Great reads at terrific prices!

“Cozy fans who love dogs are in for a treat!” (Publishers Weekly)

Sale Alert: Digital editions of the first 20 books in the Melanie Travis canine mystery series are on sale for just a few more days. Get your copies here.

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This is a fabulous series from one of the best authors in the business. She’s an Agatha and Macavity Nominee, winner of the Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award, and four-time winner of the prestigious Maxwell Award presented by the Dog Writers Association of America.

Learn all about the Laurien’s work at her website. You can also follow her on Facebook and on Twitter ‎@LaurienBerenson. These are perfect gifts for dog lovers who are fans of mysteries written with wit and style!

It’s a Great Book Giveaway!

Thanks to the generosity and kindness of many writers, my own entry into the world of publishing has been a joyful experience. Bestselling author Laurien Berenson is one of those authors, and I’m delighted to recommend her books to anyone who loves amateur sleuths and dogs in mystery fiction. Laurien has 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 longstanding favorite of my mother, who loved the entire series.

Laurien has entertained readers for many years with her canine mystery series featuring amateur sleuth Melanie Travis and her beloved Poodles. The cast of supporting characters is equally engaging, and each book’s mystery is a well crafted, downright delightful read. Some series fizzle out over time, but not this one! And today you have the chance to win an advance copy of Ruff JusticeThis new addition to the series comes out in June and is available for pre-order now. Even better, Melanie has 2 advance reading copies of RUFF JUSTICE to give away! To be eligible to win all you have to do is comment on Laurien’s FB page and share the news. The contest ends today 4/25 at 5 pm with winners announced Thursday morning 4/26/2018. U.S. addresses only please. 

Here’s a look at Ruff Justice:

As owner of prize-winning Poodles, Melanie Travis knows how to handle fierce competition. But when a conformation show turns deadly, it’ll take every trick in the book to outsmart a murderer who refuses to lose . . .

With the excitement of the spring dog show season sweeping Connecticut, Melanie is determined to help her son finally lead his Standard Poodle toward a championship title. Aunt Peg even skips the judging panel to exhibit a pup of her own, and she’s set on standing out from the pack with a handmade leash from Jasmine Crane, a talented canine portrait artist who also crafts stunning accessories for discriminating show-goers. Jasmine’s handiwork is to die for—but Aunt Peg didn’t expect to discover the woman murdered behind the concession booth, strangled by one of her dazzling custom creations . . .

Another shockwave ripples through the close-knit show community when Amanda, Aunt Peg’s longtime dog sitter and a renter on Jasmine’s property, ominously vanishes that same day. While nosing around for clues, Melanie suspects a dangerous connection between Amanda’s disappearance and the homicide case—a hunch that grows as her investigation reveals sketchy secrets about the late artist. Juggling a demanding teaching job, the pressures of the show ring, and a daunting suspect list, Melanie finds herself entangled in a mindboggling murder mystery . . . and hot on the trail of a desperate killer . . .

If you want a chance to win one of those advance copies, remember to comment today on Laurien’s FB page.  But don’t fret if you miss the giveaway; you can pre-order your own copy now. For details on this book and all the books in the Melanie Travis series, be sure to visit Laurien’s website. You can also follow her on Twitter.

We have a winner!

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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 Bylsma!

Kathleen, send your mailing address to me (dogmysteries [at] gmail) and I’ll get you connected with Laurien right away.

Bark Before Christmas

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.

Amazon     Barnes & Noble     Books A Million

Kobo          Kensington Books     IndieBound

Happy reading, everyone!

The Craft of Writing a Mystery Series

fountain pen

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

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.

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Bark Before ChristmasThanks, Laurien!

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.

Amazon     Barnes & Noble     Books A Million

Kobo          Kensington Books     IndieBound

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.

Celebrating a New Release by a Fabulous Author!

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?

Bark Before Christmas

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 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?

Pedigree to Die ForOMG, 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.

Do you have a personal favorite in the series?

Actually I have 3 favorites (so far!): Watchdog (#5), Unleashed (#7), and Gone With The Woof (#16).

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.

Amazon     Barnes & Noble     Books A Million

Kobo          Kensington Books     IndieBound

Oh, and coming October 27, fans can get this one too:

Christmas Howl

 

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.

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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.