasn’t close to thinking about it himself when he wrote those words. However, that time does come and that time has come for me. My 84th birthday has come and gone, and I have a medical file of pre-existing (and ongoing) conditions that would rival the thickness of a copy of War and Peace. So, with deep regret and much thankfulness for the kind comments you have made on my ramblings over the last years, this will be my last blog with Buried Under Books.

I don’t remember exactly when I started blogging for Lelia, I think it was the 3rd Ellen McKenzie mystery, And Murder For Dessert, but I do remember how excited I was and how flattered as she had so many really great authors contributing to her blog. There have been 6 more books since then, lots of blogs on lots of subjects, and lots of you lovely people have read them and left comments. Many of you have read the books and have kindly told me how much you have enjoyed the adventures of Ellen McKenzie in the first series, and Mary McGill and her cocker, Millie, in the second. All 9 books are set in the mythical town of Santa Louisa, set in central California’s wine country.

I have loved writing these books. I’ve actually liked the hours I’ve spent alone with Mary McGill and Ellen McKenzie and their friends. I have enjoyed doing research for some of their adventures, the wineries I’ve visited, the information I picked up in the back room of  bakeries (not to mention the cherry danishes), the hours I spent in Colonial Williamsburg behind the scenes learning about hearth cooking and almost extinct animal breeds, the information I have accumulated on dog breeds, at shows and from the dogs themselves, and the wonderful people I’ve met on my writing journey. My long suffering agent, Dawn Dowdle of Blue Ridge Literary Agency, who worked tirelessly with me to get a manuscript ready for submission and never rested until we had a contract, the publishers, Severn House, Poisoned Pen, Camel Press and their editors who believed in the stories and who made suggestions that made them stronger before publishing, the many, many libraries who stocked the books and who actually asked me to come speak. The conventions where I met many fans and a lot of authors whose work I had admired for years, and, of course, all of the reviewers who said so many nice things about all of the books over the years. Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, Kirkus, Book Bub, and so many more, thank you. A special thanks to you, the readers who sent me emails, comments on blogs, little comments on my face book page and my web site, thank you all. I will miss you.

However, the books are still out there. The first series is pretty much sold out in print, but if you have a Kindle, you are in luck. They are all still available on Amazon. As for the Mary McGill canine mysteries, they are all (I think) still available in print as well as on Kindle. If you haven’t met Ellen or Mary, visit me, Ellen McKenzie, Mary McGill and Millie at You can read the 1st chapter of any of the books there. Free.

A special thank you to you, Lelia, it’s been fun!

2020 Vision

Returning guest blogger Sunny Frazier, whose first novel in the Christy Bristol Astrology Mysteries, Fools Rush In, received the Best Novel Award from Public Safety Writers Association, is here today to look back at how we’ve dealt with COVID-19 and wonder about what’s coming.

The third Christy Bristol Astrology Mystery, A Snitch in Time, is in bookstores now.   //

Who saw it coming? When the ball dropped in Times Square, 2020 came in as just another year. Yule songs were sung, people exchanged presents and exchanged them again at the store to get what they really wanted. The nation had an election to look forward to at the end of the year.

By April there was something in the air. Not the sweet smell of flowers but an odorless plague. Covid-19 washed up on our shores and started its killing spree. At first, people didn’t want to believe it existed. Even when hospitals started to fill up and shipping containers became make-shift morgues, some called it a hoax.

Refusing to wear a mask became a protest symbol. Sanitizers disappeared from the shelves. People displayed how far charity went as they stockpiled and hoarded toilet paper. When told to isolate, people showed their disdain by collecting in bars and large parties.


Last week was Thanksgiving. No matter how much doctors begged people to stay home, the airports were full. Over the river and through the woods to grandma’s house they went. Tradition is more important than restrictions.

This “hardship” is not new to some of us. When I was in the Navy, I took duty so others could enjoy Thanksgiving with loved ones. While I was stationed in Puerto Rico, my roommate flew back from New York with a plate of turkey and trimmings in her lap so I could have a taste of home. Another year, one of the Marines got a machine we’d never seen and “microwaved” a turkey in the barracks for us (this was in the mid-70’s). We missed our families while we served our country.


We don’t yet know what toll Thanksgiving will take. Predictions are that death rates will rise in a few weeks and we’ll see the damage. Already the high numbers have numbed us. My mind can’t even absorb the stats as they are announced.

So, we blame 2020. Really, it’s just a number. Yes, it brought with it unemployment, hunger, racial strife and a contested presidential election. It was accompanied by grief, fear, death and not very good will toward all men. It displayed the best and the worst of our country.

Christmas is around the corner, as is a vaccine. Hopefully, 2021 will be the end of this disaster. Time will tell whether we learned anything from it at all.

Fooling “The Who” Again @JMmystery

Jeanne Matthews is the author of the Dinah Pelerin international mysteries published by Poisoned Pen Press. Like her amateur sleuth, Jeanne was born with a serious wanderlust. Originally from Georgia, she enjoys traveling the world and learning about other cultures and customs, which she incorporates into her novels. She currently lives in Renton, Washington with her husband who is a law professor. Where the Bones Are Buried, the fifth book in the series, is in bookstores now . You can learn more about Jeanne’s books at

There are millions of stories, but just two plots.  Lee Child explains them this way.  A group of people are sitting in a dark cave.  They hear a terrifying noise and somebody whispers, “There’s something out there.”  In the first kind of plot, the characters remain huddled inside, frightened and contemplating what the threat might be.  In the second plot, somebody stands up and says, “I believe I’ll just step outside and see what’s happening.”

When Child’s itinerant hero Jack Reacher steps off the bus to investigate the source of the trouble, woe be it unto the bad guys.  He’ll outwit them, outfight them, and leave them demolished in a pool of their own blood.  The Reacher novels depend more on violence and physical combat than the traditional mystery, but the basic setup is the same.  The detective must go out into those Chandleresque mean streets or wherever the murder has been committed – and track down the villain.  Even Nero Wolfe who famously never left home, sent Archie as his proxy to sort out the suspects and deliver them to Wolfe to be interviewed.

It’s the same old story, over and over again.  And to quote R.L. Stine, “Every story ever told can be broken down into three parts:  The beginning.  The middle.  And the twist.”  The twist is the unexpected turn of events that makes an old story new.  But according to Sophie Hannah, a twist isn’t the same thing as a surprising or brilliant resolution.  It has to be something that completely overturns a seemingly obvious conclusion or subverts a reasonable assumption.  She calls Agatha Christie’s “Orient Express” a great puzzle, but because the assumption it overturns is unreasonable, it’s not a twist.  The best twists are those that upend or reverse everything you thought you knew.

When a twist is especially clever, it tends to inspire copycats. Anyone who hasn’t been living in a cave would see through these oft- repeated stratagems:

The typewritten suicide note.  The hasty cremation.  The wheelchair-bound invalid.  The body so disfigured it can’t be identified.  The body that can’t be found.  The body that’s been pronounced dead by someone other than the police.  The broken watch that fixes the time of death.  The voice heard through a closed door.  The recorded phone message.  The clue so vital it can’t be divulged over the telephone.  Untracked snow seen through the window of a locked room.

The first mention of anyone recently arrived from Australia, let alone a long-lost heir to the deceased’s fortune, puts the reader on high alert. Anyone slightly wounded by an unseen attacker is almost certainly yanking the detective’s chain.  Lovers who quarrel loudly and make a show of their hostility are probably collaborating.  And nobody would be stupid enough to drop the cigarette case engraved with his initials beside the body, right?  Ha!  The hoary old “nobody-would-be-that-stupid” defense means one of two things.  The owner of those initials is guilty as Cain or she’s been framed.

Readers often focus their suspicions on the character with the airtight alibi, the one who was miles away at the time of the murder and has a speeding ticket to prove it.  The callous suspect with the obvious motive and no alibi may fly under the radar, but the genre-savvy reader is instantly wary of the kind, quiet character with no clear reason to be the plot.  We know that the overly helpful suspect is a stone killer and the appearance of a twin fairly screams chicanery.

The opening theme for the TV series C.S.I. Miami is “Won’t Get Fooled Again” by The Who.  The premise is that it’s useless to try and fool the experts.  They’ve seen it all before.  It’s not easy to fool readers who cut their teeth on Christie and Highsmith and Sophie Hannah.  But just because something has been done before doesn’t mean it can’t be done again in a way that hacks the formula.  The blurbs on the covers of hundreds if not thousands of books promise a twist – Stunning!  Ingenious!  Breathtaking!

Of course some readers don’t care a fig about the plot, let alone the ingenious twist.  They’re interested only in the characters.  As some writing guru has observed, the story keeps the characters moving, but it’s the characters that keep the reader reading.  So, shove your sleuth out of the cave.  Round up the usual suspects – the Aussies, the twins, the squabbling lovers, the sexy blonde who dropped her cigarette case.  Put unorthodox thoughts in their heads and unreliable words in their mouths.  If the characters are complicated enough, full of contradictions and dark secrets, on the razor’s edge between good and evil, we’ll get fooled again no matter what the song says.

Bookstores @kdkoppang

Kathleen Delaney, author of Murder Half-Baked and other books, retired from real estate to pursue writing full time. She’s here today to reminisce about a book tour from days gone by and to remind us that independent bookstores are still around to be enjoyed.

Purebred Dead, the first in the new Mary McGill series, was released in August 2015 and Curtains for Miss Plym was released in April 2016. Blood Red, White and Blue was released in July 2017 and was a finalist for best canine book of the year in the Dog Writers of America annual writing contest. Kathleen’s newest book in the series, Dressed to Kill, was released in the UK on August 1, 2019 and in the US on November 1, 2019.

A number of years ago, after the release of my 3rd mystery novel, And Murder for Dessert, I decided to take a trip by car around the United States, visiting a number of bookstores to promote my book. I had recently moved from California to South Carolina and had visited very few bookstores not located on the west coast. It seemed like a good idea at the time, just me and my two dogs, roaming free across the country, making friends with many bookstore owners as we went.

At that time we had computer and map quest but no GPS, so, after calling many stores across the country, introducing myself and booking events, I built a note book of maps, reservations at motels, and other information I thought I might need, packed the dogs’ beds, food and water bowls, a nice outfit that I hoped looked like one a successful author would wear and a number of shorts and tees and we started out. We were gone a little over three weeks and we met a lot of wonderful people, the book store owners, the people who came to hear me speak, the couple that bought books out of the trunk of my car someplace in Oregon, and had lots of adventures, like almost running out of gas in the middle of Texas. But it was fun, and my admiration for bookstore owners rose 1000% during that tour. Most of them welcomed my dogs, Laney, an Italian Greyhound, who sat on my lap or hugged my ankle while I spoke, and Shea, a German Shepherd, who welcomed everyone at the door, and sometimes joined customers as they wandered through the aisles. Because that’s what you do in a bookstore, isn’t it? Roam through the aisles, looking for the latest book by the authors you love, hoping to stumble across a new author to follow. Half the fun of a bookstore is that unexpected treasure you found that you can hardly wait to get home to read. Those bookstore owners knew that and stood ready to help. They’d read a book before they recommended and always had read the book by the author they were hosting. When they told a customer that this new book just in was one they’d like, the customer bought it because they trusted the owner.

You can’t find that kind of service on Amazon, or even Barnes & Noble.

A lot of those small, fun, quirky stores are gone. I’ve reached out to most of them as the list of my published books has grown, only to watch them slowly disappear. They are sorely missed.

But not all of them have succumbed to the overwhelming competition of B&N and Amazon. You’ll find them in Bakersfield, Ca., San Antonio, Tx., in a shopping center in Atlanta or Charlotte, NC, or in a small town in Maine. All you have to do is look. Really look. They are there. And when you go in, you will be greeted by someone who knows the books, maybe by the store’s dog. The cat, who will probably be asleep in her basket, may open one eye and allow you to scratch her under the chin. There will be an armchair where you can read the first couple of pages of a book you are interested in, and someone to discuss them with.

All that used to be true before the pandemic. Today we don’t browse and discussing anything is hard behind the mask, but never fear! All is not lost. Browsing through the catalog of these small stores is much more fun than trying to locate a book you don’t yet know you want from Amazon, and they also mail. So, give yourself a treat. Find a local bookstore, take a look at their online catalog, call the store, you’ll find someone who will love to talk to you, and when your books arrive, curl up on the sofa with a cup of tea and forget COVID-19, forget politics, go off to another place entirely and enjoy. You’ve earned it.

Read on!

Why Paranormal Scares This Mystery Writer—and a Giveaway! @TheMysteryLadie

With a little tinkering, here’s a re-play of a post
from five years ago, just in time for Halloween…

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

Okay, everyone knows that paranormal is IN. Not too long ago an author of suspense told me that she knew of a paranormal writer who was making money hand over fist. “What is she doing that we’re not doing?” she asked.

“She’s writing paranormal,” I replied. “Angels, demons, elves, fairies, wolves, and vampires are in. Cozies are out.”

So now she’s inserted a ghost into her next suspense.

I’m still holding off. I confess—I am that one person with the ability to read left in the United States who has not read a zombie book or vampire love story. I have never read Harry Potter and only just this month started watching the movies, which my husband can’t believe because he has seen every one, which begs the question, “Who did he see these movies with?” (That’s another post.)

What’s keeping me from jumping on the bandwagon?

Paranormal scares me.

I can sit all day and watch an autopsy scene on the ID channel without cringing. Give me a shoot ‘em up or a car bomb and I’m glued to the pages. How about suspense that involves a husband in the midst of a mid-life crisis killing his wife and disposing of her frozen body in a wood-chipper? I consider that how-to-catch-‘em detective work in top form.

But throw an elf into the mix and … well, that’s just weird.

Give me the daring young lovers trying to identify the crazed ax-wielding serial killer? Little do they know that the killer is one step behind them, revving up his chain-saw while waiting for the perfect time to dismember them. By the end of that book, my nails are chewed down to nubs.

Make one of those lovers a vampire and I’m out of there. The thought of anyone but the Red Cross taking my blood, even if he is handsome and loves me more than life itself, is just too creepy.

I can write about psychopaths, dysfunctional couples, robbers, kidnappers, and even a serial killer or two. I can have people poisoned, stabbed, drowned, blown up, suffocated, tossed off tall buildings, or even run over by a car and then backed over again.

Sorry, I cannot write about sexy young teenagers who feel compelled to stop at every fire hydrant and chase cars when there’s a full moon. Werewolves creep me out. Did you know there was a difference between a werewolf and a wolf-man? One of my best friends clued me in on that for The Murders at Astaire Castle.

Fairies give me the willies, too. Little people with wings scare me more than killer bees.

Okay, I confess. I’m a wimpy murder mystery writer. So sue me … or lock me in a cell with an elf.


Click here to see the book trailer for Lauren’s
Halloween mystery, The Murders at Astaire Castle

Purchase Links:
Audible // iTunes // Amazon

Never tell Mac Faraday not to do something.

Spencer’s police chief, David O’Callaghan, learns this lesson the hard way when he orders Mac Faraday to stay away from the south end of Spencer’s mountaintop – even though he owns the property. It doesn’t take long for Mac to find out what lies on the other side of the stone wall and locked gate, on which hangs a sign warning visitors to Keep Out!

Topping the list of the 10 top haunted places in America, Astaire Castle is associated with two suicides, three mysterious disappearances, and four murders since it was built almost a century ago – and Mac Faraday owns it!

In spite of David’s warning, Mac can’t resist unlocking the gate to see the castle that supposedly hasn’t seen a living soul since his late mother had ordered it closed up after the double homicide and disappearance of Damian Wagner, a world-famous master of horror novels.

What starts out as a quick tour of a dusty old castle turns into another Mac Faraday adventure when Astaire Castle becomes the scene of even more murders. Mac is going to need to put all of his investigative talents to work to sort out this case that involves the strangest characters he has run into yet – including a wolf man. No, we’re not talking about Gnarly.



To enter the drawing for an audiobook
of The Murders at Astaire Castle
, just
leave a comment below
with the name
of your favorite scary movie.
winning names will be drawn
Monday evening, November 2nd.

The Ghosts of Halloweens Past

Returning guest blogger Sunny Frazier, whose first novel in the Christy Bristol Astrology Mysteries, Fools Rush In, received the Best Novel Award from Public Safety Writers Association, is here today to lament the Covid-19 effect on holidays including Halloween.

The third Christy Bristol Astrology Mystery, A Snitch in Time, is in bookstores now.   //

Covid-19 has robbed of us of St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, Cinco de Mayo, 4th of July and now it’s coming after Halloween. We’re told to wear masks but not the scary kind. There’s no reason to dress up like a vampire or pirate. Pajamas are our costume this year.

As a kid, I loved Halloween. In the mid-50’s we disdained homemade costumes and wanted to wear cheap store-bought ones. They were probably flammable. Groups of mothers herded us through the neighborhoods, gossiping and smoking while we held out pillowcases and demanded treats. Babies and pets were not costumed and out in the cold.


Too soon the moms called it a night and dragged us home. Then they took our bags away and went through the candy. Anything homemade was tossed. Wrapped candy was inspected for razor blades inside. I don’t know if it was an urban myth but it was said that people did it to hurt kids. I’m sure Mom also took a few candies for herself.

When I was 10, the school held a costume party. I dressed as Aunt Jemima. My dad put black shoe polish on my face. My Black friend, Nancy Washington, ran up to me and said “What are you suppose to be?” “Aunt Jemima!” We laughed, grabbed hands and raced to bob for apples. Most of the makeup came off. Nobody was politically correct in the early 60’s.

Our small town of Lemoore cleared the streets and teens took over. For one night we dragged main (less than a mile) and the boys threw eggs at cars full of girls. They egged the storefronts and threw water balloons. The next day the adults good-naturedly cleaned up downtown. It was put to a stop when someone put a hose in a mailbox.

You would think when the Baby Boomers became adults we would leave Halloween to the next generation. Nope, we resisted giving up childish games. Instead, costumes became more elaborate and sexy. I’ve been a gypsy, a Playboy bunny, a black widow, a dancehall girl and Cleopatra. My husband decorated our house with spider webs, a strobe light and AC DC blaring out “Highway to Hell.” Children didn’t want candy badly enough to come up the walkway.


Now I’m older and I turn off the porch light so children don’t come to the house. All the noise and strangers at the door scares the cats. I buy the “good” candy the day after Halloween and keep it for myself. But I do feel sorry for this generation that has to miss a hallowed tradition.