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INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR CATHY ACE

I reviewed The Corpse With The Silver Tongue back in February and it was an amazing book. So I am very happy to have author Cathy Ace here today to talk about her new book, The Corpse With The Golden Nose, second in the Cait Morgan Mystery Series, as she does a blog tour with Great Escapes Book Tours. Be sure to listen to Cathy reading the opening of her latest book.

Of course you will want to hear her read the whole thing to you! I’m not a fan of audiobooks but I could listen to Cathy read all day. I “met” Cathy on Facebook a while back and she is a warm and funny person who I hope to cross paths with at a writers’ conference in the future. Most importantly, she is a woman who knows how a cup of tea should be made.

INTERVIEW

So Cathy, Sue Grafton has her A to Z titles, you have The Corpse With The Silver Tongue and now The Corpse With The Golden Nose, where do you see yourself going with this precious metals/body parts theme for titles?

First of all I’d like to say how delighted I am that you enjoyed THE CORPSE WITH THE SILVER TONGUE. And yes, you’re right, I’ve continued the title theme with my second novel, THE CORPSE WITH THE GOLDEN NOSE. Since precious metals alone might have proved too constricting, I planned from the outset to use other “precious things” and then associate them with body parts. Cait’s third mystery is currently with the copy editor, getting ready for a spring 2014 publication, and will be called THE CORPSE WITH THE EMERALD THUMB. Following that there are another three books well into the plotting/planning stages, all with titles ready to go. But, if you don’t mind, I’ll keep those under my hat for now.

Did the fact you wrote training courses and textbooks actually make the transition to writing fiction easier or more difficult?

Oddly, I think it made it both! I’ve been fortunate enough to write for a living for my whole professional career, and, whether it’s advertising copy, press stories, marketing communications of other sorts, or training courses and text books, what each type of discipline gives you is the chance to hone your skills at fast thinking and quick writing – to a deadline. So all of that helped with the process of writing—being able to sit, think, plan and write. But when it comes to fiction, as opposed to “commercial” writing, there’s an entirely new toolbox to crack open . . . then you have to learn how each tool works and how you, as an individual, can use it within your own realm of endeavor.

Do you have habits or routines you find yourself following to be able to get into writing mode?  Or do you just sit down from 8 a.m. to noon, come hell or high water and write every single day?

My routine is dictated by my dogs! Their needs have to be met before I do anything else, so, once they are settled at my feet, I can begin my work. My study, the room where I write, is sometimes tidy, sometimes a bit messy. So long as what’s in front of me is clear, I’m able to concentrate. I look over my laptop into my garden, which allows me to rest my eyes. I wore a particular silk dressing gown to write my first novel, but now I’m more practical about what I wear to write – though all my clothes have to be “dog friendly”.

What do like and dislike about writing?

Honestly, I haven’t yet discovered one thing about the writing life that I don’t like. As for what I like about it—well, I suppose there are two key aspects I most enjoy: the phase when I’m inventing . . . places, characters, names, backstories . . . is great fun; when I’m off on my journey, with Cait, I thoroughly enjoy being in the places I’ve imagined, with the people I’ve conjured up . . . and allowing the plot to unfurl.

What is the harshest review or criticism you’ve had about your writing, published or made to you personally, and how did you deal with it?

A couple of weeks after the publication of my first novel I received an e-mail that spewed vitriol and was deeply personal. I have to admit that I was shocked . . . shaken. It was horrible. After a week or so I decided to create a folder entitled “Nasties”. Fortunately it’s the only communication, or review, that I’ve had to file there. That said, I have received reviews from people who didn’t like my book, which is perfectly understandable. I’m sure there’ll be more, because you really cannot write something that everyone will enjoy.

What are you working on now and what are your future writing plans?

Right now I have two projects on the go: my third Cait Morgan Mystery, THE CORPSE WITH THE EMERALD THUMB, is at the final copy editing stage, and I’m enjoying spending some more time with Cait in the municipality of Punta de las Rocas, not far from Puerto Vallarta, on the Pacific coast of Mexico. I’m also writing Cait’s fourth adventure…about which I am not allowed to speak! What I can tell you about it is that, with her third mystery launching in spring 2014, readers won’t have to wait for a whole year before her fourth is published… it’ll be out in the fall of 2014. Yes, two books in one year. PHEW! The even better news is that two more are planned for 2015!

Now three things that have nothing to do with writing:

  • What is your favorite food? Oh no! This is a really tough one. There are very few foods I dislike – which explains a lot about me. And I’m so contrary that if I said today I’d give up my least favorite food for life, it’s the very thing I would crave tomorrow! So, forgive me, but I’m going to choose a few: a one-inch thick, juicy steak, very well-seasoned and grilled to a perfect medium rare; duck confit, preferably with balsamic glazed cherries; white chocolate bread pudding with vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce; Marmite on toast. Oh – and nonfat Greek yoghurt with Splenda, of course.
  • What is your favorite TV show? Another toughie! I watch a lot of TV. I like TV. I like different shows when I’m in different moods. I am a great fan of Doctor Who, have been for fifty years and will probably always be so…I wait eagerly for each new episode. Two series I can watch over and over, though I could recite the scripts by now, would be the Morse and Lewis series: their pace lowers my blood pressure as I watch. Oh, and Law and Order, of course!
  • What is your favorite music? I’m pretty eclectic. I listen to Classic Vinyl when I drive; I’m also a huge Sinatra fan, with a big collection of large, round, black, shiny things called “Albums” by him. Classical preferences include Mozart, Vivaldi and Chopin, and I’m a big fan of Satie, Ravel and Faure.

Thank you so much for being here today Cathy, and good luck with the tour and your new book. Before you go, is there anything else you would like to tell your readers or have them know about you?

Before I go I’d just like to thank everyone who’s taken the time to read this interview. Time is our most important possession—thanks for sharing yours with me. Maybe you’ll choose to share some more of it with Cait Morgan—if you do, and you’d like to “talk” to me about your time with her, there are lots of ways you can reach me to do so. Check out the links and, please, know that I value my conversations with readers. Thanks again—and ‘bye for now.

Author Cathy Ace

Author Cathy Ace

BIO

Born and raised in Swansea, South Wales, Cathy is, like her heroine, now a Canadian citizen. “Cait’s Welsh Canadian, as am I. They say ‘write what you know’, so a short, plus-sized Welsh woman, who’s quite bossy, fits the bill! But Cait and I are not one and the same: she’s got skills and talents I don’t possess, and I’m delighted to say that I don’t usually encounter corpses wherever I go!” With a successful career in marketing having given her the chance to write training courses and textbooks, Cathy has now finally turned her attention to her real passion: crime fiction.

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A world-famous vintner is dead. And when a heartfelt plea to look into the matter is paired with an exclusive gourmet event in British Columbia’s stunning wine country, overindulgent foodie and criminologist Cait Morgan cannot resist. Cait is sure the owner of a family-run vineyard was murdered. Bud Anderson, Cait’s companion for the weekend, is convinced the woman took her own life. That is, until death strikes once again, between the neat rows of grapevines on the banks of magnificent Lake Okanagan. Uncovering obsessions and murderous thoughts among the victim’s wacky neighbors is a start. But, Cait soon realizes that more lives are at stake. Can she think, and act, quickly enough to prevent another death?

REVIEW

As I said, I reviewed The Corpse With The Silver Tongue back in February and it was an amazing book. So it is no surprise I enjoyed The Corpse With The Golden Nose. For those who have not read the first book – yet, Cait Morgan is a Psychologist/Criminologist specializing in victim profiling who has an eidetic or photographic memory. She is also self described as short, overweight, indulgent, insecure and bossy and bless her heart, she smokes and has no idea where to find her feather duster, or at least little inclination to use it. At the end of the first book, boyfriend and retired homicide detective, Bud Anderson had proposed only months after the death of his wife. Cait said no and they are spending a year getting to know each other as a couple. This book opens with Cait profiling a photograph for Bud. It was sent to him by his ‘grief buddy’, Ellen. They are paired online as part of dealing with their grief. Ellen’s sister, Annette, committed suicide but Ellen insists it was murder. The police believe it was suicide as do all the friends and neighbors. Ellen wants Bud to come to investigate. After profiling the picture of Annette and Ellen, Cait decides it was murder. Or is it because the invitation to investigate comes with an invitation to the very exclusive, invitation only, gourmet event A Moveable Feast? As they move from event to event, meal to meal, Cait decides it was suicide after all. Then changes her mind again. The problem is she can think of no way anyone could have done it and no one seems a likely candidate, not even Raj who inherited Annette’s half of the family winery as a result of a change Annette made to her will just a week before she died. But Cait better figure it out quickly as two more people die after leaving one of the events. Great characters, great writing, and a solid variation on a locked room mystery. This is a must read book.  ♥♥♥♥♥

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Tour Participants
July 18 – A Blue Million Books –  Guest Post
July 19 – Melina’s Book Blog  – Review & Guest Post
July 20 – Kaisy Daisy’s Corner – Review & Giveaway
July 21 – Cozy Up With Kathy  – Interview
July 22 – THE SELF-TAUGHT COOK  – Review
July 23 – Storeybook Reviews  – Review & Giveaway
July 24 – readalot blog  – Review & Giveaway
July 26 – Books-n-Kisses  – Review & Interview
July 28 – Brooke Blogs  – Review, Guest Post, & Giveaway
July 29 – Mochas, Mysteries and More – Guest Post
July 30 – Escape With Dollycas  – Guest Post & Review
July 31 – rantin’ ravin’ and reading  – Review & Interview
August 1 – The Bookwyrm’s Hoard  – Interview
August 2 – Socrates’ Book Review Blog  – Review

THIRTY ONE DAYS

ubc for sidebarWell I did it. I blogged every day for the month of July. You have learned a lot about me. Sorry, only close relatives should be subjected to that. I’ve talked about everything from dandelions and puppies to racism and terrorism. And of course books.  The Ultimate Blog Challenge takes place every January, April, July and October. There is a Blogging From A To Z Challenge that takes place in April. And there is  NaNoWriMo in November which is about writing a 50,000 word book in 30 days.  And there are scores more. Will I do it again? Maybe. I’m not sure. It does force you to write every single day. Which is good. It is kind of like going to the gym. Sure you can exercise at home but… It is too easy to slack off. You meet so and so at the gym. You paid for the gym. You have accountability. These writers’ challenges are like a writing gym. You signed up. Everybody knows it. If you slack off everyone will know. Accountability. And you develop discipline. If you are a writer, you should write every single day even if it is not working on your next book. I think the writing every day will keep me writing every day. Or maybe I will need a refresher now and then.

One positive was the writing. Which also kept going once the post was done each day so the next book benefited. Another positive was finding a lot of really great blogs. Were there negatives? Yes. I think of bloggers as writers. Big mistake. A lot of bloggers are trying to sell you something and this challenge was a bit heavy on those. They want you to see and comment on their blog (the idea behind the challenge) but they are very poor at returning the favor. And, as a matter of fact, my views per hour went down during this month. Why? I’m not sure. I only recently started noticing it so perhaps it happens in July because people are on vacation. I did notice a couple of other people who took part complaining about this. So if I do it again, I will do it in a challenge geared toward writers and not in a summer month.

I did more than the required 31 and there is one more today after this! They are all listed and linked below.

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There are 31 days in July so I did all 31 PLUS some  extras. Here is the complete list.

July 1     A BLOG POST ABOUT BLOG POSTING

      BIG BROTHER IS GETTING IN MY BUSINESS

July 2     GUEST BLOGGER SAM CHEEVER

July 3     WHY DO WE LIKE COZIES AND WHAT IS IT WITH THE HIGH HEELS???

July 4     SAY IT WITH AUTHORITY

July 5     A SPECIAL PLACE IN HELL

July 6     THE COLD WAR, TOM BRADY, AND FREEDOM OF THE PRESS

July 7     A LADA SAVED MY LIFE

July 8     I HAVE A SERIOUS BOOK ADDICTION

      GIMP or how I spent my summers

July 9     COOKING SPIRITS: AN ANGIE AMALFI MYSTERY

July 10   PRIVACY IS JUST A WORD IN THE DICTIONARY

July 11   HAIR!

      Get off the damn phone and drive the car!

July 12   THERE’S A SUCKER BORN EVERY MINUTE

      DO WE REALLY MISS THEM?

July 13   WATERFIRE

      BACON BACON

July 14   IT’S MY MOTHER’S BIRTHDAY

      R.I.P Trayvon. But really, how can you? Or we?

      Yummy yummy in the tummy

July 15   DO IT YOURSELF MYSTERY SERIES by Jennie Bentley

      A must read post from Tamala Baldwin

      I’M FEELING CRAFTY TODAY

July 16   IF I MADE A REQUIRED READING LIST

      THE LOST LAWS OF IRELAND by Catherine Duggan

July 17   MY MOTHER-IN-LAW’S DIP

      Visiting with Sally Franklin Christie for Writerly Wednesday

July 18   DESIRED TO DEATH (The Empty Nest Can Be Murder)

July 19   SINCE IT’S FRIDAY, HAVE THE BEST FISH & CHIPS

July 20   WE’RE ALL GOING TO DIE PEGGY

July 21   HEALTHCARE IN THE USA

July 22   SOUTHERN SISTERS

      This IS the face of terror

July 23   ADOPTING A PET

      TEASER TUESDAY

July 24   ANOTHER RECIPE WEDNESDAY

      VOTE for a cause!

July 25   A TINY TASTE OF RHODE ISLAND

      THE SOUNDTRACK OF MY LIFE

July 26   PUZZLE LADY MYSTERY SERIES

      A shocking admission

July 27   WRITER CLUSTERS

July 28   I LOVE DANDELIONS

      GENETIC MEMORY

July 29   HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME

July 30   CAN YOU PINPOINT THE MOMENT?

July 31   THIRTY ONE DAYS

      INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR CATHY ACE

CAN YOU PINPOINT THE MOMENT?

Can you pinpoint the moment your life took the turn that brought you to where you are today? Good or bad. Maybe you came from a well off family of high achievers, had a good education and now at forty you are living in a third floor walk-up and flipping burgers. Or maybe your mother was an addict and you basically raised yourself, running wild on the streets and now at forty you are running a multi-million dollar company that you built from the ground up.

Just like my range - only mine was cleaner, found this online. Made the best pizza.

Just like my range – only mine was cleaner, found this online. Made the best pizza.

Years ago I had two close friends, Margaret and Geoffrey. We did everything together. On Friday nights they would come over with their two kids. Their two and my two would be sent to the living room to watch videos and the three of us would stay in the kitchen where I made homemade pizza in the old turf fired range. Best pizzas I ever ate. So we would eat pizza and consume a lot of wine and play Trivial Pursuit – to the death as Margaret put it. Geoffrey and I took the game very seriously. We yelled, screamed, jumped up and down, pounded our fists and got red in the face. Margaret was convinced one or the other of us was going to have a heart attack and die one Friday night. Sometimes we were more amusing than the video and the kids would come and watch us.

Between the questions and the yelling and pounding of fists, we had wonderful chats. We did everything together, there was almost no day we didn’t see each other. Yet in spite of that, we never ran out of things to talk about. From planning the next art show Geoffrey and I would exhibit in to planning ways to actually earn money to support our art until we became rich and famous to discussing the meaning of life. Did I mention there was a lot of wine? Well, for me and Geoffrey anyway. On Trivial Pursuit nights Margaret didn’t drink because when we travelled around the country to our art openings, Geoffrey didn’t drink. The openings are a tale for another post.  But I digress.

Geoffrey was a self educated man. I forget how old he was before he learned to read but he became a voracious reader. He was a happy man, loved his family and knew they loved him, comfortable in his own skin. Hard worker. Talented artist. He didn’t resent his lack of education or his poor background but sometimes he got irritated, I think, when he saw people who were born with a silver spoon – or what he thought was a silver spoon – if not toss it away, at least not take advantage of it.

One Friday night he turned to me and said, “You come from a good family. You were well brought up. You had a good education. You had every advantage. You had a great career. What I am wondering is, can you pinpoint it? Can you look back and see it? Can you say that was the precise moment I completely fucked up?”

I was floored. I was the happiest I had ever been in my life. Me and my two kids on the farm with our chickens and donkeys and dogs and cats. Painting my pictures. Sunning myself down at the lough with my girlfriends in the summer. Dodging the Gardaí because I couldn’t afford the tax shield for my car. I was happy.

But a couple of years later I went to ‘Amer-ikay’ and did Geoffrey proud. I was a big success in business. But with the incredible highs came incredible lows. And I never felt the same happiness I did when I was back on the farm, me and my kids. And now years later I am unemployed but writing. And sometimes I think of Geoffrey and ask myself when was the moment…

Maybe there is no moment.

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME

I am 57 years old today. Never felt the need to lie about it. Well, I have considered lying. I would like to tell people I am 70 so they Happy-Birthday-To-Me-204x300would go on about how amazing I look. I never expected to see 57. Never wanted to, to be honest. I remember the cries of ‘don’t trust anyone over 30’. Jack Weinberg, who coined the phrase, turned 60 way back in 2000. So somehow being old did not appeal to me. And I thought the whole sex, drugs and rock and roll thing would take care of that for me. Add in the booze and cigarettes. Who knew I would have the Ozzy Osborne/Keith Richards Gene. But things change.  Got married. Had kids. Well you have to stick around until they are 18. Okay, until they finish college. Launch them into the world. Now I want grandchildren to play with. So I have to stick around for that. As I get older, I find the bar for what old is keeps getting raised. When I was a wee lass in kindergarten, I thought my teacher was ancient. She was 21 after all. My husband is 71. Not a wrinkle. Works out in the gym 5 days a week. So certainly not old. I suppose it’s all good as long as your mind is sharp. And then when your mind goes you don’t know it anyway. If I reach 77, I will probably be saying, “Look at Ethel, 97 and still line dancing and winning at Trivial Pursuits. 77’s not old.”

 

 

 

 

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GENETIC MEMORY

Is our mind a blank slate when we are born? No, it couldn’t be or we wouldn’t know how to breathe. So our brain and our body know certain things necessary to survive. But what else do we know? There are certain things we seem to just ‘know’. Like someone who sees his first piano and sits down and starts to play. It happens. My son picked up a violin and just started to play at age seven. I was impressed but what do I know? So I brought him to a violin teacher who was equally impressed. As it happens we have a family history full of quite talented fiddle brainplayers. Was this genetic memory? If you were a scientist studying genetic memory, you could spend your career studying my son. A friend of mine was sitting watching him one day and turned to me and said, “He’s been here before.” It does seem that way and it is a bit freaky to be honest. But why didn’t I or his sister have all these things he seems to have imprinted on our brains? The concept of genetic memory idea has been tested on mice. A first generation group of mice was taught how to find their way through a maze. It took them weeks or months to learn. A year later, the offspring of those mice were put through the same maze. They all found their way through it in half the time their ancestors had. The third generation was even faster and by several generations in–a new generation of mice had been created who knew how to get through that maze in less than 30 seconds without ever having seen it before. They say if you are African American, slavery is part of your genetic memory. If you are Irish, the famine. I suppose that would be the racial memory postulated by Carl Jung. According to him, racial memories are posited memories, feelings and ideas inherited from our ancestors as part of a “collective unconscious”. Whatever that means. I heard someone use the term ‘genetic memory’ today and I just started thinking about it. That’s how my brain works. Earlier today it was dandelions I was thinking about, now genetic memory.

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I LOVE DANDELIONS

girl with dandelions

I love dandelions. And clover. All the things that people work hard to eradicate from their lawn, I love. As a matter of fact, I love crab grass. It stays green. It spreads out, not up, so you don’t need to cut it or water it or fertilize it. Of course the smell of fresh mown grass is lovely too. But all in all, I like a lawn that has been left to its own devices. I love dandelions.

When you look at a field of dandelions you can either see a hundred weeds or a hundred wishes.  ~unknown

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WRITER CLUSTERS

clusterYou know how they find certain areas have ‘clusters’? Like they find a neighborhood with a cluster of people with a certain type of cancer. I have noticed that certain areas have clusters of writers. What’s up with that? Do the writers gravitate to be near other writers or do certain areas inspire people to write? You find writers everywhere. It is just certain areas seem to have more. I am talking mystery writers in particular because they are the ones I am most familiar with. New York and Boston are obvious places to find writers and probably most gravitated there. But Maine? Chock full of writers! The Northeast in general is a bit heavy on writers. And North Carolina seems to have a disproportionate share of writers. As does Florida. But that could be because writers, like many others, like to retire to where it is warm. So that could be a gravitating to sort of thing but there are quite a few home grown ones as well. I wonder if I could convince someone to pay me to do a study on this?

 

 

 

 

 

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A shocking admission

Okay. I write books and I write about books on this blog. So how could I not write about what is sure to be the blockbuster of the year? Now that Johnny Depp has admitted to it…

I guess  can admit it too. For some strange reason, I am a fan of that little brat, Honey Boo Boo. Now it is not like I plan to buy the book. And my library, in what I consider a shocking omission, does not carry it. And I will never watch the show. Again. But I have. I had to know what people were on about. There was a Honey Boo Boo marathon on one day. I recorded it. It sat on my DVR for a long time until one day when I was sick with the flu this past winter and I was too sick to write or even read. I watched an entire season. In one back to back sitting. Johnny Depp has it right. Mesmerizing.  I was mesmerized. Of course on some levels this is not all that surprising. I had a Honey Boo Boo of my own. There was a shop in New Port Richey, FL that carried those dresses little girls wear in those pageants. I was once Little Miss Cinderella and my daughter, Brigid, saw my certificate. Yeah. I saved it. What’s the big deal? I was also the picture on a local brand of milk. I had enormous eyes when I was little. I was cute. My mother got free stuff. I thank God there was no reality TV in those days now that I think about it. But my daughter wanted to be in pageants.  How do you tell a six year old that even if she is the prettiest little girl in the pageant, she will never win. Because she had an artificial leg. Sure today she would win even if she didn’t deserve to because people would be falling all over themselves with political correctness. But back then? Then one day my sister bought Brigid this incredible emerald green, velvet and taffeta pageant dress. No more talk of pageants. It was all about the dress. She wore that damn dress to the grocery store even. But once again, glad there were no reality shows back then because if Brigid had seen the actual pageants and Honey Boo Boo, my life would have been unbearable. Because there is a resemblance. And even without being made up, Brigid could have beaten her on looks (IMHO) and her hair? 100% Natural. Color and curls.

hbb and b copy

Looking at the pictures, you can see why I had some curiosity about HBB and the show. But there is another reason I was curious. Mama June. I have a lot of respect for the woman. She knows who she is. She knows people laugh at her. She hasn’t let this go to her head. She has put money away for the future, she knows this will end, but she’ll ride this wave as long as she can. She’s done a lot with very little. Good for her. I do wish she would make HBB eat better before she develops diabetes. Maybe they could make that part of the show. But there is another reason I am fascinated. June’s last name is Shannon. Now you probably think that is common in Ireland, like Smith, due to the Shannon River. But it isn’t. Not at all. Pretty rare actually. And virtually all of them came from the same region originally. Plus her best friend’s last name, I learned in my marathon viewing, is Hannon. Um… My first cousin (on the Shannon side) is married to a Hannon. From the same village. Where all the Shannons and Hannons are from. Did a Shannon family and a Hannon family emigrate to Georgia? That’s all I need. To turn on the TV and see that genealogy show is going to trace June’s roots. Because…

kate june

At the same age, there was a bit of a resemblance.  The mouth, the nose, the eyes… she didn’t have them open wide like I always tried to but she was probably having the start of her eye problems around that time. I just found out today she is legally blind. Hence the squinting and not driving. But yet another reason to respect what she has done. And she has fun. Of course I don’t want to hear about any big Shannon family reunions…

Anyway, the secret is out. I’m a fan. If Johnny Depp can admit it so can I. And they’ve got a book. Buy it. I’m sure it will be lots of fun.

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PUZZLE LADY MYSTERY SERIES

Have you read the Puzzle Lady Mystery Series? Do you think you would enjoy it? If you have any doubts, hop over to Parnell Hall’s YouTube channel and watch a few of his videos. My personal favorite is King of Kindle. It is pretty much an accepted fact in mystery writer circles that Parnell is the funniest guy in the group.  He has three series, but so far I’ve only read the Puzzle Lady and I am looking forward to the other two. Cora Felton is a much married, heavy drinker who pretends to create puzzles. Because she looks the part, grandmotherly and all. In fact, the real puzzle creator is Cora’s niece, Sherry, who is publicity shy. Cora doesn’t suffer from shyness and is much more into crime solving. I saw one review that described the books as Groucho Marx meets Jessica Fletcher. Yup, pretty much. In fact, Parnell Hall’s plots take you down a road with so many twists and turns you meet yourself coming back – laughing all the way. The mysteries are well written, the books are funny as all get out and to top it off, the books have puzzles in them. Of course, if like me, you got them at the library someone will probably already have filled in a lot of them! This is a series you will want to read. ♥♥♥♥♥+

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

twitter_PHParnell Hall is the author of the Puzzle Lady crossword puzzle mysteries, the Stanley Hastings private eye novels, and the Steve Winslow courtroom dramas. His first novel, DETECTIVE, was nominated for an Edgar award by the Mystery Writers of America, and a Shamus award by the Private Eye Writers of America. His tenth Stanley Hastings novel, MOVIE, was nominated for a Shamus award for Best Private Eye Novel of 1995, and for a Lefty for the funniest mystery novel of 1995. His novel, SCAM, was also a Lefty nominee. Parnell worked for two years as a private detective in New York City. His experiences form the basis for his Stanley Hastings series. He has no courtroom experience, however, and owes his Steve Winslow series to a childhood spent reading Erle Stanley Gardner. He is also a newcomer to the field of crossword puzzle construction, and is learning with each new book. Parnell is an actor, who has done summer stock and regional theater, and appeared in a number of movies, including Arnold Schwarzenegger’s first movie, Hercules in New York (in which he appeared clad in a leopard skin) and A New Leaf with Elaine May and Walter Matthau. He often acts in interactive dinner theater events for Bogies Mystery Tours. Parnell is a member of the Writers Guild of America East with several screenplays to his credit, including the underground horror movie C.H.U.D., which has been satirized on Saturday Night Live. Parnell’s earliest professional writing was a song he sold to the folk singer Pete Seeger at the age of 15. It was called The Literacy Test Song, and made fun of voting tests in the South. Seeger recorded it on the Folkways album Gazette, Volume 2.

THE BOOKS

Cruciverbalists, rejoice! Pick up a pencil and get ready to solve a puzzling murder-and an actual crossword puzzle-in this sparkling debut of a unique amateur detective: Miss Cora Felton, an eccentric old lady with a syndicated puzzle column, an irresistible urge to poke into unsettling events, and a niece who’s determined to keep her out of trouble.

When the body of an unknown teenage girl turns up in the cemetery in the quiet town of Bakerhaven, Police Chief Dale Harper finds himself investigating his first homicide. A baffling clue leads him to consult Bakerhaven’s resident puzzle expert-his first big mistake. Soon Cora’s meddling, mischief-making behavior drives Chief Harper to distraction and inspires many cross words from her long-suffering niece, Sherry. But when another body turns up in a murder that hits much closer to home, Cora must find a killer-before she winds up in a wooden box three feet across…and six down.

Wealthy widow Emma Hurley died with only her servants at her side — but after she passes away, her greedy heirs crawl out of the woodwork to stake a claim in Emma’s fortune. To their surprise, Emma was not content to leave behind a simple will. Instead, her final testament includes a clever puzzle … one to be given only to her living heirs.

The first one to solve the puzzle will inherit Emma’s entire estate; everyone else will be left with a pittance. The will also stipulates that Cora Felton — local celebrity and famed author of a popular syndicated crossword puzzle column — must referee the contest.

Unfortunately, it’s Cora’s niece, Sherry Carter, who is the brains behind Cora’s “Puzzle Lady” persona. And it’s up to Sherry to unravel the bizarre riddle Emma Hurley engineered before her death. For soon it’s plain that Emma’s game is one without a clear winner … and that the players could lose far more than they ever imagined!

Bakerhaven, Connecticut, seems like the ideal place to host a charity crossword-puzzle tournament–after all, the town is home to Cora Felton, the beloved puzzle columnist known as the Puzzle Lady. A slew of celebrity contestants are on the way. And the locals have been invited to challenge the veteran puzzlers head-on. But soon the town’s attention is fixated on something far more controversial than crosswords…when the body of the town tart is discovered lying dead on her kitchen floor. Before anyone can stop her, Cora is hot on the trail of the truth, interviewing nosy neighbors, digging up dirt, and drawing out a lonely recluse who just may hold the key to cracking the crime. But will she solve the case before the contest comes to a deadly end? Cora once again proves that sleuthing spells S-U-S-P-E-N-S-E–up, across, and down!

Tis the season to be jolly, but Cora Felton, shanghaied into “The Twelve Days of Christmas” as a most reluctant maid-a-milking, has every right to feel like a grinch. When someone steals the partridge from the pear tree and replaces it with a cryptic puzzle she has no hope of solving, it’s almost more than the Puzzle Lady can bear. But then smug crossword creator Harvey Beerbaum solves the acrostic, and it turns out to be a poem promising the death of an actress. This is more like it! Could the threat be aimed at Cora and her thespian debut? Or at Sherry, one of the ladies-dancing? Or at Sherry’s nemesis, the pageant’s predatory lead, Becky Baldwin?

Cora and Sherry barely have time for a mystery, what with trimming Christmas trees and buying Christmas presents, but rehearsals go on, under police protection–until a killer strikes elsewhere in a most unexpected manner.Ordinarily Cora Felton would be delighted to have two murders to solve. But this time she finds herself vying with a visiting Scotland Yard inspector who appears to have an all-too-personal stake in solving the crimes. Cora does too when her own niece becomes a prime suspect and the murderer strikes again.

Is someone trying to shut down the Christmas pageant? Cora would be only too happy if that were the case, but she fears the secrets lie deeper. Now she is interviewing witnesses, breaking into motel rooms, finding evidence, planting evidence, and having a merry old time. In fact, she would be perfectly happy–if this wasn’t turning out to be a Christmas to die for!

It looks like wedding bells again for the much-married Cora Felton when distinguished widower Raymond Harstein III moves into town and makes a play for the Puzzle Lady. That is, it does until the mail brings puzzling cryptograms, which, when deciphered, warn Cora off the match.

Or do they?

As the puzzles keep coming, a killer’s game must be played in earnest, and it’s up to the Puzzle Lady to solve the riddle—if anyone is going to live to make it to the altar!

When nerdy cruciverbalist Harvey Beerbaum throws a birthday bash for Cora Felton at the Bakerhaven Library, it’s no surprise that the centerpiece, a huge cake decorated like a crossword puzzle, is a complete bust–until a corpse thrown from the second floor stacks hits it dead center and fills in 14 down. Cora may hate birthdays almost as much as she hates crossword puzzles–but when it comes to solving crimes, no one can hold a candle to the Puzzle Lady.

Cora Felton may look like everyone’s favorite grandmother. But the white-haired, bespectacled Puzzle Lady swears, smokes, gambles, and is even dodgy on the subject of how many husbands she’s had. So it strikes her long-suffering niece Sherry Carter as amusing when Cora announces, “I’m tired of living a lie!”

The inspiration for this sudden burst of honesty is a promotion by Granville Grains featuring the Puzzle Lady on a bus tour of televised personal appearances. Cora can’t think of anything she’d like to do less–except maybe quit smoking–than travel the supermarkets of I-95 hawking the new and improved Corn Toasties to her legions of fans. And someone else mustn’t want her to go either, because they’ve left a knife planted in her front door with a crossword puzzle attached. But when Sherry solves the puzzle she can’t decide whether the enigmatic message is a threat, a love note, or– creepier still–both.

Like it or not, Cora and Sherry must take their show on the road, along with a makeshift TV crew that includes a smarmy producer with a bad hairpiece, an abrasive director, an overambitious publicist, and two overgrown child-actors with some very adult problems. Throw in a few uninvited guests, including a roly-poly munchkin who’s had an unrequited crush on Cora since high school and Sherry’s abusive ex-husband, and you don’t need to be a puzzle expert to know this trip is going to be murder!

When Benny Southstreet, a small-time hustler with a big-time gift for constructing crosswords, accuses Cora of stealing one of his creations, it’s clearly a case of mistaken identityuntil Cora’s own attorney files a plagiarism suit against her. To add to the enigma, when Benny is found dead, the police charge Cora with his murder!

At the heart of the matter is the not-so-little white lie Cora has been living for years: assuming the grandmotherly public face of her publicity-shy niece Sherry, who designs crossword puzzles and publishes them under Cora’s name—aka the Puzzle Lady. It turns out that Sherry’s and Benny’s cruciverbalist paths had recently crossed, resulting in the current incriminating conundrum.

As if Sherry’s wedding engagement jitters and a nasty battle over missing antique chairs weren’t enough to deal with, now Cora has to solve the ultimate mystery: how to keep the secret of her identity without losing her life. Because not only does all evidence point to Cora, but someone seems to want her dead. It looks like a riddle with no answer. Luckily for Cora and Sherry, that’s their favorite kind!

Cora Felton, the Puzzle Lady (who actually couldn’t solve a crossword puzzle to save her life), is surprisingly good at sudoku, so it’s no problem when a Japanese publisher asks her to write a sudoku book. But when two Japanese publishers show up in Bakerhaven to vie for her services, Cora is a little confused. Which one did she actually sign with? Which one has the stunning geisha wife? And which one is about to be arrested for murder? The two men are archenemies and will go to great lengths to ace out each other. But would they stoop to murder? Someone is littering the town with sudoku, crossword puzzles, and dead private eyes. It’s up to Cora, with the help of her niece, Sherry, to solve the puzzle, the sudoku, and the murder, before the killer strikes again.

Sherry is off on her honeymoon when Chief Harper comes to Cora Felton, asking her to solve a crossword puzzle found on the body of Old Man Overmeyer. Small problem. Cora is the Milli Vanilli of cruciverbalists. Her niece, Sherry, writes the crossword puzzle column for her.

Cora pokes into Overmeyer’s death, hoping to prove he died of natural causes. She learns the cranky hermit was the sole surviving member of a forty-year-old stock pooling agreement, and before she can say “capital gain,” the town is full of heirs. Complicating things is Sherry’s ex-husband, Dennis, who is playing detective in the hopes of impressing his ex-wife. With Sherry out of town, her restraining order against him is moot, and he is taking full advantage of the fact.

It’s the battle of the century when Minami, the Sudoku Lady, shows up in Bakerhaven, Connecticut, to meet Cora Felton, the Puzzle Lady, whose sudoku books have just edged Minami’s off of the Japanese bestseller list. Before the rivals have a chance to square off, a killer strikes, and a sudoku puzzle is found at the scene of the murder. Now it’s a fight to the finish to see who can unmask the killer.

Cora is eager to undo her Japanese counterpart—at least until the poor woman is arrested for murder and Cora realizes that she accidentally framed her for the crime. As if that weren’t frustrating enough, the publicity of her arrest drives Minami’s sales through the roof!

Now it’s up to Cora to clear her rival’s name, get her off the bestseller list, and trap the real killer, but she’d better do it fast, before the cops find out what Cora did, and she winds up facing more jail time than Minami.

The Puzzle Lady just can’t stay out of trouble. When the late Chester T. Markowitz, a man she never met, leaves $10,000 to his beloved wife, Cora Felton, the Puzzle Lady can’t help cashing the check. Quicker than you can say legal proceedings, Cora’s least favorite ex-husband, Melvin, shows up in Bakerhaven with an attorney and a young bimbo, demanding that her alimony be terminated on the grounds she remarried.

When a key witness in the alimony hearing gets murdered, a KenKen puzzle is left at the scene of the crime. Is someone trying to tell Cora something? Before she can find out, she runs into more murders, more puzzles (both KenKen and crossword) and a murder weapon that seems to point to Melvin as the killer! At least it might have, if Cora hadn’t suppressed it.

When young attorney Becky Baldwin hires Cora Felton to make a blackmail payment drop, it couldn’t go worse: she stumbles over a corpse and a puzzle, and someone steals the money. Becky
won’t tell her who the client is, but the most likely suspect is Cora’s least favorite ex-husband, Melvin, who claims he’s being framed by a psychopath with a grudge. Soon Cora finds herself in a no-win situation. Solving the murder will either put Melvin’s neck in the noose, or incur the wrath of a cunning, cold-blooded killer who delights in playing deadly mind games and may be targeting her niece Sherry and Sherry’s new baby girl.

When an elderly boarder at a Bakerhaven bed-and-breakfast drops dead during afternoon tea, there’s nothing particularly suspicious about it—except for the Sudoku in his jacket pocket. But when a second body turns up in the window seat and an autopsy shows both men were poisoned with elderberry wine, the Puzzle Lady suspects she’s dealing with a cold-blooded killer who for some reason is copying the Cary Grant movie Arsenic and Old Lace, in which two old ladies who run a boarding house poison elderly widowers and bury them in the basement. More murders, more puzzles, and a grave dug in the cellar seem to cement the theory.

Ordinarily, Cora would eat a case like this for breakfast, but for once she can’t figure it out. And she’s not sure if the clues don’t add up, or if the much-married Puzzle Lady is just distracted by being involved in her first romantic entanglement in years.

A TINY TASTE OF RHODE ISLAND

ri flagRhode Island has been my periodic home through the years and is at the moment. We are known as The Ocean State. But we are known for a whole lot more. The fun stuff follows the dry, stuffy stuff.

Rhode Island is the smallest state but we have the longest name. Officially we are the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations.

Rhode Island was the first of the 13 original colonies to declare independence from British rule on May 4, 1776 but was the last to ratify the Constitution.

We are the eighth least populous but the second most densely populated of the 50 states.

Our state bird is a Rhode Island Red chicken and our state flower is the violet.

Our state motto is HOPE.

We have had more shipwrecks per capita than any other state. (So much for The Ocean State, I guess we have it but don’t know how to use it!)

We are the only state to use smiley faces on our state tax return.

smiley

We have the oldest library and a synagogue in the country and we have the first First Baptist Church.

RI is home to the longest running Fourth of July Parade. Since 1785.

The costume jewelry industry started in RI as did ‘Fruit of the Loom’.

Now the more interesting stuff.

Until 1984 we were the Mafia Capital of New England. Home to Raymond L.S. Patriarca.

Raymond L. S. Patriarca

Raymond L. S. Patriarca

We are famous for our world record breaking giant pumpkins.

The real Independant Man

The real Independant Man

The Independent Man stands atop our state house but more famous is Nibbles Woodaway who stands atop a building overlooking Route 95 at the Thurbers Avenue curve and is known as The Big Blue Bug. Oh and Mr. Potato Head comes from RI and large versions of him can be found around the state. Read more about that here.

The first diner was in RI. You are all welcome for that invention. Food is a big part of what makes Rhode Island Rhode Island. We have some of the best restaurants in the country. No need to go to Boston or New York. You will not find better Italian food than on Federal Hill. You may think so, but you are wrong.  And you can find just about any other ethnic cuisine you want.

But it is in other foods we excel. Like gaggers which are hot dogs with a natural casing served with mustard, meat sauce, chopped onions, and celery salt, in a steamed bun. Also known as New York System hot wieners. Yup, from here, not New York. And you must have a glass of coffee milk with them. That is the state drink. Then thereawful

and the potato head one

and the potato head one

are pizza strips. Rectangular strips of thick dough with sauce and no cheese, served at room temperature, preferably greasy. Confidentially, they are horrible but we love them. Having a party? Gotta go to the bakery and get a box of strips. We take our lemonade frozen and Dels is the king. There is a food called dynamites but I have never had them. You can only get them in Woonsocket and I don’t go to Woonsocket. It’s a RI thing, hard to explain. We put vinegar on our French Fries (except in Woonsocket where I hear they put on gravy) and we drink cabinets. They are like milk shakes only not. And then there is the Awful  Awful® which is like a cabinet on steroids. If you can drink three you get one free. Of course by then you are on your way to the emergency room. Although my mother did it once. And being summer, one of the best meals is clam cakes and ‘chowda’. My husband likes to get his at Aunt Carrie’s but I like to go to Iggy’s.

Nibbles Woodaway

Nibbles Woodaway

There is so much more. Both wonderful and weird. This does not even scratch the surface. Visit some day.