At the outset, Miranda Davis has nothing much going for her. The tourists are long gone by October in the quaint Carolina town of Black Mountain, her realty business is at a standstill, and her weekend stint managing the local tavern offers little to pull her out of the doldrums. When prominent church lady Cloris Raintree offers a stipend to look into the whereabouts of a missing girl hiker on the Q.T, Miranda, along with her partner Harry (an unemployed features writer) agree.
But then it all backfires. A burly figure shambles down a mountain slope with a semi-conscious girl draped over his shoulder. Miranda’s attempts to uncover Cloris Raintree’s true motives become near impossible as she puts up one smokescreen after another, including a slip of the tongue regarding an incident in Havana. The local police keep stonewalling and Harry is of little help.
Tarot cards left on Cloris’ doorstep and arcane prompts on her e-mail only exacerbate the situation. Growing more desperate over the captive girl’s fate, Miranda comes across a link to a cold case of arson and murder. With the advent of the dark of the moon, she is summoned to “Tower Time” as this twisty tale continues to run its course.
Genre: Mystery, Amateur Detective Published by: Milford House Publication Date: August 2018 Number of Pages: 264 ISBN: 1620061848 Purchase Links:Amazon | Goodreads
Read an excerpt:
The wind picked up yet again, joined by spatters of cold rain and the rustle of leaves from the encircling shrub.
All at once, the lantern flicked off, a scream cut through the wind and spatters. The cries became muffled, replaced by the grunts of a hulking figure clambering up the knoll, coming directly toward him with something writhing and flailing over its back.
For one interminable moment, he caught sight of her eyes, frozen, terrified, beseeching him.
Reflexively, despite every decent intention deep in his bones, Harry dropped the Maglite, turned and ran down the slope, tripping and stumbling, falling to his knees, righting himself, smacking into a brush that scraped his cheek. Rushing headlong now, smacking into more brush and banging his elbow, he kept it up, twisted his ankle but hobbled forward fast as he could until he reached his station wagon. Squirming behind the wheel, he fumbled for his keys, dropped them on the mat, groped around, snatched them up, grinded the ignition, set both front and back wipers going and shot forward hitting the trunk of a tree. He backed up into the hedgerow, turned sharply, not daring to flip on the headlights, scraped another tree and slid onto the narrow lane.
He switched on the low beams so he could see where he was going in the drizzle and fog and began making his way down. Dull headlight beams flashed behind his rear window and faded.
With his mind racing and the wipers thwacking away as the rain lashed across the windshield, he careened down the zig-zagging lane and thought of the car that was wedged under the branches parked on a downward angle and the hulking figure carrying his prey over his shoulder shambling toward it. And her eyes, those beseeching eyes.
He might have a few seconds lead before the girl was tossed in the trunk . . . or deposited in the cottage while the driver lying in wait exchanged signals and went after him. So many what-ifs? while some cowardly part of him only wanted a place to hide.
Then the dull, low beams flicked on again, glinting on his rearview mirror.
Straining to see through the wipers and beads of rain, he turned off down Sunset, then onto a flat, darkened stretch, then gunned it through an amber light over the tracks across brightly lit Route 70.
He drove away from the tracks where the girl doubtless had been tailed, came upon a T and swerved left onto a sign that said Old Route 70. In no time, he spotted a Grove Stone Quarry, but the gates were closed and he could swear the low beams tailing him flicked on again. If only he could stop veering all over the place, if he could get behind those humongous mounds of sand and stone.
Ignoring the traffic light, he cut to his right and swerved up a road bordered by a high wire fence demarcating a prison facility, sped past until he was hemmed in by walls of white pine. The walls of pine were intersected by for-sale arrows and a bright red banner. He killed his headlights altogether, swerved again into a cluster of model homes that formed a cul-de-sac, and coasted to a stop as the car stalled.
He got out and followed an exposed drain pipe that angled down until it cut off at a rain-slick paved drive onto a neighborhood of two-story houses, porch lights and street lamps.
His ankle gave way again as he became fixated on circling back to that massive, enclosed hiding place where he could try to get his bearings.
The cold rain beat down harder. Though the Blue Ridge range hovered in the near distance, it was shrouded in mist and offered no comfort.
Shelly Frome is a member of Mystery Writers of America, a professor of dramatic arts emeritus at the University of Connecticut, a former professional actor, a writer of crime novels and books on theater and film. He is also a features writer for Gannett Media. His fiction includes Sun Dance for Andy Horn, Lilac Moon, Twilight of the Drifter, Tinseltown Riff, and Murder Run. Among his works of non-fiction are The Actors Studio and texts on the art and craft of screenwriting and writing for the stage. Moon Games is his latest foray into the world of crime and the amateur sleuth. He lives in Black Mountain, North Carolina.
This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Shelly Frome. There will be 1 winner of one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card. The giveaway begins on November 6, 2018 and runs through November 14, 2018. Void where prohibited.
Over the years, it’s been my pleasure to promote other authors and share news about their work. Today I’m delighted to join in the launch day celebration of Fur Boys, the sixth book in the Lia Anderson Dog Park Mysteries. In addition to enjoying this great series, I love the author’s bio blurb: C. A. Newsome is an author and painter living in Cincinnati with a former street urchin named Shadda and a one-eyed swamp monster named Gypsy. She and her furry children can be found most mornings at the Mount Airy Dog Park.
Here’s a Q&A with the author, plus “buy” links at the end. Happy reading!
What’s the premise behind the series?
The series is based on my mornings at the Mount Airy Dog Park in Cincinnati, where people who would otherwise have little to do with each other bond over poop bags because they show up at the same time every day.
My quirky gang of sleuths includes starving artist Lia Anderson, New Age woo-woo queen Bailey, gun-toting right-winger Terry, his uber-liberal roommate Steve, and Jim, a retired engineer. While Lia is in her thirties, her partners in crime are in their fifties and beyond. Lia has a love interest, hunky good guy, Detective Peter Dourson.
What role do dogs play in your books?
If you own dogs, you know that you have to consider them at every turn, just as you do children. They have distinct personalities and needs. My dogs are real dogs. You can’t just stuff them in the closet with the Dyson when it’s time to catch a killer.
Dogs bring my characters together and often are intrinsic to plots. They sometimes assist with investigations. Not in a “Lassie the dog sleuth” way, but in a “my dog ate the evidence” way. Canine characters provide entertainment and moral support, and the dog/human relationships provide a counterpoint to the human/human relationships.
Tell us about Lia.
Lia Anderson is my leading lady. She’s a struggling painter who takes on a wide variety of commissions to make ends meet. I wanted someone relatable, so she starts the series clueless about investigating crimes or handling violent confrontations and suffering from a serious case of denial.
Lia’s background has made her distrustful of intimacy and family ties mean little to her. She’s had to rely on herself all her life and feels more secure with casual relationships while she loses herself in her art. The first Lia Anderson Mystery brings this issue into focus with the introduction of Peter Dourson, for whom home and family are core values. Lia has a rational approach to relationships that often mystifies Peter. The series follows Lia and Peter’s evolution as their relationship grows.
Tell us about Peter.
Peter is a low-key, everyday hero who tries to do the right thing. When I created him, I asked myself, “What is the most amazing thing a guy can do?” For me, it’s listening to the needs of the woman in his life and being willing to meet her on her terms. What makes Peter extraordinary is his willingness to step away from his inbred and very traditional ideas about relationships in order to be with Lia.
What’s exciting about Fur Boys?
The murder of a music school diva results in high drama, played out on a big stage. We get to see much of the story through Peter’s eyes, and the types of observations he makes as a detective. It was great fun, working out how Peter would respond when he and Lia stumble onto a live crime scene. I also loved creating the suspects and all their entanglements.
When starving artist Lia Anderson stumbles upon a dead diva, it’s no walk in the dog park.
Meet Buddy, Dasher, and Rory, three adoring fur boys often in the care of Hannah, the ever-efficient admin at Hopewell Music Academy, site of Lia’s latest mural commission. Hannah can juggle anything the academy tosses at her, except the Machiavellian voice professor who owns the fur boys and whose demoralizing and career-crushing ways are the dark underbelly of the prestigious academy.
When the professor is murdered, it’s impossible to find someone who doesn‘t want him dead. Good thing it’s not Peter’s case, not since the Cincinnati Police Department created a centralized unit to handle homicides. But a mysterious informant is determined to involve him. With Peter hamstrung by departmental politics, it’s time for Lia and the dog park gang step in.
Thanks to everyone who joined the conversation this week and entered the contest for a chance to win a terrific book. And a very special thank you to this week’s guest, the super-talented Laurien Berenson, who generously offered to sign and send a copy of her latest release, The Bark Before Christmas. And the winner is….
Kathleen, send your mailing address to me (dogmysteries [at] gmail) and I’ll get you connected with Laurien right away.
Remember, folks, all 18 in the Melanie Travis series are available in print, Kindle and (except for this week’s release) audio editions. Find her books in brick-and mortar stores, including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books A Million, Kobo, Apple, Target, Walmart, and many independent bookstores.
This week, we’re celebrating the release of the 18th in the Melanie Travis mystery series by the talented Laurien Berenson(four-time winner of the Dog Writers Association of America’s prestigious Maxwell Award). Check out the previous post to see what she has to say about her long-running series. Today, she’s back to talk about the writing process. I hope you’ll leave a comment for Laurien so we can enter you into the drawing for a signed hardbound copy of her new book, The Bark Before Christmas. The drawing closes at 2 p.m. (Central) on Friday, October 2nd and we’ll announce the winner here Friday afternoon.
Laurien Berenson, Author
Writing a long-running series takes a special kind of writing talent, and Laurien has proven she has that talent and much more. The first Melanie Travis mystery, A Pedigree to Die For, came out in 1995. In the 20 years since that first in the series was published, Melanie’s life has changed considerably, and it’s been fun seeing the characters grow and change over time. Here’s Laurien, talking about the craft of writing a long-running series:
What’s most important for you in telling a story?
I know I should say the intricacies of the plot, but truthfully, it’s the characters. It is so important to me to populate my books with characters that readers want to spend time with and experience an adventure with. And in my Melanie Travis series, that means both the humans and the canines! There’s nothing that bugs me more than books that have animal characters and every one has the same personality. The Standard Poodles (and other dogs) in my books are every bit as individual as Melanie Travis and her extended family. Readers write and tell me that my characters feel like old friends and I think that’s the highest praise they can give.
Like most professions, the dog world has its own vocabulary, with much of it unfamiliar to people who don’t breed, show, or train dogs. How do you decide what (and how much) to include for readers unfamiliar with dog shows, breeds, or canine behavior?
If I’m using terms that most non-dog-show people are unfamiliar with I always try to provide a quick explanation. I believe I’ve explained how dog shows work and how a dog achieves its championship in just about every book so far. Also, I don’t shy away from using words (like “bitch” meaning a female dog) that dog people use all the time without thinking twice, but that occasionally offend readers’ sensibilities.
The publishing industry has changed significantly since your first book. How have those changes impacted you and your series?
Fortunately for me, many of the changes haven’t affected me much at all because I have been working with the same publisher and the same wonderful editor since the early 1990’s. Most notably what is different now is that my books are not only available in paperback and hardcover, they can also purchased in ebook and audio format–two things that were only pipedreams when I first began writing in the 1970s.
Readers are often curious about a writer’s process. Do you, for example, know the end before you start? Or does the solution come to you as you’re writing?
I usually have a pretty good idea of the ending but it’s never set in stone. I find that my characters often do and say unexpected things so if they want to take me some place more interesting than I had planned, I am always happy to follow their lead.
A very successful writer once told me that he never plots his books ahead of time because if he’s not surprised by how things turn out, how will the reader be surprised? I thought that was an interesting take on the writing process, and I’ve tried to keep my plotting more fluid ever since.
What do you find most/least enjoyable about writing?
Most enjoyable: you can do it at any time of day or night, there’s no commute, and you can always write with a dog on your lap.
Least enjoyable: the amount of time between when I finish writing a book and when I finally find out if readers like it or not. By the time a book is published, I’m already mostly finished with the next one, so emotionally I’ve moved on. I wish that readers and I could be excited about the same book at the same time.
Some visitors to this site are interested in writing mysteries. Suggestions for them?
Read. Read. Read! There’s no better way to figure out what works and what doesn’t when it comes to writing a book.
Laurien’s books can be bought online and in brick-and mortar stores, including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books A Million, Kobo, Apple, Target, Walmart, and many independent bookstores.
Okay, readers and fans: it’s your turn! Leave a comment here for a chance to win a signed copy of Laurien’s book. If you’ve read the series, let us know if you have a favorite. New to the series? Don’t be shy; ask questions about dogs, writing, mysteries, etc. The drawing closes at 2 p.m. (Central) on Friday, October 2nd and we’ll draw the winner then.
Tuesday, September 29th is the official release day for bestselling author Laurien Berenson, who’s launching #18 in her terrific Melanie Travis mystery series. The Bark Before Christmas continues the series with the characters we’ve loved for years. We’re celebrating with her this week, and inviting you to join in the fun. Read on for a chance to win a signed hardbound edition of one of her books. And rumor has it the winner will receive a copy of her latest–how cool is that?
Long-time readers of this blog and dog lovers alike are probably already familiar with this great writer. If she’s in the “new to you” category, let’s bring you into the fold with a brief intro, and then jump into a Q&A about the series, and what’s in store for her amateur sleuth Melanie and her Poodles.
Laurien Berenson, Author
Laurien is an award-winning, top-selling author in mystery and romantic fiction. She’s been nominated for the Agatha Award (recognizing the best in the cozy mystery genre) and the Mystery Readers International’s Macavity Award. She’s earned the Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award and is a four-time winner of the prestigious Maxwell Award, presented by the Dog Writers Association of America. And in the totally unofficial but equally important (to me) category, Laurien’s books were a “first choice” and longstanding favorite of my mother, who loved the entire series and talked about Melanie and Aunt Peg as though they were neighbors.
Along a range of say, lighthearted cozy to dark mystery, how would you describe the overall atmosphere of your series?
My series is purposely very lighthearted and in fact I think it has become even more so as it’s progressed. I want to create a fictional world that readers can escape into: realistic but at the same time lots of fun. Above all, I want readers to enjoy my books and to look forward to reading about Melanie’s adventures.
You’ve been writing about Melanie Travis and family for many years. How has she changed over time?
OMG, Melanie’s life has changed tremendously over the course of the series. The first book, A Pedigree to Die For, came out in 1995 and there have been 17 more books since. In “fictional years” the series has covered an eight year span. When it started, Melanie was a struggling single mother with a four year old son, no love life, no pets, and a job as a special needs tutor at a local public school. Her ex-husband had disappeared and she had just lost a much needed summer job. Enter her long-estranged Aunt Peg with her passel of Poodles and a mystery she needed Melanie’s help with.
Now, in The Bark Before Christmas, Melanie is re-married and has another child and a houseful of Standard Poodles that she and her family breed and show. Her ex-husband has reappeared and is also remarried. Melanie’s brother is married to her best friend. The number of caring people who fill her ever-busy life has grown by leaps and bounds and her world has expanded in many wonderful ways.
Other than Melanie, who’s your favorite human character? Favorite canine character?
Aunt Peg is my favorite character to plot for. Terry Denunzio is my favorite character to write, His scenes always make me laugh.
As for canine characters, I adore Faith and I always will. She is the only character in the series whose age I’ve cheated on (I’ve shaved off a year) because I cannot bear the thought of her growing old.
What’s next for Melanie?
The Bark Before Christmas takes Melanie back to school. She is working as a special needs tutor at prestigous Howard Academy and is tapped at the last minute to manage the school’s Christmas Bazaar. Everything seems to be going well until a valuable dog and Santa Claus both go missing from the Santa Claus and Pets Photo Booth.
Where can fans buy your books?
My books can be bought at all readers’ favorite online and brick-and mortar stores, including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books A Million, Kobo, Apple, Target, Walmart, and many independent bookstores.
Oh, and coming October 27, fans can get this one too:
Will the entire series be available in Kindle/ebook editions?
Yes, they are all currently available as ebooks. And all but the last one (The Bark Before Christmas) are available from Audible too.
Okay, readers and fans: it’s your turn! Leave a comment here for a chance to win a signed copy of Laurien’s book! If you’ve read the series, let us know if you have a favorite. You’re welcome to ask questions, too! We’ll draw the winner on Friday, October 2nd, so be sure to leave your comment before then.