Friday, February 26, 2021

New Release - MYSTERY AT THE MASQUERADE


AVAILABLE NOW (long story) THROUGH AMAZON AND SMASHWORDS. All other sites are still Sunday. 


BLURB:

Love is in the Salt Sea Air—and So is Murder!


Ellery Page, aspiring screenwriter, reigning Scrabble champion, and occasionally clueless owner of the village’s only mystery bookstore, the Crow’s Nest, is both flattered and bemused when he’s invited to the annual Marauder’s Masquerade, the best and biggest social event of the season in the quaint seaside village of Pirate’s Cove, Rhode Island. The event is hosted by the wealthy Marguerite Bloodworth-Ainsley, a descendant of the famed pirate Tom Blood.


Ellery doesn’t even know Mrs. Bloodworth-Ainsley—nor, it turns out, does Mrs. Bloodworth-Ainsley know him. But Marguerite’s son, Julian, wants to know Ellery. Julian, handsome, rich, and engaging, is a huge mystery buff. In fact, he’s bought quite a few books at the Crow’s Nest bookstore, but never quite worked up the nerve to ask Ellery out.


As his relationship with Police Chief Carson seems to be dead in the water, Ellery is grateful for a little flattering attention from the village’s most eligible bachelor, but any hopes of romance hit the shoals when Julian is accused of murdering his mother’s unlikable second husband during the Masquerade’s annual ghost hunt in the family’s spooky cemetery.


EXCERPT


Julian wrapped his arm around Ellery’s shoulders and gave him a quick hug. He whispered, “You want to see the family crypt?”

Ellery laughed. As romantic invitations went, Julian could afford to brush up on his technique. “Um, well… Don’t you want to look for some ghosts?”

“We can look up there.” Julian pointed to the small marble structure atop the hillock. “There’s a bench with a perfect view of the cove. If Captain Blood should decide to make an appearance tonight, we’ll have a front row view.”

“Wouldn’t that mean someone in the Bloodworth clan has to die?”

Julian said bleakly, “I can think of someone I wouldn’t mind not seeing at breakfast tomorrow. Not that he’s ever up for breakfast.”

Ellery had no response to that, and he didn’t resist the gentle tug Julian gave him.

They wandered through the headstones, not speaking. Julian seemed to know his way even in the dark. That wasn’t exactly amazing. Not only was his family buried here, he had probably played in the old cemetery growing up. Kids would find it a cool place, with all the old statues of marble angels and robed mourners and tall stone crosses.

“What’s that?” someone called from a few yards away.

“Where?”

“Over there. I see a figure.”

“It’s just the mist.”

“No. No, look. It’s a figure. By that stone coffin. It’s moving. It’s trying to hide!”

Ellery began, “I think they mean us—”

But his words were cut off as Julian kissed him.

It wasn’t totally a surprise. He could hardly have missed Julian’s continued efforts to position himself, the octopusian meanderings of his arm, the way he leaned in and out as he tried to decide between whispering sweet nothings or just going for it. Inevitably, he was going to go for it, and Ellery was okay with that. They were in a pretty good place for it, sheltered as they were between a stalwart bronze of one of Pirate Cove’s founding fathers and a narrow tomb about the size of a small toolshed.

Ellery liked Julian and found him attractive, but he had pretty much already made up his mind that Julian was not for him. The last half hour of wandering through the graveyard while Julian made cryptic pronouncements had cemented his feelings.

However, he was curious, so he let Julian kiss him—and he kissed Julian back.

It was nice. A sweet kiss. Julian was eager but tentative, and even when he got encouragement, he was very gentle, maybe a little shy. There was nothing not to like in that warm, diffident press of mouth to mouth.

“I can’t believe you’re really here,” Julian whispered when their lips parted.

Which, frankly, neither could Ellery. Not that he hadn’t done plenty of kissing in graveyards—those scenes were a staple of the Happy Halloween! You’re Dead flicks—but it was definitely different with lights and reflectors and cameras and crew.

He opened his mouth to say something tactful when, just like in the Happy Halloween! You’re Dead movies, a figure seemed to materialize from the shadows. However, unlike in the movies, it was not a vengeful ghost or an ax-wielding maniac. Oh no, it was much worse.

It was Jack.






STILL AVAILABLE AT THE PREORDER PRICE 






Friday, February 19, 2021

MYSTERY AT THE MASQUERADE playlist

 


To be honest, mostly what I listened to while writing this one were seascape sounds--and rain. Lots of rain and lots of surf. 

But during the editorial process, yes, I do listen to a lot of music, including (this may strike some as a peculiar choice, but there you go) folk music and sea chanteys. 

Anyway, for your listening pleasure. 








There for You - Martin Garrix and Troye Sivan

Hard Times in the Mill - Pete Seeger

Every Ending is a Chance - Claire Wyndham

Falling - Harry Styles

Dangerously - Charlie Puth

Before You Go - Lewis Capaldi

My Jolly Sailor Bold - Ashley Serena

Fools - Troye Sivan

The Jeannie C. - Stan Rogers

What's Next Has Come - Claire Wyndham

Waste it on Me - Steve Aoki (AND BTS)

Heat Waves - Glass Animals

Since We're Alone - Niall Horan

 



Oh, and yes, the book is DONE. And I love it. There's just something about these characters. It's hard to explain because they're...the characters and their stories are gentle in a way my other stuff isn't. Well, maybe my Christmas stories. My Christmas stories have toasty little marshmallow hearts. ;-) My mysteries, not so much. Not usually. 

Saturday, February 13, 2021

The Five Things I Look for in a Mystery-Romance

 


Valentine's Day is Sunday, so I thought I'd do a little post on what I look for in Mystery-Romance. Because we're all readers, even those of us who are also writers. 


So here's a bit of backstory. I'll admit right off the bat that it took me a really, really long time to settle down, and by the time I did finally marry I was, well...experienced. In the ways of the heart.  Or so I thought. In fact, I'd pretty well run the gamut of romantic tropes: enemies to lovers, friends to lovers, blind date, office romance, secret admirer, partners who were too young for me, partners who were too old for me, light, happy flirtations and passion bordering on obsession. 


I pretty much thought I knew all there was to know about love and relationships.


And then I got married.


HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAHAHAHA


You know that old Judy Collins song?


I've looked at love from both sides now

From give and take and still somehow

It's love's illusions that I recall

I really don't know love

Really don't know love at all



Marriage changes everything, including, in my case, my taste in reading. So what I look for in a mystery-romance might not be what everyone looks for. It might not be what YOU look for. But, for better or worse, here are The Five Things I Look for in a Mystery-Romance--AND if you know some writers out there who can supply these five things, feel free to mention them in the comment section below.



1 - Setting. NO, HEAR ME OUT! 

You know, Hallmark is onto something with all those quaint and cute towns (all in Canada, according to the SO) where love lurks around every corner. But that's not what I'm talking about. Some settings are inherently unromantic: war zones, prisons, outer space. I'm not saying romance can't happen there--there are terrific love stories set in all those places--but it's not what I enjoy. I don't need a cozy setting, but I don't want a war zone either. 

I want the story to take place in believable and interesting surroundings--and bonus points if the setting is appealing. I like the setting to feel real because I have to believe in a world in order to lose myself in it. 


2 - Grown ups. 

I'm not talking physical age so much as emotional age. I wasn't ever a silly teenager. I was either "unusual" or "weird," depending on whether you liked me. So while I don't mind reading about twenty-year-olds, I want to read about twenty-year-olds I can identify with. Which is probably very few twenty-year-olds. This is a roundabout way of saying I CANNOT BEAR CHARACTERS WHO ACT LIKE EMOTIONAL ADOLESCENTS. 


I don't mind characters who make mistakes, make bad judgment calls, do stupid things--we ALL do stupid things, things we regret. (Especially under pressure.) But I don't want to read about people ruled by their emotions, unable to channel their emotions, unable to think about anything but their emotions. I'm not saying there aren't such people in the world, but I don't want to spend time with them. I do not want to read about a cop at a crime scene who is unable to focus on anything but how HAWT his new partner is. But that's just me.


     

3 - Communication. 

Since I'm a communicator by trade, I guess it's no surprise I like characters who communicate. But it goes beyond that, because how we communicate with others reveals who were are. 

Communication reveals a lot about our emotional maturity--but also it reveals a lot about how successful we're going to be (in a variety of areas). If you can't ask for what you want, you're not going to get it. If you can't make your case to someone, again, you're not going to get what you want. If you're a bully and a jerk, you might get what you want, but someone will spit in your cup. So... ?  It's my observation that most problems between people are communication problems. Even smart, articulate people have trouble communicating when ego or hurt feelings or pride gets in the way. So I like stories where communication--good or bad--plays a role. When a guy who has trouble saying what he feels, actually finally says what he feels? That melts your heart. When a guy who never cries, cries? That melts your heart. When a guy who always says what he feels, is too hurt to speak? That melts your heart. 

But you have to establish these communication patterns for these things to register. 

What I don't like in a story is when people (not necessarily the protags) fail to communicate the obvious and necessary things. You know, the sheriff fails to mention the serial killer has been released earlier that day. OR impossibly stupid misunderstandings between lovers which I call BUT DARLING, SHE'S MY SISTER syndrome.



4 - Romantic gestures. 

*Sigh* We all love romantic gestures.


Romantic gestures are how you know things are moving along and people are falling in love. But what makes a gesture romantic really depends on the character. Flowers from a guy who sends everyone flowers, is lovely, but flowers from a guy who has never sent flowers? More romantic. Flowers to a guy who has never received flowers? More romantic. It all depends on the characters and their history. In some circumstances, Character B taking Character A's car to the shop to get his brakes checked can be super romantic. Especially if B previously cut A's brake lines. I'M KIDDING. 

Heck, switching dishes in a restaurant can be romantic. ;-) I love spotting those meaningful gestures in a story--and very often, the smaller and subtler, the more meaningful. I love to be surprised by one character doing something original and thoughtful. 


5 - A Good Mystery. 

It should be obvious, right? 

I am astonished by how often a Mystery-Romance is AT BEST romantic suspense (I do love good romantic suspense though--that's another post). Making your character a cop or a PI does not mean you've written a mystery. The cop or PI would have to actually SOLVE an intriguing crime through detective work for the story to qualify as a mystery. 

If I buy a book based on the promise that it will have mystery and romance, I EXPECT mystery and romance. I will disappointed if the book does not contain these things. I'm not saying the mystery has to confound me, but it has to keep me interested and entertained. Once you've seen and read as much crime fiction as I have, it's no longer about who the culprit is, it's how fun can the author make this game.




Anyway, that's my want list. Who can you recommend?  

By the way, the SO tells me we are celebrating our FOURTEENTH wedding anniversary this month. So maybe I do know love a little. ;-)  



Friday, February 5, 2021

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to My New Book Release

 


For years and years and years (and probably years) I've been saying I wanted to come up with a sane and healthy work schedule. To find that balance between creativity and productivity--which are not always the same thing.

And year after year I have failed to do that. Which has resulted in burnout (TWICE! YIKES) and a reputation for missing deadlines (which once would have been flipping unthinkable). 

And still I couldn't seem to figure out a way to...well, get everything done and still have time for anything resembling a normal life.  In fact, never mind the "time for anything resembling a normal life," because that wasn't even a consideration. Basically I couldn't seem to figure out how to get everything done. Because when you're running a publishing empire by your lonesome there is a LOT OF EVERYTHING that has to be dealt with. 

It's not that I didn't have help. God bless all my moderator-friends (they're pretty much the only reason I still have a presence on social media). And I did periodically have help from a succession of "Eves." The Evies were great but A - I really need someone onsite for at least part of the time and B - I'm a total control freak and it's very hard to ever let anything out of my hands, oh and C - The old trap of I-Don't-Have-Time-To-Teach-You-All-This-It's-Faster-If-I-Do-It-Myself. 

I had two speeds: panic and crashing. Unsurprisingly, I started to get sick. A lot. I'm sure it didn't help that as my stress and anxiety mounted, I became increasingly terrible about my eating habits and my exercise. 

I'm honestly not sure how this would have ended if it had not been for the pandemic. 

The pandemic (and escalating anxiety about the election) triggered--well, honestly, I'm not even sure because I was already heading for burnout. But basically I couldn't write for ten months. I did manage toward the end to complete a short story, and that was a great sign. That was a sign I was coming out of it, and thank God for that. 

(And yes, thank God that between my dear Patrons and my backlist, I was still able to support us even while not being able to support us--our health insurance alone is over $2000. a month. ) 

I'm not saying the pandemic was a good thing or that I'm happy about it, but it did force me to reevaluate, and I'm trying very hard to be conscientious about well, eating properly and working out even when I can't swim and creating a reasonable work schedule. I'm currently trying to take weekends off. I feel guilty as hell about it, but I think it's one reason I'm loving writing Mystery at the Masquerade so much. And I am! I'm now in the final third of the book, it will come out this month, and I LOVE it. I think it's the best of the three so far.

OH. I have to digress. I received a nastygram from a reader this week complaining that he was tired of waiting for Mystery at the Masquerade and I shall darken his bookshelf no more. And of course I wrote and tried to apologize and explain--you know, I hate that I have missed so many deadlines that I've now become notorious; this is not something I'm happy about or okay with, I know it's a problem, which is why I'm trying hard to create a realistic work schedule. Anyway, after I emailed him I realized WHAT THE HELL the book was originally scheduled for May 2021 and I'm trying to push it FORWARD. :-D :-D :-D  I mean, it's bad enough without yelling at me for the books that AREN'T late. This one is coming in nearly three months early. :-D

Anyway. 

The other helpful thing happening in my life is I have a new Eve, and it's a match made in heaven (She's my niece and she's taking a break from college.) So I have a new schedule, a new diet (Yes! We're learning to "eat clean" which is...hard BUT we're already seeing the benefits) and help. I HAVE HELP. And I'm even trying to take advantage of that. 

So this is a long and winding way of explaining that I know there has been a problem with my book releases--I own it--and I'm doing my best to fix it. But more to the point, I'm happier and healthier than I have been in literally years, which is a terrific way to start 2021. I even created an Inspiration Board, so what does THAT tell you? ;-) 





Friday, January 29, 2021

Fatal Shadows The Collector's Edition (Cover Reveal)

 I've been getting questions about whatever happened to Fatal Shadows The Collector's Edition.

So, if you don't know, I had hoped to release a special hardcover print edition of Fatal Shadows to celebrate its 20th Anniversary. My dear pal Dal Maclean wrote the Introduction and my dear pal Nicole Kimberling wrote the Afterword and I commissioned six original pieces of artwork to illustrate. All the AE codas and interviews are included.

SO WHAT THE HECK HAPPENED?!

Well, the artwork ended up taking a bit longer to complete and we missed the initial deadline. THEN, since we had already blown past the deadline, I had the brilliant idea of doing one final coda for Adrien and Jake to finish off the collection.

Which I still think is a good idea and I still want to do, but in the meantime I'm now immersed in Mystery at the Masquerade, so I'm trying to save a little window between finishing Masquerade and restarting Bell, Book and Scandal to do ALL THE THINGS including finishing the coda for the collector's edition. 

It's still happening! I promise. 

In the meantime, how's about a little cover reveal? The cover artwork is by Unmeiartist.





 

Friday, January 22, 2021

Happy THIRD Anniversary to my Patrons!

 I was so surprised to see we've reached the THREE-YEAR MILESTONE! 

Wow.

(Thank you so much for your support. I'm not sure I could have done this last year without you.)





Friday, January 15, 2021

Aaaaaaaand we're off!!!

 


Hm. Maybe I should have added AND RUNNING! :-D 

But yes, it's a whole new year, a whole new world, and I am feeling alarmingly hopeful. 

But seriously, I do feel different. Of course part of that is the clear mandate of both the presidential election and the Georgia runoff. Part of it is (and this is kind of sad) I'm just getting used to living in a pandemic and a country teetering on the brink of slipping into Fascism. 

Hey. So it's true. You really CAN get used to anything.

I have a lot planned for this year. And I'll be the first to admit that I may (as is my wont) be overly optimistic about what I can achieve in these twelve tiny months. I'm not immune to what happens in the world around me. Like most of the country--most of the world--I was glued to my television set last week while we watched insurrection happening in real time. Needless to say, not a lot of writing happened. Impeachment? Another distraction. Necessary, sure. But not good for the creative process.

So I'm excited and energized and I'm setting stretch goals for myself. Which means I might be shooting for the moon. We'll see. 

YES, I REGRET SETTING UP ALL THOSE PREORDERS. BUT THEY'RE UP AND THERE'S NO GOING BACK. OKAY? I KNOW. I ALREADY KNOW.

So first up is Mystery at the Masquerade. Why the switcheroo with BB&S? I felt I needed something easy and light to begin with. I mean, I haven't really written--other than managing to complete one little short story--in almost a year (ten months) so I felt like I needed an easy win before I tackled Bell, Book and Scandal. 

If I can hit both of those targets, I'll feel a lot more confident of tackling the rest of the year. If I slip on either of those, well, I still might pull manage to pull off most of the year, but it's going to be more slippery, more fraught with peril. 

Usually at this point I'd list what I have in mind for the year, but like I said, I'm optimistic but also cautious. The last couple of years have been BRUTAL on my productivity and ability to hit deadlines. So we'll see. 

Take this list as more of a My Publishing Hopes and Dreams than my hard and fast schedule for the year. 

Mystery at the Masquerade

Bell, Book and Scandal

Scandal at the Salty Dog


Body at Buccaneer Bay

The 12.2% Per-Cent Solution

Murder is Served

The Movie-Town Murders

Mr. and Mrs. Murder 


Anyway, that's it. That's the plan. Let's hope life cooperates this year.