Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Authorsday - Earl Staggs

Derringer Award winning author Earl Staggs has seen many of his short stories published in magazines and anthologies. He served as Managing Editor of Futures Mystery Anthology Magazine and as President of the Short Mystery Fiction Society. His novel MEMORY OF A MURDER earned thirteen Five Star reviews online at Amazon and B&N. His column “Write Tight” appears in Apollo’s Lyre at and he is a member of Make Mine Mystery at He hosts a Workshop for the Muse Online Writers Conference and is a frequent speaker at conferences and writers groups.

1. When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

I was fifteen. My English teacher told me I had a talent for writing and encouraged me to enter an essay contest. I entered and won. Because of that, the desire to be a writer found a quiet corner in my mind and lingered there for a long time.


2. How long have you been writing?
Although I dabbled a little over the years, I didn’t give it a real effort until my wife and I burned our snow shovels, left the snow and ice of Maryland winters behind, and moved south to Florida. That was 1995, and that’s when I seriously started writing.

3. How did you pick the genre you write in?

Once we were settled in Florida, it occurred to me that if I wanted to write I should learn how. When I signed up for a writing class at the community college, it happened to be about mystery writing. Perfect! My reading preference had always been mystery and that’s what I wanted to write.

On the first night of that writing course, the teacher said each of us would write a short mystery story by the end of the class. I decided for my short story, the protagonist would be a private investigator. To make him a little different from all the other PI’s out there, I gave him psychic abilities. When I finished the story, I was so proud of it, I submitted it to three major short mystery magazines. All three rejected it. I was crushed. Once I got past being rejected and crushed, I put that failed attempt aside and wrote more mystery stories, without the psychic element, eventually seeing many of them published in magazines and anthologies.

4. What drew you to the subject of your novel, MEMORY OF A MURDER?

The novel grew from the short story I wrote in that writing class--in a roundabout way. One day years later, I pulled out that story and read it. Good grief! I realized with great humility how amateurish it was and how much I’d learned about writing since then. I still liked the concept, however, and rewrote the story.

When I sent it out this time, it was accepted and published by two magazines at the same time. The reaction to the concept and the protagonist, Adam Kingston, was so enthusiastic and encouraging, I decided to put him in a complete novel. The result was MEMORY OF A MURDER.

5. Did you encounter any obstacles in researching it?

Not really. I’d always had an interest in psychic phenomena. Luckily, when I began that writing class, a Psychic Fair was in town. I went to the Fair and talked with a number of them. I wasn’t interested in the ones who read palms or tell your fortune, but in those who had a genuine gift and used it to assist law enforcement agencies solve crimes. I learned a great deal about how they used their gift and that, when not using it, they lived fairly normal lives. I modeled Adam Kingston and the use of his psychic gift after them.

6. What was the best writing advice someone gave you?

I attended a lecture given by an established novelist who said, “Follow your instincts.” In the beginning, like most novice writers, I spent time learning the Rules of Writing. I felt I needed to know what I was allowed to do and not do. From that simple advice, however, I realized you should learn the so-called Rules, but keep them by an open window so you can toss them out if your instincts tell you something outside the rules is better for what you’re working on at the time. If you want to do something different, something that goes against the so-called Rules of Writing, leap right in and try it. There is only one Rule of Writing that is set in stone, engraved in granite and carved in cement: “Whatever works best. If you can write it and make it work, it’s right.”

7. Do you outline or do you write by the seat of your pants?

I’m definitely a pantser. When a story idea comes along, I let it bounce around between the ears for a while and develop in my mind a general idea how it’s going to go. Once I begin the actual writing, however, the characters take on a life of their own and pretty much dictate the story to me. I’ve tried outlining in advance and I know it works well for some writers, but I can never stick with it for long. As the story develops toward the denouement I’m after, there’s an excitement in not knowing exactly what’s going to happen on the next page.

8. If you have a day job, what is it?

After I retired from a long career in sales, I tried staying home but didn’t like it. I like having to get up in the morning and having to go somewhere and do something. I also like interacting with other members of the human race on a regular basis. It took a while, but I found the perfect part time job for someone like me. I drive a school bus. It takes a couple hours in the morning and a couple in the afternoon and leaves the entire middle part of the day free for my writing. It helps that I like kids, of course. It also helps that I have the patience to endure them while they do their job, which is to see how much mischief they can get away with when the bus driver isn’t looking.

9. What do you consider your strengths in terms of your writing?

I think I’m strongest when writing action and I include dialogue under the heading of action. Dialogue is the act of people communicating with each other. When I write, I visualize the scene playing out in my mind like a movie. I see the characters doing things and talking and find it easy to write what I see.

10. What do you consider your weakness and what strategies do you use to overcome it?

Descriptions are difficult for me. Whether I’m describing a character or a setting, I struggle. I want the reader to see it as I do, but I also want to do it in as few words as possible. Many readers become bored with long passages of narrative description. My strategy to overcome the problem is simple: practice. I observe people wherever I happen to be and, in my mind, think about how I would describe them. I see a particular object or setting and do the mental exercise of describing it. It helps, but it’s still not easy for me.

11. Which authors had the most influence on your own writing?

As a young man, I read a lot of Ernest Hemingway and O’Henry. I admired Hemingway for his use of lean, strong language. O’Henry appealed to me because he often wrote about ordinary people in extraordinary situations and how they dealt with it. O’Henry also had a way of bringing all the elements of his stories to an ending filled with irony and poignancy. I’m not all surprised when I see influences of both of them in my own work.

12. How would you describe your book?

First and foremost, it’s the kind of book I like to read—a solid whodunnit. When I read, I enjoy trying to figure out who dun what right along with the protagonist. If I do, of course, I lose interest. I’m happy to say, so far, no one has figured out the mystery in my book before it’s revealed in the last two chapters.

Adam’s psychic images sometimes steer him in the right direction, but just as often, are so enigmatic and confusing, they only confuse him. That’s how it is with real-life psychics. As Adam explains in the book, “It’s not an exact science.” It always comes down to old fashioned police work. Adam’s former experience as an FBI Agent comes in handy for him. I actually wrote a version of MEMORY OF A MURDER without the psychic element, but it wasn’t as interesting or as much fun, so I put it back in.

The book is also about the value of family, friends, and memories. In helping his client get past a terrible loss and move forward with his life, Adam comes to realize he needs to do the same.

Thank you, Chris, for allowing me to visit and talk about my work and my book. If anyone would like to read the first chapter of MEMORY OF A MURDER, they can find it at:

MEMORY OF A MURDER is available through bookstores or online at Amazon and B&N. For a signed copy, write me at

Monday, July 26, 2010

ExcerpTuesdeay Carolyn J. Rose


Carolyn J. Rose grew up in New York’s Catskill Mountains, graduated from the University of Arizona, logged two years in Arkansas with Volunteers in Service to America and spent 25 years as a television news researcher, writer, producer, and assignment editor in Arkansas, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington. She has published a number of mysteries and lives in Vancouver, Washington, with her husband, radio air personality Mike Phillips, and a motley collection of pets. Surf to for more information.


For generations only a few families held title to land in the isolated Catskill Mountain community of Hemlock Lake. But with the turning of the century one man, lured by easy money, sells his inheritance to a developer of luxury homes. As the contractor bulldozes farmland and forest, neighbors cry environmental rape, and someone threatens to burn what is built.

Hoping to stop the arsonist, but tormented by personal demons, Sergeant Dan Stone reluctantly returns to his family home on the shores of the lake. The previous autumn his wife died in its dark waters and his brother put a bullet in his brain. That tragedy sent Dan’s father drifting toward death.

Isolated by his pain, Dan is thrust into the no man’s land between newcomers and long-time residents who stonewall his investigation into threats, graffiti, theft, and a blaze that nearly kills the construction foreman. Townspeople blame outsiders, eco-terrorists, a ragged tramp haunting the woods and the mysterious creator of rock cairns that often mark the sites of crimes to come. But as summer sizzles on, the arsonist turns killer, and Dan suspects it’s someone he knows well: a firefighter, a long-time friend, or a woman with a killing in her past.


The SUV rocked onto two wheels as I took a sharp curve below Bobcat Hollow at fifty miles an hour. As I fought the wheel, I saw something shift beneath the jacket I’d flung across the passenger seat. Unconsciously I reached for it. One edge of the jacket rose. I jerked my hand back. An ugly triangular head appeared. Two eyes glittered in the green light from the dashboard. A muffled buzzing swirled around me.


I jerked my right hand from the wheel, wedged my body tight against the door. The SUV heeled out of the turn and onto a straightaway. The snake’s head bobbed. Its tongue flicked out, sampling the air. The roof of my mouth grew hot with the taste of nickel.

Get out! My mind screamed instructions to my body. Take your foot off the gas. Release the seatbelt. Flip back the door latch. Roll free.

I raised my foot from the gas pedal. I drew my right hand toward the seatbelt release.

The snake buzzed and shrugged off the jacket. Its head swayed inches from my hand.

I froze. Seconds drifted by like snowflakes. If I moved suddenly, the snake would strike. And then what? What would I do once the venom was in my bloodstream? My mind tobogganed through my options.

Call for help. But what if the cell phone didn’t work? Drive to the nearest house. But that house was a mile away. Too far to walk if the snake hit me close to the heart. I needed wheels, couldn’t take a chance on leaping out and letting my rig crash.

I shuddered. The snake drew its thick body into a tight coil. I checked the speedometer. Thirty-five and dropping. The road started downhill soon, took another sharp turn at Silver Leaf Hollow. I’d pick up speed, have to downshift or brake to make that turn.

If I reached for the stick shift the snake would strike for sure.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Authrosday - Katie Hines

Today I put author Katie Hines under the microscope.

1. When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

Well, I have written on and off since I was a child. I remember thinking writing was cool, but the only kind of writing that paid was journalism that I knew of. I’m not sure who I thought wrote all the books I’ve read! I journaled extensively in my early 20s, but it wasn’t until I found something lacking in my life that I actively pursued writing.

2. How did you pick the genre you write in?

I am a long time fantasy lover, so fantasy elements seemed natural in my first book, “Guardian.”

3. Do you plot or do you write by the seat of your pants?

I did some plotting. Mostly I knew where I was going to end up, so I’d plot a little, brainstorm some, write, plot some more.

4. Did you encounter any obstacles in researching it?

Researching for “Guardian” was pretty easy. I read what I could online, but I also bought about 6-7 different books that related to my story in one way or another. I was also fortunate to find people who knew people...that had answers to many of my questions.

5. What do you know now that you are published that you didn’t know pre-published that you wish you knew?

That marketing is a lot harder than it sounds, and you MUST have a solid marketing plan in place before your book comes out, and be willing to dig your heels in and work hard on it.

6. How many rejections have you received?


7. What was the best writing advice someone gave you?

To persevere. To him that persevereth comes the reward of being published!

8. Why did you pick the publisher that ultimately published your book?

While I was writing my book, I would periodically come across publishers who I thought would be interested in my book. I kept a file, and when I was ready to submit my book, I sorted through the file and pulled publishers in order of who I thought was most likely to publish my book. Then I sent out three query letters, and my book was picked up by the third.

9. Who is your greatest cheerleader?

Without a doubt it is my husband. He is the one who encouraged me to write in the first place. To be honest, I was at a place in my life where I was bored and unchallenged. He encouraged me to take my journals and fashion a memoir, which I did. It was truly awful, but was the springboard to learning about creative writing and actually writing a book myself.

10. What would you like to learn to do that you haven’t?

More about specifics of marketing.

Author Bio: Katie Hines put writing away for a time to raise children, but came back to it in her late 40s. Since that time, she has written and published, “Guardian,” and is working on 2 chapter books, one ya novel, and another middle grade novel.

Book Blurb:

Imagine you have made a secret promise that can lead you to an incredible treasure and an ancient power. But in order to fulfill that promise, you must defeat an age-old sect determined to claim the treasure and power themselves.

Thanks for joining me today Katie!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Recipe Wednesday - K.J. Roberts

Chicken and Rice Stuffed Peppers

This recipe always makes me think of football. Sounds crazy, but my two favorite players are Jerry Rice and Julius Peppers. (LOL from Chris)

I picked this recipe to share because…well, my hubby told me it was my best dish. I apologize upfront that this is not a simple, quick fix, but it is well worth the effort. It’s great if you’re looking for a unique dish on a special day. But it taste great anytime.  

1  tablespoon margarine or butter
1/2  cup finely chopped celery
1  10-3/4-ounce can condensed cream of mushroom soup ( you can use the reduced-fat and reduced-sodium if you want, makes no difference)
1  cup water or chicken broth
1  single-serving-size envelope instant onion soup mix
4  cups cubed cooked chicken (I use canned chicken to make it easier)
3  cups hot cooked rice (I use the boxed rice with some form of flavoring, not plain white)
5  large red sweet peppers (you can use any color you want, but I like the red ones best)  
1  teaspoon lemon-pepper seasoning
1-1/4  cups shredded cheddar cheese (5 ounces)

1. Cook rice according to package.
2. Melt margarine or butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add celery and cook about 5 minutes or until tender.
3. Stir in condensed mushroom soup, water or broth, and onion soup mix. Heat until bubbly. Stir in chicken, heat through. Stir in prepared rice and remove from heat.
3. Halve peppers lengthwise; remove stems, seeds, and membranes. Place pepper halves, cut sides up, in a large shallow baking or roasting pan. (This can be done while rice is simmering.) Divide chicken mixture among the pepper halves. Sprinkle with lemon-pepper seasoning.
4. Bake peppers, loosely covered with foil, in a 350 degree F oven about 45 minutes or until heated through. Top with cheese. Bake, uncovered, about 5 minutes more or until cheese is just melted.

PIECES OF THE STAR Blurb: Ex-cop and brain tumor survivor, Vincent Maxwell has been recalled for a special assignment: Capture a killer. With no obvious common links or clues, Maxwell must work fast before another body turns up. What he discovers suggest more than his reputation is at stake. Wrapped up in an unbelievable world of superpowers, he’s dragged in deeper with a connection he never thought possible. Can he use the information to his advantage and stop the killer? Or will death strike before he finds answers?

Bio: Country girl born and raised, KJ Roberts has been writing for longer than she can remember. It’s a natural part of life to her.

Indiana native, her stories are usually set in the Hoosier state. After a ten year stent in the military, she moved to Mississippi with her husband and two kids. She loves reading, listening to her son play guitar and watching her daughter dance. 

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Recipe Wednesday - Nancy Lynn Jarvis

Nancy Lynn Jarvis has been a Santa Cruz, California, Realtor® for more than twenty years.

After earning a BA in behavioral science from San Jose State University, she worked in the advertising department of the San Jose Mercury News.  A move to Santa Cruz meant a new job as a librarian and later a stint as the business manager of Shakespeare/Santa Cruz.
Nancy’s work history reflects her philosophy: people should try something radically different every few years. Writing is her newest adventure.
 Details and ideas for Nancy’s Regan McHenry Mysteries come from Nancy’s own experiences.

Regan's recipe for keep-in-your-freezer dough features a
mystery ingredient that makes her cookies especially good.
See if your friends can "detect" it.

Cream together until light and fluffy:
    1 cup butter
    3/4 cup light brown sugar
    3/4 cup granulated sugar
    2 eggs
    1 1/2 t vanilla
    1 t baking soda
    1 t habanero chili oil *
    1 t cinnamon
Mix well.
    2 1/4 cups flour
Mix again until well blended.
Stir in:
    18 ounces chocolate chips *
    2 cups rolled oats or oatmeal

Drop by generous spoonfuls onto an ungreased cookie sheet.
Bake at 350ยบ for between 12 and 15 minutes, depending on
 Size of the cookies. Cool before removing from the cookie sheet.
*Regan uses Coeur D'Olives Habanero Oil and Trader Joe's Chocolate Chips, but you may substitute your favorites.
Read the first chapters of books in the Regan McHenry Mystery Series at

Authorsday- Margot Justes

 Born in Poland, Margot Justes has lived in some of the world's most wonderful places, including Israel, France and South Africa. Currently living in the Midwest, she has taken her love of art and travel and cultivated it into unique settings and stories for her writing.
In 2007, she received a contract for her first novel A Hotel in Paris, published in 2008. Margot has just finished her second novel, A Hotel in Bath and is currently working on a novel set in Venice, Italy. In addition to working on her novels, she recently completed a novella, A Fire Within, short stories in The Heat of the Moment and Missing anthologies and travel articles on Paris, France and Bath, England.
Active within a number of writers' communities, Margot is a member of Romance Writers of America and Sisters in Crime and has served on the board of the Chicago Chapters of both organizations. 

What drew you to the subject of A Hotel in Paris?

I love to travel and I love art-very broad topics-but relevant to my life. I find going to a museum, a gallery, an art fair to be therapeutic. Travel allows me to learn about different cultures, attitudes and life styles. So, I combined art and travel, gave my heroine the talent I wish I’d possessed, and Minola Grey was born. As the song goes, I love Paris. I lived there many years ago and it has always captivated-maybe a better word would be possessed me-the city has everything to offer, from art to romance and everything in between, a perfect place for a romantic suspense story, and because I lived in a hotel for a while, the title was easy, A Hotel in Paris.

It was meant to be a straight mystery, but once the characters met, a spark between Peter Riley and Minola Grey ignited and no matter what I did, the chemistry followed them, and voila, they had their romance and my book became a romantic suspense tale.

What was the best advice someone gave you?

Not to follow the current trend, but write what I love, because by the time the book is finished, there will be a new genre du jour. Today it’s zombies, vampires and shape shifters, tomorrow something entirely new.

What authors do you admire?

I love mysteries and to me the mistress of the genre was Dorothy Sayers, elegant in her style, her prose exquisite and romantic. Yes, romantic. Lord Peter Wimsey is the quintessential romantic hero and the books that include Harriet Vane and Lord Peter were pure romantic magic. I love Anne Perry, Sharan Newman, Conan Doyle, Gyles Brandreth, Elizabeth Peters, Oscar Wilde to name just a few. Since my introduction to the romance and paranormal genres I enjoy Kat Richardson, read Nora Roberts and many of the Regency writers, because I wanted a modern heroine but with a certain innocent perspective in a contemporary setting. I consider Minola Grey a transplanted regency heroine. Christine Feehan created a marvelous Carpathian world with strong alpha males and female characters. I better stop, this could be a book in itself. I love to read.

What place that you haven’t visited would you like to go to?”

Did I mention I love to travel? Egypt and Australia have been on my list for many years, decades in fact. I’m planning a cruise in 2011 with friends that will take me to Italy, Egypt, Turkey, and Israel. Australia is on the horizon for 2013. As I get older, I promised myself a serious trip a year. This year it’s a cruise to the Mexican Riviera and later in the year hopefully either Rio or Istanbul.

What other time period besides your own would you like to experience?

Since my introduction to romance novels, the regency period is intriguing, but only if I’m wealthy, young, beautiful, intelligent and independent; as long as I’m dreaming, I’m going to make it perfect.

Where do you write?

I’m very lucky, I have an office in my home. No phone, no TV, just shelves filled with books, a comfy couch, a desk, my computer and a few pieces of art hanging on the walls. Right next to my computer I have a print of the Royal Crescent I bought when I was in Bath, that drawing is my muse for book two, A Hotel in Bath, which I just finished. I didn’t think I would use the couch as much as I do, but more often than not, I write my dialog long-hand sitting on the couch.

What was the hardest scene to write?

The passionate and sexy scenes. I wanted it to be sensual and significant but I didn't want to drag it out and make it too long. I also needed to include some dialog because I think some verbal communication is very important during intimate moments. For me that was the toughest thing to learn about writing romance. 

What was your favorite scene to write?

The time Minola and Peter spent at the Rodin Museum. When I lived in Paris, I spent a great deal of time there, and to this day it is my favorite.  The museum used to be Rodin's home and once you're inside you feel as if he's never left. His work  is everywhere, the Kiss, the Hand of God, all beautifully situated. The home never lost that feeling of being lived in, that sense of comfort.

Outside, the gardens play host to the Gates of Hell, the Thinker, Balzac, the Burghers of Calais and so many other magnificent pieces. There is even a cafe, where you can sit and enjoy a cup of coffee; a stunning setting and the coffee is fantastic. I also happen to love good coffee.

If you have a day job, what is it?

I work in H/R for a major company and writing is pure therapy. I had the proverbial tough day in the office, came home and wanted a total escape from reality. The quote from A Tale of Two Cities came to mind, ‘it was the best of times, it was the worst of times’ that is how I felt at that precise moment, I took out a pad and started writing. A Hotel in Paris is the first thing I have ever written.

What is your favorite quote?

Oscar Wilde is very quotable; “Every portrait that is painted with feeling is a portrait of the artist, not the sitter.” That quote appears in A Hotel in Paris.
As a writer, this is my favorite one; “I was working on the proof of one of my poems all the morning, and took out a comma. In the afternoon I put it back again."

Chris, thank you for the opportunity to promote A Hotel in Paris.

Margot Justes

Monday, July 12, 2010

ExcerpTuesday - Margaret Tanner

Margaret Tanner is an award winning multi-published Australian author. She loves delving into the pages of history as she carries out research for her historical romance novels, and prides herself on being historically correct.  Her publishers are Whiskey Creek Press and The Wild Rose Press.

Margaret is a member of the Romance Writers of Australia, the Melbourne Romance Writers Group (MRWG) and EPIC.  Her novel The Trouble With Playboys came 3rd in the historical romance section of this years Preditors & Editors poll.

Margaret is married and has three grown up sons, and a gorgeous little granddaughter.
Outside of her family and friends, writing is her passion.

BLURB: Only in the new world can a highborn young Englishwoman and a tough frontier man, ignite the passion that will fulfil their hopes and dreams in ways they never imagined possible.

Tommy Lindsay arrives in colonial Australia to claim the rundown farm she and her brothers have inherited.

Hidden behind her fragile English rose beauty, beats the heart of a courageous young woman. She will need all this strength to survive the unforgiving heat, and the dangers lurking around every corner.  Lost in the bush, capture by a feral mountain family, raging bushfires are nothing, compared to the danger she faces if she gives her heart to Adam Munro.

Adam Munro, a rugged frontier man, has no room in his heart to love a woman.  All he ever wanted was a presentable wife who would provide him with heirs.   He didn’t need passion in his life, not until he met the beautiful English rose living next door to him.

“North Eastern Victoria, Australia - 1879
Tommy Lindsay wiped her damp forehead with a lace handkerchief. Perspiration ran in rivulets between her breasts, pooling at the waistband of her gown and leaving a damp patch. She coughed a couple of times to clear the dust clogging up her throat.
“I don’t like it here.” Her little brother, Jamie, kicked one of the leather sea trunks and she was tempted to join him. “Why doesn’t someone come?”
A few boxes and trunks stacked on the hotel verandah held all her possessions and those of her two brothers. Just thinking about how the once proud Lindsay family had been reduced to such pernicious circumstances caused tears to build up at the back of her eyes. She wouldn’t cry. She couldn’t afford such a luxury, not with a young brother and a sick older brother to worry about. She had to be strong, resolute.
Warrior, a thoroughbred black stallion, stomped and snorted restlessly.
“Easy, boy.” David patted the stallion's glistening neck. “How much longer do we have to hang around, Tommy?”
“I don't know.” Her voice trembled even though she fought to control it. “Uncle Henry’s lawyer said someone would take us to the farm. Do you think he might have forgotten? Maybe he got the days mixed up?”
Sick dread washed over her. Oh, God, what if this desperate undertaking of theirs failed? It was sheer madness sailing thousands of miles across the sea to start a new life in an alien, hostile country, but what other choice did they have?
“Sorry for being so grouchy but my leg is aching, makes me irritable.” David grimaced as he rubbed his thigh.
His skin looked even more ashen than usual. Perspiration beaded his upper lip, not entirely caused by the fierce Australian sun searing them from a cobalt blue sky.
One glance at them and anyone who wasn’t blind would pick them out as newly arrived immigrants. Their skin was pale, not just because they were blue-eyed blondes, but they came from England’s gentle, temperate climate. David once felt the burning South African sun, but his tan had long since faded beneath the pallor of prolonged illness.
“I'm hungry.” Jamie’s bottom lip quivered.
“Someone will come soon,” Tommy reassured him.
“Why don't they hurry up?” He scuffed his boot across the verandah boards and tugged at the swathe of corn-colored hair flopping across his forehead.
A tall, slim young man sauntered up to them. “Are you the Lindsays?”

Frontier Wife is published by The Wild Rose Press

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Recipe Wednesday - Donna Fletcher Crow's Proper English Tea

A Proper Tea Party

Since I’m celebrating the UK release of A Very Private Grave set in England, let’s do the family thing and celebrate with them by having a proper English tea party. And then we can spend the rest of the afternoon reading a ripping good murder mystery.

English Scones

3 2/3 cups flour

1/3 cup sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ cup cold butter

1 ¼ cups milk (+ 2 tablespoons if needed to make soft dough)

1/3 cup currants or golden raisins

1 egg, beaten (for topping)

Sugar to sprinkle
Place flour, sugar and baking powder in blender, pulse to mix. With blender running, add butter in chunks until mixture resembles coarse meal. Pour in milk and blend until dough forms a ball. Add raisins or currants if desired.
Turn out on floured surface and knead a few times. Pat into a thick disc, about 1 ½ inches thick. Cut into circles with biscuit cutter. Brush with beaten egg and sprinkle with sugar. Bake 400 degrees for approximately 15 minutes. Scones should be just light gold, not brown. They need to be still a bit moist in the center.
To serve, split in half with fork, butter, spread with strawberry jam or orange marmalade or lemon curd. Pile clotted cream or unsweetened whipped cream as high as possible.
Serve with properly brewed hot tea: Warm teapot. Pour boiling water over tea leaves (1 teaspoon leaves per person). Allow to steep 3-5 minutes. Pour into china cups through a strainer. Offer sugar and cold milk. Use a good black tea such as Twinings English Breakfast. Typhoo or Yorkshire Gold if you can get it. No fruity flavors. No bags. Who me? Fanatical? Never.

Felicity Howard, a young American woman studying for the Anglican priesthood at the College of the Transfiguration in Yorkshire, is devastated when she finds her beloved Fr. Dominic brutally murdered and Fr. Antony, her church history lecturer, soaked in his blood.

A Very Private Grave is a contemporary novel with a thoroughly modern heroine who must learn some ancient truths in order to solve the mystery and save her own life as she and Fr. Antony flee a murderer and follow clues that take them to out-of-the way sites in northern England and southern Scotland. The narrative skillfully mixes detection, intellectual puzzles, spiritual aspiration, romance, and the solving of clues ancient and modern.

“With a bludgeoned body in Chapter 1, and a pair of intrepid amateur sleuths, A Very Private Grave qualifies as a traditional mystery. But this is no mere formulaic whodunit: it is a Knickerbocker Glory of a thriller. At its centre is a sweeping, page-turning quest – in the steps of St Cuthbert – through the atmospherically-depicted North of England, served up with dollops of Church history and lashings of romance. In this novel, Donna Fletcher Crow has created her own niche within the genre of clerical mysteries.” – Kate Charles, author of Deep Waters

Author Bio

Donna Fletcher Crow is the author of 35 books, mostly novels dealing with British history. The award-winning GLASTONBURY, The Novel of Christian England is her best-known work, an Arthurian grail search epic covering 15 centuries of English history. A VERY PRIVATE GRAVE, book 1 in the Monastery Murders series is her reentry into publishing after a 10 year hiatus. THE SHADOW OF REALITY, a romantic intrigue will be published later this summer.

Donna and her husband have 4 adult children and 10 grandchildren. She is an enthusiastic gardener and you can see pictures of her garden, watch the trailer for A VERY PRIVATE GRAVE, and read her international blog at

Monday, July 5, 2010

ExcerpTuesday -It's Murder My Son

Lauren Carr shares a piece of her latest It's Murder, My Son.

Descriptive Blurb: It’s Murder, My Son

What started out as the worst day of Mac Faraday’s life would end up being a new beginning. After a messy divorce hearing, the last person that Mac wanted to see was another lawyer. Yet, this lawyer wore the expression of a child bursting to tell his secret. This covert would reveal Mac as heir to undreamed of fortunes, and lead him to the birthplace of America’s Queen of Mystery and an investigation that will unfold like one of her famous mystery novels.

Excerpt: It’s Murder, My Son

The sitcom was senseless. That didn’t matter. Katrina was too tense to handle anything with depth. The hot bath and martini had failed to soothe her nerves. She ran the water until steam filled the master bathroom.

The weather channel had predicted that the severe winter storm would hit around midnight and continue through the next day. Spotting storm clouds on the horizon, Katrina anticipated waking to white-out conditions. Buried in a thick white blanket would be her last memory of Deep Creek Lake.

After a long soak in the tub, Katrina slipped into her red silk bathrobe and combed out her long black hair. Tenderly, she rubbed the most expensive anti-aging moisturizer over each inch of her olive flesh.

Her beauty had earned her millions. That made it worth preserving at all costs.

Time for a third martini before bed. She wondered if she would hear from her husband before she fell asleep. He had told her that he would be working late in the city.

Like I don’t know what you’ve been working late on. Go ahead. Get snowed in with Rachel for Valentine’s Day. Enjoy it while you can.

After completing her nightly beauty routine, she returned downstairs to the home theater where she got sucked into a verbal exchange between a husband and wife about their teen-age son’s sexy girlfriend.

A noise outside made her jump out of the recliner.

She glanced at the clock.

Almost nine. Could Chad have decided to come out when I mentioned my appointment with the divorce lawyer? Maybe he does love my money more than he loves Rachel.

She listened. Nothing except the wind signaling the blizzard’s approach.

Maybe I should call David? No. It wouldn’t look good if Chad found him here. He’s already suspicious.

The German shepherd began scratching at the back door.

Not again, you damn dog! When you aren’t wanting out or in, you’re digging up the back yard.

With a groan, she pulled herself out of the recliner and let the dog out onto the patio. As long as she was up, she poured herself another martini and admired her reflection in the mirror behind the bar before returning to her seat for another sitcom.

Her mind sucked in by the television, Katrina was un-prepared to fight when her killer attacked and pinned her down by her throat.

“Did you really think I was going to let you leave?” she heard through the roar in her ears while gasping her last breath.

A most unusual and surprising plot, intriguing characters, snappy dialogue, great settings and a dog named Gnarly are the prime ingredients in Lauren Carr's terrific new mystery, It's Murder, My Son. --F.M. Meredith, author of An Axe to Grind.

With it's tight plot, well-crafted and believable characters, and complex mystery, It's Murder My Son is a thoroughly enjoyable read. I look forward to many more Mac Faraday mysteries. -- John J. Lamb, author of the Bear Collector Mysteries

Author Bio: Lauren Carr

Lauren Carr fell in love with mysteries when her mother read Perry Mason to her at bedtime. The first installment in the Joshua Thornton mysteries, A Small Case of Murder was named a finalist for the Independent Publisher Book Award 2005. Her second book in the Joshua Thornton series, A Reunion to Die For was released in June 2007. Her new series, The Mac Faraday Mysteries, is set in Deep Creek Lake, Maryland, where she and her family often vacation. She lives with her husband, son, and two dogs on a mountain in Harpers Ferry, WV.