Let’s Get to Know Jerold Last

We’ve recently seen a growth in cross-genre and blended-genre fiction, and that includes the world of mystery fiction. Today’s featured author offers a different kind of mystery that draws upon seemingly diverse styles to create a solid series that’s sure to attract a wide range of readers.

Jerold Last, Author

Jerold Last, Author

Jerold (“Jerry”) Last is a college professor and a writer of mystery fiction that’s sure to attract dog lovers. At the University of California’s Medical School, he puts his Ph.D. in Biochemistry to work studying asthma and the effects of air pollution on the lungs. Off campus, he applies his research skills to writing the popular Roger and Suzanne mystery series.

The writing process seems to be a family affair. Jerry’s wife Elaine provides editing and technical advice for the novels. Elaine breeds prize-winning (conformation and hunt tests) German Shorthaired Pointer dogs, a breed that’s featured in the series. Both love to travel, and that’s evident in the locales featured in the series. Experience living in Argentina and Uruguay helped Jerry choose the South American locales for his fictional sleuths. His fifth novel in the series sends them to the Galapagos Islands, and I hear Alaska is the next location for this dynamic sleuthing duo.

Here’s Jerry, talking about his work:

I’ve been a big fan of mystery novels all my life.  I started reading The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew in grade school.  Erle Stanley Gardner and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle came next, before I hit my teens.   As I moved towards college and nominal adulthood, my favorites became the masters of the private eye genre, Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, and Ross MacDonald.   I like the hard-boiled style, the role of the private detective as the hero, and the fast pace of the action as a complex plot unfolds.  It just seemed, one day, that I should try constructing the puzzles as well as trying to solve them.  And here I am.

I start with things I know—South America, California, German Shorthaired Pointer dogs, science, fictional California private investigators like  Roger, and scientists like Suzanne on the faculty of the University of California.   I start writing after the plot has had time to develop in my subconscious mind for a while.  Part of the way through, it takes on a life of its own and leads me wherever the characters want it to go.

My books are not traditional cozies, even though they routinely pop up on Amazon in the cozy category.  They’re better described as “tweeners” with a style that falls somewhere between cozy and hard-boiled.  You won’t find “bad words” (at least in English), and there are no gratuitous sex scenes in my books because I think they take away from the flow of plot and suspense.   However, there are pretty high body counts and scenes of violence in most of the novels and the novellas.

My target audience likes fast-paced action in “who done it” kind of mysteries. They like dogs, visiting interesting and unusual locations where exotic food is the norm, and a series format where they can revisit old friends in subsequent books.

 The Deadly Dog Show

Ever wondered what it’s like to own—or maybe it’s more like to be owned by—a  German Shorthaired Pointer?  Get your own tutorial in The Deadly Dog Show!  The seventh book in the series finds Roger and Bruce hired to go undercover impersonating the owner and handler of a Champion German Shorthaired Pointer named Juliet to investigate certain irregularities that might be occurring at dog shows in California.

Dog show cover copyTo complicate this case the bodies of dead judges start popping up and Suzanne picks up a mysterious stalker sending her most unwelcome gifts.  Throw in drug cartels and corrupt cops and it sounds like a typical job for our detective couple.

This suspenseful “whodunit” novel should appeal to mystery fans, dog lovers, and anyone who wants to learn more about the world of dog show competition. Read a Deadly Dog Show Excerpt.

Well done and captivating. I loved the character development and was truly drawn into the story with all of its twists and turns.

The Roger and Suzanne Mystery Series

The series includes five novels, two novellas, and an anthology of short stories to date, with more on the way! Here’s a list of what’s currently available exclusively on Amazon in Kindle editions. Locales are noted after each title.

Novels

The Ambivalent Corpse [Uruguay, Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay]

The Surreal Killer [Peru, Chile]

The Matador Murders [Uruguay, Chile]

The Deadly Dog Show [California, Texas, New York City] 

The Origin of Murder [Ecuador, The Galapagos Islands]

Novellas

The Body in the Parking Structure [Los Angeles, California]

The Body in the Bed [Montevideo, Uruguay]

Five Quickies for Roger and Suzanne [Salta, Argentina; Fortaleza, Brazil; and Los Angeles, California ]. this is a novel-length anthology of shorter (“quickie”) stories featuring all of the characters from the popular South American mystery series!

Follow this author!

To see details of all Jerry’s work, visit his Amazon sales page. For a more personal look at the author and his family (and dogs!), check out his blog entitled “South American Mystery Novels and Stuff” at http://rogerandsuzannemysteries.blogspot.com. Drop by and leave a comment!

Dog Parks: the Good, the Bad, and the “Must Know”

Tompkins Square Big Dog Run (photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Dog parks, like this one in New York City’s Tompkins Square, can be a great place for a well-mannered dog and its owner.  (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Book #2 in the Waterside Kennels mystery series (due out later this year) introduces a dog park to the region. When carefully designed and managed well, dog parks can be a wonderful addition to any community. If you’re interested in creating a dog park where you live, check out this AKC pamphlet or explore the AKC’s website. (Great stuff there!)

In the “real world” setting of my series, the lovely village of Eureka Springs, Arkansas is constructing its first dog park. The Eureka Springs Bark Park is set to open soon. Like many parks, the Bark Park has a designated area for small dogs (30 lbs. and under) and a larger space for bigger breeds. Since this photo (below) was taken, the fencing is nearly complete and we’ll soon see dogs at play here.  You can follow the park’s progress here.

Groundbreaking ceremony at Eureka Springs' Bark Park

Groundbreaking ceremony at Eureka Springs’ Bark Park (Photo courtesy of Bark Park Facebook page)

Although I had a dog park planned for my series long before I’d heard of the Bark Park, I’m delighted to see my fictional world is nicely in tune with the region.  As the series progresses, I expect we’ll see some conflict and drama at the (fictional) dog park, just as we’ve already seen at Waterside Kennels in Deadly Ties. I’d like to think all my characters (and their dogs) are smart enough to know how to play well with others, but since I write a mystery series it’s likely somebody (human, canine, or possibly both) will cause trouble at some point.

Whether you’re new to the world of dog parks or a long-time fan, it’s always good to review the basic etiquette for dogs and their owners.  A quick search of the Internet will turn up dozens of sites with all sorts of tips and ideas to ensure your visit is a happy one. In addition to the AKC’s site, Petfinder.com has very useful tips to help you learn to recognize the difference between “good play” and “bully” behaviors. The bottom line: know your dog, be aware of your surroundings, and never leave your dog unattended.

“My dog wouldn’t hurt a fly.”

Ever heard that comment from a dog owner? My colleague C. A. Newsome (who writes “cozy mysteries with bite!”) certainly has. She and her dogs spend a lot of time at her local dog park and she’s the author of the Lia Anderson Dog Park Mysteries.

In the interest of keeping beahvior problems out of our dog parks, I’m sharing an article from her blog with her generous permission. I hope you’ll take a few minutes to read this important message.

Click on the “Dogs dogs dogs” tab near the top of the page and get the facts you and your dog need to stay safe.

Let’s Get to Know Lois Winston

My guest this week is an award-winning craft and needlework designer and author from the world of traditional publishing who’s now an “indie” author. Lois writes women’s fiction, romance, romantic suspense, and non-fiction under her own name as well as under her pen name, Emma Carlyle.

Lois Winston, Author

Lois Winston, Author

Her critically acclaimed Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series is a clever combination of humor, mystery, and crafts, with material for characters and plots drawn from her personal experience in the crafts industry. (Who knew crafts could be deadly?) The series features a magazine crafts editor who’s also a reluctant amateur sleuth.

The first in the series, Assault with a Deadly Glue Gun, earned starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Booklist (quite an achievement!). Kirkus Reviews called the series “North Jersey’s more mature answer to Stephanie Plum.”

Here’s Lois, talking about her series:

 Although I’m not Anastasia, we share many of the same experiences. I’ve spent much of my adult life working in the crafts industry as both a designer and an editor. My work experience, coupled with setting my books in Manhattan and actual New Jersey towns, make it possible for me to infuse my books with rich, factual details.

Like Anastasia, I’m the mother of two sons. However, my husband is not a closet gambler (really, he’s not!), and thankfully, he’s still very much alive. I also don’t make a habit of stumbling over dead bodies, but I did have a very mean-spirited communist mother-in-law who lived with me for six (although it felt like sixty) years. My revenge has been to turn her into the character readers love to hate.

Unfortunately, due to allergies, I don’t have a single pet, let alone Anastasia’s unlikely menagerie, living under my roof. Ralph, the Shakespeare-quoting parrot, the white Persian cat known as Catherine the Great, and Manifesto, the communist French bulldog, are all figments of my very fertile (and often warped) imagination.

True to the tradition of cozy mysteries, there’s no sex and no explicit violence. A few characters use foul language on occasion. (Hey, Mafia loan sharks aren’t going to say “gosh darn it!”  Teenagers in the series will probably slip now and then, although they’re quick to apologize when reprimanded by Mom.) My books are most likely to appeal to adult readers of humorous amateur sleuth mysteries.

The Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries

When Anastasia’s husband permanently cashes in his chips at a roulette table in Las Vegas, her comfortable middle-class life craps out. She’s left with two teenage sons, a mountain of debt, and her hateful Communist mother-in-law as a permanent houseguest—not to mention stunned disbelief over her late husband’s secret gambling addiction and the loan shark demanding fifty thousand dollars. And that’s before she becomes the prime suspect in the murder of the magazine’s fashion editor.

Each book in the series finds Anastasia moonlighting at various jobs to pay down her debt. Unfortunately, she keeps stumbling over dead bodies and coming up against killers.

“Winston…plays for plenty of laughs…while letting Anastasia shine as a risk-taking investigator who doesn’t always know when to quit.”

Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine

Decoupage Can Be Deadly

In the most recent full-length mystery in the series, Anastasia and her fellow American Woman editors are steaming mad when minutes before the opening of a consumer show, they discover half their booth usurped by Bling!, their publisher’s newest magazine. CEO Alfred Gruenwald is sporting new arm candy—rapper-turned-entrepreneur and Bling! executive editor, the first-name-only Philomena.

During the consumer show, Gruenwald’s wife serves Philomena with an alienation of affection lawsuit, but Philomena doesn’t live long enough to make an appearance in court. She’s found dead days later, stuffed in the shipping case that held Anastasia’s decoupage crafts. When Gruenwald makes cash-strapped Anastasia an offer she can’t refuse, she wonders, does he really want to find Philomena’s killer or is he harboring a hidden agenda?

decoupage_can_be_deadly_cover_ebookx1000

“Beware the Bling!”

Read an excerpt here:  http://www.loiswinston.com/excerptdecoupage.pdf

Available now at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Apple iBookstore!

Enjoy the whole series in trade paperback or e-book editions:

Assault with a Deadly Glue Gun

Death by Killer Mop Doll

Revenge of the Crafty Corpse

Decoupage Can Be Deadly

Mini-mysteries (ebook)

Crewel Intentions

Mosaic Mayhem

Patchwork Peril

NEW! Get all three mini-mysteries together in Crafty Crimes

Follow this author:

Visit Lois at her website and visit Anastasia at the Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers blog. You can follow everyone on Twitter too!

A Gem of a Literary Festival

In Deadly Ties (first in the Waterside Kennels mystery series), part of the plot revolves around treasure legends.  While that makes for great fiction, let me tell you about a real treasure of the Ozarks—the Books in Bloom Literary Festival.   I was honored to be one of the featured authors at this year’s event, and it was a terrific experience!

Great to see readers of all ages!

Great to see readers of all ages!

Held in the gardens of the legendary Crescent Hotel in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, Books in Bloom is the brainchild of the Carroll and Madison Public Library Foundation to promote the value of books and reading.  And boy, do they promote! In the six weeks leading up to the festival, there were multiple feature articles and news stories about the festival and the participating authors.

A special “thank you” must go to Jean Elderwind, co-chair of this year’s marvelous event. She was in steady contact in the months leading up to the festival, supplied all sorts of information, and was ready to answer any question. Jean coordinated media requests and introduced me to two great writers, who each published a feature article about me and my work.

Jennifer Jackson of the Lovely County Citizen published an article on April 10th titled “Elementary, My Dear Dachshund – Trip to Eureka Springs sets author on the write track.”   C.D. White of the Eureka Springs Independent ran an article on May 14th titled “Woof woof wonderful: Author Susan Holmes has marked her niche.”   Thanks to their superb publicity, readers and fans came out in droves to get their own signed copies of Deadly Ties.

The weather was perfect, the gardens beautiful, and the Foundation Board and volunteers treated the authors like royalty. From the lovely reception the evening before the Festival, to the lavish brunch the morning of the event, to lunch delivered right to us, we were exceptionally well cared for. Volunteers erected shade canopies and set up chairs and tables (complete with white tablecloths and beautiful flowers). We unloaded just steps from my booth, with more volunteers available to help with anything needed.

Organizers gave authors the option to bring and sell their own books or to have the bookseller bring books for them. I chose to bring plenty of my own (just in case!).  And I’m very glad I did, because the bookseller would probably have sold out long before I ran out of customers clamoring for a signed copy of their own!

And speaking of customers…one sweet lady informed me the library had a waiting list of patrons wanting to read my book. That made my heart sing! And then she completely made my day when she told me she wanted her very own copy so she wouldn’t have to wait to read the book. (How cool is that?)

I signed books all afternoon for readers across the age spectrum. One of my favorite conversations was with a young reader who told me she loved playing with her dogs and reading mysteries with her grandmother. My kind of fan!

Visiting with St. Paul librarian

Visiting with St. Paul librarian

I enjoyed the chance to meet librarians from the Carroll and Madison library system, and was thrilled to know the St. Paul (AR) Public Library’s book club will feature Deadly Ties this summer, and I’m invited as a speaker!

I was delighted to visit with fans and sign books throughout the afternoon. I’d thought the crowd would thin out by the time I was at the podium in the Reader’s Tent since I was the final speaker of the day. Instead, I was amazed to find every seat taken and a small crowd standing at the back!  The audience was a writer’s dream—terrific listeners and clearly eager to hear about the book and the series. I gave them a “sneak preview” of the next book in the series to thank them for staying until the end. I finished to a huge round of applause—a perfect ending to a perfect day!

So great to see old friends and meet new fans!

So great to see old friends and meet new fans!

Thanks to all the readers who turned out!

Thanks to all the readers who turned out!

You can follow the Books in Bloom Literary Festival on Facebook  and online.  And mark your calendars for the 2015 festival; it’s sure to be another winner!