Friday, October 20, 2017

J.T. Bishop, Guest Author

If you're looking for this week's contest, please look at the previous post. I also posted that today.

Today, I want to welcome Judy Bishop. Born and raised in Dallas, TX, J. T. Bishop began writing in 2012. Inspired by a video that theorized the meaning of the end of the Mayan calendar, J. T. began the Red-Line trilogy. The video surmised that the earth was the central hub of activity for extraterrestrials thousands of years ago. J.T. didn’t know whether that was true or not, but it did spawn an idea. What if those extraterrestrials were still here? Two years and a lot of work later, the first three Red-Line books were complete, but she’s not done. The Red-Line saga develops as she continues to write new books.


Under J.T. Bishop, she's the author of  High Child. Here's the summary of the book. "Gifted with unique abilities, Royce Fletcher struggles to find his place in the world. Living a solitary life in the woods, he finds his quiet existence disrupted by unexpected visitors. Visitors he would prefer to avoid.

Despite his attempts to protect himself, Royce finds himself caught up in an unexpected romance, a local murder investigation, and a destiny he has little interest in pursuing.

The more he tries to pull away, the more drawn in he becomes, until he must face the demons that refuse to go away. Demons that risk more than just his life, but all that he holds dear.

Following the events in J.T. Bishop's fourth book, Curse Breaker, High Child is a fast-paced, page-turning, suspense story that will keep readers guessing until the end."

Thank you, J.T., for taking time to write a piece for the blog.

My Favorite Thing about Writing

What do I love about writing? Most of the time when people learn I’m a writer or they read one of my books, the next question is usually “How do you do that?” or “How do you come up with your ideas?” And the next thing they say is “I could never do that.” And my next thought is usually, “you could if you wanted to.” But most people don’t want to. They’d rather read the story after it’s done. Understandable, of course. Writing a book with a variety of characters, a complicated plot and subplots, that keeps a reader turning the pages is challenging at best. So what do I love about it? What brings me back story after story?
The creative side is the big draw. I like coming up with intriguing story lines, relatable characters, fast-paced drama and gut wrenching emotion. It gets my heart racing. My sole purpose is to grab that reader and pull them into my story and keep them there to the bitter end, putting them through all the ups and downs right along with my characters. Once I have a story in my head, it begs to be written, and then the fun begins. Putting it into words is its own challenge. The ebb and flow of writing is special to me. I love the feel of it when I get a special scene to flow perfectly, or when the exact right words I need flow from a character’s mouth onto the page. And I know, I just know, how that will affect the reader just the way I want it to. It will elicit the emotion that I want and grip the reader by the gut, pulling them into the character’s world as if they were there themselves. There is no greater thrill for me when I get it right and I can feel that pull myself. I’m drawn in just like everyone else. I cry, laugh, and gasp just like the reader, and when that happens, I know I’ve succeeded. If I’m not having fun writing, then I know my reader won’t have fun reading. That’s the bottom line for me.
I guess that’s why it’s so easy for me. Since my youth, I’ve loved being drawn into stories, whether it’s a book, or a movie, or a TV show. If you can make me care about the story and its people, make me root for the underdog, shudder at a first kiss, or hate the bad guy and love the good guy, you’ve got me and I’ll hang with you till the end. That’s what I want for my readers. If they’re not doing the same, then what’s the point? Life is hard enough with all that’s going on in the world, so if I can be the one that can help you escape from all of that for just a little while, then I’ve accomplished my goals and that makes all the difference. That’s what I love about writing and why I’ll keep doing it until the words run out.

Winners & A Halloween Giveaway

Congratulations to the winners of the last contest. John S. from Iowa City, IA will receive David Handler's The Girl with Kaleidoscope Eyes. Julia H. of Excelsior, MN won Ziskin's Cast the First Stone. The books will go out today.

This week, I'm giving away cozy mysteries related to Halloween. Diane Vallere's Masking for Trouble is a Costume Shop Mystery. "Halloween conjures up big business for Margo Tamblyn's costume shop, Disguise DeLimit", but this year there's also trouble. A venture capitalist plans to rezone the historic downtown into a glitzy commercial area and push out local businesses. Margo is determined to save her family's store, but when the tycoon's body is found during a spooky party, Margo tops the suspect list.

Heather Blake's The Witch and the Dead is a Wishcraft Mystery. Wish-granting witch Day Merriweather is moving out of her Aunt Ve's house. While going through her belongings that are stashed in Aunt Ve's garage, a pile of old bones is found. Because those bones belong to Ve's long missing second husband, Darcy has to unpack old secrets to solve the cold case.

Which Halloween mystery would you like to win? You can enter to win both, but I need separate entries. Email me at Your subject heading should read either "Win Masking for Trouble" or "Win The Witch and the Dead." Please include your name and mailing address. Entries from the U.S. only, please. The giveaway will end Thursday, October 26 at 5 PM ET.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

What Are You Reading?

My confession is that I'm not reading much. I need to get into one of the books I'm reviewing for a journal, but after all of my travels, I just can't settle into anything. The cats are needy. I've been talking to family and friends on the phone. I can't get into a book.

But, several of you went to Bouchercon. What books did you bring back that excite you? And, for the rest of you, what are you reading? I hope you found something this last week that you're excited to share. Let us know, please.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

A Tale of Two Kitties by Sofie Kelly

Everyone who knows me knows I love cats. And, I frequently read mysteries involving cats. But, I'm not a pushover for every book about cats, especially magical cats. I've always been a little skeptical about Sofie Kelly's Magical Cats Mysteries. Yes, I can suspend disbelief. But, magical cats solving a mystery? I have to admit Kelly's A Tale of Two Kitties is an excellent mystery with likeable characters. I'm now fully on board with this series.

Minnesota librarian Kathleen Paulson doesn't know the story of the Janes family. Victor Janes hasn't returned to Mayville Heights since he ran off with his brother, Leo's wife. Once she died in a car accident, he wasn't welcome in town. But, Leo has invited his brother back, despite the wishes of his son, Simon, and granddaughter, Mia. Leo's hoping for a reconciliation.

All wishes for a family reconciliation are destroyed when Kathleen and Mia find Leo dead. Although Victor would seem to be the natural suspect, it's Kathleen's friend, Simon, who tops the list. It seems he had an argument with his father. Kathleen may have to team up with her two cats, Owen and Hercules, to find the truth.

Kelly's latest mystery is actually a story about families, small town history, and secrets. It's well-written. And, it actually avoids one of my biggest problems with cozy mysteries, the woman who can't make up her mind between two men. Kathleen Paulson does have two men interested in her, but she knows how good her current relationship is, and she intends to keep it that way. I appreciate a practical, loyal amateur sleuth.

Do yourself a favor. Don't be as stubborn as I was. Give Sofie Kelly's Owen and Hercules a chance to prove they belong in her mystery series. Cozy mystery readers won't regret trying A Tale of Two Kitties.

Sofie Kelly's website is

A Tale of Two Kitties by Sofie Kelly. Berkley Prime Crime. 2017. ISBN 9780399584572 (hardcover), 336p.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The House at Baker Street by Michelle Birkby

Welcome to 221b, one of the most recognizable addresses in literature. In her debut mystery, Michelle Birkby takes readers behind the scenes of the lower part of that house. Mrs. Hudson, Sherlock Holmes' landlady, and Dr. Watson's wife, Mary, become amateur sleuths in the atmospheric, fascinating story, The House at Baker Street.

When Sherlock Holmes turns down a case, Mrs. Hudson and Mary Watson intercept a meek and quivering woman, knowing she needs help. Laura Shirley has received a threatening letter. Someone knows about the letters she once wrote to her first love, and that person has suggested that everything can be revealed and Mrs. Shirley's life will be ruined. The two women offer to take on the case, saying a woman's touch is needed. When they enlist the help of the Baker Street Irregulars, the street urchins who work for Sherlock Holmes, they discover Laura Shirley isn't the only one threatened. When an Irregular is injured and a suspect almost killed, Mrs. Hudson and Mary Watson know they're in the middle of a dangerous adventure.

Despite the danger, the two women keep their investigation a secret from Holmes and Watson. In the course of their research, they learn the villain has threatened or caused the death of a number of people, at all levels of society. But, it's a break in, with the help of Irene Adler, that starts to lead them to the truth. And, even then, have they really uncovered the true mastermind?

Mrs. Hudson is a wonderful narrator for this new series. She's a strong woman who has always been behind the scenes, while knowledgeable about the actions of her tenant. Now, she reveals her own longing for adventure, along with her intelligence and ability to puzzle out the clues. And, she's shown as a woman who truly cares for lost souls, from Wiggins and Billy of the Baker Street Irregulars to her new client to Holmes himself.

Michelle Birkby has remained faithful to the spirit and atmosphere of the original Sherlock Holmes stories. However, she has taken the characters, and brought a new spirit and life to them in her outstanding debut, The House at Baker Street.

The House at Baker Street by Michelle Birkby. Harper Perennial. 2017. ISBN 978006268018 (paperback), 368p.

NOTE: According to my editor at LJ, the publisher is not releasing this book. I don't know what to say. It is available in England. Try Book Depository if you want to read it.

FTC Full Disclosure - I received the book to review for a journal.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Congratulations to the Award Winners

Congratulations to all the winners of mystery awards that were presented this past week at Bouchercon. But, Louise Penny deserves an extra congratulations. She swept Best Novel with A Great Reckoning, taking all three mystery awards, the Anthony, the Macavity, and the Barry Awards.

Here are this year's winners.

Best Novel 
• A Great Reckoning, by Louise Penny (Minotaur)

Best First Novel 
• IQ, by Joe Ide (Mulholland Books)

Best Short Story 
• “Parallel Play,” by Art Taylor (Chesapeake Crimes: Storm Warning, Wildside Press)

Sue Feder Memorial Award for Best Historical Novel 
• Heart of Stone, by James W. Ziskin (Seventh Street Books)

Best Nonfiction 
• Sara Paretsky: A Companion to the Mystery Fiction, Margaret Kinsman (McFarland)

The Barry Award Winners

Best Novel:
• A Great Reckoning, by Louise Penny (Minotaur)

Best First Novel:
• The Drifter, by Nicholas Petrie (Putnam)

Best Paperback Original:
• Rain Dogs, by Adrian McKinty (Seventh Street)

Best Thriller:
• Guilty Minds, by Joseph Finder (Dutton)

The Anthony Award Winners

Best Novel
A Great Reckoning – Louise Penny [Minotaur]

Best First Novel
IQ – Joe Ide [Mulholland]

Best Paperback Original

Heart of Stone – James W. Ziskin [Seventh Street]

Best Short Story 
"Oxford Girl" – Megan Abbott, Mississippi Noir [Akashic]

Best Critical Nonfiction Work
Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life – Ruth Franklin [Liveright]

Best Children’s/YA Novel
The Girl I Used to Be – April Henry [Henry Holt]

Best Anthology
Blood on the Bayou: Bouchercon Anthology 2016 – Greg Herren, ed. [Down & Out]

Best Novella (8,000-40,000 words)
The Last Blue Glass – B.K. Stevens, Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, April 2016 [Dell]

Sunday, October 15, 2017

The Witches' Tree by M. C. Beaton

I'm a latecomer to M. C. Beaton's Agatha Raisin series. To be honest, I'm not a big fan of a character who is man-hungry and doesn't feel as if she's complete without a man in her life. I've read and reviewed the books when there has been an anniversary, or, in this case, when sent the book for review. But, it's hard not to feel sorry for Agatha in The Witches' Tree.

Fans of cozy mysteries should find the opening scene in The Witches' Tree to be spot-on, and funny. Sir Edward Chumble is a newcomer to the Cotswolds, and he's moved there, hoping to be lord of the manor, living in an Agatha Christie novel. He throws a dinner part and invites a vicar and his wife, an elderly judge, a married couple, and a friend of his wife's. When the party falls flat, the vicar and his wife, Molly, leave early, only to discover a body hanging from the witches' tree in their village. Agatha Raisin only has a slight interest, but when another body is found, she encourages Sir Edward to hire her to find the killer because the police have failed.

Agatha isn't the most popular person with the police. "She solved cases by bumbling about, often putting herself and everyone else in danger, and then getting to the right conclusion by a flash of intuition." That's an accurate summary. While Agatha bumbles about, investigating local witches, she's also spending her time bemoaning the lack of a man who loves her.

Agatha does have men in her life who love her, in their fashion. Her ex-husband is often available to help with her cases, as is her occasional lover, Sir Charles Fraith, who is always looking for a woman with money. But, Agatha is actually a lonely, pathetic figure. It's hard to feel sorry for her at times, but, it's also hard not to feel for her in her loneliness and neediness.

I didn't exactly summarize the mystery, did I? It's a typical village mystery in which several people are killed, and the sleuth does bumble into the solution after being attacked and rescued. There's nothing extraordinary about The Witches' Tree. It's for those readers who appreciate Agatha Raisin.

M. C. Beaton's website is

The Witches' Tree by M.C. Beaton. Minotaur Books. 2017. ISBN 9781250057464 (hardcover), 288p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I received the book to review for a journal.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Last Day in Paris, Friday, Sept. 29

On Friday, our last day in Paris before we all headed out, we had a tour scheduled again. Because the tours started across from Le Carrousel, we were all able to meet up with our favorite waiter again. Hugs! This time, there was a photographic record of my hug. So there, Vickie Smith!

We were heading to Giverny first, the small village in Normandy, in northern France, where Monet had his house and gardens. Stunning. Just stunning. So many photos to share. And, they don't need captions.

The inside of Monet's house was as beautiful as the outside. (I did take the "Fresh Eggs" photo for my sister and niece.)

Monet's studio

Monet's bedroom

View from Monet's bedroom

Dining room


Once we left the house and the gift shop, we had a short time to wander the streets of Giverny. Naturally, I found a cat of Giverny.


Giverny was almost as colorful as Monet's property. It's too bad we didn't have a little bit more time there. But, we headed to Fourges in Normandy for lunch, a pleasant, quiet place.

Look at that sky!

It's good that we had the break at Fourges. Then, there are a few photos of Normandy on our way to the over-the-top Versailles. Like Kaye with Shakespeare & Co., I wouldn't have felt as if I'd done enough if I hadn't seen Versailles. But, once is enough. Giverny on the other hand, is worth another trip.

It's a little obvious when we arrived at Versailles. Crowded. Gaudy. Over-the-top excessive. It's no wonder the peasants revolted.

We spent our last night in Paris wandering around in our neighborhood, and eating at a neighborhood cafe. Really? We spent our last night together in friendship and laughter.

Can you believe the size of those meringues?

Vickie and Kaye

On Saturday morning, Kaye and I headed to the airport while Vickie and Lisa headed to the train station to go to Amsterdam. And, our cars came so quickly we barely had time for hugs. For me, the trip was all about the people I went with, and the food we shared. Sharing meals and laughter brings people together. I'll always be grateful for the time I spent with Kaye Wilkinson Barley, Vickie Smith and Lisa Aiken Butler. As Kaye continues to say, "We'll always have Paris."

And, if you want to see some stunning photos, check out Kaye's blog at