Meet Lisa Gardner

Our reviewer Sandra Wurman, wrote FIND HERfirst and foremost I have to say I’ve never been more emotionally invested in a story. FIND HER crept into my heart and consciousness and refused to leave. This book is so well written with obvious attention to details and sequences that the author, Lisa Gardner, deserves plaudits for a job very well done. I’ve read lots of crime novels, but FIND HER is gritty and scarily plausible, and that’s what makes it attention-grabbing.

So now it’s time to talk to the author and find out more about FIND HER (February 2016).

I can’t help but wonder – just what or who was your model or inspiration for the character of Flora Dane? Flora had to be one of the most resourceful characters ever written – human to be sure – but so mentally secure in her own way. The mantra she developed was awe inspiring.

I developed Flora’s character after interviewing two victim specialists from the FBI’s Office of Victim Assistance. These specialists focus on working with a victim’s family during a crisis as well as developing a post-captivity plan upon recovery. One of the specialists emphasized over and over again that survivors are strong. That’s why they survived. The biggest mistake you can make upon recovery is to treat the survivor as a victim. Instead, remind the survivor that yes, he and she can do this. Strength is the antidote to fear, and survivors need to hold on to their strength, or they can lose their way to fear.

There are times – albeit briefly – that we almost see Flora’s Monster trucker in a human light. The spare moments when he seems to “care” for Flora. Brilliant portrayal of a demonic person without a soul. Just how did you “see” Jacob? By the way I love the way she called him her monster.

As part of my research for FIND HER, I read several of the memoirs written by survivors of major abduction cases, you know, the headline-making crimes where the girls were held for years, even decades. One of the more surprising things I read is that a monster can’t act terribly all the time. It’s too much work for one thing. So, for all the moments of violence and terror and shame, there’s also movie night, or a gift of a radio, or the time he brought home her favorite food. It becomes part of the complexity of the relationship. As Flora admits, she hates Jacob, will always hate Jacob. And yet, part of her misses him, too. For better or worse, he is the single most powerful relationship she’s ever had, which is awful for her.

There’s that issue with people developing feelings for their captors – Stockholm syndrome – and Flora battles with herself about her “feelings” for Jacob. How did you manage to do this without making Flora appear weak which would have been against her innate survivor mentality?

Trauma bonding, Stockholm Syndrome, these are all very real, very powerful conditions. Two years later, when the kidnapping victim is left home alone, why doesn’t she call the police for help? Because she can’t. Because none of us are wired that simply. As a suspense novelists, I’ve always been fascinated by criminology—what makes a predator. But FIND HER is really Flora’s story—what makes a survivor. Which I think is even more compelling.

The relationship between Samuel and Flora is necessary for the healing process. But his knowledge was imperative in the search for Flora when she once again is missing. Did you purposefully make him the thorn in D.D.’s side? Candidly there were times when I was angry at the nerve to enact patient privilege with her life probably in peril.

From a detective’s perspective, of course any expert arguing privileged information is frustrating. So on D.D.’s behalf, I’m glad you gnashed your teeth! J But privilege is all about protecting the survivor, which is Samuel’s main priority. Flora trusted him with a story she’s never told anyone else. Never. To violate their agreement, and their bond, would be more damaging to someone like Flora, than anything else. And remember, Samuel has faith in Flora’s strength. That’s his job as well. Much to D.D.’s dismay.

Okay we love to hate characters. In FIND HER there are several. Since this is an interview to entice people to read FIND HER I hesitate to even mention one in particular. But we come to realize this character is an important cog in the Monsters machine. So it goes back to an old question or quandary. Nature or nurture. Are monster born or raised?

As a suspense novelist, nature vs nature is one of my favorite arguments. In my free time, I read a shocking number of true crime stories, in order to understand how predators are made. It’s probably not good for me. :-) My own take: the answer is all the above. You can find case studies where clearly the serial killer was “wired-wrong” from the get-go, to much more tragic cases where the cycle of violence, lack of nurture, was definitely a contributing factor. Human beings are very, very complex creatures, which means I’ll never run out of things to write about.

After being abducted and abused, victims find it almost impossible to return to a normal life. Your characterization of the intelligence and cunning of Flora is so realistic. When you write about victims returning home what resources do you use to keep that realism so spot on?

While I’m known for writing dark books, I feel that overall, I’m always telling stories of characters working their way to a better place. We are all stronger than we think. The challenge is discovering that strength and honing it. For Flora, part of finding her strength is making it tangible—she’s become an expert on self-defense, self-reliance, etc. But at the end of the day, it’s her mental fortitude that will always be her best asset. That, of course, and her knowledge of deadly uses for plastic straws.

This is a relationship story. Flora and her mother and brother. Jacob and Molly. D.D. and her husband. And Samuel and Flora. Each of these relationships are the foundation of this story. What I found so telling was the relationship between the old Flora and Flora 2.0. Flora 2.0 is hard on herself for the things she had to do to survive. And yet we know if old Flora hadn’t been smart and strong she wouldn’t have survived 472 days in captivity. What was your motivation in making Flora 2.0 so hard on herself?

According to the victim specialists, one of the biggest challenges survivors face is second-guessing themselves. Once they’re out of crisis, they find themselves looking back with a terrible case of would’ve, could’ve, should’ve. I should’ve fought harder. That day, I could’ve escaped. Second-guessing what already happened, however, undermines their ability to respect and acknowledge how well they did cope, the fact that they did survive. For Flora, she’s had to let her old self go. For her, Flora 1.0 was stupid and naïve—the kind of girl who’d wind up in a coffin-sized box. To move forward, she needs to be stronger, smarter, more resourceful. Flora 2.0. Samuel would probably argue they’re both still Flora, but for Flora, this separation works for her.

I loved the idea that Flora made use of her surroundings. There were times that I actually laughed out loud when I realized what her plan was. I am still amazed that you got me to laugh while reading one of the most disturbing stories. How did you ever think of her “tools”?

I got it from reading survivor’s accounts, and then I just became fascinated with the idea that there are tools all around us. And yes, even garbage can be used brilliantly and efficiently for self-defense. Some of the tricks I used had nothing to do with crime—just, household hacks for say, creating fire when you don’t have matches. But for someone like Flora, determined to feel strong, I can see how all these tips would appeal to her. And frankly, researching just exactly what you can do with a plastic straw, was great fun!

Last but not least – the time spent in the box. Did you actually spend any time confined to be able to write so convincingly of things Flora thought about, did, and said to herself? The total absence of light, no conceivable way to escape, dependent for everything. I know this was done to make her docile but your insight actually gave her strength.

I don’t know if this is embarrassing or not, but yes I spent a morning on the floor of my office, pretending I was trapped in a box. Just how much could I move? Just what options did I have? Method writing! :-) Given than I’m claustrophobic, I’m happy it was just make believe. But it did help give me insights into Flora and it was interesting how many options for exercise, self-entertainment I could come up with.

Now I’m going to have to read it again. This is a book that is definitely going to be dog eared. Thank you.

Ah, that is high-praise indeed. Thank you very much!

About Lisa Gardner

Lisa Gardner

Lisa Gardner, a #1 New York Times crime thriller novelist, began her career in food service, but after catching her hair on fire numerous times, she took the hint and focused on writing instead. A self-described research junkie, her work as a research analyst for an international consulting firm parlayed her interest in police procedure, cutting edge forensics and twisted plots into a streak of internationally bestselling suspense novels, including her most recent release, FIND HER.

With over 22 million books in print, Lisa is published in 30 countries. Her success crosses into the small screen with four of her novels becoming movies (At the Midnight Hour; The Perfect Husband; The Survivors Club; Hide) and personal appearances on television shows (TruTV; CNN).

Lisa Gardner’s novels have also received awards from across the globe. Her novel THE NEIGHBOR was recognized as the Best Hardcover Novel from the International Thriller Writers in the United States and Grand Prix des lectrices de Elle, prix du policier in France. She was also recognized with the Daphne duMaurior Award presented by RWA in 2000 for THE OTHER DAUGHTER.

Readers are invited to get in on the fun by entering the annual “Kill a Friend, Maim a Buddy” Sweepstakes at LisaGardner.com, where they can nominate the person of their choice to die in Lisa’s latest novel. Every year, one Lucky Stiff is selected for Literary Immortality. It’s cheaper than therapy, and you get a great book besides.

Lisa lives in New Hampshire with her auto-racing husband and black-diamond skiing daughter. She spends her days writing in her loft with a gentle old sheltie and a wonderfully silly puppy.

Detective D. D. Warren

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About FIND HER

Find Her

Flora Dane is a victim.

Seven years ago, carefree college student Flora was kidnapped while on spring break. For 472 days, Flora learned just how much one person can endure.

Flora Dane is a survivor.

Miraculously alive after her ordeal, Flora has spent the past five years reacquainting herself with the rhythms of normal life, working with her FBI victim advocate, Samuel Keynes. She has a mother who’s never stopped loving her, a brother who is scared of the person she’s become, and a bedroom wall covered with photos of other girls who’ve never made it home.

Flora Dane is reckless.

. . . or is she? When Boston detective D. D. Warren is called to the scene of a crime—a dead man and the bound, naked woman who killed him—she learns that Flora has tangled with three other suspects since her return to society. Is Flora a victim or a vigilante? And with her firsthand knowledge of criminal behavior, could she hold the key to rescuing a missing college student whose abduction has rocked Boston? When Flora herself disappears, D.D. realizes a far more sinister predator is out there. One who’s determined that this time, Flora Dane will never escape. And now it is all up to D. D. Warren to find her.

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A Conversation with Jan Drexler

Jan Drexler is the descendant of Anabaptists who settled in Pennsylvania in the 1700s and then migrated west. She’s started a new series, Journey to Pleasant Prairie, that is based in part on her own family’s history in migrating west. Join us in a conversation with Jan as she talks about the series and the first book, HANNAH’S CHOICE, which is out now.

Your ancestors were Amish, Mennonite, and Brethren. Did this ever cause controversy within your family?

I’m sure the controversy was there, but it was before my time. Most of my Amish ancestors moved to the more liberal Amish Mennonite church during the Great Schism in the Amish church in the late 1800’s, and from there to Mennonite and German Baptist Brethren churches.

One of the reasons I started writing was to explore that time of division. As I study my family’s genealogy, it is apparent that the schism didn’t only cause churches to split, but divided families. Parents and children, brothers and sisters all found themselves on one side of the divide or the other. My stories came about as I tried to explore how that would affect a family and the close relationships within the community.

Does a reader need to understand the Amish life to fully appreciate your books?

One of the things I try to do in my writing is to bring my readers along on a journey of discovery of this group of people that lives outside of the typical American culture. I think the only thing a reader needs to become involved in my books is a healthy curiosity and a love of stories.

Can you give your readers a hint about the next book in the series?

The next book in the series, MATTIE’S PLEDGE, follows Hannah’s family and neighbors as they travel west from Pennsylvania to Indiana. The main characters are Hannah’s brother, Jacob, and Mattie, a girl from the Somerset County settlement. There is adventure, a bit of suspense, and, of course, plenty of romance. I think you’ll enjoy it!

You have mentioned that you receive many story ideas from your parents and grandparents. Is it important to you to stay true to these accounts, or do you make changes to add intrigue or controversy?

The story ideas that I get from my family history are starting points. Like every family, we have oral histories of the great-grandfather who pioneered in a certain area, or the great-aunt who was a flapper during the 1920’s. But once a few generations have passed, we remember the story, but there isn’t anyone left who remembers the person. What I do is research the facts behind the family histories and try to give a personality to the people involved.

I like to take the handed down tales and ask myself what kind of person would have an adventure like the ones in the stories – what would drive them to make the move from Pennsylvania to Indiana? And then a character evolves from my musings. Not my ancestor, but someone who could have been in my family line.

Your readers are very complimentary of your writing and stories. In your opinion, what is the greatest compliment you have received from a fan? Why was it significant to you?

I am so humbled by the kind comments my readers make. I think one of the greatest compliments I received was when a reader called my writing “tender.” I love to become emotionally involved in the books I read – I want them to touch my heart. I am thankful that my writing can touch other’s hearts in the same way.

What new ideas do you explore in this series that may not have been addressed in your previous books?

My previous Amish books took place in the 1930’s, during the Great Depression. Those characters struggled to remain separate from a changing world. At that time, electricity, telephones, and automobiles were all making inroads into the rural communities, which caused some strife as each church district made the decisions of what new technologies to adopt and which to ignore.

This series, beginning with HANNAH’S CHOICE, takes place almost one hundred years earlier, just before the American Civil War. Not only are there rumblings of the coming Schism within the Amish Church, but other issues touch the characters’ lives – like the abolition of slavery and the Underground Railroad. For a group who highly values the biblical directive to obey the governmental authorities, how do they decide their role in these controversies?

Another idea I explore is the differences between three very similar groups – the Amish, the Mennonites and the German Baptist Brethren (also known as Dunkards). All three groups had similar roots in Europe, and all three were descendants of the Anabaptists of the 1600’s. But the details that separated them, as subtle as they appear to outsiders, made all the difference in the world to those involved.

About Jan Drexler

Jan Drexler

Jan Drexler grew up surrounded by books and storytellers. With pastors and teachers populating both sides of her extended family, we aren’t surprised that she wanted to be a first-class storyteller herself. She is the author of The Prodigal Son Returns, A Mother for His Children, and A Home for His Family.

Born and raised in Michigan, Jan is the descendant of Amish, Mennonite, and Brethren immigrants who settled in Berks, Somerset, and Lancaster counties in Pennsylvania in mid-1700.

Her first love was homeschooling, but when her youngest son graduated she asked God to give her something useful to do for the next phase of her life. The answer was a computer and the deep well of family stories handed down from her parents and grandparents.

Journey to Pleasant Prairie

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About HANNAH’S CHOICE

Hannah's Choice

Hannah Yoder loves her quiet life on the banks of the Conestoga Creek. In 1842, this corner of Lancaster County is settled and peaceful–yet problems lurk beneath the placid facade. Hannah’s father worries about the spread of liberal ideas from their Mennonite and Brethren neighbors. And Hannah blames herself for a tragedy that struck their home nine years ago. She strives to be the one person who can bind the threads of her family together in spite of her mother’s ongoing depression and her sister’s rejection of their family. But her world is threatening to unravel.

When two young men seek her hand in marriage–one offering the home she craves and the other promising the adventure of following God’s call west–Hannah must make a choice. Faithfully perform her duties to her family? Or defy her father and abandon her community?

With a tender hand, Jan Drexler teases out the threads of a romance that will captivate readers in this brand-new Amish historical series.

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A Race for the White House…Kitchen

It’s that time of year! Well, technically it started eight months ago when all the politicians started clogging up the news channels, social media and late night talk shows. It seems they seek to entertain us on every outlet. **sigh**

I don’t know about you, but I personally, prefer to let the pros entertain me with fictional political scheming—it’s far more interesting and direct. And the race for the White House kitchen is a much better recipe for intrigue! Like in Julie Hyzy’s FOREIGN ECLAIRS, A White House Chef Mystery.

This is Ms. Hyzy’s ninth White House Chef Mystery, but don’t worry, if you haven’t read any of the previous novels, you can safely start with Foreign Eclairs—I did and thoroughly enjoyed it. What’s not to love about food, the Secret Service, and a special young visitor to the kitchen who just happens to be the leader of the free world’s young son? Ms. Hyzy has surrounded her White House Executive Chef, Ollie Paras, with an interesting cast of characters that will draw you into the day-to-day operation of the most influential kitchen of the world.

Ms. Hyzy didn’t stop there. No, she added a level of credibility to her plot with Ollie’s marriage to a Secret Service Agent who knows his stuff and the world of terrorism, which Ollie somehow got herself tangled up in. Ms. Hyzy’s attention to detail brings the reader from one senseless act of crime in a park, to bombing half way across the county, to a murder scene so bad, it’s left the white house staff shaken and the Secret Service on edge. And she ties them all together beautifully as not one but two murder suspects are found dead—all at the hands of a terrorist.

The plot is fully developed and will leave you wanting more, which is a good thing, because I must warn you, this story will leave you hanging at the end—waiting for the tenth book in the series with mouthwatering anticipation.

White House executive chef Ollie Paras has served plenty of meals to foreign dignitaries from around the world. But someone is ready to serve her an ice-cold dish of revenge. . .

Things are about to really heat up for Ollie. News of a bombing and attempted breakout at a federal prison reveals that the brother of a terrorist she helped defeat is back with a vengeance. And after she gets mugged on her way home from work, the Secret Service won’t leave her side, fearing that she is now a target.

When a White House staff member is murdered, officials rush into action over a possible security breach. It may be time for Ollie to trade in her apron for a bullet-proof vest as she becomes part of a bold strategy to make sure this terrorist gets his just desserts. . .

Until next time, get cozy and read on!

About Kym Roberts

Kym RobertsKym Roberts is a retired detective sergeant who looks for passion, mystery and suspense in every book she reads and writes. She can be found on the web at kymroberts.com, on Facebook at Kym Roberts (author) and on Twitter @kymroberts911. Look for her newest release, FLIRTING WITH THE DEVIL, A Noble Pass Affaire Novella available now.

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About FOREIGN ECLAIRS

Foreign Eclairs

White House executive chef Ollie Paras has served plenty of meals to foreign dignitaries from around the world. But someone is ready to serve her an ice-cold dish of revenge. . .

Things are about to really heat up for Ollie. News of a bombing and attempted breakout at a federal prison reveals that the brother of a terrorist she helped defeat is back with a vengeance. And after she gets mugged on her way home from work, the Secret Service won’t leave her side, fearing that she is now a target.

When a White House staff member is murdered, officials rush into action over a possible security breach. It may be time for Ollie to trade in her apron for a bullet-proof vest as she becomes part of a bold strategy to make sure this terrorist gets his just desserts. . .

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Meet Irene Hannon — Author of THIN ICE

Bestselling author Irene Hannon has written more than 50 romantic suspense and contemporary romance/women’s fiction novels. She is a seven-time finalist and three-time winner of the RITA Award and a member of Romance Writers of America Hall of Fame. Hannon launched her Men of Valor series in April of 2015 with BURIED SECRETS, which New York Journal of Books called “one of those addictive books that, once started, compels you to shut out the world till you reach the very last page.” In January 2016, she will release the anticipated second book of the series, THIN ICE.

In THIN ICE, she pulls her readers back into the lives of the high-octane McGregor brothers. As a former Delta Force operator and newly appointed FBI special agent, Lance McGregor is called to reopen a case when Christy Reed receives a letter in her dead sister’s handwriting. But he comes up with more questions than answers. Is Christy a pawn in a twisted cat-and-mouse game—or the target of a sinister plot? As he digs deeper, one thing becomes clear: someone in the shadows has a deadly agenda.

You started off writing in the romance genre. What prompted you to transition into suspense?

To be honest, my first foray into fiction was a terrible romantic suspense novella that will forever remain in the deepest, darkest corner of my closet. My interest in suspense goes back much farther than that first effort, though, to my Nancy Drew days. The problem was, when I began writing fiction I had no contacts in law enforcement, and the research piece of suspense was a huge challenge. This was the dark ages—in other words, pre-internet. I went with romance because, in general, those books require less technical research. But even after I dipped my toes back into suspense eight years ago, I held on to the romance component. All of my books feature love stories!

Faith in your novels seems to be subtly woven into the characters rather than deliberately brought to the surface. Is this intentional? If so, why?

My books are written from a Christian worldview, so the faith content is organic to the plot. For my Christian characters, their faith is demonstrated more by action than words. I think that’s a more effective way to illustrate the principles of Christianity. There’s a saying that’s often incorrectly attributed to Francis of Assisi (though he did say something similar), and it reflects how faith is depicted in my books: “Teach the gospel always; if necessary, use words.”

Which character of yours was the most enjoyable to write about?

I love all of the McGregor brothers. I especially like writing scenes where these three competitive high achievers are together. Their banter is very entertaining. Yet shining through all the teasing is their absolute loyalty and strong family bond.

Why did you choose to write these stories as a series rather than establish them as independent books?

The novels can be read as stand-alones, as there are no hanging plot threads from book to book. But I like linking books in some way, whether it be through a relationship the main characters share or a place. Readers have told me over and over again that they love to see old friends and familiar places in subsequent books.

Will you ever venture into other genres?

I currently write both suspense and contemporary romance/women’s fiction, so between the two I’m fully booked for the foreseeable future!

When can your readers expect the third book of the series?

Finn’s story, book 3, will be out in the fall of 2016.

About Irene Hannon

Irene Hannon

Irene Hannon is the bestselling author of more than fifty novels, including the Heroes of Quantico, Guardians of Justice, and Private Justice series.

Her books have been honored with three coveted RITA Awards from Romance Writers of America, two Carol Awards, three HOLT Medallions, a Daphne du Maurier Award, two Reviewers’ Choice Awards from RT Book Reviews magazine, a Retailers’ Choice Award, two Booksellers’ Best Awards, and a National Readers’ Choice Award. In addition, she is a two-time Christy Award finalist. Learn more at her website.

Men of Valor

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About THIN ICE

Thin Ice

After losing her parents in a car accident and her sister to a house fire, Christy Reed has been mired in grief. Life is finally starting to feel normal again when an envelope arrives in the mail–addressed in her sister’s handwriting. And the note inside claims she is still alive.

FBI Special Agent Lance McGregor, a former Delta Force operator, is assigned to reopen the case, but he’s coming up with more questions than answers. If Ginny Reed is still alive–who is the woman buried in her grave? Where is Ginny? And is Christy a pawn in a twisted cat-and-mouse game–or the target of a sinister plot? As he digs deeper, one thing becomes clear: whoever is behind the bizarre ruse has a deadly agenda.

Bestselling author and two-time Christy Award finalist Irene Hannon warms readers’ hearts as they root for a romance between Lance and Christy, but she pulls out all the stops as this high-stakes thriller chills to the bone in a race to the finish.

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Meet Lindsay McKenna, creator of DELOS Series

Thank you for joining us today at Fresh Fiction. I’m a real fan of military romance and suspense and loved your Shadow Warriors series. This new Delos Series brings us characters that are just as strong and dynamic and has some very scintillating plots.

Viki: After reading the first four books in your new Delos Series, it is proving to be as fabulous as your other series. Who or what was your inspiration for the Delos Series?

Lindsay: : Thanks for asking, Viki. Since Morgan’s Mercenaries, my first family saga that I created in 1980’s, was successful, I wanted to try it again. The Delos Series is my second family saga-series. Only this time, I wanted to create it based upon our world as it is today, in 2015, onward.

We are a global community held together by a spider web-like digital age that makes connects all of us whether we like it or not. When you are no longer isolated, but communication, videos and other digital media, such as the social side (Facebook, among many others), we become ONE. Also, because of global travel, people are free to fall in love with one another, regardless of whether they come from the same country—or not. I wanted to explore this dynamic, global concept because it’s an exciting and fascinating look at the world today with all its possibilities.

Viki: Your Delos Series novels are all military themed in some way. I know you grew up as a military brat and also served yourself. Thank you for your service to our country! How much is your own experiences and how do you research the military aspects of your novels?

Lindsay: : I held a secret clearance while I was in the US Navy. There’s things I’ve seen, experienced and know that I can’t talk about – or write about – to this day. I can, however, use my knowledge in such a way to craft riveting military romance reads for my global reading population that are very close to reality.

Viki: You’ve created detailed background on the Delos charities and the Culver family, and you add a little more to that background with each book. Some of your details go back for centuries. Did you ever consider starting further back on the timeline rather than present day?

Lindsay: : Well, anything is possible. But I don’t want to write historically other than to weave in the fascinating fabric of Dilara Badem-Culver’s Turkish family who is one of the richest in the world. Her Sufi muslim upbringing has placed her on a service road to helping those who have much less than her family does. That is why she is CEO of the largest charity in the world: Delos. They have 1,800 charities of varying types and branches around the world. These charities are designed to help others in areas of education, health, farming, to name just a few. I will be weaving in information about Dilara and her family background as it is appropriate, so that my readers grasp the underpinnings of her as a character, what is important to her, to her family, and how much they love the Culver children.

Viki: The Culver family in your Delos Series is a mix of American, Greek and Turkish heritage. Will we see more of the Greek and Turkish families in future installments of this series?

Lindsay: : I wanted Delos to represent many countries, different realities, different belief systems and homogenize it, which is what is happening in our ‘real world’ as I speak. For example, Dilara Badem is 80% Turkish and 20% Greek. She marries American Captain Robert Culver, a USAF combat pilot who is assigned to NATO in Turkey. They fall in love (and their story is coming, believe me, because so many readers are clamoring for it), and they have three children who are a homogenized mix of US, Turkey and Greek bloodlines. They represent the world as it is today…that mixing of blood, beliefs and realities.

I intend to widen the breadth of the stories after the three Culver children’s stories are told. Then, it becomes a global panorama that I hope my readers will love as much as I do writing about them. Dilara has three older brothers, and each has grown, adult children between them. The Mykonos branch in Greece, also has grown children. They are all adults now, and their stories will be told, too. This is an international family saga and readers will get a taste of what is to come by looking at these diverse family trees. It took me 5 years to figure out and create this WORLD of Delos, and all the stories that I want to tell within it.

I’ve created two quote books to help readers understand the fabric of the saga: click here

There are two family tree on my website that will show the other books to come over time: CULVER FAMILY TREE and TURKISH-GREEK FAMILY TREE

Viki: After reading NOWHERE TO HIDE, which is set in Costa Rica and Virginia, along with its prequel, I didn’t expect the next three books to go back to Afghanistan to tell the stories of the three Culver children and how they come to Artemis Securities. I felt somewhat like I was back in the midst of your Shadow Warriors series. Why did you choose to begin their stories in Afghanistan?

Lindsay: Because I wanted to show the reveal the Culver children’s military backgrounds so that they could logically see how Artemis, Delos charities security firm, came into being. Further, it shows the personality of each child, and what their reality is, and what is important to each one of them. There will be ongoing novellas that will follow-up their original introductory book. We will be seeing all three of them throughout the coming Delos Series books, including their parents, Dilara and Robert. Many Delos books in the future, will come from actual missions created within Artemis. The fact that this is a FAMILY-RUN operation, makes it unique and I hope of interest to the reader. By getting to know the Culver adult children, their own military roots (via their father who is a general in the US Air Force), we begin to appreciate how each brings something unique and needed, to the security table. They are tasked with creating Artemis (from which many of the stories, like NOWHERE TO HIDE, will come from in the future), getting it on the ground, learning how to run it, utilize it to keep the employees of Delos in 1,800 different spots around the world, safe from today’s terrorism.

Viki: A lot of authors bring real charities or organizations into their novels that help people through tough times. The Delos Series focuses on the Delos charities, especially in FORGED IN FIRE. What is your personal favorite charity?

Lindsay: I think it’s great to showcase wonderful charities who are helping so many others. I wanted to create one that would not become a legal issue, so that I could continue to create my Delos World as I saw it. I donate to a number of charities: Operation Gratitude, Kiva, Wounded Warriors, Our Rescue Organization (Underground Railroad) and Central Asia Institute.

Viki: In TANGLED PURSUIT and in BROKEN DREAMS, both Tal and Alexa return home as “broken” people, one physically and one emotionally. Why did you choose to give them physical and mental “baggage” as they begin their new jobs with Artemis Security?

Lindsay: : Because that’s life. No one is ever at a hundred percent to do any kind of job, normally speaking. I write real-life characters who are wounded, who have issues, who aren’t whole. But then, neither is anyone else in our ‘real’ world, either. No one is perfect. Although I write alpha heroes, the aren’t invincible, either; just the opposite. Besides, my readers disdain perfect characters, or impervious characters, because they don’t engender sympathy or connection emotionally with them. Perfect characters are boring as hell to me. I couldn’t write them if you paid me a million dollars. My readers feel the same way about that type of “perfect” portrayal. It’s much more interesting to me and my readers to create characters who are fractured in many different ways. And then to see them navigate through a challenge becomes far more riveting, and we cheer even more, for them to make it, despite overwhelming odds against them.

There are no superwomen or supermen out there in my books. These characters have real life issues that they must work through or overcome or make progress on as the book progresses. Even at the end of a book, my characters aren’t necessarily whole and perfect, either. But readers can sure relate to them and that creates sympathy from the character to the reader. And we as readers, love that, because we WANT to see them defeat the odds, want to see them be victorious or at least, escape what’s chasing them.

There are no “acts of God” in my books. Real time issues and challenges stare my characters in their faces, and there’s no easy answers on how to deal with it or live through it. I like delving deeply into the psychology of a person on every level: spiritual, mental, emotionally and physically. Each one brings about their own unique set of challenges and readers love to see their hero and heroine GROW throughout the book. So do I. I’m afraid “cardboard” characters would put me asleep at the computer and I’d be deadly bored. We’re all wounded in one way or another. It’s HOW we continue to move forward, to do our job, to be responsible, to be able to be sensitive to someone other than ourselves, is the stuff that makes for great characters. And I believe I’ve created some really interesting ones for my readers.

Viki: Thanks again, Lindsay, for joining us today. We look forward to the new adventures we’ll encounter with your new Delos Series and to meeting more of the Culver family in future installments.

About Lindsay McKenna

Lindsay McKenna

The “Top Gun of Women’s Military Fiction,” Linsday McKenna has had 145 books published under the McKenna name since 1981, most dealing with military or mercenary subjects, for several publishers: Simon and Schuster, Warner, Avon and Berkley, Harlequin/Silhouette. She is the originator of the Military Romance genre, with “Captive of Fate,” Silhouette Special Edition, 1983. She has sold 23 million books worldwide and in 33 foreign languages. She proudly served in the US Navy and was a meteorologist.

Series include: Perfect, Wyoming | McKenna’s Wyoming | Jackson Hole, Wyoming | Shadow Warriors | Delos | Kincaid Trilogy

Connect with Lindsay: WEBSITE | TWITTER | FACEBOOK | GOODREADS

About BROKEN DREAMS

Broken Dreams

Captain Alexa Culver takes one look at shy, quiet Marine sniper Gage Hunter and feels an instant connection. But Gage has demons in his past that keep him from giving it to their mutual attraction. Alexa believes Gage is worth fighting for, and begins to slowly chip away at his defenses.

Gage Hunter has lost everyone he has ever loved. Lonely and broken, the last thing he expects is to meet someone like Alexa Culver. the redheaded batty is confident and outgoing and makes Gage feel emotions he thought long buried. But before he risks revealing his heart to her she is kidnapped by the Taliban while on a humanitarian mission. Can Gage reach her before he loses his chance for love forever?

Delos #4
On Sale: January 2, 2016

Buy on: Kindle | BN.com | Kobo | iTunes/iBooks

The DELOS Series

LAST CHANCE

Kindle | BN.com | iTunes/iBooks | Kobo | Google Play

NOWHERE TO HIDE

#1
Kindle | BN.com | iTunes/iBooks | Kobo | Google Play

TANGLED PURSUIT

#2
Kindle | BN.com | iTunes/iBooks | Kobo | Google Play

FORGED IN FIRE

#3
Kindle | BN.com | iTunes/iBooks | Kobo | Google Play

BROKEN DREAMS

#4
Kindle | BN.com | iTunes/iBooks | Kobo | Google Play

Cozy Corner | Moments of Mystery from 2015

The best part of writing for the Cozy Corner is finding new mysteries and meeting new authors. Some of the series I’ve followed from book one, others I’ve picked up at book nine, or fifteen—wondering at each turn of the page, how I could have possibly missed such a fabulous series! Yet I know I can’t possible read them all, and maybe that’s a good thing. Because when I round the corner, there’s still that anticipation of what I’ll see next. What mystery is left for me to figure out.

2016 has an awesome line-up of mysteries in store for us, but maybe you’ve missed a book you shouldn’t have this year. Maybe the author, who will reach out and touch you in a way no other could, has already visited the Cozy Corner. Maybe it’s time to review our list of mysteries that don’t belong on anyone’s cold case list yet;)

To end the year, I thought I’d reflect on the interviews that warmed my heart, made me laugh, and allowed me to meet my hero. I hope you’ll enjoy my best moments of 2015.

In January, 2015 I interviewed two authors who like to visit the past, but in two very different ways. T.C. LoTiempo the author of the Nick & Nora Mysteries, MEOW IF IT’S MURDER, gave her readers a nostalgic look at Hollywood mysteries old.

About T.C. LoTempio

T.C. LoTempio

Born in New York City, T. C. LoTempio has been a staff reporter at the young adult magazine Susabella Passengers and Friends for more than a decade. When she isn’t reporting or writing novels, she and her cat Rocco fundraise for Nathan Fillion’s charity, Kids Need to Read.

Nick and Nora
WEBSITE | TWITTER | BLOG

Kym: In your novel your characters have the same names as the husband and wife duo in ‘The Thin Man,’ a book by Dashiell Hammett that was made into a movie in 1934 and then later a TV series. What about that story appealed to you and inspired you to use it as a reference for your new series?

T.C. I’ve always been a big William Powell fan, the Thin Man movies in particular. One night I was watching the movie on tv and my cat ROCCO jumped onto my lap. I thought, “What if Nick were investigating a murder, got killed and came back as a cat?” Thus was born the first draft of Nick and Nora, which Berkley subsequently changed (In the first version, the detective was reincarnated as the cat and the cat talked to Nora)

While at the same time Eva Gates caught my attention because of her Lighthouse Library Mystery, BY BOOK OR BY CROOK that was inspired by the classics of the early 1800’s.

About Eva Gates

Eva Gates

Eva Gates is also known as Canadian crime writer Vicki Delany.

Having taken early retirement from her job as a systems analyst, Vicki enjoys the rural life in Prince Edward County, Ontario.

Lighthouse Library
WEBSITE | FACEBOOK | TWITTER

Kym: I love the way you brought the classics by Jane Austen into the mystery. Why did you choose her books as a focus in the storyline?

Eva: The idea of the Jane Austen collection was initially just a background to the mystery: someone is stealing the books. But the more I got into it the more I got Lucy, my character into it. Lucy ended up giving lectures in the life and times of Miss Austen, and I loved dropping bits of Jane trivia. Initially, the library was going to have a mystery book club. But then we decided that a lot of mystery series these days have mystery book clubs so we wanted something different. I liked the idea of a classic novel reading group, and I’ll be expanding on that. In BOOKED FOR TROUBLE they are reading PRIDE AND PREJUDICE and in READING UP A STORM, it’s KIDNAPPED. The plot in the books will, very slightly, reflect the novels the book club is reading.

In February, I interviewed not only a friend and mentor, but one heck of an author, Melissa Bourbon or Misa Ramirez, about her Magical Dressmaking Mystery release, A SEAMLESS MURDER. Misa touches the heart with every page she writes, and easily transports her readers into lives of the Cassidy women of Bliss, Texas.

About Melissa Bourbon

Melissa Bourbon

Melissa Bourbon, who sometimes answers to her Latina-by-marriage name Misa Ramirez, is the marketing director with Entangled Publishing. She is the founder of Books on the House, the co-founder of The Naked Hero and The Writer’s Guide to ePulblishing, and is the author of the Lola Cruz Mystery series with St. Martin’s Minotaur, A Magical Dressmaking Mystery series with NAL, two indie published romantic suspense novels, and is the co-author of The Tricked-out Toolbox.

Magical Dressmaking
WEBSITE

Kym: It’s hard to believe that A SEAMLESS MURDER is your sixth book in the series. Each one is a fresh, stand-alone mystery. What helps you keep your character’s so interesting throughout the series?

Misa: Thanks! For me, it’s important that the characters grow. In the old mysteries, like Agatha Christie’s many books, the sleuths remain a constant, never changing, never growing, and never having much going on in their own lives. That’s not true of today’s cozy mystery sleuths. They have lives, hobbies, families, lovers, friends, and everything in between.

Harlow Cassidy is no exception. But I didn’t want her to just have a boyfriend who would always be a boyfriend, for example. I wanted their relationship to grow and develop with each book. Loretta Mae, Harlow’s great-grandmother, is a ghost. I didn’t want her fully formed as an otherworldly entity in book one, so I thought about what it would be like for her to try to communicate, and how Harlow would deal with Meemaw as a ‘person’ in her life. How would their relationship evolve over time and as they learn to communicate better?

These are just some of the decisions I made at the beginning, and there are many more. I think each of these types of decisions helps keep the series fresh.

In April I had the pleasure of interviewing Naomi Hirahara about her book GRAVE ON GRAND AVENUE, An Officer Ellie Rush Mystery. Obviously any mystery with a female cop will immediately catch my attention, add in culture and Ellie Rush is a character to remember!

About Naomi Hirahara

Naomi Hirahara

Naomi Hirahara was born in Pasadena, California. Her father, Isamu (known as “Sam”), was also born in California, but was taken to Hiroshima, Japan, as an infant. He was only miles away from the epicenter of the atomic-bombing in 1945, yet survived. Naomi’s mother, Mayumi, or “May,” was born in Hiroshima and lost her father in the blast. Shortly after the end of World War II, Sam returned to California and eventually established himself in the gardening and landscaping trade in the Los Angeles area. After Sam married May in Hiroshima in 1960, the couple made their new home in Altadena and then South Pasadena, where Naomi and her younger brother Jimmy grew up and attended secondary school.

Officer Ellie Rush Mystery
WEBSITE | FACEBOOK | TWITTER

Kym: Your last hero was a very quiet, unassuming gardener who found himself in the middle of a homicide investigation when he least expected it. What made you choose a rookie police officer from L.A.P.D. assigned to Bike Patrol as your protagonist for the Ellie Rush Mystery series?

Naomi: Two reasons – one was I tired trying to figure out how an amateur sleuth would get involved in all these murders! It takes a deft hand to create a world in which this is possible. At least with a police officer, the encounters with crime are part of the job. I don’t pretend to be any expert on law enforcement, however, so I made her a rookie and being a bike cop made her even more accessible to her constituents. I also wanted Ellie to have friends and family members who don’t understand her career choice. She still feels pressure from these outside forces; she’s not yet fully integrated in the police force.

My love of mystery, like so many other young girls, started with Nancy Drew. In June I interviewed Penny Pike the author of three incredible cozy mysteries series who released her second Food Festival Mystery, DEATH OF A CHOCOLATE CHEATER. What I learned about Penny’s past, however, caught up with her in our interview.

About Penny Pike

Penny Pike

I’ve been writing since I read my first Nancy Drew in 6th grade. Since then I’ve had over 50 books published, fiction and non-fiction, for adults and children. I’ve been lucky — my books have won national awards, garnered excellent reviews, and have been printed in 14 countries, including Russia, France, Spain, Germany, Holland, Australia, Canada, Indonesia, India, Israel, Poland, Japan, and China. My best-sellers include Healthy Snacks for Kids, Kids’ Party Games and Activities, Best Party Book, Games People Play, Kids’ Holiday Fun, Learn to Sign the Fun Way, Baby Play and Learn, Kids Pick-A-Party, and Kids’ Party Cookbook.

Food Festival Mystery
WEBSITE

Kym: Before we get into your Food Festival Mystery release, I’ve got to ask, how did you get the opportunity to write The Official Handbook of Nancy Drew? (For our readers, you’ve got to check out the Nancy Drew Scrapbooks available for sale on Penny’s website.)

Penny: I was having lunch with my agent at Full Circle Literary and happened to be taking notes in my Nancy Drew notebook. She asked if I might be interested in doing the handbook and I jumped on it. I reread all the first books in the series and realized how much I’d learned from reading Nancy Drew as a kid.

You and me both, Penny;)

June also brought author, Annie Knox, or Wendy Lynn Watson to the Cozy Corner. I’ve known Annie/Wendy for years, so it was a pleasure to interview one of my favorite authors who has a knack for mystery. We also may have had lunch;)

About Annie Knox

Annie Knox

Annie Knox doesn’t commit–or solve–murders in her real life, but her passion for animals is 100% true. She’s also a devotee of 80s music, Asian horror films, and reality TV. While Annie is a native Buckeye and has called a half dozen states “home,” she and her husband now live a stone’s throw from the courthouse square in a north Texas town, in their very own crumbling historic house.

Pet Boutique Mystery
WEBSITE

Kym: COLLARED FOR MURDER is set around a cat show, and to be honest, I’d never heard of a cat show. The image of a cat doing an obstacle course doesn’t quite compute for me like it does with a dog. (OMG, what a K-9 snob!) Yet your scene made it totally believable, which made me Google it. Wow, a whole new world! Did you attend a cat show for research or did your knowledge develop naturally with your love of felines?

Wendy: I did go to a cat show in Oklahoma City. It wasn’t as grand as the cat show in COLLARED FOR MURDER, and there was no agility component, but it was great fun. Such a friendly crowd, too. I mentioned to one of the judges that I was an author doing research, and she gave me running commentary while she judged a round. Another woman, who was showing her Maine coon, gave me all sorts of background information . . . as well as some of the juicier scandals that cat shows can breed.

I rounded out my summer by interviewing one of my heroes—and not a fictional one! I’ve been a fan of Kinsey Millhone since college and Sue Grafton was as gracious an author as I’ve ever met. She didn’t hesitate when I contacted her directly and begged for an interview. When I met her at a book signing for her latest release “X” she not only remembered me, but hugged me tight. How awesome is that?

About Sue Grafton

Sue Grafton

Sue Grafton is published in 28 countries and 26 languages—
including Estonian, Bulgarian, and Indonesian. She’s an
international bestseller with a readership in the millions.
She’s a writer who believes in the form that she has chosen
to mine: “The mystery novel offers a world in which justice
is served. Maybe not in a court of law,” she has said, “but
people do get their just desserts.” And like Raymond
Chandler and Ross Macdonald, Robert Parker and the John D.
MacDonald—the best of her breed—she has earned new respect
for that form. Her readers appreciate her buoyant style,
her eye for detail, her deft hand with character, her acute
social observances, and her abundant storytelling talents.

Kinsey Millhone
WEBSITE | FACEBOOK

Kym: It’s not often that a fictional character becomes an icon who sets the mold for a genre like Kinsey has for female sleuths. Did you ever imagine she would become such a major player in the mystery world?

Sue: My job is to operate like a recording secretary, reporting Ms. Millhone’s adventures as well as her observations, snarky comments, and her unsolicited opinions. I never think of her as a ‘major player.’ I see her as a tough, demanding boss and all-around pain in the ass. She’s also amusing, but that’s between the two of us. You have no idea the things she suggests that I hav to veto in the interest of good taste.

Like having too many great mysteries to choose from, I had too many wonderful interviews in 2015 to cover them all. I also interviewed Elisabeth Crabtree about her release CUPID’S DEADLY AIM, A Grace Holliday Cozy Mystery, Fran Stewart about her Scotshop Mystery, A WEE MURDER IN MY SHOP, Paige Shelton who was celebrating the release of her seventh Farmer’s Market Mystery novel, BUSHEL FULL OF MURDER, Livia J. Washburn for her ninth Fresh-Baked Mystery, TRICK OR DEADLY TREAT, Lynn Cahoon about her South Cove, California Tourist Trap Mystery, KILLER RUN, and Rebecca Adler for her debut cozy mystery release HERE TODAY, GONE TAMALE A Taste of Texas Mystery.

I also featured countless cozy mysteries for you to choose from, but my library isn’t full yet! 2016 is going to be a year for us to sit back, relax, and read on! So until next year, be safe and get cozy!

About Kym Roberts

Kym RobertsKym Roberts is a retired detective sergeant who looks for passion,
mystery and suspense in every book she reads and writes. She can be found on
the web at kymroberts.com, on Facebook at Kym Roberts (author) and on
Twitter @kymroberts911. Look for her newest release, FLIRTING
WITH THE DESIRE
, the Noble Pass Affaire series available for a limited time only.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

Meet Brigid Kemmerer

Ever wonder about authors who can take you from the young adult to beginning of adulthood? Today, our Sherri Morris talked to Brigid Kemmerer about her latest novel, THICKER THAN WATER..

“THICKER THAN WATER is Brigid Kemmerer’s first book released since her Elemental series. Told in both Thomas and Charlotte’s point of views, their story begins at a slower pace but gradually escalates. Brigid Kemmerer is a new author for me so I don’t have any of her previous work to compare to. However, it has been awhile since a book has been able to suck me so far into it I just couldn’t stop reading. THICKER THAN WATER did that for me. Brigid Kemmerer’s writing style has a wonderful, captivating flow to it. She includes surprises and plot twists I did not see coming and created characters the reader can easily fall in love with. I cannot wait to get my hands on some of her other books!” from her review.

You started writing in high school. What started you down this path and who influenced you during this time?

I always loved reading when I was a kid, and I actually started writing even earlier than high school. I used to love reading YA urban fantasy, and in the early ‘90s, there just wasn’t much of that. Anytime I found something new, I would practically read it in the car on the way home. I honestly think I started writing books because I wanted more to read in that genre. My mother was a big influence in my life, too. Not because she’s a big reader or writer herself, but because there was never any question in her mind that I could accomplish what I set out to do.

All writers are readers. What book(s) has/have influenced you the most?

I love books that make me feel something strongly, because they make me sit up and pay attention and want to be a better writer. Some of my favorites:

  • CAN YOU KEEP A SECRET by Sophie Kinsella – the first book where I realized a man could be a little broken on the inside
  • SHATTERED GLASS by Elaine Bergstrom – one of my favorite books/series ever, I loved reading about the Austra family dynamics
  • OF METAL AND WISHES by Sarah Fine – I read this in manuscript form and every time I closed the book, I wanted to go work on my own to see if I could create something that beautiful
  • THE GIFT OF FEAR by Gavin de Becker – this book is nonfiction, and I recommend that every woman read it “just because.” But as a writer, this book gives chilling insight into the psychology of fear and how dangerous people use that to their advantage.

It’s always interesting to get a peek into how a writer creates the story. What is the hardest part of writing for you? What is the easiest part?

The easiest part is when I’m in the first round of revisions. The whole book is written, and it’s time to clean it up and make it perfect. The hardest part is when the weather is nice and my kids are begging me to take them to the park, but I need to park my butt in a chair to write.

THICKER THAN WATER is a wonderful title; it’s evocative and speaks to major themes in the novel. How did you come up with the title for your new book? Were there other working titles before this?

My editor actually came up with this one! Another working title was FLESH AND BLOOD, and I FEEL YOU.

What advice would you give to a new young writer?

My mantra is, “Allow yourself to suck.” A lot of writers (me included) get caught up in our heads, afraid to put words on the page because we’re worried no one will read them, or if someone does read them, they’ll think it’s bad/stupid/lame/dumb/whatever. But none of that matters in the drafting stage. It’s fine if it’s crap: no one else has to read it. Just start getting words on paper. There’s a delete key for a reason.

If you could do it all over again, would you change any of it? Why?

Nope! Hindsight is 20/20, and we all have second thoughts about any decision, but when I think about things I would have done differently, I realize that would change other things that I wouldn’t have done differently, so… I think we’ll just keep things as they are. :-)

Brigid Kemmerer

BRIGID KEMMERER is author of the YALSA-nominated Elemental series, which Kirkus Reviews calls “refreshingly human paranormal romance” and School Library Journal describes as “a new take on the supernatural genre.” The story of these four gifted teenage boys spans five novels and three e-novellas. Her latest novel, THICKER THAN WATER (Kensington, December 29, 2015), a paranormal mystery with elements of romance, subtly moves from YA to New Adult through the story of a recently orphaned boy, Thomas. Brigid lives in the Baltimore area with her husband and four sons and also works full-time as a financial adviser. Visit her at brigidkemmerer.com.

About THICKER THAN WATER

Thicker Than Water

 

On his own

Thomas Bellweather hasn’t been in town long. Just long
enough for his newlywed mother to be murdered, and for his
new stepdad’s cop colleagues to decide Thomas is the primary
suspect.

Not that there’s any evidence. But before Thomas got to
Garretts Mill there had just been one other murder in twenty
years.

The only person who believes him is Charlotte Rooker, little
sister to three cops and, with her soft hands and sweet
curves, straight-up dangerous to Thomas. Her friend was the
other murder vic. And she’d like a couple answers…

Answers that could get them both killed, and reveal a truth
Thomas would die to keep hidden…

 

Buy THICKER THAN WATER:
Amazon.com | Kindle
| BN.com
| iTunes/iBooks | Kobo | Google Play |
Powell’s Books
| Books-A-Million |
Indiebound

Cozy Corner | The Gift of Mystery

It’s that time of year! That’s right, you have to come up with an idea for all those people you don’t really know—at all! What do you give a teacher who has every apple under the sun, or your nosy neighbor you’d like to keep out of your business for at least one day during the holidays? Your cubicle mate whom you have nothing in common with beyond the daily gripping about the commute in to the office? What about your mother-in-law, or father-in-law? Or your personal assistant who carries you through the entire year and you’ve been so busy you haven’t even asked her/his favorite color (s/he deserves a cash bonus to be sure), but what if you want to add a personal touch to that bonus that says I did think about you beyond your monetary value?

There’s nothing better than a mystery that has their interests at heart and in the cozy genre you are sure to find the perfect match. For instance, for that retired firefighter in your life, whether it be your neighbor or your mother-in-law, J.J. Cook has the perfect Sweet Pepper Fire Brigade Mystery release, SWEET PEPPER HERO.

About SWEET PEPPER HERO

Sweet Pepper Hero

Old rivalries heat up in the fourth Sweet Pepper Fire Brigade mystery from the national bestselling author of In Hot Water.

Fire chief Stella Griffin has been put in charge of judging the annual recipe contest, but Eric—her resident ghost and true culinary genius—has vanished. Before she can track down his latest haunt, she’s called in to investigate a local moonshine distillery that was set ablaze, making her realize there’s more than pies and cakes cooking in Sweet Pepper.

As rumors of a revived whiskey war ignite, Stella turns to the town’s elders to help her find answers. The past might have some clues as to what has sparked the present fires. But when following a lead lands her in buried rubble, Stella realizes she must extinguish this case fast or she might be going down in flames.

Sweet Pepper Fire Brigade
On Sale: January 5, 2016

Buy on: Amazon.com | Kindle | BN.com | Kobo | iTunes/iBooks | Google Play | Powell’s Books | Books-A-Million | Indiebound

For those teachers who have a garden in their classroom or the cube-mate whose vines are creeping into your territory, Bailey Cattrell has the perfect new series, An Enchanted Garden Mystery, DAISIES FOR INNOCENCE.

About DAISES FOR INNOCENCE

Daises for Innocence

From Bailey Cattrell—who writes the New York Times bestselling Magical Bakery Mysteries as Bailey Cates—comes the first Enchanted Garden Mystery featuring custom perfume maker Elliana Allbright…

The Enchanted Garden behind Elliana Allbright’s perfume shop draws people of all ages with its fragrant flowers and lush greenery. But when the magical serenity is interrupted, it’s up to Ellie to sniff out a killer.

Ellie’s life has blossomed in Poppyville, California, since she opened Scents & Nonsense, a custom-made- perfume store. Her skills with aromas and botanical essences—some from her very own garden—seem almost supernatural. Her perfumes can evoke emotions, bring about change, or simply make people happy. Customers are flocking to the store to buy her wares or just to sit in her beautiful garden, sip tea and enjoy homemade cookies.

But she smells trouble when she learns that her part-time assistant Josie is dating her ex. And before she can tell the young woman to beware of his charms, she finds Josie dead in the Enchanted Garden. Now the prime suspect in Josie’s murder, Ellie must search for the real culprit in Josie’s past—because it’ll take a miracle to nip this problem in the bud….

Enchanted Garden #1
On Sale: January 5, 2016

Buy on: Amazon.com | Kindle | BN.com | Kobo | iTunes/iBooks | Google Play | Powell’s Books | Books-A-Million | Indiebound

We all know who loves to bake—they always bring the goodies, have the Pinterest page with elaborate cookies and cakes and you can’t possibly out-do their wonderful desserts wrapped in festive holiday bows—so don’t even try! Pick up a copy of THE CAKES OF MONTE CRISTO, A Piece of Cake Mystery by Jacklyn Brady and let them discover a delicious new recipe for murder.

About THE CAKES OF MONTE CRISTO

The Cakes of Monte Cristo

In the fresh new Piece of Cake Mystery from the national bestselling author of Rebel Without a Cake, a pastry chef becomes embroiled in a suspicious death as a mysterious curse casts a pall over an annual New Orleans ball.

Rita Lucero, co-owner of New Orleans’s Zydeco Cakes, is thrilled to be catering an annual ball held at the Monte Cristo Hotel. Designing the high-end desserts is her priority—until she stumbles upon a mystery long-buried at her shop. It’s an ornate ruby necklace, hidden underneath her staircase and rumored to be cursed.

After the gem’s appraiser suddenly drops dead and Rita herself is targeted by a menacing stranger, she’s no longer laughing at local superstition. Now with five cakes on order and an investigation into the necklace’s past revealing layers of unsettling clues, Rita has reason to keep looking over her shoulder while she’s frosting. Because any way you slice it, the next victim of the legendary curse could be her.

A Piece of Cake Mystery #6
On Sale: January 5, 2016

Buy on: Amazon.com | Kindle | BN.com | Kobo | iTunes/iBooks | Google Play | Powell’s Books | Books-A-Million | Indiebound

Give the gift of mystery, a cozy mystery—because they know how to make the season bright. Until next time, get cozy and read on!

About Kym Roberts

Kym RobertsKym Roberts is a retired detective sergeant who looks for passion, mystery and suspense in every book she reads and writes. She can be found on the web at kymroberts.com, on Facebook at Kym Roberts (author) and on Twitter @kymroberts911. Look for her newest release, FLIRTING
WITH THE DESIRE
, the Noble Pass Affaire series available now. Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

Cozy Corner: Melissa Bourbon, a Magical Mystery

I met Melissa Bourbon (Misa Ramirez) for the first time in 2009 at Barnes & Noble on the Texas Christian University Campus. I was new to the industry, having just joined RWA, and went out to support a writer on the release of her very first book, LIVING LA VIDA LOLA, A Lola Cruz Mystery. What I found was a quiet, cute, tall blond with a quick smile and a soft voice. This was the first (and only) time I’ve seen Misa wearing a conservative navy blue suit. Since then she’s let her inner artist take over at her book signings, so after ten cozy mysteries, two romantic suspense novels, one light paranormal romance, one how-to book, and one children’s book you’ll now find her wearing funky hats, sassy pig-tails with homemade wool beads or a bright scarf around her neck—she has grown into her National Best-selling Author shoes with style.

Kym: Welcome back to the Cozy Corner, Misa!

Melissa BourbonMisa: Wow, what a memory you have! A blue suit? Have I ever owned a blue suit??!!

Kym: I love your Magical Dress Making Mystery Series set in Bliss, Texas. Can you tell our readers who or what inspired you to create heroine, Harlow Jane Cassidy?

Misa: After writing several of the Lola Cruz mysteries, I wanted to branch out into another realm of mysteries: cozies. As I was coming up with the trademark cozy hook (sewing was a given since it’s something I’ve done since I was a little girl and still enjoy today), I started thinking about who my sleuth would be. Harlow Jane Cassidy came to me in a flash. I wanted to build historical elements into the series and I love outlaws (especially the whole Butch Cassidy and the Hole in the Wall Gang legend). I decided to change up history a little bit, giving Butch an alternate love interest and a child that results from that relationship. The charms carried through to the Cassidy women, thanks to Butch’s wish in a (real) Argentinian fountain, completed the core elements of Harlow and the women in her family, all of whom are at the core of every book.

Kym: It’s hard to believe that A SEAMLESS MURDER is your sixth book in the series. Each one is a fresh, stand-alone mystery. What helps you keep your character’s so interesting throughout the series?

Misa: Thanks! For me, it’s important that the characters grow. In the old mysteries, like Agatha Christie’s many books, the sleuths remain a constant, never changing, never growing, and never having much going on in their own lives. That’s not true of today’s cozy mystery sleuths. They have lives, hobbies, families, lovers, friends, and everything in between.

Harlow Cassidy is no exception. But I didn’t want her to just have a boyfriend who would always be a boyfriend, for example. I wanted their relationship to grow and develop with each book. Loretta Mae, Harlow’s great-grandmother, is a ghost. I didn’t want her fully formed as an otherworldly entity in book one, so I thought about what it would be like for her to try to communicate, and how Harlow would deal with Meemaw as a ‘person’ in her life. How would their relationship evolve over time and as they learn to communicate better?

These are just some of the decisions I made at the beginning, and there are many more. I think each of these types of decisions helps keep the series fresh.

Kym: The Cassidy women have all the charm a reader would expect from a matriarchal family with roots deep in the heart of Texas, yet you’re a born and bred California girl. How did you capture the essence of the Southern women so easily?

Misa: I am a born and bred California girl, but my mom’s family is all from Texas, we lived in Dallas when I was little, and I always dreamed of living on a ranch. I think Texas blood runs through my veins. I’ve been in Texas for almost 7 years now and feel as if it’s home. The culture, the family, the food it all fell right into place with the Cassidy clan because I love it all so much.

Kym: In each of your books, Harlow designs magical garments for the customers of her custom-dressmaking boutique, Buttons and Bows. Each garment grants the wearer their deepest desires. From pageant gowns, to wedding dresses, to unique aprons for the local women’s group in A SEAMLESS MURDER Harlow’s skill are straight off Madison Avenue—with a little Texas charm. I’ve seen the aprons, but I have to ask, do you sew gowns as intricately designed as Harlow?

Misa: Ha! I barely have time to make an apron at this point. And gowns have always been out of my league. I do love sewing, especially the end product, but nice coats and a fairly complicated dress are about as adventurous as I’d dare to get anymore and they’d both probably send me into fits.

Kym: Harlow is surrounded by Cassidy women. Some with magical talents, some without; some living, and some just hanging around with the living. Who is your favorite and if you had to cast her in the movie, who would play the role?

Misa: I always envisioned a young Sandra Bullock, circa Hope Floats, as Harlow, and as an aside, I picture Will as a combo of Tim McGraw, Pancho Villa, and Toby Keith all rolled into one.

I hadn’t really cast the other women in my mind, so I’m not quite sure!

Kym: You come from a family of artists, and have developed some pretty mad skills behind the camera lens along with your talent with a sewing machine, and multiple other artistic venues. Is there a cozy mystery in your future that will find your heroine behind a camera lens?

Misa: I’ve been thinking that there might be! I have a proposal in the works right now for a food blogger mystery series, and that definitely would require camera work, so we’ll see how that develops and what happens. I will say that I’m loving the 365 day photo challenge I’m doing. I post the photos to my Facebook page so if anyone wants to follow the challenge, that’s where you can do it. I’m loving the way it’s forcing me to see the world, both big and small things, in a new and fresh way.

Kym: Congratulations on A SEAMLESS MURDER hitting the Bookscan and Barnes and Noble best seller’s list and for hitting their mystery best seller’s list! Can you tell our readers where they can find you on social media and what we can look for next?

Misa: Thanks! It’s the third in the series to become a National Bestseller, which is so amazing.

I’m on Instagram at misaram5, Facebook , and my website is http://melissabourbon.com . I also have a newsletter. The sign up for that can be found on my website.

As for what’s next, as I mentioned, I have a proposal out for a new series, and I may begin to revisit Lola Cruz again soon. I’m also percolating on a women’s fiction, something I’ve been wanting to write for a very long time. So, we’ll just see what develops!

Thanks for the interview, Kym!

Kym: Until next time, get cozy and read on!

Kym RobertsDEAD MAN'S CARVE

Kym Roberts is a retired detective sergeant who looks for passion, mystery and suspense in every book she reads and writes. She can be found on the web at kymroberts.com, on Facebook at Kym Roberts (author) and on Twitter @kymroberts911. Look for her latest release, DEAD MAN’S CARVE, A Tickled to Death Mystery on Amazon. (All proceeds will be donated to wounded veterans)

Conversation with Bernard Cornwell

Great news! The newest book in the Saxon Series will be out next year AND the
first book’s adaptation, THE LOST KINGDOM, has already entered into production.
BBC will air the Matthew MacFayden (PRIDE AND PREJUDICE) drama in 2015, but
until then catch up with Bernard Cornwell, author of THE EMPTY THRONE, in a
exciting new Q&A.

THE EMPTY THRONE is out on e-book, print, and audio on Tuesday, January 6th.

Q.: You have now written eight books in the Saxon Tales series. How
many more are planned? What is next in store for the characters?

I wish I knew! I can’t plan a book, let alone a series, so every new tale is an
adventure. I’ve always thought the joy of reading a book is ‘to see what
happens’, and that’s also the pleasure of writing one. I usually have no idea
what will happen in the next chapter, and the only way to find out is to write
it! That said, there are one or two obvious pointers in the books so far –
Uhtred will regain Bebbanburg and a new country, called England, will emerge
from the long wars. Essentially the Saxon series is about that; the creation of
a nation. Americans have a precise birthdate, July 4th 1776, but the
English have no such luxury and are strangely ignorant about how their nation
was formed.

Q.: When you start out writing a history-based series, do you know where the
chronicle will go, or does each novel take shape as you write it?

I wish I could plan a novel; it would probably make life a lot easier. It seems
to me there are two basic methods of novel writing; those who plan their books
meticulously and have this wonderful outline to flesh out, and those like me who
just start and stagger on till the story is told. I think it was E.L. Doctorow
who said that writing a novel is like driving at night down an unfamiliar
country road and you can only see as far ahead as your rather dim headlights
allow. That’s me. Dim. I reached the last chapter of THE EMPTY THRONE and
genuinely had no idea what would happen, but was delighted when I found out!

Q.: Unlike in your Sharpe or Starbuck series, here you
are writing about a historical period that is much less documented. How do you
conduct your research?

Read, read, read, then read some more. Research takes a lifetime of reading. I
suppose you soak yourself in a period until it exists in the imagination.

Q.: Is this lack of historical data a handicap or does it free you as a
writer of fiction?

It’s wonderfully liberating! I love the shadowed parts of history that have no
explanations because that gives me the freedom to fill in the gaps. For instance
we know that someone called Uhtred was the lord of Bebbanburg in the
9thCentury, and we know he was Saxon even though all the land about
him was ruled by the Danes, but beyond that nothing! So how did he keep his
land? The true answer, probably, is that he collaborated, but that’s dull so I
can invent other explanations.

Q.: One of the seminal questions at the heart of THE EMPTY THRONE is will
Athelflaed, sister to King Edward of Wessex, widow of Æthelred, become Queen? Do
you think history would have been different if she had been Queen?

She was effectually the Queen of Mercia, so no, I don’t think history would have
been different. She ruled Mercia very successfully, but always in concert with
her brother who was the King of Wessex. History might have been different if she
had started a dynasty, but her only child was a daughter who appears to have
inherited none of her mother’s abilities. I think the sad thing about Æthelflaed
is that she’s been forgotten. She took a crucial lead in the creation of England
and deserves to be remembered for that.

Q.: One of the themes in the early books was Uhtred of Bebbanburg’s
resistance of Alfred’s Christianity. Now that Alfred is dead, does religion
still play a role in this new book?

Probably! The wars that ravaged Britain in the ninth and tenth centuries were
not just about land and who should rule, but were also religious. The Danes and
the Norsemen were, by and large, pagan, the Saxons (and Angles) were Christian,
and the Christians undoubtedly saw their struggle as a crusade. They were doing
God’s work! In the end, of course, Christianity prevailed and that did not stop
the wars, but they were not to know that. And Uhtred, stubborn as he is, will
not abandon his paganism so yes, the religious themes will continue!

Q.: The Saxon Tales,
like most of your fifty-plus books – from the Sharpe books and the Nathaniel Starbuck
Chronicles
to your stand-alone novels – are centered on war and set on
the battlefield. What attracts you to viewing history through the lens of war?

War is a wonderful background for any adventure story, mainly because history
provides you with a ready-made background of mayhem and conflict. What interests
me more is the character’s reaction to war. Every society has a moral basis, and
almost all condemn murder and manslaughter (‘Thou shalt not kill’), but those
moral constraints are lifted by wartime and men (mostly men) are encouraged to
flout this basic rule. So how do they react? Some misuse the freedom it offers,
other have a more nuanced reaction, and that offers enormous scope for storytelling.

Q.: It was recently announced that the Saxon Tales will be
adapted for television by BBC America. How far into the series will the
adaptation go?

I have no idea! I guess I depends how successful the first series is.

Q.: Are you involved in the adaptation and filming?

Not even slightly, nor do I want to be. I worked in television for a decade, as
a producer of News and Current Affairs, and I learned that I know nothing about
producing television drama, so I stay well away. Leave it to the experts! If
they want me to be a cheerleader for them then I’ll happily get out the
pom-poms, but other than that? Nothing.

Q.: You are soon publishing your first non-fiction book, WATERLOO. Did you find it
different writing history as non-fiction rather than fiction? How so?
WATERLOO

The biggest difference was not having to devise a plot! Plot drives a novel and
the hardest thing about writing a novel is discovering that plot, but that
burden is entirely taken away. The book still needed shaping, but the story of
Waterloo is so compelling that essentially it shapes itself – it all takes
place in a very short time (the campaign is just four days), and in a very small
space (the battlefield was very restricted) and it has compelling major
characters; Napoleon and the Duke of Wellington who were acknowledged as the two
greatest soldiers of the age, but who had never fought against each other. The
story of Waterloo has everything, even an amazing cliff-hanging ending. So the
‘plot’ was handed to me on a plate by history, so the hard work was to discover
memoirs, diaries and letters that conveyed the real horror of that dreadful day,
and I wanted those eye-witness accounts to come from all sides, French,
Prussian, Dutch and British, so there was an enormous amount of research and
editing to do. I love the book, but am not sure I want to write any more
non-fiction!