Friday, April 27, 2018


In print, audio, and ebook!


Librarian Carter Matheson is determined to enjoy himself on a Scottish bus tour for fans of mystery author Dame Vanessa Rayburn. Sure, his ex, Trevor, will also be on the trip with his new boyfriend, leaving Carter to share a room with a stranger, but he can't pass up a chance to meet his favorite author.

Carter's roommate turns out to be John Knight, a figure as mysterious as any character from Vanessa's books. His strange affect and nighttime wanderings make Carter suspicious. When a fellow traveler's death sparks rumors of foul play, Carter is left wondering if there's anyone on the tour he can trust.

(His strange affect... (Not something you hear every day) ;-) 


“Hey, you’re back,” I said.

“Hey, you’re sneaking out of Rose’s room,” he returned.

I looked around, making frantic shushing motions. His eyebrows rose.
“Rhymes with gurgleyme?” he suggested.

“No! Of course not.” I was both charmed that he played charades and irritated that he thought I was the world’s worst burglar. “Can we discuss this elsewhere?”

He turned the doorknob to our room and made an after you gesture. I slipped inside our room and turned to face him. “Sally told me Rose’s journal wasn’t found among her personal effects. She suggested I have a look for it just in case Rose might have hidden it.”

“If Sally suggested you jump off a bridge, would y—”

“Funny. No. I wouldn’t. And I wouldn’t have done this either except…”

“You read too many mysteries?”

“That’s not possible. And no.” I admitted grudgingly, “I know it’s a crazy thing to have done. I’m not sure why I gave in to temptation.”

He looked taken aback. “This is your idea of temptation?”

“The opportunity arose, that’s a lot of it.”

“Other opportunities have arisen. I didn’t see you jump at those.”

At first, I didn’t understand what he meant, but as I gazed into his solemn—too solemn?—brown eyes, I remembered the night before and that very casual suggestion we strip naked and share a sleeping bag. Not even a suggestion. A joke.

Or maybe not.

Judging by the faint twinkle in the back of his eyes, it seemed not.

I felt a totally unexpected—and probably inappropriate—rush of elation. I’d figured after he’d blown me off that morning, I’d misread John’s invitation of the night before. I’d been, well, disappointed. And now I was…not.

I did my best to tamp down my revived, um, interest. “Ben confirmed at lunch that there was a mysterious death on the last tour. A woman drowned in the bath.”

The twinkle in John’s eyes pinched out. He scowled. “There’s hardly anything mysterious about it. It might interest you to know that deaths from drowning in bathtubs have gone up seventy percent in the last decade. Someone in the US drowns in a bathtub, hot tub or spa Every Single Day.”

“You’re kidding.”

“No. I’m not kidding.”

“But surely most of those are little kids?”

He said severely, “The point is, drowning in a bathtub is not as mysterious or suspicious as you seem to think. Bathtub drownings are one of the most common causes of accidental death.”

It seemed he really did work for an insurance company. Not that I had actively doubted it, but I had started to wonder after the morning’s cloak-and-daggery.

Did you find the journal?” he asked.


He studied me for a moment. His disapproving expression relaxed. He seemed amused. “Do you really think Rose found some incriminating piece of evidence, and that piece of evidence got her killed?”

“No. Not exactly. I was curious though. The weird coincidences seem to be piling up. I feel like something is going on. I can’t put my finger on it, but… If I may say so, your own behavior is a little sketchy.”

“Mine?” There it was again. The wary look. “How so?”

“Let’s start with the midnight rambles. Insomnia or not, that’s not normal behavior. Most people read a book or have a glass of warm milk. I take half a sleeping pill when I can’t sleep.”

His face took on a bland look. “I do have a preferred method of dealing with it. However, you weren’t interested last night.”

I guess he’d given up on innuendo.

I’m too old to blush, but there’s something undeniably warming about flattery. I studied his face. Yeah, I did find him attractive. No question. I liked him. I wasn’t sure if I trusted him, but I didn’t have to trust him. This was the equivalent of a summer romance. Minus the romance.

I flipped the lock on our door, and said, “That was last night.”

You can buy this book at:

Amazon (print, audio, paperback)

Friday, April 20, 2018

5 Books That Taught Me Everything I Know About Writing

Okay, not really. It took more than five books. And everything I know about writing didn't solely come from reading--a huge part of it came from working with editors through the years, starting with Jacqui Bianchi back at Mills & Boon  (!?).

But a lot of what I've learned did come simply through reading.

Here are five of what I consider my "break-thru" books.

SUBTEXT - The Hollow by Agatha Christie 

What the hell are these people talking about??!!! That was my initial reaction reading The Hollow. I was in high school and I was on a mission to read every book written by Christie. The Hollow turned out to be one of my all time favorites by her, but when I started reading it I was confused by the fact that the Angkatells were clearly speaking in code to each other. Even the servants were speaking in code to the Angkatells! So much of the conversation was verbal shorthand. In fact, most of the key communication was unspoken or delivered in the personal, private language of families.

This was the first time I understood what was meant by subtext and saw how very effective it could be in, amongst other things, illustrating relationship dynamics.

 BACKSTORY - Weep and Know Why by Elizabeth Ogilvie 

Did I miss something? This was another book I read in high school, and a lot of it takes place in flashback, which I was a little confused by. Not because I hadn't read stories with flashbacks before, but because the flashbacks were woven so subtly, so craftily throughout the text. No asterisks, no double spaces, no time stamp. Just the memories of Mirabell as she's working her way through some pretty terrifying events.

Not just that, it was clear that all the characters had complicated histories and relationships, i.e., backstory and Ogilvie did not painstakingly explain them all in convenient info dumps for the slower kids in the class. I had to read the whole book to understand both past and present--which is how it's supposed to be, though that didn't dawn on me until this very book.

SETTING - The Moonspinners by Mary Stewart

I read The Moonspinners in junior high school. I'd seen the movie and I was a little taken aback at how very different the book was--but in the end was won over entirely. It was wonderful, and one of the most wonderful parts about it was how vivid the descriptions were of...well, everything. Everywhere. Every single place the heroine went...from the goat-scented interior of a gassy, groaning bus to the chilly dank interior of a tomb... it was all so real.

In fact, the writing was so evocative, I didn't skim past all "The Description" as I usually did with the generic settings in so many novels. This was the book where I realized that setting was a key element of making the story world come to life.

DIALOG - The Masqueraders by Georgette Heyer

Okay, this--possibly my all-time favorite of Heyer's work--is a beautiful illustration of how to handle subtext, backstory, and setting, but what really made Heyer stand out for my junior high school self was the dialog. It wasn't just what Heyer's characters said--though my God, she was funny--no, witty--it was their delivery too. The timing! The expressions! The tone! It was a revelation to see how someone who understood how to use descriptive tags could enhance already really strong dialog.

Even as a very inexperienced aspiring writer I couldn't help noticing that every single conversation was either amusing in its own right or served to advance the story. There was no filler, no babble, no turning pages to get to the action because there was plenty of entertaining action in the dialog itself.

METAPHOR - The Lady in the Lake by Raymond Chandler

I didn't get around to reading Chandler until I was in college, and had it not been part of the course curriculum I probably wouldn't have read it then (which means...holy moly! I might not have ended up marrying the SO--because it was at least partly our love of hard-boiled fiction and Chandler that
brought us together)! Anyway, until college I assumed Chandler, Hammett, Macdonald were all on a par with Mike Hammer and The Executioner. :-D So imagine my surprise when I stumbled across lines like:

“He looked about as inconspicuous as a tarantula on a slice of angel food cake.”

“She gave me a smile I could feel in my hip pocket.”

“Dead men are heavier than broken hearts.”

Coming from the world of He was as tall as a six-foot, three-inch tree, this was enlightenment. Until that moment my use of metaphor had been constrained to similes.

BREVITY - Fadeout by Joseph Hansen

Ironically, Hansen was a writer who knew his way around a metaphor or two--as evidenced by his work as James Colton--but part of what set him apart from his contemporaries, was his sparing, occasionally spartan, use of language. Less is more was the lesson I learned from Hansen--and it was a lesson that came long after college and after I had published my own first novel. Quality over quantity. Cut, cut, cut down the bone. Brevity, may or may not be the soul of wit, but the tighter the prose, the sharper the point.

Any books change the way you write or even the way you read? Share them below!

Friday, April 6, 2018


I'm going to be honest here and admit this playlist is completely self-indulgent. I threw in some of my favorite Gaelic songs and a few odd things from my misspent past--they don't really have ANYTHING to do with this kooky, quirky cozy mystery about murder stalking a busload of tourists visiting the haunts and habitats of their favorite Scottish mystery author Dame Vanessa Rayburn. And yet they do.

Anyway, this music seems perfect for this book, for a number of reasons--which I hope will be clear once you've read the book. :-)  It comes out April 23rd from Carina Press.