Managing the Ensemble Cast of Characters by Saralyn Richard

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Managing the Ensemble Cast of Characters

 

by Saralyn Richard

When I decided to write a mystery novel situated around a weekend birthday celebration at a country mansion (Murder in the One Percent ©2018 Black Opal Books), I wasn’t fully aware of how challenging it would be to populate the party with a slew of guests and keep the novel moving for readers. To start with, I wanted to have seven couples on the guest list, plus a single, for a total of fifteen characters. Some would be the hosts, one would be the murder victim, one or more would be the killer(s), and others would be the suspects. Fifteen seemed like a fine number until I started to write the first few chapters.

 

 

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For one thing, the party guests, like most in real life, were quite similar. Most of them had been to college together, and most of them had careers in the same field of endeavor. They were all members of the wealthy one percent, so they all wore expensive clothes and jewelry, enjoyed multiple residences, and indulged in luxurious hobbies. It was fun to pull back the curtain on their lives, but I soon realized a few things:

 

  • The characters were too much alike.
  • Readers would have a hard time remembering who was who.
  • Readers would have a hard time identifying with any of the characters.
  • There wasn’t enough contrast among the characters to make for interesting dialogue, narration, and description.

 

Once I understood the challenges of managing the ensemble cast of characters, I cut one couple from the book, taking the number at the party to thirteen. What a perfect number for a party that started on a Friday the 13th, a party where someone would be killed.

Next, I created a character bible for each partygoer. It wasn’t enough to document the physical traits of each one. I wanted to give everyone a particular way of talking, speaking, moving. So if a character flipped her hair behind her shoulder or rubbed the material of her pants between her thumb and forefinger when nervous, the reader would know exactly which character that was.

While all of the characters were among the ultra-rich, I gave them different experiences with money, and different attitudes toward it, as well. Some inherited it, some earned it, some had it and lost it, and some married into it. Some were haughty, while others were down-to-earth.

Each of the characters has had identifiable past experiences with the victim, some unpleasant enough to serve as a potential motive for killing him. As everyone comes together to a weekend retreat at a remote country mansion, the reader is presented with a “locked room mystery.” The killer has to be one of the party guests.

Once the murder occurs, the detective and other characters provide plenty of contrast, but by then, the readers have already formed impressions of the ensemble of one-percenters. All they have to do then is buckle up and enjoy the ride.

 

 

Galveston Author Saralyn Richard

 

Award-winning mystery and children’s book author, Saralyn Richard, is a writer, who teaches on the side. Her children’s picture book, Naughty Nana, has reached thousands of children worldwide. Murder in the One Percent, semi-finalist in the Chanticleer CLUE awards for best suspense/thriller, pulls back the curtain on the privileged and powerful rich. Set on a gentleman’s farm in Pennsylvania and in the tony areas of New York, the book shows what happens when someone comes to a party with murder in his heart and poison in his pocket. Look for the sequel, A Palette for Love and Murder, at the end of this year. Saralyn has published stories, articles, and poems in a variety of collections and magazines, and she edited the anthology, Burn Survivors’ Journey. A member of International Thriller Writers and Mystery Writers of America, Saralyn teaches creative writing and a literature class. Her website is www.saralynrichard.com

 

 

 

 

Free Book Drawing: The Secrets We Bury by Debra Webb

 

 

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Hi there. Are you ready for some book prizes? A random person will selected to win a free copy of The Secrets We Bury by bestselling author Debra Webb. The first book in the new Undertaker’s Daughter series. Just leave a comment below and that’s it! Debra Webb is a great storyteller, prolific author, and one of my personal favorites. So I’m thrilled to offer one of her new books in this giveaway courtesy of Debra.

 

Here’s the book blurb. 

Doctor Rowan Dupont knows death. She grew up surrounded by it in her family’s Victorian funeral home, and it’s haunted her since the day her twin sister drowned years ago. Between her mother’s subsequent suicide and the recent murder of her father, coming home to run the funeral home feels fitting—even if it leaves her vulnerable to an obsessive serial killer.

Rowan refuses to let fear keep her from honoring her family. But the more time she spends back in Winchester, Tennessee, the more she finds herself questioning what really happened that fateful summer. Had her sister’s death truly been an accident? And what pushed their mother to take her own life? The dark lake surrounding Rowan’s hometown holds as many secrets as the bodies that float in its chilling depths. But Rowan is running out of time if she’s going to uncover the truth before somebody sinks her for good.

 

 

 

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A random person will be selected to win a copy of The Secrets We Bury by Debra Webb, a paperback or ebook of your choice. Just leave comment below to enter the drawing. Say hello, or what kind of books you like to read.

 

 

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DEBRA WEBB is the USA Today bestselling author of more than 140 novels, including reader favorites the Shades of Death, the Faces of Evil and the Colby Agency series. She is the recipient of the prestigious Romantic Times Career Achievement Award for Romantic Suspense as well as numerous Reviewers Choice Awards. In 2012 Debra was honored as the first recipient of the esteemed L. A. Banks Warrior Woman Award for her courage, strength, and grace in the face of adversity. Recently Debra was awarded the distinguished Centennial Award for having achieved publication of her 100th novel.

With more than four million books in print in numerous languages and countries, Debra’s love of storytelling goes back to her childhood when her mother bought her an old typewriter in a tag sale. Born in Alabama, Debra grew up on a farm. She spent every available hour exploring the world around her and creating her stories. She wrote her first story at age nine and her first romance at thirteen. It wasn’t until she spent three years working for the Commanding General of the US Army in Berlin behind the Iron Curtain and a five-year stint in NASA’s Shuttle Program that she realized her true calling. A collision course between suspense and romance was set. Since then she has expanded her work into some of the darkest places the human psyche dares to go. Visit Debra at www.debrawebb.com

 

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Interview with Clara Benson Author of the Angela Marchmont Mysteries

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Please welcome historical mystery author Clara Benson!

Clara Benson is the author of the Angela Marchmont Mysteries and Freddy Pilkington-Soames Adventures – traditional English mysteries in authentic style set in the 1920s and 30s. One day she would like to drink cocktails and solve mysteries in a sequinned dress and evening gloves. In the meantime she lives in the north of England with her family and doesn’t do any of those things.

 

Interview 

 

  1.    What was your path to becoming a writer?

–          I started out as a translator (Italian to English, since you asked), but I always thought I would write a book at some point, and eventually I decided that if I was going to do it I’d better get on with it! It took four years to write my first, in between moving, having kids, house renovations, etc, and I’m surprised I ever got it finished, to be honest. But once it was done and published and people were buying it, that spurred me on to write more. Now I can’t imagine doing anything else.

 

 

  1.    What do you enjoy most about historical mysteries?

I love the innocence of them! We’ve all read all the mysteries these days, so it’s difficult to truly surprise the reader, and nowadays the solution is far more likely to hang on a microscopic piece of forensic evidence than on anything else. But I love the fact that in historical mysteries the detective can sweep in, point at someone and say, “The clock said 6.05 instead of 6.08, and your train ticket was dated Wednesday not Tuesday, which proves you are the murderer! Inspector, arrest this man!” And the murderer always snarls and says, “Damn you, you’re as cunning as the devil!” And they arrest him and take him away and it’s all wrapped up in a nice neat bow.

 

 

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  1.    Why do you write English mysteries set in the 1920’s and 30’s?

–          Because that’s what I like to read. I’m a huge fan of Golden Age mystery writers – Agatha Christie, Dorothy L Sayers, Josephine Tey and so on, and I wanted to try and write something similar to the stories they wrote that I love so much.

 

 

  1.    Who is Angela Marchmont and why choose her as a protagonist?

–          Angela Marchmont is something of an enigma to start with, and we don’t know much about her except that she’s a wealthy, fashionable and independent woman in her late thirties who’s a bit secretive about her past. As the series continues, we find out more about her, and by the final two books there are a few revelations as all her secrets come out! I didn’t exactly choose her – she kind of developed herself along the way. She was meant to be older and more eccentric, but she had her own ideas, and emerged as a younger and much more charming character than I expected!

 

 

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  1.    What makes her a good detective?

–          She’s curious by nature, and has a questioning mind. She’s smart, obviously, but also very cool, logical and level-headed. She’s quite good at cutting through the red herrings and getting to the solution.

 

  1.    Tell us about the Freddy Pilkington-Soames series.

–          Freddy was an occasional sidekick of Angela’s, and he was such a strong character I thought he deserved his own series. He’s younger than Angela – only in his early twenties – and he works (I use the word loosely) as a reporter for an early tabloid newspaper, the Clarion. He’s hedonistic, chaotic, very full of himself, and prone to getting into awkward situations. In his attempts to solve a mystery he can often be found dangling off a rooftop, getting into a fight, or kissing someone else’s girlfriend – not always through any fault of his own.

 

 

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  1.    What was your experience transitioning from Angela Marchmont mysteries to writing Freddy Pilkington-Soames?

–          It’s quite different writing Freddy, as he’s a lot more active than Angela – partly because of his job – so I have to think of a lot of places for him to go, rather than just weekend country house parties. In addition, he’s a bit of an unruly sort, so I have to think up difficult situations for him to get out of. He’s a bit of a smart alec too, so I spend a lot of time rewriting his dialogue to make it wittier!

 

  1.    How do you conduct research for your books?

–          This is one of the best parts of writing! Although I’m not one for packing a lot of historical detail into my books, I do like to get things right, so I’ve read quite a few history books about the period, and I also make fairly heavy use of the Times Digital Archive (through my library) and the British Newspaper Archive (paid subscription). I’m a big stickler for using the correct language of the period, and for that I use the online version of the Oxford English Dictionary (also via the library), which shows when words were first used. Then of course there’s Google and Wikipedia…

 

 

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  1.    What’s the historical background of A Case of Duplicity in Dorset?

–          None, I’m afraid! It all came out of my own head, although I did get some inspiration for Belsingham from some grand stately homes near where I live, most notably Nostell Priory and Harewood House.

 

 

  1.  Who are your favorite mystery authors?

–          As I said, I’m a big fan of Golden Age authors, but I’ve read all kinds of mystery writers, from Ruth Rendell and PD James to Sue Grafton, Patricia Cornwell and Kathy Reichs. Unfortunately, I don’t get to read many new mysteries these days, as I find it interferes with the writing, so I find myself going back to the old favourites time and time again.

 

 

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  1.  If you had to write in another genre which would it be?

–          I do occasionally branch out into romantic suspense, and I have a few ideas for future books in that genre which I will write when they pass a law to add more hours to the day…

 

  1.  What’s next for you?

–          I had a bit of a go-slow year last year, as I felt I needed to recharge after several years of frantic writing activity, but I’m well and truly back in the saddle now – possibly too much, as I’m busy trying to write two books at once! One is a historical novel set during World War 2, which is much more serious and sombre in tone than my usual style, and the other is Book 5 in the Freddy series, entitled A Case of Suicide in St. James’s, in which Freddy investigates the apparent suicide of a young man at a society ball. This one is turning out to be fun, and I hope to get it finished very soon!

 

Thanks Clara! 

www.clarabenson.com | Goodreads | Amazon

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audiobook Blog Tour: The Stiff in the Study by Shea Macleod

 

 

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About Audiobook #2

 

Author: Shéa MacLeod

Narrator: Yvette Keller

Length: 4 hours 20 minutes

Publisher: Shéa MacLeod⎮2017

Genre: Cozy Mystery

Series: The Viola Roberts Cozy Mysteries, Book 2

Release date: May 17, 2017

 

Synopsis: Viola Roberts is at it again! The sleepy seaside town of Astoria, Oregon is the last place you’d expect to find a dead body. That is until the director of the local museum turns up dead in the study and Viola’s friend, Portia, is accused of the crime. Viola ignores her looming deadline and bout of writer’s block and sets out with her best friend, Cheryl, to solve the murder. From starting riots at local dive bars to breaking into crime scenes, Viola will stop at nothing to prove Portia innocent even if it means putting herself in the cross-hairs of the killer.

 

Buy Links for Audiobook #2

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I’ve come to love the hilarious adventures of Viola Roberts and her sidekick Cheryl. Listening to this audiobook reminded me of the Golden Girls, or Laverne and Shirley from the old days of television. They feed off one another, complement each other. Narrator Yvette Keller plays the part perfectly. Her voice characterizations are on the money and color each personality just enough draw you into the story.

 

 

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About the Author: Shéa MacLeod

 

Shéa MacLeod writes urban fantasy post-apocalyptic sci-fi paranormal romances with a twist of steampunk.  Mostly because she can’t make up her mind which genre she likes best so she decided to write them all.

After six years living in an Edwardian town house in London just a stone’s throw from the local cemetery, Shéa headed back to her hometown of Portland, Oregon. She plans to live out her days eating mushroom pizza, drinking too many caramel lattes, exploring exotic locales, and avoiding spiders.

Shéa is the author of the Viola Roberts Cozy Mysteries and the bestselling Lady Rample Mysteries.

 

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About the Narrator: Yvette Keller

 

Yvette Keller’s first job as a narrator was reading aloud to keep her little brother out of trouble. Her favorite party trick is reading words upside down. Little kids need to see the pictures. Yvette lives in her beloved home town of Santa Barbara, using a lifetime of vocal stamina in her home studio. She produces technical VO industrials for Mesa Steps Consulting clients in addition to audiobooks. A lifetime of reading and speaking has proven one thing: Yvette loves stories. She is thrilled to be making books accessible and engaging through her narration work.

 

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Inside The Murder Mile with Lesley McEvoy

 

 

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Evil never dies…

 

Interview

 

 

What was it like writing your first book?

Writing is something I’ve done all my life. Over the years, I’ve written quite a few manuscripts – my first serious attempt was submitted in 1980! I still have it in a box in my office. So in a way, I don’t view this as my first book – it’s just the first one that I’ve managed to get published! What I can say is what it was like making the conscious decision to write seriously and with purpose, rather than simply as a hobby that I loved. Previously I’d had to fit my writing around life. Bringing up a family, building a career and then a business – the kind of things we all do, but which makes writing consistently and productively very difficult. In 2017 I attended the Harrogate Crime Writing Festival and met and chatted to several successful authors, agents and publishers. It left me with the feeling, that if I was going to give getting published my best shot, then I had to make the commitment to write full-time – or as near to that as possible. My manuscript for ‘The Murder Mile’ had been something I’d picked up and put down sporadically for a few years. Halting the process when ‘life’ got in the way. I came away from Harrogate determined to treat writing as my ‘Day Job’, and set myself the target of having it ready for the next Harrogate Festival in July of 2018. It wasn’t an easy decision by any means. I still needed to make a living and needed an income. But I worked out the minimum I could manage on, and then committed to working from home as much as possible to maximise my writing time. I run a private therapy practice locally, as well as my corporate work, and the practice became the mainstay of my income during the following year. Fate ‘tested’ my decision when I was offered major contracts, which would have taken me away for months at a time. Something I knew would derail my writing plans. So I gritted my teeth and turned them all down.

It was fabulous being able to think of each day as a ‘writing day’. I tried to be disciplined and get into my office around 10am and work until I really couldn’t write anymore, but I rarely finished before 6pm or 7pm. I finally knew what it must feel like to be a ‘proper’ writer and I absolutely loved it.

 

 

 

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What were the most challenging aspects?

Getting into the discipline of making sure that I wrote productively every day. By Productively, I mean, writing words that actually moved the plot along. Developed characters, scenes and plotlines. I realised that giving myself the luxury of a full day of writing was great – but it was too easy to disappear down the rabbit hole of research and not actually do the writing. I know some would-be authors who get so hooked on research that they never actually complete their book.

‘The Murder Mile’, required quite a bit of research in places, but if I was ‘in the zone’ and the words were really flowing – instead of stopping when I hit something I needed to look up, I would just put a note to myself in red which said “Insert [Whatever it was] here later”. Then carry on with the storyline that was flowing.

Another challenge is when I’d hit what others refer to as ‘Writer’s block’. I don’t know how that feels to other authors, but for me those were days when I would stare at the page and literally not know how to start or move things forward at all. My imaginary friends just weren’t talking to me some days. On those occasions I would go back a couple of chapters and re-read what I’d written and do a running edit. Changing words, looking for mistakes and oiling the ‘clunky’ bits. Invariably once I got to where I’d finished the day before, I’d found my voices again and it began to flow. If that didn’t happen, then at least I was comforted by the fact that I’d spent the day productively editing the manuscript and cleaning things up, which saved time at the end.

 

 

 

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What’s your creative approach to writing?

For me a plot always begins with a ‘What if?’ I hear a story on the news or read something in the paper and think ‘that’s interesting….I wonder what if…?’ It can bubble away for weeks, months or in the case of ‘The Murder Mile’ several years. Percolating and fermenting until it drips out to form the words on the page. I also always start with the end in mind. Once I know how it will end and I have the ‘How done it’, I start to develop the rest. I’ve heard other authors use the terms ‘Plotter or Panster’. Which means do you plot it all out before you begin and have the complete story arc? Or do you fly by the seat of your pants and just hold on for the ride? I suppose if my experience with this book is anything to go by, I do a bit of both. Sometimes I have a plan, but then the characters say or do something I hadn’t foreseen and that leads us down a completely new path – and it’s often much better than the one I had planned out. I love it when the characters take on a life of their own and start to run things. I just watch it unfold, as if it’s a movie, and write down what I’m seeing. That’s a great feeling and I know at that point that it’s really working and the characters I’ve created have taken on a life of their own. Magical!

 

 

What helped you the most in learning how to write a novel?

A lot of authors I’d met were members of writing groups or had done creative writing courses or had a background in journalism. And at first I thought maybe that was the secret? Maybe you had to have that kind of formal training in order to write a book that publishers would want. Happily I’ve since discovered that isn’t the case – which is just as well as none of those things apply to me.

My answer is rather simple. For me at least, reading is and has always been the key to learning how to write. How can you write books if you never read them? How do you even know what you would want to write in the first place, if you don’t know the type of books you enjoy reading?

I read on 2 levels. The first is for the enjoyment of it. Then I think about what worked in the book? How did the writer create suspense / drama? How did they make sure you wanted to turn the page? Take it apart and examine the mechanics of it or of a particular aspect of it that grabbed you, and see how it was done. I do that all the time. Not just with books, but with films / TV programs or even lyrics in a song. I analyse them and look at the nuts and bolts of how they were put together and what made it work – or not work.

Writing is a craft and like any other craftsman practice makes perfect. So as well as reading, I learned how to write a novel, by doing it. Over and over. Not for profit, but just because I loved the process. In reading the kind of novels I aspired to write and studying the work of the best authors in my chosen genre. Like studying the work of the great masters.

 

 

 

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What does Jo McCready do as a Forensic Psychologist?

Forensic Psychologists generally are involved with the assessment and treatment of criminal behaviour. They work with prisoners and offenders, as well as Police and other professionals involved in the judicial and penal systems.

Most people are familiar with the role in programmes like ‘Criminal Minds’ and ‘Cracker’, which concentrate on the  part they play in criminal profiling. In The Murder Mile, Jo McCready is one of the small number of ‘Celebrity’ Profilers. She has come to public attention by appearing on TV documentaries about serial offenders and subsequently writing books about her cases. She has also been involved in the past in helping to bring killers and serial rapists to justice through her profiling skills. She works as an independent consultant to the police who call her in to advise on offender behaviour and draw up profiles of offenders to assist them in their investigations.

Jo has a wealth of experience in the Criminal Justice System and working with killers, many of whom she helped to track down or gave evidence as an expert witness at their trials, which help secure their convictions. Her database of facts and criminal cases, built up over many years and her knowledge of criminal psychology, helps her to look at a scene and draw conclusions about the possible offender, which the police can use to narrow down the type of people they are concentrating on in their investigation.

 

 

 

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Who was Martha Scott and why was she seeing Jo Mcready?

Martha Scott is a young woman who has been admitted to a psychiatric unit, suffering from severe anxiety and depression. She’s haunted by nightmares of a time when, as a heroin addict she believes she murdered prostitutes by stabbing them. When Jo McCready is called in to help her unlock the memories of what actually happened, she unlocks an ‘alter ego’ who claims to be Jack the Ripper and thanks Jo for setting him free to kill again. Shortly after, Martha is found murdered in the same way as Jack the Ripper’s first victim in 1888 and a sequence of serial killings begin, replicating the murders of the Victorian Era ‘Jack’.

 

 

How do you unlock a repressed memory?

It’s believed that the unconscious mind (which is the repository for all our experiences and memories) can block, or prevent a person accessing a memory, because it’s associated with a traumatic event. A kind of protection mechanism to prevent further damage to a person’s mental health. Such memories can be accessed during hypnotherapy, and if they are a result of trauma, the therapist needs to be one specially trained in the treatment of trauma and probably Post Traumatic Stress. In short, the process has to be done with a therapist. It’s not something you can do on your own. In the book, Jo McCready has become an authority on memory resolution after trauma, and has written books about it. So she is called in to see if she can help Martha, who seems to be suffering from the condition.

 

 

 

 

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How did the plot for The Murder Mile develop?

When I tell people about my book, one of the first things I’m asked is where the idea came from? I suppose the short answer is that it sprang from the job I do. I’m a behavioural analyst – a profiler by trade. But it was during my work in the psychotherapy practice that the idea for the book first presented itself. I was a newly qualified hypnotherapist and I was treating a lady for anxiety. She wanted hypnotherapy to help her to relax. My client was in a deep state of hypnosis, when suddenly, her eyes flew open and she turned her head slowly to look at me. The bright blue eyes I had noticed during our therapy session, had turned into black dots that stared coldly into mine. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. But then she spoke to me. Gone was the soft gentle voice of the lady I had met earlier. Out of the petite body of this frail woman, came the deep guttural voice of an old man!

If anyone else had described this encounter, I wouldn’t have believed them. But the transformation in front of my eyes was as real as it was shocking.

The ‘man’ I was engaging with now, told me that his spirit was inhabiting her body. He said he liked it there and warned me to “back off” and leave them alone. I found myself entering into a bizarre conversation with this alter ‘personality’, during which he threatened to kill me if I interfered or ‘exorcised’ him. Needless to say, I left him exactly where he was!

On bringing my client back from her hypnosis session, it became apparent that she was blissfully unaware of the presence of her dark companion, and I certainly didn’t enlighten her!

As I said earlier my ideas spring from a central question, which is – “What if?” I found myself replaying that hypnosis session and asking…”what if an alter ego appeared during therapy like that and threatened to commit murder now that he was ’free’”?

What if a series of murders began – replicating exactly what the alter personality had promised to do? There had only been two people in the room that night. Only two people who could know what was said…what if one of those people became his first victim? The therapist would be the only one left…she would have to work out how that could happen.

It would be the ultimate “locked room” mystery, but it would be a locked mind instead and the therapist would have to find the key to explain it.

It was an intriguing premise, but I wanted to write crime fiction – not ghost stories, so I knew I had to come up with a way of making it a ‘flesh-and-blood’ killer committing the crimes. How could that be possible in this scenario? It bubbled away for a few years and as I became more experienced and gained more knowledge in the field of psychology and hypnotherapy, I started to formulate a ‘How done it’. Once I had that, it was obvious that the protagonist would have to be the Psychologist and so Jo McCready was born. Then the rest fell into place.

 

 

 

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What’s DCI Callum Ferguson’s role in the story?

Callum Ferguson is a Detective Chief Inspector in the West Yorkshire Police. He is the senior investigating officer into Martha’s murder. He and Jo McCready met the previous year when Jo was called in as a Forensic Psychologist to assist in a case he was involved with. Callum and Jo had a romantic history in the past, which simmers below the surface during their time together on the Jack the Ripper copycat case featured in The Murder Mile.

 

 

What’s the relationship like between Police Intelligent Unit profiler Liz Taylor and Jo McCready?

Liz Taylor-Caine is West Yorkshire Police’s own Forensic Psychologist. She is younger and less experienced than Jo McCready and seriously resents Jo’s involvement in the current case. Jo tries not to tread on Liz’s toes, but Liz is bitter and it soon becomes clear that she will do anything to undermine Jo. Although Jo tries to maintain a professional relationship with the other woman, it is safe to say that the two are definitely not friends and allies.

 

 

 

About Lesley McEvoy

 

Lesley McEvoy was born and bred in Yorkshire in the North of England and has had a passion for writing all her life. The writing took a backseat as Lesley developed her career as a Behavioral Analyst / Profiler and Psychotherapist – setting up her own Consultancy business and therapy practice. She has written and presented extensively around the world for over 25 years specializing in behavioral profiling and training, with a wide variety of organisations. The corporate world provided unexpected sources of writing material when, as Lesley said – she found more psychopaths in business than in prison! Lesley’s work in some of the UK’s toughest prisons was where she met people whose lives had been characterized by drugs and violence – a rich source of material for the themes she now writes about.

 

 

Lesley McEvoy

 

 

 

William Bernhardt Discusses His New Legal Thriller – The Last Chance Lawyer

 

 

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Getting his client off death row could save his career… or make him the next victim.

 

 

Interview 

 

What was your creative process for creating Daniel Pike?

I thought it would fun write some more legal thrillers. After nineteen Ben Kincaid novels, I was ready for a break, but with a few years off to write poetry and nonfiction about writing, it seems fun again. I wanted Dan to be a modern man, very in tune with the zeitgeist, smart, fun to spend time with–but not perfect. Perfect people are boring. I can’t relate. Dan has a special skill for rooting out the truth–useful for a criminal lawyer. He’s a bit quirky–wears sneakers to court, carries a backpack rather than a briefcase, lives on a boat. But he has a passion for justice, for preventing the government from railroading innocents, and as the book develops, you’ll see why.  

 

 

What makes him the last chance lawyer?

After a disastrous event early in the book, he joins a new team of lawyers that take their cases from the mysterious Mr. K, who sends them cases no one else can handle (at least not as well). K pays Dan’s salary, not the clients, so money is not the main focus. Dan becomes a lawyer for those who, due to finances or other circumstances, have few options.

 

 

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How is he different than  lawyer Ben Kincaid in your other series?

Dan is everything Ben was not, at least when he started. Dan is confident, showy, outgoing, and successful. Ben was a dogged bur usually effective lawyer. Dan is a showboat. What he learns in this novel is how to be more than a showboat.

 

“Daniel Pike would rather fight for justice than follow the rules.” What is justice from his point of view?

When Dan talks about justice, he means correcting the imbalance in the modern judicial system. Dan knows from experience that the criminal justice system is stacked in favor of the prosecution. We may say people are presumed innocent, but in truth, most people assume the accused are guilty until it is proven otherwise. The threat of incarceration is so great people plea bargain to crimes they didn’t commit. Dan tries to bring the system back into balance.  

 

 

 

Man in prison

 

 

What is the relationship between the objective rule of law and an attorney’s subjective use of it?

I’m not sure what you mean by “the subjective use of it.” The law is the law. Legislators write it, and judges apply it. The defense lawyer’s job is to hold the jury to the law, which says they cannot convict unless guilt has been proven “beyond a reasonable doubt,” which is a high standard. And meant to be.

 

 

What can you tell us about the kind of case he’s undertaking?

At first, Dan is representing a nine-year old immigrant who will be deported, because temporary protected status has been revoked for those from her country (after decades), unless she is adopted. Then the prospective adoptive mother is accused or murder.  

 

 

What were some challenges while writing this book, or beginning a new series?

Unlike when I started with Ben, I planned this to be a series from the start. You will see some of the threads sewn into the first book. This is a self-contained novel, but there are elements planted that will expand and combine to form a much larger story over the course of many books.

 

 

What’s next?

In July, the second Daniel Pike book (which I’ve already finished). Court of Killers.

 

 

William Bernhardt image

 

William Bernhardt is the author of forty-seven books, including the bestselling Ben Kincaid series, the historical novels Challengers of the Dust and Nemesis, two books of poetry (The White Bird and The Ocean’s Edge), and the Red Sneaker books on fiction writing. His most recent novel is The Last Chance Lawyer, the first in a new series of legal thrillers featuring rebel lawyer Daniel Pike.

In addition, Bernhardt founded the Red Sneaker Writers Center to mentor aspiring writers. The Center hosts an annual writers conference, small-group seminars, a monthly newsletter, a phone app, and a bi-weekly podcast. More than three dozen of Bernhardt’s students have subsequently published with major houses. He is also the owner of Balkan Press, which publishes poetry and fiction as well as the literary journal Conclave. He has published many new authors as well as prominent authors like Pulitzer-Prize-winner N. Scott Momaday, and Grammy-Award-winner Janis Ian.

 

WilliamBernhardt.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

Inside The Devil’s Half Mile with Historical Fiction Author Paddy Hirsch

The Devils Half MIle image

 

 

1799 New York – A Hell of a Town

 

Interview

 

What led you to become a historical fiction writer?

I became an historical novelist rather by accident. I wrote a non-fiction book called Man vs Markets in 2001 with HarperCollins. It’s a book that uses analogy and humor to explain the financial markets. I wanted to do a follow-up on how an actual financial market gets formed and why, and I wanted to focus on the US markets and the creation of the New York Stock Exchange, both of which were created in a comparatively short time after the Revolutionary War. It was very interesting in principle: the market was created with very few rules, and the result was a dysfunctional mess that was not particularly good at raising capital  – which is what the matte is supposed to do. After the markets, and the economy nearly collapsed in America’s first financial crisis, The Great Panic of 1792, Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson had a debate about whether they should make some rules for traders, or just let laissez faire persist. Are you still with me? Yeah, so it wasn’t really that interesting at all. in fact it was pretty bloody boring, and I realized I was doing a lot of research but no writing. So I started to write a little sidebar to the history narrative, a fictional soupçon that involved a murder and lawyer and a bunch of Irish gangsters. That was much more interesting, and I ended up ditching the history and sticking to the novel. And here we are!

 

 

 

Wall Street road sign, Lower Manhattan, New York City

 

 

 

What interested you to write about 1799 New York?

1799 was a very interesting year for New York. The city had been the capital of the United States, but was no longer. The State passed a law for the gradual abolition of slavery that year, and it was the year before the turn of the century, which is always an interesting time.

 

 

 

5th Avenue (Ave) Sign, New York NYC

 

 

 

Describe the historical context of this time period.

Both the city and the country were on the cusp of a lot of things, politically, socially and economically. The industrial revolution had begun, but hadn’t really reached America by this point: the canals hadn’t been dug, and technology transfer from Europe was still in its infancy, which was why slave labor was so important to the economy at the time. Momentum was gathering for abolition, and almost all of the Northern States had fallen in line at this point, so the scene was set for dispute with the south. Abolition in New York drew black people  – free African Americans and runaway slaves – to the city in large numbers. That set up a good deal of tension with the Irish, as both groups were generally not educated and were shut out of society and economic advancement, which meant they competed for the same jobs. The Irish had not yet started to come in the numbers they would when the Famine hit Ireland, 50 years later, but interest was picking up, and they were probably the largest immigrant group in the city at the time. The City fathers were beginning to realize that a lot of people were going to come to New York over the next few decades, and they’d better get ready. So they began drawing up a plan of Manhattan, anticipating that they’d need to pave over the entire island. This when the city boundaries had not even reached what is now Canal Street. It was a good thing they had that foresight: in 1800 there were about 60,000 people in the city, but just sixty years later, the count was up to a million.  

Meanwhile, America was in a kind of on-again off-again war with the English, which made trade difficult, and crimped the economy somewhat. But the country’s financial markets were developing in New York and Philadelphia, and America was realizing its promise as a country extraordinarily wealthy in commodities of all kinds. Essentially, in 1799, America was about to enter a serious boom, which makes it a very exciting time to write about.

 

 

 

1799 New York image

 

 

 

What’s the story behind the name Devil’s Half Mile aka Wall Street?

I found the nickname the Devil’s Half mile in a letter that I found in the Library of Congress. I’d like to say everyone thought of Wall Street as a place that the Devil reigns supreme, but It is the only reference that I have ever found. Which is probably not surprising, as Wall Street is only about a third of a mile long, and that’s with the landfill!

 

 

What contribution did Alexander Hamilton make at that time?

Alexander Hamilton had all but retired from public life by 1799, and within five years he’d be dead, shot to death in a duel with his old enemy Aaron Burr. his influence on New York and on Wall Street can’t be overestimated. He was a forceful proponent of abolition, and he was the savior of Wall Street during the Great Panic. He engineered a bank bailout that restored faith in the financial system and prevented a run on the banks that could have brought the nascent US economy to its knees. In 1799, he was an ordinary lawyer and investor, but he was still hugely influential in New York political and  financial circles. And socially, too, even if he did live a long way up Manhattan island on his estate.

 

 

 

Macro shot of ten dollars banknote

 

 

 

Who is Justy Flanagan and what’s his role in the story?

Justy is a new American, born in New York to Irish parents. His father and uncle emigrated from Ireland after the Revolutionary War, and while his father decided to take the high road and try to carve out a career as a trader, his uncle opted for the waterfront, where he lords it over the Irish gangs, who call him The Bull. Justy’s mother  died when he was young, and his father was found hanged in his hallway in the wake of the Great Panic. Everyone assumed suicide, and the Bull took Justy in and sent him to the new Catholic University at Maynooth in Ireland. While there, Justy studies law, and dabbles in criminology. He realizes his father could not have killed himself and must have been murdered. So he returns to New York to find out whodunit and why.

 

 

Tell us some interesting facts you learned about in your research.

I was struck by the lawlessness of the United States and New York at the time. It’s not really surprising when you think about it: America broke away from Britain because it objected to all those rules, after all. It makes sense, then, that the founders wanted to design a society that was quite libertarian. And that meant very few rules. Pretty much anything went back in those days. Drugs, booze, prostitution, littering, driving on the wrong side of the road, selling dodgy investments; it was all quite legal. The only real crimes were those against person and property. I was also struck by the opposition to having a police force. I knew that the NYPD wasn’t really formed until 1845, even though the city experienced a tremendous rise in criminality starting in the 1820s, but I didn’t know why. The expense, which was considerable, was only half the reason. It turns out that there was also considerable opposition to having anything remotely resembling a standing army in the city. During the Revolutionary War, the British Army was garrisoned inside the city. At the hint of any unrest, the army was broken out of barracks and told to crack heads. New Yorkers were very resentful of this, and wanted to be sure the like of it never happened again. The concept of a police force looked a lot like an army to many, which was why it took so long to form one.

 

 

 

What’s next for you?

I’m publishing a  sequel to The Devil’s Half Mile, called Hudson’s Kill. It comes out on 17 September. And meanwhile I’m working on a couple of things: I’m building a series that my UK publisher is calling Lawless New York, which I rather like. I have ideas for as many as eight ideas in total. And I’m also working on a contemporary novel, set simultaneously in Los Angeles and Belfast, Northern Ireland. And I still have my day job, editing an NPR economics podcast, called The Indicator from Planet Money.

 

 

 

Paddy Hirsch image

 

 

 

Paddy Hirsch is an author and Murrow award-winning journalist. His first novel is The Devil’s Half Mile, an historical thriller with a financial twist, set in New York in 1799.

He is the author of Man vs Markets; Economics Explained, Plain and Simple. Publisher’s Weekly called the book ” “A straightforward, accessible, and often hilarious overview of our financial and economic systems, products, and concepts.”

He works as a supervising editor at NPR’s planet Money. He is also the creator and host of Marketplace Whiteboard, an award-winning video explainer of financial and economic terms.

 

Paddy Hirsch | Amazon | Goodreads

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Motivating Factor By Daniella Bernett

Criminal Motive concept

 

 

The Motivating Factor

By Daniella Bernett

 

What is crime?

It begins as a kernel of an idea that metamorphoses itself into a series of thoughts that lead to a transgression against the law and, sometimes, the taking of a human life. It upsets the balance in a safe and ordered world. But this turmoil and chaos are precisely what an author craves and desperately needs when guiding the reader down the dark twists and turns—and dare I say dead ends?—of a mystery or thriller. But before an author can permit his or her imagination to completely unravel the tale one tantalizing layer at a time, there must be a reason, a motive. Without a motive, there would be no story because there would be no crime.

Motive is just as critical as character. A reader must suspend belief for a time and think, “This could happen.” “This person could be real.” For a story to have an air of authenticity, it is essential that an author thoroughly understand the criminal’s, and the sleuth’s, mindset before sitting down to write.

 

 

 

Criminal Mind sign blue sky image.jpeg

 

 

 

In life, each one of us is shaped by the myriad people with whom we come into contact; the situations in which we find ourselves; and the opportunities we’re given or let slip through our fingers. It is this confluence of factors, combined with our inherent nature and temperament, which make us unique. So too must it be in a mystery. One character’s motives are different from another’s because of his or her reactions to a particular situation, whether it be a perceived slight, a kind gesture or downright duplicity.

Among the juicy plethora of motives for murder tucked in an author’s arsenal are love (both romantic and unrequited); jealousy; greed; revenge; blackmail; and insanity. I must admit I find insanity (although terrifying) a boring motive. Rather than devising a knotty reason for the crime, an author is taking the easy road by suggesting the killer could not help himself or herself. I believe it is much more fun coming up with a complex motive, or even better a melding of motives, and then leading the reader on a merry chase for the clues. It’s wicked, but quite necessary, to coax the dear reader down a few blind alleys. A red herring or two simply adds a smidgen of spice to the story and keeps it hurtling forward to a dramatic (and one hopes satisfying) denouement. On the same token, a sleuth’s motive is to seek justice—whether for the victim or society as a whole—to ensure that someone pays for the crime.

 

 

 

Stop Crime

 

 

 

My series features journalist Emmeline Kirby as the sleuth. The core fabric of her being is finding the truth and seeing that justice is served. For her, it is anathema to allow a murderer or any other criminal to go free. Although noble and admirable, these motives at times have so consumed her that it has made her heedless of danger and plunged her into some harrowing predicaments. This impetuous streak is aided and abetted by Emmeline’s short temper. I mention this to highlight the human foibles to which all characters must succumb to make the story plausible. If readers can recognize and immediately relate to a character’s motives, the author has succeeded in making a connection.

My other protagonist is Gregory Longdon, a dashing jewel thief who is a gentleman at heart. Where to begin with Gregory? Is he a criminal or a sleuth? Well, the answer is a bit of both. His past is steeped in so many secrets and he’s trying to keep them from seeing the light of day. As opposed to Emmeline, he is not above stretching the truth upon occasion. Meanwhile wielding a rapier wit and charm, he takes tremendous pleasure in needling long-suffering Chief Inspector Oliver Burnell of Scotland Yard. Poor Burnell knows, without any doubt whatsoever, that Gregory has been responsible for a string of notorious jewel robberies in the U.K. and across Europe, but he has never been able to catch him red-handed. Burnell will never give up, though. His mission in life is to make sure that Gregory winds up as a guest of Her Majesty’s prison system. However while Gregory enjoys the thrill of the chase, one thing he could never condone is murder. Therefore, he is more than willing to offer his criminal—skills shall we say?—to help Emmeline and Burnell search for the culprit. After all, who better than a criminal to instantly understand the devious workings of another criminal’s mind.

What the author must remember is that humans are curious creatures. Readers must know why. You have to play on this thirst for answers to conjure up a nuanced motive that is at once intriguing but grounded in reason. A reason that at least your criminal rationalizes as justification for taking that fatal next step. If done with loving care and attention to detail, the reader will eagerly follow the story into the world of lawlessness, mayhem and murder that has risen like the phoenix from the smoldering ashes of your imagination.

 

 

 

Daniella Bernett Author Photo

 

 

Daniella Bernett is a member of the Mystery Writers of America New York Chapter. She graduated summa cum laude with a B.S. in Journalism from St. John’s University. Lead Me Into Danger, Deadly Legacy, From Beyond The Grave and A Checkered Past are the first four books in the Emmeline Kirby-Gregory Longdon mystery series. She also is the author of two poetry collections, Timeless Allure and Silken Reflections. In her professional life, she is the research manager for a nationally prominent engineering, architectural and construction management firm. Daniella is currently working on Emmeline and Gregory’s next adventure.

Visit www.daniellabernett.com or follow her on Facebook or on Goodreads.

 

 

Interview with Crime Fiction Author Rachel Amphlett

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Please welcome author Rachel Amphlett a brilliant crime fiction author who I’ve had the pleasure reading and interacting with. I’ve come to love her Detective Kay Hunter series, especially the audiobook versions narrated by Alison Campbell.

 

 

 

Red carpet and velvet ropes on gala night background. 3D illustration

 

 

About the Author: Rachel Amphlett

 

Before turning to writing, Rachel Amphlett played guitar in bands, worked as a TV and film extra, dabbled in radio as a presenter and freelance producer for the BBC, and worked in publishing as a sub-editor and editorial assistant.

She now wields a pen instead of a plectrum and writes crime fiction and spy novels, including the Dan Taylor espionage novels and the Detective Kay Hunter series.

Originally from the UK and currently based in Brisbane, Australia, Rachel cites her writing influences as Michael Connelly, Lee Child, and Robert Ludlum. She’s also a huge fan of Peter James, Val McDermid, Robert Crais, Stuart MacBride, and many more.

She’s a member of International Thriller Writers and the Crime Writers Association, with the Italian foreign rights for her debut novel, White Gold sold to Fanucci Editore’s TIMECrime imprint, and the first four books in the Dan Taylor espionage series contracted to Germany’s Luzifer Verlag.

 

WebsiteTwitterFacebookGoodreadsInstagram

 

 

 

INTERVIEW

 

Do you outline your books or spontaneous?

I tend to do a bit of both these days. When I first get an idea, I’ll let it go around in my head for a bit, and then I’ll sketch out the opening scene.

From there, I’ll jot down any key scenes that have popped into my head and what Peter James refers to as the “gosh, wow!” moments dotted through the story that will hopefully keep you turning the pages but the rest is pretty spontaneous.

I figure with the detective stories that if I already know who the culprit is, then it spoils the fun for me and the reader trying to work out whodunnit.

 

 

 

Criminal

 

 

 

What’s your creative approach to writing scenes?

I’ve got a really tight process these days for writing. I’ll get an idea going around in my head, and then I’ll scribble that down in a new notebook and keep jotting down basic scenes as they crop up, and then I’ll take that and develop it into an outline of about 30 – 40 key scenes. For each scene, I’ll write a sentence or two about what has to happen in that scene, and then I’ll get stuck in and write. For example, Scared to Death took me nine weeks to complete the first draft using the above process. After that, there were weeks of editing, but I enjoy that as much as the writing because I keep discovering new things about the characters and story.

 

 

 

story telling text title on clapper board

 

 

 

When is your next book due?

 

The next Detective Kay Hunter book will be out towards the end of the year. I recommend readers sign up to my Readers Group on my website to be the first to find out the next book title and see the cover before anyone else!

 

 

This from a recent blog tour and book review of  Bridge to Burn, Detective Kay Hunter Book 7

 

 

Bridge To Burn Banner

 

Blog Tour: Bridge To Burn by Rachel Amphlett

 

 

Bridge to Burn Cover AUDIO

 

 

 

 

 

 

When a mummified body is found in a renovated building, the gruesome discovery leads Detective Kay Hunter and her team into a complex murder investigation.

The subsequent police inquiry exposes corruption, lies, and organized crime within the tight-knit community – and Kay’s determination to seek justice for the young murder victim could ruin the reputations of men who will do anything to protect their business interests.

But as Kay closes in on the killer, tragedy strikes closer to home in an event that will send a shockwave through her personal life and make her question everything she values. Can Kay keep her private and professional life under control while she tries to unravel one of the strangest murder cases of her career?

Have you discovered the Kay Hunter British detective murder mysteries yet?

 

 

 

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It’s always great detective fiction in the Kay Hunter series. A body is found under bizarre circumstances leaving Hunter and her team scrambling to find answers. Lies, cover ups, deception, family drama–Detective Kay Hunter has her hands full attempting to solve a mind-boggling puzzle. This series is full of creative, entertaining plots that don’t disappoint.

 

 

Cozy Historical Mysteries with Lee Strauss

Lee Strauss image

 

 

Interview with Lee Strauss

Author of the Higgins & Hawke and Ginger Gold mysteries

 

 

* I love the historical cozy concept of Higgins & Hawke. Why the 1930’s in the city of Boston?

Higgins & Hawke is a spin off series from The Ginger Gold Mystery series which is set in 1920s England. Both leads originally met in Boston and lived in London in the same house. Haley Higgins exits the Ginger Gold series when her brother in Boston is murdered. Higgins & Hawke begins seven years later. Since I was already writing about the 1920s with Ginger Gold, I wanted a change of scenery and tone. The 1930s is a very interesting time in world and American history.

 

 

 

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*What’s your experience writing cozy mysteries versus other genres?

I’ve been writing cozy mysteries for two years now. Before that wrote in a myriad of genres including YA, romance, and science fiction. When I finally settled on cozy historical mystery, I found my “home.”

 

 

*How important is the setting in historical mysteries?

I would say very. The historical backdrop is almost like a character in itself. Readers love the details and historical trivia. Otherwise, you might as well stick to a contemporary setting.

 

 

*What’s the historical background of Boston in the 1930’s?

That is a loaded question. Like the rest of the country, its citizens were suffering from the great depression. There were large sections specific to ethnicity, especially Italians, Irish and Jewish, who didn’t exactly get along. As the war grew closer, anti-semitism became a real problem. It’s one of the reasons I gave Samantha Hawke a Jewish mother-in-law; to make those problems real.

 

 

 

 

Boston old map

 

 

 

*What was the relationship like between Dr. Haley Higgins and her brother Joe?

Joe was the third of 3 boys and Haley the last and only girl. They were close in age, and Haley was largely a tomboy, so they were very close as children.

 

 

*What are the duties of the city’s pathologist assistant?

Like the title suggests, the assistant is supposed to assist the chief medical examiner in instances where a death may be suspicious or the cause of death undetermined. In Haley’s case she steps in for the chief most of the time. You’ll have to read it to find out why. 🙂

 

 

*Describe the relationship between Dr. Haley Higgins and Investigative reporter Samantha Hawke.

In the beginning Haley can’t help but feel suspicious. She has a history of bad rapport with the press, especially from when her brother’s case was new. However, as the book progresses, she sees Samantha as someone much like herself: a woman trying to make it in a man’s world, and they form a friendship.

 

 

 

Man and woman holding hands at a table

 

 

 

*In the Ginger Gold mysteries how did you select your settings?

It was pretty simple. I adore all the British mystery authors and TV shows and I wanted to set a mystery there.

 

*Do you have plans for more Ginger Gold books?

Yes. The 9th book, Murder at the Boat Race, is releasing in June.

 

 

 

Murder aboard the flying scotsman Ginger gold

 

 

 

*What’s a typical writing day like?

It’s typical in that it’s never typical! But if I had to drill it down I’d say I tackle the business part of being a writer in the mornings and write in the afternoons. I really should flip that around, but that’s usually how it lands.

 

 

*What are the most challenging aspects of writing for you?

My husband and I started snowbirding this year, and so the warm weather, palm trees and beautiful beach is a huge distraction!  It’s a challenge I’m prepared to take on.

 

 

*How do you manage multiple writing projects?

I write one book at a time. I can’t plot and plan for future books, but when it’s time to write, I focus fully on the story in front of me.

 

 

 

Murder at the boat club Ginger gold

 

 

Ginger Gold Mystery Book 9 Murder at the Boat Club: A Cozy 1920’s Murder Mystery will be out JUNE 28, 2019 – Pre-order HERE

 

 

Death on the Tower Higgins and Hawke mystery lee strauss

 

 

The most recent Higgins & Hawke Mystery is Death on the Tower: A 1930’s Cozy Historical Murder Mystery 

 

Death by Treason . . .

When the body of a British National is found at the base of the common house tower in Boston, assistant medical examiner, Dr. Haley Higgins has no reason to believe it wasn’t suicide.

That is until Investigative Reporter Samantha Hawke gets an anonymous tip: the victim, a Mrs. Olivia Gray, was pushed from the seventh floor to her death.

The question is why?

Haley and Samantha work together to unravel secrets that go back to a time that no one wants to remember ~ when shameful acts were sanctioned, and death licked at everyone’s heels.

What did Mrs. Gray know, and who wanted to silence her?

 

 

Lee Strauss image

 

 

As Lee Strauss, I’m a bestselling author of The Ginger Gold Mysteries series (cozy historical mystery), A Nursery Rhyme Suspense series (mystery sci-fi romantic suspense), The Perception series (young adult dystopian), and young adult historical fiction. When I’m not writing or reading I like to cycle, hike and kayak. I enjoy traveling (but not jet lag :0), cashew lattes, red wine and dark chocolate.

I also write younger YA fantasy as Elle Lee Strauss.

 

Lee Strauss Books

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