Enjoy some Mayhem & Magic!

Our blog is meant to evoke fun with the magic of myths, folklore, movies and the mayhem of murder and madness. We have to keep it interesting so if you like different genres of movies and books then you're at the right blog. Our authors are a wide range of experts and our readers know what is top of the line in their favorite genres. Sometimes we post recipes that might be fun to try if a culinary author has one in her book that we think is especially yummy or one that Terri and I have created and want to share with you. Enjoy Guest Blogger Alice Duncan's monthly muse on her books and writing mysteries.

Plus you won't want to miss our book reviews, author interviews or our guest bloggers. So grab your favorite beverage then join us for some magic and mayhem! The good news is that you don't have to leave the house or your comfy chair. We have something for everyone's taste and every month we have a different topic for our bloggers: ones we feel that might be useful in your own writing and reader points of view. Not to mention, life in general. So join us and be sure to have a notebook handy as your to-be-read pile will grow as you add books, recipes, movies and t.v. series you won't want to miss. Not to mention folktales, myths or ideas you may wish to explore. Be careful what you wish for because on mayhemandmagic2 you just might find it.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

An Interview with Juliet Blackwell

Interview With Juliet Blackwell

By Pamela James

MM2: Juliet, how many books have you written?
I just finished writing my 19th novel! I can't believe it. But I have 16 that have already been released, and three "in the pipeline".

MM2: Please allow us to follow you thru a writing day?
My best writing time is in the early morning, usually. I try to get up before dawn, make myself a cup of strong French roast, and the work for a few hours. Sometimes I meet up with friends to write with them in cafés, but most times I'm by myself and in my head. I take breaks to check in with social media (love to "see" readers on Facebook/Twitter), and also to walk around the lake or take a hike for exercise.  Then I often do some editing/other book business in the afternoon (not creative writing—the other stuff!). In the evening I work when I'm on deadline, and often get a second wind. But if it's not deadline month…I enjoy time with friends and family.

MM2: After your writing day. How do you distress?
As I mentioned above, I try to get some exercise during the day — walking and hiking are my favorites— and then often spend evenings with my boyfriend, other friends, and family.  I also love to paint and garden.

MM2: What would you like to say about your readers?
My readers are the BEST! Seriously, they're so supportive and "into" the books and the characters — it's really heartwarming, and very motivating. 

MM2: What comes first the characters, setting, plot and where do you get your ideas?
I get a lot of ideas from being in a place — San Francisco is so beautiful and evocative! Also, I read the newspaper, and watch people on public transit. 

MM2: Do you have time to read new books? Re-read old favorites?
I read every night before going to sleep. I don't have as much time to read as I used to, but I still love it. I like to read what my author colleagues and friends are writing, as well as re-read classics.

MM2: Who gave you the best writing advice you ever received?
Jack London said (I'm paraphrasing:) you can't sit around waiting for inspiration: "you have to go after it with a club"

MM2: Tell us about your latest book projects?

My first standalone Women's Fiction, THE PARIS KEY comes out September 1, and I'm very excited since it's a departure for me. It's about a woman going through a divorce, who moves to Paris to take over her uncle's locksmith shop. It's not a classic mystery, though there are family secrets to dig up…it was such fun! My other paranormal mystery series are both continuing, as well, and I just finished A Toxic Trousseau, #8 in the Witchcraft Mystery series. 

MM2: Now for fun, what is your favorite movie, meal and place to vacation?
Movie: Practical Magic. Meal: depends on my mood! I'm partial to Thai food, but I'm an omnivore. Place to vacation: Paris! 

MM2: What would your characters have to say about you?
Oh, that's a good question!  Lily might tell me I get her into a lot of difficult predicaments without a clear path of how to get out — and  now that I think about it, Mel would probably say the same thing!

MM2: Leave us with some writing words of wisdom?
I would just reiterate what Jack London said — if you want to write, you have to work for it. Inspiration does come, and one should always respect it — but it most often arrives when you've put in the hours of hard work, first. 

Thank you so much. Your books are truly filled with magic and smiles.


Tuesday, September 1, 2015

August Mystery Month (Books)

Good morning,
August was a great reading month for me. We started out with The BLEEDING HEART with Bryant and May. Author is Christopher Fowler.

Second came YOU CAN'T GET BLOOD OUT OF A SHAG CARPET by Juliet Harper. I never laughed so hard. This was a great stress reliever and it made me realize how much I have missed books with humor.

Then we move to THE WOLFE WIDOW by Victoria Abbott, all I have to say is what a wonderful book and for a couple of days I was so content. This series is chalk full of amazing characters and plot.

Next up was A STRANGER IN MAYFAIR by Charles Finch. Love my British Mysteries.

AUNT DIMITY And The WISHING WELL by Nancy Atherton. This was a relaxing read that made me feel cozy.

PLAYED BY THE BOOK by Lucy Arlington Now I love mysteries about books. This one is totally amazing and so are the all the ones I have read in this series.

THE BODY IN THE BIRCHES by Katherine Hall Page. Loved this mystery for many reasons.  Her children are getting older and it adds so much to the plot line.

ARCHIE CAUGHT IN THE CROSSHAIRS by Robert Goldsborough. I loved Rex Stout and the A&E Nero Wolfe television series. Now that Robert has picked up writing the series it is truly an amazing moment that I feel like I am right back there with my old friend. This author is incarnation of Rex Stout. Love this series.

THE LONGEST YARD SALE by Sherry Harris: Sherry has yet again hit the spot. Her first book in the series was a diamond in the crown of cozy mystery/chick lit mystery and this one is the ruby of the series. I can' enough good things about this series. Sherry is truly a gifted author.

Lastly, I have read MURDER IN THE PAPERBACK PARLOR by Ellery Adams. Wow so much I want to live there, visit there and if I cant do that then I want to interview this author. I never ever wanted this book to end. It was a great way to wind up a reading month. I have been very lucky this month.

THE BARK BEFORE CHRISTMAS I will post the review an interview with Laurien Berenson on the same day. It will be at the end of the month.
THREAD END by AMANDA LEE this is my before I go to bed book because I own it.
STABBING in the SENATE (A Washington Whodunit) by COLLEEN J. SHOGAN This is a new to me author and series.
FATAL FAIRIES Joyce and Jim Lavene (A Renaissance Faire Mystery) this is my introduction to their series.
Okay that is my August and there might have been one or two from July but that is okay..
Your turn and my favorites are so many I can't list my very favorite one.


ISBN 978-0-425-26560-4
Paperback page count 287

Jane Steward has full week. Valentine's Day isn't far off and neither is Regency Authors Retreat that will be so fabulous none of the fans will want to go home.
Someone obviously didn't read the schedule because there wasn't supposed to be room for murder.
Rosamund York is famous, writes fabulous Regency novels and has more enemies than she can count.
Storyton Hall is the perfect place for her to retreat to her room and write. Nestled in a valley in western Virginia there is the very small town some call it more of a village.
Part of the fun and intrigue of Storyton Hall is the manor that has many rooms. Some have been cornered off as apartments and Jane loves her cottage on the property.
For a while Jane has lived a double life. She has to sons Finn and Hem both boys named after the literary figures Hemingway and Fitzgerald. The boys love Storyton Hall and they also love horseback riding, reading and learning new lessons in many variety. Mostly they adore their mother and allowance day!
But this February they are in awe of all the people who are attending Roamncing The Reader Event. This also covers contest such has which man will win the coveted male cover model contest.
Even though Rosamund is dead they all try to carry on as usual but Jane takes personal offense at the romance author's murder.
Very few people know the secrets of Storyton Hall but Jane does, she know all of the hidden rooms, nooks and crannies and where all of the cameras are hidden.
If only someone had captured a picture of the murder's face. When another murder happens this is getting to be a bit much and Jane fears if she doesn't do something quick this will be the last retreat for anyone.
With time running out Jane has to embrace her role has protector of everyone, every book and guest. She hopes all of her training to this point will help her when the time comes to use her skills because above all instinct tells her that the skills will be used.
MURDER in the PAPERBACK PARLOR BY ELLERY ADAMS has me wanting to live at Storyton Hall. Or t least in the village.
For fear of giving away too much of the plot. I cannot delve too strongly into events and characters. I can say that this is one of the bet mystery series on The New York Times Bestseller List. It's mixes old and new worlds where hats, white gloves and computers provide every insight. However this retreat doesn't want anyone with cell phones, computers or any other electronics because Regency Readers need to ask in the era on all fronts.
I give this series and this book a ten out of ten. The cover makes me wish for winter, hot cocoa and a room filled with books like the library on the cover.
Come sit a spell and embrace Storyton Hall.
Pamela James

Monday, August 31, 2015


TITLE: THE LONGEST YARD SALE-A Sarah Winston Garage Sale Mystery
Cozy/Mystery Series.
Paperback Series: Page count 344

Sarah Winston had no idea how successful her biggest event would be. The problem is while it is the largest yard sale in Ellington, Massachusetts history it is also pictured in drama.
First Sarah and her ex-husband CJ Winston have a difference of opinion of the huge sale. After all CJ is the Ellington Chief Of Police and he has to add more officers to do traffic, deal with parking and well just about everything.
When there are four fires that happen while the sales are going on which is bad enough nobody would have thought that stolen art was in the time frame.
Next of course is murder and I mean someone is trying to frame Sarah's best friend Carol for murder. Carol is an artist. Her shop and studio is not only a wreck but a dead man is found dead in the classroom behind the store. The body has  his face framed.
So much for Sarah's bright idea but then people start showing up and all are suspect. The library's painting is worth a lot o money.
Now we enter Seth the local District Attorney who definitely sets Sarah's hormones on fire.
Returning to CJ who clearly wants Sarah back you have a love triangle that even Sarah wants to run from but there is nowhere to turn. At least not until she sorts out her feelings and finds out who is framing her friend for murder.
Are we done yet? Nope because there ends up being another murder. The base Charity shop has a new person running the shop and well all is not what it seems. Things are in need of being tracked down.
Okay then we have a mobbed up art collector, more cheating spouses and boyfriends. Sarah is also busy tracking down the right items to place in Seth's new home. He hired her to redo his new place. At least this keeps her hands busy while head and heart are working overtime on the two men in her life.
THE LONGEST YARD SALE by Sherry Harris, is absolutely getting your money's worth.
Sherry knows  thing or two about the price of murder.
Don't miss this new  series. THE LONGEST YARD SALE is the second book in the series.
I have so much fun reading this series. I am always inspired to get rid of more our junk. In other words in all ways this mystery is a winner.
Pamela James I give this one another ten out of ten.
Pamela James

Review: Archie in the Crosshairs by Robert Goldsborough

Hard Back Mystery Series; Large Print
ISBN: 978-1-62899-662-3

Archie Goodwin has final won at his weekly poker game. Feeling too good to spend money on a cab he walks home from the game. When he reaches Nero Wolfe's brownstone a sedan rounds the corner an fires at Archie. The meaning is clear. Next time they won't miss.
Baffled and a little shaken Archie reports to Nero what happened.
Soon after a mystery caller calls and tell Nero he is after him by way of Archie. he will kill Archie, the dynamic duo intricately go through all of their past cases. They call in Saul Panzer, Lon Cohen and Fred Dirkin the help.
Meanwhile  young woman calls because she is being blackmailed. She want Archie and Nero to take the case. They do take the case and soon there is arrangements for a payoff drop off. Archie will drop the case full of money at a certain location at night. His pals will cover him and just as he drops the case bullets are fired and Archie is shot. Nobody retrieves the case but the person suspected of ordering the hit on Archie is killed. Not by any of Archie's buddies.
Then later they find out the brownstone's living room (which anyone hardly uses), has two bullet shots. Long ago after another harrowing case they installed bullet proof glass. Although nothing will stop someone who is trying to murder you.

ARCHIE CAUGHT IN THE CROSSHAIRS is vintage Wolfe and I am happy to report Robert Goldsborough has nailed the atmosphere, vintage setting and the characters. I love this series and he is the perfect one to keep it going and we fans are all the better for it.
I give this one ten stars out of ten stars.

Pamela James (who is a very happy reader tonight). Kuddos to Goldsborough

Review: Orange as Marmalade by Fran Stewart

Marmalade finds a dead body in her library. She tries to tell her human, Biscuit who did it, but her human just isn't listening.

Meanwhile, it is a year later and the police have no idea who killed Harlan and Biscuit is focused on her upcoming wedding and reconnecting with her sister.

This story is interesting in many ways. First, Marmalade comments all along on Biscuit's observations in a fun way. Second it is told through two linear timelines. The current day chaos that is Biscuit's life - filled with interesting characters and fun quirks. The other is told in flashbacks to the prior year leading up to the murder. Clues unfold in both. 

This is also different than the usual cozy in that no one is actively investigating the crime, events just unfold and the pieces fall together.

Biscuit is engaging and a fun protagonist and I want to know more of her story. Marmalade is sassy and engaging.                                                       Orange as Marmalade

The book also includes two things as extras that I loved as well: Biscuit (and Marmalade's) daily gratitude lists and a book group discussion guide that is full of fascinating and fun questions.

I loved this book and will definitely be reading the rest of the series!

  • File Size: 527 KB
  • Print Length: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Fran Stewart (December 10, 2010)
  • Publication Date: December 10, 2010
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004FV5BV8


Friday, August 28, 2015

We made it to Friday

So we made it to Friday. This is such good news. I may guilt free finish a book I have been reading, I can cross stitch tonight, the Kansas City Chiefs are playing tonight. I am home free for a few days.
What are your weekend plans?
I look forward to the tacos I am going to have for supper.
Oh and the book/s I will finish I will review. I also have been saving up to review MURDER in the PAPERBACK PARLOR by Ellery Adams. I finished reading this book days ago but wanted to review it at the perfect time.
I supposed everyone has exciting plans although Florida may have a little too much excitement. Florida and surrounding areas stay safe. Tornadoes scare me as I have been in a couple of them, a flood etc....
I think my favorite part of every weekend is Saturday mornings. I watch quilting shows and cross stitch. This weekend is all about the Halloween cross stitch.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

An Interview with Sharon Pape

Interview With Author: SHARON PAPE:
By Pamela James

MM2: Sharon, give us some backstory on your writing career? 
Like many other authors, I started writing early in life. I was five when the school librarian put my first little story on display in the library. As an adult, my first novel was  published by PocketBooks and condensed in Redbook Magazine. It was the first paperback original they’d ever condensed. (I’ve recently re-released that book under the title For
Everything a Season.) Two other paranormals followed, before my life took an unexpected turn with the   diagnosis of breast cancer. Once I was well again, my surgeon and I started a non-profit to provide peer support and information to newly diagnosed women. After ten years, the organization didn’t require as much of my time, and I stepped down as president to return to my first love -writing. This time around I’m writing cozy mysteries with a paranormal twist.

MM2: Where do you call home?
Long Island has been my home since the age of three.

MM2: Where is your favorite place to write?
I have a study in my house, with a floor to ceiling bookcase on one wall. I love working surrounded by books. My computer sits on a beautiful, old-fashioned trestle desk, where  my electric typewriter once sat.

MM2: What is the most important advice you received about writing books?
Apply the seat of your pants to your desk chair even if a million other things are luring you away.

MM2: Tell us about your book?
My first series of cozy mysteries is called the “Portrait of Crime Mysteries,” because the main character, Rory McCain, is a police sketch artist who starts her own private investigation firm. Her partner, Zeke Drummond, is the resident ghost of the old Victorian house she inherited from her uncle.
Alibis and Amethysts is the first book of my second series, “The Crystal Shop Mysteries.” I’m also working on a third series about a magick shop in upstate New York, with the working title, Magick and Mayhem. (Sound familiar?)

MM2:  What would your characters tell us about you?
They’d probably say they like working for me, because I give them lots of pizza, ice cream and cake to eat. They might also say that I enjoy putting them in harm’s way, as well as in funny situations, which they don’t necessarily find all that funny.

MM2: Give us a little insight about your writing day?
My writing day varies a lot, because I often have migraines and have to work around them. My ideal schedule is something like this: I write for a few hours in the morning, take a break to run errands and for pesky necessities like food and doctor appointments, then write for a few more hours in the late afternoon and evening. If I encounter a plot problem, I go to the gym. For some reason, doing an aerobic workout frees my mind to solve problems. The old two birds, one stone philosophy.

MM2: How do you de-stress at the end of the day?
I read for pleasure and watch some television shows, generally the more creative ones. I’m a sucker for shows that take you on a voyage of imagination, shows based on the premise of “what if?”

MM2: Here are some fun get to know you questions: What is your favorite meal, place to vacation, dessert, movie/s, song and some place you wish you were right now?
A place I wish to be right now? Right here where I am with my husband. I have great friends nearby, my daughter lives four minutes away and my son lives fifteen minutes away. Where else could I be any happier?

MM2: Is there someone you would like to thank? Maybe a writer's group, family etc...?

Thanks to: My husband, who has always supported my writing efforts and is the first of my trusted beta readers, my daughter, another beta reader, who sees the forest as well as the trees, my mother who has, as most mothers do, always believed in me, and my dear friend Vivian, who has the most remarkable insights into plot and character.

MM2: What would you like to say to your readers?
To my readers: A huge thank you!! Without readers, writers are basically just talking to themselves. A special thanks to the fans who take the time out of their busy lives to let me know how much they’ve enjoyed my books!

MM2: Leave us with one of your favorite quotes?
Favorite quote: “It’s never too late to be what you might have been.” George Eliot.


Wednesday, August 26, 2015

An Interview with Alyssa Maxwell & GIVEAWAY


By Pamela James

MM2: Alyssa, let start by giving us some backstory on you as an author. How, when where and why did you become an author?

I’m sure you hear this a lot, but I’ve been writing stories since I first learned how to put words together on paper. And I’ve also always been a pretty avid reader. I always knew I wanted a career in some kind of writing, but I thought I’d go more practical, like editing. Right out of college, I worked as an assistant editor for a reference book publisher. Then, when a friend of mine first became published, it struck a resounding chord in me. Until then I’d idolized my favorite authors, but now I realized writers were just people – like me – with vivid imaginations and the desire to tell stories. I began writing historical romance first and was published in that genre for several years, but the switch to historical mystery was absolutely the right move. I was always a bit too “plotty” for the romance genre where the focus is much more on emotions, but now I can plot to my heart’s content. Mysteries are like a puzzle (and I’m a puzzle person – Sudoku, word search, mazes, jigsaw, etc.). I first have to make all the pieces and put them together, and then disassemble them and mix them up so the reader can try to solve whodunit. I adore the process, and I’ll admit that being able to “kill” off certain character types can be cathartic!

MM2: Where is your favorite place to write?

Nowhere particularly exciting, really. I have a desk at home where I do the majority of my writing. Sometimes in the cooler months (I live in Florida) I’ll take my laptop out onto our screened-in porch. I like quiet when I write, and an empty house, which, now that our daughters are grown, is attainable every day. I’m not that author who can sit at Starbucks all day inhaling coffee and writing in the midst of controlled chaos. I’d be too distracted.

MM2: Take us thru and typical writing day?

On the surface, my day is pretty boring. Beneath the surface, of course, inside my head, is where all the exciting things happen – like murder and danger and yes, a little romance. On my best days, I’ll read while having my morning coffee on the porch, and then get on the exercise bike for twenty minutes or so or do a little yoga. That way I’ve energized both my body and my mind, and I tend to be at my most creative and focused. But nobody’s perfect, and I don’t always stick to that routine. Emails and social media can sometimes keep me busy for the better part of the morning, and I’ll find myself working late into the afternoon. That’s ok, though. With two series now and two books due each year (The Gilded Newport Mysteries and A Lady and Lady’s Maid Mysteries), I have no choice but to make time to write every day. Except for extenuating circumstances, I do not believe in missing a deadline.

MM2: Let's talk about your latest book?

In MURDER AT BEECHWOOD, my sleuth, Emma Cross, is dealing with crises on several levels. First, a baby is abandoned on her doorstep, and may be connected with a carriage driver found shot not far from her home. Her attempts to discover the child’s identity lead her to the season-opening gala at Mrs. Caroline Astor’s house, Beechwood, where Emma tries to learn if any wealthy young miss might recently have given birth. When one of Mrs. Astor’s guests falls overboard in a yacht race, the police cry foul play and the man Emma is falling in love with becomes the main suspect. Meanwhile, it becomes more and more apparent that the child is somehow connected to these events, and it falls to Emma to unravel the secrets of two formidable families in order to find both the mother and the culprit.

MM2: What comes first the plot, setting or characters?

Characters!!! I might start with a basic premise first, such as who is murdered and who the prime suspect will be, but I cannot – absolutely CANNOT – begin to plot until I’ve fleshed out my characters. Knowing who they are will supply me with motives, opportunities, and capabilities. I need to know them to know how they will behave in any given situation, and that, in turn, guides my plot.

MM2: Do you rewrite your books? In other word how do you set up your books? With outlines, main plot etc..?

After establishing my characters, I begin outlining. I’ll make a list of events leading up to the murder, then a step by step framework for the investigation, and finally the climax and resolution. Usually, this all involves pen and paper and setting up visuals on my dry erase boards. Something about diagramming things out this way helps me visualize the plot and piece it together. Then, I sit down and write the synopsis. I would never just start writing the book. My synopsis serves as a roadmap so that I don’t confuse myself in the course of writing (I’m easily confused!), and also helps me keep me on schedule. I never have to sit down and say, “Well, what next?” I also edit as I go, so I’m constantly making changes and tweaks. By the time I’ve finished the first draft, it’s pretty complete, but I still make a couple more passes through before turning it in to my editor.

MM2: What was the best writing advice you ever received?

It’s ok for the first draft to suck! You can fix bad writing. You can’t fix a blank screen. So just write, and worry about polishing and perfecting later.

MM2: What would you like us to know about where you live?

Interesting question. Where I live is nothing like the places I write about. I live in South Florida where everything is relatively new and flat and hot. Don’t get me wrong – I love living in Florida. We have a wonderful year-round lifestyle of being able to go places and be outdoors, and my husband and I have learned to find the natural beauty of our subtropical state. Florida has some spectacular wetlands teeming with exotic birds, butterflies, and don’t forget the alligators! One of my most moving experiences was visiting a Civil War section of the Old City Cemetery in Tallahassee, and St. Augustine presents fascinating examples of Spanish colonialism, so we have our share of history as well. But when I sit down to write, I have to transport myself to the briny cliffs of Newport or the rolling hills of the Cotswolds, very different environments from where I live.

MM2: After reading one of your books. What do you want the reader to walk away with?

With my Newport books, I want readers to feel like the doors of the mansions have been flung open to welcome them inside, and that they’ve gotten to know the owners a bit, as well as experiencing a little of what life was like in Newport – and how it still is in some ways. There is something so special and enduring in Newport, so that not a lot changes as time passes. For me, what I loved about Newport the first time I visited over thirty years ago is still what I love about it today.
I also want readers to feel like they’ve experienced the adventures, the challenges, the danger, and the ultimate sense of triumph along with the characters, and that goes for both series. In A Lady and Lady’s Maid Mysteries, I want readers to experience the swiftly changing times of post WWI England, where the old traditions – many of which upheld the unfairness of restrictive social classes – were giving way to forward thinking, more personal freedom for all individuals, and newfound liberties and possibilities for women. I feel so passionate about the positive changes brought about by the war, while at the same time understanding the sorrow of losing nearly an entire generation of men, and even sympathizing with the traditionalists who didn’t understand what was happening to their world and were unable to change with the times. Through it all, my dual heroines remain intrepid and devoted to one another, and I want to the reader to share in a friendship that couldn’t have existed in an earlier time in Britain’s history.

MM2: Do you reread your favorite books?

Rarely, since there are fabulous books being released all the time, and as I meet authors I always want to read their books. Every few years I do reread all of Jane Austin’s books, and the Harry Potters.

MM2: Is there an up and coming author you would like to endorse? Maybe even have us interview?

Nancy Herriman is definitely an author to watch. Her debut historical mystery, NO COMFORT FOR THE LOST, received a starred review in Library Journal. She’s got a beautiful writing style and is a very talented mystery author. Also, I belong to a group of historical mystery authors called Sleuths In Time – maybe you’ve seen us on Facebook or Twitter. If not, please check us out at facebook.com/sleuthsintime. I’m absolutely honored to be part of this talented group. They are Tessa Arlen, Susanna Calkins, Anna Lee Huber, D.E. Ireland, Anna Loan-Wilsey, Christine Trent, and Ashley Weaver.

MM2: How much attention do you pay to reviews?

I try to pay very little attention to them these days. I used to check pretty regularly, but I’ve learned that good or bad, reviews are only one person’s opinion and shouldn’t be taken too much to heart. What I do pay attention to are the emails I receive from readers. Some of their observations and questions have been invaluable in helping me figure out what’s working and what needs tweaking in my writing. I’ve also gotten some fabulous information and made enduring connections and friendships through correspondence with Newporters who knew my husband’s family.

MM2: What would you like to say to your readers?

First, I would like to thank all the readers who have emailed me over the past year and a half or contacted me via social media. Hearing from readers means the world to me, especially when they’re writing to tell me about their own connections to Newport and how my Gilded Newport Mysteries mean something special to them. The support I’ve been shown for these books has become my number one motivating factor, and it’s so important to me to do my best work and never let readers down.

MM2: Okay for some fun questions. What is your favorite meal, place to vacation, dessert, song, and movie/s?
Meal: Lasagna. I make it every Christmas. It’s the ultimate comfort good. But if we’re going healthy, Dijon salmon and a nice salad.

Vacation: Newport! And New York City! Although my husband and I love to travel. As long as we’re somewhere with a sense of history and beautiful scenery we’re happy. Also, good restaurants are a must.

Dessert: My husband’s grilled plantains! He cuts the plantains (ones that look like very overripe bananas) lengthwise, leaving the skin on, coats both sides with olive oil, sprinkles the sliced sides with cinnamon, and grills them until they’re soft and sweet. Add a scoop of vanilla ice cream, and you’ve got a heavenly dessert!

Song: Do I even have a favorite song? Oh wait, I do. Somewhere Over the Rainbow & It’s a Wonderful World, the version by Israel Kamakawiwo'ole. It’s the happiest song ever. The Ray Charles versions are great, too.

Movies: Gone with the Wind; Dr. Shivago; All three Lord of the Rings movies; Most of the Star Trek movies (including the new ones); Pride and Prejudice (the BBC version); Shakespeare in Love – to name a few.

MM2: Lastly what would your characters tell us about you?

That despite my best laid plans, sometimes they know better and luckily I’m smart enough to listen to them and let them do things their way.

Now for the


Alyssa is generously donating a three book set of her Gilded Newport Mysteries!

So leave a comment with an email address and we will select a winner on September 3, 2015!

Good Luck!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

An Interview With Clea Simon


By Pamela James

MM2: Clea, when and how did you become an author?
I became an author - a published author- with the publication of my very first book, “Mad House: Growing Up in the Shadow of Mentally Ill Siblings” (St. Martin’s) in 1997, and before that I’d been a journalist for many years. (“Mad House” is nonfiction. I have three nonfiction books and 19 mysteries, all traditionally published). But I became a writer many, many years before - in fact, I’ve been a writer since I could write. I still have some of the stories I made up in elementary school. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t make up stories, usually about the animals in my yard or about my pets. Some things never change!

MM2: Where is your favorite place to write?
I have a cozy office on the second floor of our house. My desk faces a window with a tree outside, so I get to watch the birds. And all over my desk, around my computer are little figurines – mostly of cats! They’re my totems, and I think they lend me some magic.

MM2: Do you take the time to re-read books?
Most definitely! Although writing the first draft is the most fun, it is in the rewriting and revision that I do the real work, I think - that’s when I discover how much of the book made it to the page and how much has been left in my head!

MM2: Tell us about your latest book? Tell us about your series?
My latest book is “Code Grey,” book nine in the Dulcie Schwartz series. My publisher describes this as “a feline-filled academic series,” and it features Dulcie – a graduate student who is studying the Gothic literature of the late 18th Century. She thinks of herself as very rational, but because she is studying Gothic novels, she runs into ghosts and other paranormal phenomenon – most notably the ghost of her late great cat, Mr. Grey. (She also has a living kitty, Esmé). In “Code Grey,” Dulcie finds herself coming to the defense of an older former student who may or may not have stolen a rare and valuable book….

I have two series ongoing: these Dulcie Schwartz mysteries and also the Pru Marlowe pet noir mysteries (Poisoned Pen Press). The latest of those is “Kittens Can Kill,” and features Pru Marlowe, an animal behaviorist who can understand what animals are thinking (pet psychic) and her cat Wallis.

MM2: What would your characters tell us about you?
That I love books and cats! Also, that in my heart of hearts, I feel like I can understand what cats are saying to me.

MM2: Plain and simple what is the best writing advice you have received?
“Bash it out now, tart it up later.” That’s a quote from the British pub rocker Nick Lowe and it works for writing too. You need to get your first draft out anyway you can - and then you need to work on it to make sure it is everything you hoped it would be.

MM2: What comes first the setting, plot or character?
Well, by this point in my series, I have the characters, so it’s usually plot. But I have a new book – first in a new series – coming out next spring, called “The Ninth Life” (Severn House). That started with a character: a black cat who wakes up and can’t remember who he is or what happened to him.

MM2: Take us thru and typical writing day?
I work as a freelance copy editor, so I usually do that work in the morning. Then I do my errands and dither away some time and usually mid-afternoon, I’m at my desk. With all the distractions out of the way, I find I can finally concentrate. And then, I get to work. When I’m working on a first draft, I sit there until I hit my word count. Usually 1,500 words for the day! I usually end up working from 4 until around 9 p.m.

MM2: If you could sit down with any author that has passed away who would it be?
Wow, I’m not sure. Maybe Colette, because she wrote so well about emotions - what we feel when we’re in love or simply infatuated – an also about cats. Or maybe Anthony Trollope, because he was so funny and thought up such convoluted plots for his characters to get involved in.

MM2: What are your future writing plans? 

I’m looking forward to writing more books! Next up is another Dulcie and I just turned in “When Bunnies Go Bad,” the sixth Pru Marlowe. And then, if all goes well, the sequel to “The Ninth Life."

MM2: Give us a few details of where you live and why you like living there. Be our tour guide?
I live in a 105-year-old house in the city of Somerville, which is right next to Boston. I love my neighborhood. If you were here, I’d show you our tiny scrap of a yard, where I grow tomatoes (the bunnies don’t eat them) and where we get cardinals and nuthatches at the feeder. And then I’d invite you to walk with me. At the end of my street, there’s a park (it’s actually the grounds of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences) where right now a Cooper’s hawk has a nest with five fledglings. A bunch of us go out and watch them. The “babies” – they’re huge – can now fly to nearby trees, but their mom and dad still feed them. Then I’d suggest we walk either to Porter Square or Harvard Square - about 15 to 20 minutes – where there are independent bookstores and coffeeshops. We’d buy books - support those bookstores – and then go have coffee!

MM2: Here are some fun questions: Do you like to cook or bake? Do you have hobbies? If you could travel anywhere in the world this minute. Where would you travel? What is your favorite play, song, movie, way to spend a night out? Dessert, meal and who influenced your writing career more than anyone else?
I LOVE to cook! To cook, not bake: I’m not good at following recipes exactly and I love to improvise (I’m a pantser rather than a plotter, too — I like to write “by the seat of my pants” rather than have everything planned out). If I could travel anywhere in the world right now? Hmmm… I’d go back to Bali! I spent a few weeks there years ago and went back with my husband about 15 years ago. It was magical, but the flights … oh boy, they were long.  Favorite night out? Either ra really really nice dinner with either my husband or a small group of friends: eating, drinking wine, or talking. Or maybe hearing music! I love going out to hear live music - these days, that’s less rock and more blues or Cajun or zydeco. Something with a beat that gets my toe tapping! Dessert? Chocolate! Rich, deep chocolate. Meal? Depends on my mood - right now it’s summer, so I’m thinking fried clams, lobster, maybe some grilled striped bass… yum! 
As far as influences - I’m so lucky both to have had really great editors at several publishing houses and also in my journalism jobs, and I also have friends who write and we share support (and complaints). I guess if I have to choose one, I’d say my husband - not just for the emotional support but because he is also a writer and an editor and he really takes my writing seriously. He is encouraging and respects what I do - and that makes me believe in myself even when I start to give up.

MM2: Who is your every day hero?
see above!

MM2: When you hit a snag in your writing how do you conquer it?
I give myself permission to write badly. I say – sometimes out loud – that I can write something utterly awful, something that I will just erase tomorrow, but that I have to write SOMETHING. I tell myself that it’s like letting the rusty water come out of the tap so you can get to the clear. 

MM2: What writing conventions, book groups, book clubs, bookstores, libraries and reading groups do you enjoy? What blogs do you enjoy reading?
I’m going to be very busy coming up - I’ll be at the NewEngland Crimebake in November, then in the spring, Left Coast Crime (Phoenix), Malice Domestic, and CrimeFest in Bristol, England. And then in Sept. 2016, I’m planning on returning to Bouchercon (in New Orleans). I also hope to have bookstore events wherever and whenever I can — please check my website – http://www.cleasimon.com - for the latest! As far as reading blogs - I’m a big fan of the bookblog of the Bristol Public Library at http://bristol-library-bookblog.blogspot.com and  Lesa Holstine’s http://lesasbookcritiques.blogspot.com - and yours, of course!!

MM2: Fall will be our next season. What are you looking forward this fall?
I love fall weather and, of course since I live in New England, the foliage! I love being able to walk and bike without getting sweaty! And there are so many great books coming out this fall. Actually, my “The Ninth Life” comes out in the UK in November (March 2016 in the US), so there’s that too!

MM2: Leave us with a Clea writing quote.
Well, the best advice is the advise I was given - “bash it out now, tart it up later.” But besides that? I’d remind you that the ability to write is a muscle - exercise it, tone it, work it. You will see the results!