Fresh Pick | MARKED by Sarah Fine

Fresh Pick for Thursday, August 20th, 2015 is MARKED by Sarah Fine

#SupernaturalThursday


47North
January 2015
On Sale: January 1, 2015
332 pages
ISBN: 1477825851
EAN: 9781477825853
Kindle: B00K8EM26S
Paperback / e-Book
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Paranormal – Supernatural, Fantasy

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Powell’s Books
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Sarah Fine
Marked
by Sarah Fine

In a broken landscape carved by environmental collapse, Boston paramedic Cacia Ferry risks life and limb on the front lines of a fragile and dangerous city. What most don’t know—including her sexy new partner, Eli Margolis—is that while Cacy works to save lives, she has another job ferrying the dead to the Afterlife.

Once humans are “Marked” by Fate, the powerful Ferrys are called to escort the vulnerable souls to either eternal bliss or unending fire and pain.

Unaware of Cacy’s other life, Eli finds himself as mesmerized by his fierce and beautiful partner as he is mistrustful of the influential Ferry clan led by the Charon—who happens to be Cacy’s father. Cacy, in turn, can no longer deny her intense attraction to the mysterious ex-Ranger with a haunted past.

But just as their relationship heats up, an apparent hit takes the Charon before his time. Shaken to the core, Cacy pursues the rogue element who has seized the reins of Fate, only to discover that Eli has a devastating secret of his own.

Not knowing whom to trust, what will Cacy have to sacrifice to protect Eli—and to make sure humanity’s future is secure?

One of the best new science fiction novels in a long time!

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Fresh Pick | COUNTESS BY COINCIDENCE by Cheryl Bolen

Fresh Pick for Tuesday, July 21st, 2015 is COUNTESS BY COINCIDENCE by Cheryl Bolen

#WhatsNewTuesday sometimes the best-laid plans go awry in a delightful way

House of Haverstock #3
Harper & Appleton
July 2015
On Sale: July 7, 2015
276 pages
ISBN: 193960236X
EAN: 2940151246194
Kindle: B00YTISP60
Paperback / e-Book
Romance Historical

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Cheryl BolenCountess by Coincidence
by Cheryl Bolen

To extricate himself from financial difficulties, John Beauclerc, the Earl of Finchley, concocts a scheme to marry a stranger who’s answered his advertisement.

He’ll show his grandmother! That lady’s withholding money until he can demonstrate more maturity and less scandalous behavior. At six and twenty, the last thing he wants is to settle down. He goes to the church at St. George’s Hanover Square to wed Miss Margaret Ponsby of Windsor, send her on her way with £100, and continue to pursue wine, women and faro with his fun-seeking friends.

After the ceremony, he realizes he’s married the wrong woman. Miss Margaret Ponsby of Windsor obviously thought the wedding was to occur at St. George’s Chapel in Windsor. Lady Margaret Ponsby was at St. George’s in London. How can he extricate himself from this wretched marriage—a marriage over which his grandmother is ecstatic? If only Lady Margaret Ponsby weren’t so shy.

When the lanky young (though most disreputable) earl she’s worshipped from afar for as long as she could remember asks her to move to the church’s altar with him, she’s powerless to decline. Even after a wedding ceremony begins, she still remains mute. She must be standing in for Lord Finchley’s true bride. But once she realizes she really is married to Lord Finchley, she determines to do everything in her power to make this a dream marriage. Even if it means imitating her clever, talkative sister.

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Chelsea Fine | Release Day for RIGHT KIND OF WRONG

Chelsea FineRIGHT KIND OF WRONGIt’s release day for the paperback edition of Chelsea Fine’s RIGHT KIND OF WRONG, and we’re celebrating with a tease…

Excerpt from RIGHT KIND OF WRONG

Opening my car door, I slide into the driver’s seat, turn to put the key in the ignition and—

“Ahh!” Jumping back, I thwack my open palm against the gigantic body of pure muscle seated in the passenger seat. “Dammit, Jack! You scared me!”

“Good morning.” He grins.

“What are you doing in my car?” I snap, throwing him some serious stink eye.

“I’m going with you to Louisiana.” He nods to a large duffle bag in the backseat.

I blink. “Uh, no you’re not.”

“Uh, yes I am.”

“Like hell.”

He crinkles his brow. “I’ve never understood that phrase. But okay. I’ll go with you ‘like hell,’ whatever that means.”

“Get out of my car.” I point to the door.

“Oh, Jenna.” He clucks his tongue. “This will be good for both of us. Listen.” He casually leans against the passenger window and pierces me with his gray eyes. “For reasons beyond my control, I need to go back home. And for reasons beyond your control, so do you. And since our ‘homes’ are right next door to one another, I figured we’d carpool to Louisiana and you can just drop me off at Little Vail on your way to New Orleans.”

He gives me that little-boy smile of his and it’s all I can do not to lean forward and soak it in. I hate me.

“I don’t see how that’s good for me,” I say. “At all.”

He shrugs. “You get some company on the road.”

I nod with a clenched jaw. “And you get a free ride.”

His smile grows and I instantly realize that was the wrong thing to say.

“Precisely,” he says.

I can’t afford to spend any excessive time with Jack. Not just because we fight, but because of what happened last year. It was one crazy night when we were both drunk, and we never spoke of it after the fact, but our “friendship” has been tense ever since.

“Well, I don’t need any company,” I say, shaking my head.

“Sure you do,” he says easily. “Everyone needs company.”

“Not me. So get out.”

He grins. “No.”

God I hate him. But not really.

God I hate that I don’t hate him.

I jut my chin and stare him over. “Fine. If you won’t remove yourself…” Exiting the car, I stomp around the hood to his door, yank it open, and wrap my hands around his bicep. Then I start pulling.

He doesn’t budge. Like, he literally doesn’t move an inch as I tug at his oversized arm and grunt like I’m trying to move a massive piece of hardwood furniture and not a human being.

His eyes dance as he watches my struggle. “What’s your plan here, Jenna? Haul me out of the car and leave me in the street?”

“Sounds good to me.”

“Well, that doesn’t sound friendly at all,” he says, flicking the lever to recline to seat a bit so he looks even more relaxed than before.

“I wasn’t trying to be friendly,” I grit out.

“Clearly.”

I try pulling him out again, to no avail. He’s giant and solid, and honestly, just touching him is turning me on.

I drop my hands and glower at him. “You can’t just tell me that you’re coming along on my road trip.”

He cocks his head. “Would you feel better if I asked?”

“Not especially.”

“Jenna.” He leans forward and his gaze bores through me, down into the deepest parts of my being. “Will you please let me join you on your trip to Louisiana?”

For a moment, I’m lost in his eyes, debating with myself. I don’t trust myself around Jack. Not at all. But I did spend half the night tossing in my sleep with nightmares about traveling alone so maybe having Jack tag along might not be so bad after all. Maybe.

Pulling back, I straighten my shoulders and relent, like usual when it comes to Jack.

“Fine,” I huff out as I stomp back to my side of the car in climb in. “But no talking,” I say, hoping I haven’t just made a huge mistake.

He grins and I turn away.

Surely I can manage to keep my panties on around Jack for a few days…right?

About RIGHT KIND OF WRONG

Sometimes wrong can feel oh so right . . .

Jenna Lacombe needs complete control, whether it’s in the streets . . . or between the sheets. So when she sets out on a solo road trip to visit her family in New Orleans, she’s beyond annoyed that the infuriatingly sexy Jack Oliver wants to hitch a ride with her. Ever since they shared a wild night together last year, he’s been trying to strip away her defenses one by one. He claims he’s just coming along to keep her safe-but what’s not safe for her is prolonged exposure to the tattooed hottie.

Jack can’t get Jenna out from under his skin. She makes him feel alive again after his old life nearly destroyed him-and losing her is not an option. Now Jack’s troubles are catching up to him, and he’s forced to return to his hometown in Louisiana. But when his secrets put them both in harm’s way, Jenna will have to figure out how far she’s willing to let love in . . . and how much she already has.

About Chelsea Fine

Chelsea lives in Phoenix, Arizona, where she spends most of her time writing stories, painting murals, and avoiding housework at all costs. She’s ridiculously bad at doing dishes and claims to be allergic to laundry. Her obsessions include: superheroes, coffee, sleeping-in, and crazy socks. She lives with her husband and two children, who graciously tolerate her inability to resist teenage drama on TV and her complete lack of skill in the kitchen.

RKOW-Launch-Day-Blitz

Fran Stewart | How to Write a Ghost

Fran StewartA WEE MURDER IN MY SHOPI’ve written elsewhere about the first time I ever saw a ghost, but the ghosts I used as inspiration for Dirk, the 14th-century Scotsman who is—somehow—attached to a shawl Peggy Winn buys while visiting Scotland, appeared to my sight in the 1980s.

It was my first visit to London. I wandered the streets alone, map in hand, soaking up atmosphere, imagination, history, and myth, and enjoying the unusually mild weather that particular January.

Naturally, I went to the Tower of London. The oldest part of that imposing structure, as I’m sure you know, is the White Tower, now set up as a museum for armory. I wandered only briefly through the various floors; I’m not much of an aficionado where old weaponry is concerned, and I admit to be slightly overwhelmed by the sheer number of items in each display.

One of the circular staircases in one corner of the White Tower is designated as the “up” staircase for tourists. After you’ve seen the myriad breastplates and spears and helmets, it’s time to head to a different corner of the building for the “down” staircase. This traffic flow pattern makes a good deal of sense, because there’s no way groups headed up could pass safely by people headed down.

I was headed down. As you can see in this stock photo I found on the Internet, the wooden treads are wide at the outer end of each step, narrower at the center of the circle.

There were landings at the door to each floor of the White Tower and, where the stairs curved to the outer edge of the turret, a landing where one could look out a wide slit to see the courtyard below.

I was alone on the staircase. Completely alone. Above me, I heard a woman—I knew it was a woman because of the faint rustle of fabric. She was running down the stairs. Her steps were light, but her pace was break-neck. Not wanting to be bowled over by her enthusiasm, I stopped, grabbed the railing, shifted quickly to my right, to the widest part of the stair, and turned sideways, to take up as little space on the stair as possible.

I looked up to my left. A woman wearing a full-skirted green dress, with a touch of white at her throat, skipped into view. Her hair was a dark brown, tied back away from her face with a green ribbon. Behind her, through her, I could see the stones of the wall.

She hurried past me, and her skirts must have passed through me, although I didn’t feel them. She paused at the landing a few steps below me, leaned out through the opening in the thick wall, looked down, and laughed. It was such light-hearted sound, I felt unaccountably happy for her. Then she ran farther down the stairs and I lost sight of her.

This stock picture will give you an idea of the thickness of the wall.

I hurried down to the opening, placed my hands where hers had been, and looked outside. In the courtyard stood a young man.

His shirt was white; his short coat was of a rust-colored fabric, and the sleeves bloused out. He wore a dagger through his belt. He had a rusty-orange hat slouched on his head, and curly brown hair. And he was grinning, looking up to the window where his ladylove—she must have been that—had been only a moment before.

As I watched, two modern-day nuns dressed in tidy black dresses, trim caps, and sensible shoes, walked across the stones of the courtyard, right through where the young man stood. And he dissolved from view.

I wish I’d found a beefeater, one of the scarlet-clad guards of the Tower, and asked if anyone else had ever reported having seen those particular two ghosts. But I didn’t. I wish I’d had a camera with me so I could have photographed the exact window slit I’d looked through. But I didn’t.

Still, the image is crystal clear in my memory, and it served as a perfect inspiration for Dirk Farquharson, the 14th-century ghost who befriends 21st-century Peggy Winn. When she first meets him in A WEE MURDER IN MY SHOP, she watches a bird fly across the meadow behind Dirk—but she sees the bird through him. I know it’s possible.

So, let me ask this: have you ever seen a ghost? Let’s have tea sometime and talk about it.

About Fran Stewart

Fran Stewart is the author of the Biscuit McKee Mysteries – GRAY AS ASHES is the seventh book in that series – as well as a standalone mystery A SLAYING SONG TONIGHT, about a Depression-era serial killer whose favorite song is Jingle Bells. Her new ScotShop Mystery Series from Berkley Press begins with A WEE MURDER IN MY SHOP.

Fran lives quietly with various rescued cats beside a creek on the other side of Hog Mountain, Georgia.

She sings alto with a community chorus and volunteers at her grandchildren’s school library. She is a member of Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America.

About A WEE MURDER IN MY SHOP

Hamelin, Vermont, isn’t the most likely place for bagpipes and tartan, but at Peggy Winn’s ScotShop, business is booming…

While on a transatlantic hunt for some authentic wares to sell at her shop, Peggy is looking to forget her troubles by digging through the hidden treasures of the Scottish Highlands. With so many enchanting items on sale, Peggy can’t resist buying a beautiful old tartan shawl. But once she wraps it around her shoulders, she discovers that her purchase comes with a hidden fee: the specter of a fourteenth-century Scotsman.

Unsure if her Highland fling was real or a product of an overactive imagination, Peggy returns home to Vermont—only to find the dead body of her ex-boyfriend on the floor of her shop. When the police chief arrests Peggy’s cousin based on some incriminating evidence, Peggy decides to ask her haunting Scottish companion to help figure out who really committed the crime—before anyone else gets kilt…

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Samantha Chase | Planning the Perfect Romance

Samantha ChaseRETURN TO YOUIn my newest romance RETURN TO ME, Selena’s love of event planning could really be put to the test by her love for James. She’s a list maker, a planner, but James has a way of catching her off-guard and messing up her best laid plans throughout the story!

But in a perfect world, if she could sit down at her desk and plan out how to win her man back, she’d have to really get creative. She’s already seen him and knows that she wants him back. He seems resistant – almost hostile – but she’s not willing to admit defeat. Her time is limited so she knows she’s going to have to act fast.

Step One: Invite James out for a late afternoon coffee date that could easily lead to dinner.

Step Two: Invite him back to hotel for an after-dinner drink. Being that you’re visiting from out of town, the hotel is still considered neutral territory. Have a dessert tray waiting in the room – along with a variety of beverages ranging from coffee to champagne.

Step Three: Music. Something soft and light and something preferably that would remind him of the time when they used to be in love.

Step Four: Lay it all on the line. Be willing to share exactly what you’re feeling and don’t let him leave until he’s heard everything you have to say.

Step Five: Kiss him. Kiss him until he fully understands how much he still means to you and pray that he kisses you back!

Of course any respectable list-maker would be sure to have a backup plan. She’d have a plan B just in case she’s feeling a little more practical:

Step One: Invite James out for coffee – it’s less intimidating than a meal. Present to him the reasons why it’s important for you to talk about what happened in the past.

Step Two: Agree to meet again the next day after you’ve both had a chance to digest everything that was said on the previous day.

Step Three: Meet for dinner at the diner – it’s loud and boisterous – and most people won’t notice if the conversation gets heated.

Step Four: Set up a follow up “date” after the dinner to test the waters

Step Five: Invite James to reunion and see if he is open to a long-distance relationship.

About RETURN TO YOU

She will never forget their past…

He can’t stop thinking about their future…

James Montgomery has achieved everything he’d hoped for in life…except marrying the girl of his dreams. After a terrible accident, Selena Ainsley left ten years ago. She took his heart with her and she’s never coming back. But it’s becoming harder and harder for him to forget their precious time together, and James can’t help but wonder what he would do if they could ever meet again.

About Samantha Chase

New York Times and USA Today Bestseller/contemporary romance writer Samantha Chase released her debut novel, Jordan’s Return, in November 2011. Although she waited until she was in her 40’s to publish for the first time, writing has been a lifelong passion. Her motivation to take that step was her students: teaching creative writing to elementary age students all the way up through high school and encouraging those students to follow their writing dreams gave Samantha the confidence to take that step as well.

When she’s not working on a new story, she spends her time reading contemporary romances, playing way too many games of Scrabble or Solitaire on Facebook and spending time with her husband of 25 years and their two sons in North Carolina.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads
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Tonya Burrows | Trail of the Plot Bunny

Tonya BurrowsBROKEN HONOREver wonder where a writer gets story ideas?

Short answer: Everywhere.

Long answer: More of everywhere.

For this post, I thought it’d be fun to give you a peek into the randomness that goes on in my mind. Be prepared to be amazed.  Or confounded. Horrified. Pick your adjective, any adjective.

So here we go. My thoughts as I ate dinner last night:

Ugh, dieting is hard. And expensive. No wonder rich people are usually skinny. They can afford to buy all fancy organic stuff. And they probably pay nutritionists to slap their hands when they try to eat ice cream.

That would kind of suck. I like ice cream.

I wonder if a nutritionist would slap my hand for these sweet potato fries. Probably. But do I care? Nope. Not at all. Take that celebrity nutritionists. Ha. Ha. Ha.

Hey, do those nutritionists also go grocery shopping for the celebrities? Or do celebrities go pick up their own milk and bread like everyone else? I didn’t see any celebs in the grocery store when I was in L.A. Buuuut it was like, ten o’clock at night and nobody but me goes grocery shopping that late. That’s why I go. I’m anti-social and want to run into as few people as possible, remember?

Yeah, but do like… Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt pack up their brood of kids and take them to the store? It’d be kinda weird to work as a bagger at a grocery store celebrities frequented. What if you had to bag Angelina Jolie’s tampons? That’s more information than I want to know about her. I bet that kind of personal info can be found on the deep web, put there by skeesy grocery store baggers. And, no, Tonya. You are not going to Google that. You get into enough trouble on Google.

Or, ew, what if Brangelina bought condoms and you had to bag those? You know they’re not gonna use them. Or maybe they will and just adopt more kids.

Man, those kids of theirs are lucky.  Just think of the lives they might have led in their home countries had they not been adopted. Instead of nutritionists monitoring everything they eat, they could have gone hungry. To go from nothing to everything like that…Wow. That’s powerful stuff. I should write that down. It’ll make a good story. Yeah, I can see a heroine adopted by a celebrity couple, and then when she grows up, she goes back to her home country for some humanitarian cause and gets caught up in all kinds of bad. And then my HORNET guys can swoop in and save the day in their usual bull dowser-y way. Of course, then one of them will have to fall in love with her, but which one…?

Crap. I’m out of sweet potato fries. Screw my non-exisitant nutritionist. I’m getting seconds.

And there you have it, folks. The birth of a plot bunny.

About BROKEN HONOR

Ice-cold and unbreakable, Travis Quinn is the HORNET team’s hard-ass. No weaknesses.

Except, of course, for the accident that not only destroyed his career as a Navy SEAL, but left terrifying blanks in his memory. But Travis remembers everything about Mara Escareno–the curve of her lips, the feel of her body…and how he walked out on her suddenly six weeks ago.

Mara could never resist the dangerously sexy Travis, which is probably how she ended up pregnant and disowned by her family.

But before Travis can fully process the news, Mara is kidnapped by his enemies and plunged into the violent, merciless world of human trafficking. They want Travis–and the information locked within his damaged memory–no matter the cost.

And now Travis’s enemies have discovered his only weakness…Mara.

About Tonya Burrows

Tonya Burrows wrote her first romance in 8th grade and hasn’t put down her pen since. Originally from a small town in Western New York, she’s currently soaking up the sun as a Florida girl. She suffers from a bad case of wanderlust and usually ends up moving someplace new every few years. Luckily, her two dogs and ginormous cat are excellent travel buddies.

When she’s not writing about hunky military heroes, Tonya can usually be found at a bookstore or the dog park. She also enjoys painting, watching movies, and her daily barre workouts. A geek at heart, she pledges her TV fandom to Supernatural and Dr. Who.

If you would like to know more about Tonya, visit her on her website, Twitter and Facebook.

Laurie Cass | Weird Writer Habits

Laurie CassBORROWED CRIMEThere are probably as many weird writer habits as there are writers. Well, more than that, really, because I know I have more than one weird habit and though I’m willing to bet everyone else does, too, we don’t have time to go into all of them, interesting as that might be. But we can make an effort, yes?

This particular author’s weirdnesses start with sitting in the car with my laptop to write because that’s the only place where I won’t be interrupted. And then there are the times I stare off into space with a completely blank look on my face because what’s going on inside my head is a lot more real than what’s going on in front of me.

My long suffering husband has grown so accustomed to this look that he can diagnose it in half a second. Sadly, it’s not uncommon for this to happen when we’re out for dinner with friends. I’ll see and hear things going on around me but they don’t sink into my brain because my brain is suddenly busy with working out a plotting problem. Someone will ask me, “Are you okay? You look a little funny,” and my husband will reply, “She’ll be back in a minute. She’s writing inside her head.”

Another weird thing is what I take away from reading the newspaper. Not so much the front page, because those articles are usually complete stories with all the questions answered, but the short things. The tidbits that leave you with a lot of questions. The reports from 911, the local law enforcement reports, and sometimes the obituaries. Why did someone break into a house and steal only the microwave and not the television? How did that person’s life start in England and end in a small town in northern Michigan? These are the things that can start a plot in a writer’s head, or at least start an idea that leads to another idea that ends up as part of a plot.

My memo pad is another odd writer thing. I carry a 3” x 5” spiral memo pad with me at all times and every day for the last umpteen years, I’ve written up a page. I started doing this way back before I was anywhere close to being published, hoping that the act of writing at least a little bit every day would make me more of a writer.

I have no idea if that actually worked, but a memo pad is now a part of my life and I would feel bereft without it. Sometimes I write a name that might be great for a future character. Sometimes I write dialogue, sometimes it’s a scrap of an idea for whatever book I’m working on, sometimes it’s a description of a person, place, or thing that just aches to be written down.

Every so often, though, I realize that it’s time for bed and I haven’t written a single thing in my memo pad. When that happens, I sit and think for a minute, then jot down a few thoughts or descriptions or impressions of whatever comes to mind. It doesn’t matter much what it is, as long as I fill the page with writing.

Because, in the end, that’s the most blatant, unashamed, and deliberate of all writer habits.

We write.

About BORROWED CRIME

Librarian Minnie Hamilton spreads the joy of reading throughout Chilson, Michigan, with her bookmobile, but she doesn’t ride alone. Her rescue cat, Eddie, and a group of volunteers are always on board to deliver cheer—until one of her helpers gets checked out for good…

When Minnie loses a grant that was supposed to keep the bookmobile running, she’s worried her pet project could come to its final page. But she’s determined to keep her patrons—and Eddie’s fans—happy and well read. She just needs her boss, Stephen to see things her way, and make sure he doesn’t see Eddie. The library director doesn’t exactly know about the bookmobile’s furry co-pilot.

But when a volunteer dies on the bookmobile’s route, Minnie finds her traveling library in an even more precarious position. Although the death was originally ruled a hunting accident, a growing stack of clues is pointing towards murder. It’s up to Minnie and Eddie to find the killer, and fast—before the best chapter of her life comes to a messy close…

About Laurie Cass

Laurie Cass grew up in Michigan and graduated from college in the 80’s with a (mostly unused) degree in geology. She turned to writing in the late nineties. After a number of years in management, she felt the need to move on and took a job with fewer responsibilities. A month later, she was dead bored and began to consider writing as a way to wake up her brain. She started reading a lot of books on writing and happened across a particular sentence: “What’s it going to be, reasons or results?”

The phrase practically stuck her in the eye. She printed it out, framed it, and put it next to her computer. “Reasons or results?” At the end of her life, was she going to have a pile of reasons for not having done anything? Or was she going to sit down and write a book? Once she started looking at it that way, the decision was easy. A short 13 years later, her first book was published.

Currently, Laurie and her husband share their house with two cats, the inestimable Eddie and the adorably cute Sinii. When Laurie isn’t writing, she’s working at her day job, reading, attempting to keep the flowerbeds free of weeds, or doing some variety of skiing. She also write the PTA Mysteries under the name Laura Alden.

Leslie Budewitz | Rural or Urban: The Two Lives of a Cozy Setting

For most readers, the term “cozy mystery”—the light-hearted side of the genre—evokes a rural image. That’s certainly true of my Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries, set in Jewel Bay, Montana—a lakeside resort community on the road to Glacier National Park that calls itself “the food lovers’ village.” Fictional, like many cozy towns, but pieced together from towns and villages across the continent.

In my new Spice Shop Mysteries, debuting this week with ASSAULT AND PEPPER, I decided to explore the urban cozy. To me, the core of a cozy mystery is the community. Murder disrupts the social order of the community. The amateur sleuth investigates because she has a personal stake in the crime and in making sure the right people are brought to justice. She may think law enforcement officers are on the wrong track, or her role in village life may give her insight and information they lack. The professionals’ job is to restore the external order by making an arrest and prosecuting. Hers is to restore internal order within the community.

The sleuth often runs a key local business—she may be the librarian or bookseller, the baker or café owner. She may be a native or a newcomer. In the Food Lovers’ Village series, Erin Murphy is a bit of all those—a native who returns home and runs a market specializing in regional foods in her family’s hundred-year-old grocery. It’s work she loves, and it involves her deeply in local life.

In an urban cozy, the community is a subset of the city, and the protagonist is a major player in that world. In Cleo Coyle’s Coffeehouse Mysteries, Clare Cosi runs a coffeehouse in New York City’s Greenwich Village. Clare’s employees, customers, and neighbors loom large, and many stories follow characters she meets through the coffee business—a customer and father of an erst-while employee who plays a charity Santa, a killer with a grudge against small roasters.

Sheila Connolly chose Philadelphia’s many niche museums for her Museum Mystery series, featuring a professional fundraiser, while Laura Childs’ Scrapbooking Mysteries plunge her cast into the craft-and-costume loving scene in New Orleans. And Julie Hyzy’s White House Chef series may involve the most closely-guarded community-within-a-community of all: the White House and the hundreds of aides, legislators, tourists, and international guests in and out its doors every week.

My Spice Shop Mysteries are based in Seattle’s Pike Place Market. It’s the perfect city-within-a-city. The property is owned by the city but managed by a public development authority. Founded in 1907 and placed on the National Historic Register in the 1970s after a citizen’s initiative, it’s also overseen by a Historic Commission. Three hundred shops and restaurants, two hundred daystall tenants (farmers, small food producers, artists and craftspeople), and a cadre of street musicians cater to ten million visitors a year—both locals and tourists—all on nine acres. The Market is also home to three hundred residents.

Put that many people in close quarters, smack between a busy waterfront and a hustling downtown, and stuff happens.

When her life fell apart right after she turned forty, Pepper Reece bought the Seattle Spice Shop. With it came a spicy variety of employees, customers—from brand-new cooks to professional chefs, suppliers, and Market neighbors. It’s the perfect crucible for human conflict. (Not to mention the bike cop on the Market beat, the ex-husband she left after stumbling over him and a meter maid—she still can’t say “parking enforcement officer”—practically plugging each other’s meters in a back booth in a posh new restaurant, on an evening he was supposed to be working an extra shift.) Employees and customers look to Pepper for her expertise in food and spice, and because of her thirteen years working HR in a major law firm, her people skills. A Seattle native, she knows the city inside out, but still finds herself surprised nearly every day.

Urban geography can be a challenge. Seattle’s neighborhoods cover half a dozen hills, joined—or separated—by two major lakes, a ship canal, and oodles of bridges. And of course, there is that waterfront. Directions are iffy. Characters live all over the city and its suburbs. Introducing the readers to a place I love, without losing them on the biways, takes some focus.

In Jewel Bay, as in my own small town, characters run into friends—and enemies—all over. Even killers need groceries. When I lived and practiced law in Seattle, I got to know my regular bank tellers, produce sellers, and Nordstrom clerks, of course, but I rarely ran into a client, a witness, or even another lawyer while strolling through the Market or walking around Green Lake with a friend. Putting Pepper in the center of a close, well-defined community gives her the contacts she needs to ask questions and probe relationships. And she regularly calls on a former legal assistant (now a mystery bookseller!) and a law librarian for research assistance.

The best part about this setting, though, is that I get to spend hours every day in Seattle, while sitting in my woodland home in Montana. No—call that second-best. Because what I love most is taking my readers on a virtual tour of the places I know and love and have, at different times, called home.

So pour a cup of coffee or spice tea, and come with me to Seattle. I hope you enjoy the trip as much as I have.

About ASSAULT AND PEPPER

Pepper Reece, owner of the Seattle Spice Shop, thinks she can handle any kind of salty customer—until a murderer ends up in the mix…

After leaving a dicey marriage and losing a beloved job in a corporate crash, Pepper Reece has found a new zest for life running a busy spice and tea shop in Seattle’s Pike Place Market. Her aromatic creations are the talk of the town, and everyone stops by for a cup of her refreshing spice tea, even other shopkeepers and Market regulars.

But when a panhandler named Doc shows up dead on her doorstep, a Seattle Spice Shop cup in his hand, the local gossip gets too hot for Pepper to handle—especially after the police arrest Tory Finch, one of Pepper’s staffers, for murder.

Tory seems to know why she’s a suspect, but she refuses to do anything to curry favor with the cops. Convinced her reticent employee is innocent, Pepper takes it on herself to sniff out some clues. Only, if she’s not careful, Pepper’s nosy ways might make her next on the killer’s list…

INCLUDES DELICIOUS RECIPES!

About Leslie Budewitz

Leslie Budewitz is the only author to win Agatha Awards for both fiction and nonfiction—the 2013 Agatha Award for Best First Novel, for Death al Dente (Berkley Prime Crime), first in the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries, and the 2011 Agatha Award for Best Nonfiction, for Books, Crooks & Counselors: How to Write Accurately About Criminal Law & Courtroom Procedure (Quill Driver Books). She lives in northwest Montana with her husband, a musician and doctor of natural medicine, and their cat Ruff, a cover model and avid bird-watcher.

Coming in July 2015: for BUTTER OFF DEAD, third in the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries!

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Susanna Ives | Recycling Characters

Susanna IvesWICKED, MY LOVEIsabella St. Vincent and Lord Randall are the warring heroine and hero of WICKED, MY LOVE. Their story chronicles a wild road trip as the two try to catch an errant bank partner who has sold them false stock. Years ago, the essence of Isabella and Randall characters existed in a very different story that never got off the ground. Isabella was still an orphaned, rather awkward, young woman with a strong mind. Randall was a society golden boy and political orator. Their chemistry lit up the page. Unfortunately the plot of the original story was as tangled and dense as kudzu. So after months of consideration, I decided to drop the story. For the next few years, the characters existed in my mind, story-less and yearning for their happy ending. I felt that as their creator, I had let them down.

So when I had a chance to pitch some stories ideas to my editor, I wrote a quick blurb about a smart, but socially awkward female banker and an emotionally adept and handsome political orator. Then I made them both shareholders in the bank. Instead of having the two bump heads over their differences, as I had in the original story, I created a common enemy: a sleazy, bank partner who could ruin them. In the Victorian days of full liability, numerous bank failures, and poor houses, Isabella stood to lose everything if there was a run on her bank. Meanwhile, Randall, protected by his entailment, would have his political career destroyed. Now the two were forced to get along for their common good. Along the way, they realized that their loathing for each other was born of their own fears and vulnerabilities. Perhaps all the energy they spent antagonizing the other was really unacknowledged desire.

My characters’ happily ever after brought great closure to them and their creator. Now they can stop chattering in my head, complaining how I had abandoned them, and make room for more bickering heroes and heroines, demanding that I write their stories.

About WICKED, MY LOVE

A smooth-talking rogue and a dowdy financial genius Handsome, silver-tongued politician Lord Randall doesn’t get along with his bank partner, the financially brilliant but hopelessly frumpish Isabella St. Vincent. Ever since she was his childhood nemesis, he’s tried- and failed-to get the better of her.

Make a perfectly wicked combination When both Randall’s political career and their mutual bank interests are threatened by scandal, he has to admit he needs Isabella’s help. They set off on a madcap scheme to set matters right. With her wits and his charm, what could possibly go wrong? Only a volatile mutual attraction that’s catching them completely off guard…

About Susanna Ives

Susanna Ives grew up in the rural South, where she spent most of her youth at the local theater, acting in productions, working in the lighting booth, and building sets. Eventually she left her small town for the city lights of Atlanta, where she attended college and worked in corporations as a multimedia developer. These days she chases after her two curious, energetic children, designs web pages, and writes.

You can learn more about Susanna by visiting her website.

M.L. Buchman | Forming A Military Family

M.L. BuchmanBRING ON THE DUSKThere are unique challenges faced by our Armed Forces that I have done my best as a civilian to understand. And the results of years of research were not what I would expect.

For whatever reason an individual joins the military—and the reasons are as manifold as the number of individuals who serve—those who make it a career begin to form a commonality of why they continue.

From the outside I had thought that the bravery to enter battle must be among the most difficult of steps. But it was not. Nor was that bravery subsumed by “It’s an order, so the choice is out of our hands.” The constant theme I’ve heard as I’ve talked to soldiers or read their memoirs is that the task itself is outside of “them.” The task comes from the command structure and, after a sort of pro forma-required grumbling, is accepted as what must come next.

What sends the soldier, especially the career soldier, ahead into danger time and time again is that is what the team is doing. “Mark, Connie, and Tim are going. Why would I think of staying behind?” The military team supersedes “family.” It becomes far closer than family. Why? In how many domestic households does your very life depend upon the absolute trust of the person beside you from one minute to the next?

The hardest tasks are then: the loss of a comrade-in-arms, or leaving the military entirely. In the former case, a death or significant injury of a teammate is the ultimate failure. Had the team been somehow better than they were, Mark would still be okay and serving beside them. And when they leave the military, as Emily Beale and Mark Henderson did in my books, the change is wrenching. One moment every meal, every day-to-day need is handled and you are surrounded by a team that would rather take the bullet than have you hit, and the next you are adrift in a world that has little definition, all tasks are yours to do right down to paying the electric bill and buying groceries. Even more exasperating, those beside you are untrained and undisciplined. More than one soldier has said to me, “Do you see how civilians drive?!”

It is for this reason that I break that code of no fraternization within the military. For whom would they trust, whom would a career soldier love more than the person who fights beside them. It is one of the joys of fiction that we may explore the “What if?” It has been my joy to think and write about that bond that forms so deeply between people whose lives depend on each other and the other bond that occurs between two hearts.

I often wonder if that is not the most difficult part of what a career soldier does, is try to find some way to have love of comrades and love of family in such constant conflict. For my heroes and heroines, I give them the gift of circumventing that issue and being faced merely with the challenges of being themselves.

About BRING ON THE DUSK

Five nations surround the Caspian Sea, five nations desperate for the vast resources there, and willing to go to war. It will take all of Claudia and Michael’s ingenuity to avert disaster. As they discover how right they are for each other, it will take even more to breach the walls they’ve so carefully built around their hearts…

About M.L. Buchman

M. L. Buchman has over 25 novels in print. His military romantic suspense books have been named Barnes & Noble and NPR “Top 5 of the year” and Booklist “Top 10 of the Year.” In addition to romance, he also writes contemporaries, thrillers, and fantasy and science fiction.

In among his career as a corporate project manager he has: rebuilt and single-handed a fifty-foot sailboat, both flown and jumped out of airplanes, designed and built two houses, and bicycled solo around the world.

He is now a full-time writer, living on the Oregon Coast with his beloved wife. He is constantly amazed at what you can do with a degree in Geophysics. You may keep up with his writing at his official website.

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