Why I Love Cozy Mysteries by Julia Henry

Sometimes, just sometimes, cozies seem a little bit—no, a lot—sappy but I’m reminded by this why I really do like them 😉

I was always a voracious reader, and mysteries were part of the mix as I was growing up. When I was in high school my family moved to Annapolis, Maryland. The summer before school started was difficult, and my fifteen year old self was in a funk. One day my mother brought home a stack of books from the library, and put one down in front of me.

“I think you may like Agatha Christie,” she said.

I probably rolled my eyes, but I opened the book. The Caribbean Mystery. Not even one of her best, but it was good enough to hook me. The summer got a lot better as I discovered Dame Agatha. I was a Miss Marple fan that summer and for the next year. Then I read The Murder of Roger Ackroyd and had my Poirot period.

Now, Agatha Christie is more traditional and less…

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Book Recommendation: Schifflebein’s Folly

This sounds like just the sort of whimsical, hopeful book to make me smile, always a good thing 😉

Reade and Write

It’s been some time since I recommended a book to readers, so I figured it was time. I recently read Schifflebein’s Folly by Iris Chacon and absolutely loved it. It’s a feel-good, do-good, read-it-all-in-one-sitting-if-you-can-good, does-your-heart-good book.

It’s the story of Lloyd Schifflebein, a Floridian with a passion for children, work, and doing good. He is endearing almost to the point of being too good to be true, and you can’t help but love him. He’s spent his life getting ready for the day when he would adopt six children, and though he doesn’t have a life partner, he knows that the future Mrs. Schifflebein will show up when the time is right.

Those six kids? They all have special needs and it seems Lloyd is just the man to meet those special needs. He’s got good friends, a healthy respect for the adoption process and its timelines, and he’s handy…

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Book Review: The Howling Cliffs by Mary Deal

Even with all my background in books, I’ve never come across this author before and I think I need to check her out, thanks to Jay’s review 😉

This Is My Truth Now

The Howling Cliffs (Sara Mason Mysteries Book 2)The Howling Cliffs by Mary Deal

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Mary Deal has become one of those authors whose books always deliver strong story, memorable characters, and beautiful narrative that’s easy to read and highly engaging. The Howling Cliffs, the second book in her ‘Sara Mason Mysteries’ series is the sixth book I’ve read in the last two years from her growing list of works. Between the title and the cover, it’s no wonder I loved the book, but I’ve also been reading several books with tropical locations such as Hawaii in the last few weeks. I’ve apparently got a theme going…

Sara has had a hard life, but she is a survivor and will never back away from a challenge. Months after solving a major crime involving a serial killer in the last book, she heads back to Vietnam to search for MIA heroes for two close…

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Self-Publishing: Step-By-Step

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

Now, Lauren has added one more hit series to her list with the Chris Matheson Cold Case Mysteries. Set in the quaint West Virginia town of Harpers Ferry, Ice introduces Chris Matheson, a retired FBI agent, who joins forces with other law enforcement retirees to heat up those cold cases that keep them up at night.

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

Lauren is a popular speaker who has made appearances at schools, youth groups, and on author panels at conventions. She lives with her husband, and three dogs on a mountain in Harpers Ferry, WV.

Visit Lauren’s websites and blog at:

E-Mail: writerlaurencarr@gmail.net
Website: http://mysterylady.net/
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/lauren.carr.984991
Gnarly’s Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/GnarlyofMacFaradayMysteries
Lovers in Crime Facebook Page:
Acorn Book Services Facebook Page:
Twitter: @TheMysteryLadie

Recently, a young author who I had worked with contacted me for some advice on getting his second book published. His first publisher had gone out of business and now he was trying to figure out how to release his second book.

Luckily for him, I had stopped him from contracting with an unscrupulous, very expensive, self-publisher (there are a lot of sharks out there, folks!), but now—here he was with no publisher and the second book in a series. So, he asked me, “What do I do?”

My suggestion: Self-publish it yourself. What you can’t do yourself, contract out.

“I can’t do that!” His writer’s eyes glazed over. “I can’t do it myself and I don’t have enough money to contract it out.” His face went white with fear.

Easy for me to say. I worked as an editor for the federal government for over ten years. I’ve been doing layout design since college (we won’t talk about how long ago that was.) I’ve spent the last several years as a publisher—until I decided to concentrate on my own books.

Now, at the urging of fellow writers, like the one previously mentioned, I am offering publishing services again. Check out my website at (https://mysterylady.net/acorn-book-services)

Really, the advantages of doing your own publishing far outweigh the expense and risks of contracting with a self-publishing company to do everything for you.

  • You have more control over quality—because you are the boss.
  • Less expensive. Even if you have to contract out each step in the process, you can easily publish a quality book with a professional looking cover for less than a thousand dollars. All you have to do is shop around, ask for references, and compare prices.

I know what you’re thinking—and probably saying. Seriously? Me! Publishing a whole book that can compete with books published by Random House? I don’t think so.

That’s because you are standing back looking at the process of publishing a book as a huge task. Take a deep breath. Sit down and think about it. Here, you’ve written a whole book. Beginning to end. That in itself is a huge task. Thus, you have already proven that you can tackle huge projects.

Now, we’re going to tackle the publishing side of getting this book out there. Remember when you were in school—whether it be high school or college? Most likely, you’ve had to write a research paper at some point in your life.

What goes into putting together a finished research paper?

  • Cover
  • Opening Pages (title pages. If you were like me, you had a template that you copied from. It’s the same with books!)
  • Table of Contents (if your book is non-fiction, you need this. Optional for fiction)
  • Body of the Paper. (You already got that!)
  • Author Bio. (Piece of cake! You know who you are!)
  • Index (Optional. See Table of Contents)

Now, what were the steps you went through in putting this research paper together?

  • Determining the subject matter. (Done that!)
  • Research (Done!)
  • Writing the Paper. (Completed!)
  • Reviewed in draft form by professor or friends. (In book publishing, this is called a beta read or editorial review. You may or may not have completed this step.)
  • Rewrite based on comments from review.
  • (I believe you are your own worst editor. Best to have this done by someone else—preferably a professional.)
  • (This is the step where you painstakingly lay out your paper in the proper format to present to the professor. At this point you attach the cover to your paper)
  • Proofread for mistakes.
  • Correct mistakes discovered during proofreading process.
  • Present to your professor. (In book publishing, this is the point where you release your book to the world.

But wait! I can hear you scream. This is a whole book. That involves copyrights and ISBNs and other stuff!

These legal registration steps are all small things that you can tackle yourself for little or no expense, depending on where you publish your book. Most do-it-yourself publishers will supply you with an ISBN for free.

I recommend setting up your own account at Bowkers, which is free. Set up a name for your book line. If you are writing a series, then use a name that will make your readers immediately connect that name with your books. For example, C.S. McDonald, a cozy author, uses the name McWriter Books, a variation of her name. Her books are listed on Amazon with the publisher’s name listed as McWriter Books. Yet, the only books published by McWriter Books are Cindy McDonald’s Fiona Quinn mysteries.

So, what are the steps necessary to publish your own book? Same as the steps you took in school for your fifteen-page research paper. Only now you have many more pages!

  • Cover: All you have to do is search the Internet to learn the do’s and don’ts of good cover design. There are also a number of websites online where you can design your own cover in a step-by-step process. If you are going to contract this out, then be sure to allow enough time for the artist to get it done. (including Acorn Book Services) Graphic designers are artists and some have problems working on deadlines. I suggest you start looking as soon as you are certain that you are going to publish this book.
  • Editorial Review. Many refer to this as a Beta Read. Every professional author, one who is selling books and getting great reviews, has their book read after they have completed writing it and before it goes to the editor. As the writer, you are too close to the project to see mistakes like loose ends, plot holes, etc. Don’t ask your spouse or mother or BFF who has never read a book to beta read your book for you. Your beta reader needs to be someone who:
    1. Reads and knows books—in particular your genre
    2. Is not afraid to hurt your feelings
    3. Someone you will listen to
  • Rewrite based on Editorial Review. Now don’t feel like you have to do everything that your beta reader tells you to do. Remember, it is your book. But, I can say that 100% of the time, I do a rewrite based on an editorial review.
  • Send off to the editor.
  • Go over the edits after it comes back from the editor. Don’t just go through and accept (or reject!) everything your editor changes without looking at it. Also, don’t only go through the edits and not look at everything else. At this point, you have probably not seen your book for weeks. Take advantage of it being fresh again. As you go through the editor’s marks, read through the book one more time. It is a fact that editors are human. This means, they make mistakes. They miss things. I have worked with many editors and not one has been perfect. So before your book is formatted for publication, go through it yourself to look for errors that your editor missed.
  • Formatting. There are a ton of resources on the Internet to help you format your book both for print and ebook publishing. A simple Google search will turn up many websites that offer free downloadable templates for formatting your book in MS Word, as well as other formatting programs. Anyone, with some effort, can learn how to format their book for ebook publishing, unless it requires fixed layout (usually the case for books with a lot of pictures and graphs.) If you are computer savvy, you can certainly do this yourself. If not, then you may want to contract this out. Acorn Book Services will do the formatting starting at $400. (Well worth the cost if you tend to want to throw your laptop out the window when dealing with headers and footers.)
  • Proofread. This is not the same as editing! Some writers think they can save money by contracting with an editor to “proofread” their manuscript—before it has been formatted. We are talking about two different things. Proofreading is going through the book after it has been formatted to look for grammar and punctuation errors that may or may not have been missed by the editor. Checking page numbering. Etc. I recommend that you either pay an editor to do this for you or ask a friend to do it. Studies have proven that if you look at something enough times, then your brain will automatically correct it. It’s sort of like your Internet browser automatically loading up a website that you regularly visit without updating the site with recent changes. In this case, you need to clear the cache. The fact is, by the time you get your proof, most likely you can’t see the mistakes in it. You need someone with fresh eyes (a clear cache) to read it. Note: This is not the time to rewrite the book! You are simply looking for mistakes—that’s it.
  • Correct Mistakes.
  • Release Your Book
  • Celebrate! You are now an author!


Cover Reveal!


Chris Matheson’s Most Personal Cold Case Yet!

Things have finally settled down into a pleasant routine for the Matheson family. Chris’s daughters have adjusted to life on the Matheson family farm with their grandmother. Chris is enjoying taking care of his horses and activities with his book club, aka the Geezer Squad. He feels especially blessed to have a second chance with Helen Clarke.

All is going his way until he has a chance encounter in the city with his late wife—an encounter that ends with a dead international hitman and Chris on the run from a highly skilled team of assassins.

Teaming up with an ultra-secret government agent with a thorny deposition, Chris has to go off the grid to evade the unidentified forces out to kill him and anyone connected to his supposedly dead wife. Luckily, the members of the Geezer Squad are experts at “old school.” They can even teach a phantom a thing or two about old-fashioned investigating.

In his most personal cold case, Chris fights to uncover why the state department told him that his wife, the mother of his children, had been killed when she was alive. Where had she been for the last three years? And why would anyone send a death squad halfway across the globe to hunt down a low-level state department employee? Not only that but what is to become of his relationship with Helen now that he’s married?

Pre-order available: January 28



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Book Review: Robert B. Parker’s Old Black Magic by Ace Atkins

Robert B. Parker’s Old Black Magic
A Spenser Novel #47
Ace Atkins
Putnam, May 2018
ISBN: 978-0-399-17701-9

From the publisher:  Iconic, tough-but-tender Boston PI Spenser delves into the black market art scene to investigate a decades-long unsolved crime of dangerous proportions.  The heist was legendary, still talked about twenty years after the priceless paintings disappeared from one of Boston’s premier art museums.  Most thought the art was lost forever, buried deep, sold off overseas, or, worse, destroyed as incriminating evidence.  But when the museum begins receiving detailed letters about the theft from someone claiming to have knowledge of the whereabouts of the paintings, the board enlists Spenser’s help to navigate the delicate situation. Their particular hope is to regain the most valuable piece stolen, The Gentleman in Black, a renowned painting by a Spanish master and the former jewel of the collection.  Soon the cold art case thrusts Spenser into the shady world of black market art dealers, aged Mafia bosses, and old vendettas.   A five-million-dollar-reward sets Spenser and pal Vinnie Morris onto a trail of hidden secrets, jailhouse confessions, murder, and double-crosses.


For some reason I had allowed myself to fall behind in reading the “new” books in this wonderful series, just as wonderful when authored by Ace Atkins, of which this is the newest.  The preceding entry in the series was Little White Lies, which I finally caught up to in the last few weeks.  With apologies for redundancies, as I said in my review of that book, “the author has captured many of the expected patterns of Robert B. Parker’s writing.  But Mr. Atkins, besides giving us a very absorbing tale, has retained some of the most typical Parker patterns, e.g., nearly every character’s choice of clothing and headgear is noted, particularly caps declaring the owner’s love for a particular local sports team, whether Braves or Red Sox.  (In fact, very near the end of the book we find Spenser escaping a close call and thinking “I’d hoped these guys didn’t plan ambushes like Branch Rickey planned ballgames.”)  One character appears dressed in a “light blue guayabera, his white hair loose and scattered as always, with some black reading glasses down on his nose.’  There is also a lot about food.  When he prepares a Cobb salad for himself and Susan, and she hands him a vodka martini, he thinks “You couldn’t eat a Cobb salad without [it].  It was a law in California.”  Then there are the nicknames, e.g., “Fat Freddy,” “Famous Ray.” The terrific plotting and action are always present, as Spenser goes about solving “the biggest theft in Boston history,” a painting worth sixty or seventy million.

Spenser’s love of jazz is always present, from Coltrane playing from speakers in a restaurant, to the final scene where Tony Bennett “reached for the tree of life and picked him a plum,” and Spenser saying “The Best Is Yet to Come,” to which Vinnie replies “You better believe it.”  I loved the author’s tip of the hat to another terrific mystery writer, Hank Philippi Ryan, reporting on Boston’s Channel 7 with a live shot from a crime scene.  Set against the high-society art scene and the low-life back alleys of Boston, this is classic Spenser doing what he does best.  As was Little White Lies, Old Black Magic is also highly recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, May 2018.

Devious Inspirations

Katherine, a geologist and IT specialist, stepped away from the international petroleum industry to follow her passion for writing. An avid traveler with an insatiable curiosity, you never know where you’ll find her next! But most days, she’s in Vancouver, Canada quietly plotting murder and mayhem under the watchful eye of a cat. She is an award-winning presenter and the author of the thriller Thirst and the just-released Blue Fire.

Website // Facebook // Twitter

I recently visited an island of just ten residents, a very remote locale that instantly brought to mind Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None.

With ten people living in close proximity, it would be hard to keep your life private. An argument with between husband and wife, a sick child, financial difficulties — it wouldn’t take long for neighbours to learn of these secrets. Worse, simple truths passed from one neighbour to another can morph into something completely different. I still remember the lesson of a message whispered from one student to another in a class of thirty. When the last student repeated the message aloud, it bore little resemblance to the original!

So, imagine with me a secret on this isolated island of ten people: a wife who wants to escape the island for life with a man she has met online. Imagine also, that her husband of nine years would never let her go. Does she decide to slip away by boat on a moonlit night? Or does she take the ultimate step of killing the man who stands between her and happiness?

Whatever she decides, she must keep her intentions secret, a challenge when you live in a tight group of ten people. And if she does decide on murder, she must carefully cast blame in another direction; she must use the secrets of this small community against them. The perfect Agatha Christie mystery!

But as much as I love a good Agatha Christie story, my writing is more influenced by another great mystery writer: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. A grisly murder in a dark alleyway in London, a devious killer, and a suspect pool drawn from thousands — Doyle’s stories are complex, and focus on forensic evidence and criminal behaviour. These are the same elements of a good thriller with a clock ticking down to a deadly crime.

Clues and motive are paramount, but so are the people who fill the pages. Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Watson and the evil Professor Moriarty are just a few of the memorable characters Doyle has created. These richly drawn personalities pull us into the story and keep us there until the very end.

My style is unique, but the influence of authors like Doyle, Christie and P.D. James are part of my foundation, as are thriller writers Steve Berry, Daniel Silva, Frederick Forsyth and so many others. There is much to learn from these great writers and I continue to squeeze in time to read their novels. Stories that keep me reading long into the night become my textbooks, and so too do those that fail to connect with me. Both give insights into how to deliver a captivating read.

And I ask myself: what would these devious minds come up with for my desperate wife on the isolated island? Every story would be different, but what stories they would be!


Buy Links:


Stonedrift Press


Chapters.Indigo  //  Indiebound

Like its predecessor, BLUE FIRE is absolutely compelling and so nicely drawn in characterization, detail, and plot that it could have been streamed directly from real life and people.
– D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Review


The Writing Process is a Balancing Act

Mary E. Maki grew up in the Finger Lakes Region of Upstate New York where her first two mystery books are set. Her third Caitlyn Jamison mystery is set in Virginia’s Northern Neck and is to be released in late 2018.

As well as writing mysteries, Mary is a family historian. Along those lines, she played an integral part on the team that produced three volumes of the Newtown (CT) Oral History Project, the Ulysses Historical Society (NYS) Oral History Project, and the Newfield, NY Historical Society Oral History Project. She was instrumental in starting and holding officer positions with the Genealogy Club of Newtown, and served three years as secretary to the Fredericksburg Regional Genealogical Society. She is a volunteer at the Historic Fredericksburg Foundation, Inc. and on the committee to create a visible likeness of the 18th century Fielding Lewis Store.

She has written several genealogy monographs honoring her Agard, Hardenbrook, and Nunn ancestors. Her genealogy research has been published in Connecticut Ancestry, the Nutmegger (Connecticut Society of Genealogists), and on the Genealogy Club of Newtown (CT) website.

Mary is a member of the National and Central Virginia Sisters in Crime, the Central Rappahannock Regional Library Inklings writing group, and the Old Town Sleuths Mystery Writers in Fredericksburg, Virginia.

Website: memaki.com  // Contact Information: Ami6310@gmail.com


CaitlynJamisonMysteries.blogspot.com // GrowingUpInWillowCreek.blogspot.com

A friend I had not seen in a long time recently visited. It was fun catching up, but during her visit I couldn’t help thinking about my writing projects. I yearned to get back to my characters. And then I realized the writing life was taking over.

I have five writing projects going now: The third book in my Caitlyn Jamison mystery series, a short story for the Central Virginia Sisters in Crime anthology, preparation for leading our library’s fiction critique group, a Writing Your Family History presentation for our annual genealogical society’s conference, and an idea for another mystery series. My challenge is to find the right balance to complete these tasks and still have plenty of time for “life.”

It started with genealogy

For as long as I can remember I’ve been interested in history, so it came as no surprise when I reached “a certain age” my interest turned to genealogy. I became the family historian. In order to do the job I needed to sharpen my research and writing skills. I attended genealogy conferences, and it was at one of those conferences that I learned: Writing helps you make sense of things.

Ironically, it was that advice that prompted me to write my first Caitlyn Jamison mystery, An Unexpected Death.

The year was 2008. After a period of growth and prosperity, our country’s financial system suddenly crumbled. Those responsible for the financial collapse, in my mind, were not being held responsible. Instead, businesses closed, employees lost their jobs, and then as a result middle class workers lost their homes. I was frustrated and the only thing I could do about the situation was to write. Because—writing helps you make sense of things.

The book was a success, and I realized that I loved writing mysteries. One book wasn’t enough. The characters wanted another story, another adventure. Readers asked for another story, another adventure. So as soon as An Unexpected Death was published, I started the second in the series, Fatal Dose. That book was also well received. Readers and characters asked for more, so I’m working on my third Caitlyn Jamison mystery.

Writer’s block and the dreaded middle

Every writer experiences a time when the story doesn’t move along. We call this writer’s block, and that can be overcome with exercise, socialization, volunteer work, and enjoying a hobby. In other words, take a break from your writing.

Writer’s block can also alert the writer that the plot line and/or characters are not working. This happened to me on my first writing attempt in 2008. I’d made my protagonist too old, and the timeframe wasn’t right. I got to the dreaded middle and the story stopped. It wasn’t until 2014 when I reviewed the manuscript that I understood why it hadn’t worked.

Hourly breaks are a must. Get up, walk around, and do something else. It stimulates the brain cells and you come back refreshed. It helps to set aside a dedicated writing time each day. It doesn’t have to be long, but enough time to get into the story and into the characters’ heads, which I call getting into my creative groove. When I’m in the “groove,” my characters definitely take over.

Turn off email and social media. They are time sucks.

Finally, understand that your characters will reside in your head. Just don’t let them (completely) take over your life. And most of all, enjoy the writing journey.