Mystery Subgenre: the Gothics by Amy Reade

20131548           A friend asked me to write a post recently on the definition of “gothic” mysteries. When I tell people I write gothics, often their initial expectation is vampires and fangs. But that’s not what I write.

This subgenre of mystery has indeed encompassed monsters, vampires, ghouls, and crones in its storied history, but it has evolved to have a more nuanced meaning.

“Gothic” fiction began in the 1700s with Horace Walpole’s novel The Castle of Otranto. And in that title lies one of the most recognizable elements of the gothic novel: the castle, often crumbling and decrepit, always spooky, always evoking a feeling of terror. And the castle, or its modern counterpart, the decaying mansion, is often present in more contemporary gothic novels.


Today gothics tend to have several, or all, of the following elements:

  • Female protagonist (with mid-twentieth century gothics, you can almost always tell you’re looking at a gothic book by the wispy, gauzy-clad woman on the front cover, running in fear from the forbidding mansion behind her)
  • Hero (almost always a male)
  • Villain, either male or female
  • Aristocratic characters
  • Dark family secrets, often something that happened in the distant past that haunts the minds of the characters in the present
  • Remote and desolate landscapes
  • An overall sense of fear and foreboding, or even evil
  • A brooding setting as important as any character
  • Love, whether powerful, unrequited, forbidden, or broken

The gothic mysteries I like to read and write also have components in common with today’s cozy mysteries; notably, the absence of gore, the absence of foul language, and the absence of explicit sexual passages.

How is the gothic different from the traditional mystery, you might ask? It’s a hard question to answer, but I believe it’s generally true that a traditional mystery tends to move a little faster while a gothic tends to take its time building suspense and fear in the reader. A gothic might also tend to have subject matter that is a bit darker than a traditional mystery, though that isn’t always the case.

houseofthehangingjadecoverwithusatoday2          So if you’re interested in reading gothics, where do you begin? I have some suggestions, but I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments below.

Rebecca and My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allen Poe

            The Monk by Matthew Lewis

            Tales of Terror and Mystery by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters

Dracula by Bram Stoker

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

Black Amber by Phyllis Whitneysecretsofhallsteadhouseebook

The Shivering Sands by Victoria Holt

Stolen Memories by Mary Miley Theobald

My favorite thing about the gothics? So many of them allow me to travel to exotic and fascinating locales without leaving my home. I’ve learned about history, other cultures, and other faiths. And through all my armchair trips, these books keep me guessing until the last delightful, suspense-filled page.

Here’s the rub for authors who write gothics: it’s not a huge market when compared with romance or thrillers or fantasy, so sometimes it can be hard to find readers who don’t even realize they’d love gothic books.

So what’s an author to do? Here are a few ideas that have worked for me:

I follow bloggers who write about and review gothic books, and I leave comments on those blogs. This has the advantage of getting my name out there to people who are interested in gothic-style books and it keeps me engaged with communities of readers who have interests similar to mine.

I join social media groups devoted to reading the gothics.

I write posts like this, to introduce readers to a genre they might not have known about.

I cross-market my books in gothic, horror, and suspense categories.

I started my own Facebook group devoted to gothics. My plan is to transition my author page fans to the gothic page and that way the group members will see all my posts. This is still in the planning stages, but if you’re interested in being one of the inaugural members, please visit

When I’m at a book signing and meet readers who don’t know me, I discuss the gothics with them. Often they’re familiar with the more recent gothic theghostsofpeppernellmanor_ebookcovernovelists (Phyllis Whitney, Victoria Holt), but they don’t realize there are others out there right now (like me!) writing the type of books they love to read.

If you’re a readers, I hope you’ll give the gothics a look—and if you do, don’t forget to leave a review! If you’re a writer of gothic mystery, don’t give up! Try some of the tips above and let me know how they work for you. And if you have ideas of your own, don’t hesitate to share them in the comments.

Thanks for having me on Bookbrowsing. It’s been an honor and a privilege.


Author Bio:

Amy M. Reade, a recovering lawyer, lives in southern New Jersey. She is the author of Secrets of Hallstead House, The Ghosts of Peppernell Manor, and House of Hanging Jade. She is currently working on Book Three of The Malice Novels, a series set in the United Kingdom. The first book in the series, The House on Candlewick Lane, will be released in February, 2017. She loves cooking, reading, and traveling.

Amy can be found online here: (website) (blog)

And finally, here’s the publisher’s copy from her next release, The House on Candlewick Lane:housecandlewicklane_final1

It is every parent’s worst nightmare. Greer Dobbins’ daughter has been kidnapped—and spirited across the Atlantic to a hiding place in Scotland. Greer will do anything to find her, but the streets of Edinburgh hide a thousand secrets—including some she’d rather not face.

Art historian Dr. Greer Dobbins thought her ex-husband, Neill, had his gambling addiction under control. But in fact he was spiraling deeper and deeper into debt. When a group of shady lenders threatens to harm the divorced couple’s five-year-old daughter if he doesn’t pay up, a desperate Neill abducts the girl and flees to his native Scotland. Though the trail seems cold, Greer refuses to give up and embarks on a frantic search through the medieval alleys of Edinburgh—a city as beguiling as it is dangerous. But as the nightmare thickens with cryptic messages and a mysterious attack, Greer herself will become a target, along with everyone she holds dear.

From quill to social media – what a leap! by Triss Stein

JPGphoto SteinSocial media finally caught up with me in 2013, when Poisoned Pen Press published Brooklyn Bones. While it is a rumor started by my nearest and dearest that I would prefer to write with a quill pen, it is true that I am not excited by technology. Now I had to deal with it and the way it has changed book marketing.  I wrote a blog about my experiences then. With another book, Brooklyn Graves out, and Brooklyn  Secrets scheduled for December, I thought it was time to update with what I have – I hope! – learned.

(The italicized sentences are from 2013.)


Our bookish world is changing so fast it’s hard to keep up. While I feel as if I have achieved something with Facebook, my own website and madly guest blogging, whooshing right past me are Twitter, Pinterest and other sites and activities yet to be named.  (By me. I know they are already out there and have names.)


I actually used this idea in the forthcoming book, Brooklyn Secrets (Dec, 2015.) My protagonist’s daughter finds some crucial information out on the Web and doesn’t bother explaining how.  She just says, “Leave it to me. You wouldn’t understand.”   That is how I finessed the likelihood that by the time the book comes out, there will be even newer modes of social media, and I could never be really up to date.


I hired someone to set up a web site for me. And I kind of liked creating and updating it.


That website is overdue for an update and this time I have hired someone with real experience designing author sites. The first result was what I wanted at the time, but even I can see it is not doing the job I need it to do.  Plus, the marketing person at my publisher says it needs to be more interactive.


 Then I joined FaceBook after years of refusing to consider it. And I kind of like it, too.  I understand  what  it is: it takes the place  of water cooler conversations at work. 


In fact, it takes that place much too well for me as the only thing I miss about having a day job is the social interaction. My new rule needs to be FaceBook after productive  writing – after!-  and not instead of .  (Anyone else noticed this issue?)


Well, that hasn’t changed. Facebook continues to be a way-too-attractive nuisance, perfect for purposes of procrastination. 


It culminated by promoting Brooklyn Bones the old-fashioned way. In person! I had a launch party at Mysterious Bookshop in Manhattan.


I had another book launch party at Mysterious Bookshop for the next book, Brooklyn Graves. We had cookies with the book cover on them. They looked terrific and tasted pretty good, too.  The party was definitely fun and we sold some books.


What else?  I am going to some of the fan conventions. This year at Malice Domestic, a number of people – not friends or family! – had my books and wanted me to sign them. So maybe this is all working.


Brooklyn Secrets  will be not quite out in time for Bouchercon 2015 in October.  I am hoping that if I go, speak on a panel, talk to lots of people – Brooklyn Secrets Coverwith giveaways in hand – it will generate some interest anyway.


What else have I learned?


  • remember to cross promote. Post regular and guest blog info on Facebook, DorothyL.and other listservs. I probably need to put this reminder right on my computer screen!
  • SAVE all pr information. I had a computer meltdown, and the pr folder for Brooklyn Graves, handy on my screen desk,  disappeared forever
  • Finally, the scariest task. I made an appointment to get a new photo taken. After twenty years, that too needs an update. Wish me luck.


Perhaps I can come back in two years and report on the new lessons learned.



Triss Stein is a small–town girl from New York farm country who has spent most of her adult life in New York, the city. This gives her the useful double vision of a stranger and a resident for writing mysteries about Brooklyn, her ever-fascinating, ever-changing, ever-challenging adopted home. Brooklyn Graves is the most recent, and Brooklyn Secrets will be out from Poisoned Pen Press in December, 2015. It is available for pre-order now.


Find me on Facebook or my web page:


Brooklyn Graves 2A brutally murdered friend who was a family man with not an enemy in the world. A box full of charming letters home, written a century ago by an unknown young woman working at the famed Tiffany studios. Historic Green-Wood cemetery, where a decrepit mausoleum with stunning stained glass windows is now off limits, even to a famed art historian.


Suddenly, all of this, from the tragic to the merely eccentric, becomes part of Erica Donato’s life. She is a close friend of the murdered man’s family and feels compelled to help them. She is arbitrarily assigned to catalogue the valuable letters for an arrogant expert visiting the history museum where she works. She is the person who took that same expert to see the mausoleum windows.


Her life is full enough. She is a youngish single mother of a teen, an oldish history grad student, lowest person on the museum’s totem pole. She doesn’t need more responsibility, but she gets it anyway as secrets start emerging in the most unexpected places: an admirable life was not what it seemed, confiding letters conceal their most important story and too many people have hidden agendas.


In Brooklyn Graves a story of old families, old loves and hidden ties merges with new crimes and the true value of art, against the background of the splendid old cemetery and the life of modern Brooklyn.

A Cozy Mystery with Cupid and St. Valentine by Connie Knight

Cupid,-god-of-love“I don’t understand why Cupid was chosen to represent Valentine’s Day. When I think about romance, the last thing on my mind is a short chubby toddler coming at me with a weapon.”

                                                                        —Author Unknown, quoted by Donna Diegel



Valentine’s Day celebrates early Christian saints of that name. Instead of promoting romance, Valentinus performed weddings that were forbidden, and ministered to Christians. He was a martyr who suffered prison and execution. Somehow, in the Middle Ages, Valentine’s Day became a festival of romantic love and Cupid, a Greek and Roman god of desire, became associated with it. Paintings and statues depicted him; later, flowers, cards, and chocolate candy became gifts of romance.

Today, Valentine’s Day is feverishly marketed with romantic cards and humorous ones popping up everywhere. Love songs may touch upon romance seriously or not. I remember one by Connie Francis. The lyrics start, “Stupid Cupid, you’re a real mean guy, I’d like to clip your wings so you can’t fly.” That song was a hit. Of course, romance is often part of a novel’s plot. In cozy mysteries, romance is almost always important—unless the amateur sleuth is elderly like Miss Marple, pompous like Hercule Poirot, or a priest like Father Brown.

Romance between the cozy mystery’s amateur sleuth and a local police officer happens pretty often. The setting is a small town, an English manor, an area like a fishing village or a Texas ranch. Both my novels, the Caroline Hargrove Hamilton Mystery Series, are set in DeWitt County near San Antonio, in Yorktown and in the country—mostly ranches. Couples appear in both books, although St. Valentine’s influence is more important than Cupid’s bow and arrow.

In Cemetery Whites, the first novel, Caroline Hargrove Hamilton moves from Houston to Yorktown. Her husband died in a car accident andCemetery Whites Cover her life has disintegrated. She hopes to reshape it with her father’s family, and her old friend and cousin Janet welcomes her with open arms. They drive around the country roads one day and visit the family cemetery where they find a dead man and call the police. Constable Bob Bennett enjoys meeting Caroline. St. Valentine, so to speak, presents him as a handsome man who takes good care of the people in his precinct. Other romances include one from the old days discovered in genealogy records.

Romantic Cupid might turn up at Billie’s Bar-B-Que where Caroline and her cousins go for dinner, dancing, and playing pool. Bob Bennett turns up too, and by the end of the book, he and Caroline are romantically involved at his ranch and her house in Yorktown.

My second novel, Chances Choices Changes Death, involves several couples falling in love. The main plot is the murder of Myra Cade and Chances Changes Choices Death Cover (1)the solution of that homicide, but since the book is a cozy mystery, I’ve created subplots and characters with Western romance rather than grim suspense. Myra is a single mother looking for paternal support for her eight-year-old son. She was long in love with Danny Harrell, but they broke up and she had an affair with Danny’s best friend Richard Hurst and then a short fling with sleazy dude Brian Atkins. Did one of them stab Myra to death? Cupid took Myra on a date with Brian. A bad decision.

St. Valentine had better influence on Donny Harrell who spent the summer working on Robinson Ranch. Young Cathy Robinson fell in love with him, and her guest Chris took a liking to Donny’s twin brother Danny—but Danny didn’t fall in love with anyone anymore. His old friend Richard Hurst turned up and fell in love with Dora, Brian Atkins’ cousin’s widow. She loved him, too. They all got engaged, except Danny and Chris. The book ends at Billie’s Bar-B-Que with the wedding of a long-engaged couple, Martha McNair and Allen Boyce from San Antonio. And guess what happens when Bob and Caroline go home after the wedding reception? Bob asks a question, and Caroline says yes. That’s the start of Cozy Mystery No. 3.



connie10Connie Knight’s interest in Texas history is reflected in Cemetery Whites. Murders in 1875 and 2010 are solved, with the detective’s family history unraveling to reveal information. Knight’s hobby of gardening produced the title Cemetery Whites. The victim’s body is found sprawled in a patch of white irises in an old family cemetery. The flowers with that name still exist today, at old homesteads and in current gardens, including Connie Knight’s.

Connie Knight now lives in Houston and has just finished a second mystery, Chances Choices Changes Death, a sequel to Cemetery Whites. She is now working on her third mystery novel in the Caroline Hargrove Hamilton Mystery series.


Twitter @conniejs59

Buy links:

Chances Choices Changes Death

Cemetery Whites


The Nose Knows By M. E. May

Ed & Zeus from Indiana k9 SAR with Michele at Barnes & Noble

Ed & Zeus from Indiana k9 SAR with Michele at Barnes & Noble

Most of us know the police use dogs to help them sniff out drugs, explosives, and people—dead or alive. But did you know that many police departments cannot afford to keep a crew of dogs that can do it all? Some police departments may have dogs that find drugs and explosives, but are limited on search and recovery of humans who are missing or thought dead.


In order to assist families, and police, in finding missing persons and human remains, organizations such as the Indiana K-9 Search and Recovery (SAR) came into being. I chose this particular organization to talk about today, because they were instrumental in assisting me with facts on search and recovery dogs for my Indiana based series and in particular, the novel Ensconced.


Organizations such as the Indiana K-9 SAR, are non-profit organizations that work with police departments, recovery organizations and individuals to search for missing persons. SAR organizations throughout the country assist in rescue and recovery during many emergency situations such as the 9-11 attacks, tornadoes, hurricanes, and most recently the mudslides in Washington State. They also look for children and older adults who may have wandered away from their families.


Many of these organizations, and Indiana K-9 in particular, do not collect money from families or rescue organizations in payment for their services. That is why I’m donating a portion of the net sales from my novel, Ensconced, to the Indiana K-9 SAR organization to thank them for their assistance with the search scenes in which the dogs were involved.


During my research, I found the most amazing facts about how these dogs work.  Of course, many of us know of the dogs trained to conduct Scent Specific Trailing. We’ve seen these pooches in the movies and on television sniffing a piece of clothing and then racing to find the missing person or escaped convict.


Then we’ve all heard of the dog who tries to find human remains. These dogs are able to distinguish between the decomposing remains of humans and animals. When a dog locates human remains, it will indicate the approximate location by stopping and either barking or lying down. These dogs learn not to dig for remains in order to preserve evidence. Then the handler rewards the dog and leaves the scene to the agency in charge of recovering the remains.


The dogs that amazed me most were the dogs who seek human remains in a water source. Water recovery dogs can detect the odor of human remainsEnsconced_Front Cover onlyin many depths and types of water, and find remains that were immersed for long or short periods of time. In Ensconced, the dogs looked in a reservoir for a person missing for ten years. I asked the director of Indiana K-9 if this was possible and she said yes. The hard part of the process is for the divers to find the remains once the dog scents them in the area, because the skeleton darkens and is covered by sludge from the lake bed.


Another amazing and wonderful part of this organization are the volunteers who own and handle the dogs. These are owners who have made a commitment to train their dogs for certification in search and recovery. Of course, these owners also train to become handlers. This means that they are willing to travel with their dogs to disaster sites, whether in the state of Indiana or elsewhere, to assist in the search and recovery efforts.


I was blessed to do two demonstrations at bookstores this past year with Zeus the German Shepherd and his handler Ed who were still in training. Ed told me he and his wife decided that becoming an SAR dog would help Zeus expend some of the overabundance of energy most Shepherds possess as well as give them the opportunity to do something for others.


If you want to know more about this organization or to make a donation, go to and look at the Donating and Volunteering page. If you don’t live in the state of Indiana, please look for your local Search and Recovery organization. You or one of your loved ones might need them one day.


ME MayMichele (M.E.) May attended Indiana University in Kokomo, Indiana, studying Social and Behavioral Sciences. Her interest in the psychology of humans sparked the curiosity to ask why they commit such heinous acts upon one another. Other interests in such areas as criminology and forensics have moved her to put her vast imagination to work writing crime fiction that is as accurate as Purged_Final_Front Coverpossible. In doing so, she depicts societal struggles that pit those who understand humanity with those who are lost in a strange and dangerous world of their own making.

In creating the Circle City Mystery Series, she brings to life fictional characters who work diligently to bring justice to victims of crime in the city of Indianapolis. Michele also hopes her readers will witness through her eyes, the wonderful city she calls her hometown. Learn more about Michele at

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Twitter:  @memayauthor

Stephen King: My Favorite Teacher   ~ by Joan Hall Hovey

Joan with Stephen King

Joan with Stephen King

The year was 1984, a lovely summer’s day and I was sitting in the packed, buzzed audience waiting for Stephen King to appear.  To say I was excited is an understatement. Uncool? Totally. I’d bought my hardcover copy of his book Different Seasons for him to sign.  I wouldn’t be denied. I had all his books in hardcover – Carrie, Cycle of the Werewolf, Danse Macabre, Salem’s Lot –  there would be  many more to come. He was my hero in a time when I was already much too old to be star-struck.  I’ve read that it is mainly teenagers who are addicted to Stephen King’s work, and I was hardly that.  Though probably immature.  I’m at a much more more advanced age now and that hasn’t changed, and I hope it never does.  Stephen King was  the Elvis Presley of the literary world.

I hadn’t had a novel published yet; that was still a dream, floating somewhere above the horizon. But I’d written and published some articles and short stories, enough to make me eligible for a travel grant through the NB Arts Council to London, England to the writers workshop at Polytechnic Institution  on Marylebone Road, aptly across the street from Madam Tussauds wax museum.  Stephen King would be a panelist, along with authors P.D. James, Robert Parker and some others.  I was eager to hear all the celebrated authors, but I’d flown all this way from New Brunswick, Canada to see and hear Mr. King.

He came into the large room through the back door and I swear I knew the instant he did.  You couldn’t miss the rising buzz of the audience, of course, the shifting of bodies as people turned to look, but I also felt the change of energy in the air. On stage, Stephen King joked about his ‘big writing engine’ and I had heard (within my third eye – yes, it can hear) its power, its purr.   Or maybe there’s more to it.

As he talked to us about writing, he spoke about seeing with that third eye.  The eye of the imagination.  He told us to imagine a chair.  Then he said it was a blue chair.  I saw it clearer now.  He added the detail of a paint blister on the leg of the chair.  Now I saw it close up, with my zoom lens.  We hung on his every word.  He was funny and brilliant and entertaining, and we learned. Everything he said was not necessarily something brand new, but were reminders to pay close attention to details.  To always tell the truth in our writing.  I even got to ask a couple of questions.   And his answers to all our questions were thoughtful and insightful.   I try to pass along a few of those lessons to my own students.

Stephen King has been teaching creative writing to aspiring and even established writers for decades, long before his wonderful book On Writing came out.  Such a gift to writers that is, regardless of the genre you write in.   I am gushing.  I don’t mind. It’s true.

I have been fortunate to have had many highlights in my life –  an anniversary trip to Niagara Falls with my wonderful husband, the births of my children and grandchildren, great-grandchildren – a trip to the Bahamas with my eldest son – my own first novel published and several more after that – and I have to say that that workshop in London, England, where Stephen King spoke to us about writing, is right up there.  Thank you, Mr. King.

I want to leave you with a quote from an interview with contributing writing for the Atlantic, Jessica Lahey, published in The Atlantic,  Sept  2014.  She asked him if teaching was craft or art.

“It’s both,” he said.  “The best teachers are artists.

Stephen King is an artist on every level.   He tells the truth.  In his fiction.  And in his teachings.


Joan Hall Hovey, Photo: Cindy Wilson/Telegraph-JournalIn addition to her critically acclaimed novels, Joan Hall Hovey’s articles and short stories have appeared in such diverse publications as The Toronto Star, Atlantic Advocate, Seek, Home Life Magazine, Mystery Scene, The New Brunswick Reader, Fredericton Gleaner, New Freeman and Kings County Record. Her short story Dark Reunion wasSONY DSC selected for the anthology investigating Women, Published by Simon & Pierre.

Ms. Hovey has held workshops and given talks at various schools and libraries in her area, including New Brunswick Community College, and taught a course in creative writing at the University of New Brunswick. For a number of years, she has been a tutor with Winghill School, a distance education school in Ottawa for aspiring writers. She is a member of the Writer’s Federation of New Brunswick, past regional Vice-President of Crime Writers of Canada and International Thriller Writers.

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An interview with Susan Furlong-Bolliger

Susan Furlong-Bolliger

Susan Furlong-Bolliger

Lucy Arlington was originally conceived by the writing team of Ellery Adams and Sylvia May, two friends who collaborated on an idea that became A Novel Idea Mystery Series. Together, the duo penned the first three books in the series: Buried in A Book, Every Trick in the Book, and Books, Cooks, and Crooks. As time passed and their personal writing workload grew, the two decided to pass the baton to another writer: Susan Furlong. In addition to writing as Lucy Arlington, Susan Furlong is the author of Peaches and Scream, the first book of The Georgia Peach Mysteries, releasing in July of 2015. To learn more about Susan, visit her website at


PJ: How long have you been writing?

Susan: I’ve been working as a professional writer for over twenty years, mostly as a contracted academic writer and a ghost writer. My first piece of published fiction was a short mystery with Untreed Reads Publishing.


PJ: At what point did you reach a place where you felt successful as a writer?

Susan: The first time someone, other than family, said they read my work and enjoyed it.


PJ: Is the writing life what you expected when you started out? If not, how is it different?

Susan: Yes and no. I’ve always understood that writing takes discipline and a constant effort toward self-improvement. However, I underestimated how much juggling is involved between writing and promotion.


PJ: The general public seems to think authors are relatively wealthy. Without prying too much, has your writing income lived up to expectations?

Susan: Yes. But perhaps that’s because I have realistic expectations. With that said, I don’t make enough money to support a family—especially not my family. (We have four kids who love to eat … a lot.)


PJ: Early on, so much focus is given to getting published. Now that you’re published, how has your focus changed?

Susan: My focus has shifted to writing my best possible novels and making my deadlines on time. I’m also working hard to promote my new books so my contracts will be renewed and I can keep writing more books in each series.


PJ: How long did it take you to get published the first time?

Susan: My first short story was accepted on the initial submission. I was shocked and really pleased. On the flip side, my first novel took over three years to find a publisher.


PJ: Writing new material, rewriting, submitting new work, waiting, promoting published work…the list is large. How do you manage to divvy up your time to give adequate attention to all needed areas?

Susan: I make a list of monthly goals, weekly goals and a task list for every day. We still have children at home, so first priority goes to family. For that reason, I do end up working a lot of late nights and almost every weekend. Actually, I probably don’t juggle everything too well, but I just try to keep my priorities straight: family first, then work. Except when I’m approaching a deadline. Then things tend to go crazy. The house turns into a disaster, laundry piles up, and we eat a lot of take-out food…


PJ: What is the single most exciting thing that’s happened to you as a writer?

Susan: Hands down, the most exciting thing was receiving an offer of representation from my agent. I knew she had good connections, great business sense, a reputation for honesty, and could help me achieve my goals. I’m extremely fortunate to have her on my side.


PJ: What’s the single most disappointing thing that happened to you as a writer?

Susan: When pursuing publication, every rejection letter is a disappointment. Many editors deliver professional rejections, mostly form-letters, and some with handwritten suggestions or words of encouragement. Once, however, I received a particularly harsh rejection letter from an editor who told me, very blatantly, that my work annoyed the crap out of her. It really knocked me back for a few days. I was tempted to delete her email into oblivion, but instead I kept it and reread it a few days later. This time, her comments prompted me to take another look at my submission. I decided to do some rewriting, tone down some scenes, and submit to a different editor. That editor accepted it right away. Then that book led to another and another and … here I am! So, in retrospect, that editor did me a huge favor.


PJ: What is the most memorable thing (good or bad) that’s happened to you while promoting your work?

Susan: Once, after an author talk at a local library, a teenager approached and asked how to become a writer. We sat and talked for a long time about what she liked to write as well as her goals and dreams of becoming a published author. She’s in college now, working on staff for her university’s newspaper. We still stay in contact.


PJ: With more books being released each month now than ever before, what do you believe sets your work apart from the others?

Susan: I like to think my strength is in character development. I mostly enjoy writing about every day, ordinary people who find themselves caught up in extraordinary circumstances. I hope my characters resonate with readers.


PJ: What do you feel is your most effective tool for promoting your published work?

Susan: Locally, I give library talks and conduct signings. Whenever I meet a new reader, I always ask if they want to sign-up to receive email alerts for my next release. This has been an effective way for me to build a reader base and personally keep in touch with readers.

On-line, I find that Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads are helpful tools for connecting with readers. I also participate in several mystery-based Facebook groups and Yahoo forums.


PJ: What area of book promotion is the most challenging to you?

Susan: Cold calls to bookstores. Just this week, I made several calls to area Barnes and Noble stores to set up signings for my next release. My fingers actually shook when I dialed the numbers. (I really, really have to build myself up to make that initial call.) Then, when a couple stores said yes, I was elated … for about ten seconds, then I realized that I’d just scheduled myself for a public appearance, which also makes me a little nervous.


PJ: Do you have a local independent bookseller you’d like to mention?

Susan: Absolutely! A huge shout out to the wonderful people at Book World of Danville, Illinois, and the Jane Addams Bookshop in Champaign, Illinois.


PJ: Share with us an elevator pitch (no more than 30 seconds) of your latest title:

Susan: *Deep Breath* If you’d enjoy escaping to a quaint mountain village where the people are gracious, the food is southern delish, and books are a way of life, then come to Inspiration Valley, North Carolina, and spend your days with literary agent Lila Wilkins and her quirky team of co-workers at Novel Idea Literary Agency as they discover new writing talent, plan extraordinary author events and sometimes finds themselves facing down a few real-life mysteries. *Whew!*


PJ: Where can we buy it?

Susan: You’ll be able find PLAYED BY THE BOOK by Lucy Arlington on the shelf of  your local bookstore and library, or on-line at Amazon, Played by the BookBarnes and Noble, Walmart, Powell’s or just about anywhere else. It’s currently available for preorder here:

Barnes and Noble/



PJ: What’s the last thing you would like to share with us that nobody knows about you and your work?

Susan: I can’t write without eating candy. It’s a horrible habit. I rotate between mini Tootsie Rolls, Jolly Ranchers, Twizzlers and Tootsie Roll Pops. Sometimes, after a particularly difficult scene, I find a couple dozen wrappers on my desk and I don’t even remember eating the candy!

Cozy Food and other delights by Nancy Lynn Jarvis

CNNIMG_4957-1“I know her, and her. Oh, I know her. Oh, I love her books, and hers, too.”


It may seem like a strange way for a woman looking at a cookbook to react, but it isn’t, really. When people turn “Cozy Food: 128 Cozy Mystery Writers Share Their Favorite Recipes” over and start reading the back cover—which is a top-to-bottom list of all the contributors to the cookbook—that’s often the response I hear. That’s because “Cozy Food” isn’t only about recipes; it’s a who’s who of cozy mystery writers.


But let’s talk about the recipes for a minute. Because the cookbook features an international group of writers, recipes come from all over the world. Although most recipes are from the present day, one of multiple-time Agatha Award nominee Kaye George’s series is set in the time of Neanderthals so she submitted a recipe for mammoth meat jerky to feed a tribe (and a modified version for modern humans who have to settle for using beef.) Amy Myers included the in-verse version of The Poet’s Recipe for Salad from her Victorian Master Chef series. If you want a proper Salmagundy recipe from the table of a twentieth century British aristocrat, Judith Cutler contributed one.


If your culinary skill set involves opening a few boxes of mixes and dumping them in a bowl, there’s Susan Furlong Bollinger’s Chocolate Dump Cake. If you lean more to gourmet cooking, try Sally Berneathy’s (aka Sally Carleen, Sally Steward, and Sara Garrett) Triple Chocolate Mousse Cake. If you’re looking to make something fun with your kids or grandkids there’s Margaret Grace’s (aka Camille Minichino) No Bake Mini “Hamburger” Cookies. And Sparkle Abbey and Laurie Cass submitted several pet treat recipes lest we forgot our favorite four legged-detective assistants who so often grace the pages of cozy mysteries.


Because Elaine Orr’s has had cooking disasters in her personal life, she asked her friend Leigh Michaels, writer of over one-hundred regency romances and two cookbooks, if she could borrow a couple of muffin recipes for “Cozy Food.” Looking for comfort food? Try new Anthony Award winner Catriona McPhearson’s the tastiest Mac you ever did Cheese. Wishing you were in Hawaii? Cindy Sample offers you a Tikki Goddess. Vegetarian? Check. Vegan? Check. Gluten intolerant? Check. Insane about chocolate? Huge check. There’s a new favorite recipe for everyone in “Cozy Food.”


And then are those 128 authors. (129 actually, I forgot to count me.) They’ve submitted biographies written with the same wit and entertainment value found in their books. Recipes, authors, bios, and book buying links are all round-robined so you can see what your favorite character likes to cook or find a great recipe and track down the author who put it in the books, Any way you go, you’re sure to find fabulous recipes for all occasions and tastes and your next new favorite cozy mystery writer to read.


P.S. Don’t miss the outtakes pages where writer comments that didn’t fit elsewhere but where too funny to consign to the trash bin found a home.Front-Cover-Small




You can find Cozy Food and see Nancy’s other books on my Amazon Author Page here.


Read opening chapters from all the books at  and say “Hi” at Goodreads

and Facebook

An interview with Dr. Betty Jean Craige

Dr. Betty Jean Craige

Dr. Betty Jean Craige

Dr. Craige has published books in the fields of Spanish poetry, modern literature, history of ideas, politics, ecology, and art.  She is a scholar, a translator, a teacher, and a novelist.



PJ: How long have you been writing?


BJ: I started translating Spanish poetry and writing scholarly books in 1973 when I came to the University of Georgia as an instructor. I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t working on a book. My first non-scholarly book was Conversations with Cosmo: At Home with an African Gray Parrot (2010). I also had loads of fun for two years writing a column in our local newspaper titled “Cosmo Talks” about animal cognition and communication.



PJ: At what point did you reach a place where you felt successful as a writer?


BJ: I never made money as a scholarly writer, but I still felt that I was a successful scholar. However, not until I published Conversations with Cosmo did I realize I was “a writer.”

Downstream is my first novel. When Black Opal Books accepted it for publication, I felt I could be a successful writer.28451-026 (ZF-10527-14196-1-005)



PJ: Is the writing life what you expected when you started out? If not, how is it different?


BJ: I am retired from the University of Georgia. Although I am on several boards of non-profit organizations, I spend every spare minute writing my mysteries now. Writing is what I love to do best.



PJ: The general public seems to think authors are relatively wealthy. Without prying too much, has your writing income lived up to expectations?


BJ: As yet, I don’t have a writing income. I am 68 years old. I have published 17 books, but Downstream is my first novel.



PJ: Early on, so much focus is given to getting published. Now that you’re published, how has your focus changed?


BJ: I just want to devote whatever time I have left in my life to writing.



PJ: How long did it take you to get published the first time?


BJ: I never had trouble finding a publisher.



PJ: Would you do anything differently if you had it to do over again?  


BJ No.



PJ: Writing new material, rewriting, submitting new work, waiting, promoting published work…the list is large. How do you manage to divvy up your time to give adequate attention to all needed areas?


BJ: I would rather write than promote what is already in print.



PJ: What is the single most exciting thing that’s happened to you as a writer?


BJ: I was executive producer, producer, and co-writer of a documentary titled Alvar: His Vision and His Art. It won first place in “Short Documentaries” at the Indie Gathering Film Festival in 2006. That was very exciting.




PJ: With more books being released each month now than ever before, what do you believe sets your work apart from the others?


BJ: My mystery is set in North Georgia, and it’s about the pharmaceutical pollution of our environment. Its setting and its theme set it apart from other mysteries.



PJ: What would you like to share with writers who haven’t reached the point of publication yet?


BJ: Figure out what you have to share with the world and write about it. .



PJ: What do you feel is your most effective tool for promoting your published work?


BJ: Radio interviews.



PJ: What area of book promotion is the most challenging to you?


BJ: The whole idea of promoting myself. I would rather talk about ideas, the ideas in my book.



PJ: Give us a list of your published titles in chronological or series order:


Authored Books

Lorca’s Poet in New York: The Fall into Consciousness.  Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1977

Literary Relativity.  Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press, 1982

Reconnection: Dualism to Holism in Literary Study.  Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1988  (cloth and paper)  Winner of     Frederic W. Ness Award

Laying the Ladder Down: The Emergence of Cultural Holism.  Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1992.  (cloth and paper)     Winner of Georgia Author of the Year for Non-fiction

American Patriotism in a Global Society.  SUNY Series in Global Politics.  Albany: State University of New York Press, 1996 (cloth     and paper)

Eugene Odum: Ecosystem Ecologist and Environmentalist.  Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2001. (paper edition, 2002)

Conversations with Cosmo: At Home with an African Grey Parrot. Santa Fe: Sherman Asher Publishing, 2010. Foreword Reviews     Book of the Year Silver Award (Category Pets) (2011)

            Conversations with Cosmo: At Home with an African Grey Parrot. Red Planet Audiobooks, 2010

Parola di Papagallo (Italian translation of Conversations with Cosmo). Mediterranee, 2013

We All Live Downstream. Black Opal Books, 2014



DOWNSTREAM coverPJ: Share with us an elevator pitch (no more than 30 seconds) of your latest title:


At the celebration of his hundredth birthday, local billionaire Francis Hearty Withers announces to the people gathered on the front lawn of Witherston Baptist Church that he has finalized his will. In it he bequeaths $1 billion to his north Georgia hometown of Witherston and another $1 billion to be divided up equally among the town’s 4,000 residents—in recognition of their support of a Senextra pharmaceutical factory. Senextra is a drug that enables individuals to lead healthy lives well into their second century, but it has some unanticipated consequences.  Downstream, published by Black Opal Books, is Betty Jean Craige’s first novel. Betty Jean Craige is retired from the University of Georgia, where she was a professor of Comparative Literature.



PJ: Where can we buy it?


BJ Barnes & Noble, your local bookstore and online booksellers.



PJ: What last thing would you like to share with us that nobody knows about you and your work?  


BJ: I am an environmentalist who loves writing cozy mysteries.


Bald Eagle Persuasion By Bill Hopkins

200440345-001The bald eagle persuaded me that I was right.

Plains, rivers, huge mountains, small mountains, deserts, and oceans. America has all kinds of landscapes and all kinds of people living here. I was born and raised in the Ozarks. They’re not mountains, not really. There might be some tall hills, deep valleys, and rolling country, but not true mountains.

I still live in the Missouri Ozarks near my tiny hometown named Marble Hill. (No one is quite sure why it’s named that. Despite what Wikipedia says, there is no marble or marble-like rock anywhere around.) My wife (mystery writer Sharon Woods Hopkins, author of KILLERWATT, KILLERFIND, KILLERTRUST, and KILLERGROUND, later this year) and I live deep in the boondocks, which means few vehicles ever pass on the gravel road in front of our house. It also means that we’re living on someone else’s property. That’s right, we’re trespassing on where at one time only animals lived.

That really doesn’t bother them much. In fact, the deer love eating Sharon’s flowers, the armadillos love digging in the mulch around the trees in our yard, the foxes love denning in the deadfall in a patch of woods near the house, and the coyotes run howling, mostly at night. Although bears and mountain lions live in our neck of the woods, we haven’t seen any of them. Yet.

This description sounds pastoral. And it is. Yet, when it came time for me to try my hand at writing a mystery novel, I wandered around my couple of isolated acres, pondering the location of a story about violent crime. Saint Louis? Memphis? New Orleans? I’m familiar with those cities. The notion of crime in a city is standard fare in mysteries and I love urban mysteries. There’s also a strain of mysteries that take place in the country. That’s what I decided I wanted to do: Write a mystery about the rural area that I knew best. Folks out in the country can murder with the best of them. And the protagonist? I’m a retired judge, but my hero could be a working judge who’s tired of listening to boring stuff in the courtroom. In fact, he thinks he’d make a better detective than judge. Since he is a judge, the law enforcement folks are hardly thrilled to have him snooping where he shouldn’t be sticking his nose.

CourtingMurderThus was born Courting Murder:

When Judge Rosswell Carew makes the gruesome discovery of two corpses on a riverbank in the Missouri Ozarks, he’s plunged into a storm of deadly secrets that threaten both him and his fiancée, Tina Parkmore. Unsatisfied with the way the authorities are conducting the investigation, Rosswell, who’s always nurtured a secret desire to be a detective, teams up with an ex-con, Ollie Groton, to solve the case before the killer can murder again. Rosswell uncovers a maze of crimes so tangled that he must fight his way to a solution or die trying.

I knew the rural setting was right because I received a sign from on high. On the jaunt where I finally decided the location for the crimes, a bald eagle swooped overhead and lit in a tall oak tree. She has built her nest somewhere back in the forest behind my house. She regularly flies over our pond and helps herself to whatever fish happen to be swimming too close to the surface.

If the Ozark countryside is good enough for a bald eagle, then it’s good enough for a couple of murders!Available soon

(RIVER MOURN, the second in the series, won the 2014 Missouri Writers Guild Show-Me Best Book Award. BLOODY EARTH, the third in the series, will be out later this month!)

Meet author Mark Bacon

Mark Bacon

Mark Bacon

Mark Bacon’s articles have appeared in the Washington Post, Kansas City Star, Denver Post, USAir Magazine, Trailer Life, Cleveland Plain Dealer, San Antonio Express-News, The Orange County Register, Working Woman, and other publications.  He is a former columnist for BusinessWeek Online and most recently was a regular correspondent for the San Francisco Chronicle where he wrote on travel, outdoors and entertainment.   

          Bacon is a former president of the Orange County Chapter of the International Association of Business Communicators.  He and his wife, Anne, and their golden retriever, Willow, live in Reno, Nevada. 

 Website URL

Facebook URL

Twitter:  @baconauthor


PJ: How long have you been writing?

Mark: In high school I took journalism and creative writing and I was hooked.


PJ: At what point did you reach a place where you felt successful as a writer?

Mark: Hard to say.  It could be when I sold my first freelance article to a men’s magazine when I was 16.  I had part-time writing jobs in advertising and newspapers when I was an undergrad in college, but my first full-time job as a reporter meant I was successful.  I could buy hamburger and I saw my name in print every day.


PJ: The general public seems to think authors are relatively wealthy. Without prying too much, has your writing income lived up to expectations?

Mark: Sure.  You don’t get rich writing.

Yes, some people think if you have your name on a book or two, you’re wealthy.  Sometimes I try to explain the realities of the publishing business. Sometimes not.


PJ: How long did it take you to get published the first time?

Mark: It was surprisingly–and uncharacteristically–easy.  I was working in the PR department of  a large trade association and part of my job was to do business writing seminars.  I realized that even though I was in business, I still wrote like a journalist, that is, succinctly with a summary at the beginning.

I thought that might be a good slant for a book on business writing.  I wrote to three big NYC publishers and John Wiley & Sons offered me an advance and a contract for Write Like the Pros.


PJ: Writing new material, rewriting, submitting new work, waiting, promoting published work…the list is large. How do you manage to divvy up your time to give adequate attention to all needed areas?

Mark: I make lists.  And I get stressed, so I exercise and meditate.


PJ: What is the single most exciting thing that’s happened to you as a writer?

Mark: This question invites hyperbole, but one exciting thing happened recently. A friend of mine expressed such unreserved, genuine enthusiasm and glee when I told him I had a publishing contract for my first novel that I was bowled over.  Of course, all of my friends have been supportive, but this guy touched me with his obvious, immediate and unrestrained joyful congratulations.


 PJ: What is the single most disappointing thing that happened to you as a writer?

Mark: Not having written a book with another author.  Writing is a lonely business.

The difficulty is, that to write a book you invest a year of more of your time.  To do so, I have to be in love with the book’s topic or idea.  To make a partnership work, the co-author has to be equally invested in the book.  Easier said than done, in my experience.


PJ: Is the writing life what you expected when you started out? If not, how is it different?

Mark: It’s perfect.  I get paid to do what I would do anyway.


PJ: What’s the most memorable thing (good or bad) that’s happened to you while promoting your work?

Mark: My first book made a midwest best-seller list for a short time and I felt I had my 15 minutes of fame.  Actually that feeling lasted several days.  I still have the note from my editor at John Wiley.


PJ: With more books being released each month now than ever before, what do you believe sets your work apart from the others?

Mark: Here are two things:

First, I wrote the type of mystery/suspense book that I like to read: many suspects and mysterious components but nothing confined to a drawing room or country manor.  It incorporates the elements I like in a mystery:

– a variety of interesting suspects,

– a less than James Bond-perfect protagonist,

– plenty of action (some violence but not excessive) to keep the story moving,

– a protracted chase with the protagonists on the run,

– humor, and

– a twisty-turny ending.

Second, this book was written by a baby boomer with a baby boomer as the main detective, and it takes place in a re-creation of an entire small town from the early 1970s.  References to the music, films, fads and social issues of the 1960s and 1970s color the book.


PJ: You published mystery short story books before your novel.  What were they about?

Mark: Actually, they were very short stories: flash fiction.  The genre is generally defined by the number of words.   Flash fiction can be a few words long or as many as 1,500.  I decided to write 100-word mystery stories.  Within that limit I like to have a protagonist, a problem and a satisfying—and I hope—surprising ending.   This is a challenge to pull off in exactly 100 words and that’s why I like it.


PJ: What would you like to share with writers who haven’t reached the point of publication yet?

Mark: Don’t expect to make your sole living from writing books.  Very few people, including a number of famous names, can survive on royalties.  This is not the usual, don’t-quit-your-day-job advice because if you really love writing above all else, there are many other ways to make money as a scribe.


PJ: What do you feel is your most effective tool for promoting your published work?

Mark: Getting people to read the first few chapters.  Then I think they’ll be hooked.  Samples are available on my website (,my publisher’s website (,  and Amazon,


PJ: What area of book promotion is the most challenging to you?

Mark: Coming up with semi-literate answers to interview questions.


PJ: Do you have a local independent bookseller you’d like to mention?

Mark: The Friends of the Washoe (Nevada) County Library Bookstore is hosting a book signing for me Nov. 7 and 8 and I will give a talk and sign books at Browsers Book Store in Carson City, Nev., on Jan. 8


PJ: What last thing would you like to share with us that nobody knows about you and your work?DeathNostalgia cover

Mark: It’s not a secret, but even many of my friends don’t know that early in my career I worked for a theme park.  I wrote ads and commercials for Knott’s Berry Farm in southern California.  This experience formed part of the inspiration for Death in Nostalgia City.  If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to wander around an empty theme park at night, after hours, you’ll understand part of my inspiration.